Category Archives: Social Issues

Honolulu Car Rental Price Gouging

I got an email about this from my friend in Hawaii. It seems with the return of tourism to Oahu (which had been down 90% for almost the entire pandemic), that the demand for rental cars has gone through the roof compared to availability.

No doubt the car rental offices were selling off their fleets to help cover operating costs during the pandemic. Now that it’s ended, their short sighted move has caught them flat footed. In typical predatory capitalism fashion they’ve decided to charge over $700 a DAY for basic rentals and over $1000 if you want a convertible:

$1,000 a day to rent a car? Low supply, surging demand are pushing up prices in Hawaii (hawaiinewsnow.com)

Normally, I’m quite pro-capitalism. I understand that TO A DEGREE, supply and demand are going to factor into cost. Doing so covers the cost of increasing the supply to meet demand.

HOWEVER… Where do we draw the line in this kind of instance? Where does the law of supply and demand become predatory capitalism? I’m not sure I have an EXACT answer there, BUT, 10x the normal going rate would seem to be across that line. We rented a Mustang GT convertible a year and a half ago for our honeymoon and only paid $100 a day, which is still pricey compared to most other locations.

Wouldn’t an ethical business simply go out and buy some cars from local dealerships to increase their fleet size? At $100 a day rental rate, the car loan note can be paid for on 5 days of rental per month.

Just because you CAN do something doesn’t make it right. Look at the price hikes on insulin as another example. Somewhere along the lines the idea of business ethics got flushed and replaced with the SHORT SIGHTED idea that the only duty a business had was to provide as much short term profit as possible to it’s investors. If one has NO ability to ponder consequences, that sounds great also. In the long term though, it destroys a business’s reputation and customer loyalty. Look at Banks and Airlines as two other examples. They’re both hated.

Worse, these greedy businesses are only fueling the call for Socialism or outright Communism by people who don’t understand these are even worse alternatives.

Where Do You Draw The Line?

Yes, I’ve been away for a few days here, but trying to at least answer followed posts. I’ve been dealing with the fallout of yet another battle with my mother. I’ve tried for years to get along with her, and when she gave me her wedding (ring) set, I’d hoped we’d truly rounded a corner in a lifetime long shitty relationship.

Image from depedkto12.blogspot.com

This time around, it was over my spinal problems and how I’m supposedly not doing anything to contribute to the household here. I’ve shown the woman my first MRI report from years back, tried to explain it over and over for almost a decade, and she refuses to accept any of it. At best, I should just got get surgery because I have insurance. As if it’s that simple.

After dropping hints repeatedly, trying to explain the problem and it’s side effects, etc… I finally had enough after our last phone call. I snapped and sent her a fairly strongly worded email saying I was sick of it, and if she spent not even half the time she did researching my grandfather’s alzheimers, she’d know what I’ve been going through. Also that I was sick of her efforts to bully me and destroy my self respect.

Her response was that “maybe we shouldn’t talk anymore since she always seems to piss me off”. Typical emotional manipulation and playing the victim card. If she’d listened the countless other times I tried to explain it all, it never would have hit the point it did.

I shouldn’t be surprised. She reacts poorly to any criticism. I’ve cut her out of my life for years at a time on two previous occasions too. This is the woman who ripped into me verbally if I brought home a B and had my first step dad beat me for Cs while I was in school. When I went to college, I was supposed to take double a full time load and work full time at a “real” job. I got crucified for any little mistake to the point I went from a major extrovert in elementary school to an isolationist level introvert from about the fourth grade on.

Oh yes, and I was told I was too much of a wimp to go take martial arts so I could learn to defend myself from all the bullies that I attracted. Belts in 6 styles later (Shou Shu Chi, Tae Kwon Do, American Sport Karate, Parker Kenpo, Tracy Kenpo and Wing Chun), I guess she can kiss my ass on that one.

Never got any credit for it either after I’d achieved it.

At this point, I want to just tell her “Fine, kiss off!”.

All the self doubt she beat into me over the years always seems to factor into situations like this though. *I* should be doing more, I should do something different, word things better, be more understanding.

She’ll quickly point out this verbal abuse goes back generations also and blame her behavior on that. It’s as close as she comes to taking responsibility. Otherwise she just blames me for not tolerating it.

I’ve worked hard to grow the last few years. Longer than that really, but it’s been a snowball; slowly picking up momentum and mass. Every time I start to do better, she seems to want to throw a boulder into my calm pond. I’m at a breaking point here, or rather the relationship is.

So, yeah… When is enough enough? Because where I’m sitting right now:

Re-Farmer’s Kitty Still Needs YOU!

I reblogged a post a couple of days ago about Re-farmer‘s cat Ginger who broke a leg and is in need of surgery.

Picture of Ginger, ruthlessly bootlegged from Re-Farmer’s blog.

The MINIMUM it’s going to cost is $1300 Canadian. She’s trying to raise money to help cover the bill via Ko-Fi donation site. Thus far, she’s only raised 43% of the minimum cost. Canadian dollars are lower than U.S. dollars too, so even a single Dollar or Euro donated goes farther then it would at home. Yes, you can donate that little also, and with no service charge

Re-Farmer and her husband are on a fixed income, so this is a case of legitimate need, NOT somebody who wastes cash and wants others to clean up their mess. If she didn’t need it, she would not have asked.

If every reader donated just that single dollar, Ginger would be well on his way to having his surgery. We bloggers are a community, so I’m asking all of you to pull together and help, even if it is just $1.

I Got Stabbed on St Patrick’s Day!

with a vaccination needle. Nothing like a dramatic headline to get attention though. 😀 It works for the media. 😛

Being married to a diabetic with a heart murmur pushes both of us a little further up the priority list for getting the vaccine, it seems. We were told a few weeks ago that our group was now open for getting the vaccine, and we managed to snag an opening yesterday.

For the record, I’m still a bit wary about the vaccine and if it may have some long term side effects, etc… Given the high risk in the household though, I figure it’s best to play it safe and hope for the best as opposed to waiting and watching a while longer.

Thus far I have not spouted goblin ears, nor started ranting that Biden is too conservative, so it SEEMS some of the fears regarding it are unfounded, LOL

In fact, the only issues from the vaccine thus far were a bit of soreness at the injection site, and some fatigue. I’m not even sure how much of the fatigue was from the vaccine either given that I only got about 5 hours sleep the night before. I used to thrive on that level, now I’m old and get cranky without 7 or 8. 😀

We got the version from my least favorite scumbag megacorporation also:

That means, among other things, we’ll have to go back for a second shot. April 7th is the soonest we can do so, and that will probably require another appointment. I suppose the bright side is that we’re not getting as heavy a dose as the single dose versions, which theoretically means less chances of some of the body aches and other symptoms after getting the shot.

Interesting note also… We got vaccine cards showing we were vaccinated along with the vaccine manufacturer and lot number, AND expiration date. MUCH was made of how short a shelf life this vaccine has, and how the previous administration bungled so much around it (which is partially true). The lot we were given though doesn’t expire for over 3 months:

If you listened to the news, you’d easily get the impression this stuff has a shelf life of days, if not hours. There you see it though; Expires June 30, 2021.

Need I even get back on my “media bias and hysteria for ratings” soapbox? Didn’t think so. 🙂

ANYWAY… The whole vaccine site was weird. They needed an area that could serve as a LONG LONG drive through basically. They chose a hiking trail park in the hills at the edge of town:

There yah go; rednecks don’t take COVID serious. Just ask the news.

The whole park was a long narrow hairpin going back miles in one direction and then swinging back around and heading right back to the entrance. We drove so far down the road I was starting to joke they wanted a spot to hide the bodies more easily.

About 1/3 of the way back, we hit the big drive through tent and got our shots. The 20 minutes we were supposed to wait afterwards was taken up just getting to the last checkpoint before the exit. We had a 1pm appointment and got out of the park at 2:40pm.

Oh and did I mention the off and on monsoon level rain all day?

We’re going on 14 hours now and so far no real symptoms or side effects at all beyond mild annoyance at the thought of enduring that line again. So much for the doomsayers. Of course, if I start to turn into a chicken or a goat, I’ll be sure to let folks know. 😛

As you saw, the line to get a shot was crazy long also, and apparently stays that way. I see more folks than I’d like without masks, BUT people are taking it seriously. Even the “poor dumb people” down in the South.

Pfizer Planning on COVID Vaccine Price Hike

And I sometimes ask myself why I despise megacorporations….

Yes, you read the headline correctly. Per Business Week, Pfizer execs told investors there was a “significant opportunity” to hike the price of its vaccine.

They also said that it was possible that people would need a third dose to combat emerging variants of the virus, AND that yearly booster shots might also be needed. THAT, I can understand. Such is the nature of rapidly mutating viruses.

However, per the article, once the pandemic downgrades to just an epidemic with smaller hot spots breaking out here and there around the globe, Pfizer thinks that they will have room to boost the price of their vaccine.

Haven’t we seen enough Zaibatsu profiteering in the pharmaceutical industry already? Look at how the price of insulin has skyrocketed as one example:

I respect that businesses exist to make a profit. I’m generally very pro-business Crap like raising the price 700% on insulin that hasn’t changed at all in that time however? NO! Even more so when there were stories and pictures of one of the insulin companies executives proud as hell that he had done it.

Now Pfizer wants to do the same thing with a product they got government (ie taxpayers; the people they’re selling it to) help to create?!?

I’m bringing back my call to have people caned and flogged.

Another Lesson in Why I Hate the Media

Some of my longer term readers may remember my posts almost a year ago where I supplied stories from multiple news services about how the Wuhan Institute of Virology was reported to be an unsafe wreck, and almost certainly responsible for the worldwide COVID-19 outbreak. The main post with those links was about media bias in general, but here are the links to the actual Wuhan stories:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/04/14/state-department-cables-warned-safety-issues-wuhan-lab-studying-bat-coronaviruses/

https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/06/asia/coronavirus-china-wuhan-lab-origins-explainer-intl-hnk/index.html

https://www.thedailybeast.com/leaked-cable-shows-us-officials-flagged-safety-issues-at-wuhan-lab-years-ago

My point in the earlier post was that the media in general was more interested in discrediting the Trump Administration than reporting the truth. Wuhan was called a hoax, the lab was (not) imaginary, and we were told it was all racism and xenophobia.

Well, guess what? NOW, we have the media reporting the news of the 2018 reported unsafe conditions at the Wuhan labs as if it’s a brand new story. EVERYBODY on the Right and Left is jumping on it. Even Fox, who banged the drum pretty hard on the story while trying to defend Trump, is treating it like something new:

https://www.foxnews.com/world/top-state-official-coronavirus-bioweapon-accident

https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2021/03/08/josh-rogin-chaos-under-heaven-wuhan-lab-book-excerpt-474322?utm_source=pocket-newtab

BTW, when every outlet from MSNBC to Fox is pushing the exact same angle, watch out! It means the entrenched swamp on both sides is all working together with the same goal. Conflict is coming.

This is NOT about Trump. The leadership (at the very least) of both sides should have known via national security briefings. Instead of doing anything before we had a global pandemic, they first chose to ignore it and then play political gamesmanship after all hell broke loose.

Was the media asking tough questions and getting to the bottom of anything? NO!

All the media did was help the bureaucracy point fingers at the other side and treat the public as idiots to be demagogued and lead around by the nose like idiots.

We the people need to start demanding better of our media; less bias and commentary, more hard facts and objective reporting. The media as it stands now is a biased, conflict driven joke. I pick usually on the “mainstream” media (as if Fox isn’t mainstream with it’s massive viewer base), but this time I’ll use an example from Fox.

THAT a headline to a story at their website.

Pig In A Blanket… REALLY. Is THAT “fair and balanced”? It’s nothing resembling proper journalism. It’s sensationalist, inflammatory red meat for the base, WWE level “color commentary“, and if Cuomo wasn’t such a creep, it’d be outright libel.

Is it REALLY so hard to just report the facts and allegations against him as they stand and give the public credit for the ability to draw it’s own conclusions on IF or how big a scumbag Cuomo is? Both sides do this all the time though, and Fox just spent FOUR YEARS bitching about how the rest of the media did to Trump EXACTLY what they’re doing here. Hypocrisy on all sides.

And the thing that irks me the most about the Wuhan story is that I successfully ignored the news for months only to see that damned story plastered EVERYWHERE.

I really hope people are getting fed enough enough to actually say “ENOUGH”.

How to Fix Social Media

A review of Parler on Renard’s website got me thinking about the mess that is social media

Image via SocialMediaExplorer.com

The bias, cliques and general toxic nature of it all has made me walk away from it entirely years ago. I’m still not sure a blog counts as social media, but this is it for me. 🙂

The reality though is that all social media platforms are EASY to fix. Easy in the sense that the solution is straight forward, but it does require work. What’s the answer? Simple:

Ages ago, back when the closest thing to social media was .vbb (virtual bulletin board – similar in form to reddit, although a little more primitive) discussion sites, I helped moderate one of the biggest ones out there. The code of conduct there was pretty straight forward. The biggest rule that we used to define Trolling and abusive behavior was:

You can debate the idea, but DO NOT attack the person making the post.

Examples (of somewhat obvious concepts):

Debate the Idea: “Tax cuts for the rich doesn’t result in them creating more jobs via reinvestment, they just horde wealth.” Controversial enough to be an example here.

Attack the Post Maker: “What kind of idiot believes that tax cuts actually help the economy?”

Do I even have to point out how one keeps the debate more focused and civil, while the other degenerates it into ad hominid personal attacks and childish name calling?

Why isn’t it done? Simple. None of the owners of these sites want to pay for moderators, and bots aren’t sophisticated enough to differentiate yet. They also avoid dealing with tantrums claiming bias if a human moderator shuts down a troll and their followers.

Yes, there’s political and (mostly) economic bias guiding these decisions also. They don’t want to take what will inevitably be a very large hit to their user bases via this rule. Personal experience has taught me that this is fairly short term though. People LOVE having the spotlight. Take it away from them, and they’ll rant and pout, but then come back and play within the rules MOST of the time because they want their stage and audience back.

The habitual rule breakers and one who will try to skirt the rules constantly… They’ll always be there, and will act even worse without that kind of rule in place.

Of course, there’s the other issue that has to be dealt with, and that takes a cultural shift: Back then, the common sense belief was that free speech and the ability to freely debate ideas was paramount.

Nowadays everybody wants to live in an echo chamber:

The biggest step to straightening out the internet and social media specifically is that the other side has a right to speak.

I’ll be blunt, if you have to resort to silencing dissenting voices via name calling, applying labels, trolling, attempting to get people banned or blocked, etc… In short, if your ideas can’t stand the light of open honest discussion, chances are you don’t understand them yourself.

Change that and implement the above rule along with a few other common sense ones (ie no advocating violence), and social media would change fairly quickly.

Economics: The Reality of the Minimum Wage

As much as I try, some news topics are really hard to avoid. The recent debate over the minimum wage is one of them. Shockingly, I see the same arguments every time the topic has come up since I started working back in the 80s.

I swore off of political discussion but this is a social and economic issue that has been turned political via class warfare politics. So, let’s talk the truth.

The biggest flawed argument is that raising the minimum wage doesn’t cause inflation. You can find all manner of jury-rigged charts and stats to support the lie also.

Reality is that any good or service has two main costs associated with it; parts and labor. If you raise the labor cost of labor one of three things is going to happen:

  1. The price of the final product has to be increased to cover it’s increased cost of production.
  2. You cut your labor pool and force more productivity out of each member
  3. You decrease the quality of the materials used to make the product.

If one or more of those things isn’t done, the company loses money and risks going out of business. Few people anymore seem to understand that a business has expense of it’s own that have to be paid for out of their gross profits.

Let’s use a restaurant for example. WAY WAY WAY back in the day when I worked at Burger King, the manager and I used to talk alot. He explained that the restaurant has to charge 3 times what the food costs the store to cover all their expenses. You MAY have heard Robert Irvine say the same thing on episodes of “Restaurant Impossible” when coaching the people he’s helping that episode.

What expenses you ask?

  1. Payroll to employees (Labor)
  2. Local State and Federal Payroll Taxes
  3. Mandatory Employer contribution to employee social security (ie more taxes)
  4. Unemployment Insurance (yes the money that you collect as unemployment is first paid to the government by your former employer)
  5. Employee Health Insurance (in some cases)
  6. Business License Fees
  7. Franchise Licensing Fees if part of a chain
  8. Property Taxes
  9. Mortgage on the building
  10. Upkeep on the Building
  11. Utilities (Electricity, Gas, Water and Sewer, Business Phone, Internet)
  12. The actual ingredients to make the food
  13. The utensils and cookware tom make the food
  14. Dishes, boxes, wrappers; however the food is served
  15. Cleaning supplies
  16. Employee uniforms

And doubtless some other things that I didn’t remember. All of that is why a hamburger that costs $1 in food costs has to be sold for $3. That amount allows the restaurant to cover expenses and make a modest amount of money. Remember the owner needs to pay himself also so he can pay his personal bills also.

The proof of inflation can actually be tracked via the that same hamburger restaurant idea. When I was first hired by right out of high school, the minimum wage was bumped from $2.85 an hour to $3.30 an hour.

What happened right after that? The price of a Burger King “Whopper” sandwich combo meal jumped slightly to $3.35. I cashiered, so the price stuck in my head, LOL.

The price of a combo meal at almost any fast food restaurant has stayed almost the exact same amount as the minimum wage also. The Federal minimum wage is currently $7.25 an hour. What does anything actually worth eating in terms of a combo meal cost? About $7.

Yes, you can get cheaper stuff, like the $5 specials that the low quality fast food places (McDonalds, Burger King, Taco Bell) run, but are any of those items worth eating? Typically, the ingredients are cheapened down to the point the food is barely edible. I joke about the typical fast food chicken nugget being made from ground up beaks and claws for example, LOL. Then they drown the junk in some cheap vinegary sauce and hope you don’t notice.

Reality is most fast food and quick serve places have cheapened all their menu item ingredients because they can’t get anyone to work for under $9 an hour but still have to keep prices down. So to balance profits they’re selling $5 meals for $7 and paying the employee $9 to make it.

It’s not just restaurants though. Everybody’s wages go up, so prices go up across the board. Net result, we have inflation and the little guy has no more buying or saving power despite the increase in income.

You can’t squeeze much more productivity out of the average worker either, so cutting labor and demanding more from those who remain isn’t a viable answer.

“Real” minimum wage in the above chart I’m assuming means the legal minimum wage adjusted for inflation / actual buying power as compared to the past. Note that it’s stayed moderately consistent while productivity has soared.

Some of that productivity is automation assisting jobs (which typically means fewer hands needed to do the same amount of work), and the rest is just employers demanding more from employees. Anybody recall being expected to fill multiple roles after the housing bubble burst, if you were lucky enough to keep a job?

The irony about all of this is that even Investopedia is full of double speak here and it’s typically a decent source of info for basic economic concepts:

With regard to inflation, so-called wage push inflation is the result from a general rise in wages. According to this hypothesis, in order to maintain corporate profits after an increase in wages, employers must increase the prices they charge for the goods and services they provide. The overall increased cost of goods and services has a circular effect on the wage increase; eventually, as goods and services in the market overall increase, higher wages will be needed to compensate for the increased prices of consumer goods.

So that’s what Ive been saying. But the next paragraph down in the article, they argue against that idea and that the only alternatives are cutting workers of quality of goods, BY SAYING THAT’S THE ONLY ALTERNATIVE!!!

According to economic analyst Ed Rensi, formerly an executive at McDonald’s, a higher minimum wage would not only kill existing jobs but also result in closing a substantial number of small businesses, from 15% to 20%. In theory, raising the minimum wage forces business owners to raise the prices of their goods or services, thereby spurring inflation. In actual practice, however, it is not so simple since wages are only one part of the cost of a product or service paid for by consumers. A higher minimum wage can be offset (ie inflation avoided) by heightened productivity by workers or trimming down a company’s manpower.

Are you getting the message yet, folks? You’re being scammed in an effort to buy votes when NOTHING will truly change.

Is There a Real Answer?

This one is harder to answer than it should be. The standard conservative answer is education. However, “everybody deserves a college degree” worked out as well as “everybody deserves a house”. There was so much graft, misrepresentation and sometimes lazy students, that we’re sitting on another economic time bomb with student debt. In an ideal world, education would be the answer. The more you know, the more you make. Flipping hamburgers could be left to kids in school or robots and everybody would go on to make a living wage at a “real job” as my mother used to call them.

Aside from the problem with needing to clean up the system, things are evolving so fast that training and education are often obsolete in 5 to 10 years, even some hard science advanced degrees. How does the average person keep up with that??

Then there’s the whole issue of jobs becoming increasingly replaced by automation as well. New York City has some fast food restaurants that are completely automated now (in response to their $15 per hour minimum wage no less). There’s even efforts to replace lawyers with robots. Good riddance there, LOL

People are becoming obsolete in general. The ultimate answer may be some form of universal income. That’s scary in how much power it gives the government over the lives of it’s citizens. I’m not even sure how it works as the idea goes completely against basic economics. Government doesn’t produce anything to create the wealth it wants to distribute in a universal income situation.

No, you can’t just infinitely print money either. It destroys the value of it. Think of it this way; If everybody had FIVE, (yes five) classic Mustangs like mine:

How much would ANYBODY be able to sell one for? ZERO. Even money itself operates under the law of supply and demand. The more there is of anything, the less it’s worth.

Answers? Wish I had some good ones. Right now, all I know is the dog and pony show in Washington is nothing but smoke and mirrors intended to buy votes. It’ll sadly work too.