Thursday, November 27, 2008


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In the past year, a lot of people have thanked me for my blog or my efforts to stop casinos. But today, I'd like to thank them.

First, I'd like to thank my family for hanging in there for another year, and for being there during some pretty scary moments.

And I'd like to thank all my blog visitors, especially the ones who take the time to send a comment or drop me a line.

And I'd like to thank those of you who've come out in the past year, and given testimony or written letters, or just simply showed up for moral support.

I'd like to thank my wonderful clients for their enduring and infinite patience.

I'd like to give thanks to anyone who still has a NO CASINO bumpersticker or sign in the yard.

I'd like to thank those people, and they know who they are, who are always there with an answer or a link when I really need one - which is usually in the wee hours and almost always at the last minute.

And I'd like to thank the people, and I know who they are, who have taken the time to write and request that the filth that's been spewed about myself and my family on public message boards be removed.

I'd also really like to thank my fellow bloggers, who are some kind of wonderful, and because I truly know how long and hard you can work on a post, and how much heart you can put into it - even knowing it might not be read. And I thank them for promoting my blog, too!

I'd like to thank the friends I've made, or who've reached out to me, from across the country, for sharing their knowledge, ideas and inspiration.

I'd like to thank the lovely lady who sent me the flowers. (They were beautiful and greatly appreciated!)

And I'd like to thank the other lady who, at the very beginning of this, delivered a NO CASINO bumper sticker to my house, and for all the wonderful things she's delivered since then.

I'd like to thank the many folks who've truly and openly supported me and my work in closed rooms, public forums and on blogs. Thanks for your faith in me. I hope I never let you down.

I'd like to thank the friends I've made in Casino Free Mass, for being so talented and smart and for their ideas and energy.

I'd like to thank Les Bernal for his tireless efforts to Stop Predatory Gambling!

I'd like to thank all the legislators, especially Mr. DiMasi, Mr. Bosley, Mr. Conroy and Mr. Strauss for their NO votes on the Governor's three casino plan.

And I'd like to thank everyone, everywhere, who doesn't need me or a balance sheet to tell them that casinos are wrong - because they already know what's right and what's wrong.

I'd like to thank the members of the Southeast Massachusetts Regional Task Force who are determined to give the people of this region a voice.

I'd definitely like to thank the leaders of those Massachusetts towns and districts who've taken a stand against predatory gambling. Sometimes doing what's right isn't always politic or popular, and I know it's certainly not always easy. But it's always, always the right thing to do.

I'd like to thank those members of the media who've tried to give fair, intelligent and balanced coverage to this issue.

I'd like to thank everyone who's out there right now working hard behind the scenes. And everyone who's never given up. Or kept the faith.

And a big word of thanks to anyone who's ever offered any words of encouragement.

Thank you all very much. In you're own ways, whether you know it or not, you've supported a grassroots David going up against a powerful and intimidating casino Goliath - billionaire investors, misinformed politicians, the myth of inevitability, and flying monkeys everywhere.

Speaking of whom, thanks for all the great material.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Welcome Wagon?

Just because you say something, doesn't make it true. And if Glenn Marshall says it, it almost never is.
The vision of the Pilgrim forefathers disembarking from the Mayflower at Plymouth Rock is the starting point for many people’s idea of significant history in the New World. More exactly, it is a pivotal point in American history. It started a new chapter, but it is only a brief moment in a much longer narrative of life on this continent. That story is one of men and women whom have lived for thousands of years prior to the arrival of Europeans. Archeologists have discovered evidence to support the claim that local Mashpee villages have existed for 5,000 years with an unbroken continuum of habitation to the present. Our extensive history, therefore, is not predicated on the single instance in which our ancestors greeted the Pilgrims as they landed upon the shores of America. Rather, this moment enriched the history of the Mashpee as a community tied to the land on which we have existed for thousands of years. We are proud to have been part of this historically significant event and many since.

Since that meeting our history has been shared with the European settlers.However, our experience has not always lived up to the promise of that first meeting inPlymouth.

Former Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Chairman Glenn Marshall
in his testimony to the U.S. House Resoures Committee,
March 31, 2004

But wait a minute. If Marshall's testimony about being the Tribe that met the Pilgrims isn't entirely true, then how come the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe would appear to take credit for it on their website.
"The Wampanoag welcomed a gaunt and exhausted group of Pilgrims on November 9, 1620."

Upon the Mashpee's Federal recognition, our own Governor, Deval Patrick also seem convinced:
"For a tribe that greeted the Pilgrims when they landed on the shores of Massachusetts, this recognition is long overdue," Patrick said in a statement. "I look forward to working with the tribe to move Massachusetts forward."

Dennis Whittlesey, all-around vampire and Indian gaming attorney to the stars, repeats it like gospel.
"The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe is the tribe that met the Mayflower at Plymouth Rock"

And naturally, former tribal chairman, pathological liar and convicted rapist Glenn Marshall continues to say it all the time.
"Recognition as a sovereign nation has saved the tribe that met the Mayflower."

But, like I said, that doesn't make it true.

The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe did not 'meet' the Pilgrims - so much as they tried to kill them.

After much hardship and 65 days at sea the Pilgrims actually spotted land on November 9, 1620 - but made landfall two days later at the tip of the Cape - in a spot known as Long Point - on November 11th. Over the next month they would explore the coast of Massachusetts, looking for the best place to settle.

When the Pilgrims finally 'met' the inhabitants of the New World, it happened here at 'First Encounter Beach' in the area of present day Eastham, where a group of the Pilgrims searching for food had made camp, and a campfire, for the evening.

The Tribe inhabiting these parts at the time were the Nausets.
The Nauset were never numerous. The original population was probably around 1,500 in 1600 before the epidemics. In 1621 there were about 500 Nauset, and this number remained fairly constant up until 1675. Following the King Philip's War, the Nauset were joined by the remnants of other New England tribes displaced either by warfare or English settlement. In 1698 nearly 600 of this composite group were concentrated at Mashpee. An epidemic during 1710 reduced them to about 300. Through the years, the native community at Mashpee has become associated with the Wampanoag, although many of its members are descendents of the Nauset. The current population is about 1,100.
According to Nathaniel Philbrick's book, Mayflower,
"Suddenly the air was filled with arrows."
(The Pilgrims) estimated that there were at least thirty Indians "although they were many more yet in the dark of the morning." Backlit by the fire, the Pilgrims standing at the entrance of the barricade were easy targets, and the arrows came thick and fast. As the French explorer Samuel Champlain had discovered fourteen years earlier on the south coast of Cape Cod, the Indian's bows and arrows were fearsome weapons.
Furthermore, the skirmish
...could hardly be considered a victory. The Pilgrims could not blast, fight, and kill their way to a permanent settlement in New England. But after the First Encounter, it was clear that goodwill was going to be difficult to find here on Cape Cod.

So who is this Philbrick guy? Well, according to the Mashpee's press release upon receiving Federal recognition, Philbrick
offered his congratulations to the tribe and said, "This is a truly historic occasion. As a resident of the Cape and Islands who has spent many years examining the events of the past, all I can say is, 'It's about time!' Congratulations to the Mashpee Wampanoag people."
But as far as I can tell, he's a good writer and researcher with an obvious love for Cape Cod and it's history, and who, as such, has attempted to give more balance to our region's Native American's experience. According to this 2006 article about Mayflower in the Boston Globe,
In Philbrick's telling, both English and Wampanoags were complicated, psychologically and morally, and torn by various pressures. ''These are people on both sides who are bright, sometimes desperate, sometimes motivated by positive or negative reasons, but they're not the paper saints we grew up with."
Philbrick writes about the complex balances between various tribal groups: the Pokanokets, the Nausets of Cape Cod, the Rhode Island Narragansetts, the Massachusetts near Boston, and several others who later came to be known collectively as Wampanoags. The political arrangements among these groups were destabilized by the arrival of the English, igniting new rivalries and tensions. Some, like the Massachusetts, came to despise the English, while others threw in their lot with them. Early on, the shrewd Massasoit bet on the right horse, forging an alliance with Plymouth that brought 55 years of peace.
So, who were the Wampanoags? It appears that they were more of a 'confederacy' than a single tribe.
In 1616, John Smith erroneously referred to the entire Wampanoag confederacy as the Pakanoket. Pakanoket continued to be used in the earliest colonial records and reports. The Pakanoket tribal seat was located near present-day Bristol, Rhode Island. Wampanoag means ‘’People of the First Light.’’ The word Wapanoos was first seen on Adriaen Block's 1614 map and was the earliest European representation of Wampanoag territory. Other synonyms include ‘’Wapenock, Massasoit’’ and ‘’Philip's Indians’’.
According to this website detailing 'First Nation' histories:
In 1600 the Wampanoag probably were as many as 12,000 with 40 villages divided roughly between 8,000 on the mainland and another 4,000 on the off-shore islands of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. The three epidemics which swept across New England and the Canadian Maritimes between 1614 and 1620 were especially devastating to the Wampanoag and neighboring Massachuset with mortality in many mainland villages (i.e. Patuxet) reaching 100%. When the Pilgrims landed in 1620, fewer than 2,000 mainland Wampanoag had survived. The island Wampanoag were protected somewhat by their relative isolation and still had 3,000. At least 10 mainland villages had been abandoned after the epidemics, because there was no one left. After English settlement of Massachusetts, epidemics continued to reduce the mainland Wampanoag until there were only 1,000 by 1675. Only 400 survived King Philip's War.

Still concentrated in Barnstable, Plymouth, and Bristol counties of southeastern Massachusetts, the Wampanoag have endured and grown slowly to their current membership of 3,000. The island communities of Wampanoag on Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket maintained a population near 700 until a fever in 1763 killed two-thirds of the Nantucket. It never recovered, and the last Nantucket died in 1855. The community Martha's Vineyard has sustained itself by adding native peoples from the mainland and intermarriage, but by 1807 only 40 were full-bloods. Massachusetts divided the tribal lands in 1842 and ended tribal status in 1870, but the Wampanoag reorganized as the Wampanoag Nation in 1928. There are currently five organized bands: Assonet, Gay Head, Herring Pond, Mashpee, and Namasket. All have petitioned for federal and state recognition..
The Aquinnah (600 members but without a reservation) have been successful toward that end, winning federal recognition in 1987. And despite being turned down by the federal courts in 1978, the Mashpee (with a little help from their friends) won Federal recognition in early 2007. The rest is history.

Further, while crediting even more groups to the Wampanoag confederacy, Wikipedia still makes the distinction between the Mashpee and the others: The Gay Head or Aquinnah of Martha's Vineyard (Federally recognized as a separate tribe desperately seeking a casino), the Chappaquiddick of Chappaquiddick Island, the Nantucket of Nantucket Island, the Nauset of Cape Cod, the Mashpee of Cape Cod, the Patuxet of Eastern Massachusetts - on Plymouth Bay, the Pokanoket of Eastern Massachusetts, near present-day Bristol RI, the Pocasset of present day north Fall River, and the Herring Pond of Plymouth Cape Cod.

It's all very confusing. But perhaps this map might help you visualize things better.

As you can see, at the time of the Pilgrim's landing, tribes were quite dispersed geographically across Cape Cod, Southeastern Mass and Rhode Island.

Disease had greatly effected the balance of power of tribes in our area. The Narragansett tribe, unlike many of the other Eastern Tribes, was not as effected by the epidemics and numbered some 20,000. Massasoit, chief of the disease-decimated Pokanoket tribe, and supreme leader of Wampanoag Nation, disliked and feared the Narragansetts.

According to Philbrick,
In addition to disease, what were described as "civil dissensions and bloody wars" erupted throughout the region as Native groups that been uneasy neighbors in the best of times struggled to create a new order amid the haunted vacancy of New England.
Massasoit had his allies. The Massachusetts to the north and the Nausets on Cape Cod shared the Pokanokets antipathy to the Narragansetts. Numerically the Pokanokets were at a decided disadvantage, but this did not prevent Massasoit from attempting to use his alliances with other tribes to neutralized the threat to the west.
A year before the Pilgrims arrival, an Indian named Squanto, who had been abducted and taken as a captive to Spain many years earlier, returned home with an English explorer named Thomas Dermer, only to discover his village of Patuxet, uninhabited - wiped out completely by the epidemics.
Squanto took Dermer to Nemasket, a settlement about fifteen miles inland from Patuxet, where Squanto learned that not everyone in his village had died. Several of his family members were alive and well. He may already have begun to think about reestablishing a community in Patuxet that was independent of Pokanoket control.
It would seem that, despite attempts by the modern day Mashpee Wampanoags to lay claim to all of Wampanoag civilization, there is ample evidence that this region was home to many diverse and distinct tribal entities which historically, and to this very day, maintain their own culture and identity.

In fact, the State already recognizes many other Wampanoag tribes like the Chappquiddick, the Herring Pond, the Pocasset and the Seaconke.

And furthermore, the fact that the Mashpee Wampanoag won Federal recognition without mentioning the present day town of Middleboro (site of the Namasket or Nemasket Tribe) even once in their application speaks volumes to the individuality, geography and sovereignty that these separate "villages" embraced and maintained despite the centuries, and in defiance of disease, war, colonization and assimilation.

But simply put, the Mashpee Wampanoag didn't meet or welcome the Pilgrims. They and others continue to perpetuate that myth for the purpose of some good PR or to influence decision makers.

Like it or not, Federal recognition was given (unfairly or not) specifically to the Mashpee Wampanoags and the Aquinnah Wampanoags. Not to the 'Wampanoag Nation'. And not to the Nemasket, who lived where the Mashpee want to build a casino, and not to the Pautuxet, who inhabited modern day Plymouth where the Mayflower finally came to a rest, not to the arrow-wielding Nausets, and not to the Pokanokets whose leader in Rhode Island sent a messenger to make contact with the Pilgrims.

And not even to the Abenaki - a tribe from Mohegan Island on Maine's southeast coast, whose ancestor was that messenger, a guy named Samoset, who really was the first person in the New World to meet with the pilgrims - on March 16, 1621 - and long after they'd left the boat.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Consumer Confidence

Mohegan Sun settles in for the long haul.

Not to be outdone by Deval Patrick's crushing defeat in last session's casino war, gambling barons from over the border have set up shop in lovely little Palmer Massachusetts, and taken out a 50 year lease on some property where they'd like to put yet another casino.

Now, obviously we'd have to be talking about a commercial casino since the Mohegan Tribe is located more than 25 miles away from Palmer, and besides, I suspect they'd have a hard sell trying to convince the BIA that they need another billion dollar casino in order to support a tribe of 1,700 people.

But no matter to the Mohegans. Because they have a lot of confidence. No, not in the economy (especially since that's already contributed to their decision not to build another hotel at the Sun, not to mention financial woes all the way to Las Vegas), but in something a little more tangible.


Because these guys know that sooner or later, some politician somewhere is going to go looking for that big chunk of cheese that'll make all of his or her problems go away - not unlike Governor Weicker of Connecticut who valiently fought the Pequots and Class III gambling for years - until he needed help with a budget shortfall.

And they know they can count on other elected officials - much like our own Reps. Canessa, Calter, Flynn and Pacheco - to underestimate costs and impacts to (and the potential of) the folks and the places they represent. And there's always others who won't do any homework at all - but will cite a certainty or a sense of inevitability.

And certainly, certainly, enough time you will produce a useful somebody to look the other way or even actually give you a hand.

Because hey, the casino industry keeps it's finger on the pulse of the dark side. They keep a lookout for Tribes with potential highway access. They take the clocks away and bring back smoking. They make death threats and float rumors about the people who stand in their way. They keep building a better mousetrap slot machine to help people play faster and longer - and even to extinction. They even have their own Kool-Aid Phd on speed-dial. And heck, you know they've never found a Federal loophole they can't drive a Wells-Fargo armored truck stuffed full of cash through.

So taking out a 50-year lease in a small town and waiting for someone foolish enough to come looking for crumbs in a room with cat sitting there waiting - well as far as the casino industry is concerned - that's a safe bet.

But it's OK, because both the useful and the amoral all have a plan so that no one gets hurt - most especially them. They will be smarter, wiser, more prepared. Casinos won't control them - hell no - they'll control the casinos. Let the casinos work for us! Here, rub some of that magic mitigation on and it will keep you safe. No sense letting all that cheese go to waste. There's so much to be gained! It all makes perfect sense!

Except that, in the end, it doesn't. Like a cat patiently stalking the mouse, waiting for him to make that oh so predictable move toward the cheese or crust of bread, he knows the costs. And he's well familiar with the impacts. He's seen this before. But that's why the cat can spend all day stalking the mouse. He's got a lot less to lose.

And that's why Mohegan Sun is now so willing to wait patiently for enough of our State legislators, local officials and other assorted useful somebodies to take a well planned, excuse-laden moral nosedive - and they can make a meal of our state.

Which, despite the proud example of so many of our legislators during the recent gambling debate, has long made me wonder - could the real reason so many folks see gambling as inevitable here in the Bay State be because the faith they've placed in our leadership - faith to do the right thing, to keep us safe, to protest what is wrong, to stand up to the lure of big money, to be smarter, wiser, to work harder and more creatively, and to be men and not mice - has been shaken so many times. And not only here, but across the country and in DC, too. It's almost as if many of us won't even bother setting high or even acceptable standards for our leaders anymore. At least not around Middleboro, and maybe not even Palmer.

And when your expectations sink that low, isn't there really only one ending to the story.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Now is the Winter of Our Discontent

It's a funny thing about words. Especially the word "Now."

Take that line about winter in Shakespeare's Richard III. It sounds like Richard is kicking around in the middle of a snow drift, beset by freezing rain, a long way from home, with a hole in his boot, and no warm mead for forty miles. Now, that's a winter of discontent.

And that's exactly how most people interpret it.

But actually, the line "Now is the winter of our discontent" is followed by:

Made glorious summer by this son of York;
And all the clouds that low'r'd upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.

And, if you know the rest of the play, you know that Richard is expressing delight that the dark days of King Henry VI (of the house of Lancaster) have come to an end, making his brother Edward (of the house of York) whose emblem is the sun, the new King.

Personally, I find Shakespeare a lot easier to understand, and heck of a lot more enjoyable, than the Indian Gaming Reorganization Act of 1934. But then, King Richard and the House of York aren't trying to build a casino down the street from me. So I've tried to understand as much of it as possible, especially the case of Carceiri v. Kempthorne which has recently been heard before the Supreme Court of the United States.

Now, like I explained back in February, the Supreme Court doesn't listen to just any case. Most cases that petition to be heard by the highest court in the land are rejected. Just getting to that point was a bit of a Shakespearean drama in itself, but Carceiri v. Kempthorne had something going for it, and on November 3rd the justices listened to esteemed attorneys Theodore Olson and Deanne Maynard argue the meaning of "now" - back in 1934 and well, now.
Theodore Olson in his oral argument to the Supreme Court:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:
Congress squarely addressed and unambiguously answered the first question in this case when it enacted the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. It authorized the Secretary to take land in trust for Indians, and it declared, as used in this Act, Indians were "members of any recognized Indian tribe now under Federal jurisdiction."
But does "now" mean "now" as in a specific point in time in 1934? Or did "now" mean, you know, "whenever".

I don't want to rehash those arguments here, since they've been excellently presented and clearly explained here and here.

And I won't waste any space talking about what would happen if the Supreme Court upholds Kempthorne, because that's pretty much where we are right now anyway. No, instead I want to talk about what happens in the event Carieri triumphs.

Because awhile back I was talking to a friend about the case and remember saying, "there are, as we speak, packs of lawyers at late hours congregating in oak paneled board rooms trying to figure out Plan B.

Turns out it's called "The Carcieri Fix".

And it's much simpler than Shakespeare.

According to Matthew L.M. Fletcher, director of the Indigenous Law & Policy Center at Michigan State University Tribes could team up with non-tribal business partners to petition Congress to define “now” as "whenever".

Now, when I say "non-tribal business partners", you know I'm not referring to the small business guy who picks up the dirty linens at the 'resort' or the company that manufactures the wall to wall carpeting in the slot parlors. We're talking, wink wink nudge nudge, about BILLIONAIRE CASINO INVESTORS WITH DEEP POCKETS.

Which, ironically, is exactly how the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe got recognized in the first place! They teamed up with Herb Strather who bankrolled their lobbyists, one of whom is now famously doing time in the big house.

Go figure. It turns out that Plan B is actually Plan A.

That being accomplished, they will lobby for a measure to make the Department of the Interior the Alpha and Omega of all land into trust decisions.

Hey, it's good to be king.

Oh wait! That's right. This is America.

King's ransoms' aside, this will be an uphill battle. States' rights aren't easily trumped. Especially for a political appointee. And don't forget, twenty-one states signed on to Carieri v. Kempthorne. That's a lot of momentum.

But, measure for measure, with their already tenuous and certainly weird 'dual reservation' application, what does Plan B entail for the Mashpee?

First, they have to team up with their two INTERNATIONAL investors to out bribe lobby congress to see things their way. This time, maybe they could create a tempest by labeling the entire non-Indian population of the State of Massachusetts as racists, have the major media convince the little guy he's got no say in the matter, and move a good third of the Tribe to Middleboro. Oh and yeah, mention meeting the Pilgrims. A lot.

And what of us in the case of Plan B?

Well, we can go to Congress too. We can point out, as did Mr. Olson, that the 1934 regulations were a remedy to Tribes which had suffered under the old system of land allocation and was not intended as a open door to unequivocally benefit all Tribes recognized hereafter, regardless of need, at the expense of State's rights.

Tribes could attempt to lobby Congress individually. But individually, the Masphee have already had their own land claims settled. And, as I've repeatedly pointed out, in a revealing comedy of errors, the Tribe has employed a crooked lobbyist to help them achieve recognition. And lest we forget, the Tribe is experienced going before Congress, the very body of law makers which may be requested in future times to make land into trust decisions. Their galant silver haired chairman - a man so brave, so noble that he managed to survive the siege of Khe Sanh in Vietnam while still a senior at Lawrence High School in Falmouth - convinced them to grant his Tribe recognition, upon which he made a beeline for the town of Middleboro.

So, ok. Say love's labor's lost and Congress takes a match to the Constitution and makes the Secretary of the Interior King of all Land into Trust, now and forever, whenever, Amen.

Not to worry. All's well that end's well - because the Mashpee are still trying to put land into trust for gaming. And that's where the Indian Gaming Act of 1988, and all sorts of new regulations come in.

As of Now.

Which means that this winter's tale is all much ado about nothing.

Because it still ain't comin.

Friday, November 7, 2008


Ask ev'ry person if he's heard the story,
And tell it strong and clear if he has not,
That once there was a fleeting wisp of glory
Called Camelot.

I was born into the age of Camelot.

My family lived in little red ranch house on a quiet street in a small town where my dad drove a shiny car, my mother hung her pillbox hat, and Princess, our Poodle roamed the neighborhood unfettered by neither fence nor leash.

I know these things only through photo albums and family lore because when I was less than three months old an assassin's bullet would end Camelot. My only understanding of what it had truly meant to people comes from the threadbare recollections of countless TV documentaries, movies and magazine articles in which everybody invariably says they can remember exactly where they were when they heard the news.

I also have no memories of when they killed Martin Luther King, Jr. or Bobby Kennedy. I suppose they figured five-year-olds have enough problems without finding out that some of world has no use for other people's hope.

I was raised in the time of Vietnam. I remember asking what those numbers were on the TV news flashing in front of the battle footage, and being told that's how many soldiers had died in the war that day.

I grew up in the era of Watergate and Patty Hearst and Helter Skelter. In 1976, in honor of the bicentennial, Massachusetts let regular people paint the fire hydrants in any way they wanted. Some became spacemen, some were happy faces, and many found themselves proudly red white and blue. My sister took me to the voting booth that year when she voted for Jimmy Carter. A tiny glimmer of a Camelot that never panned out.

In high school we called our new president 'Ronald RayGun' and waited for Russia to lob the big one. I didn't actually believe President RayGun would go through with his promise to put a woman on the Supreme Court - but he did.

In senior year I walked with my friend Pete to the Middleboro Post Office on the day he had to register for the draft. I couldn't imagine Pete, who I'd known almost my whole life, having to go to war - let alone becoming one of those numbers on the TV screen - and offered to hide him in the trunk and drive him over the border to Canada if he needed me to. He laughed. And I was walking home from Pete's house when his sister shouted to me that someone had shot the president. I can still remember exactly where I was.

A year later, strolling through Boston's City Hall Plaza, a man at a desk way out in the middle of that brick-covered wasteland called over and asked if I was registered to vote. Um, no. Would I like to be? Yeah. But is it hard? Turns out it was easy.

The first person I ever voted for was a black man. That's not the reason I voted for him, but I thought it was pretty cool anyway. Like I wasn't just voting for someone - I was making a difference - showing the old white guys they couldn't get my vote just because they were old white guys. Most of my friends, who weren't registered, came out with me to the polls and we celebrated because I had the keys to the world. I was an American and I could vote. The TV news was there collecting interviews, but I didn't stop to chat. I just wanted to exercise my vote. It was an exciting moment - even though my candidate was defeated in the end.

The first time I could vote for president I voted for Mondale - but I was really voting for Geraldine Ferrarro. I was certain any president who would make a woman his running mate wouldn't think twice about nominating more of them to the Supreme court. Yet, despite wearing a Mondale/Ferraro T-shirt and my hopes on my sleeve, the pair were defeated so soundly that no Presidential candidate considered running with a woman again for a long, long time.

Meanwhile, President RayGun pulled through. He cut a dashing figure, strong and fearless and larger than life, unnerving the Russians and the rest of the world, marketing his own brand of Camelot to some, while others watched our cities fill with homeless - the veterans, the working poor and the mentally ill. Sandra Day O'Connor held her own in the boys club even as Reagan added more boys - and oddly turned out not as conservative as a she was supposed to be.

And, while waiting for a brighter economy to trickle down to me I worked three jobs and barely made the rent. I had exactly $10.00 left to spend on groceries for me and the cat at the end of each week.

Elsewhere greed, apparently, was good. Hair was big and shoulders were padded. But I was too busy to notice. On TV the Berlin wall tumbled, the 'Mother of all Battles' proved short and successful, and President Bush saw his popularity soar. But in night school my economics professor made a bet with the class that Bush wouldn't see re-election. "It's the economy, stupid..." he said with a smile. "You'll see." Impossible. No one believed it for a moment - but he won that bet. And I never forgot that.

I liked Bush, but in the end I voted for Bill Clinton and was inspired enough to sit, on a work night, through an endless Fleetwood Mac victory speech intended to launch another American age of Camelot. It didn't, quite, but I was hopeful. Then, when he appointed the second woman to the Supreme Court, and I was ecstatic. Just three more to go, Bill.

By baby steps my life improved. My children were born, I built a house. Seinfeld made us laugh during breaks from the grindstone. Big hair and puffy shoulders became artifacts of the past, while partisan fighting put hope on hold.

Princess Diana died. John-John followed. Camelot faded. It seemed no one wanted to 'Think about Tomorrow' when they could salivate over a good sex scandal. I remember a press secretary, barraged by reporters seeking answers about a blue dress, asked sarcastically if anyone would like to ask a question about children's health care. No one did. So much for Camelot.

On a clear September morning, while my 2 year old played with his blocks in the living room I watched the world change forever from my sofa. My world become hypervigilent, fearful, impatient, angry. The new administration took us to one war and then another. They didn't flash the number of war dead over battle footage on the TV screen any more. Maybe they should, I thought.

In 2004 I watched a man with the unlikely name Barak Obama speak at the Democratic convention. It was the closest thing to Camelot I'd ever really felt. I stood and cheered and hoped for the future even though the two party system had put two more white guys on the ballot again. Strangely enough, they didn't seem that old anymore.

Our nation settled into a rhythm of debt and war, while our global reputation soured, greed came home to roost and Sandra Day O'Connor retired from the Supreme Court. The second President Bush filled both her empty seat and Rehnquist's, with men. Even Sandra did not seem amused. One step forward, two steps back.

In the meantime I wondered if young men still had to go to the post office to register for the draft. I wondered if my son would have to. Or my daughter.

In 2006 I found myself with the choice of voting for either a black person or a woman for Governor - I choice I'd waited a lifetime to even seem possible. Which was only made more frustrating by uninspiring choices. Politics as usual. Empty air. Empty promises. My son came with me into the voting booth. "Who're you voting for mom?" he wanted to know. I replied, "Mommy's voting her conscience today, honey" and colored in the circle next to neither of their names.

Then came the casino. An education to say the least in political maneuvers and motivations and in greed and good intentions. Yet never before had I felt so personally capable of making the world a better place. Instead of watching it play out on the TV screen, this time I threw myself into it. A year into the fight I noticed a woman on the subway wearing an Obama button. I envied her to feel so inspired to wear that button. I just felt cynical. I didn't believe in Camelot anymore. I believed in hard work and good hearts.

This week I walked into the voting booth and picked up the sharpie without the slightest idea of who I was voting for. I'm living Martin Luther King's dream of being able to judge a man not on the color of his skin, but on the content of his character. But what if I'm not crazy about either character?

Obama had ceased inspiring me with his economic plan and his choice of a running mate. His friendship with Deval Patrick didn't help. As for his pastor - when I was 12 I was attending mass with my mother when the Priest began making disparaging comments about Jewish people - and I never went back. Tell me why can a 12 year old distinguish between dogma and bigotry but a middle aged Presidential candidate cannot.

Years ago McCain had inspired me with his war record, self sacrifice and reputation for going against the grain - but kept losing me with his last minute reputation for flipping. During the campaign I found his words encouraging, as well as his faith in a working mother of five as his running mate. But his health plan and voting record left me cold.

Everyone left me cold. Where was my Camelot? Where was my inspiration and hope? I scanned the other names on the ballot. Dave Flynn and Marc Pacheco running unopposed again. Again. Is it any wonder we find ourselves being lead on the South Shore by a cadre of dinosaurs who think gambling is our economic salvation?

And what of my dream that someday we will judge a woman not by the color of her pantsuit but by the content of her character? How long is it going to take for that dream to come true? Judging by this past election and the current make-up of the Supreme Court, I'd advise you not to hold your breath.

Perhaps I should take my friend Carl's advice and use the write-in spot. Who was it he suggested? Moe Howard? Nuck Nuck Nuck.

For a few moments the sharpie hovered above Ralph Nader and the Independents - until I realized I had no idea of how they stood on predatory gambling.

And so, as I stood there searching the ballot for hope, the strangest thing happened. My eyes started filling up with tears. And I realized how far had I come from that young girl who couldn't wait to vote in her first election - to the one who stood here now looking for a reason to color in the little circle. Cynical couldn't describe it. Cynical and disgusted, maybe.

Maybe if it hadn't been for all those McCain/Palin Obama/Biden bumper stickers and buttons and signs. I wish I could get worked up over someone. I wish I could be like Oprah and put all that faith in one person. But I can't.

And it's not like I would have wanted to put all faith in Hilary or Sarah either. I guess I just wanted see someone like Sandra Day O'Connor on that ballot - would that be so hard? Someone smart and wise and moderate, and a bit of a maverick in her own quiet way. I mean, can't either party get Sandra Day O'Connor on the phone and get her ready for 2012??

So, I stood there in the booth thinking about writing Sandra Day O'Connor's name in when my thoughts turned, as they often do, to my kids. We'd followed the campaign and talked about the candidates together. I remembered that my kids had both voted in their school elections for Obama. (Well, okay, my son was going to but didn't because at the last minute someone spread a rumor that Obama was going to make Summer Vacation only a week long - which I told him wasn't true.)

And so, in the end, I gave Camelot to my kids. I hope they enjoy it. I hope they remember it and it inspires them their whole lives.

I wasn't using it anyway.

When I got home they asked me how I voted, and cheered. When they came downstairs the next morning and heard the news they clapped and smiled and said it was a great day. It was a great and emotional day for many people and I was trully happy for them.

As I poured my morning coffee the reporter on TV was interviewing a black man who was saying that, yesterday, he couldn't look his son in the eye and tell him honestly that he could be anything he wanted to be. But today was different, he said. Today he could look him in the eye and tell him truthfully that in America, you can do anything. You can be anything.

I stirred some milk into my mug and wondered, "But tomorrow, what will you tell your daughter?"

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Cross Your Fingers

This was a crazy election year. It's finally over, the country has spoken and I, like everyone else, am hoping for the best.

As it relates to our fight, I hope Senator McCain will continue to keep a skeptical eye on IGRA, and that the incoming administration will usher in a new era and bring an end to the spread of expanded and predatory gambling across our nation.

According to an LA Times article earlier this year:

Barack Obama has warned about the dangers of gambling – that it carries a “moral and social cost” that could “devastate” poor communities. As a state senator in Illinois, he at times opposed plans to expand gambling, worrying that it could be especially harmful to low-income people.

During the campaign, the Clinton camp distributed a document titled “Obama Blasted Gambling as Socially Destructive and Economically Irresponsible,” listing several of his past quotes.

The Clinton document states Obama described himself as “generally skeptical” of gambling as an economic development tool and likened the expansion of slot machines to the state lottery, in which, he said, “you’ll have a whole bunch of people who can’t afford gambling their money away, yet they’re going to do it.”

Sounds a lot like what we've been saying. So cross your fingers. And hope.

Tonight — tonight, more than any night, I hold in my heart nothing but love for this country and for all its citizens, whether they supported me or Sen. Obama — whether they supported me or Sen. Obama.

I wish Godspeed to the man who was my former opponent and will be my president. And I call on all Americans, as I have often in this campaign, to not despair of our present difficulties, but to believe, always, in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable here.

Americans never quit. We never surrender.

We never hide from history. We make history.

Thank you, and God bless you, and God bless America. Thank you all very much.

-- John McCain in his 2008 Concession Speech

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Hair of the Dog

After watching a commercial imploring us to vote NO on Question 3 this Tuesday, my 9 year old asked me why I had chosen to vote YES. Didn't I want to save those people's jobs, he wanted to know.

Yes, I told him. I didn't want anyone to lose their job. But, as with everything in life there is always more to the story.

All industries have a life cycle, and dog racing is a dying industry. Not unlike the corset industry once was, or more recently, the VHS industry. In their day, they were big time news. People raced to the corner store to buy corsets and and rent videos. Over many years the huge popularity of these products created jobs and opportunites for large groups of people. But then times changed, technology improved.

The corset industry evolved into the girdle industry, which died out completely during the seventies when we ladies chose to let it all hang out.

Interest in seeing movies, however has never waned, but technology did condense the VHS tape into the DVD. And now, when $100 barely buys a family of four a night at the movies with soda and popcorn, and even cable Pay-per-View prices inexplicably keep going up, Netflix was born. Now, no one has to stand in line at Blockbuster for twenty minutes just to listen to a teenager with a tongue ring and an attitude give you a hard time and charge you extra for bringing Iron Man back a day late.

Sadly, (or not depending on how long you stood in line to pay a late fee) out-of-work video store employees never got the advantage of a phase-out and re-training programs - unlike dog track employees will.

But the dog racing industry thinks it knows how to save itself and evolve with the times - by bringing in slot machines, an addictive and predatory device which brings with it a slew of problems.

And while putting an end to dog racing is a step in the right direction, it doesn't matter whether the industry survives this week's refferendum and the dogs stay put, or Massachusetts voters finally agree to end dog racing - because you can bet your bottom dollar that Dave Flynn (D - Slots) and Raynham Dog Track owner George Carney will turn right around next week and start pushing again for slots, somehow, some way, in Raynham.

And of course, the moment class three gambling is approved to revive or support the tracks, an Indian casino in Middleboro will get a step closer to reality.

George Carney doesn't care. He has stated he is unafraid of competition from a mega casino 20 minutes away. Dave Flynn isn't worried, either. I know this because earlier this year I went to his office and tried to explain the whole casino domino effect thing, but one of his aides, sporting an oxford cloth shirt and a video store attitude, assured me it didn't matter if a casino took five years to build and bankrupt the Raynham dog track - because that was five years worth of revenue the state could get from it.

The upcoming dog track refferendum isn't about jobs or dogs. And it's certainly not about us. It's about bringing slots to Massachusetts. It's about getting our State hooked on gambling revenue - just like Connecticut - to cure it's budget shortfalls.

Some people aren't buying it. According to this Brockton Enterprise story, experienced Raynham big boy selectman Ron McKinnon says,
“You learn to live within a budget,” McKinnon said. “We’ve lost $400,000 off the top (over time) and haven’t had any real problems as a result.”

If the track were to close, the town “would either have to raise money somewhere else or cut” services, McKinnon said.

“This is what we do. This is our business,” he said with a shrug.
And some people don't. Younger, more inexperienced Raynham selectman (and perhaps, not ironically, Dave Flynn aide) Joe Pacheco
said Raynham is in no position to lose any more revenue, no matter how paltry it may seem. With gloomy predictions for cuts in local aid and excise taxes for the town, Pacheco said a 2 percent budget cut from last year would only be “magnified” with the loss of track funds
Pedictably, Dave Flynn (D- Slots) insists,

the loss of those “blue collar jobs” would be “disastrous.”

“We have nothing in southeastern Massachusetts (in which) to place the hundreds of people that work there,”

Well, maybe if Flynn had lobbied harder for fresher, more responsible industry with higher growth potential in his district (which includes my town) instead of becoming the tireless dust-covered Beacon Hill posterboy for a dying industry, we wouldn't be so worried about closing the tracks here in Massachusetts.

Some towns are doing their best. In neighboring West Bridgewater voters recently approved a rezoning for an upscale 'Lifestyle Center' not unlike the Derby Street Shoppes in Hingham, potentially housing retailers such as Whole Foods, Cabala's and Border's. With the rezoning, not only did the the small town manage to dodge a huge 40B bullet, but can now expect $4 million in water and road improvements from the construction, with an additional $1.3 million in tax revenue - a tidy bit more than the $413,000 Raynham will see from the dog track this year (which is down from $437,500 it saw the year before.) Best of all, my friend Judy won't have to drive an hour away for her organic soy milk.

To keep the dying dog racing industry alive, Flynn, Mark Pacecho, and many other local officials put on the blinders to the negative effects of predatory gambling, leading us nowhere in their determination to continue chasing a phony rabbit around in circles.

The only way to protect our homes and families from the lower property values, higher crime, increased traffic, bankruptcies, forecloures, business canibalization, political corruption, environmental stresses and social ills that will be our fate in the case of a slot machine domino effect, is to put a stop to the escalation of the predatory gambling industry in Massachusetts right now.

Our region needs appropriate, not predatory, and not destructive forms of economic development. Send a message. Demand better.