Enterprise Rental Car Can Eat a Salted Bag of Dicks and I Hope They Choke on Them and They Leave a Bad Aftertaste

I just spent 13 hours driving to Dobson, North Carolina and then back. Why, you ask? Because Enterprise Rental Cars is a bunch of parasitic motherfuckers who should spend eternity tossing Satan’s salad.

Last night, on the way home from Florida after their vacation, Gerald, Landrea, and the kids hit a coyote around there, and it rammed the radiator into the engine and basically killed the car. It could still move, but Gerald knows a thing or two about cars and knew it should not be driven more or it would do more damage. So he pulled over and called Enterprise, who promptly told him to fuck off.

You see, Gerald and Landrea did not have roadside assistance included in their package, which they did not include because they have roadside assistance through AAA, something I am sure many of you have also done as you have it through AAA or your personal insurance. Apparently, though, Enterprise Rental Cars reads that to mean “sucks to be you, not our problem.” BTW, this was at about 10 o’clock at night in the middle of bumfuck nowhere, and I say bumfuck nowhere as someone from a town of 350 in West Virginia and who damned well knows a bumfuck nowhere when he sees it.

Enterprise told them that they would send a tow truck, but they would only be able to fit two people in the cab of the truck, so three of the people would just have to walk to the next exit. The kindly NC State Trooper who was already on the scene didn’t even let Gerald tell Enterprise to go fuck themselves before interjecting “That’s not going to happen.” Although one would think it is common knowledge that you do not leave three kids on the side of a major highway in the dark, this is apparently news to the good folks at Enterprise, whose twitter handle is, ironically, @enterprisecares.

So the cop made Gerald limp the car down the road to the next exit, and they stayed at the Hampton Inn and spent the wee hours trying to get a new car from Enterprise, seeing as how the current one was exploded and they had paid for a rental car through the 17th of July and it was, according to my math, ONLY THE FUCKING 14th. Enterprise gave no fucks and told them to pound sand.

Here’s the thing. They didn’t need roadside assistance. They did not have a flat tire. They did not have a dead battery. They had not locked the keys in the car. They had a fully unfunctional car, and they needed a replacement. Enterprise informed them if they got to Charlotte airport, they might have one they could get.

I talked to Gerald this morning and he basically told me there are no buses, no cabs, no ubers, and no way for him to get to Charlotte, not to mention they didn’t even know if they would have a car. Enterprise’s helpline is so helpful they COULDN’T EVEN CHECK THEIR FUCKING INVENTORY. Maybe if they could confirm there would be a car there, he could have just fucking hitchhiked there or something. Or begged the minister next door at the church for a ride. All the local Enterprise places were closed on Sunday, although there was one in Greensboro, but they did not open until one o clock so it would be one before he would even know if they had a car for him to pick up. If they didn’t, then it would be 1:30-2:00 pm and the short day would almost be over and they would still be fucked. ENTERPRISE’S HELP LINE IS THIS FUCKING HELPFUL.

So I drove 370 fucking miles down there, we crammed all six of us and the luggage in the CRV, and came back. BECAUSE ENTERPRISE RENTAL CAR IS A FILTHY BUNCH OF CORPORATE SCUMBAGS.

On the upside, the boys now will have to cut my yard for the rest of their lives, so there is that.



By Their Works Shall Ye Know Them

With Trump and his Trumpkins — aka the entire Republican power structure — the extremes of grotesque behavior serve a purpose: in the disgust they evoke, they distract us from the point of the whole exercise.  That would be, of course, extracting as much cash as possible through the exercise of arbitrary power.

Today’s example — actually, now about a week old — comes from griftmonger supreme Scott Pruitt.  All the grandiose corruption, stiffing aids for hotel rooms, buying a Maxwell Smart cone of silence, unobtanium-infused skin cream and the rest was the sizzle. The steak was wrecking the environment at the behest of one corporate master or another.  This was true to the bitter end:

In his last act as EPA Administrator on Friday, Scott Pruitt vacated an Obama-era ruling that dramatically restricted sales of polluting “glider” trucks.

What are glider trucks, you may ask? (I did.)  Do they serve any useful social purpose?

You be the judge:

The glider trucks, led by manufacturer Fitzgerald Glider Kits, are new truck bodies and frames fitted with old, diesel engines that pre-date emissions controls.

Those engines emit as much as 43 times the carcinogenic particulate matter and 13 times as much smog-forming nitrogen oxides as modern diesel truck engines. In the presence of sunlight, nitrogen oxides form smog, which has been linked to asthma.

The whole thing was a scam, exploiting a loophole that was supposed to allow the reuse of new engines if a rig was totalled, but instead installing pre-2007, high polluting engines in new truck bodies.

Pruitt used a debunked and then retracted study that claimed the highly polluting engines were somehow magically transformed into cleaner ones in their new clothes in a move that bars the EPA from enforcing the Obama-era rules this year and next.

I’m not sure exactly what Pruitt’s profit-center is here, given that everyone — and I mean everyone — hates these things.

Manufacturers such as Virginia-based heavy-truck maker Volvo, Illinois-based Navistar, and Cummins, which makes diesel engines in Indiana, all opposed Pruitt’s efforts to keep the loophole open, as did UPS, which buys thousands of long-haul trucks. Name-brand truck and engine makers have invested millions in developing the cleaner engine technology.

“I cannot recall an issue with such a breadth of opposition,” Paul Billings, national senior vice president for advocacy at the American Lung Association told the Washington Post.

Was this simply bidnezz–some quid pro quo between Pruitt and the one truck company making a buck of these shit-spewing rigs? Or was this just one last f**k you to liberals on the way out?

I guess it could be both, or rather, it was certainly the latter, plus whatever personal corruption Pruitt was able to extract from the deal.  But my point (and I do have one, besides generalized disgust and impotent rage) is that this his how Trump’s administration rolls, and it’s exactly as the Republican Party and its paymasters intended it to.

While the gaudy scandals dominate our attention and most of the media effort, the executive departments and agencies are keeping very busy, creating or gutting rules, making decisions, operating almost completely unexamined, in ways that transfer wealth to the chosen few, and risk and consequences to everyone else.

I’m not sure there’s a shovel big enough to clean manure pile these assholes are depositing in our stable.

Pace Adam:  I’m doing a really crappy job staying frosty these days.

Open thread.

Image: Elihu Vedder, Corrupt Legislation, mural in the main reading room, Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building, 1896



Kids are expensive

This is not a health policy post, just an observation from my life.

The New York Times reported that fertility rates are declining in America.

Americans are having fewer babies. At first, researchers thought the declining fertility rate was because of the recession, but it kept falling even as the economy recovered. Now it has reached a record low for the second consecutive year.

Because the fertility rate subtly shapes many major issues of the day — including immigration, education, housing, the labor supply, the social safety net and support for working families — there’s a lot of concern about why today’s young adults aren’t having as many children.

The Times asked the young adults who have fewer kids than they want why. The biggest reason (64%) was that childcare was too expensive. Most of the top responses were some variation on the simple fact that kids are expensive.

They are expensive even when you don’t take them to a baseball game where they want popcorn.

I have two kids. Both are out of daycare. The two of them were in daycare concurrently for two years straight and then my youngest was in daycare by himself for another three years. Paying for daycare was the biggest financial challenge that we have faced, it was a bigger challenge than me being out of work for almost all of 2010.

When my wife and I decided that we wanted to start trying for kid #2, we had a long series of discussions as to how we would handle childcare. We used a community based non-profit daycare for our daughter when we were both working and she was an only child. Its price point for full time care was below the Pittsburgh regional average. The two year overlap between our daughter and kid #2 both needing daycare and the first day of her kindergarten scared the ever living shit out of us. We were both doing okay in our careers. We were both employed at salaried positions, and probably a tad underemployed as this was still during the recovery from the Great Recession.

We had two major options conditional on us having kid #2. The first option was to suck it up, acknowledge that we would be broke and in debt and keep both kids in daycare. The other choice was for us to flip a coin to see who would stay home for two years. We figured that, after accounting for bus passes, work clothes and other job related expenses, one of us would be working solely for daycare expenses for two years. The upside of both of us working is that it would not leave another hole in our resumes, as we were reaching a point where careers either launched or flat-lined.

We decided to be broke. We put both kids in daycare. I went to referee every soccer game that my knees allowed. It was a close call. We lucked out. We made it through those two years and both of our careers were able to launch. Those launches would not have occurred if one of us was out of the labor force.

We also joked that at least paying for college would be easy. California University of Pennsylvania is a state school where I refereed too many games. It is a perfectly decent mid-tier school. In 2018, its tuition and fees for in-state students is less than what I was paying for my son’s infant year of daycare in 2013.

College is far less scary financially than daycare. The biggest difference between college and daycare is financing. I have access to relatively easy/cheap credit for college through the federal college loan programs. I am still paying off a chunk of grad school and will do so for another decade at 2.875%. My kids won’t get the same interest rate but we will be able to finance a year of college at a reasonable interest rate for ten to fifteen years. Daycare required payment in full for the upcoming month by the 28th of the current month every single month. We were paying effectively college tuition in cash every month.

The other, far more important challenge for financing daycare versus college is income life cycle. As cohorts, income tends to increase with age through middle-age and then stabilizes for a while. In less fancy terms, people are far more likely to make more money in their thirties than in their twenties and then they’re also more likely to make more money in their forties and fifties than in their thirties. If there was cheap financing that could shift financial burdens through time like student loans, this would not be a big deal. Daycare has no ten year financing option to shift burdens to better times.

Instead, it is a massive cash outlay at a point in one’s life when the odds of having a lot of cash available is fairly low. Helping my kids pay for college is going to be easy compared to daycare as we are likely to be earning more in nine years when my oldest will be a freshman than we are earning now and we can spread her expenses out over several years. We can also save money with seriously valuable and socially non-productive tax advantages to pre-pay a part of college unlike with daycare.

So when we, as a society, tie so many benefits to work and then tell young adults that they have to come up with state school tuition to pay for daycare in cash, some young adults look at the problem of working and raising kids as an impossibility and therefore they don’t have kids or as many kids as they would want.



[Facepalm] Adventures Open Thread: “Fair & Reciprocal Trade”

Of course, we know Trump doesn’t believe any transaction can be both “fair” and “reciprocal” — in Donny Dollhand’s tiny mind, either he’s winning or he’ll make everybody lose.

Right now, I’m 50/50 on whether the acronym was invented by some cultist minion who figured the most important thing was to Pwn Tha Libs… or by a shell-shocked intern who decided, At this point, getting fired by Trump can only improve my resume.

Eric Levitz, at NYMag:

Donald Trump hates the status quo system of global trade, multilateral institutions, and constraints on his authority.

Thus, the World Trade Organization (WTO) — a multilateral institution that structures global trade by constraining the authority of nation-states — is a natural nemesis for the economic-nationalist-in-chief.

To be fair, the legislation would certainly create a big stink. The FART Act would give President Trump unilateral authority to impose tariffs (of unlimited size) on any foreign nation, for any earthly reason. The bill would not formally withdraw the United States from the WTO, but it would effectively do so, by nullifying two of the organization’s core rules:

(1) the “Most Favored Nation” principle, which bars WTO members from setting disparate tariff rates on different countries outside of formal trade agreements

(2) the ceiling on tariff rates that were established in previous WTO negotiations…

Fortunately, all signs suggest that the FART Act is just a bunch of hot air. There is an approximately zero percent change that Congress would ever pass such a measure. For all the talk of Trump “transforming” the Republican Party, it remains the case that his signature immigration legislation — which would have upset a variety of business interests, by cutting legal immigration in half — failed to garner more than 38 GOP votes in the Senate. And the WTO bill would, of course, threaten corporate America far more than Trump’s immigration ambitions ever did. Anyhow, according to Axios, the White House has done essentially nothing to advance the legislation since it was drafted in late May…

So much foul gassing, so little accomplished.



SATSQ- Socialism Edition

Because older people have all the jobs and the money and the benefits and didn’t leave shit for anyone else.

Next question?



Interesting Read: “Instagram’s Wannabe-Stars Are Driving Luxury Hotels Crazy”

Back in 1974, Alice Sheldon (aka ‘James Tiptree, Jr.’) won a Hugo for “The Girl Who Was Plugged In“, a dystopian narrative about an ugly, ghetto-trapped teenager given an opportunity to join the media celebrities she idolizes. All she has to do is agree to risky experimental surgery that will allow her to pilot a gorgeous, brain-pithed android-drone who can maximize product placement in a world where ‘advertising’ is banned. Her reaction? Show me the fire I have to walk through.

That was the story that convinced me Tiptree-the-author must be a woman (at the same time, IIRC, a famous sf critic publicly announced that no mere ‘lady writer’ could produce prose so muscular). Sheldon / Tiptree had the foresight to imagine the arc from 18th-century merchants ‘quietly’ advertising their royal customers, to 19th-century proto-celebrities taking payments to use Pears soap, to the 20th-century legitimation of PR agents, to the 21st-century protype Reality TV. But I don’t think even she predicted the Uberization of the form, where every product-shiller would have to hustle themselves as a “brand”.

The proudly libertarian Atlantic should be thrilled at such viral commodification, and yet, something about the unwieldiness of the current process seems to perturb them

Three years ago, Lisa Linh quit her full-time job to travel the world and document it on Instagram, where she has nearly 100,000 followers; since then, she has stayed in breathtaking hotels everywhere from Mexico to Quebec to the Cook Islands. Often, she stays for free.

Linh is part of an ever-growing class of people who have leveraged their social media clout to travel the world, frequently in luxury. While Linh and other elite influencers are usually personally invited by hotel brands, an onslaught of lesser-known wannabes has left hotels scrambling to deal with a deluge of requests for all-expense-paid vacations in exchange for some social media posts.

Kate Jones, marketing and communications manager at the Dusit Thani, a five-star resort in the Maldives, said that her hotel receives at least six requests from self-described influencers per day, typically through Instagram direct message.

“Everyone with a Facebook these days is an influencer,” she said. “People say, I want to come to the Maldives for 10 days and will do two posts on Instagram to like 2,000 followers. It’s people with 600 Facebook friends saying, ‘Hi, I’m an influencer, I want to stay in your hotel for 7 days,’” she said. Others send vague one-line emails, like “I want to collaborate with you,”with no further explanation. “These people are expecting five to seven nights on average, all inclusive. Maldives is not a cheap destination.” She said that only about 10 percent of the requests she receives are worth investigating…

But to influencers themselves, this is a fundamental misunderstanding of the value exchange. Instagram has ballooned to more than 800 million monthly active users, many of whom come to it for travel ideas, and influencers argue that the promotions they offer allow hotels to directly market to new audiences in an authentic way…

Some of these issues can just be a miscommunication. Miragliotta said he’s invested in making clients happy—but hotels need to make sure they’re organized and prepared for influencer stays.

“I went to one Mexico resort and three different people were giving me different hashtags and handles,” he said. “I was with five other influencers and we were excited to post, but there was limited Wi-Fi. If you don’t have the simplest things ready for us, then that makes it difficult to produce the content you need, or do it correctly.”…

As an introvert and aspiring agoraphobe, just looking at the sampled Instagram pics convinces me that I’d rather eat glass doing this ‘social influencer’ thing is indeed a job. It is, after all, not that different than any other form of… what was Melania’s old job title… modeling, is it?



Purdue Pharma and the Justice Department Knew About Oxycontin in 2006

Purdue Pharma knew the dangers that Oxycontin presented, and so did the Justice Department, as early as 2006. But the George W. Bush Justice Department decided not to prosecute.

Based on their findings after a four-year investigation, [federal] prosecutors recommended that three top Purdue Pharma executives be indicted on felony charges, including conspiracy to defraud the United States, that could have sent the men to prison if convicted.

But top Justice Department officials in the George W. Bush administration did not support the move, said four lawyers who took part in those discussions or were briefed about them. Instead, the government settled the case in 2007.

Of course, current Purdue Pharma officials play down that something a decade ago could have anything to do with today’s opioid crisis.

“It would have been a turning point,” said Terrance Woodworth, a former Drug Enforcement Administration official who investigated Purdue Pharma in the early 2000s. “It would have sent a message to the entire drug industry.”

The Sackler family, who have endowed many museums, have been intimately involved in Purdue Pharma from the start. I’ll never feel the same about those museums.

A spokesman for Sackler family members involved with the company, Linden Zakula, declined to comment. Richard Sackler, who is now a director of Purdue Pharma, also declined to comment.

There were plenty of warnings. The article has much more detail – a long read. It’s the New York Times, but one of the places where they’ve done a good job.

And open thread!