Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Calendar Girl

In January Adam Bond resigned.
Come February 'done deals' were redefined.
So then March was all about the 'fix',
And by April it was back to their old tricks.

Yeah, yeah, sometimes it's a blur,
That's why I love, I love, I love
to see the way that we were
Every day
(Every day,)
Every day
(Every day,)
of the year!

It was back in May when Murray cried “Ka-Ching!”
But by June we'd resolved to bring back the spring.
The rain of July sprouted a new organization,
In August I barely made it through my vacation,

Yeah, yeah, isn't it great?!
That's why I love, I love, I love, I love
to keep it all straight
Every day
(Every day,)
Every day
(Every day,)
of the year!

September revealed the truth about Clyde
And as October closed we all testified,
By November the Tribe had gone on sale,
While December brought the Holy Grail...

Yeah, yeah, it's all a big fog,
That's why I love, I love, I love
my little activist blog
Every day
(Every day,)
Every day
(Every day,)
of the year!


Love, Gladys

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Nightmare Before Christmas

Oh, the sound of rollin' dice
To me is music in the air
'Cause I'm a gamblin' Boogie Man
Although I don't play fair

It's much more fun, I must confess
When lives are on the line
Not mine, of course, but yours, old boy
Now that'd be just fine

Wow, it's like the guy who wrote this movie understood, way back in 1993, that casinos are the ultimate boogey man. (Hey, did you catch the slot machines equipped with guns?) The real nightmare is that legislators still don't get it, and want our state to partner up with the creepy gamblin' boogie man.

Coal in their stockings this year, Santa!

Santa wins, in the end, of course, and Christmas is saved, and eventually, our gambling nightmare will be over, too.

Best wishes, dearest friends and readers, for a healthy, happy, wonderful casino-free Christmas and slotless New Year.

- Gladys

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Never Doubt...

Just this Monday, members of the USS-Mass coalition (including yours truly) met with Governor Patrick at the Statehouse, for over an hour, to discuss the many reasons we oppose expanding gambling in Massachusetts.

Shortly thereafter, Governor Patrick penned the following letter to casino/racino proponents Senate President Therese Murray and Speaker of the House Bob DeLeo commending our coalition's proposal for a
"fresh, independent and transparent analysis of the costs and benefits of expanded gambling."
I wish I could have seen their faces.

We've come a long way baby!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

At Long Last, Deval

When you've PhotoShopped a person's face enough times, I suppose to some small extent you start to feel like you've actually met them. Which might explain why I felt completely at ease meeting, and speaking with Governor Deval Patrick, and his advisors yesterday, along with 9 other members of my coalition, United to Stop Slots in Massachusetts, as well as Palmer Citizens Impact Study Committee member Stephen Sears, Rebekah Gewirtz, director of government relations at the National Association of Social Workers, and Senator Sue Tucker (D - Andover).

But it could just be the Governor himself. He was so welcoming, easy-going and engaging that I couldn't help but remember the distance and desperation I'd felt, standing in front of the Statehouse at the end of the summer of '07, along with a collection of kids, spouses and Middleboro residents, holding signs, deflecting the flying monkeys, talking to the press, posing for pictures, and trying, more than anything, to get the Governor's attention.

Even just an article in a newspaper, or a quote that didn't land at the bottom of the page.

We protested and blogged, made videos and gathered signatures, made calls and organized forums all over the region, wrote editorials and sent him our personal letters. But the Governor, apparently, had remained unmoved, and shortly afterward filed a bill to build three casinos in Massachusetts.

So I don't know how, over two years later, we finally got this meeting with the Governor, but suspect it had to do with a lot of things that occurred in those last two years, which, in the past few months have started to come together, including:
  • The research of MIT professor Natasha Schull and that of others which lead to a re-thinking of the issue as one of 'predatory gambling'
  • The mega implosion of the Governor's casino plan '08
  • The economy soured in a way that gave serious reflection to what we considered 'disposable income' - hitting the casino industry especially hard
  • The predatory lending and casino capitalism crisis which lead to comparisons to predatory gambling
  • Casinos became hard pressed to get credit for expansion
  • The going price for slot licenses took a gigantic nose dive
  • SCOTUS went to Carceiri effectively ending the Wampoang casino scenario
  • The Massachusetts Democratic party adopted a resolution to oppose slots
  • Citizens banging away on forums and list-servs raised awareness of the issue
  • RI's Twin River, financially struggling 'gambling states' and gambling arms races around the country illustrated the fractured fairy tale that is state-sponsored gambling
  • USS-Mass.org was formed with visible new leadership, energy and messaging
  • Casino enthusiast and goto guru Clyde Barrows was revealed as a paid industry operative
  • Senatorial candidate and CityYear co-founder Alan Khazei had the guts to speak out publicly against the issue, further raising awareness among the general public
And all of these issues, it should be pointed out, were brought forward and kept alive by citizen bloggers.

There are, no doubt, even more factors which made our meeting with the Governor a reality. Mostly, I give credit to USS-Mass President Kathleen Norbut for working that special magic she has with getting people to notice and pay attention. Earlier this fall, our group met with the Attorney General's office, Secretary of Health and Human Services JudyAnn Bigby and Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Greg Bialecki.

But yesterday was something special and it didn't just have to do with finally speaking with the Governor of Massachusetts. It was truly an honor to be among that group of citizens, with so many areas of expertise, so much passion, and representing so many perspectives, and finally bestowed with an opportunity to tell our side of the story to our State's chief executive.

Of all the people in that room, I had been there the longest, have attended everything from national conferences to Statehouse hearings to regional taskforce meetings to local forums to private discussions, and can say honestly that this was the best presentation, albeit the Readers Digest version, of the evidence and reasoning behind the opposition to expanded gambling in Massachusetts - as well as predatory gambling nationwide - that I'd ever heard. But more than anything, it was just such a relief to be able to do it.

In May of 2007 I'd never even been to a selectman's meeting before - sitting on a hard wooden folding chair, in another town, not knowing a soul, being told by "experts" that my world was about to change and that I had no power to say anything about it. That meeting turned out to be the spark, which started a fire, that on December 7th 2009 had managed to blaze all the way to the Governors office, where, under a crystal chandelier, in a posh conference room at the Statehouse, and among friends, I finally had a say.

After introductions, a few of us spoke to certain aspects of our cause, but it was the Governor himself who lead the discussion with his own thoughtful questions for us, and it was fascinating - and really pretty eye opening.

Honestly? I don't think the Governor actually knows all that much about the issue. Which is kind of scary. But at least he seems open to learning more, now. To that end, my colleague Bob Massie brought along Prof. Kindts massive three volume UNITED STATES INTERNATIONAL GAMBLING REPORT SERIES to show the Govenor - who seemed astonished there was so much written on the subject. Holding up the thinnest volume, still an epic, he remarked, "this is the executive summary?" and laughed.

Bob also suggested that the Governor might want to hear from the Middleboro contingent, which consisted of Jessie Powell and myself, about what went down back in the 'good old days' before we'd become a Statewide movement.

I should probably mention that Jessie and I were completely unprepared for this. As for me, I was taking notes and juggling all sorts of facts, observations and personal insights in my head to share with the Governor should I get a chance to speak, and suddenly, I found myself leafing back to Chapter 1.

"It was kind of weird, wasn't it?" He said, before either of us had uttered a single word.

Yup, that's right, folks. The Governor asked if the going's on in Middleboro weren't a tad 'weird'.

(He's so going to love my book.)

Because as we know, dear readers, weird is only the tip of the iceberg.

It was weird, wrapped in bizarre, inside a freakshow.

Unexpectedly offered the opportunity we've been waiting years for, Jessie and I took the next few minutes describing for the governor the Middleboro Casino Massacre, complete with mental 8 by 10 glossy color photos with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one. The Governor and his staff, in my opinion, seemed especially attentive to this information.

Sadly, we didn't have enough time to get into the really good stuff.

But the Governor was still thankful. He said that, at his level, the information he gets is somewhat 'abstract', though let's face it, he had the 'weird' part right.

By the way, it seemed news to the Governor that there was another article on the ballot at the Town Meeting from Hell.

(Great job, Boston Globe. Bravo, Brockton Enterprise.)

Well, I hope Jessie and I were able to clear things up for him at least a little.

At the end of the meeting, which went especially long, the Governor expressed that he'd been particularly interested in learning what Jessie and I from the Middleboro region, and Steve and Kathleen, from the Palmer region, had to say about the fight at the local level. And I don't think he was saying that to be nice. And no one was more surprised than me.

So, friends, this is what I want you to do. I want you to strike while the iron is hot. Write to the Governor, and share your story from the casino chronicles.

Deval Patrick
Massachusetts State House
Office of the Governor
Office of the Lt. Governor
Room 280
Boston, MA 02133

Make a copy and cc: it to his aide on casino stuff Stan McGee (same address)

C'mon guys. This is your chance! Don't let it pass you by! Right the wrongs! There are over 2 years worth of documented weirdness on this blog if you need to refresh your memory. I'm writing, too, just to thank the governor for his time and interest and to fill in the gaps of what I'd shared with him earlier.

My feeling about yesterday, after all my time in the slot trenches, is that we had a good meeting with Deval Patrick - a very good meeting - but that politics has a special weirdness all it's own.

The whole thing could have been the "Big Schmooze". I wouldn't put it past the Governor, his staff, or anyone else to have scheduled this meeting, made us think we'd been productive, well treated, and effective - only to come out later and say that he'd had a very good meeting with the slot opposition, had thoughtfully considered what we had to say, and decided that casinos were a good bet anyway. In fact, I learned that move from him.

But my fingers are crossed. My heart and mind are open and I keep hoping for reasons to hope. And as always, I continue to believe that sanity will, in the end, take the day.

As the meeting finally came to a close, Kathleen invited Deval to "our party," our Case for the Commonwealth Against Slots and Casinos at Fanueil Hall this Thursday, and maybe he'll even come. But more importantly, I hope you, those of you who've been blazing this trail right along with me all this time, those of you who lived it, who never gave up, never bought into inevitability, will be. Because, believe it or not, you were all there too yesterday, sitting beside me in that hard-won meeting yesterday.

And because this long strange trip ain't over yet.

Hope to see you there!
Love, Gladys

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Gladys Kravitz Officially Endorses Alan Khazei for Senate

I'm realize that I'm a political cynic.

And I do not always relish this distinction. It's not a lot of fun.

For example, I never bought a supposedly inspiring word of Deval's Together we Can, and couldn't summon so much as a glimmer of excitement over Bill Clinton's campaign - even after 47 stanzas of Can't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow.

Worse - the casino crisis even managed to kill Obama's pervasive glowing hope for me. And that looked like a lot of fun.

And frankly, despite all recent attempts to canonize Ted Kennedy, I'll always remember him as a deeply flawed man, an awkward leader, and the guy who sent a form letter thanking me for my interest in immigration reform - after I had actually been trying to alert him to the casino injustices occurring in Middleboro back in 2007.

I wasn't always a cynic. It sort of evolved over the years. Probably because I've given a lot of my votes to various democrats in my region over the years, only to watch David Flynn and Marc Pacheco vigorously champion the rights of dog track employees, while completely dismissing the concerns of slots opponents. And when I mean completely, I mean completely. Sure, they both represent a region with a racetrack, but don't they also represent families, children, local businesses?

I've also voted for a few republicans along the way - (I personally feel that always voting for the democratic candidate most likely to win, just to place a democrat in office, only results in a string of rich, lackluster democrats in office - not to mention more registered independents) but no one who stood out. No one who spoke to me, that inner cynic who, with every passing year, became more convinced that campaigns were the political equivalent of movie trailers - a quick, exiting montage of all the best bits, which invariably turns out to be a huge disappointment after you'd bought your ticket.

And so you see, it's just not exciting to be a cynic. Therefore, it is with great, and completely unexpected pleasure that I enthusiastically endorse Alan Khazei for the Senate.

It's not just the fact that he is opposed to expanded gambling in Massachusetts - though that certainly got my attention. And it's not just that he puts money where his mouth is on this often controversial issue, and takes every opportunity to speak about it - though that's what convinced me to meet with him.

It's that Alan Khazei is the real thing.

When my group, United to Stop Slots in Massachusetts met with him, it was because he'd asked us to do it. Pretty unusual for a busy guy trying to win an election, don't you think? Still, I figured it must be so he could hit us up for a donation or something. (See what I mean about being a cynic?) But since I don't have any money, I knew I was safe. Besides, I did want to meet and thank the man for his public opposition to a cause I've been intimately involved with for the last two and a half years.

And it wasn't as if Khazei didn't sound like a good candidate. He'd co-founded CityYear - an idea I'd always considered both creative and pioneering, and by doing so he'd helped a lot of people, help themselves, while helping the people of the city of Boston. Most politicians - they're always busy robbing Peter to pay Paul. But Khazei convinced Pete to give Paul a job, so he pay him back on his own. And I like that.

I'd been to Khazei's web site, found I agreed with him on the issues, and discovered he's fond of using the same two famous quotes chosen by a couple of bloggers I've come to admire very much in the past few years during the casino fight.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead


Be the change you want to see in the world. - Mahatma Gandhi

But as far as I knew, Khazei was still the vast underdog. The guy whose name I couldn't stop confusing with Hamid Karzai. The guy without any good commercials and who looked kind of like he must have been president of the AV club back in high school.

And then I met him. Oddly, he didn't ask for a donation, and didn't even talk about his campaign. He was there, he said, to ask how he could help us. Khazei then engaged us in a breathless conversation about his long background as a citizen activist and organizer, then offered our group a great deal of both extraordinary encouragement and advice.

His advisers were anxious to move him along to his next appointment, but Alan wouldn't budge. He believed in the power of citizen activism, had lived it most of his life, and had seen how it could make a difference, and he wanted us to know it too. He wanted us to know we could win.

And that's what finally spoke to me. Because I believed in it too, had lived it too, and have seen, first hand, how it can make a difference - even in the comparative microcosm of time that I've also been a citizen activist. And I wouldn't still be here if I didn't think we could win.

Before Alan left he did something truly unexpected. Pointing to us each individually, he called us 'heroes' for what we were doing. And to be honest, I appreciated this as much for myself as for everyone else in that room.

Because it sucks to fight slots and casinos. Our cause isn't even on the radar for a lot of people. Most people don't understand the ramifications of expanded gambling. And to some, our cause is actually the enemy, depriving citizens of our state jobs, revenue and their own little slice of Vegas.

And, when our side wins one, our reward isn't in finding a cure or funding research or holding back the tide. When our side wins, there's no one to say 'thanks' when they, or someone they love, never becomes an addict, or loses business, or when their well runs dry both literally and figuratively. No one will be there to appreciate the children not neglected or abandoned, the families not broken or stressed, the communities not depleted, the crimes not committed, the homes not foreclosed, bankruptcies not filed, and the occasional life lost.

But Alan Khazei gets it, because this is a guy who believes in making lives better without making other lives worse.

Though all of the Democratic candidates claim to be the rightful heir and follow in the footsteps of Ted Kennedy - I believe that the flawed, awkward, and recently canonized Ted Kennedy, who was often photographed wearing a red City Year jacket, would have liked very much to have followed in the footsteps of an Alan Khazei.

All the other democratic candidates no doubt possess qualities that would make good candidates for the senate, but none of them would, in my opinion, make for a great candidate.

My first instinct as a feminist was to vote for Martha Coakely. But, thanks to the predatory gambling issue, I've seen her in a new light. She sends me big glossy campaign literature claiming to protect the public against predatory lenders. Well, that's nice, after the fact. How about protecting the public, in advance, by having your office, the State's number one consumer advocate, launch an investigation into predatory slot machines, designed using ergonomic and neurotechnology likely to cause addiction? She also likes to say she'll stand up for us. Yeah, right. She won't even stand up to her biggest supporter Therese Murray! Hey, sisters gotta stick together, but that's not the way.

Then, I started falling for the hypnotic world of Steve Pagliuca's commercials - it was like getting a tour of Wonka World - you could have everything! That is - until I wrote him a nice letter asking him about his stance on expanded gambling and he never wrote me back. But, that didn't stop him from making more Willy Wonka commercials. Apparently, he is not only the rightful heir to Ted Kennedy - he will be the protector of children, the bestest consumer advocate ever, and the jobs senator.

Honestly, I believe that if the polls showed that the public was for space colonies on Mars, the next day Steve Pagliuca would have ads on every network proclaiming to be the space-colonies-on-Mars senator.

Meanwhile, in reality, if Pagliuca truly protected children he'd be vocally opposed to predatory slot machines like his predecessor on the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. If he were truly a consumer advocate he'd be turning an inquisitive eye toward slot machines, and, if he really cared about jobs, he wouldn't own and operate Bain Capital which
has a history of buying up profitable businesses, slashing workforce, research and development, and making a giant profit off of those businesses regardless of whether they do well or not, because they sell those companies in the short term. Because of the short-term focus of Bain's business, there's actually a financial incentive for people like Pagliuca to set up these companies to fail. Many of those companies not only do decidedly worse after being accosted by Bain, with many fewer jobs, but they get saddled with the debt Bain used to buy them in the first place. That's right: Bain doesn't always pay for their takeovers, they make the companies they take over pay for it. Only in America.
And finally, if Steve Pagliuca has enough moola to consume the airwaves with his ads, he has enough moola to hire an aide to respond to letters from voters who take an hour and a half out of their day to write him a long letter. If this is the kind of response we can expect from the next senator from Massachusetts, I'll pass.

Capuano. As with Khazei, I'll give him props for responding to United to Stop Slots questionnaire. And he's done a lot of good things and I agree with him on many issues. But to be honest, he gives me a bad vibe, the kind I've felt before. To me he came across as combative and disrespectful. Turns out that my vibe was justified, as I watched him weirdly tear into Pagliuca over a woman's right to choose at this week's debate. A few days later, a colleague from Somerville - where Capuano was once Mayor - revealed how Capuano had taken a somewhat vindictive hissy fit after being snubbed at the 1992 Democratic convention, maintains bitter grudges and once dissed him in front of his young daughter for not backing him up in a 1998 election.

Hey, I personally think it's good to be passionate, but having experienced my own fair share of In-Your-Face 'persuasion' from others over the casino issue, I can tell you that this personality style is only effective when you're trying to scare people, not trying bring them together, and has no place in one of our highest elected offices.

He's also missed over 33% of the votes in Congress this year. One third!

Meanwhile, back in Massachusetts, despite the glossy ads, recorded phone messages and oppressive political TV commercials, I've watched the 'vast underdog' convince a lot of other people that he's the right guy for the job too. Like the Boston Globe:
In supporting Khazei, the Globe believes that this state’s future depends on new ideas. The next Massachusetts senator should be the person who best embodies forward-looking thinking, and not the traditional paths to power.
And Blue Mass Group, one of the most politically relevant opinion and discussion forums in the State, which even cites Khazei's stance on expanded gambling:
Another clear distinction between Khazei and the other three candidates is the issue of casinos: Khazei is unequivocally opposed to bringing casino gambling to Massachusetts, while the other three are for it (with varying degrees of enthusiasm). Strictly speaking, whether or not MA legalizes casino gambling is not a federal issue (though there are federal aspects that our next Senator could face, such as the question whether Congress will revise the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 in light of this year's Supreme Court decision that made it much harder for the federal government to take land into trust -- the necessary precursor to building a tribal casino in Middleborough). But a Senate seat comes with a big bully pulpit, and we have no doubt that Khazei would use it (as he is already doing). Your three editors are not entirely in agreement on the casino issue, but two of us support Khazei's stand and appreciate his willingness to speak out about it, and the third is grateful for a candidate who at least has a coherent position.
Jonathon Alter, in Newsweek:
"Building the world's best education system is no longer just a moral imperative because our children deserve it," Khazei said in a well-informed speech last month. "It is the key to our economic recovery and the backbone of our international security."
Former General Wesley Clark:
At this critical time, we need more patriots and public servants like Alan Khazei representing the people’s interests in Washington.

When it comes to foreign affairs, Alan Khazei is one candidate who won’t need on the job training. Alan has met with leaders in over thirty countries, has a curious mind, a multi-cultural perspective, is a student of history and understands the complexities of national security in the 21st Century.
Senator Sam Nunn:
"Your proven ability to accomplish significant legislative results as a private citizen indicate to me that you would be successful in the United States Senate and would have the potential to become one of the Senate’s most effective leaders."
Ted Kennedy's widow Vicki Strauss Kennedy:
Alan will bring the same wisdom, passion and fresh approach to the hard work of creating jobs, ending the war, protecting our planet and resources, improving schools, and addressing the health care needs of our citizens. Alan has the experience to bring people and our representatives in Washington together around the essential issues we care about deeply. He has done so again and again with remarkable success.

Perhaps most important, Alan has a joyful, dedicated energy that is unwavering. No one works harder or cares more. His indomitable spirit and deep appreciation of possibility would make him a most indefatigable advocate for Massachusetts in the years ahead. Please join me in supporting his candidacy for U.S. Senate on December 8th.
My friend, most excellent fellow blogger, and colleague Ryan Adams:
Furthermore, Alan Khazei's willingness to get into issues on the stump that aren't directly related to the campaign show he's willing to stick up for what he thinks is right, regardless of the political consequences. In a country where politicians have become so vanilla and risk adverse, it's a particularly refreshing political trait.
And earlier today, the Cape Cod Times:
...Khazei is polished and articulate, draws his opinions from a host of experts and isn't afraid to take a position outside the populist point of view.

On local matters, we were not impressed by most of the candidates' knowledge of Cape and Islands' issues — except Khazei, who supported regionalization efforts here and ways to strengthen the tourist economy. The other candidates could not fully articulate even one local issue of consequence, and there are many from which to choose. It's not the only reason Cape residents should vote for a candidate, but they should feel comfortable in the belief that their interests will be represented not only globally but also locally.

Alan Khazei's name is on the first lawn sign I've ever sunk into the ground for a candidate for political office, and while I realize that my endorsement is no big deal in light of the others he's received, that makes it kind of a big deal for me.

Khazie would make an exceptional senator, from an exceptional state. And, more than just being a 'qualified' predecessor to Ted Kennedy, that is what our State really needs and deserves.

Thanks to the casino debate, I've become keenly aware of the low expectations so many people, including legislators, have for our great state. I've watched how easy it is for other people to fall for them, to think a situation is inevitable or that there is no other way. But Khazei is all about the win-win, the creative solution. He's about harnessing the power of the little guy. He's fought, and won, in Washington before. And he did it without getting in anyone's face, major name recognition, or a slew of expensive commercials.

And he did something I never thought would happen again in my lifetime - he's gotten me excited to vote. This Tuesday I'm going to go into the voting booth, pick up that sharpie and color in the little circle next to Khazei's name, not in resignation, not in false hope, and not in exasperation. I'm going to fill it in because I actually believe in the candidate and his potential.

I therefore officially, and un-cynically, endorse Alan Khazei for the U.S. Senate, and strongly urge my Democratic and Independent friends to vote for him in Tuesday's primary election. (Especially those of us who are painfully aware of how important it is for us that a U.S. senator grasp the differences between a Carieri fix and immigration reform.)

Like I've said, my endorsement doesn't mean much, and it's coming way too late, but, as always, I've been kind of busy fighting in the war on slots. And I think Alan would understand.

One of his commercials came on last week - it featured little babies, a stinky diaper and how he was going to clean up the mess in Washington. And it made my ten year old son laugh out loud. Seizing an opportunity to look good to my kids, I said, "Hey, that guy called your mom a hero."

"You're my hero, Mom," my son replied without missing a beat

And that kind of endorsement, my friends, is the best endorsement any citizen activist could ever want or need.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Obama Just Says "No"

Well, this is a step in the right direction...

Associated Press - Dec. 4, 2009

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Here's one job-creating strategy President Barack Obama isn't considering.

Obama just said no to a suggestion from a Pennsylvania college student that he consider legalizing nonviolent crimes, including gambling and drugs, to stimulate the economy and create jobs.

Obama told the student at a forum in Allentown, Pa., on Friday that he appreciated the "boldness" of the idea. And he said the young man was doing just what college students are supposed to do — questioning conventional wisdom.

But he says the student's suggestion is not one he's going to follow.

Hey, notice the student included "drugs" and "gambling" in the same sentence? How's that for an endorsement. Hugs, not drugs, dude...

Monday, November 30, 2009

Fire Sale

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

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

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Still Holding the Turkey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arrggh. Guilt. Expectations...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is no end. It never ends.

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

And not to be, is better.

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

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

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Big Fat Bloated Economic Engine that Couldn't

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Duck and Cover

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alan Khazei
Congressman Capuano

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Carcieri Speaks

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

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

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

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

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

Donald L. Carcieri

November 2, 2009

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

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

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

Dear Representatives Rahall and Hastings:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Donald L. Carcieri

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Meditations in an Emergency

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


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

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Once More Into the Breach, My Friends

(Note: This was a live blogging experience and reads from the bottom up. Time is noted on the left.)

7:00 pm. Sorry I stopped the live blog so abruptly. My connected blew out and that was that. The rest of day included some really moving stories from former addicts. I don't know why former addicts usually go at the end of these things. They're the one's who'll be funding the State if it approves gambling.

Then there was some really weird testimony from poker players - one of whom actually disputed the experience of one of the previous former gambling addicts. There also was more talk of jobs, and one guy from the track who kept calling gambling addicts "degenerate gamblers".


It went on 'till about 4:30 I think. One of the last speakers was CFO founder Jacquie Tolosko, who'd moved heaven and earth to be there and who made us all proud by speaking about how casinos rip communities apart. Then she read the letter she shared with USS-Mass.org on the web site. Beautiful.

I think the big point to be made here is that Jacquie and Jessie and Frank and Judy and Carl and me - we're still in this fight 2 and a half years later. And it's not about us anymore. There's not going to be a casino in Middleboro, but what we've learned about expanded gambling since then is what keeps us in the fight. It absolutely made my day to see them there.

Kelly from the League of Women Voters came up and did her usual magic, and Rep Thomas Conroy ended the day by offering his assistance to the committee on a cost benefit analysis of the issue, citing the analysis he did on his own of Deval's 3 casino plan. Gotta love that Conroy.

All in all, the day was better than expected, with many of my colleagues speaking up and squashing flying casino crapola wherever it landed.

I don't know where our testimony will end up. I hope not in the circular file. I hope more people will visit the web site www.uss-mass.org (which I entered into official testimony!) and learn for themselves what most people don't know about the complex issue of expanded gambling. It isn't just a site filled with statistics - there are real people there. Lots of them. You can learn the truth about slot machines, find out what a gambling arms race is all about, and how predatory gambling effects everyone from children to seniors.

After it was over some of us went out and celebrated not having to catch a train at 11:00 pm, reflected on the crazy day, the latest from Statehouse news, strangers who became friends and friends who became strangers. And what a long strange trip it's been.

No one ruminated much on whether we'd won or lost the day. Or what our chances were of winning the vote next year. Or even what the next step would be. The important thing was that a bunch of us came together today and did the impossible - we tried to save the world - in three minutes or less.


2:45 Evelyn Reilly of Mass. Family Institute makes the point that why isn't this a consumer protection issue? Slot machines have been demonstrated to cause addiction - it should be studied.

Patricia Endicott is up, she says her father is addicted to gambling. Has for over 50 years. He's bright and has good interpersonal skills. Yet he ruined his life and the life of his family. She wants the committee to know that addiction effects the family of the addict and ruins lives.

2:40 Clyde came back. Talks about his recent survey that says everyone wants a casino in their backyard. It is telling that half the committee gets up and leaves. Since anything I say about Clyde today will obviously be taken, by him, as character assassination - I will let him assassinate himself.

Time expired Clyde. Now go away. He is cheered by the blue shirt guy who yawned audibly at our side earlier.

2:35 Clyde Barrows is called but he's out some where, obviously dodging the slings and arrows of anti-casino activists. He is called and strolls in but has been replaced with 2 guys in Palmer + Casinos = Jobs T-shirts. One says he's a scientist. He is all, obviously, about jobs. Committee member Frost is finally asleep.

One of these guys worked in a Riverboat casino in Ohio and revitalized the town. Addicts? No - they knew everyone by name and would help them out.

2:34 a guy with a long frizzy blond beard appears speaking up for gambling addicts.

2:30 Rep Bowles. Very pro casino. Good cure for insomnia. Rep Frost is looking bleary.

2:27 Horseman's society is up. Yes the horse industry is doing poorly, but so did Delaware. Now look at Delaware.

2:20 Kathleen Norbut is up!! She has a graphic. It's GREAT! I'll post it if I can later. It's a blow up of that mailing that the unions did one year, except Kathleen has placed little red arrows on it, correcting the fairytales with facts. She relates her union-family background, her husband is a capenter, she comes from a smaller than average town, she has no money she only has a Massachusetts public education. 30,000 jobs - WRONG! Good paying jobs WRONG. Median range $20,000. We are volunteers. Please stop this fiscally poor policy. I do not believe as a tax payer that I should subsidize the gambling industry. She rattles off costs and asks for questions. She gives the report that Jen Lendler couldn't, in her 20 years in the industry, couldn't place. Final statement:

Please our communities can't take another hit.

2:15 A job recruiter for Mohegan Sun spreads some sunshine. Some committee members are skeptical. (Some??)

2:05 Charles Baker and Jennifer Lendler (pointy horns and bifurcated tail) Lendler (20+ years in the industry) are there with the guy who owns Suffolk Downs are there - at least being honest, sort of, as to who they represent. Lendler's not familiar with the 9 - 10 ratio we keep talking about (so it must not be real). Committee seems a bit concerned about traffic. But they recognize this and are working with the authorities. They could be up in running in 5 to 6 months.

2:00 I had a whole really intersting segment about Mohegan Sun in Plamer but my connection crapped out and I lost it. Sen. Tucker made a funny and they supported a local ballot referendum. (If necessary...)

BTW Clyde Barrow is here! Jihad! Or is it Fatwah? I can never remember.

1:20 Another USS-Mass.org panel. The press all leaves to talk to Ced. Tom Larkin talks about the social costs and how casino profits won't be as high as they think after these costs. He uses a lot of statistics. The !@#$% next to me in a blue shirt makes a big point of audible yawning. Ironically Tom mentions 'ignorance' unrelated from this in his testimony at the same time.

Fred Berman, who I have finally met, talks about the casino industry being just like the tobacco industry. The blue shirt yawns again and Les gives him a look. Fred talks dispels discretionary spending myths.

Jessie Powell of Middleboro is up!! She gets in a dig to the Middleboro selectman. It's not inevitable. The June Spilka hearing as a Lovefest. The casino handbook. Go Jessie! Don't think you'll be different. She talks about the gambling arms race - it always expands. Munch munch munch. It's no longer entertainment. We need jobs we can be proud of. Insists on them doing a cost ben analysis! Yeah Jessie! She did GREAT!

Les is up now. Differentiates predatory gambling from other types of gambling. We've heard about 10% of the patrons accounting for 90% of the revenue all day, he has yet to dispute it. He agrees the lottery is predatory which elicits a whistle from a blue shirt behind me. He compares the gambling industry to wall street - they call it Casino Capitalism, not Biotech Capitalism. Les talks so fast - I can't keep up. Rep Frost on the committee, who has asked, a lot of pro-type questions. starts choking, possibly on his own words.

Frost said the State does tax people with addictions - like cigarettes. Tom says it's different, the State doesn't promote it. Frost isn't buying it. It's the same.

1:03 Cedric Cromwell is up. Groan. I am trying not to roll my eyes, but it's been a long 2 years. Ok... wait for it...... His Tribe "met the PILGRIMS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" Of course they did! They always meet the Pilgrims when they are trying to score points for a casino. Except the Mashpee Wampanoag didn't meet the Pilgrims!

Ced continues to play the sympathy card. He has plans for a casino in Middleboro. ( I wish someone would ask him why he opposes Cape Wind.) He still thinks land is going into trust. He actually uses the word 'relationship' and Middleboro in one sentence. He says Obama is working on a fix. Huh?? In fact, he's meeting with Obama next week.

Now he is being grilled by a rep who has absolutely no understanding of the situation. It is like the blind leading the blind. The rep asks Ced if he'd let the State have more revenue and concessions in terms of a tribal court. Ced admits that it's premature, but hey, they're open.

I find it difficult to keep sitting here listening to this after 2 and a half years. I may have to get up and leave soon.

According to Ced, Dorgan's bill is getting a "lot of traction."

Ced answers a question - No - Tribal Members won't be taxed if they work at a casino.

1:00 Charlotte Burns from Palmer union member, gets up and says it's a big swindle. All she hears is jobs. She works with special needs children and she hears it from them too. Where were the unions when the jobs were going over seas. She give's 'em hell. She's pretty terrific. I was on her panel last year too. Speaks right from the heart.

12:55 Building Trades guy... you'll never where he stands. He says that construction workers can't get work - which is opposite from what I've been hearing. Not that I'm an expert. And I'm not from Western Mass. where he's from.

12:53 A soft spoken little old lady who says she is a retired teacher and union member says no to casinos.

12:50 A Mashpee Wampoanoag guy I don't recognize says the word 'gaming' alot and wants the committee to give consideration to giving the Tribe special benefits. What's new?

12:45 A guy who represents communities around Milford got up and said he supports casinos - just not a lot of them. He also likes mitigation. Next!

Denise Provost from Sommerville tells a story about a family destroyed by Seminole casinos - then she shows pictures of them - gak. Like a low-rent Big Lots with pawning and check cashing.

12:20 When I came back from outside, AFL-CIO titan Bobby Haynes was saying "30,000 to 40,000" jobs! When questioned if he would still support slot parlors which didn't provide a lot of jobs he choked it down a little and said yes. Dammit he just wants casinos. Life will end without casinos.

Joan Menard thinks we can throw money at addicts. Yeah for addicts!

Paul Guzzi of the Boston Chamber, as expected, comes out for casinos. A lot of what he says doesn't make sense so I tune out, but... he gets a lot of questions from the committee so that makes me feel better.

Next up is Kathleen Reinstein from Revere. This girl's got horse manure under her fingernails. She worked at a track and it put her through college. Yee Ha! She practically picks up pom poms and does a cheer. She also simultaneously kind of denogrates her constituency by saying they are not exactly rocket scientists. Nor, do they look like George Clooney. (Her words, folks, not me.) Reinstein's motto: Casinos for dumb ugly people!

Kathleen Reinstein should be riding a mechanical bull with horsetail pom poms.

Sue Tucker gets up and leaves and a blue shirt next to me says, "ha ha, can't take it huh??" and laughs.

I death stare him into silence.

Carl Scortino - Rep from Sommerville is up speaking from the heart about personal stories of gambling addiction and families destroyed by gambling addiction. He can be seen on the video that I'll get on the site if I ever get out of here.

12:03 I took a break. Sort of. I testified on a panel with (are you sitting down?) Bob Massie, Natasha Schull, and Hans Brieter. I had something written, but right before we went on, Bob suggested that I just tell a personal story.

So I did. I told them how, as a web designer, I'm used to aggregating, categorizing and presenting information. And that there is more information out there than the committee of the public realizes. In fact, I'd gone to the printer to have just a few of the pages of the web site reproduced, so I could include 19 copies of them as part of my testimony. Later that day, the printer had called to tell me that this would cost almost $500. So obviously I did not include them. Instead, I submitted the entire USS- Mass.org web site as part of my written testimony. And they'd better go check it out. Because I'll know. Because I'm the web designer.

Then I told them a story about how, at a Mass Democratic committee meeting this spring I was handing out informational pahmplets, and one woman didn't want to take one. "I like playing slots. We need the money." But I told her that modern slot machines are designed differently, and they cause a serious addiction. She thought about that for a second then said, "I don't care." "You don't care about addicting people?" I asked. "No. We need the money." And then, I said to the committee, if that's what the party's come down to, why am I a democrat. But a month later, my faith in the party was renewed by the resolution taken in Springfield by the Mass. Democratic Party to oppose predatory slot machines.

And then, after Bob spoke eloquently - I used wanted to get the hell out of there. I needed air. It wasn't the circus it was last year, but it was hot and crowded and filled with inaccuracies and inconsistencies and more fairytales than in the whole children's section of Barnes and Noble.

I'm depressed. I have no paper and pencil handy for Hans Brieter and Natsha Schull to autograph. Dr. Brieter and others say, "good job" to me, but I didn't do a good job. How do you put 2 and a half years of reality into 3 minutes?? I can't even afford to print out a portion of it to be read later.

Frank and I gave an interview. It might be in the Enterprise.

10:40 Sen. Marc Pacheco. I'm taking a rest. Oh wait he mentions Middleboro. Wants a local host community vote. Nope, no good, still boring. He is getting cut off before he can do the Butt-For dance. But he insists on talking up simulcasts. Committee tries to stop him, it's no good, it's the Pacheco wind machine. He side steps.

A guy on committee (will find a name) asks if Pacheco means a local ballot vote or a town meeting vote.

Another committee member (I wish I had a cheat sheet) asks Marc if the State up the licenses up for auciton and the race tracks didn't get even one of them, would he still be for gambling?

10:37 Sen. O'Leary - Cape and Islands - opposing! He says he's at odds with the Tribes (who are here today) though he has a lot of respect for them. He speaks about how what people hope for in the beginning - never pans out - and ends up worse. They own YOU as much as you own THEM. We will be foreced to renogotiate and compromise.

10:32 Brian Walace. (Double Groan). Basically, it's Sal DiMassie's fault. Now we have a real man in the speaker's office. Someone who'll give us a fair shot.

10:30 Sue Tucker up after much blue applause for Flynn. She says it's the worst possible time for this.

Hey look - it's Cedric Crowmwell, chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe famous for the ex-Middleboro casino.

Tucker mentions taxes higher in states with casinos/slots. We need cost benefit numbers.

I hope no one expects me to be clever or spell properly today. Everyone only has 3 minute and they'are all talking really fast... which isn't a bad thing.

93,000 million dollars net, she says.That doesn't include regulatory bureaucracy. Addiction. $80,000 hit to lottery.

She brings up the new type of addiction caused by slot machines and objects (0jbects!) to the state partnering with gambling interests to addict citizens.

New point, the lottery won't put a lein on your house. (won't break your fingers either.) She brings up gambling arms race that always happens. See the uss-mass.org web site. I can't type fast enough for links. As she leaves we clap - blue shirts boo.

10:25 Back in Gardner. The first guy up is all about entertainment. The second guy (GROAN) is none other than my very own rep and neighbor, David Flynn. He is all about inevitability. It's about time dagnabbit. He's been waiting since the freaking cretaceous period waiting for this legislation passed and now that we finally have three more dinosaurs in office it's a done deal. He mentions B'water a lot.

9:30 USS-Mass.org Press Conference at the Grand Staircase. Lots of points raised. Speakers were Sue Tucker, Bob Massie, Les Bernal, Steve Sears and a rep from Cape Cod whose name I didn't hear because Frank D. showed up!! Hooray! I've got video but give me time to get it uploaded. Ryan will have it too.

9:15 It's blue shirts, not red today.

One of them comes down to tell President of USS-Mass.org Kathleen Norbut, that there are no costs associated with slots.

I am glad he did not approach me.

Live blogging from Boston today.

Stay tuned...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Portraits in Courage

Two kind of extraordinary things happened yesterday.

First, former candidate for Lt. Governor Bob Massie posted a very strong, very public letter on Blue Mass Group chastising friends, political allies, candidates, unions and churches for their endorsement or lack of an outcry on expanded gambling in Massachusetts.

In 2008, at the Statehouse hearing for Deval Patrick's three casino plan, the other anti-casino folks and I suffocated through hours upon hours of pro-casino testimony on the part of legislators and the AFL-CIO from early morning to the afternoon. And so much ignorance and indifference all in one place was very depressing.

And then came Bob. I'd heard about him several times from a colleague who'd gotten my hopes up with glowing characterizations. But when I laid eyes on him, wearing a clerical collar, my first and very cynical thought was, 'oh here comes a priest - he'll probably say a prayer for the committee or something while they roll their eyes and text their BFF's.' (My experience with religious organizations on this issue has not been positive.) I also figured he was in a weakened state due to his liver cancer and hemophilia.

But instead, within two seconds of reaching the microphone, Bob Massie was knocking Patrick's and the union's argument right out of the park. This was no soft spoken cleric. He was hellfire. The gloves were off. And, up in the nosebleeds among the hired red shirts, it was nothing less than inspiring. We rose to our feet.

Think about it, how long had those of us from the Middleboro fight waited to hear a public figure stand up and do the right thing? The closest we'd ever come was the vote the Regional Task Force took to oppose Middleboro. But this guy - this guy was standing up and raising his voice for us and for everyone else who'd be hurt if Deval's ill-thought out plan was enacted.

In the months since that day I'm delighted to say that Bob has become a friend. And, after a liver transplant this summer, he's finally starting to feel better. But he's still calling out legislators and others who hide from their responsibility to do the right thing. I hope you'll read what he has to say - it might make you feel as good as it made me feel that day in '08.

The other extraordinary thing that happened yesterday was that a candidate for Senator, Alan Khazei came out publicly against expanded gambling. In a big way. He urged the Boston Chamber of Commerce to reverse their position on casinos, then spoke up and out at last night's televised debate.

As part of an movement saddled with a recent history of political and religious ducking and covering, yesterday was almost an embarrassment of riches.

Here is a short video of where the candidates, including Khazei stand on expanded gambling.

Notice how Khazei seems to have done his homework on the issue? And how he seems to care about the people and values our State's unique culture?

Capuano and Pagliuca, on the other hand obviously haven't bothered to do their homework on the issue - with Capuano going so far as to say that senatorial candidates needn't be concerned with the issue - which is a not only lazy but also a cop out.

Senators have been required to study Indian gaming legislation in the past and will potentially be called upon to vote on the Dorgan bill in an effort to undo the Supreme Court's Carcieri decision. And furthermore, senators have been known to take a lot of contributions from gambling interests. (I know you are shocked.)

And Coakley. Ugh. She's the worst. I want to hear the logic behind her strong opposition to the legalization of marijuana while maintaining a limp posture on expanded gambling. She hides behind her attorney general hat and says 'all I am required to do is to tell the legislature how much it would cost to regulate the industry to fight gambling-related crime'...

...instead of saying 'as an attorney general I know how much crime this industry create - so much so that it's going to cost a bundle to regulate - and as a person in a running for a leadership position I take a stance against crime. Crime is bad. No casino!'

I mean, jeez Martha! Stop tying yourself to Therese Murray's apron strings and grow a spine. Neither Massachusetts nor Washington needs another politician without a spine or who clams up on important issues when there's an election looming.

I don't know if Khazei has a chance of winning, but I do know that he's done two things that, since becoming a citizen activist, I've found utterly lacking in our elected officials - he does his homework, and he has the courage stands up for the people of his state. And that's what I want to see in a senator.
“I am strongly opposed to gambling in Massachusetts. I understand that people are hurting and need work, but we can create good, high-paying jobs in green industries and clean energy, supporting small business and emphasizing health care, education, bio-tech, tourism, and other industries where Massachusetts has a competitive advantage,” Khazei said in his closing statement at the U.S. Senate debate. “New gambling machines prey especially on primarily low-income families and people suffering from addiction—the very people who are struggling the most in this terrible economy.”

“I am deeply concerned about the lobbyists and special interests behind this idea and their pursuit of personal gain,” said Khazei. “Bringing casinos to Massachusetts would irrevocably change the nature of our Commonwealth, the very birthplace of American democracy. Once we bring casinos to Massachusetts we will never be able to reverse that monumental decision. I'm the father of two young children, and I don't want them to grow up in a state with casinos. Lobbyists and big corporate PACs are pushing this. Citizens can stop this. We have to fight the special interests. I urge Attorney General Martha Coakley and Congressman Michael Capuano to take a stand against casinos in Massachusetts.”

Notice how he doesn't say something along the lines of what a lot of us are very sick of hearing: 'Ooooo look - a revenue source! Must be good! All revenue is good, right! What else is there to know?? Who cares if people get hurt?! We'll just throw some money at them!! Wwwweeeeee!!

Here is an on-line petition to oppose casinos that Alan Khazei has posted on his web site - you don't have to be an Alan supporter to sign the petition.