AFTER NEARLY 70 YEARS, UNDEVELOPED BROWNIE FILM YIELDS BREATHTAKING ‘NEW’ IMAGES FROM WWII … DISSECTING ‘BERKSHIRE BUSINESS SNOOZE’ PUBLISHED BY THE BERKSHIRE CHAMBER OF RAH RAH … STRONG DOLLAR KILL COMPANIES’ PROFIT MARGINS … plus … DEFAULTED MORTGAGES: WHY SHOULD TAXPAYERS GET STUCK PAYING FOR THE STUPID DECISION OF IRRESPONSIBLE HOMEOWNERS?
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, MONDAY, AUG. 6, 2012 — Welcome to the new week. THE PLANET is back from scurrying to far parts of the country, and now we are back, all fagged, fashed, jet-lagged, and fulfilled. In the meantime, though …
… Here’s a photo tribute to all of our veterans. We love soldiers and have since we were a kid.
We won’t wax on with flowery prose about the men and women in service, except to say we love and respect them all. They are the pieces on the chess board the generals push around. They answer the call.
All war is useless, wasteful, tragic, and unnecessary. The scary thing about war for “these here” United States is that the president can now unilaterally declare one without oversight of Congress. Thus, We The People have been eliminated as a civilian oversight against the blind ambitions of the military.
The coup d’etat in America has happened.
Both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate have meekly handed to the Oval Office the power to intervene militarily and unilaterally in the interests of what is always a vague and undefined “national security” interest, a disturbing phenomenon that bypasses the Constitution and produces epic disasters such as Korean, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Countless trillions of dollars and the insane waste of life have not cured this country of its war-mongering ways.
America, you stand shamed.
Gearing Up for Permanent War
We talked about this with Bill Sturgeon week before last on the radio. Following World War II, the U.S. did something it had never done before. It failed to revert to a peacetime economy. Instead, the military kept the war machine going by entering into an unholy alliance with Big Business, creating what President Dwight Eisenhower memorably called “the military-industrial complex.” Eisenhower’s speech that day was the last gasp of true democracy, which has since died in the U S of A. Since at least the late 40s, American has not been a democracy as much as a National Security State. The greatest analyst of the post-War actions of the United States, the late great Gore Vidal, spelled this our as eloquently as can be done. He spoke of it in terms of the fall of the Empire.
In that three-score-plus lifetime, the Constitution has been slowly eroded. Assaults against our liberties continue on a daily basis, and only constant vigilance keeps the National Security state from becoming a National Security Police State, as THE PLANET proved in court three weeks ago. We prevailed only because we put up a stout defense. Many people would just give up rather than fight for their rights. We are not “most people.”
Suddenly, we live in a “homeland,” or haven’t you heard ,of Homeland Security. We shudder. As Vidal observed, “I thought we had defeated the Nazis in WWII.”
Soldiers fight wars — men and women plucked out of civilian life to do the the dirty work of cowardly politicians. The soldier, sent into harm’s way by policy’s disgrace, serves in honor. The politician, issuing the order to needlessly waste human life, cowers in shame.
We shall never lose respect for those who don the gear. Our dad (WWII Battle of the Bulge) and our brother Pete (Navy, Vietnam) were among them.
After 69 Years, Brownie Film Yields ‘New,’ unforgettable images of WWII
The amazing thing about the following pictures: They were found in an attic trunk on several rolls of undeveloped film in and with a Brownie camera. The film sat undeveloped for six decades.
The Brownie was a simple, inexpensive box camera made for mass use by Kodak Company of Rochester, N.Y. Most of the pictures from this old film developed as crisp and as clear as they would have the day they were taken. They were recently discovered and developed. They are being seen for the first time, 65 to 69 years later.
Berkshire Business Snooze Continues to Induce Comas
After weeks of baited anticipation, THE PLANET rejoices in the publication of the August issue of Berkshire Business Snooze, the out-of-tune house organ published by the Berkshire Chamber of Rah Rah.
The Snooze is the Rah Rah’s way of participating in a grand experiment to see if it can induce a mass coma in the people of Pittsfield. The strategy employs information of such stultifying dreariness of style and flatness of subject matter than any reasonably active human brain begins looking for the shut-off switch. Boredom has a limit, beyond which it becomes punishment.
Many outstanding citizens have elbowed their name onto the Snooze‘s masthead. First, we see the John Hancocks of the proud Snooze staff. They include Michael (“Ashley Sulock Can’t Talk to You Now, Mr. Valenti. Click!”) Supranowicz, Diana Murphy, Christine Hoyt, Ashley Sulock, Darci Toomey, and Bob Heck. The Chamber of Rah Rah employs all of these fine folks, who subscribe to the motto: “Beats working for a living.”
They work for a company, the Chamber of Rah Rah, that preaches how peachy-keen wonderful the local economy is, effuses over the gosh-darned liveliness of the Berkshires’ business scene, and leads the choir in “Isn’t everything swell, by golly.”
Officers, Gentlemen, and Ladies
After the Rah Rah staff, The Snooze lists the Berkshire Chamber of Rah Rah’s officers.
The officers include: Jerry Burke (Hillcrest Educational Centers Plural), Peter Stasiowski (Interprint), William Wheelock (Adams Community Bank), J. Jay Anderson (The Pittsfield Cooperative Bank0, Vicki Donohue and F. Sydney Smithers (Cain, Hibbard, and Myers), Linda Feebles (Coakley Pierpont Dolan & Collins Insurance Agency), Larry Hazzard (Berkshire Life Insurance Co.), Brneda Burdick (General Dynamics), and John Martin (Martin, Olivera, and Hamil). Heroes all.
Reading the Snooze is a bit like reading Nietzsche‘s theory of Eternal Occurrence or watching Bill Murray‘s film, Ground Hog’s Day every day for the rest of your life. For example, the first feature of note is one titled “Buy in the Berkshires.” Stop us if you’ve never heard that one before. The writer, Ashley Sulock, begins with an epic comma splice, then launches into a series of flatly amusing anecdotes about used cars. THE PLANET found ourselves wishing for “My Mother, the Car” reruns. Memo to Ashley: Prof. Valenti‘s ENG 101 course in the fall at BCC still has an opening.
Then there’s the usual blather on customer service (a phenomenon still unknown in Pittsfield, missing since the day they A-bombed North Street), volunteerism, the dangers of sunlight, and ads, ads and more ads.
Finally, on Page 8, the reader’s eyes delight in the mug shots of “It’s a Wrap.” This page features people standing next to each other not doing anything, not saying anything, but staring into the camera with various version of “The Plasticine Smile” pasted on their kissers.
THE PLANET shall not ponder the philosophical aspects of THE STOOLEY‘s question — Who da heck would want to be seen there? — in favor of the lighter view and a listing of names: Vin Marinaro, Bill Basiliere, Chris Basiliere, the ubiquitous Peter White, Heather McDermott, Pat Haraden, Barb Emanuel, Terri Ryan, Carmen Morse, Sarah Miller, Dave Every, Sheila Mason, Jerry Burke, Elane McNabb, Dan Raiche, Jeff Lee, Darrell Carlson, Bonnie Eichorn, Linda St. Pierre, Leslie Parsenios, Sandra Digharo, Darci Toomey, Andrea Nuciforo (running for Congress) and Reannon Froelich. They are, apparently, doing what they call “networking,” a word that THE PLANET dictionary defines this way: “Back-slapping irrelevance in a group lacking backs or backbone.” There is no strength in numbers. Have no such misconception.
And Now, Another Episode of ‘Leave it to BEEPERS’
Flip the page, and we come to THE PLANET’s favorite part of The Snooze, the “Leave It to BEEPERS” feature, officially titled “BYP Out and About.” As you know from our coverage of The Meredith Nilan Driving Academy, BYP stands for Berkshire Young Professionals.
Many of these BEEPERS were partying with Nilan on the evening of Dec. 8, 2011, and not one has come forth for the record with a word about the rumored prodigious amounts of alcohol we hear were consumed that night by many a BEEPER. Perhaps they will likely get their chance to stalk when the depositions begin.
Ah, young people. They react with shock when they discover that Dean Martin was an entertainer, that Spain colonized The Philippines, and that life can exist without texting.
The “Leave It to BEEPERS” page shows a bunch of them, like the adults, hard at work “networking.”
The photos were taken on July 10 as the ‘6 House Pub in Williamstown, yet not one of them can be seen holding a beverage of any sort. This sentence is why Horace Greeley invented the exclamation point!
Anyhow, networking BEEPERS in the August Snooze include Ryan Belanger, Edmond St. John IV, Christina Barrett, Howard Marshall, Allison Billard, Sarah Russell, Branden Pender, Veronica Bosely, Megan Koneiczny, Melissa Guyer, Mary Bazanchuk, Diane Burdick, Chris Ciskowski, Michele Rohlfs, Erik Pizani, Nate Girard, Walter Lother, Ronald Kelby III, Pat Kolis, Michell Lille, and the ubiquitous Ryan Belanger.
These young people find themselves in an awkward position: They live and work in The Berkshires, a great place to play but doomsville for anyone of talent,since the region is without a functioning economy. They realize that in such a region, their best shot for upward mobility is to pucker their lips, shut their eyes, and lose their scruples. In this game, the “political” and not the talented make out, albeit at a fearsome price.
The BEEPERS’ next “Networking Social” (you know, they had one of those on Dec. 8, 2011) comes from 5 to 7 p.m. Aug. 9, at Public Eat + Drink on Holden Street in North Adams. Let’s make a prediction: There will be drinking like fishes, but not a soul will be depicted in the September issue of The Snooze holding a beverage in hand. Funny how that works.
Rosy in the Renaissance
We shall skip over the remaining content of The Snooze, for its cup runneth under. We must give a tip of the fedora to Pam Tobin‘s article on page 12, “What’s Up Downtown” (get it? Cute). Tobin is executive director of Downtown Pittsfield Inc., a position which resembles being the Maytag Repairman except it pays a lot more.
Strong Dollar Costs U.S. Company’s Big Bucks
We minored in economics at Hard Knox University, and the study of money has been a lifelong passion. At some point, we shall share our theory of economics, based on a study and think piece we produced for the Libertarian Alliance of Great Britain and published in their journal.
It’s interesting to watch how the stronger dollar continues to punish the profits of U.S. companies.
Basically, it works like this. When the dollar gains strength against a foreign currency, corporate profitability takes a hit. The dollar’s gains reduce the value of global export sales when the money is converted back to U.S. currency. The economy is the best case-in-point for the law of cause and effect. There is no apparent “gain” without a dastardly tradeoff.
Colgate-Palmolive, Amazon.com Inc., Abbott Labs, Coca-Cola, IMB, Snap-on Tools, Yum Brands (owner of Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and KFC) and Dow Chemical — examples cited recently by The Wall Street journal — each reported lower profits in the second quarter. When U.S. companies lose value, investors flee. Their agita then creates a self-fulfilling prophecy of loss.
Countries pay for our goods and services in their currencies (peso, euro). U.S. companies take a hit when the foreign money converts to stronger dollars. That’s what’s happening in droves at this moment.
Solutions? Not many good ones, since the global marketplace is here to stay. The United States can’t opt out know simply because it has been reduced to a second-class player (behind China and the Pacific Rim). Companies can adjust by raising prices, but that ticks off consumers.Companies can gamble and lock in exchange rates in advance to reduce the effect of a musclebound dollar, but what if the company hedges the wrong way? Few bean counters have the stomach for that game.
The dollar had a record second quarter against the euro. The strong showing owes to the debt crisis in Europe and jittery investors, who are taking money off the table for safe havens.
The problem becomes comical in an absurd way when you consider the nature of money. Unlike a product (say, the manufacture of radios), a commodity (soybeans), or a service (window washing), money has no intrinsic value whatsoever. Money has been reduced from paper and metal to strokes on a keyboard. If we pondered the true nature of money, which is entirely abstract and promisory, the entire global economy, the world’s greatest and shakiest house of cards, would come tumbling down in an instant.
That day could come, by the way, and sooner than you think.
WHAT PART SHOULD FORGIVENESS PLAY IN HOMEOWNERS WHO DIDN’T READ THE MORTGAGE CONTRACTS THEY SIGNED?
THE PLANET took part in a heated debate recently on the housing “crisis.” The “panel”included a husband-wife team that lost their home because they couldn’t keep up with their mortgage payments. They borrowed on a $400,000 home when in fact they could only afford $200,000.
One of the questions debated was the role of eating bad loans on the part of mortgage companies, banks, or the taxpayer via government bailouts.
Just under 50 million households in America pay mortages. About 11 million of them (source: Wall Street Journal) are in trouble, with the size of the mortgage being more than the current market value of the home. Most of the panel favored some type of bailout. Of course, when pressed, they couldn’t or wouldn’t specify who would have to eat the paper. The consensus: The federal government and/or mortgage companies.
THE PLANET raised the following points:
* Why is it government’s problem to bail people out of contracts they signed freely and without duress? Not knowing the terms or the fine print of a housing sale contract stands as the poorest excuse of all. That’s why they have lawyers, people! We learned early in life: NEVER sign anything unless you understand all of what you’re signing.
* Many people who have trouble paying their mortgage aren’t suffering from the mortgage payments per se but from other accumulated debt — credits cards run to the max, unpaid student loans, luxury loans to pay for needless vacations and expensive toys, essentially an entire lifestyle crumbling under the weight of reckless debt. Why should it be our problem if someone has chosen to life a profligate life? Tough luck, pal — That’s the best form of love we can give.
* Asking the Treasury Department to eat the tab for Fannie and Freddie Mae is the same as asking taxpayers to bail out the stupid decisions made by private citizens. Not good. Terrible, in fact.
* Helping some troubled mortgages without helping all will lead to anger, resentment, and lawsuits from those who are left to languish in their own stupid choices.
The best (though not the ideal) solution would be to let the Feds (Fannie, Freddie, and the FHA) bundle defaulted mortgages and sell them to investors at heavy discount. THE PLANET might belly up to that table, if the price was right.
We won the debate by pointing out the foolishness of expecting Person B to clean up the mess made by Person A. The audience agreed. The debate ultimately came down to personal choice and personal responsibility, something the “Big Gubment” types don’t like to discuss.
THE END GETS CLOSER ONLY THE LEAD TO THE NEXT BEGINNING, LIFE MOVING ON IN ITS EVER-INTERESTING WAY. CHECK, MATE.
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.