Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Great Light Bulb War

In 2007  the Energy Independence and Security Act was adopted. That Law in part, phased out the use of incandescent bulbs which were to be replaced by more efficient fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) or the even more efficient light emitting diodes (LEDs).

Recently the Republican members of Congress (including our Connie Mack) voted to repeal this portion of the law, and the Republican controlled Texas legislature with the support of its Republican Governor, passed a statute to allow Texans to continue to buy incandescent bulbs despite federal law.

This seemed strange since the Federal Act was passed with broad Republican support and was signed into law by President George W Bush. After eliminating provisions raising taxes on oil companies the Act passed in the House 314 to 100 and in the Senate 86 to 8.

Their position NOW is that the government has no right to tell us what kind of light bulbs to buy.

In fact it should not be necessary to tell us what kind of light bulbs to buy. CFLs are four times more efficient and last up to ten years longer than incandescent.  While initially they cost a bit more (the price has been falling since production was ramped up and competition increased) over the long run they save us lots of money. For example an 18 watt CFL used in place of a 75 watt incandescent will provide the same amount of light and save you about $45 over its lifetime.

 Reducing electricity consumption reduces CO2 emissions. It is estimated that replacing one incandescent bulb with a CFL will reduce CO2 emissions by half a ton over the life of the bulb. CFLs do contain a small amount of mercury and must be disposed of like lead based paint and batteries as a hazardous material. LEDs, while more expensive, are even more efficient than CFLS, and last even longer.

 The early CFLs gave off the harsh white light we have come to expect from fluorescents. Now you can choose the light quality you want. Kelvin measured light color are shown on packages by a K number. Light bulbs emitting 2700k looks the same as an incandescent. As that number increases the light becomes bluer and brighter.

 Ever since they became  available I have replaced my burned out bulbs with CFLs and  in hard to reach places, with LEDs,  I have not had to replace any of the new bulbs although some are more than three years old! I fully expect the LEDs in my bathroom to still be working long after I am dead

Both of these new types of bulbs are cheaper and better for the environment. This explains why the Act had such broad based support even under George Bush’s administration.

What explains the Republicans and their Tea Party backers desire to return to using incandescent bulbs? The Internet is loaded with letters, articles and blogs criticizing CFLs. They are too expensive… but  they are not. They can’t be dimmed… but they can! They can’t be produced as a three way bulb… but they are! They contain a dangerous amount of mercury… but eating fish too often poses a greater risk! Their light quality isn’t good… but if you choose the right bulb it is the same or better.

 The government uses a number of different approaches to encourage better behavior from its citizens. The energy star program which forces companies to estimate how much it will cost to run an appliance is one of them. Advising car buyers as to how many miles per gallon each car will get was somewhat effective but requiring companies to build more efficient vehicles works much better. Industry including the lighting industry supports these programs. They only ask that the rules apply to everyone.  Once given the requirements they will meet or exceed them. Competition forces them to make the best product at the lowest cost they can.

I am unable to understand the principles that govern today's Republicans. Later I will talk about their push to put unhealthy and fattening foods back onto  our school's menu. I can't believe that they believe incandescent bulbs and fat kids are best for America.
Ron Taht

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Tales of two Politicians

I recently read two books, one written by the former Republican Governor of Indiana, Mitch Daniels, the other by Democrat Jennifer Grandholm, the former Governor of Michigan. I chose these authors since I thought they would contrast the right and the left, the conservatives and the liberals. I hoped that this would enhance my understanding of these conflicting views.

I will start with Daniels' book.

The Republican

I learned that he both hates and loves different groups of people. I will discuss them in the order of vitriol or love he expresses.

First there are the government employees, civil servants or as he likes to call them, with a sneer, bureaucrats. These are the lowest of the low., worthless, good for nothings who are overpaid and under worked.

He got rid of 18% of those employed by Indiana and since they weren’t doing anything nobody missed them. He says he accomplished this without inflicting pain, but I am sure some of those unemployed civil servants missed their pay check. I am also sure a few banks missed receiving those mortgage payments and the local merchants missed the periodic visits to their stores.

While he doesn’t like civil servants as individuals he really hates them when they gang up on their employer. With the stroke of a pen he ended collective bargaining and transported Indiana back to the 60’s when civil servants served at the whim of the political party in power. Now he and his cohorts could reorganize departments, promoting and giving to those they liked, while firing anybody who complains. I’ve known a lot of teachers, policemen, firemen public works employees, Government office workers and they all treated me well and provided the service that I expected and was paying for. I must not know those lazy bums in Indiana that the governor describes.

As much as he hates bureaucrats... he loves the rich. They are the job creators he says we need to reduce their taxes. Stop regulating them and sit back while they grow the economy! Sounds good to me! (especially the sitting back part, something I’ve gotten really good at since I retired)

The next group he hates is Democrats. He really dislikes the Democrat in chief, Barack Obama. He believes that they have cornered the market on attack ads. He accuses them not only of misrepresentation but of outright lies.


Perhaps it is because of the people I know but I receive one or two e-mails every week attacking democrats and so far about 99% of them are based on lies and misrepresentations. Type Obama into Snopes or Fact Check and see how long the list of untrue e-mails is.

While he hates Democrats, he loves Republicans, who never lie and are always sweet, warm and fuzzy. He particularly loves the Gipper, Ronald Reagan, and includes his down to earth quotes through out the book. He doesn’t mention the fact that Reagan cut taxes, increased expenditures and tripled our nation’s debt. He also loves G W Bush who did the same thing. In fact Daniels was the director of the Office of Management and the Budget during Bush’s first three years when he cut taxes and launched two wars, ultimately increasing our debt by 5 trillion dollars. When Bush did it: GOOD! When Obama does it: BAD!

Reagan’s Director of the Budget David Stockman at least realized what he had done and wrote a book, Triumph of Politics, apologizing to the American people. Too bad Daniels didn’t fess up to the mess he made before telling us how to fix it.

The part I enjoyed the most was when he suggested a truce between people who are discussing social issues like abortion or same sex marriage. The truce would prevent gays from advancing same sex marriage, leaving the status quo, which he loves, in place.

And then, he spends the rest of the chapter talking about all the laws he had passed making it more difficult to get an abortion and that was before he refused to give money to Planned Parenthood unless they quit providing abortions. A new definition of “truce”! - I can do whatever I want to advance my position but you can’t do anything to advance yours. That certainly would avoid arguments.

In another chapter he attacks the health care act. Of course he refers to it as Obamacare. At the end of that chapter he summarizes why he hates Obamacare and every other program suggested by democrats. He says” these programs demean and diminishes the rights of the free people Americans were intended to be” He doesn’t mention that it will provide health care for 40 million Americans who don’t have it now.

He attacks Obama for bailing out AIG. He doesn’t mention what would have happened to the world economy if AIG had been unable to meet its obligations to the worlds banks to whom it had sold billion of dollars in Default Credit Swaps. (Insurance on mortgage backed securities)

He also doesn’t mention that the bailout worked. AIG(or at least its parts) will survive and the taxpayer will not lose a nickel.

He criticizes the bailout of the automobile industry. He was upset because an Indiana pension fund with out standing loans wasn’t going to get paid, while retired UAW members were going to receive their pensions. When you weigh 100,000 jobs, 100’s of thousands of retired auto workers pensions and three major American industrial manufacturers against the companies general creditors even most Republicans would arrive at the correct answer. Once again this rescue is going to be accomplished without costing the taxpayer anything.

Would it hurt him to say, just once, good job Obama!!

There is never another side to his arguments.

He admires a fictional character in the book “The Time It Never Rained” by Elmer Kelton. This man, Charlie Flagg, lived in west Texas during the worst drought in American history. (1947 to 1957) Although government help was available he refused to accept it. Thousands of people, despite government assistance, lost everything during this difficult time as ranch’s and farms failed.

It is a lot easier to admire the fictional Mr. Flagg from the comfort of your office in Indiana rather than a stubborn old coot watching his fields dry up and his livestock die,,,,, when he could do something to prevent it.

Government was invented to provide help in times of trouble. I thought that was the agreement. The government can use my money to help you because next time I may be the one who needs help.

I might also mention Moses who saw drought in Egypt’s future and built warehouses to store food for that emergency. Good thing the Pharaoh had hired Moses and not Charlie Flagg! Or for that matter Mr. Daniels! They would have told the people to build their own damn warehouse. “You can’t expect the government to waste the rich taxpayer’s money looking out for you”. If that had happened the Jews would still be in Egypt, the Red Sea would never have parted and Cecil B DeMille would still be looking for stories to turn into movies.

The Democrat

Mrs. Grandholm doesn’t hate anyone. She was elected Governor of Michigan before the recession but not before the automobile industry began to fail. She immediately reorganized the various agencies of government needed to attract business’ to invest in Michigan. She traveled to Asia and Europe and attracted a number of foreign investments to her state. She also had to lay off state employees and get give backs from others to balance her state's budget. She did this by working with the unions rather than by destroying them. She worked with the Obama administration to gain investments under the stimulus act and to create “green” business’ including a number of companies that will build batteries for electric cars. She estimates that those businesses will ultimately provide Michigan with 60,000 jobs. She also was supportive of education reform championed by President Obama and put in place by his “race to the top’. She also worked with the Federal Government to take advantage of educating and retraining displaced workers and to try to place those people in new jobs. She says that everything she accomplished was with the consent of state employees, their union and the Republicans who were in the majority in both houses of the legislature during both her terms in office.

Mrs. Grandholm believes that both federal and state Government must target specific industries, help them with research and development and help them bring production to scale if we are going to compete with China and the rest of the world. China and India already do this... and as Mr. Daniels points out they are buying us.

In contrast to Mr. Daniels she seems to respect the opinions of others and was willing to listen to them and happy to work with them to help the people of her state.

Not crossing the chasm

I started by saying that I hoped reading these books would help me understand the chasm that exists between Republicans and Democrats. The chasm exists because Republicans are convinced they are right and it is impossible to reason with them.

Democrats, however, also believe just as strongly that they are right.

There are many areas where Mr. Daniels and I agree and many more where we disagree. Daniels says he wants to protect the safety net. He does not tell us what he would eliminate and what he would preserve. He is proud of his reorganization of the child welfare department in Indiana which changed it (he says) from failing to one of the best in the country.

While he has no answer for the millions of Americans who don’t qualify for Medicare or Medicaid and are not insured through their employers he does want to preserve the government help that is now provided. He also seems to support Social Security although all these programs need to be “reformed”.

I would like to see his idea of a federal budget, what he would keep and what he would throw away. He wants to eliminate much of the IRS by "reforming" our tax code I could accept that although I am sure we would disagree over how the code should be changed.

He thinks privatization results in better service for less money He privatized meal preparation for inmates which did reduce the cost. While my research did not reveal the answer I strongly suspect the employees of the private vendor need food stamps and Medicaid to make ends meet. I also suspect that it's employees have little or no health insurance and no pension If you add the savings I believe they will equal the ampunt costs were reduced and the companies profit. The cost of privatizing is always born by the working man.

He recognizes that some regulation is necessary but believes it should meet a cost/benefit analysis. I agree in principle but believe we would have a big fight over the details. He believes the processing of applications should be streamlined as there is no reason why one agency cannot provide all the approvals necessary. I experienced instances where I was trying to get approval from three different agencies only to find out later the people I was dealing with in numerous separate phone calls were in adjoining offices.

The area where we will never agree is on his social agenda. I believe that people should be free to choose there sexual identity, to decide whether to have a child and preventing scientist from using embryos, which are going to be discarded, is ridiculous.

The biggest problem I have with Mr. Daniels is his strong dislike of Democrats or of anyone that holds an opinion different than his. I was amazed by the depth of his dislike (hatred may not be too strong a word) of the President that permeates his book. If we cannot discuss our differences rationally we will fail as a country not because of the “red menace” (which refers to red ink) but because of gridlock.

Unless we respect each other and are able to rationally discuss our different opinions, ideas and vision we will never be able to move forward.