Monday, November 21, 2011

Bad News for Power Balance Could be Good News for Sacramento

Power Balance, purveyors of those magical wristbands that people (particularly athletes) believe are imbued with magical powers, filed for bankruptcy protection today, according to a report in the Sacramento Bee.  All I can say is, it couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of charlatans!

I won’t go into the copious evidence showing that Power Balance bands are no more magical than the rubber bands cluttering up my kitchen draws.  They have exactly the same efficacy – that is, none whatsoever.  I won’t rag on their scientifically dubious claims, as they have been so thoroughly debunked elsewhere.  And I won’t comment on the silly tests they do to prove the efficacy of their sham bracelets – getting people to believe that they’ve suddenly gained the ability to remain balanced with a foot raised while the person demonstrating this effect subtly changes the angle at which he pushes down on the person’s extended arm (well, I guess I did just comment on that).

But for those of us here in Sacramento (at least, those of us who have bothered to think about it), the news that the company may be facing bankruptcy and (dare we hope?!) liquidation is particularly encouraging. You see, last year Power Balance bought the naming rights to our local basketball arena. And so now, the outdated and rapidly decaying little bandbox, which gained its reputation as ARCO Arena, is known as Power Balance Pavilion.  Ugh.

So, even if the company survives its financial struggles, maybe, at the very least, it will have to cancel its contract and our little arena, if and when it again hosts NBA Basketball games for our beloved Kings, can have a name that will not bring embarrassment with it.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Hey Ma, I'm a One Hit Wonder!

I just checked on my YouTube account.  I have nine videos posted of songs I’ve written.  There have been 21,294 views of TheSkeptic in the Room.  My next highest total:  294 for TheConspiracy Song.  Exactly 21,000 fewer!  Ha ha.  I think this is what they call a one hit wonder!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Tribute to Impulse Buying

I take a break from blogging about skepticism and politics, to post a new song I wrote recently. This song has no particular reason to exist, except it's kind of catchy and, after all, haven't we all enjoyed picking up items on impulse when checking out at the supermarket or department store?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Of Christmas Tree Taxes, FDR and Silly Political Discourse

In what is possibly the silliest political kerfuffle ever, today saw the blogosphere riled up about Obama’s new “Christmas Tree Tax.”  It was reported by a conservative blogger and amplified through Matt Drudge (Slate has a good, short recap here) that Obama’s Department of Agriculture had just announced plans to impose a fifteen-cent tax on the sale of fresh Christmas trees.  

On conservative blogs and, apparently, talk shows, this announcement was denounced as everything from a tax on Christians (because, you see, only Christians buy Christmas trees) to President Obama’s lame effort to stimulate the economy to an example of Obama fiddling while Rome burns (millions out of work, and the President wants to tax Christmas trees!). Oh the humanity!

But the reality is that this is the latest in a long, long line of programs created at industry request to raise funds for promotion, research or other marketing by the affected industries.  There are programs that do advertising (think Dancing Raisins and Milk Mustaches), that conduct research into controlling pests or making food safer, and that regulate quality and packing standards (so that, you know, when you go to the store to buy apples they have some uniformity in size, color, shape, etc.).  Some programs are federal and some are state, but they are all created because the growers or shippers of a given agricultural product want them created.

All of these programs stem from the same New Deal legislation put in place under Franklin Roosevelt.  For over seven decades those statutes have been used to justify the creation of these agricultural programs. They are done under government jurisdiction because that way you can get everyone to pay their fair share and avoid the ‘free rider’ problem.

Now, there’s plenty of room for argument or discussion about whether these types of programs are valuable, successful, effective or necessary in today’s world.  Growers have sued to get rid of them in some cases, and in others the programs have simply outlived their usefulness and been voted out of existence by the affected parties.

But to act like this proposed Christmas Tree program is some insidious plot driven by the President is silly beyond words and just goes to underscore how petty and substance-free our political discussions have become.

I’m not a big fan of the President and I'm an opponent of the Nanny State, but if the Christmas Tree farmers want to get together and tax themselves to pay for programs they think will help keep them in business, I say more power to them!