Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Auld Lang Syne

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
And days o' lang syne?

Before leaving the meeting (Kris) McGourthy said residents didn't have "a whole lot of faith" in their selectmen. "It's going to happen no matter what. It's just very sad," she said.

- From the Old Colony Memorial, June 20, 2007

For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we'll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

The problem that I have is, I have in front of me a set of plans, the set of plans that was put up on the screen earlier. That's all we have. And you are asking us to make written comment by April 9th, on a set of plans that is two dimensional, has no detail, to say something comprehensive and conclusive... we can't do that. We have something that's the equivalent of the Sunday funnies.

- Barbara Frappier, Casino Resort Advisory Committee, at the BIA Hearing in Middleboro
March 25, 2008

And surely you’ll buy your pint cup !
And surely I’ll buy mine !
And we'll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

I don't think article 3 is relevant to this letter.

- Middleboro Selectman Adam Bond when asked by a resident if the Board couldn't reference the vote on Article 3 - that the town didn't want a casino - in it's letter to the Secretary of the Department of the Interior. Subsequently Mr. Bond and all other Selectmen in attendance - Mr. Perkins, Mr. Rogers and Ms. Brunelle - voted not to disclose the outcome of Article 3 to the DOI in their letter, August 27, 2007.

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind ?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
And days o' lang syne?

Either the board knew this would be the outcome of their actions and proceeded anyway without any discussion or vote of the town, which is an un-democratic and imperial action; or the board had no idea what would happen, and didn't educate itself about the consequences for the town, which is outright incompetence. In either case, whether malfeasance, or misfeasance, the board must be held accountable.

- Robert M. Desrosiers, Former Middleboro Selectman and Town Moderator in a Letter to the Editor, Middleboro Gazette, June 15, 2007

We two have run about the slopes,
and picked the daisies fine ;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot,
since auld lang syne.

In my head I repeat the words I’m going to say, which aren’t written down because I’d never planned on saying them, over and over, just like I’ve done for the last six hours since I scrapped my original testimony. Ok, I’m ready. I’m ready for it to be over. With my shaky hands I pull the mike close, open my mouth to speak –

…and the world’s loudest vacuum revs to life in the balcony.

- Blogger Mary Tufts, on attempting to testify on behalf of after a 16 hour wait at the Statehouse hearings in March, 2007

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind ?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
And days o' lang syne ?
To suggest that a public policy-maker engage in a practice of endorse first, ask questions later, is not only shortsighted, but clearly harmful to the very people he or she represents. This approach is synonymous with the politics of exclusion, as opposed to the politics of inclusion.

- Matthew Albanese, Selectman, West Bridgewater, on Middleboro Selectman Adam Bond's criticsim of State Representative Thomas Calter (D - Kingston)
November 25, 2007

We two have paddled in the stream,
from morning sun till dine ;
But seas between us broad have roared
since auld lang syne.
I'm Amelia Bingham. I'm the first commissioner of Indian Affairs for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and I'm a Wampanoag. And most of the time we do not know what's going on, what your agreements are with our tribe. We are not sure about anything that has been signed as far as contracts are concerned. But we'd like to know. Because our future is at stake. I'm concerned that perhaps you haven't done enough research into the people that you're dealing with. I think you really need to do a little more investigation there.

- Amelia Bingham to the Middleboro Board of Selectmen, June 2007
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind ?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
And days o' lang syne ?

We didn't sign an agreement with Mr. Marshall, we signed with the tribe.

- Middleboro Selectman Stephen Spataro, after learning of Glenn Marshall's indictment, December 22, 2007

And there’s a hand my trusty friend !
And give us a hand o’ thine !
And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne.

Since this fight against the casino started, I've watched as people I'd come to know and respect were publicly labeled liar, racist, terrorist, and worse for believing a casino was wrong for our town and for having the strength of character to stand up and publicly say "I am against this casino and here's why..."

So for all of you who have at one point or another stood up, wrote a letter, or otherwise got involved; thank you. I believe our town is better for it.

- Laura Stevens, Letter to the Editor, Middleboro Gazette,

May 8, 2008

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind ?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
And days o' lang syne ?

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Skies Are Blue

Take a break from casino-fighting, my darlings, and enjoy this vision of what will likely be the fate of any Middleboro casino in the year ahead.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Keepin' It Real

A year and a half ago, the Middleboro Board of Selectmen, after gaveling public opposition, forgoing an accurate assessment of economic impacts, declining to research it's potential 'partner', refusing to personally review Federal regulations, fast-tracking negotiations, rushing a town meeting, listening only to lawyers, one of whom was a non-impartial advocate for the gaming industry, and labeling dissentors as 'braying donkeys' and 'idiots', proudly signed an Intergovernmental Agreement for a Sovereign Nation Mega Casino with Glenn Marshall, convicted rapist and pathological liar, and the Mashpee Wampanaog Tribe, which had cooked the books, lied to Congress and purchased it's recognition with payoffs to various elected officials, with help from nefarious investors and convicted lobbyists, and shunned anyone who got it's way.

And so, in light of the fallout from recent allegations, I think it would be productive to take a walk down memory lane and hear what the town of Middleboro had to say on that proud day, after the tents were dismantled and the ink had dried on their signatures.


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Starry, Starry Night

In fourth grade, a fuzzy blackboard and failing grades launched a trek to the optometrist. On the drive back home the world was a crisper, sharper place through the lenses of a brand new pair of wire-framed aviators. Now, properly-corrected eyes marveled at new shades and textures and the vibrancy of a forgotten world that had, over time, gone dull and blurry.

But nothing prepared me for the moment I stepped out on the breezeway later that evening and looked up.

Sequins on velvet. Alive.

Winking, twinkling, blinking, sparkling gems of light. Small and large. As unique as faces. Multi-colored jewels.

A treasure overhead.

Sometime before memory, this miracle had slipped away from me, melting into whitish specks in a murky darkness. Nothing like this spectacle, this firestorm that everyone around me took for granted. How wonderful this was. I had the stars back - and I hadn't even known they were gone.

I lay on the breezeway for hours that night, staring up at the sky with the expanse of heaven now at my fingertips, pondering those great questions of infinity. When did time begin? What was there before time? How far does the universe go? What's outside of it? Who made it? And if God made it, then who made God?

The cycle of questions would go on and on until the magnitude of the mystery made me stop and shiver. And then I'd do it again.

Several decades later, and not far from that same spot, I heard it mentioned that a glowing casino tower would likely erase the stars from the sky. And of all the appalling consequences I learned to expect of a mega-resort casino, that is the one that simply caused my jaw to drop.

Surely, I thought, no one would agree to let this happen to something as remarkable and precious, and yet as ordinary and elemental as our stars. This isn't Las Vegas.

I lamented that anyone would put a price on the stars in our quiet part of the world. It seemed people needed a place with stars. But until I read a recent article in National Geographic, I never realized how much we need the night itself.

In the magazine's November cover story, The Vanishing Night, which also includes an amazing photo gallery, I learned that
Unlike astronomers, most of us may not need an undiminished view of the night sky for our work, but like most other creatures we do need darkness. Darkness is as essential to our biological welfare, to our internal clockwork, as light itself. The regular oscillation of waking and sleep in our lives—one of our circadian rhythms—is nothing less than a biological expression of the regular oscillation of light on Earth. So fundamental are these rhythms to our being that altering them is like altering gravity.
Many times I've heard members of the modern Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe proclaim, in one breath, to be stewards of the land, while in the next, that they require one of the world's largest casinos for the economic survival of their 1,500 member nation. This hypocrisy is often defended by others who can't imagine a Native-American culture that doesn't live in actual , and not theoretical, harmony with nature. And of course, many, many more people who apparently just see no point in looking up.

But the truth remains that
In the end, humans are no less trapped by light pollution than the frogs in a pond near a brightly lit highway. Living in a glare of our own making, we have cut ourselves off from our evolutionary and cultural patrimony—the light of the stars and the rhythms of day and night. In a very real sense, light pollution causes us to lose sight of our true place in the universe, to forget the scale of our being, which is best measured against the dimensions of a deep night with the Milky Way—the edge of our galaxy—arching overhead.
And now I understand why, at the age of nine, I needed to lie under those stars for hours. Why I stop the car across from an open field so my kids and I can stare at the harvest moon, or get them up at wee hours to make wishes on shooting stars. Why we always need to find the big dipper at night, or witness the 'snow ring' before a storm or spot the man in the moon.

Because we can.

Earlier this year my friend Carverchick wrote a wonderful blog about light pollution. In it she featured a photograph of the Dakota Dunes Casino "Teepee of Light", a night stealing edifice to greed erected by another group of 'stewards of the land' in Saskatchewan, Canada.

More and more in our region, a tell-tale orange sky - the hue of vanishing night that follows large scale development - is the inheritance of failing to appreciate and understand the preciousness, and the need for darkness. Look at this image of our planet at night, with it's bottlenecks of brightness glowing like a new firmament.

Our night sky is quickly becoming an endangered species and we are the 'frogs in a pond near a brightly lit highway.'

Perhaps some forget to appreciate it, while others never learned to. On the nine-point Bortle Dark-Sky Scale, New York city scores a nine, according to the International Dark Sky Association.

Perhaps one needs to find the stars again, or even for the first time, like I did at the age of nine, blessed with new eyes thanks to a new pair of glasses.

And so, on this day, when many of the Christian faith gather to celebrate an event - the birth of a child under a spectacular concurrence of stars - an event which changed the world and connected us to the heavens and each other, I suggest we give more than a hurried thought to our world and to those multi-colored jewels, that treasure overhead, before exchanging it so easily for a few pieces of silver.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Dennis the Menace

Good rule of thumb - never invite a Vampire over for dinner.

So why is it that Middleboro, once again, appears to be hooking up with Dennis Whittlesey, the Indian gaming attorney and all around vampire who 'helped' the town secure an Intergovernmental agreement with the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe.

And why will the townspeople of Middleboro, many of whom oppose a casino, including by non-binding referendum, once again be asked to foot the bill for the advice of an obviously non-impartial, pro-casino lawyer who apparently never met an Indian tribe he didn't like.

The real problem with a local government hiring Whittlesey is that, despite the turning tide against off-reservation gaming, he continues to spout the myth of inevitability. At the very foundation of his counsel is a rock solid belief that a casino is a "done deal". It does not allow for the possibility that a casino might not materialize.

But heck, it is his bread and butter after all. He and all other Indian gaming attorneys are watching Carcieiri v. Kemthorne like passengers looking for the last life boat on the Titanic.

The fact is, the town got into a bad agreement last year which was recklessly rushed through (most notably by selectman Adam Bond) before all the facts were in, and based on the naive assumption that a casino was written in stone.

I never saw the town bring anyone in except the Tribe, it's lawyers (some of whom may also be investors in AtMashpee LLC), assorted Indian gaming attorneys and Clyde Barrows. And it was pretty obvious to me, if not to Mr. Bond and the rest of the crew, that thanks to this collection of loaded dice, the town's perspective had no where to slant but toward a casino.

So, did Whittlesey give Bond so much as a head's up about the impending new revisions to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act? He would have known about them. And did he even hint at the possibility of the Carcieiri case going before the Supreme Court and it's potential ramifications? 'Cuz I kinda doubt it.

But rest assured, Dennis knew about that too.

The attack on tribal lands is nothing new, Whittlesey said, “It’s been out there for the last several years, the challenge has come up before.” But he said the ramifications of a favorable ruling could have far reaching consequences...

So why should we trust him now to fairly represent the town?

I mean this is a guy who, when speaking about the Carcieiri case, had to restrain himself from bad-mouthing some of the the folks who'd signed on to it.

"The anti-trust people — I could be ruder than that but I won't be — they've persevered and come at it and come at it."

Well naturally he'd feel that way about them. A favorable ruling could kill the goose that laid his golden nest egg. Dennis Whittlesey: A man in denial.

If the justices should find in favor of the suit, “which would astonish me and every other Indian lawyer, Congress would probably move very quickly, warp speed, to authorize the secretary,” Whittlesey said.

I'm sure that was just a Freudian slip.

But it's not like he wasn't a little bit on edge about his livelihood:

“This court has not been particularly friendly towards Indian issues,” he said. He said the ramifications of the suit would be “enormous”.

And I'm sure this is just a misprint from a Crain's Detroit Business article entitled Mass. tribe gets casino help from Detroit:

Entrepreneur Herb Strather and attorneys Laurence Deitch and Dennis Whittlesey are assisting the Mashpee Wampanoag Indian tribe in its pursuit of the project.

Incidentally this same article also included my most favorite Dennis Quote to date:

“The Detroit involvement in this project is no accident,” Whittlesey said, “and don't be surprised if you see more of it around the country.”

So, should Middleboro really be turning to Dennis for sound advice in it's time of need? Should it really be seeking solid impartiality from an affiliated member of Casino Lawyer magazine, and a featured speaker at CasinoFest7 (Yes. That's right. CasinoFest. You cannot make this stuff up.)

Folks, if you plan on showing up at Monday's selectman's meeting, (and you should) you might want to suggest strongly demand that the Board pick another lawyer out of the phone book.

And seriously - don't forget the garlic.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

But Noooooooooooooooooooooo...

According to today's Cape Cod Times Mashpee Wampanoag Chairman and all around bad boy Sean Hendricks
criticizes tribal council members who, he said, ignored legal advice by speaking out about Marshall.

"It will serve no other purpose but to implicate and tie the tribe to something it did not do," he wrote. "It's the ultimate power play that will definitely hurt our gaming strategy and other economic development plans.
And not only that, but Hendricks
also blames newspapers and complains about information being "telegraphed" to the Cape Cod Times by "certain tribe members."
Yeah, that's right. By exposing the truth about Glenn Marshall, Herb Strather and the dirty dealings behind the Mashpee Wampanoag's recognition, some tribal members have gone and ruined it for everyone else. I mean jeekers - what the hell is wrong with them! Honestly, what's more important to these people - a casino or their integrity! They coulda been contendas!

But noooooooooooooooooooooo...

Listen, casinos aren't about buying ostritch-skin boots or funding firetrucks. They aren't supposed to damage the environment or make millionaires out of the middle-class. They're supposed to bring assistance to people with actual need.

"Gaming strategy". Good one. Is that the strategy that required paying for Federal recognition, shunning anyone who didn't agree with you, and assuming Federal policy would give you a free pass all the way to the bank?

And "ultimate power play". Another good one. As if Hendicks and anyone else in love with this mega casino insanity weren't more than delighted to use any method of power they could get their hands on - from political 'contributions' to a wooden gavel to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act in order to help it along.

And so, for every Tribal leader, local selectmen, business owner, CRACpot and flying monkey who has, during the course of this casino debacle, blamed shunned tribe members, newspapers or anti-casino bloggers for exposing their criminal activities, causing them to lose business, blemishing their reputation or revealing their embarrassing foibles, repeated excesses, or overall stupidity - I have just have one thing to say.

Look in the mirror.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Who is Investor B?

From the Marshall Indictment:
Item #23: In or about 1999, Investor B, who had done work for the Tribe and was aware of its recognition petition, contacted Investor A to see whether Investor A would be interested in providing financial support to the Tribe's recognition effort in exchange for a financial stake in any casino that the Tribe, once it obtained recognition, might build. Investor A, who had successfully lead the effort to legalize casino gambling in the State of Michigan in the early 1990's agreed to meet with the then-tribal chairman of the Tribal Council
What else do we know?
Note #6: At all times material to this information, Investor B was a resident of Michigan, an investor in AtMashpee, and an acquaintance of certain members of tribal leadership.
(Strather) confirmed last night he is the investor in the tribe who helped Michigan legalize casino gambling, matching the description of "Investor A" in the court document.

From Marshall admits embezzlement, fraud
Cape Cod Times, December 16, 2008
So, who could have worked for the Tribe in the late 90's, and lived, at that time, in Michigan? What is the connection? And what kind of work exactly did he or she do for the Tribe? I mean, was it legal work? Could investor B work in the Indian Gaming biz? And how did Investor B know Strather (aka Investor A). How much did Investor B actually invest?

And my goodness! wasn't Investor B quite the enterprising entrepreneur and pitchman - connecting the dots from Federal recognition to casino, successfully selling the idea to investor A, and managing to get a cut of the deal. Who is Investor B?

But more importantly, could Investor B be one of the stars of my video from October: Six Degrees of a Casino?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

It Rhymes with "Need"...

One thing I hear a lot of people say is that the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, being federally recognized, has the right to open up a casino.

The right.

But actually, that's not right.

Most especially if the tribe in question does not have an existing reservation.

Because, as we've seen, turning land over to a sovereign tribe and removing it forever from the tax roles, as well as from State and local oversight, creates an obvious conflict.

Therefore, to balance the interests of the State with those of federally recognized tribes, Congress made provisions for tribes to have land placed into trust for gambling purposes, only if they met certain criteria.

So, for the record, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) prohibits gambling on any non-reservation lands, or lands acquired in trust after 1988 unless the land, and the tribes meet certain exceptions as laid out in § 2719 of the IGRA.25

These exceptions include taking land into trust in the following ways:
  1. as part of a Tribe's initial reservation
  2. as part of a settlement of a land claim
  3. in a two-part determination with gubernatorial concurrence
My exquisitely gifted friend and fellow blogger, Carverchick has already explained in quite a bit of detail how the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe's application was submitted with the intention of taking the land in Middleboro into trust as it's initial reservation.

Now, prior to this year, when new regulations were published, the initial reservation exception was the closest thing there ever was to the mythical 'done deal'. It was written in order to put newly recognized tribes on a level playing field with recognized tribes which already had a reservation to game on. And essentially, if you were a recognized tribe and could get NEPA to see things your way, you were half-way to building a casino in someone else's backyard.

Naturally, this lead to abuses - such as tribes acquiring casino land in trust hundreds, or even thousands of miles from where they lived, or where they had no historical ties to the land, etc.

And this not only angered the people who did live there, but it also outraged many States, which were told they had no right to refuse to sign tribal compacts. And more importantly (at least when it came to the initial reservation exception which attempts to put all recognized tribes on equal footing) it ticked off other tribes that didn't have the luxury of picking and choosing some lucrative market way off the reservation to build a casino.

And so, after a mere 20 years of excess and abuse, IGRA was finally amended to make it harder for Tribes to pick out a new reservation for the sole purpose of building a casino.

But now, with the new regulations, the initial reservation exception is a lot more like the situational two-part determination exception always was because - like that exception - it simply asks more questions.

Carverchick has, once again, brilliantly and exhaustively explained the requirements of these new regulations here and here.

But what I'm trying to explain in this post is that the purpose of creating these new regs wasn't to make things harder for tribes. The initial reservation exception was written to, once again, put tribes without a reservation on equal footing with Tribes that do. And these other established tribes didn't get to pick and choose a place with decent highway access near population centers to put their casinos - their "initial" reservations are the place they've called home for hundreds (not thousands) of years. And IGRA finally agreed.

And so now, the whole process is supposed to seem more "fair" and subject to less criticism from, well from basically everybody.

What would "fair" under this interpretation be? Well, ok, what if Mashpee Wampanoag territory had been concentrated in the vicinity of the corner of Plymouth Street and Rte. 44 for the past several hundred years. Which we all know isn't true. I grew up in Middleboro and never heard the term "Mashpee Wampanoag" or even the term "Wampanoag" until they were in the news in the 70's suing everyone in the town of Mashpee for what it claimed was it's land. And even then, no one ever mentioned them in Middleboro. You tell me, is that "fair" or is that reservation shopping?

Many folks showed up at the BIA hearings this Spring or wrote to the Department of the Interior with evidence of reservation shopping on the part of the Tribe and it's investors. A lot of communities across this nation have not had such overwhelming evidence.

Tribes with reservations, tribes which have been living in the same area for hundreds of years, for better or for worse, have a certain relationship with the local community. And I'm not talking about the kind of relationship which require an intergovernmental agreements or a Section 22 B.

This relationship is not about 'coming home' to someplace down the road or even across the country where you might have once lived, or hunted or passed through. We all know that, throughout history, myriad tribes have been geographically displaced. And it's not about settling age-old scores, wars, and injustices between tribes and settlers or other Native Americans. The new IGRA requirements are about the place a Tribe has called home for so long that there already exists a viable and documented relationship between them and the current inhabitants.

That is why the new IGRA regulations require significant historical and modern ties to the land.

Because, you should know the folks who want to napalm your backyard and build something that's potentially going to wipe out a few endangered species, increase all sorts of social and criminal problems in your area and even suck the water right out of your well, don't you think? You should at least be aware of them. Just like the folks who live in Mashpee are and have been since time out of mind. IGRA thinks so too.

But real or imagined ties to the land or not, for me, there has always remained a nagging question I wish I could have answered - and that is, why does a tribe of 1,531 people, who are not impoverished, and who are not remote, actually need a casino? I mean, I can understand why they want one. Heck who doesn't want to be rich? But more importantly, why should casinos be sanctioned under Federal law?

Federal law isn't just for Native Americans. It's for all Americans. And I know this because every year the Kravitz's send a overly large portion their income to the Federal government to, among other things, cover it's care and feeding.

And sure enough, whether a Tribe is going for a initial reservation or an acquisition under the two-part determination, it still needs to justify it's need for the land.

And gosh darnit, just because you'd have to take a congested bridge in the summer to get there, and just because it's farther from New Hampshire and other potential markets, and just because the town of Mashpee doesn't want a casino - well that doesn't imply actual need. And anyone who thinks that land in Mashpee isn't as suitable for development as the land in Middleboro obviously wasn't at the BIA hearing this Spring to hear the hundreds of reasons why that land has never been and should never be developed.

So once again, why does it seem that the Federal government is in the business of sanctioning casinos at all?

Because make no mistake, no matter how many times you may hear that casino impacts can be mitigated or that their social and environmental impacts are negligible, and no matter how soft a pillow casino interests try desperately to place underneath your head to cushion any negative perceptions of mega-resort destination casino gambling, and no matter how many TV commercial try to sell you on the wonder of it all, the truth is, for eons, generation after generation of humanity have experimented with gambling only to re-learn and re-learn again the same simple lesson:

The house always wins.

And the bigger that house gets - the more that more people lose. Eventually it's impacts touch so many lives they can't be ignored. Time after time over the course of human history gambling has been curtailed, regulated or shut down entirely.

Now, in the era of mega-resort tribal casinos, with their traffic, idling tour buses, trash, effluent, excessive water usage, lack of local oversight, and a nasty habit of displacing threatened species, not even the environment gets a pass from gambling's predatory after-effects anymore.

And with all this potential damage, to both our region and the environment, I ask again, why does a tribe of 1,531 people need one of the world's largest casinos?

Prior to the downturn in the economy, just one of the Connecticut tribal casinos raked in $1.25 Billion annually. For the Mashpee, with 1,531 Tribe members, after their contract with Sol and Len and runs out, that translates into $816,460 per year each. Ok, minus a crumb here and there to the State as impact hush money.

So... do you suppose they'll build hospitals and schools with all that loot?

The folks who got rich from Foxwoods are now investing in casinos in backyards from Pennsylvania to Wisconsin.

I recently blogged about a Canadian tribe which managed to come up with an idea to capitalize on their sovereign status without the need to inflict the surrounding communities with environmentally, economically and socially destructive impacts of brick and motar gambling monoliths by licensing and maintaining on-line gambling server farms on it's reservation.

A comment to that blog post struck me as particularly incisive:
OK, at the risk of sounding racist and anti-Native American, or anti-Wampanoag, let me ask this. While the Western Native American tribes were being forced onto reservations, where were the Wampanoags? The western tribes were being forced off their land and onto reservations in the 1860s-1890s. By that time the Wampanoags were assimilated into the white culture here in Massachusetts. Many Wampanoags were serving on whaling ships during that time or working at other trades. They were not forced onto reservations and forced to endure hardship at the hands of the U.S. Government.

How many Wampanoags today are living in poverty, like their western counterparts on reservations in Oklahoma, Arizona, or North and South Dakota? I contend the standard of living of most Wampanoags is probably much better than their fellow Native Americans in other parts of our country. With that said, why on earth do they feel the need for a casino? Do they really need a casino or are they being used as pawns to justify an end to the means for wealthy casino developers?

Native American philosophy always says, do not take more from the land than what you need. My question for the Wampanoags is, do you already have what you need in life? What happiness will a casino bring into your life at the expense of the happiness of others?

I think this comment crystallizes the frustration so many of us feel at having the place we call home - the place we've chosen to live and raise our families - hijacked to build a mega resort casino, with all of it's many well-established ills, for the enrichment of a Tribe of 1,531 people and several billionaire investors.

For the record, under IGRA a tribe demonstrates that a casino is in it's best interests by submitting

"projections of income statements; balance sheets; fixed assets accounting; and cash flow statements for the gaming entity pursuant to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles and the National Indian Gaming Commission standards for at least a three-year period; projected tribal employment, job training, and career development; projected benefits to tribe from tourism and the basis for this projection; projected benefits to the tribe and its members from the proposed uses of the increased tribal income; projected benefits to the relationship between the tribe and the surrounding community; possible adverse impacts on the tribe and plans for dealing with these impacts; and any other information for the acquisition..."

Now, just this past week, the Cape Cod Times enlightened us with a revealing article about some of the Tribe's expenditures, including healthy salaries for some Tribal officers, and some hefty paychecks for various consultants such as public relations professionals, lobbyists and a whole cadre of lawyers. Apparently there's also money in their budget to distribute to assorted member-owned enterprises.

Tribal spokeswoman Gayle Andrews is quoted as saying "I don't think that there is a conflict in what's in the best interest for the tribe," in regards to the seven tribal council members who received a total of $488,000 in annual salaries in 2008.

Interestingly enough, at a cost of $378,000 Andrews also heads up the Tribe's biggest expenditure - Weetompain, Inc. - which puts out a cable access show and a newsletter, and which also conveniently employees her son.

Not surprisingly, according to the Times article, "the casino investors provided $4 million for the tribe's budget including nearly $1 million for pay and benefits of tribal council officers and staff members."

Ah yes, casino investors - that other tiny demographic which thinks it needs a casino even if it is at our expense. The same demographic which tries to sell casinos as a benefit. And the one which waves million dollar bills in front of our legislators - our voice and our leadership - as enticement.

The Mashpee Wampanoag tribe consist of 1,531 people. Comparatively, that is a very small tribe. The Apache, on the other hand, numbered 96,833 in the 2000 census. The Navajo number 298,197, and the Cherokee 729,533.

Please take a gander at this map, based on the 2000 census depicting the concentration of Native American peoples across the U.S. (You can click on it to get a better look)

The darkest blue designates the highest concentration of Native Americans. Now take a look at this same map of total population density in the U.S. at the same time.
Once again the darkest blue indicates the highest population. Note how the highest populations of Native Americans seem concentrated in the least densely populated areas of the United States.

Now the reason for the new regulations becomes more clear.

Until the practice of reservation shopping really got rolling, casinos were restricted to remote impoverished tribes. These tribes didn't even have schools or doctors or dentists, let alone newsletters and cable access shows. These Western tribes are generally quite large. Still, those tribes with casinos also pay tribal officers well - but despite what you might have heard, the casino money doesn't necessarily filter into the pockets of all tribe members, or translate into quality of life improvements. Even with casinos, very many of these tribes aren't 'rolling in it'.

This is usually the part where someone asks about the Mashantucket Pequots or the Mohegans - small Eastern tribes in Connecticut with large casinos. But remember, those cases were very different from the situation in Middleboro and the initial reservation exception did not apply. They had existing reservations.

But those nifty population density maps above - they're what make the casino investors drool. They see those dark blue splotches as just more victims at the altar. More folks playing - and losing - and lining their pockets. They look at the examples of Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun with their excessive wealth. The needs of their partners - the Tribe - are inconsequential. They are a means to an end.

Of course, being located near lucrative markets isn't at odds with a Tribe's goal of economic independence. Sean Hendricks once said that a casino was a tool to fund health, education, housing and the needs of the Tribe. No different a reason than that cited by other, larger, more remote Western tribes - tribes with more members, greater needs.

And so, I guess I'd like to know exactly what it is that his Tribe needs so desperately that it is prepared to ravage the land in Middleboro - in complete contrast to their self-proclaimed reputations as "stewards of the land".

This Spring, we told our we told our Governor that he needed to come up with something better than casino gambling to solve our State's budget woes. So why should he sign off on a compact for a form of economic development for the Mashpee Wampanoags that the Commonwealth itself considers inappropriate?

The Mashpee Wampanoag, following every step of the Foxwoods/Mohegan Sun model, haven't exactly proven to be very creative in their approach to a economic development. Perhaps that's because, to their backers from Detroit, Connecticut and South Africa, Middleboro is just another splotch on a map, viewed a distance. It's not real. From a distance, they can see population density, but not what makes this region unique or environmentally sensitive, or what gives it's residents a certain quality of life.

To their credit, the Aquinnah Tribe of Gay Head, Martha's Vineyard, look to the depressed seaside cities of New Bedford and Fall River to build their casino. But still, why casinos? Why gambling? Why an industry that brings so many impacts? Their tax-free status and lack of oversight allows Tribes with land in trust so many more opportunities than the rest of us.

And furthermore, with the Federal Government's increasing hostility towards the process of reservation shopping, not to mention the difficulty of putting off-reservation land into trust, the downturn in the economy, and the inappropriateness of the Mashpee casino site, a deeper question needs to be asked - why should a tribe continue to pin it's economic future on gambling?

Other alternatives always exist. Anyone who's ever seen the movie Apollo 13 knows how a bucket of available parts, ingenuity and real need saved a handful of Astronauts and the entire space program.

It is time that Tribes and their consultants consider better ways to gain economic independence that at the expense of others. And for those of you inclined to say that's impossible - I'd ask you to consider the puzzle of the 13 nails:

You are given 13 nails and a block of wood and are asked to assemble them all onto the block while only nailing one - and do it without using adhesive, magnets or fasteners.

Think it's impossible?

Think again.

My nine-year-old thought it was impossible, too, until he did it. Hey guess what? It's all about balance.

Some things always seem hard or even impossible - until we make the effort to find a way to make it work. And isn't 'making it work' worth the effort to reduce negative impact - not of nails on a block of wood - but on the health, safety, infrastructure and quality of life in our region.

This isn't the age of Aquarius. The twenty-first century is the age of much-needed alternatives. Tribes, States, local governments and the rest of us need to find a better, smarter ways of existing, and thriving in this world together. And we need to stop giving up on a better way, just because we just assume it's impossible or because somebody hasn't thought of it yet.

I've heard Indian 'gaming' referred to many times as "the new buffalo". But from what I've always been told, Native Americans didn't kill more buffalo than they needed. No, that's what the settlers did.

And we all know how well that worked out.

Health, education, housing and the needs of the Tribe... That is the justification for a casino in Middleboro. But why does one group's need for a newsletter or cable access show necessarily need to come at the expense of the health and safety of an entire region? At the lower values for our homes? And the stresses on our schools? Or the lesson to our children that gambling is more than a form of entertainment - that it's type of work ethic?

I believe that most of us truly wish the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe well in all it's non-detrimental economic endeavors. But certainly, a mega-casino development was never meant to occur in densely populated residential areas where the potential for impacts is so high - for the benefit of a tribe which struggles no more than the rest of us for survival. Unlike other tribes.

It's all about balance.

Sure, a casino in our area will bring with it a smattering of low-paying jobs and other opportunities along with a temporary revenue stream that our State will soon manage to spend up to.

But prove to me and the Department of the Interior why a tribe of 1,531 people and a couple of international billionaires have to have a casino at the expense of lower property values, the loss of future economic development opportunities for the region, and an increase in crime, foreclosures, bankruptcies, siphoning of local business, pressure on local schools and emergency services, traffic, road trash, noise, safety, environmental destruction, political corruption, underage gambling, addiction, divorce, spousal abuse, child abuse and neglect and suicide - and the loss of the stars above the heads of a quarter million people who now live in the 10 miles surrounding it.

Well, I'll tell you why. And, if nothing else, at least it rhymes with "need".

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Getting Personal...

Please take a moment of your time today to tell president-elect Obama your story.

Let him and his incoming administration know how failed federal policy is helping international billionaire investors build casinos in residential middle-class neighborhoods. Describe the process, the impacts to you, your family and your community.

Explain that someone's idea of 'mitigation' doesn't translate into your quality of life.

Tell your story.

This is your chance to be heard - please use it. Nothing is more powerful than the truth.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

But don't just take my word for it...

While Selectman Bond has heard discussion about the negative impact of a poor economy on a billion-dollar proposal such as a casino, he argues the project remains viable. "They're saying revenues are going down, but the revenues are still massive numbers," he said.
Boston Globe
December 4, 2008
Some people just see the glass as half-full. Especially if there's a cocktail waitress coming by every 1/2 hour to refill it for free.

According to Scott Ferson, a spokesman for the tribe, the Mashpee Wampanoag expect the Bureau of Indian Affairs to approve their land-in-trust application by next spring.

Boston Globe
December 4, 2008

As for massive numbers... right now, in Nevada, some casinos are offering Shrimp and Steak dinners for $3.99. I mean, how desperate do landlocked casinos in the middle of the desert have to be to ship in frozen shrimp, sell it for a song, and serve it with a steak and a gallon of free booze just to get people to show up? And they're still not making money...

"I was sitting down having lunch with a casino executive," recalled (Las Vegas Mayor Oscar) Goodman. "And he was telling me that he had a loan for $250 million that was going to be authorized that day to make a small improvement to the casino property. And he says, 'Excuse me for second.'"

"He left, went to answer the phone, and when he came back he was absolutely ashen. I said, 'What happened? Maybe it was a personal problem?' And he said, 'No they are not lending us the money, the credit markets dried up overnight.'"

ABC News Nightline
December 2, 2008

The country is now officially in a recession, the State rejected a casino bill last year, and Mr. and Mrs. John Q. apparently will be contributing to a national bail-out in the range of 4 trillion dollars. Even donations at local food banks and Toys for Tots are down.

When money is scarce, you want to see something tangible for it. News Flash: The Wonder of it All isn't a tangible asset. But don't just take my word for it.

Going For Broke: Colorado Casino Revenue Down 10.7 Percent

Connecticut casinos take big revenue hit

Illinois casino revenues down again; smoking ban blamed

Saturated market? Gambling revenues down

Kansas share of gambling revenue less than expected

Casino revenue down in Louisiana

Lottery, gambling revenues dropping; State’s racino cut may be down $3.6M

Biloxi casino revenue down 26%

Out of Luck? Sluggish Vegas Tries to Rebound

New Jersey
Atlantic City casino revenue down almost 10 percent

Even the Internet
World Poker Tour Dropping Online Gambling Website, Revenue Down

But heck, that's OK. Just keep saying a casino's coming, that new IGRA regulations won't hurt the Tribe's application, that they'll pass an act of Congress to save Foxwoods, and magic casino fairies will appear in the sky, sprinkling pixie dust and cheap shrimp all over town until the streets are paved with fool's gold.

Glass empty yet? Just have another. It's on the house!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


The Tribe has failed to provide any documentation to support the Tribe's need for the acquisition as required under 25 C.F.R. & 15 1.1 1 (a) (specifically 25 C.F.R. & 15 l.lO(b)) and Checklist, Part 1, Section VIII.C.

Comments on the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe's Land-In-Trust Application to the United States Department of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs
February 2, 2008

Ironically, Gladys has also informed the BIA that the Tribe doesn't "need" a casino. And furthermore, they certainly don't need 539 acres in Middleboro to get rich quick from the gambling industry.

Let me explain.

What arm of the gambling business currently pulls in $18 billion dollars a year, is illegal in the United States, and yet almost completely unregulated and unenforced?

Internet gambling.

This is because the doors of virtual on-line casinos are open to the entire world. Anyone, anytime, anywhere, with only an internet connection and money to lose, can play. And all of that money, and all of the industry's internal operations are outside the reach of the law, because the gambling is accomplished via a network of computers outside of U.S. jurisdiction. And at any given moment, there are half a million people playing.

Interestingly enough, Internet gambling is also illegal in Canada - but that didn't stop the enterprising Mohawk Nation.

According to a recent segment on the TV program 60 Minutes,
virtual poker games are actually run on computer servers from a Canadian Indian reservation outside of Montréal. It's all licensed by the sovereign tribe of the Mohawk nation, which has no experience in casino gambling and doesn't have to answer to Canadian authorities.

The grand chief is Mike Delisle.

Chief Delisle says Internet gambling is illegal in Canada, but tells Kroft, "We're not Canadians. We're a member of the Haudenosaunee Five Nation Confederacy. And we're Mohawk Kahnawake people. We're not Canadian."

And that legal distinction has allowed the Kahnawakes to rake in millions of dollars a year by licensing Internet gaming sites and housing their computer servers on the reservation. They now register and service more than 60 percent of the world's Internet gaming activity from a highly protected and non-descript building that used to be a mattress factory.
That former mattress factory, essentially the world's Internet counting room, looks a lot like one of those space metal buildings that used to be so popular in the 70's. What it certainly isn't is an eternally glowing tower of glass, surrounded by an epic parking lot crammed with idling exhaust-belching tour buses, attached to the rest of the world by a gargantuan concrete off-ramp hovering over raised ranches and three bedroom colonials.

And voila! There you have it - the Mohawk Kahnawake have established the very definition of low-overhead/high return within the gambling community.

But wait, it gets better...
The operation is overseen by the Kahnawake Gaming Commission, whose three commissioners meet in secret.
The 60 minutes story, which you can see in it's entirely here,

centers on the biggest cheating scandal within the on-line industry - which resulted in no negative repercussions for the Tribe. Of course.

Now, for the record, I oppose Internet gambling. It's extremely predatory and especially so for underage players and their families. But I also oppose brick and mortar casinos in the State of Massachusetts. And I utterly oppose the Masphee Wampanoag Tribe's application to take land into trust in the residential town of Middleboro for the purpose of building one of the world's biggest casinos.

But then, I've never understood why a Tribe of about a 1,500 people truly "need" to introduce additional crime, addiction, child abuse and neglect, domestic abuse, suicides, bankruptcies, foreclosures, lower property values, environmental destruction, traffic, pollution and a host of other quality-of-life-altering impacts to a community they don't even live in for the purpose of attaining excessive personal wealth.

The Mashpee Tribe already receives a host of Federal and State compensation simply for being recognized. And it's not as if the Tribe desperately needs housing or a hospital or a school, like they do in some of the larger, more remote Indian tribes.

It's just that some of their members, their tribal leadership and a few (already rich) investors just can't get enough. And I'm pretty sure that doesn't fall under good old IGRA section 25 C.F.R. & 15 l.l0(b).

Besides, as you an see, they've never needed a casino, nor the land in Middleboro, to get rich.

The Tribe could save themselves a lot of grief by abandoning their almost certainly doomed, highly unusual two-part initial reservation application and sticking with the land in Mashpee. With land in trust there, they could quickly erect a space-metal building and use their high-placed connections within the gambling industry to establish their own sovereign server farm, out of reach of the law.

Doing this wouldn't violate any agreement they have with the town of Mashpee, because it wouldn't be a casino. And heck, it's still be tax exempt! Besides - they can't have all that perfectly good money just crossing the border into Connecticut Canada. And just think how perfectly suited Glenn Marshall and Sean Hendricks are to an organization which holds secret meetings and faces no regulation or legal repercussions. Furthermore, we all know how reluctant the Tribe is to travel beyond Mashpee - well now they'd never have to leave!

Imagine it, Glenn - no arguments with the Governor about compacts! No bureacratic flies in the ointment with the legistlature over class III gaming. No headaches from Mass Highway. No NEPA! No more Scott Ferson or high-priced lobbyists! No more marshmellow roasts with the same fawning sycopants in Middleboro! And best of all - never another minute with Adam Bond.

And for the rest of us - NO CASINO! No problems we didn't ask for. No inadequate mitigation for problems we didn't ask for.

Of course, there won't be any of those lucrative union jobs you promised - but then the lawyers cleverly left any provision for hiring unions out of the agreement, didn't they, so nothing lost, nothing gained.

Tragically, an isolated Mashpee server farm wouldn't line the pockets of, oh say, locally-based limo drivers. However, I'm certain that they'd be selflessly willing to forgo any potential wealth in the best interests of the Tribe.

Of course the elderly would still have to endure all that unhealthy social contact during 2 hour bus treks to Foxwoods.

And Middleboro will have to manage without the extra fire trucks.

But, as you can plainly see, the Mohawks have proven that a Tribe can make a killing without building a casino - while the Mashpee have only proven that they need a casino to make a killing.