Saturday, July 20, 2024

Why Assassination Doesn't Work

Assassination rarely works the way assassins think it would - if they think at all.

I saw the above comic online and thought it made a good point.  The idea of going back in time and killing baby Hitler and avoiding WWII and the Holocaust seems like a swell one.  My Mother, growing up in the 1930's said she wanted to, as a child, travel to Germany and kill Hitler and change the world.  But I think that might not have worked out the way she planned.

Suppose Hitler was admitted to art school?  Would that have altered the rise of fascism in Germany - and worldwide?  Because today we see the same trend toward authoritarianism in country after country, from the US to the UK, France, Turkey, India, Russia - you-name-it, chances are, there is a right-wing faction on the rise in whatever country you can think of.  Recent elections in France and the UK seem to give hope to the idea that people are fed up with the far right.  We'll see.

But killing political leaders (or trying to)?  That rarely seems to effect the change the assassin wanted, if they indeed wanted change.  In fact, it seems to achieve opposite goals.

The most notable thing about assassins is that for the most part they are mentally ill people with no real agenda, or an agenda that is based on insanity.  For example, the man who shot James A. Garfield was basically insane and thought the President had stiffed him our of a job or something.  There was no real political thought involved, just a nut with a gun.

The same could be said for John Wilkes Booth - shooting Lincoln after the war was over to no real effect.  Kennedy was shot by a guy who went to Russia, came back, and was sort of a layabout.  Not sure what the political motive was there, either - unless you believe the conspiracy theories.  Squeaky Fromme?  Crazy.  The guy who shot Reagan?  Nutzo.  In most cases, the people plotting assassinations are just whack-jobs, not politically motivated people with carefully laid plans.

There are exceptions, of course.  Some senior officers, late in the war, tried to assassinate Hitler, too little, too late.  It was a carefully planned (but poorly executed) attempt, and the end result was a purge of the military and a retrenchment by Hitler to commit to utter destruction.  The assassination attempt achieved the opposite of its goals.

Often, an assassination or an attempt will create sympathy for the victim and allow others to use the tragedy to enact the policies the victim supported.  In the aftermath of the Kennedy assassination, much of the "Great Society" legislation was passed in part, to honor him.  Reagan bounced back from his assassination attempt with greater approval ratings than before.  As his surgeon said, "Sir, today we're all Republicans!"

In other instances, nothing changes as the result of an assassination or attempt. As the cartoon above illustrates, even if Hitler wasn't around, the Nazi party would still have had influence over Germany and perhaps Ernst Röhm or Goebbles or Göring would have taken his place. While authoritarian dictatorships are a cult of personality, the personality can be swapped-out to a successor or an interloper.  In fact, that is probably the only time assassination works out for anyone - when a wanna-be dictator kills off his predecessor and assumes power.

Assassination can create a power vacuum as well.  We thought getting rid of Saddam Hussein would somehow turn Iraq into a democratic nation founded on freedom.  We thought getting rid of the Taliban in Afghanistan would liberate the Afghani people.  But faced with the ability to vote for the first time, many people choose to vote to outlaw voting and install another authoritarian government.  Nation-building has to come from within.

It is hard to say how the assassination attempt on Trump will change things.  No doubt the Trumpers will still thump for Trump. Those alarmed by his authoritarian diatribes will not switch parties based on the attempt.  I doubt it will create a sympathy effect other than to bolster the faithful.

If the shooter hadn't missed, what would have happened?  It is hard to say, but a State Funeral in the Capital along with a procession to Arlington Cemetery would no doubt have captivated the nation.  And maybe that would have translated to a sympathy vote for his successor - whoever that would have been.  But predicting "what ifs" is a tricky business.

People are always looking for reasons - motivations, manifestos, tweets, or e-mails that will explain things nice and neatly. Failing that, people will make up motivations so they can compartmentalize these things in their mind.  There had to be a cause-and-effect!   But causation is illusory.  Oftentimes, these are merely random events, a crazy young man with muddled motives and a gun.  And that is a scary thought - that at any moment, something bad could happen to any of us.

Perhaps the only real effect of this assassination attempt is to expose the utter hypocrisy of the GOP.  The same people who laughed when Gabby Giffords was shot, or made crude jokes when Nancy Pelosi's husband was attacked by a nut with a hammer, are now all "special snowflakes" crying "how dare you?" when someone makes an off-color joke.  Worse yet, the party decrying "cancel culture" is patrolling the Internet looking for offense and getting teachers and even Home Depot clerks fired, for making the same sort of jokes they made about Giffords or Pelosi, in order to "own the libs."

The hypocrisy is showing. Even worse is the utter cowardice shown by those on the left, when confronted with this.  Jack Black, not wanting to jeopardize the money-train that is the "Kung-Fu Panda" franchise (now four movies and five short films - how is that possible?), threw his band-mate under the bus and dissolved the band to boot.  Too late, Black realizes it wasn't enough, as the right has tagged him with the comments and won't let that go, because he has been on their enemies list for some time now.

Doing the "right thing" when it comes to Nazis, only seems to benefit Nazis.  The same can be said to be true for Trumpers - although the Venn diagram for those two groups overlaps considerably. Trumpers never have to apologize for their death threats, off-color jokes, or promises of retribution.  It is only the left that must humble themselves before the right, as they are shamed and vilified.  This is not a new phenomenon, either:
"Never believe that anti-Semites are completely unaware of the absurdity of their replies. They know that their remarks are frivolous, open to challenge. But they are amusing themselves, for it is their adversary who is obliged to use words responsibly, since he believes in words. The anti-Semites have the right to play. They even like to play with discourse for, by giving ridiculous reasons, they discredit the seriousness of their interlocutors. They delight in acting in bad faith, since they seek not to persuade by sound argument but to intimidate and disconcert. If you press them too closely, they will abruptly fall silent, loftily indicating by some phrase that the time for argument is past.”
― Jean-Paul Sartre

Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Mental Illness And Guns Are A Bad Mix!

No real mystery as to what happened.

I have noted before, time and time again, that trying to get "the latest news" is not only pointless, but bound to be wildly inaccurate.  No one knows what is going on or what went on, during a mass shooting or a three-alarm-fire or an earthquake or hurricane or whatever.  Wild unsubstantiated reports abound and are amplified by a news media hungry to be "first with the news" and have an "exclusive."

Sadly, it has been shown that first impressions tend to dominate people's minds - and the news cycle.  So the "Atlanta Bomber" is misidentified as a security guard and his life is ruined.  The same thing happened with the Boston Marathon bomber - the wrong guy was fingered and it is only a  miracle that some online nut job didn't lynch him.

A day later, a week later, a month later, a year later - a decade later - we find out the truth.  The two kids who shot up Columbine High School were mentally ill with access to guns.  That's it.  No compelling backstory or "manifesto" or motive.  No "trench coat mafia" or hunt for Christian students - but today if you ask most people, they will say it was one or both.

Mentally ill people plus guns - it pretty much explains most, if not all, mass shootings and murders and other forms of mayhem.

In this most recent example, some on the Right were quick to capitalize on it - including Trump's now-VP pick - that Biden somehow "ordered" an assassination through violent rhetoric.  But of course, Trump has never advocated for violence against his enemies, rather he has promised it.  Other Republican operatives speculated it was a Chinese agent, an illegal immigrant, an "Antifa" activist (thank you very much, MTG!) or a transgender person.  All of course, were wrong.

In the days since the shooting, which left a fireman and father dead, it has emerged that the shooter wasn't some expert marksman, but rather a troubled young man whose Dad decided to buy him a gun (or at the very least, leave it unsecured) in an echo of the Sandy Hook shootings.  The kid started out as a Democrat in 2017, but quickly jumped on the Trump train, often making himself a target of bullying by espousing conservative views.  He followed a YouTube channel of a "second amendment" promoter and even bought "merch" from him - and was wearing it when the shooting happened.  Ironically, he was not allowed to join the rifle club at school because of his poor aim.  I suspect there is a real reason he wasn't allowed to join.  After all, don't you join something like that to get better at aiming?

But what is puzzling is why a registered Republican and avowed conservative would shoot at the party's nominee.  And the answer is simple: Mental Illness and Guns.  They don't mix well.

UPDATE: The Wikipedia page linked above has been recently edited to say that there are "conflicting accounts" as to his political views.  Let the spin-cycle begin!  By the end of the week, he will be listed as a BLM and Antifa member.  Truth is elastic these days!

Our "founding fathers" put the second amendment in the Constitution so that an "well-regulated militia" could be forms.  Note the word, "regulated."

I don't think the authors of the Bill of Rights envisioned that this clause would encompass the "right" of an insane neighbor to own a cannon and take pot-shots at people he didn't like.  Only those eligible for the "well-regulated militia" would have the right to own reasonable firearms.  And in that era, well, the eligible didn't include minorities or women - and certainly not the insane.

Organizations like the NRA have pushed for lax restrictions - or no restrictions - on gun ownership, going so far as to advocate for gun ownership for the mentally ill or those who have a history of violence.  The Supreme Court seems to have cleared the way for this, other than to comment that someone with a history of domestic violence might be restricted from owning a gun.  No problem - he just buys one at a gun show!

The problem, of course, is to determine who is and isn't mentally ill - and how to track them in this era of HIPPPA where patient's rights trump everything else.  And even in situations where people clearly should not have been allowed to buy firearms, these folks somehow fell through the cracks, resulting in many deaths.

But why would a Republican shoot a Republican?   As some have pointed out, the man who shot John Lennon was a fan of his - at one time - before finding Jesus (and losing his mind).  What motivated this young man to go after Trump is anyone's guess and in the long run it doesn't matter what the specific motivation was.

Because the actual cause was mentally ill with guns.

Thursday, July 11, 2024

Free Money Samples At The Bank!

Are banks giving away free money?  Sometimes - but with a catch!

I wrote before how Capital One offered us a deal if we opened a money market account and deposited $10,000 into it.  If we left the money there for a few months, they would give us $200.  Since we have to take money from our 401(k) every year to live on, it was an easy matter to deposit $10,000 each into these money market accounts and score $200 in free cheese.

Recently, Capital One was at it again - offering me $250 if I would set up a checking account with them and direct deposit at least $1000 within 75 days.   Again, since I have to transfer money from my IRA to my spending accounts anyway, it was a simple matter to set up the checking account and make two $500 transfers.  At the end of 75 days, well, I had $125 plus some change (interest) in the account. Free money samples at the bank!

Well, I thought that was pretty swell.  After all, what has Bank of America done for me lately, other than funneling about $75 a month back to me in "rewards" for using the credit card.  Oh, right, Capital One has the same deal.  Competition in the marketplace - to score the better customers, that is.

So I was a little surprised at Capital One's latest gag.  They offered me $250 $350 (upgraded!) if I would get a Capitol One Quicksilver card and charge at least $500 on it in 60 days.  A few trips to the gas station and our health insurance premiums should about cover $500 in 60 days, so, why not?

It was a bit of a PITA to unlock my credit score with the three agencies (I wish lenders would just tell you which one they use!).  If you don't log in regularly, well, your password may have expired and the reset mechanisms are clunky.  Nevertheless, within a half-hour or so, I was approved for the card.

Why is Capital One doing this?  Well, in a way it is like encouraging a compulsive gambler to gamble.  The credit card has a trap associated with it - 25% interest or more!  And no interest until 2025 on new purchases!  For a gambler, this is pure uncut cocaine.  For me, it is a chance to score $350 if I am careful.

Like I said, I plan on spending the money anyway - but not carrying a balance, of course.  So the deadly trap of compound interest should be avoided.  Nevertheless, it is a trap and it can bite almost anyone.  For the salary slave, it is temping to run up charges and pay them off later.   Zero interest?  Play the float, right?  Then they get laid off and that 25% interest (as high as 29.8% depending on your credit score!) kicks in and you can never pay it back - well, you can, but it may take years.

They count on you being weak - the cater to your weaknesses.  They market to your weaknesses.  I mentioned before - more than once - that they are not giving out free money samples at the bank, now or ever.  What they are doing here is baiting me to spend.  And while "stealing the cheese" is tempting to do, one has to be very, very astute about such things, or you could end up like a rat in a trap.

Of course, many of these better offers are only offered to better customers.  With a credit score of over 800, I don't need or want credit - so they offer me these deals.  The working single Mom who is behind on her bills and paying bounce fees to the bank really needs a deal like the ones they offer me but rarely get them.  Or, if they do, it is just a shovel with which to bury themselves.

I read all the time online, pleas from young people who distrust and hate banks.  And I understand that sentiment from when I was young as well, and banks were always trying to fuck me over - or so it seemed.  They had all the money - they had all the cards.  I was a mere supplicant, begging for scraps and crumbs.  And many young people (as well as immigrants) have an unnatural fear of banks which causes them to make even worse financial decisions, such as being un-banked or using payday loan outlets.

When you don't need or want the good deals, that is when they offer them to you - they know that you need to be enticed financially to engage.  The poor and middle-class have no choice - so why offer them anything?  The system rewards the rewarded and punishes the punished.

Yea, it sucks.  But from the bank's point of view, the poorer the borrower, the more likely they are to default, so rates and charges are figured accordingly.  On the other hand, someone like Trump can walk away from paying anything to anybody and for some reason the banks accept this and do a workout.

Again, the system is unfair - the richest should be held accountable more than the poorest.  But it works the opposite way, and since bankruptcy reform was enacted, well, it is darn hard to weasel out of debts anymore - if you are poor.

But of course, I will snag the free money if I can.  It is a simple matter of using this new card for our trip this summer and then paying it off with the money I put in their checking account - and then closing all of the accounts!

That, of course, is not what they were hoping I would do!

UPDATE: Or maybe they don't care - but were hoping I would write about it in my blog!

Saturday, July 6, 2024

AI Invades Real Estate!

Why is this condo badly photo-shopped with AI to make it look like a Dentist's waiting room?

I get these mailings from Real Estate Agents all the time, hinting that they want to sell my condo.  I may take them up on this, too little, too late. We hung onto the condo because three developers promised to buy us out and demolish the place and build anew, paying us what was, at the time, a premium price for our units.

But then the real estate market took off and "premium price" became reasonable price and then the developers got cold feet because interest rates went up and financing got sketchy and all three of the developers decided to put the project on hold for the time being.  Now I see prices have started to drop - slightly - for some of these units.  The time to sell was last year.  And this is in the hot DC market, too!

But what tickled my fancy was a mailing for a unit just sold with the above photo.  I am not sure what Indian Photo-shopping farm or AI did this, but other than the ceiling, the rest of the photo is made up - badly.  Check out the Escher-esque laptop on the right side.  Salvador Dali couldn't do better!

The artwork on the walls in all photos is a variation on the same generic theme.  The furniture appears to be all faked-in.  It makes the place look nicer than it is. And apparently this is all legal.

Mark tells me that inserting furniture into an empty property through "virtual staging" is no different than putting in actual rented furniture - at least according to the Real Estate association.  Some agents even photoshop a fire in the fireplace to make it look more homey - which I guess is all right if the fireplace is actually functional.  Otherwise that would be misrepresentation.

But I think this is a slippery slope.  Putting actual furniture in a room and taking a photo is one thing, photo-shopping or using AI to insert furniture might make the place seem bigger than it is (as these photos seem to do) and hide defects like stains in the carpet, holes in the walls, etc.

Then you have photos like this - where chairs seem to come with their own square of carpet, and what appears to have once been a dining area or den is turned into some sort of ersatz office, complete with diagonal laptops.

Having owned in this development for over 25 years, and having been in at last a dozen or more of these units (that either friends lived in or Mark sold) I can say with authority that these pictures exaggerate the size of the units and their layout a bit.  Granted, if you actually inspect the unit, you would see reality and be aware of what you are buying.  But while not common, some homes are bought "sight unseen"  as our present residence was, by the original owners, when it was still under construction in 1970.

Buyer beware. Caveat Emptor.  What you see on the Internet has nothing to do with reality and with AI, well, it is getting more unreal every day.

Maybe it is time to get rid of doctored photos, punched-up colors, personal "filters", and AI-voices.  At the very least there should be a prominent disclaimer that what you are seeing is not real.

And I suspect that will never happen in my lifetime!

UPDATE:  The listing includes "real" pictures (no word on camera angle and lens - it looks distorted) which illustrate why they photo-shopped.  Gray walls do not photograph well!

Wednesday, July 3, 2024

Lower Prices Are Here - But You Have To Choose Them!

People can't complain about high prices and them pay them without looking into alternatives.

Economists are an odd bunch.  In their perfect theoretical world, everyone pays the most they are willing to pay for an item.  The poor man buys a stripped Chevy Biscayne, while the wealthier man buys a nice Oldsmobile.  Both are essentially the same car and cost about the same to make (and are often made on the same assembly line).  One has a nicer "trimmed" interior, which costs a lot less than you imagine.

Consider the 1972 Olds Regency.  The story goes that for Oldsmobile's anniversary, they wanted to make a special edition.  They gave the designers a budget of a few hundred dollars per car (some say as little as $100!) to gussy it up.  Simply by choosing different fabrics and trim materials, they made the inside of the car look on par with a Cadillac.  And it worked, too - and the model became a regular part of the product line in subsequent years.

Cars, computers, food, housing, clothing, music - you name it - if there is a consumer product (and those are all consumer products) there is a wide range in pricing.  There are also less expensive "alternatives" to most goods, if they are deemed too expensive.  If enough people seek out alternatives, prices of the more expensive goods may come down.  Supply and demand.

And sometimes this results in ridiculous outcomes.  During the late 1970's and early 1980's, inflation was running 10% or more and interest rates for mortgages topped 14%.  I was there.  People turned to cheaper alternatives for food - the mac-and-cheese box was popular, as was peanut butter.  The whole "generic" product craze took off (see above photo) and then fizzled within a couple of years.

So many people bought peanut butter that a shortage developed and the price went up as a result (supply and demand, right?).  People took to hoarding it and bought even more, driving the price up further.  It got so ridiculous that you could buy hamburger for less money.  Well, maybe not exactly, but people lost sight of why they were buying peanut butter in the first place.

It reminds me, in a way, of the chicken wing craze.  It was a part of the chicken often thrown away, so you deep fry it and douse it in a 50:50 mixture of butter (substitute) and hot sauce and wa-la, you have the perfect bar food - so cheap you could give it away and make back your money in beer sales.  The fad took off and eventually the cost-per-pound for chicken wings exceeded that of breast meat, at least for a time.  Supply and demand!

Even things that seem inelastic, like housing or health care, have alternatives.  If you can't afford an apartment by yourself, get a roommate (or better yet, a life partner) and split the cost in half.  Worked for me, for 36 years!  (There are other benefits as well, of course).  Younger people live with parents and save up for housing.  There are alternatives to the "two bedroom, two bath" apartment that the Antifarts claim a person working at McDonald's should be able to afford (I guess the second bedroom becomes the gaming room).

Or health care.  If you are poor or just don't like to spend money, you may look for cheaper or free alternatives, such as your local health department, which may provide free or low-cost care.  Or, like an optician's assistant I once met, who flew his wife to South America for a two-week vacation and gall bladder operation.  It cost $5000 or about 1/10th the cost of the procedure in America.

Of course, when the Ambulance arrives, you can't opt for a South American vacation.  There are limits to economic theory.

But getting back to McDonald's I mentioned earlier, I experienced elastic or marginal pricing firsthand today.  We were working on the camper in the storage shed and it was only 95 degrees out and 95% humidity.  It was awful. So we took a break and thought, "let's grab something to eat!"  We had a lot of choices.  We could have had the foresight to make food ahead of time.  Mark makes a chicken (or tuna) salad-salad by mixing a can of the meat with a pre-made salad mix, in the Cuisinart, with a little mayo.  Serve it as a sandwich or spread on a cracker - less than $2 per person.

But we didn't have the foresight to do that.  We could have gone to the Winn-Dixie for something, but their "grab-n-go" items are no real bargain.  Mark suggested the Burger King located at a nearby Truck Stop.  I walked in and was appalled to see that a medium french fries was $5.  There were no "value menu" items or the two-for-$5 Whopper Juniors.  So I left.  Down the street was McDonald's.

A sandwich and fries and drink there was over $10 as a "meal" - but on the Kiosk under the "deals" were "McBundles" which included a double cheeseburger or chicken sandwich and a small fries and a four-piece McNugget and a small drink, for five dollars even.  I ordered two, not realizing it included the McNuggets.  Lunch for two for $10.70 or about what the people in the drive-thru were paying for one meal for one person.

50% off and all you have to do is take the time to explore the menu and look at alternative choices.  When I walked out of Burger King (where there was quite a line and I suspect I would have been there for a half-hour as it was a dysfunctional BK) people were just standing there like deer in the headlights, with their wallets out, paying $15 for a fast-food meal.  I just don't get it.

These are the same people bitching about high prices and saying "It's all Biden's fault!"  No, it is not.  So long as you pay top dollar for things you don't really need (and fast-food is not a need, but a want) then they will keep charging higher and higher prices until you stop buying.  There is nothing in the economy that is causing these prices to go up - any longer, at least.  Corporations are raking in record profits and CEOs are paying themselves staggering bonuses and stock options.

Because they can.  So long as you go along with this, they keep making more money - at your expense.

Once again, it is the conspiracy of 330 Million people, just like back in 2008.  No one put a gun to anyone's head back then and said, "buy this overpriced mini-mansion on a toxic payment-optional liar's loan!"  No, people did this voluntarily and then laughed at me for having a modest "paid-for" house.  When it all blew up in their face, they cried for government bailouts - and some even got them.  Most did not.

As "consumers" we have more power than we think we do.  Our spending choices on a daily basis drive the market, not vice-versa.  That's why companies pay so much to put advertising in front of our faces - hoping to drive us to spend on things we don't need or want, that are overpriced.

I digress, but for some reason on all the streaming channels that show commercials,  I am seeing ads for laundry detergents and air fresheners, all starring minorities, usually black folks.  Am I missing something?  Is there some fear they are tapping into in the black community that people are afraid they stank?  Or are these soap companies being blatantly racist by implying they are?  All I know is, the selling point is your house stinks and they never show white folks in the ads.

Then again, my router shows my location as "Atlanta, GA" so maybe the algorithm assumes I am black.  Half the ads I get are on Spanish, and I think that is because I listen to Latin music on occasion.  Great work, AI!  You have me pegged as a Black/Hispanic man living in Atlanta, who fears his laundry smells bad.  Companies are paying dearly for this accurate demographic information!

I am also seeing ads (again, usually with minorities, this time, Asians) touting the idea of using underarm deodorants all over your body, even in your private parts!  They show you how!  While I am eating dinner!  Worse yet are ads for shavers for private parts, again with demonstrations on how to use!  When did this become acceptable?

But I digress.  Screw the algorithm!

It is possible to live with less. When the X5 hit 150,000 miles or so, we started looking for a replacement. And we bought a Nissan Frontier SV ("Special Value!") model, which was their mid-range model.  It wasn't "trimmed" as fancy as the SX range, or indeed, our old X5, but it got us to Alaska and back and was (and is) a sturdy little truck.  I still see it on the road from time to time, as a neighbor bought it.

The point is, we have choices.  And while the King Ranch is nice and all, we could have spent less money on a more plebeian Lariat and been just as content. Today, I would be looking at a lesser-optioned model.  At least we bought it used and before the prices skyrocketed during the pandemic.

Ah, yes, the pandemic - where all this "shortage" and "inflation" nonsense started. People panicked and started hoarding toilet paper and bottled water for some reason, and - supply and demand - prices went up.  This did not go unnoticed by other industries.  Creating a fake "shortage" or piggy-backing off a real one allowed companies to raise prices on everything from food to clothing to automobiles to - whatever.  They even claimed there was a shortage of french fries!  But I think that was made-up.

Prices are elastic and so is consumption.  At Sam's Club, they had beautiful cherries for sale for $5.99 for two quarts.  Mark bought some.  We went back a week later and they were now $10.99!   I guess they were hoping we would not notice.  So he bought strawberries instead, for $5.99.  There are alternatives, if you shop around and check prices and keep an idea of what is a "fair" price for various items, in your head.  Today, with your cell phone, you can check competitor's prices (and availability) online. Few choose to do so.

Oddly enough (or not so oddly) we have a regular shopping routine that involves visiting a number of stores.  We go to, say, Sam's Club for cheap coffee (whole bean) which you just can't get at Walmart (which sells only ground coffee or "Keurig" cartridges - ugh!).  The local liquor store has a great price on Juame Sera Christalino (even the pink kind!) for $6.99 a bottle.  Sam's Club only has sweet wines and $20-and-up decent wines.  Walmart's "Winemaker's Select" is $5 and less for some pretty decent table wines, including a lightly sweet Cava. Dollar Tree has low prices on cleaning supplies and napkins - but not paper towels or toilet paper (Sam's Club for that).  Walmart simply doesn't have seltzer, or if they do, at a staggering price.  Winn-Dixie usually has it for far less - if you buy it by the case. We've learned, over time, where to buy what, where, and when.  Not checking prices is simply not an option.

And sure, it is fun to splurge once in a while.  We live in a resort community and they charge resort prices here.  I was chagrined the other day when we stopped for an ice cream cone at the Jekyll Island Club and it was $9 a cone (!!).  That is still better than the frozen yogurt place that charged by the pound, self-serve.  You fill a bowl with this goo and put it on the scale and realize you just spent $20 on frozen sugar.  We went once with out-of-town guests.  It's for the tourists.

But we find fun things that others do not.  They re-opened the beach pavilion, a run-down shack by the beach that just oozes Old Key West vibes.  You can get peel-and-eat wild Georgia shrimp (caught right off the beach - you can see 'em do it!) and a cold beer for not too much money,  And it ain't crowded, either.  That's our new favorite dive, after they closed the Martini bar at the Holiday Inn.  Gotta change with the times!

All that being said, I suspect the economy will take a turn in the coming months - and people will finally start looking more closely at prices, if they not already are.  The fact that McDonald's offers these "deals" and Burger King has a two-for-five (at participating locations only!) is one proof that people are indeed, looking for bargains.  But you have to look for them.  They don't advertise them much!

And that is the point of elastic or marginal pricing schemes - a product priced for every purse and purpose!

If you want prices to come down, spend less!