Tuesday, June 30, 2009
The Division of Local Services is pleased to announce that the latest issue of City and Town is available on-line.
Series of Public Hearings throughout July 2009
July 7, 2009
Nantucket High School
July 8, 2009
Worcester Public Library
July 9, 2009
Andover Town House
July 14, 2009
Quincy City Hall
July 15, 2009
North Adams City
On May 15, 2009, National Grid filed a petition with the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) requesting an approximately $111 million increase in rates as of January 1, 2010. For residential customers, this is an 18% increase in distribution rates (5.5% for total bill). As the ratepayer advocate, my office represents consumers in matters involving the price and delivery of natural gas, electricity and telecommunication services before federal and state government regulators including the DPU. As such, my office has several major concerns with National Grid's recent filing.
Massachusetts already has some of the highest electricity rates in the nation and it is unfortunate that National Grid has chosen to propose such a significant electric rate increase that will further harm ratepayers during these tough economic times.
In response to this request, the DPU is holding public hearings (dates, times, locations at left) where legislators, municipal officials, and the general public can voice their concerns.
My office will represent ratepayers contesting the National Grid rate increase before the DPU. Evidentiary hearings will take place August 3 through September 4, 2009 with a DPU decision expected on December 1, 2009. In addition to attending the hearings, legislators, municipal officials, and the general public can submit written comments on National Grid's filing to the DPU by July 16, 2009. These may be submitted by mail to: 1 South Station, Boston, MA 02108, or by email to: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
As the ratepayer advocate I urge you to assist my office in challenging National Grid's rate increase.
Massachusetts Attorney General
Major Concerns with National Grid's Proposed Rate Increase:
National Grid is asking for a Return on Equity (return for shareholders) of 11.6%. This is well above what the Department generally allows and is excessive considering the other components of National Grid's filing;
Although National Grid wants more profits, the Company attempts to shift more risks onto ratepayers by requesting multiple cost trackers for: (a) Capital Expenditures; (b) Inspection and Maintenance Program; (c) Bad Debt and Other Uncollectibles; and (d) Pension and Other Post Retirement Benefits;
Instead of spreading the cost over numerous years, National Grid wants to recover $30,000,000 in one year from ratepayers that it spent restoring service after the December 2008 ice storm;
National Grid's decoupling proposal does not comport to DPU directives and serves National Grid's interests over those of ratepayers;
National Grid's proposed inclining block rate structure may harm some customers including low income customers; and
National Grid's proposed rate increase is in additional to other rate increases that customers in Grid's service territory are likely to see on January 1, 2010.
On June 29, 2009 Governor Patrick approved the FY2010 state budget (Chapter 27 of the Acts of 2009). The Division of Local Services has posted FY2010 cherry sheet estimates based on the appropriation levels appearing in the budget approved by the Governor. FY2010 cherry sheets are available for downloading at the link below:
To review additional information about how the estimates were determined, click on the link at the bottom for an index of the FY2010 programs and links to individual explanations.
Klocke [executive vice president for public policy at the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce] argued that this is probably the worst time for the state to put to issue licenses for casinos out to bid, because they would probably fetch much lower prices this year than last, or than in a few years, if the economy rebounds.
Michael Pollock [who was hired by Patrick to study casino gambling] ...But it [consumer savings] makes it harder for destination casinos to get back to where they were, if they’ll ever get back to where they were.”
Professor Goodman commented that in Ohio the state Chamber of Commerce, sporting associations, restaurant associations, retail associations opposed casino gambling because of the negative impact of businesses because of the loss of discretionary spending..
Monday, June 29, 2009
The AG rapidly presented detailed information from in depth research about the regulatory costs and expenses around the country, the need to determine a regulatory body, the need for the legislature to give serious consideration to the appointment process, the qualifications of the appointments, the compensation, prevention of a "Revolving Door" policy, independence of the appointments, transparency of the process and background checks.
Before details of the AG's comments are itemized, one scenario analyzed indicated that regulatory and enforcement authority resided with the AG's office in another state, requiring 500 to 1,000 employees.
Of those 1,000 employees, it might be reasonable that they would encompass a wide spectrum of expertise from attorneys, law enforcement personnel to secretaries and file clerks.
With health care costs and pension benefits, those annual costs per employee might average $100,000.
1,000 new state employees
X $100,000 salaries, benefits, pensions
My total cost figure is $100,000,000 for regulatory and enforcement costs.
This seems to be one of those costs that aren't being included in this discussion that needs greater consideration.
What I'm seeing is $100,000,000 here, $100,000,000 there and pretty soon, you're talking about real money.
Of some of the communities that have considered the impacts a gaming facility will create, additional people will create the need for additional NEW schools, additional teachers.
When you begin to tally the costs, the outcome isn't quite so rosy.
Friday, June 26, 2009
Hold Informational Gaming Hearing
Monday, June 29, 2009
10:00 am to 2:00 pm
Massachusetts State House
This hearing is designed to give the Senate members of the Committee
on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies an opportunity to
receive information about some of the complex issues which any
potential change in state law governing gaming would raise.
The hearing is open for the public to observe, but the committee is
only accepting comment from those invited to testify.
topics will be discussed:
Gaming Models Overview
Michael Pollock - Managing Director, Spectrum Gaming Group
Jim Klocke & Carl Jenkins – Boston Chamber and UHY Advisors
Clyde Barrow – UMass Dartmouth , Center for Policy Analysis, NewEngland Gaming Research Project
Regulation Models Overview
Martha Coakley – Attorney General
Charles A. Baker, Esq. – Partner at DLA Piper
Social Impact Overview
Hans Breiter, MD – Director of the Laboratory for Neuroimaging and Genetics, MGH
Dr. Robert Goodman – Prof. at Hampshire College
Revenue & Finance Models Overview
Jennifer Lendler – Executive VP of Gaming Operations, Coastal Development
John Grogan – Managing Director, Corporate Finance Advisors
This is not a hearing on any specific proposal or gaming bill. The
Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies will
hear the gaming bills referred to it in the fall.
Where is the balance, Senator?
Casino Propaganda At Its Best explains the phony debate that wasn't a debate.
"As I read federal law, it extinguished all property rights in these lands," Scalia argued at the time. "If you are telling me the Hawaii Supreme Court is now finding as a matter of state law that there is a property interest on the part of the native Hawaiians -- I don't care what you call it, equitable or whatever -- it seems to me that is flat contradiction of federal law, and probably is an issue that we ought to address in this opinion."
Attorney General of 29 other states filed a friend-of-the court brief.... certainly makes it seems as if the majority of states oppose the matter.
My friends, Gladys and Bumpkin have raised some significant issues about the Kerzner-Wolman Bingo Parlor being a dead issue.
Maybe it's time for the 4 Middleboro Bingo Parlor Board of Selectmen, the Town of Mashpee and the Mashpee Wampanoags to hire competent attorneys to 'xplain the SCOTUS decisions to them.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
On Friday, the House is voting on the American Clean Energy and Security Act (the Waxman-Markey bill, HR 2454), the first climate bill to have any chance of getting congressional approval. Our generation - and our world - needs America to take action on the climate crisis, but the current bill falls short of the reforms we need. We must make it stronger, and now is our chance.Write a message below to your Representative now to demand that they support strengthening amendments to the climate bill that:
Hold polluters accountable by restoring the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate coal plants
Increase investment in green jobs and in protecting vulnerable communities against the impacts of global warming
Improve the renewable energy standard to create more clean energy jobs.
Click to send a letter to your rep.
From Credo :
Why did you let Big Coal ruin the climate bill?
Talk about an inconvenient truth.
Since Reps. Henry Waxman and Ed Markey introduced their landmark global warming legislation (HR 2454: The American Clean Energy and Security Act), the bill has been dramatically weakened and the calls to strengthen the bill have not been heeded. We cannot support this legislation as currently written.
For example, the legislation now:
Slashes requirements for renewable energy;
Reduces the targets for CO2 emissions;
Subsidizes the coal industry to the tune of $60 billion!
Eliminates EPA's power to further regulate CO2 emissions from any industry covered by the bill; and
Removes EPA from oversight of carbon offsets that relate to farming.
The way Congress works, a weak bill becomes the basis for negotiations within the Senate, which is even less concerned about global warming than the House. If this is the best we can do in the House, it will only get worse in the Senate.
The sad truth is that the coal, gas, oil, auto, and farming interests are much more powerful than environmentalists. Corporate polluters have managed to take decent legislation and turn it upside down so that it will help them more than the planet.
It serves nobody to pretend that this is not true. Environmental organizations in recent weeks have sent dozens of requests asking their members to help strengthen and then pass this legislation. Ask any of theses groups if the strengthen part has happened on any of our demands.
It has not.
Fortunately, if Congress cannot enact comprehensive legislation this year, great progress can and should be made using EPA's powers along with narrower bills on such matters as a nationwide renewable standard.
Sign the petition
HR 2454: The American Clean Energy and Security Act has been dramatically weakened and the calls to strengthen the bill have not been heeded. For example, the legislation now:
Slashes requirements for renewable energy;
Reduces the targets for CO2 emissions;
Subsidizes the coal industry to the tune of $60 billion!
Eliminates EPA's power to further regulate CO2 emissions from any industry covered by the bill; and
Removes EPA from oversight of carbon offsets that relate to farming.
Please explain to your constituents why didn't you stand up to coal and strengthen the climate bill.
How the media is creating a climate for change
Environmental Defense Fund :
Key Features of the American Clean Energy and Security Act
'This is the moment': House vote on landmark climate bill set for Friday (worth reading in its entirety):
The U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on landmark climate legislation this Friday. The American Clean Energy and Security Act would create a cap-and-trade system to limit greenhouse gas emissions, bringing them below 1990 levels by 2020.
With the vote approaching, opponents of the bill are stepping up their attacks. Prominent among them are American Solutions for Winning the Future, an advocacy group led by former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia and co-founded by billionaire businessmen including Roger Milliken, heir to a South Carolina textile fortune and longtime patron of conservative causes.
The group -- which was also behind the "Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less" campaign to promote offshore oil and gas drilling -- blasts the ACES bill as an "energy tax" in a TV ad it's currently airing. American Solutions, which says it has collected more than 123,000 signatures on a petition against the bill, points to a study by the conservative, pro-business Heritage Foundation to back up its claims that the legislation would be enormously expensive and wreck the economy.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
The host community of Twin River in Rhode Island said "No" to 24 hour gambling. As it is, the facility closes at 3 AM.
To feed Rhode Island's gambling addiction, local choice got flushed.
The state allowed the facility to open 24 hours a day on weekends last year, despite objections of town residents in a Lincoln referendum. The governor’s 24/7 plan immediately drew local opposition.
“It will impact the residents of that part of town,’’ said Ronald A. McKenna, president of the Lincoln Town Council. “They already objected to the weekend 24 hours. This will just make their situation worse. But obviously the governor has his mind all made up, and damn be the residents of Lincoln, as long as the state of Rhode Island gets what they want.’’
Of Rhode Island's Gambling Addiction --
“The fact of the matter is, we’re stuck,’’ Mazze said, referring to Rhode Island. “We don’t see other revenue sources coming in, and we’re going to fight hard to protect something that everybody is apparently against.’’ [LINK]
Maybe someone should do the math. $2 Billion in revenue for 441 jobs.
On national news: slots were voted down in Senate committee in Kentucky, despite a desperate plea that slots were essential to saving horse racing, which is a huge industry there.
Slots and casinos were also voted down in New Hampshire.
Twin Rivers racino slot parlors in Rhode Island filed for bankruptcy today and called for a massive government bail-out (again).
From: Bob Massie
Date: June 23, 2009 1:01:54 PM EDT
Subject: Information and Request for Meeting
Dear Senator Spilka:
I called your office today because I am interested in the informational hearings that you are conducting on the question of slot machine addiction, economic development, and casino gambling in the state. I certainly welcome a thorough review of this.
I am writing to offer a few thoughts and to ask if I might able to make an appointment to visit with you to discuss this matter at your convenience.
I don't believe I have had the privilege of meeting you, or perhaps it was very briefly. I have been involved in the Democratic Party for a long time and I was the nominee for Lt Governor way back in the last century (1994). I was also part of the group that proposed the successful convention resolution in which the party took quite a strong stand against predatory gambling as something that does not deliver on its economic promises, leads to the destruction of many families, and undermines the basic principles of the Democratic Party and the Commonwealth.
I view this as a question of economic judgment and of political values. The governor, who is a personal friend of mine, has said that he believes in three core principles: 1) that we should govern through wise long-term decisions, not gimmicks 2) that we are "all in this together," and 3) he favors (as you know) reform in various areas, including ethics. Of course the story of ethics and gambling is filled with troubling incidents, since so many people, from Jack Abramoff to Glenn Marshall (of the Wampanoags) to Senator Vincent Fumo (leading advocate for slots) are all in Federal prison. Even seemingly unconnected incidents, such as the brutal murder of Julissa Brisman by Philip Markoff, her alleged killer, have a link to gambling. Markoff's means was Craigslist, but his motive was to make up for his gambling losses. He was, as you know, arrested on the highway to Foxwoods with his fiance, carrying the money he had stolen from his victim.
As you are aware, the Democratic convention in Springfield voted against introducing slot machines and casinos to Massachusetts on the grounds that it did not provide the economic benefits in the long-run and because it was against our principles to raise public revenue by promoting addiction that harms many people, especially women (who are specially targeted by slot companies), and the children and families for which they are often responsible. Many Democrats are hoping that there will be Senators who will review the issues carefully and vote as the party delegates did when this issue comes up again.
Unfortunately, I will almost certainly be out of town on June 29, but perhaps I could be helpful to you and your staff in the next few days by suggesting top scholars and experts from law, medicine, business, and law enforcement. There are brilliant and talented people who have studied this very closely. Professor Natasha Schull of MIT, for example, is coming out with an extraordinary book on the way slot manufacturing companies are using advanced brain science to figure out how to make slot machines as addictive as possible in the shortest available time. You can see her (and hear her explain her evidence very briefly) in this remarkable short video, which is only 8 minutes long. I strongly urge you to watch it. Perhaps it would even be valuable at the hearing.
As you know, the pro-gambling groups have spent tens of millions of dollars towards lobbying -- I have watched how they have used the same arguments and techniques in many other states, including Maryland, Pennsylvania, Mississippi, Louisiana, and New York. Very often these decisions were made without the kind of thoughtful review that you are pursuing. In Pennsylvania the decision to put 65,000 slot machines all over the state passed by voice vote after midnight on the fourth of July.
The New Hampshire and Kentucky legislatures just voted down slot machines at racetracks because, in part, they felt that that the pro-slot machine advocates had misrepresented the benefits and under-represented the costs.
Probably the best overall source of the information -- a compilation of brilliant pieces of research from around the country and around the world -- was edited and published this year by Professor John Kindt, a professor of law and business at the University of Illinois. You would be amazed at the range, depth, and quality of the studies he has compiled. Volume I, which is a summary, is called Gambling: Executive Summaries and Recommendations and was produced by the US International Gambling Commission, a non-partisan, independent, academically rigorous team of researchers from around the nation working over ten years. There work is particularly important since many of the studies that are produced have been paid for by the predatory gambling industry -- slot manufacturers, casino owners and operators, international gambling cartels, etc -- and their work is seriously tainted.
Just to give one example from the research that Kindt compiled: once installed in a state, a functioning slot machine tends to kill one net job every year from then on Why is this? Because on average one slot machine pulls around $100,000 out of the local economy and redistributes it to the owners and shareholders of the slot parlor or casino. Yes, some money comes back in the form of pay-outs and wages, but not much. And if you consider the multiplier effect -- how many different ways $100,000 generates activity if it passes through many hands in a local economy (often estimated at three times, or about $300,000 of economic multiplier for every $100,000 spent), you can see that removing that money -- from $100,000 to $300,000 and sending it to build another casino in Macau or in to boost the stock of Harrah's, etc -- would stifle jobs. Besides, how many local restaurants can compete with $3.00 steak dinner or a free all-you-can-eat buffet? So if Massachusetts approves 25,000 slot machines that would mean 25,000 lost jobs over time -- about the number of working people in my home town of Somerville (population of 70,000)
I know that this is often presented as a winner for jobs, but if one takes a quick peak outside Massachusetts you can see a lot of evidence to the contrary. Most of the jobs are one-time construction jobs -- when the building is built, they are done. Many of the jobs that are then available are of mixed value with little opportunity for advancement. You may be aware that the Twin Rivers slot parlor and tracks filed for bankruptcy today in Rhode Island. It was originally presented to the state as a way to preserve jobs at the tracks and generated unlimited free dollars.
The slot owners then tried to close the tracks (and fire all the track workers) because racing is a money loser, compared to a slot-machine, which is basically an addictive reverse ATM. Now they want the state to buy the facility in order to bail them out from the huge debt load.
With regard to preserving jobs at tracks, here in Massachusetts you are probably aware that the Federal government set aside millions in retraining money for workers at the greyhound tracks, but that the owners of the tracks told the workers to refuse the money because slots at the tracks in Massachusetts were a done deal. This story came out about four months ago - I still find it shocking, since the workers, yet again, are being used as hostages or pawns. I can send you the citation if you like.
As you know, there is a lot of contradictory -- and deliberately misleading -- information out there. The pro-gambling people have a lot of slick material to hand out, but I can tell you, as someone who earned a doctorate from Harvard Business School 20 years, most of the numbers are inflated or fake. They usually count benefits without costs.
I know that the budget circumstances you face are crushingly difficult, and that you all have really hard choices to make. This is why we are a dangerous point as many self-interested parties seeking private enrichment through the public purse dangle the old promises of "get rich quick" or "something for nothing" in front of everyone from the governor to the unions to the legislators to people who are struggling to make ends meet. That is why your effort to sort out the wheat from the chaff -- to dig past the multi-colored charts and the glitzy promises -- is so important.
This is one of the most important decisions the Massachusetts Senate has been asked to make in many years. No state has ever introduced slot machines and then been able to get rid of them. It is not only the people who get addicted to them -- the state does too. The short term gain (licensing fees, construction jobs) fades away and the the state is left hold a heavy bag of long-term pain -- broken promises and broken people.
Thank you for taking the time to bring thoughtful people in to examine this issue from all sides.
Please let me know if I or the very large network of people who are opposed to predatory gambling in Massachusetts could be be helpful to you.
With respect and warm regards
PS Please do watch the video - I think you will find the scientific evidence very interesting.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
If there was ever a time for a strong ethics bill it is now.
On June 19, 2009 the Legislature approved the Conference Committee's version of the FY2010 budget. The Division of Local Services has posted updated local aid estimates based on the Conference Committee budget recommendations to the Division of Local Services' web site at the link below: [LINK]
Please be advised that these estimates are based on the appropriation levels appearing in the Conference Committee report and are subject to final approval by the Governor.
The estimate for Unrestricted General Government Aid reflects a reduction of $377.2 or 28.72 percent from original FY2009 levels. The Conference Committee budget also recommends reducing Chapter 70 by $79.0 million or 2 percent from the original FY2009 level, reducing Regional School Transportation from $61.3 million in FY2009 to $40.5 million in FY2010, and funding the state reimbursement for the Police Career Incentive program at $10 million.
Estimates for School Choice Tuition Assessments and Receipts reflect updated enrollments and costs based on final FY09 data. However, it is important to note that the Charter School Tuition Assessments and Reimbursements have not been updated with the FY2010 enrollments submitted by Charter Schools to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
These enrollment changes will be available by the time the Governor signs the FY2010 budget and will be reflected in the final cherry sheet estimates.
To review additional information about how the estimates were determined and what may cause them to change in the future, click on the link at the bottom for an index of the FY2010 programs and links to individual explanations.
If you have questions about these estimates, please call Lisa Juszkiewicz at (617) 626-2386, Jared Curtis at (617) 626-2320, or Donnette Benvenuto at (617) 626-2360
Please keep in mind that if voters request that information, they have to pay for it.
Isn't this what is needed for transparency?
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Casinos produce nothing of value.
Casinos enrich solely the "investors."
For every dollar casinos provide in revenue, it costs the state $3 or $4.
What was curious about Claude's findings was:
Or did anyone bother to tell Claude about this?:
Casino Gambling is wildly profitable for the investors.
Casino investors can afford the best public relations firms, the best legal advice and the best strategists.
Casino investors can afford to rent a storefront in a small, rural community to provide the false facade and pretend "This really isn't about slot machines" when this is REALLY about slot machines.
I know this is much longer than most people want to read, so I urge you to skip it if you don't want to follow the more precise discussion about why "two wrongs don't make a right" in the gambling debate.
Part of the argument in favor of expanding slot machine gambling in Massachusetts is that it is taking place in Connecticut. Let's take a look at this argument from a formal standpoint, which could be presented in this form: "Since X, which we acknowledge has some bad consequences is going to happen anyway somewhere else, then we should permit X to happen here."
There are two particularly noticeable flaws in this logic. One is the it relies on the well-known and flawed argument of futility (for those who are familiar with the work of economist and philosopher Albert Hirschman in his book The Rhetoric of Reaction). Arguments of futility are all variations on the theme of inevitability, i.e. "resistance is futile." The basic notion is disempowering. Arguments for futility are generally used to defend the status quo because of some apparently hidden law of reality that "realists" have identified and "idealists" ignore.
For example, the argument of futility was used for several hundred years in response to the proposal to enfranchisement of African Americans on the grounds that since blacks would obviously never be accepted as equals, then there was no sense trying to force this on white people. Or (another version) many white Americans argued that since blacks were not capable of complex mental decisions, they could never be full members of a democracy. I would be happy to expand on the historical nature of this debate as it applied, for example, to whether African-Americans could be enlisted as soldiers in the Civil War. Hirschmann discusses its application in Europe.
The apparent but false power of this kind of argument is that it is really a tautology, a self-fulfilling or seemingly self-confirming prophecy. It basically says that people should give up fighting injustice and then, when people do, argues that the fact they have given up is proof that the injustice was intractable.
So, with regard to recent events, if those who had proposed the vote against slots at the Convention had accepted this argument -- "don't even bother because it would never pass" -- then it would never have been filed and indeed it never would have passed. But fortunately we did not accept the argument of futility and it turns out -- at the very least -- that the supposed inevitability that has been touted by the Speaker, the Senate president, the racetrack owners, the casino moguls and their lobbyists, the unions, the Globe, the Herald, the Wampanoags, and everyone else who has been suggesting that this was a done deal were, perhaps, mistaken. By the way, we could negotiate a deal to roll back predatory gambling all across New England and replace it with a system of economic development based on systematic personal savings - the only thing we lack is political leadership.
What's so odd about the debate in Mass if that If anyone wants to spend anytime on Google you will discover that casinos, slot parlors, etc are crumbling all over the country. Where they are "succeeding, " they are blowing hundreds of small businesses and thousands of low income people into little pieces.
In Russia, where they had 2,600 casinos (we have 1,800 in the US), the Russian government decided eventually that they were causing so much crime and so much economic dislocation that they recriminalized all of them and simply shut them down. Of course, that's a much more authoritarian approach than we are likely to see in the US. But people are waking up all over the country.
The backlash against casino gambling as both a) a victimless form of entertainment and b) a cost-free form of state revenue is building across the nation. There was a wonderful non-violent protest by more than 100 people at the Harrah's casino in Philadelphia yesterday, partly in response to Pennsylvania' s decision -- under Democratic governor Rendell -- to put in 65,000 slots all over the state.
(By the way for those who are interested in the voluminous facts, I urge you to review the Reports and Findings of the U.S. International Gambling Commission, edited by Professor John Kindt, J.D. MBA, etc. of the University of Illinois. But don't do it at night, because you will lose sleep.
One estimate in that study suggests that every slot machine removes one job permanently from the local economy. Why? Because when you think about it, it is a reverse ATM. It spins some lights and sucks money out of your bank account and out of the local economy, transferring to a wealthy corporation. ).
The second formal flaw "bad things are going to happen, so we might as well be the ones to do them" is that it ignores that basic concept of human responsibility and moral agency. This argument was most wonderfully rebutted by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who was presented with this same argument about American investment in the brutal South African system of apartheid about 25 years ago.
Many executives said to him "look, if we don't invest in the country, some other company or nation will, and wouldn't it be better for Americans, who might be marginally better employers, to employ blacks than some other country that doesn't care at all?" His memorable reply: "This is like saying to me, "Sir, I know that someone is about to rape your wife, so wouldn't it be better if it were me?" The argument makes no sense logically or morally. If something is harmful to people, it is not made less harmful if we somehow feel personally more comfortable with the people who are causing the harm.
Predatory gambling damages people whether it is inflicted on the citizens of Rhode Island or Connecticut or Massachusetts. We somehow are forgetting, even in the age of Obama, that these citizens of other states are actually all Americans. Remember, we are not talking about social gambling, but about promoting a flawed and dangerous product that it intended to harm the many for the benefit of the few.
I know that people will continuously come back with the idea that people "choose" to do this. But, speaking as an economist and an ethicist, I would like to point out that this assumes fully informed consent. If people knew how severely they are being manipulated, then they might "choose" to do less of this. And the entire point -- which unfortunately we need to keep repeating -- is the harm is actively concealed.
If someone swallows a fake medicine that is falsely promising benefits and concealing the potential damage, we do not say that the person "chose" to do so. There are explicit legal and moral limits to the principle of "caveat emptor". Indeed, the government is supposed to spend its time educating us about those potential problems, not promoting potentially harmful products because it is an easier way to raise money than discussing the real cost of our common life together, such as taxes.
The reason I have gone on at length is that people are making arguments that go beyond personal preferences or opinions into the realm of claims and formal arguments. That is the field of ethics, law, philosophy, research, and facts. I am big fan of discussing political philosophy, just as we are doing -- what are the right boundaries from freedom, for government restriction, for choice, for transparency, etc. And I know that many people, including me, are perfectly happy to carry the discussion into this more technical realm if that will help us make better decisions. My apologies to those who find it tedious.
Prior to the Democratic Convention Bob Massie posted the following:
I am also concerned about the bland "statement of values" which amounts to very little on health, environment, etc.
I would also like to add -- surprise -- that even though many people did what they were supposed to and attended platform hearings and spoke against slots and predatory gambling, this issue was ducked by the platform committee.
The Cambridge-Somerville hearing voted unanimously that we should not have slots in Massachusetts, yet there was no mention of this being worthy of discussion.
Democratic State Committee members asked for a break out group at the Convention to talk about the merits - and they were blocked.
Some people wanted to run a very fair ad asking for a full discussion in the Jobs for Justice dinner ad -- this was blocked as "too controversial. " Having a discussion is too controversial!
Some people asked to come to the AFL-CIO COPE meeting (at which casino owners were given the chance to make glitzy presentations filled with misleading facts) -- those who wanted to talk about the costs, and not just benefits, were blocked.
In fact, one of the few places where there has been an open discussion has been on this group and on BlueMassGroup. So I think the platform committee largely failed in its mission.
For this reason I hope that those of you who are delegates at the Convention -- as I am right now -- will sign the resolution on predatory gambling so that there can be a very brief (10 minute) debate and then a vote to signal that members of the party have not had the chance to debate this thoroughly.
We have had three speakers who have gone down in flames on corruption charges. We now have fourth who is pushing an issue that has been more closely linked to public corruption (i.e. gambling) than any other issue in the country. Remember Jack Abramoff, Glenn Marshall, Vincent Fumo, and all the others who are now in prison? Do we really think that this legislature or party can have "ethics reform" while simultaneously unleashing millions of dollars of hidden slot machine lobbying money into the back halls of Beacon Hall without consequences?
Casino Propaganda At Its Best offered a casino proponents' lovefest -
In a speech [given in March] to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, Cahill said his proposals could generate as much as $4 billion in upfront payments or licensing
fees from private interests eager to operate slot parlors and the Lottery.
...Cahill's boast of $2 billion to $3.3 billion in upfront concession fees from slot machine operators seems based on a wildly optimistic view of the capital markets
Slots are not the simple solution offered Scot Lehigh's comments:
First up, that lamentable Democratic gift to the public-employee unions known as the Pacheco law, which effectively ended the state's ability to contract with private firms for services they can deliver more efficiently than state workers.
But this year, Senate Republicans, who estimate the state could save $150 million to $300 million a year by aggressively contracting out, plan to try.
"If people are really serious about saving taxpayer dollars and making government more efficient, then we have to look at sacred cows like the Pacheco law," says Senate minority leader Richard Tisei.
At the heart of Americas hope for a clean coal future lies the decimation of West Virginias richest landscapes. More profound still is the heavy toll on human lives playing out just beneath the surface. Armed with the power of their convictions, four individuals emerge as heroes from the scattered voices of their valley, forcing America to look into the eyes of those being sacrificed On Coal River.
ON COAL RIVER takes viewers on a gripping emotional journey into the Coal River Valley of West Virginia, where longtime local residents begin to uncover the toxic effects of America’s increased demand for cheap coal, a resource that supplies half of America’s electricity.
As a former miner, Ed Wiley knows the importance of West Virginia’s largest industry, but when he senses his granddaughter’s recurrent illness is linked to a coal waste facility near her school, Ed embarks on a quest to have the school relocated to safer ground. To his dismay not everyone in the valley recognizes the impending threat, and he soon finds himself in the midst of a political tug-of-war.
Ed’s neighbors Bo and Judy understand the problem all too well. While Judy crisscrosses the state in search of sympathetic politicians, Bo pours over maps and legal documents that may hold proof of the mining companies’ illegal activity, all in an effort to slow the destruction. Meanwhile, massive explosions from nearby mountaintop removal sites grow closer with each passing day, and before long their worst fears begin to look increasingly like an inevitable reality.
Across the valley, Maria Lambert recognizes a pattern in the unusual health problems plaguing her community. Following intuition, and what she describes as a mission from above, Maria gathers evidence suggesting the state’s largest mining company has contaminated her neighborhood’s water supply.
Shot over a four year period, ON COAL RIVER follows the transformation of these four remarkable individuals as they face the challenge of a lifetime, fighting for the survival of their way of life, and the lives of future generations.
Coal River Valley is a lush green swath of southern West Virginia that sits at the place where our national environmental policy collides with our desire for cheap energy. This steep terrain comprises some of the oldest and most diverse mountains in the world, where typically northern species mingle with their southern cousins, producing a unique biological abundance. It is also an area containing vast amounts of coal - the fossil fuel that currently powers 50% of domestic electricity. Commercial mining began here in the 1850s and has continued through repeated cycles of boom and bust, mine wars and strikes, and the relentless march of mechanization.
Today, new mining and processing methods are taking a heavy toll on the Valley’s environment and its people. Coal companies are practicing a technique called ‘mountaintop removal’ which uses explosives and huge machines to blast apart mountains and extract the thin seams of coal running through the ground. Some estimate that mountaintop removal has already destroyed over 500,000 acres of land and 1500 miles of streams. In the pages of Vanity Fair, Michael Shnayerson described the new landscape of Coal River: “in some places as far as the eye can see, [mountains] are being blasted and obliterated in one of the greatest acts of physical destruction this country has ever wreaked upon itself.” For local residents, mountaintop removal means blasts that shake their homes, hazardous dust, dangerous floods, and the radical transformation of the landscape around them.
The results of mountaintop removal are dramatic and obvious, but coal processing plants are perhaps even more dangerous for mining communities. These plants crush and chemically “wash” the coal to remove impurities that can cause problems such as acid rain. The irony to local residents is that this “clean coal” produces millions of more gallons of hazardous waste. Some communities suspect that this waste is getting into their well water, causing high levels of cancer and other diseases.
Continued mechanization and worsening impacts from mining have caused the valley to lose much of its population—both of its high schools have closed since 1991. Those who remain love their community and want to stay, but they are split in their opinions about how to continue to live here. Many believe without coal mining, there is no economic future for their community, and that the industry known as “King Coal” will never change its ways. Others see that if left unchecked, the mining impacts on the land and water will turn their Valley into an unlivable sacrifice zone for cheap energy.
Help bring this project to life
April 5, 2009
Dear Sen. Byrd: Restoring mountains could be your greatest legacy
Soon, as you know, as the colorful peepers of red bush and wake robins pull from the clinch of winter, I will take my granddaughter’s hand and roam our Clay Branch hollows in search of ramps. This has been a 150-year tradition in my family in the Coal River mountain range, as I am sure it was for your family along Wolf Creek.
Bo Webb, Charleston Gazette Op-ed
April 4, 2009
W.Va. House resolution supports Coal River wind farm
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — More than 40 members of the House of Delegates have signed a resolution supporting the development of a wind farm on Coal River Mountain in Southern West Virginia. By Alison Knezevich, The Charleston Gazette
April 2, 2009
Legislators, Greens, Industry React to Climate Bill
Reactions to the newly unveiled American Clean Energy and Security Act, which promotes clean energy and tries to stop climate change, have been pouring in all day.
April 2, 2009
Judge voids easier WV mountaintop mining permits
A federal judge on Tuesday voided a streamlined permitting process for companies to fill valleys with materials left over from mountaintop removal mining.
AP via Forbes
March 24, 2009
EPA Halts Mountaintop Mining Permits
(CBS/AP) The Environmental Protection Agency is putting on hold hundreds of mountaintop coal-mining permits until it can evaluate the projects’ impacts on streams and wetlands.
March 19, 2009
Scientists: Tests show metals in state’s coal slurry
“West Virginians eager to know what’s in the slurry that coal companies pump into worked-out underground mines will have to wait until May for the state’s answers, but preliminary independent tests suggest it contains heavy metals they wouldn’t want to drink.” Vicky Smith, AP
March 19, 2009
Big mountaintop removal hearing on Monday
“We asked yesterday what President Barack Obama is going to do about mountaintop removal coal mining…Well, on Monday we might get a hint about Obama’s plans.”
Ken Ward Jr. via
March 2, 2009
Judy Bonds and Bill McKibben on Democracy Now
Interviewed by Amy GoodmanVideo via Democracy Now!
March 1, 2009
Bo Webb’s Letter to President Obama
“As I write this letter, I brace myself for another round of nerve-wracking explosives being detonated above my home in the mountains of West Virginia…”
March 1, 2009
Coen Brothers Direct New “Clean Coal” Ad
In this new ad, a pitchman gives us the hard sell on a “Clean Coal Clean”-scented air freshener that works just as well as “clean coal.”
via Huffington Post
February 25, 2009
Appeals Court Reverses Limits on Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining
February 14, 2009
On Coal River is currently in post production & is seeking finishing funds
Coal wins big in Senate stimulus package
Blowing Away King Coal
Coal River Mountain Can’t Wait
Peabody Energy profits soar
Before we rest on our smug laurels of the pristine environmental policies of the Commonwealth, this bears consideration:
BRAYTON POINT 190,000,000 POUNDS
SOMERSET 60,100,000 POUNDS
SALEM HARBOR 140,800,00 POUNDS
WEST SPRINGFIELD 40,000,000 POUNDS
MOUNT TOM 75,200,000 POUNDS
Environmental Terrorism made the point:
On a hot summer day in Middleboro, you can stand in an open field and see the haze, air pollution, ozone. Call it what you will, you can't breath. The cloud just sits there because of the topography and well, it just might have something to do with some dirty power plants.
Even if you never had breathing problems before, welcome to Middleboro's poor air quality.
There are no state statistics available that I've been able to find that indicate that air quality is being monitored locally, but on the hot, muggy days, you don't need statistics to tell you there's a problem.
When the proposed Kerzner/Wolman Mega Monster Casino [that has become an impossibility due to two SCOTUS decisions] was under consideration, no air quality information was discovered or presented because apparently Middleboro air quality is not monitored and recorded. The summer haze tells its own story.
Much the same can be said of the proposed Brockton Power Plant [emphasis mine].
FACT: The proposed power plant would emit the same amount of greenhouse gas as
two hundred six thousand (206,000) automobiles.
CHECK: Certificate of the Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs (Page 3
Paragraph 3) READ NOW & EPA Emissions Facts (Page 2 Recommendations)
FACT: This power plant is not needed to meet the energy demands of this region.
CHECK: Massachusetts Energy Facilities Siting Board Hearing,
January 29, 2009. PART 1: WATCH VIDEO &
PART 3: WATCH VIDEO
FACT: The proponents have not demonstrated there would be no local health
CHECK: Massachusetts Energy Facilities Siting Board Hearing, January 29, 2009.
PART 2: WATCH VIDEO & Metcalf & Eddy Report (Page 5) READ NOW
FACT: During normal operations there would be only three (3) to seven (7) workers
at the proposed plant.
CHECK: The Energy Facilities Siting Board Memorandum (Page 41). READ NOW
FACT: The proposed plant will emit five of the six pollutants considered harmful to
public health and the environment.
CHECK: National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) READ NOW
A foreign based company and a group of local investors have been working discreetly
to gain approval to build a 200 million dollar, massive 350 megawatt fossil fuel power
plant (Natural Gas and Diesel) with a 250 foot smokestack and several cooling
towers off Brockton's Main Street, close to the towns of West and East Bridgewater.
This location is surrounded by Schools (Davis Elementary is only 1700 feet away),
Elderly Housing, Businesses and Thousands of Homes.
If They Build It, It Will Bring:
109 Tons per year Carbon Monoxide
10 Tons per year Hazardous Air Pollutants
85 Tons per year Particulate Matter
7 Tons per year Sulfur Dioxide
31 Tons per year Volatile Organic Compounds
107 Tons per year Oxides of Nitrogen
1,134,000 Tons per year Carbon Dioxide
1,600,000 Gallons of Treated Sewage Water Mist Into Our Air Everyday From
750,000 Gallons of diesel fuel will be stored at the plant, to replenish would require
37 Round Trips each day for 60 days by 10,000 gallon oil tankers delivering diesel.
- Brockton’s power plant will not lower our taxes or our electric bills.
- Brockton is already ranked ninth (9th) on the list of environmentally overburdened New England communities.
- Brockton is already one of the ten towns with the highest asthma hospitalization
rates in Massachusetts.
- The 250 foot smokestack will release toxic pollutants for miles and change
- The plant emits nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, airborne particulates and carbon
dioxide, a major pollutant and cause of global warming.
- Brockton Power also proposes using diesel that releases twice the carbon dioxide as
the natural gas. 750,000 gallons of diesel fuel will be stored at the plant.
- Brockton Power will store 25,000 gallons of aqueous ammonia.
- There will
only be 20 long term jobs created by this plant,
and there is no guarantee that those jobs will go to Brockton residents.
For inexplicable reasons, widespread union support has been enjoyed for the Dirty Brockton Power Plant that will create 20 jobs, just as they have continued to support the false hopes of casino gambling that will create low wage jobs.
The Middleboro Board of Selectmen showed little interest in the threats posed to air quality, perhaps believing that pollution stopped at the town's borders and protected their rarified air.
As a footnote to the endeavor, former Brockton Mayor Yunits was presented for consideration as a candidate for Middleboro Town Manager even though he lacked the experience and was a paid lobbyist for the Brockton Power Plant. Brockton Enterprise Media Nation