Stand your ground

15 05 2012

In another case, Stand-Your-Ground argument does not acquit woman of her charges. This may affect decisions with Zimmerman’s case in the shooting of Travyon.

Baruch College’s Newspaper uses Live Tweeting for immediate information dispersal

14 05 2012

Baruch College’s undergraduate newspaper, The Ticker, has tapped into one of the most rapid methods of information sharing: Live Tweeting. Twitter, already being a “real-time information network” (, can be used to immediate disperse information. The Ticker used this method of news reporting at a recent journalism panel at Baruch College, called “The Future of Journalism: a Round Table Discussion.” Here, members of The Ticker posted quotes from panelists right after they were said – and discussion arose on Twitter between those posting as well as people not at the event. Check out the live feed here:!/BaruchTicker

A Win-Win Agreement with Colombia

14 05 2012

Obama supports the new FTA and is confident in the mutually beneficial relationship.

FTUSA splits from the FLO

14 05 2012

A potentially harmful decision for the fair trade movement

Fair Trade USA

14 05 2012

Nicely summarizes the efforts of the leading third party fair trade certifier.


Q&A: What options are left in Syria?

14 05 2012

Some questions answered of the future of the Syrian conflict and situation for citizens inside the country.

Tunisian Islamists join jihad against Syria’s Assad

14 05 2012

Growing involvement of foreign fighters in conflict.

Unemployment Rate Without Government Cuts: 7.1%

14 05 2012

The following article from the The Wall Street Journal suggest that  the unemployment rate would have been much lower without government cuts.

Unemployment Rate Without Government Cuts: 7.1%

By Justin Lahart

One reason the unemployment rate may have remained persistently high: The sharp cuts in state and local government spending in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, and the layoffs those cuts wrought.

The Labor Department’s establishment survey of employers — the jobs count that it bases its payroll figures on — shows that the government has been steadily shedding workers since the crisis struck, with 586,000 fewer jobs than in December 2008. Friday’s employment report showed the cuts continued in April, with 15,000 government jobs lost.

But the survey of households that the unemployment rate is based on suggests the government job cuts have been much, much worse.

In April the household survey showed that that there were 442,000 fewer people working in government than in March. The household survey has a much smaller sample size than the establishment survey, and so is prone to volatility, but the magnitude of the drop is striking: It marks the largest decline on both an absolute and a percentage basis on record going back to 1948. Moreover, the household survey has consistently showed bigger drops in government employment than the establishment survey has.

The unemployment rate would be far lower if it hadn’t been for those cuts: If there were as many people working in government as there were in December 2008, the unemployment rate in April would have been 7.1%, not 8.1%.

Ceteris is rarely paribus, of course: If there were more government jobs now, for example, it’s likely that not as many people would have left the labor force, and so the actual unemployment rate would be north of 7.1%.

More important, even after making an adjustment for the volatility of the household survey, the starkly different message that it is offering up on the scope of job government losses is curious.

In the three months ended April, it shows that there were an average 20.3 million people engaged in government work, 1.2 million fewer than the average for the three months ended December 2008. That is more than double the job losses registered by the establishment survey.

One explanation is that the household survey is picking up government job losses that the establishment survey hasn’t — it can, generally speaking, be better at picking up shifts in the makeup of the job market.

Another explanation is that the household survey might be picking up jobs lost by people who worked at private companies that were reliant on government spending. A school bus driver, say, who was polled by the Labor Department for the household survey might say that he works for the government when he actually works for a bus company that’s contracted by the local school district. If the school district curtails spending and he loses his job, that would be counted as a government job loss in the household survey, even though it really isn’t.


Who Occupies? A Pollster Surveys the Protesters

14 05 2012
Here is an article from The Wall Street Journal about Occupy Wall Street protests. 

Who Occupies? A Pollster Surveys the Protester

By Aaron Rutkoff

Occupy Wall Street protesters inside Zuccotti Park on Oct. 13.

To judge by its most famous slogan, Occupy Wall Street sees itself as a movement made up of those in the bottom 99% of the income distribution. But what are the actual demographics of the committed protesters inside New York’s Zuccotti Park, the movement’s birthplace and most visible manifestation?

Douglas Schoen, a veteran Democratic Party pollster who has also worked for Mayor Michael Bloomberg, sent a researcher from his polling firm down to Zuccotti Park last week to conduct what appears to be the very first professional survey of the protesters in New York. The face-to-face interviews with 198 people informed an essay by Schoen in The Journal’s opinion pages.

Putting aside Schoen’s analysis — the subhead on his piece pegs the protesters as “leftists out of step with most American voters,” if you’re curious — let’s focus instead on the raw data, which he was kind enough to publish on his personal website. The findings are quite surprising.

The protesters as a group are young, but Zuccotti Park is not nearly the youth-only movement depicted in the media. While 49% of protesters are under 30, more than 28% are 40 or older. Only one-third of the crowd considers themselves Democrats — nearly the same portion who say they don’t identify with any party. (Zero respondents labeled themselves Republican.)

Schoen finds reason to be skeptical of the protesters’ professed motivation: the inequities of the U.S. economic system. “The vast majority of demonstrators are actually employed, and the proportion of protesters unemployed (15%) is within single digits of the national unemployment rate (9.1%),” he writes in his essay. But those numbers might not be the best way to assess the economic health of the protest group.

Schoen’s survey found that, in addition to the 15% of protesters who are jobless, another 18% consider themselves “part-time employed/underemployed” — for a combined total of 33% who are struggling in the labor market. That percentage is double the U.S. Labor Department’s broader measure of unemployment, which accounts for people who have stopped looking for work or who can’t find full-time jobs. As of September, this so-called “U-6″ measure rose to 16.5%, the highest rate this year.

The pollster has a curious reading of his data when describing Occupy Wall Street’s previous support for President Barack Obama. “An overwhelming majority of demonstrators supported Barack Obama in 2008,” Schoen writes.

But according to the survey data, just 56% of protesters voted in 2008, and of those 74% voted for Obama. Crunching the numbers, it would appear that only 42% of the Zuccotti Park crowd has ever cast a presidential ballot for Obama.

The president looks likely to improve his standing with the protesters in 2012. The survey found 48% would vote for his re-election, even though a slim 51% majority of the protesters disapprove of his job performance.

Finally, the poll sheds some light on the protesters’ underlying policy agenda. The polling falls short of consensus, but some clear themes emerge.

When asked whether the U.S. should increase taxes on the wealthiest Americans, more than three-fourths of the protesters said yes. More taxes on everyone? A smaller majority, 58%, said no.

And then there’s this interesting open-ended question from the poll: What would you like to see the Occupy Wall Street movement achieve? Here are the responses (emphasis added):

  • 35% Influence the Democratic Party the way the Tea Party has influenced the GOP
  • 4% Radical redistribution of wealth
  • 5% Overhaul of tax system: replace income tax with flat tax
  • 7% Direct Democracy
  • 9% Engage & mobilize Progressives
  • 9% Promote a national conversation
  • 11% Break the two-party duopoly
  • 4% Dissolution of our representative democracy/capitalist system
  • 4% Single payer health care
  • 4% Pull out of Afghanistan immediately
  • 8% Not sure

The two answers in bold seem sufficiently similar as to constitute a single answer — energizing populism on the left —  with 44% support.

So the survey tells us that the Zuccotti Park protesters are underemployed at twice the national rate, lukewarm to warm on Obama and broadly in favor of taxing the wealthy and encouraging a Tea Party-style populism on the left.

More Violence in Syria as Peace Plan Continues to Struggle

14 05 2012

Things have not been getting any better since the ceasefire agreement.