Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Something Wicked This Way Comes...

Honestly...  it's how I cope.

You see, it wasn't necessarily the joke of a public hearing. Or the empty promise of a 'clean slate'. Or the $80,000 taxpayer-funded benefit-only report. It wasn't even the intentional misinformation regarding tribal casinos, or the all-around lack of empathy, or the outrage over the smoking ban, or the amendment to check parking lots every 2 hours to search for abandoned children.

No. It was all of that and the photo of Therese Murray with right-hand man Stan Rosenberg - perhaps the first politician in Massachusetts history to qualify for minion pay - in a State House corridor immediately after the 25-15 Senate vote to OK expanded gambling in the Commonwealth, leering with victory - that's what did it.

Because it wasn't enough that these two had just advanced the cause of crime, addiction, bankruptcy, foreclosures, suicide, domestic abuse, child abuse and neglect here in Massachusetts.

Nor was it enough to have assisted in the birth of a vast new state bureaucracy, opened the door to several federally-held sovereign nations, magnified negative impacts to local communities and small businesses, reduced revenue to the lottery, ignored the advice of experts from Harvard and MIT, escalated a regional gambling arms race, and exchanged what's left of the public confidence for corporate special interests.

No, they had to stop and smile about it, too.

Murray and Rosenberg, master and minion, had been caught off guard in that photo, their standard masks of political indifference slipped away in a triumphant dash back to the lair for some celebratory eye-of-newt mojitos.

Between all the back-slapping and self-congratulation that has followed both legislative process and deliberation on this issue, augmented by the fact that most of what they do goes unchallenged by the media, I'm not sure our lawmakers have a terribly good handle on how they actually look to the rest of us.

For example, the recent Senate debate on expanded gambling could easily have been mistaken for some casino megacorp's annual stockholder meeting - complete with gung-ho executive speeches outlining methods for maximizing revenues, strategies for staying competitive, optimistic economic forecasts, regional feasibility, consumer preferences, the latest employment figures, federal mandates, environmental roadblocks, and all manner of requisite minutia vital to running a vast industrial empire.

The only thing missing was a speech by Therese Murray, assuring us that 'Greed, for lack of another word, is good'.

The scene shifted back to reality only when one of the anti-casino senators stepped up to the microphone.  Suddenly we were no longer the ballroom at the Atlantic City Borgata.

We were back on the floor of the Senate Chamber, under the golden dome of the Massachusetts State House, and the speakers hadn't been hired by the human resources department at Harrahs - they were elected by us. To protect us – ostensibly from crime and addiction and having to turn out our pockets in perpetuity to fund a new hackocracy to protect us from them.

But if the Senate debate highlighted a legislative disconnect from reality, then the previous House debate was transparently grotesque.

Little more than an avarice-fueled bacchanal, this feast of impending victory was more  fright night than good fight. 

Unleashed from the shackles of good judgment, inspired by corporate influence, handed a convenient excuse courtesy of the economy, and shepherded by the speaker of the House into the mythical promised land of gambling plenitude, proponents swiftly sought to subjugate their former anti-casino tormentors by pillaging the House of it's conscience and plundering the spines of it's weakest members.

The only thing missing was a newly forged golden calf.

We don't need no stinkin' amendment to protect people on self-exclusion lists.
Let' 'em fry! 

For over three years, I've watched this horror-show unfold from rickety folding chairs in ancient town halls, to the nosebleeds in Gardner Auditorium, to a cushy seat around a conference table in the Governor's office, and pretty much everywhere in between.

And, looking back, I can almost forgive the fervor, the wanton ignorance, private agendas, overwrought egos and general disdain for procedure that erupted in Middleboro when the casino carnival came to town.

Because, the manner in which this issue has been handled for the past year, by some of our highest elected (and well-paid) officials, has been nothing short of despicable.

And they're not even trying to hide it. The House bill was introduced, without public hearings, on April Fool's day, a year to the day a young woman was murdered in a Boston hotel room so that her killer could go spend her money at a Connecticut casino.

So. I mean, when, exactly, did the General Court become the House of Slytherin?

This legislature has heedlessly and secretively conducted the introduction of a law which would so greatly alter our Commonwealth - from the creation of 300,000 new addicts to the creation new sovereign nations - from the shuttering of existing local businesses to the funding of generations of new state pensions – as if it were free black hat day at the annual bad guy convention.

So why not just eradicate all pretense?

Boris Badenov for Speaker of the House! ...Sharrup you mouth!!!

Gollum for Governor!  ...Give me the precious! 

Elmira Gulch for Senate President! ...Poppies will put them to sleep.

It's not as if they're even redeemable bad guys either - like the Grinch - whose heart grew 3 sizes bigger as soon as he heard the Who's down in Whoville singing when they should have rightly been crying over the loss of their who-stockings and roast beast.

Hardly.  You could show these folks a police photo of Cindy Lou Who and her little brother after 10 hours in a minivan two blocks away from a resort casino on an 80 degree day in July - and they'd just ask you to 'dial down the rhetoric.'

The conference committee, charged with coming up with a compromise between House and Senate bills, and desperately seeking the Governor's approval, does nothing to diminish the cartoon.

Not one anti-expanded gambling advocate, and not one representative from the South Shore or the Cape - where their deliberations and lack of expertise will create new tribal sovereign nations - sits on the committee.  Because, more important than serving the best interests of the citizens of the Commonwealth, was that the committee be stocked with solid casino and racetrack enthusiasts from other parts of the state.

The only thing the opposition has asked for is an independent cost-benefit analysis.  In other words, not a benefit report, not a report written by a gambling company or pseudo professors like Clyde Barrow, or paid for out of the campaign fund of the rabidly pro-slots speaker of the House.

Opponents don't fear what such a report would contain. But it didn't, and won't, happen.  And that's because, let's face it, the truth is exactly what the bad guys fear most.
Therese Murray, Senate president, said in a statement released after the vote that casino gambling was “a significant change’’ for Massachusetts that would ultimately pay dividends.

“We have produced a bill that is responsible to the public and will do what’s best for our overall economic interests, creating short-term construction jobs and permanent long-term jobs,’’ Murray said.

Since when do responsible bills require employees to check parking lots for abandoned babies.  Responsible bills don't create addiction. Responsible bills don't create jobs that come at the cost of the public. 

And that "Significant change"?  It's a change for the worse.  No state has solved it's fiscal problems, or become wealthy or even remotely responsible through expanded gambling.

The introduction of this industry simply gives state politicians an infusion of of money which is spent almost instantly, and leaves the taxpayer responsible the costs forever.

But hey, maybe that's what Murray means by "responsible."

"Overall economic interests?"  She must mean Beacon Hills' interests.  Not ours. 

Watching the gambling industry assure our leaders that it's just like any other business partner is like hearing a New Jersey Housewife claim that no, she's a lady and a really a nice person, two seconds before jumps off her chair to chase another housewife through the halls of a country club while calling her at 'crack whore' at the top of her lungs.

Watching our leaders embrace this unreality show is just depressing.

But hey, I could be wrong.  Maybe they're not just a bunch of cliche cartoon bad guys.

They could just be really dumb.

But the bright news - however late in the game it might turn out to be - is that when things get this bad - and things are this bad - the pendulum of public opinion invariably starts to swing opposite direction.  Because let's face it, there is a yin to every yang.

If you don't believe me, read the comments following an article about casinos or slots, not in your local newspaper, but from some on-line source in a state where there's already been gambling for a few years.

Apparently, once the gambling promised land fails to materialize, and crime and tragedy are on the rise, the tables turn on all those beneficent leaders who once championed jobs, recaptured revenue, and assured the populace they'd be fine (just fine). 

Because that's just the way these things play out isn't it?

Dracula bites one neck too many and gets a wooden stake to the heart.  Nurse Ratched will eventually have to face a board of inquiry.  The witch will be liquidated by a teenager.  Moses comes off the mountain to crash the party.  And, at the end of the movie, even the infinitely powerful Death Star explodes like a rotten tomato.

Come to think of it, so does the shark.

But until that day comes, you and I have already paid for the ticket and popcorn with our vote and our tax dollars.  And, seeing as how they're not letting us be part of it, or care what we think of it, we may as well just sit back with our sack of rotten tomatoes, and enjoy what's left of the show.


Middleboro Remembers said...

It might require some time to digest your entire intent and respond appropriately, but you've appropriately and accurately described the pathetic sham on democracy.

The thought that continues to recur is that we don't elect these people because we have brains.

For some reason, we credit them with greater intelligence than they possess.

Gladys Kravitz said...

Perhaps it was not without irony then that it took me some time to digest and respond appropriately to how I was feeling after the Senate vote - having spend three years deeply involved in the process.

The pictures help me describe the reaction from my gut.

In short, we elect these people because children no longer learn civics in school but from Inside Edition on TV.

Mark Belanger said...

Excellent post - very well written.

It's infuriating and discouraging to see the same lies, disinformation, and sheer ignorance get repeated time and time again as the foolish casino roadshow moves from one venue to another.

Jobs, jobs, jobs is just a lot catchier than due diligence, due diligence, due diligence. Unfortunately "catchier" usually means shallow and ill-conceived.

TruthtoPower said...


Gladys Kravitz said...

Watching the Senate president and her faithful minion fall for the Tribe's "memo" maneuver was just too much. But a bunch of maroons.

The Roadshow analogy is a good one. It just keeps moving from place to place, using the same script, until it finds a bunch of dingbats in power who swallow it wholesale.

FrankD said...

Gladys, I always said your writing skills should be presented on the national stage. Your use of satire to share and explain your (inner most) thoughts is remarkable. I also hear the battle weariness in your voice. I share your sentiment. The spineless lemmings on Beacon Hill truly have a way of cutting the wind from the sails.

Middleboro Remembers said...


To believe "...we elect these people because children no longer learn civics in school but from Inside Edition on TV....." may be correct, but we learn politics from "The Daily Show."

How truly pathetic has Beacon Hill become? They aren't even listening to their own comments.

As these misfits set aside the People's Business and some truly important legislation for this circus, they have become their own cartoons, except I won't find them very funny until the expressions on their faces are recorded in November. Ta Ta! See you at the polls!