May 5 2007
03:26 pm
By: redmondkr  shortURL

A recent Newsweek poll shows Mr. Bush's approval rating at an all time low. It also indicates that each of the top Democrats is looked upon more favorably for 2008 than any top Republican contender. Of course it's way, way too early to see this as a light at the end of the tunnel, but it is a pleasant thought.

Meanwhile, Mr. Bush continues to court those people calling themselves Christians with his threat to veto legislation that would add sexual orientation language to the nation's hate crime law. It seems that the law would interfere with their rights to free speech.

Fellow party members are attempting to resurrect Ronnie for another shot at the White House. They are looking at old Fred, but they are seeing the Gipper.


We've been looking in to compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) to reduce energy consumption for lighting. Here's what we've learned so far.

Manufacturers say that a 13-18 watt CFL produces light equivalent to a 60w incandescent bulb, an 18-22w CFL is the equivalent of a 75w bulb, and a 23-28w CFL is the equivalent of a 100w bulb. This is based on the "lumens" rating on the side of the box.

In real life, CFL equivalent replacements do not seem quite as bright as incandescents, so you might end up replacing a 60w equivalent with a 75w equivalent and so forth. (The "swirled" designs seem to give off brighter light than the CFLs with a traditional "bulb" design.) But overall, CFLs reduce energy use for lighting by 60%-70%.

Color temperature makes a big difference. The lower the color temperature, the more the light resembles the "warmth" of incandescent bulbs we are all used to (that may sound backwards, but that's how it works). Not all CFLs list the color temperature. The GE "Soft White" has a pleasing, almost incandescent look, while the similarly named Sylvania "Soft White" has a cooler, harsher "fluorescent" look (although some might prefer it for truer color rendering or easier reading).

We found some Sylvania "Warm White" 13w (60w replacement) CFLs at Lowes that have very pleasing light, and their small size allows them to fit most fixtures. The color temperature is listed as 2700K (as compared to their "Daylight" CFL which is listed at 6500K and seems much "harsher".) The 13w "Warm White" CFLs came in a contractor's box of 12 for $27, which is a pretty good deal. They are rated at 800 lumens with a lifetime of 10,000 hours, as compared to a standard GE "Soft White" 60w incandescent, which is rated at 840 lumens with a life of 1000 hours.

Because of their long life and lower energy consumption, CFLs can result in significant savings over the lifetime of the bulb relative to its cost. Manufacturers are quick to point this out, with claims on the packaging of $36+ in energy savings over the life of a 14w (60w equivalent) up to $61 for a 23w (100w equivalent). Your mileage will probably vary.

All of the CFL bulbs we tried came on quickly (some instantly), none exhibited any flicker, and none caused any audible humming or other noise. Some take a little longer than others (only a few seconds in most cases) to warm up to full output. It appears that the latest CFL designs have eliminated most of the previous complaints, although site wiring problems can be an issue according to manufacturers.

Most CFLs do not work with dimmers. Manufacturers say it will shorten the bulb life and it voids the warranty. There are special bulbs that work with dimmers, but they are not widely available. If the package does not say the bulb is compatible with dimmers, it probably isn't. (Look at the fine print on the base of the bulb.) We are still looking for a local source for "dimmable" CFLs, as most of our fixtures have dimmers. CFLs are also not intended for use with most photocells and timers.

One thing that is not talked about much is that CFLs emit more ultraviolet (UV) light than an incandescent bulb, which produces virtually none. Light in a CFL starts out as UV from excited gases, and is made visible by phosphors coating the inside of the tube/bulb. Incandescent light is mostly infrared emitted by heating the filament to super high temperatures (leading some to call them "heat bulbs" instead of "light bulbs"). Most of the UV from a CFL is filtered out in the conversion, but there is still some.

Manufacturers say, however, that there is no health risk and that eight hours of exposure to CFL UV is about the same as one minute in full sunlight. But, photographs, artwork, some fabrics, and some photoreactive chemicals used in furniture finishes are susceptible to degradation from any increased levels of UV over time. So this is something to consider.

The Mercury Problem

Finally, CFL critics like to remind you that CFL bulbs contain mercury, a highly toxic pollutant. This is true. The typical CFL bulb contains approx. 5mg of mercury. (Manufacturers are working to reduce this. Phillips is said to have developed a bulb that only has 1.5mg of mercury.)

If a CFL bulb is broken, special care must be taken to properly clean up and dispose of the remnants to prevent health risks. Further, CFLs must be recycled or properly disposed of to prevent the mercury from escaping into the environment. Here are the federal government guidelines for CFL disposal and cleanup.

What the critics forget to mention, however, is that coal-fired power plants are a major source of mercury pollution. Further, most of this mercury is emitted into the air, and is thus not contained or containable. Mercury in a CFL is already contained unless it is broken, and if properly recycled is fully containable.

We did some rough calculations to determine the mercury pollution impact of CFL v. incandescent bulbs. We used TVA's Kingston plant as an example. It generated 10,161,530 MWh in 2005, and released 643 pounds of mercury into the environment. This works out to 28.7 mg of mercury per MWh.

Based on this, a 100w incandescent bulb operated for 8000 hours (the rated life of a typical CFL) causes 23mg of mercury pollution. An equivalent 23w CFL bulb will cause 5.3mg of mercury pollution. Assuming the bulb is crushed and dumped in a landfill releasing its 5mg of mercury into the environment, the CFL will cause 10.3mg of mercury pollution over its lifetime as compared to 23mg of mercury pollution for an equivalent number of incandescent bulbs, a reduction of 12.7mg or 55%.

55% sounds like a lot. But according to DOE estimates, residential power usage is about 35% of the total, and lighting in the average home accounts for about 9.4% of the energy used. Considering that about 64% of TVA power is generated from coal v. hydro and nuclear, the net reduction of mercury emissions if every TVA residential customer switched to CFL bulbs would be about 6 pounds at the Kingston plant, about a 1% reduction. System-wide, this would be a reduction of about 52 pounds annually.

52 pounds doesn't sound like much mercury (even though it's thousands of lethal doses) but it's something. Multiply that for every power system in the U.S. and it adds up.

So CFLs won't save the planet, but they might put off its demise for a month or two.

Plus, we should take pollution controls wherever we can get them. If residential use of CFLs reduced overall coal-fired power consumption by 1.5%, the system-wide reduction in TVA emissions would be 2865 tons of NOx (nitrogen oxides that cause ozone and smog), 6900 tons of SO2 (sulfur dioxide that causes acid rain and harms plants and stream ecology), and 1,575,000 tons of CO2 (a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming) annually (2005 figures). Increased commercial usage of CFL would result in even more reductions.

Back to the CFL mercury problem, a couple of things need to happen right away:

• Consumers need to be educated on proper disposal and cleanup. The packages we purchased do not mention this prominently or at all. One directs you to a website. There should be prominent warnings about health risks and instructions for proper disposal and cleanup on all CFL packaging.

• Local public works officials need to incorporate CFL collection, recycling and/or disposal into their waste management programs.

• Big-box retailers who sell more than 100 CFLs per year (or some other arbitrary figure) should be required to provide on-site recycling centers.

UPDATE: I mentioned that dimmable CFLs are hard to find. I couldn't find any locally, but a good source on the internet for dimmable CFL bulbs is

The bulbs are a little expensive ($24 ea. for the ones we bought), but they work and they will pay for themselves in energy savings over the 10,000 hour rated life of the bulb (if they last that long).

We got 15w (2700K color temp.) replacements (made by Technical Consumer Products, also known as "Springlamp" brand) for two 60w kitchen lights. Actually, we were using 54w long-life bulbs, so the 15w CFLs are a little brighter. They work fine with the dimmer but won't dim as low as incandescent (the CFL dimmable range is 100% to 20%).

It's odd that the package says "DIMMABLE" all over it, but the fine print caution says "not for use with dimmers". I called TCP to ask about this, and the customer service person agreed this was odd but said no one had ever asked about it and as far as they know it's just a misprint on the packaging. What I do know is they work fine with our dimmers.

Another good online source for less expensive (with lower lifetime rating) CFL bulbs is

May 4 2007
10:15 am
By: gttim  shortURL

What a way to confuse gun nuts!

Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act of 2007

"On Thursday, April 26, 2007, Senator Lautenberg introduced legislation to prohibit terrorist suspects from purchasing firearms, mirroring an Administration plan released yesterday. The bill seeks to close the “terror gap” in federal gun law by giving the Attorney General the power to block gun sales to terror suspects. Under current federal gun law, there is no provision to deny suspected terrorists from purchasing a firearm."

So do we want to keep guns out of the hands of terrorists or do we want to "protect" the 2nd amendment?


The anti-tax, anti-government, anti-everything "Tennessee Center for Policy Research" put out a press release calling Bredesen's new BEP funding proposal a "plan to throw more of Tennesseans’ hard-earned money at schools."

They also say it's a "political payoff to select legislators in exchange for passing his swollen, pork-filled budget." They single out Jamie Woodson (R-Knoxville) and Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) as the engineers of the "scheme", and it's biggest benefactors.


For more on the plan, WBIR has this page with clickable maps and tables of which counties would get what.

The Nashville City Paper has this analysis. The Nashville Post says it's a "calculated move" that no one saw coming, designed to outflank opponents and not give them enough time to mount a counter-attack.

The Knoxville News Sentinel has this report on what it might mean for Knox County and Sevier County. The Maryville Daily Times files this report on the possible impact in Blount Co. The Chattanooga Times Free Press files this report.

UPDATE: And the bloggers weigh in...

Terry Frank spins with the TCPR talking points.

The Rep doesn't even bother, he just faxes in the talking points.

Tennessee Economics laments there's no real reform because the plan doesn't include vouchers, and says Bredesen is arrogant and afraid to take on the teachers union.

Brian Hornback attributes Bredesen's revised plan to the new Republican leadership in the State Senate. (So if you don't like the plan, now you know who to blame!)

HamDems says "education is the great equalizer in the world" and this step is important.

The Tennessee Democratic Party calls the plan "fair, sustainable, and accountable."

Sean Braisted has harsh words for the TCPR.

May 4 2007
08:55 am
By: awoodle  shortURL

Short memories?

Only a few weeks ago, a groundswell of (justifiable) outrage arose over the backroom deals, favor-trading, Sunshine Act-violating, unethical actions around Knox County Commission appointments. Task forces and committees were quickly formed to examine political ethics violations and conflicts of interest in Knox County government.

And now there's an outcry that School Board member Indya Kincannon should have "played ball" and cut deals to get her amendment to the recent school rezoning vote passed?

Some of the very same people who are most vocal in their criticism of Indya were the ones crying "For shame! For shame!" about the County Commission deal-cutting.

You can't have it both ways. If you want elected officials who behave with legal, moral and ethical integrity, who uphold the oath of their office, you can't trash them for doing so. If you want elected officials who will pander, trade favors and cut deals when it satisfies your personal interest, don't expect them to behave with ethics and integrity in other matters.

You get what you ask for. If you want honesty, honor and professionalism, elect (and re-elect) representatives who demonstrate that's how they live and who they are. If you want someone who will sacrifice personal principles, swap votes and curry favor to get what you want on one issue, stop your rants about the lack of political ethics and integrity.

Just remember: "More tears are shed over answered prayers than unanswered ones."

And, while I'm on the subject of disclosure of potential conflicts of interest, it's important to note that Lisa Starbucks works for and with the Hunley brothers, entertainer Con and former School Board member (and Christian Coalition-leaning, deal-making) Steve Hunley. Just fyi.

May 4 2007
08:38 am
By: R. Neal  shortURL

This guy is not helping the tort "reform" resistance. (Or maybe that's his point?) He should probably be removed from the bench, pants or no pants.

May 4 2007
08:32 am

In the ongoing saga of equal opportunity broadband access in Tennessee, here's a story that's probably not so much sinister as it is ironic.

May 4 2007
07:47 am

The TN Bureau of Investigation released their 2006 report of crimes at TN institutions of higher education . Violent crime is the highest since at least 2001. Statistical data for years prior to 2001 is not comparable.

Granted 158 violent crimes, the number reported for 2006, is not a large number, it is a 16% increase from 2005. Of those 158 violent crimes, there were aggravated assaults (70), robberies (45), forcible rapes (21), forcible sodomy (15), kidnappings/abductions (4), and forcible fondlings (3). Weapon law violations are also on the rise, 30% since 2003. UTK's crime problems seem to focus more on drinking alcoholic beverages and stealing.


May 4 2007
06:57 am
By: Factchecker  shortURL

They're here.


May 3 2007
10:12 pm

Rudy Guiliani looked shrunken, uneasy, and weak. His responses felt rushed and his answers lacked the firmness that McCain's answers had. The Mayor did not alas look presidential. I think it's a big mistake for Giuliani to try to breathe life into the 9/11 issue. Somehow that song has lost its luster. It doesn't even sound sincere anymore, just like he believes this is his only strong point, so he's going to keep hammering away at it. I think most Americans want to move forward now, not stand cringing under the shadow of the Twin Towers forever. I predict Rudy Giuliani won't be around for the long haul. His message is stale, he's a frumpy little guy who looks like a used car salesmen,and they haven't even gotten into what a rat he was to his ex-wife or the connection between him and that sleazy guy he pushed Bush into appointing the security chief in Iraq. The one who had to withdraw because of so many corruption charges.

Actually, it was a pretty scarey crew. Very grim too. Those Republicans sure are an uptight bunch of guys.

May 3 2007
07:06 pm

Zach Wamp (future hopeful Secretary of Transportation? Secretary of Commerce? or new cabinet post of Secretary of B.S.?) was just on MSNBC saying the eventual GOP nominee, Fred Thompson, will not be at the debate but that he is nonetheless this generation's Great Communicator (evoking the ghost of Ronald Reagan) who speaks to the people with plain talk they can understand.

OK, then.

P.S. Actually, I have to agree with Wamp on one point. Fred Thompson will be the GOP nominee in 2008. He will face off with Al Gore, and Al Gore will win.

May 3 2007
05:14 pm

There's a buzz going around that Albert Harb, a local attorney who collects delinquent taxes for Knox County, is covered by the Knox County health insurance program.

So what's the big deal?

Harb isn't an employee of Knox County. He's employed by a local law firm. But he also has a contract with Knox County to collect delinquent taxes, which (according to the KNS) earns him approx. $300K per year by way of a 10% collection fee tacked on to delinquent tax bills. And it appears that Knox County taxpayers are also providing for his health insurance.

Is it standard practice to open up the Knox County insurance program to contractors and other vendors who are not employees? I don't know, I'm just asking.

At any rate, by all accounts he does a pretty good job on collections which is why the contract is so lucrative. Perhaps the health insurance is a performance bonus?

Expect to hear more about this in the local media...

UPDATE: WBIR files this report.

UPDATE: And the Knoxville News Sentinel.


By way of the Blab, it's the 2007 Zappa Plays Zappa tour. Asheville August 11th, remaining tickets go on sale 5/5.

Check out the rest of the website, especially the bios and the blog, which explain what this is all about. And the clips (esp. Black Page).

May 3 2007
02:53 pm
May 3 2007
02:47 pm

The Public Citizen Health Research Group has a new report out on state Medicaid programs across the U.S.

The report, based primarily on data from the Kaiser Family Foundation, examines Medicaid programs based on four major criteria: eligibility, scope of services, quality of care, and reimbursement.

The report's major findings:

Nationally, the state Medicaid programs are severely challenged: even the best state scores only 645.9 points on a scale of 1000. And the worst state rates a score of only 317.8, i.e., less than a third of the total maximum points.

The state-by-state breakdowns reveal marked disparities between and among states. The top 10 states, ranking #1 to #10, tend to cluster in the Northeast but also include three states in the Midwest and two in the Northwest. The following states occupy the first 10 ranks, in descending order: Massachusetts, Nebraska, Vermont, Alaska, Wisconsin, Rhode Island, Minnesota, New York, Washington, and New Hampshire.

The 10 most deficient state programs have overall scores ranging from between 317.8 and 379.1 of the total 1000 points. The worst, in order from 50th to 41st, are in Mississippi, Idaho, Texas, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Indiana, South Carolina, Colorado, Alabama, and Missouri.

The overall score of top-ranked Massachusetts is more than twice that of bottom-ranked Mississippi.

Read more after the jump...


May 3 2007
02:01 pm
By: Terry Troll  shortURL

OMG, I am so surprised.… This just ran on the AP wire about an hour ago:
Mid-East Graded Poorly on Press Freedom.
Seems some of the problem is that, in Iraq, Saddam era laws are still in force and in at least a couple of cases may have been enforced. Some 30 reporters were detained last year and two TV stations closed for showing footage of protests of Saddam’s execution.
Since the latest purpose we have for invading this country is to establish democracy I have been wondering if this is a Utopian Dream Democracy of our Exalted Leaders. Everything Bush always wanted in a democracy.
The press must go along or be shut down, the army and the police run things and you shoot the people who don't agree with you.
Oh well, just a thought.

May 3 2007
08:38 am

Carlson Tucker (gag, gag) who replaced Don Imus (gag, gag) on MSNBC, just played a tape of an archived call-in show this morning.

On the tape, Giuliani was totally bashing a ferret owner who had called in to ask why pet ferrets weren’t allowed in NY City. Giuliani got all weird about the question. He obviously has some kind of problem with ferrets or men who want to own ferrets because he told the man he should seek help because of his “obsession” with little weasels. The guy kept trying to defend himself, but the Mayor just wouldn’t let up. Over and over he told the man he was in denial. He beseeched the poor would-be ferret owner to face up to the fact that he was sick.

Hopefully, this moment will end up on UTube. It was so odd and probably indicative of the way Giuliani simply doesn’t listen to anybody. His manner was condescending, utterly rude, and emotionally weird. Why did it bother Giuliani so much that this man was fond of ferrets? He acted like the guy was some kind of dangerous pervert. After verbally roughing this guy up, the Mayor aborted the conversation by ending the call. Then he ranted on and on about how sick the guy was. It was almost unbelievable.

Maybe weasels bother Giuliani so much because he is one?

May 3 2007
08:24 am
By: WhitesCreek  shortURL
May 3 2007
07:54 am

Bratton said officers fired 240 "nonlethal" rounds to clear MacArthur Park late Tuesday. News images showed police hitting a television cameraman to the ground, shoving people who were walking away from officers and injuries from the rubber bullets, including a Hispanic man with welts on his abdomen and back. Lines of officers moved through the park firing the rubber rounds.
Seven officers suffered minor injuries, and another was pushed off his motorcycle, he said. About 10 people were treated for minor injuries, though authorities expected the number to rise.

The 600 officers at the scene included 100 from the elite Metropolitan Division, considered among the department's most highly trained, who cleared the park.
"They were pushing children, elderly, mothers with their babies and beating up on the media," Sanbrano said.

Check out the video! Jack-booted police yielding weapons. Quite disturbing.


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