2 years ago

Report: ‘Russian tactics’ by Democratic operatives ‘had enormous effect’ on Alabama election turnout

After a new publication obtained the internal report on Project Birmingham, the initial claims published by the Washington Post and New York Times that the efforts were “a small experiment” are coming under serious question. Project Birmingham is the name of the Democratic effort to use “Russian tactics” in Alabama’s 2017 Senate special election.

In an article Thursday evening by Buzzfeed News, which stated that they had obtained the same internal report used in the NYT and Post’s respective articles breaking the scandal, it was revealed that this internal report written by the Democratic participants themselves boasted that they “ran a digital messaging operation to influence the outcome of the AL senate race.”

According to Buzzfeed, the internal report also claims their efforts contributed to high Democratic turnout, a drop in Republican turnout and says that it “drove write-in votes to a number of candidates.” On one page it reportedly states Project Birmingham’s “sustained targeting” of Republican voters “had enormous effect” on turnout.

The publication also revealed that one of the NYT reporters who broke the story this month learned of Project Birmingham in early September, when he received a copy of the internal report and witnessed an in-person presentation on the efforts by two of the participants.

This occurred when Scott Shane, a Pulitzer-winning NYT reporter, was one of a handful of invited speakers at a meeting held in Washington, D.C. by American Engagement Technologies (AET). Shane, despite telling Buzzfeed he was “shocked” when he found out about Project Birmingham and the shadowy Democratic efforts to influence American elections, did not report on what he learned before the national midterm elections in November.

Instead, he waited until late December, claiming that he had signed a nondisclosure agreement with AET and that he had to gather enough information independent of the September meeting before legally being able to report the startling information.

AET is the group into which billionaire co-founder of LinkedIn Reid Hoffman put $750,000 to advance liberal political efforts. AET put $100,000 of that money into Project Birmingham.

Hoffman apologized this week for his ties to the project, saying he was unaware of what his money was used for.

Shane also has said he knew nothing of Project Birmingham before the September AET meeting.

“It was basically a bunch of people getting together to talk about disinformation,” he told Buzzfeed News. “Part of the reason I agreed to speak, and somewhat reluctantly sign the NDA, is I was told by the organizer that I could follow up with any of the people on any of the projects after the meeting.”

Shane asserted that it was not necessary to disclose to the American public that he previously spoke at a meeting organized by the very people behind Project Birmingham.

“I don’t think there’s any kind of disclosure that’s relevant, though I’m happy to be corrected,” he added. “If you’ve been to meet with intelligence or defense officials at an off-the-record meeting … it’s always a trade off as to what the ground rules are versus whether you get something useful for your readers. And in this case I did get something useful.”

The internal report provided to Shane and others at the meeting boasted of the campaign’s effectiveness and positions itself as a serious effort to influence 650,000 Alabama voters. It does not use the word “experiment” to describe the effort.

BuzzFeed added that they were unable at this time to republish the internal report in full because their source who conditionally provided it “said some of the report’s claims about its influence are overblown and could create a misleading impression of the operation’s impact if the full report was released.”

In other words, the internal report claims that Project Birmingham did indeed have an impact on and quite possibly influenced Alabama’s 2017 election of Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook).

Despite this, Shane wrote in his initial story last week that, “The secret project, carried out on Facebook and Twitter, was likely too small to have a significant effect on the race, in which the Democratic candidate it was designed to help, Doug Jones, edged out the Republican, Roy S. Moore.”

As Buzzfeed summarized, this seeming-contradiction between the internal report itself and Shane’s article based on that same report “raises new questions about whether the project was — as the Times said — an ‘experiment,’ or whether it was a straightforward Democratic attempt to replicate the model of the Russian Internet Research Agency.”

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall is exploring whether Project Birmingham may have violated any state laws.

Hoffman and Jones have both publicly welcomed federal investigations into the efforts, saying they were oblivious to the project before news of it broke last week.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

7 mins ago

7 Things: No fines for violators of the mask ordinance, no issues found in Alabama nursing homes, Biden urged to avoid debate stage and more …

7. Overnight camp in Georgia sees outbreak

  • The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Georgia Department of Public Health have published a report showing that 231 children and 29 adults at an overnight camp in Georgia tested positive for the coronavirus after attending the camp in June and after “camp attendees engaged in a variety of indoor and outdoor activities that included daily vigorous singing and cheering, which might have contributed to transmission.”
  • The CDC said that this situation provides more “evidence demonstrating that children of all ages are susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection and, contrary to early reports, might play an important role in transmission.” At the camp, there were only 344 people tested, so 76% of tests were positive.

6. Americans just want sports, sports refuses

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  • Both the NBA and MLB saw significant ratings drop-off after their perspective opening games while the leagues have force-fed the American public social justice messaging at every opportunity as opposed to offering them an escape.
  • This ratings collapse comes as Americans are trapped inside their homes, with movie theaters, concerts and other entertainment options lacking, but the media and their Democrats continue to cram a message down the throat of the American people, who can’t really openly oppose but have decided to ignore it.

5. Space and Rocket Center gets help from Boeing

  • The U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville previously announced that if they didn’t raise $1.5 million soon, they’d have to close their doors, and now Boeing has donated $500,000 to their “Save Space Camp” campaign. 
  • Thanks to the Boeing donation, the Center has now raised more than $1.1 million, but there have also been donations from individuals from all 50 states and more than 6,000 individuals worldwide. 

4. The coronavirus relief bill has stalled

  • The most recent coronavirus relief package in the U.S. Senate, the HEALS Act, has stalled, and U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) doesn’t think Democrats are “serious about really providing effective relief.” He said that after the HEROES Act was passed in May, he didn’t think they would “negotiate in good faith.”
  • Johnson also provided some financial perspective on the relief packages, with previous packages being $2.9 trillion, saying that’s “about 13.5 percent of last year’s economy” with the HEROES Act being “$3 trillion, basically another 13, 14 percent. It’s just not a serious proposal.”

3. Biden advised to hide in his basement

  • While former Vice President Joe Biden continues to be told to say he is ready to debate President Donald Trump, his advisors, supporters and the American media are reminding him that they will support him no matter what he does so there is no reason for him to expose himself on the debate stage for millions of Americans to judge his abilities.
  • CNN political analyst and former Clinton White House spokesman Joe Lockhart told Biden and CNN’s audience, “Whatever you do, don’t debate Trump.” Hillary Clinton senior adviser Zac Petkanas tweeted, “Biden shouldn’t feel obligated to throw Trump a lifeline by granting him any debates at all. This is not a normal presidential election and Trump is not a legitimate candidate.”

2. No issues within nursing homes

  • After nursing homes across the state saw high rates of coronavirus deaths and infections, the Alabama Department of Public Health had to inspect and evaluate the facilities, but there were no issues found and now there are some questioning the inspections.
  • Senior policy attorney for the Center for Medicare Advocacy Toby Edelman said that finding no issues within the facilities “is really quite implausible,” especially when 50% of nursing homes in the state had infection control issues, according to a report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

1. No citations are being issued for ignoring mask mandate

  • When the statewide mask mandate was issued, Governor Kay Ivey did emphasize education instead of citations for people who violate the mandate, and so far, that has been true since police and sheriff departments in Mobile, Montgomery and Jefferson counties haven’t issued any citations for those not wearing masks.
  • Ivey has said that the reason for “the mask mandate was not to penalize people but to inform them of urgency and importance of wearing a face mask can help provide as we slow down this pandemic.” With slightly over two weeks of the mask ordinance behind us, Alabama saw a huge number of new coronavirus cases on Sunday.

16 hours ago

VIDEO: Will Dismukes’ troubles mount, calls for more stimulus may never end, Governor Kay Ivey keeps the masks on and more on Alabama Politics This Week …

Radio talk show host Dale Jackson and Alabama Democratic Executive Committee member Lisa Handback take you through this week’s biggest political stories, including:

— Can State Rep. Will Dismukes (R-Prattville) survive the latest news to come out of the event he appeared at for Nathan Bedford Forrest?

— Will politicians in Washington, D.C. ever be able to stop creating stimulus programs without the economy totally collapsing?

— How much longer will we be wearing masks in public?

Jackson and Handback are joined by Yellowhammer News reporter Henry Thornton to talk about all that is happening in Montgomery in regard to Dismukes, prison reform and more.

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Jackson closes the show with a “parting shot” aimed at people trying to defend Dismukes and those holding a 199th birthday party for Nathan Bedford Forrest.

https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=304131553974923

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 AM weekdays on WVNN.

20 hours ago

Should we trust experts?

Experts in public health and epidemiology have driven policymaking during the COVID-19 pandemic. How much should we trust experts? Critics dismiss Republicans who voice distrust of experts as anti-science. Yet even experts know very little about complex economies and societies.

Frustration with experts does cross party lines. New York’s Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo recently remarked of experts’ forecasts of hospital usage, “They were all wrong.”

The “Wisdom of Crowds” argument, wonderfully explained by James Suroweicki, provides a first reason for doubt. Numerous seemingly poorly informed opinions can be remarkably wise. Mr. Suroweicki relates a story from British scientist Francis Galton about a contest at a country fair in 1906. Nearly 800 people paid sixpence to guess the weight of an ox (after being slaughtered and dressed); the average was only one pound off.

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The theory of efficient financial markets illustrates another reason for skepticism. An old joke was that darts thrown at the stock page were as reliable as a broker’s recommendations. Why? Stock prices quickly incorporate all available information. With all information priced, a stock price is as likely to go up as down. The market can be consistently beaten only with inside information.

The central planning of socialism represents the most thorough application of expertise to an economy. Proponents thought that “scientific” socialism would replace the chaos and waste of the market with rationally ordered economic activity. Only a handful of economists in the 1930s and 1940s, notably Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek, argued coherently that socialism would fail.

Socialism failed in part due to the different nature of truths in the physical and social sciences. Truth in the physical sciences in general and timeless: water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit and boils at 212 degrees. Truth in economics depends on time and place. Are trains the best way to travel between American cities? True in the latter half of the 1800s, but now flying and driving dominate.

Another factor is the subjective value of goods and services, meaning based on the wants, needs and desires of consumers. Goods are valuable because people will pay money for them. People differ greatly in their wants and needs, making it nearly impossible to predict what will be valuable, as pet rocks from the 1970s and the variety of videos on YouTube with millions of views illustrate.

Experts are disadvantaged on economic questions. Truths cannot be learned from a textbook, may not hold everywhere (or anywhere tomorrow), and depend on idiosyncratic consumer preferences.

The other part of the argument against socialism is the miraculous degree of coordination in markets. Thousands of products from around the world are available in a grocery store without preordering a week in advance. The times we can’t get what we want, like the recent toilet paper shortage, stand out.

By contrast, central planning in the former Soviet Union produced empty shelves. People would wait in line for hours to buy goods. Russians would join lines without even asking what people were waiting for.

No one would hold a high school dance without a committee to plan the event. Yet the market economy has no one in charge, no one with the power to command others. Coordination occurs voluntarily and is called spontaneous order. And the market does not merely repeat what was done yesterday, it offers improvements too. No one ordered Mark Zuckerberg to start Facebook, he just decided to try.

Politicians rely on experts to devise policies because America has, in Abraham Lincoln’s words, a government “for the people.” In America, restrictions on our freedom can be justified only if they make us – as opposed to the rulers – better off.

Politicians consequently seek out the experts willing to justify policies. Economists who do not understand economic knowledge, subjective value and spontaneous order will offer unrealistic claims about how government will improve our lives. Such experts exhibit what Professor Hayek called, “The Fatal Conceit.” We should not trust experts who are unaware of the limits of their expertise.

Daniel Sutter is the Charles G. Koch Professor of Economics with the Manuel H. Johnson Center for Political Economy at Troy University and host of Econversations on TrojanVision. The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Troy University.

22 hours ago

Alabama principal’s viral music video Hammers home COVID-19 guidelines

While educators are figuring out how to safely return to school, one principal wants to make sure kids remember to laugh and enjoy life, even during a worldwide pandemic.

Dr. Quentin Lee, principal at Childersburg High School, recently created a video parody of MC Hammer’s “Can’t Touch This” song, complete with dance moves and warnings to sanitize and social distance, all in the name of safety and good, carefree fun.

“Doing silly stuff is something I really enjoy,” Lee said in an interview Thursday with Alabama NewsCenter. “I released a song in May about my feelings toward COVID, and it was just me sitting at my desk screaming. It made national media, and I figured it was time to do something different.”

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Donning a Childersburg Tiger blue facemask and armed with a light blue can of Lysol, Lee in the video dances his way through CDC-recommended guidelines, repeatedly warning unconcerned students that they “can’t touch this.”

The production of the video – from writing of the original lyrics by Lee to production of the music video by local film director Jaylen Mitchell of City Vizualz – took around 24 hours.

“I wrote the lyrics in fifteen minutes,” Lee said. “I called Jaylen and he came to the school to record. I had the video by 10 that night.”

Getting volunteers to star in the video wasn’t too difficult. The student actors are Zay Youngblood, Jaden Robinson and Aniyah Oden. Teacher Jessica Veazey also makes a cameo.

“They were nervous at first, but they knew it was gonna be something fun,” Lee said. “Zay said there was a zero percent chance of him dancing. They played their parts to a T. It was just fun to hang out, and they did phenomenal.”

Lee posted the 2 minute 13 second video to his YouTube channel around 2:20 p.m. Tuesday. By Friday, it had been viewed more than 182,000 times. It doesn’t hurt that a popular Alabama television meteorologist shared the video from his Facebook and Twitter accounts.

“Quite frankly, I think we all could use a good laugh and a smile,” James Spann tweeted.

And unlike, well, almost anything on social media, comments about the video have been completely positive.

“I hope the students at this school realize how lucky they are. I’d have loved to have had a principal like this when I was in school. Loved the video!” – Nobody Home

“We didn’t have cool principals when I was in school. He makes you WANT to come to school.” – AlabamaDad

In thanking God for his creativity, Lee said the response to the video has been overwhelming and exactly what he was hoping for.

“I’ve been reconnected to a lot of people from my past – high school and college friends,” he said. “Parents and teachers are so proud. Having conversations with the kids and Ms. Veazey and all the interviews have been fun.

“We are working tirelessly to make sure school is a place where students can be accepted, loved, and clean,” he continued. “Everybody needs love, regardless of political party or ethnic background. If we can allow people to laugh and forget about their problems, then we’ve accomplished the goal.”

Childersburg is part of the Talladega County School system, which has a hybrid plan for returning to school on Aug. 20.

Group A will attend classes on Monday and Tuesday, Lee said. Group B will attend on Thursday and Friday, and the two groups will alternate on Wednesday. When students are not physically at school, they will participate in distance learning.

“Talladega County is a one-to-one system, so students have access to a device that they take home,” he said. “Most students have internet, and we’re looking for resources to help provide internet for the ones that don’t have wifi at home.”

Lee said at least two or three buses in every community route are equipped with wifi, which can also be used by students in the neighborhoods where those buses are parked overnight.

“There’s no perfect plan, but we have to find plans that best meet the needs of the students,” he said. “The superintendents have a tough job, and I applaud their efforts to educate the students and keep everyone safe.”

Lee said he recently held a “Kickin it with Dr. Lee” virtual meeting and dozens of students attended. The purpose was to begin driving home that point that the school will be enforcing all of the health community’s COVID-related guidelines – washing hands, wearing masks, social distancing, etc.

“It will be uncomfortable,” he said, “but I’d rather be doing that than going to a memorial service because we were negligent.”

The video parody helps reinforce that message. Lee said the dance moves were less a matter of learning the choreography and more about recalling muscle memory from copying MC Hammer’s moves in his 1990 hit song and video, “Can’t Touch This.”

“I love to dance, and I remember trying to mimic all his dance routines,” Lee said. “When I went to Alabama A&M, I did the routine at the battle of the bands.” He said many of his student’s weren’t alive when MC Hammer released the song,”so it’s an opportunity for parents and kids to talk and connect.”

Lee said he’s not looking to challenge any other principals to a dance-off, but he does challenge them to do whatever it takes to reach their students.

“Find out where your kids are and meet that need,” he said. “Find some kind of mode to be connected with our kids.”

Lee said his hope is that those who see the video will get a good laugh while also taking to heart the underlying message of protecting themselves and others from the coronavirus.

“We have got to make safety a cool thing,” he said. “If we don’t see the warning signs, we’ll be doomed for destruction.

“By following these guidelines, we could save someone’s life.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

23 hours ago

Alabama Power volunteers throw final birthday party for closing children’s home

Most birthday parties are happy occasions but one held Thursday afternoon in Mobile was mixed with sadness.

Volunteers from the Plant Barry Chapter of the Alabama Power Service Organization (APSO) held a drive-by birthday parade outside St. Mary’s Home. The parade was organized as a way to safely salute the children before the Archdiocese of Mobile closes the facility later this year.

“I communicated with other volunteers at Plant Barry on how we could do a final birthday celebration considering everything is locked down,” said APSO volunteer Tami Williams. “We brainstormed ideas on what to do and settled on a drive-by celebration.”

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Alabama Power volunteers honor children at St Mary’s Home from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Williams and her husband, Ken, have helped organize monthly birthday parties at the home since the early 1990s. Tami and Ken said they were saddened to halt those parties in March when COVID-19 began to flare, but that sadness pales in comparison to the grief they felt when they learned the home would be closed.

“It’s very emotional for both of us,” Tami said. “We have watched these children grow. We have watched them graduate from high school and move on to be very productive citizens. It’s not even sweet. It’s just bitter.”

St. Mary’s Home was founded in Mobile in 1838 following a yellow fever epidemic. Originally an orphanage, the home evolved into a residential treatment facility for boys and girls rescued by the Alabama Department of Human Resources (DHR) from abusive homes. The Archdiocese of Mobile, in a press release, said it decided to retire the home at the end of September “in the best interest of the youth it serves.”

“New federal standards under the Family First Act are being phased in over the next two years in Alabama and recommend a trend away from institutions and toward more therapies within the home environment,” the release stated. “DHR will determine the best placement for these youth and will determine where they will be relocated.”
Andy Rehm, director of Volunteer Services at St. Mary’s Home, said she has been overwhelmed by the outpouring of love from the community since the announcement, especially from APSO volunteers.

“All the people in the community are coming out showing us love and support,” Rehm said. “It’s gratifying to know there are people that love these kids, that get our mission and get the importance of what they do.”

Rehm, who has coordinated volunteer services at the home for more than 20 years, said many of the children experienced love for the first time after arriving at the home, thanks in part to the monthly birthday parties and other events sponsored by Alabama Power volunteers.

“For several children the Alabama Power Plant Barry birthday party has been their first birthday party, and these are teenagers sometimes,” Rehm said. “It gives them a taste of what a real family and real community is.”

Rehm added that the simple act of repeatedly listening to and caring for the children has left a lasting impression on everyone at the home.

“It’s not just a birthday party,” Rehm said. “Just acknowledging their existence and sitting with them where they are, which is exactly what Jesus did – that’s so important. You don’t have to have a bunch of money or a bunch of time, just give of yourself. A little bit of your presence goes a long way.”

Tami and Ken, who are known by the children as “The Birthday Lady” and “Mr. Alabama Power,” said they hope the parade will bookend years of joyful memories.

“A wave to the kids to let them know we support them and love them,” Ken said. “We do wish them all the best in the world. If there’s anything more in the world we could, we would definitely do it.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)