( This post has updates where noted. Header image: screen grab from Democracy Now on YouTube )

“What did the president know and when did he know it?” is the famous question asked by  Republican Howard Baker during the Nixon Watergate hearings. The entire affair was captured in the Oscar-winning film—and one of the greatest stories ever put to celluloid—All the President’s Men. Cut to 2017 and we’re asking the same questions to multinational tech companies like Twitter, Facebook, Google and Reddit.

What did these companies know or suspect about Russia’s involvement with the election in 2016? Did they assist Trump campaign cretins in tipping the scales, and were those actions criminal in nature? By all accounts the behavior of all involved is, at minimum, suspect.

RELATED: MARK ZUCKERBERG’S REFUSAL TO ADMIT RUSSIAN MEDDLING ‘A PUBLIC DISGRACE’ (MASHABLE)

Despite repeated denials by Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg earlier this year, in the past few days and weeks we’ve learned that not only did Russia purchase $100,000 in advertising to swing the 2016 election to Trump and undermine Hillary Clinton—but that many entities in Trump’s orbit engaged the social-media hubs’ services to the direct benefit of Darth Cheeto.

To understand this story, you first should know about Cambridge Analytica—a shadowy tech and cyber firm founded by zillionaire Robert Mercer. The “propaganda machine” as it’s been called has had a hand in Brexit and pushing the candidacy of Trump in various corners of culture. Mercer is funder of cretin-popular Brietbart News, to the tune of $10 million (at least), and is also a big fan of Donnie.

In the run-up to the Election last year, Cambridge was working with heavy-hitters like Facebook, Google and YouTube—as referenced rather gleefully by a gal who took the BBC on a tour of the now-empty offices that Cambridge once occupied. “They were our hands-on partners,” Theresa Hong said, “to be able to utilize the platform as effectively as possible.”

That clip always stuck to me like a sore thumb, because I don’t think Hong realized that her interview will eventually become a piece of evidence in the widest-ranging criminal scheme ever perpetrated on an entire country’s electorate. We’ve only just begun to understand it; at least congress is starting to ask the right questions, finally.

Technology is supposed to unite people. To make the world a better place; where globalism and a “global public square” mean more folks are connected and invested in people’s lives elsewhere. Culling and exploiting psychological profiles of more than 200 million American voters is NOT how you do that. Trump’s digital enterprise might yet be deemed a criminal organization, but either way—using technology in this way is a fucking insult to the spirit of why the Internet and World Wide Web were conceived in the first place.

Watch this space. I’ll update here as we learn more. 🔵

UPDATE: Sen. Mark Warner called Twitter’s testimony before the Senate Intel Committee “frankly inadequate.” And Twitter looks to be in even hotter water over in the House. (Recode)

 

“Private citizens have come through for us but no one else really has.” An American in Puerto Rico gets a hug from CNN reporter an anchor Bill Weir (The Wonder List), who filed this stunning report from Puerto Rico today. Just to get stories out as a journalist is a task given that there’s no power to speak of and getting around is next to impossible.

That’s the plight of the storytellers trying to cover Hurricane Maria’s aftermath. For residents, though, it’s fast becoming a horrific and potentially deadly situation.

All reports I’ve seen show an island in chaos, with leadership in a state of disarray. There are 9,500 storage containers with relief supplies sitting in dry dock because nobody has been mobilized to unload them. There also is worry that portions of Puerto Rico that have been cut off by impassable roads are starting to suffer catastrophic dehydration—with more illness and possible death imminent.

The relief effort, by all accounts, has no centralized management and is failing badly. Private citizens and charities have mobilized to help get cell towers working and get water and food distributed. Despite all the chaos, Trump still found time to congratulate himself for his efforts.

“We’re getting tremendous reviews” is what a Broadway musical producer exclaims at a dinner party when Ben Brantley doesn’t savage them in the pages of the New York Times. Donnie is so out of touch that it’ll end up costing American lives.

For late-breaking and thoughtful coverage of Puerto Rico, follow Bill Weir on Twitter. Here’s a good cheat-sheet on where to send your donations to help people devastated by Maria, via PBS NewsHour.

UPDATE: Trump is fundraising off the tragedy/calamity in Puerto Rico. Also, NY and NYC have stepped up through Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Bill DeBlasio to send needed relief to PR. (Newsday)

 

Not much else needs to be written about the above picture, other than it provides instant joy the moment you see it. Ever heard the southern phrase “happier than a pig in shit”? This is the latest version of that saying: “like a lab in sheep.” 🔵

 

That’s a wrap guys! Thanks for reading and, as always, for your shares and comments. We’ll see you right back here next week for another edition of CrankyYank—with other random nuggets mixed in.


Will Pollocksideways is an Atlanta-based freelance multimedia journalist focusing on pop-culture, politics, journalism & media, retail, real estate, travel, politics, and human interest. 

He is the author of two books (Pizza for Good & Leaving Triscuit), with more on the way. Sign up for the mailing list, follow on TwitterFacebook and Instagram—and check out the book links below.

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