The PJ Tatler

USA Today, the Republican Congress, and the lightbulb


The most astute media criticism, as well as economic writing and commentary on capitalism online is at  This morning, Editor Ira Stoll took on USA Today’s unconscionably slanted headline and story on the possibility that the Republican Congress may yet save us from the federal government telling us what kind of light bulbs we can (and more importantly, can’t) read by for the rest of our lives.  He writes:

USA Today steps into the story with one of the most slanted pieces of reporting I’ve seen anywhere. Under the headline, ‘GOP tries to block eco-friendly light bulbs,’ the newspaper reports, ‘The U.S. House is going to try next week to block the federal government’s transition from traditional incandescent light bulbs to more energy-efficient options.’

“The headline is inaccurate. The Republicans aren’t trying to prevent anyone from buying or using an eco-friendly light bulbs; they are trying to stop the government from forcing ordinary Americans to buy one kind of light bulb over another. It’s about more choice, not less. The line about ‘the federal government’s transition from traditional incandescent light bulbs to more energy-efficient options’ is also inaccurate. What kind of bulbs the federal government uses is not at issue; what is at issue is what kind of lightbulbs ordinary Americans can use in their households. It’s not even clear to me that the lightbulbs the government wants to force Americans to buy are more ‘eco-friendly’ than the old kind. They do last longer, but not nearly as long as the packages promise. They may use less electricity. But some of them also contain mercury that can harm the environment and is so toxic that the government recommends that if you accidentally break one you have to leave the room for 30 minutes. They are also so toxic that in many jurisdictions you aren’t allowed to throw it away with ordinary trash, making it very difficult to get rid of them.”

This continues the trenchant and often hilarious skewering Stoll did in the early years of the millennium  as editor of, when he carefully read and and then exquisitely exposed the factual sloppiness and ideological bias of The New York Times, even before it became the utterly unreliable thing it is today. Stoll was vice president and managing editor of The New York Sun, which he helped to found, has been a consultant to the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal, North American editor of the Jerusalem Post, managing editor and Washington correspondent of the Forward, and a reporter for the Los Angeles Times. His critical faculties are sharp as the proverbial tack and his wry sense of humor is the icing on the cake. is a must-read.  I couldn’t— and I don’t—go a day without it.



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