“Off the Ruling Class”: A Preview of my 10/22 Talk at CPL

Not the 511

So today’s a bit different: I’m using this blog entry to preview a talk I’m giving on 10/22.


Sign up here today to reserve your spot on 10/22 (reservation required).

The talk is based on an essay I wrote for Harper’s back in April, but expands its review of the three key elements of any given crime: motive, ability, and opportunity. In the 5-minute video below, I offer a sneak peek of the talk, with a review of an open letter, sent that fall, to campus newspapers at American colleges and universities by FBI director J. Edgar Hoover.

And yes, I have progressive lenses, which is why I hold my head at that weird angle. (Sorry for the couple of spots where the audio dips slightly.)

If you view the video via full screen, you can read the text pretty easily.

51(1) — In rotation: The Ramones’ “You Sound Like You’re Sick”

Ramones devotees celebrate the earliest LPs as the best, but I do have a soft spot for a bunch of tunes on this Phil-Spector-produced LP.

Here ya go. I hope you, of course, are in perfect health.

I’m also on this thing called Twitter (@randaldoane). Let’s connect!

If you want to talk about a project with words, drop me a line over here.

Cheers!

Sources

Open letter by J. Edgar Hoover (from the Nixon Library).

https://www.library.kent.edu/special-collections-and-archives/kenfour-notes-investigation

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JoeBlogs: the Cadence edit

Newsletter Challenge, v. 20

Quick note: I recently wrapped up a writing coach arrangement with Ari Lewis, host of the Mastering the Attention Economy podcast. We enjoyed working together (see Ari’s ROI here), and he proposed a newsletter editing challenge. I’ve built my list from the top paid newsletters at Substack, and I toss in an odd find now and again to keep things fresh.

The challenge: 20 edits by … never mind. It’s done!

My primary goal: add clarity, concision, and cadence, and sharpen up my own editing process. After I wrap up the challenge, I’ll provide reflections on these edits and offer lessons you can use on your own newsletter.

For details on my process, click here, a Google doc. Leave suggestions as you see fit. Thanks!

“First Woman Voter: Or, How I Spent My Summer Vacation,” August 25

https://joeposnanski.substack.com/p/first-woman-voter

by Joe Posnanski / @JPosnanski

–Grey typeface: Posnanski.

Normal typeface: me.

Key metrics (original -> edit)
–reading level: 9 -> 7.
–word count: 950 -> 918.
–median sentence length: 22 -> 15 words.
–sentence length, standard deviation (basically, a measure of the variety of sentence lengths): 16 -> 13.
–% of sentences, hard or very hard to read: 40% -> 22%.

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First Woman Voter: Or, How I Spent My Summer Vacation

A few of you have reached out to check on me since it has been a little while since I posted here. Thank you for that. I’ve been entirely swamped on this project I’m about to tell you about — and it has been wonderful and exhausting and inspiring and, mostly, all-consuming. But I also have been writing some baseball over at The Athletic, so please check that out.

You might know that a couple of years ago, I partnered with my friend Dan McGinn on a project we call, Passions in America. What is Passions in America? That’s a very good question … and one we have spent a long, long time trying to answer.

The inspiration behind Passions is a simple idea: Our passions — which is to say the activities and pursuits and collections and pastimes that bring us joy and well-being and a sense of purpose — are more important now than ever. We deeply believe in that idea, deeply believe that our passions connect us, they energize us, they give our lives balance, they bring out our best selves, they help us see each other in entirely new ways.

It’s been a while since my last post, and I’m grateful to those of you who checked in with me to see what’s what. Seriously. Thank you. I’m happy to report I’ve been knee-deep in a project for weeks — and it’s been wonderful and exhausting and inspiring and, most of all, all-consuming. I have also been writing about baseball at The Athletic, so please check that out.

As some of you know, I partnered with my friend Dan McGinn a couple of years ago on a project called “Passions in America.” What is “Passions in America”? Good question … and one we have spent a long, long time trying to answer.

The inspiration behind Passions is simple: our passions —the activities and pursuits and collections and pastimes that bring us joy, well-being, and a sense of purpose — are more important than ever. We deeply believe in this prospect. We deeply believe that our passions connect us, energize us, and give our lives balance. They bring out our best selves. And they help us see one another in entirely new ways.

~~~~~~~~~~~

But where does that idea lead? How do we use Passions in America to bring a little more joy, a little more unity, a little more creativity into the world? How do we encourage people to embrace their passions? How do we tell more stories about people through the prism of passion?

I can tell you: These are all pretty sticky questions. Over the last couple of years, we’ve gone down numerous paths, some with more success than others. But none of them seemed exactly the right path.

So … how do we use Passions in America to bring a little more joy, a little more unity, a little more creativity into the world? How do we encourage people to embrace their passions? How do we tell more stories about people through the prism of passion?

These questions are all pretty sticky. Over the last couple of years, we’ve gone down numerous paths. Some hinted at more success than others. None of them seemed just the right path.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Then, this summer, we came upon something. We asked people if they would send in a photo of something bringing them joy during this pandemic. It was just this simple idea, but it led to something wonderful: Most than a thousand people sent in photographs … and they were all so stirring and marvelous and, especially, happy. We got photos of dogs and sunsets, magic tricks and board games, puzzles and delicious foods, books and lawnmowers, coffee mugs and picnic tables, bicycles and guitars. We all felt like just looking at those photos was, somehow, like having some of the passion and happiness that people felt transferred to us.

Not long after that, Negro Leagues Baseball Museum President Bob Kendrick approached us with the idea of creating a virtual celebration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of the Negro Leagues. And in a whirlwind few weeks, thousands of people across America — including the four living former Presidents, 20 Baseball Hall of Famers, sports legends like Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson and Billie Jean King, celebrities like Paul Rudd and Rob Lowe, more than 40 U.S. mayors, politicians and musicians and countless kids on baseball teams — tipped their caps.

It is one of the most inspiring and wonderful things I’ve ever been lucky enough to be a part of.

Then, this summer, we asked people to send in a photo of something that brings them joy. It was a simple idea, but it led to something wonderful. More than a thousand people sent in photographs, and they were all so stirring and marvelous and brimming with happiness. We got photos of dogs and sunsets, magic tricks and board games, puzzles and delicious foods, books and lawnmowers, coffee mugs and picnic tables, bicycles and guitars. While we all looked over the photos, we felt inspired — and spoiled — by the passion and happiness that our respondents transferred to us.

Not long after that, Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, got in touch. He invited us to create a virtual celebration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of the Negro Leagues. And, in a few whirlwind weeks, thousands of Americans— including the four living former Presidents, 20 Baseball Hall of Famers, Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson and Billie Jean King, celebrities like Paul Rudd and Rob Lowe, more than 40 U.S. mayors, politicians and musicians and countless kids on baseball teams — tipped their caps.

It is one of the most inspiring and wonderful things I’ve ever been a part of.

~~~~~~~~~~~

And then came First Woman Voter. Talk about a whirlwind. Over the last month, in celebration of 100 years of women’s suffrage and in conjunction with numerous women’s groups and too many amazing people to name, Dan and I have played a small part of this incredible celebration of women honoring the First Woman Voter in their families. I can’t really describe it well enough, I mean, just watch this video from CNN’s Suzanne Malveaux:

And, shortly after that, came First Woman Voter project. Over the last month, in celebration of 100 years of women’s suffrage and in conjunction with numerous women’s groups and dozens of amazing people, Dan and I played a small part in the incredible celebration of women honoring the First Woman Voter in their families. Even today, I can’t really describe it. So, just watch this video from CNN’s Suzanne Malveaux:

~~~~~~~~~~~

And this one from Bernice King celebrating her mother Coretta Scott King:

And this one from Lynda Bird Johnson Robb about her mother, Lady Bird Johnson.

And this one from my friend, ESPN’s Mina Kimes:

Note: please check out Joe’s essay to see the other amazing clips from this project.

~~~~~~~~~~~

There are more than 120 of these videos on the site — including the four former First Ladies and every woman who has been Secretary of State — each of them so personal, so moving, so unifying. In a time when everything feels so hopelessly divided, these videos from Democrats and Republicans, hard-line liberals and conservatives — from those who trace their voting rights back to 1920 to those who go back to the 1965 Voting Rights Act to those first-generation Americans like myself and Mina — have lifted my spirit continuously.

They remind me every single day that there is a bond that ties us together as Americans, and even if that bond seems frayed it is not torn.

There are more than 120 videos on the site. They include the four former First Ladies and every woman who has been Secretary of State. Each of them is so personal, so moving, so unifying. In a time when everything American feels so hopelessly divided, these videos from Democrats and Republicans, hard-line liberals and conservatives — from those who trace their voting rights back to 1920 (see: the 19th Amendment) or even just 1965 (see: the Voting Rights Act) to those first-generation Americans like myself and Mina — have lifted my spirit to new heights, over and over and over.

These videos remind me that, as Americans, we have a bond that ties us together. Even if that bond seems frayed, it is not torn asunder.

~~~~~~~~~~~

The Washington Post so loved this project that they asked us to share our videos for them to display in a wonderful package they put together called “Why She Votes.” Others have asked us to share these videos for projects we will unveil as time goes on.

It has all been amazing. I’m not sure how financially viable it is since right now the running money total on the two projects is $640 — that’s how much we SPENT on the websites and for video converting software — but the feeling of being a part of these projects and bringing some good into the world is indescribable.

The First Woman Voter campaign is still building online, particularly as we go into Women’s Equality Day on Wednesday. It’s really simple: Record a video celebrating the First Woman Voter in your family (or the woman in your family who first inspired you to vote), use a photo and a memento if you can, and post it to your social media with the hashtag #FirstWomanVoter. Would love for you to join in.

Staff at the Washington Post absolutely loved this project. We agreed to share our videos with them, and they assembled them in in a wonderful package called “Why She Votes.” Others have asked us to share these videos for other projects, and we will unveil them in the near future.

The whole thing has been amazing. I’m not sure how financially viable it is, though. Right now, the running money total on the two projects is $640: that’s how much we spent on the websites and for video-converting software. Still, the feeling of bringing some good into the world via these projects is indescribable.

The First Woman Voter campaign is still building online, particularly as we approach Women’s Equality Day on Wednesday [August 26]. It’s so simple to be a part of this project:

  • Record a video celebrating the First Woman Voter in your family (or the woman in your family who first inspired you to vote)
  • include a photo and a memento (if possible), and
  • post it on social media with the hashtag #FirstWomanVoter

I would love for you to join us.

~~~~~~~~~~~

As for Albert Pujols officially moving into second place in RBIs, even though Babe Ruth actually had more RBIs … I’ll save that for another day.

As for Albert Pujols officially moving into second place in RBIs even though Babe Ruth actually had more RBIs … I’ll save that for another day.

# # #

And that’s a wrap. Be sure to head over to Joe’s site to see the rest of this super-smart essay.

I have room in my schedule for a new client, beginning November 9. If you like what you see, drop me a line over here.

Thanks!

Happy writing!

BIG: the Cadence edit

Newsletter Challenge, v. 19

Quick note: I recently wrapped up a writing coach arrangement with Ari Lewis, host of the Mastering the Attention Economy podcast. We enjoyed working together (see Ari’s ROI here), and he proposed a newsletter editing challenge. I’ve built my list from the top paid newsletters at Substack, and I toss in an odd find now and again to keep things fresh.

The challenge: 20 edits by late September (yes, I’m behind, but my clients — and my family — come first, of course).

My primary goal: add clarity, concision, and cadence, and sharpen up my own editing process. After I wrap up the challenge, I’ll provide reflections on these edits and offer lessons you can use on your own newsletter.

For details on my process, click here, a Google doc. Leave suggestions as you see fit. Thanks!

“Will Trump’s Supreme Court Destroy Trump’s Google Case?,” Sept. 22

https://mattstoller.substack.com/p/will-trumps-supreme-court-destroy (1400 of 2200 words)

by Matt Stoller, @matthewstoller

–Grey typeface: Stoller.

Normal typeface: me.

Key metrics (original -> edit)
–reading level: 14 -> 11.
–word count: 1392 -> 1312.
–median sentence length: 22 -> 17 words.
–sentence length, standard deviation (basically, a measure of the variety of sentence lengths): 10.6 -> 10.3.
–% of sentences, hard or very hard to read: 69% -> 53%.

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Will Trump’s Supreme Court Destroy Trump’s Google Case?

The court cases that have made antitrust a dead letter have largely come from the conservative legal movement

Will Trump’s Supreme Court Destroy Trump’s Case Against Google?

Notes on the pro-monopoly conservative legal movement

All indications are that the Department of Justice Antitrust Division, perhaps joined by Republican state attorneys general, will be filing an antitrust suit against Google, as soon as next week. The politics are lined up for it; last week, the Senate Antitrust Subcommittee held a hearing on Google’s dominance over the advertising market, with unanimous agreement that Google is too powerful.

Senator Mike Lee is the chair of the subcommittee and was also one of Google’s last remaining Senate defenders. But even he flipped, issuing a statement after the hearing basically accusing the corporation of being an illegal monopoly. Here’s what he said:

All signs indicate that the Department of Justice Antitrust Division will file an antitrust suit against Google as early as next week. In a hearing last week on Google’s dominance of the advertising market, the Senate Antitrust Subcommittee came to a unanimous agreement that Google is too powerful.

Senator Mike Lee, the chair of the subcommittee, was among Google’s last remaining defenders in the Senate. Now even he’s flipped. Lee recently issued the following statement:

[Google] appears to be using its leading market positions in search and online video to engage in tying on the advertiser side of its business, essentially forcing the vast majority of demand onto its platform. In turn, publishers are also forced to use Google’s platform because there really isn’t any other option.

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Lee’s comments are a major victory for anti-monopolists. While Obama didn’t do much to address monopoly power, towards the end of his administration the Democratic establishment started shifting towards a more skeptical posture towards corporate concentration. Elizabeth Warren launched the first mainstream attack on Google as a monopoly in 2016. She was pushed back by critics as seeking to upend antitrust law to incorporate social goals, for being a radical left-winger, for hipster antitrust, whatever. But it should be clear by now that Warren has won the debate. If Lee is on board, then nearly everyone in Congress is on board.

The problem that Bill Barr and the states will encounter in bringing an antitrust suit, however, is the judges that George W. Bush and Donald Trump have put on the court (not to mention the seat held by Ruth Bader Ginsburg that Trump will try to fill). This is because courts have claimed total authority over not only interpreting statute, but since the 1970s, actually writing antitrust law itself, largely consistent with the conservative legal movements goal of supporting corporate concentration. Legendary antitrust jurist Robert Bork’s theory of competition policy was also a theory of judging; in his view, Congressional intent and even statute didn’t really matter, what mattered was that corporatist judges could make the law conform to his moral preference of consolidating wealth and power. Bork was a culture warrior, and in his view, strong antitrust enforcement prior to the 1970s was an ideological attack on a moral America organized by an appropriately rigid social hierarchy. His view, in other words, was that it was important for conservatives to turn the judiciary into a super-legislature, and that so the world we’re living in is one in which Democratic judges and Republican judges dishonestly write law under the pretense of being neutral umpires.

Lee’s comments represent a major victory for anti-monopolists. Obama, of course, didn’t do much to address monopoly power. Towards the end of Obama’s presidency, though, the Democratic establishment established a more critical position on corporate concentration. Senator Elizabeth Warren launched the first mainstream attack on Google as a monopoly in 2016. Critics pushed back with a host of accusations against Warren: for trying to incorporate social goals into antitrust law; for being a radical left-winger; for antitrust hipsterdom. Whatever. Today it’s clear that Warren has won the debate. If Lee is on board, you can expect nearly everyone in Congress to be on board.

You can also expect the judges that George W. Bush and Donald Trump have put on the court — not to mention the open SCOTUS seat — to push back hard against Attorney General William Barr and states attorneys general, should they join the case. First, the courts claim total authority in the interpretation of statute. Second, since the 1970s, members of these courts have actually written antitrust law, and in a way that’s largely consistent with the conservative legal movement that supports corporate concentration.

Robert Bork, the legendary anti-antitrust jurist, presented two key theories: a theory of competition policy, and a theory of judging. For Bork, Congressional intent and even statute don’t really matter. Ensuring the ability of corporatist judges to make the law conform to his moral preference of the consolidation of wealth and power mattered. Bork was a culture warrior. In his view, strong antitrust enforcement prior to the 1970s was an ideological attack on the appropriately rigid social hierarchy of a moral America. In turn, he sought to inspire his fellow conservatives to turn the judiciary into a super-legislature. And he pretty much succeeded. Today, Democratic judges and Republican judges write law under the pretense of being neutral umpires.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Bork’s philosophy of having judges narrow antitrust has continued to shape the law up to the present day, heavily structuring the way enforcers approach tech platforms. In 2018, the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision known as Ohio v. American Express Co, wrote that monopolization claims against what are called ‘multi-sided platforms’ have a higher burden of proof than ordinary claims. The case involved American Express, which connects merchants who take American Express cards with customers who have those cards. Amex was screwing merchants by charging them high prices and refusing to let them ask shoppers to use Visa or Mastercard, whose charges were lower. A bunch of states sued American Express, claiming that it was violating the Sherman Act by charging high prices and preventing customers from using the services of competitors.

American Express offered a novel defense. Showing monopolization and harm wasn’t enough, Amex claimed, the government also had to show that across American Express’s entire payments platform there was a net loss. That is, American Express argued that it offered reward points to consumers, and those reward points offset any harm it might be doing to merchants. The Supreme Court, led by conservatives (Thomas, Gorsuch, Kennedy, Alito, Roberts), agreed with Amex, crafting special rules for platforms.

The case extends far beyond Amex, and helps shield the business lines of Google, Facebook, and Amazon from monopolization claims. In effect, conservative judges created, as scholar Lina Khan noted, “de facto antitrust immunity for the most powerful companies in the economy.”

Bork’s design to have judges narrow antitrust continues to shape the law today, and limits the ability of enforcers to take on tech platforms. In 2018, in Ohio v. American Express Co. (a 5-4 decision), the Supreme Court decided that monopolization claims against “multi-sided platforms” have a higher burden of proof than ordinary claims. The case involved American Express, which connects merchants who take American Express cards with customers who have those cards. Amex charged merchants high prices and refused to let them inform shoppers that their use Visa or Mastercard entailed lower charges for the merchant. A bunch of states sued American Express, claiming that it was violating the Sherman Act by charging high prices and preventing customers from using the services of competitors.

In their novel defense, American Express claimed that the demonstration of monopolization and harm wasn’t enough. The government also had to show that across American Express’s entire payments platform there was a net loss. American Express argued that the reward points offered to consumers offset any harm it might be doing to merchants. The Supreme Court, led by conservatives (Thomas, Gorsuch, Kennedy, Alito, Roberts), agreed with Amex, crafting special rules for platforms.

The case, though, extends far beyond Amex. Today it helps shield the business lines of Google, Facebook, and Amazon from enforcement of antitrust law. In effect, as scholar Lina Khan noted, conservative judges created “de facto antitrust immunity for the most powerful companies in the economy.”

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Amex was a critical case, and among those who filed in support of gutting antitrust law was Wall Street, the pharmaceutical industry, lobbying group for large technology firms like Google, Amazon and Facebook, the big tech-funded antitrust law professoriat. And a district court has already dealt the DOJ Antitrust Division a loss when it challenged the merger of Sabre and Farelogix, largely on grounds that multi-sided platforms have special higher burdens of proof to show potential monopolization.

Now there are ways around this decision, depending on the Google case DOJ and the states choose to bring. Still, if the Trump Department of Justice does bring a Google case, they may have obstacles or a higher burden of proof because of Amex. As Bloomberg law noted last month:

Amex was a critical case, and the parties that filed support briefs included Wall Street, the pharmaceutical industry, lobbyists for Google, Amazon and Facebook, and the big tech-funded antitrust law professoriat. And a district court recently dealt the DOJ Antitrust Division a loss when it challenged the merger of Sabre and Farelogix, largely on grounds that multi-sided platforms have higher burdens of proof to show potential monopolization.

Now there are ways around this decision, depending on how DOJ and the states make their case against Google. Still, the burden of proof will be higher because of Amex. As Bloomberg law noted last month:

Federal and state enforcers need to be prepared for Google to invoke the AmEx ruling in its defense, antitrust experts say. The company has argued that competition has helped lower the cost of online ads in recent years, and highlighted the money it makes for publishers. Successfully raising that legal precedent would put a higher burden on government lawyers to prove that Google’s behavior is anticompetitive.

"People are going to have to try to guess when a court is going to say, ‘Oh no, your market is actually two-sided,’ and they will have to have the backup market definition ready to go,” said Chris Sagers, a professor at the Cleveland State University law school. “If they don’t, case dismissed.”

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There’s a lot of evidence piling up against Google. But the reality is that the courts have been increasingly hostile to bringing antitrust claims for decades now, spurred by conservative jurists.

It has been over twenty years since a major monopolization case, when the DOJ won its antitrust case against Microsoft. Still, the case ended not with a bang but with a whimper. After Microsoft was found guilty of violating the antitrust laws by tying its operating system to its browser (among other problems) in order to forestall competition, the district court judge ordered the company split in two. But an appeals court overturned the remedy, relaxing antitrust law, and the new Bush administration settled with Microsoft. It became evident that the courts had legalized monopolization in high-technology markets. Two years later, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison responded to the decision by noting that dominance in every line of business was now a court-blessed reality, and in databases, Oracle intended to “be that dominant player.” Or, as he put it, “We have to roll up our industry.”

There’s plenty of evidence piling up against Google. The legal reality, though, remains monopoly friendly. For decades now, when stacked with conservative judges, the courts have become increasingly hostile to antitrust claims.

The last major antitrust case was 20 years ago. The victory in United States v. Microsoft, though, ended not with a bang but with a whimper. Microsoft was found guilty of violating the antitrust laws by tying its operating system to its browser (among other problems), in order to forestall competition. The district court judge ordered the company split in two, but an appeals court overturned this remedy. The Bush 43 administration subsequently settled with Microsoft. In effect, the courts had legalized monopolization in high-technology markets. Two years later, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison responded to the decision by noting that dominance in every line of business was now a court-blessed reality. In the database market, Oracle intended to “be that dominant player,” Ellison said. “We have to roll up our industry.”

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In 2004, the Supreme Court further eroded monopolization cases with Verizon Communications Inc. v. Law Offices of Curtis V. Trinko, a decision authored by Antonin Scalia but joined by every other member of the court. Verizon was a local phone monopoly controlling access to customers, and in the 1996 Telecom Act had been required to lease its lines to competitors at a wholesale rate so that they could compete with Verizon to sell telecom services. But Verizon had refused to do so. Customers sued, alleging Verizon had monopolized the market. The Supreme Court, in an aggressive decision, not only said that Verizon could monopolize the market by shutting out its competitors from its essential service, but that it should do so. Here’s what Scalia wrote:

In 2004, the Supreme Court further eroded antitrust law with Verizon Communications Inc. v. Law Offices of Curtis V. Trinko. Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the decision, which was signed by every other member of the court. Verizon was a local phone monopoly controlling access to customers. The 1996 Telecom Act required Verizon to lease its lines to competitors at a wholesale rate, so that they could compete with Verizon to sell telecom services. But Verizon refused to do so. Customers sued, alleging Verizon had monopolized the market. In their decision, the Supremes said that not only could Verizon monopolize the market, but that it should. From Scalia’s decision:

The mere possession of monopoly power, and the concomitant charging of monopoly prices, is not only not unlawful; it is an important element of the free-market system. The opportunity to charge monopoly prices–at least for a short period–is what attracts “business acumen” in the first place; it induces risk taking that produces innovation and economic growth.

Firms may acquire monopoly power by establishing an infrastructure that renders them uniquely suited to serve their customers. Compelling such firms to share the source of their advantage is in some tension with the underlying purpose of antitrust law, since it may lessen the incentive for the monopolist, the rival, or both to invest in those economically beneficial facilities.

# # #

And that’s a wrap. Be sure to head over to Matt’s site to see the rest of this super-smart essay.

If you like what you see, drop me a line over here.

Thanks!

Happy writing!

Save our millennials: preventative health for Gens X and Y

The 511

Back in the 20th century, we called 411 for information. Today, information’s aplenty, so you’re looking for something more. The 511 includes: 

  • ~5 short paragraphs about medtech, biotech, or another medical or science-y thing
  • 1 sentence for reflection (and maybe a laugh), and 
  • 1 track I’ve currently got in heavy rotation.

Health disparities in a meritocratic society

When French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu claimed, “Everything is social,” he was absolutely spot on. In the US, though, we foreground a different maxim: “Individual responsibility is a necessary fiction.” Who earns your grades, your place in the starting line-up, your salary at work? You do, of course. Still, the differential impact of the pandemic suggests that those who have been spared (so far) somehow earned it is absurd. Individual responsibility is an essential principle in a meritocratic society, even as a partial truth — although one that may be subject to new considerations, as more Americans consider the maxim of Joe Strummer: “the future is unwritten,” and therefore anything is possible, via collective will and individual initiative. Here I take up some points on a big report by Blue Cross Blue Shield from later 2019 on the long-term health prospects of Gen X and Gen Y (a.k.a. “millennials”) in lieu of the pandemic.

The key metrics of good health

This report made the news in January 2020 and, well, kinda got lost in the mix of other cross-generational health threats of the day. The key takeaways:

  • The focus: people born in the U.S. between 1981 and 1996 (21 to 36 years old in 2017), and on the 55M of the 73M of Gen Y that have commercial health insurance
  • 83% of millennials believe they are in good health, but only 68% have a primary care physician
  • Gen X is not terribly healthy, but it’s healthier than Gen Y (see the table below)
Source: https://www.bcbs.com/the-health-of-america/reports/the-health-of-millennials

Most of these conditions can be managed: preventive medicine works for people in aggregate that take personal responsibility for their health:

“While millennials are a few percentage points more likely to opt in for text messages than email,” says Thurston, “they are 7 percent less likely to click through those text notifications than older coworkers.” Millennials are more likely to open emails than non-millennials, says Thurston. “But once they open those emails, millennials take action 4 percent less of the time,” she says. However, millennials who know they already have a chronic condition are more likely to engage.

Erin Thurston, director of member marketing, Independence Blue Cross (here)

The answer? TBD, it seems. Preventive medicine is typically covered by health insurance, but remains under-utilized. It does not, however, seem to involve another app.

Morality, health and what millennials want

Back to Bourdieu: morality, for sociologists, entails how a given society enforces its social rules, and how that enforcement binds us to that society. Gen Y morality, though, may pose serious health consequences to millennials.

“‘Everyone gets a trophy’ or ‘there are no strikeouts’ impedes the natural learning curve of dealing with failure and building resiliency. As a result, many millennials encounter difficulty tolerating stressful events, frustrating easily, and avoiding demands so as not to feel overwhelmed.”

Deborah Serani, professor at Adelphi University, author of “Living with Depression”

That’s heavy. Gen Y is amazing in so many ways, but if health maintenance is regarded as a demand to be avoided, that’s even heavier. Rough segue here: health adversity for Gen Y skews badly along gender lines. Millennial women will bear 20% more of this adversity than their male counterparts, via depression, type 2 diabetes, and other endocrine conditions.

Dr. Vincent Nelson, vice president of medical affairs for the BCBSA, reports on the prospect of “meeting millennials where they are” (another key principle of Gen Y morality), and identified the following conditions:

  • Millennials want access to their own health records and convenient care, including telemedicine
  • They don’t want another app to download
  • Millennials want to address behavioral health conditions via a holistic approach (mind+body)
  • Millennials are “much more comfortable in a friendly environment, which helps them trust providers to understand their culture, race, socioeconomic status, and sexual and gender identity”

What that friendly environment might look like, though, remains murky. Community health centers serve primarily the underinsured, but may soon find a way to attract insured millennials. Let’s hope so, for everyone’s sake. If these health trends persist, Gen Y vs. Gen X per-capita income could expand to 11%, along with higher rates of unemployment.

So apps are not the answer. Wearable technologies are not the answer. Will Americans as a whole — and millennials in particular — emerge in the post-pandemic era with a new appreciation for digital-free time and the art of conversation, even with healthcare providers? It is, as a recent Netflix documentary indicates, one of the key Social Dilemma(s) of our time.

5(1)1 — On moral injury as a chronic health condition

We have witnessed much tragedy over the past year. It has been historic, vast, overwhelming. Yes, we are resilient. But our souls are scarred.

Janine di Giovanni, in “On Moral Injury: Can a New Diagnosis Heal Our Souls?” Harper’s Magazine, August 2020
51(1) — In rotation: Ted Hawkins’ “Sorry You’re Sick”

It’s part of the magic of the blues, according to Albert Murray: it captures ennui and sets it free. Hawkins (1936 – 1995) faced real difficulties back in the day, but put it all together for Watch Your Step (1982), which secured a five-star review in Rolling Stone.

Here ya go. Haunting and invigorating. A perfect song for difficult days.

If you like this stuff, and you know someone interested in health, leadership, and music, all mixed up with a dash of humor, please spread the word.

I’m also on this thing called Twitter (@randaldoane). Let’s connect.

If you want to talk about a project with words, drop me a line over here.

Cheers!

Sources

https://www.dispatch.com/news/20200105/millennials-have-worse-health-than-generation-x-and-theyll-pay-more-for-care-too-report-says

https://www.bcbs.com/the-health-of-america/reports/the-health-of-millennials

https://www.bcbs.com/the-health-of-america/articles/helping-millennials-embrace-preventive-medicine

https://www.healthline.com/health-news/top-10-health-conditions-affecting-millennials