2017/01/07

Paper ballots are critical election security infrastructure

Why voter-verified paper audit trail is so important. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voter-verified_paper_audit_trail)

From the 1/6/16 intelligence assessment: "Russian intelligence obtained and maintained access to elements of multiple US state or local electoral boards. DHS assesses that the types of systems Russian actors targeted or compromised were not involved in vote tallying."

So either (a) the Kremlin tried to compromise vote tallying systems but didn't succeed or (b) they were after something else having to do with "state or local electoral boards", and maybe succeeded.

Both of these possibilities are terrible and we should block this kind of election fraud.

The security of most electronic voting systems without paper trails can plausibly be compromised by state level actors. (This is the consensus view of the software engineering professionals.) The best practice to defend against this is a paper trail and automatic recounts.

See https://medium.com/@jhalderm/want-to-know-if-the-election-was-hacked-look-at-the-ballots-c61a6113b0ba#.b25sz36l6, especially the following about how an attacker might accomplish this:

"First, the attackers would probe election offices well in advance in order to find ways to break into their computers. Closer to the election, when it was clear from polling data which states would have close electoral margins, the attackers might spread malware into voting machines in some of these states, rigging the machines to shift a few percent of the vote to favor their desired candidate."

It's very hard to say from the intelligence report whether this was the first part of an attempt or not. But it's very concerning, which is why every state that cares about the integrity of its election results should implement paper trail and automatic recounts.

(The other possibility is perhaps just as disturbing -- that the Kremlin was not targeting vote tallying but something else having to do with electoral boards not directly tied to vote tallying. Blackmail material?)

Back to the intelligence report, the next paragraph:

"We assess Moscow will apply lessons learned from its Putin-ordered campaign aimed at the US presidential election to future influence efforts worldwide, including against US allies and their
election processes."

[Originally published Jan 7, 2017 at https://plus.google.com/115608553892438743738/posts/NprmqKdEzY5.  Subsequently, I have seen many problems with the machine-generated "audit trails" sold by vendors and believe that we should minimize the use of machine printed ballots and maximize the use of hand marked ballots in order to have meaningful audits and defend against this kind of election fraud.]

2017/01/02

How to Deal with Donald Trump

I don't know Donald Trump, but I've dealt with his specific cluster of personality traits before. I have some rules for dealing with them. You may find them useful the next few years.

1. If possible, do not engage

This may seem like useless advice, given Trump will be President in three weeks But keep it in mind. The best possible strategy for dealing with someone like Trump is: Don't. Go no contact, do not engage with him. Do something else more productive.

2. If you have to engage, be BIFF

If you are forced to engage with him, keep it Brief, Informative, Friendly, and Firm (BIFF). Don't get into Twitter wars. Don't antagonize him or try to set him off (he'll go off on his own anyway). Be impersonal but friendly.

Pick your battles carefully. But once you do pick a position and draw a line, do not waver from it no matter what Trump and his allies throw at you.

3. Believe actions, not words

Trump's words are meaningless -- or, worse, a distraction or smokescreen that obscures what's really going on. Don't pay a lot of attention to them; prioritize attention to actions. Don't over-analyze his words.

Never ever trade something in exchange for a promise from Trump. Demand payment up front if you must violate rule #1.

When Trump does one thing and says another, believe what he does and ignore the words.

4. Do not give the benefit of the doubt

We reflexively give the benefit of the doubt, especially to the President. Our political institutions codify this. The strong temptation is to give Trump chance after chance.

That makes no sense at this point. He had his chance after winning the election to turn over a new leaf and to demonstrate what kind of President he plans to be.

This means that him saying something has zero effect, for or against, on whether or not you should believe it.

5. Use positive reinforcement

You get what you reward. Sometimes Trump will say or do things that actually make sense. Positively reinforce when he does, while keeping in mind rules 2-4. Give praise for this, even if his other actions are terrible.

But don't reward him for words.

6. Don't normalize the abnormal

It's a slippery slope. A situation may not be changeable today, but that does not mean it cannot be changed. Simultaneously be realistic, while working towards a better tomorrow.

7. Be patient and proactive

"A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes."
-- Mark Twain

"Truth is the daughter of time, not of authority."
-- Francis Bacon

Trump and his allies have enormous power right now. But it's fragile, based on reality distortion. In the long run, if we keep the record clear, this can be apparent.

Trump will do everything possible to muddy the record. Defend the record, make sure that the ground truth is available for those who want it.

8. Keep Reading and Learning

Keep informing yourself. Start with these excellent articles from the Atlantic and Teen Vogue if you haven't read them already:

http://www.theatlantic.com/notes/2016/11/a-reflexive-liar-in-command-guidelines-for-the-media/508832/

http://www.teenvogue.com/story/donald-trump-is-gaslighting-america

[Originally published Jan 2, 2017 at https://plus.google.com/115608553892438743738/posts/9YTq4MQd53o]

Start School Virtual, Go Physical When Feasible

These are my observations for our local conditions (Santa Clara County, July 10-12, 2020), which to summarize: Observations There are still ...