On more than just local government

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Oy, vey!

As home to Seinfeld, delis and the best bagels in the world, New York is indelibly linked to Jewish culture. But the Jews have made a shocking discovery: The city's water is not kosher.

Two weeks ago, millimeter-long crustaceans known as copepods were discovered in the water. Although the tiny creatures pose no threat to public health, under Jewish law the eating of crustaceans, aquatic animals with skeletons outside their bodies, including shrimp, crabs and lobsters, is forbidden.

Sales of filters have rocketed in heavily Orthodox Brooklyn, and restaurants and bakeries were advised to further filter to ensure purity. "We hope the city will do something to purify and filter the water to accommodate a few hundred thousand Orthodox, observant Jews," Rabbi Abraham Zimmerman of the Orthodox Satmar sect said.

But the Department of Environmental Protection, which controls the reservoirs, said to eliminate the copepods would be impossible and the micro-organisms provide health benefits to the reservoirs. Two weeks ago, an Israeli company was accused of selling vegetables contaminated with insects, a violation of kosher laws. The company said the bugs were introduced when the produce was washed in New York water.

From The Independent

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

I'd have thought it would be "Kiss your ass goodbye"

Would you like Windows to remember your "secret unlock code"? What was the "secret unlock code" for America's ICBMs during the height of the Cold War?

Not "Admin" or even "password." It was "00000000."

Why? How could this possibly be? Former U.S. Air Force nuclear launch officer Bruce G. Blair explains: "The Strategic Air Command (SAC) in Omaha quietly decided to set the 'locks' to all zeros in order to circumvent this safeguard.

During the early to mid-1970s, during my stint as a Minuteman launch officer, they still had not been changed. Our launch checklist in fact instructed us, the firing crew, to double-check the locking panel in our underground launch bunker to ensure that no digits other than zero had been inadvertently dialed into the panel. SAC remained far less concerned about unauthorized launches than about the potential of these safeguards to interfere with the implementation of wartime launch orders.

And so the 'secret unlock code' during the height of the nuclear crises of the Cold War remained constant at 00000000."

......From the San Jose Mercury News

The New York Times won't print this

For more than half a century, the people of New York have voted without requiring a paper trail, despite the fact that lever voting machines are notoriously the most inaccurate and corruptible form of election device. So, maybe that’s why there is such a hue and cry about electronic voting machines…they are too accurate.

During the March, 2004 primary election in California, the Secretary of State (SOS) sent teams of his staff to 10 counties conducting elections with direct record electronic (DRE) voting devices. In each, machines representing a full polling place set up were randomly selected and sequestered. They were protected by video surveillance and deputy sheriffs until Election Day, when a voting sequence known only to the SOS was entered by his staff throughout the day and tallied at the same time the polls closed.

The result was 100% accuracy. No Trojan Horses, hacking or other nefarious programming gremlin scenarios such as those imagined by a small group of election Luddites were discovered. Nevertheless, you cannot get the SOS to admit that level of accuracy because it would undermine his call for the inclusion of a voter verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) for the 2006 election.

Adding a VVPAT is not simple process, especially when you don’t have any standards to work toward. In California, seven manufacturers have been certified to run DRE-based elections. Each has its own idea of how to make it work. At the same time, each solution adds elements of risk that could derail the operational quality of the election.

Generally, the problems that develop during electronic elections are human-based. Adding mechanical devices, paper rolls, feeders, etc. only multiply the things that can go wrong. In Los Angeles County, for example, producing a version of a single voter’s selections would produce a piece of paper more than three feet long. How many people will have to wait (likely, impatiently) while paper rolls are changed after every ten to fifteen voters?

And these VVPATs assist not a whit in making the election more accurate. How much better than 100% can you get? In fact, they make it so that a portion of the population the Help America Vote Act was supposed to empower, the disabled, are placed back in the voting Dark Ages.

Everyone in New York should ask themselves before they rail away about DREs whether Senators Clinton, Schumer, D’Amato, Moynihan, Buckley, Javits, etc. were really elected since no voter, for or against them, ever was sure that their vote counted. Paper trails are a red herring perpetrated by people who fear technology. No hacking is possible because these machines are never connected to the Internet. Randomly selecting machines and running a “parallel count” would easily determine whether any date-based or party-based scheme was inserted in the software.

And, everyone’s vote would be counted as it was cast. Wouldn’t that be a unique New York experience?