11/23/16

If You're Questioning the Election Results, We Need an Audit. Or Even if You're Not...



Graphic from "Want to Know if the Election was Hacked? Look at the Ballots" by J. Alex Halderman published on November 22, 2016.  Caption: "The pink counties predominately use optical scan paper ballots, which can be examined to confirm that the computer voting machines produced an accurate count. Blue counties use paperless voting systems, which require forensic analysis."

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For the second time in sixteen years, the winner of the popular vote in the election will not be inaugurated as president. (Something that happened only three other times in the history of our country--with the other instances all happening in the 19th century.)

Suggestions swirl around the internet.  Write the electoral college to reverse the results!  Maybe Trump didn't even win the electoral college vote!  Call the Justice Department!  Petition the Secretaries of State! 

Among what seems to me to be a spinning of wheels,  this IS interesting

Ron Rivest and Philip Stark explained in USA Today  on November 18 how the presidential vote could be audited before December 13, when the States have to file their results with the Electoral College.
We know that the national results could be tipped by manipulating the vote count in a relatively small number of jurisdictions — a few dozen spread across a few key states. We know that the vast majority of local elections officials have limited resources to detect or defend against cyberattacks. And while pre-election polls have large uncertainties, they were consistently off. And various aspects of the preliminary results, such as a high rate of undervotes for president, have aroused suspicion.
Auditing .5% of the ballots would do the trick

Rivest (Institute Professor at MIT and a member of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission Technical Guidelines Development Committee) and Stark (associate dean of mathematical and physical sciences at the University of California, Berkeley and a one-time appointee to the board of advisers of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission)  say a “risk-limiting” audit--in which a random sample of just 1 percent of the paper ballots cast  is examined--“could give 95% confidence that the results are correct in every state. And it might not even require 1% of the ballots. An audit would first
check the results in the states Trump won. If auditing confirms those results, there’s no need to audit in the states Clinton carried: Trump really won. That means auditing about 700,000 ballots in the 29 states Trump won, about 0.5% of the ballots cast in this election.


On November 18, Rivest and Stark linked to a Verified Voting  petition at Change.Org addressed to the Secretaries of State of Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan, asking for an audit. Author Justin Krebs has a petition at Moveon.Org addressed to Clinton, Trump, Gary Johnson, Jill Stein, Secretaries of State in Michigan , Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. 

Ditch the phone campaign to the Justice Department


Relying on the good will of the Secretaries of State seems a stretch.   Although less of a stretch than calling the Justice Department to demand an audit.  Even if, according to Gabriel Sherman, National Affairs Editor for New York Magazine,  
...some Clinton allies are intent on pushing the issue. This afternoon, Huma Abedin’s sister Heba encouraged her Facebook followers to lobby the Justice Department to audit the 2016 vote.
(Well, actually, his link goes to a Daily Beast writer who posted a screenshot of Heba Abedin's facebook page.  You or I can't even see the facebook posts, even if you follow her and her twitter page no longer exists.)

As Washington Post reporter Matt Zapotosky noted  spokesman David Jacobs has issued a statement:
The Justice Department does not tally the number of callers to determine whether federal action is warranted...Investigatory decisions are based solely on the facts and evidence as they relate to the federal statutes the department enforces.
Ignore New York Magazine's anonymous "scoop" on voting machine fraud

Other media writers, including by CNN's political producer Dan Merica, linked to Gabriel Sherman, not for his coverage of the campaign to phone the Justice Department, but for his "scoop" from a "source briefed on the [conference] call with Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and campaign general counsel Marc Elias.  The source says a  group including voting-rights attorney John Bonifaz and J. Alex Halderman, the director of the University of Michigan Center for Computer Security and Society, told Podesta and Elias that they had found evidence that in
Wisconsin, Clinton received 7 percent fewer votes in counties that relied on electronic-voting machines compared with counties that used optical scanners and paper ballots. Based on this statistical analysis, Clinton may have been denied as many as 30,000 votes; she lost Wisconsin by 27,000....complicating matters, a senior Clinton adviser said, is that the White House, focused on a smooth transfer of power, does not want Clinton to challenge the election result.
Does New York Magazine have the rigorous sourcing requirements depicted in All The President's Men of how the Washington Post covered the Watergate scandal? Sherman, in particular, has been criticized by the The New York Times's Janet Maslin as setting "a record for blind items and the untrustworthiness they engender" in his bio of Roger Ailes. Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri did not respond to Sherman's request for comment. Neither did Bonifaz or Halderman.  The latter also failed to respond to requests for comment yesterday evening from CNN's Merica.

Alex Halderman, the subject of the scoop, says Sherman got it wrong

In his own post on post on Medium, Halderman writes that Sherman,
includes somebody else’s description of my views, incorrectly describes the reasons manually checking ballots is an essential security safeguard (and includes some incorrect numbers, to boot).
Let me set the record straight about what I and other leading election security experts have actually been saying to the campaign and everyone else who’s willing to listen....Were this year’s deviations from pre-election polls the results of a cyberattack? Probably not. I believe the most likely explanation is that the polls were systematically wrong, rather than that the election was hacked. But I don’t believe that either one of these seemingly unlikely explanations is overwhelmingly more likely than the other. The only way to know whether a cyberattack changed the result is to closely examine the available physical evidence — paper ballots and voting equipment in critical states like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, nobody is ever going to examine that evidence unless candidates in those states act now, in the next several days, to petition for recounts...
Support Jill Stein's recount as the most practical short-term action

State laws call for recounts at a candidate’s request as long as he or she can pay for it. Green Party candidate Jill Stein announced a fundraising campaign on her website to ask for a recount in Wisconsin by the Friday deadline. She is also raising funds for a recount in Pennsylvania by November 28 and Michigan by November 30.

According to Ballotpedia, Wisconsin machines have a paper trail. Michigan uses paper ballots. Pennsylvania (as is the case in Virginia) has no statewide paper trail. A pattern, if found, would have to hold true for all three states in order for the electoral college vote to favor Clinton.

We must do a lot more before 2018

Current post-election verification is inadequate, Halderman explains:
After the election, human beings can examine the paper to make sure the results from the voting machines accurately determined who won. Just as you want the brakes in your car to keep working even if the car’s computer goes haywire, accurate vote counts must remain available even if the machines are malfunctioning or attacked. In both cases, common sense tells us we need some kind of physical backup system. I and other election security experts have been advocating for paper ballots for years, and today, about 70% of American voters live in jurisdictions that keep a paper record of every vote.

There’s just one problem, and it might come as a surprise even to many security experts: no state is planning to actually check the paper in a way that would reliably detect that the computer-based outcome was wrong. About half the states have no laws that require a manual examination of paper ballots, and most other states perform only superficial spot checks. If nobody looks at the paper, it might as well not be there.
And superficial spot checks are not enough, as Black Box Voting points out.

Sad how long I've been writing about  problems with electronic voting machines

Following the 2000 election, billions were spent on new voting machines. My first post about the problems was in 2005.  Halderman has suggestions for how to fix the mess:
States still using paperless voting machines should replace them with optical scan systems, and all states should update their audit and recount procedures. There are fast and inexpensive ways to verify (or correct) computer voting results using a risk-limiting audit, a statistical method that involves manually inspecting randomly selected paper ballots. Officials need to begin preparing soon to make sure all of these improvements are ready before the next big election.

11/21/16

Root Veggie Salad with Red Grapefuit and Cilantro

Photo by Romulo Yanes for Martha Stewart.com.  Yanes was staff photographer for the late great Gourmet Magazine.

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Sally tells me that Glade Road Growing's farm share this week will include parsnips and other root veggies.  Parsnips, which are a native of Eurasia, are closely related to carrots and parsley.  They are  delicious roasted, steamed, sauted or raw.  They make a nice addition to stews.

While there won't be the pound and a half of parsnips called for in the original recipe, you can use the other root veggies in the share such as turnips and carrots. I've substituted cilantro for parsley, lime juice for vinegar, maple syrup for honey  and added some green onions. 

This salad would be nice served on a bed of arugula or other greens.  If you want to make this a main dish, you could add two cups of cooked white or black beans.  For meat eaters, this salad would be a great side for roasted chicken, duck, turkey or pork.  It would also be great accompaniment for tuna or salmon.


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Serves 4

Ingredients:

2 red grapefruits, peel and pith removed (I love the Texas Rio Reds when they're available.)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 teaspoon maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon each sea salt and fresh ground pepper
1 1/2 pounds peeled parsnips, carrots and peeled turnips (unless you are using salad turnips which   can be unpeeled)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 cup of finely chopped green onions

1.  Working over a large bowl, cut out grapefruit segments, setting the membranes aside.  Squeeze 1/4 cup juice from membranes and discard the membranes. Whisk in oil, lime juice, honey or syrup, salt and pepper into the grapefruit juice and add to bowl.

2.  With a vegetable peeler, shave the root vegetables  on the diagonal into strips. Add to bowl and toss, along with cilantro and green onions and toss.



11/14/16

Smashed Swedes with Ginger-Roasted Pears

Photo by Con Poulos for Bon Appetite.

Sally tells me that the farm share for this week from Glade Road Growing will include rutabagas (or what I know as swedes), a brassica that results from crossing turnips and cabbages.

Since I'm not sure how of the quantity of swedes in the farm share, I've made this recipe proportional.  If you don't have two pounds of swedes you can mix them with cubed winter squash.  In fact, you can do that anyway, if you prefer something a bit sweeter.  This recipe works with apples, when pears are no longer available in season.

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Serves 4 for two pounds of swedes.

Ingredients:

Swedes (rutabagas) peeled, cut into 3/4- to 1-inch cubes
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon of maple syrup
1 firm Anjou or Bosc pear for each pound of swedes, cored, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1 firm Anjou on Bosc pear, cored and sliced for garnish
1 tablespoon of butter for each pound of Swedes + 1 tablespoon to grease the pan of pears
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme (optional, can substitute a sprinkling of ground nutmeg and 1 /2 teaspoon of cardamon)
Sea salt
Fresh ground black pepper

Instructions:


1.  Preheat oven to 400°F. Lightly oil a large, rimmed cookie sheet with butter.
2.  Combine oil, lemon juice, ginger, and maple syrup in large bowl. Add pears; toss to coat. Spread on prepared sheet. Roast until tender, turning pears every 10 minutes, about 35 minutes total.
3.  While pears are cooking, cook the swedes in pot of boiling salted water until tender, about 35 minutes. Drain swedes and return to same pot. Mash to coarse puree. Stir over medium heat until excess moisture evaporates, 5 minutes. Stir in thyme or nutmeg/cardamon and butter.
4.  Mix in the cubed pears and any juices from baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper.
5.  Serve in small bowls, garnished with sliced pears.  You can top it all off with a dollop of Greek yogurt or sour cream, if you like.

11/7/16

Black Radish Chips

Photo by Karis (no last name), who has a vegetarian food blog.

The share from Glade Road Growing for election day (or Friday, if you pick your veggies up at the farm) includes black Spanish radishes.

Radishes are annuals in the Brassica family.  This variety is also known as Gros Noir d’Hiver, Noir Gros de Paris and the Black Mooli. They are an excellent source of vitamin C and said to help fight off infection and promote healthy digestive and liver functions.  

Sharp in flavor raw (similar to horseradish), you can cut them into match sticks or grate them and add them to salads or yogurt.  You can pickle them or you can slice them thin to serve with dips. To tone down the heat of radishes, peel, slice, salt and rinse with water prior to using. 

They gain some sweetness when roasted or saut├ęd and braised.   They can be served as a side dish or added to soups, stir-fries and stews.  The greens are also edible and can be prepared in recipes calling for kale or turnip greens.

After experimenting a bit, I decided my favorite way to eat them is as chips.  Here is my recipe for crisp chips.  Clotilde Dusoulier notes in her recipe that if you slice them thicker, you'll get a softer version.

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Ingredients:
Black radishes
1 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
sea salt

For a curried chip, you can substitute the following for the vinegar:
3/4  teaspoon of ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon of ground cardamon
1/4 teaspoon of ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon of paprika.

If you don't like vinegar chips or curry chips, just use olive oil and salt.

Instructions:
1.  Cut off the greens and reserve for another use.  Scrub the radishes and slice as thin as possible.  In a large bowl, toss the slices with a olive oil and sea salt.  For flavored chips add either the balsamic vinegar or the curry spices (or make two batches so you can have both.)

2.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

3.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper (or aluminum foil).  Placed the radish slices on a cooling rack on top of the baking dish.

4.  Bake for 10 to
15 minutes, until the chips are crinkled around the edges.  Be careful not to burn them.
5.  After the cooking is finished, the radishes will continue to crisp as they cool.

6. Eat!  If you have so much self-control that you have some left over, you can store the completely cooled chips in a dry airtight container at room temperature for up to one week.