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May 21st, 2023:

Weekend link dump for May 21

“Santos is not just a criminal in his own right; he is also a Donald Trump Mini-Me, exemplifying the intersection of the “Big Lie” form of politics and serial criminality. In his indictment, there are lessons to learn about both the degradation of politics and the limits of criminal law’s ability to resist that degradation.”

“The NFL Is on a Mission to Take Over Your Calendar“.

“It is the Same Name Stories era at the New York Times.”

“Although the basic tech supporting vocal deepfakes has been around for a few years, and early adopters like Holly Herndon have long championed their creative potential, AI-generated music has finally gone mainstream. In the bright glare of the spotlight, it’s easier than ever to see how AI software could dramatically reshape the way music is conceived and recorded, providing new automated creative tools while threatening entire job categories—and that’s just in the short term.”

“AI has to be addresses now or never. I believe this is the last time any labor action will be effective in our business. If we don’t make strong rules now, they simply won’t notice if we strike in three years, because at that point they won’t need us.”

I was a BlackBerry admin for about eight years, mostly in the Aughts. It was a great ride, and I still have fondness for those now-obsolete devices. I admit, I never thought the life and times of BlackBerry and its maker would become the subject of a movie, but I’m glad it did. Now I want a prestige podcast or TV miniseries to really go deep on what happened with Research in Motion.

The Seinfeld finale is now 25 years old.

The Durham investigation ends with a whimper and some grievances.

“But that’s not how conservatives change their minds. On the Right, humility is a sign of weakness. (Jesus must have been misquoted about the meek.) So you never admit you were wrong and you never apologize. And yet, conservative opinions do change occasionally. Sometimes they even reverse.”

“Immigration status is not relevant for treatment in an emergency room. It is not needed. It is a barrier to care. Adding truthful non-answers from people who have nothing to fear from answering honestly to the database gives a slight bit of protection to people who need it.”

My thanks to Fred for those last two links and for the shoutout, after which he segues into an introduction to Jared Wellman, who bears some resemblance to but is not at all the same as Jared Woodfill.

“Countless smartphones seized in arrests and searches by police forces across the United States are being auctioned online without first having the data on them erased, a practice that can lead to crime victims being re-victimized, a new study found. In response, the largest online marketplace for items seized in U.S. law enforcement investigations says it now ensures that all phones sold through its platform will be data-wiped prior to auction.”

“A former employee of Rudy Giuliani is suing him for $10 million over allegations of sexual assault and harassment, wage theft and “other misconduct,” including several instances that were recorded, according to a complaint filed Monday.”

“The biggest winner of the first month of the 2023 MLB season isn’t a team or player, it’s a rule: the pitch clock. Introduced this season, the rule change is making MLB fans more interested in watching ballgames, according to a new Morning Consult survey. And those who have watched say the game is now more enjoyable than it used to be.”

“Writers’ group PEN America and publisher Penguin Random House sued a Florida school district Wednesday over its removal of books about race and LGBTQ+ identities, the latest opposition to a policy central to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ agenda as he prepares to run for president.”

“At every level of education, atheists are at the very top end of political engagement.”

“Nothing screams “I’ve been canceled” more than winning a Grammy, right?”

RIP, Marlene Hagge-Vossler, golf Hall of Famer and the last surviving founder of the LPGA Tour.

RIP, Charlie Stenholm, former Democratic Congressman from Lubbock.

“I was there and I took what I took . . . . I had every right to do it. I didn’t make a secret of it. You know, the boxes were stationed outside of the White House.”

“A Massive Leak Spotlights the Extremism of an Anti-Trans Medical Group”.

RIP, Rodrigo Barnes, former NFL player, civil rights activist, and one of the first Black scholarship athletes at Rice University.

RIP, Jim Brown, all-time great running back for the Cleveland Browns and movie actor.

Dallas data leak threatened by ransomware attackers

Not good.

An online blog post by a group claiming responsibility for Dallas’ ransomware attack says a leak of employees’ personal information and other data stored by the municipal government will happen soon.

In the post Friday, Royal noted the city saying there was no evidence that data from residents, vendors or employees has been released from Dallas servers after the May 3 attack. The hacker group in the post replied that “the data will be leaked soon.”

“We will share here in our blog tons of personal information of employees (phones, addresses, credit cards, SSNs, passports), detailed court cases, prisoners, medical information, clients’ information and thousands and thousands of governmental documents,” the post said. As of Friday morning, no city information has appeared on the website, which lists at least several dozen other organizations the group claims to have taken data from, such as the Lake Dallas Independent School District.

Some of the posts about other organizations are accompanied by links to download files Royal claims to have stolen, but many others have no link.

The Texas Attorney General’s website lists the Lake Dallas Independent School District in its reports of data security breaches as of May 4. It says almost 22,000 Texans were impacted with names, addresses, Social Security information, driver’s license numbers, and financial and medical information among the data affected.

The AG’s office’s website said potential victims were notified by mail, but doesn’t list the name of any person or group responsible for the data breach.

The city of Dallas in a statement Friday said officials were aware of the website post and that personal information hasn’t been exposed.

“We continue to monitor the situation and maintain there is no evidence or indication that data has been compromised,” the statement said. “Measures to protect data are in place.”

See here for the most recent update. This is a bad scenario for Dallas if what the Royal group is claiming is accurate. If they really do have this kind of personal data of various people and they make it public, that’s not only a legal liability for Dallas, it’s also a terrible look for them since they’ve been saying they didn’t think any such data had been exposed. Again, if this is accurate, it means that either they didn’t have a good handle on what had been done by the attackers, or they just weren’t honest about it. Perhaps the attackers are conflating data taken from one breach with data taken from another, in which case it might not specifically be the city of Dallas’ fault, but that won’t be of much comfort to anyone whose data may be involved. We’ll just have to see when it shows up.

If this kind of data does get published, and it can be traced to the city of Dallas attack, then that raises bigger questions about how they did their business and how they responded to the attack. It also raises the stakes for every other government entity in Texas, since at this point Royal has a track record, and the locals aren’t doing enough to defend and protect themselves. I’d consider this a much bigger and more urgent problem than anything the Lege is dealing with right now, but then I don’t get the vapors at the thought of a drag queen or a kid reading “Heather Has Two Mommies”. The Dallas Observer has more.

Meanwhile, even if the personal data question turns out to be less than threatened, there are still other ongoing problems that have no end in sight.

Dallas police are struggling to access physical and digital evidence amid an ongoing ransomware attack that is disrupting trials, according to defense lawyers who are exasperated after more than three months of pervasive evidence storage issues.

The consequences played out Thursday in a murder trial, where a man was found guilty despite evidence being unavailable to jurors or lawyers. Last week, a jury couldn’t reach a unanimous verdict in another murder trial, where police were unable to produce a phone or shell casings.

“It’s the Stone Age again,” said Douglas Huff, president of the Dallas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association.

“This has pretty extensive implications,” he said. “Ultimately, all of this is causing horrendous delays and a clear message is that justice that is delayed is justice that is denied.”

The ransomware attack initiated by the group Royal on the city of Dallas has stretched into a third week, downing several departments. The city has said it could take weeks or months until services are fully restored.

While the county, which administers the courts, is not directly affected, some cases could be paused because electronic evidence catalogs are inoperable, communication is breaking down and internal police share drives and servers are compromised, according to attorneys.

Before the attack, the Dallas Police Department’s digital media evidence team was already sorting through hundreds of murder and capital murder cases to look for deleted digital evidence — an “incredible problem” affecting people accused of crimes, Huff said. That review is now on hold, according to police spokeswoman Kristin Lowman.

Claire Crouch, a spokeswoman for the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office, said Wednesday that it would be impossible to determine whether any cases would be affected by the ransomware attack.

The next day, the office sent out a news release saying prosecutors are working with Dallas police to “mitigate the impact.”

“We understand that timeliness is crucial in maintaining public safety and public trust, and we remain resolute in our dedication to upholding the law and ensuring that cases are filed and prosecuted effectively,” the statement Thursday said.

“We anticipate that the longer this goes on, the greater chance for obligations on the DA’s part will be affected.”

Lowman said city officials are working to bring the police evidence cataloging software back online. Without elaborating, she said police are manually accepting, inventorying and retrieving evidence, and the property unit is locating evidence.

The department did not immediately respond to a request late Thursday afternoon for comment about specific cases cited by defense attorneys as having inaccessible evidence.

Additionally, the city’s municipal courts have slowed to a crawl. According to a notice posted on the Dallas Municipal Court’s website, there will be no court hearings, trials or jury duty for the duration of the outage.

My previous inclinations had been to say that Dallas must be confident in its ability to recover from the attack without paying the ransom. I’m less sure of that now, but even if that is still the case, it’s not so good if the recovery in question takes that long. Degraded services aren’t much better than unavailable services.

Meet Mike Miles

Houston Landing profiles the man who seems poised to be the imposed Superintendent of the taken-over HISD.

A hard-charging education leader devoted to shaking up the status quo in struggling school districts appears poised to become the superintendent of Houston ISD.

Mike Miles, the former superintendent of the Dallas Independent School District and current CEO of a charter school network, has emerged in recent days as the likely incoming leader of HISD following comments by Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner; U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston; and the president of HISD’s largest teachers union.

The decision ultimately will be made in the coming weeks by Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath, who is installing a new board and superintendent in HISD. The state intervention largely stems from chronically low performance at one HISD campus, Wheatley High School, which triggered a Texas law requiring action by Morath.

State education officials say no decision has been made about HISD’s superintendent, and no appointments will be announced before June 1. Texas Education Agency officials did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday on speculation about Miles. Efforts to reach Miles were unsuccessful.

The potential appointment of Miles, however, makes too much sense to ignore: Morath served as a Dallas board member during Miles’ tenure; the two share a strikingly similar outlook on education policy; and Miles has spoken at length about the need for significant reforms in large, urban school district operations.

If Miles is Morath’s choice, the selection portends dramatic, swift changes in HISD.

The former Army Ranger, State Department diplomat and school district leader is known for aggressively upending bureaucracies and reshaping classrooms. His no-excuses approach to management and preferred policies — sidelining low-performing administrators, instituting accountability-related measures and reorienting teachers’ responsibilities, among others — have endeared him to those frustrated with underwhelming student achievement in urban school districts.

“Unfortunately, most district leaders are way too worried about their careers and future job prospects to really break the status quo; board members are way too worried about any noise from their constituents,” Miles wrote in a blog last month for Third Future Schools, a Colorado-based charter school operator where he serves as CEO.

“There is little vision and little appetite for true systemic reform, the effects of which might not be noticed for a couple of years.”

Yet Miles has left behind a trail of disgruntled community leaders, former employees and union champions at previous stops in Dallas and Harrison School District 2 in Colorado Springs, Colo., where he served as superintendent for six years. Miles’ opponents often bristle at his top-down leadership tactics, along with his distaste for more union-aligned approaches to education.

“The attitude, the atmosphere, in most of the worksites and campuses was one of fear and intimidation,” said Rena Honea, the longtime president of the Alliance-AFT teachers association in Dallas. “That’s how his rule was. Not a lot of collaborative input, which is what education should be: people working together.”

Miles undoubtedly would encounter similar resistance in Houston, where voters and political leaders have generally opposed Morath’s move to replace HISD’s school board and superintendent.

The potential selection of Miles also would stand in sharp contrast to the elected board’s preference in recent years for superintendents who aimed to build consensus and moved slower on major overhauls to the district. Miles’ appointment would harken back to the era of former HISD superintendent Terry Grier, whose management style and education policy outlook mirror Miles’ approach. Grier resigned from HISD in 2015 after 6 ½ years at the helm.

Miles, however, ultimately would answer to a board handpicked by Morath — who can remove any appointed member for any reason.

“He’ll have everything he needs to do what he wants to get done,” said former Dallas trustee Lew Blackburn, whose 18-year tenure on the board overlapped with Miles’ reign. “The board members here, we asked a lot of questions, pushed back on a few things. In Houston, there might not be as much pushback from the board of managers.”

See here for the background. There’s a lot more, so read the rest. The story notes that Miles succeeded in raising standardized test score while at DISD, and that is what we want and need here. How painful it will be to get there remains to be seen. Miles may not be the guy, of course – the TEA typically hasn’t said a word and presumably won’t until after June 1 – but it’s highly probable that the selection has been made, and I’m sure that Mayor Turner and Rep. Jackson Lee have good sources. We’ll find out soon enough.

First official contender for CD32 announces

Meet Dr. Brian Williams, the first hopeful to succeed Rep. Colin Allred in CD32.

Dr. Brian Williams

Dr. Brian Williams, the trauma surgeon whose profile grew in 2016 after treating Dallas police officers ambushed by a sniper, has launched his campaign to replace Colin Allred in Congress.

“I’ve always responded during times of crisis,” Williams said in an interview Tuesday with The Dallas Morning News.

“I did as a veteran. I did as a trauma surgeon, and, now, with all the intersecting crises occurring, I feel that it’s time for me to take my experience and expertise to Congress.”

Williams, a Democrat, said, if elected, he would seek solutions to curb mass shootings and promote gun safety. He said he’s also concerned with protecting reproductive rights for women and healing an environment affected by climate change.

“There is a real need for leaders who have frontline experience with the issues that we’re trying to solve,” he said.

Williams will be part of what could be a crowded field to replace Allred, who is not seeking reelection and is instead running for Senate against incumbent Republican Ted Cruz.

State Rep. Julie Johnson, D-Farmers Branch, is expected to announce her campaign after the Texas legislative session concludes on Memorial Day. Dallas City Council member Adam Bazaldua, who represents the South Dallas-anchored District 7, also has been mentioned as a possible contender.


Formerly a Dallas trauma surgeon, Williams has had an unlikely path to politics.

In July 2016, he was in charge of Parkland Memorial Hospital’s trauma room when victims of the shooting in downtown Dallas arrived. Seven of the 14 wounded officers were treated at his hospital, and three of them died. Five officers died as a result of the ambush.

Days after treating the fallen police officers, Williams discussed how issues of race and policing that evolved from the ambush were “much more complicated” for him.

“I understand the anger and frustration with law enforcement. But they are not the problem,” said Williams, who is Black, at a news conference.

“I want the Dallas police officers to see me, a Black man. I support you. I will defend you. I will care for you. That doesn’t mean I do not fear you,” he added.

His remarks put him at the center of a national debate on the relationship between police and Black men. And it fueled his desire to promote gun safety policies.

Then-Mayor Mike Rawlings asked Williams to be the chair of a city board that provides oversight to the Police Department.

After that, Williams pushed for gun safety on Capitol Hill, including working as an adviser for Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn. His last job in Washington was as an adviser on such issues for Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and the former House speaker.

“There are too many young people dead on arrival from gun violence, and I’ve talked to too many parents, watching them in anguish when I tell them the news,” he said. “I realize that the solutions to the problems that I was dealing with in the operating room exist outside of the hospital, so I sought service in the community.”

See here for some background. I’ve said before that I’m a fan of Rep. Johnson, but at the time of Allred’s announcement she was the only one of the named competitors (not counting the “maybe/could be” names) I knew anything about. I’m still a big fan, but I also like what I’m hearing from and about Brian Williams. If what we get is a contest between good choices, that’s okay. As is always the case with a newly-announced Congressional candidate, I look forward to seeing what his first finance report looks like, which we will get to see in July.