Tuesday, March 22, 2011

How would we Americans survive
without the United States Congress?

The United States Congress is one branch of our tripartite government, the one through which the people have the most direct input into how their government operates, through elected representatives.

Congress looks after us and tends to our needs, and assures that we don’t do crazy things that will hurt us, and let’s thank our lucky stars that it does. And without the insight of our elected public servants we would not have had banks making home loans to unqualified buyers, toilets with mandated water use standards, or unwary UPS shippers going to jail for putting the wrong sticker on packages. Can I get an “amen?”

We should also thank members of Congress who, in their infinite wisdom, determined that Thomas Edison’s wildly successful incandescent light bulb that we are so accustomed to and have used for so long is no longer good enough for us, and have decreed that a newer design is better. The Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) bulb became the bulb of choice back in 2007, when the ban on incandescent bulbs was enacted and put on course for full implementation by 2014, at which time Mr. Edison will be forced into Congress-induced irrelevancy.

It was a stroke of genius, and our Congresspersons really earned their large salaries and generous benefits on this one. Now we have longer lasting bulbs that use less energy. And, they are new! That’s all good, right? Besides, they are made in China, so every bulb we buy supports that struggling economy, and that may prevent the Chi Coms from foreclosing on their portion of the enormous debt that Congress ran up.

But wait. As USAToday reported recently, not everything is glowing brightly in Bulb Land. “Now that more people are using CFLs, the bulbs' shortcomings are giving some consumers pause,” and it pointed out some of them:

• They cost $3 to $10 each, compared with about 50 cents for incandescent bulbs.

• They don't start out at full brightness, and don’t work well in cold temperatures.

• They put out a “dingy” light that some folks object to, and they “flicker,” which sets off epileptic seizures in some people.

• The brighter CFLs are bigger and won't fit in many lamps and fixtures, and many CFL bulbs don't work well with dimmer switches and three-way light fixtures.

• And last – but certainly not least – they contain mercury, a highly toxic substance, and that makes disposal an issue.

So how the heck do you dispose of a burnt-out CFL bulb? Don’t worry; it’s a simple process, really.

To dispose of a burnt-out bulb, tells us: “If your state or local environmental regulatory agency permits you to put used or broken CFLs in the garbage, seal the bulb in two plastic bags and put it into the outside trash, or other protected outside location, for the next normal trash collection.” But if this is not permitted, we aren’t told how to dispose of the defunct bulb.

In the unfortunate event that your kid or the cat knocks over a lamp, or your mother-in-law drops a CFL and breaks it, here’s what you have to do:

1. Have people and pets leave the room for 15 minutes or more, and don't let anyone walk through the breakage area on their way out. Shut off the central forced-air heating/air conditioning system, if you have one.

2. Carefully scoop up glass fragments and powder using stiff paper or cardboard and place them in a glass jar with a metal lid or in a sealed plastic bag. Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass pieces and powder.

3. Wipe the area clean with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes. Place towels in the glass jar or plastic bag.

4. Do not use a vacuum or broom to clean up the broken bulb on hard surfaces.

And there are special processes for other potentially hazardous situations, such as clean-up steps for carpeting or rugs; for clothing, bedding, etc.; disposal of clean-up materials; and future cleaning of carpeting or rugs.

Every good idea is at some point replaced by a better one. Or in the case of CFLs, a good idea has been replaced by a worse one. But environmental activists in and out of government are not dissuaded from shoving half-baked or un-baked ideas down our throats, all justified by the unproven and hotly debated theory that human activity is doing irreparable harm to the environment.

This environmental mania is behind the drive to replace perfectly good technology with a problem-causing “green” idea that is worse than the problem it is supposed to solve.

Former Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter correctly noted that "the Constitution was not written in order to right every wrong [or to] allow every federal do-gooder and busybody to impose his notion of clean living, safe working, or pure thinking on individuals. It was written to restrain government from interfering with … the freedom of the individual to pursue happiness."

If only our public servants understood this.

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