PLANET’S MODEST TRIBUTE TO VETERANS DAY, then, QUICK HITS AND HOT LICKS TAKES ON A VARIETY OF TOPICS, INCLUDING THE SCHOOL DEPARTMENT, THE HORRENDOUS NEW CONTRACT WITH PITTSFIELD TEACHERS (AND ITS 16% PAY RAISE!!), FINANCE REFORM, THE HOAX THAT IS MASS MOCA, AND MORE
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, MONDAY, NOV. 12, 2012) — “On Veteran’s Day, put out your flags, cheer the marchers at parades, and go to tributes. But when you wake up the next day, Nov. 12, remember that it’s still Veteran’s Day for our veterans — and it will be every day of their lives.” — Gen. Colin L. Powell, USA (Ret.)
First off, a tip of the cap to all veterans, who had their day yesterday. THE PLANET honors then and thanks them for their service, men like Gelindo Dassatti, who served in the Navy in the Pacific in WWII; my father Gino and brother Pete, veterans of combat in the Battle of the Bulge and Vietnam, respectively; and Richard Carlotta of the Frozen Chosin in Korea. Each one of these men saw rough action. Each saw things no one should have to see. Each had their life on the line. Gel has passed on to his reward; the other three still inform the rest of us with their lives. They are walking definitions of “courage.”
Only they know what it’s like to be in harm’s way, thousands of miles from home, in perilous situations. Only they know what it’s like to be on a hectare of land knowing there are other guys on it who want to kill you. Only they know. That is why they have this day.
Veteran’s Day is their day. Memorial Day is a day for those who were killed in service to their country. Fortunately, none of these men were, despite seeing combat.
Here is one of my favorite Veteran’s Day poems, by America’s greatest poet, Walt Whitman, from his seminal collection, “Leaves of Grass.”
Walt Whitman (1819–1892). Leaves of Grass. 1900.
IN former songs Pride have I sung, and Love, and passionate, joyful Life,
But here I twine the strands of Patriotism and Death.
And now, Life, Pride, Love, Patriotism and Death,
To you, O FREEDOM, purport of all!
(You that elude me most—refusing to be caught in songs of mine,)
I offer all to you.
’Tis not for nothing, Death,
I sound out you, and words of you, with daring tone—embodying you,
In my new Democratic chants—keeping you for a close,
For last impregnable retreat—a citadel and tower,
For my last stand—my pealing, final cry.
Here is another one you probably haven’t read. This is a poem written by Sigfried Sasson following World War I.
Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967). The Old Huntsman and Other Poems. 1918.
The anguish of the earth absolves our eyes
Till beauty shines in all that we can see.
War is our scourge; yet war has made us wise,
And, fighting for our freedom, we are free.
Horror of wounds and anger at the foe,
And loss of things desired; all these must pass.
We are the happy legion, for we know
Time’s but a golden wind that shakes the grass.
There was an hour when we were loth to part
From life we longed to share no less than others.
Now, having claimed this heritage of heart,
What need we more, my comrades and my brothers?
God bless all veterans. THE PLANET salutes you.
QUICK HITS AND HOT LICKS
Get Over It, Men — It’s interesting to see how so-called “conservatives like Karl Rove, Donald Trump, Sean Hannity, and Mary Matalin take defeat: Poorly and pouty. This tells us that these gas bags has been poisoned by breathing his or her own air. They have their heads stuck inside the plastic bag of zealotry, which is to conservatism what hedonism is to love. Each reacted to President Obama‘s win with a pitiful combination of paranoia, narrow mindedness, and irrationality. These people aren’t conservatives, and neither are the members of Tea Bag America. They are zealots who prove time and time again that the vast majority of the world’s most solvable yet most intractable problems are caused by religious fundamentalism. We think that’s what John Lennon meant when he sang in “Imagine,” “Imagine no religion …” This brings up a great question for a future discussion: Exactly, then, what is it to be a “conservative?”
Last Day Out was a Costly One — Bet you didn’t know that on June 29, 2012, his last day at superintendent of Pittsfield public schools, outgoing Jake Eberwein III gave the school’s business manager a $5,000 bonus. The school committee gave Eberwein the OK to do this. You wonder why the school department is bankrupting the city, even as their budget (70% of the entire city’s spending) goes up and performance in the schools goes down. Shhhh … don’t tell anyone, because you’re not supposed to know the secret pay hike.
“Calling Mr. Dover. Calling Mr. Ben Dover” — As in bend over and assume the positions, Pittsfield taxpayers, because the thieves on the Pittsfield school committee and the United Educators of Pittsfield have struck again. This being your money and all, taxpayers, naturally, both parties to the larded pact would not issue details, except for the length of the contract at three years. “This is a complicated contract,” said school committee chairman Alf Barbalunga, as if Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski are too stupid to be entrusted with the truth. THE PLANET, though, can tell you you have just funded pay raises up to 16% based on steps. Only Terry Kinnas, Man of The People, voted against the pact, calling it “a very expensive agreement.” In fact, he has introduced a petition to the city council calling for this pact to be rescinded. This is what it has come to: A conscientious member of the school committee, realizing We The People have no chance with the committee, having to appeal to the city council. Moreover, we wonder why Mayor Dan Bianchi would want to augment such a ruinous contract to taxpayers? Could it be politics? It would be one thing if we had a functional school department, but we don’t. No matter how hard Barbalunga, UEP president Gale Yates, and Bianchi try to keep it hidden, school costs keep going up, and performance keeps going down. We all need to sit in a circle and start drumming.
Teachers Balk at Progress — Why would the United Educators of Pittsfield oppose a $10 to $20 million “Race to the Top grant from the federal government? The school department and school committee have signed off on the 186-page document that would free federal funds to be used to improve teaching effectiveness. The union indicated that without a “memorandum of understanding,” it would be no dice. Translate: The teachers were worried of accountability. The teachers defeated the measure, refusing to sign off. School Supt. Dr. Gordon Noseworthy responded with a scathing editorial in Saturday’s BB, blasting the teachers.
Lowering the Bar — What do you do if young people cannot jump over the bar of academic achievement, even as low as it has been set? In Massachusetts, you lower the bar further and call it success when everyone negotiates the ground-scraping hurdle. That’s basically what the state did when you weren’t looking. The metrics previously used to measure progress in state schools required all students to hit proficiency in science, math, reading, and writing by 2014. Realizing that the schools have failed in the task and that, without fudging the metrics, 2014 would be an academic Waterloo to administrative and teaching Napoleons, the state lowered the bar. It has switched to what it calls a Progress and Performance Index (PPI). The PPI replaces the requirement of proficiency by 2014 with a fuzzy requirement that “school districts reduce proficiency gaps by 2017.” You could drive a line full of Sherman tanks (not Kevin Sherman tanks) through such loopy loophole language. THE PLANET shall spare you the nauseating details of this latest in the watering down of academic expectations. That, my good friends, is why China, India, Japan, the Pacific Rim, and Germany are kicking Uncle Sam‘s butt all over the glove when it comes to academics, competitiveness, and productivity.
Citizens for Democracy Question Overwhelmingly Passes — In more than half the cities and town in Massachusetts, voters had a chance to weigh in on a non-binding ballot question regarding political spending. A YES vote would instruct representatives to support a constitutional amendment affirming that (1) corporations are not entitled to the constitutional rights of human beings and (2) both Congress and the state may place limits on political contributions and spending. THE PLANET doesn’t have final tallies, but as of 10:32 a.m. Wednesday following the election, the measure was passing in every locale with a combined margin of 78%. We The People have spoken. This is Massachusetts, remember, and that usually means that our reps will ignore our wishes.
MOCA Madness — We won’t sugar coat it. Mass MOCA is a well-done hoax. As one of the world’s leading galleries for contemporary “art,” we are all supposed to get in line and pay tribute to the complex, a campus that celebrates, if that is the word, the achievements of today’s tortured sensitivities, a.k.a., artists. These are the artists who cannot work without taxpayer subsidies. The private market certainly wouldn’t support them. To admit that most of the installations at Mass MOCA are the refuse of frustrated schemers and patented dreamers who mistake cleverness for creativity is to admit to a hideous crime: that you don’t “get it” when you see what looks like a pile of dog dung strewn about over glorious hardwood floors. Well, the philistines “get it,” all right, and THE PLANET cites none of than former North Adams Mayor John Barrett III, when he said of MOCA: “The stuff is junk. I wouldn’t pay to see it, but I’m glad it’s here.” An in-depth review may one day appear on these pages, explaining the full extent of this intellectual hoax.
Asian Beetles, Now Why Couldn’t They Threaten the Right Things? — The Asian emerald-ash tree-boring beetle has settled down in the Berkshires, causing concern among foresters and tree huggers. I am all for the trees, as well. But if “they” could come up with a new strain of bug that would bore out the deadwood in the crumbling cores of spineless local politicians and bureaucrats, we would contribute $1,000 for their propagation.
Brother, Can You Spare Some Chow? —The Berkshire Humane Society needs food for the pet food pantry, a service that helps more than 700 families in Berkshire County keep their little animal ones properly cared for and fed. Executive director John Perreault asks “the good people of Berkshire County to help their fellow neighbors by donating cat and dog food to our shelter. The Humane Society is located at 214 Barker Road in Pittsfield. Donations can be dropped there Tuesday through Saturday from 0 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday from 1-4 p.m., and Thursday 5 to 8 p.m. Donations can also be made at Purradise at 301 Stockbridge Road in Great Barrington (Route 7 S, directly across from the Price Chopper Plaza; that’s where MR. and MRS. PLANET got Gracie and Muffin, our two sweet, lovely kitties, this summer). The society will take any brand of food as long as the package is sealed. Small bags are especially sought, Perrault says. Please help, people.
More Downtown Pittsfield Inc. Hypocrisy — You recall our recent series on the disastrous actions of Pittsfield re: the Berkshire Carousel. One of the biggest offenders, Downtown Pittsfield Inc., is back at it again. DPI barks a loud game when it comes to non-profits and non-retail offices taking up street-level downtown space. So where did it move when it got out of the hole at Berkshire Common? It moved-into a street level space. DPI would be the first budget cut in any PLANET administration.
‘Cause I’m the Tax Man’ — The city would be all over the skin of Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski if they were one second late with their taxes, right? So how could the city amass a total of $3 million in unpaid taxes? Who got away with it for so long? It’s unbelievable how Pittsfield spits upon decent citizens yet allows freeloaders of all sorts a continued free ride.
LONG MAY PEACE AND PLENTY OWN THE MAIDS WHO LIST THE MINISTER’S TALE. NEVER A RUDER GUEST HAS BEEN KNOWN ON THE FAIR BANKS OF ALLENDALE.
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.