Archive for October, 2007
As I wrote the other day, the opposition to Governor Deval Patrick’s casino gambling gambit — is gathering steam. Those who enjoy political spectacles — particularly those among the Patrick’s political opponents — will be breaking out the popcorn to watch this classic case of slo-mo road kill. As a fan of the guv, that is a show I would rather see cancelled after these first few disastrous episodes. My friendly advice from this distance is that the sooner he starts shopping plan B to address the state’s economic issues — the better off we all will be.
A statewide coalition, Casino Free Mass, was formally launched on Monday in Boston, and is organizing statewide.
Supporters of the Casino Free Mass coalition include: The National Association on Mental Illness, Massachusetts Chapter; the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts; the National Association of Social Workers, Massachusetts Chapter; the Massachusetts Catholic Conference; the Massachusetts Council of Churches; the Massachusetts Family Institute; the Interchurch Council of Greater New Bedford; the Muslim American Society, Boston Chapter; Casinofacts.org
Press coverage has been intensive all over New England. The announcement of the coalition was, for example, the headline frontpage story in the Springfield Republican newspaper.
BOSTON – Religious groups, political activists and human service workers yesterday launched a statewide effort to oppose casinos in Massachusetts.
Members of the Casino Free Mass coalition said they will hold meetings around the state to organize people against casinos. They said they have no plans to lobby legislators.
Members said casinos in Massachusetts will create a new generation of addicted gamblers. They warned that casinos take money from the poor and elderly, those who can least afford it.
The Rev. John V. Johnson, executive director of the Massachusetts Council of Churches, said casino gambling is a moral issue. The council is helping lead the coalition.
“Raising revenue off the addiction of its citizens is both a bad bet and bad government,” Johnson said at a press conference outside the Statehouse.
The League of Women Voters of Massachusetts first voiced its opposition to casino gambling in 1982, said Diane Jeffery, president of the league. The league opposes casinos because casino jobs are short term, such as construction jobs, or low paying. In addition, casinos sprout crime, gambling addiction and traffic, according to studies conducted by the league.
“At a time when cities and towns are looking for money, this is not the time to bring in gambling,” said Jeffery, in an interview. “We need to focus on industries that don’t drain the economy.”
The National Gambling Impact Study, created and funded by Congress, found that the rate of problem and addicted gamblers doubles within a 50-mile radius of a new casino.
State sponsored revenue-by-addiction is a non-starter. Give it up now please, Governor Patrick.
Massachusetts is routinely taken for granted in American politics. We are an early primary state — but not early enough apparently. But there is more. This taking for granted is particuarly acute in the progressive and Democratic political communities — including the national political blogger community,, which finds itself fascinated, just fascinated by obscure precincts in Montana or who said what to whom in the halls of Congress and even on Fox News — you know the network True Dems are not supposed to appear on… there is more, but I digress.
Let us now celebrate Massachusetts — one of, if not THE bluest state in the nation.
Let us celebrate our all-Dem Congressional delegation and Senators Kennedy and Kerry. (Aren’t we glad Senator Kennedy is back at work after a hospital stay?)
Let us celebrate a progressive Democratic electorate who had the vision, the wisdom and the energy to get Deval Patrick the nomination for governor over overwhelmingly better funded and more established candidates.
Let us celebrate the good sense — and the enthusiasm — of the wider electorate who rejected yet another GOP hack in favor of a pragmatic statesman who also happens to be the first African American governor of Massachusetts and only the second African American governor –after Doug Wilder in VA. And let us celebtrate that — Inside the Beltway conventional wisdom be damned — among the ways that Patrick distinguished himself as a candidate was to be articulately and unapologetically prochoice and promarriage equality and pro- stem cell research.
Indeed, let us celebrate the simple fact that Massachusetts has led the way in the instituting of marriage equality, thanks to the wisdom of our Supreme Judicial Court. In the several years since the legalization of gay marriage, nothing untoward has happened, the dire and histrionic warnings of the religious right and the Catholic bishops not withstanding. Come visit us and you’ll see that nothing has changed, except that some people are happier and more secure in their lives. More recently, our state legislature blocked a ballot initiative that would have amended the state constitution to overturn the court decision. The initiative would have been on the ballot in ’08 and served as a further distraction from the real issues facing our state and the nation. We reject hate-based politics and refuse to put bigotry on the ballot, let alone in the state constitution.
The religious right is going to try to target the courageous state representatives and senators who took a chance and did the right thing. But we will not forget them and leave them vulnerable — and we are already blogging and organizing fundraisers.
I am proud to report that the Massachusetts state senate has passed a bill that would establish a 35 foot buffer zone between clinics and religious right zealots who routinely harrrass people going in and out. The Boston Globe reports:
During a press conference… [Senator Harriette] Chandler, Senator Susan Fargo, a cosponsor, and advocates from Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts and NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts stood next to large photographs of a protester dressed as a Boston police officer talking to a driver entering a healthcare facility.
“This is the level of protesting that is going at reproductive health centers in Massachusetts,” said Angus McQuilken of Planned Parenthood. “This is the type of protesting that this law is designed to prevent.” …
Expansion of the buffer zone has the support of House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi and nearly half of the 160 state representatives, said Representative Carl Sciortino, a cosponsor. Attorney General Martha Coakley testified in support of the bill at a hearing in May.
Governor Deval Patrick released a statement of support.
“Women in the Commonwealth have the right to medical care free of violence, harassment, or intimidation,” Patrick said. “The Senate’s decision today to widen the buffer zone around reproductive clinics will protect patients from the abuse that so many have encountered as they seek care.”
“We’re not talking here about denying people the right to have freedom of speech,” Chandler said. “What we’re talking about is allowing people to access healthcare.”
Let me just say that this stands in sharp contrast to other states that turn a blind-eye to the harrassment of patients and staff of clinics that provide abortion care, among other womens health services. If you want to see what Democratic values in action look like — take a look at Massachusetts. My state is not an oasis to which progressives can look longingly — it is a stronghold — and we are intent on making it stronger.
And presidential campaigns — I am talking to you. You come to our state looking for volunteers for your New Hampshire operations. We are glad to help. But I also hope that you will look to our state as the epitome of what the Democratic Party stands for and the kinds of approaches to politics and public policy it can bring.
For the first time in the better part of a generation, we have a Democratic governor and legislature that is not only overwhelmingling Dem, but is also far more progressive than it was just a few years ago. They are all still finding their sea legs, but I can’t wait to see what they can do once they learn the ropes.
In the media it seems like all we hear about are how white evangelicals are disgusted with Bush and the GOP — well, who isn’t? But let us recall who we are as Democrats. We welcome those white evangelicals who are not already with us — after all, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Al Gore are white evangelicals. But let’s also not forget who we are, and never allow those who make a buck off of selling us new ways to appeal to hypothetical microdemographics dominate the conversation at the cost of our most deeply held values as Democrats.
As my colleague Chip Berlet recently wrote:
“Human rights are not political commodities.”
The problem is not “abortion” or “reducing the number of abortions.” The problem is unwanted pregnancies, how to prevent them, and how to support women who get pregnant in the decisions they deem appropriate. This includes access to legal and safe contraception and abortion; as well as access to health care and child care for women who choose to give birth and raise children—concepts seen as fundamental rights in other industrialized countries. Our rights, and the rights of our friends, relatives, and neighbors who are women, are not political commodities to be traded for votes.
The problem is not “gay rights” or “gay marriage.” The problem is building a society where the basic human rights of all people are respected and defended. Under the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, there is no such thing as “Special Rights.” When some Christian conservatives claim that gay people want “Special Rights,” it is a falsehood. Our rights, and the rights of our friends, relatives, and neighbors in LGBTQ communities, are not political commodities to be traded for votes.
We intend to vote in the upcoming elections in 2008, and we intend to vote for candidates who make it crystal clear that they support basic human rights for all. At the same time, we will continue to build broad and diverse coalitions seeking fundamental progressive social change. As we rebuild our progressive social movement, we will pay special attention to politicians who have through words or actions objectively undermined basic human rights for women, the LGBTQ communities, or any other group in our society.
Oh yeah, and Chip is from Massachusetts too.
A statewide coalition led by Casinofacts.org is going public:
On Monday 10/29, there will be an announcement about the formation of a state-wide coalition to oppose Governor Patrick’s casino plan. This event will take place at 11am on the front steps of the Statehouse.
The coalition is a combination of religious groups, mental health organizations, business groups, social service agencies and citizen activist groups. They will be coming together under one banner to oppose the Governor’s plan to put casinos in three communities in Massachusetts. This is the start of the first organized opposition to this flawed “economic model”.
Casinofacts.org has put together strong arguments on the gambling industry and has posted links to solid research on its web site.
dkennedy has more in a post over at Blue Mass Group.
I was a supporter of Governor Deval Patrick when he was best known as “Deval Who?” I actively supported his campaign in the blogosphere, and inside Progressive Democrats of Massachusetts (PDM) (one of his first significant endorsements) and took a lot of skepticism about the viability of his candidacy.
But I also knew that Patrick was right when he told us that there would be times when we would disagree. So naturally he will understand that many of us who so vigorously supported his candidacy are vociferously opposed to his proposal for a multibillion dollar distortion of the Massachusetts economy in the form of three casino gambling “resorts”.
I remember being very impressed when then-candidate Patrick offered articulate and principled opposition to casino gambling in light of the profound social harms he knew were associated with the euphemistically termed “gaming industry.” Now, in the interest of generating revenue for the state, he is backing a proposal for state sponsorship of the very social harms of which he warned in the form of three state licensed casinos. Yes, his proposal calls for state issued band aids. But the planning for band aids only confirms that he appreciates the harm his casino proposal will cause.
Patrick got it right when he argued during the campaign that rather than debating whether we should raise or lower taxes, we should first consider what we want to do and then discuss how to pay for it. In that spirit those of us who were with him from the beginning are saying that it is time to talk.
Listen to the words the Amherst Democratic Town Committee — the party leaders in a town that supported Patrick more strongly than any other in the Commonwealth in the hotly contested Democratic primary, and again in the general election:
Amherst Democratic Town Committee
October 18, 2007
WHEREAS the platform of the Massachusetts Democratic Party commits the party to “tax equity and responsible budgeting,” “special support for small businesses and agriculture,” “sustainable development practices to foster economic stability for both urban and rural cities and towns,” and the provision of “a sustainable revenue source to finance state government that support a healthy economy;”
WHEREAS casino gambling would not promote tax equity, responsible budgeting, sustainable development practices, or a sustainable revenue source, and likely would damage small businesses and agriculture in Western Massachusetts;
WHEREAS the Governor’s proposal for casinos in Massachusetts represents a missed opportunity to advocate for a more equitable tax system; and
WHEREAS the League of Women Voters Massachusetts and Representative Ellen Story have been consistent and forthright in their advocacy for more equitable taxation and their opposition to casino gambling;
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT:
The Amherst Democratic Town Committee supports the League of Women Voters Massachusetts and Representative Story in their opposition to casino gambling in Massachusetts and in their commitment to a more equitable system of taxation for residents of the Commonwealth.
Motion made by Leo Maley.
Motion seconded by Diana Stein.
Motion, as amended, passed by a vote of 13 to 2 with 0 abstentions.
# # #
Here is the press release that is being vigorously emailed around the state:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Meeting on October 18, 2007, members of the Amherst Democratic Town Committee (ADTC) voted to support the League of Women Voters Massachusetts and local State Representative Ellen Story in their opposition to casino gambling in Massachusetts.
The ADTC resolution states that Governor Deval Patrick’s casino gambling proposal “would not promote tax equity, responsible budgeting, sustainable development practices, or a sustainable revenue source, and likely would damage small businesses and agriculture in Western Massachusetts.”
The resolution also stated that the Governor’s casino proposal “represents a missed opportunity to advocate for a more equitable tax system” in Massachusetts.
ADTC member Leo Maley brought the resolution to the Committee. Following an hour-long discussion, the resolution passed by a vote of 13 to 2.
“It was a lively and informative discussion. Committee members came to the meeting well-informed on the subject. Most members had read the very informative materials prepared by the League of Women Voters Massachusetts concerning the economic and social effects of casino gambling,” Maley noted.
“It is great to see this level of knowledge and passion concerning such an important issue at the grass roots of the Democratic party.”
“Many Committee members expressed their disappointment in Governor Patrick,” Maley noted. “Only one Committee member expressed support for Governor Deval Patrick’s casino proposal. Most Committee members were passionately opposed to the Governor’s plan,” Maley noted.
Maley, a community and political organizer, notes that he strongly supported Deval Patrick in last year’s Democratic primary and general elections and that many ADTC members had campaigned hard for Patrick.
“Amherst voted 84 percent for Deval Patrick in a three-way Democratic primary and again by 84 percent in the general election,” Maley noted. “ADTC members helped lead the effort for Deval Patrick in Western Massachusetts.”
Maley noted that “The Governor has done many wonderful things since he’s been in office. I continue to support him. However, it is unfortunate to see the Governor so out of step with his core supporters on this very important issue.”
Maley can be reached for comment by phone at 413-262-0630 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
I’ll be speaking at Write Angles this year:
Join us for one of New England’s longest-running writers’ conferences on Saturday, December 1, 2007, at the Willits-Hallowell Conference Center at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, MA. This year’s theme is “New Angles on Writing.” Over 20 experienced authors, editors, journalists, and agents will present panel discussions and workshops aimed at seasoned writers and novices alike. Best selling author Dennis Lehane and National Book Award winner Julia Glass will make keynote presentations. Conference fee includes continental breakfast and a bountiful buffet luncheon. Preregistration is advised as space is limited.
(Plenty of free parking is available in front of, or near, the Conference Center. Also, the facilities are wheelchair accessible.)
Lake of Fire is coming to the Brattle Theater in Cambridge for an exclusive engagement October 26th – November 2nd.
I have blogged about this 2 1/2 hour Hollywood documentary on the politics of abortion a number of times since it first appeared at the Toronto Film festival last year. More recently, I have summarized the strong and interesting reviews the film is gaining, mainly in mainstream newspapers.
What I have found most interesting is the film’s treatment of antiabortion militance and violence in the U.S. — which has been such an intergral element rather than an exception to, the antiabortion movement and the wider religious right. Awhile back I wrote:
The film spends a lot of time on an underdiscussed subject: violence against abortion providers. Interviewees include Emily Lyons, an Alabama nurse who was severely injured by a pipe bomb exploded at a clinic by Eric Rudolph, who was on the FBIs Most Wanted List for years in connection with the bombing of the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, as well as two clinics and a gay bar. Also interviewed is Paul Hill, who publicly advocated the notion that the murder of abortion providers is “justifiable homicide.” Hill went on to murder a doctor and an escort himself, and was executed in Florida for his crimes. The loose-but-nevertheless-criminal-and-theocratic revolutionary-underground-network is rarely discussed anywhere, let alone in such a remarkable and prominent vehicle as this.
Operation Rescue had a slogan — “If abortion is murder, then act like it’s murder.” That many people don’t “act like is murder” underscores the moral complexity of the matter. That there are those who do, and who are tacitly supported by many others, underscores the revolutionary quality of such thinking.
But many mainstream newspaper accounts reduce discussion of the film to matter of the morality of abortion over the wider political and indeed, criminal and terrorist dimensions of the story. The latest such discussion is in The Guardian newspaper of London.
Tony Kaye, who made his name as a award-winning director of commercial and music videos, has spent 16 years and devoted $7m (£3.4m) of his own money to produce what he hopes will be the definitive documentary on the American abortion debate. The film, which has opened in New York and is set for release across 23 US cities, has divided critics, with some hailing it as the documentary of the year, others denouncing it as sensationalist. Detractors have also pointed out that most of the talking heads who appear on camera are male, including Noam Chomsky and the lawyer Alan Dershowitz.
(And me.) The Guardian continues:
Kaye began shooting Lake of Fire in 1992 as a way, he says, of exploring his own deep moral uncertainties about abortion. His personal opinions, he told the Guardian, are as polarised as those of the American public. “If I had to tick a box I would say I was pro-choice. I would vote for a woman’s right to chose without hesitation, because without legal abortions poor women die.” But emotionally, he says, he is “completely opposed to abortion. I see it as murder – the taking of another’s life.”
The result of his own internal conflict is a documentary that is, in the conclusion of Cineaste magazine, “a maddeningly elusive film”. Shot in arty black and white, it has sequences that will dismay pro-choice feminists and pro-life fundamentalists in equal measure.
The most shocking section of the 152-minute film is footage shot by Kaye himself of the abortion of a 20-week foetus. It shows the foetus’s head and eye staring straight at the camera, its hand in a metal collecting tray and its foot placed on a ruler and measuring just over 3cm.
The foetal parts are checked by a doctor to ensure the operation has been completed while he explains why he has conducted the operation: “The really important thing is that we have been able to help this young lady to get on with her life by facilitating her decision not to be a mother at this time.”
Kaye told the Guardian that he wholly agreed with those sentiments. “But the irony of that moment is that you are seeing a snuff movie – they have chopped up a human being, a baby.”
The footage, which Kaye describes as “probably the most controversial shot ever shown in cinemas”, has raised accusations that the documentary is slanted against abortion. But other graphic images, including a picture of a woman slumped in the corner of a hotel room where she had died trying to abort her own foetus with a coat hanger, will prove no less shocking to pro-life supporters.
But because the film defies existing, contradictory narratives about abortion — it may very well be ignored by the political community. So far, there have been few commentaries on the film from the opposing camps. Most of the writing about the film has come from professional film reviewers.
Still, the film may yet filter into the broader public discussion of the politics of abortion and affect it in surprising and unexpected ways. But I believe it will take a lot more people to actually see and start discussing the film for that to happen.
A local political drama in Springfield, Massachusetts is the beginning of what may signal the launch of a national religious right campaign against promarriage equality legislators in Blue states.
Yesterday, a billboard went up on I-91 near the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield — comparing Democratic state Rep. Angelo Puppolo to Judas Iscariot and Benedict Arnold.
At issue is Rep. Puppolo’s vote last June not to allow a state constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage to appear on the ballot in 2008. Titled “BETRAYED” the billboard has a vibrant yellow background and features illustrations – one depecting Jesus being betrayed by Judas, one of Benedict Arnold — and a photo of Angelo Puppolo.
“Tactics like this reinforce my belief that I did the right thing,” Puppolo told The Springfield Republican. “I voted to keep discrimination off the ballot and out of the Massachusetts constitution.”