Monday, March 29, 2010

Scholarship at the AEI

In the wake of the firing of Frum, Charles Murray makes an unintentionally revealing post on the nature of the AEI and AEI scholarship.

Murray is also an AEI fellow, but he purports to be posting independently. In particular he states: I do not have any certain information to convey about David’s departure, except what Arthur Brooks has already said publicly: David resigned.

In other words the only "certain information" that Murray is stating is best described as a lie. While Murray's statement may be technically a true statement, it is intended to deceive and thus a lie. Murray is no doubt aware that the condition under which Frum could remain was to go from being paid what Murray describes as a 'handsome salary' to being unpaid. To insist of calling this a 'resignation' is dishonest.

Once we understand that this is the game Murray plays, we can see that the apparent denial of donor pressure influencing AEI policy in Murray's third paragraph is in fact nothing of the sort. Murray describes a very specific scenario in which donor pressure does not take place "The idea that AEI donors sit down to talk with AEI’s president...". The scenario is presented as being a 'fantasy', but nowhere is there actually a denial.

Murray is again being intentionally deceptive. As he must know, Frum alleged only that he was told not to write on Health Care Reform as it was likely to upset the donors. He did not allege that the donors made any complaint, which is the charge Murray decides to rebut.

After stating that he has no information, Murray theorizes that the reason for Frum's departure is his lack of work for the Institute. Murray himself admits to drawing a salary on the same basis, but gives no explanation for why Frum was forced to resign and he was not.

In making this complaint against Frum, Murray unintentionally admits one of the principal charges critics make against the AEI: it disburses patronage to Conservatives who toe the party line without expecting anything in return beyond use of their name on the letterhead. But for the pseudo-academic patina of his AEI 'fellowship', Charles Murray would be just another crank who wrote a covert racist screed.

But then look at how Murray finishes his piece:

I think that’s what happened. I also think that for David to have leveled the charge that Arthur Brooks caved in to donor pressure, knowing that the charge would be picked up and spread beyond recall, knowing that such a charge strikes at the core of the Institute’s integrity, and making such a sensational charge without a shred of evidence, is despicable.

Here Murray unintentionally demonstrates a complete lack of any capacity for self-examination. The next sentence after making a charge he admits he has no evidence for, Murray accuses Frum of having made a charge without a shred of evidence.

As Murray himself admits, he has no evidence other than what is in the public domain. While Frum has provided no evidence to support his assertion that members of the AEI were told not to write on health care, the AEI has made no attempt to refute the charge and no evidence has been presented to show the contrary. Since it is implied that Frum himself was one of the people told not to write on Health Care Reform, his own testimony is evidence. Now whether the word of Frum alone is persuasive (he was an AEI scholar after all), it is clearly not true to claim that there is no evidence.

If Charles Murray is representative of AEI 'scholarship', it is an institution whose integrity is not so much compromised as non-existent.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Police: Fired worker disabled cars via Web

Hot on the Pensylvannia school webcam case, another case of what happens when companies only think 'what is the worst that could happen to me'.

An auto dealership fitted radio GPS systems with a function that enabled the engine to be remotely disabled. The company only worried about getting the car back if the customer didn't pay. They didn't consider the possibility that a fired employee might use the system to get back at the employeer.

The dealership is now facing demands for compensation from the owners who were denied use of the cars for several days. Some had their cars towed, all suffered unnecessary inconvenience. the dealer has suffered damage to its reputation and will almost certainly end up paying substantial compensation to the customers.

It does not look as if the dealer has learned its lesson either. Changing passwords won't help as the real cause of the problem was that the employee had too much authority. Since disabling a customer's car should be a last resort, the system should probably require authorization from more than one employee. Velocity controls to prevent one employee disabling hundreds of cars at the same time would be a sensible additional control.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Truth in Power Lunching

I am particularly interested in two little mentioned new features of the new MacBook Pro. The features of interest are all on the back edge:

The first change is that Apple has finally seen sense and decided to support an SD card slot. the ability to transfer photos and video from camera to computer without additional dongles is a major hassle eliminator for professional and serious photographers.

But the more important change for me is that there is now an indicator of remaining battery power on the back edge where the user is unable to see it.

Why is this so important?

Well a very common situation in a conference room is that you have n available sockets on a power strip and n+1 (or more) people with laptops to plug in. This inevitably creates a situation where various people attempt to gain access to the plug by pleading imminent exhaustion of their battery.

The power strip meter is a dead giveaway. Now we will know whose machine is about to croak and who is merely bluffing.