Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Sensation Sells

What the heck is it?
Rydlime, like all chemicals in its category, uses powerful acids and other agents to dissolve ‘rocks’. When calcium or other hard water mineral deposits build up in cooling towers or system radiators they either have to be dismantled and ‘rodded out’, an expensive process, or they need to be ‘descaled’ chemically. Chemical descaling is usually cheaper and if done right can be very effective.

The use of purified water in these systems vastly reduces the buildup, but descaling or rodding still needs to be performed if the cooling system is to continue doing its job. Just like the engine in your car overheats and eventually stops if the radiator fails and the motor gets too hot, so a large engine in a power plant stops or even destroys itself if allowed to overheat. A utility with lots of cooling systems to treat and a high mineral content in its water source could use vast quantities of a descaling agent.

Rydlime, the chemical at the bottom of the current CUC/Lt. Governor flap, is a legitimate product with a good reputation for doing what it is designed to do. Many utilities and other companies around the world use it and other similar products to good effect.
Why would you buy so much?
Chemicals, like other commodities, are subject to price rises over time so companies, including utilities, often buy large quantities of a chemical and stockpile it to hedge against the coming price increases. As an example, if CUC bought 8000+ gallons of Rydlime as reported in the newspaper and used all but 1400 gallon over 10 years they saved a lot. The savings would amount to several times the original cost.
Or pay so much?
Sole sourcing to ones sister may not be the legal, but chemical pricing at 400% is not uncommon. Want to guess how much that three dollar bottle of Joy dishwashing liquid you bought last week actually cost to make? About 15 cents. Do your own math. That detergent bottle and most of the other bottles sitting under your sink and in your laundry have mark ups far greater. In fact, the plastic bottles and labels cost more than the chemical inside by far. You pay a much higher markup than 400% every time you go to the store.
Rumor or truth?
There is speculation that some of the product was actually disposed of rather than used. If true that is a terrible thing. I have even heard a rumor that CUC personnel were actually ordered to dispose of the product. But a rumor is just that. It is a story without proof. Stories like that are usually from a hidden source and often with a hidden agenda. It is easy for someone with a grudge against someone to make up a story. It is much harder to make that phony story hold up under the scrutiny of an open court trial. Let’s wait and see what actually comes out in court. If that unfounded rumor is true, heads should roll at CUC and above. If false, the rumormongers should be tracked down and their heads should roll instead.
Guilty or not?
My friend Harry Blalock reminds us on his radio show that ‘just because you are decreed not guilty in court does not mean you didn’t do it” because a good attorney can find a way to get you off. I would remind Harry, and you too, that just because a sharp prosecuting attorney accuses you of something does not mean that you did do it. Remember it is the job of the prosecuting attorney to ‘get you’ whether you did it or not and it is the job of the defense attorney to ‘get you off’ whether you did it or not. Again, let’s wait and see the real evidence as offered under oath in court.

So there is nothing wrong with buying Rydlime if you need it and there is nothing wrong with buying lots of it and stockpiling it for future use. In fact it is the smart way to do it. There is also nothing unusual about large markups over cost of chemicals or most other products. There is definitely something wrong with declaring an emergency purchase and then buying enough of a commodity to last a decade. There is definitely something wrong with sole sourcing a contract to close family members and depriving the agency of a chance to source the same or similar product at a lower cost benefit ratio. But are these accusations true? One last time I will call for us to wait and let the court system do its job before a man and his reputation are sullied by gossip and allegation. There is plenty of time to vilify him if proven guilty in court…or to apologize if the accusations prove untrue.
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Temples – not Shirley
Ruth Tighe , in talking about the new Buddhist Temple to be built along the roadway in previously unspoiled Marpi says we need to ‘hoard our public lands’ as one our most important natural resources. I agree. Don’t build on it she says. Keep it forever she says. She then goes on to say in the same article that we should give away the northernmost three islands in our terribly scarce land resource by ceding them to the US Federal government for all time. I point out this inconsistency not to be mean, but just to say that supporters and advocates of one project or another sometimes can’t see the Forest for the trees (or the Temple in the trees). Sometimes the horrible details outweigh the puppies and babies feel-good rhetoric about saving the planet. Sometimes not.

The Temple might just improve the looks of the tagan tagan bramble thickets up there…and maybe not. Lets see the plan. Then we can approve it or not based on real evidence. Sort of like we should first see the plan for the PEW proposed Northern Islands Monument. Why on earth would we want to approve it first, (or allow the federal government to force approval of it on us) and only then bother to look at the actual plan. Does that sound like putting the cart before the horse? Yes it does. Worse, it sounds like having the cart, horse and all shoved down your throat, then a guy comes along and says, hey, your throat sure looks sore, if you are a good little boy I’ll give you some salt water to gargle. Then it will be all better. Maybe it will be better and maybe it will be a lot worse. Shirley (sorry - groan) we can do better than that. Let’s negotiate the details first, then decide whether to declare a monument and give land and ocean to the US national parks system for all time. It may be a wonderful plan, it may suck.
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Quotes of the week:
Human beings are perhaps never more frightening than when they are convinced beyond doubt that they are right. -Laurens van der Post, explorer and writer (1906-1996)

The sky is not less blue because the blind man does not see it – Danish Proverb.


Harry Blalock said...

Bruce, are you trying to take Charles job away from him? That kind of spin is totally reminiscent of Charles. Not sure what your motivations for this one are, but I hope you get whatever it is you're looking for out of it.

The Saipan Blogger アンジェロ・ビラゴメズ said...

Hey Bruce,

Just a friendly reminder that the Monument is about the water, not the islands. The islands are already protected in the Constitution and belong to the indigenous people of the CNMI.


bigsoxfan said...

Nice markup to the Rydlyme debate. I caused a hell of a mess at the brewery back in Maryland one morning, by leaving a fifteen hundred gallon tank on medium heat all night. Not a big deal on the temperature side, as we usually heated the brewing water up to 180F. This particular night though, we (I) had dosed the tank with straight hydrochloric acid to make a ten percent mixture. Mostly a stainless steel tank with lime deposits, however, I forgot to think about the brass plugs at the five hundred and one thousand gallon level. I received a nice thank you letter from the local water treatment authorities a month or so later, as the increased acidity helped the boys out down at the sewage treatment plant.

You missed one good point in your column, Bruce. Whatever, the failures in the past, they will melt the metal in the cooling systems as well as remove the scales which is doubtless plugging many holes in the coolant systems, if they try and use that stuff after all the neglect. That will be the true test of the Lt. Gov.. Does he try to justify the expense by using something which will cause great harm and therefore get some portion of his butt out of the sling, or will he listen to engineering realities? Nice job on the defense, anyway.

Bruce A. Bateman said...

Angelo, the islands are protected by the CNMI Constitution, not the US Constitution. The CNMI Constitution says nothing about a president or other chief executive being able to mandate by executive fiat, the wholesale change-of-use of huge chunks of land or water with a wave of his personal pen.

Also, I have not noticed a boundary on the proposal maps that excludes the islands from the proposed monument. Is there such a boundary?

The above is another reason we need to agree on the details of the deal first, and only then allow designation of a monument. Will the language exclude all US and/or Park rights to the islands themselves? Maybe, maybe not.

One last point: I agree with you, those islands "...belong to the indigenous people of the CNMI". Will they (Article XII enabled citizens) be voting on whether to relinquish future possibilities to reacquire their ancestral waters? Will they be voting on whether to designate the land and/or waters as a sanctuary? Who else, pray tell, should make that decision, George “Mr. Green” Bush? You should be able to vote to decide, Angelo. George and I should not.

Bruce A. Bateman said...

Just trying to stir the pot and insert a little objectivity into the coverage, Harry. So far the media has been in slam dunk mode, ahead of any disclosure of actual fact. We have allegations so far...and denials.

I get your point about rigged juries. I also get the point about the use of power to make timely examples.

Lets hash it out at the meeting of the Grumpy Writers Club coming soon. It should make for interesting conversation. See you there I hope.

Bruce A. Bateman said...

Good point about potential damage caused by improper use...or any use in a heavily corroded system, Mark.

While working at the brewery, was tasting mentioned in any part of your job description?

As a young teen I can remember visiting Busch Gardens in Tampa and sneaking a taste of chilled beer they used to provide to all who took the brewery tour. They looked the other way when I or others underage took the forbidden fruit of a 4 ounce paper cup of the icy brew. I'm sure their legal department would have a hissy fit over such oversight in todays PC environment.

Are there more teeth for the Pumpkin to show off?

Melissa said...

Bruce, I have to take exception to your statement that "it is the job of the prosecuting attorney to “get you” whether you did it or not".

Prosecuting attorneys take an oath to administer and seek justice, and that includes not prosecuting a case where their is insufficient evidence. So, if a prosecuting attorney looked at the case, and felt there was not enough evidence, it would be a violation of their oath of office to proceed with that case just to "get" someone.

Does this happen in spite of our oath? I imagine it occassionally does. But I think it's important for you to point out the good, hard working, ethical prosecuting attorneys who do their job in seeking and administering justice, and serving the people of the CNMI.

Tomorrow is my last day in the AG's office, but I can honestly say that I have never worked with a better group of prosecutors. They are all intelligent, well educated, honest, and ethical- and all of them choose day after day to do the right thing, even when faced repeatedly with unethical dealings of various opposing attorneys. It's easy to bemoan the bad prosecutors, but how about a "good job" for the decent hardworking ones?

bigsoxfan said...

Yeah, we tasted and then tasted some more. Not on that particular evening though. You get you used to it after a while, but it was always a little funny to come just before the end of the month pickups and see thousands of cases of beer stacked to the rafters. It wasn't a bed of roses all the time. You know how a bar can smell first thing in the morning after a busy night? Multiply that smell times three and you have an idea of the morning after from hell. I really should do a post on the brewing days, we had some interesting times. Pumpkin's teeth are coming in nicely. Seems to have the top row all in or nearly so and just a couple to go on the bottom. He's a little nut these days.

SteeleOnSaipan said...

Well I enjoyed it Bruce, thanks for the technical info.

I've stayed silent on the PEW debate for lack of a strong opinion but I'm on the side of "sounds great but what's the big rush?" If it's so that George W. Bush can put a feather in his cap, well then screw that. He doesn't deserve any positive legacy.

Jeff said...

I had the same reaction as Angelo.

On top of that, even if there are huge mark ups for chemicals, none of that excuses abusing your position for non-competitive sole sourcing contracts for something that was basically unneeded.

Bruce A. Bateman said...

Yep, Melissa, we're glad you 'got 'em' while you were here. Good Work!

Meanwhile, I have noticed a lot of cases that were filed, with supposedly good enough evidence to bring a case which after a period of time just faded away until someone in the AGs office just dropped the case. I read about that with some frequency. What is that about? Lack of manpower? Loss of evidence? Too much time passing? Bad judgement in the original filing? Another reason?

Thanks for filling us in.

Bruce A. Bateman said...

I hear you Jeff, except it is about the islands. They are not excluded from the proposed monument.

I hear you too, Randy, Bush is about as blue/green as the bruise on his nose when someone smacks him with an EPA offence notice. Not very.

Melissa said...

Bruce- it is probably a combination of all of the above. The turnover in that office is high- not because the office is bad, but because so many people- like me- come for 2 years under a contract, want to stay longer but find the living situation declining rapidly, and we can triple our salary in other places- where they actually have power and water! So, I would say it's a lack of manpower mostly, things fall through the cracks occasionally, but you can rest assured you have probably the most competent and well trained prosecutors I've ever seen, so rest well in that.

Bruce A. Bateman said...

Thanks, Melissa. The Batemans trust you had a good trip home and are happily ensconced there now. Thake care.