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Dim Bulb

AmeriPAC, a conservative Republican political action committee, sent out a fundraising letter recently that accused Democrats of banning incandescent light bulbs:

The Democrats have already voted to BAN our conventional lights bulbs (that you and I use even today!) in favor of DANGEROUS fluorescent light bulbs. … Help put an end to governmental interference in our lives! Help put an end to Mr. Obama interfering with free enterprise!

PolitiFact reviewed this claim and rated it a “Pants on Fire” lie. In the first place, Republicans voted for this bill too. In fact, it was signed into law by George W. Bush.

Secondly, the bill does not ban incandescent light bulbs at all. It only requires that light bulbs be 25% more efficient, while producing equivalent amounts of light. This is a good thing, since it will save consumers money on their energy bills, reduce energy consumption by $18 billion a year, and reduce global warming.

But here’s the good part. PolitiFact questioned them about their claim that the bill bans incandescent light bulbs and they replied that it was a de facto ban because it is not possible to make incandescent bulbs that meet the new efficiency requirements:

We believe ‘ban’ is an accurate term because there is no such thing as what they require. If it’s available, where can I buy it? Why doesn’t Home Depot carry them?

Well, the truth is that Home Depot already does carry them. The Philips EcoVantage bulb is an incandescent (halogen) bulb that is for sale in Home Depot and meets the proposed efficiency requirements. Osram Sylvania and GE also make incandescent bulbs that meet the new energy requirements, but they are sold at Lowe’s.

And finally, even if the bill did ban incandescent bulbs, you still wouldn’t be forced to buy florescent bulbs, since manufacturers are now making LED bulbs that meet the new energy requirements. As as for claims that florescent bulbs are dangerous because they contain small amounts of mercury? PolitiFact found those claims to be wildly exaggerated. In fact, the use of florescent bulbs actually reduces the amount of mercury that is released.

I’ve been trying to figure out how we can deal with outright intentional lying without infringing on free speech. We already have laws against libel and slander, but they don’t work during political campaigns since by the time you could win a lawsuit against someone who lies about you, the damage would be done (in many cases, the election itself would be long over).

Maybe we need something like a political lie court, where a panel of judges (picked to be non-partisan or at least balanced) rules on political lies in a timely manner. If a politician is found guilty of a blatant lie, they should be required to correct the lie in public and apologize.

For example, AmeriPAC would be required to send out a letter correcting their false claim. Or anyone who claimed that the new health care law creates “death panels” (PolitiFact’s lie of the year) would be required to apologize on TV.



  1. Jason Ray wrote:

    I think such a fact check would be great. My problem is that we already have several (Politifact as mentioned is pretty good, for example) and their information is freely available, yet most media outlets and virtually all voters ignore them.

    As a piece of campaign reform, passing a law that requires candidates and political advertisements to spend equal amounts of time and money on retractions after publicly stating verifiable lies would be good 🙂

    Saturday, May 28, 2011 at 10:49 am | Permalink
  2. We had such a system once.

    It was called Journalism.

    (Unfortunately, journalism can’t do its job without an informed, astute public which is engaged in issues/concerns of the society at large. Sure, info-tainment has ruined journalism, but our lack of critical thinking and active engagement as a polis enables the liars.

    Saturday, May 28, 2011 at 1:46 pm | Permalink
  3. Oops, end parenthesis on mine. And polis didn’t become italics. *sigh* I tried.

    Saturday, May 28, 2011 at 1:46 pm | Permalink
  4. starluna wrote:

    Thought Dancer – I was thinking the exact same thing.

    Saturday, May 28, 2011 at 7:04 pm | Permalink
  5. There are many laws governing truth in advertising. If a company misleads the public or lies in their advertisements then they are given hefty fines.

    I would imagine that these laws should also apply to political advertising. I also wonder if they could be applied to PAC’s, and possibly to any television network that openly endorses and promotes (advertises) one party.

    (I’d appreciate any feedback on this idea from lawyers familiar with such laws.)

    Saturday, May 28, 2011 at 8:24 pm | Permalink
  6. Mad Hatter wrote:

    Wow…if you fined political parties for all their lies, they would all eventually go out of business (not necessarily a bad thing in my view). The Republican party wouldn’t even last a week….

    Sunday, May 29, 2011 at 9:38 am | Permalink
  7. Patricia wrote:

    It might be difficult to differentiate between “lies” and “Exaggerations.” Look at what gets through in ordinary “advertising!”

    Sunday, May 29, 2011 at 9:57 am | Permalink
  8. TENTHIRTYTWO wrote:

    I think Patricia is right. I actually was talking about this with my folks last night when we saw commercial #73957 about “Unlimited 3G/4G”. No plan is unlimited that I know of, there are hard data caps in place. Even this one that we saw had fine print below the “Unlimited!” that said “there is a limit of 2Gb/month”.

    In my opinion, when a politician can lie, get called out on it, and respond with “it wasn’t intended to be a factual statement” and nobody in his party cares even one iota, regulations like this won’t do anyone a bit of good. In fact, I’d bet it would be used as another talking point, the same way that wikipedia, politifact and are often talked about as “liberally biased.” They would be seen as big government trying to censor the conservatives “truth” media.

    Sunday, May 29, 2011 at 11:18 am | Permalink
  9. Don wrote:

    Thought Dancer hits a very important nail on the head. We have the government we’ve allowed ourselves to elect. We, as a nation, have lost way too much gray matter that was, at one time, used to think about who we were electing and what they were saying.

    We’ve become a nation that is so tolerant of lies and other forms of political BS that we’ve forgotten how to tell truth from fiction, carry out a reasonable dialogue about the fiction, and move past it in a search for continued improvement at the local, state, and national level.

    It’s one thing to be mistaken, but we have gotten so enamored with the “big lie” as long as it is supportive of our own political biases, that we tolerate and all too often continue the lie through our own discussions and comments. There are times when I find myself doing so and, when I realize it, being pretty disgusted with myself.

    Sunday, May 29, 2011 at 12:04 pm | Permalink
  10. Iron Knee wrote:

    Patricia, I’d be happy if we just eliminated some of the most blatant lies. And the fear of having to apologize publicly might make some politicians think before they speak.

    1032, that is exactly the kind of thing I’m trying to prevent. The speaker of something that “wasn’t intended to be a factual statement” would be required to apologize in public.

    Don, very good point. We will never solve this problem unless we recognize it when we do it ourselves. Even me. I am guilty of repeating things that are not true, but in my own defense will claim that if I find out something is not true, I will stop repeating it, and if appropriate, will post a correction.

    Monday, May 30, 2011 at 8:07 am | Permalink
  11. lighthouse wrote:

    Sure, there is some hysteria around the issue, but….

    1. Consumers would hardly save money, compared to a pre-ban situation, whatever happens:

    Many US state utility companies are already being compensated for people
    (possibly) using less electricity, ( )
    = taxpayer ie citizen money.

    That is apart from any rise in bills to compensate for a possible
    reduced electricity use

    2. LEDS have toxicity breakage etc problems too
    -from recent University of california Research

    All current replacement incandescents are actually going to be banned
    including Halogens (eg the Philips Halogen you mention) by, at the latest, 2020 (USA) and 2016 (EU) given the CFL equivalent rating required

    What is banned and when – and where are the counter-proposals?

    US, Canada, EU, Australia regulations
    Canada Government’s 2 year delay proposal (to 2014)
    Updates on US House/Senate, S. Carolina, Georgia, Texas, Minnesota and
    Arizona bills attempting to stop the ban

    Wednesday, June 1, 2011 at 11:27 am | Permalink
  12. Briago wrote:

    Why do so many people think about a concept, decide it is good, and support bans. All without considering the details involved.

    Right now there are hardly any dimmable options in the “energy efficient” arena. Yes I have tried flourescent dimmers, and when dimmed they flicker severly to the point of being totally useless.

    Politicians (I don’t care if they are republican or democrat) make decisions in a room in Washington, and don’t think about who they are impacting. This is generally why government must NOT make decisions like restricting consumer choice.

    If they want to cut energy use from lighting, the appropriate thing to do would be to make a Consumer awareness plan (tv/radio ads, etc). Not to tell me I can no longer purchase a product that I depend on day in and day out.

    And don’t flame me for being “afraid” of new technology. I have used CFLs since 2000. I have had plenty that died within 6 months of use, and even two that dies within 1 month of use in outdoor lighting. So don’t dare tell me they are cheaper than incandescent because they last longer. I do use them in my primary lighting in the house, but all my “secondary” lighting uses dimmers and the dimmable CFLs i’ve tried don’t work. Ohh and dimmable CFLs still cost $8-15 per bulb!

    This law should be reppealed, at least until new technologies are well enough developed to serve every purpose of the previous technology.

    Also, even the smallest CFLs still do not fit in candelabra fixtures where bulbs are supposed to be clear and 1 inch wide by 2.5-3 inches tall. And don’t tell me to by $25 LED bulbs when the fixture requires 6 bulbs!

    Saturday, July 16, 2011 at 6:39 am | Permalink
  13. Iron Knee wrote:

    Briago, didn’t you even read the original story? Nobody is banning incandescent bulbs. Saying that they are banning incandescent bulbs is a lie. You will still be able to buy incandescent bulbs. How many times do I have to repeat that? Go to your local Home Depot or Lowes or Costco and buy some high efficiency incandescent bulbs (like Philips EcoVantage). They produce better light, dim just fine, last longer, and only cost slightly more.

    And I’m sure LED lights will come down in price dramatically as their use becomes more popular.

    Saturday, July 16, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

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