PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

“I am not here [in Hong Kong] to hide from justice; I am here to reveal criminality”Edward Snowden

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, THURSDAY, JUNE 13, 2013) — There is no overstating the implications of Edward Snowden‘s heroic revelations, at great personal cost, of the massive spying the U.S. government has been doing for the past seven years on its citizens. For years, the government has denied the very thing that Snowden has exposed and a red-faced Obama Administration has been forced to admit.

Beyond the fact that the case offers proof that the America we all once knew and loved no longer exists lies the irreducible granite block of veracity — We cannot believe what our government tells us. You are no longer on the grassy knoll to assert that U.S. officials are harvesting megadata on every U.S. citizen who uses a phone or a computer. At last, there’s proof.

Concerning  Snowden’s  expose, the argument has been made that “if you’re innocent you’ve nothing to fear.” This false premise then produce a valid conclusion but one that is not true: “Therefore, they can collect information on me, because I’m doing nothing wrong.” Forget the slippery slope. This is an ice-glazed downhill 80-degree decline.

It’s incredible that any serious, intelligent person would reason in this sloppy, haphazard way on so critical an issue. The simple counterpoint to this, of course, is to point out that even if you are innocent, the U.S. government still collects massive amounts of data on you. It even has a program, as Snowden revealed, to organize the information — yes, there is a file on you in the government’s hands. You could be as pure as Ivory Snow and as innocent as Little Miss Muffet, and you’ve still been thrown into the same category as “Suspected Terrorist.”

Once the data becomes part of the government’s clutches, neither you, Timmy the Bartender, nor your Aunt Emma’s pet poodle will have any control over how it is used. That’s the key. Remember, as much as intelligence, counterintelligence, and surveillance remain a necessary evil in this high-tech, networked world of ours, the information harvested will become tainted by politics. Remember that Snowden revealed that “Any analyst at any time can get anyone.” They can and they will.

Snowden, a contract employee for the federal government, was a low-to-mid-level analyst for the National Security Agency‘s Hawaiian office. He said that from his computer, he could focus in on any person contained in the megadata collection. He had the autonomy to do it, he said, and that there were and are many other analysts who had and have such power. Analysts are human. They have ups and downs in life, make friends and enemies, have relationships, break up, get into messes, and all the rest of what goes on in the human experience. In other words, they can use personal grudges to abuse their power.

It is an easy thing, for example, for a government analyst to access, review, and make use of information against someone whose politics he finds disagreeable. We won’t list the nearly infinite ways in which this information can be used to turn the lives of American citizens into something from the gulag. The fact is, the government has this information on you, and at any point, it can be used against you, for any purpose and at little or no provocation.

Snowden revealed just three aspects of the government’s information harvesting. There are more.

— A sealed court order forcing Verizon to turn over millions of phone records. Snowden leaked this document.

PRISM, a program that gathers communications from customers of Internet companies such as Apple,  Facebook, Yahoo!, and Google. PRISM provides the feds “direct access” to the servers of Internet providers. Prior to Snowden’s leaking, these companies as well as the federal government have denied such a program exists. Well, it does. Been on line today? The government knows all about it.

— A program with the chilling name, “Boundless Informant.” BI tracks, collects, catalogs, and maps the sources of data the government collects through PRISM and other domestic spying. It creates files on individuals.

As these revelations show, the U.S. government has unilaterally and secretively granted itself the power to break its own laws. This unlimited power exists beyond the realm of the three branches of government (yes, even the executive branch, since President George W. Bush signed the Patriot Act into law and Barack Obama built up its provisions into a Death Star opposing freedom).

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is no longer America.



On Tuesday night, our Right Honorable Good Friends on the city council conducted their regular meeting (Tonight at 6 p.m. in the council chambers, it will host another Committee of the Whole gathering to take up the Pittsfield School Department Budget). Earlier that day, THE PLANET paid a visit to city hall. Our traipse included tea and crumpets in the city clerk’s office, the mayor’s office, and other assorted stops that we shall keep to ourselves. We present, in no particular fashion, some random observations:

* Thus far, it’s been a slow Campaign ’13. Most of the incumbent councilors have taken out papers. There’s been little new blood, except in Ward 1. The only candidate for mayor to take out papers is the current office holder, Dan Bianchi.

Kathleen Amuso has taken out papers to run for council at large. She has yet to take papers for re-election to the school committee. A person can take out papers for multiple offices, but he or she can only turn in the documents for one of them. From this move, it appears Amuso has had it with the school committee. One cannot blame her.

* The rumor mill has Donna Todd Rivers considering a run either for at large or mayor. THE PLANET visited Rivers to get a comment. She said she’s considering “running for office” but didn’t know which one. Rivers, as you may know, has announced the closing of her bead business on North Street. That would seem to be an effort at clearing the decks. Apropos to little, she said to us, “You hate my radio show.” THE PLANET’s reply: “No, we don’t.” How could we? We have never listened to it.

* The medical marijuana issue moved forward. Once this gets approved, watch how many phantom back injuries start cropping up in Pittsfield. A rash of hangnails also is expected, except for middle and high schoolers. They already know how, when, and where to easily get pot. Ask any 15 year old. Zero tolerance, schmolerance.

* THE PLANET visited the mayor’s office earlier in the day. Bianchi was huddled behind closed doors with Mary McGinnis, his chief of staff, and “not available.” THE PLANET also noticed that the window shades to the corner office were pulled way down. No peeking inside. Later, when we arrived for the council meeting, the mayor hadn’t arrived yet. He entered the room just before the meeting began and left early. We locked eyes, once. THE PLANET detected a faint chill, but we weren’t sure if it was from the mayor or from the temperature. For some reason (probably to keep everyone from falling asleep) they keep the room temperature in council chambers to a comfortable -11 degrees F.

* To keep ourselves occupied, THE PLANET sketched of the councilors during the meeting. Barry Clairmont wasn’t present. He missed his chance at immortality, getting drawn (though not quartered) by THE PLANET. We felt like a court artist, rendering the mugs of clueless defendants. Norman Rockwell, we are not, but our caricature came out pretty darn good. Perhaps we should get the drawing framed to be hung in city hall.


 “Good-bye, proud world! I’m going home: / Thou art not my friend, and I’m not thine.”Ralph Waldo Emerson, from “Good-bye.”





  1. levitan
    June 13, 2013 at 7:57 am #

    Rather be hung than hanged.

    • bobbyd
      June 13, 2013 at 6:36 pm #


      I see what you did there.

  2. levitan
    June 13, 2013 at 8:06 am #

    …. As for the ‘slippery slope.’

    That happened generations before when people came to the ridiculous notion that the Bill of Rights were a random list of 8, give or take a few, requests. The body was built as a single document with multiple distinct components, but it was hoped that future generations would not treat it like a shopping list.

    The end result is that we have close to none of the inalienable rights that we enjoy to count on. Whether you choose to correspond or not, the powers that be can find what it wants, and manufacture what it cannot find. That new power, plus the risk of mistaken accusations, is the direct cost associated with the security program.

  3. Giacometti
    June 13, 2013 at 8:34 am #

    Word on the street is that there is a new art gallery moving to North Street…A gallery which will exhibit the City Council Drawings of Planet Valenti may take the place of the Ferrin Gallery.

    • danvalenti
      June 13, 2013 at 4:39 pm #

      Could well be, my good friend!

  4. The Kraken
    June 13, 2013 at 9:02 am #

    If someone on this blog hurts my feelings, does that qualify me for medical marijuana?

  5. Ron Kitterman
    June 13, 2013 at 9:36 am #

    The only thing we have to fear, is government itself….

    • Blind Justice
      June 13, 2013 at 10:11 am #

      Yes, and the hope, change and transparency.

    • danvalenti
      June 13, 2013 at 4:38 pm #

      Good one, RK.

  6. TKO
    June 13, 2013 at 9:47 am #

    You missed a party for school committee….19 year old Brittany Douglas has taken out papers to run for School Committee. This young woman has a great head on her shoulders….educated in PPS. She is a consumer of education and pays her taxes…..GO BRITT!

    • danvalenti
      June 13, 2013 at 4:38 pm #

      Good. We need new blood. My first question to her: Can you locate Toronto, Canada on a map (without using GPS or a computer)? My second question: Can you palce the following in chronological order (w/o cheating): War of 1812 … WWI … Korean War … Revolutionary War … World War II … Civil War … Vietnam War. Most 19-year-olds who are products of our public schools cannot answer these questions correctly.

      • TKO
        June 13, 2013 at 6:21 pm #

        I hope Britt reads this and responds to your questions….I bet she can answer them correctly…..but I do know that each of my teens could….all have received excellent education in the public schools. It is easy to brand the entire system as failing…but it is not true. One bad apple can spoil the lot. The public school system has plenty of room to improve, but it is not innately bad.

  7. dusty
    June 13, 2013 at 10:24 am #

    I don’t see Amuso making counselor. She did not exactly standout as a voice for the people on the school committee. Except for one none of them did. Dead weight. Watching the meeting the other night you would have thought we had the best school system in the nation. Happy go lucky school committee members singing in the rain. They seemed oblivious to real issues and did not want to hear about them when Terry brought a few up.

    Those meetings and their lack of substance speaks volumes about why Johnny can’t use proper grammar.

    and if those school nurses were not making stuff up then it sounds like each school needs an emergency room and a med-e-vac helicopter. If that many kids are getting hurt and sick in school then the schools may not be safe places for children. I do hope they were exaggerating.

    • danvalenti
      June 13, 2013 at 4:35 pm #

      THE PLANET commends you for paying attention. We need more citizens like you.

  8. Shakes His Head
    June 13, 2013 at 10:32 am #

    Who really wants to take credit for this sinking ship?

    • danvalenti
      June 13, 2013 at 4:34 pm #

      Perhaps one of the Jakes.

  9. Mr. X
    June 13, 2013 at 1:46 pm #

    DTR will be running for an at large seat

  10. Mr. X
    June 13, 2013 at 2:33 pm #

    Can’t wait for the Dancing Barry show at 6:30!

  11. Jim Gleason
    June 13, 2013 at 2:37 pm #

    Thanks to Terry Kinnas for being the only School Committee member to vote against a budget that is bloated at least. I called Mr. Kinnas to thank him personally and he told me the reason he voted against the proposed budget was that there were vague line items but no specificity on what the money is being used for.Thanks again, Mr. Kinnas, for sticking up for all of us.

    • danvalenti
      June 13, 2013 at 4:33 pm #

      Terry has, alone, done his job for Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski. THE PLANET, too, thanks TK.

      • dusty
        June 13, 2013 at 6:29 pm #

        Thanks for caring enough Terry. Whatever they are going to pay the other members they should triple it for you. And they can take it out of a revolving account

  12. FPR
    June 13, 2013 at 2:55 pm #


    That’s the same reasoning the police use when they want to search your car. If you’ve got nothing to hide then you shouldn’t object to letting me search your car? If you say no, then you must have something to hide right? Wrong!

    Always remember that you are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Remember too that anything you tell a police officer can and will be used against you in a court of law. Its their job to find you in violation of something illegal. Never consent to a search, ever.
    If a police officer searches your car illegally without your consent, you have recourse in a court of law. If you consent to a search then you have no rights.

    An officer can even plant something illegal. (but we know a police officer would never do that).

    The American people have never consented to a search of their electronic communications. Never.

    Both Bush and Obama have constantly and consistently said their most important job is to keep the American people safe. This is not true. They swore an oath of office to uphold and defend the Constitution which guarantees the privacy of all citizens but makes no mention of “safety” or “security”.

    If a war must be fought to defend the American people, that power rests with the Congress not the president.

    The 100’s of billions of dollars spent on “Homeland security” since 911 have not caught one single terrorist. Airport searches and naked body scanners have all been an exorcise in futility. Sure you can talk about the “shoe bomber” or the “underwear bomber” but get real. Freakin jokes.

    The Constitution of the United States of America guarantees the right to privacy. Spying on the American people shreds these inalienable rights.

    • Joe Blow
      June 13, 2013 at 4:21 pm #

      Let’s not forget that both the “shoe bomber” and “underwear bomber” were foiled by other passengers.

    • danvalenti
      June 13, 2013 at 4:32 pm #

      Well put. We agree: Never, but never, agree to a search. “Keeping us safe” has become the new excuse for the government creating new powers for itself, unilaterally, without the consent of We The People.

  13. Blind Justice
    June 13, 2013 at 3:21 pm #

    Well the 2nd amendment is being ravaged too.

    Can we pick which rights to protect DAN? Or just let them all go to hell?

    I think the 2nd protects us from ALL THE OTHER ABUSES. It is the only one the government is AFRAID OF.

    • danvalenti
      June 13, 2013 at 4:30 pm #

      The gov’t is not afraid of the Second Amendment. It’s terrified, however, of the First. When Lenin took power in the Soviet Union, the first thing he banned was freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and freedom of assembly. He knew that compared to words and ideas, bullets were nothing to fear. You can beat bullets with more bullets. Bullets, however, will never beat words and ideas.

      • Blind Justice
        June 13, 2013 at 5:21 pm #

        Dear Dan.

        Words are useless when they are shooting at you. By the time you need bullets the press won’t help. I am of Polish heritage and can attest to that.

        You might ask some Jewish folks, Russians, other non-Pole Slaves, Chinese, Armenians, Somalis, Rawandans, Nicaraguans, Mexicans, Chileans, ……….

        America is on the same downhill slope. You are one of the few JOURNALISTS. that still has a backbone, THANK YOU!

        Our MSM “FREE PRESS” is brought, sold and owned.

        • Blind Justice
          June 13, 2013 at 5:30 pm #

          P.S. Look at the local paper, they would sell their Sister for a Ham sandwich

        • danvalenti
          June 13, 2013 at 5:36 pm #

          I understand your point, but it’s interesting that in all of the examples you mention (Rwanda, Slavs, etc.) the government first passed or reinforced draconian crackdowns on freedom of speech, press, and assembly. I appreciate your contributions to the discussion.

  14. The Kraken
    June 13, 2013 at 4:44 pm #

    Our Founding Fathers would all turn over in their graves if they knew about what is going on in our country today.

  15. joetaxpayer
    June 13, 2013 at 5:45 pm #

    Thanks for trying Barry, just don’t think the rest of your colleagues have the balls to go along with you.

    • FPR
      June 13, 2013 at 6:28 pm #

      So the council passed the budget?

      (Would’ve liked to watch it but the city link web-site stream is worthless. If that is paid for by tax dollars, its another waste of money).

  16. Scott
    June 13, 2013 at 6:21 pm #

    I already figured I was on a list held by some gov’t agency somewhere…

  17. tito
    June 13, 2013 at 6:23 pm #

    Yes Barry thank you for trying, maybe councilor Mazzeo should ask why Representative Bouvier sent her kid out of district,,,,,you know,,,,,you know,,,,,you know,,,,,,,,you know,,,,,,you know,,,,,,,you know,,,,,,,

    • B. Clairmont
      June 13, 2013 at 9:29 pm #


      Councilor Mazzeo also sends her children out of district, which is every parents right. It’s a personal decision.

      However, she mentioned that she wanted a level funded school budget, which would have been a 1.9 million dollar cut. Yet she didn’t support my 1.5 million dollar cut and said I was on a witch hunt. Go figure.

      Then she asked questions that she didn’t go to them ahead of time to ask. I don’t understand why I was wrong and it was okay for her.

      All but councilorLothrop, Krol and Capitanio agreed with one of my points. Yet none proposed a single cut, just like last year. I can respect those that disagree with me on a matter of principle, but not when they agree with my points and don’t propose a single cut.

      • danvalenti
        June 14, 2013 at 8:08 am #

        Nice work last night, BARRY. Too bad you didn’t have colleagues with the stones to do the right thing instead of the convenient thing.

  18. dusty
    June 13, 2013 at 6:34 pm #

    Thanks for trying Barry. It would have been great to send a message. It seemed like many of the other councilors were afraid to even make eye contact with the audience. They were almost apologizing for asking questions. What the hell are they afraid of?

    I predict that the school committee has taken their timidness as an OK to proceed with financial abandon. Guess I am going to need a revolving account to pay my property taxes this year

    • FPR
      June 13, 2013 at 6:39 pm #

      Yes maybe Pittsfield will consider taking MasterCard or Visa for property taxes.

  19. tito
    June 13, 2013 at 6:41 pm #

    Gee, these councilors are being told we can’t afford any more increases, yet they continue to increase year after year, vote them all out and start over.

  20. Demitrius T. Gladiator
    June 13, 2013 at 7:14 pm #

    Barry Clairmont did a great job with his indepth presentation on the millions (just as Valenti predicted) the school dept is hiding. Terrible. I can’t stand how timid the school committee (except Terry) and councilors are. I didn’t bote for Barry first time but i will this time, he’s earned it.

    • dusty
      June 14, 2013 at 1:36 am #

      I will also vote for him.

      How great would it be to have a mayor who was not a puppet of the school system?

      We elect these people to represent the people, or at least I thought so. But many of them seem to be on the side of special interests of which school system is one. When we do the city charter over can we start off the first paragraph with emphasis on the fact that elected officials are to put the people FIRST? Can we put it in the oath of office?

  21. Terry Kinnas
    June 13, 2013 at 7:26 pm #

    I would also like to thank Mr. Clairmont for the information and his effort. I will sent in so more information tomorrow.

  22. Mr. X
    June 14, 2013 at 3:11 am #

    After BC clearly exposed the hoarding of taxpayer money, nobody had the guts to follow him with a opposed vote, very very disappointing. Mrs. Mazzeo sends her 2 kids to private school. BC, do we still have to pay for kids who go out of district for a private school, as we do for a public school? What about kids who go to St. Joe? Thanks.

    • Terry Kinnas
      June 14, 2013 at 4:19 am #

      The answer is no to both questions. Private schools do not figure into the pay out equation. The city actually makes money on kids sent to private school as they are figured into the school’s foundation budget dictated by the state. All religious schools are considered private.

      • danvalenti
        June 14, 2013 at 8:07 am #

        Thanks for all the good work for We The People.

  23. taxmano
    June 14, 2013 at 3:25 am #

    Rats! Foiled Again!

    Must be frustrating for an officious, meglomaniacal demagogue like Barry to be taught publicly a lesson in accounting by Ms. Benke not once, but twice. I felt sorry for him ( as did his cronies and admirers, as evidenced by thier condolences disguised as thanks and praise on this board).

  24. joetaxpayer
    June 14, 2013 at 6:13 am #

    Taxmano watched the exchange between the two Barry made valid points. Bottom line his fellow Councillors were not going to mess with one of the 3 rails. Never touch the Schools, Police or Firemen’s budget, or you might not get reelected.

    • taxmano
      June 14, 2013 at 6:57 am #

      Benke made better points, based on common sense and standard practice for school disricts, which have so many variables and unknowns.
      I wonder if Barry advises his clients not to save money for unforeseen circumstances? Eventually, his grandstanding motion contradicted the thesis of his own argument!
      BTW, when the mayor told Barry he wouldn’t trust him to hold the money, it was the first time I ever saw Barry at a loss for words. This, to a man who has much to do with other people’s money as his job.

  25. GMHeller
    June 14, 2013 at 6:58 am #

    Mr. Valenti,

    News Flash!
    This just in over the transom:

    The Executive Editor at The Berkshire Eagle, Mr. Tim Farkas, is no longer associated with the newspaper.

    Not only that, but our highly reliable source tells us that Farkas was unceremoniously escorted Friday from the Clock Tower Building.

    And of course we hold our collective breaths for an announcement from Berkshire Eagle management — like the one given when former editor David Scribner was given his walking papers.

    • levitan
      June 14, 2013 at 7:43 am #

      Did he leave by the door or the window?

      The way out is through the door, why is it no will use this exit?

  26. GMHeller
    June 14, 2013 at 7:07 am #

    That would be last Friday.