A Long Time Member of the Solid Surface Industry Attacks

Posted in Who Is Attempting to Stop the Testing Effort? by Administrator on the October 5th, 2008

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Politics and agenda, be it the office, the town hall, or the hallways of an university, they are always present. The solid surface industry is no different, and in the granite testing controversy many of the former champions of the solid surface industry are turning into opponents of testing granite.

I call granite the crack cocaine of the countertop industry. Cheap material, high selling cost, thus huge markups, no warranty, no training neccasary, no one keeping track of unhappy customers. Like a drug, granite can debase those who touch it if they aren’t careful. From working with materials that have long warranites and strict standards, they learn that with granite anything goes cause there is no one to say otherwise. Like a drug, it can trash a shop’s reputation for quality work, and lead to a lot of unhappy customer.

But, it pays boat loads of money for as long as it lasts.

I posted this message on an industry forum called Fabnet in response to an email I recieved. Russ Lee, a long time Issfa member is currently attempting to convince Issfa (International Solid Surface Fabricators Association) members to drop the pretense that Issfa is representing the solid surface industry’s interests. He is to lead a change in the organization that will include all countertop materials. This is like the Beef Council deciding to represent pork producers, “It’s whats for dinner” ? Which one?

Here is the thread.

I have been asked many times why the solid surface industry doesn’t support the granite testing effort. To start with, there are only two members of their Board of Directors that are solid surface only shops, the rest, six or more, are all granite shops some of which don’t even feature solid surface on their websites.

So it is the Beef Council being run by a bunch of chicken farmers.
Now, the post was copied and pasted below.

Many fabnetters have confided in me over the few years I have been here, and I am sure I have with those folks a reputation for keeping confidences where it it warranted.

However, on occasion, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one. This is such an occasion.

Russ Lee is said to be a level headed person, unflappable was one description recently given. I understand that many respect his judgement on things related to the solid surface industry. Others will wonder why I revealed such a horrible personal attack against me, knowing that the stoners will post it out of context and without the following rebuttal. Easy answer, I don’t doubt that I am right and don’t really care if stupid people show their a**.

There is another Russ Lee that was revealed in this email sent to me tonight. If anyone credible doubts this email, I will forward it to you.

“Hi Al,

I hope you will take this in the spirit in which it is intended. Even though I don’t know you well personally I would like to share some experiences I have had in my own life. My wife of 31 years suffers from bi-polar disease. My son-in-law’s father also suffers from bi-polar disease and I have had personal interactions with a few other people over the years who also suffer from the same ailment. As such, I have had occasion to observe the classic symptoms which, I can honestly say, almost always follow a very similar pattern. The nature of your posts lately make me wonder if you might have a touch of the disease yourself.

A characteristic of bi-polar disease is the manic stage in which, as my son-in-law puts it, you become 20 feet tall and bullet proof. That’s kind of a flippant way to describe it, but it is characterized by huge energy bursts, trouble sleeping, a feeling that the person knows more about a given topic than anyone else, that they are often “called” to change the world, and usually experience a feeling of extraordinary well being. Also part of the disease for many people is some paranoia.

Most people with the disease are adamant that nothing is wrong and will vehemently oppose any efforts by family members to get help. Sometimes they become violent.

Now, I may be completely wrong in my suspicions, but a lot of what I see on the FabNet seems to fit the pattern. Your recent statements about death threats (especially after reading the posts that make you say that) kind of set off the warning bell. I know it is presumptuous of me to even say this to you, and I hope you take in the spirit of someone who has lived with the disease most of his adult life. Please think about it, and if you think it may be appropriate, consult a doctor. Bi-polar disease is a chemical imbalance in the brain. It is easily treated, although the sufferer will have to eventually give up the manic phases (the extraordinary feeling of energy and well-being) to find a balance.

Your friend,

Russ “

Now, Russ has had little contact with me over the years, mainly an email exchange allowing the use of his Wikipedia post on solid surface, then later asking to remove the Wiki post so as not be known as supporting solid surface on the SSA site. Not a problem, I took his work down immediately after he requested it. But except for butting heads on Fabnet on occasion, that is the extent of our relationship. One can understand that a letter such as his is not sent as a “friend”, but as a passive/aggressive attack.

Let’s face it, Russ came here with an agenda, which of itself is not a problem, but he also wants to spread his information without being questioned as to it’s validity or purpose. Russ is not at all happy that he has to defend his statements, nor does he want me asking the tough questions despite the fact that were they actually answered, it might push his project forward. So Russ decides to up the ante with a personal attack in the guise of concern.

Russ, let’s look at what you wrote and address it point by point.

First off, my condolences with your family troubles, I understand you have dealt with far more than this. However, it seems this issue runs rampant in your family, not mine, and perhaps you are overly sensitive to the matter, either that or “you might have a touch of the disease yourself”.

Russ, I have never described myself as “20 foot tall and bullet proof”. Dealing with the multitude of ignorant opponents I have been blessed with certainly could lead down that road, but I have dealt with life enough to understand the danger of becoming over confident. Those on Fabnet whose opinions I respect, I consider their advice very seriously. Ask Tom. Others might mean well, but speak from ignorance of the subject, so I explain why I don’t follow their advice and do as I think best. My spending several years educating myself on the subject matter, and the advice of many experts in the fields of interest may preclude indulging well meaning individuals.

Huge energy boosts….well, it has been a little over two years. How long do these “bursts” last? I sleep like a baby Russ, comes from doing what is right. Try that sometimes. As to knowing more about a given topic, well, in the Radon/radiation/granite issues, I do know more than anyone in the countertop industry. Were you trustworthy, I would send you hundreds and hundreds of email exchanges I have had with the country’s leading experts on Radon and radiation, where you could see my manner with those who have far more knowledge than I on these matters.

Russ, many of leaders of the effort to set standards and protocols are in my email group that I run on the granite issues. They value me for several reasons, I provided the hottest samples they have ever seen (understand that they were given low samples for their studies, my samples kept them from publishing an incomplete study), I know enough about their world that I can offer a lay mans opinion on how their work will be taken, I know enough about the granite business that I can answer questions about the trade practices (or I have the contacts within the industry that I can get the answers), and most importantly, I am stubborn enough to dig to the bottom of the pile sifting for clues that make their work easier and better.

I also spend lots of money procuring and shipping samples to them. They know that what ever they need, I will bust my tail finding it for them. In short, Russ, we have the same goal, finding the truth of the matter. Basically, where a man puts his treasure, there also lies his heart. Russ, they trust me cause they understand me.

Now, I see you are also trying to “change the world” with regard to Issfa. Perhaps you should look at your own emotional health to seek out any hints of abnormal behavior?

Now, my family, especially my lovely wife, are very supportive of what I do, nor would you have any proof that anyone wants me to “get help”. The only ones that have threatened violence have been the stone industry members. Allowing of course, that your letter itself is not passive/aggressive violence in itself.

And the statements about the death threats. Russ, Russ, Russ….. you are so inadequate to this task. Consider that many fabnetters also keep up with the stoneadvice site for several years. Many have seen the posts about me on the SFA site, mentioning physical violence, driving down to OKC to take care of me, one mentioned that Kansas still used “hanging” and that maybe Oklahoma did as well. Plenty of little snips about meeting me at a stone show and “educating me”, or settling this in “the octagon”. Then there is the “Dark Room”, well let’s just say there was enough posted there to have a lot of fun with the SFA should they push the issue.

And Russ, you wouldn’t believe some of the emails we have gotten. The most disturbing one threatened to “rape” all the females in my family. Do this, call Joanna Duggan and chat with her about this issue. She and Mike faced the same thing several times.

Do these threats give me pause? Sure, and we have taken the appropriate precautions. We like guns here in OKC, Russ. Us country boys can take care of our own. But I don’t lose a minute of sleep nor do I consider stopping this effort to bring the issues to light.

And finally Russ, you wrote:

“….I hope you take in the spirit of someone who has lived with the disease most of his adult life. ”

Bingo….. Russ, there is a process called projection. A disturbed person takes his problems and “projects” them on to their imagined enemy or opponent. However, always, always, these poor souls will reveal themselves with mannerisms or simply tell you what you need to know if you listen patiently. Some call it a Freudian slip, but I believe it is simply that most human beings are adverse to lie completely, they just have to leave a clue as a warning. I hope you take this in the spirit it is intended, but perhaps you yourself could benefit from consulting a doctor.

And yes, it is very presumptuous for you to offer your opinions and I have never been your friend, nor would I want to be friends with someone that has such a lack of integrity such as you have shown with this email.

Russ, my core belief is one best desribed by the Chinese as “Taoism”, a belief that things happen for a reason, that one must go with the flow of events. To do so invites incredible events to take place, as one is simply doing what fate intends.

I see life as proof that someone or something is in charge. Call it God, Fate, destiny, Karma, any number of names that we poor humans have created to fill the void, but it is there. Any sucesses I have a part in are not my sucesses, I am like a tool laying in a tool box. A hand reaches in needing a tool for a task and I cooperate. Other tools feel the “hand” upon them, and violenty evade, which is where the majority of human suffering has it’s start.

So Russ, it ought to be very clear to most readers where things lay in this thread. You desparately want to help turn Issfa away from even the apperances of doing what many, many members paid their dues to do, support the solid surface industry. You seem to idolize Oxley, despite his shortcomings and lack of professionalism, perhaps from too long waiting in his shadow.

Now is your chance to shine, but there is that damned Al asking awkward questions.

Just answer the questions, Russ. Doing a personal attack just shows that you can’t answer the charges without damaging your agenda.

Post script:

A few hours later, the moderator pulled the entire thread for “administrative review”, then deleted a offensive post from a stoner, then returned the thread to the Member Section for all to see. The next day, another former supporter of the testing effort, Lenny Elbon, posted actual physical threats along with vauge claims that I had posted misleading information.

A few hours later, Andy Graves, site owner, banned me from the site for thirty days, for “continued disrespectful posts”. One must assume that to respond to another’s disrespect is itself disrespectful in Andy’s world.

The truth of the matter is much more simple. I had been getting warnings that Andy was searching for an excuse, that I was bad for the advertising revenue on his site. Back in June, right after the first TV story on the Houston granite, Andy posted some misleading info on his site, claiming he tested 2,000 slabs of granite and found no slabs of concern. Now, a few weeks before, he did post some 60 and 80 uR/hr slabs, which would give you 117 mR per year with four hours a day use of the countertop. Next, he declared Build Clean to be a fraud, and said he was contacting his friends at the MIA.

After the New York Times story came out, all of a sudden Andy posts pictures showing 150 uR/hr granite, using the same meter he had used when he claimed he couldn’t find any hot granites. The problem was that by then he had already shipped my meter back to me, proving that he had already found the hot slab, but witheld the fact for what ever reason.

So now we know why Issfa didn’t support the testing effort, and now other long time solid surface industry members are pushing Issfa to drop it’s representation of solid surface and quartz, then become an organization that sells training to fabricators. The problem is the guys that spent years and thousands of dollars helping build Issfa into something. Another issue is that these days, no one can sell information, too much available for free on the internet. The manufacturers will train you for solid suface fabrication, and there is no formal training required for stone or quatrz.

In the end, the solid surface community will get what it deserves. The Issfa vote was around 80 to 30 to drop the exclusive representation of solid surface and quartz, showing a split as well as absmally low numbers that even cared.

What a way to run an industry.

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