PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, TUESDAY, JAN. 22, 2013) — The blaze that gutted the DPW garage on West Housatonic Street in Pittsfield came as gentle dewdrops from the heavens above. The city has been aching to get out of the West Housatonic rat hole for for some time. Remember this about fire: it is neither good nor bad. When it warms your house or cooks your food, it is good. When it burns a taxpayer-owned building, it is … good or bad, depending on where you’re sitting.


The “coincidental” fire thus comes at a grand time for Mayor Dan Bianchi, Peter Bruneau, Bruce Collingwood, and the DPW minions. Like his predecessor Jimmy Ruberto, Bianchi has wanted a new facility to story all the trucks, snowplows, and the Heap Big Magic Red Pothole Machine. Unlike his predecessor, though, Bianchi did something about it.  He prayed real hard.

“Yeah, and so the building just happened to burn down. Now. Can you imagine that?”

With the ashes still smoldering, Bianchi wasted no time in bringing up the possibility of building a new highway facility for the DPW … as if that had been the plan all along. In doing so, he did what one would expect a mayor to do, looking out for The People and all that. Meanwhile, during the week or so investigators probe the cause of the fire, you can bet the insurance company will look mighty hard into the possibility (however remote or however likely) that there was funny business at play.

Rhymes with “parson.”

To be clear, THE PLANET doesn’t think for one second that the city would ever think about the “A” word. THE PLANET doesn’t think for one second that anyone in the city knows certain individuals who would know how to deliberately set a fire and make it look like something else. Not for one second do we believe that. Be clear.

THE PLANET would never suggest for a second that arson was involved in the blaze. Leaving highly flammable materials on top of or next to powerful heaters, well, that sort of stupid thing happens every day, doesn’t it? Couldda happened to anybody. That’s likely what happened, which give you an idea of what our public servants think of your property.

All we know is that it’s a shame when the flammable materials and the heaters do their thing after coming into contact, which is only obeying the laws of physics. How could anyone be blamed for that?

What’s that? You say who could be so stupid as to store material in such a hazardous manner? My friends, the question contains its own answer.

The Conversation between Highway Supt. Bruneau and Bianchi went nothing like this. Such a conversation or anything close to it NEVER OCCURRED:

—– 00 —–

BIANCHI (ON THE PHONE): Peter? Remember that little matter we discussed? You know. The one about … you know. Yeah, well, it would be a shame if something were to happen to the garage. 

BRUNEAU: Like what?

BIANCHI: C’mon, Petey. Use your imagination.

BRUNEAU: You mean…

BIANCHI: C’mon, think.

BRUNEAU:  Well, I would never want anyone to lay flammable materials close to one of the heaters. But if it did, and I’m only saying “if” it did, you know, we’d have to find a new garage.

BIANCHI: Gosh, Petey. I hadn’t even thought of that.  I mean, we don’t ever want to store any flammable materials on or next to the heaters. The ones in the attic above the garage. We wouldn’t want to do that, right?


BIANCHI: Good. I know I can count on you guys to see that flammable materials are never stored next to any of the attic heaters.

—– 00 —–

 As we said, nothing of the sort ever occurred to ensure that the building would burn down at this particular time, prior to the setting of the FY14 budget. It is a statement of fact, however, to say that exactly that sort of thing did occur — flammable materials stored perilously close to heater — at this particular time.

You can go back and read THE PLANET previous articles on the city’s attempted purchase of land on East Street for the DPW by going to our home page. In the yellow toolbar, you’ll find a search engine. Type in “DPW Garage,” and the articles will pop up for you. It’s magic.



Newly-inaugurated President Barack “Taxes Hike” Obama wants to raise the debt ceiling from its current $16 trillion. We expected that. He’s a tax-‘n’-spender. He believes in taxes the way Kenyans believe in marathon running. He also told House and Senate Republicans that they had better not insist on spending cuts in return. We expected that, too. What we didn’t expect is the GOP caving in so shamefully to Obama’s extorted posturing.

That is how irrelevant Republicans have become in Washington, D.C. at the moment.

Every step along the way, Obama has had his way with the Republicans, who are fast becoming as irrelevant to national politics as they are here in Massachusetts. That’s a pity, because one-party rule is nothing more than hegemony, a form of political tyranny where the bully assumes a cloak of legitimacy, be it legislative, constitutional, or judicial.

Debt Ceiling: Is It Anything More than Symbolic?

Here is a wire report from The Daily Ticker that offers some interesting insights into the situation:

This week started with President Obama Monday demanding lawmakers raise the U.S.’s $16.4 trillion debt ceiling, warning Republicans not to insist on spending cuts in return. The same day, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke advocated getting rid of the debt limit altogether. The Washington Post reports in a conversation at the University of Michigan Bernanke said the debt ceiling has only “symbolic value.”

And the week ends with lawmakers still careening towards a deadline somewhere between mid-February and late March, when the U.S. will run out of funding for most government programs and risk default. They have no plan to raise the ceiling or abolish it. Even so, perhaps playing chicken with the debt limit, a charade we already witnessed once before in 2011, is not the real story.

“Bernanke is quite correct, it is theatrics,” Doug Casey, chairman of Casey Research, professional investor, and author of Totally Incorrect: Conversations with Doug Casey tells The Daily Ticker. “The problem is the amount of debt itself. The problem is so big at this point, I think it’s very questionable whether this can be solved at all.”

Related: Debt Ceiling Theatrics Could Spark 10% Sell-Off

Casey points to the money America owes above and beyond the official $16 trillion in national debt, as the real issue. This includes the so-called unfunded liabilities from entitlements like Social Security and Medicare.

Two former U.S. government officials put the federal government’s actual liabilities in excess of $86.8 trillion, or 550% of GDP, in a Wall Street Journal Op-Ed. Casey argues we’re talking of upwards of $100 trillion when you also factor in the liability of promises such as FDIC deposit insurance.

“This is far more than can conceivably be repaid, so the debt is going to be defaulted on, it’s simply a question of how,” he says.

There is the specter of outright default like we’ve seen in the case of Argentina, where Casey himself spends much of his time. There’s also the scenario of “destroying the dollar,” devaluing it so the debt burden isn’t as heavy.

Related: Bill Gross: Fed’s “Hot Air” Will Keep Bond Bubble Aloft in 2013

Casey takes it one step further.

“I think the U.S. government should default on the national debt,” he says, pre-empting his statement with the admission that it may sound outrageous and too radical. “I say that for several reasons. The most important of them is if they don’t default on it, it’s going to make the next several generations of Americans into effect indentured servants, serfs, to pay off the debt that their parents and grandparents have incurred.”

So what do you think? What are you buying of this D.C. horse shit, if any?






  1. FPR
    January 22, 2013 at 8:59 am #

    Hey Dan,

    Another good column today.

    Fire? New DPW building? Sure why not. Good thing the old library never fell down. They saved it with some braces until the new one was built. Now its fine again. They probably would have burned it too if they needed to. No need though because the people of Pittsfield are so easy.

    Its not a problem here though. All they gotta do is just raise taxes again to pay for a new DPW garage. Seems the people there have an endless supply of cash. Maybe the Taconic carpentry students can build it? Scratch that, they already have a project building the “Whitney house”.

    As far as Obama raising the debt ceiling. What did you expect? They will keep raising it and keep printing money and spending it until it doesn’t work anymore. Which will be very soon now. They have to keep it working at least long enough to disarm all Americans.

  2. Hilly Billy 2 in Ward 4
    January 22, 2013 at 10:05 am #

    Where will the new DPW garage be built? And who owns that property?

  3. Rivetor
    January 22, 2013 at 12:32 pm #

    Good stuff, DV. Yeah, just a conincidence, I’m sure. Nice piece too on debt ceiling and how phoney it is.

  4. GMHeller
    January 22, 2013 at 1:36 pm #

    Berkshire Enviro-Labs Owner Accused of Faking Water Test Results

    ‘Director of Lee water testing lab accused of faking reports’

    By Andrew Amelinckx and Dick Lindsay, Berkshire Eagle Staff
    January 22, 2013

    PITTSFIELD — The director of a private water testing lab in Lee is scheduled to be arraigned on Wednesday in Berkshire Superior Court on 30 charges for allegedly falsifying water testing samples provided to a state agency.

    While the state Attorney General’s Office doesn’t believe the public was put at risk by the alleged actions of William Enser, Jr., 63, of Lee, the agency says he “neglected” his responsibility to ensure “the integrity of the testing and the safety of the water supply by cutting corners and then attempting to cover it up.”

    Enser, the director of Berkshire Enviro-Labs in Lee, was recently indicted by a grand jury on 15 counts each of knowingly falsifying reports submitted to the Department of Environmental Protection and willfully making false reports to the DEP.

    According to law enforcement officials, Enser backdated drinking water sample analyses to “cover up misconduct and feign compliance with environmental laws.”

    The reports in question involved testing water samples for the presence of nitrates and nitrites, substances that can contaminate drinking water. In this type of testing, a sample is considered viable only if tested within 48 hours of being taken, according to the AG’s office.

    Enser allegedly backdated reports to make it appear that water samples were tested within the required time when they weren’t.

    The DEP doesn’t believe the water related to the backdated reports “put the public at risk” based on further testing and “close review of the data concerning nitrates and nitrites.”

    The AG’s office began its investigation in September, the same month the lab lost its water testing certification by the DEP.

    According to a Sept. 23 story in The Eagle, it was an unnamed analyst within the lab who was blamed for submitting at least one falsified report.

    “Dates were adjusted. I should have known it, but I didn’t. I didn’t want to sit and argue who did what. I just wanted to keep an even keel and even temper,” Enser told The Eagle in an interview in September, after the company had its water testing certification revoked by the DEP, but before criminal charges were brought.

    Meanwhile, Enser’s legal troubles have local health officials concerned about the future testing of hundreds of public and private water supplies in the county.

    Berkshire Enviro-Labs has operated without incident for about 30 years, and is the only lab in the Berkshires that tests the local drinking and wastewater. The next closest testing facility is in Westfield.

    “This has an impact on multiple levels: Homeowners with wells, municipalities and small water supplies,” said Tri-Town Health Department Director James J. Wilusz.

    Tri-Town serves Lee, Lenox and Stockbridge.

    Wilusz added, “Quality control and quality assurance are a major concern for testing labs.”

    Berkshire Enviro-Labs has a verbal agreement with Premier Laboratory Inc., based in Dayville, Conn., to handle its test loads. The Lee company can still collect the samples, just not test them.

    Nevertheless, several state-certified labs in the Springfield area are just as qualified to collect and test water drinking samples, according to Peter J. Kolodziej, part-time health agent for Monterey and Otis.

    “But, it’s not always easy getting labs to come out to the Berkshires to do the testing,” said Kolodziej, Tri-Town’s former longtime director.

    Massachusetts routinely inspected Berkshire Enviro-Labs every three years.

    The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Andrew Rainer, chief of the Environmental Crimes Strike Force, and Assistant Attorney General Sara Farnum of the Environmental Crimes Division.<<<<<


    • Joe Blow
      January 22, 2013 at 2:00 pm #

      Not sure what the point is posting entire stories from the Eagle here is. I’d be willing to bet most of us even though we don”t like The BB, read it.

      • GMHeller
        January 22, 2013 at 2:32 pm #

        Have you notice lately that the BB will delete stories from its Website after just a few days.
        You might not be able to read this article at in a month, but it’ll likely still be posted here.

  5. GMHeller
    January 22, 2013 at 1:39 pm #

    So whose water got passing grades that otherwise would not have passed the state’s stringent specs?
    Shouldn’t every Berkshire Enviro-Labs client for the past five years now be required to have water retested and re-certified with all costs associated with that retesting and re-certification borne by Berkshire Enviro-Labs?

  6. Piedmontese 1228 East
    January 22, 2013 at 1:54 pm #

    I would bet that the new garage will be built on East Street where the old “car barn” was located and owned by a Mr. Pennell who had the property taken for back taxes. How interesting the city owns the land already, it is commercially zoned, large enough and has been cleared out so nicely just a few months ago. Let’s wait and see who gets the bid for the actual building of it now, that is if the word that rhymes with Parson is ruled out.

    • danvalenti
      January 22, 2013 at 2:04 pm #

      Frankly, we hadn’t thought of the Pennell property. It would seem to be a perfect fit, in more ways than one. How interesting, as you aptly point out. a. Get Pennell property. b. Fire destroys W. Housy building. c. Select “friendly” contractor. Cozy, eh?

  7. Wilson
    January 22, 2013 at 2:34 pm #

    As someone who lives near that noxious source of noise-pollution I might be biased about it’s relocation, but I don’t think you need to look for conspiracies when such an event is just one of many acts of incompetence, negligence, and laziness perpetrated by city employees every day. Granted, that still raises the question of why the garage didn’t burn down, explode, or collapse years ago…

  8. bobbyd
    January 22, 2013 at 2:35 pm #

    I am afraid for the future of the dollar. If I could, I would start trading entirely in bitcoins. It’s decentralized, democratized, and it’s value is market-based rather than being dependent on they solvency of any government or banking institution.

    • Scott
      January 22, 2013 at 3:02 pm #

      Save your organic seeds man!

    • GMHeller
      January 22, 2013 at 3:40 pm #

      You are better off converting dollars into common stocks on NYSE or NASDAQ.
      Many are undervalued and sporting high dividends.
      GE, for example, is sporting a 3.4% dividend — that’s better than anything the bank is giving.
      Stay away from buying on margin and like the pros, you’ll sleep fine at night.

      • bobbyd
        January 23, 2013 at 5:57 am #

        If the dollar fails, do you think any of those companies will be worth spit?

        • GMHeller
          January 23, 2013 at 7:36 pm #

          If the US dollar ‘fails’, it simply means it will take more of those failed dollars to buy the company’s output, for example, a barrel of oil.
          Companies have hard and soft assets and intrinsic values no matter what currency it is in which the company does business.
          An ounce of gold has value no matter what paper currency is used to buy it.

  9. FPR
    January 22, 2013 at 5:25 pm #

    Stocks are paper certificates valued in dollars. They will not do you any good in an economic collapse. You may get some heat from them in the wood stove. I’m not even sure if they even bother to print them anymore anyways.

    Organic seeds need time, land and water to grow. Yes it is good have them but man does not live on seeds alone.

    An old fashion silver quarter will buy you a loaf of bread and probably a whole lot more when the green paper bills in you billfold become worthless.

    Sustenance and Covering. Water. Land. Food. Sources of energy. Far more valuable than stocks.

    • Scott
      January 22, 2013 at 6:58 pm #

      Oh crap I just thought you could eat the seeds and get the same nutritional value with out growing it. I’m screwed!

      • FPR
        January 22, 2013 at 7:15 pm #

        I suppose if you’re renting an apartment on lower Lincoln St. or Cherry Street you could put em in empty fruit cups on on the windowsill and sit and wait for em to grow.

        Be better than trying to watch your blank 60″ flat screen TV with no power, no running water and your sewer backing up.

        • Scott
          January 23, 2013 at 3:34 am #

          Yes that is the Berkshires all urban area with no wilderness what are we going to do?

    • GMHeller
      January 22, 2013 at 9:49 pm #

      FPR, those stock paper certificates valued in dollars represent ownership in companies.
      Should the value of the dollar decline, it does not automatically follow that the value of those underlying companies declines.
      In fact, just the opposite is true. If the value of the dollar goes down, and it takes more dollars to buy something than it formerly did, for example, a barrel of oil.
      Then so to does it take more dollars to buy stock in companies whose stock is denominated in dollars.
      If anything, buying stocks is a hedge against inflation.
      That’s why guys like Buffett are buying companies with the dollars they presently own.
      One does not need to be a Buffett to be buying stocks right now.

      • FPR
        January 23, 2013 at 5:33 am #

        Mr. G M Heller,

        I do understand your point and it is a viable one as longs as the dollar has some value yes.

        Just one thing though:

        Take a look inside Warren Buffet’s personal vault and you might be very surprised what you find there.

        • GMHeller
          January 23, 2013 at 7:44 pm #

          The point is that paper currency is not what matters; it is the underlying asset that has value.
          If that underlying asset is ownership in a US company that has great value, then no matter what the inflation rate, that underlying asset retains its value relative to whatever paper currency is used.
          If you own the deed to 100 acres with mountain views in South County, that deed has a value that will not decline just because the paper dollars one originally bought the deed with have become worthless.
          In Weimar Germany it took millions of paper Marks to buy a loaf of bread.
          The paper was worthless but the bread had real value.

  10. joetaxpayer
    January 22, 2013 at 8:00 pm #

    They could build the new garage on the PEDA site, something is better than nothing. Save the Pennel property for another developer, it has more appeal than Stanley Polluted Park.

    • dusty
      January 23, 2013 at 2:15 am #

      Are you kidding me? What if salt from their winter storage shed leached into silver lake? It could ruin it.

      • GMHeller
        January 23, 2013 at 7:46 pm #

        Aren’t poly-chlorinated bi-phenals already a type of chemical salt?

  11. Pat
    January 22, 2013 at 9:29 pm #

    Obama wants to downsize America. He and the Progressive Democrats assume that if they downsize America then we won’t be attacked by other countries because we are #1. This is why Obama and the Progressive Democrats are not worried about job creation or our skyrocketing debt and in fact they want to spend even more. The burden of this plan will of course fall on the lower and middle classes, but everyone will eventually bear the burden of these decisions. This is the only thing that would explain why this President wants to keep spending us into bankruptcy when we are so much in debt.

  12. joetaxpayer
    January 23, 2013 at 4:18 am #

    Pat, downsize, Obama wants to SUPER SIZE welfare, super size illegal’s and super size the national debt.

    • Scott
      January 23, 2013 at 5:16 am #

      I wouldn’t mind paying for the education of all children not just the ones who’s parents brought them here illegally.

  13. Ron Kitterman
    January 23, 2013 at 6:27 am #

    I think you might mean 1277 East St as the 1228 East Street property is single family residence that might not be too interested in having the old homestead used for a garage by we the people.