Once Upon a Time, The Music Really Mattered

I last night watched a show on the Smithsonian Channel about John Cohen, one of the New Lost City Ramblers.  It featured Pete Seeger and photographs of a young Bob Dylan.

When I was young and very alone the music of Pete Seeger and Joan Baez filled my life.

I joke and say Pete Seeger made me a commie although my left wing roots are more in the labor movement and the anarchists of the IWW.

But the rebel music be it rock and roll or folk was always there and I was always an outsider more attuned to fighting for the oppressed than living the glamorous life.

I was drawn to Greenwich Village because of the music of Washington Square and MacDougal Street.  Gerde’s and the Gaslight. Ban the bomb buttons, long hair, poetry and art.

When my parents busted me at 13 they told me I should go live with the queers in Greenwich Village.  Years later I would discover Ann Bannon’s Beebo Brinker books and know where my mother got that idea.

The music was intertwined with the politics.  Woody Guthrie’s guitar had “This Machine Kills Fascists” written on it.  They called Pete Seeger a red and blacklisted him.

I was a teenage commie queer according to some folks so the Village seemed the place to go.

Rambling around New York town,

The buildings go up and the subway down.

Fresh off the bus the first stop on the train for me was Sheridan Square, at the corner of Christopher Street.  Right near Bleeker Street.

I found Izzy Young’s Folklore Center and Fretted Instrument too.

I saw Dave van Ronk play the Gaslight.  The Fugs, Laura Nyro and the Mothers of Invention too across MacDougal Street at the Cafe Wha.

When I went to the coast it was because San Francisco was easier on kids like me or so I had heard from another transkid finding herself in the Village.

By now the Vietnam War was raging and I was part of a tide moving from protest to resistance.  I danced at the Avalon, the Filmore, the Straight Theater.  The music was the Dead and the Airplane.  Phil Ochs and Country Joe provided the politics.  The MC 5 gave us music to riot to.

Tonight I watched Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young on a recent tour.  From “Four Dead in Ohio” to “Let’s Impeach the President”.

Women’s music from Joan Baez and Laura Nyro to the 1970s Meg Christian and Cris Williamson and Alix Dobkin fueled my feminism and gave music to my lesbianism.

When I came back to my roots after getting seduced by the right it was Rage Against the Machine, Green Day and John Fogerty and yeah Neil Young too along with the Dixie Chicks who returned me to my senses.

Maybe the music always mattered and maybe like Grace Slick used to sing it was the way to “Feed your head!”

Spanish government approves controversial abortion reforms

[Controversial if you are a Christo-Fascist misogynist who believes the sole purpose of women is to have babies.  Not if you believe in women’s equality.]

AFP, France

Excerpt: He [Prime Minister Zapatero] has pushed through legislation legalising gay marriage, allowing for fast-track divorces and giving increased rights to transsexuals, among other changes.


Spanish government approves controversial abortion reforms


MADRID — Spain’s Socialist government Saturday approved controversial reforms to the country’s abortion law which would allow women as young as 16 to undergo the procedure without parental consent.

The proposal was passed at a cabinet meeting despite strong opposition from the Roman Catholic Church, the conservative opposition Popular Party and even many supporters of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero’s Socialist Party.

The measure now will to go to parliament for approval, Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega told a news conference.

Under the proposed reforms, abortions would be allowed for women of 16 and over on demand up to the 14th week of pregnancy, and up to 22 weeks if there is a risk to the mother’s health or if the foetus is deformed.

Women can also undergo the procedure after 22 weeks if the foetus has a serious or incurable illness.

“We want to offer minors as much protection as possible and the most respect for their basic rights,” said de la Vega.

The existing law introduced in 1985, a decade after the death of right-wing dictator Francisco Franco, only allows abortion in cases of rape, fetal malformation and when a pregnant woman’s mental or physical health is deemed to be at risk if the pregnancy goes to term.

The Popular Party has said it will challenge the reforms in the Constitutional Court, and the Spanish Family Forum, a coalition of Catholic groups, said it would stage a demonstration against abortion on October 17 in Madrid.

Popular Party spokeswoman Soraya Saenz de Santamaria condemned the reforms which she said “go against to the feelings of the vast majority of women and of parents.”

An opinion poll carried out last June said 64 percent of people oppose the measure allowing 16-year-olds to have abortions without parental consent.

Among Socialist supporters, 56 percent said they opposed the move, according to the Metroscopia poll of 1,000 people carried out for the left-wing newspaper El Pais.

Zapatero has defended the changes, saying the state should not “intervene in the free and private decision of a woman, who is the one who has to take on the responsibility of a pregnancy during her entire life.”

The prime minister has passed a series of sweeping social reforms since coming to power in 2004 that have angered the Roman Catholic Church.

He has pushed through legislation legalising gay marriage, allowing for fast-track divorces and giving increased rights to transsexuals, among other changes.

Copyright © 2009 AFP. All rights reserved.

©2009 Google


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Class Privilege and Sex Reassignment Surgery

When I got my SRS in 1972 America enjoyed far greater prosperity and economic equality than it does now. Today inequality and poverty are the result of some 40 years of Ayn Randian neo-lib/neo-con corporate fascism aimed at putting all the wealth in the hands of 0ne percent and screw everyone else.

We were a bunch of poor kids and the mix was far more multi-racial than it is now.  Unlike today, we weren’t for the most part salaried people with high status jobs granted to us as a result of male privilege.

My friends and I were gender trash.  Many of us were throwaway kids, disowned and on our own.  Too “other” to do anything besides pass as female.  If we had legitimate jobs they paid working class women’s pay of $2.00-3.50 per hour.  A lucky few got jobs with the phone companies as operators, others learned data entry.

It was possible to live cheap in those days, a studio apartment for 75 dollars or so in one of the ghettos.  Shared apartments of maybe two or three bedrooms for around 200-300 dollars.

Thrift store clothes and hippie home cooking.

We somehow managed to save the money or get student loans.  I got a loan from the Berkeley Co-op, a local market chain with a credit union and left wing politics.  It wasn’t much but it was enough to pay for my SRS even though I was still paying off the loan some five years later.

Fast forward to a point not to many years ago when I was being really snarky and pointed out how one could get SRS in Thailand for about the cost of a used VW Golf.

I had gotten too used to middle class comfort even though only a few years prior when I had been drinking I wold have been either homeless or down on the Nickel (LA’s Skid Row located at 5th and Main) with my sister friends who had tried to self medicate away the pain.  I had forgotten how hard it was simply to survive without the support structures cis-sexual/normborns take for granted.

I deceived myself into thinking that because luck had saved me along with falling in love with some one who gave me the support I needed to rise above the desperate poverty I had been living in, that everyone could do the same.

I knew in my heart that I was lucky and that most are not, but privilege plays strange mind tricks on people.  They suddenly cope with having privilege while so many others do not by convincing themselves that they deserve it and that others deserve the misfortune that falls upon them.

The greatest lie of all is “Social Darwinism”, the idea that the privileged are more deserving or that they work harder.

Over five years or so I worked very hard, read, studied and engaged in self-criticism to get back to the humanity and caring I had before the ultra right wing forces of Reagan and crew destroyed America.

A few years back I read Barbara Ehrenreich‘s book, Nickel and Dimed, about not getting by on the poverty level jobs so many American’s hold.  I was reading Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky too along with Naomi Klein. I was getting back to my left wing anarchist working class roots.

I could see the working class getting fucked harder and harder by the rich.  Part time hell with uncertain hours making it hard to hold two jobs.  People with two and three jobs, no health insurance with pay day loans ripping off the poor and credit card companies ripping off those one step up.  Usurious interest rates.  No more government student loans, those low interest loans replaced by “private” banks raping the poor even more.

I work with people doing retail sales who have degrees and yet work for poverty wages as those are the only positions open.

Then several years back we let a sister stay at our house while she went to E2000.  She was an executive with a major US company.  She complained about the cost of her divorce and yet she went to the finest of surgeons.  20,000 here, 50,000 on her face with Dr. O.  I found her to be oh so entitled, oh so privileged and oh so blissfully unaware of her privilege.

When I went on line a dozen plus years back I wondered where all the young sisters were.  Of course it had taken me a year of scrimping and saving, buying components at computer swap meets as well as knowing how to build a computer for me to get on-line in the first place.

Everyone seemed so middle aged and white.  So much higher up the socio-economic scale than I was.

Yet I was a volunteer at Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center as well as involved with the local chapter of the Transsexual Menace and so I knew that Transkids hadn’t suddenly all vanished.  Hell the sex ads in the free papers were full of young people with transsexualism hustling to get by in an age of AIDS, addiction and violence.

Because I am old with a somewhat iffy grasp on middle class most sisters in my circle of friends came out after 40 and after establishing careers based on male privilege.  While they lose male privilege they often retain class privilege.  Many Fortune 500 companies have non-discrimination clauses and even changing jobs after SRS isn’t necessarily an elevator ride on the downwardly mobile express.

But privilege hardens one to the suffering of those who do not enjoy that privilege.  Transsexual to Male people have been given a pass on the bottom surgery based on cost.  I’ve been called a transgender sympathizer because I look at poverty class sisters who are 24/7/365 with electrolysis, hormones, breast implants and perhaps even some facial surgery (although perhaps not from the famous Dr. O.) and I am willing to cut them some slack.

On some level the surgery that was supposed to make us whole is treated like owning a Birkin, a status symbol to be held as validation of a realness not readily accessible to those lacking the same class privilege.

It is too bad so many with class privilege have so little class as to feel it is okay to flaunt their good fortune, to feel it is alright to rub it in that they have their pussies when those at the bottom are lucky to be able to afford a place to live and see SRS as but a dream.

‘Intersex’ fish found in Colorado Study: Pollutants causing male bass to develop female sex organs

From Havasu News
‘Intersex’ fish found in Colorado
Study: Pollutants causing male bass to develop female sex organs

By DICK KAMP / Wick Communications Environmental Liaison
Sunday, September 20, 2009 8:02 PM MST

Early studies indicate various pollutants, drugs, cosmetics and household products in the Colorado River can cause some male bass to have partially developed female organs inside.

This phenomenon of occasional female organ growth in males, is called “intersex.”

A nationwide study of sexual fish aberrations by the U.S. Geological Survey found that 40 percent of smallmouth bass and one-third of largemouth bass sampled in the Colorado River were intersex. The Colorado River data were from 2003, and nationwide it covered the period 1995-2004.

The pollutants and various chemicals affect hormone activity in animals and humans are collectively called endocrine disruptors or endocrine active compounds.

The Colorado River Regional Sewage Coalition has been concerned with the presence of the endocrine disruptors, particularly because Colorado River water is consumed by millions in Arizona, Nevada and California.

One member of CRRSCO, Southern Nevada Water Authority, has been testing for chemicals in Lake Mead and Las Vegas drinking water.  Monitoring has shown that levels of a number of endocrine disruptors exist in drinking water for Las Vegas at substantial percentages of levels that are detected in Lake Mead near the sewage outfall.

For example, the popular insect repellant DEET and the herbicide atrazine have been detected (at low unregulated levels in parts per trillion) when sampled in both the lake and potable Las Vegas drinking water.

SNWA also is assisting Lake Havasu City Water Resources Coordinator Doyle Wilson to sample for endocrine disruptors in Lake Havasu as well as in water supply wells and a huge sewage storage repository two miles from the lake constructed within the last two years. Doyle said that his principal concern with the USGS study is that the fish data are already dated.

Wilson added that CRRSCO is pinning some of its hopes for future monitoring of endocrine disruptors and many pollutants on the Lower Colorado River Protection Act, which was introduced July 31 by Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz. The bill would create and implement an EPA-overseen, long-term plan to protect water quality in the lower Colorado to prevent and eliminate pollution with continuous ecosystem monitoring.

Some of the highest intersex percentages were found in the southeastern U.S. At 111 sites nationwide, 3,080 fish were examined and all had contaminants in their bodies.

Forty percent of largemouth bass examined at Imperial Dam and at the Gila River in Hayden were intersex, and 70 percent of smallmouth bass in the upper Colorado in the Yampa River were intersex.

Among other species examined, the only intersex carp found nationwide was at Willow Beach, below Lake Mead. One intersex channel catfish was found in the lower Colorado basin in the Gila River at Phoenix, and one at each of three sites in the upper Colorado.

Lead author of the report, JoEllen Hincke, of the USGS Columbia Missouri Environmental Research Lab, said that the report “is the first synthesis of USGS efforts to measure contamination in water, fish and intersex occurrence.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control — and governments worldwide — have gathered substantial evidence that human health is affected by exposure to hormone-disrupting chemicals.  Pregnant women and babies, particularly boys, are considered at highest potential risk but serious conditions affecting women such as infertility, ovarian damage and adult male hormonal disruption are considered to be likely impacts of the chemicals.

Wastewater discharges into sources of drinking water are one major pathway of contamination that may include bodily discharges of concentrations of chemicals or from pollutants themselves being discharged into surface and groundwater.

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Intersex Deer

[I didn’t write the article, it is quoted from Outdoor Life hence the language is theirs.]

Outdoor Life

Biology: HeShe Bucks

October 2009 pg 21

Shoot a velvet buck with spindly limber antlers?  Chances are, he’s missing some important equipment.

By Ben Swenson

Aubrey Williams, of Chesapeake, Virginia, wasn’t sure what to make of the 8-point buck he shot last December.

“His antlers were soft and he was bleeding from one of the rines in his rack.” he says, “When I turned him over to gut him, he didn’t have any testicles.”

William’s kill had what appears to be a growing number of odd antlers reported by deer hunters each year.  Kansas hunter Mike Smith made headlines around the country last year when he bagged a 27 point whitetail, only to discover it was a doe.

Missing or malformed testicles, as with William’s buck, can interupt testosterone production necessary for the annual cycle of antler growth, hardening and shedding.

Doe deer sometimes grow antlers because of hormone imbalances or diseased or injured sex organs.  A few antlered deer are hermaphrodites, meaning they produce both male and female genitalia.

Dr. Chris DePerno, a wildlife biologist at North Carolina State University, explains that getting a handle on the percentage of these deer in the overall population is challenging.  They get a lot of attention, and anecdototally it appears more are being reported every year. But they remain a very small subset of the population.

“Biologists have a hard enough time estimating the number of normal individuals,” DePerno observes, “But the percentage of these altered deer certainly is very small,” though they occur throughout the species range.

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Study Finds High-Fructose Corn Syrup Contains Mercury

From the Washington Post


Wednesday, January 28, 2009; 12:00 AM

MONDAY, Jan. 26 (HealthDay News) — Almost half of tested samples of commercial high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) contained mercury, which was also found in nearly a third of 55 popular brand-name food and beverage products where HFCS is the first- or second-highest labeled ingredient, according to two new U.S. studies.

HFCS has replaced sugar as the sweetener in many beverages and foods such as breads, cereals, breakfast bars, lunch meats, yogurts, soups and condiments. On average, Americans consume about 12 teaspoons per day of HFCS, but teens and other high consumers can take in 80 percent more HFCS than average.

“Mercury is toxic in all its forms. Given how much high-fructose corn syrup is consumed by children, it could be a significant additional source of mercury never before considered. We are calling for immediate changes by industry and the [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] to help stop this avoidable mercury contamination of the food supply,” the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy’s Dr. David Wallinga, a co-author of both studies, said in a prepared statement.

In the first study, published in current issue of Environmental Health, researchers found detectable levels of mercury in nine of 20 samples of commercial HFCS.

And in the second study, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), a non-profit watchdog group, found that nearly one in three of 55 brand-name foods contained mercury. The chemical was found most commonly in HFCS-containing dairy products, dressings and condiments.

But an organization representing the refiners is disputing the results published in Environmental Health.

“This study appears to be based on outdated information of dubious significance,” said Audrae Erickson, president of the Corn Refiners Association, in a statement. “Our industry has used mercury-free versions of the two re-agents mentioned in the study, hydrochloric acid and caustic soda, for several years. These mercury-free re-agents perform important functions, including adjusting pH balances.”

However, the IATP told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that four plants in Georgia, Tennessee, Ohio and West Virginia still use “mercury-cell” technology that can lead to contamination.

IATP’s Ben Lilliston also told HealthDay that the Environmental Health findings were based on information gathered by the FDA in 2005.

And the group’s own study, while not peer-reviewed, was based on products “bought off the shelf in the autumn of 2008,” Lilliston added.

The use of mercury-contaminated caustic soda in the production of HFCS is common. The contamination occurs when mercury cells are used to produce caustic soda.

“The bad news is that nobody knows whether or not their soda or snack food contains HFCS made from ingredients like caustic soda contaminated with mercury. The good news is that mercury-free HFCS ingredients exist. Food companies just need a good push to only use those ingredients,” Wallinga said in his prepared statement.

More information

The U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry has more about mercury and health.

SOURCE: Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, news release, Jan. 26, 2009

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Two From Bilerico Filed by Dr. Jillian Weiss Regarding the Fight to Pass ENDA

Thank You, Senator Michael Bennet: Senate Movement on ENDA

Filed by: Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

September 25, 2009 10:30 AM

The office of Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado has confirmed that he has signed on as a co-sponsor of S1584, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2009. 

Senator Bennet is the first Senator to co-sponsor since the Senate bill was introduced back at the beginning of August. This movement, which I hope is a signal of more Senators co-sponsoring soon, is very, very welcome indeed.

Senator Bennet is the 40th co-sponsor. There are, however, 9 more Senators who have privately confirmed their support for ENDA, and another 9 beyond that whose prior track records indicating a likelihood of support in the future. 60 are needed to overcome the expected filibuster.

It is important to thank our friends and supporters. I ask that you call or email Senator Bennet’s office and say “THANK YOU FOR SUPPORTING ENDA.”

Here’s his number: 202-224-5852 (click here for email)

So how many votes do we have in the Senate, and how many more do we need and who will they come from? My calculations after the jump.

How Many Votes in the Senate?

Senator Bennet is the 40th co-sponsor.

Nine Senators have privately indicated that they will support ENDA, but have not signed on as co-sponsors. That makes 49 votes. These are:

1. Mark Begich (D-AK)
2. Claire McCaskill (D-MO)
3. Max Baucus (D-MT)
4. Jon Tester (D-MT)
5. Byron Dorgan (D-ND)
6. Ben Nelson (D-NE),/i
7. Harry Reid (D-NV) [Why isn’t the “majority leader” a co-sponsor??]
8. Jim Webb (D-VA)
9. Mark Warner (D-VA)

You can find the sources of my information here.

Another nine have not made any indications, but are likely to support ENDA based on their track records, having co-sponsored other legislation that includes the language of sexual orientation and gender identity (except where noted). I am also including the newly-appointed Senator from Massachusetts, Paul G. Kirk, according to Bloomberg News, set to be announced this morning at 11 am by Governor Deval Patrick. That makes 58 votes.

These are:
1. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR)
2. Tom Carper (D-DE)
3. Ted Kaufman (D-DE)
4. Evan Bayh (D-IN)
5. Mary Landrieu (D-LA)
6. Paul G. Kirk (D-MA)
7. Kay Hagan (D-NC)
8. Tim Johnson (D-SD)
9. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV)

Where Will We Find Votes Number 59 and 60?

Here are the possibilities, some of which are longer shots than others.

1. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) voted for the hate crimes bill
2. Mark Pryor (D-AR) – voted for the hate crimes bill
3. Bill Nelson (D-FL) – he generally is favorable to LGBT issues, but privately indicated in July that he was undecided
4 – George Lemieux (D-FL) – recently appointed, and the South Florida Blade openly wondered whether he might support the bill
5. Richard Lugar (D-IN) – reported to be in favor, but privately indicated in July that he has concerns
6. Kent Conrad (D-ND) – voted for the hate crimes bill
7. George Voinovich (R-OH) – previously co-sponsored a bill with sexual orientation and gender identity language, and has been reported to be in favor, but his office indicated he was undecided in July
8. Robert Byrd (D-WV) -voted for but did not co-sponsor the hate crimes bill in 2002; has recently been precluded from voting due to health issues

(Technical Note: These Senators voted for the hate crimes bill in the sense that they voted for cloture on the Republican filibuster to allow it to be added as an amendment to the as-yet unpassed Defense Authorization Act.)

We have months to go before we come up against a vote in the Senate, and the numbers will probably change a lot between now and then. To my mind, the key thing is to work on the swing Senators now. It’s very hard to reach and persuade a US Senator, if only because of the sheer volume of stuff that they get every day. That takes time, and can’t be done in the week before the vote. Now is the time. Click here for contact info.

Yesterday’s ENDA Hearing: Use It To Pass ENDA

Filed by: Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

September 24, 2009 11:30 AM

Yesterday morning, the House Committee on Education and Labor held a hearing on ENDA. It was very good for the bill, raising awareness in many different ways and among many different constituencies. (See Austen’s summary <http://www.bilerico.com/2009/09/congressional_hearing_on_enda_great_success.php> and our liveblog
<http://www.bilerico.com/2009/09/liveblogging_the_enda_hearing.php> , as well as the archived webcast and the witness testimony on the Committee’s website
<http://edlabor.house.gov/hearings/2009/09/hr-3017-employment-non-discrim.shtml> .)

In and of itself, however, the hearing is not going to get the bill passed. Hearings have been held on previous versions of ENDA since 1994, and we still don’t have a law.

What will get the law passed are votes in Congress, and that is the only thing that will get them passed. You can use the hearing to help get those votes. Here’s how.

Keep in mind that the real fight is in the Senate. Yesterday’s hearing was held in the House. In the deluge of information overload that is DC, Senators don’t know about the hearing or what was said there. A lot was said there, and even those of us who watched it probably don’t remember a good deal of what happened.

We must get the Senate up to speed on what happened in yesterday’s hearing.

That is important not only for those Senators who are wavering, but also for those who strongly support ENDA. The most effective way to inform people in a body like the Senate is by their peers. Telling Senator Schumer about the hearing will mean that when it comes time for Senator Schumer to support ENDA, he’ll be able to point to a recent hearing in Congress for specific guidance. That’s very persuasive; a lot more than “it’s the right thing to do.”

What makes it the right thing to do? That’s the question that must be answered by our Senatorial allies.

So how do you educate a Senator about yesterday’s hearing? It’s no good sending them the webpage or the Youtube links and telling them to look at it. They won’t.

Instead, contact them and tell them that the hearing occurred and something specific about it.

Here’s some ideas — choose one:

1. Call your Senator’s office, and tell them about a specific witness who testified at the hearing. (Find your Senator here and call at 202-224-3121.)

Examples: At the hearing, Yale Law Professor William Eskridge testified about the state of the law and how it has failed to protect workers even where they are well-qualified for their jobs, including the professor himself.

At the hearing, Vandy Beth Glenn testified how, despite her many qualifications for her job in the Georgia statehouse, she was escorted from the building and fired when she told her boss that she was preparing for gender transition.

2. Send your Senator an email mentioning a specific fact brought out at the hearing. (Find your Senator’s email here  <http://votesmart.org/> .)

Examples: At the hearing, Acting EEOC Director Stuart Ishimaru noted that many of the nation’s top businesses recognize that discrimination is bad for business, and 87% of Fortune 500 companies had implemented non-discrimination policies.

UCLA Williams Institute Director Brad Sears presented a study showing that one in five LGB public sector employees in the 2008 General Social Survey reported being discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation.

3. Write a letter to your Senator in the mail and talk about what a specific Member of the Committee said or asked.

Examples: At the hearing, Committee Chair Rep. George Miller said that ENDA is needed to cover 172 million Americans who are subject to legal employment discrimination, including those who work for state governments.

(Find your Senator’s mailing address here <http://votesmart.org/> and call at 202-224-3121.)

I would resist the temptation to try to cram too many facts into one communication. You can always call them tomorrow or next week. The important thing is to keep up a steady rain, rather than a flood at the end. After all, the Senate vote is probably going to come up months from now, and there’s plenty of time. But, like studying for a big exam, you can’t do it all the night before. A little bit every day is the key to success.

If you want to see where we are in the Senate, look here <http://bit.ly/14TDll> .

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