PLANET VALENTI and News and Commentary

ADD #1 EARLY TUESDAY MORNING, TUESDAY, AUG. 13, 2013 — Coming soon! THE PLANET’s review of the Berkshire Theatre Group‘s Cat and the Canary, plus, more info on the Buffis investigation. 

The Cat and the Canary represents one of the most popular performance genres, The Whodunit, a type of storytelling fad first popularized in the 1920s by Agatha Christie and G. K. Chesterton. Plot twists, eccentric characters, spooky old country manors, sliding panels, secret passages, thunder, lighting and an entire grab-bag of items associated with the genre can be seen through Aug. 24 at the Unicorn Stage on the BTG’s main campus in Stockbridge. Our review takes on this latest revival, as only it can.

—– plus —–

The investigation in the shocking allegations against the suspended (w/o pay) Lee Police Chief continues. A federal indictment names chief Joe Buffis, charging him with extortion and money laundering in connection with a Christmas toy fund for needy children. THE PLANET will have the latest, including a time-line of our coverage going back to last year, when we first broke the story.

—– 00 —–

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, WESTERN BRANCH, MONDAY, AUG. 12, 2013) — Yesterday, on THE PLANET, we were paid the ultimate compliment. One of our posters called us a “terrorist.” Oh, it wasn’t directly stated, making it all the more delectable. It came about in answer to Billy, who suggested that THE PLANET invite Mayor Dan Bianchi to a one-on-one discussion of the issues facing the city.

Actually, that’s an excellent suggestion. The mayor should be able to do it, since he has no opponent and will not be tied down to the claptrap and grind of a tough campaign, as he’s had in ’09 (loss to Ruberto) and ’11 (win over Marchetti).  All he has to do is tell us when it would work for him, and he’s got a “chat” on his hands. We’re sure he could squeeze us in between photo-ops, ribbon cutting, and throwing out the first pitch. Baseball and softball season, locally, will soon be at an end.

Billy’s suggestion didn’t sit well with Bobby, who said the mayor “doesn’t negotiate with terrorists.” THE PLANET has to admit that it’s a clever line, and it brought a chuckle or two at this address. Why do we call this a compliment?

All government exists as the byproduct of terrorism. The US of A, with a government so screwed up that its president has labeled a patriot like Eric Snowden a criminal, bears as its seal: “Made by hand by terrorists.” What, you don’t think the Colonists were able to defeat the-then mightiest army in the world by playing fair, do you? Our national ancestors hid behind trees, took pot shots, and ran. They set fire to British warehouses and ammo dumps. They kidnapped. They tarred and feathered.

A “terrorist” is by its true name a freedom fighter. Scratch every so-called terrorist, and underneath you will find some cause’s patriot or martyr. “Terrorism” is politics when it’s played for keeps. THE PLANET, therefore, thanks Bobby for his praise.

Bobby writes as a FOB, Friend of Bianchi, and it warms our hearts that the mayor has loyal subjects. We can understand Bobby’s trepidation at the thought of his hero agreeing to a sit-down with THE PLANET in this, the year, that the mayor has no opponent and thus does not have to face any questioning of his first two years in office. It’s rather king-like, don’t you think, to govern without accountability.

Finally, we remind Bobby that we have interviewed Dan Bianchi countless times over the years on radio, TV, in campaigns, and out of campaigns. And so we extend this invitation to Hizzoner for a sit-down with us.

When the phone doesn’t ring, we’ll know it’s the corner office not calling.



As we pointed out above, if we can separate ourselves from the hurt involved, “terrorism” is just another form of politics. In this form, politics assumes radical action on behalf of its cause. In the abstract, it works every time.

In fact, all political theories work beautifully in the abstract. The problems begin when theory commences its painful gestation into actuality. There, in the vicious jaws of the “real world,” theories get devoured by the biggest, most prevalent, most damaging, and most common element in the spoiling of power. That would be greed. Greed turns capitalism into a voracious, dog-eat-dog money grab. Greed turns communism into totalitarianism. Greed turns the “freedom fighter” into a “terrorist” in the common sense.

What kind of political philosophy could have the best chance of surviving the transition from theory into practice? Let THE PLANET describe it here. This is only the beginning of a discussion. These points are made for you to analyze, digest, think about, pick apart, criticize, enhance, and embellish.

— This manner of government would, above all, be organized not around political philosophy (Democrat-Republican, which are really divisions of One Party) but around workable principles.

This philosophy would:

* Utilize the power of markets.

* Push the necessity of free trade.

* Get rid of tariffs and anything else that restricted free trade.

* Capitalize on the power of competition, especially in public education (allowing charter schools, vouchers, and private competition).

* Reform public spending, especially post-employment benefits of public employees, which are crushing cities and citizens.

* Reel in the cost and size of government.

* Demand “sweat equity” from every citizen on the public dole. No more handouts, which the Democrats, largely, but also their GOP brethren to some extent, have made into a form of buying votes.

* Remove children at birth from any parents, single or otherwise, that cannot demonstrate the ability to support the child financially and emotionally. Give these children to adoptive families that can provide the resources and love that every child needs.

* Reform health care by instituting national health.

* Greatly reduce military spending. Limit our armed capability to defensive purposes only.

* Get rid of the federal Dept. of Education. Return schools to local control.

* Create a fairer tax system by removing taxes from capital gains, payroll, savings, and investing. Institute “green taxes” by taxing pollution. Close loopholes. Have a flat tax of 15%.

* Get rid of the electoral college in presidential elections. Replace it with straight vote totals. The individual vote does not need a collective “electoral” to cast those votes, en masse.

As we said, these are just some of the main points. There are many others, and within them countless subsets.

Always, we must ask two questions:

1.) What are the goals?

2.) How do we best achieve them?

The failing of Pittsfield for the past generation of years (two score and 10) has been its inability to decide on question 1.). The city’s so-called “leaders” essentially crafted in that time a form of sham “democracy,” one that in effect removes ordinary citizens from the process of government by encouraging pandemic apathy. Pittsfield has not in all that time reached an inclusive, let alone a conclusive, answer to the questions: “Where do we want this city to go? What do we want to become?” With no answer, question #2 never arises. If you have no goal, you have no way of determining the best ways to get there. That, in reduction, is the essential problem of the city.

The apathy deliberately created by the Special Interests to ensure the perpetuation of their power has come at an enormous cost. Apathy has forced a tyranny on We The People, in that most elections are decided without the majority’s participation.

We could go on and on. THE PLANET has not the time (in cyberspace, there’s always the “space”) to do this. The largest question would, of course, be the one with which we started: How do we keep greed and selfish ambition from ruining it for everyone?

The most common historical answer has been some form of authoritarian rule. It comes in many forms: Dictatorship, Authoritarianism, Totalitarianism, Fascism, etc. In the abstract, the “strong ruler” government, with one person wielding absolute power, would seem to have the greatest chance of success, but how on earth do you find a man or woman capable of handling such power? Ah, there’s the rub. All other forms of government we can call “cooperative.” In a co-op, the leader shares power. That adds pluralism but the kind of diversity that only adds to the risk of corruption.

In a way, when we examine the possibilities of honest governance, we are probing the human heart. How do we account for what writer Edgar A. Poe called the “imp of the perverse,” that inherent impulse in all of us to selfishness, self-preservation, and avarice? The Catholic faith calls this “original sin.” Can it be done, or is any form of government doomed to fail because we humans have not as yet devised a way in which we can all live together, equitably, on the face of the good earth.

We have many other thoughts on this, but we would much rather hear yours. THE PLANET invites your comments.


“Because there is safety in derision / I talked about an apparition, / I took no trouble to convince, / Or seem plausible to a man of sense, / Distrustful of that popular eye / Whether it be bold or sly. / Fifteen apparitions have I seen; / The worst  a coat upon a coat-hanger.”W. B. Yeats, first stanza, “The Apparitions”






  1. bobbyd
    August 12, 2013 at 8:10 am #

    I agree with some of your “workable principles,” and with some I do not, but your proposal is representative of the sort of political pragmatism expounded upon by Tocqueville following his visit to America in the 1830s.

    The major weakness I see in such a “system” is that it can be used to “justify” a great many evils, precisely because it is not a system, nor is it required to justify anything except to maintain that a practice “works.”

    I would submit that greed is not the only force that is capable of driving political corruption. Rather, the lack of a moral foundation or imposition of an unjust moral foundation drives corruption. In fact, I believe we may properly express the contention between liberals and conservatives as a clash of moralities.

    THE PLANET has waxed somewhat less eloquently on other occasions about the futility of abstraction. Abstractions are principles that remains principles in principle only. There are those of us who are committed, albeit imperfect, practitioners of our moral cores.

    As always, YMMV.

    FWIW, I am not a “Friend of Bianchi.” I didn’t vote for him; I don’t know him; and I am entirely agnostic with regard to his success as mayor.

    • danvalenti
      August 12, 2013 at 8:10 pm #

      We agree. Greed is not the only cause of political corruption. There is the question of morals (or ethics, for those more comfortable with that word). Another would be weakness (no backbone), which is not so much a moral failing as a personality flaw.

  2. Jonathan Melle
    August 12, 2013 at 10:21 am #

    Pittsfield politics is ran by the Good Old Boy network. Call it a dictatorship or an oligarchy of special interests. What is the Good Old Boy network? It is a group of multi-generational, interrelated families that comprise two political machines ran by the Wojtkowski’s and the Del Gallo’s — both entities collude under the banner of the Massachusetts Democratic Party. The Good Old Boy network gives out jobs to its loyal supporters, and blacklists people who don’t kiss their behinds or speak out against them. I remember trying to find a job in the Pittsfield area for over one year of my life, and no one would hire me! I did speak out about the corruption and insider operations of Pittsfield politics, especially the banal “leadership” of Peter Larkin (GE lobbyist) and Andrea Nuciforo (financial institutions lawyer). When I lived in Pittsfield in late-Summer of 2003 through early-Spring 2004, I listened to Jimmy Ruberto say he was not part of the Good Old Boy network and that he would take on the special interests that have kept Pittsfield down. Former Mayor Jimmy Ruberto lied! He was the King of the GOB! From 2004 – 2011, Pittsfield losts thousands of local jobs, especially in the private sector. GE left Pittsfield behind. KB Toys went bankrupt. The non-profit Hospital laid off hundred of employees. Yet, Jimmy Ruberto raised taxes above the rate of inflation every single year of his 8 years in political office. The only economic indicator that grew in Pittsfield during Jimmy Ruberto’s 8 year tenure was teen pregnancies doubling the statewide average in Pittsfield and sky-rocketing welfare caseloads in Pittsfield. Jimmy Ruberto called his policy of high taxes with a depressed private sector: “Sacrifice”. The reality is that the #1 employer in Pittsfield is the City of Pittsfield. Thousands of local workers are dependent on the taxpayers paying high taxes for the livelihood and financial security. The remaining private sector jobs in Pittsfield are mainly local banks, credit unions, and insurance companies who do business with all of the public and non-profit workers who depend on tax dollars for their income and benefits. Jimmy Ruberto’s promises of economic growth saw the opposite in Pittsfield. Ruberto’s legacy was the manifestation of the Good Old Boy network’s continued deleterious impact on Pittsfield. Before Jimmy Ruberto’s reign, Good Old Boy Gerry Doyle bankrupted the City of Pittsfield and sent it into state government receivership. Former Mayor Gerry Doyle also signed the flawed Consent Decree that created near zero jobs with a net loss of thousands of Pittsfield jobs under Jimmy Ruberto. Also under Jimmy Ruberto, Pittsfield spent millions of GE dollars from the flawed Consent Decree on revitalizing North Street, where people still avoid, especially after hours. After the Doyle debacle and the Ruberto regime, Dan Bianchi has been Mayor of Pittsfield for less than 2 years. Dan Valenti is right about Mayor Dan Bianchi’s wrong decision to raise municipal taxes given Pittsfield’s depressed local economy with a low median income level. Other than that, Dan Valenti should understand that this is Pittsfield! It has serious financial and economic problems that the Good Old Boy network under Doyle and Ruberto have made worse and worse. Mayor Dan Bianchi inherited a big mess in Pittsfield. He has been Mayor for less than 2 years. No one could turn around Pittsfield in less than 2 years!

    • Joe Blow
      August 12, 2013 at 10:48 am #

      You left out that you support masturbation. Bianchi is a GOB and has continued their agenda. Name one thing he has done different. Meet the new boss same as the old boss.

      • Jonathan Melle
        August 12, 2013 at 1:58 pm #

        The U.S. of A. leads the industrialized World in teen pregnancies. Pittsfield’s teen pregnancy rate doubles the statewide average. I believe that young people should masturbate instead of having unprotected sexual intercourse. I also believe in safe and protected sex between two people who respect and care about each other.

    • joetaxpayer
      August 12, 2013 at 10:50 am #

      Johnathon, He hasn’t even pumped the brakes. It is business as usual in Pittsfield, tax and spend. Time to stop blaming and do something about it. Funny thing is Marcetti would have done the same thing with different supporting cast.

      • Jonathan Melle
        August 12, 2013 at 2:02 pm #

        I agreed with Dan Valenti that Mayor Dan Bianchi should not have raised taxes in Pittsfield.
        I disagree with Valenti that Bianchi is to blame for all of Pittsfield’s problems.

        • Joe Blow
          August 12, 2013 at 3:05 pm #

          C’mon he never said Bianchi was to blame for all of Pittsfield’s problems.

        • danvalenti
          August 12, 2013 at 8:00 pm #

          I have never said that Mayor Bianchi “is to blame for all of Pittsfield’s problems.” Again, Jonathan, do not invent words that I have allegedly (by you) but did not say.

          • Jonathan Melle
            August 12, 2013 at 8:14 pm #

            I am sorry, again, Dan Valenti for mis-stating your words.

          • danvalenti
            August 13, 2013 at 7:34 pm #

            Accepted, JONATHAN.

      • danvalenti
        August 12, 2013 at 8:05 pm #

        Marchetti would have raised taxes even more than Bianchi.

  3. Joe Blow
    August 12, 2013 at 10:39 am #

    Dan, I agree Snowden is a patriot but he had a very bad exit strategy. I wonder what he thinks of Russia’s version of big brother.

  4. tito
    August 12, 2013 at 11:55 am #

    , ,, And what the hell,,,,we have heard from Mel Mazzeo that our water rate increase is minimal, yet necessary, and J Lothrop’s conjecture that we have a lower tax rate than many other cities,,,,,,these are dangerous words that often have a precarious meaning down the road,,, ,didn’t like Bianchi’s free cash use to fund school contracts either. I might be wrong, don’t think so, but it was Lothrop that said our pension obligation’s were in good order, what a joke, these Einstein’s better do something about the unfounded liabilities, we are not immune from fiscal ruin ie Detroit, but then again all one needs to do is change spots, right Mayor? Let us hope he has become a demagoguery, or G O B,,,,,, ,,,,,

    • danvalenti
      August 12, 2013 at 8:04 pm #

      Anyone who says another 2 1/2% increase is minimal, not much, or words to that effect either are pretending or they do not understand the tremendous pressures middle- and lower-middle-class households are under. This increase amount to more money they have to fork over to the government that would otherwise be in their own pockets.

  5. Mr. X
    August 12, 2013 at 1:57 pm #

    I’m pretty sure that Buffis pressured that Inn couple to make a $4000 donation to the toy fund, then ole’ Buffy withdrew that money out for personal use before anybody knew it was in there.

    • Larry
      August 12, 2013 at 7:27 pm #

      Very nice of him to withdraw $3,990.00 instead of the entire 4k so the kids recieved the $10! LMAO.

      In the months of investigation yet ahead I would bet the farm it comes out he used that toy fund as his personal piggy bank!

      • danvalenti
        August 12, 2013 at 7:57 pm #

        THE PLANET shall be sharing our take on the Buffis developments soon.

  6. Levitan
    August 12, 2013 at 3:15 pm #

    It would be a nice gesture to Freedom of Presses Everywhere for Bianchi to do a 1 on 1 with Dan. It could even be trademarked as a regular event under Dan and Me, or Me and Dan and cd copies sold separately. But for the audience, I’d think he’d do much better with the Pittsfield Gazette.

    Otherwise, regarding Snowden, did you do the right thing, Mr. Valenti, and sign the public petition to pardon him in full view of everyone who needs to know your position on the matter? If so, good for you!

  7. Gene
    August 12, 2013 at 4:44 pm #

    I would love to see DV and the mayor in a sit-down televised live one on one.

    Also Snowden to me did the right thing.

    • danvalenti
      August 12, 2013 at 7:58 pm #

      Thanks, G. All the mayor has to do is accept the invite and contact us.

  8. NBI
    August 12, 2013 at 6:14 pm #

    It’s a shame that Bianchi is running unopposed. Especially since the Planet did a lot of saber rattling and posturing, over many months, to give the illusion that he was mounting a campaign to grab the corner office. If PV ever gets the chance to interview the mayor, I think Dan B should turn the tables and ask Dan V why he isn’t running against him.

    • danvalenti
      August 12, 2013 at 7:58 pm #

      Excellent idea. Maybe that will induce the mayor to accept my invitation. I have an excellent response!

  9. Jonathan Melle
    August 12, 2013 at 6:36 pm #

    “Vote Could Raise Water and Sewer Rates for Residents”
    By Jim Levulis, WAMC public radio, August 12, 2013

    Residents in Pittsfield could soon be paying higher water and sewer rates. The city council will vote Tuesday whether to approve Mayor Dan Bianchi’s proposal to raise water and sewer rates for the third straight year. Residents would see an annual fee increase of nearly 7-and-a-half dollars if the 2.5-percent hike is approved at the city council meeting. City Councilor and Chair of the Public Works Subcommittee Chris Connell says the increase is in line with ones over the past two years so residents don’t feel a big financial crunch during one year. He says even if the rate hike is approved, Pittsfield’s water rates will remain near the cheapest in the Commonwealth.

    “The 2.5 is a small increase,” Connell said. “I know there are residents out there that are on fixed incomes and it will become a burden, but the bottom line is our hands are really tied here.”

    The new rates would create more revenue for projects Connell says are necessary for the city to update to its outdated water treatment plant on Holmes Road.

    “We’re facing some big infrastructure improvements at the wastewater treatment plant to comply with the EPA,” said Connell.

    If approved, the rate would go into effect retroactively to usage starting July 1, the start of fiscal year 2014. The proposal would also have property owners with meters pay a 7-cent increase for every 100 cubic feet of water use or discharge. The new rates would raise about $130,000 in sewer revenue and roughly $100,000 in water service this fiscal year, according to Public Works Commissioner Bruce Collingwood in a statement to The Berkshire Eagle.

    Boring Broadsheet link:

    • dusty
      August 13, 2013 at 1:04 am #

      I thought the taxpayers just about rebuilt that plant to a state of the art facility not long ago. It is becoming like the school system, a vehicle to suck money from the taxpayers. Is there any accountability? Why did they bury that water dept fraud case where all that unearned overtime was paid and no one got punished? Remember when Barret ferreted out some dirty dealing down there and shortly after it hit the news the story went away? Someone needs to keep an eye on this outfit and I don’t mean the mayor.

      • danvalenti
        August 13, 2013 at 7:34 pm #

        THE PLANET applauds citizens like you. You obviously pay attention. The water department scandal was swept away, like a dust devil when it meets an aggressive broom. The head of that department was given a choice by Mayor Ruberto: Resign and skedaddle, or face charged. The man skedaddled, into a nearby town, to head the waterworks there! We hear he even got a raise, that despite the officials of that town knowing all about Pittsfield’s dealings. Un-BE-F—–LEAVE-A-BULL.

  10. Ron Kitterman
    August 13, 2013 at 2:36 pm #

    Good one NBI what’s the NBI stand for Nobody But Incumbents ? Yeah how dare the Planet propose an interview to the Mayor without a challenge, after the build up that he had leading up to the election for 6 months. With virtually no one running for any office other than in wards 1 and 3 it must send a message to us that things are working out just fine in Pittsfield.

    • NBI
      August 13, 2013 at 3:21 pm #

      Good one Ron. I posted before as “Not Buying It” and Dan would reply using NBI. So it kind of stuck. It seems that Dan continues to toy with us regarding his failure to run. We may never know his excellent response, unless the current mayor agrees to the interview. The suspense I’d killing me.

    • levitan
      August 13, 2013 at 5:08 pm #

      Nothing But Initials

      • levitan
        August 13, 2013 at 5:09 pm #

        Hope that helps, NBI

  11. tito
    August 13, 2013 at 3:20 pm #

    ,,, ,,good one Ronnie,,,,,everybody clap hands after the water sewer increase tonight, and do a jig and sing kumbaya,,,,,aren’t taxpayer’s sick of pols saying how they feel the pain and burden of the taxpayer and continue to tax at nauseum!,,,

  12. Ron Kitterman
    August 13, 2013 at 3:46 pm #

    I see the new owners of the Saint Teresa’s on South Street are fencing off the property to demolish the old church. I wonder if they will keep the shrubs that remind us to pray. I think that’s our only hope for the next 2 years.

    • danvalenti
      August 13, 2013 at 7:31 pm #

      Shame that building is coming down, all in the name of greed.You’re right about “pray.”

  13. Rivetor
    August 13, 2013 at 4:54 pm #

    The city of Pittsfield is heading the way of Detroit, Chicago public school system, and other cities that had gone belly up. Read the recent cover story of Time magazine. Proves DV is a prophet, I’m wondering if he wrote it under an assumed name.

    • bobbyd
      August 13, 2013 at 6:00 pm #

      Pensions are an albatross around the necks of a lot of cities. Because pensions are regulated at the state level in Massachusetts, I am still not clear on how much power a mayor actually has over them. I was hoping THE PLANET would shed some light on that. So far … nothing.

      There was an attempt at pension reform a couple years ago that would purportedly save about $5 billion, but is it enough?

      • danvalenti
        August 13, 2013 at 7:30 pm #

        The mayor has great power over them … if he or she chooses to exercise that power and dare to be great. Through home rule petition, the mayor could begin a process that leads to pension reform. You need a leader, that’s all. We would refer you to, among other sources, the cover story in Time magazine recently, that reported on Detroit’s default and how many cities across America are heading in that direction. Remember, back in the early 80s, the city petitioned through home rule to uncap pensions, which were then restricted to 35% of pay. Uncapped, and it became 80 percent of your three highest earning years. The politicians sold We The People out, and soon, the bills will start coming due. Thirty years ago, the thought of 2013 and beyond was well beyond their discomfort zone. The mayor could lead an effort via the council to cap pensions again. So you see, the mayor, as a leader, could have great power. “Could” is the operative word. Such leadership needs what the street calls “big ones.” We do not have anyone in city government right now of that size.

        • bobbyd
          August 14, 2013 at 9:58 am #

          Thanks, Dan, for the clarification. I am one of those unfortunate people who are stuck in the Mass Teachers pension. I would much rather that money went into a private investment fund.

          • danvalenti
            August 14, 2013 at 1:40 pm #

            Thank you, BOBBYD, for your well-expressed questions and challenges. We appreciate your contributions to the public discussion we try to initiate here.

    • danvalenti
      August 13, 2013 at 7:31 pm #

      Thanks. We read that article yesterday in an airport lounge. I recommend it, too, as I did above to BOBBYD.