Tuesday, July 6

The Dim Switch

Delroy Murdock, "The All-American Light Bulb Dims as Freedom Flickers". July 2

OUR story so far: over the last couple decades the façade of democratic deliberation has been ripped off the World's Third-Worst State Legislature™, revealing, well, revealing the façade underneath, and without anybody noticing. The shining example was Beer Baronage, the "right" of major (and out-of-state) breweries to designate a single Indiana distributor (by law, state-licensed and incorporated in Indiana, though, so far as I know, none is yet leading a crusade for the state to free them from the odious bonds of running an effective monopoly) for a particular region, allowing him to dictate prices for that product within his distributorship. Previously, any beer brought into the state had to be offered to every distributor who wanted it, at published prices. That didn't stop breweries from developing cosy relationships with particular distributors, but it did encourage at least the theoretical Competition which Lowers Prices.

Now, there are two salient features about this, aside from the fact that in Indiana, as in the nation at large, there is so little real choice between Our Two Parties that they can collude in raising the fucking price of beer in exchange for corporate largesse without much fear of voter retribution. First, the process took about a decade from first public calls to examine our "archaic" liquor laws to fait accompli; this was slowed, somewhat, by an unexpected veto from then-Governor Evan Bayh. Second, a big driving force behind this was the Coors Brewing Company, formerly Coors & Mengele, which refused to bring its special proprietary blend of fermented pig feed and mule piss into our fair state until it got exclusive distributorships. Coors insisted it needed this--and I admit, they deserved it for being able to say so with a straight face--because its Pure Mountain Brewed product requires such special handling that only someone with trucks and a proper attitude toward vendor analingus could hope to understand it. This is akin to the ebola virus refusing to cross your state's borders until your legislators adjust their views on vaccination.

This is the same pattern as followed by: the state Lottery; the subsequent expansion of gambling to "river" "boats"; the extension of that to horse racing and to horse-track slots; fireworks; bigger fucking fireworks; and the relaxation of strictures on the sale of liquor into, first, pharmacies, then big-box retailers and grocery stores, including convenience stores, and carry-out sales by state breweries and vintners, and now the proposal to legalize sales on Sunday and permit cold beer sales in groceries, gas stations, car trunks, and parochial schools.

There has not been enough time since the expansion into liquor sales for corporate benevolent associations like Wal*Mart and Kroger to fully show their appreciation for all the hard work our citizen legislators do two months of every year, so the cold beer thing got tabled this past session. And instead of, or in addition to, increasing the available slush levels by one twelvemonth, the retailers have gone on the offensive, trying to enlist John Q. Clueless into their Freedom crusade.

And, look, maybe it sounds here like I'm defending some archaic and rococo, unreasonable legal bondage just for the hell of it. Because I am. But mostly, there's this: I have a big fucking problem with hearing how this is All About Freedom, especially when I'm hearing it from some out-of-state corporate mouthpiece with huge profits at stake. I'm all for Sunday sales, but then I've lived here almost all my drinking life without it ever becoming an issue. Just shut up about the Freedom shit, already. Freedom does not mean the freedom of huge conglomerates to buy legislation increasing their profits enough to cover costs and then some.

Or does it?

Anyway, Ladies and Gentlemen, Delroy Murdock:
As American as the grand slam, the Mustang convertible, and the constitutional republic, Thomas Alva Edison’s incandescent light bulb is among this nation’s most enduring gifts to mankind.

Okay, just for the record: the artificial hoopla over the American-led Age of Invention really needs to be tempered at this point by some small recognition of the multiple quagmires it has led us into, Gulf-wise and elsewhere, and by the fact that nowadays we mostly invent attractive snack-food wrappers, cellphone aps, and excuses. Second, it's always a good idea to sorta look something up: Edison was not just a prolific inventor, but a vengeful reprobate and a borderline (at least) psychopath. Not to mention the fact that his original bulbs still burn; a far more important invention, as American as the Grand Slam breakfast, the King-sized cigarette, and the flexible definition of torture, was the planned obsolescence that made the things so profitable, and incidentally rescued our country's nascent landfill industry.
Today’s federal government, naturally, had to hammer something that has hummed along nicely for 130 years. In one of his most shameful moments, former president George W. Bush foolishly signed the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. EISA establishes performance criteria that Edisonian bulbs cannot meet. As the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) explains: “These standards, which begin in 2012, will eliminate low efficiency incandescent light bulbs from the market.”

1) The goddam story's three years old. 2) Could you please just fucking stop arguing like this? Or start making the argument and living by it? The telegraph, and the crank telephone, and the single-bladed razor all work as well as they ever did, too. Meanwhile, cigarettes, asbestos oven mitts, DDT bombs, and leaded gasoline have all developed quirky little hitches in their performance, based in no small measure on their unfettered use and pervasive marketing. Either we do something about this, or we don't.
Few Americans realize that federal busybodies plan to snatch their traditional bulbs. Sylvania’s December 2009 survey of 302 adults found that “awareness of the 2012 100-watt bulb phase-out” is just 18 percent (error margin: +/- 5.7 percent).

'Scuse me, but So fucking what? The Public resides a block down the street from Total Oblivion. It thinks Sadam Hussein planned 9/11, too; I don't recall that giving anyone on your side much pause, though it did give Dick Cheney an opening. Federal busybodies are presently trying to deprive decent Alabamans of their God-given beach tar, and I don't recall anyone saying anything other than "Hurry the fuck up!"
To discover CFLs’ negatives, try setting a romantic mood with a dimmer switch. This is, at best, a hit or miss proposition.

This is not what my father died for on Omaha Beach, or might've if he hadn't had that heart murmur.
Scarier still, just drop one onto your kitchen floor. Its internal mercury is highly toxic. If spilled, it requires something approximating a Superfund cleanup.

Nice fucking try, Chuckles, but maybe you should put it in a mass email and claim it happened to your neighbor's cousin.

Yeah, mercury's toxic--you can add thermometers to that list of 130-year-old gizmos that don't work so hot anymore--but there ain't much of it in a CFL bulb. There's more in a fluorescent tube, which I don't recall any of you guys complaining about before now. You shouldn't break one. You should not be casual about cleaning one up if you do, but "Superfund" is pure bullshit, not that that doesn't mean it matches the rest of your argument well.
CFLs should be discarded at recycling centers. Hundreds of millions of busy Americans, however, will toss these dangerous bulbs in the trash, atop table scraps and junk mail.

Y'know, who is it argues in favor of McDonald's right to scald old ladies, and screams about the unfair burden placed on poor manufacturers by oppressive demands they label their products honestly? That'd be you. In the next paragraph.
As June 25’s Washington Times detailed, 91 pages of brand-new FTC rules force manufacturers to label the front of CFL packages regarding brightness (in lumens) and annual energy cost (in dollars). Packages’ sides or rears must disclose bulbs’ lifespan, color appearance, wattage, voltage, and mercury content. This information may — but need not — appear in English, French, and Spanish.

My God! Forced to read 91 detailed pages in order to produce a merchantable item. Why, those bastids in Washington are almost suggesting someone might be dishonest somewhere without their oversight.
As page 86 of these June 18 draft regulations illustrates, the FTC knows precisely what these labels should say...

Y'know, lemme just say this: I've been replacing incandescent bulbs for at least two years now, as the old ones burned out; I think there's one, seldom used, in the basement still to go. I've yet to replace a CFL bulb, which should tell you something right there. I used to keep a stock of 40s and 60s on hand, bought in bulk; I don't keep any back-up now, because they don't fucking burn out. The original package ratings were wildly misleading; since they changed the requirements you can pretty much pick up a bulb and know what it'll do. So there was a small adjustment to lower lumination levels caused by inaccurate labeling. Problem solved, now, thanks to government busybodies. And yes, there's a small delay before they come on. I talked my family doctor out of some sedatives, though, and managed to live through those dark, terrifying days.
“I think the incandescent light bulb was one of the great contributions to the art of architecture in the 20th century,” says Howard M. Brandston, a legendary lighting designer renowned for relighting the Statute of Liberty before its rededication on July 4, 1986….

“If the federal government insists on banning the incandescent lamp, it significantly will decrease the quality of life in every home in America,”

Okay, Mr. Legendary Lighting Director; before I start running for my life, could you give me a hint about how?
“The CFLs cannot be dimmed properly."

Jesus Christ, again with the dimming! Did Paul Revere install one in the Old North Church or something?
"When you dim one, the spectral power distribution and color quality of the lamp make people look cadaverous. Most people who wear makeup will not need to do so to look like the Bride of Frankenstein.”

Dude, that look is hot right now. But stock up on fucking candles, already.
“Here we have the government entering all of our homes. Our homes are our castles,” says Brandston, a former adjunct professor of architecture at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a founder of its Lighting Research Center. “Now they are telling us how to light our homes, and they are putting onerous burdens on us in terms of handling these toxic CFLs. The government should not enter our homes, tell us how to live, endanger our health, and ruin our quality of life.”

I'm just glad no former adjunct professor of Chemistry at Rensselaer Polytech clued him in about fluoridation; the resultant explosion of his head would be a real Superfund cleanup site.


twif said...

two questions:

1) who the fuck is using 100 watt bulbs anyway? those suckers are bright.

2) dimmer switches have had no impact on the quality of my life. perhaps because i don't use 100 watt bulbs.

Keifus said...

Noted, the guy's an architect, not a scientist, and he's making an aesthetic point. His RPI puff piece highlights that he's contributed formulas for federal lighting regs back in the seventies, which presumably brought government into our living rooms, and counts himself a conservationist, although that second part may have been to keep us nice leftish alums from cringing too much. This would be more embarrassing if I were confident he was quoted correctly.

I'll leave it to the better taunters to estimate Deroy's need for setting romantic ambience. I personally find that mentioning Edison tends to kill the mood.

RobertB said...

Might be the special flavor of electricity east of you in Columbus, or in my neighborhood for that matter, but I go through CFLs about as fast as I do regular bulbs. Something lets the smoke out of their internal electronics, and they stop working.

Brian M said...

You know...I have to disagree with you this once. The CFLs hurt my eyes, they burn out at least as frequently as incandescents, and I think that your hyperbole may be a bit too far to the OTHER side vis a vis the environmental issues associated with the bulbs.

Still...funny as always, though.

Kathy said...

“....If the federal government insists on banning the incandescent lamp, it significantly will decrease the quality of life in every home in America..." "... our homes are our castles..."

Most of America's castle-homes will be empty, anyway, thanks to foreclosures. Who'll notice if lights are ... different?

Ivan G Shreve Jr said...

formerly Coors & Mengele

Biggest laugh I’ve had all week. And it’s only Tuesday.

and now the proposal to legalize sales on Sunday and permit cold beer sales in groceries, gas stations, car trunks, and parochial schools

You do realize that if this passes, Georgia will be the only state where I can’t buy a cold one on Sunday (outside of a restaurant, that is). I’ll be so lonely.

CaptBackslap said...

CFLs do pretty much suck, but the good news is that LED bulbs and other options should be cheaper and more widely-available by 2012 (since bulb companies realize that many people dislike CFLs, they're furiously working on replacements for them). So the OMG BAN ON EDISON!!!1 won't be a big deal, anyway.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

of course, we should all go back to gas lighting, because that was the shizzle.

Since my house was built in 1904, I still have the piping and some of the nipples extant. the rest of you are SOL.

And if you need an actual knowledgeable POV, I am a PRACTICING architect, working on day to day commercial and residential work outside of lighting landmarks (which are not governed by these Fed rules in any case) and can tell you that for years now we have had no problem working within energy efficiency guidelines. Here's the thing; when you design a building, the iimportant point is TOTAL energy usage. So hey, fill the thing up with crappy, low-efficiency lighting all you want; you can compensate by other energy efficiency strategies such as high insulation or passive solar heating and natural cooling.

Ah, crap. I forgot the point is to piss off the hippies by making your building as energy inefficient as possible.

Seriously, what fucking planet are these people from, where spending as much energy, resources and money is a GOOD thing?

Oh yeah, Planet ligarchy, where conspicuous consumption for its own sake is a mark of moral righteousness.

Holy hell, maybe we do deserve to drown in the rising petroleum smelling oceans....let's hope that the surviving dolphins do better.

D. Sidhe said...

This is why I hate to show my ass every time this subject comes up, because I know I'm gonna end up sounding like these fuckwits. But, look. Some of us need access to incandescents until they come up with the LEDS they've been promising us--right now, I believe I can mail order a LED that will fit in my fixtures for about a hundred fifty bucks, which I admit I haven't done yet because I'm spending a thousand a month on shrink fees and another hundred a month on migraine meds and another hundred every two or three months to get my ass to the ER when those don't work. So, okay, it's a budget issue, and my family is not making do on disability, which most people whose migraines are so frequent and easily triggered that CFLs will screw them sideways every time they turn them on are.

There's the problem. Every year, I buy a new CFL, making sure it's something I haven't tried before, and spend two months with screaming fucking migraines before admitting the goddamned thing is unbearable. Then I give it to my neighbors, who have been slowly replacing all their incandescents without ever having to buy one of their own.

So, yeah, I'm stockpiling low-efficiency incandescent bulbs. Because I will accept that venturing into public spaces means a migraine, but I can't live that way in my own home. On the other hand, since I bought a backlit keyboard, I'm now managing to turn on one forty watt bulb and a series of dim LED nightlights in hallways and bathrooms to get me through the night, and none during the day because I have the shades drawn and too much light still gets in anyway. So I'm not exactly the bete noir of the carbon footprint anyway, especially considering I don't drive, we have energy efficient appliances, and are without ac or even heaters we ever bother to use.

But mock the "I Heart Filaments" assholes all you want, there ARE some of us whose lives are basically unbearable at worst and unmanageably expensive at best without the fucking things, and someone needs to remember that and make accommodations for us. They've been promising better tech for decades now, and we're still not there, so I want to know there's at least a stopgap solution *before* you start to screw us for the team.

I'm happy to get a prescription for incandescents and buy them from a medical supply company, if that's what it takes. But the least we could do is start to shovel some stimulus money at MAKING BETTER LIGHTBULBS before we start enacting these laws. Forgive me if I'm not exactly thrilled to trust myself to the magic of the marketplace: my state has banned phosphates in dishwashing detergent, and it will still be at least a year, I'm guessing, before the companies decide they need to come up with better non-phosphate detergents to lure us away from our sinks and drainage racks.

I understand the need. But someone needs to do the research, because the marketplace isn't going to bother if they're only trying to come up with a solution for a small group of medical freaks who really have no choice but to use the only available lights anyway.

I mean, they outlaw incandescents, even if you fucking *hate* CFLs, you pretty much have to start buying them anyway, don't you. So it's not like they need to hurry on an alternative, they haven't lost a market, they'll just be trying to increase market share with a better mousetrap.

All I'm saying is, remember we're out here, and remember we're not just sulking at the hippies who want to save the earth, and remember that most of us have smaller incomes and fewer resources than people whose lives are less affected by some of this legislation.

Larkspur said...

D.Sidhe, of course you are right. We could make a big difference in energy consumption if incandescents were used only by people who need to use them. Some people are also always going to need cars, or elevators, or a lot of other stuff that many of us can often avoid.

You're right that stuff like this is comparable to "orphan" diseases or syndromes that get neglected because there don't seem to be fortunes to be made.

We're supposed to be better than this. We're supposed to be able to figure out tricky stuff and then go "Aha!" or "Eureka!" or whatever. Instead, I guess we have to wait until China feels like coming up with something, because god knows we're doing our best to keep our own kids away from the necessary book learnin' and problem solvin' skills to do it.

Gah. I should not even comment here. I always end up feeling ignorant*. I just wanted to say hey, D.Sidhe.

*Actually, this is because compared to most of you, I really am ignorant. But I'm not stupid.

heydave said...

Yeah, but when I change a burned out incandescent bulb, it's so hot I burn myself.

And feel fucking alive!