Harder to Cover-up State Sanctioned Killing and to Hide

facial recognition software

Grenoble         Monkey, see.  Monkey, do.

First from what the British and others have pieced together, Russian state operatives tracked down former spies and used weapons-grade, government access only chemicals to poison them on British soil.  As they say in the UK, that’s not even fully sorted yet, but then here come the Saudi’s.  With even more bold recklessness, they seem to have lured a Saudi Arabian, once close to the crown but not now fawning and currently a columnist for the Washington Post, into their own embassy in Turkey to clear a marriage license, and then killed and butchered him.

Yes, their own embassy for goodness sakes.  As if Turkey didn’t have cameras on a foreign embassy, just at the British have CCTV literally everywhere.  And, cameras on the airport where a Saudi plane landed and then took off later in the day.  And, pictures of all fifteen of the Saudis and of course the victim going into the embassy and never leaving.  At least from the story that’s emerging now, never leaving “in one piece.”

You’ll never see this in the movies or on Netflix or HBO.  No one could ever write a script like this, because viewers would not be able to fathom governments that are this stupid and have this much impunity.  But, I won’t go into how appallingly pathetic it is to see the US government and the Secretary of State assisting in coming up with a cover story for Saudi Arabia and its Crown Prince, our rogue, but wealthy ally, much less President Trump, though our expectations for him are so low that nothing surprises.

What is interesting for ALL of us is how the New York Times was able to finger the close connection between one of his bumbling, but deadly, team and the crown prince using facial recognition software.  This is a “you can run, but you may not be able to hide” story for everyone, if not today, very, very soon.  As they reported,

The Times gathered more information about the suspects using facial recognition, publicly available records, social media profiles, a database of Saudi cellphone numbers, Saudi news reports, leaked Saudi government documents and in some cases the accounts of witnesses in Saudi Arabia and countries the crown prince has visited.

In one picture after another they were able to put one of the Prince’s security detail next to him in Houston, Dallas, Paris and Madrid.

Ok, they don’t have all of that information on all of us but, think about it, they do have a lot of it now:  facial recognition, public records, social media profiles, and cell numbers if they want them.  It’s really a case where what they don’t have, they don’t have YET, and don’t bet on the fact that they won’t have it soon.

Sure, nation states and their security have this apparatus now, so if any of you were in denial, wake up and smell the roses.  But, as the Times is proving, so do others, and so may almost anyone soon.

I’m not saying any of you were thinking about joining a state-sponsored hit squad.  Learn from Russia and Saudi Arabia.  It’s stupid, but they are countries, and it seems other countries, including the US, may let them get away with it.  You wouldn’t be that lucky.

But, get a grip.  The day is coming where anything you do will be available and known to everyone everywhere.  I’m not sure any of us are ready for that day, but it’s dawning.  You can read it in-between the lines in the Times.


Run the Government? Who Cares?

Zurich     The list seems endless.

The US government’s own scientists warn of catastrophic climate changes, but the administration tut-tuts their reports, preferring ideology to evidence.

There is bipartisan outrage at the likely killing of a Washington Post columnist who was a dissident exile from Saudi Arabia, but President Trump scoffs at canceling an arms deal with the Saudis negotiated by his son-in-law and still under-subscribed.

Rather than enforce wage-and-hour violations, the Department of Labor instead offers an extension of an amnesty deal with little enforcement.

The Commerce Secretary is caught on stock deals and fibbing on his confirmation hearing about asking questions about immigration on the census run by his department.  The Secretary of the Entergy Department and former governor of Texas has to admit that when he advocated shutting the department down, he had no idea what it did, but is now game to run it.  The Secretary of Education seems to have never been to a public school and pretty much advocates getting rid of them.

You get the message, and if you don’t, reading Michael Lewis’ new book, The Fifth Risk, on the early days of the Trump administration transition to begin running the government will be a wakeup call.  The stories Lewis garnered are harrowing.  Trump didn’t want to even pay for transition preparation or begin any transition work until he was told it was required by law, and really not even then, until Stephen Bannon got his attention by noting how he would be embarrassed on the “Morning Joe” show.  When he won the presidency, not only did he get rid of former New Jersey governor Chris Christi who was heading it, but pretty much the whole crew involved in any preparations.

Lewis focuses on the Energy Department as one example because so much of its budget has to do with protection of the country’s nuclear capacity and electricity grid, seemingly pretty nonpartisan, but critical work that can only be done by a government.  The same could be said of the USDA and its farm friendly bureaucracy.  No matter.  Who cares?  Agency career staff complied a score of critical briefing books so that the incoming administration, regardless of who might have won, would understand how things worked so that they could move forward smoothly, even if they wanted to make big changes.  In case after case, the new administration was simply a no show.  When they did show there were few meetings that were little more than perfunctory, and their main objective seemed to have been witch hunting for political opponents in the bureaucracy.

The fifth risk in the title of Lewis’ book really has to do with project management, the ability to make the train run at least in the right direction even if not on time.  No matter how much the Trump administration politics is worrisome, reading Lewis’ book forces the realization that there may be no one really running the store in the government of one of the largest and richest countries in the world.  It’s not who’s on first and what’s on second, it’s no one may be on any base, and, worse, they may not even understand the game.


Please enjoy Vote em out by Willie Nelson.

Thanks to KABF.