Wednesday, April 29, 2009

When Carcieri Met Salazar: A Love Story

For Tracy, who never let a little inevitability stand in the way of the truth...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Help!

I am looking for 6 volunteers to help out locally for 2 hours - from noon to 2:00 this Saturday the 25th.

No sign-holding, petition-signing, talking, walking, or writing involved. Just two hours of the easiest yet potentially effective volunteering you could do this year to stop expanded gambling in Massachusetts.

If you'd be willing to help out, drop me a line.

And thanks!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Pegged

There I was, at Thursday's meeting in Halifax, of the Regional Task Force on Casino Impacts, expecting we'd all just talk about Carcieri, have a good laugh and adjourn for the rest of eternity.

And yet, it was not to be. To my surprise, though virtually all members of the Task Force were up to date on Carcieri and it's ramifications (unlike Middleboro), they were all still making plans to keep going, to continue with their research, to meet with legislators, and to accumulate data on potential impacts.

Seems that, in light of all the other crazy things we've been subjected to in the last two years, they're not convinced some commercial enterprise couldn't plant a casino in that location.

My first thought was, naahh... that spot is too environmentally sensitive. The State will never let it happen.

Then...

The more I thought about it, the more I realized they're right. We're actually probably in more danger of a casino if slots are approved in Massachusetts than we ever were with a Tribe.

Think about it. The Tribe's application was always horribly flawed. But a 2002 Harvard Study pinpointed the area Middleboro as the primo spot for a destination resort casino.

"But wait", you say, "If there's going to be a casino, it'll probably just be a casino in New Bedford."

True. That's also my guess - for casino #1.

But you don't really think there'll be just 1, 2 or even 3 casinos, do you?

I attended a presentation at Plainridge race track earlier this year in which the owner was very clear that, once he got the OK to install slots, it was only a short matter of time before he built a nice big hotel and casino up around it.

With a gleam in his eye, and a dream in his heart, he shared his vision via photos of other posh casino/hotel complexes.

So let's see, who are the front runners? I'm going to say New Bedford, East Boston (Suffolk Downs), and Palmer, followed by Raynham, Revere, Plainville and... Middleboro!

Ok, now you're saying, "we'll never have that many casinos in Massachusetts."

Listen, if Massachusetts legalizes slots, there will be a casino every time we need the money, which is pretty much every time we turn around.

I've met people all over this country fighting predatory gambling and let me tell you, once you open the floodgates to expanded gambling, grab a life vest.

I've used this map before to demonstrate population density in our country. See how dense it is in our neck of the woods? (Click the map for a better look.)

The travesty of Federally assisted Indian "Gaming" opened the door to unprecedented gambling expansion in our country - mostly in remote areas at first.

Believing they had no recourse but to sign Indian "gaming" compacts with federally recognized sovereign tribes on reservations within their boundries, States soon realized they could also negotiate for a percentage of tribal casino revenue, most notably slot revenue, if they legalized gambling.

And so, in turn, these States quickly began to authorize and license commercial casinos - to be located in more densely populated, more lucrative areas.

Indian 'gaming' quickly learned to compete with commercial 'gaming' for customers via a purposely manipulated loophole known as "off-reservation gaming", which in turn gave birth to a loathsome phenomenon known as "reservation shopping", along with similar abuses.

Now empowered with a growing acceptance of 'gaming' - both tribal and commercial, wealthy casino investors with insatiable appetites for new opportunities began to drool over those dark blue areas on population density maps.

They waved tantalizing financial possibilities - such as licensing fees and revenue sharing - like big juicy carrots in front of state legislators who were hard pressed to cut costs or reign in spending. They encouraged a sense of 'inevitability', low-balled costs and over-emphasized potential benefits.

Every State-wide gambling push became a months-long infomercial. Both legislators and the public alike were expected to be outraged over revenue escaping needlessly into smarter, wiser gambling States, while understanding that they needed to act now if they wanted to re-capture it.

(They tried not to let you read the small print where you'd notice that these gambling States also have higher taxes...)

And right now, with our own legislative density running at an all time high, combined with with a recession, Patrick's (it's entertainment!) cluelessness, Deleo's committment to saving the tracks, Cahill's under-funded ambition and now Murray's suspiciously enthusiastic endorsement of casinos even as neighboring Twin Rivers strangles on it's own debt (Kaching!), the drool is positively puddling on the floor.

And let's not forget, where slots go, so does corruption. We've already seen it. It is an expectable and predictable impact of gambling. The more slot machines we allow into this State, the more casino investors will run it.

Do you really think billionaire casino investors will care about aquifers and swamps? Salamanders and alewives? Rules and regulations?

Even a glass-half-full optimist like me isn't that naive.

All they'll care about is maximizing profits while we'll just be another casino hot-spot on the map in a State which will quickly learn to lean on their shoulders every time they need an influx of revenue.

You wash my back...


I think most of us have a sense about this. We know how our State operates. While Connecticut can be one of those "social gamblers" who can get away with two casinos - Massachusetts is like the guy who knows that if he goes to the casino even once, he's going to come out broke.

Remember, there are 23 casinos and counting in Michigan. California has 45, many which compete by allowing 18 year olds to gamble. Pennsylvania passes gambling laws in the middle of the night, and wants to put a casino next door to the Liberty Bell.

So, you know what? I think the Regional Task Force is right about staying on course. And I think that everyone who doesn't want to be steamrolled by corruption and the casino industry should be doing everything in their power to stop expanded gambling in our state.

A good start would be to get out your powerful pens and write to your legislators. Today.

And furthermore, and this is very important, send a copy of that letter to the:

Massachusetts Democratic Party
56 Roland Street
North Lobby
Suite 203
Boston , MA 02129

Telephone number: (617) 776-2676
Fax number: (617) 776-2579

And/or submit an e-mail here.

This is the party that is running the show right now.

But small, focused grassroots efforts have extricated our State from the jaws of gambling predators in the past. Thankfully, you have 2 years experience learning every casino or slot impact under the sun.

Don't assume anything's a 'done deal' or that all our legislators are anxious to support expanded gambling, that they're busy shoving bribe money under their shirts, or that they know or read everything. And please, understand that some really do care about doing the right thing and making the right decision.

Share your knowledge. Show your outrage. End the casino arms race.

Because face it - we've been pegged.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

All the World's a Stage

In light of Monday's appearance of the Mashpee Wampanoag at the Middleboro Board of Selectmen's hearing, one of the first not to feature Glenn Marshall or a check-bearing tribe member in two years, one of my valued readers has expressed some concern.

Though I did attend the meeting, mostly for it's potential comedic value, there was, unfortunately, no room at the inn for Gladys and the other bloggers, and so we hung out in the corridor straining to listen.

I am, therefore, still waiting for some audio to fully comment.

To be honest, I'm mostly interested in what questions the Board posed to the Tribe, and what is says about them, because, not surprisingly, the answers from Mr. Cromwell even in the muffled distance sounded something like:

...it's coming... only a flesh wound... just a minor fix... times are tough... scale it back... sovereign nation... blah blah yada yada...

In the meantime, I'd like to point out that this meeting was just another in a long line of choreographed public relations appearances that occur only when absolutely necessary.

Let's see, first came Glenn Marshall, way back in May of '07, blustering about racists, posturing as a 'steward of the earth', and promising to cut checks for everything from reduced home values to lost restaurant patronage, when he graciously appeared at what he himself proclaimed to be a 'dog and pony show'.

Then, in September, came the Princess with the big check. At that appearance, Selectmen Adam Bond and Pat 'Tankman' Rogers beamed at Sean like a pair of giddy bachelorettes who'd just been deemed rose-worthy.

In April '08 Sean and his posse grudgingly showed up for the BIA hearing, gave a short speech and barely tolerated the rest of us for as long as they could before taking off for the break room.

Last summer some of them showed up for Marshmallowfest '08. I'm still not sure what that was supposed to be all about but let's face it - it was all about keeping up those casino appearances.

You didn't see the Tribe in New Bedford at the Standard Times debate last year, did you? Of course not. That wasn't an event crucial to maintaining appearances - and in fact may have very well lead to embarrassing and highly quotable slip ups - not unlike Sean's delightfully revealing radio broadcast last February which many of us so enjoyed.

Come to think of it, I don't remember seeing the Tribe at the Statehouse casino hearings, either.

See what I mean? Only when necessary.

As far as this "fix" Cedric seemed fixed on, take heart. According to the Enterprise:
Last Friday, Congressman Barney Frank told The Enterprise he does not expect Congress to overturn the Supreme Court decision. “It’s virtually a zero chance,” Frank said.
I realize that the 1,500 member Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, the Middleboro Board of Selectmen, and an ever-dwindling cadre of flying monkeys are anxious to see their casino built, but let's face it, with the crises in the mortgage, banking and auto industries, harsh public reaction to stimulus bailouts, a recession, an on-going two-theater 'war on terror' and modern day pirates gunning for U.S. sailors - Congress and the President have their hands busy.

And remember, while a Congressman can sponsor some legislation to give the Mashpee a special dispensation, doing so would open up the entire IRA for revision. Now, try to imagine those Western gaming tribes covered by the 1934 provision and numbering in the hundreds of thousands, which receive millions upon millions in Federal benefits under the IRA.

If you wanted to keep those benefits, would you want the IRA tampered with?

Well, Gladys isn't sweating some imaginary "fix". Cedric is in denial. He wants to make sure Middleboro is also in denial, and that the public is sufficiently misinformed. Seems to me like Monday's meeting covered that as per the usual. Everything is staged.

By the way, have you noticed how pro-casino forces, whether Tribal or State or otherwise, need to keep the myth of inevitability alive? Their PR people will issue a statement or they'll gather together at some event to reaffirm gambling's unrelenting stranglehold on our lives. The press obediently covers it, predictably making sure to slap the requisite quote from Rich Young somewhere towards the bottom of the article where no one will read it, and soon people start to believe casinos or slots or land in trust or whatever are a done deal, orchestrated up on high by powers beyond their reach, and so, the message is clear, you may as well give up any hope of trying to stop it.

And that's if we're lucky. If the TV news covers it, our side won't get a quote in at all.

One is, wittingly or not, led to believe there isn't any real opposition to expanded gambling at all in this State.

And that's the casino investor food chain.

And yet, for some reason we all politely go along with it. Like bringing knives to a gun fight - as if to imply that we're up for the fight - but we wouldn't actually want to hurt anybody.

Well, leave it to our friends at Casino Free Philadelphia to find a way to fight politely.



It's time to take notes. See how the activists took a meeting, run by a corrupt, smug and snickering gaming board, and turned it into their event? From the bottom paragraph to the headline in a few simple steps...

There is important business at hand raising awareness around the state and around this nation as to the predatory nature of slot machines and expanded gambling. We've had two years of experience learning all about it. It's our responsibility to share that knowledge with others, and it's time we stopped letting ourselves be gaveled by our elected officials and nullified by the media.

We have always been right about the myth of inevitability. We were right about the environmental impact. We are still right about the addictive nature of slot machines, about predatory gambling, about the costs and impacts of casinos. About corruption, about crime, about quality of life and quality of lives lost.

So speak up.
All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
-Shakespeare

It's time that stage was ours.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Pulp Fiction

Early yesterday I discovered that former Middleboro Selectman Adam Bond had offered to answer the 20 first questions he got about "the" casino * on his blog.

I checked in today and noted some takers, as well as some "answers".

But for some reason, I'm not really sure who this guy "moderator" is who publishes the "answers" since "AMB" has also made comments.

I dunno. When someone asks "Gladys" a question, my first thought isn't to send in the moderator to answer it for me. But maybe I've been missing an opportunity here. From now on, whenever I get a disgruntled commentor on my blog, I'll just send in my "moderator" who'll unleash a cathartic slew of colorful profanities while I slip away for a refreshing margarita on the veranda.

Perhaps my "moderator" could also do the shopping, help my kids with school projects, and take my place on conference calls while I nap.

I'm just starting to recognize the sheer genius of this "moderator" idea. Leave it to Adam to create something imaginatively useful out of something completely non-existent.

Anyway, I wonder if "moderator" will answer all 20 questions with the same brutal honesty his elusive doppelganger exhibited when being televised reassuring the people of Middleboro the "real" meaning of Section 22B of the Intergovernmental agreement with the Mashpee Wampanoag?



Will "moderator" also carefully and methodically choose which of the first 20 questions are "relevant" to answer in the same manner he chose to tell the Secretary of the Interior that a majority of Middleboro voters voted YES for a casino agreement but declined to reveal that they also voted NO to a casino?



And will "moderator"continue to maintain Adams tradition of gently re-crafting the facts into an unrecognizable reality while hoping no one notices?

Yeah, probably. But heck, now that he doesn't command your Monday nights nor hobnob with the Wampanoag, now that the calls from the media are dwindling down and it's beginning to dawn on him that his casino isn't in the cards, Adam needs validation. To feel relevant. His former fans are walking around town wearing "Adam who?" buttons, after all. So he needs to know that he's still burning a hole in someone's heart. Therefore, he wants you to know he's still there for you with an exclusive excerpt from The World According to Adam. Yup, the "real", "untold" story.

Which would have been better revealed at the time it was happening, or to a Federal agent in the present.

As I skim the first of the "answers", they hold nothing earth shattering. With a few keystrokes Adam... er I mean "moderator" airbrushes the truth with fallacious self-deprecation.
Finally, the anti casino opinion was not disregarded. In fact, there were many issues raised by the antis that actually caused there to be better provisions in the final Agreement. For example, the issue of the Tribe buying up Middleborough with their profits was taken care of by a provision that did not allow the Tribe to take any more than a specific amount of land into trust, without reopening negotiations.
Actually, I was there and remember anti's being held in utter contempt even by el "Moderator." And doesn't "anti-casino opinion not disregarded" really mean "valid point actually used to make me look smart and give me more leverage towards getting a casino agreement signed?"

He also dilutes the impact of his own dismissive demeanor.
...I did say things, at various times, that I should not have said, and some that were in the heat of the moment that were inappropriate. That is all part of being fallible. I, however, do not recall making the idiots comment, and noone has come up with the audio. I do admit that the comment is within my vocabulary (e.g., I have used the term idiots before), but I do not remember ever making that comment at the TMFH, nor do a number of others I spoke to who say they did not hear such a comment.
Funny, that "idiot" comment was all I heard at the post-TMFH after-party.

But you see how Adam's now become just "fallible"?

Isn't that what that guy from "The Bachelor" fell back on after he asked a girl to marry him then asked for a do-over on national TV?

"Fallible" implies imperfection. Not being a flat-out jerk.

In fact, a broad definition could easily apply the word "fallible" to every poor overheated misunderstood schmuck doing time at a house of correction.

But perhaps our memories fail us...



When asked to respond as to why the Middleboro Board of Selectman never investigated Glenn Marshall or the Tribe,
Actually, the investigation that I did was relating to Herb Strather and his partner in Detroit Entertainment, LLC, Larry Deutsche (sp?)(one of the people who negotiated deal #1 and deal #2), and learned about their inability to get gaming licenses in Detroit. To me, this has never been about the Tribe, and they have little if any control over the deal--so, to me, Marshall was the salesman, and the investors were in control through SG. Marshall was a face, but not important to the process.

But, in hind sight, I agree that there should have been more investigation in a lot of areas.
But wait - wasn't it THE TRIBE that would be taking over a part of THE TOWN as it's sovereign nation?

Ah there's that convenient hindsight again...

In my hindsight version of life I would have done a million things differently, none of which even remotely approach signing a million dollar agreement to turn a section of a 330 year old town into a sovereign nation by a tribe I didn't know for a casino run by predatory investors with shady backgrounds.

I think most people charged with the enormity of the responsibility and equipped with a grasp on reality would have done everything in their power to stop the presses at this point. You just get the one chance and Middleboro didn't even attempt not to blow it.

As far as his latest lament, that he thought a casino was "inevitable", I beg to differ. A lot of people knew it wasn't and he should have made the effort to find out why. That's called due dilligence - though in the rear view mirror that concept seems to have disappeared. Poppies... poppies... Nevertheless, I make the point here that Adam's concept of inevitability or the lack of it made little difference to his participation in the actual sequence of events.

It's pretty much all like that. Admit little, revise history, brush off any real responsibility, continue to miss the point.

In other words, same Adam, different day

But heck, I suppose there are some people who, like Agent Mulder, just want to believe.

And yet, the scars of a town divided, a region concerned, and individual lives disrupted are going to take more than a fairytale to erase.

So, if you asked a question that doesn't get answered, or if "moderator" replies with an answer you think isn't totally honest, CoffeeNot! is still at your disposal, squaring casino reality and trying to keep that spaceship on the ground.

Because, though fiction can be a lot of fun - Gladys prefers keeping it real.


* One can never truthfully refer to the ex-casino project and subsequent dead parrot as "the" casino. It was never built. It was never going to be built. It was a figment of the imagination. A will o'the wisp. A towering windowless clock-free twenty-four-seven castle in the sky. And it was, and will therefore always be, "a" casino. An ex- one.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Two Down, Three to Go...

What would have happened in late Spring 2007 if Middleboro's elected officials had paused for a moment amidst the casino hoopla and said, "wait a minute, something's not right here"?

I don't know.

Because that never happened. But thanks to Saturday's election, we might finally get the chance to find out.

I wish the folks who won all the best.

And I wish the voters and people of Middleboro the best as well. They certainly deserved better than having the 'world's biggest casino' and sovereign nation rubberstamped and shoved down their throats, and their quailty of life threatened, without anyone in charge asking real questions.

As for those who ran but didn't win - in my previous post I mentioned those who've made the walk up Beacon Hill and even Capitol hill after being faced with a casino or failed Indian policy in their own back yard. But hats off to those who've made the 'ultimate sacrifice' - they've run for office in the hope of making a difference and making their community a better place from the ground up.

You never lose when you're in the game for all the right reasons.

Friday, April 3, 2009

From a Distance



On Tuesday night I got home late. That morning I'd been down in DC and up on Capitol Hill after attending the 2009 Citizens Equal Rights Alliance conference. The next morning I headed out to Beacon Hill for the Casino Free Mass April Fool's Gold rally at the Statehouse.

It's been exhausting, but by gosh, it feels so good to be an activist!

Even now, as I continue to endure a whopper of an allergy attack from the residual pollen of a million gorgeous cherry blossoms, and my nicotine and Febreeze saturated room at the Clarion - I can honestly say it was well worth it. And, when the Benadryl finally wears off, I'll tell you all about the things I learned about Indian sovereignty, IGRA, grassroots, the IRA, and yes, even the Mashpee Wampanoags. But for now, I can tell you (again) that it ain't comin'.

At the conference, coast-to-coast communities from Plymouth, Massachusetts to Plymouth, California were represented. I witnessed for myself that CERA is comprised of incredibly smart, educated and passionate people who live and breath the spirit of the Constitution. They've armed themselves with the facts and with research and the truth. What started out as a fight for their quality of life turned, for them, into a call to help others.

I remember, way back when, hearing Dennis Whittlesey denounce their organization as "racist". Apprehension about being labeled as racists even prevented many in my own organization from embracing their help. But heck, that's what folks like Dennis count on.

In reality, CERA, like their slogan, "Many cultures, one law", is the definition of anti-racist. A panel of Indians even spoke at the conference. And let me tell you, it was very enlightening.

All I can say is, if someone is supporting inequality in this country, it's either from ignorance, fear, or to keep an unequal share of Federal dollars flowing into their pockets.

I was delighted to be part of the 'Middleboro' delegation to the conference - a delegation which proudly included a wonderful first-time speaker, as well as our amazingly inexhaustible EIS organizer. As always, it was invigorating to meet fellow activists who quickly become friends. I know I'm not alone in the sentiment that representing that amazing group of people from Southeast Massachusetts who refused to swallow a 'done deal' in 2007 - and who were recently rewarded with proof from the Supreme Court - was infinitely sweet.

Which is why the Dennis Whittlesey's of the world wanted Middleboro to dismiss CERA's advice. Because, my goodness, what if everyone back then had realized that we were just following a script investors and gaming lawyers had written for us? A script that made us do something stupid while thinking we were really being smart.

Hmmm...

How many people accepted the inevitability of a casino simply because someone in authority told them it was true? Obviously, some of us looked into it from different directions and realized it wasn't. And if you'd have found CERA, they would have proved to you that it wasn't.

So, if you were one of the few who walked up a hill this week to raise your voice, or just to listen, you've made a difference. In fact, you're holding up the house.

For those of you who thought it all ended after the Middleboro Town Meeting (from Hell) on July 28th, 2007 - you're missing the point. That spot on the map with the big tents and the orange shirts provided concrete proof that our nation was being guided by a 'separate and unequal' philosophy. Many of us, for various reasons, accepted this. Others railed, and are still railing, against it. But even those folks who wanted a casino in Middleboro, those fellow Americans of ours, should have been repulsed and reviled by the actions of the past two years.

We can't be a united nation while divided into separate sovereignties, governed by a schizophrenic series of laws based on an archaic contrivance of guilt and presumed ethnicity. It doesn't work. In the 21st century our country has become a blended family. Our elected leader is of mixed-race heritage. Many cultures, one law. That's what works.

But the IRA sets us all upon an unbalanced national stage. The greatest benefactors of this unequal footing aren't Native Americans. They are profiteers who've learned to thrive on unintended pockets of persuasion and surreptitious loopholes created by a clash of legal inconsistencies.

In the end, some Americans end up with lawyers, investors, spokespeople and politicians defending fictitious and odious 'done deals'. Other Americans, those enrolled in Tribes or living on reservations end up disenfranchised, blackballed, shunned, extorted and worse. And it's all so that we won't put up a fight.

Yet, we forget that this nation was forged in the good fight, that it earned it's identity by refusing to be quiet and that it's always been at it's best when it asked questions, took a stand, and demanded accountability.

I suppose a lot of folks start out like me - proud to be an American but still asleep at the wheel of their own political involvement - until hit head-on by greed and rear-ended by ignorance. But finding yourself in that position doesn't mean you have to stay that way.

And that's CERA. Ordinary Americans, Indian and non-Indian who awoke one day to find their world upside down and a fire ignited in their conscience. They became an army of citizen soldiers, and, in the end, they'll celebrate the victories for which they paved the way. Because they had it right all along. Many cultures, one law.

The same goes for CasinoFreeMass. A rapidly growing grassroots movement, some of whose seeds were sown in a meeting room in the basement of the Middleboro library and fertilized by the endless manure of inevitability. At first, we worried about our own back yard. Now, we stand for everyone's back yard.

And so, while our leaders and neighbors and friends struggle with the vexing questions and seemingly insurmountable dilemmas of the day - a chosen few have worked unnoticed, with trowels and mortar, to reinforce that foundation on which we stand.

A foundation supported in the simple words repeated every morning by school children. Not a 'belief' - but an expectation that all of us are part of one nation, united and unbreakable, and that we live in a place where there is liberty and justice, not a handout or mitigation, for all.

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