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...