PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, TUESDAY, JAN. 7, 2014) — First up, THE PLANET presents a quick update on yesterday’s action at city hall in the chamber of our Right Honorable Good Friends on the Pittsfield city council. It happened just as well called it, weeks ago, which says when you get it from THE PLANET, you get it first and you get it right.

The incumbents and new members of government took the oath. As THE PLANET predicted, the council named Melissa Mazzeo as its new president in an 7-4 vote. MelMaz then selected Ward 4 councilor Chris Connell as her vice president. We alone called that one.

One interesting moment. When it came time to adjourn, Mazzeo seemed to forget she was council president, understandable given the unusual nature of an inaugural meeting and the role of Top Dog being only minutes old. The final item on the agenda, #15, reads “Adjourn via motion.” The new council president looked like she didn’t know what to do. Connell, her VP, was of no help. Finally, in an ironic moment, Jonathan Lothrop suggested to Mazzeo that she needed to introduce the motion to end the meeting.

Chalk it up to first-day jitters, but one of the most important duties of the council president is to conduct effective meetings. That is done by knowing the rules and the rules of order front to back. It also is incumbent on the VP to be a procedural wonk. Observers will expect that from Mazzeo and Connell from this point forward.

Mayor Dan Bianchi made a typically blarneyed speech that in its colorlessness sent listeners scrambling for toothpicks and dictionaries. The first was to keep their eyes open. The second was to find synonyms for “boring” (“dull, monotonous, unimaginative, characterless, lifeless, insipid, uninspiring, unstimulating, flat, bland, dry, jejune” … can we stop now?).

He had such gems as this: “Working together, we have the potential to unleash the creativity and innovation that will make Pittsfield a great small city.” Sounds good, right, but when you look at what it actually means, the question becomes: “Just what does it mean?” To which the intelligent observer must reply, “Nothing.”

We would have much preferred: “This year, I will become a leader. I’ll will cut spending and lower  taxes for homeowners and businesses.” We’d even take, “Well kiss my gonads. I’m going to keep working full-time at my other job while pretending to be a full-time mayor.” At least that would have, we think, a measure of honesty.

—– 00 —– 00 —– 00 —– 00 —– 00 —– 00 —– 00 —–


THE PLANET presents two stories involving political correctness. The first involves comedian Natasha Leggero, who made a joke at the expense of Pearl Harbor veterans. The second concerns a TV host who made fun of Mitt Romney’s extended family. Both faced a storm of protest for their speech. The first, the comic, did not apologize and essentially told people to toughen up. The second folded in light of social networking protests and did an embarrasing mea culpa.

Can you tell with whom THE PLANET is siding? Let us now get into the long and short of it with coverage taken from the entertainment wire:

Comedian Natasha Leggero says she isn’t sorry for a joke she made about Pearl Harbor veterans during NBC’s “New Year’s Eve with Carson Daly.”

“I wish I could apologize, but do you really want another insincere apology that you know is just an attempt at damage control and not a real admission of guilt? Let me just try instead to be honest,” Leggero said on her Tumblr Friday. “I’m not sorry. I don’t think the amazing courage of American veterans and specifically those who survived Pearl Harbor is in any way diminished by a comedian making a joke about dentures on television.”

Also read: Shia LaBeouf’s Sky-Writing ‘Apology’ to Daniel Clowes Keeps the Attention Rolling, Clears Up Nothing

NBC declined to comment Friday.

Leggero, Jane Lynch and Anthony Anderson were joking about a recent tweet by SpaghettiOs that many saw as an attempt to cash in on Pearl Harbor Day: “Take a moment to remember #PearlHarbor with us,” the canned food tweeted.

Quipped Lynch: “I’m offended because they were referring to SpaghettiOs as pasta.”

Added Leggero: “It sucks that the only survivors of Pearl Harbor are being mocked by the only food they can still chew.”

Also read: Justine Sacco Issues Apology for Her ‘Needless and Careless’ Tweet

Some viewers expressed their offense on Twitter. Others contacted Leggero with threats. She wrote Friday that she was subjected to “creatively misspelled death threats, rape fantasies, and most of all repeated use of the the C word.”

“In the past few days I have been called a cunt so much I felt like I was in a British pub rooting for the wrong soccer team,” she wrote.

But she added that she didn’t see any point in apologizing.

Also read: Steve Martin Apologizes for ‘Irresponsible’ Tweet, Dings Salon for Misquoting It

“Do we really believe that the people who fought and defended our freedom against Nazis and the Axis powers will find a joke about SpaghettiOs too much to bear? Sorry, I have more respect for Veterans than to think their honor can be impugned by a glamorous, charming comedian in a fur hat,” she said, describing her New Year’s outfit.

“On the one hand you have me, making a joke about how old people can’t chew tough foods very well,” she said. “On the other hand you have Veterans who receive inadequate care upon their return from active duty, rampant sexual assault against female soldiers, staggering rates of suicide, traumatic brain injury, PTSD, substance abuse and depression among soldiers and political gridlock that prevents these problems from getting solved quickly.”

“Where do you think your outrage and action would be better served, calling me a cunt or doing something about the above problems?”

Leggero concluded with a message to vets: “I love you. I truly hope you know that.”

And she had a message for SpaghettiOs: “Let’s do lunch.”



Melissa Harris-Perry broke into tears on Saturday while apologizing to Mitt Romney and his family for comments made on her MSNBC show about the former Republican presidential candidate’s adopted, African-American grandchild, Kiernan Romney.

“I am deeply sorry that we suggested that interracial families are in any way funny, or deserving of ridicule,” Harris-Perry said at the beginning of the morning edition of the ”Melissa Harris-Perry” show.

Her voice cracking and her eyes welling over, Harris-Perry said she apologized to the Romney family “without reservation or qualification” and added, “My intention was not malicious, but I broke the ground rule that families are off-limits. For that, I am sorry.”

Also read: MSNBC Host Makes Fun of Mitt Romney’s Black Grandson

Harris-Perry has been fiercely criticized for presiding over a segment last weekend that used an image of the Romney family to illustrate what it claimed was the monochromatic nature of the Republican Party.

“It sums up the diversity of the Republican Party and the [Republican National Committee], where they have the whole convention and they find the one black person,” panelist Dean Obeidallah joked.

During the segment, Harris-Perry said she would like to see the Romney’s African-American grandchild grow up and get married to Kanye West and Kim Kardashian’s daughter, North.

“Can you imagine Mitt Romney and Kanye West as in-laws?” she mused.

The MSNBC host said that her comments were glib and not representative of the ideals her show espouses.

“On this program, we are dedicated to advocating for a wide diversity of families, it is one of our core principles,” Harris-Perry said. “And I am reminded that when we do so, it must be with the utmost respect. We’re genuinely appreciative of everyone who offered serious criticisms of last Sunday’s program, and I am reminded that our fiercest critics can sometimes be our best teachers.”


 In proverbium cessit, sapientiam vino adumbrari (“Don’t take up serious matters when you drink”) — Pliny the Elder, 50 AD.





  1. dusty
    January 7, 2014 at 3:57 am #

    I would like to sincerely apologize ahead of time for any inappropriate comments I may make in this column in the coming year. In a country which seems to love war and has more shootings and murders and domestic violence than any other on earth, the last thing I want to do is hurt someone with with words.

    • danvalenti
      January 7, 2014 at 3:24 pm #

      Well played, DUSTY!

  2. amandaWell
    January 7, 2014 at 6:01 am #

    Why aren’t State employees prohibited from unnin on the City Council? the State does fund our Schools. Congrultions to Council Preident Mazzeo.

  3. Nota
    January 7, 2014 at 6:08 am #

    The General’ was exceptional as President yesterday. Keep them in line, Council President!

  4. Nota
    January 7, 2014 at 8:41 am #

    Looks like the inauguration turned into a Church service at some point.

  5. scott
    January 7, 2014 at 9:19 am #

    It was indeed tasteless for all involved especially spaghetti o’s!

  6. Silence Dogood
    January 7, 2014 at 10:05 am #

    MSHATE is in the same class as the BB….both are run by morons for morons.

  7. Joe Blow
    January 7, 2014 at 12:35 pm #

    MSNBC has the biggest bunch of hypocrites working for them. People are always bashing Fox but I find MSNBC much more biased and hateful. They are pretty much the propaganda agency for the Obama Administration. Like Silence said above they are in the same class as the BB.

  8. scott
    January 7, 2014 at 2:05 pm #

    If Jlo had to tell her what to do is the wrong person holding the seat? Was she elected because she was the best for the job or ’cause she is the winner in the popular contest??? I know that wont make me any friends but its a valid question. Just like how can she vote on business tax issues when she is obviously connected to a large business and the outcome effects her personally.

    • mike r
      January 7, 2014 at 2:18 pm #

      No she is not the right person for the job. JLo has a vast and solid knowledge of the procedural rules and is a reasonable voice. Mazzeo has not been described as pragmatic or reasonable by any means and by her own admission does not have the same grasp of the rules as J Lo.

      She got the Presidency because Churchill Cotton does not believe a Ward Councilor should be City Council President and Connell was promised the Vice President of the Council which putting a man with little between his head there is her first questionable decision.

      It’s going to be an unproductive, odd and long two years. Many of those councilors have to consult with Dan Bianchi on his opinion before they weigh in on any matter because they have not gusts or brains.

      • B
        January 7, 2014 at 8:37 pm #

        Well said Mike.

  9. joetaxpayer
    January 7, 2014 at 2:56 pm #

    I think Melissa and the rest of the Council should be given a chance. I’m going to wait and see how thing’s go before I weigh in. I’m not looking for a City Council that votes 11-0. I like good, respectful debate. Issues need to be debated, not rubber stamped.

  10. Ron Kitterman
    January 7, 2014 at 4:34 pm #

    I’m with Joetaxpayer on this one, why didn’t JLo just make the motion to adjourn. I wasn’t there but in some ways I thought that was sort of a stand up way he approached the point. I don’t know if we’re looking for blood in the waters here or not. There will be plenty of time to judge and examine the council for the next two years. Let them govern.

    • danvalenti
      January 7, 2014 at 7:54 pm #

      The best way to govern is with The Fourth Estate there, watching every move they make.

  11. Bill Sturgeon
    January 7, 2014 at 5:46 pm #

    Right-on Ron! All of us will have enough time to judge everyone. Please give them a break.
    Actually, I am more concerned about what the Mayor’s goals are for this term and how will he accomplish them.

    • danvalenti
      January 7, 2014 at 7:54 pm #

      In journalism, judgment and reporting can be separated. THE PLANET can report on what occurs, and we can make reasonable “judgments” based on the evidence.As for the mayor’s goal, we share your concerns. What are they? How will he achieve them? Nothing in his speech yesterday gave us a clue. All we heard was the usual political B.S. — platitudes that signified nothing.

    • B
      January 7, 2014 at 8:45 pm #

      I think we can assume what the mayor’s goals are for this year, the same as last year, walk across the street and sit at his other desk.THE ONE THAT WE DON’T PAY FOR, BUT really DO!!!

    • Joe Blow
      January 7, 2014 at 9:22 pm #

      His goal is to spend money we don’t have and will accomplish this by raising taxes.

  12. #nomorebianchi
    January 7, 2014 at 5:56 pm #

    I agree with Scott. Melissa won because her and Dan have their chosen slate in the council. She has no clue about the rules and procedures of the city council are. Lothrop by far was and still is the most qualified for the job. All 7 votes or Mazzeo are from those who answer to the mayor. If you go back to Election Day in November it was clear in ward 1 Mazzeo and bianchi were backing Lisa Tully. I ward 3 bianchi was supporting Rick Latura and in ward 6 both Mazzeo and Bianchi were supporting joe Nichols. Either you are on the Gang Of Bianchi aka GOB or you will be targeted in the next election

  13. Foxy Lady
    January 7, 2014 at 6:37 pm #

    I’m of hte opinion to give Melissa and the council a chance. She’s done good work at large. The mayor though has been a big disappointment. I’m hoping he bounces back. I wish he would end his feud with DV. Hope DV is open to it too. It will be good for them and for the city.

    • billy
      January 7, 2014 at 7:00 pm #

      foxy what has she done give me a list? .

    • danvalenti
      January 7, 2014 at 7:51 pm #

      THE PLANET has conveyed both publicly and privately our willingness to meet with Dan Bianchi. That is still our policy. Until the mayor agrees, however, we shall continue to get the news from sources other than the corner office. You’re right: It would be good for Bianchi and for the city if he quits ducking us.

  14. Jonathan Melle
    January 7, 2014 at 6:54 pm #

    “Report: Unfunded costs choking budgets in Massachusetts”
    By BOB SALSBERG / Associated Press / January 7, 2014

    BOSTON (AP) — The state’s cities and towns have shed more than 15,000 jobs in the past six years, and pension obligations, health care and borrowing costs will continue to squeeze budgets for the foreseeable future, according to a report issued on Tuesday.

    Municipalities face a total of nearly $45 billion in unfunded liabilities, according to The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, an independent, business-backed organization. Meeting those responsibilities could divert resources from schools, public safety and other services, the group warned.

    In its annual report on municipal finances, the foundation also noted what appeared to be a declining appetite among voters for property tax overrides. Cities and towns raised $11 million from overrides in the 2013 fiscal year, down from $15 million the previous year and the lowest total since 2000. By contrast, voters approved a total of $49 million in overrides in 2006.

    The state law known as Proposition 2 1/2 limits municipalities from raising the annual property tax levy more than 2.5 percent without approval from voters.

    The $13.4 billion raised in property taxes in the last fiscal year, up from $13 billion the previous year, marked the slowest rate of property tax growth since 1985, the report said. But cities and towns did benefit from a 3 percent increase in direct aid from state government — following three years of declines — and modest gains in other local receipts such as those from building permits and motor vehicle excise taxes.

    In all, the foundation said municipal revenues rose 3.7 percent in fiscal 2013, an improvement over levels seen during and immediately after the Great Recession, yet below the average 5.2 percent growth level between 1982 and 2009.

    Despite the recovering economy, the report warned that costs associated with pensions, health care for current and retired municipal employees, and debt service would continue to eat away at local budgets in years to come. Financial pressures associated with those costs had already contributed to the elimination of about 15,500 jobs since 2007.

    ‘‘Spending on employee and retiree benefits will consume an ever larger share of municipal budgets for the foreseeable future as municipalities face nearly $45 billion in unfunded liabilities,’’ said Michael Widmer, president of the foundation, in a statement accompanying the report.

    Borrowing costs rose 23 percent and pension obligations 30 percent between 2007 and 2012 while total municipal spending grew 13 percent over that same period, the report said.

    A state law offering cities and towns more flexibility in the design of health care plans for employees led to a one-year decline of $30 million in those costs, but the foundation noted that health care expenses account for nearly 10 percent of all municipal budgets and that spending on health care for retired workers was expected to nearly double in the next decade.

    • danvalenti
      January 7, 2014 at 7:49 pm #

      Thanks for sharing this, JONATHAN