PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, WEDNESDAY, FEB. 13, 2013) — How appropriate that on this first day of Lent the disarrayed hierarchical structure of the Catholic Church finds itself dealing with a lame-duck pontiff. Pope Benedict‘s resignation shocker comes at a time when the Church, through the stubborn resistance to modernity by a collective bunch of old men woefully out of touch, finds itself riding on the tide of a receding wave.

One thing you can be sure of: The Vatican has not revealed the full story behind the Pope’s resignation. We can leave it at that. Benedict spent his papacy mired in one controversy after the next, from enraging Muslims in 2006 to the inexcusable child-rape scandal that exploded in America in 2008-09 and in Ireland and Europe in 2010. The child-rape nightmare exposed the vulnerable underbelly of the Church and its hierarchy, and the exodus has been on since.

Good intentions be damned, Benedict sought to correct what he interpreted as misinterpretations and misapplications of the reforms of Vatican II, which sought to make the Church pertinent and material in a new post-war, post-modern world. To sum up, however inadequately, the Pope tried to turn back the clock to 1958. He could have read Scott Fitzgerald‘s The Great Gatsby and saved himself a lot of trouble: Repeat the past? It can’t be done.

To his credit, Benny, an old man when elected, became more than a coat holder, giving eight years to the job. He did his best, but he found the Church too caught up in the snares of the world — political snares, money snares, doctrinal snares. These traps make it all too easy to obscure the message of Jesus, which can be summed up by the Golden Rule. There has never been a more satisfying ethical statement in answer to how we should live our lives here on this good earth.

Don’t be a jerk. It’s as simple as that. The Church, though, has overcomplicated this equation, losing sight of the wheat field through the communion hosts.

Roncalli: The Last Truly Great Pope

As Pope, Benedict stocked the College of Cardinals with those who will likely vote to continue the Church’s neocon version of Catholicism, which has ruled the day since the death of the last truly great Pope, Cardinal Angelo Roncalli, who became Pope John XXIII in 1963. Pope John, the “People’s Pope,” came from peasant stock, and ordinary man who found himself holding the Keys of the Kingdom. John realized how stagnant, moribund, and stale the Church had become. He understood this once-great body was rotting from the head down.

There’s the famous story of the Pope startling his cardinal advisers during a meeting by getting up, flinging open a window, and declaring: “Apriamo la finestre,” Latin for “Open the windows.” He meant the Church needed to let in some fresh air. He then ordered a radical solution: He convened Vatican II. How radical was Vatican II? It would be like the NFL adopting the rules of Arena Football.

This historic meeting was well on its way to honestly addressing the Church’s position on issues such as sexuality, the ordination of women, marriage for priests, and allowance of birth control when, on June 3, 1963, John passed away.

The old men in the Vatican, who today we would call religious neocons, took advantage of the opportunity by electing one of their own, Cardinal Giovanni Montini, who became Pope Paul VI. Montini began to appease those who elected him, taking the teeth out of much of what Pope John intended, including the ruling in 1968 on birth control (see Paul VI’s Encyclical Letter, Humanae Vitae). The Church has been playing catch-up ever since.

Benedict tried without success to turn back the clock in Europe and America. This left the Church with three important growth centers: Hispanics, Filipinos, and to a lesser extent, Africans, ethnic groups still held spiritually within the realm of what resembles voodoo and superstition. The Third World will be the future of the Church, and it won’t be surprising to see the next Pope hail from there.

Who will be the Pope’s successor? Progressives are hoping for Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, Archbishop of Vienna, a man THE PLANET met and interviewed in 2008 in Rome while there on assignment. Schoenborn, though, is probably a long shot. We wold welcome a Hispanic or a black man. Our guess is the Cardinals play it safe, electing an elderly, white European and especially a man the Church’s bureaucracy can control.



The fallout from Snowmageddon continues to fall. By our calculations here at the FORTRESS’ weather station, we guess about a foot of Monday morning quarterbacking has fallen. God help us if we get 12 inches.

Our spies tell us that Mayor Dan Bianchi has ordered Snow Drills for the roadways and streets, patterned along the lines of life-boat drills on ocean liners. The idea will be this summer, at some point during every Third Thursday, the city will sound the “Arooooooga Horn.” That will signal the presence of a virtual snowstorm.

Upon hearing the signal, everyone will be required to immediately drop what they’re doing and head into various shelters that have been set up in the downtown corridor. Motorists who have the misfortune of being caught on the roads when the Horn sounds will be rounded up and herded into Wahconah Park, where a Kangaroo Court will be set up to mete out virtual fines and virtual jail time, the Hon. Robert Keeshan presiding.

“These drills are meant to stress the importance of cooperating with the Democratic Party during a snowstorm,” according to the mayor’s nanny, Donna Mattoon. “Remember, weather is now political. We only want loyalists in this city.”



Yesterday, one of THE PLANET’s correspondents asked what we thought was a fair and meaningful question. Sean wrote:


“The interesting thing, according to our correspondent, is that Wynn, sheriff Tom Bowler, and the mayor “are acting helpless in the face of this situation. Wynn shared a lot of information, but the take-away is that the city doesn’t have a clue on what to do about this cancer.”

How does one come to the conclusion that the (acting) Chief and Sheriff are helpless and don’t have a clue?

What was said exactly at that meeting that left your “correspondent”…. with the impression (to then report here) that local law enforcement is “helpless”?

Dan…..could you expand on this?

This is not your usual way of blogging.

We thought our response could be a teaching moment for all of us, PLANET included.

One, Two, Three …

First, remember that at the vast majority of public meetings, we have at least one correspondent (sometimes more) present. Over decades of local public commentary in print, on air, and in cyberspace, THE PLANET has recruited, developed, and maintained a large stable of “dime droppers.” We call these civic patriots The Secret Squadron, a name that hearkens back to the old Captain Midnight TV show (“Mudd, with two Ds.”). These men and women included ordinary citizens as well as those in elected or appointed positions in local government. In fact, you’d be shocked to learn who they were and what offices some of them hold.

Second, these sources will pass along accounts of meetings, gatherings, policy developments, and other areas of public interest. It’s a massive amount of material. Fortunately, we find it enjoyable to wade through this stuff, and from that, only a tiny portion sees the light of day, if only because we still have not perfected bilocation or found a way to increase the hours in a day. The rest is used as backgrounder.

Third, each report is subjective, a trusted source’s interpretation of what he or she saw, heard, or observed. We have developed a good method of cross checking so that, while no one is perfect in the news business, the vast majority of what we report and write can be considered reliable. While there’s no absolute guarantee in this business, we trust out sources.

That being said, we went back to our correspondent in this case — a person we shall call Gumdrop — and put to him/her Sean’s question. Here’s the answer we received:

“I didn’t mean to suggest they aren’t doing anything. The meeting covered various action items, most having to do with HS [Homeland Security] and relying on the federal government for help. They are doing stuff but they expressed frustration that the gangs etc. are winning [by attrition]. They nab one and two show up to take their place in a feeder system from NYC, Hartford, Springfield, and Albany. So it’s the frustration I meant to convey. [The police and sheriff] are feeling overwhelmed, [and] that’s the impression I got. The ‘helpless’ word came from one of Wynn’s top officers speaking for him. Actually, I am supportive of the job Wynn and the sheriff are doing. Both good men. I hope this helps.”

We think it does, Gumdrop. We thank you and Sean for your public service. Yes, a citizen asking a question performs a public service every bit as valuable as anything a councilor or mayor can do.


“In the oath of the sod, the lips that swore, / In the oath of the night mist, nothing at all, / A riddle is here no man tells, no woman.” — Carl Sandburg





  1. Sean
    February 13, 2013 at 9:39 am #

    Appreciate the follow up, Dan.

    Keep us informed, as best you are able, through your contacts at the PPD.

    I’m guessing that 90% of the city’s citizens have no awareness of a gang presence in Pittsfield.

    • Joe Pinhead
      February 13, 2013 at 11:35 am #

      Oh I would bet 90% knew it before the 10% in charge would admit it. Further that comment with the 10% could have or should have made better preparations long before now. If they want to use homeland security does this make the gang members Terrorists? If so can the President use drones to kill them? With all the new affordable housing projects that were publically proposed and back slapping that went on with those units upon completion whom did the GOBS and others think were going to be filling them? Dr. Welby, Perry Mason and Jay Strongbow?
      Just sayin

      • Scott
        February 13, 2013 at 2:36 pm #

        You know you hit the nail on the head of course there will always be collateral damage but gov’t intrusion on the next level will start with executing operations to disrupt gangs and other organized crime in urban areas and we’ll all go along with it! You make a good point the use of drones is within the next five years mark my words. (or ummm our words…)

    • Payroll Patriot
      February 13, 2013 at 12:07 pm #

      Ask all the charter school and school choice parents about gang problems in the schools.

      Dan, Lynn Whitney – Frank (Free House) Coty; is she related to Arts Palace to be : Lisa Whitney?

      Even the Globe and the eastern democrats wouldn’t recognize TFB. Is that why Dowing moved to Great Barrington?

  2. Still wondering
    February 13, 2013 at 10:30 am #

    That’s not true. They can be seen all over. Whenever one of them gets arrested they wear their colors to show the cops how many of them there are.

    • Scott
      February 13, 2013 at 2:41 pm #

      Any gang member arrested should have their colors confiscated and returned only when their case is over. This stuff is only happening because people are tolerating being intimidated. The only this that separates them from us is their willingness to do what it takes regardless of law and order. It would be easy to be better armed (legally) as a society and combat drugs and gangs in our areas. We just need a police chief, sheriff and DA who are in the same frame of mind as the public they serve. That stand your ground law is looking better every day!

  3. Pete Fusini
    February 13, 2013 at 2:19 pm #

    Dan you are a true charlatan; a modern day Titus Oates. You should respectfully resign from your other venue and keep what’s left of your dignity.

    • danvalenti
      February 13, 2013 at 3:14 pm #

      Thank you for your input.

  4. Scott
    February 13, 2013 at 2:31 pm #

    The best way to combat gangs is community involvement. I would even encourage (the police should too!) good hard working people too take the streets back by force if necessary.
    It would be a shame if known gang hangouts and drug houses started being burned to the ground. I know I’ll take slack for that but I’m no threat to anyone because I live in a good middle class area where we’re all friendly with each other. (maybe not so middle class if you use the Obama/Romney interpretation of middle class.)

    The cops need to have a presence in these areas talking to people and working with them and keeping them, in the loop with ongoing investigations.

    • Gene
      February 13, 2013 at 3:11 pm #

      Yes, community involvement is key. It means not hiding but reporting and reporting and reporting until there’s a response. Payroll has it right, gang problems explain why so many parents are taking children out of PPS (more than $3 million worth).

  5. Joe Blow
    February 13, 2013 at 2:39 pm #

    Dan, the SNOWMAGEDDON stuff you wrote today was laugh out loud funny! Thank’s I needed that…….Arooooooga

  6. The Professor and Mary Ann
    February 13, 2013 at 2:45 pm #

    Gang Activity is a violation of both The RICO statute and The Homeland Security Act.Federal troops can be deployed to intradict and apprehend gang members once they have been declared organized criminals or,more effectively
    domestic terrorists under HSA.Re-deploy our troops domestically in the pursuit and elimination of gang activity.May I add,forget Afghanistan.Money will still be spent in the defense economy,but this time,on a mission US citizens will support to a man.Thanks.

    • Joe Blow
      February 13, 2013 at 2:52 pm #

      Ever hear of the Posse Comitatus Act?

      • Scott
        February 13, 2013 at 4:15 pm #

        No but I have now thank you! That is very interesting stuff. If you’re smart you’ll stay out of urban areas during social unrest.

      • Joe Pinhead
        February 13, 2013 at 7:54 pm #


        Also the act has been so riddled with holes over the course of years and with all the wiggle room they come up with none of it will amaze me. It isnt a far leap from Tienaminan square to Park Square.

        Its all ok as long as they paint a banner on the tanks Its for the children

    • Scott
      February 13, 2013 at 4:09 pm #

      Keep in mind gangs make up the worlds third or forth largest army force. I don’t know how reliable that info is but I read about it at some point somewhere.

  7. The Professor and Mary Ann
    February 13, 2013 at 4:16 pm #

    @ JoeBlow, yes,good point.From 1878 comes Posse Comitatus and revisited during GW Bush’s administration.The repeal of said act was a dividing topic in the 90s.States currently can use the National Guard and the Coast Guard without impunity in crime and terrorism enforcement.The Bush Administration attempted to broaden the Act to include the US Army in domestic activity but realised the long struggle required and Abandoned the effort..Loopholes remain,as the White House pointed out,to involve service branches to do almost all manner of enforcement work with the exception of arrests.Pres.Bush and company ultimatedecided to concentrat on other issues of state.I would guess you know quite a bit about this,Joe.Thanks for bringing up an interesting and long-controversial bit of jurisprudence.

  8. The Professor and Mary Ann
    February 13, 2013 at 4:19 pm #

    @ JoeBlow, yes,good point.From 1878 comes Posse Comitatus and revisited during GW Bush’s administration.The repeal of said act was a dividing topic in the 90s.States currently can use the National Guard and the Coast Guard without impunity in crime and terrorism enforcement.The Bush Administration attempted to broaden the Act to include the US Army in domestic activity but realised the long struggle required and Abandoned the effort..Loopholes remain,as the White House pointed out,to involve service branches to do almost all manner of enforcement work with the exception of arrests.Pres.Bush and company decided to concentrate on other issues of state.I would guess you know quite a bit about this,Joe.Thanks for bringing up an interesting and long-controversial bit of jurisprudence.

  9. FPR
    February 13, 2013 at 5:17 pm #

    So when a pope steps down, what do they call him now?

    Does he go back to being Cardinal Ratzinger?
    Is he just Joe Ratzinger?

    He had immunity as pope (being considered a head of state) for covering up so many child molestation cases — does that change once he steps down?

    Can the new pope pardon him?

    So many questions, so little time.

    • FPR
      February 13, 2013 at 5:26 pm #

      Is there a vice-pope who steps into the seat?
      Does the acting pope pick his successor?
      Do they light off black or white smoke bombs again?

      • FPR
        February 13, 2013 at 5:28 pm #

        What ever happened to the popemobile?

  10. Joe Pinhead
    February 13, 2013 at 7:10 pm #

    Snowmageddon was a great piece Planet, couple of thoughts though they named a snow storm after a fish? Notice it was a clown fish. I can’t believe if even for a minute that we this far north would get a snowstorm in early Feb, I’m keeping my eye on that changing weather pattern thing now that’s for sure and if it gets hot in say July I’m jumping on that bandwagon. Governor declares marshal law think of this after spending millions to promote tourism over the years in the Commonwealth and the Berkshires the Governor declares marshal law and a state wide state of emergency so can ski areas now file for FEMA or MEMA funds for economic losses from a snowstorm?
    Mayors grade D+ at best never more than a middle manager, bookkeeper not a leader or visionary at all touted change and transparency, gave us the same crap in a see through box. Has he laid out a recovery plan for the neighborhoods? How about a broader economic plan for revitalization for any industry?
    The gang issue isn’t new here they just started dressing differently that’s all, the GOB gang just wears suits and ties for the most part. They cost us just as much if not more in terms of both treasure and security than the street gangs. Tell me the gobbies didn’t show there colors and stand as a group for Nilan, if I recall she was so distraught over the whole affair she ran for Democrat Committee, than took the planet to court citing publicity she didn’t want. So now in a vehicle pedestrian incident if the judge wants to throw the book at the driver does he charge them with impersonating a Nilan or a GOB?

    Its for the children

  11. Paul Smith
    February 13, 2013 at 7:28 pm #

    Joe P, you have taught us all again. Thanks for this. Best summation of Bianchi thusfar: “Same ol crap in a see-through box.”

  12. Rick
    February 13, 2013 at 8:36 pm #

    Plain and simple………….The gangs can not survive without people buying their drugs! It is not the people in the slums who support them, but the people from the Burbs who keep them going……

    • FPR
      February 14, 2013 at 4:47 am #

      Thus the need for a methadone clinic.

      Its cyclical in nature. or should I say sick-lick-cal

      So to sum up. The gangs get people hooked on heroin. The doctors prescribe lifelong treatment on methadone. Mayor Bianchi bows to Spectrum, giving them boukou bucks to come to Pittsfield and guess who get to pay for it all?

      Once you connect the dots, you see how its all just one big happy family? So the gang takeover of the city perform a necessary function. How else are they going to keep the methadone clinic in business?

  13. Giacometti
    February 14, 2013 at 12:55 am #

    To view the growth of gangs in any community look to gang graffiti…..most gang graffiti is done in railroad underpasses. In the last three months the railroad underpass under North St. and Eagle St. has gotten so full of gang graffiti that the graffiti is now
    spilling out onto the walls surrounding the underpass. Cleaning up gang graffiti is the first step towards eliminating gangs in a community

  14. Giacometti
    February 14, 2013 at 1:16 am #

    For insight into Cardinal Ratzinger before he became Pope view Amy J, Berg’s award winning documentary film ” DELIVER US FROM EVIL “…which tells the story of Catholic Priest Oliver O’Grady who molested hundreds of children as young as infants in Southern California between the 1970’s and the 1990’s. It is an
    eye opening documentary film that shows how Cardinal Ratzinger
    was able to cover-up Father O’Grady’s crimes against children and how Father O’Grady was never brought to trail.

    • Scott
      February 14, 2013 at 5:24 am #

      Yes I saw that what a truly eye opening documentary that shows how priest are sexually repressed and destined for a life of victimizing children. When the guy’s daughter told him she never told because he said he’d kill anyone who ever touched her and didn’t want him getting into trouble it changed the way I talk to my kids about sexual abuse.

  15. Ron Kitterman
    February 14, 2013 at 4:45 am #

    And the hits just come on coming, again and again …

    • Paul Smith
      February 14, 2013 at 9:12 am #

      Mike McCarthy’s smack down by the Governor’s Council (5-3) was an insult to this fine man and a slap in the face to southern and all of Berkshire County. Like you say Ron, the hits keep coming.