Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Man Behind the Curtain

When the Wizard of Oz sent Dorothy and the gang on a quest to bring back the broomstick of the Wicked Witch of the West, he figured that was the last he was going to have to see of them.

So imagine his surprise when they showed up at the palace a few days later, wearing expectant smiles and holding a blackened broomstick.  He'd have given them the brushoff again, too, had valiant little Toto not revealed that the Great and Powerful Wizard was nothing more than a nervous little man pulling levers behind a curtain.

I've often thought of my own 3-year journey down this yellow brick road much like Dorothy's.  I mean, there I was, standing in my own backyard one day, when a tornado picked me up and dropped me in a strange new place, with strange new rules.  Once there I made unexpected new friends, fought off flying monkeys, survived poppy fields, and just kept trying to do whatever it took to get back to my own backyard - only to find that, more often than not, the "great and powerful" someone to whom I'd turned to for help, was no more than a coward hiding behind a curtain pulling levers.

Then, in February 2009, the Supreme Court ruled 8-1, in the case of Carceiri v. Salazar, that tribes recognized after 1934 were not eligible under the Indian Reorganization Act.  This meant that the Indian Gaming Act did not apply to them either.  And shortly after, SCOTUS ruled 9-0 in Hawaii v. the Office of Hawaiian Affairs that the federal government could not take take property from within states and make it federal property. 

The broomstick of the Wicked Witch of the West had been laid at our feet

Until now.  Because, just the other day, Sen. Stanley Rosenberg, the Senate President's appointed casino "guru", and self-appointed Master of the Universe, dug up the witch's corpse and dragged it onto the floor of the Senate.

"See," he shouted to the Gallery, while waving a mysterious memo in one hand and what little was left of the Witch in the other, "Obviously she is still a real threat to us!"

Claiming that the Tribes were about to install bingo slots, that the SCOTUS decision was about to be overturned, that tribes were about to get Land in Trust, and that casinos were about to be built on the South Shore, he proclaimed that
“We must anticipate that this is going to be real,” said Rosenberg, adding that he believes “it’s only a matter of time” before the Mashpee Wampanoag will get land in trust and be entitled to operate a casino.
And suddenly, it was as if  Rosenberg had set us all back at the other end of the Yellow Brick road, at the very start of our Journey, as if the past three years had never happened.

But it did happen, and we've run into our own share of "Rosenbergs" along the way.

I remember a full auditorium in Carver, and the head of a supposedly neutral casino-impact committee in Middleboro, who stood before the microphone and, with the resounding voice of authority, proclaimed Carver would be greatly helped by a giant casino in the town next door.  Yeah, sure, just like North Stonington and Preston were 'greatly helped' to the tune of millions in yearly negative impacts by Foxwoods.

But you could point out facts to this supposedly neutral committee chairman 'till the cows came home, and it wouldn't matter. He had the title. He was great and powerful.  And you were nobody.  The end.

And likewise, Rosenberg has been repeatedly dismissive to those who've lived through Middleboro and other nightmares, those who fought back, for years, against inevitability, hyperbole, egomania, vested interests, bureaucratic roadblocks, outright lies and more than a few Mr. Know-It-Alls - armed with facts - and won.

But what do facts have to do with a casino debate, anyway?

The other day my husband handed me a cartoon from the Sunday paper. It was Dorothy and Toto, facing the Tin Man, the Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion across the Yellow Brick road.  She is saying,
No heart, no brain, no courage.
How have you guys stayed out of politics?
The Massachusetts senate debates, which were supposed to have been conducted on a higher plane than the House debacle, with the ultimate goal of "doing it right", been a nothing more than a drawn-out circus act, showcasing a grotesque lack of empathy, understanding, or backbone among most of our elected officials.

Tribes do not make tribal casinos inevitable.  Legislators make tribal casinos inevitable - obviously through total ignorance, apathy or an affectation of completely undeserved intellectual superiority.

If the tribes could put in bingo slots, why haven't they?  SCOTUS decisions do not get overturned just because some people who don't know all the facts behind that decision, or those with a vested interest think they're wrong.  And mysterious memos are just memos, often written to address numerous, and not specific, situations.  But more importantly they are not legislation.  They are not the law of the land.

Along the Yellow Brick Road, we've learned to try and understand the motivations behind every power play.  The fact is, Tribal leadership wants casinos even more than Therese Murray.  They have been in a constant state of denial before and since the Carcieri ruling.  They produce memos and news articles and various other ephemera as "proof" that it will be shortly overturned, or ignored or minimized.  We realized this, we check the facts and we continue to rest easy. 

And if Rosenberg had come along on our journey, instead of getting comped at every casino in the U.S. and Canada, he might have been able to see the poppies for the trees.  But instead, he sees the world through poppy-colored glasses, dismissing our journey, our victories, and worse, the french-fried broomstick at his own feet.


Anonymous said...

Well done Gladys!!!
Recently, I recommended Carver Chick write a book titled:

"Legislation for Dummies"

Maybe you should write a companion to it:

"Legislators ARE Dummies"

It could read like a cautionary tale.

Unfortunately, there is so much material out there, you'd probably need a fork truck to get it off the shelf!

Gladys Kravitz said...

Thanks, Anon.

Actually I'm already writing that book - or maybe I should say, they're writing it for me.

Mark Belanger said...

Notice how all "casino experts" - either self-proclaimed or annointed by the media - are all pro-casino and generally getting something from them?

We have casino expert lawyers getting hundreds of thousands from cash-strapped towns like Middleboro to cobble together a rushed deal barely better than what Healey scribbled on the back of a napkin at Dave's Diner. We have researchers who seem very adept at researching benefits but completely unable to count costs? And worst of all are the politicians who are staunchly pro-casino but yet know absolutely nothing about the issue other than "I want casinos".

And what is most alarming is the media that is so quick to quote these so-called "experts", not challenge them, and fail to quote the real experts - the people who have been looking at this for years and actually understand Indian law (as much as that mess can be understood) and the negative effects - which are not all that difficult to identify and quantify.

Middleboro Remembers said...

Well done, Gladys!

Watching this transpire, does it make anyone wonder who wrote this bad script because no one would believe such a bad script were it written?

Anonymous said...

Today's Senate Debate over Menard's amendment.

Anonymous said...

A politician thinks only of the next election,
A statesman thinks of the next generation.

How sad our state has so few "statesman"

Anonymous said...

What the casino's/legislatator's want you to know: You have to play to win.

What the facts/addicted gamblers know: The house always wins.

Anonymous said...

Get ready MA taxpayers, gamblers have been waiting and are ready to gamble close to home.

Gambling addiction is a gambling behavior that causes disruptions in any major area of life - Psychological, Physical, Social or Vocational. The term gambling addiction includes but is not limited to the condition known as pathological or compulsive gambling - A progressive gambling addiction characterized by increasing preoccupation with gambling, a need to bet more money frequently, restlessness or irritability when attempting to stop, "chasing" losses, and loss of control manifested by continuation of the gambling behavior in spite of mounting serious negative consequences

Who cares????????????????????????
Your state doesn't!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

carverchick said...

You know Gladys...all I can say is Senator Rosenberg is an idiot and a coward. It amazes me how uninformed and ignorant some of these Senators are. They are susposed to legislate our Government with the best interest of the people in mind...not the unions, not the developers, and most certainly not the tribes. Using the fear factor yet again is so darned tiresome at this point...yet it worked. It didn't work in didn't work in Texas, it didn't work in Hawaii, it didn't work in Rhode Island or at the Supreme Court level, yet it worked in our Senate....unbelieveable. Rosenberg is a sham and a poor excuse for a Senator. He is irresponsible and short-sighted. So much for democracy and due process.....he has thrown our state to the casino wolves....a sad, sad day for all of us.