Pluralistic: 23 Feb 2021

Today's links

Private equity's nursing home killing spree (permalink)

As the pandemic's death-count has surged and retreated, an oft-heard official excuse for mounting bodies is that the numbers are skewed by nursing-home deaths, implying that elderly people are disposable, their deaths inevitable.

In fairness to the politicians who made this ghastly excuse, they're only asking us to be consistent. After all, we've sat by as the eldercare industry was taken over by private equity, which transformed (pre-covid) nursing homes into abattoirs.

The NBER paper "Does Private Equity Investment in Healthcare Benefit Patients? Evidence from Nursing Homes" tallies up the slaughter: 20,000 dead as a result of being entrusted to PE-backed nursing homes.

As Julia Rock and David Sirota write for Jacobin, "going to a PE-owned nursing home significantly increases the probability of death during the stay and the following 90 days compared to nursing homes with a different ownership structure."

PE's playbook, remember, is to buy a company by borrowing against its assets, setting it up for failure by creating huge debt-overhangs which are exacerbated by further borrowing to pay the PE firm huge bonuses, dividends and fees.

Servicing the new debt means slashing expenditures ("finding efficiencies"). In nursing homes, that means less staff, less training, less care, worse food, fewer activities and more crowding. The researchers calculated PE's nursing home costs at "160,000 lost life-years."

The nursing home sector is the most for-profit component of US health-care, with 70% of facilities operating on a for-profit basis. Even among for-profit centers, PE-owned facilities are the worst, the most abusive, the most lethal.

Not all of the excess profits wrung from these facilities goes to shareholders, of course. Part of that money is swapped for political capital.

For example, Andrew Cuomo counts the sector among his top donors. It's no stretch to draw a line between those contributions and Cuomo's immunity rule for nursing home execs at the start of the pandemic, which became a charter to commit negligent homicide with total impunity.

Covid burned through the world's private nursing homes like wildfire, and PE-owned homes were the worst: in NJ, PE-backed homes had 24.5% higher infection rates and 10.2% higher death rates than the statewide average.

This is bad, but it isn't new. The GAO sounded the alarm about excess deaths at privately owned nursing homes more than a decade ago.

We ignored them.

The political leaders who told us the covid death-toll was better than it seemed because so many of those deaths were disposable seniors in care homes were simply acknowledging a tacit consensus: that it's OK to kill old people for profit.

Malcolm X's true killers (permalink)

The official story of Malcolm X's death is that he was killed by factional enemies in a power struggle over the leadership of the Nation of Islam.

That story has always been in dispute: America's law-enforcement and intelligence agencies loathed X, and had a long history of political assassination. They had motive, means and opportunity.

Raymond Wood was an NYPD undercover officer who infiltrated racial justice groups between 1964-71. When he received a cancer diagnosis in 2012, he penned a letter describing the "deplorable and detrimental" work he did for the NYPD during that period.

Wood died in Nov 2020, and his cousin Reggie Wood passed the letter to X's family, who revealed its contents last Saturday. In the letter, Raymond Wood accuses the NYPD and FBI of colluding to murder X and then pin the killing on innocent men.

The three men arrested and convicted for X's killing served lengthy sentences. Wood's letter says that the NYPD concocted a Statue of Liberty bomb plot as a pretense for arresting X's security detail, leaving him undefended.

Wood was present at the killing. He wrote that "[Khalil Islam] was later arrested and wrongfully convicted to protect my cover and the secrets of the FBI and NYPD."

Beyond the killing of X, Wood's letter describes a campaign of illegal dirty tricks to sabotage the cause of Black liberation.

"I was told to encourage leaders and members of the civil rights groups to commit felonious find evidence of criminal activity, so the FBI could discredit and arrest its leaders."

The NY AG reopened its investigation of X's killing following the 2020 Netflix documentary "Who Killed Malcolm X?" The NYPD says they have provided all relevant records to the AG's office.

Our current discourse over conspiracy puts a heavy emphasis on "algorithmic radicalization," the supposed ability of recommendation systems to draw vulnerable people into conspiratorial communities.

But sorely lacking from that discourse is asking why so many people vulnerable to conspiratorial explanations. Asking that question means confronting the real conspiracies, the corruption of the rich and powerful who distort public policy to preserve their privilege.

From the 737 Max to the opioid crisis to digital redlining and robo-signing foreclosure mills, we live in a golden age of conspiracy without consequence, where the powerful commit murder, grow rich, and walk away scot free.

A voyage to the moon of 1776 (permalink)

Filippo Morghen styled himself "Engraver to the King of the Two Sicilies"; in 1776, the Neapolitan artist broke from his naturalistic subjects to produce a book of ten fanciful engravings about a voyage to the Moon.

"The Suite of the Most Notable Things Seen by Cavaliere Wild Scull, and by Signore de la Hire on Their Famous Voyage from the Earth to the Moon," featured today on the Public Domain Review, went through three editions, and it's not hard to see why.

The engravings show a lunar civilization mixing "technological innovation, colonial imagination, and a sense of rococo excess," part of a genre of Moon voyage fiction including Francis Godwin's "Man in the Moone" (1638) and John Wilkins' "Discovery of the World in the Moon."

These works and others are all available in gorgeous, hi-rez scans. "Notable Things" is in the Yale collection:

"Moone," at Harvard:

and "Discovery" at the Internet Archive:

German covid coinages (permalink)

From backpfeifengesicht to kummerspeck to fingerspitzengefĆ¼hl, the world of German compound words is a pure delight, an endless font of phrases that perfectly capture the zeitgeist.

German covid coinages are a pandemic kuddelmuddel!

coronamĆ¼de: Tired of covid

Coronafrisur: covid hairstyle

Abstandsbier: distance-beer

Hamsteritis: stockpiling food

Maskentrottel: mask-idiot

CoronaFuƟgruƟ: corona foot-greeting

There are at least 1200 covid-related German coinages: from Maskenflickenteppich (mask rag-rug, the patchwork of masking regulations) to Homeofficepauschale (home office flat-rate, a called-for ā‚¬100/m home worker stipend), and so, so many more.

This day in history (permalink)

#15yrsago UK anti-piracy officer assures Firefox sheā€™ll catch the pirates who copy it,,9075-2051196,00.html

#10yrsago Order of Odd-Fish, a funny, mannered, hilariously weird epic romp

#10yrsago Scott Walker tricked into spilling his guts to fake Koch brother

#5yrsago Bill Gates: Microsoft would backdoor its products in a heartbeat

#5yrsago Wikileaks: NSA spied on UN Secretary General and world leaders over climate and trade

#5yrsago Unicorn vs. Goblins: the third amazing, hilarious Phoebe and her Unicorn collection!

Colophon (permalink)

Today's top sources: Naked Capitalism (, Alice Taylor (

Currently writing:

  • My next novel, "The Lost Cause," a post-GND novel about truth and reconciliation. Yesterday's progress: 532 words (113595 total).

  • A short story, "Jeffty is Five," for The Last Dangerous Visions. Yesterday's progress: 265 words (6732 total).

Currently reading: Analogia by George Dyson.

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"When life gives you SARS, you make sarsaparilla" -Joey "Accordion Guy" DeVilla