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Normal wasn’t okay.

The commentor class keeps talking about going “back to normal” once the covid-19 pandemic is over. They come with checkmarks on Twitter and tickers in the lower third. To them, this is nothing but an exception, and everything was fine before.

This new precarity they see is only sudden in its reach and scale. Most people I know were still not stable after the post-2008 recession was officially over, if they ever were. If this is your first time worrying about the future, your best bet is to find someone talking about what’s actually changed.

So the question is: who should you listen to?

You could find some market opinion person, but they’re the same people who fixate on single digit percentage movements in the stock market while tens of millions of people are one paycheck from losing it all. I saw a screenshot of CNBC with Jim Cramer going wild over a rising Dow while the ticker mentioned millions of people freshly unemployed. I don’t think anyone making six figures (or more) can understand this situation enough to have a useful opinion on it.

I don’t have anyone specific to recommend, but I can offer some heuristics for identifying credible people:

  • People who talked about the need to decouple healthcare from employment before this crisis brought the health insurance and health care system’s failings into stark contrast.
  • People who talked about the need to address systemic injustice before now. There is a reason groups deemed “essential” during this crisis, like retail workers, are chronically underpaid.
  • People who advocate for justice reform. Prisoners are being forced to make PPE and hand sanitizer while underpaid and unable to afford it. Prisons charge them for most things. Look into the 13th amendment and the so-called reforms of the ‘80s and ’90s, then look at the demographics of prisons. The injustice doesn’t start with prison labor.
  • Just about any queer person. This one is unreliable since, as always, class tends to beat identities. Caitlyn Jenner endorsed Donald Trump in 2016 because she’s a rich Republican, and that’s what rich Republicans did at the time. No amount of “I didn’t know!” after the fact can undo the damage.

Generally, anyone who understands why “back to normal” is so absurd to so many people is a better source than any so-called market expert in the media. The severity and precarity of this pandemic is a symptom of long-broken systems, often intentionally so. You can eventually go back to a normal that worked for you, but you’ll be back here in 10 years if you ignore the sinkhole forming under the house.

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More Satellites Than Planes

It’s about 9PM on the first of April, 2020.

Georgia’s governor just issued a shelter-in-place order after a March that saw new global covid-19 cases rise from a couple thousand a day to over 70 thousand daily.

The order ends on April 13th. It may be too late to stop a major outbreak, but it seems like the the people at the top are catching up. Cities, counties, events, and many states paid attention sooner. Maybe he’ll extend it when he realizes things aren’t getting better on the 13th.

Between the weeks of thick clouds and my anxiety about going out for a walk amid an outbreak, I haven’t seen the night sky in a while. The steady stream of planes to and from Atlanta is missing. I saw a lone, dim speck of light float by, but no telltale blinking lights. A satellite. A digital check of overhead planes confirms it’s not just the clouds getting in the way. Whether it’s the order or a weeks-long normal, I do not know.

Almost as quiet is the nearby highway. I blamed my stopped up ears at first, but I heard one car go by every few minutes.

I’m concerned, but optimistic. Good luck, everyone. Wash your hands, dab when you cough, and keep six feet away. I see one plane overhead as I finish this draft. There’s hope.

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I listened to Joe Rogan’s podcast so you don’t have to

Here are all the things I’ve heard about Joe Rogan, mega-popular podcaster:

  • Nazi
  • Transphobe
  • Idiot
  • Genius

I finally gave in and had a listen to a few of his very, very long podcast episodes after Bernie Sanders called out his interview with Rogan.

The result is…he’s okay. Fine. Good. Doesn’t seem like a Nazi. Has some questionable opinions on trans women in sports, but isn’t quite on a level with people screaming slurs at trans women on Twitter. Some of his guests are, and I can’t mince words here, not good. I don’t believe in pure good and evil, but someone like Alex Jones tests that view. He practices malignant ignorance, and Joe has had him on in the last year.

It’s a value judgement. You have values, I have values. We all have lines we don’t cross. I suspect our lines and values are more similar than different. We can have a conversation here.

That’s what I don’t like about politics. Some people just refuse to own the fact that they have an ideology. “Trans rights are human rights” is, aside from being absolutely fucking true, an ideology.

And you know what? Even if you bristle at that slogan, I bet if we sat down and chatted about what it means, you would agree. We’re probably not that different once you get past the slogans and talking points.

I just don’t want to start this newsletter off by giving any impression to my many leftist friends that I wouldn’t stop a Nazi if they threatened any trans person. But I want everyone else to know that, despite some growing images of left-leaning people like myself, I don’t think everyone who holds an ignorant opinion on queer people (also like myself) is a goose-stepping fascist.

So this Joe Rogan guy, right?

He reminds me of Jack O’Neill, team leader on Stargate SG-1. Seems a little dumb, sometimes charges through good sense into bad calls, but his heart is in the right place. And he’s probably a lot smarter than he lets on. In another interview, I think the one with Penn Jillette, they talk about Joe’s past slide into conspiracy theories. He seems to be back to the fun, jokey-serious conspiracy theory nonsense of the ‘90s.

The kind that gave us Stargate.

But that’s not what most people care about in this post-Sanders endorsement world. People want to know if he’s a transphobe. In the strict, academic sense, his expression of his views on trans women in sports is transphobic. His words contribute to an environment that makes trans people unsafe.

By that definition, we’re all transphobes. I laughed at the “she’s a man, man!” scene in Austin Powers when I was younger and stupider. I laughed at the transphobia in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. Like Joe, I realize now how transphobic it was. I don’t find this definition helpful outside contexts where everyone knows and agrees with it. You have to meet people where they are if you want to move them.

Complex human. Calling out transphobic nonsense. Not giving in to all the people yelling “transphobe!” and sticking to trying not to be one. Look past the ableism in the way he expressed it. We’ll all come around on not calling things insane some day.

This human is a conduit for ideas with no filter. He has lines and values that come into focus as I listen to episodes. My impression is that, by American political standards, he’s more left than liberal, and far from right wing.

I can see the appeal. His revised interview with Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, adds Vijaya Gadde and Tim Pool. This was probably one of the best interviews I’ve heard.

Vijaya Gadde is Twitter’s main law/policy/community person. She made a strong case that Twitter is listening, trying to do right. Jack stayed out of the way a lot, saying she needed to be at the front more on this subject as the person responsible for Twitter’s community.

Tim Pool is one of those people I would normally dismiss as an asshole. Asshole, probably, but I heard him. He’s your typical free speech absolutist. He has his lines, and those lines are informed by his ideology. He thinks, and Joe generally agrees, that removing people and content from platforms prevents people from making informed decisions.

He cites an example where a friend of his was going down the alt-right rabbithole by way of a right-wing personality. He wanted to reference a video on YouTube from that personality to show how bad they really are and where his ideas went, but the video was gone. He admitted he didn’t know why it was gone, but the point held: the video wasn’t available as evidence to steer that friend away.

That was actually kind of persuasive. A point of agreement! We might disagree on the solution. I think it’s better to demote the content and people and provide some informed commentary, then provide a path to the full force of their ideas with the benefit of that context. In the same way, I wouldn’t send someone to Joe’s podcast without pointing out some of the troubling people he has on. Context. Lines. Ideology.

I don’t think I would have understood all the viewpoints involved here without the format. The episodes are long. This episode (#1258) is three and a half hours. So long that everyone got out the usual BS, realized they kept repeating themselves, and chilled out enough to hash out their differences and similarities for a couple of hours before calmly conceding they wouldn’t fully agree with each other, but at least understood each other’s positions.

As I do, now.

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Lifestyles of the broke and nameless

It’s 9:06 PM. I’m staring down the barrel of another failed project. This whole nightmare started in 2009 when I graduated into an economy where all the once-valuable skills of my Network Administration degree (with a focus on Linux!) were now outsourced to “software as a service”—like Google Apps and Amazon Web Services—and to other countries where labor exploitation was more blatant. This was right after the economy went into a generation-defining nosedive. The economists claim the economy has seen a full recovery and then some, but I don’t know anyone who feels whole. Their definitions need work.

I accepted my path into IT was closed off and tried making a living online. I sold t-shirts. EBooks. Photo prints. I tried affiliate marketing and ads. I got an ad revenue check once. DistroKid paid for itself through referrals. Music is the closest I’ve been to a big score through album sales and Patreon. $60 dollars a month after years of sincere and consistent effort. At least it’s something.

But not really. It’s not enough to move for better job opportunities. All the “beginner” jobs here are taken by retirees who discovered the party and businesses they supported for decades screwed them over. I can’t even muster a “fuck you, grandma.” I’m not that bitter. Yet. Whine more about the “War on Christmas” as I pay for my toffee snickerdoodles. All while Republicans raid Social Security and FEMA for vanity projects like wars and walls, with the help of Democrats “compromising” right over the edge, then maybe I can learn to hate you the way you hate “millennials,” whatever that is. I’ve already resolved to use the self checkout next time and forever after. Blame yourself.