Political Animal


September 01, 2012 1:19 PM Afternoon news round-up

By Kathleen Geier

Here are some interesting stories in the news this afternoon:

— Ben Bernanke is making some serious noises that suggest that the Fed may be ready, at long last, to take forceful actions to stimulate the economy. Well, it’s not like we’re in the middle the most horrific economic disaster of the past 75 years that has extracted a tragic toll on countless human lives, or anything …

— Even the ultra-conservative Wall Street Journal admits that, contrary to cherished wingnut myth, research strongly suggests that voter fraud is rare and not common enough to affect the outcomes of elections.

— A high-ranking priest in the Catholic Archidiocese of New York has written an opinion piece published in the venerable National Catholic Register in which he throws a pity party for convicted child molester Jerry Sandusky, calling him a “poor guy,” and portrays the victims of childhood sex abuse by Catholic priests as “seducers” — those calculating little elementary school sluts! Ugh. Just … ugh. The real only question here is, how long will it take for the odious Bill Donohue to start defending this creep? Counting one . . two … three … ah, here we are!

— More on the Harvard cheating scandal. Two things to note here: 1) We’ve seen scores of epidemics of various forms of cheating, corruption, and dishonesty in American life over the past decade or two, and we can expect to see more. Widespread corruption goes hand-in-hand with soaring inequality, which we certainly have, and with being an empire in decline, which we certainly are. 2) As this latest article suggests, it’s notable that success in even in this particular class seems highly dependent on being an elite within the elite — on being part of a group of students that had insider access to certain networks and information. It’s an illuminating, albeit highly distasteful, little window on how one (very small) group of elites managed to work the system, succeed, and perpetuate itself (according to students, organized cheating in this class had gone for years, with a number of different cohorts participating).

— And finally, in a fascinating story out of South Africa, a radical offshoot of the mineworkers’ union has been at the forefront of angry populist protests against the government there. It’s a painfully familiar tale, in the “meet the new boss/same as the old boss” vein: South Africa’s ruling party, the ANC, for many decades heroically battled, and then finally got rid of, apartheid. But once they took control of the country, they cozied up to power and utterly failed to dismantle the country’s oppressive economic structures or alleviate its brutal economic inequalities. Last week in the town of Marikana, police opened fire on striking workers, killing 34 people. The Marikana massacre has been called “probably the lowest moment in the short history of a democratic South Africa”; let’s hope that a newly revitalized labor movement can lead the way to a more just, more egalitarian, and more truly democratic society there.

Kathleen Geier is a writer and public policy researcher who lives in Chicago. She blogs at Inequality Matters. Find her on Twitter: @Kathy_Gee


  • c u n d gulag on September 01, 2012 2:29 PM:

    Ben Bernanke, now with nothing to lose, is FINALLY ready to start greasing the wheels for an economic stimulus - just in time for "The Great Romney/Ryan Economic Recovery" that will start in the middle of November, 2012.
    And of course, they'll take credit for it, because of the massive increase of confidence that that "Job Creators" regained, once that Kenyan Socialist/Fascist/Communist/Atheist/Muslim "Darkie" was out of office, and all is "white' with America.

    If Ol' Bearded Ben B. does do something soon, if I were President Obama, I'd call him into my office, and after I thanked him, I'd show him the boxes from his office, tell him to get them the feck out of here, that he's fired, and not to let the door hit him in the ass on the way out.
    Oh, and by the way Ben, carry the boxes out yourself since everyone else if off trying to figure out how to get people back to work - and that any that aren't out of here by the end of the day, will be burned - after being carefully looked over.


  • TT on September 01, 2012 2:32 PM:

    Glad to see that even in the Murdoch era at least some remnants at the WSJ are engaging in the news side's time-honored tradition of absolutely destroying whatever morally leprous wingnut fever-dream hobby-horse the editorial page chooses to ride that particular day/week/month/year/decade. More, please.

  • Andrew on September 01, 2012 2:57 PM:

    Re: cheating scandal at Harvard. FIrst, the assertion that the US is an empire in decline is highly debatable. Second, I read the linked article and the implications of widespread cheating looks dubious, looks like the way the class was conducted and expectations of the students were contradictory and confusing.

  • lindal on September 01, 2012 3:34 PM:

    "Last week in the town of Marikana, police opened fire on striking workers, killing 34 people."

    And then the South African government charged the MINERS with murder.

  • Nancy Cadet on September 01, 2012 4:52 PM:

    Re. Harvard cheating scandal.
    I read the NY Times article that described the testing and grading methods in the course: grading exclusively by 'teaching assistants' (ie. Grad students dependent on the good favor of their department) and all take home exams with no restrictions on sources. Ugh!

    I teach at a public community college and grade all my students ' work, and require lots of in class writing so I know who writes what & how. I draw very clear boundaries on what constitutes credible work, and reliable sources and warn, report and then fail all students who cheat, plagiarize, are caught purchasing or recycling others ' writing , etc. I also demonstrate, practice and explain why this is part of their education. I assign research papers or field work, give tests in class, not take home exams. So that is why we must destroy public education. It's no good!

    I got my PhD at an Ivy League school, btw.

    So, fancy that. You can buy a good grade, maybe a prestigious degree, certainly lots of TV/radio ad time to influence elections, mislead borrowers, forge mortgage paperwork, sell cr$p financial instruments and rig energy price markets in this, the greatest country on earth. USA! USA! USA! b

  • Matt on September 01, 2012 5:07 PM:

    2) As this latest article suggests, itís notable that success in even in this particular class seems highly dependent on being an elite within the elite ó on being part of a group of students that had insider access to certain networks and information.

    Not to defend cheaters, but where is this a question of "elites within elites?" The only question seems to be whether a given student's TA was playing ball or not, which is not so much "insider access to certain networks" as it is luck of the draw.

    I get that this is a big damn mess for all the usual reasons these things are--lousy and ambiguous instruction, herd mentality, students expecting to be treated like customers, professors who abdicate responsibility, inconsistent results across TAs, etc. Lots and lots of blame to go around. But at root, the problem is that students collaborated with each other. Last time I checked, that was something unconnected, 100%-aid students could do just as easily as the children of privilege.

    I know elitism in education is sort of this site's hobby-horse, which is why it should probably be saved for the real thing.

  • T2 on September 01, 2012 5:24 PM:

    Let's remember that Bernanke is a Republican installed by George W. Bush, and he has presided over the Fed during the worst financial meltdown in decades.....and done very little to stop it. I imagine he is under great pressure to do as little as possible to help the economy (if, in fact, there is anything he can do at this late date) and thus help Obama's re-election. Even if it prolongs the mess - which has been the #1 election ploy by the GOP.

  • exlibra on September 01, 2012 6:25 PM:

    Matt, @5:07 PM,

    You and I must have read a different article than the one which caught Kathleen's eye :)

    I'm reassured that someone else was puzzled by Kathleen's interpretation of it; I thought it was my reading comprehension (English is my second language) that was at fault.

  • TCinLA on September 01, 2012 8:33 PM:

    Bill Donohue: proof the English were right about the Irish in at least one instance. The guy's an embarrassment to the rest of we of the Auld Sod.

  • Bobby Goren on September 01, 2012 9:46 PM:

    RE: Harvard Cheating Scandal

    The funniest part? The class was "Introduction to Congress."

    I guess they thought cheating was a course requirement.

  • c00p on September 01, 2012 10:35 PM:

    It's long past time we stopped worshipping the Ivy League and other high dollar elite universities. We need to focus our praise and our interest on the "regular old" state U's that educate and train the vast majority of our teachers, doctors, lawyers, accountants, scientists, etc. along with the "trade schools" that prepare our plumbers, electricians, mechanics and so forth. Let the Wall Street Journal do nothing but praise the elite of the elite. The rest of us have real work that needs doing.

  • Renai on September 01, 2012 10:56 PM:

    Bernanke's waited this long, he may as well wait the last few weeks and help that next president with the real looking first lady, save America for you people. Then corporate hiring doors will open, ACA will be rescinded, and the next great Reagan era will ensue. I can almost smell my own pony just typing this, well, a by-product thereof anyway...

  • rea on September 03, 2012 8:02 AM:

    The real only question here is, how long will it take for the odious Bill Donohue to start defending this creep?

    Of course, the Think Progress article you link links in turn to Donohue doiong exactly that.