Yea, I prefer to:
chmod 644 /etc/rc.d/rc.hotplug
Quick and easy. You might want to prepare yourself to enable it again tho. I wouldn't set that in stone (determining that hotplug is a problem). You also need to edit /etc/rc.d/rc.wireless.conf too.... Are you forgeting about that?
Ignore your kernel for now. As I said ealier, I don't think that is the problem. Sounds as if you haven't fully setup your pcmcia card yet. You need to define an access point, wep key (if any) and one or 2 other things. That's all done from /etc/rc.c/rc.wireless.conf