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      Stumbled across this lovely chart the other day. The core fact most people, including the folks in the “best every world” Panglossian movement (like Pinker) don’t seem to understand, is that even if they were right (questionable), the prosperity we have is based on burning down our house. “Sure is hot! Hottest it’s every been!” […]
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Friday: It’s a Girl!

Kirsten Gillibrand is expected to be appointed to fill Hillary Clinton’s seat in an announcement this afternoon by Governor Paterson. Gillibrand is a centrist Democrat from a conservative district in upstate New York. She’s a two term congresswoman with a reputation for being bold and forceful. With this appointment, Paterson is hoping to secure the vast wilderness of NY that is not Manhattan.

Hillary campaigns for Gillibrand in August 2006.

Hillary campaigns for Gillibrand in August 2006.

Of course, he may not have secured the seat against primary challenges in 2010. Gillibrand will likely have a contender or two, most notably Carolyn McCarthy, a congresswoman from Long Island (pronounced Lawn Guyland). McCarthy ran for congress on a gun control platform after her husband and son were callously shot by a deranged gunman as they were commuting home on a train. McCarthy is angry over the appointment as Gillibrand is one of the few Democrats who is supported by the National Rifle Association. Given Gillibrand’s district, the rolling foothills south of the Adirondacks, it’s easy to imagine that many of her constituents are avid hunters. But country folk and city folk don’t always see eye to eye on these things. It would be great if the NRA recognized that there *is* a difference and that having a lot of guns floating around a crowded metropolis where they can fall into the hands of the not-so-stable is probably not such a good idea.

Still, Hillary Clinton was an enthusiastic supporter of Gillibrand so I suspect that she’ll be pleased with this announcement. The NYTimes seems to be busily trying to find a way to smear Paterson by blaming him and his office for the botched handling of Caroline Kennedy. Personally, I’d like to thank him for taking his time and allowing the vetting of Kennedy unfold as it did. We learned a lot about the reclusive socialite, who doesn’t seem to have a political bone in her body, and the people at the NYTimes who were behind her. Something seriously weird has been going on with the Times over Kennedy. The articles written about the event have been nothing short of bizarre with a defensive tone and disjointed, out of sequence reporting of what actually happened. The sooner Caroline Kennedy is off the front page, the better.

So, Kudos to Paterson for doing the right thing and congratulations to Kirsten Gillibrand, the second female senator from the state of NY. She has some mighty big shoes to fill but if she was recommended by Hillary herself, then I’m sure the state is in good hands.

Lily Ledbetter, unlikely heroine

Lily Ledbetter, our newest heroine

In other news, the Senate passed the Lily Ledbetter act. The bill passed by 61-36.  We need to get a roll call to see which of our nation’s 36 senators voted against fair pay for women and to find out what their rationale was.  They have a lot of explaining to do to their non-burqa wearing female constituents.   Some of you ladies out there should expect to see a raise as your employers rush to head off any potential lawsuits. But there’s more to paycheck disparities than just discrimination:

The Senate debate on Thursday reflected society’s debate. Civil and womens’ rights advocates hailed the new Ledbetter legislation, but others said it will leave companies vulnerable to potentially crippling lawsuits even though discrimination is only a small factor in the so-called “gender gap” between male and female earners.

A 2007 report by the American Association of University Women found that when experience, training, education and other factors are weighed, discrimination accounts for only 5 percent of the earnings differential between male and female college graduates one year after graduation — and only 12 percent after ten years.

Nevertheless, Catherine Hill, an AAUW senior researcher who co-authored the study, said the Ledbetter law is needed.

“Most companies do the right thing anyway, but some will only do the right thing when they see laws on the books. And some companies have to be taken to court. Without (punitive) damages for discrimination, there really is no way to make them take the issue seriously,” Hill said.

However, Warren Farrell, the San Francisco author of “Why Men Earn More,” said that much of the pay gap can be explained by men choosing higher-paying professions that are in high demand and short supply, such as engineering, computer science, and information technology.

Men are also more likely to take dangerous, grimy jobs, such as collecting garbage and driving cabs, which typically pay more than other non-skilled labor.

Eliminating overt discrimination is only the most obvious thing to do. Now we have to figure out how to make the nation realize that sexism has a cost. When we don’t help girls and women succeed to the best of their abilities, it costs all of us the loss of their ideas to propel business and the nation forward. Ending pay disparities starts in middle school where we must now turn our attention to advocate for our daughters and to make sure they have the same opportunities to succeed as their male counterparts. That’s where we need to fight the next battle against gender discrimination so that girls are as prepared to study higher level math and science as boys.

Sometimes, evolution doesn’t happen gradually but in leaps and bounds. Let’s seize the day and take Lily Ledbetter up to 11.

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