A year ago this week, I became a blogger. Today I offer a year's worth of candid observations from the blogging battlefield:
Why did I become a blogger?
I usually credit the media for this - because they weren't printing some of my editorials or reporting the whole story. But in truth, if Middleboro's elected officials had, upon finding themselves in this peculiar situation, responded appropriately, I would never have needed to pen those first original posts.
Because, in May or early June of last year, this is what the town of Middleboro should have said to the Tribe:
"Listen, we have an awful lot of questions, and so do the citizens of Middleboro. This is a complicated issue and one which stirs much passion. And let's not forget that gambling is currently illegal in this state. There are also the issues of our town's own sovereign status here. In addition, this site and the region itself just might not be appropriate for this type of development. And so, it's just too soon to say. We've listened to some lawyers, but we're still going to take some time to study the issue. We're going to talk to a lot of experts, and we're going to listen to the people who live here and we're going to listen to the people who live in the towns around the site to get their opinion, because a project like this will effect them too. And we're going to hold educational forums so folks can become more informed about what could be in store. And most importantly, we're going to hear everybody out. Now, we realize that your tribe has waited 30 years for your federal recognition, but our town is over 300 years old, and that counts for something, too. And we were elected to do what's best for this town, not your Tribe. And so, if you still can't wait for us to handle this in the manner we see fit, and continue to pressure us or threaten to build a casino without our citizens informed consent, then we're afraid that we're going to have to oppose this project, and your land into trust application wholeheartedly."
I've been at selectman's meetings in towns all around the South Shore, and have attended most of the Regional Task Force Meetings - and think I can say with some assurance that this is how officials from towns abutting Middleboro would have responded had they found themselves facing this same situation.
And, the thing is, if Middleboro's "leadership" had taken this stance, I'd have figured the town and the region were in good hands and probably have spent the summer and probably the whole last year catching up on Wife Swap reruns.
But no. Because, essentially, Middleboro's response was:
Yikes! Let's just do what the fancy expensive lawyer says, and just for show, we'll appoint a lame duck citizen panel to study impacts and give them six weeks to study it. We don't have to look any deeper than that. Then we'll gavel and strong arm anyone who doesn't do what the lawyer tells us to. And if the Tribe gets upset at anything, by all means let's cave and do whatever they say so they won't leave because all that casino money will fix the mistakes we've made with the budget and then we'll all look like conquering heroes. Why even bother reading the agreement or listening to any other opinions? And we'd better do it fast or the Tribe will go to New Bedford even though it's pretty obvious they won't. And sovereignty? We thought that was just for Indians. Oh, we mean, Native Americans. We wouldn't want anyone to think we're racists. That's what we'll call casino opponents if they give us too much trouble.
The board of selectmen and certain town departments were the perfect storm of ego, apathy, gullibility, condescension, cowardice and greed. And that's why the interests of the Tribe and it's investors came before the best interests of the town and it's people, the entire region and all it's future generations.
And I didn't vote for any of them.
So, if they ever have cause to wonder why I blog about them, I wish they would ask themselves if they think I would have felt moved to make a video about a 22 minute dog complaint if Middleboro's stellar "leadership" had spent over a year studying the casino issue. No. The answer is No. I didn't start this blog because it was something I wanted to do. It was something I felt I needed to do.
Why do I keep blogging?
Because people like Brian Giovannoni of the Casino Resort Advisory Committee (CRAC) go to places like Raynham and tell the Board of Selectmen that there will only be 20,000 additional cars and that no one lives anywhere near the proposed site. That's why.
What's my favorite blog post?
It's always the last one I write. But a post I wrote last July called "Melvin" was and still is particularly meaningful to me. Unfortunately, the comments ended up hijacking the blog almost completely off the subject - which is the human carnage that comes with gambling - and so I've always felt it was a bit neglected.
What's my favorite video?
If you ask locally, people like Dogstock. Statewide or nationally, folks are partial to Slots for Tots - Part 1. But I will always have a soft spot for "The Courtship of Massachusetts". When you painstakingly animate that many little cartoon people over the course of a week and can still laugh... it's a keeper.
What's my most 'important' blog post?
I think Founding Father Knows Best is really important because is goes to the heart and intent of Indian Gaming Law and gambling in general. It says it all.
For one... Former CFO president Jacquie Tolosko asked me to join her in heading up the procession from our rally last July at the Town Hall lawn to the Elks Club. While there, Rich Young asked me to get up and speak - and I was so nervous - but when he introduced "Gladys Kravitz" there was this completely surprising amount of applause - and I realized that this was the result of A BLOG (that hadn't even existed two months earlier) - and that blogs had the potential to really be so much more than anyone envisioned.
Another... It's December. I'm coming down with the flu. I missed my train out of Boston and had to take a later one. It's dark, cold and it's starting to snow. Then I get this text message from my friend John. "From Dan Kennedy's blog: The inimitable Gladys Kravitz with a link to Earmuffs"
When I got home I looked up inimitable just to make sure I got it right. Definitely a high point.
There have been others. Many others, actually and they result from discovering that my blog has somehow made a difference.
Where do I start?
Actually, a lot of what people think 'gets' to me just makes me angry. And anger is essentially blogger fuel. No, it's things like - when someone I've made every attempt to avoid and be fair to, posts that I want him dead on the front page of his web site. Because then it's not about a casino, it's about someones fragile and potentially dangerous mental health.
Other low points would include those episodes of despicably poor reporting, and those times when I have to listen to that same tired empathy-deprived mantra of 'jobs over lives', of how mitigation solves everything, of that money just fleeing from our pockets to CT, of the complete lack of appreciation for the unquantifiable gifts we are already blessed with in our region of the world.
I covered a lot of this ground in a post called "The Blog is a Harsh Mistress" - which garnered 27 comments and a death threat. But my stance has always been that if you're going to run a Mickey Mouse style of local government based on a Looney Tunes agenda - don't be surprised if the resulting criticism is a bit animated.
As far as criticism directed toward me - oh you mean "the Blogging Bitch of Bridgewater". Yes, it's very eloquent.
Best things about blogging?
The amazing people I've been able to meet. Finding out I might have made a difference here or there. New experiences. Stronger skills. More confidence.
The time involved. From reading and meetings and research to mixing sound, rendering video to photoshopping things like the Governor's head onto a big Walmart sign - it's time consuming. What's worse is that I really don't like sitting behind a desk all that much. And frankly, I miss my garden, my workouts, my social life, my skinny pants...
Where do I get my ideas?
From everybody. From everything. I save stuff sometimes. My friend Bumpkin calls that stuff "blog gold". I hold on to it, work on it, then post it when the right time comes around.
For instance, my slots for tots videos resulted from an e-mail from a friend who sent me the article about the Mass Teachers association. But before that I'd been looking into casino jobs with the intention of blogging about them - or at least knowing more about them. I'd asked friends who'd been to casinos what they thought about those jobs, and I did research on casino job sites. A lot of people are under the assumption that the blackjack dealer is a 'glory job' at a casino, but one casino job site actually mentions that a person in that position usually makes the majority of their money in tips - and that they need to be the kind of person who can stomach watching people lose large sums of money that they might really need. It's that sort of stuff. Blog gold.
Something people don't know about me?
I have been to a casino. A big one. I was booked for three days in Vegas. I thought it was boring and sleazy. People had to walk, with their kids, right by rows of noisey slot machines. It was loud and smokey. I tried to gamble. Someone brought me a big fancy free drink I would have paid ten bucks for back in Massachusetts. But I realized I liked my money, and what it could do for me way too much and left town exactly 25 cents richer and one day early. I drove down to the Grand Canyon and truly discovered the wonder of it all.
Oh and here's another one - this Spring, Bridgewater officially apologized for gaveling me last year and for telling me the wrong time to show up. I think they might have realized, after the BIA hearing, that I really do care about this town.
Any good comment is my favorite comment. Getting those are like the first days of summer after a really long hard winter (which writing a blog post often seems like!) But especially close to my heart are:
Gladys, a number of Middleboro residents have stepped forward to ask me to express their appreciation to you for keeping 'certain others' off the streets of Middleboro, some lurking in corners waiting to snap pretend photos (with anempty camera), others .... well just 'lurking.' You have 'lurk-proofed' the street of Middleboro, for which they are forever grateful! Please keep up the good work of cleaning up our streets! And otherwise occupying the riff-raff!
Thank you so much, Gladys ! Your last post gave me goose pimples!You and other bloggers are like the "Paul Revere" of this era.
The blogs have been the lifeline of CFO.
There was this one time though, when a regular named "Steve" from Dan Kennedy's blog came over and made this sort of snarky comment about my research for Hope Floats. It took a few days to respond to his comment, and I knew that he'd never see it, but I did it anyway, complete with relevant links, and felt very proud of myself when I knew exactly what the Mass Wildlife guy was talking about when he mentioned "disjunct population". So there, Steve.
Oh yes, and back when I allowed unmoderated comments on this blog (since they weren't being allowed at town hall) someone showed up and wrote that they'd wasted minutes of their 'precious life' looking for factual information and only found my blog. I was so concerned that someone had clicked away upset that I checked my stats and the CasinoFacts.org web site stats and (aha!) discovered that 'Precious' had simply clicked onto the site, directly to the blogs page, to my blog, to the comment section, did their business and fled - all within moments. I reported this back to my readers and a conversation about "Precious" ensued. To this day, I'll sometimes still see a comment about how certain terrible "fill in the blank" anti-casino people follow the IP tracks of their visitors.
This is actually common practice! Too funny. There were a lot of comments like that from my unmoderated comment days. Ah, good times. Good times...
What's my favorite blog post by another blogger?
Now that's tough. Because there as SO many and they're all so good. But for me, the very best posts are the ones that tell me something I didn't know before.
You have newer bloggers like Fiferstone who doesn't write often but when she does - it's a doozey. She had a great post about how we all got here, but my favorite would have to be The Loophole Narrows - which shows how little ties (with graphics!) the Mashpee Wamapanoag have to the land in Middleboro.
Cranberry Cynic is short on words but is nevertheless educational and entertaining with his one liners and updates on the trials and travails of the Mashpee Tribal leadership. But his post about Bob Massie who was so inspirational and forceful at the Statehouse Hearings was terrific and I really appreciated it - especially since I eventually was able to meet Massie in person. (Hey - isn't it amazing how many smart people there are on our side.)
Kathy Norbut's Truth to Power is always great. Power is the operative word. Her open letter to Governor Patrick during his casino crusade gave me chills. But my favorite would have to be her "Do They Work Harder in Kansas", which eloquently exposed the disparity between reality and fiction when it comes to casino jobs.
I can't figure out how to link to particular posts on Ryan's Take - but the whole month of June is a blockbuster of enlightening information, including most notably "The Casino Job Mythos". Ryan also has a special place in my heart because of his many posts on the tireless exploits of our good buddy, Prof. Clyde Barrows. But one of Ryan's best posts, in my opinion was on December 24, 2008, when he revealed the connection Patrick has to the casino industry with a post about Ropes and Gray. Hmmm...
And what can I say about CasinoFacts blood brother Dan Kennedy at Media Nation. Thanks to him, the Middleboro casino issue stays alive amongst those who wouldn't bother with it. Like with Ryan, I can't link to Dan's posts, but "Deval Patrick's gambling addiction" from June 2008, "Casino gambling's 'Energizer Bunny'" from May 2008, and "Not quite dead enough" from March 2008 rank among my particular favorites. I also love the way Dan defended Peter Kenney's investigative blogging, and Sal DiMassi's leadership style during the casino wars (which I completely agree with) and how so completely he has Adam Bond's number. And honestly, you cannot get a better 'wide angle view' of the events leading up to and after the Town Meeting from Hell than Dan's posts from last July and August. Maybe the majority of Dan's readers didn't understand his emphasis on the Yes vote on Article 3, but there were a lot of exhausted people who'd worked really hard and spent all day in that hot sun trying to protect their quality of life who definitely appreciated it.
Middleboro Review - a force of nature. What an amazing resource for all of Middleboro and even beyond. I tried to find this really memorable post she wrote about casinos and the Tribe and gambling in general but I think it was back when the blog was still called Middleboro Recall. That post was the begin all - end all of anti-casino sentiment. It was hell-fire on a stick! And I remember thinking - this lady is fearless. She sets a good example for the rest of us! She does her homework and she does the legwork. Her critics call her names. (Eyes rolling...)
My friend Carl has a really interesting blog where he combines quotes and commentary. He's another firebrand. I don't know where he digs some of those quotes up but they're great! In particular, a post from this April entitled "Why are there Indian Casinos" revealed some amazing insights from Joseph Kennedy from Citizen's Energy - and is one of my all time favorite blog posts. But notable mentions are Pocahontas, the cat up the tree, and from March, his post "Stupid Questions Answered - It saves time" - which still CRACs me up.
Carverchick, it probably goes without saying, is one of my favorite bloggers. She, like Carl is very supportive and motivational in her posts - which I adore. I also know that Carverchick puts in A LOT OF TIME studying agreements and dissecting research reports. I used a lot of the information on her blog to construct my BIA letter. From wiping the floor with a certain "factfinder" to letting us know why we should be so concerned about eminent domain to reaching out to our hearts in Collateral Damage, Carverchick always does an outstanding job at shedding light on murky subjects. Which is probably why her post Blinded by the Light is one of my absolute favorites. In fact, if you haven't read it in awhile, you may want to go back and check it out - there is a VERY interesting new comment on it.
And then there's the Bumpkin. One of the most valuable things about Bumpkin's blog isn't just that it's full of important information often painstakinly distilled and commented upon - it's that he keeps writing it - almost every single day, providing our movement with a strong continuous heartbeat. In fact, Bumpkin's body of work is too daunting for me to pinpoint just one favorite. But there will always be a special place in my heart for Davy Jones Attacks Middleboro, and even his recent Requiem for Racinos. You gotta love the stuff that makes you laugh in the midst of all this... But for me, his Atlantic City Article and Mashpee Wampanoags Oppose Cape Wind were particular eye openers. And the self-effacing photo accompanying Heil Bumpkin just gave me new respect for him! Furthermore, because of all Bumpkins herculean efforts, I wince when I think of how typical it's become of Middleboro's "leadership" that they continue to dismiss Bumpkin's offer of a free web site because they STILL can't separate themselves from the casino issue long enough to do something good for their own community. Once again... working for the Tribe and it's investors instead of the town.
I've had the priviledge of meeting each and every one of these fine bloggers. A few have become friends. Some of them have even mentioned that my own blog has inspired, educated or motivated them at one time or another. And so, I'd just like them to know that they have, and continue to inspire educate and motivate me every single day. We are the Blogfathers. Hear us roar!
After this whole year, is there anyone I would like to thank for the success of this blog?
Everyone! But most especially my patient and supportive family who've held signs, put up with fast food and my repeated abscenes and who've been witness to more than their share of monkeyshines.
I'd also like to thank my regular readers and those readers who offer their ideas for new posts and who take the time to comment - those are a bloggers lifeblood and fuel.
And I'd like to thank my fellow bloggers for their continued support, especially when we are being bombarded on all sides by Flying Monkeys.
I'd like to thank Dan Kennedy for bringing my blog to a wider audience (and giving me some more cred with the one I already had...)
And, there is one person who people tell me I'm not appreciative enough of. So, if you don't mind, I'd like to rectify that right now.