Exemplary

When I finally arrived in the U.S. following the Great Wetback Episode, I lived in northwest Austin with Longtime Buddy Trevor while waiting for my visa to be processed.  Having come from the supermarket business in Seffrica, I was keen to see just how good U.S. supermarkets were by comparison, so I went off to the local H.E.B. store just a couple hundred yards away from his apartment.  It was good, very good;  and I became a huge fan of the chain and its operation.  (Full disclosure:  I did once apply for a job at H.E.B., but I was turned down — not by HR, but by an exec VP who called me, complimented me on my resume, and semi-apologized for not hiring me because, as he said, I was not only over-qualified for a senior position there, but horribly over-qualified and they couldn’t fire someone just to take me on.  Classy move — executive to executive instead of fobbing it off onto some HR clerk — and it only increased my admiration for the chain.)

My only quibble with living here in metro North Texas is that there are no H.E.B. stores anywhere nearby (Central Market is owned by H.E.B., but it’s a different division altogether and caters mostly to upscale customers).  I don’t know why there aren’t — the common saying is that 50% of South Texas shopped at an H.E.B. last week — and as I see it, the only reason that it isn’t 50% of all Texas is that they don’t have any stores up here.

This article (found via the Knuckledragger, thankee Kenny) is just one reason why I respect their business and miss their stores.  If H.E.B. were to open one nearby, none of the others — Kroger, Tom Thumb, Market Street, Aldi or Wal-Mart — would ever see me again.

Come on, Steve;  get your South Texas asses up here.

Overvalued

Back in the fall of 1982, I and Wife #1 came to the U.S. for the first time in my life — in fact, the first time I’d ever left the African sub-continent at all — and because I didn’t know diddly about New York City (our first stop), I booked us a room at the Hotel Edison just off 47st and Broadway because it was cheap.  I didn’t know, at the time, that the area was known as Hell’s Kitchen for a very good reason, but in those days I was tough and didn’t really give a damn — I was coming from fucking Johannesburg, how bad could New York be?  (Not bad at all by comparison, actually.)

Anyway, from memory, the room cost about $47+tax a night, and while it was awful, I’d stayed in much worse (errr South Africa, remember) and while we we assailed by Volkswagen-sized cockroaches a couple times, the hotel was close to most of what we wanted to see around Times Square, and was easy walking distance to Greenwich Village to the south and Central Park to the north.  Also, the delis on 8th Ave were fantastic — my first experience with a gut-busting NY-style pastrami sandwich was an eye-opener — and so we spent our days walking around the place, seeing the sights, eating deli food and holding our noses to block out the smells (garbage strike).

Anyway, years later (after the Great Wetback Episode of 1985) I had occasion to go from Chicago back to New York, this time on business, and as the Manhattan branch office was quite nearby, I booked into the Edison again, for nostalgia’s sake.

It was the same crappy hotel, same foul rooms, only this time the room cost $285+tax.  When I first saw the rate when I was booking the trip, I thought the hotel had to have undergone a huge refurbishment to justify that kind of price increase;  but of course it hadn’t:  it was just New York Fucking City.

Still later, I checked out the hotel again, just out of curiosity, and the rate was $385.  And from what I could gather, still no refurb of the place.

I should remind everyone that I have never shrunk from paying top dollar for a quality product, whether it was The Mayfair Hotel in London, the Madison in Paris, Imperial in Tokyo or wherever.  Five-star is five-star, and there ya go.  Paying five-star prices for total shit, however… nu-uh.  And from my experience, most Manhattan hotels were shit.  Even the “highbrow” ones like the Waldorf-Astoria or the Algonquin were overpriced flophouses, and their astronomical prices were justified either by the “cachet” attached to being in New York, NY [eyecross]  or else the high (overpriced) cost of the real estate.

So you can imagine my response when I saw this article via Insty:

During the second quarter ended June 30, average asking rents along 16 major retail corridors in Manhattan declined for the eleventh consecutive quarter, falling to $688 per square foot, according to a report from the commercial real estate services firm CBRE. The drop marked the first time since 2011 that prices dropped below $700, the firm said, representing an 11.3% decline from a year ago.

A number of retailers have outright stopped paying rent to their landlords during the pandemic, which in some instances is resulting in litigation.

Boo fucking hoo.  Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of supercilious chiselers and snooty price gougers.  And then there’s this, at the end of the article:

“I think there is a short-term and a long-term look at this,” NKF’s Roseman said. “Short-term, we are in survival mode right now. But when things do sort of turn back around, it will still be the same. There is only one Fifth Avenue in the world.”

If you look up “Wishful Thinking” in your dictionary, this sentiment will be under the heading.  (It probably links to “Dinosaur Perspectives” too, speaking as it does about L.A.’s Rodeo Drive and Chicago’s Michigan Avenue as being Places To See And Be Seen.  Dream on, Bubba:  we’re facing a new world.)

Anyway, I see that the Edison is “temporarily” closed because of the Chinkvirus — and from the looks of it, has had a refurb since I last checked — but one of the “business-class” hotels on Broadway, where I paid over $500 a night in 2007, is now asking $121.

No wonder they’re not paying the rent.

Irrelevant Institution

Over at the awful Forbes magazine, writer Stephen McBride opines thus:

Here’s some great news: one of America’s most broken industries is finally being exposed as a sham.  And make no mistake, the end of college as we know it is a great thing.
It’s great for families, who’ll save money and take on less debt putting kids through school.  It’s great for kids, who’ll no longer be lured into the socialist indoctrination centers that many American campuses have become.

He goes on to talk about the savings to be made and the investment opportunities (in companies which will rush to fill the void), but that’s not central to the theme of this post, other than to note that as college costs have ballooned, the return on investment has decreased while its concomitant debt has increased.  Simply put:  for a huge number of kids, college tuition is not only a gamble, but a bad one.

While I don’t quibble at all with the writer’s perspective on universities as propaganda outfits rather than places of learning, I have a somewhat different take on the whole thing.

I’ve written before on the wisdom of young people learning a trade prior to (or even instead of) going off to college, so I’m not going to repeat that thought.  Rather (and this is my difference with the above Forbes article), I think that colleges and universities have become less relevant to people’s education.  Other than careers which require intensive knowledge (engineering, medicine, bio-mechanics etc.), there’s very little a college degree can teach you that could not be equally imparted through a lengthy apprenticeship in that field.

And if any good has come of the Chinkvirus pandemic and its related effect on our lives, it’s that realization of how little a truly motivated person needs classroom instruction.  (As an aside, if the would-be student isn’t motivated to learn, college is absolutely the worst place for them to be, not only for the cost but also for the array of distractions extant.)

I can hear it now:  “Oh,” stupid parents will moan, “my little Jimmy / Susie / Jamaal / Shaniqua won’t learn anything from an online course because they’ll just play their online games instead.”

I’ve got news for you, O Stupid Parents:  your undisciplined and ineducable kids are already doing that, only they’re doing it in the lecture room.

The late, great and much-missed columnist Mike Royko once said (and I paraphrase because I’m speaking from memory) something like:  most people shouldn’t go to college;  they should become butchers or janitors.  Worse yet, he added, the problem with giving butchers and janitors college degrees is that they then go into business with the same intelligence level, only now they’ll be woefully under-qualified to be managers, because they should have been butchers or janitors.

Or, as Daughter so eloquently put it after her first semester at college:  “Most of these idiots belong in the grease pit at Jiffylube.”   After two years, she expanded that thought to include the professors.  (Lest we forget, this was a girl who taught herself Japanese at home while being homeschooled.)

And this is the problem with most college graduates these days:  they had no business going to college in the first place because they were either stupid or ineducable.  Now they can be found in the outside world suitably “qualified” by their degrees:  at best, they’re busy screwing up some enterprise in a middle-management position;  at worst, they can be found among the ranks of the rioters in Portland and Seattle.

So yes, I agree with McBride that most colleges will disappear, and good riddance.  The ones that survive should get a wake-up call, and realize that in business, nothing is truly irreplaceable — and yes, their beloved ivory towers are indeed just a business.

All I can hope for is that parents will point their kids at careers and activities that will not only be valuable as income streams, but that the kids will actually enjoy doing because they’ve discovered the psychological value of a job well done.

For the rest, there’s the grease pit at Jiffylube.  Good luck to them as they compete with hungry Third-World immigrants.

Still Laughing

I know that this is an old story, but I just can’t stop laughing about it.

The maker of Red Bull energy drinks has replaced its top U.S. executives amid internal tensions over the closely held company’s response to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Red Bull GmbH, the Austrian company that makes the drink, said Stefan Kozak, its North America chief executive, and Amy Taylor, its North America president and chief marketing officer, have left the company. It named other executives to temporarily fill the roles.
Red Bull didn’t give a reason for the changes, which were announced in an internal memo Monday.

Here’s my favorite part:

Ms. Taylor had been working on diversity and inclusion efforts within the company with Mr. Kozak’s support for several years but was met with opposition when she began advocating for Red Bull to be more overt in its support of racial justice in the last month, according to people familiar with the matter.
Some U.S. employees had recently raised concerns about what they considered the company’s inaction on the Black Lives Matter movement.

Hope all those “some employees” were canned as well.  “Diversity hiring” is one thing;  overt support for a bunch of Commie street thugs is another thing altogether.

I don’t drink Red Bull or any other “energy drink” (unless 10-year-old Glen Morangie gives you energy — not according to my experience, though).  But just for the hell of it, I might try it as a mixer with a shot of  Tanqueray tomorrow morning, as a wake-up call.

I mean, such good deeds should not go unrewarded, right?  Hell, I might even start supporting Red Bull Racing and Max Verstappen:

Prosit  to Herr Kozak, and a hearty fuck you to the wokesters.

Annoying Junk

I’ve recently been going through my Inbox, deleting and unsubscribing from various news feeds.  Why?

Because while I like having news delivered to me, I hate it when I get an email from a news organization that contains not news but something that, if followed to its intended conclusion, will involve money leaving my bank account for someone else’s.

The org that triggered this one was either Washington Times or Patriots4Truth  (can’t be bothered to look up which, as I nuked both), which initially promised good things but soon degenerated into spam delivery services.  The WT  actually has sent me some interesting reports, but the spam : content ratio is hopelessly overcome by the former.  So:  tchuss.

And FFS:  if I do subscribe to your feed, and you send me a link to a serious article, could you at least do away with the need to log into your poxy site when I get there? You called me at my email address.  (Which is why I seldom read much at the otherwise-decent Epoch Times.)

And by the way, all those people who want to pay me money to publish articles on this website?  Fuck off.

In the first place, I don’t do guest posts, ever.  In the second, in only a very few instances are the organizations ones that I would even be remotely interested in supporting (by linking to their articles or websites).

A good example was one which said something like, “We LOVE your website, and especially [link to a post about travel] !  We’d love to publish an article which feeds off that post, as we suspect that your readers are pretty much the same as ours!  And we’ll pay you $50!”

Right:  considering that I equate going on a cruise liner to some Mexican port with being strapped into a dentist’s chair for ten days… I don’t think so, Scooter.  And the online casino sites…?  Give me strength.

Now, I don’t even bother opening their bullshit letters.  I see them in the Inbox, and delete them unread.  Then I’ll get a “follow-up” letter which is also ignored.  (If a third letter then comes in, I respond with vitriol, foul language and ALLCAPS.)

My email activity is nowhere close to what it used to be in Ye Olde Blogginge Days (around 400-500 emails from Readers daily back then), but it’s still pretty high (thankee for all the kind words, btw, and keep ’em coming because I love to hear from y’all).  But I have to delete around a hundred bullshit emails a day, which bugs me only because it takes time to answer the genuine correspondence — which is why it sometimes takes me ages to respond, and why sometimes a letter will fall through the cracks, so to speak, mistakenly deleted and collateral damage in my irritated frenzy of spam deletion.  So write away, guys.

All the rest can FOAD.

Americans Second

Looks like the fix is in again:

U.S. employers keep roughly 600,000 foreign H-1B visa workers in jobs throughout the United States, according to an unprecedented report released by the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency.
The total number of resident H-1B workers has successfully been kept secret for decades, mainly because Fortune 500 companies do not want voters to recognize the massive outsourcing of jobs for themselves and their college graduate children.

Based on personal observation, I think that about a quarter of the above number live within a square mile of my apartment, but that’s a topic for another time.

Whenever people show faith in the powers of “the market”, I want to kick them in the balls.  Here’s why.

In the normal course of events, “the market” can and should address the problem of shortages by creating a price increase — in this case, if there are apparently not enough Americans to fill the skilled positions needed in Corporate America, the pressure is put on salaries so that existing skilled workers can change industries to take advantage of the higher wages, or (in the longer term) prospective employees can adjust their training from, say, a university-centric Women’s Studies major into an IT profession.

But that would Cost The Companies Money;  and gawd forbid that costs rise, affect the balance sheet and, most importantly of all, jeopardize executive management bonuses.  So said companies lobby the government saying, “Oh we need  skilled workers, and these lazy idle Murkins don’t wanna do the jobs so please pretty please O Benificent Government, can we import furriners to save us from going out of business?”

Whereupon Congress, whose members are all either stupid, unpatriotic or else beholden to Corporate America for campaign contributions (I know:  massive overlap) will turn around and say, “Sure thing.  Get these H-1Bs from anywhere you like — say, India or China — and just add a zero to your next contribution, will you?”

The fact that these foreign workers stay a while then go back to their home countries taking their expertise with them, is, of course, irrelevant.  (I should point out that I myself was one of the above H-1B workers back in the 1980s, except that I had skills which my sponsoring company did not possess at all, AND I was coming over as a senior executive to implement a brand new business model which I had created back in the Old Country and made successful.  Also, I stayed and became a U.S. citizen, and the rest you know.)

So “the market” works fine, mostly — except where the sticky and incompetent fingers of Gummint get placed firmly on the scale of surplus : scarcity, and the results are what we see now.

There’s another part of the article which engendered a scowl from me:

The USCIS report admits that “no unique identifier exists for all H-1B petitions in the USCIS electronic [system of record, so] we use a methodology of statistical inference.”

For those not familiar with bureaucrat-speak, “statistical inference” means “we took a wild-ass guess”.  Or, to be more polite:

For years, [DHS] has deliberately not stored [visa worker] information into their databases. They only enter selected information into the computers. That was deliberate so that no one could know what is going on. We have sent in all kinds of [Freedom of Information Act] requests, and often the response is “we don’t keep track of that.”

And to make matters still worse:

“Close to a quarter of the records — dealing with workers who often make $100,000 a year or more — there is no Social Security number.”

In other words, we let them in, and allow a situation where people don’t necessarily have to pay taxes.  How charming.  But it gets worse (and I’ve added emphasis):

The failure to track legitimate H-1B documents and workers — or to punish groups for using fake H-1B documents — is routine. For many years, business advocates have kept legislators in the dark by splitting and subdividing oversight of the visa-worker economy between the Departments of State, Homeland Security, and Labor, he said.
This fragmentation has helped to minimize awareness of the scale among journalists and the public. For example, very few reporters describe the scale of the H-1B population to their readers, and most rely on talking points from business advocates who say the program brings in 65,000 or 85,000 “high skilled” workers each year when companies cannot find U.S. workers.
In reality, up to 85,000 H-1B visas are given out to companies each year, while roughly 15,000 are provided to non-profit groups, including hospitals, research centers, government agencies, and hospitals.

Now let’s add a little “China is asshole” to the mix:

The new USCIS report does not estimate the number of fake H-1B documents in circulation despite myriad cases of fraudulent work permits and made-in-China green cards.

And in India, procurement of green cards is an entire industry, catering to U.S. corporations — I’ve seen it in action at first hand.

Several years back, I posited the situation where if one won a large foreign lottery (e.g. Euromillions), whether it would be better to bring the earnings back to the U.S. and pay the 40% tax, or just to vanish into a European tax haven like Monaco with the (untaxed) millions.  My conclusion was that I wouldn’t do that, because I am of course a loyal American citizen.  As I read stuff like the above, however, I’m starting to think that “loyal American citizen” is rapidly approaching the status of “sucker”.

Change my mind.