The hidden side of politics

While You Were Offline: One of the Wettest Weeks From the Standpoint of Water

Reported by WIRED:

In the midst of this exhausting week in the news, many questions have been asked on this here internet: Are Bert and Ernie gay? Do we really need Space Jam 2? Is Rihanna really an ambassador of Barbados? The answer to all of these questions, dear friends, is yes. But there are other questions, and other topics, that require a little bit more focus, and that’s why we’re all here. Step right up to discover what the internet has been talking about over the past seven days.

After the Flood

What Happened: As if being hit by a hurricane isn’t enough, now the Carolinas have to deal with a passing presidential visit.

What Really Happened: When we left you last week, Hurricane Florence had just made landfall in the Carolinas, and even as it slowed to a tropical depression, it brought death and destruction to the area. Flooding was widespread, and as rivers burst their banks and people started to wonder how best to help the recovery efforts and considered how well the forecasters had performed, it was time for one particular post-disaster tradition: The presidential response.

President Trump’s first attempt at a response was … well, Trumpian.

We know what you’re thinking, but yes; you heard that right.

Of course, that quickly became a thing, because of course it did. But, you know, fine; sometimes people say stupid things. (Admittedly, those people aren’t usually the President of the United States, and even so, then you’d expect someone on his staff to step in and not release video of him saying said stupid thing on the internet but moving on.) Let’s go to North Carolina, where Trump was going to be briefed on hurricane relief and tour affected areas. Surely that couldn’t go that wrong, right?

OK, so this doesn’t seem great either, but he’ll go on the tour and things will get better…

See? That was great, heartwarming stuff. (Well, ish, but still.)

Yeah, that wasn’t so good…

So, that one actually gets weirder:

Well, maybe that’s finding some joy amongst the misery?

The Takeaway: It’s not as if he told survivors to “have a good time” or anything…

Oh, come on.

Top Secret, Or Maybe Not

What Happened: The truth is out there, perhaps. We might have a better idea soon, because President Trump wants to declassify documents to try and clear his name. Or maybe not. We’ll see.

What Really Happened: There is more than enough happening in US national politics right now—did you know that another potential federal government shutdown is less than a week away? It’s true—so it only makes sense that, seemingly out of nowhere, the president would make an announcement this week to add even more chaos to the mix. Mr. President?

Just a little declassification between friends! For transparency’s sake! What could be strange about that?

Oh, right: That whole thing about it being entirely about an investigation into himself. The unexpected order was described as both unusual and damaging, not least of which because it adds to Trump’s ongoing fight with his own Justice Department. (There’s also that whole undermining the investigation thing, of course.)

Even as the media started reporting on what was happening, many believed that they knew what was actually going on.

But that would be extremely unlikely, surely. After all, this is classified material and surely the president had the best advisors telling him that this was a good idea that definitely wasn’t based on partisan politics.

Curiously enough, the revelation that Trump hadn’t read the material himself did raise one very curious question…

…Still, at least it was definitely going to be handled by experienced people in the Department of Justice and FBI.

Ultimately, the White House isn’t actually in charge of the process, but that didn’t stop people from worrying about this being a partisan exercise that would only introduce more misinformation into the discussion. But, wait—things actually get stranger. On Friday, days after Trump’s initial announcement, he tweeted that, maybe, it wouldn’t happen at all.

Say what you like about President Trump: He’s someone who stands up to those around him and says, apparently, “OK, whatever you want, I can work with that, if that’s OK with you.”

The Takeaway: Look, things could always be worse.

Poor Toad

What Happened: Of all the reasons anyone ever expected Mario Kart to dominate the national discourse, we are genuinely positive that this was not on anyone’s Top Ten Most Likely list.

What Really Happened: There’s no way to get around this. Let’s just…

Yes, The Guardian got a hold of an early copy of Stormy Daniels’ upcoming memoir, but what caught everyone’s attention didn’t have anything to do with The Apprentice, and had everything to do with those salacious details of her time with Trump. Shall we?

There was absolutely no way this wasn’t going to be picked up by the media, and lo and behold, it was everywhere for awhile afterwards. How could that not be the case?

Maybe we’re all focusing on the wrong thing, of course.

No, no. I mean the other wrong thing.

No, not that, either. Can’t anyone help me out here?

The Takeaway: Astonishingly, this was only the first penis story of the week…

What a world we live in, friends.

Nevermind the Furthermore

What Happened: What was, last week, a vague rumor of impropriety blew up last week as Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh was accused of sexual assault and attempted rape.

What Really Happened: At the end of last week, it emerged that something was going on with Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh; Senator Diane Feinstein had passed a matter on to the FBI that no one knew anything about, and then it came out (via Ronan Farrow and the New Yorker that Kavanaugh was being accused of sexual misconduct when he was in high school by an anonymous source. Two days later, the story evolved again, which is where we’ll pick it up.

As focus on the story intensified, spurred by the Washington Post report, the lawyer for Christine Blasey Ford went on a media tour to make her case.

And then, as if by magic:

Details about the newly scheduled hearing were sketchy to begin with, with many people learning about what was going to happen via an interview with Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley on the Hugh Hewitt Show.

The idea of only Kavanaugh and Ford testifying was problematic for many people, not least of all because Ford mentioned a third party in the room where the assault allegedly happened—Mark Judge, whose behavior last week was particularly interesting.

Judge saying he has “no memory of this alleged incident” would be far more compelling had he not written two separate memoirs focusing on his own history of blackout drinking, one of which references “Bart O’Kavanaugh,” a childhood friend who passes out drunk. And then there’s this potentially strange tidbit:

Also not being asked to testify were the therapist Ford told about the assault in 2012, nor the person responsible for the polygraph test Ford passed regarding the assault, both of whom could have shed light on the veracity of her claims. Of course, midweek, their absence at the hearings suddenly seemed academic when compared with who else might be absent…

To be fair, Ford and her family likely had other things on their minds.

The question about whether or not the FBI was going to get involved became a thing in and of itself, with different parties having different opinions on the subject.

Things hit a particularly surreal phase on Thursday afternoon when Kavanaugh associate Ed Whelan posted a (now-deleted) thread on Twitter defending Kavanaugh by arguing that Ford was mistaken about who assaulted her, going so far as to name the “true” guilty party in moment of potential libel.

In the midst of this, Ford’s attorney came back to say that she was, in fact, willing to testify as long as certain conditions were met…

…which left Kavanaugh’s supporters with only one last trick: The Trump Tweet.

Wonder how this is going to go down…

The Takeaway: On the plus side, it’s not like there’s anything else coming out about Kavanaugh that’s creepy…

Sexy Moment of Existential Dread

What Happened: Sometimes, it takes a Halloween costume to remind you just how much of a dumpster fire everything is.

What Really Happened: Look, we all know that Halloween is an excuse for shameless costume makers to rip off pop culture, turn it into a low-cut or mini-skirt outfit and describe it as “sexy.” This, sadly, is part of the entire tradition of the holiday. But what 2018 wondered was, “Is there a way to do it that somehow seems even more off-color and depressing than usual?” The answer was yes.

Yes! That’s right, it’s a “Sexy Handmaid’s Tale” costume from online retailer Yandy because… Oh, we honestly have no idea. Actually, there’s the strangest part of this whole thing: This is literally a joke from BoJack Horseman. As in, actually literally.

In that the costume only just appeared for sale, the BoJack bit was clearly just a bit … until reality decided to step in and “fix” that for us. Once again, dear friends: We are living in the dumbest timeline. Hey, I wonder how Twitter felt about the costume?

As the outrage and, honestly, disbelief about the costume grew, a division started appearing online between those who were appalled by the outfit’s existence and those who felt that it was, perhaps inadvertently, the ideal expression of the story’s ethos (and, perhaps, the perfect refutation of same).

Finally reading the room, Yandy responded to everyone by explaining the costume’s origin and saying that the upset was “unfortunate.” Well … yes.

This just creates a gap in the market for someone else to swing in and take advantage, doesn’t it?

The Takeaway: For those who’d already bought the costume for this year, here’s a handy hint for Halloween 2019.

More Great WIRED Stories