Professional Scam Artists – part 43

“Two Oligarchs And a Comedian Lead Ukraine’s Presidential Race” by ? (South Front)

An excerpt from the above linked-to article follows:

=== =
On March 31, the first round of the 2019 presidential election will take place in Ukraine. A record number of candidates – 39 – is campaigning for the presidential post in the biggest country in Europe. Most of them have no real chance of victory. According to polls, there are three main candidates – comedian Vladimir Zelenskiy, the ruling oligarch Petro Poroshenko and the contesting oligarch Yuliya Timoshenko.

Despite the high number of presidential candidates, their election programmes are mostly focused on four topics: the military conflict in the eastern part of the country, the Crimea issue, political reforms and the economic situation. Presidential candidates employ populist rhetoric and make fantastic promises of various sorts. Since the “Revolution of Dignity” in 2014, the real opposition in the country has been fully suppressed by repressive measures…

Poroshenko is going to return Donbass and Crimea through “political means”, which in fact does not seem to exclude artillery strikes and diversions with civilian casualties reported from the conflict zone on a regular basis.

Yulia Tymoshenko assures that she has an “alternative”strategy for Crimea and Donbass, but what this might be is still a secret. She promises to reduce the Parliament by 100 deputies (there are currently 450), and halve the price of gas, hot water and heating.

Volodymyr Zelensky was nominated by the Servant of the People Party, named after the comedy series of the same name on Ukrainian television. He says that he will attend the cabinet for only one term. He asked his fans on the Internet to write his political programme. The same approach was declared as the tool to form his future Cabinet. Promises – obvious populism: the removal of immunity from the president, deputies and judges; the introduction of a law on impeachment, the fight against rising tariffs, voting in elections and referenda via the Internet among others. Zelensky promises to put an end to the war in the Donbass region and return the lost territories. Additionally, the comedian intends to receive compensation for damages from Russia.
= ===

President Donald Trump, center, walks away after speaking to the media following his arrival on Marine One helicopter on the South Lawn of the White House, March 24, 2019, in Washington. Pablo Martinez Monsivais | AP

“There Will Be No Repercussions for the Media’s RussiaGate Conspiracy Theorists” by Alan Macleod (Mint Press News)

An excerpt from the above linked-to article follows:

WASHINGTON – Friday marked the end of months of speculation, as Special Counsel and former FBI Director Robert Mueller delivered his report into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election to the attorney general. The headline conclusion of Mueller’s report was reported far and wide: there would be no new indictments for collusion. As the New York Times reported, Mueller “would not recommend new indictments, a statement aimed at ending speculation that Mr. Trump or other key figures might be charged down the line.”

However, the news that the 22-month investigation concluded that there was no collusion between Trump and Russia came as very welcome relief to the supporters of the president and a crushing blow to much of the corporate media that had been engulfed by the idea that Trump was a Kremlin-controlled traitor for the best part of three years. Chief among those was MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show, the highest-rated cable news program, which covers Russia more than all other topics combined.

The sheer quantity of media attention the theory receives is matched by its shrill and alarmist tone. Keith Olbermann shouted at his viewers that we were now at war with “Russian scum” and that Trump and all those who do not resist him are “traitors to this country” and should be dealt with immediately.

The Washington Post described Russia’s actions as an “act of war” while the New York Times’ columnist Thomas Friedman described the Russian “hack” of the elections as a 9/11- or Pearl Harbor-scale event on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) decried Trump’s inaction, stating: “Imagine if FDR had denied that the Japanese had attacked us at Pearl Harbor…Russia is destroying our country!” The bellicose language even spread to some alternative media outlets. The Intercept’s James Rison, for instance, declared that Donald Trump was a “traitor.”

The nebulous language of the reporting, using undefined words like “collusion” and “hacking” that could mean all things to all people, has muddied the waters as well. Words such as these have been bandied about so liberally that a majority of Democrats have come to believe that Russia had hacked into the voting machines in November 2016, stuffing the ballot boxes with Trump votes and swinging the election in his favor. In the era of fake news and information bubbles, this sort of reporting does little to dampen passions.

Worse still, the mainstream press has not been above printing fake news itself, publishing a great number of stories about Trump and Russia that turned out to be false. For example, the Washington Post – which promised to uphold the highest standards in journalism in fact-checking and resisting Trump, and whose slogan is “democracy dies in darkness” – published a story headlined “Russian hackers penetrated US electricity grid through a utility in Vermont, officials say.” It featured the Governor of the state claiming that “one of the world’s leading thugs, Vladimir Putin” had attacked the U.S. electricity grid and that all Americans should be both “alarmed and outraged” and must “vigorously pursue” Russia.

The alarming news went viral and was picked up around the world by many outlets. However, the mundane reality was that there was no attack whatsoever, merely that Burlington Electric had found that one of its laptops, unconnected to the grid, had some malware on it that was possibly Russian in origin. Long after the damage had been done, the Post changed the story.

James Risen’s name was mispelled in the above quote.

Kamala Harris meets with AIPAC representatives, including Mort Fridman, AIPAC president.

“Kamala Harris skips AIPAC conference — but AIPAC comes to her!” by Philip Weiss (Mondoweiss)

An excerpt from the above linked-to article follows:

Last Thursday Senator Kamala Harris accepted the challenge from progressive groups and said she was skipping the AIPAC conference. Jewish Voice for Peace had slammed Benjamin Netanyahu’s racism, Israeli war crimes, the killings of Palestinian protesters– and MoveOn brought in AIPAC’s opposition to the Iran deal– in making the demand of US politicians especially those running for president.

Well, Harris is a very pragmatic politician, and the conference came to her yesterday! She met leading AIPAC officials at her office and then tweeted her devoted support to Israel.

When I read the above article I immediately thought of this (click on image for video clip):

Juan Guaidó, president of Venezuela – because Donald Trump says so

“Everyone Washington Supports, by Definition, Is a Moderate Centrist” by Alan Macleod (FAIR)

An excerpt from the above linked-to article follows:

The Trump administration seems to have found their man in National Assembly leader and self-appointed president of Venezuela Juan Guaidó. Guaidó has been extremely attentive to US interests, promising to allow US oil companies to increase their activity in Venezuela. He has also pledged mass privatizations and harsh rounds of austerity, as FAIR contributor Ben Norton reported (Mint Press News, 1/24/19). Having met with and secured the support of the Trump administration before he acted, the previously unknown 35-year-old emerged as a prominent opponent of the leftist government, championed by right-wing nations in the region keen to see the end of President Nicolás Maduro’s administration.

Despite this, or rather precisely because of it, the media are presenting Guaidó not as a conservative (or further still to the right), but as a centrist social democrat who can unite a fractured nation. CBC (1/23/19) and Forbes (1/24/19) both described him as a “centrist social democrat,” the former adding that he is also an activist and a “salsa-loving baseball fan.” Others went further, claiming that he and his party are “center left” (Reuters, 1/24/19) or even “socialist” (London Independent, 1/24/19). The New York Times (3/4/19) claimed, more broadly, that Gauidó had “captured the heart of the nation” and that “a vast majority of Venezuelans support him.”

In reality, Guiadó’s Popular Will party has always represented the most radical right-wing elements of the Venezuelan opposition, perhaps the reason that Fox Business’ Trish Reagan (1/29/19) eagerly endorsed him as a “freedom fighter leading his country to democracy” amid “massive cheers from the people.” Popular Will has consistently favored confrontation and violence over negotiation; a recent opposition plan to amass an army of 200 soldiers to shoot their way across the border to bring Guaidó back into Venezuela after an overseas tour was only stopped by a panicked Colombian government, according to Bloomberg (3/6/19). Newsweek: Leopoldo López Gives Venezuela the Image of a Revolutionary Who Has It All… Newsweek (2/28/14) describes Leopold Lopez, the organizer of deadly opposition protests, as “charismatic, athletic and good-looking” and the owner of “impossibly adorable Labrador puppies.”

But Guaidó is merely the latest in a long line of Washington-backed Venezuelan conservatives the media has sugar-coated…

Perhaps the most egregious Venezuelan example of this phenomenon was during the briefly successful US-backed coup of 2002. As business mogul Pedro Carmona was installing himself as a dictator, dissolving the constitution and firing every elected official in the country, declaring that he could rule by decree—and while hundreds of people were killed, imprisoned or publicly tortured—the New York Times (4/13/02) presented him as a savior. The paper editorialized, “Venezuela is no longer threatened by a would-be dictator”—meaning Chávez. Elsewhere (4/13/02) it called Carmona a “respected business leader” and a “level-headed” and “meek” “conciliator,” uninterested in personal power.

“Now for Confrontation in Space” by Brian Cloughley (Strategic Culture Foundation)

An excerpt from the above linked-to article follows:

But there was one item of good cheer which showed that friendly cooperation between the US and Russia continues, albeit unobtrusively. It concerned the International Space Station, about which it was reported on March 15 that “A Russian Soyuz rocket carrying NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Christina Koch along with Roscosmos’ Alexei Ovchinin lifted off as planned from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan… Their Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft reached a designated orbit about nine minutes after the launch, and the crew reported they were feeling fine and all systems on board were operating normally.”

A forecast for the second quarter of 2019 by the analytical think-tank STRATFOR reflects the Washington Establishment’s line that “Military competition between the United States and Russia will prevail…” but does not record that the military budget of the United States is vastly more than that of Russia, or that, as headlined in the 2018 Report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, world defence expenditure “falls sharply in Russia, but rises in Central and Western Europe.” As is well-known, the US will spend 716 billion dollars on its military in 2019, but what is not publicised by the Western media is that Russia’s 2019 outlay is 45 billion dollars.

The word ‘competition’ (“the activity or condition of striving to gain or win something by defeating or establishing superiority over others”) is hardly appropriate when the figures involved are 716 compared to 45 whether these be dollars or coconuts, but the competition myth continues, supported energetically by Washington’s military-industrial complex — and especially by the generals, spurred on by the lure of lucrative post-retirement jobs with manufacturers of military systems. Stars and Stripes records that “major US defense contractors have hired hundreds of former high-level government officials in recent years, including at least 50 since Trump became president. The report lends new visibility to long-standing concerns about a revolving door between the government agencies that award massive contracts for military supplies and services and the businesses that profit from those contracts.”

Which leads us to General “Fighting Joe” Dunford, who at his Senate hearing for appointment as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said “my assessment today, Senator, is that Russia presents the greatest threat to our national security.” In October 2018 he reiterated that “the Russian challenge is not isolated to the plains of Europe. It is a global one” requiring the armed forces of the United States “to be able to project power to an area… and then once we’re there we’ve got to be able to freely manoeuvre across all domains… sea, air, land, space, and cyberspace.”

Ezra Levant

“Canada’s Rebel Media Exposed” by William Craddick (Disobedient Media)

An excerpt from the above linked-to article follows:

In August 2017, Press Progress revealed that Ezra Levant was listed as receiving an undisclosed amount of funding from the Middle East Forum (MEF), a Philadelphia-based think tank that “promotes American interests in the Middle East and protects Western values from Middle Eastern threats.” The Center for American Progress has fingered the MEF as one of five key think tanks that are at the center of a network of anti-Islamic organizations. The financial tie between Levant and the MEF seriously calls into question the incentives that The Rebel has in focusing on a message that is heavily anti-immigrant, but is based mainly on emotional appeal rather than intellectual discourse.

Ezra Levant’s ties to MEF are longstanding and not merely financial in nature. Levant has a strong relationship with Daniel Pipes, an anti-Donald Trump conservative who is the founder and president of the Middle East Forum. Levant and Pipes’ history extends beyond the relationship through MEF. Both served as advisors to the anti-Muslim International Free Press Society along with others such as Dutch politician Geert Wilders and Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) consultant David Harris.

Both Pipes and the MEF hold a number of surprising connections to parties who apparently are involved with the Islamophobia industry for personal benefit. The membership of the Middle East Forum includes individuals who have worked for the Israeli government. Prominent names include MEF’s Israeli office head Daniel Seaman, who headed Israel’s Government Press Office, and Gregg Roman, MEF’s Director and former political advisor to the Deputy Foreign Minister of Israel…

Non-state actors such as the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) also have members who involve themselves with promoting Islamophobia. Daniel Pipes is included on the CFR’s membership roster and broadly networks with other affiliates of the CFR in his industry. Pipes is listed as an author at the Gatestone Institute along with CFR member Elliot Abrams and other luminaries such as John Bolton and Alan Dershowitz. Abrams has been connected to the MEF for decades…

Although The Rebel portrays itself as anti-establishment or an “outside the system” alternative media outlet they are in fact very much the opposite. As a young man, Ezra Levant was mentored by Tom Flanagan, former advisor to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Flanagan has previously landed himself in trouble after a number of controversial statements which include a defense of viewing child pornography and calling for an assassination of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.

From FAIR:
Featured image: A photograph of a Venezuelan hospital—edited to remove the underexposure and sickly green tint added by the New York Times. (photo: Meridith Kohut/New York Times)

“Pathological Deceit: The NYT Inverts Reality on Venezuela’s Cuban Doctors” by Lucas Koerner and Ricardo Vaz (FAIR)

An excerpt from the above linked-to article follows:

After debunking Washington’s lies about the burning of “humanitarian aid” trucks on the Venezuelan/Colombian border (more than two weeks after being scooped by independent journalists), the New York Times quickly reverted to form in an article by Nicholas Casey headlined “‘It is Unspeakable’: How Maduro Used Cuban Doctors to Coerce Voters” (3/17/19).

As the title not-so-subtly suggests, Casey claimed to present bombshell revelations regarding the Nicolás Maduro government’s alleged weaponization of Cuban medical personnel as a means of holding on to power. On closer inspection, however, the article is riddled with factual inaccuracies, omissions and misrepresentations.

Relying on the testimony of three Cuban doctors who have defected from the Venezuelan/Cuban health mission and taken up residence in other countries, as well as 16 anonymous sources within Venezuela, Casey provides the reader with shocking vignettes of how Cuban medical personnel have supposedly been used to manipulate Venezuelan politics.

One central allegation is that the Barrio Adentro healthcare mission staff, most of them Cuban doctors, are denying patients care on the basis of political affiliations. One Cuban doctor currently residing in Chile told the Times that one patient was refused treatment “because she was from the opposition.” The only other evidence to substantiate this grave accusation is the account of an opposition mayor who claims he was “denied medication.”

As has been widely documented (Guardian, 10/13/15), defector testimonies are often unreliable, given the political stakes involved. Similar reservations apply to a politician aligned with an opposition spearheading a foreign-backed coup in Venezuela.

Likewise worthy of skepticism is Human Rights Watch Americas director Jose Miguel Vivanco, whose quote, “it is unspeakable,” gives the piece its headline, though a reader might assume these were the words of an actual doctor. Human Rights Watch, whose revolving door with the US national security state is now notorious, can always be counted on to attack the Venezuelan government, though its charges have been debunked on several occasions…

The Times’ questionable allegations of denial of care quickly give way to even dodgier claims of Cuban doctors interfering in Venezuelan politics. “One former Cuban supervisor said that she and other foreign medical workers were given counterfeit identification cards to vote in an election,” Casey wrote, adding that Cuban doctors “were asked to vote with false identification” in 2013.

Anyone who knows how voting works in Venezuela would dismiss these allegations immediately…

Nor did Casey mention the opposition’s repeated acts of violence against Cuban health professionals and clinics. Following Capriles’ US-sanctioned refusal to recognize the indisputable 2013 election results, and his call for his supporters to “discharge that anger” in the streets, seven people were killed in the ensuing street violence that saw 18 Cuban-staffed neighborhood health clinics set ablaze. The violent anti-government protests of 2014 likewise featured no less than 162 attacks against Cuban doctors, who were prominently lynched in effigy. In omitting these rather important details, Casey succeeded in inverting reality: He presented Cuban medical staff as witting or unwitting gendarmes of a brutal regime, rather than frequent victims of opposition violence.

Fomer US ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul and Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton, March 23, 2016 © Reuters / Beck Diefenbach

“McFaul offers Congress foolproof plan to stop Russian ‘influence’ on Americans” by ? (RT News)

An excerpt from the above linked-to article follows:

How do you stop those pesky Ruskies from meddling in the world’s greatest democracy, prevent your dodgy emails from leaking and tame unruly social media platforms? Ex-Moscow envoy Michael McFaul has offered this five-point plan…

First up, cybersecurity infrastructure for elections. McFaul warned lawmakers that American elections must be totally secure and not susceptible to Vladimir Putin’s meddling. But Putin “doesn’t need to steal 78,000 votes” outright, he said – he just needs to manufacture some “media scandals” to polarize American voters as they head to the polls. In other words, any political scandals happening around the time of US elections from now on can be blamed on Russia’s GRU intelligence operatives. Handy!

Second, basic “cyber hygiene” for people working on campaigns is crucial, McFaul said. Presumably, this involves regular password changes and some solid anti-hacking software – particularly if you’ve got any sensitive emails to hide. You never know when the evil Russians might be lurking in your server.

Third, “deamplify” social media. Put another way, impressionable Americans should log out of Facebook and Twitter because they might see something that could alter their perception of reality – maybe a funny political meme or something even more untoward, like a link to an RT article, perhaps.

Twitter and Facebook could probably help out on this front by shadowbanning more accounts and censoring more problematic political content. Why even allow conversation at all when national security is at stake?

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