!!PLANET UPDATE AND EXCLUSIVE!! READER REVEALS GREATEST SCHOOL SECURITY LAPSE IN PITTSFIELD!! … MEETINGS ON SCHOOL SECURITY A ‘TOO-LITTLE TOO-EARLY’ OVERREACTION … BIANCHI BARS PRESS FROM ATTENDING (SO MUCH FOR TRANSPARENCY) … OFFICIALS GET TO ‘ACT’ AS IF THEY’RE DOING SOMETHING, WHEN NOTHING IS TO BE DONE … plus … WHAT FISCAL CLIFF? AIR FORCE STICKS TO PLANS TO BUY 1,800 JETS FOR $400 MILLION
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
ADD 1, THURSDAY, DEC. 28, 2012 — THE PLANET wishes to highlight a comment made by OUTFOX, one of our regular correspondents, because it highlights a great point about the status of school security in the People’s Republic of Pittsfield. Outfox pointed our the greatest lapse in school security in Pittsfield, and that is the “open” lunch policy at PHS.
Students can leave the building at will and return the same way. Think about that, and about how easy it would be for someone fully locked and loaded to walk back into the building. Another commenter, GENE, picked up on Outfox’s observation, saying that he will not believe Pittsfield is taking the issue of campus security seriously until the PHS campus is closed all day, including (and especially) lunch.
Neither will THE PLANET. We thank Outfox and Gene for bringing this to light.
What Were They Hiding?
Below, you can read our coverage of a Super Secret, Bar-the-Press meeting held in Mayor Dan Bianchi‘s office on the topic of security in Pittsfield schools. We won’t repeat the points here, other than to say that when “They” meet behind closed doors and do not let the press or public witness what is being said or done, you know it’s one of two things: (1) The business at hand is dirty or (2) The contents of the meeting would prove embarrassing to “Them.”
THE PLANET has no reason to believe it’s (1), so, eliminating the other possibility, our guess is that the discussions, if they came out, would prove to be ignominious to city officials. Why? Is it that the meeting was simply conducted to make it look like “They” were doing something, anything, in a hair-trigger response to the Newtown slayings? Or is it that school security is so bad that officials didn’t want the public (or the press) to know?
The best response for the mayor would have been to hold a public meeting with department heads (police, fire) and school officials, with the press invited, in which “They” would share what the present plan is, what upgrades are needed (if any), and then take questions from those in attendance. None of this James Bond fantasy of secret meetings and “information too sensitive to trust with the general public.”
Come on, “Them,” stop thinking of Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski as stupid. They’re not. Oh yeah, and one other thing: They only OWN the government, which means that professionally, they own your butt. But you’ve forgotten about that, haven’t you?
Don’t worry. There’s an election coming up next year. You’ll be reminded again and again and again and …
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, WEDNESDAY DECEMBER, 27, 2012) — There is, perhaps, no more predictable “news” story than the one — written in laborious prose an endless amount of times — the mainstream media presented on the issue of “strengthening security” at schools in light of the latest fluke tragedy to hit lower academia.
Right on cue, the Boring Broadsheet jumped in with tree-felled coverage on back-to-back days on the “follow” to the shootings by a lone, pimpled madman in Newtown, Conn. As these stories always do, the BB was caught in the act of taking itself too seriously, diligently reporting on a series of “nothing doing” meetings help in Pittsfield.
One of the confabs took place in the corner office as Mayor Dan Bianchi met with a collection of city and school bona fides.
Looking Like They’re ‘Doing Something’
Politicians who are “leaders” love having these kind of meetings, and department heads and officials love attending them, for they show our heroes “in the act” of “doing something,” even if that something is nothing more than the gibbery flapping of overworked gums. The added bonus comes from the fact that, with school security already in Kids-In-the-Bubble territory, there is not much to be done.
The “leaders” assessed the city’s “level of preparedness,” don’t you know, in wake of the Newtown slayings. Look: You know, we know, and Jack Frost knows that the only way one can add to the already hysteric levels of security at city schools in Pittsfield and nationwide is to surround the schools with an impenetrable force field that vaporizes all alien life forms who wish to come near a building of lower learning. Nonetheless, Mayor Bianchi “thought it was important that we all got together.”
Yes, but to do exactly what?
The Pesky, Budinsky Press Kept in the Dark, and So are We The People
We can’t say much about the content of the meeting, because Bianchi closed it to the press. Nice free society we live in, eh? Also, the gesture was an apt confirmation of Bianchi’s oft-touted, oft-ignored campaign promise of transparency. Keep the nosey budinskys of the press “da hell away” from a meeting like this. That’s Bianchi’s idea of transparency. Consequently, Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski have no independent confirmation of what, if anything, actually took place. For all we know, the participants might have been comparing football cards or talking about the many ways they love THE PLANET.
The joke is that, according to the mayor, he already meets with officials “on a regular basis” to review school security. That’s probably why he kept the press away, because there was nothing more to say or add to what has already been said or added to what has been done or not done (got it?) … and what has been done has essentially been to create permanent lock-down conditions in each of the city’s public schools. Nice free society you got there, chump.
We The People don’t even know who attended. Bianchi would only confirm interim police chief Mike Wynn, interim fire chief Bob Czerwinski, county sheriff Tom Bowler, and deputy supt. of schools N. Nancy Crowe. Who else? “And others,” we were told. Which “others?” Apparently, according to deputy sheriff Barney Fife, that was a highly classified secret. If we had learned that information, we would have faced prosecution for High Treason (as if there is any other kind!).
‘We also want to make sure parents and [The] Children feel safe” … See? It’s Again About Feelings
“We always try to revisit [security procedures] whenever something like this [the Newtown tragedy] happens,” Bianchi told the dutiful Jim Therrien of the BB. “We also want to make sure parents and children feel safe.”
Ah, there it is. This is all about “feelings.” You’ll recall, feelings have been playing a big part in school matters of late. The Reid Middle School Council‘s subcommittee on community outreach, for example, held an “open” meeting by locking the doors and posting no signs. When a citizen arrived to attend and finally got access to Reid, he found the meeting room and informed the chairwoman of the obvious violations of the Open Meeting Law. The chair and attendees, instead of being grateful for the information, had “their feelings hurt.” That was essentially the essence of the complaint they filed against the citizen, who also happens to be a school board member.
Therrien’s article has this howler: “Interim Superintendent Gordon Noseworthy said he and Crowe visited city schools on Monday, and he heard of no problems related to the aftermath of the shootings. ‘And all our principals said there were no problems,’ he said [THE PLANET's italics]. ‘But that doesn’t mean we will let our guard down.’”
And exactly what did Noseworthy expects principals to say? Did he expect, “We have security issues out the ying-yang?” Don’t think so, for this is Pittsfield, Dr. Noseworthy, and everything is great in the public schools. You of all people should know that. At least there isn’t anything wrong that a little more money for teachers and administrators won’t cure.
Take Some Boiled Blood, Add an Intercom, and Kiss the Sky
The next day, following the mayor’s meeting, another meeting took place, this at Williams Elementary School. This meeting included parents. One mom, Amy Wolfe, told Bianchi her “blood was boiling” because Williams, with its multiple locks, has no intercom … as if an intercom would have deterred the Newtown shooter. A backpedaling Bianchi told Wolfe it would take a month to install an intercom. Wolfe told the mayor, “The better to hear you, my dear.” Actually, she didn’t say that. She told the mayor a month was a month too long.
Guess time doesn’t fly when you’re not having fun.
IF GOVERNMENT WASTE IS YOUR THING, WE’VE GOT THAT TOO
A few weeks ago, THE PLANET gave our take on the “fiscal cliff” issue. Part of the discussion was and is limiting government spending. The biggest and most obvious place to cut would be the Pentagon. We have enough weapons and enough war-making capabilities to last 28 lifetimes, but there’s always more needed to satisfy the corpulence of the generals and the defense contractors.
Thus, the Air Force will not change its plans to build and buy nearly 1,800 jet planes at a cost of nearly $400 million. All this, so the Stars can have their little toys with which to play. Here’s the story, from Reuters, that you may have missed. We present this so that you can ask yourself this question when they reach that last-minute stop-gap agreement on the “cliff”: Have they truly done all they can to eliminate unnecessary spending?”
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U.S. Air Force sticking to plans to buy 1,763 F-35 jets
By Andrea Shalal-Esa | Reuters
Reuters/Reuters – A F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter is seen at the Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent River, Maryland January 20, 2012. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
NEW YORK (Reuters) – The U.S. Air Force affirmed on Thursday its plans to buy 1,763 F-35 fighter jets built by Lockheed Martin Corp in coming years, as Lockheed and the government neared agreement on a multi-billion dollar contract for a fifth batch of planes.
Air Force Secretary Michael Donley told an investor conference that the service remained committed to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which alone accounts for 15 percent of the service’s annual investment spending, and had no plans to revise its projected purchase of 1,763 of the new radar-evading jets.
“I don’t think there’s any reason to revisit that anytime in the near future,” Donley told the Credit Suisse conference, underscoring his support for the Pentagon’s biggest weapons program.
He said it was not feasible to consider cutting orders or make other major changes to the $396 billion F-35 program, which has already been restructured three times in recent years to allow more time for technology development and to save money.
The Pentagon is looking closely at every aspect of its budget given mounting pressure to cut defense spending, and programs as large as the F-35 are always potential targets.
But Lockheed executives argue that the Defense Department has already reduced production of the new plane sharply from projected levels, cutting into the economies of scale that were supposed to make the new warplane more affordable.
Donley said he had heard proposals about cutting F-35 purchases to save money for other priorities, but said such ideas did not make sense at this point in the program.
“These are good theoretical discussions, but when you look at where we are in the program, it makes no sense to have these discussions until about 2025,” Donley said. “There is nothing in the near-term about this program that will change; there is nothing that it will contribute to deficit reduction in the next ten years with the exception of its cancellation.”
And cancellation of the program, he said, was something no one would recommend.
Donley said the U.S. government was “getting close” to an agreement with Lockheed about a fifth batch of F-35 jets.
Lockheed President Marillyn Hewson told the conference earlier on Thursday that talks with the Pentagon – which have been under way for about a year – were going well and an agreement was likely before the end of the year.
“Those negotiations are progressing well,” she said at her first major presentation to Wall Street investors since being named Lockheed president and chief operating officer earlier this month. “I do feel confident that we’re going to get to closure on Lot 5 this year,” she said.
Lockheed and the Pentagon were also making progress in talks about additional funding for early work on the sixth batch of F-35 jets, said Hewson. She will become Lockheed’s CEO in January, succeeding Christopher Kubasik, who was forced out after admitting to having an affair with a subordinate.
Lockheed Chief Financial Officer Bruce Tanner said Hewson had played a key role in the company’s talks with the Pentagon, and the two sides had “closed a lot of our differences.”
Details of the expected agreement were not immediately available, but sources familiar with the negotiations said they expected it to include a reduction in the cost for each F-35 fighter jet from the fourth production contract, although the number of jets to be ordered will not increase.
The Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer, Frank Kendall, told Reuters on Wednesday that the two sides were “getting close” to an agreement on the fifth production contract.
He said he had “a very positive meeting” on Tuesday with Hewson about a range of issues, including the F-35.
Lockheed, the Pentagon’s largest contractor, and its suppliers are already building the fifth batch of F-35 planes under a preliminary contract, but the two sides have been struggling since last December to finalize the deal.
In September, Air Force Major General Christopher Bogdan, who is moving up to head the F-35 program next week, said ties between Lockheed and the U.S. government were “the worst” he had ever seen in his years working on big acquisition programs.
Hewson told analysts earlier this month that the F-35 program would be one of her top priorities in her new job.
Agreement on the terms of the fifth F-35 contract would free up additional funding for early work on a sixth set of planes, which the company has been funding on its own for some time.
Lockheed last month told investors that it faced a potential termination liability of $1.1 billion on that sixth batch of planes, unless it received more funds soon.
The Pentagon has refused to release any more money for the sixth batch of planes until the two sides resolve their differences and sign a contract for the fifth batch.
(Reporting By Andrea Shalal-Esa; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick, John Wallace and Tim Dobbyn)