It’s been a busy day on The Planet, with all sorts of weather fronts moving in and out — low pressure, high pressure, turbulence, wind (lots of hot air, some of it ours), rain, and sun (there’s no snow in this part of the universe).

Here are some items of the day.

* Not that we needed it, since we already knew, but for those who doubt that the Boring Broadsheet reads and monitors (there’s a difference) this sight, we offer the evidence. Next, we get an expert’s views of the PCB situation in Pittsfield. We then we give you a sobering piece on the federal deficit by a conservative columnist who tells the truth to what the GOP is up to in trying to appease the rabid right on reducing the size of government. Small government is the last thing the Republicans in Congress want to do, for it will upset too many vested interests. They only want to make it look like they care.

Without further delay, then …

For a Juror, Where Does the Jury Box End?

One of the comments in response to yesterday’s piece on Seth Rogovoy getting thrown off the jury in the child-molestation case of a former Catholic priest (found guilty, by the way) came from the Berkshire Eagle’s Conor Berry, who covered the case for the BB. The Planet knows for a fact that our musings are read by most everybody at 75 S. Church St. In fact, some of our biggest fans are there, not that we will out them. Occasionally, though, we will have someone dispute that Eagle staffers check in on The Planet. Our good friend Berry shows you, once again, The Planet gives you the truth.

He writes:


Mr. Valenti,

In fairness to Mr. Rogovoy, he did NOT tweet from the jury box, as you’ve stated here. The messages were sent after hours from his home, apparently, not while he was sitting in the box. That would have been instantly noticed by court officers, considering Rogovoy was seated front and center in the bottom row, and jurors can’t bring any electronic devices into the courtroom.

In terms of the “Boring Broadsheet” getting scooped by “Hartford” and “Springfield,” I don’t know where you got that info. Eagle managing editor Kevin Moran posted an item about the “Rogovoy Incident” just minutes after it happened. How do I know this? Because photographer Ben Garver and I both phoned this information into Kevin (just like the old days, remember?), who quickly got it up online.

You can dislike and mock the paper all you like, but at least be sure your criticism is accurate.

Conor Berry


The Planet answered:


When I served as foreman of a jury in January 2007, the judge told us that when we left the courthouse, we were to consider that we were “still in the jury box.” That is the sense I used the term. [NOTE: The Planet even went back to modify the original story to explain that we never meant Rogovoy tweeted from the literal jury box while in actual court. But we still remember the judge’s instructions to us on the jury: when you stepped outside that courthouse, you were still duty bound not to say or communicate anything to anyone in any fashion about the trial. The fact that Judge Agostini kicked Rogovoy off the jury supports The Planet’s understanding and use of the phrase. The Rogovoy incident, by the way,made national news, including the Wall Street Journal. It wasn’t a trivial matter whatsoever].

Second, when I said the BB got scooped, I stand corrected. Thank you.

Third, I love reporting that harkens back to “the old days.”

Fourth, my criticisms of the BB are accurate, in terms of the performance of the newspaper in failing to live up to its obligations of the community.

Fifth, I enjoy your work. Why, though, did the paper muzzle you on the Massimiano and Stracuzzi coverage?

Sixth, please, to my colleagues, it’s Dan. Chuck the Mr. Valenti stuff.

Seventh, if you or anyone from the paper wants to debate me about the role of a daily newspaper in a community, and if the Eagle has done Pittsfield well since 1995 but especially since David Scribner left as editor, I’m game.

Eighth, appreciate the feedback.

PS: Why was the identity of Rogovoy buried at the end of the jump to A3? Rogovoy’s antics became the story at that point, unfortunately. Did anyone order you to bury it? I’m not saying they did, but I would like to know.


The ABCs of PCBs in Pittsfield from Tim Gray of HRI

Our expose on the city’s attempted purchase of PCB-laden property at 1644 East St. for a DPW cold storage garbage opened up the much more important issue of PCBs in Pittsfield. After almost a century of polluting Pittsfield, GE escaped with a $10 million “gift” to the city and token other requirements meant to “make us whole.” They never did.

The city is not whole. PCBs lace the soil throughout the city. The water table and wetlands have been poisoned. And the city still has no idea of how bad the problem is. That’s amazing in the most alarming sense imaginable. The Consent Decree has been modified 10 times, and there must be a debate on whether if the citizens of Pittsfield and Berkshire County (especially downstream) should force politicians, public officials, and bureaucrats to reopen the agreement and readdress the situation with GE, alomst starting at square one. That’s a debate none of the politicians and officials want us to have. This year’s election is when the pols must start singing a different tune.

Pursuant to this, Tim Gray of the Housatonic River Initiative writes this to readers of The Planet (edited slightly for style):


Gray Says the Record Shows GE Left Behind Massive Pollution

The city signed the consent decree, which allowed GE to put a Band-aid on the horrible mess the company created [in Pittsfield]. There is so much pollution surrounding the plant that still exists. The Housatonic River Initiative (HRI) along with Pittsfield neighbors Citizens for PCB Removal (CPR) fought with GE and Mass DEP to test homes. GE was forced to test a little more than 300. Over 50%
needed cleanup. Then the testing totally stopped. Do the math! How many homes are in the city? Over 10,000 workers at GE for decades. Free fill on any Saturday from the scrap yard, along with haulers and builders who used it. How many homes remain contaminated with kids growing up on the properties?

Hill 78 was actually a 70-foot ravine in the 1930s. GE started filling it in with chemicals, transformers, capacitors and who knows what else. There is no liner and all the contents are exposed to the groundwater of the city. Across from Hill 78 in Brattlebrook Park are wells that the city drilled to get a source of drinking water. As soon as they hit the aquifer, it was tested and the project shut down. The original 1988 site assessment of Hill 78 said there were PCBs at 120,000 PPM. Other chemicals like solvents and even dioxin were reported, which is more toxic than PCBs.

As GE was famous for burying barrels [of toxins]. We still believe that many undiscovered sites remain. The Eagle never covered this, but we trained a video camera on GE when they started a project by the power lines on Newell Street near the river. We had told EPA and DEP that there was a huge barrel field. We knew this from interviews we have conducted with ex-GE workers. GE was only going to cap the site (consent decree again). Within a few hours, we had footage of GE digging up the first barrels. Soon one of the tops popped open and chemicals started oozing out. We gave the video to the press and it went around New England and GE was then forced to dig them up. Hundreds of barrels and thousands of capacitors!

In the depositions during the consent decree, Gerry Doyle’s father stated that the city accepted at least six tractor-trailer loads of contaminated material every day during the days when Pittsfield had a dump (softball complex and business park). I have been told he dump was open for decades. Another toxic mess.

PCB plumes are underground at several locations. They have been pumping over a decade. The old Grossman’s building
is saturated around the foundation. Across the street the homes have recordable levels of PCBs that come up in their floor drains.
The plan to cap Silver Lake is very sad. This chemical source should have been totally cleaned before starting [on the] the river. We continue the battle and 2012 will be twenty years fighting GE and the Pittsfield for HRI.
We have pushed the Mass. Dept of Public Health to do health studies, only to be ignored. We did get them to test blood samples along the river corridor. If you go to Scroll down you will see the findings of Dr. Carpenter on PCBs and the results of the small amount of blood samples.
We tested the air in 17 homes around the GE plant and got PCB 1260 air readings in every house.

GE should never be let off the hook as we will be finding problems way into the future. How very sad.

Tim Gray


It is sad in the extreme. For too long, groups like the HRI and the citizens group CPR have fighting this battle in isolation. In 2011, We The People must take charge of this issue and join the battle. In 2011, no candidate should escape without being pressed on the PCB issue. To reduce an issue of great complexity to its essence, the question to ALL candidates, no exception, is: Will you support initiatives that call upon GE and state and federal environmental authorities to finally make good and clean up what they left behind, as best as science and common sense allow?


GOP on National Debt: Lots of Talk, Signifying Nothing

The Republicans in Congress have been feeling the pressure from the right, the Tea Partiers, and even the concerned left to make good on the claims to reduce the size and cost of government.

They won’t, of course, because if they do they, they will upset their corporate master, the military-industrial complex, the lobbyists for fat cats, and all the other Vested Interests. They won’t touch, for example, the Pentagon Budget. They won’t vote to cut funding for this country’s disastrous adventurism in Afghanistan. Instead, they will make token cuts, unfortunately to much-needed programs. A hundred million compared to the scope of the national debt is peanuts, but to some programs, it’s a fortune.

Here is a link from David Brooks piece from today’s New York Times:

Adios, my good friends, and LOVE TO ALL.


  1. GMHeller
    February 11, 2011 at 1:00 pm #

    Mr. Valenti,
    Please note that General Electric Company, in an attempt to get out of having to clean up literally hundreds of thousands (millions?) of pounds of PCBs and other potent chemical toxins (e.g.: Dioxins, Hexavalent Chromium, Mercury, Volatile Organic Compounds, etc.) that were dumped, pumped and sumped by G.E. into the no-longer-pristine Berkshire environment (and especially in, around, underneath, and in the air of neighborhoods throughout Pittsfield), is now financing a front group, 1Berkshire, to lobby for ‘less intrusive’ methods to clean up the various places that have yet to be remediated under the current so-called ‘Consent Decree’.
    Take a look at the names of those who are the founding members of 1Berkshire.
    It’s a ‘Who’s Who’ of the local Berkshire glitterati!

    The following was published yesterday in The Berkshire Record newspaper:

    “1Berkshire takes GE’s side in PCB controversy —
    ‘Alliance’ got $300,000 from corporate giant”

    By David Scribner
    STOCKBRIDGE – When 1Berkshire, a consortium of four countywide development agencies, was formed last April, it described itself in lofty language – “a strategic alliance,” “a single point of service” – offering seamless access to Berkshire resources for business development.
    From the start it was an odd coupling: Berkshire Chamber of Commerce, Berk­shire Economic Development Corp., Berkshire Visitors Bureau, and Berkshire Cre­ative Economy Council.
    Plus, it needed a lot of money to fulfill a mission yet to be defined:$1 million from businesses, banks, organiza­tions.
    The marriage of these agencies occurred in April. It doesn’t have a Web site; it’s record of achievements ob­scure. 1Berkshire is still on honeymoon.
    Or is it?
    In a FaceBook campaign, 1Berkshire, it seems, has found a calling, promoting a “coalition” it created named “Smart River Clean-up.”
    Smart River Clean-up urges the Environmental Pro­tection Agency to avoid any dredging of carcinogenic PCBs from the Housatonic River as the federal agency deliberates on what method of environ­mental remediation to order the General Electric Com­pany to undertake. At issue is the contamination present in river sediment and flood plain south of Pittsfield, especially where dams caused highly contaminated sediment to accumulate, like Woods Pond in LenoxDale and Rising Pond in Housatonic.
    For 40 years, GE dumped millions of pounds of PCBs into the river from its Pittsfield manufacturing fa­cility.
    Instead, 1Berkshire de­mands a “low-impact, middle of the road approach” that preserves “existing ecological . and recreational resources of the river.” By EPA order, fish and wildlife from the river cannot be eaten, nor is the river recommended for swim­ming due to the contamina­tion.
    The lower the impact of the clean-up, the less expen­sive for General Electric the clean-up will be. The savings could be considerable, in the many millions of dollars. The language it uses to diminish the health risks of PCBs is reminiscent of the arguments put forth by General Electric. What 1Berkshire didn’t men­tion was that it has received a $300,000 pledge from GE, and according to a Berkshire Creative official, GE has hinted at millions more-even though General Electric no longer has business opera­tions in the Berkshires. Its legacy is at the bottom of the river.
    Norman Rockwell Mu­seum Executive Director Laurie Norton Moffatt, a founder of 1Berkshire, de­fends the Smart Clean-up
    Coalition’s lobbying effort. “I am personally opposed to any dredging,” she said. “We need to take the middle ground. All we are asking for is more time and more infor­mation so that we can have a beautiful environment, a clean environment, an un­trammeled environment upon which our tourism de­pends and is essential. We need to find an alternative to dredging. We destroyed the river once, we don’t need to do it twice. Science will reveal a better solution.”
    In a Facebook response to Housatonic River Initiative founder and environmental activist Tim Gray, Smart Clean- up responds – the iden­tity of the responder is not revealed, nor is the member­ship of Smart Clean-up-that it denies that it has received GE funds.
    Not directly. Through its parent.
    The revelation of GE fund­ing and the advocacy of Smart Clean-up by 1Berkshire, taken apparently without a vote of all of its partners, has riled some of the leaders of one alliance member: Berk­shire Creative, an agency de­voted to promoting the cul­tural economy.
    “There was no board ap­proval of this position on the river,” fumed one Berkshire Creative official. “I wonder -many of us wonder – who is calling the shots. There is definitely a concern about lack of transparency. We are get­ting sucked into a political agenda where we don’t be­long.<<<

    • GMHeller
      February 11, 2011 at 2:52 pm #

      It sure would be nice to know the names of all the principals in these organizations which orgs appear now to be fronting for General Electric Company.
      The parent umbrella company is: 1Berkshire, Inc..
      1Berkshires’ subsidiaries are:
      Berkshire Chamber of Commerce, Gerard Burke, Chmn of the board.
      Berkshire Creative, Inc., Nancy Fitzpatrick & Kevin Sprague, Co-Chmn. of the Board.
      Berkshire Visitors Bureau, Reggie Cooper, Chmn. of the Board.


    • GMHeller
      February 11, 2011 at 11:06 pm #

      General Electric Company has engaged 1Berkshire, Inc. with an initial pledge of $300,000, according to The Berkshire Record newspaper in Great Barrington.
      The product of that $300K ‘investment’ (and that’s just for openers) is the so-called Smart Clean-Up Coalition (‘SCUC’), what 1Berkshire’s Facebook page calls ‘an initiative’.
      If one believes the saying ‘He who pays the piper calls the tune’, then G.E.’s money has 1Berkshire’s trusting troubadours (people who should know better than to get in bed with G.E., including Laurie Norton Moffatt, Nancy Fitzpatrick, Kevin Sprague, Reggie Cooper, Gerard Burke, Michael Supranowicz, Lauri Klefos, and others) serenading the county with the Facebook message: “We are business leaders, environmental activists, community leaders, cultural leaders, and citizens who believe in a low-impact,clean up of the Housatonic River.”

      It sure does seem though, that for all the hype and slick Facebook presentation, that 1Berkshire and its SCUC initiative are nothing more than just another G.E. public relations campaign.
      As such it would be similar to other PR ‘initiatives’ the Fairfield, Connecticut company (market cap: $227 Billion) has launched over the years whenever it has needed to rustle-up public support.
      (Since 1Berkshire is now little more than a lobbying arm cum political action committee of G.E., isn’t it required to register as such with the Massachusetts Office of the Secretary of State?)

      This latest public relations push is brought about of course by G.E.’s now being on the verge of having to commit to U.S. E.P.A. on the scope of the second leg of its Housatonic River PCB remediation (part of the Consent Decree G.E. signed).
      G.E. is trying to get public opinion behind a plan that, for G.E., would save it big bucks and limit dramatically the amount of remediation work the company would actually have to commit to do.
      If G.E. can persuade the public and U.S. E.P.A. that a ‘low-impact’ remediation would suffice for the next stretch of Housatonic River (including Woods Pond, the dam there, and the huge Housatonic River Flood plain there), then the cash savings realized by G.E. could be in the tens of millions of dollars, if not hundreds of millions.
      In other words, G.E. can realize more on its bottom line if it does less to clean up the literally hundreds of thousands of pounds of PCBs and other chemical toxins still remaining in the Berkshire environment and migrating south in the ever-flowing Housatonic.

      So exactly how does one remediate PCBs and other toxins using ‘low-impact’ techniques, especially when that which is to be cleaned has been marinated in these poisons going on 75 years?
      And how does one make effective use of ‘low-impact’ methodologies if the long-term goal is to ferret out as much as possible the underground chemical plumes or floodplain mud, earth so tainted with toxins that local fish are rendered poisonous?
      Further, how do low-impact methods address polluted groundwater or those pesky airborne chemical emissions arising from Silver Lake (the one whose mud floor G.E. wants to cap with sand)?

      Is there any doubt that the ‘low impact’ to which the G.E. / 1Berkshire’s public relations campaign really refers is the hoped-for effect on G.E.’s bottom line if the company can successfully persuade enough gullible people and U.S. E.P.A. to allow it to do as little as possible to clean up its Superfund site’s next big segment?

  2. Conor Berry
    February 11, 2011 at 9:32 pm #

    Mr. Valenti, er, Dan …

    Your point is well taken — a juror is “in the box” for the duration of the trial, so I apologize for being so literal.

    In terms of burying things, well, I’m in no position to verify your suspicions, but I am surprised just how “connected” the county is, and just how easy it is to inadvertently find yourself writing about your colleague’s brother’s girlfriend’s little brother. With that, I’ll leave your supsicions to you (and others, I’m sure).

    In terms of the moribund newspaper industry, it is what is. More and more content is going online, and faster than ever before, as papers prepare for the inevitable: a purely digital product.

    I’m downright depressed to think that newspapers, the posterboys for posterity, will likely cease to exist in my lifetime (I’m only 41, but I can’t imagine a tabloid or broadsheet being tossed onto my driveway 25 years from now!).

    I recently had to register to access the Globe’s website, after years of perusing the site for free with virtually no content restrictions. No money exchanged hands, but I can’t help but wonder if the data the Globe solicited from me won’t show up in the form of a billing statement in the very near future.

    In terms of the print media’s glorious past, when reading a daily newspaper was a true American ritual, NO paper is anywhere close to what it USED TO BE — not even the almighty NYTimes. The resources just aren’t there, the kids ain’t reading papers, and anyone who grew up with ink on their fingers is considered old-fashioned, quaint even. Younger colleagues in this business — those who spend much of their time looking down at little gadgets in their hands — don’t seem to be nearly as sad or sentimental as people who grew up with inky, black-and-white papers.

    I don’t know if there’s a general lack of curiousity these days, or if the younger generation is perfeclty content to have news beamed to these portable, hand-held devices. Frankly, I don’t get it. I mean, after the initial novelty of these devices wears off, I find myself yearning for a newspaper, a magazine or even a hardcover book — something tangible or physical, in other words.

    For whatever reason, news and information that’s captured and bound in this fashion just seems so much more legit. It implies a thorough editing or vetting process, which is sorely missing today. I can remember at least 6 sets of editor eyes reading copy when I broke into this business a good while ago. NOW, though, you’re lucky if anyone catches a typo or reworks a clunky lede or cleans up the tenses.

    Simply put, the overall quality and content of papers has been on the skids for some time now, and it’s not bound to get better. The quicker, faster, cheaper mantra is in full effect, which means the online-only world is the world my daughter will inherit. When I moved to the Pioneer Valley about five years ago, my paper (The Republican) was a big, plump, healthy animal, with a bangup Sunday business section, a lively arts section and more staff writers than I could count (I should add that I’m virtually inumerate). Needless to say, that particular paper now wheezes and walks with a limp.

    Anyway, that’s enough of my depressing ruminations for now, sir.


    • Scott Laugenour
      February 12, 2011 at 7:42 am #

      @ Conor. You might not get a billing statement from the Globe (for a while anyway), but they are now able to profile your reading habits and clicks so that they can improve their journalism, er, I mean, so they can do a better job selling advertising. I hope you engaged in a bit of mischievous civil disobedience and lied about your age, sex, zip code, income, etc.

    • danvalenti
      February 12, 2011 at 12:43 pm #

      Thanks. GREAT post. We agree on 99.99 percent here. I’m 59. My first newspaper job was with the Syracuse Post-Standard in 1975. The Post’s editors were old timers who, for the most part, understood news and how to get it. I learned from the best. You’re right. Young people who just know cyberspace won’t get all sad and soupy as the newspaper declines. I will not for nostalgia, which I detest, but because cyberspace makes for a terrible news platform. It can’t touch the newspaper for depth. I don’t view “depth” as simply “longer stories,” but rather, that unique combination that only print has of timeliness-with-deliberation.

      Cyberspace gives a type of timeliness that becomes distraction. What difference did it make to me, for example, that I learned that Mubarek resigned within minutes after it happened or the next day in the newspaper. Zero. But the blasted 24/7 news cycle has changed everything. It has, in my view, altered the primary function of journalism, which is, in a democracy, to give people the information they need to be self-governed. That’s not what the majority of content that appears to the younger demographic is doing: It’s not giving them what they need but what they “want” (after marketing has gotten hold of their brains): celebrity, sex, violence, noise, and Justin Bieber. They, in turn, opt out of the system. For the most part, they have no clue that they are a “free and self-governing people.” We have ended up with a snake eating its tail.

      I have learned that journalism in cyberspace must be different, though I have yet to work out (intellectually) the particulars. I’m feeling my way through it. I am hopeful that one day, when things in America become as bad as they are in other countries, and when our prosperity no longer makes us fat and lazy, people in the US will discover again the power of the media. Will it be too late?

      Thank you for a most stimulating discussion.

      • Scott Laugenour
        February 12, 2011 at 2:09 pm #

        Hi Dan.

        You say “when things in America become as bad as they are in other countries,” does this leave room for *some* things to be better in *some* other countries? Some things are and we can learn from them if we get away from the paradigm that this country is the model that others always aspire to. Some countries are rightly deciding not to to follow our model on many fronts – for example – health care, education, transportation, poverty, energy, environment, privacy rights, economic development. There are many vibrant ideas and models that are lifting standards of living and bolstering enterprise and arts around the world, which we should be open to.

        Plenty of young people I talk get it. As I’ve said before, there’s reason for optmism, but no room to be blithe.

        • danvalenti
          February 12, 2011 at 4:21 pm #

          Like the phrasing of your final line. The epigram contains much wisdom.
          “Things” in America is wildly unspecific, and a poor phrasing on my part. I was referring to our level of comfort and affluence, which has made us dumb, fat, and lazy (there’s no other way but to generalize, noting many exceptions). The young people of Egypt “got it,” because they have a deep interest in political life. I’ve yet to see that in comparable numbers here, and remember, I’m on campus a lot. For example, can you imagine that The People could do if the young people of Pittsfield got interested in politics and DEMANDED change and performance in the same proportion that we just saw in Egypt. How do we spark that here?

    • GMHeller
      February 12, 2011 at 4:01 pm #

      Dan Valenti and Conor Berry:

      It can’t help but be noticed that Conor Berry failed to respond to Mr. Valenti’s valid question the other day, Point #5, in which he asks Mr. Berry: “Why, though, did the paper muzzle you on the Massimiano and Stracuzzi coverage?”
      Mr. Berry, in your May 30, 2010 article, the first one in the series dealing with the patronage scandal at the Mass. Probation Dept., you write that The Berkshire Eagle had been seeking answers to certain questions regarding Angelo Stracuzzi’s probation stemming from his Maine criminal conviction SINCE JANUARY.
      That means that at least since January, 2010, you were aware that Mr. Stracuzzi, CEO to one of the largest federal credit unions in the country and a leading political heavyweight in Berkshire County, had received a criminal conviction in a Maine courtroom in 2005, yet you and The Eagle failed to make any report of that fact until FIVE MONTHS LATER when The Eagle published on May 30 its article on the Mass. probation scandal.
      It also means that since January, 2010, had you bothered to call the Alfred County Clerk of Courts (and based upon what you expressed to me in a phone call I made to you shortly after your May 30 article appeared, you did contact the clerk’s office), you also would have known the scope of the actual original criminal charges lodged against Mr. Stracuzzi which included TWO separate sets of charges, involving TWO separate complainants, in TWO separate incidents.
      Yet in your article, YOU wrote that there had been only ONE complainant, and that there had only been ONE incident, and that the incident had involved only ONE ‘young male’ who allegedly hitchhiked with Mr. Stracuzzi and was subsequently ordered out of Mr. Stracuzzi’s vehicle whereupon the two allegedly scuffled and the young males necklace was broken.
      Yet, nowhere in your article did you mention that there was indeed that second complainant, nor that those second set of charges resulted from an incident that happened the very next night just twenty-four hours after the first incident.
      Nor did you make any mention whatsoever that originally before Mr. Stracuzzi pled down, that there were TWO separate charges for what police in Massachusetts call ‘soliciting a minor for prostitution’.
      Nor did you mention that the complainant in the first set of charges was a 15 year-old boy (at the time), nor that the complainant in the other set of charges was a 13 year-old boy (at the time).
      Since you told me in our phone conversation that you had indeed contacted the Alfred County Clerk of Courts, and it can be assumed that you obtained the same information on the public record as I did when I called that same clerk after reading your article, it begs the question why you omitted to report any of the above relevant information in your article of May 30.
      These glaring omissions of news and information relevant to Berkshire County readers also beg an answer to Dan Valenti’s excellent question: Why … did the paper muzzle you on the …. Stracuzzi coverage?”
      Readers are also entitled to an answer to the obvious follow-up question:
      Specifically WHO at The Berkshire Eagle made the final decision to censor publication of a full and accurate report on the Stracuzzi matter?

      • danvalenti
        February 12, 2011 at 4:16 pm #

        Great questions. Our readers would love a response from Conor Berry, if he’s inclined.

      • GMHeller
        February 14, 2011 at 6:30 pm #

        Readers are still holding their collective breath waiting for Conor Berry to respond.

  3. Scott Laugenour
    February 12, 2011 at 7:58 am #

    Republicans say they will reduce the size of government and don’t deliver. Democrats say that they will end unpopular wars and don’t deliver. Certainly by now in our nation’s recent history both ‘major’ parties have had ample opportunity to prove their stuff. In the meantime over half of voters in Massachusetts affiliate with neither of the two ‘big’ parties.

    I don’t think David Brooks represents the only other alternate view. Sorry, I don’t accept that we must continue to accept less health care, for example. We’ve shown the world how it’s possible to spend more and get less, but that doesn’t mean it must always be that way. We do need to shift budget and infrastructure priorities, though, certainly.

    Due to Nat Fortune’s statewide voting results last November the Green-Rainbow Party is now a ‘major’ party in the eyes of the Commonwealth. This means you’ll see it soon on voter registration forms (we hear they’re at the printers now). We think there’s room in our republic for us. It’s certainly time for debate and representation in government from a party whose candidates and leaders at local, state, national, and international levels do not accept corporate contributions. Poke around on the blogsite that I use and share with many other greens. We’re mobilizing locally by the way, organizing and fundraising.

    Thanks, Dan, for yours and your guests’ and commenters’ reporting on PCB’s, and to everyone with a flashlight pointed into the darker corners of 1Berkshires. Keep it up.

  4. Liz Arrington
    February 12, 2011 at 12:23 pm #

    This has been a great discussion. Mr. Heller posting David Scriber’s Berkshire Record article, the Mr. Berry with excellent remarks on the state of journalism and newspaper, and Mr. Langenour on national politics. This webiste never ceases to surprise, entertain and enlighten. Thank you.

  5. PCP
    February 12, 2011 at 1:53 pm #

    From Politically Correct Pittsfield (PCP): Good discussion, good job
    all of the above. This quality of discussion will bring me to the table and I how it will be as informative as all the above.

    Thank you all.

    • danvalenti
      February 12, 2011 at 4:22 pm #

      Thank you, PCP. We welcome your participation. You can have a role in this ensemble we call The Planet.

  6. GMHeller
    February 15, 2011 at 4:49 am #

    Mr. Valenti:
    In Re: Seth Rogovoy’s inappropriate Twitterings in violation of the trial court judge’s instructions to the jury.

    Not mentioned in any of the coverage or in The Berkshire Eagle’s silly editorial is that Seth Rogovoy’s fondness for alcohol might have been a factor contributing to his impaired judgment.

    • danvalenti
      February 15, 2011 at 8:53 am #

      The Planet knows nothing about Seth’s fondness or or ambivalence toward alcohol. We have not and will not speculate on why he did what he did. We can only report on what he did.

  7. Conor Berry
    February 15, 2011 at 6:06 am #

    At the risk of getting into a [insert vulgarity here] match with Mr. Heller, who, I concede, will win due to his tenacity and the apparent amount of time he has to spend on the “Stracuzzi Issue,” most of Mr. Heller’s declarations simply aren’t accurate.

    I never deliberately attempted to obfuscate anything, or anyone, regarding Angelo Stracuzzi’s criminal record in Maine. Due to the vintage of the charges, however, we focused on the crimes for which he was convicted, not necessarily all of the original charges — namely, the solicitation charges that seem to most outrage Mr. Heller.

    In the grand scheme of things, those two solicitation charges are misdemeanor crimes, and Stracuzzi WAS NOT convicted of them. Sure, they’re disturbing, but the state of Maine dismissed said charges, and I personally don’t know why. Did I attempt to peel the onion? Of course I did; I love onions! Did Maine authorities tell me why those charges were dropped? No, absolutely not. In fact, when I interviewed the current district attorney, he would NOT tell me why the charges were dismissed, nor would he say if the dismissal was the result of a plea bargain.

    Unlike Mr. Heller, I cannot fill in lapses in the narrative with speculation. I’m bound by certain ethical standards, and I’m very aware of libel laws — something that posters in the cyber realm don’t seem to fret about much.

    So, The Eagle breaks the news that Angelo Stracuzzi racked up several misdemeanor charges — only TWO of which stuck –in the state of Maine in the summer 2004. Two misdemeanor convictions, with no jail time, isn’t exactly above-the-fold news. But, because Stracuzzi was a public figure, even a household name in some Pittsfield circles, and because the credit union he helped build into a powerhouse holds the mortgages for the majority of homes in the county, I thought that information was relevant and important to share with the public of Berkshire County.

    However, how does one segue smoothly into a story about relatively inconsequential and minor criminal charges that, by the time I learned and wrote about them, were already half a dozen years old? This just in … Angelo Stracuzzi was arrested in Maine six years ago, folks, and the only reason we’re writing about these misdemeanor charges (which we certainly wouldn’t write about it if some Average Joe picked them up locally in the Berkshires) is because Angelo Stracuzzi is somewhat of a local celeb, a powerful, well-connected man who runs with other powerful well-connected men.

    While that may be the precise reason for focusing on these out-of-state misdemeanors, I still needed to find a better, more relevant way to write about these stale charges. Enter the Massachusetts Probation Department, which was wholly incapable of clearly or succinctly answering a single question I put to them over the course of several months. Probation “did in” Stracuzzi and Cliff Nilan, not Conor Berry and The Eagle. Probation has had the ability to song-and-dance its way out of many a tight spot since roughly 1998, the year of O’Brien’s ascension, so why not now?

    When a probation spokesperson revealed that Stracuzzi was supervised by Nilan, that instantly raised a red flag. Should Nilan have recused himself, considering his personal friendship and professional relationship with Stracuzzi as a fellow Greylock board member? The short answer is yes, and probation officials have all but acknowledged that, though they continue to evade basic questions about the case, including whether Nilan was suspended with or without pay.

    So, I focused on the supervision issue, continually asking questions of probation officials via phone and e-mail, copying ranking members of the department and the spokeswoman for the SJC, the body that ordered the probe. With evidence that Stracuzzi’s probation case was being handled by his old friend, Nilan, we (The Eagle) had ample material to digest and pick apart for a good while. The salacious “angle” to this story, the one that Mr. Heller has focused so intensely on, simply wasn’t the paper’s angle, and Mr. Heller is apparently still angry that we didn’t gather the villagers with torches and set out on an old-fashioned New England witch hunt.

    In terms of any muzzling, I think that my sidestepping of the issue should adequately connect the dots for the skeptics out there — Heller included. That’s all I can say without, as the Brits say, being made redundant.

    Meanwhile, subsequent research indicates that Nilan earned substantially less last year than in past years (about $7K less), so it does seem to suggest that probation got Nilan in the pocketbook. Of course, some of that pay cut could have been the result of a mandatory furlough, which still shouldn’t amount to $7K.


    • danvalenti
      February 15, 2011 at 8:50 am #

      The Planet thanks Conor Berry for this response.

    • GMHeller
      February 15, 2011 at 1:37 pm #

      It’s utterly disingenuous for Berkshire Eagle reporter Conor Berry to claim that it is somehow not newsworthy for The Eagle’s readers to know of the original criminal charges filed against Angelo Stracuzzi by Biddeford Maine police detectives.
      These included two separate charges, incidents occurring on two consecutive nights, of Mr. Stracuzzi allegedly propositioning boys age 15 and 13 for sex.

      Is there any doubt that had this been about any other Berkshire resident (instead of Berkshire County’s most prominent banker and former city council president), that the pedophile aspect of the criminal case — whether or not the defendant was ultimately convicted on those charges — would have been given front page, above-the-fold news coverage for weeks on end up to and including the day of the verdict?

      The Eagle coverage of Mr. Stracuzzi and his speedy banishment from Greylock Federal Credit Union was a whitewash, and Mr. Berry does not even have the stones to tell us who at The Eagle gave the order to cover it that way.