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September 17th, 2022:

Lawsuit filed against True the Vote

Oh, this will be fun to watch.

A defamation and computer fraud lawsuit filed this week against Texas-based True the Vote asks a judge to essentially determine whether the election-integrity group’s campaign against a small election vendor constitutes slanderous lies or a participation in criminal acts.

The suit was brought by Konnech Inc., a small elections logistics company based in Michigan. It alleges that True the Vote and its followers launched a stream of false and racist accusations against the company’s founder, forcing him and his family to flee their home in fear for their lives and damaging the company’s business. The suit cites True the Votes’ public claims that it hacked the company’s servers and accessed the personal information of nearly 2 million U.S. poll workers.

In a rare move, the judge granted Konnech’s request for a temporary restraining order against Catherine Engelbrecht and Gregg Phillips, leaders of True the Vote, a nonprofit organization known for making allegations of voter fraud without evidence to support their claims. Judge Kenneth Hoyt of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas found a “substantial likelihood” that Konnech would “suffer irreparable injury” without it. The order also prohibits True the Vote from accessing, or attempting to access, Konnech’s computers or disclosing any of the company’s data and orders the group to disclose more information about the alleged breach.

Experts told Votebeat the damage done through the spread of conspiracy theories about election software companies such as Konnech by groups like True the Vote could impact the already limited tools available that help election officials hire, train and schedule election workers.

True the Vote has for years claimed that voting machines are not secure and that U.S. elections are increasingly fraudulent but has offered little evidence, and its claims have failed to stand up to basic scrutiny. Konnech’s lawsuit specifically names Engelbrecht, True the Vote’s founder, and Phillips, a board member, saying that they “have intentionally, repeatedly, and relentlessly attacked” Konnech, and its founder, Eugene Yu, with a “unique brand of racism and xenophobia.”

Engelbrecht and Phillips, for example, repeatedly called Yu a “Chinese operative” who was spearheading a “Red Chinese communist op run against the United States.”

“On August 27, 2022, True the Vote posted an article claiming that Konnech is ‘owned by the Chinese Communist Party,’ even though Konnech is owned by U.S. citizens who are not affiliated with the Chinese Communist Party, and claiming that Konnech is involved in the ‘subversion of our elections’ which is tantamount to falsely accusing Konnech of election fraud, treason, and espionage,” the complaint states.

True the Vote named its campaign targeting Konnech and Yu the “Tiger Project.”

[…]

The fact that a federal judge granted the temporary restraining order under the case’s circumstances is significant, said Peter Vogel, a Texas litigation attorney who specializes in cybersecurity and information technology. Federal judges rarely grant injunctions without allowing a defendant to present evidence, he said.

“So that tells me that there must be very persuasive evidence for a federal judge to grant a temporary restraining order without having the other side be present,” Vogel said

Vogel also has decades of experience as a computer programmer and has examined electronic election systems for the Texas secretary of state’s office.

Another significant aspect of the order, he said, is the relatively low level of bond the judge required Konnech to post: just $100. The bond usually protects the enjoined parties from any damage.

“This tells me the judge doesn’t think there’s any damage to the defendant.” Vogel said.

TTV sure has been making the news lately. None of this story is a surprise – I mean, really, what did you expect? – but it sure could be a rude awakening for them. Later in the story comparisons are made to the lawsuits filed by the likes of Dominion and Smartmatic against various bad actors in the media and the greater Trump orbit, and if the allegations are true then I think they’re going to be in a world of hurt. And boy howdy, could it not have happened to a nicer and more deserving bunch. There’s a hearing scheduled for September 26, so hopefully we’ll learn more soon.

Marijuana and the Ag Commissioner race

It’s a clear choice, though to be fair on this one issue it’s not as clear as with some other offices. But really, anytime the choice includes “not Sid Miller”, it’s pretty damn clear.

Susan Hays

The first time Susan Hays tried marijuana, she was a “teenage hell-raiser” hanging out with a couple dozen friends, drinking beers and swimming until the early morning in Pecan Bayou, near Brownwood, her hometown.

It was “Mexican hell-weed,” Hays remembered in a recent phone interview of the 3 joints her friends bought for $5. She didn’t know then how to smoke properly — to inhale — so she didn’t get high. All it did was put her to sleep in the backseat of the car.

Now, Hays is a weed evangelist of sorts and the Democratic candidate for Texas agriculture commissioner. She has made medical marijuana expansion, decriminalization and legalization the centerpiece of her campaign as she seeks to become the first Democrat in 30 years to win statewide office.

The issue is a politically powerful one, and the winds of public opinion seem to be blowing in her direction. Although Texas is among the most restrictive states in the country for accessing marijuana, it’s available medicinally in all surrounding states, and it’s fully legal for adult recreational use in neighboring New Mexico and nearby Colorado. A recent UT/Tyler poll showed 55 percent of Texans support legalization and more than 70 percent supported medical marijuana.Incumbent Sid Miller, a Trump-endorsed Republican who Hays will face in the November election, has also advocated for expansion of medical marijuana in Texas.

In an op-ed over the summer, Miller said he wants the governor, the Legislature and others to “come together and set aside our political differences to have an honest conversation about cannabis,” without stating specifically what he’s in favor of or how he’d like to see the law changed.

“In terms of specifics on how to achieve this, I have said that I am willing to work with anyone on any idea that puts these products in the right hands — and keeps them out of the wrong hands. That will be the challenge in the next legislative session. I see part of my role as that of an advocate for those who are suffering; I’ll be urging all involved to not worry about who gets credit for what — let’s just get the job done,” Miller said in a statement sent via email from a spokesman.

[…]

Hays offers a very clear and detailed vision of her preferred policies.

Current Texas law is “bass-ackwards,” she likes to say, with a patchwork of different city and town regulations and confusing and anti-scientific state laws. Hays believes from studying the rollout in other states that marijuana policy is a “three-legged stool,” encompassing medicinal access, decriminalization and legalization. If any of the legs are neglected, the industry is unstable, she says.

Medical access needs to be handled carefully to ensure people with health needs are able to access carefully regulated marijuana products that cater to their specific needs, she said. If the crop was outright legalized without the medical infrastructure being developed, “stoner-bro culture” creates a system in which dispensaries try to out-do each other by making the strongest pot products they can, “like if you went in a liquor store and all you could buy was Everclear,” Hays said.

Decriminalization is important, she said, but if it isn’t accompanied by legalization, the black market is likely to grow. Many Texas counties, including most of the state’s largest, have taken steps to decriminalize marijuana, such as Harris, Dallas, Travis and Bexar counties.

Another important element is packaging, which Hays says should be child-safe and should include detailed information about the chemical makeup of the product. Different strains of marijuana (Hays’ favorite is called Acapulco Gold) can have different effects on people when ingested or smoked, for instance.

Requiring that information to be posted on the package allows people to find marijuana strains that cater to their specific needs, Hays argues, be it spurring the appetites of chemotherapy patients, helping veterans struggling with PTSD to overcome insomnia or helping elderly people with chronic arthritic pain.

Miller’s position, recently stated, is definitely more nuanced and aware of public opinion than the likes of Dan Patrick. It doesn’t have any substance to it, though. Hays, on the other hand, really knows what she’s talking about. She’d be a leader in implementing sound and compassionate public policy that would also give a hand to hemp farmers, who could really use a boost, instead of just someone spouting generalities. Also, too, and we cannot emphasize this enough, she’s not Sid Miller. We need 100% less Sid Miller in elected office. The fact that we can replace him with someone who would be objectively good at the job is a bonus. We should grab that.

Monkeypox case rate slows

Some good news.

Monkeypox infection rates are slowing in Houston, data shows, with health officials pointing to changing behavior as the key reason for the decline.

The 14-day average of daily new cases dropped by 43 percent, from .23 cases per 100,000 people, to .13, between Aug. 23 and Sept. 2, the last day for which data is available. As of Wednesday, Houston and Harris County had recorded a combined total of 693 cases.

Dr. David Persse, Houston chief medical officer, said he thinks it’s too early to attribute the drop to vaccinations, which became available in Houston in late July. Most people have yet to receive full protection from their second dose, administered about a month after the first dose.

“I believe the change … is largely because of individuals changing behavior and thinking twice about some of the high-risk behaviors,” Persse said during a Thursday Q&A session with reporters.

[…]

More than 5,200 people have received their first dose of the vaccine from the Houston Health Department. Harris County Public Health has administered the first dose to an additional 3,600 people.

Persse and Dr. Erick Brown, Harris County’s local health authority, said there are “plenty” of doses left and encouraged eligible people to schedule appointments by calling Houston’s hotline at 832-393-4220 or Harris County’s hotline at 832-927-0707.

“I’d like to strongly emphasize we are not out of the woods,” Brown said.

Monkeypox was never the public health crisis that COVID was – it’s a lot less contagious, and a lot less deadly – but we also had a vaccine already in place and needed to get it to a much smaller population in order to get the outbreak under control, and we didn’t do as well as we should have. We’re in better shape now, and I have hope we can continue to drive the numbers down. In the meantime, if you’re eligible for this vaccine, please do get it.

We should soon find out what’s been going on in the NWSL

Good.

U.S. Soccer says an investigation into alleged abuse and misconduct in the National Women’s Soccer League is expected to be completed by early next month.

The investigation, led by former acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates, was initiated last fall after North Carolina Courage coach Paul Riley was accused of sexual harassment and coercion by two former players.

Riley was fired and league Commissioner Lisa Baird stepped down in the wake of the players’ claims. U.S. Soccer and the NWSL and its players association announced separate investigations.

U.S. Soccer issued a brief statement on the status of its probe Monday: “Last October, U.S. Soccer retained Sally Q. Yates of King & Spalding LLP to lead an independent investigation into allegations of abusive behavior and sexual misconduct in women’s professional soccer. That investigation is nearing its conclusion. U.S. Soccer will publish the full report by early October, following the completion of the investigation.”

Riley was among five NWSL coaches who were either dismissed or stepped down last season amid claims of inappropriate behavior.

The list of coaches who were fired or stepped down includes the head coach and general manager of the Houston Dash, who was suspended in April after similar allegations were raised about him. The Dash still have an interim coach, so I suppose he could come back, but I’m including him in this group anyway. Paul Riley’s alleged behavior had stretched back a decade, including his time with another team. The league was aware of the issue but took no action; this resulted in the NWSL Commissioner resigning once it all came to light. I don’t know what this report will say, but you may recall Sally Yates as being one of the first people Donald Trump fired for not being slavishly loyal to him and his every wish, so I have faith in her integrity. Whatever this report does say, I hope the NWSL is a much better place for the players now and going forward.