People actually get paid for conducting the silliest imaginable research studies. They really do. Here's one of my new faves, which I came across today in the form of a press release: "CRUISE INDUSTRY RELEASES CRIME STATISTICS. Numbers Show People Much Safer on Cruise Ships than U.S. Average." From 2003 to 2005, there were apparently 178 complaints of sexual assault, four robberies and 24 missing persons. The analysis therefore showed that these criminal incidents did happen even when people are surrounded by non-stop buffet line gorging and crazed port shopping, but that a cruise passenger was still safer on board than in the real world. (But, hey, 24 missing persons? What the heck?) The International Council of Cruise Lines retained "nationally-renowned criminologist Professor James Fox, Ph.D., as an independent expert to review the data provided to Congress." Professor Fox is also apparently a visiting fellow with the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics and author of 16 books. I get grumpy when journalists use high-priced J-school graduate education as a way of securing employment in corporate PR work. Imagine how criminologists must feel about this kind of stuff.
Silja J.A. Talvi, a senior editor at In These Times, is an investigative journalist and essayist with credits in many dozens of newspapers and magazines nationwide, including The Nation, Salon, Santa Fe Reporter, Utne, and the Christian Science Monitor.