Saturday, January 16, 2010

When Is Reporting Research NOT Reporting Research?

This may not be a trend as the current example is only the second one I've come across in respectable newspapers, but it's VERY BAD to report on a research that people cannot double-check. Today's example is from the Freakonomics blog and about who drives and who rides when both men and women are going to be in the same car:

I've been working with the American Time Use Survey, a great data set collected by the Department of Labor. The ATUS is chock-full of fun facts; for example, American adults report spending more than two- and-one-third times more time at gambling establishments than at museums.

The ATUS shows that women do indeed spend a disproportionate share of their in-car time as passengers — 29 percent. This is more than twice the share of men, who only spend 14 percent as passengers. This certainly suggests that when men and women ride together, men are behind the wheel.

Might issues other than gender per se be responsible for the gap? We can sort this out with more precision using regression, a technique that allows us to untangle the factors that we believe are causing a particular outcome.

Well sure. Except there's no link to the report! I guess we are supposed to a) either trust that the author is doing everything right or b) go and redo all the analyses with the original data. That kind of work usually takes a few months if you start from not knowing the data set.

I have no idea why something like this isn't an obvious no-no. The first example I found a few years ago was by a wingnut and all about how conservatives have more children than liberals and will take over the earth. I e-mailed the author, asking for links to where his research was available, and got an answer back stating that I can go and study the data myself!

Something like this must NOT be allowed to be common. It would be a real step backwards. Indeed, it would encourage made-up crap to be presented as real research.

On the topic itself: There's a lot of hilarity associated with the idea of the "battle of the sexes" (a most disgusting name, for obvious reasons), and writing about it is very good. Especially good if you can trivialize it! Another example here.


There Really Was A Pact With The Devil by Anthony McCarthy

The fine Boston Globe columnist, Derrick Jackson, has a reminder that the real pact with the devil re Haiti was one which the United States, itself, made. It wasn’t done at a crossroads by moonlight and it wasn’t signed in blood. Not the blood of the men who made it, that is. It was just one in a line of gentleman agreements with evil that are the congenital disease that has plagued our country, part of the fully known and suppressed reason that bad things are done by those who pretend to the highest ideals.

Slavery was accommodated in the formation of the United States, the infamous 3/5ths and other provisions were part of the bribe paid to the evil of slavery in order for the deal to be sealed. When the slaves of Haiti threw off the French, the secular saint, Thomas Jefferson* didn’t have any problem, once again, putting aside his lofty rhetoric in order to protect the slavery that kept him and his acknowledged family in luxury. The line of measures that American racists from his time up to Rush Limbaugh have taken to make certain that the tiny country couldn’t develop into a black Republic are sparsely punctuated by less malignant, shortly lived, policies. Barack Obama, for obvious reasons, would not be expected to continue with the customary policy. While the horrible death and destruction of the earth quake can’t really be an opportunity, it could be an occasion to do something right. Jackson hopes in his column today that it might be possible in the next few years to try to repair what two-hundred years of crimes against that country have produced. If the government of the United States can’t fix a country of ten million people it’s no wonder that it can’t do much in Afghanistan or here. You have to wonder if that isn't intentional.

Derrick Jackson’s brief survey of how the United States can begin to live up to its pretended morality in respect to Haitians is worth thinking about.

* The Founders fetish is one of the intentionally promoted devices used to prevent us learning from the past.

Writing women's history (by Suzie)

Two Marys who shaped women’s history in different ways died this month. I’ve been thinking of them as well as the women who passed along the news to me.

Mary Daly supplied the language for a radical understanding of women in patriarchy. Some would say that Mary Ruthsdotter took the liberal route of educating people on women’s history, although I consider that radical in its own way.

Echidne wrote wrote about Mary Daly last week after her death. Later, I got an email from Edie Daly, who sent the following to her friends. (I'm using it with her permission.) Edie was not a blood relative, but there was a relation.
As we all age and deepen in our knowledge and wisdom, we think about those who directed our feet into paths we decided to follow. Mary Daly is one of those hags that directed my path to feminist thought and ethical action. It was her way with words, her Wicidary that made me think of my own language and the ways I choose to speak. Patriarchy is so much a part of our lives directed by our speech. Revolting Hag is what I am. Mary Daly gave me the words to re-shape my life. From Spelling, as in Casting of Spells, to uncovering and understanding all those oppressive words that we had integrated into our own self-doubt and internalized oppression. Words like Hag, Spinster, Crone, Heathen, Witch, are words that have immense power and energy. Words that we have now woven into the everyday fabric of our Be-Dazzling lives. She encouraged us to see what words are made of. How dis-ease, dis-cover, dis-closing, are constructed to do patriarchy's bidding.
Feminism doesn’t rely on a few prominent women, no matter how inspiring. It is the work of many people, such as Edie, pictured above.

In 1981, Edie opened a women's bookstore in Madeira Beach, Fla., and then co-founded a lesbian feminist organization called Women's Energy Bank (WEB), which held monthly salons for women for 24 years and produces a publication called Womyn's Words. In 2006, she donated WEB papers to the University of South Florida for its new collection of Florida Women’s History and LGBT History. Please read more about her life at that link. For the past five years, she has facilitated weekend workshops on Alternatives to Violence with women at a federal prison.

To that same history collection, I donated papers relating to the treatment of women at the Tampa Tribune and the coverage of women in the community. Some day, someone may be interested that a publisher at a major newspaper in the 1990s would still ask female reporters to stand up and twirl around so that he could see their outfits.

This week, I heard from another friend, Doris Weatherford, who “has been publishing books on women's history for twenty years.” I highly recommend them, but more important, she has won praise from Hillary Clinton.

Doris emailed to tell me that Mary Ruthsdotter had died. Mary had lived in Sebastopol, Calif., where she and her husband helped found a cohousing community. Recently, she had been supporting the National Women’s History Museum.

Mary was a founder of the National Women’s History Project, and you can read the history of her own life on that site as well as in her obituary. Her photo is on the right. She and the other NWHP founders persuaded Ronald Reagan to declare March as National Women’s History Month. In my career, I found that designation greatly helpful when I was trying to sneak some women’s history into the newspaper.

Women's history comforts me. I see how one woman influences many. When one dies, I know others will continue.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Bwahahah! Life Imitating A Cartoon Show

Remember this, from 2003?

Rupert Murdoch's Fox News Channel threatened to sue the makers of the Simpsons over a spoof news ticker, the show's creator Matt Groening has claimed.

Mr Groening said Fox News raised the unlikely prospect of suing a show broadcast by its sister channel, Fox Entertainment, because it wanted to stop the Simpsons parodying its famously anti-Democratic party agenda.

The alleged row centred on a parody of Fox News' rolling news ticker, which included headlines such as "Do Democrats cause cancer?"

Scroll forwards to 2010. Here's Rush Limbaugh guessed it: "Voting Democrat Causes Cancer."

Cross-posted at Eschaton

On Scott Brown of Massachusetts

A wingnut in sheep's clothing?

On October 17th, 2001, Brown voted against a bill that would authorize "leaves of absence for certain Red Cross employees participating in Red Cross emergencies." The bill gave 15 days of paid leave each year to state workers called up by the Red Cross to respond to disasters. At the time, state workers called for such emergencies were required to use sick and vacation days.

This suggests an almost-stunning callousness. It's all the more galling that Brown knew it was going to pass -- 148 to 3 -- but opposed it anyway, just to make a point.

I shudder to think what Republicans would say about a Democratic lawmaker who cast a vote like this just a month after the 9/11 attacks

The Brown campaign has said the vote was about fiscal responsibility -- Massachusetts couldn't afford assistance for Red Cross workers who had volunteered with 9/11 recovery efforts.

That's not a bad line, I suppose, but here's my follow-up question: why, then, does Scott Brown recommend tax cuts now that the nation can't afford? Why would tax cuts for the wealthy be more important that help for 9/11 recovery volunteers?

Tax cuts. It's the Republican panacea for everything that hurts you, never mind that it was the Bush tax cuts and the associated free-market (read: jungle of the greediest and most reckless) ideology which brought us the current economic recession. I don't see the logic of voting the architects of the collapsing building to be the ones to fix it.

Cross-posted at Eschaton

Friday critter blogging (by Suzie)

A deer in the Virginia woods, by Julie Savell-McCandless.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Default of Humans: Guys

I wrote about this odd phenomenon in my series on why feminism is still needed. Because of our tendency to view men as the default human beings, a conference offering only male speakers is seen as nothing unusual. A conference offering only female speakers would be described as... a chick fest, I guess. An example of the former type.

On Haiti

The situation is dreadful, harder than I ever imagined possible, because the port has been destroyed and so have essentially the few good roads to the capital. So has the Haitian government and many of the offices and warehouses of relief organizations which were already there. The UN has lost a lot of staff, for example. And the peace keeping troops appear to have pretty much disappeared as well as the Haitian police.

How to get aid in is therefore not only a problem of time and coordination and so on. It's a sheer physical problem, beginning with how to get it into the city, how to keep it safe and how to get it to all who need it. And time is of essence. Still, I hope that the different countries have a plan of coordination and a division of labor once relief work gets going. Without that I can imagine even further chaos.

Repeal The Hyde Amendment

This video makes the point very well:

So I'm Tidying Up The House

You know, basic putting-things-back stuff. I want to return a book to the living-room shelves which are heavily packed and behind a table sitting by the sofa. But to save time I also make myself a large mug of coffee to take back to my study afterwards.

There is nowhere to put the mug while struggling with the other books to make enough space for the one I am returning except the end table by the sofa. The mug goes there. Then I remember the varnish on the table is worn away and there would be RINGS! I quickly grab up the mug, the coffee flies and much of it hits the white linen pillow on the sofa.

The coffee is slowly dripping towards the other white linen pillow, behind the now-coffeed one, and I grab the top pillow with my right hand (the left one is still holding the bookcase vertical) and throw it blindly behind me, so as to save the still-virginal one.

I hear a crash. It's the vase on the coffee table in front of the sofa. It had water in it. Water everywhere!

I drop everything else and rush towards the kitchen for kitchen towels. I slip in the water now on the floor and fall on my butt. No harm done, really.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Not Under The Bus Day

An excellent take on women and the health care reform.

Coakley vs. Brown in Massachusetts

From Ms. magazine:

A new Rasmussen poll released yesterday shows Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, the Democratic nominee to fill the seat of the late Senator Ted Kennedy, holding a slim two point lead over Republican nominee State Senator Scott Brown. Massachusetts has not elected a Republican US Senator since 1972. Coakley and Brown will face off in a special election on January 19.

The poll show that 77 percent of Democrats support Coakley and 88 percent of Republicans support Brown. Among independent voters, Brown is leading 71 to 23 percent. Last week a separate Rasmussen poll showed Coakley leading by 9 points.

Brown's victory would be terrible for the country. To be honest, I'm smelling sexism behind those figures for the Independents. Massachusetts has NEVER had a female Senator in the U.S. Congress, after all.

Rush Gave At The Office

According to Rush Limbaugh:

"[W]e've already donated to Haiti. It's called the U.S. income tax"

Now here's an interesting quote that relates to this:

Among the many myths that exist about the federal budget, perhaps none is greater than the widespread belief that more than 10 percent of the federal budget is spent on foreign aid. The reality, of course, is far different. Even with the modest increases in recent years supported by both Democratic and Republican administrations and Congresses, the international affairs budget totals less than 1.5 percent of the federal budget.

Don't you just love generous people like Limbaugh?

Another Feminist Pet Peeve: Woman-Bashing Commenting

One unfortunate side-effect of spending so much time in the cyberspace is the amount of misogyny I have to wade through. I just realized today that I had a more optimistic picture of the average way women are viewed in this world before this era of crappy comments threads almost everywhere (though not on this blog, thank goddesses and gods).

Any article discussing women, gender relations or feminism is bound to attract the hateful comments, and by those I don't mean comments debating the contents of the article but comments about What Is Wrong With Women:

If women work outside the home they are climbing up someone's thighs to get promoted, they are bitches as bosses, they are over-emotional, they suffer from PMS, they nag, they only want to grab men's good jobs while forcing men to keep the bad jobs (evidently women have no bad jobs).

If women don't work outside the home they are lazy bitches who fritter away all the money their hard-working husbands make and who then take those same husbands to the cleaners while also denying them access to the children of the marriage, if any. Oh, and they nag.

And women, of all types, are sneaky, practice mental violence and exploit their victim-status to queen it over the men. And they nag.

Imagine if I wrote like that about men! I wouldn't do it, of course, because I don't believe in reverse sexism any more than the old-fashioned sexism, but I would never get away with it. Yet these guys do seem to provoke no real outrage. I have read comments like these on Huffington Post, attached to various stories at mainstream news sites, on YouTube (OK, I give you the fact that YouTube commenters seem to come from some kind of green algae society but the sexism in the comments following women performers' songs is stunning.), and now even at the website of the Finnish state television.

Yet the mainstream argument is that it is feminists who hate men!!! Are all those knuckle-draggers invisible? Yeah, I know that we are supposed to pretend that.

Men are not the only ones writing misogynistic comments, or at least not under male pseudonyms, by the way, and they read no nicer that way. The basic rule in all of them is to compare the worst possible examples of women's behavior to the best possible examples of men's behavior and to conclude that women are Just Awful. And naturally feminists are at fault because without feminists women couldn't steal men's good jobs or take them to the cleaners in a divorce and so on. This works really nicely in countries such as Somalia, by the way.

OK. I must add here that those comments are not the majority of comments in most places, that there are always at least one or two arguing for a more moderate view or even attacking the misogyny and that it's quite likely that in many cases most of the woman-hating comments come from the same keyboard. But still. If those comments are allowed to exist without proper response, what is the message?

People who comment on anything are not a random selection from the population and I know that. Most people, I hope, do not share the values of woman-haters. Misogynists are attracted to any article with feminist content like bees to pollen, and this makes nasty comments especially frequent to people like me who do research on women. But one might think that articles with feminist content should be equally attractive to feminists. So where are all the counter-arguments?

And those who mutter that misandrist comments also exist on unmoderated comments threads: Yes, they do. But their proportion is minute compared to the misogynistic ones. Neither are desirable and both should be moderated (preferably) or responded to.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

How To Help People in Haiti

This page lists several relief organizations. Many have argued that the American Red Cross is a safe choice because most of the money will go to those who need it. Another one recommended is Médecins Sans Frontières though their website doesn't mention Haiti earthquake yet.

Today's Rant

If I had earned a cent for each word in all those very careful and moderate "letters to the editors"/"correction to your article, dear professor" letters I have written in the last five years I'd be one rich goddess. Humongously rich.

And that is why I wonder if anyone ever reads them. They rarely publish them, anyway, never answer me, and I imagine some overworked intern going through them as if she or he was skateboarding. That's most likely the reality.

Much of our pretense "discussions" in the media are just that: Pretense. What actually is published depends on who has the most power and money, and almost all of it is brought down to the lowest common denomination which is emotion. Or dreck.

Next time I get angry enough to pen one of those missives I will stop, take ten calm breaths and then send boils and worms to whoever made me angry. Probably equally useful.

Meanwhile, in Finland

The website of the state television system (a bit like the PBS but bigger) posted an article on men as the victims of domestic violence (link thanks to Timo who should also get the credit of pointing out that homicides were neglected and that the gender of the perpetrator was also neglected). The gist, as translated by me:

Men are the focus of gross domestic violence or attempted homicide in families even more often than women. The view of men as victims of family violence has been neglected.

Women are still more often the victims of homicides by their intimate partners than men. In mild physical violence women are also more often the victims.

Women are the culprits in gross domestic violence at least as often as men. According to Tilastokeskus, men are even victims somewhat more often than women even though the figures are close.

In 2008, 116 men and 111 women were the victims of gross domestic violence or attempted homicide, based on police reports.

My understanding of "gross" violence is that it involves some sort of a weapon and that "mild" violence only involves unarmed attacks, but this may very well be wrong. Though the source I use later in this piece does point out that strangulation or kicking might not fall under the category "gross."

Well, the floodgates opened in the comments thread: Feminists are evil, women have taken over the world, women are sneaky, evil and horrible creatures who never stop nagging and what can a man do then? Not all of the comments were like that, of course. There were a handful of very reasonable ones and a handful of the usual I'm-a-woman-but-women-are-bitches ones. Still, it was pretty disgusting reading.

Now, I'm not going to argue that women cannot be violent creatures, and I'm not going to argue that we shouldn't address all violence that might take place in families. But I got pretty suspicious of a story which so blithely skates across the actually completed homicides, as opposed to the merely attempted ones. Then I really LOOKED at those numbers the article gave. 116 men and 111 women? In a country of five million? Those figures are measuring some small fraction of all family violence. Why were they picked for special treatment when murders were not?

So I went digging. I found a report which might not be the most recent one as it ends with 2007. Here are the relevant bits from the summary, translated by me:

The case where a domestic partner kills a woman is the second most common type of homicide in Finland. Twenty percent of all homicides fall into that category. (My comment: The most common type, by victim classification, is the homicide of a young man outside the home by persons not defined by gender or relationship in the summary). Four percent of homicides are committed by women against their partners, six percent by parents against their children and six percent are homicides committed by other family members against other family members.

According to police records (i.e., reported crimes), 12% of all violence is domestic violence (9% aimed at women and 3% aimed at men).

According to police records, mild and basic domestic violence in 2007 had the following victims as percentages: 71% women-over-fifteen, 15% men-over-fifteen and 14% children. Gross domestic violence and attempted homicides had the following victim distribution: 50% women-over-fifteen, 42% men-over-fifteen and 8% children.

That report also has pictures showing the gender distribution of victims of mild, basic and gross domestic violence as bars. The vast, vast majority of this type of violence is concentrated in the basic and mild categories (check out Kuvio 8. for 2007, the gross cases are the bar on the right) The "gross" category is tiny in comparison but that's the one this article has decided to focus on.

All this suggests to me that the article was intended to be biased. And while not pointing out that "family violence aimed against men/women" is NOT the same thing as "female/male violence aimed against men/women" may not have been the job of the writer of the article, the fact, nevertheless, remains that the comments in the thread assumed that all the culprits of violence against men in households must have been women. This may not have been the case.

So what's the impact of pieces like this one, other than contributing to a lot of sexist rage in comments threads? I'm not sure. But I'm finally going to start reading all those files I have on partner violence so that I can write about the topic with the care you, my readers, deserve. Even the majority who never donate, sigh.

A Few Good Men

Nevada has had legalized prostitution for some time. I never realized that this didn't apply to male sex workers:

Brothel owner Bobbi Davis got the go-ahead Tuesday to hire what her website cheekily calls "a few good men."

Her Shady Lady Ranch is searching for "service-oriented" guys willing to become Nevada's first legal male sex workers.

"I personally feel, as do the many other women who have made contact with me since I started this, that this is a service whose time has come," Davis said in a letter to Nye County officials.

A county board's vote Tuesday affirming that Davis could offer "shady men" to her clientele followed months of rancorous debate among the state's legal brothel community. The industry, in its own peculiar way, is somewhat conservative: Considered an anachronism of bawdy mining camps by some Nevada newcomers, it often balks at change.


George Flint, longtime lobbyist for the Nevada Brothel Assn., has said that allowing male prostitutes could be the industry's Pearl Harbor. He has hinted that brothels possibly offering gay sex -- a choice each prostitute, as an independent contractor, would be free to make -- might sour some legislators on the entire brothel system.


"This is the first time in the history of the world . . . that men have been licensed to sell sex," Flint said Tuesday, his voice rising. "It's never been done!"


Davis figures that, even if it's a flop, adding men to her roster is worth trying. She has been inundated with more than 100 applications, she said, though she held off on hiring until she'd cleared all bureaucratic hurdles.

This is a topic I should handle only with a hazmat suit and a very long stick, because to give it proper attention requires a book.

That book would discuss the question whether ownership of women's bodies is public or private, and if the latter, whether it ever belongs to women themselves. It would discuss sexual violence, the question who has "the right" to have sex and the question whether bodies-as-property really lies behind the trade and kidnapping of women for sex work.

It would then study prostitution layer by layer, in the context of cultures and religions and time moving on. It would discuss the dangers of sex work and the stigmatization of sex workers and the question why the customers in these markets are so overwhelmingly male. Only then would the book ask under which conditions and in what type of a society would feminists think that having male sex workers as well as female ones would be egalitarian.

On Religion And Women

Nicholas Kristof quotes Jimmy Carter on the topic of religion-based oppression of women:

"Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths, creating an environment in which violations against women are justified," former President Jimmy Carter noted in a speech last month to the Parliament of the World's Religions in Australia.

"The belief that women are inferior human beings in the eyes of God," Mr. Carter continued, "gives excuses to the brutal husband who beats his wife, the soldier who rapes a woman, the employer who has a lower pay scale for women employees, or parents who decide to abort a female embryo."

Mr. Carter, who sees religion as one of the "basic causes of the violation of women's rights," is a member of The Elders, a small council of retired leaders brought together by Nelson Mandela. The Elders are focusing on the role of religion in oppressing women, and they have issued a joint statement calling on religious leaders to "change all discriminatory practices within their own religions and traditions."

This is all excellent, of course, and something I've been preaching here for a long time. Well, except for the Elders bit. They haven't asked me to join yet. That will come, I'm sure.

But however wonderful it is to read these arguments it's pretty important to remember that the subjugation of women for some religionists is not a bug but a feature; the main reason why they buy into the whole program. The Taliban is not going to change its views on women holding jobs outside the home or on girls going to school any time soon.

What always scares me a bit is how very much the values of some American fundamentalist groups are a kinder, gentler version of those values. They don't ban women from holding paid jobs but they teach girls that women should stay at home and let their husbands worry about all public life. Neither do they burn girls' schools down but they think that perhaps their daughters should not go to college or prepare for a job in the labor force. Should the future marriage go bad the woman brought up that way has very few alternatives.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Echidne Goes All Cheerful And Optimistic!

I know that comes as a shock. I'm usually the goddess of gloom. But if I try really really hard I can even report on good tidings for women! And if not me, then other people.

For instance, Kathleen Sweeney, author of Maiden USA: Girl Icons Come of Age, listed recently several good and important changes which should make us cheerful. I'm mentioning only two of them here:

1. Girls are doing well in education wherever they are allowed to excel.

2. Millennial girls are "gaining technological fluency in ways that are eclipsing the
traditional gender divide in these areas

That wasn't too hard, was it?

The Health Care Proposal, Again

This stuck in my eye while reading the Wonk Room:

As the Washington Post's Ceci Connely explained recently during an appearance on MSNBC, "one of the things I would suggest is not just how much we spend on health care because as a wealthy nation, maybe we want to spend a lot, but the problem really is we're not getting much bang for our buck. We're not getting our money's worth. And the real question about this piece of legislation is how much it will be able to improve the quality of care so that we start getting our money's worth."

It's not incorrect to want higher quality of care. After all, the three overall goals of any health care system should be the highest possible quality at the lowest possible cost to the largest possible number of the people it is intended to serve. That these three goals might sometimes be in conflict is pretty obvious. What should also be obvious is that the health care reform proposal now under discussion isn't really aimed at the first of these goals but the latter two.

Yes, it has parts which specifically aim to increase the quality of health care through greater use of technology, for example. But its main aim is in increasing access to care for those who are currently uninsured and its secondary goal is to contain costs (assuming that would be possible).

I'd Like That In Size Eight And Pink, Please

I once wrote about the odd way ideas often become commodities in this country (having to do with this post), something to be purchased or not, something which is expected to work and if it does not then we should get our money back. This is not wholly wrong, either, especially when it comes to judging the results of people who actually get paid to work on behalf of some idea because you can fire them, assuming that a sufficient number of others agree with you.

But it's a bad way of relating to an ideology. A really bad way: it breeds both passivity and a certain kind of permission not to learn what the ideology really means.

A better one would be to see all of us working together to make the world we would like to live in. Then none of us would be a disgruntled consumer.

Well, a goddess can dream.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Irrational Institutional Inequity, Incompetence and Injustice by Anthony McCarthy

So here’s the bottom line for all those exceptional middle-class and lower-class high school seniors who will doubt their own worth when the near-inevitable rejection letters arrive: The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in you. The fault lies in the system, and the system isn’t going to change, because it benefits the people it is designed to benefit - people who understand how much a real meritocracy would threaten their power.

Neal Gabler

The middle of last month there was a story that caught my attention, not least of which was due to the just below the surface outrage I detected in the usually unflappable BBC announcer. The report was about a study that had determined that hospital cleaners are more valuable to society than top bankers.

The research, carried out by think tank the New Economics Foundation, says hospital cleaners create 10 pounds of value for every 1 pound they are paid.
It claims bankers are a drain on the country because of the damage they caused to the global economy. They reportedly destroy 7 pounds of value for every 1 pound they earn. Meanwhile, senior advertising executives are said to "create stress".

The study says they are responsible for campaigns which create dissatisfaction and misery, and encourage over-consumption.

And it’s not just those at the top, but those who facilitate their destruction

Tax accountants are said to destroy 47 pound in value for every 1 pound generated.

Reading the article, considering the difference in what is produced by those in the lowest paying positions studied, hospital cleaning, child care, waste recycling and the highest paid, bankers, tax accountants, advertising executives, it’s not really that surprising that the people actually doing something productive are of more value to society than people who are involved in cheating, bilking and exploiting people.

As we are finding out with every revelation of the utterly corrupt financial system here and in Britain, the people who work there are, essentially, pirates who don’t produce anything.

As said, what got my attention wasn’t the obvious, if ironic findings of the New Economics Foundation, it was the attitude of the BBC news reader, who expressed his skepticism in a very good example of the Received Standard Accent common among educated Britains.

And here, in the land of alleged equality, it goes unremarked, largely, among the media and our elite that even as they lose gargantuan fortunes, driving the companies and banks they are hired to administer into the ground, we are told that the obscene salaries and bonus packages of crooks and idiots “MUST BE PAID TO RETAIN “THE BEST” PEOPLE”. This is clearly a self-serving lie of the elite, I can’t be the only person who would be willing to do their job of driving the entire system into collapse at a quarter of their compensation.

Almost as unremarked was that even as Barack Obama’s cracked financial team* was saying that they had to honor the contracted bonuses and salaries of the thieves and dolts who created the financial disaster, they showed no hesitation to screw contract workers in order to bail out the automobile companies, which had been driven into ruin by their own crew of executives.

The sheer idiocy of insisting on the system in place being anything but totally loony and a case of unarmed robbery in sheerest daylight can’t be anything but a learned response, as artificial as the accent of a BBC announcer. Where did they learn it?

Could it be in our elite universities from where so, so many of the crooks and pirates and idiots who have driven us into ruin received their credentials? Their license to steal? And I do mean Harvard and Yale, the Ivies, the elite universities and colleges of the English speaking world. How did these most august institutions manage to have such a prominent place in the education of our most corrupt and incompetent holders of wealth and power? Could it have something to do with the little remarked on fact that they practice a far higher level of affirmative action for the rich than they used to for purposes of ethnic and gender diversity?

Most of these assertions, however, are nonsense. Of course the odds are stacked against every applicant since the best schools admit only a fraction of them (less than 10 percent for most of the Ivies and just above 25 percent for selective schools like Northwestern and Emory), but as Daniel Golden demonstrated in a Pulitzer Prize-winning series for the Wall Street Journal and then in his book, “The Price of Admission”, the so-called best schools give heavy preferences to the wealthy; as many as one-third of admissions, he writes, are flagged for special treatment at the elite universities, one-half at the elite liberal arts colleges, and the number of open spaces for the non-privileged is reduced accordingly. As Golden puts it, the privileged take so many spots that the “admissions odds against middle-class and working-class students with outstanding records are even longer than the colleges acknowledge.”

I will probably revisit Neal Gablers’ fine column, a scathing indictment of the hypocrisy of some of our most respected universities. In the past I might have called them “institutions of higher learning”, but, looking at their product who are running our economy and who staff so much of the government, I doubt that’s true. It’s growing clearer that the primary purpose of our elite system is to maintain the elite and to train the banksters and those who lie on their behalf and maintain inequity.

* One of Barack Obama’s biggest tasks this year is to prove, conclusively that he didn’t pull a bait and switch on his strongest supporters . This is made necessary by his actions in the past year in three critical areas, the decision to escalate the war in Afghanistan, the capitulation to the Pharma-corporate health industries in the health care bill and, of course, the corporate thugs he has appointed to key financial positions and their retention as they do what anyone could have predicted they would have done .

I’m not sorry that I worked for his election, given what the alternative was but I didn’t expect to get someone who would hire and retain Timothy Geithner as we learn more about his time running the New York office of the Federal Reserve and the scandalous relationship the executives of AIG has had with offices and departments that just happen to be under his leadership. The developing evidence that office might have instructed AIG to withhold relevant but inconvenient information from the SEC has been, up till now, met with the odd claim that Geithner shouldn’t be held responsible for it because "These decisions did not raise to his level at the Fed. These are e-mails and decisions made by officials at an independent regulatory agency." Contrast that with Barck Obama taking responsibility for the failure to stop the underwear bomber from the, apparently, less exigent position of President of the United States.

It makes no sense for the President to accept responsibility for that while exempting Geithner from responsibility for a major decision in the relatively tiny office that he was in charge of. He should force his resignation if his office tried to suppress information as it seems it did. If Geithner won't resign, he should fire him. Publicly.

Someone needs to tell Barack Obama that his loyalty isn't to the members of his administration, it is to The People. And most of all he has an obligation to keep faith with those of us who supported him, whose votes he asked for, whose donations and time he asked for and took. He told us he would do better than the Republicans. He shouldn't expect to get more of it if he doesn't change his policy in a fundamental way.