Not the Last Trump, Not by a Long Way

Like everyone else in the Western world, yesterday morning I went straight to Buzzfeed to download the dodgy dossier. Well, not quite everyone. I was visitor number two million and something, then two-million-and-something-and-one. Last night after Trump’s press conference the number of visitors had soared to three and half million. That’s less than 1% of the population of the English-speaking world. Just remember, the next time you’re in animated discussion about Trump, the American Constitution, and the imminent collapse of civilisation, that there’s a 99% chance that your interlocutor doesn’t know what she’s talking about.

The Guardian has done a rather good job of enlightening me about the background. They even spotted this afternoon what was immediately obvious to anyone with a brain yesterday morning: that the misspelling of the Russian Alfa Bank as “Alpha”, far from casting doubt on the dossier’s reliability, tended to suggest that the source was writing in Cyrillic, unaware of how the bank chooses to transcribe its name in the West. (Except, isn’t that just the kind of cunning error a well-trained John le Carré character would deliberately make as he typed feverishly on his antique Remington in his Surrey mansion?) Oh well, back to unfounded speculation.

The Guardian also provided me with an immense amount of material about the supposed writer of the report, quite enough to be able to find him, once he comes out of hiding, should I want to ask for his autograph.

No doubt they will soon have tracked down the St Petersburg hotel maid who took the DNA swabs that prove the salacious details which the Guardian wouldn’t dream of repeating when it’s so much cleaner and nicer to provide a link to Buzzfeed.

They also explain in much detail the reasons for believing (or “giving credence to” which is so much more plausibly deniable a circumlocution if it all turns out to be a pile of garbage) the reliability of the information:

The Foreign Office official who spoke to the Guardian on Thursday acknowledged that the Steele dossier was not perfect. But he pointed out that intelligence reports always came with “gradations of veracity” and included phrases such as “a high degree of probability”. “You aren’t dealing with a binary world where you can say this is true and this isn’t,” the official said. He added: “The strongest reason for giving this report credence is that intelligence professionals in the US take it seriously.

a high degree of probability”, eh? And “we believe it because the Americans believe it.” (and the Americans believe it because….?) Next thing, they’ll be saying there’s a consensus….

We’re back to a very familiar situation in our brave but complex new world: a wealth of data, and nothing left to do but interpret it.

We’ve got the complete works of Shakespeare fully digitalised, we’ve got the million keyboards, the only problem is the monkeys…

The Guardian even found the space to mention in passing the origin of the report:

The company had been hired originally by one of Trump’s early Republican opponents before the contract was taken up by senior Democrats.

Discovering that it was Vladimir Putin who was trying to bring Western Civilisation to its knees by indulging in the barbaric practice of spying was easy. After all, there’s only one of him, so the identity parade was a cinch. But discovering who conceived the idea of subverting his or her own country’s democracy by throwing a few million dollars at a retired foreign spook – that’s clearly way beyond the powers of investigative journalism. Hey, there were no less than six opponents in the Republican primary, and there are any number of folk who could be described as senior Democrats.

It would be like looking for a needle in a hairstyle.

29 thoughts on “Not the Last Trump, Not by a Long Way

  1. “But discovering who conceived the idea of subverting his or her own country’s democracy by throwing a few million dollars at a retired foreign spook – that’s clearly way beyond the powers of investigative journalism.”

    Since when is finding out what someone has been up to “subverting democracy”? Democracy relies on the electorate knowing what is going on, surely?

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  2. My political scandal meter broke years ago – round about the time I found out about John Major and Edwina Currie.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Tiny: As a cute example of “fake news” 90s-style, we were living at the time opposite to Clare Latimer who ran Clare’s Kitchen in Primrose Hill which did some of the catering for Downing Street. The rumour was spread and reported that she was having an affair with John Major. When this proved to be wholly false the burn put the MSM sleuths off trying the same with the Edwina connection. Smart work by someone.

    [Edit: spelling correction and addition of surname courtesy of the Daily Mail, which has a rather full report of the whole non-affair from 2010, which I’d never seen before.]

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  4. Worth a quick read of John Podhoretz on this.

    “Fake news will become more sophisticated, and fake, ambiguous, and spun-up stories will spread widely,” warned an important American editor at the end of December 2016. His name: Ben Smith. His publication: BuzzFeed.

    I didn’t make that up.

    That’s got to be the right ending.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Anybody wanna buy a Dodgy Dossier? A wide selection, to suit every pocket.
    Cheap for quick sale.
    Apply 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington DC, USA.
    Offer closes 20/01/2017.

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  6. Geoff, since when is finding out what someone has been up to “subverting democracy”?

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  7. Geoff Chambers says: 12 Jan 17 at 7:43 pm

    (Len Martinez: “Democracy relies on the electorate knowing what is going on, surely?”

    “Good point. Especially in hotel rooms”

    With his Casinos and Hotels, the Donald.likely has much dirt on everyone in DC! And they all know it!

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  8. Len asks “since when is finding out what someone has been up to “subverting democracy”?”

    Answer – when it’s about Hillary’s emails etc, apparently.

    More seriously though, I’m as concerned about the forthcoming Trump Presidency as many people, but I can recognise a witch hunt when I see one.

    The different reactions to the press and media generally about the different “revelations” are quite telling about their agenda. Leaking of Democrat emails – bad. Revelations about Trump – good. The significant point for me is that so far as I am aware nobody has denied the veracity of the leaked emails, it’s the hacking that is the problem. Trump has denied the veracity of the allegations now being made about him, and nobody has been able to PROVE that the allegations are true. If proof emerges, the situation will of course be different. Until then, take with a large pinch of salt..

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  9. Relating to Geoff’s last part about the needle in the haystack, Frederick Forsyth was on Radio 4 this morning, and he wasn’t buying it. He wondered why the Russian security forces should have been so keen to get dirt on a game show host. He also said that Trump would not have done something so gross and stupid, knowing the risk – which rather undermined his first point.

    Also, Jose Duarte has an interesting sceptical article. He draws attention (as others have done) to the puerile and unprofessional tone of the document.

    There’s also a sceptical article in the Independent by Patrick Cockburn, saying that this dodgy dossier reminds him of the other notorious one: “I read the text of the dossier on Donald Trump’s alleged dirty dealings with a scepticism that soon turned into complete disbelief. The memo has all the hallmarks of such fabrications, which is too much detail – and that detail largely uncheckable – and too many names of important people placed there to impress the reader with the sheer quantity and quality of information.”

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  10. Journalists at the BBC, Telegraph, Guardian and Independent continue to do an excellent job of revealing the background to the Buzzfeed dossier. It’s good to see that influential media which I hate for their ignorant, biassed coverage of climate and the environment are still capable of doing what they do best, which is hunting out salacious details about the wrongdoings of politicians and public servants.

    The public servant in their sights at the moment is Christopher Steele, the ex MI6 spy (though, as a Russian spokesman has pointed out, you’re never an ex-spy). He was apparently hired by a Washington investigation agency which was in turn hired by someone close to Jeb Bush. When Bush dropped out of the presidential race, financing was provided by a “senior democrat.”

    Patrick Cockburn, the Independent’s excellent Middle East correspondent, points out the gaping hole in Steele’s story:

    I obviously failed as a correspondent when I was in Russia because it turns out that Moscow is choc-a-bloc with fellows in senior positions willing to blow the gaff on the Kremlin’s deep laid plans. A and B, despite achieving high rank, apparently remain touchingly naive and more than willing to make revelations that, if known, would get them imprisoned or shot in short order.

    So Steele who has apparently worked for the FBI and the British Football Association among others, compiled this highly detailed dossier full of references to highly placed anonymous informers, easily identifiable to their masters, betrayed his client by showing it to British Intelligence in order to request permission to show it to American Intelligence. Permission was granted at the highest government level, and for several months the dossier has been in the hands of McCain, the Republican party, and the US media. If his story is true, A, B and C are probably dead or in a very bad way. And all because a top British spy did a little government-approved moonlighting. If his story is untrue, our defence is in the hands of a bunch of John Buchan characters.

    But apart from the collaterally damaged informants, everyone’s happy. Trump can play the victim of Democrats and the leftwing media, the Democrats have another reason to spit with rage, the papers have a story. If the Russians aimed to show up the corruption and chaos of American politics, they have, and if the didn’t, they have anyway.

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  11. Geoff:

    It’s good to see that influential media which I hate for their ignorant, biassed coverage of climate and the environment are still capable of doing what they do best, which is hunting out salacious details about the wrongdoings of politicians and public servants.

    There’s a genuine mystery here – one of the reasons it’s good to look at a few other subjects in our pursuit of the verité. Although one could certainly build theories that climate central has sent out word to destroy this likely destroyer of all the subsidies it holds dear, I suspect it’s darker than that.

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  12. More Trumpeting this morning:

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  13. The memo has all the hallmarks of such fabrications, which is too much detail – and that detail largely uncheckable – and too many names of important people placed there to impress the reader with the sheer quantity and quality of information.

    I reckon it was Peter Gleick….

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Perplexed of Norfolk wonders how The Donald can claim “My people will have a full report on hacking within 90 days!”. If he doesn’t use personnel from the Intelligence Agencies, who are “his” people – security personnel from the various Trump Towers?

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  15. Can anyone anywhere explain the precise theory behind the Russian intelligence services’ crystal ball that motivated them to set up an elaborate and expensive honey trap for a game show host, casino operator and building contractor in a five star Moscow hotel over five years before anyone anywhere had the faintest inkling that he was going to throw his hat in the ring for the election of the President of the USA and against all odds succeed in that endeavour?

    Even Nostradamus, Old Mother Shipton or Saint John the Divine would have been hard pressed to have worked that trick.

    That question alone should be more than enough to condemn the Steele ‘Dodgy Dossier’ out of hand.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Catweazle, that’s one of the points Freddie Forsyth raised this morning.

    The claim in the dodgy dossier is that
    “The hotel was known to be under FSB control with microphones and concealed cameras in all the main rooms to record anything they wanted to.”
    So apparently most of the rooms at this hotel and presumably many others have cameras that are recording and being monitored all the time and everything they see is stored for years just in case it might come in useful sometime.

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  17. CATWEAZLE
    I don’t find the Russians’ prescience so surprising. It was the top suite at the Ritz, apparently, previously used by Obama, so they probably had the cameras switched on permanently, just in case. But of course, any sexual activity by an organiser of a Miss Universe contest would hardly be news, would it? What I can’t imagine (and I like to think I have a vivid imagination for all things salacious) is that Trump would be interested in the activities described, which are not so much sexual as an act of spite and revenge. Trump? Taking revenge on a bed? (“take that – you … mattress!!!”) Come on, it sounds so – British, I’m afraid to say.

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  18. If I was paying the amount of money that sort of room commands, I’d want a new mattress every night, never mind the same one that Obama had slept in.

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  19. The same cameras and mics must have recorded stuff when Obama slept there, but nothing has been released. Wonder what they discovered, and how it was used.

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  20. How ironic that it seems the DNC promoted Trump as a candidate because they thought he was easiest to beat. Could be fake news, but apparently revealed in the Wikileaks e-mails, which of course were produced by Russian hacking. The fact that John Podesta fell for a phishing e-mail to give away his pasword, had nothing to do with it.

    “In the wake of Hillary Clinton’s surprising loss to Donald Trump in this year’s presidential election, it’s worth considering the undeniable role her campaign played in elevating him as the Republican presidential nominee. The bitter irony is that her team started out determined to face Trump rather than any of the other GOP candidates, drawing on the belief that the politically inexperienced, blustering business mogul would be the easiest to defeat.”

    http://www.nationalreview.com/article/442243/hillary-clinton-campaign-left-promoted-trump-gop-primary-too-clever-half

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  21. Dennis: It wasn’t just Democrats who expected Hillary to beat Trump. Many Republicans saw the game being played and felt they were doomed. As Paul Matthews rightly said in Cliscep’s first words on the subject after the election, the experts were once again competely wrong, right across the board. As climate sceptics we can’t help but rejoice at that!

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  22. I think a large part of Trump’s success is a desire to punch the usual faces on the nose. The public quite like a guy who has a gut reaction to events and isn’t continually fitting in with a non elected consensus on how to think.

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  23. Meanwhile, Obama is staying in town:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/digger/wp/2016/12/12/obama-to-open-post-presidency-office-in-world-wildlife-fund-headquarters/?utm_term=.cb4232a2516c

    “President Obama has been determining what he’ll work on once he leaves the White House and now he has a place to do it.

    Obama has agreed to lease office space in the headquarters building of the World Wildlife Fund, at 1250 24th St. NW in the West End, according to two people familiar with the agreement. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because the deal has not been announced publicly.

    WWF, a nonprofit organization focused on environmental conservation, owns the building and leases excess space to other organizations.

    “As a former president, President Obama will have office space in Washington, D.C., when he leaves office,” said Amy Brundage, an Obama spokeswoman. She declined to confirm or identify the office’s location. “

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  24. “TinyCO2 says:
    15 Jan 17 at 3:19 pm

    I think a large part of Trump’s success is a desire to punch the usual faces on the nose. The public quite like a guy who has a gut reaction to events and isn’t continually fitting in with a non elected consensus on how to think.”

    I couldn’t stand what little I knew of the guy for years. Tacky hair, tacky women, tacky casinos & tacky TV game show.

    Them he ran – & I saw the kind of people who voted for him – compared to the ones who voted for Hillary.

    Suddenly – I found I was a Trump fan!

    Liked by 1 person

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