Afternoon news round-up

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

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