Sunday, June 29, 2008

A Blogger for One Year

A year ago this week, I became a blogger. Today I offer a year's worth of candid observations from the blogging battlefield:

Why did I become a blogger?
I usually credit the media for this - because they weren't printing some of my editorials or reporting the whole story. But in truth, if Middleboro's elected officials had, upon finding themselves in this peculiar situation, responded appropriately, I would never have needed to pen those first original posts.

Because, in May or early June of last year, this is what the town of Middleboro should have said to the Tribe:

"Listen, we have an awful lot of questions, and so do the citizens of Middleboro. This is a complicated issue and one which stirs much passion. And let's not forget that gambling is currently illegal in this state. There are also the issues of our town's own sovereign status here. In addition, this site and the region itself just might not be appropriate for this type of development. And so, it's just too soon to say. We've listened to some lawyers, but we're still going to take some time to study the issue. We're going to talk to a lot of experts, and we're going to listen to the people who live here and we're going to listen to the people who live in the towns around the site to get their opinion, because a project like this will effect them too. And we're going to hold educational forums so folks can become more informed about what could be in store. And most importantly, we're going to hear everybody out. Now, we realize that your tribe has waited 30 years for your federal recognition, but our town is over 300 years old, and that counts for something, too. And we were elected to do what's best for this town, not your Tribe. And so, if you still can't wait for us to handle this in the manner we see fit, and continue to pressure us or threaten to build a casino without our citizens informed consent, then we're afraid that we're going to have to oppose this project, and your land into trust application wholeheartedly."

I've been at selectman's meetings in towns all around the South Shore, and have attended most of the Regional Task Force Meetings - and think I can say with some assurance that this is how officials from towns abutting Middleboro would have responded had they found themselves facing this same situation.

And, the thing is, if Middleboro's "leadership" had taken this stance, I'd have figured the town and the region were in good hands and probably have spent the summer and probably the whole last year catching up on Wife Swap reruns.

But no. Because, essentially, Middleboro's response was:

Yikes! Let's just do what the fancy expensive lawyer says, and just for show, we'll appoint a lame duck citizen panel to study impacts and give them six weeks to study it. We don't have to look any deeper than that. Then we'll gavel and strong arm anyone who doesn't do what the lawyer tells us to. And if the Tribe gets upset at anything, by all means let's cave and do whatever they say so they won't leave because all that casino money will fix the mistakes we've made with the budget and then we'll all look like conquering heroes. Why even bother reading the agreement or listening to any other opinions? And we'd better do it fast or the Tribe will go to New Bedford even though it's pretty obvious they won't. And sovereignty? We thought that was just for Indians. Oh, we mean, Native Americans. We wouldn't want anyone to think we're racists. That's what we'll call casino opponents if they give us too much trouble.

The board of selectmen and certain town departments were the perfect storm of ego, apathy, gullibility, condescension, cowardice and greed. And that's why the interests of the Tribe and it's investors came before the best interests of the town and it's people, the entire region and all it's future generations.

And I didn't vote for any of them.

So, if they ever have cause to wonder why I blog about them, I wish they would ask themselves if they think I would have felt moved to make a video about a 22 minute dog complaint if Middleboro's stellar "leadership" had spent over a year studying the casino issue. No. The answer is No. I didn't start this blog because it was something I wanted to do. It was something I felt I needed to do.

Why do I keep blogging?
Because people like Brian Giovannoni of the Casino Resort Advisory Committee (CRAC) go to places like Raynham and tell the Board of Selectmen that there will only be 20,000 additional cars and that no one lives anywhere near the proposed site. That's why.

What's my favorite blog post?
It's always the last one I write. But a post I wrote last July called "Melvin" was and still is particularly meaningful to me. Unfortunately, the comments ended up hijacking the blog almost completely off the subject - which is the human carnage that comes with gambling - and so I've always felt it was a bit neglected.

What's my favorite video?
If you ask locally, people like Dogstock. Statewide or nationally, folks are partial to Slots for Tots - Part 1. But I will always have a soft spot for "The Courtship of Massachusetts". When you painstakingly animate that many little cartoon people over the course of a week and can still laugh... it's a keeper.

What's my most 'important' blog post?
I think Founding Father Knows Best is really important because is goes to the heart and intent of Indian Gaming Law and gambling in general. It says it all.

High points?
For one... Former CFO president Jacquie Tolosko asked me to join her in heading up the procession from our rally last July at the Town Hall lawn to the Elks Club. While there, Rich Young asked me to get up and speak - and I was so nervous - but when he introduced "Gladys Kravitz" there was this completely surprising amount of applause - and I realized that this was the result of A BLOG (that hadn't even existed two months earlier) - and that blogs had the potential to really be so much more than anyone envisioned.

Another... It's December. I'm coming down with the flu. I missed my train out of Boston and had to take a later one. It's dark, cold and it's starting to snow. Then I get this text message from my friend John. "From Dan Kennedy's blog: The inimitable Gladys Kravitz with a link to Earmuffs"

When I got home I looked up inimitable just to make sure I got it right. Definitely a high point.

There have been others. Many others, actually and they result from discovering that my blog has somehow made a difference.

Low points?
Where do I start?

Actually, a lot of what people think 'gets' to me just makes me angry. And anger is essentially blogger fuel. No, it's things like - when someone I've made every attempt to avoid and be fair to, posts that I want him dead on the front page of his web site. Because then it's not about a casino, it's about someones fragile and potentially dangerous mental health.

Other low points would include those episodes of despicably poor reporting, and those times when I have to listen to that same tired empathy-deprived mantra of 'jobs over lives', of how mitigation solves everything, of that money just fleeing from our pockets to CT, of the complete lack of appreciation for the unquantifiable gifts we are already blessed with in our region of the world.

On criticism...
I covered a lot of this ground in a post called "The Blog is a Harsh Mistress" - which garnered 27 comments and a death threat. But my stance has always been that if you're going to run a Mickey Mouse style of local government based on a Looney Tunes agenda - don't be surprised if the resulting criticism is a bit animated.

As far as criticism directed toward me - oh you mean "the Blogging Bitch of Bridgewater". Yes, it's very eloquent.

Best things about blogging?
The amazing people I've been able to meet. Finding out I might have made a difference here or there. New experiences. Stronger skills. More confidence.

Worst things?
The time involved. From reading and meetings and research to mixing sound, rendering video to photoshopping things like the Governor's head onto a big Walmart sign - it's time consuming. What's worse is that I really don't like sitting behind a desk all that much. And frankly, I miss my garden, my workouts, my social life, my skinny pants...

Where do I get my ideas?
From everybody. From everything. I save stuff sometimes. My friend Bumpkin calls that stuff "blog gold". I hold on to it, work on it, then post it when the right time comes around.

For instance, my slots for tots videos resulted from an e-mail from a friend who sent me the article about the Mass Teachers association. But before that I'd been looking into casino jobs with the intention of blogging about them - or at least knowing more about them. I'd asked friends who'd been to casinos what they thought about those jobs, and I did research on casino job sites. A lot of people are under the assumption that the blackjack dealer is a 'glory job' at a casino, but one casino job site actually mentions that a person in that position usually makes the majority of their money in tips - and that they need to be the kind of person who can stomach watching people lose large sums of money that they might really need. It's that sort of stuff. Blog gold.

Something people don't know about me?
I have been to a casino. A big one. I was booked for three days in Vegas. I thought it was boring and sleazy. People had to walk, with their kids, right by rows of noisey slot machines. It was loud and smokey. I tried to gamble. Someone brought me a big fancy free drink I would have paid ten bucks for back in Massachusetts. But I realized I liked my money, and what it could do for me way too much and left town exactly 25 cents richer and one day early. I drove down to the Grand Canyon and truly discovered the wonder of it all.

Oh and here's another one - this Spring, Bridgewater officially apologized for gaveling me last year and for telling me the wrong time to show up. I think they might have realized, after the BIA hearing, that I really do care about this town.

Favorite comments?
Any good comment is my favorite comment. Getting those are like the first days of summer after a really long hard winter (which writing a blog post often seems like!) But especially close to my heart are:

Gladys, a number of Middleboro residents have stepped forward to ask me to express their appreciation to you for keeping 'certain others' off the streets of Middleboro, some lurking in corners waiting to snap pretend photos (with anempty camera), others .... well just 'lurking.' You have 'lurk-proofed' the street of Middleboro, for which they are forever grateful! Please keep up the good work of cleaning up our streets! And otherwise occupying the riff-raff!

Thank you so much, Gladys ! Your last post gave me goose pimples!You and other bloggers are like the "Paul Revere" of this era.

The blogs have been the lifeline of CFO.

There was this one time though, when a regular named "Steve" from Dan Kennedy's blog came over and made this sort of snarky comment about my research for Hope Floats. It took a few days to respond to his comment, and I knew that he'd never see it, but I did it anyway, complete with relevant links, and felt very proud of myself when I knew exactly what the Mass Wildlife guy was talking about when he mentioned "disjunct population". So there, Steve.

Oh yes, and back when I allowed unmoderated comments on this blog (since they weren't being allowed at town hall) someone showed up and wrote that they'd wasted minutes of their 'precious life' looking for factual information and only found my blog. I was so concerned that someone had clicked away upset that I checked my stats and the web site stats and (aha!) discovered that 'Precious' had simply clicked onto the site, directly to the blogs page, to my blog, to the comment section, did their business and fled - all within moments. I reported this back to my readers and a conversation about "Precious" ensued. To this day, I'll sometimes still see a comment about how certain terrible "fill in the blank" anti-casino people follow the IP tracks of their visitors.

This is actually common practice! Too funny. There were a lot of comments like that from my unmoderated comment days. Ah, good times. Good times...

What's my favorite blog post by another blogger?
Now that's tough. Because there as SO many and they're all so good. But for me, the very best posts are the ones that tell me something I didn't know before.

You have newer bloggers like Fiferstone who doesn't write often but when she does - it's a doozey. She had a great post about how we all got here, but my favorite would have to be The Loophole Narrows - which shows how little ties (with graphics!) the Mashpee Wamapanoag have to the land in Middleboro.

Cranberry Cynic is short on words but is nevertheless educational and entertaining with his one liners and updates on the trials and travails of the Mashpee Tribal leadership. But his post about Bob Massie who was so inspirational and forceful at the Statehouse Hearings was terrific and I really appreciated it - especially since I eventually was able to meet Massie in person. (Hey - isn't it amazing how many smart people there are on our side.)

Kathy Norbut's Truth to Power is always great. Power is the operative word. Her open letter to Governor Patrick during his casino crusade gave me chills. But my favorite would have to be her "Do They Work Harder in Kansas", which eloquently exposed the disparity between reality and fiction when it comes to casino jobs.

I can't figure out how to link to particular posts on Ryan's Take - but the whole month of June is a blockbuster of enlightening information, including most notably "The Casino Job Mythos". Ryan also has a special place in my heart because of his many posts on the tireless exploits of our good buddy, Prof. Clyde Barrows. But one of Ryan's best posts, in my opinion was on December 24, 2008, when he revealed the connection Patrick has to the casino industry with a post about Ropes and Gray. Hmmm...

And what can I say about CasinoFacts blood brother Dan Kennedy at Media Nation. Thanks to him, the Middleboro casino issue stays alive amongst those who wouldn't bother with it. Like with Ryan, I can't link to Dan's posts, but "Deval Patrick's gambling addiction" from June 2008, "Casino gambling's 'Energizer Bunny'" from May 2008, and "Not quite dead enough" from March 2008 rank among my particular favorites. I also love the way Dan defended Peter Kenney's investigative blogging, and Sal DiMassi's leadership style during the casino wars (which I completely agree with) and how so completely he has Adam Bond's number. And honestly, you cannot get a better 'wide angle view' of the events leading up to and after the Town Meeting from Hell than Dan's posts from last July and August. Maybe the majority of Dan's readers didn't understand his emphasis on the Yes vote on Article 3, but there were a lot of exhausted people who'd worked really hard and spent all day in that hot sun trying to protect their quality of life who definitely appreciated it.

Middleboro Review - a force of nature. What an amazing resource for all of Middleboro and even beyond. I tried to find this really memorable post she wrote about casinos and the Tribe and gambling in general but I think it was back when the blog was still called Middleboro Recall. That post was the begin all - end all of anti-casino sentiment. It was hell-fire on a stick! And I remember thinking - this lady is fearless. She sets a good example for the rest of us! She does her homework and she does the legwork. Her critics call her names. (Eyes rolling...)

My friend Carl has a really interesting blog where he combines quotes and commentary. He's another firebrand. I don't know where he digs some of those quotes up but they're great! In particular, a post from this April entitled "Why are there Indian Casinos" revealed some amazing insights from Joseph Kennedy from Citizen's Energy - and is one of my all time favorite blog posts. But notable mentions are Pocahontas, the cat up the tree, and from March, his post "Stupid Questions Answered - It saves time" - which still CRACs me up.

Carverchick, it probably goes without saying, is one of my favorite bloggers. She, like Carl is very supportive and motivational in her posts - which I adore. I also know that Carverchick puts in A LOT OF TIME studying agreements and dissecting research reports. I used a lot of the information on her blog to construct my BIA letter. From wiping the floor with a certain "factfinder" to letting us know why we should be so concerned about eminent domain to reaching out to our hearts in Collateral Damage, Carverchick always does an outstanding job at shedding light on murky subjects. Which is probably why her post Blinded by the Light is one of my absolute favorites. In fact, if you haven't read it in awhile, you may want to go back and check it out - there is a VERY interesting new comment on it.

And then there's the Bumpkin. One of the most valuable things about Bumpkin's blog isn't just that it's full of important information often painstakinly distilled and commented upon - it's that he keeps writing it - almost every single day, providing our movement with a strong continuous heartbeat. In fact, Bumpkin's body of work is too daunting for me to pinpoint just one favorite. But there will always be a special place in my heart for Davy Jones Attacks Middleboro, and even his recent Requiem for Racinos. You gotta love the stuff that makes you laugh in the midst of all this... But for me, his Atlantic City Article and Mashpee Wampanoags Oppose Cape Wind were particular eye openers. And the self-effacing photo accompanying Heil Bumpkin just gave me new respect for him! Furthermore, because of all Bumpkins herculean efforts, I wince when I think of how typical it's become of Middleboro's "leadership" that they continue to dismiss Bumpkin's offer of a free web site because they STILL can't separate themselves from the casino issue long enough to do something good for their own community. Once again... working for the Tribe and it's investors instead of the town.

I've had the priviledge of meeting each and every one of these fine bloggers. A few have become friends. Some of them have even mentioned that my own blog has inspired, educated or motivated them at one time or another. And so, I'd just like them to know that they have, and continue to inspire educate and motivate me every single day. We are the Blogfathers. Hear us roar!

After this whole year, is there anyone I would like to thank for the success of this blog?
Everyone! But most especially my patient and supportive family who've held signs, put up with fast food and my repeated abscenes and who've been witness to more than their share of monkeyshines.

I'd also like to thank my regular readers and those readers who offer their ideas for new posts and who take the time to comment - those are a bloggers lifeblood and fuel.

And I'd like to thank my fellow bloggers for their continued support, especially when we are being bombarded on all sides by Flying Monkeys.

I'd like to thank Dan Kennedy for bringing my blog to a wider audience (and giving me some more cred with the one I already had...)

And, there is one person who people tell me I'm not appreciative enough of. So, if you don't mind, I'd like to rectify that right now.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Sky is Falling

The other day I opened up the Yahoo front page only to find this news headline...

Space Shuttle Screeching Toward Earth

Holy Hard Hat, Batman! Believing that my family, and possibly Mother Earth herself could be in imminent danger, I clicked on the headline to read the rest of the article...

...only to learn that all was well. The Shuttle had apparently screeched toward earth as part of an orderly, controlled landing, and put down with the same ease as your basic 747. And so, as it turned out, no jagged burning space shrapnel was screeching it's way through the atmosphere on it's way to Bridgewater after all.

But the key point here is that the headline made me look.

I’ve been involved in the casino issue for over a year now, and along the way have seen more than my share of “The Sky is Falling” headlines. They warn of the imminent appearance of that glass casino tower rising out of the Middleboro forest, of sovereign nations on the move, and of the gambling industry's dire and inevitable encroachment into our lives, as if it were some sort of unstoppable flesh eating bacteria.

But those flesh eating bacteria stories – they make you look, don’t they? And making you look, getting you to change the channel or buy a newspaper or click on a sponsored link, is starting to seem more important these days than the truth. Which is why, I’m pretty sure, that casino inevitability bushwah always seems to snag the headline and at least the first paragraph.

But it didn't always seem that way. Back when I was a kid, I was always writing something. And so one day, my mom suggested that I become a reporter when I grew up. And I remember thinking about that, turning the possibility over in my head for about a week. To me, reporters were Woodwards and Bernsteins. They asked the hard questions and did the real research. They pulled the shining scepter of truth from layers of muck and deception. And their words – their words could collapse a corrupt empire, pave the way for change and even save lives.

And me? I just liked to make people laugh. Hard questions seemed... well... hard. And so, suffice it to say Gladys did not pursue a career in journalism.

Fast forward to the 21st century, and all those casino Chicken Little stories compelled me to begin writing this blog (which, yes, I do still sometimes use to make people laugh.)

But I mean, someone had to start telling the truth about casinos. And that task appears to be falling on the shoulders of bloggers - which is why, more and more, people searching for the whole story are wandering over to the blogs for their daily dose of reality. (Even if it sometimes does include a Yorkie with a cell phone.)

And yet, despite my amateur status with the muck and the hard questions, I've still faced pressure, at times, from a few elected officials who'd like me to change my blogging ways. A politically savvy friend I made in the course of this battle once told me that politicians often try to control the media for their own purposes. Which totally ticked me off.

So I wondered… does it tick off the traditional media that our Governor and the Tribe’s investors and spokespeople are capitalizing on their quest for sensational headlines to sell casinos to the people of the Commonwealth?

Because it should.

Yesterday I’m out having dinner with my Dad when he tells me he’s heard the casino is coming. He even provides a date. Heard it on the news, he says.

I explain that it’s not and why. But still he insists – it was on the news….

It's not the truth, I continue to explain to Dad. It's just more of ‘the sky is falling.’

I know I’m not alone in my disappointment at the coverage this issue has received. From the failure of much of the media to report on Article 3, to the perpetuation of the inevitabilty myth, to the wholesale under-reporting about what's involved in taking land-into-trust, to the continued insistence that the Tribe and the Governor are sitting down to sign a compact at any moment.

Not unlike reading that the space shuttle is screeching toward the Earth, this subject is very stressful for many of us - and one hyped-up headline after another is the last thing we need. There are many people whose lives will likely be personally impacted by a casino due to it's proximity to their home or business. And some of these people have gratefully expressed their relief when learning, from one of our blogs, that the sky isn't actually falling, after the media has once again reported that it is.

Because let's face it, most people still think they're getting the whole truth with their news. And so, I really wish the traditional media would not only look deeper at this issue, but also actually report on it. Yeah, I realize that telling people that the sky isn't falling may not sound very exciting. But that’s where the real story is.

For instance, why is our Governor continuing to push casinos and so seemingly willing to sacrifice his own State's sovereignty when he doesn’t have to - despite raising the almost universal ire of his supporters? And why are some people lying to the public about the inevitability of legalized gambling in Massachusetts, or that a casino can be build on any Federally recognized land - when there is ample proof that it isn't? What's motivating this deception? And why was the Intergovernmental Agreement with the Tribe rushed so quickly? And what's up with that Section 22 B, anyway? And why weren't educational forums about potential casino impacts held for Middleboro residents? And while we're at it, why did the Middleboro Board of Selectmen spend more time considering dog complaints than a researching whether a casino was really a done deal (like some of us.) Those things and about a million more little things that don’t add up.

Look, I don't think anyone expects Woodward or Bernstein anymore... but c'mon, no one deserves Chicken Little, either.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Top Ten

10.) New regulations. No more casinos beyond a 25 miles radius from tribal government! And guess what? The Mashpee tribe's government is 39 miles away from the property in Middleboro.

9.) No ties that bind. The new regs also require that the Tribe prove it has historical ties to the land.

8.) No Trespassing signs. Other Tribes are making what appears to be legitimate claims to the property in Middleboro.

7.) Don't Tread on Us. The Supreme Court will be reviewing the case of Carcieri v. Kempthorne this Fall or next Spring. If the court rules for Carcieri, there will be no Land into Trust in Massachusetts, further making it extremely premature for the Governor to proceed with any compacts or negotiations with the Tribe.

6.) The wagons are circling. Surrounding communities have a voice in the decision to take the land into trust and they're using it. 18 towns have formed a task force. Plympton even formed it's own task force and seven towns around Middleboro have already voted to oppose a casino there.

5.) Article 3. Middleboro doesn't want a casino.

4.) The Governor doesn't want a Middleboro casino. Which is why he had his people compile a 70+ page document opposing the Tribe's application to take the land in Middleboro into trust.

3.) The Truth Will Set Us Free. The legislature must approve any Class III gambling compact. If the governor goes around the legislature, they will sue him. Hell, I will sue him. And if the legislature has to decide, there will be hearings at which they're going to find out this whole 'gambling is inevitable' thing is nothing but a big fat crock of Boston baked beans.

2.) Bond, Adam Bond. The only thing that is inevitable about this whole casino business is that Adam will eventually say or do something to make casino opponents fight even harder.

And now, the number one reason why a casino isn't coming to Middleboro...

1.) This ain't Connecticut.

This is Massa-freakin-chusetts. And the year is 2008 not 1990. It's the digital age. We have e-mail, the Internet and yes... even BLOGS to instantly spread the word, to expose shady shenanigans, to motivate, educate and inspire, as well as to share information, resources and talents. And from my work with the folks of and Casino Free Mass, I can personally attest to the amazing resources and talents at work to keep our great State casino-free.

All of us - you, me, us, them - we form a powerful network that didn't exist back when Skip Hayward and his merry band of lawyers had their way with the State of Connecticut and ushered in an era of the world's largest Casinos to a State once best known for Yale, shipbuilding and people who wore shirts with little aligators on them.

This ain't then, and they aren't us.


Monday, June 9, 2008

Outraged Nation

Sorry folks to have gone missing from the blogosphere for so long! Miss me?

Well, I've been working on another blog, but last night I followed a link someone had e-mailed me to a local news site’s comment forum. The extraordinary thing about this site was that, in only three days, 280 comments were posted – most of which were apparently written by the same few people.

If you haven’t visited this site yet, I really wish you would. It’s pretty interesting. No, not for what it says, but mostly because of the fact that, over the course of a steamy summer weekend, several people sat in front of their computers making the world a more blistering place to be by fanning the flames of conflict - some of whom are the same people who blame me for doing this all the time!

It seems that the comment sections of those on-line news sites are quickly evolving into the hottest new place to to cry foul, spew venom or grind your axe. Which is unfortunate, because comment sections are a wonderful new resource to hear what your fellow readers are thinking.

But as far as the Middleboro casino issue goes, what with local forums cracking down on flame wars, you can almost count on these comment sections becoming the combat zones du jour. And even becoming quite the place for um... "creative expression"... like when some people cleverly pretend to be our fellow anti-casino comrades simply brimming with outrage over our "innappropriate", anti-community, down-with-people blogs. While other folks clearly enjoy the challenge of coming up with new and ironic screen names. And, not so long ago I discovered that some of these gentle joksters had even been posting their comments under my name and that of some of my friends. Wow, pretty classy stuff, I'm sure you'll agree...

And in that venue, it all seems less like a debate over casinos, their impacts and the people behind them - and more like a perverse form of self-entertainment or bunch of creepy personal vendettas against the people who talk about casinos, their impacts and the people behind them.

So I thought I’d mention that, just in the past weeks, a couple of good blog posts have been written about this phenomenon over at Media Nation and Ryan’s Take, not to mention by my wise friend Carverchick.

Recently, I spoke with the on-line editor over at the Enterprise who assured me (after removing comments by me that were not actually written... by me) that his publication will soon be transitioning to a format which will require posters to register - and which should, at the very least, make it somewhat more time consuming for those people with IPs in Middleboro and West Bridgewater to amuse themselves by coming up with new screen names.

So, I suppose that’s a step in the right direction.

But the thing I mostly want to talk about today is a manufactured controversy over a place called “Clark, CT” which has been eviscerated six ways to Sunday in the aforementioned on-line forum.

Evidently somewhere, someone who is anti-casino once wrote that a casino caused a need for 100+ ESL teachers in a place called Clark, CT. And apparently, there is no such town. And therefore all anti-casino people, and all anti-casinio blogs - especially those associated in any way with, are evil.

Well, obviously.

So, anyway... I hadn’t heard of Clark, either, but I had, at the beginning of my research into casinos, read about some really high second-language teacher requirements as a result of a sudden influx of immigrant casino workers and their families. And so, I spoke with another blogger who also remembers seeing this high number somewhere in the course of their own research.

Now, like I said, I don’t know about Clark CT – it doesn’t ring a bell – but I do know about Norwich, CT thanks to this article from the Cape Cod Times:

Though Norwich does not host either of the two Indian-owned casinos, the city of 37,000 has experienced an enormous impact from them.

More than 20,000 people work at the casinos, many on wages that can pay for housing only in the "affordable" range. Of the five towns surrounding the casinos, Norwich rents are the least expensive.

Even at that, "hot-bunking" has been an issue, as several tenants squeeze into crowded homes to save money.

Thousands of immigrants were lured to the area to work in the casinos.

In the past six years, the number of non-English-speaking students in public schools has quadrupled, from 100 to 400.
Now, if you read the whole article, you will see that Norwich managed to turn this frown upside down. The city had been suffering, since the early 90’s, when cuts in defense industry spending, caused all the good-paying jobs local jobs to dry up. When casino workers looked for the only housing their paychecks could buy them – they went to Norwich. Small business sprouted up as a result. “And in the schools, resources were shifted to deal with the mushrooming number of non-English-speaking children of casino workers.”

Which is lovely. But what concerns me personally is that, what with gas prices racing toward $5.00 a gallon, places like Bridgewater, Middleboro, Lakeville and other area small towns would provide the most affordable commuter distances for low-wage earners. And our towns are not the once economically depressed city of Norwich. We are predominantly bedroom communities blessed with high employment. But we don’t have a lot of affordable housing, nor are we financially equipped to handle dramatic increases in teaching staff. As for Bridgewater, with it’s library currently open only a handful of hours a week, and constantly struggling with prop. 2 ½ overrides, we are hardly rich in resources to shift.

Additionally, though I don’t specifically remember a mention of Clark, CT – I do remember reading about “The Foxwoods Experience” on another anti-casino web site:

Speaking some 32 different languages at home, these immigrants have created a burden for the schools required to provide English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL)courses, remedial work, tutors, free lunches, nursing, and other special education services, while receiving no additional property taxes to offset the costs. The influx of this cheap labor has also affected the school district's ability to qualify for federal funding, which is now tied to test results under the federal No Child Left Behind legislation.

So what of Clark, CT? I mean… could it be possible that someone made a mistake about the name of the town? Heavens to Murgatroid! Call the gendarmes!

Because we know that all pro-casino people are perfect. Not one of them has ever erred in his or her lifetime. Not one typo, not one blunder, poor choice or single oversight. I’ll bet not even one of them ever forgot to use the Blind Carbon Copy feature on a private e-mail. Nope. Not a chance. How awesome it must be to be so perfect.

So, you’ll have to excuse me and my less then perfect memory if we can’t summon a line item regarding a place called Clark, CT and it's number of ESL teachers.

However, I do remember that a few weeks ago, at least one of those people claiming outrage over Clark, CT signed his name to a letter to editor of the Middleboro Gazette, ever so not-so-subtlety insinuating I was a racist for questioning issues of immigration that arise as a result of a mega resort casino on my town’s border. Issues which, as you can see from the Norwich experience, are quite real.

I also remember how another member of Outraged Nation once called me a liar at a public hearing for quoting, on my blog, from a well-known and widely read independent study on casinos and crime. And a month or so later, posted on the front page of his website that I wanted him killed.

And so, as I read those 280 comments, many from those self-same morally-superior, high-minded, value-laden, indignant souls who walk among us without so much as a blemish, it wasn’t the mystery of Clark, CT, that had me scratching my head.

No, it was wondering if, on sunny summer weekends in the Middleboro area, (especially after such a long dreary winter) there are no lakes or rivers teaming with fish or boating opportunities? Are there no paperback best-sellers waiting on store shelves clamoring to be read? Are there no beaches where one can dig one’s toes in the sand? Is there nothing showing at the theatres? No ball games? No old friends to visit? No children to toss the old ball around with? Weeds to pull? Dogs to walk? Perhaps even an actual blog to write under one's own name?

If not, then I give up. Because, in their case, perhaps sitting like a mindless drone in front of a slot machine truly is a more productive pursuit – at least when you compare it to participating in a cyberspace schoolyard spitting contest where a person can, time and time again, reveal how outraged and utterly perfect they are – as a perfect ass.

But then, where better on a sunny summer day, to stick one's outraged perfect head.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Release the Cooters!

Hey everyone - we just got back from MassWildlife's cooter release in South Middleboro. What a great time! There were several groups of students from colleges and high schools in Worcester, Dorchester and Bourne. Some of them had participated in raising the cooters. One of the students proved adept at catching water snakes while we waited for the cooters to arrive - which my kids thought was pretty amazing. (Okay... I did, too.)

The cooters themselves were adorable, and actually very friendly, though they were much bigger than I'd thought they'd be. I guess I was expecting them to be the size of those little turtles we used to bring home from the pet store a million years ago, but these guys were pretty darn beefy. In fact, it would take a normal red bellied cooter 5 years in the wild to grow to the same size as the ones we released today, which were kept warm and fed extremely well over the winter in captivity.

Update: If you check out the comments on my original cooter blog post, Hope Floats, you'll see that I was trying to explain to someone why I thought that this particular cooter was different and more rare than others. Turns out I was right! Cooters range from New Jersey to the Carolinas, but what we have in our neck of the woods is an isolated disjunct population of the cooter.

And guess what... before we released the little guys, chief Windsong from the Assonet branch of the Wampanoag Tribe said a prayer for them! It was all very cool and I'm so glad we participated.

Toward the end I met up with Christine Walgren from the Boston Globe and I told her how her original story about the Cooters and the proposed casino property had inspired me to learn and blog about them.

The kids found the whole morning very exciting - from being in a new and beautiful place, to meeting college students who study the environment, to touching water snakes, to witnessing a Native American prayer service, to putting the cooters in the water and finally even wading in themselves.

But for me the best part, aside from the smiles on the kid's faces, was looking out over Great Quittacus Pond and seeing about a hundred little cooter heads poking up out of the water as they swam off to their new lives.

We took a zillion photos and got lots of videos - which the kids and I hope to turn into our own video to share with their classmates and of course you, my delightful readers.

Driving home past lakes and meadows and woodlands, unsullied by a soaring glass edifice to greed, we all felt very good about our part of the world - and the little part we'd just played in making it better.