Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Big Concern - Part 2

Narragansett Chief Sachem Matthew Thomas vowed yesterday that his tribe along with others nationwide will go to Congress, the White House and even the United Nations in seeking to undo a U.S. Supreme Court decision that blocks the federal government’s ability to hold lands for certain tribes.

“We’re very concerned about how this country is treating Indians,” said Thomas at tribal headquarters on South County Trail.

Providence Journal
February 26, 2009

But wait - is that the same Narragansett Tribe of Rhode Island which has about 2,137 Members and receives approximately $5.5 million tax-free federal dollars per year, and which is not required to pay taxes on any income they make on the Tribe's 1,800 acres?

Then I'd say it's a good thing that Chief Thomas ALSO doesn't have to be "concerned" about a Sovereign Nation, consisting of a modern-day Tribe he only knows from their frequent criminal escapades documented in the media isn't opening up a gambling casino next door from where he's trying to raise his kids, and which would also bring environmental devastation, increased crime, traffic, and social problems, and be funded by foreign billionaire investors with the money to influence his elected officials, while being informed that he had absolutely nothing to say about it, that it was a done deal, and that this inevitable scenario was going to play out all over this country thanks to official Federal law.

Because, I bet that would really burn his biscuits!

But it does seem to me that the scenario above isn't so terribly different (except for the $5.5 mil per year and tax-free status) from how European colonists treated Native Americans in this country in centuries past.

And we all know how that worked out.

We don't need a 'fix' to Carcieri. What we need is a reality-based dialogue as to what is 'fair', 'equal' and 'sovereign' in this nation whose constitution begins with the words, "We the People..."

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Where Credit is Due

Those of us opposing Tribal casinos here in Massachusetts owe a huge debt of gratitude to the many people and organizations across this country who've paved the yellow brick road for us, and are truly responsible for this victory.

While I have a lot more things to say about the notion of a "fix" for a ruling that ain't broke, first I'd like to take the time and thank those folks whose combined efforts have turned the tide against the federally institutionalized fleecing of America. My special thanks to a friend who compiled this list.

The Citizens Equal Rights Alliance has chapters in 37 states and each chapter has a different issue - although all of them face issues with failed federal Indian Policy, including land into trust, jurisdiction on reservation land, boundary lines blurred or tribes trying to reestablish old boundary lines which have long since disappeared.

CERA describes itself as a growing not-for-profit corporation of concerned citizens that stand against discrimination, and supports the continuation of free enterprise and equality in our communities.

The recent Wisconsin v. Stockbridge-Munsee tribe opinion made in favor of the State and was forced by Shawano County Concerned Property Taxpayers Association, and North East Wisconsin Citizens for Equal Rights. Curt Knoke, CERA board member, was heavily involved in this win.

Probably the biggest win is the Sherrill, NY case against the Federal Government. The amicus submitted by CERA changed the course of events in the colonies. Judy and Fred Bachmann were center stage on this one, along with State Representative Dave Townsend, and County legislator, Mike Hennessey.

CAlifornia POLY/POSY has been a big influence nationwide. Jon Bowen, Kathy Bowen.

The most recent victory was made possible by the Rhode Island Statewide Coalition with Harry Stahley as Chairman, Jim Beale as President and the thousands who belong to the group. Most especially Harriet Lloyd, who, every morning — even on Christmas Day — wakes up with the sunrise and puts together RISC-Y Business, a daily e-mail compilation of news articles, commentaries and letters that goes out to more than 4,000 people who have signed up for it. Lloyd, who lives in Westerly, talked with Providence Business News recently about the philosophy behind the e-newsletter and the political power of the Internet.

Additonal thanks to Kate Waterman and Harriet Allen of the Charlestown board of selectmen. Special thanks must go to Governor Carcieri who kept this alive for the courts and to the late Bruce Goodsell who was influential in seeking out the help of CERA in writing the amicus brief in the RI case.

Many thanks also to:
Upstate Citizens for Equality, Richard Tallcot, Chairman and Board of Directors of CERA, plus the 7 -8 thousand members across New York State.

Cayuga-Seneca Chapter Chairman: Richard Tallcot, Vice Chairman: Russ Wheeler, Secretary: Phil Knapp, Treasurer: Mimma Kisor, Elected Trustees: Rich Ricci, Harry Eno, Connie Eno, John Rancier, Andy Anderson, Mary Gratton, Eleanor Casey. This group just forced their Governor to sign the tax on Indian sold cigarettes, and was active in the case which was dismissed by the 2nd circuit court of appeals on the Cayuga Indian land claim.

And most especially to those of us here in Massachusetts, I'd like to extend my personal and heartfelt thanks to Carol Kelley of CERA.

I first encountered Carol at the Nichols School in Middleboro for the now infamous Glenn Marshall forum. She was at the microphone, soundly and assertively setting one of the Tribe's lawyers straight on a point of law. In fact, as I recall, she shut him up.

The next time I encountered Carol, she was seated next to me at an early CasinoFacts general meeting. I was trying to remember where I'd seen her when she turned to me and said in that unmistakable voice, "I love your shoes..."

And that's Carol - sharp as nails, strong as steel - and as warm as a summer day.

Thanks for standing with us Carol, and for always being there when we needed you.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Fix?

More on the so-called "Carcieri Fix"...
Regarding yesterday's Supreme Court opinion regarding Carcieri v. Salazar (Kempthorne) here's this from Indian Country Today:
In anticipation of a negative ruling in this case, some legal experts have already suggested remedies.

Matthew L.M. Fletcher, director of the Indigenous Law & Policy Center at Michigan State University, the land a million casinos, home to Herb Strather and head quarters of Dickenson Wright Indian Gaming Law Firm...

said after oral arguments that tribes could go to Congress to request members to define “now” as explicitly meaning tribes recognized in 1934 and beyond.

“I think it would be pretty easy to just do a technical amendment to the Indian Reorganization Act,” Fletcher said at the time. “Get rid of the phrase ‘now under federal jurisdiction.’ That’s all you’ve got to do.”

Still, some legal experts have noted that for a congressional fix to occur, a burden is placed on tribes to get positive legislation action moved in a timely manner.

Richard Guest, a legal expert with the Native American Rights Fund,

posited that Rhode Island and other states could also decide to go to Congress to try to get members to narrowly define “now” as applying to only tribes recognized when the law was passed.

FYI - Twenty States have already signaled their concern for this issue by signing onto this case as Amicus Curiae.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Dreams That You Dare To Dream...

...Really do come true.

Middleboro casino meets the end of the road.



"In reviewing the determination of the Court of Appeals, we are asked to interpret the statutory phrase “now under Federal jurisdiction” in §479. Petitioners contend that the term “now” refers to the time of the statute’s enactment, and permits the Secretary to take land into trust for members of recognized tribes that were “under Federal jurisdiction” in 1934. The respondents argue that the word “now” is an ambiguous term that can reasonably be construed to authorize the Secretary to take land into trust for members of tribes that are “under Federal jurisdiction” at the time that the land is accepted into trust.

We agree with petitioners and hold that, for purposes of §479, the phrase “now under Federal jurisdiction” refers to a tribe that was under federal jurisdiction at the time of the statute’s enactment. As a result, §479 limits the Secretary’s authority to taking land into trust for the purpose of providing land to members of a tribe that was under federal jurisdiction when the IRA was enacted in June 1934. Because the record in this case establishes that the Narragansett Tribe was not under federal juris-diction when the IRA was enacted, the Secretary does not have the authority to take the parcel at issue into trust. We reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals."


Mashpee Wampanaog Tribal Chairman Cedric Cromwell:
“It’s absurd on its face that the policy of the United States government would be to recognize the sovereignty of native tribes but not allow those sovereign nations to take land into trust,” Cedric Cromwell, the newly elected chairman of the Mashpee tribe, said in a statement. “We look to Congress to correct what the court could not.”

Cromwell is planning to send a letter today asking US Senators Edward M. Kennedy and John F. Kerry, as well as US Representative William Delahunt, to file legislation to change the law.

Supreme Court Justice Breyer:
who joined the majority opinion, indicated that it is possible that tribes not recognized by the federal government before the 1934 law might still have been under federal jurisdiction "even though the federal government did not believe so at the time." As an example, Breyer said, the government has acknowledged that some tribes were mistakenly left off a list the Interior Department compiled following the law's enactment.

But Breyer said he did not foresee that possibility for the Narragansetts.

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas:
The U.S. government argued that the law allows it to take land into trust for tribes regardless of when they were recognized, but Justice Clarence Thomas said in his majority opinion that the law "unambiguously refers to those tribes that were under the federal jurisdiction" when it was enacted.

The National Congress of American Indians discussed the case earlier this year as tribal leaders gathered in Washington, D.C., for the inauguration of President Barack Obama. However, the "Carcieri fix" was left off the final list of priorities for the 111th Congress.

The list of tribes who are affected by the 1934 issue runs in the dozens and includes some of the more financially successful in Indian Country. Many of them, however, may be able to overcome the date limitation by proving they were under federal jurisdiction at the time.

Prof. Clyde Barrows of UMass Dartmouth:
The court ruling suggests the federal government can’t legally place the Middleboro land into a trust, said Clyde Barrow, a UMass-Dartmouth gambling researcher.

“That puts a real smack-down on the Middleboro proposal,” Barrow said.

The U.S. government argued that the law allows it to take land into trust for tribes regardless of when they were recognized.

Dennis Whittlesey, Middleboro's Indian-gaming lawyer and all-around vampire:
“The implications are literally coast to coast and border to border,” said Dennis Whittlesey, a Washington-based lawyer who helped negotiate the multimillion-dollar agreement between the Mashpee and the town of Middleborough. “If this decision is not overturned by the Congress, the Mashpee project cannot go forward, there cannot be a casino there."

Associated Press:
At issue was whether the land should be subject to state law, including a prohibition on casino gambling, or whether the parcel should be governed by tribal and federal law.

"The Narragansett Indian Tribe is not entitled to special treatment on land that it owns," Charlestown's attorney Joseph Larisa Jr. said in a written statement. He added that the ruling prevents the tribe from creating tax-free smoke shops or an Indian casino unless the citizens vote to approve gambling.

Gladys Kravitz:
Casino opponents in Middleboro are already heralding the Supreme Court ruling as a death knell to the Wampanoag plans in their town.

On her Gladys Kravitz blog, casino opponent Mary Tufts writes, "Dreams really do come true. Middleboro casino meets the end of the road."

Monday, February 23, 2009


Ok, what do you do if you're an ex-selectman with an irresistible sweet tooth for the spotlight but the candy dish is all empty?

Why, you call the local newspaper that you've dissed in the past, reinvent the role you played in the casino chronicles and mention that you've "joined forces" with a few "of the most vocal" members of the casino opposition.

(Heck, nobody saw that coming...)

Well I'm one of the most vocal members of the casino opposition - and frankly I wouldn't work together with Bond to bail out a sinking life boat.

Wanna know why? Because I'd know he'd turn around one day and say something to the effect of, "Gladys Kravitz and I managed to put aside our differences so that we could do something wonderful for humanity. And this proves that I am indeed swell."

That's why.

And then a lot of people who didn't know any better might read that sort of thing and imagine that this Bond character must really be swell. Perhaps he's just misunderstood. That's all.

They wouldn't know how Bond hadn't actually been suckered by inevitability - as much as he'd become the leading evangelist for the casino deal. Or how he'd labeled the opposition as "braying donkeys". And how he'd slipped a little mickey called Section 22 B into the IGA which effectively forces town leadership to do anything the Tribe wants regarding the casino project - then lied about it on TV. And how he promoted his participation in the whole casino circus on his professional web site. And how he once even tried to see if there was a way to stop much needed highway improvements to Rte. 44 to speed the way for the casino construction.

So much for humanity.

But rest assured, while he's
waiting to see what other indictments come down
he really wants us all to know that he's still working on that deal.

Bond wants to hammer out expectations that are unstated in the agreement, and points to the tribe’s brief and rejected attempt to negotiate with the governor as an example.

Because he's

not getting out of the fight, just moving it into a different ring

And you can trust him because ...

he’s had “one or two” meetings with Marshall since the scandal erupted


And when did he experience a "change of heart"? Why does he seem to realize that a casino is not inevitable anymore, which he states was his reason for brokering a deal for Middleboro, yet plans to continue fighting for the IGA? It makes no sense. Unless you're Adam Bond, I suppose.

While anyone who's gotten to know him can certainly understand why Bond would want to reinvent himself, as far as canoodling with con-men and hammering on the IGA - now that he's off the Board of Selectmen - hasn't this issue has become the proverbial dead parrot. In other words, it's not going anywhere. It's moot. He can't move it to a 'different ring'. He can't do anything about it.
"It's passed on. This parrot is no more. It has ceased to be. It's expired and gone to meet its maker. This is a late parrot. It's a stiff. Bereft of life, it rests in peace. If you hadn't nailed it to the perch, it would be pushing up the daisies. It's rung down the curtain and joined the choir invisible. This is an ex-parrot."
Perhaps Mr. Bond should "come to terms" with that.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Lessons from Oscar

Every year, for many years, I've embarked on an annual quest. It may seem to some a simple thing - to view all films nominated for an Academy Award - but scheduling this effort around small children and living in the cultural Mojave that is the South Shore - has been a challenge. Some films never even make it to a theater down here. And then, by the time a film is nominated, it's often not playing anywhere at all.

And so, in the past, I've juggled priorities, traveled on trains, defied the weather, and occasionally my own safety, to catch a certain movie. I've watched films in ancient refurbished playhouses with tattered velvet curtains and no heat, and in sweltering subterranean catacombs deep beneath Harvard Square. I've crammed double and even triple features into one outing in order to economize my time. And I've packed on countless hot-buttered popcorn pounds for my efforts.

But last year, in the midst of the casino wars, I had to put aside my quest, grudgingly accepting the fact that I simply did not have enough time to do the things I enjoy and fight casinos.

But this year, Regal Cinema at the Independence Mall very magnanimously re-ran many of the Oscar nominated films. And so, between that, Netflix and a personal DVD player, I managed once again to see most of the year's best movies.

And what a great crop - though I'm going to admit right up front that I purposely chose not to see The Dark Knight. Frankly, I've had enough of dangerously unstable human train wrecks who fancy themselves jokers, for a lifetime.

But, since the fight is never far from my mind, I tried to find a message that we could take from this years best movies. (Spoiler alert...)

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Doing things backwards and expecting them to turn out well in the end is only a fantasy.

Eventually, the big guy's gonna talk.

The Changeling
Trust your heart and no amount of corruption, intimidation, manipulation or deceit will crush you. A strong team can fix a broken system. And never give up hope.

Vicky Christina Barcelona
A little drama may be intriguing, but just a little too much can be downright dangerous.

Revolutionary Road
Complacency can be catastrophic.

Tropic Thunder
Sometimes even the big leagues have to recognize the power of satire.

The Wrestler
True fighters can take just about anything - except the blows from the people they care about.

Frozen River
There are more issues with Sovereign tribal nations than most people realize. Gambling addiction may marginally help fund tribal nations... but often destroys hard working families, many of whom never enter a bingo hall or casino. People can find always seek common ground - but living under separate laws drives us apart.

The Reader
Sometimes people we hold in high esteem, turn out to be real jerks.

Never allow anyone to plant doubt in the midst of your convictions.

Real leaders lead by example. Activism requires action. There are no compromises and no concessions when you are fighting for your quality of life. With enough effort, holding a sign on a sidewalk can become a National Movement. And... you gotta give them hope.

Slumdog Millionaire
The underdog really can win. The important things in life aren't about the money. Draw on your own experiences for the right answers to the tough questions. Never trust the slimy windbag with his own show. And seriously, try not to miss the victory dance when it's all over.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Eyes Have It...

You don't need a pair of glasses to see how painfully uninformed the Middleboro Board of Selectman are about the facts, impacts and costs involved in their beloved casino project.

Let's face it, they'd rather put a casino on the cluttered dusty back burner of their minds and concentrate on the intricacies of one-day liquor licenses and barking dog complaints. They'd rather content themselves with pro-community happy thoughts and deftly avoid the icky boring hard stuff that requires a certain flexing of the old grey matter. I felt the same way about calculus back in college.

So, does it bother you that there are preschoolers who've paid more attention to the sand table than this august body of policy makers has to an issue that could effect your home, safety and pocketbook? It should.

Then this is what I want you to do this week. I want you to print out something you think the Board ought to know - maybe it's a newspaper article, or informational .pdf, or perhaps relevant sections of IGRA, or maybe it's a blog post like Carverchick's many fine installments on gaming regulations, or Bumpkin's various breakdowns of the IGA, or Fiferstones' thoughts on sovereignty, or my own posts on the myth of inevitability, or any of the myriad posts about impacts to real estate, schools, crime, social problems, the environment, and the Tribe's and it's investors troubles with the law - basically any subject you think the Board needs to bone up on. Which, you know, is pretty much everything.

And then I want you to go to CVS or Ocean State or the dollar store down at the mall and pick up a pair of those cheap reading glasses.

Now stick your printouts and the glasses in an envelope and mail it to:

Board of Selectmen
Middleboro Town Hall
10 Nickerson Avenue,
Middleboro, MA 02346

Or just drop it off at town hall. I'm sure that would be fine.

Why do this? Because it makes a statement, that why. It makes the statement that the Board has an obligation to fully understand the problems their pet project will cause. The town is full of people who don't want a casino, and the Board represents them, too.

Since Summer of '07 a lot of things have come to light that even the most comatose collection of elected officials can't ignore. And yet, they do. So maybe it's not their fault. Maybe they just need a pair of reading glasses. Hey, it happens to the best of us.

Once, my friends at CasinoFreePhila washed all the windows at the State Gaming Commission to demonstrate the need for transparency. These folks and other activists across this country are busy making statements, getting the message across to those who aren't listening, and who expect the rest of us to sit there politely and take it.

Because sometimes a little action and outrage are what it takes. And that's what grassroots is all about, baby.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Hope and a Prayer

The question was raised today - does new Mashpee Wampanoag Leadership give renewed hope to the pro-casino lobby at the Statehouse for a Tribal casino in Massachusetts?

You know, the same pro-casino lobby who'd like, once again, to feed this monumental cow patty of inevitability to the citizens of the Commonwealth in the hopes of weakening opposition to slots.

To which I would reply, "Have you been listening?"

Last year I wrote:

New era or not, nothing has changed to alter the Land in Trust process except that New Regulations, born from two decades of abuse by Tribes and casino investors, WERE passed in August 2008, making this supposedly 'done deal' more like a dead one.

And I know some of you may disagree, but if it comes down to it (which I highly doubt) I believe that a really good lawyer (not one from Michigan, or one with an upcoming gig at CasinoFest '09 and certainly not one chosen by the Middleboro Board of Selectmen) could find a way, based on new information, to set a match to the IGA.

Which would make a dead deal deader still.

So, if the pro-casino crowd up at the Statehouse really thinks Glenn Marshall's exit and a fresh faced new Tribal leadership makes a casino seem as much, if not more of a done deal as it did last year, it only demonstrates their complete and continued lack of research and understanding, as well as their pathetic dependence on lies in the absence of a compelling argument or real leadership.

But what else can you expect from people who are convinced you can win big with slots.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Remember Glenn

I can still vividly remember Glenn Marshall on stage at the Nichols School - swaggering, confident, dismissive.

This 'dog and pony show', he called it.

He vowed to write checks, insinuated racism, labeled himself a 'steward of the earth', and gave the impression that it was only a matter of time before 539 acres in Middleboro became his personal paradise and money factory.

He promised he wouldn't build a casino in Middleboro if Middleboro didn't want it, but didn't really mean it. He reveled in being a leader, while shunning those who disagreed with him. He wove a fiction for Congress, and wore ostrich skin boots.

He grandstanded and glad handed. He was always the king, never the goat. Everyone else was the goat. We were the goat.

His dog and pony show became a three ring circus.

He helped divide a tribe, and divide a town.

Yesterday, Glenn stood before a judge, and pleaded guilty to embezzlement and political corruption.

In May, he'll be sentenced to time in another sort of paradise. One with bars, bad food and bright orange jumpsuits.

Mahalo & Aloha Glenn.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Recession Spoof

In the immortal words of Kenny Rogers, you gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away, and know when to run...

Now I'm not much of a gambler, but from where I'm sitting, it looks like bringing legalized gambling to Massachusetts is squarely in the "when to run..." territory.

For example, from a recent article about 15 companies which might not survive the year, 2 are casinos...
Station Casinos. (Privately owned, about 14,000 employees). Las Vegas has already been creamed by a biblical real-estate bust, and now it may face the loss of its home-grown gambling joints, too. Station - which runs 15 casinos off the strip that cater to locals - recently failed to make a key interest payment, which is often one of the last steps before a Chapter 11 filing. For once, the house seems likely to lose.

Trump Entertainment Resorts Holdings. (TRMP; about 9,500 employees; stock down 94%). The casino company made famous by The Donald has received several extensions on interest payments, while it tries to sell at least one of its Atlantic City properties and pay down a stack of debt. But with casino buyers scarce, competition circling, and gamblers nursing their losses from the recession, Trump Entertainment may face long odds of skirting bankruptcy.
And from yesterday's Boston Herald,
In late 2007, when Adelson, the chief executive at Las Vegas Sands, testified before the Legislature in favor of casino-style gambling in Massachusetts, he dreamed of constructing a casino in the western suburbs. Back then, his company’s share price peaked at $150. Today, the stock has declined more than 90 percent. Adelson himself has lost billions.

Adelson’s competitors at MGM, Wynn Resorts and Harrah’s are laying off employees and slashing wages. Reports out of Atlantic City have casinos “shedding jobs at an alarming pace.” In Mississippi, casino revenues tumbled 6 percent last year, and 2009 is looking worse.
Meanwhile, our neighbor to the south ponders bailing out it's own source of economic salvation
Rhode Islanders marveled when the seedy old Lincoln Greyhound Park was transformed by investors into a lavish gambling salon, with a map of the state etched into the terrazzo marble floor and soaring columns fashioned to appear like autumn oaks.

But the legions of new gamblers that were supposed to flock to the glitzy slot parlor, rebranded as Twin River and purchased and renovated at a cost of nearly $700 million, never came. Its operators cannot meet heavy debt obligations and have defaulted on the terms of their loans. Bankruptcy threatens.

But there is a silver lining for Massachusetts in all this.

I mean, just imagine if those high rollers, Governor Patrick and State House Reps Allen, Ayers, Barrows, Bradley, Calter, Creedon, Curran, Canessa, DiNatale, Driscoll, Evangelidis, Fresolo, Frost, Garry, Gifford, Greene, Hill, Humason, Jones, Koczera, McCarthy, Naughton, Nyman, O'Day, Perry, Peterson, Polito, Puppolo, Quinn, Rice, Rush, Sandlin, Smith, Stanley, Sullivan, Timilty, Toomey, Turner, Wallace, Walsh and Webster had their way last year and approved that fabulous casino plan - we could be bailing out a few billionaire casino investors of our own right now.


(Note: It occurs to me that some of those reps might be your reps. Perhaps, in light of current speculation over whether the State should approve slots, it would be productive to write to those reps and offer a gentle reminder somewhere along the lines of this post.)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Ring of Fire

Somehow, maybe not, we are related. Distantly, if so. I don't know her name. We just seem to show up at all the same wakes.

This time she's got a baby with her. He's very well behaved, with a full head of hair and a sweet smile.

"He's got your eyes," I tell her.

"No." She replies a little bit too firmly, "He's got his father's eyes."

I look around for the boy's father but he must be in the other room with the throng of relatives. We chat some more about nothing, just passing the time until we can leave. And that's when she mentions that she's a single mom.

Something connects, and I look closer at the little boy.

Ten or so minutes go by, and my sister and mother and I have made it across the room to a quiet corner, and that's when I whisper to my mother what I've wanted to ask, "Is she the one? The one you told me about with the husband who..." She nods before I can finish the sentence.

It was a summer afternoon and we were sitting on the screen porch when talk got around, as it usually did, to casinos. "Those places are no good," my mother said. And then she told me a story.

It was the story of someone she knew - a grand-niece or a daughter of a friend, something like that - someone who wanted very much to have a baby. She and her husband had tried for years to get pregnant, finally, but successfully attempting IVF. The proceedure had been expensive. They got behind financially. Way behind. The woman, now pregnant gave her husband the cash to pay some bills one morning. But while she was at work, he drove to the Twin Rivers casino in Rhode Island, thinking he could take that bill money and turn it into more bill money - and lost it all. When he returned home, he realized he couldn't pay the bills or face his wife, and killed himself. He was laid to rest in a Middleboro cemetery. His baby boy was born several months later.

"Those places are no good," my mother repeated.

It had been a year since I'd heard that story. Sometimes I wondered if it were even real. But when I got tired, or discouraged, I'd remember it. I'd think about that little boy whose face I'd never seen, whose name I didn't know, and I knew I had to keep going. Because I'm never going see the face, or know the name of every child left without a parent, or neglected by one, or abused by one, if casino gambling comes to Massachusetts.

But they'll be there. And they'll be in other towns, further north and east and west, places where, right now, it takes too long for most people to drive to a casino.

How many times have I heard it, "we already have gambling addiction here..."?

I wonder if they said that when they built the first casino outside of Las Vegas. "We already have the problems, we might as well get the revenue." That's what they probably said. And then someone looked over at that casino and said the same thing. And so another casino got built. And now, when people say that there's already gambling addiction where they live, it's because of that last casino that went up. The one not terribly far to drive to.

Had there been no Twin Rivers, that baby's father might have driven to Foxwoods to find a reason to end his life. But he might not have. But if Twin Rivers and Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun weren't there, he'd be alive right now. He wouldn't have an excuse to lose the bill money, to feel like he'd failed his family. He'd be here showing off his beautiful baby boy to all the relatives.

"All that money's just going across the border," they tell us.

I look across the room at the baby and I think, let it go...

I am reminded of the map, the one with the circles showing the 50 mile radius of the people who'll be the most negatively impacted by a casino. A ring of fire.

I fell in to a burning ring of fire
I went down,down,down
and the flames went higher.

I recall someone ridiculing that map once - pointing out that Middleboro is less than 50 miles from Twin Rivers - and insisting that it had no impact.

Not for him.

His son still has a dad to teach him how to tie his shoes, and ride a bike, and throw a baseball.

"It's all about choice," they like to say. "It's my choice, if I want to gamble my money or not."

But where's that baby's choice? I think his choice would be to grow up with a dad.

I think his choice would be to grow up in a world that didn't make it so easy for his Dad to lose hope. That didn't use people's weaknesses to balance budget shortfalls. But he doesn't get a vote.

If a casino goes up in Middleboro, or slots in Plainville, who'll be next? The seemingly endless procession of casinos and slot machines, followed by addiction and broken lives, marches on, finds virgin territory, and leaves it's mark. Another 50 mile circumference on a map. Another ring of fire.

My Aunt Ginny comes over to say hello, and says she can't believe it's really me. I only recognize her from old pictures, but according to family lore, she was the one who took care of me when I was very young and my mother had to work.

Aunt Ginny, whose gravity-defying hair would make any iconic country western singer proud, left Massachusetts for Oklahoma back in the 70's. I have no memory of her, but love her instantly. She is very funny and cheerful and I'm grateful to have her sitting with us, taking our minds off the wake and the baby and casinos.

While we're talking, a woman stops by and says hello to my mother, who introduces us. A flash of recognition, and an eyebrow lifted superciliously.

"So," she says, "You're the daughter who's against the casino."

She says this as if she were actually saying, "So, you're the daughter who recently escaped from a mental institution."

They always manage to find me, apparently even at a wake.

Aunt Ginny laughs. "What's the matter with casinos? I love the casino! I've got one right down the end of my street. I've won big a few times there, too."

My mother leans in and whispers in my ear, "Ask her how much she's lost..."

But there's no need. Aunt Ginny is obviously a woman of modest means.

I get up to take my leave. I had a board meeting to attend in Lakeville that evening. Probably another shouting match. I'm tired, I'd rather go home, or out to a restaurant with my mother and sister and Aunt Ginny.

Instead we gather in the hall for hugs and goodbyes. We all agree that wouldn't it be nicer to get together somewhere besides funerals and wakes.

Across the street, in the quiet sanctuary of my car, I decompress. I let the wake and the family and all of it wash over me, flow away. All that's left is the little boy, who's real now. A little boy with a sweet smile, a full head of hair and his father's eyes.

If only his father could see them.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Reality Bytes

The Sell-Out: How Massachusetts Plans to Create New Addicts To Pay For Struggling State Programs

Governor Patrick thinks it's entertainment. Unions say it's all about jobs. Racetrack owners insist it's harmless. Some legislators want you to think we have no alternative.

The truth is a darker place.

"As states suffer from the crushing burden of casino capitalism on Wall Street, governors and legislatures are scrambling to make up for the shortfall. Their dangerous solution? Get hundreds of thousands of their own citizens hooked on predatory slot machines."
- Casino Free Mass

Find your legislators here
and tell them we need leaders who'll do the right thing, not suckers who place their bets on a losing proposition.

fund the fight.


Sunday, February 1, 2009

Follow the Yellow Brick Road

Way back in the Spring of 2007, opposition to the Middleboro casino project learned that approval of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe's land into trust application, rather than being a "done deal", was actually greatly dependent upon "Host Community support. "

Yet, rather than being a point of leverage, this reality was steamrolled by certain town officials, local supporters, misinformed legislators and the media, who created an atmosphere of exigency, and wove a fiction that the town must sign an Intergovernmental Agreement with the Tribe, or be left with nothing.

Look at the Connecticut casinos, we were told. Foxwood's host community negotiated no agreement, and was left without mitigation for the world's biggest casino. Mohegan Sun, it was said, was the smart one, negotiating for $500,000 per year with the host community.

And Middleboro, we were lead to believe, would benefit from the best agreement ever known. But only if it hurried - because the Tribe was just itchin' to go elsewhere.

We know now that these were false assumptions. We know now that the Connecticut Tribes had existing reservations. But that the Mashpee Wampanoag were trying to obtain land into trust for a casino under the "initial reservation" exception to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act which applies to OFF RESERVATION land to be used for gaming purposes. And that this is an entirely different animal.

And I'm still not sure how Dennis Whittlesey failed to mention this to the town. Or, if he did, how Selectman liason to the negotiations Adam Bond failed to appreciate it's relevence beyond his own blinding desire, for whatever his reasons, to see the casino built.

Additionally the public recieved no educational forums to consider environmental, social or quality of life impacts of a mega-resort casino by experts. Surrounding communities, which would be effected, had no say at all.

For all his bluster and confidence, the only leg Glenn Marshall had to stand on was the one he'd propped up with crooked lobbyists and straw contributors.

On July 28th 2007, 3,000 some-odd Middleboro voters gathered on baseball fields behind the high school on one of the hottest days of the year in a hastily arranged town meeting which disenfranchised many, to decide the fate of the Intergovernmental agreement, a document hammered out by lawyers, with no blueprints and revealed to the public only five days earlier.

The opposition worked hard to place Article 3 on the warrant - that the town didn't want a casino - which passed overwhelmingly. Mention of Article 3 was deemed irrelevant to the Middleboro Selectmen's letter to the DOI.

In late 2007 and early 2008 we wrote our letters to the Depart ment of the Interior and Bureau of Indian Affaris formally opposing the land into trust. We citied this horrendously flawed process, impacts to the environment, the existence of reservation shopping, and more. These letters and our additional testimony at the BIA hearings has been recorded, filed and subsequently must be addressed.

At the end of 2008 we learned of indictments against Glenn Marshall regarding the Tribe's recognition. We have been told that there will be additional charges, involving other players.

In 2009 the opposition has initiated a letter writing campaign to the AG asking for an investigation into the process in Middleboro in 2007, to the DOI insisting that land in trust be denied in Middleboro because of the corruption within the Tribe, and to various other ethics commissions.

President Obama recently appointed a new head of the Department of the Interior who has stated that he wants to put an end to the rampant corruption within his agencies.

These are the facts. And yet, there are some who insist that the best way to stop a casino, is to open up renegotiations.

There are many reasons I could list why this is a dangerous route to take, but first and most importantly, if the IGA is re-negotiated, the DOI and BIA will view this as support, that our previous concerns about the process preceeding the first IGA have now have been sufficently answered, and that environmental impacts have been 'mitigated' to the host community's satisfaction.

That's how it works. These agencies beat the bushes and comb the fine print for indications of 'support'. And there will not be another chance to file our opposition to a new contract.

Whether or not to renegotiate the contract has nothing to do with an emotional reaction or the need to work together toward some common goal. It has everything to do with staying on course and keeping our red shoes firmly on the Yellow Brick Road.

Right now we are standing in front of the Great and Powerful Wizard, holding in our hands a very valuable charred broom - something no one ever thought we could pull off. This is not the time to consider giving it back.

In other words, as far as off-reservation Land into Trust scenarios go, we are, at the moment, in a very good position.

Renegotiating the IGA right now would help nothing and potentially hurt the opposition's well-founded case. It would not make the process that took place in 2007 any better, it would not stop impacts to the regional environment and it would not better educate people. And worse, it would present us with a BIG UNKNOWN.

What we should be doing is writing our letters to the editor, to the appropriate agencies, and to our legislators demanding that they vote against slots at the tracks. And putting pressure on our local officials to oppose the casino project, or to tear up the IGA. We should be helping fund and support better candidates for Middleboro selectmen. We should be standing firm in our resolve. Because these are the things that will work.

Which is not to say we cannot work with each other. I've personally worked very closely together with people from different towns all across this commonwealth, and even different States, to help kill Deval Patrick's casino bill, to prevent a casino in Middleboro, and to educate the public about casino impacts.

For close to two years now, legislators, journalists, creative professionals, political specialists, lawyers, professors, social services, environmentalists, engineers, the religious community, local officials, bloggers and every day folks with hearts in the right place have walked beside me on these yellow bricks.

And if we just keep following this road, eventually it'll lead us back home.