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On Being A Titan, Part One, Or, See It, Say It, Sue It March 9, 2011

Got a simple little story for you today of a multinational corporation that wants to build a great big cement plant in North Carolina really, really, bad, and the local opposition to what appears to be a corrupt and distorted decision process.

Two local activists in particular have drawn the ire of Titan Cement, the Grecian corporation who seeks to build the plant—and because the Company doesn’t like what the activists have been saying about what the impact of that plant will likely be or how the deal’s going down…they’re suing Kayne Darrell and Dr. David Hill, residents of North Carolina’s New Hanover County, and the two folks who are doing the complaining the Company dislikes the most.

The Company further claims that they were slandered and defamed by the damaging statements that were uttered by the two at a county commissioners’ meeting and that they have lost goodwill and the chance to do business with certain parties as a result of these statements.

But what if everything the Defendants said was not only true…but provably so—and the Company was, maybe…just looking to shut people up by sending teams of lawyers after them?

As I said, it’s a simple story today—but it’s a good one.

We have tomorrow
Bright before us
Like a flame.

Yesterday, a night-gone thing
A sun-down name.

And dawn today
Broad arch above the road we came.
We march!

–From The New Negro, by Alain Locke

So here’s the deal, as it sits today: for a number of years now Titan Cement has been looking to build this great big cement plant near the environmentally sensitive North Carolina coast (part of the site includes 600 acres of “pristine wetlands”), and part of running a cement plant is running cement kilns.

Ya gotta cook limestone, sand, and clay, along with some other ingredients, at very high temperatures (above 2700 degrees F), which sort of fuses everything together; that makes “clinker”, which eventually becomes cement, and that’s why you need giant kilns and, often, pre-heater towers.

You need fuel for those really hot kilns and towers, and our friends at the Army Corps of Engineers advise that, in the kiln fuel game, you can actually kill two birds with one limestone by burning hazardous waste as a substitute for anywhere from 20% to 50% of your original “fuel of choice” (which is often coal).

According to the Corps, you can burn 12 tons of fuel an hour in one kiln, and that means up to six tons of…

byproducts of pharmaceutical, cosmetic, and electronics manufacturers;
solvents and inks used to print newspaper and other publications;
solvents used to recycle paper;
dry-cleaning solvents;
paint thinners and paint residues;
sludge from the petroleum industry;
used motor oil;
agricultural wastes;
and scrap tires.

…might be going into the mix every hour—and as it turns out, that stuff might contain:

…arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, nickel, thallium, and zinc.

Now if you’re burning that stuff, it’s either going up the smokestack or out the door as a component of the clinker you just made, and if you live anywhere near this plant, you’re going to be at least a little concerned…and if you have the impression that the people who are trying to get the permits are running a big ol’ hustle to get those permits, you’re going to be even more concerned…and it looks like that’s what’s been going on…and if you put all this together, and you lived in the neighborhood, you might show up at a local County Commissioners’ meeting and say something like this

“From lawsuits for price fixing and court-ordered mine closures of Titan’s Florida plant, to allegations of corruption coming from Raleigh, to emails raising suspicion whether Titan was ever even considering any other location, which would make incentives completely unnecessary, the clouds of corruption grow dark as new controversies emerge almost daily.”

…or this…

“The bottom line is we know from numerous studies that if we build this thing, more children will get sick, a handful of them will die. We also know from the adult studies that more adults will get sick and quite a few more of them are going to die as well. Which ones? Can’t tell you. That makes it difficult, but there will be some.”

…which are the two utterances which are today at legal issue. (Ms Darrell is being sued for the first statement, Dr. Hill, the second.)

The reason we are all gathered here today is to figure out whether either of those statements are truthful or not…because if the statements are truthful, they cannot be either slanderous or defamatory.

So let’s break it all down, one clause at a time:

Ms. Darrell talked about lawsuits for price fixing, and sure enough, CemWeek (“Global Cement Industry. Knowledge”) ran a story in October of ’09 entitled “Nine US cement companies accused of price fixing”, describing a lawsuit filed for price fixing in which Titan was one of the Defendants.

Court-ordered mine closures? Coffey Burlington, attorneys at law, recount their success with a certain case on their website (Sierra Club v. Army Corps of Engineers, Rinker Group, Tarmac America, Florida Rock Industries, APAC-Florida and Miami-Dade Limestone Products Association), which did in fact result in a court-ordered mine closure of Florida facilities operated by Tarmac America, which is a Titan subsidiary.

Allegations of corruption? How about this, reported in January of 2010 by the Wilmington, NC, StarNews:

A corporation that shares an address and president with a Titan America subsidiary bought a Wilmington office building for more than twice its tax value from Democratic fund-raisers under scrutiny by state and federal prosecutors.

To add to this element of the story, the current Governor, Bev Perdue, has asked the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) to look into Titan’s permitting process, which is something that usually follows allegations, if I recall correctly.

Let’s move on: the folks in the Wilmington, NC, area have a private economic development committee that has negotiated secretly with Titan for some time; the result of that effort was the decision to provide $4.2 million in local government incentives to Titan.

But here’s the thing: if Titan never meant to build anywhere but on that one site, and they still hustled the community for the incentives by using the threat of building somewhere else…well, that’s why Ms. Darrell was talking about:

“…emails raising suspicion whether Titan was ever even considering any other location, which would make incentives completely unnecessary…”

In 2008, Keith Barber, he of Wrightsville Beach Magazine, documented Titan’s multi-decade interest in this particular location:

Titan has made very little effort to conceal the fact it plans to move forward with construction of a cement plant and limestone mining operation on the banks of the Northeast Cape Fear River. In a 2005 interview with Titan CEO Aris Papadopoulos in Cement Americas magazine, Papadopoulos confirmed the Greece-based company had been considering building a plant in Castle Hayne for nearly two decades…

… In addition, even though the permitting process is 18 months to 2 years out, the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) Web site reveals that CSX Railroad is already constructing a new spur track at the site of the proposed Carolinas Cement Company.

The Charlotte News & Observer documents the existence of those pesky emails in a January 2010 editorial:

…[Titan lobbyist John] Merritt said he would talk to then-Commerce Secretary Jim Fain. Earlier, he had advised a company spokeswoman on how to respond to questions without raising suspicions that Titan might not qualify for a state grant.

“It is very important that the company not do anything that suggests that this is the only site you are looking at,” Merritt e-mailed. And sure enough, in its application for incentives Titan asserted that it was considering sites elsewhere.

Let’s jump in for just a second and take a look at where we are:

Ms. Darrell made this statement…

“From lawsuits for price fixing and court-ordered mine closures of Titan’s Florida plant, to allegations of corruption coming from Raleigh, to emails raising suspicion whether Titan was ever even considering any other location, which would make incentives completely unnecessary, the clouds of corruption grow dark as new controversies emerge almost daily.”

…and based on what we’ve seen so far, every single word of that statement turns out to be absolutely, provably true:

–There was a price-fixing lawsuit.
–There was a court-ordered mine closure of Titan’s Florida plant.
–It’s alleged that something funny was going on with that office building, and North Carolina’s SBI is investigating.
–We did in fact discover that emails exist raising suspicions as to whether Titan was considering any other location.
–And here we are, talking about one of the new controversies that emerge almost daily.

Today’s tale of legal bullying is running pretty long already, and we still have half of the story to go…so let’s take a break for today, and we’ll pick this up by looking at the statement made by Dr. Hill when we get together next time.

In the meantime, if you’re keeping score…I’m thinking that after Round One, it’s Defendants, 1, Titan, 0.

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On Homeland Security, Or, We Visit A Terrorist Gathering Place August 23, 2010

They better not build that mosque down by Ground Zero, we’re being told, not just because it’s insensitive, but because we have no idea what they’ll be up to down there.

I mean, where did the money come from?

Who does this Imam hang out with, anyway?

And, at a time when our Nation faces more threats than ever, why would we let these Muslim madmen situate their “terror command posts” anywhere?

Well, I don’t know about all of that…but I do know a place where lots of these Islamic terrorists go to obtain the equipment and supplies they need to support their particular craft, and I decided to make a bit of an undercover visit to the spot, so that I might “observe and report” on what goes on at this specific location.

So put on your dark glasses…and let’s go see what we can find out.

I can’t give away too many details, for security reasons, but I can tell you that this particular distribution center is located about three miles from the Boeing Company’s Renton, Washington, manufacturing site. (The assembly lines for the 737 family of aircraft and the US Navy’s P-8A Poseidon antisubmarine patrol aircraft are all located on the property.)

Off to the southwest of the Boeing plant are dozens of nondescript commercial buildings, all one or two stories tall—including some that store, produce, or process components and subassemblies that will eventually make their way over to that Boeing plant.

We approach the unmarked building that interests us from the west, and even as we enter the parking lot we can see the terrorists gathering and going up the ramp to get inside—and it’s already clear that one of the warnings I was given has already come to pass: they’re operating under deep cover.

I didn’t let their cover fool me, though: it only takes a quick glance to know these are hardened veterans of jihad, and before I went in, I made sure I had taken every precaution.

You can see terrorists coming out of the building with large sacks of what I can only assume must be ammonium nitrate; to protect their cover they’re carrying the bags in what look like ordinary shopping carts.

I could see that everyone who enters grabbed one of these carts first, presumably as a signal to the guards (who are hidden from view as I enter) that they belong there; I grab one of them as well and pass through the portals to the inner sanctum.

Once inside I can see that there’s no further pretense of trying to hide their presence; terrorists are everywhere, in costume, wandering about freely…and for the moment, at least, they seem unperturbed by my presence.

The effort to maintain a cover story, however, even continues inside, as terrorist “sleeper cells” group up in what look like ordinary families, with a male and female, often accompanied by “terror children” and the occasional older terrorist “mentor”, who were apparently disguised to look like grandparents.

As I went inside the gathering of terrorist supplies continued, even in my presence—and it was amazing to see how effectively even ordinary looking objects could be “reinvented” as tools of terror.

At least 1/3 of the facility is devoted to devices that appear to resemble ordinary produce but have obviously been repurposed for terrorist purposes; in that area I saw terror tomatoes, terror shallots, and even terrorist-enhanced pineapples openly on display…and the costumed devils who had come to this location were grabbing them up as if they were…well, pineapples.

“Terror Tea” is evidently required if you hope to overthrow the infidels, and at least 20 different varieties of what must have been explosive materials (some of it was actually described as “gunpowder tea”) were on display, some in tiny bags small enough to smuggle on aircraft; other “bulk” packages were as large as 400 grams.

For those who seek to formulate their own materials, there is an entire “island” in the center of the store covered with bags of various powders that can be mixed together to achieve various effects; to maintain cover these were also innocently labeled as though they were exotic spices, unknown on this continent. I saw “turmeric”, “fenugreek”, and “cardamom” among the nonsense names that are obviously being used to throw off the English speaker.

They had strange fuels available as well, including “cooking” oil that they claimed was made from the seeds of grapes and some sort of what I assume was liquid explosive that was labeled “ghee”.

All sorts of “canned goods” and bizarre objects in jars were available, obviously intended to allow terrorists to infiltrate decent American homes and plant “booby traps”…but just as Japanese clothing designers seem to have trouble getting the English just right, there were subtle differences that can be observed by a real American.

For example, the word “ZerGüt”, which would never be used on an American product, appears on many of the jars (I couldn’t confirm this on the scene, for reasons of personal safety, but I assume ZerGüt means “Die, haters of Islam!” in Arabic).

Those large bags: they were stacked around the building, and as I approached some of them I saw even more patently ridiculous English labels, clearly intended to throw off Customs and Border Protection inspectors, such as “Brown Jasmine Rice” and “Red Cargo Rice”…and based on how much inventory they had on hand, there’s no doubt that the ruse was working.

The most insidious part of the story I saved for last: the use of cookies and candies as a mechanism for distributing certain unknown pastes that were concealed inside the cookies and candies, and the fact that this type of weapon is especially targeted toward American children.

You could see it from 50 feet away, as the “children” of the sleeper cells would gather around the cases of weapons, often choosing the most brightly colored packaging in what must have been a tactical decision to use that packaging to attract other children later when the cookies are handed out to innocent victims.

Mind control pastes?
Novel explosives?
A means to bankrupt us by spreading diabetes?

It’s impossible to say, but whatever their plot is, it must be diabolical to use such weapons as these.

In an effort to determine exactly what was going on, I obtained several of these packages of weapons. Disassembly and sampling have not enabled me to fully discern exactly what properties these unknown pastes might exhibit, but I do know that they contain high levels of sugar, which could be helpful if you’re looking to make “formed explosives”.

Due to the variety of hues encountered when examining the pastes, I assume there is some sort of color code that I have not yet figured out.

Obviously, I’ll continue to sample the various packages obtained until the scientific data within is more fully revealed.

Despite the fact that I was not dressed as the others in attendance were, I was moved through the money-changing process efficiently, in English (that’s how good they are…), and I was able to return to my vehicle and leave the area without being tailed.

An analysis for active and passive sensing and sending devices (on my vehicle and among the objects obtained) seems to offer no new data compared to a baseline analysis I conducted before visiting this site, so I’m fairly confident I escaped without the potential for future incident…which means the biggest issue remaining is probably assuring the safe disposal of the samples that were collected; as we’ve noted, that process is already underway.

So what did we learn?

We now know that an active distribution network exists to put various booby-trap weapons and other devices in the hands of terrorists—and we know that this activity is occurring within just a few miles of a commercial aircraft assembly facility that also does work for the militaries of this Nation and several others.

The devices are astounding in their similarity to actual items that might be seen in American households…and the terrorists are so good at maintaining cover that, in my presence, they kept themselves in the characters they were taught by their handlers, even to the point of the “children” keeping up the appearance of sticking with their “parents”.

But the most important thing we learned is that we can not take any chances on allowing these terrorists to gain any more footholds in our Homeland.

We don’t know what their diabolical plan is, but we have to act now to stop any further command centers from coming on-line—and most importantly of all, we have to make sure that these terrorists don’t get a chance to take their sleeper cells to a “Community Center” anywhere near Ground Zero, where they might try to play Terror Basketball or cook up “recipes” in a Terror Kitchen…and if we have to throw out the Constitution to make that happen, well, what’s more important, being free, or being safe from being free?

 

On Pots And Kettles, Or, Peter King: Tool Of Terrorism, Victim Of Irony January 10, 2010

As a result of a recent event involving an aircraft and underpants Representative Peter King (R-Not From Iowa), the senior Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, has again come forth to bring his expertise on questions of international terrorism to the national debate.

King, a Congressman who represents a district that straddles New York’s Long Island (NY-3), previously served as the Comptroller of Nassau County and a member of Hempstead, New York’s Town Council, which wouldn’t seem to be the kind of résumé that would give you much credibility in this arena—but Mr. King is a special case.

You see, Mr. King knows a great deal about terrorism…from the inside…because for many years the personal cause that drove his life was to be an active and public supporter of a terrorist group.

And that’s why, today, we’ll be connecting the dots between Congressman King and the Irish Republican Army.

“If this is a war on terrorism, then this person should not be treated as an ordinary criminal.”

–Peter King, on Good Morning America, January 6, 2010

When King says don’t treat them like an ordinary criminal, what he really means is that he supports a variety of interrogation methods for those who might be terrorists. In fact, in an interview with Politico last August King took offense to the very idea that Attorney General Holder would even investigate CIA interrogation practices:

“It’s bulls***. It’s disgraceful. You wonder which side they’re on…”

In the same interview King defended the practice of threatening the family of those being interrogated as well as the use of a power drill as a tool of coercion, both practices that qualify as torture under US law:

“Why is it OK to waterboard someone, which causes physical pain, but not threaten someone and not cause pain?”

He’s so fervent about stopping terrorism that, in a 2001 WABC interview, King even offered his support for the use of tactical nuclear weapons against terrorists.

And just the other day, he wondered why a terror suspect would even be allowed to fly at all.

With all due respect, Congressman…they allow you to fly, don’t they?

The (mostly Catholic) Irish Republican Army (and its political wing, Sinn Féin) has been seeking to unite Northern Ireland with the rest of Ireland for nearly a century. This has been challenged by the (mostly Protestant) Ulster Volunteer Force, who want to continue Northern Ireland’s status as a separate entity within the United Kingdom.

It is reported that the IRA killed more than 2000 people from 1972 to 2002 (in fact, they apologized for those killings); the British Army response includes the events that were the inspiration for the U2 song Sunday Bloody Sunday.

Among the most famous of the IRA’s terror attacks was a 1974 bombing targeting the House of Commons in London and the assassination of Lord Mountbatten, the Queen’s cousin, in 1979.

Americans have been among the victims of IRA bombings; the recently departed Bush Administration made a deal for compensation for some of those victims.

The IRA had a foreign policy, as well, including a relationship with Libya’s Mu’ammar al-Gaddafi that was well underway as early as 1973, involving, at a minimum, the illegal importation of weapons and Semtex explosive into Ireland.

Americans played a major part in the fundraising support for the IRA’s campaign of terror—and prominent among those Americans…was…wait for it…(not yet a Congressman) Peter King, who, ironically, had his telephone calls monitored due to his status as a terrorist sympathizer by the same intelligence establishment he now oversees in his Congressional capacity.

How sympathetic was King? Consider this comment, from a 1982 speech King gave at pro-IRA rally in Nassau County, New York:

“We must pledge ourselves to support those brave men and women who this very moment are carrying forth the struggle against British imperialism in the streets of Belfast and Derry.”

(Now Congressman) King was on the dais for the 28th Annual Irish Northern Aid Testimonial Dinner in 1999 (NORAID being the IRA’s US fundraising arm). In 2005 the Bush Administration ordered such fundraising stopped; this because the IRA, in the Administration’s view, was still involved in criminal activity in Ireland.

According to Federal Election Commission records NORAID’s publicity director, attorney Martin Galvin, has only contributed to one Federal political campaign from 1979 to 2008—Peter King’s. This is the same Martin Galvin that reportedly supported the 32-County Sovereignty Movement, which was eventually designated by the US State Department as a “foreign terrorist organization”.

NORAID gave back to King as well. In 1985 they arranged for King to be named Grand Marshal of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade—which, in New York City, is about as big a deal as a politician could ever hope for.

King is also reported to have frequented a Belfast bar known as an IRA hangout, the Felons Club.

An Irish judge once refused to allow King to attend a trial for an IRA member because the judge felt King “…was an obvious collaborator with the IRA.”

By the way, this is the same Peter King that once told John McCain he:

“…shouldn’t shy away from raising the Ayers connection, to raise questions about Obama’s judgment.”

(Remember William Ayers? He’s the terrorist that Sarah Palin wanted everyone to know Obama was “palling around with” during the 2008 campaign.)

The American fundraising was driving the political leadership in the UK to fits, including former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who, according to notes taken by her staff in 1979, felt that:

“The Americans must be made to realise that for so long as they continued to finance terrorism, they would be responsible for the deaths of US citizens as well as others…The Americans must be brought to face the consequences of their actions.”

So at this point I could end the story by yelling: “Hypocrite, hypocrite, big stinky-butt hypocrite!”…or by suggesting we get all Cheney on the guy and waterboard him to see what other IRA plots he may still be aware of…but the fact is, the picture is a lot more complex than what’s been presented up to this point.

There is reporting that suggests King was willing to meet with representatives of both Sinn Féin and the opposition Ulster Unionist movement, and that his efforts not only helped the Irish peace process, but came at considerable personal risk.

He was also closely associated with Bill Clinton’s efforts to promote peace in Ireland, an unusual partnership for a Republican Congressman and a serving Democratic President in the “modern era” of post-Watergate politics.

And it wasn’t just King—Teddy Kennedy, Alfonse D’Amato, and [insert the name of virtually any “downstate” New York politician here] were working the same rallies and knew some or all of the same people King knew—and were hoping to harvest from the same community of voters and donors and volunteers.

And that’s how we get to the great irony of today’s story:

There is one man in American Government who has literally “palled around” with terrorists—in their own bar, back home in Belfast—and he wasn’t content to just pal around with the terrorists, he went further and actually helped the terrorists fundraise on US soil…for years…despite the fact that the terrorists were also attacking Americans.

And if that wasn’t enough, he kicked it up a notch and palled around with two opposing groups of terrorists, and in doing so, actually made the world a better place.

And yet, in today’s Republiteabag Party Express© environment, when he might be able to apply some of that Irish experience to this conflict, he can’t…which is too bad, because if he did something big, bipartisan, and statesmanlike, right now, it might give him the best shot he’ll ever have at becoming a Senator…in a time when Republiteabaggers badly need a few seats.

In fact, if he was able to tell his own Party this story, it might be the best thing he could do to get more than one new Senator elected…but, ironically, he can’t, because if he ever promoted his own history, he would be rejected by his own Party…as a “dagblessid terr-ir-ist”…which would mean that the guy who once told John McCain to exploit a terrorist connection…might well be outed as one by McCain’s former running mate.

Which, my friends, is some pretty deep irony.