Monday, November 30, 2009

Fire Sale



In keeping with the spirit of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe is now on sale!

And at these prices, this tribe won't last! Purchase your tribe today, and we'll throw in a flat screen TV!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Still Holding the Turkey

Photobucket
It's still a little hard to believe that this is the third year I've posted this same graphic.

That first time, in 2007, I remember thinking it was an absolutely perfect representation of the family and community values that were an integral part of the casino opposition. And, it made me smile.

The second year I posted this graphic, it was just a few days after I'd published an arduously researched post regarding the Mashpee Wampanoags repeated claim to have been the Tribe that met the Pilgrims - a post that hardly anybody ever read because CasinoFacts.Org opted not to post a link to it to it's website. Perhaps I should have given the people around the table a little more of a crease in their brows, taken the shine off their smiles just a bit.

So here we are again, in 2009. Year three. I wasn't supposed to still be here, posting a Thanksgiving graphic, writing a Thanksgiving post in 2009. I was supposed to have hung this blog up in June. In June, I could go back to my life. In June, win lose or draw, it would be over.

That's what I'd heard back in February, and I'd clung to it's promise like a floating scrap of wreckage in an otherwise empty sea.

Because everybody else seemed to be dropping out, moving on, slipping away. With the imminent threat of the Worlds biggest casino on the wane, and Adam Bond's ability to inflict regional damage curtailed, people were losing interest in the debate. They were sick of the fight.

Like I wasn't? Who'd made me the official sentinel and IT department of the casino opposition? And when did I get to move on?

And so June it was. The beginning of the end of the Yellow Brick Road.

Then, in May, after staging an early morning direct action event in Plymouth, a few of my colleagues and I went out to breakfast - where one of them asked if I was serious about quitting the fight in June.

'You betcha,' I responded. Try and stop me.

"Well..." he said, "I just thought... someone like you... well, I just thought you'd want to see it through to the end."

Arrggh. Guilt. Expectations...

Of course I wanted to see it through to the end. But c'mon, I was tired. I missed my life, my family, my walks. I missed my old friends.

I missed reading books that had nothing to do with activism or gambling or casinos. I missed those days when I could listen to music all day without even once thinking, 'oh that song would make the greatest soundtrack for a new anti-casino video...'

I missed what it was like not to have to come up with something coherent to say about a Carcieri fix, or a catchy tag line for my blog or feel the urgency to respond to the latest breaking news.

Then, at last, came June and the Massachusetts Democratic convention. Passing out flyers on sunny weekends, collecting signatures in crowded rooms and working as just a small part of an amazing team of volunteers - some of whom I didn't even know - had culminated in that party's adoption of a resolution to oppose slot machines.

But that wasn't the finest part of that day. That would be spending it with some of the same people I'd met in Middleboro in 2007, in the first days of the debate. It was seeing some of my statewide colleagues from CasinoFreeMass again. It was getting a congratulations call from Les Bernal. What a different ending to the day, and the vote, nearly two years earlier in Middleboro.

From the earliest days to this day, the slings and arrows, the unknown, the conflicts, the aggravation, the ever-present, always-mounting overwhelming pressure to do something, to do something effective, and fear - those things could always melt away at the sight of a familiar, friendly, face on the other side of the room.

I guess it's a little like Thanksgiving. I mean, anyone can eat a plate of turkey and mashed potatoes, but there's just something about getting together with family to do it.

And so, this year, like every year, I am thankful for those good folks, my surrogate, activist family, my new 'old friends', who wouldn't let me be alone in that room.

I also want to thank my friends across the country, increasingly connected by the wonders of technology, who've stayed in the fight, and who are always there when I have a question or a request. I'd certainly have been lost without them this summer when I went looking for material to build a new web site.

A super big shout out to the men and women of CasinoFreePhila who went to the mat for the cause this year, standing up to both bulldozers and handcuffs. They've really given meaning back to the phrase 'cradle of liberty'.

I'm also thankful this year for all the new faces in the room, injecting their passion, knowledge and much needed skill sets - but most importantly hope - into the mix.

I'm extremely thankful for Les Bernal, tireless Director of Stop Predatory Gambling, and another familiar, welcome face, who somehow manages to keep everyone in this country who hates slots and casinos on the same page. When it comes to counting our blessings, Les goes right to the front of the line.

And ultimately, I am thankful, and grateful, for the leadership of Bob Massie and Kathleen Norbut, who sacrificed much to take a rudderless ship full of talented and passionate individuals, and set it on course in the form of United to Stop Slots in Massachusetts.

I say 'ultimately', because really, at first, it was more like 'grudgingly'.

I didn't want to build and brand another web site. I knew what was involved, and it wasn't pretty. And I knew that if I was going to have to build another anti-predatory gambling web site, it was going to be the best damn anti-predatory gamblinbg web site ever - and that was going to take a lot of time. My time.

So I grudgingly gave up that cottage on the Cape for a week in August. Grudgingly I watched many of my readers drift away while I took time away from blogging to attend to the new site. Grudgingly I didn't walk off those extra pounds. Grudgingly I didn't make the videos. Grudgingly I watched the garden go by. Grudgingly I watched it all go by. Summer. Fall. Life.

And, at first, when days would go by without even one hit on the new site, I wondered if it had all been worth it.

June. I was promised June. I didn't plan on re-upping for an extra tour of the war on slots.

"I just thought... someone like you... well, I just thought you'd want to see it through to the end."

There is no end. It never ends.

But I do know what it's like to be the only one in the room. And I know what it's like not to be.

And not to be, is better.

I guess that's why I'm still here, holding the turkey.

So if you're still hungry, pull up a seat. Pour the cider. Pass the gravy. And smile.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Big Fat Bloated Economic Engine that Couldn't

A newly paved road winds its way to the plastic-shrouded shell of the Mohegans' new tribal office and community center. Construction equipment is scattered about, but work on the facility stopped months ago.

It's a stark and unmistakable symbol of the financial crisis within Connecticut's multibillion-dollar Indian gaming empire.

After making and spending billions over the last decade, the Mohegans and their nearby neighbors, the Mashantucket Pequot Indians, are teetering on the brink of a financial meltdown.

Expansion plans have been canceled, employees have been laid off, credit ratings are in free fall, and bankers and bond holders are knocking on the door. In a sign of just how bad it has become, the Pequots last week defaulted on a Wall Street bond, signaling to creditors the tribe cannot meet its obligations.

All of this adds up to a toxic mix of problems that only a few years ago would have been unthinkable for two tribes with economic engines that once seemed geared for never-ending growth.

--Tribes teeter on financial brink,
Changing economics tarnish success story of Pequot, Mohegan casinos
November 23, 2009

Well, there you go. Supposedly billions of Massachusetts dollars are crossing the border into tax-free Connecticut casinos every year - and the casinos still can't make a buck. Which may explain why the Mashpee Wampanoag have wisely ratcheted down their own big fat bloated plans for a similar edifice to greed in Middleboro.

Except... that's not the shiny, five-star Shangri-la they used to buy the host community's vote of approval in 2007. Which means they'd certainly have to go through that process again. If the Supreme Court's decision in Carcieri v. Salazar were overturned. Which is highly unlikely.

Casinos rely on rigged, predatory slot machines and a whole lot of people who, back in a booming economy, didn't mind burning money. That's all changed. In the heady casino boomtown years, people didn't understand that the spendthrift economy was a house of cards, a pyramid scheme, a bursting bubble, building like an enormous jackpot that was only going to pay off for the guys on Wall Street. Now, people spend wisely, look for bargains, downsize, reconsider, save and grow embittered over bailouts. Especially here in frugal, Yankee New England.

But bankruptcy and lack of credit and abandoned construction equipment doesn't stop Mohegan Sun from squatting in Palmer, or keep the Mashpee from publishing construction bids in trade journals, and it won't slow the silent creep of lobbyists and unions on Beacon Hill.

It is as it ever was. The inevitability smokescreen of hope. The relentless push for unsustainable growth.

Because reality has no business in the middle of a poppy field - and the reality is that, sometimes, even the house can't win.

Which begs the question - when the money-factory files for bankruptcy, where exactly does that leave the rest of us?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Duck and Cover

Four of the Six candidates for Ted Kennedy's senate seat continue to demonstrate "bold leadership" by pretending to be neutral on the topic of expanded gambling in the Bay State.

Martha Coakley and Steve Pagliuca, both democrats, as well as republicans Scott Brown and Jack E. Robinson, continue in that courageous, age-old tradition of letting the other guys make the first move. And frankly, I cannot think of a better quality to ask for in our next senator than deliberate avoidance of an issue.

Two democratic candidates, Alan Khazei and Mike Capuano, on the other hand, have foolishly offered their opinions, both of which include support for an independent cost-benefit analysis before legalizing slots/casinos.

Jeesh! Don't they know they're ruining it for the rest of them?

On October 11th United to Stop Slots in Masachusetts submitted a questionnaire to all candidates comprised of the the following four questions:
  • 1. What is your opinion of the SCOTUS decision (Carcieri- February 2009) relative to lands into trust?.
  • 2. How would you vote on the proposals for a "Carcieri fix"? Please explain.
  • 3. What is your opinion of the National Gambling Impact Study Commission Report (1999) and what recommendations should be enacted at this time?
  • 4. Do you support an independent cost-benefit analysis before legalizing any expansion of predatory gambling/slots in the Commonwealth?
While Khazei and Capuano both expressed empathy for Indian Tribes effected by the recent SCOTUS decision, Khazei stated he would vote for a Carcieri fix only if it would "limit the use of lands taken into trust and prohibit their use for gaming."

(But Alan - the Mashpee only want land in trust for "gaming"!)

Capuano stated that "the larger community is affected by decisions governing recourse to the Indian Reorganization Act," and that he was open to "considering legislation addressing the issues around taking land into trust raised in Carcieri v. Salazar."

(Whoa Mike! Don't you understand that the "larger community" revolves around Mashpee - as evidenced by their ability to turn the world upside for over two years for people who'd never heard of them in towns over 40 miles away? )

Oh well, Martha probably doesn't have time to fill out a questionnaire, what with having her hands full avoiding an investigation of slot machines as part of her role as our State's number one consumer advocate - despite MIT professor Natasha Schull's testimony, given three times at the statehouse revealing the advanced, deceptive technology used to addict players. I mean, heck, Martha owes that much to her BFF and big time supporter Therese "Ka-ching" Murray, if not to the rest of us.

And, I'm not really sure what happened to Pagliuca's response. When I first heard him say he didn't know enough about the issue, but stood up for kids and consumer protection etc, I wrote him a nice long letter with links to all sorts of great information about how slots would effect those things and others. His reply back to me must have gotten lost in the mail, along with his response to the questionnaire.

So, while we continue to wait for swift and decisive leadership from the those four candidates for one of the Commonwealth's most powerful offices, you can read Khazei's and Capuano's responses to the USS-Mass questionnaire here:

Alan Khazei
Congressman Capuano

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Carcieri Speaks

Ever since learning of Carcieir's challenge to the concept of "now", I've been wanting to blog about the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, how it came to be, and why it doesn't apply to the Mashpee Wampanoag or any Massachusetts Tribe.

It all starts with a tragedy of incompetence known as the Allotment Act of 1887, or the Dawes Act, which applied only to Native Americans in Oklahoma - though it was later extended to include the Five Civilized Tribes (Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole) which had previously been relocated from their territories in the Southeastern part of the country - including some to Oklahoma.

Essentially, the Dawes Act messed with Indian tribal culture and tradition, cheated the tribes out of their land, caused an inordinate amount of misery, and was naturally all done in the name of helping these Native American tribes. (Where have we heard that before?)

The IRA of 1934 came about as a means to remedy the abuses of Dawes Act - not to provide a mechanism by which other Native Americans and their financial backers might populate the eastern seaboard with casinos seventy-five years later.

Anyway, I've been pretty busy with other things this year (like trying to save the State from it's own tragedy of incompetence) and never got to it, so I'll let Don Carcieri, Governor of Rhode Island, who has a staff, blog it for me. Below is his statement about why there's no need for a fix for the Supreme Court case forever to bear his name.



Donald L. Carcieri
Governor

November 2, 2009

The Honorable Nick J. Rahall, II Cahriman
House Committee on Natural Resources
1324 Longworth Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

The Honorable Doc Hastings
House Committee on Natural Resources
1324 Longworth Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

Re: November 4, 2009 Hearings on H.R. 3742 (Kildee) and H.R. 3697 (Cole)

Dear Representatives Rahall and Hastings:

In Carcieri v. Salazar, the Supreme Court held that Congress authorized the Secretary of the Interior to use his discretion to acquire land in trust only for those Indian tribes under federal jurisdiction in 1934. There has been much public discussion about whether Congress should amend the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 (the "IRA") to permit the Secretary to acquire land in trust for all tribes, regardless of their status in 1934. The above bills and their Senate companion (S 1703) represent one side of that debate.

As the Governor of Rhode Island, a small state that would be disproportionately affected by the proposed expansion of the Secretary's trust power, I write to express a state's perspective - a perspective that has gotten little attention to date. I do not believe that any expansion of the Secretary's administrative power to acquire land in trust for tribes under the IRA is warranted.

When the Secretary takes land into trust for an Indian tribe, he divests the state of its sovereignty and transfers those sovereign interests to the tribe. As a result, state laws, including state criminal, environmental, tax and gaming laws, generally do not apply on trust land. Such an extraordinary surrender of state sovereignty should be subject to the direct and careful scrutiny of Congress, rather than delegated to executive branch administrators, particularly in a department that the current Secretary and his predecessors have characterized as "a mess" or worse.

The current limitation on the Secretary's power to exercise his trust authority only for those tribes under federal jurisdiction in 1934 is entirely consistent with the language, the purpose and the history of the IRA and with more than 70 years of administrative practice by the Department of the Interior. Adhering to the IRA's temporal limitation also strikes an appropriate balance between regaining Indian lands lost as a result of prior federal policies and preserving states' current territorial sovereignty.

The IRA was Never Intended as, nor has it Been, a Blanket Authorization for Trust

In 1887, Congress passed the General Allotment Act which was intended to assimilate Indians into the broader American society by "substitut[ing] individual private ownership of Indian land for the tribal ownership."1 By all accounts, the Allotment Act was a disaster which, over time, reduced tribal landholdings from 137 million acres to 47 million acres. In 1934, Congress attempted to remedy the loss of Indian lands and the resulting weakening of tribal governments through enactment of the IRA. Of particular relevance here, the IRA permitted the Secretary to acquire land in trust for Indian tribes "now" under federal jurisdiction.

Consistent with the plain language of the IRA, Carieri held that the word, "now" meant "in 1934" and prohibited the Secretary from taking land into trust for tribes that came under federal jurisdiction after 1934. That construction of the IRA makes sense. Tribes that were not under federal jurisdiction in 1934 were not subject to a loss of land through the Allotment Act and were, accordingly, not entitled to the IRA's remedial land requisition measures.

Contrary to its recent assertions, the Department of the Interior has consistently adhered to the IRA's temporal limitations since its enactment more than 70 years ago. Between 1934 and 1975, the Department's own records indicate that all of its trust acquisitions were for tribes that were under federal jurisdiction in 1934.2 Between 1975 and 2005 - with but a handful of exceptions - the Secretary took land into trust only for tribes that were under federal jurisdiction in 1934, or for tribes that had an independent congressional authorization for trust. In short, the Carcieri decision is consistent not only with the language and intent of Congress but with the Department's own interpretation of the IRA at the time of its enactment and for decades thereafter. The IRA was not designed to be, nor has it been, a blanket authorization for trust.

Amending the IRA to Permit the Secretary to Take Land into Trust for all Federally Recognized Tribes Could Undermine Numerous Indian Claims Settlement Acts

Regardless of the original intent of the IRA and 70 years of departmental practice consistent therewith, some advocates assert that Congress should now amend the IRA to permit the Secretary to acquire land in trust for all Indian tribes regardless of when they came under federal jurisdiction or whether they lost land through allotment or by other means. Such an amendment to the IRA, however, would be inconsistent with the numerous individual settlement acts through which Congress and the states have already endeavored to compensate later-recognized tribes for lands lost outside the allotment process.

Many New England tribes whose lands were never subject to allotment, for example, have negotiated congressional settlement acts which compensate for the loss of their lands through violations of the Non-Intercourse Act of 1790.3 These settlement acts contain specific provisions which variously require, permit or prohibit land to be taken into trust and thereby specially allocate territorial sovereignty between the state, tribe and federal governments. Of particular concern to me is that Rhode Island's Settlement Act applies state and local laws to settlement lands and effectively precludes Indian country, through trust or otherwise, throughout the state. Amending the IRA to permit the Secretary to take land into trust for every federally-recognized Indian tribe could undo these hard-fought and carefully negotiated settlements and their individual trust arrangements.

A One-Size-Fits-All Amendment to the IRA Ignores States' Unique Political and Geographic Circumstances

Every state has individual concerns about trust acquisitions that should make Congress hesitant to pass a blanket expansion of the Secretary's authority. Rhode Island, for example - perhaps unique among states - operates its own gaming facilities and uses the proceeds of that operation to fund critical programs and infrastructure. Trust acquisitions for Indian tribes in Rhode Island open the door to a federal Indian casino - one that would directly compete with the state-operated facilities at Lincoln and Newport, Rhode Island currently receives 60% of the VLT revenue - one of our largest sources of income - from these facilities. By contrast, the State is prohibited from taxing the gaming revenues of a federal Indian casino. Any state-tribal compact negotiated under the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act would be on terms much less favorable to the State.

If Congress deems it desirable for later recognized tribes to have land in trust, it should do precisely what it has done for the last thirty years - pass an individually tailored act authorizing trust for a particular tribe with input from the affected state and consensus on jurisdiction among the tribal, local, state, and federal stakeholders. Indian tribes and states both have legitimate interests in the exercise of territorial sovereignty. But any reallocation of territorial sovereignty from a state to a tribe through trust should be carefully overseen by Congress and not left to the unfettered discretion of the Department of the Interior.

Sincerely,
Donald L. Carcieri
Governor

cc: Members of the House Natural Resources Committee
The Honorable Jack Reed
The Honorable Sheldon Whitehouse
The Honorable Patrick Kennedy
The Honorable James Langevin



1Congressional Debate on the Wheeler-Howard Bill 1961 (1934) in 3 The American Indian and the United States (Wilcomb E. Washburn, ed. 1973).

2Department of the Interior, Report on the Purchase of Indian Land and Acres of Indian Land in Trust 1934-1975 at Appendix A3.

3See, e.g., Rhode Island Indian Claims Settlement Act, 25 U.S.C. § 1701 et seq., Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act, 25 U.S.C. §1721 et seq., Connecticut Indian Land Claims Settlement Act, 25 U.S.C. §1751 et seq., Massachusetts Indian Land Claims Settlement Act, 25 U.S.C. § 1741 et seq. Mohegan Nation (Connecticut) Land Claims Settlement Act, 25 U.S.C. § 1775 et seq.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Meditations in an Emergency

Some of you may have been aware of efforts in Congress to overturn the Carcieri Decision in order to allow tribes recognized after 1934 to take land into trust. I've been following this and will be addressing it this week. For now, however, I wanted to share with you the testimony of Congressman Doc Hastings of West Virginia at a hearing this week to address the decision, which you may find interesting:



Ranking Member Hastings’ Opening Statement at
Legislative Hearing to Address Carcieri v. Salazar Supreme
Court Decision

WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Doc Hastings (WA-04) delivered the following opening statement at today’s full committee legislative hearing on two bills (H.R. 3742 and H.R. 3697) to address the Carcieri v. Salazar Supreme Court decision, which found that the Secretary of the Interior does not have the authority to acquire land in trust for tribes not under federal jurisdiction in 1934:

“Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding this hearing.

I believe it is important for Congress to address the post-Carcieri situation on both lands previously taken into trust, and for pending and future land in to trust applications. Congress must work deliberatively and it is our responsibility to consider the views of the many different interests that are affected. Without question, this Committee has a special responsibility to the tribes of the United States, yet elected Representatives also have a responsibility to the communities and states that they are elected to represent.

It would be neither responsible, nor constructive, for this Committee or the Congress to attempt to rush through legislation, like the bills before us today, without considering the views of the states, counties and cities that we represent, and, more importantly, who advanced this case all the way to the United States Supreme Court, where their legal arguments prevailed.

The Attorneys General from 27 states are on record, as either friends of the court in the Carcieri case or through a letter sent to this Committee, as having concerns with the land into trust process and wanting to be engaged in deliberations on Carcieri-related legislation. If they were committed enough to pursue this to the Supreme Court, then such interests are committed enough to come to this Congress and ask the Representatives and Senators from these 27 states to listen to their concerns. It ought to be in the interest of all those committed to addressing the post-Carcieri situation to be involving them in the conversation. That’s why it was important that Attorney General Blumenthal of Connecticut, and Mr. Woodside representing Sonoma County, California appear as witnesses at today’s hearing.

I do recognize many in this country and in this hearing room disagree with the Supreme Court’s decision and the prevailing legal position of the states and local governments, but it is unreasonable to expect Congress to simply ignore such concerns and fast-track this legislation without considering the effects of these bills.

Let’s be clear about what this legislation will do. According to their long titles, the bills are meant to “reaffirm the authority of the Secretary of the Interior to take land into trust for Indian tribes.”

In fact, the effect of these bills goes much farther. This legislation would very bluntly overturn the Supreme Court from February, yet it would also delegate to the Secretary of the Interior authorities expressly granted to Congress in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution. The effect of the legislation would be to give the Secretary nearly unconditional authority not to just take lands into trust, but also unlimited authority to recognize new Indian tribes.

With such a complete transfer of power and authority from Congress to the Secretary, just one individual in the federal government would have the ability to recognize new tribes, take land into trust, and approve gaming compacts to allow new casinos on these lands.

This may strike many, on both sides of the aisle, as going too far and greatly overstepping a direct answer to the Carcieri decision. In addition, I will note that this bill, for the first time ever, would endow the Secretary with new authority to acquire lands in Alaska in trust for Native villages. This, too, exceeds the bounds of a Carcieri fix and I certainly hope the views of the State of Alaska will be considered by this Committee as it further considers the legislation.

As I stated at the outset of my remarks, I do fully support the need for action to address the post-Carcieri situation confronting tribes and the taking of lands into trust. The question that confronts Congress is how best to do so? In an effort to gather more information about the ramifications of the Carcieri decision, the views of Secretary Salazar and the Administration, and the possible options that this Congress might have in addressing this issue, I sent a letter to the Secretary last Friday with a number of questions. It was my hope that by giving advance notice of questions that the Department’s witness would come prepared with answers, so that we may have a more productive hearing. I request that a copy of my letter be made part of the hearing record. And I look forward to the testimony of today’s witnesses.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Showstoppers

Last Thursday, at the Statehouse hearings on expanded gambling, everyone did a pretty amazing job. But the testimony of three people really stood out to me. I hope you'll take the time to view these inspirational moments by United to Stop Slots President Kathleen Norbut, Les Bernal, Executive Director of Stop Predatory Gambling, and Palmer resident Charlotte Burns.





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