This post first appeared on the Daily Kos. High School graduates without higher education have seen their incomes decline substantially before and since the onset of the Great Recession. Additionally, a report to Congress by the Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance noted college enrollment for low income high school graduates declined to 40 percent in 2004 from 52 percent in 1992. The Wall Street Journal noted:
If that trend has continued, low- and moderate-income students who don’t move on to college face an even darker outlook. The unemployment rate for 16- to 19-year olds averaged 17% in 2004, the jobless rate for people over age 25 with just a high school diploma averaged 5% the same year. So far this year, those figures have jumped to 25.8% and 10.6%, respectively.
Additionally, the BLS reports:
In October 2009, 70.1 percent of 2009 high school graduates were enrolled in colleges or universities, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. This was a historical high for the series, which began in 1959. Recent high school graduates not enrolled in college in October 2009 were more likely than enrolled graduates to be in the labor force (70.0 compared with 42.1 percent).
The unemployment rate for recent high school graduates not enrolled in school was 35.0 percent, compared with 23.7 percent for graduates enrolled in college.
Imagine what starting out is like for someone graduating high school but not interested in going to college. If these two sets of statistics are correct, even though there are large numbers of recent graduates who attend college, a huge number of them do not complete matriculation. When they join the labor force, the prospects are slim. Obviously, the astronomical rise in the cost of attending college coupled with the decline in middle and lower class income has taken a tremendous toll on young students. They can't afford college and they can't get a job. And for those who do get a job, there is this:
In 2008, the median of the earnings of young adults with a bachelor's degree was $46,000, while the median was $36,000 for those with an associate's degree, $30,000 for those with a high school diploma or its equivalent, and $23,500 for those who did not earn a high school diploma or its equivalent.
In 2008 dollars, the median earnings for a high school graduate was in 1980 was $36,600. What to do? Go to college, and you face costs that may leave you saddled with debt and no degree. Choose not to go, and you face a horrendous job market and meager wages if you find a job. For minorities and women, it isn't a Great Recession. It is a full-on 1930's style Great Depression. This is the America we are bring our future into. It is no wonder that the military is the only place of refuge for high school graduates from low income families. It is an anecdote, but a family member of mine has been waiting five months to ship out for Army basic training. The waiting list is that long. This, in my opinion, constitutes the worst consequence of our economy. It is terrible when the middle-aged or seniors lose their homes and their jobs. It is tragic that those who have the energy, idealism, and optimism to renew our nation face such reckless disregard for their strength, talents, and sheer vibrancy. We have a multitude of young people who will may not even get the chance to lose everything in an economic crash. Everyone isn't cut out for higher education. There are some young people who have a more mechanical bent or prefer to work with their hands. There are those with artistic or athletic talents who haven't won their lucky ticket to the big leagues. Circumstances for the poor, such as becoming a young parent or coming up in the foster-care system are coupled with a public school system that is strained of resources. Many aren't ready for college. Worse, the Great Recession has brought a substantial decline in retail employment that has made even the lowest-wage, entry-level job scarce for young people who probably feel lucky they even managed to graduate high school. Starting out is a hard to do under most circumstances, but these days are particularly challenging. This is important because the lifetime habits of these young people are going to be shaped by what they do now. We as a nation cannot simply sit idly by while a generation of young people misses out on even a decent shot at earning a decent living. It is an act of national suicide for any country to neglect its youth. We have to do more to help these young people get a good start. We have to modify our trade policies so that these young folks get a chance to do some work with their hands and their backs and earn enough to make a living in the process. We have to raise minimum wage and index it for inflation. This nation must do more to make sure that all young people starting out get the opportunity to get a piece of the action, and not just those who finish college.
This post first appeared on Daily Kos. MSNBC is reporting that Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has now decided he wants to conduct a review of the facts with respect to Ms. Sherrod:
Vilsack's statement came after the NAACP posted the full video of Sherrod's comments Tuesday night and retracted its earlier condemnation of her. "I am of course willing and will conduct a thorough review and consider additional facts to ensure to the American people we are providing services in a fair and equitable manner," Vilsack said.
So, if I have this correctly, Breitbart and Fox News burps, she get's fired immediately. CNN and The NAACP release the undisputed facts, and now there must be a thorough review. (facepalm) I want to return to something the White House keeps saying in response to Ms. Sherrod:
Shirley Sherrod, a former USDA employee who resigned after a controversial video surfaced, told CNN Tuesday that members of the Obama administration "harassed" her and demanded she resign her post immediately. In an interview with CNN, Sherrod said she repeatedly fielded calls on Monday during a long car ride, during which officials insisted that she pull over to the side of the road and quit her post. "They asked me to resign, and, in fact, they harassed me as I was driving back to the state office from West Point, Georgia yesterday," Sherrod told CNN. "I had at least three calls telling me the White House wanted me to resign...and the last one asked me to pull over to the side of the road and do it." ... Sherrod said the final call came from Cheryl Cook, an undersecretary at the Department of Agriculture. Sherrod said White House officials wanted her to quit immediately because the controversy was "going to be on Glenn Beck tonight."
"We did not pressure USDA or Ms. Sherrod," a White House official reportedly wrote in an email on Tuesday to The Washington Post.
I guess the buck stops somewhere else. The White House needs to get off this stance and start showing some sympathy toward Ms. Sherrod. She has, clearly, been done terribly wrong by the White Supremacist fringe of the Republican Party. The White House acts like they are afraid of a bunch of bigots. Martin Luther King, Jr. would be sickened by how this White House has behaved toward this woman. Some racist bigot makes an accusation against her and they don't even waste one minute before firing her without review. Yet when the truth comes out, they don't re-hire her on the spot. Then, and only then, are they willing to conduct a review. Disgusting. If they have the decency to offer her the job back, I hope she turns it down. I wouldn't want to work for people who were so easily pushed around by a by an internet skinhead like Breitbart or a certified nutcase like Beck. The White House should at least apologize to Ms. Sherrod and accept responsibility for how this kind and lovely public servant has been treated. That would be the minimum of something to show Breitbart and the rest of his skinhead crew that decent Americans will not be intimidated by the likes of scum like them. You know what is so pathetic about all this? Now that the truth has come out, Glenn Beck, the same Glenn Beck who had the administration cowering in fear, is attacking the administration over firing her in the first place:
How and why would you force the resignation of someone who is just relating a story of 24-year-old incident to make a point? How many times when a controversy comes up have we heard that someone was "misquoted" or they "misspoke" or we're told that "the only point they were simply making was that..." and then some point that bears no resemblance to the one they made; or they were just "taken out of context?" Now here's a possible actual example of someone taken completely out of context and they immediately get rid of her.
Can you believe this White House is being pushed around by these people? Update: It appears Ms. Sherrod sees the old boss in a different light:
The woman at the center of a racially tinged firestorm involving the Obama administration and the NAACP said Wednesday she doesn't know if she'd return to her job at the Agriculture Department, even if asked. "I am just not sure how I would be treated there," Shirley Sherrod said in a nationally broadcast interview.
I agree. Now get yourself a damn good attorney Ms. Sherrod.
This post originally appeared on Daily Kos.
It could be that humanity is on the cusp of the very same global competition for lithium that defined oil exploration and production in the 20th century.
This was from yesterday's front page story on the state of lithium. Well, today's New York Times reports vast quantities of lithium, gold, and other important industrial minerals in a nation where we just happen to also have a large military force:
The United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, far beyond any previously known reserves and enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself, according to senior American government officials. The previously unknown deposits — including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium — are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the United States officials believe.
For those of you very interested in lithium, I am not sure from which of Afghanistan's many pocket salt flat regions this discovery was made. I hope to learn more in the coming days. If I were betting money, however, I'd say it is probably the huge Dagh-E Tondi flat, so large it's visible from space. The United States Geological Survey has been operating in Afghanistan for years, even before the war. The 2008 survey points out that the USGS has long estimated great mineral wealth in Afghanistan, so this discovery comes as no surprise to them. A special five-year exploratory group, initially slated to look for oil and gas, was formed in 2004. It has published some work on rare earth metals, minor metals and coal. The Afghanistan Geological Survery, which is joint project of the British GS and USGS under the auspices of the Afghan govern (ha!) has also been searching the nation for mineral wealth. Let me state this clearly: There will be no development of this wealth while there is war. That is for sure. No private or state sovereign business is going to invest in any nation where Taliban and Al Qaeda are moving about freely. No China. No Iran. No Venezuela. No North Korea. Pick your international bogeyman, they wont invest in Afghanistan. So any general whispering in the media's ear, as I'm sure they are, that we could "help" them by sticking around forever or that it is in our "national interest" is lying. If we leave, the minerals will stay in the rocks until the Afghans resolve their differences on their own. We have no need to worry that Afghanistan is suddenly going to transform itself in a stable, China-friendly minerals exporter any time soon. After we leave, it will probably collapse into civil war, which is none of our business. These discoveries are no reason to stay in Afghanistan. President Obama must not be moved by this report and must stick to the current set of military objectives he has set. We must get out. On schedule.
This post originally appeared on Daily Kos. If you're ever walking around Manhattan you'll notice, albeit with less frequency these days, red boxes all around town that contain the Village Voice. The cover art is usually rather striking. Last week, the cover photo was particularly striking, in my opinion, because of the subject of this story:
This is the way Debbie Lorenzana tells it: Her bosses told her they couldn't concentrate on their work because her appearance was too distracting. They ordered her to stop wearing turtlenecks. She was also forbidden to wear pencil skirts, three-inch heels, or fitted business suits. Lorenzana, a 33-year-old single mom, pointed out female colleagues whose clothing was far more revealing than hers: "They said their body shapes were different from mine, and I drew too much attention," she says.
The article notes Ms. Lorenzana, 33, filed a lawsuit against Citibank for firing her because of her style of dress. She says managers at her branch repeatedly tried to get her to tone down her "provactive" appearance. Her lawyer says that they simply couldn't control their libidos. Citibank cited performance issues and vows to defend itself with the usual lawyerly vigor. I'm sure the matter will be settled in the usual lawyerly way. In the meantime, she is enjoying her 15 minutes of fame. What is interesting is "provocative" appearance in the workplace. Hard thing to pin down for a court of law, mindful of Justice Potter Stewart's famous quote. But we can say there are some commonly held opinions on the matter and they mostly apply to women. For men, it's difficult to dress provocatively. Men have to go pretty far over the edge to provoke any sort of response, excepting for men in uniform. You'd have to wear extremely tight pants around the crotch, no shirt, and basically parade around like a peacock. Otherwise, for men, a standard issue suit or jeans and workboots constitute a rather simple workplace habit. In fact, for most fellas who don't wear a suit everyday, casual dress rather closely resembles work attire. Personally, I grab whatever shirt, tie, and dark suit that appears clean and put it on, sometimes not even noticing various stains until I have my coffee. No matter the body type, it's pretty difficult for a man to get it wrong when going to work. For women, the whole thing appears to my untrained eye, ridiculously subjective. Is this skirt too tight? Is this neckline too low? Is this too expensive-looking? Colors. Fabrics. For a woman like Ms. Lorenzana, who is very well blessed in the looks department, it is even more complicated. She has to balance her desire to look as fabulous as possible while being careful not to "provoke" men from being distracted by her beauty. It's always up to the men to determine if she is succeeding or not. My wife has told me of her struggles as she is also rather generously blessed in the measurements. No matter how hard a woman tries, she never can quite get it right. Too frumpy? Too bitchy? Too sexy? I go through these questions during our morning dress. Me? I smell the underarms, check the collars, if its not too wrinkly, I put it on. If I had to do what women do, I'd demand extra pay for the time I'd spend preparing work. It's a job all its own. Update: This morning on CBS's Early Show, it was alleged that Chase Bank, her current employer, has told Ms. Lorenzana that it disapproves of her speaking out about her experience because "the statements reflect poorly upon the banking industry." (hand slapping forehead)
It didn't make much news on this side of the pond, but one of the most significant pieces of legislation in the digital era was passed in the United Kingdom just prior to the recent national election. It is called the Digital Economy Act, pushed by a powerful coalition of media interests. It is a sweeping piece of legislation. Notably, its odious provisions are headed for America and the world. The Electronic Frontier Foundation recently noted:
The Digital Economy Bill has been the subject of heavy entertainment industry lobbying and widespread concern amongst U.K. citizens and telecommunications companies because it included provisions that would allow the U.K. government to censor websites considered "likely to be used for or in connection with an activity that infringes copyright," and disconnect the Internet connection of any household in the U.K. with an IP address alleged to have engaged in copyright infringement.
That means YOU, Wikileaks. Other powers granted by the new law include:
* Although proof is required before disconnection, the evidence does not have to relate to you: you can be punished for the actions of a friend or even a neighbour who has used your Internet connection. * Rights holders could have the power to demand that sites they believe to contravene copyright law be blocked by ISPs.Right now, we don't know what the govrnment will propose, as they have yet to draft their new proposal. * As it is not the perpetrator that is punished, as you might expect, but the owner of the connection, and others using it, cafés and bars may have to stop providing wifi.
You could go to your local coffeeshop tea room and use their WiFi. Some other user at that shop is using BitTorrent or some other P2P software to download music or a movie. Under the DEA, that WiFi network can be disconnected from the internet. Permanently. More ominously, if a right holder, such as News Corp. or Halliburton believes that certain websites are likely to be used to publish copywritten materials, that website can be blocked from the internet. Whoa. Not an actual incident of copyright infringement, but the likeliness of it happening allows the holder of that copyright to request that website's ISP block it. For more analysis of the law and its implications, read this. Similar provisions included in the DEA are being negotiated, in secret, by a consortium of nations in a new trade agreement called the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. The United States is part of the negotiations which recently concluded their eighth round in New Zealand. Thanks to pressure from civil society and privacy activists, the first public draft of the new law is available.The draft provisions look remarkably like the DEA:
In civil judicial proceedings concerning the enforcement of [copyright or related rights and trademarks] [intellectual property rights], each Party shall provide that its judicial authorities shall have the authority [subject to any statutory limitations under its domestic law] to issue [against the infringer an injunction aimed at prohibiting the continuation of the] [an order to a party to desist from an] infringement, including an order to prevent infringing goods from entering into the channels of commerce [and to prevent their exportation]. [2. The Parties [may] shall also ensure that right holders are in a position to apply for an injunction against [infringing] intermediaries whose services are used by a third party to infringe an intellectual property right.8]9
What this legalese means is every party to the trade agreement must adopt policies that give "judicial authorities" the authority to not only go after the person who infringes on the copyright at the behest of the right holder, but also against "intermediaries." That could mean ISPs. That could mean your unsecured WiFi network. That could mean sites that act as publishing platforms for the general public. And then there is this:
[X. Each Party shall provide that its judicial authorities shall have the authority, at the request of the applicant, to issue an interlocutory injunction intended to prevent any imminent infringement of an intellectual property right [copyright or related rights or trademark]. An interlocutory injunction may also be issued, under the same conditions, against an [infringing] intermediary whose services are being used by a third party to infringe an intellectual property right.Each Party shall also provide that provisional measures may be issued, even before the commencement of proceedings on the merits, to preserve relevant evidence in respect of the alleged infringement. Such measures may include inter alia the detailed description, the taking of samples or the physical seizure of documents or of the infringing goods.]
  1. Each Party shall [provide][ensure] that its judicial authorities [shall ]act [expeditiously][ on requests] forprovisional measures inaudita altera parte, and shall endeavor to make a decision[ on such requests] without undue delay, except in exceptional cases.
Emphasis mine. Now, it seems reasonable to me that courts should have the power to issue injunctions to prevent imminent infringement by a copyright abuser. But to also grant the power to disconnect intermediaries, seize evidence inter alia of said intermediaries, and to do it all ex parte is beyond odious. This is all being done in the name of ending online software and content piracy, which is certainly a reasonable goal. This response, however, is draconian. Since it is expensive to go after each and every person who downloads a music file for free, the media conglomerates must slowdown or shutdown any network where it is or might possibly take place. This will have the effect of forcing ISPs to police what their users are doing and that is where the Internet experience start to feel like watching cable: lots of stuff on but nothing worth seeing. The EFF strongly opposes ACTA much as it opposed the awful Digital Economy Act in Britian. Liberal Democrat leader, now Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg promised to repeal it if elected. However, the new Conservative minister responsible for the law has made it clear it is here to stay. You can take action against ACTA by first fighting for sunlight.

Oh...almost forgot:

Because ACTA is being negotiated as anExecutive Agreement, it will not be subject to the Congressional oversight mechanisms that have applied to recent bilateral free trade agreements, even though it appears likely to have a far greater impact on the global knowledge economy than any of those.