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December 29, 2007

We Give Thanks for Peace on the Border
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 05:47 PM * 221 comments

We’ve talked about this before, here and elsewhere: The sheer insanity of building our own Iron Curtain along the US/Canadian border.

You all know the saying, “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it”? Well, the open border between the US and Canada ain’t broke. It’s worked fine since 1814, with no sign of wearing out.

Up until recently you could have read a book in two countries at once: the public library in Derby Line, Vermont had the border run right through it. Sit in the right chair and there you’d be, half in Derby Line, half in Rock Island, Quebec. Not so much any more: Now Main Street in Derby Line is a permanent traffic jam.

A friend of mine, Claudette Hebert, had a grandfather who owned a “Line House” during Prohibition. The front door was in Pittsburg, New Hampshire, the bar was in East Hereford, Quebec. Prohibition wasn’t enough to close the border. But now phantom terrorists, the bugaboos of Tom Tancredo’s fantasy life, the all-purpose excuse for the Homeland Security folks who need to come up with ever more ridiculous schemes lest they not be Seen To Be Doing Their Jobs, want that to destroy commerce and tourism and just plain friendship.

To what end? None visible. Not one single terrorist has entered the US by slipping across the Canadian border. But I can name dozens of terrorists who entered with valid passports (the entire 9/11 crew to start) or who didn’t need passports (Timothy McVeigh and Eric Rudolph being only a couple of the more notorious ones).

Can we afford three thousand miles of minefields, barbed wire, and unmanned drone aircraft to stop a non-existent threat? Can we afford to do it and cut taxes at the same time? Aren’t the neo-cons aware that smoking that stuff is illegal?

So. To the point. Another story from my local newspaper, a paper that doesn’t run its stories on-line, a story that you’d never otherwise read.

Passport Requirement Delayed Possibly Until 2009
By Donna Jordan

When President George Bush signed the 2008 Omnibus Appropriations Bill—approved by both the house and senate last week—there was a provision written into the bill by U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont which extended the land travel passport deadline which will be of interest to those attempting to figure out what new requirements will be necessary when traveling back and forth across the nearby Canadian border.

The deadline for passports is now three months after the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security have certified that the technology and personnel are in place to handle the new passport rules—or until June 2009, whichever comes first. The original deadline for needing passports was June 2008, but the delay of one year has been welcomed by New Hampshire and Vermont senators and representatives.

However, most people from the United States, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean will still need to present to the U. S. customs officers with a birth certificate or some other document establishing their citizenship when they enter the United States on or after Jan. 31, 2008. (Senator Leahy has opposed this requirement as well.)

In an interview with CNN recently, Senator Leahy said that terrorists are “not going to come across with a valid passport” and that that the passport requirement is “really insulting to Canada.” In New Hampshire and Vermont, U.S. and Canadian citizens have long crossed from one country into the next with little concern. “All this is going to do is stop the people who want to come to the United States to spend money and the people who want to involve themselves with business or travel, education, heathcare—whatever—between the U.S. and Canada,” said Leahy. “It won’t deter a single terrorist.” Leahy also said that Canada was the “closest friend” the United States has.

In New Hampshire, U.S. Senator John Sununu said that he welcomed the measure to extend the deadline, saying, “Travel between the United States and Canada is routine for thousands of New Hampshire residents, as it is for our northern neighbors. Federal rules requiring every man, woman and child to have a passport for such travel represents an over-sized solution that does not reflect the way of life in the border states. Mandating that residents and visitors purchase costly passports will inevitably lead to fewer cross-border trips, ultimately discouraging the flow of commerce.” Sununu also said that the amendment provides more time to explore the concept of using secure drivers licenses for land travel between the Unites States and Canada.

“I’m glad that Vermonters now will have one less thing to worry about for awhile,” Leahy said in a statement. “This buys breathing room to try to find better and more sensible answers for northern Border security. The passport requirement is the wrong answer to the wrong question. It creates major hassles for law-abiding citizens and communities all across the longest peaceful border in the world. It adds nothing to our security while costing Vermont and our national economy billions in lost commerce. Instead, for only a fraction of that expense, we could and should be beefing up our intelligence and working with Canada to seek out potential terrorists long before they even get near our borders.”

By June of 2009 we’ll have a new president. We’ll have a new congress. With any kind of luck the Department of Homeland Security will have been dissolved. Maybe Senator Leahy has bought us enough time that this security-theater insanity will miss us entirely.

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The title of this post comes from Peace on the Border by Steeleye Span.
Comments on We Give Thanks for Peace on the Border:
#1 ::: claire ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 07:06 PM:

Did they move the border lines in Derby? I have had the pleasure of reading in two countries (thank you, Jim, for the tip!) and would be sad if one could no longer do this. And what a nightmare for traffic...


#2 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 07:17 PM:

As a point of interest, apparently they're trying self-fund parts of Homeland Security; from the State Department:

Routine Services (Form DS-11)

Age 16 and older: The passport application fee is $67. The execution fee is $30. The total is $97 .

Under Age 16: The passport application fee is $52. The execution fee is $30. The total is $82 .

#3 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 07:19 PM:

More info: included in that application fee is the $12.00 Security Surcharge, which became effective March 8, 2005.

#4 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 07:31 PM:

"With any kind of luck the Department of Homeland Security will have been dissolved"

That would be very good luck indeed. As you know, Jim, I'll vote for whichever of the Democrats is the nominee, but I doubt very much that anything like this will happen. Certainly not soon, and quite probably not ever.

Failing, of course, remarkable developments that I can't foresee.

Entities like the DHS, once created, tend to be surpassingly difficult to uncreate.

#5 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 07:34 PM:

Linkmeister #2: The execution fee is $30.

Good grief, bullets are getting expensive these days.

#6 ::: Dan ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 07:35 PM:

I wish I could feel confident that this insanity will end; however, that box has been opened, and it really now will take very little to corrupt future administrations with the notion that they can get away with nearly everything thanks to Bush and Crew. Once fear has been shown to be effective in keeping a population in line and unquestioning, I have very little doubt that the next power-hungry politician to take office will not exploit that.

I don't know. I do apologize for my pessimism.

#7 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 07:57 PM:

Earl @ #5, further investigation seems to show that the execution fee is a method of making passports more accessible, payable to some 9,000 "passport acceptance facilities" around the country. The library branch nearest me is one of them.

"You pay the passport application fee and the security surcharge to the ''U.S. Department of State'' and the execution fee to the facility where you are applying."

So it's a method of subcontracting out work from the federal government to local agencies. It undoubtedly costs more this way than it would to have federal employees do it via the mail or walk-in.

#8 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 08:02 PM:

A lot of those locations are, or were, post offices. (In nearly every town and city, so why not have them do passport applications? Although not all of the offices do; check locally, and there might be a number in the phone book for your local passport window.)

I can see bullets costing a lot these days: we're sending so many of them overseas that even the police are having trouble getting enough.

#9 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 08:31 PM:

Patrick #4: That's exactly my thought. It's not just the DHS with all its employees, it's the billions of dollars of orders fulfilled by contractors, each with a lobbyist or three, each willing to donate money to politicians who talk loudly enough of the need for tighter security. It's easier to dispose of the nastiest nuclear waste, or of leftover chemical weapons stocks, than to get rid of a federal program with hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars riding on it. I have a theory that one reason why all the Republicans except Ron Paul are spouting nonsense about the grave threat of Islamofacism is as a way to signal to those federal employees and contractors that they can expect plenty of future employment and contracts.

The Democrats weren't opposed to forming DHS, and haven't, as far as I've seen, tried to get rid of it or shut down much of the security theater. I wonder what makes anyone expect that they'll do differently when the DHS is under the control of a Democratic appointee, ready to spread the patronage out among their friends instead of the Republicans' friends.

#10 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 09:08 PM:

Australian Passport fees are rather higher, a standard one being $AU200 for adults & $AU100 for children. Despite this, most of us have one at some stage — I haven't renewed mine lately, but hope to when things improve. They don't have GST charged on them (that's our VAT/sales tax, cross-linking to another thread on tax). Post offices are the main place where you'd get the forms and go through the application process. There's a fun poster showing all the wrong ways to take a passport photo that I like to examine while standing in line in my local.
Australia Post (formerly the Postmaster General's Department, or PMG) is still part of the Federal Public Service, I believe. Is your mail service privatized, so they aren't 'federal employees' any more?

The hangman's bill was quite expensive back in 1930s-1940s Germany (via a great little page on the writer Erich Kästner).

#11 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 09:30 PM:

What proportion of Americans do not have passports and never plan to acquire them? I've had students tell me that they'd never leave the US 'because the rest of the world is crazy'. I've also had students who are astounded when I tell them that my first passport was issued to me at the age of three, and that I've had passports from two different countries (they seem to think that's unsporting).

Both my children have had passports since childhood (US only). I wonder if that now makes them suspect characters.

#12 ::: paul ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 09:36 PM:

Not one single terrorist has entered the US by slipping across the Canadian border.

If you include potential terrorists, don't forget Ahmed Ressam. One of the best cases of good behavioral profiling (not based on race or ethnicity, but on what the subject is doing) you can ask for.

Speaking of "if it ain't broke . . . " I think border enforcement was in pretty good shape prior to the fear-based system we have now. McVeigh and Rudolph didn't cross any borders to do what they did: should we have border crossings at state lines?

#13 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 09:39 PM:

From: Department of Homeland Security

Dear Sir/Madam:

We have completed our background check and examination of your records, and are pleased to report that you appear to be clean.

To ensure that this report is properly attached to your file, please click on this link and fill in the form with your name, address, Social Security Number (SSN), and other information as requested...

I'm surprised that I haven't seen messages like this yet.

#14 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 09:51 PM:

Fragano, I didn't get my first passport till I was 33. It has since expired and I've never renewed it (not because I don't want to go out of the country, but because circumstances haven't permitted it).

#15 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 10:04 PM:

Linkmeister #14: I take it that you didn't need one when you were in the military?

I can understand circumstances preventing you from getting a passport.

I find it interesting, btw, that it costs more to become a US citizen than to renew a green card.

#16 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 10:04 PM:

Fees. The first time I had my Alien Registration renewed, it cost me $18.

The second time, it cost $75.

Most recently, it cost $300, and required a trip to another city.

As an alien, it seems to me that I could not have an American passport. Will my Alien Registration card be accepted?

#17 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 10:05 PM:

DHS no more? No solid passport requirement at the US/Canada border?

Not if President Huckabee has anything to say about it. (If you listen to the wagging tongues of the media, he's already been coronated.)

#18 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 10:42 PM:

Fragano, #11: I've never had a passport because I've never needed one -- I haven't had the good fortune to be able to travel internationally (with the exception of Canada, where I didn't need a passport). At this point, I'm not sure I'd want to leave the country unless I were doing so permanently; there's a significant chance that I wouldn't be able to get back in.

#19 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 10:56 PM:

Fragano - AIR, US military personnel do not (or did not) need a passport when stationed overseas so long as they are on post or traveling between assignments - and may not need one otherwise, but I'm fuzzy on that one, having never been posted overseas (school was more important to me at the time).

I do know that while we could MAC flight into pretty much any US airbase in the world, on a space available basis (show up, if nobody bumps you, you fly, if not, wait for the next one), you couldn't get off-base if you didn't have a passport, if you went outside US territory, and weren't assigned there. But this was in the late 80s, and things may well have changed since then.

I have a passport, but have let it expire (need to get it renewed - then throw it in the microwave or hit it with a hammer or some such - RFID tags are Not Your Friend) because of unfortunate unuse (travel takes money).

Rob - A co-worker tells the tale of his cousin (who is Dutch) who travelled with him and his family over to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls a couple of years ago. Getting in to Canada was easy. Getting back to the States, when he turned over his passport, was (only a tiny bit) problematic - he had not, in fact, gone through the visa process to travel to Canada - so he was fine in the States, but the US border patrol couldn't let him back in, because he wasn't supposed to leave - at least, not to Canada, anyways.

Fortunately, clearing this up involved nothing more than some annoyed calls to various peoples (including the Dutch embassy in Toronto or some such), a validation sticker, and the payment of a modest fee to be turned over to the Canadian border guards.

IOW - I would check to make sure before wandering over to see the Falls from the side that is actually impressive.

#20 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 11:04 PM:

In most parts of the US, it's possible to travel a long ways in any direction without needing to cross an international border; in fact, for most people outside of the northern tier and the southwest, a journey involving such a crossing is a non-trivial undertaking, even a luxury good.

At least in the past, members of the military could travel (under some circumstances, anyhow; I never had cause myself to learn the finer details) using their orders and their military ID. But it's been a while since I was hanging out on the spousal fringes of that world, so I don't know what the current rules are.

#21 ::: Matt Austern ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 11:48 PM:

Really 1814? I was under the impression that the US/Canadian border was moderately hostile, with the occasional armed confrontation, up through the 1850s.

#22 ::: Lyli ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 11:54 PM:

@11. The rest of the world is crazy? That's entertaining, I think they have part of it backwards. The US seems rather crazy to me at the moment. No offense intended, of course.

(I'm a Canadian, for perspective's sake.)

#23 ::: PHB ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 11:56 PM:

Actually there have been some phishing attacks targeting the INS part of the DHS, some quite old. It isn't a very common lure but it is certainly used.

And the first ever spam to be called such was the infamous Canter and Seigal 'Green Card' lottery scam which asked $75 for a service worth at most $0. So attacking the INS might be considered the original Internet con, albeit (barely) legal.

The underlying problem here is that the Internet lacks an effective authentication infrastructure for email. We have protocols (S/MIME, DKIM) but have not yet established their use as the default mode of sending mail.

[Would write more but Mrs dotCrime Manifesto says that this is a comment not a book plug, if it was I would mention that The dotCrime Manifesto: How to Stop Internet Crime is now available from Amazon but as it isn't I won't.]

#24 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 12:13 AM:

PHB @ 23 -
Actually there have been some phishing attacks targeting the INS part of the DHS, some quite old. It isn't a very common lure but it is certainly used.

The IRS certainly seems to be a popular source point for phishing attacks these days - I've gotten a few dozen of those recently, although Ebay and Paypal are still the most common attacks I get (or maybe the various "buy this cheap stock" crap).

#25 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 12:26 AM:

Fragano @ #15, there was no passport required when I was in the Navy flying between Hawai'i and Japan in 1972-1974. I had shore duty, but I doubt my colleagues afloat needed passports when they were on WestPac cruises to Taiwan, HK, Subic, etc. I suspect that was part of negotiated agreements between the Pentagon, State, and the various countries.

#26 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 12:56 AM:

PHB @ 23 ...
The underlying problem here is that the Internet lacks an effective authentication infrastructure for email. We have protocols (S/MIME, DKIM) but have not yet established their use as the default mode of sending mail.

One of the (many) underlying problems is that people who should know better persist in the misguided belief that it's possible to have one, or a limited set of "true roots", which are somehow reliable means, run by reliable sources, that produce reliable authentication for email (et al). The persistent and ongoing issues with DNS make it quite obvious that the ASN1/X.509 models of hierarchical structures have fatal flaws[0].

[0] This without getting into the question of whether such things are manageable at all, given that operational concerns have traditionally been relegated, by certain parties, to the same unfortunate realm as "the proof is simple, and is left to the reader" (which as we all know is not at all the case). In theory, there is no different between theory and practice. In practice, theory and practice seldom agree.

#27 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 01:45 AM:

Fragano@ #11 - I recall reading somewhere a few years back that somewhere between 10% and 20% of Americans have a passport. I do not know if that means "have an active passport", or "have ever had a passport issued."

I didn't get my first passport until I was 30, although I visited Canada several times as a child. The Washington State/British Columbia border isn't quite as porous as that on the East Coast, because settlements are sparser, but people who do live right on the border certainly have bounced back and forth regularly in the past.

#28 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 03:10 AM:

One of the other quirks of passport systems is the handling of merchant seamen, but now they seem to need regular travel possports as well.

#29 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 03:52 AM:

xeger @ 26

the misguided belief that it's possible to have one, or a limited set of "true roots"

It's my belief that this is the result of a deap-seated cultural bias that runs counter to our (admittedly at this point somewhat limited) knowledge of how systems work, at least in our mathematical models. There's a fundamental distrust of distributed systems in our (Western European, anyway) culture, a distrust that is often verbalized by the objection "but there's nobody in charge!" One of the reasons I've pretty much dropped out of the distributed systems business is that I got very tired of fighting that battle over and over. Maybe the next generation can get somewhere with it, after they're done cleaning up the mess that non-distributed software agents make.

#30 ::: Cynthia ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 08:14 AM:

Living four miles from the border, I can not tell you how happy this makes me. I can't imagine having to get a passport because I want to take a quick jaunt to pick up smoked meat or some annuals or lumber -- yet the best sources for these are far closer to me by leaving the country than by seeking out an American vendor.

#31 ::: Emily H. ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 09:12 AM:

As a Canadian immigrant-or-expat in the U.S., the passport requirement has been really worrying; until just recently, Canadians living abroad needed a guarantor who was a member of a narrow set of professions (lawyer, doctor) who has known you for two years; my freelancing sister hasn't had a doctor in years, and I've moved every two years since college.

They changed the rules so that we can be each other's guarantors, thank goodness...

#32 ::: JKRichard ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 09:39 AM:

Scott @19 You recall correctly however, military travel standards have changed immensely post-9/11. Military are asked not to travel in uniform (not that the GI spec haircut doesn't give them away...), not to show orders or mil I.D.. Most folks traveling to and from duty station of deployed facility were required to get a passport (as of early 2006, when I left the service).

#33 ::: HenryR ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 09:55 AM:

Scott @ 19 et al. A passport was not required for military personnel in Europe in the late 70s and early 80s for travel within and between NATO member countries plus France. I travelled all over Western Europe on my Army ID card.

The only time I ever ran into any friction was in the UK where an officious immigration officer insisted that he had to stamp something. We examined my leave form and found a empty rectangular box labeled "Remarks" which he promptly stamped and sent me on my way.

#34 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 10:35 AM:

Rob Rusick #16: Accepted for what purpose? If you're a green card holder, to enter the US you need both the green card and a passport.

Lee #18: Why do you think they wouldn't let you back in? Historically, the US has punished dissidents by forbidding them to travel outside the country.

Scott Taylor #19 & Linkmeister #25: I'm glad you're confirming what I thought. I expect that Linkmeister is right, and the movement of US service personnel was covered by base treaties.

Oliviacw #27: Thanks.

Dave Bell #28: I know some countries -- including the UK -- used to issue seamen with special passports.

#35 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 10:37 AM:

Debra Doyle #20: That's true. It does seem to breed considerable insularity.

#36 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 10:42 AM:

Lyli #22: The idea that the opinions of people outside the US might count for something is not always easy to get across. It's the same kind of imperial entitlement that was found in the British middle and upper classes in the late Victorian era.

#37 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 12:39 PM:

Fragano, while we're talking about U.S. citizens and attitudes towards passports--there is also (I suspect) a sort of deep-seated and relatively common belief that getting a passport is supposed to be easy. I don't know why that attidute hasn't disappeared completely in the past few years, but I do know all sorts of people who seem to feel that if ever they need a passport all they have to do is apply for one and poof! it will arrive in the mail.

It may be just historical experience, I suppose. I got my first passport at 15, and I remember it as being a fairly simple process, taking no more than a few weeks. And the concept of someone actually being denied a U.S. passport on request is something that initially took me a while to wrap my brain around, once upon a time . . .

#38 ::: Martyn Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 01:03 PM:

The idea of not having a passport seems odd to my family, but then we're British and, therefore, by definition crazy.

I regularly get phishing emails inviting me to recover the refund due to me from the IRS. That fact mentioned above will tell you exactly how succesful said emails are.

#39 ::: Lis ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 01:05 PM:

It's not just that, if you don't live close to the Mexican or Canadian borders, you can travel huge distances without reaching an international border. It's also that, until very recently, you didn't need a passport to visit Canada, much of the Caribbean, or the tourist areas of Mexico.

It took real effort to get someplace where there would be some point in having a passport.

What percentage of the European population has traveled the distances that, until the last few years, would have been necessary for Americans to reach a border that required them to produce a passport?

What contributes just as much to insularity, I think, is that North America consists of exactly three countries, and in all that territory, if English won't get the job done, Spanish will--and an awful lot of Americans do speak Spanish. (The Francophone Canadians all speak English, and will speak it to Americans who make any attempt to speak anything that could possibly be mistaken for French.) (This includes "Bonjour; do you speak English please?") How many different languages (and dialects different enough to impede understanding) in the same square miles as North America? I think that has a big impact.

#40 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 01:06 PM:

Scott Taylor @ 19:

and the payment of a modest fee to be turned over to the Canadian border guards

Why did you just start with the bribe? Would've saved time.

Fragano Ledgister @ 36:

The idea that the opinions of people outside the US might count for something is not always easy to get across.

Oh, come on Fragano. We care about the ones we notice. It's just that there are only a couple of dozen we notice.

#41 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 01:26 PM:

Well, the open border between the US and Canada ain’t broke. It’s worked fine since 1814, with no sign of wearing out.

Surely you're forgetting St. Albans, Vermont.

#42 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 01:27 PM:

Fragano Ledgister @ 36

Warning: offensively racist language referred to here.

Indeed. Replace 'wog' with 'towelhead' globally and I suspect a lot of the invective would come over verbatim.

#43 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 01:39 PM:

I suspect the passport thing is another one of those "Americans think a hundred years is a long time. Europeans think a hundred miles is a long journey" sort of things - for many Americans (even many on the Northeast coastline) a foreign border is either a day (or more) drive, or a plane ticket away - Boston is 4 hours from Sherbrooke, and NYC is seven and change - and those are comparatively close - Atlanta is fourteen hours from Niagara Falls, Memphis sixteen, and Colorado thirteen hours from Nogales (and sixteen from Winnipeg).

So, for a lot of Americans, travel outside the US is something done rarely (if at all), because it involves flying (not cheap for many Americans - while there are often deals for trans-continental flights, that just means they are still out of reach of the guy who is paid just over minimum wage), and is time-consuming - you have to figure on a day out and back, minimum, with (typically) two weeks of vacation time a year (if you get vacation at all) - and that journey time isn't "driving around and seeing the sights" it's "stuck in airports and in a tin can flying through the air". Combine that with most of a continent's worth of spectacle and wonder to see right in our own back yard? You could spend much of a lifetime visiting US state and national parks - even bypassing the ones that are pretty much like another, and going just to the ones that have something unique to offer - and not chew through all of them. They just never needed a passport, because the opportunity to travel to a place they needed one never was there.

Travel to our two closest neighbors has not, previously, required a passport - a driver's license, birth certificate, and/or SSN card was always sufficient to get me over the Canadian border and back again - which is further incentive not to bother getting one. And, in a crisis of some sort, there are processes for expedited passports, when needed - you used to be able to get one in a little over 24 hours, if vitally important (and you were willing to pay the additional expense).

Europeans have usually needed passports because if they wanted to go on holiday somewhere other than the same general neck of the woods (and you don't always, naturally), it meant leaving the country, going through customs, etc. For Americans, that is often not the case - driving eight hours in any direction* (except maybe in parts of the Plains states, where driving eight hours gets you... more Plains states) gets you somewhere that is recognizably different - while still in the US.

(Eight hours gets me to Richmond VA, Bangor ME, Cincinnati OH, Indianapolis IN, almost to Chicago IL, and all points in between. Including Canada in that, it gets me to everywhere between Quebec and Sault Ste Marie - this assuming my normal driving speeds, and not what Google Maps thinks is legal, and ignoring all but minimal stops along the way, naturally. Your Driving May Vary.)

#44 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 01:45 PM:

John M. Arkansawyer @ 40
Scott Taylor @ 19:
and the payment of a modest fee to be turned over to the Canadian border guards
Why did you just start with the bribe? Would've saved time.

Wasn't me - this is the family of a guy at work (he's second generation Dutch immigrant on his father's side - I've got some Dutch ancestry, but it's all tied up in American Mutt on my father's side).

My understanding is that the fee was the typical "this is how much it costs to process a visa to Canada" thing. It was pretty minimal - twenty-fifty bucks Canadian, or some such, I'm not sure of the details.

#45 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 02:05 PM:

Bruce, #29: There's a fundamental distrust of distributed systems in our (Western European, anyway) culture, a distrust that is often verbalized by the objection "but there's nobody in charge!"

I submit that there's a very good reason for this. Most people, by the time they're 30, have had at least one experience with the sort of customer-service runaround that goes, "That's not my department, you'll have to call the people at X," lather, rinse, repeat for multiple iterations and eventually get sent back to the first department you called. If there's no one in charge, then there's also no one to take responsibility... or perhaps more accurately, no one who can be nailed down to admitting responsibility! Think of it as being in an endless loop of multiple-vendor finger-pointing.

Fragano, #34: Actually, the paranoia is less about my political views than it is about the risk of not having every i-dot and t-cross that some DHS goon who's having a bad day can make up absolutely correct on my papers. "Because we can" seems to be the defining motto of US border guards these days.

Lis, #39: WRT dialects different enough to impede understanding... some years back, I was witness to an encounter between a woman with a very thick "inner-city black" dialect and a hotel clerk with an equally-thick Indian/Pakistani accent. It took a while for her to get a room! I could understand both of them well enough, and was tempted to offer to translate, but I was afraid that doing so would be offensive.

#46 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 02:14 PM:

Lee @ 45... no one who can be nailed down to admitting responsibility

That sounds like my own experiences with AOHell.

#47 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 02:15 PM:

Lis @39 --What percentage of the European population has traveled the distances that, until the last few years, would have been necessary for Americans to reach a border that required them to produce a passport?

Oh, lots, actually. Once the economy started picking up after WWII, Italians, Greeks and Spaniards traveled to Germany as "Gastarbeiter". When they could afford it, they went back to their countries of origin to visit family. Germans, meanwhile, traveled all over creation* for the fun of it. Travel was no longer restricted to the upper classes, and people took full advantage of it. And of course once the Iron Curtain fell, people started going back and forth over even longer distances out of mutual curiosity. Add the EU and the ever-expanding Schengen agreement, and you've got a lot of people going over long physical distances for business and pleasure. (Think about it...24! countries! and no passport required for travel among them.)

*And I do mean all over creation. Australia, Costa Rica, Laos -- vacation destinations of acquaintances that occur to me spontaneously. I was bemused to hear two couples playing "Can You Top This?" about their vacations. One couple went on about how beautiful the steps of some temple in Laos were. The other couple parried with, "Ah, but did you see the view from the rear steps?"

#48 ::: Gar Lipow ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 02:16 PM:

I did not get a passport until I was in my twenties. That is not because I did not leave the U.S., but because the other countries I visited were Canada and Mexico. No passport was needed for a U.S. citizen to enter or leave either. My mother who had her 86th Birthday a few days ago, has never had a passport for the same reason. Remember that until the 80's flying overseas was expensive. Lot's of people never went anywhere that required flying. I imagine you will start getting people born inside the passport free zone of the EU who get passports late for similar reasons. Especially since I suspect the era of cheap flying will prove a bubble soon; if we take global warming seriously and start pricing emissions, flying will get a LOT more expensive - and become a luxury most people can afford only once a decade or so.

#49 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 02:19 PM:

Lee, #18: You live in Texas and you've never wanted to travel in Mexico? Must be that spell that keeps USers from thinking about what's to the south.

A better question about passports is, as with voter registration, why isn't it easy to get one? Why isn't application automatic with state id? Or, even, why isn't state id enough? If the government doesn't want a person to cross the border, let them issue a stop order. Passports are a holdover from continental European conflicts, have a lot of bigotry embodied in them, and I think it's time to retire them.

#50 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 02:23 PM:

Lis @ 39: The Francophone Canadians all speak English, and will speak it to Americans who make any attempt to speak anything that could possibly be mistaken for French.

This is largely but not universally true in large multicultural centres such as Montreal. But elsewhere in the province... no. Really no. There are plenty of Québecois who don't speak English, and are violently offended by any attempt to communicate with them in that language, no matter how polite or well-intentioned the attempt.

#51 ::: James Davis Nicoll ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 02:31 PM:

"By June of 2009 we’ll have a new president. We’ll have a new congress. With any kind of luck the Department of Homeland Security will have been dissolved. Maybe Senator Leahy has bought us enough time that this security-theater insanity will miss us entirely"

Ten bucks Canadian says that even if by some fluke a Democratic candidate gets in, this doesn't happen and DHS is still around in 2012. Five bucks says that the dem will decide to show that they aren't weak by introducing some measure even more addle-brained than the Repugs proposed.

Isn't it time that people start reporting to DHS when they want to travel between US cities?

#52 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 02:37 PM:

Scott Taylor @43:
Europeans have usually needed passports because if they wanted to go on holiday somewhere other than the same general neck of the woods (and you don't always, naturally), it meant leaving the country, going through customs, etc.

Ain't that the truth. When I first visited my in-laws in the southern part of the Netherlands, we always brought our passports when going on an afternoon drive. I was there the night they took the hacksaws to the border barriers; I remember how revolutionary it seemed.

(Even more revolutionary, but not relevant to the conversation: the Euro. They had three bowls of pocket change in their kitchen: one Belgian, one German, one Dutch. Scoop up a handful as appropriate depending on where you're going this afternoon.)

#53 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 02:50 PM:

James @ 51

I hope that last line was a joke ... because it's beginning to feel like that's where some people would like us to go.

#54 ::: Janni ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 03:04 PM:

What worries me is thinking about families who live out here who won't, say, be able to afford to visit Grandma in Mexico for a weekend, because she happens to live on the other side of the border and getting passports for an entire family is, well, expensive.

Here in the southwest, at least, requiring passports to cross the border means more or less splitting some families up based on economics.

#55 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 03:29 PM:

Following up on my comments @ 50 to Lis @ 39 -- that sort of xenophobic provincialism is, unfortunately, not limited to the francophones in the region. A few months ago, one of the idiots was griping in a local newsgroup: He'd walked into a store on the Québec side; the clerk had said "bonjour", he'd said "hello", the clerk had said "bonjour" again, and he'd walked out in a snit because the clerk was (as he put it) arrogantly refusing to serve him in his language of choice.

#56 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 03:50 PM:

The administration doesn't want people going to Canada, because then they'd find out that people can actually live their lives without being permanently terrified....

#57 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 04:17 PM:

David 56: It's worse than that. They're desperately trying to maintain the fiction that the United States is a civilized country, despite their efforts to move us ever further from deserving that label. If US Citizens see what a civilized country actually looks like, they might notice what a travesty of one exists at home (this was my own experience).

Personally I think these fears are unfounded, at least wrt the American people in aggregate. The American people didn't notice that Bush was a dolt in 2000, though it was blatantly obvious; nor did they notice his administration galloping toward outright Stalinism during the next four years.

Or at least they didn't notice it enough to vote the evil bastards out. It helps, of course, that when the bull elephant smashes down the living room wall and shits on the carpet, the talk radio jocks are there to tell them it's all "Democrat propaganda." But you'd think they'd at least feel the breeze or smell the shit.

#58 ::: DaveL ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 04:17 PM:

Those who think the DHS will go away any time soon should read "Hellfire Nation" by James Morone, which is about the moral/religious current in American politics from the Puritans to the present.

He makes a good case for a Puritan vs. Antinomian struggle that pushes solutions to problems on each side's own terms (usually but not always "fix yourself and punish the wicked" versus "fix society and punish those who broke it). The solutions invariably involve establishing a bureaucracy or law enforcement agency to enforce a law or ten or fix an ill or ten, and they never go away.

#59 ::: Janet ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 04:38 PM:

I didn't get a passport until 1998 when I was 52 and was planning my first trip across the Atlantic. Before that my only border-crossings were a day trip into Baja California and a couple of visits to Canada--all with only a driver's license as ID.

That passport was set to expire in February 2008 so I recently renewed it by mail. Ten days later my new passport arrived.

It's one of the newfangled ones of course: "This document contains sensitive electronics. For best performance, do not bend, perforate, or expose to extreme temperatures". So what am I supposed to be worrying about when carrying one of these?

#60 ::: Constance Ash ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 04:39 PM:

Honestly, I've always felt that these walls so many are so crazy to build are not really about terrorists or even immigrants. They are about making sure WE cannot get out.

Love, C.

#61 ::: Constance Ash ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 04:53 PM:

If only that small a percentage of U.S. citz have or ever have had passports, what percentage of that percentage would you calculate are artists, intellectuals, musicians, journalists and writers and others who work for the media, whether television or film?

Is this group what is meant by the 'eastern establishment liberal elite?'

OTOH, it's difficult to find a college or university these days that doesn't sponsor extended study trips abroad, whether as individual programs or group programs. Europe, at least in my experience in the 80's and 90's was filled with U.S. college kids, and so was the Caribbean.

Love, C.

Love, C.

#62 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 05:03 PM:

Constance @61:
Is this group what is meant by the 'eastern establishment liberal elite?'

You have put your finger on one of the more difficult and unpleasant aspects of being an expat. Having travelled, or (shock, horror!) lived abroad makes one, in many eyes, less American. One's votes and opinions are tainted, one's experiences a detriment to the dialogue.

#63 ::: Constance Ash ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 05:09 PM:

I hate to think what it would mean about this country if it got to the point that I lied about all my time spent in other countries, with people who aren't U.S. citz, has been the most valuable, eye, ear, nose and throat (well mouth, i.e. food!) opening of my whole life. Without all that I wouldn't be who I am, but I'd still be yearning to have had what I so fortunately have had.

It's far more difficult to achieve these days, specifically, since unowoo took over the wh.

Love, C.

#64 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 05:12 PM:

Constance @63:

I don't lie. I just know I won't be listened to.

#65 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 05:18 PM:

Abi @ 62... Having travelled, or (shock, horror!) lived abroad makes one, in many eyes, less American.

I wonder if 'they' think the same thing about those who came to live in America. Probably.

#66 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 05:21 PM:

Mary Frances #37: I suspect that's due to a lack of understanding of how important a document the passport is (as well as a lack of appreciation of the speed of bureaucracies). Green cards, btw, may take as long as a year to renew.

#67 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 05:25 PM:

Lis #39: That's an important point (and you should add much of the Caribbean to the list as well).

#68 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 05:27 PM:

John A. Arkansawyer #40: A couple of dozen? I doubt it's that many.

#69 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 05:29 PM:

Janet @ 59: "This document contains sensitive electronics. For best performance, do not bend, perforate, or expose to extreme temperatures"

Hmm. Nothing there about exposure to microwave or other radiation, EM flux, ...

#70 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 05:37 PM:

Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) #42: Indeed. You could, for example read Thomas Carlyle's essay 'Shooting Niagara: And After?' published in Macmillan's* Magazine in 1867 and with appropriate changes of word (from 'n.....' to, say, 'Muslim') it would not be too different from something written by some of our more annoying contemporaries (my first thoughts were Charles Krauthammer and Ann Coulter, but Carlyle was smarter than both of them put together).

#71 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 05:39 PM:

* Yes, those Macmillans.

#72 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 05:53 PM:

Fragano Ledgister @ 68:

A couple of dozen? I doubt it's that many.

Typical foreigner, doubting the virtue and wisdom of us good upstanding Americans.

Look here, buddy, there are four Spice Girls just to start with, and with David Beckham, we're under a score already. There's also Shakira, Ali G, Rupert Murdoch, Naomi Campbell, the guy who does our lawn, Borat, umm...Princess Diana, and...uh...

Sneaky, too, them foreigners.

#73 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 06:24 PM:

Fragano @ 66: You're probably right. In fact, I'm sure you are. I know until the late 1980s, it never occurred to me that my passport was also proof of my citizenship. A passport was for "other countries' rules," not something I ever thought about needing in my own nation. My default proof-of-citizenship paper was my birth certificate. I wonder if that (meaning U.S. citizenship requirements) also has something to do with the way many Americans seem to regard passports as unimportant?

#74 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 06:26 PM:

John A. Arkansawyer #72: Sneaky indeed...

#75 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 06:30 PM:

Mary Frances #73: It could be.

#76 ::: Laurie D. T. Mann ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 06:35 PM:

There are times when I wonder if my Quebecquios ancestors (probably sic but) give me a right or return to Quebec.

When I was a kid, we routinely visited Quebec without passports or birth certificates. We even took the train across Canada in 1968 with nothing more than an itinerary.

In 1974, I got my first passport to go to Europe with a singing group. It was stamped when we landed in Germany. However, about a week later, when we were on a bus to go to Austria, all we had to do was flash our passports to get into Austria. Ditto Italy and Switzerland a few days later. I was, at the time, a little disappointed to not get more stamps, but now I understand that most European countries were past being paranoid about tour groups.

I don't remember if anyone raised this uptopic, but you can now travel over most of continental Europe without a passport. Too bad the Americans are so paranoid.

#77 ::: Constance Ash ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 06:56 PM:

I worry about the need to lie when enemy-of-the-state profiling -- which doesn't exist of course -- includes "has passport," "has traveled often outside the country," etc. So you burn your passport and lie about having traveled in order not to be taken in for interrogration, er, wait, no, it's now called 'debriefing.'

I'm not joking. I've lived in places for periods where people remember all too recently this happening to them, to family members, friends, neighbors, etc. Along with this all your identification is taken away, effectually making you a non-person, which makes it nearly impossible to escape, er, go on vacation.

Love, C.

#78 ::: Constance Ash ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 07:01 PM:

Is anyone familiar with the Peace Gardens? The park on the North Dakota - Manitoba border created as a symbol of the great friendship between the U.S. and Canada? Going to Canada, by car, was a typical summer vacation for us when I was growing up. We always stopped at the Peace Gardens and felt so pleased that these were such good countries that we didn't need borders and guards and passports and so on. The Canadians we always met there felt the same way. We were mutually congratulatory. We certainly didn't have passports when I was a kid.

Love, C.

#79 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 07:24 PM:

One of the more background-worrying parts of getting a passport (American, post-9/11 but pre-RFID) was realizing that we'd just sent off my birth certificate, certificate of birth abroad (Honduras), everything that said I was here, without making copies we could find. They came back in a few weeks, but if they hadn't, I'd have been waving my baby passport, the one I reported lost instead of turning in, as proof of identity or whatever I needed it for.
Passport bureaucracy is not limited to these days, though. When I was two months or so, my parents came back from Honduras for the summer. There was trouble taking me with them because they didn't enter the country with a baby. Bribes were paid, forms were filled out, somehow it came out that it would be easier if Mom and Dad said they weren't married, but that was it.

Is there an advantage to having more than one country's passport?

#80 ::: Lis ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 07:31 PM:

Debbie @ #47--Up until the last few years, Americans starting from their homes in the US, traveling similar distances to those intra-European travels you're describing, would have had real difficulty reaching someplace that an American would need a passport to enter or to return to the US from.

And that's what my question was: What percentage of Europeans have traveled distances that, if an American starting from home traveled those distances, would require the American to have a passport? The number of countries in Europe doesn't change the fact that the distances involved, mapped onto North America, don't take you out of the zone Americans used to be able to travel passport-free. Sure, you have acquaintances who've traveled to the Caribbean and Central and South America, Africa, Australia, Southeast Asia--so do I. (And I think we may fairly consider travel from Europe to North America as equivalent to Europe from North America.)

So the question remains, what percentage of Europeans have traveled those longer distances?

Travel within Europe is undoubtedly more broadening than travel within North America, but the failure of Americans to travel internationally as much as Europeans do is not a product of American insularity; it's a product of it being relatively hard to reach an international border--and even harder to reach an international border where they need a passport, and the languages and customs on the other side are not the ones that either they or their parents or their neighbors grew up with. And American insularity, to the extent that it's greater than European insularity, is I think in large part a product of that.

#81 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 07:38 PM:

Diatryma @ 79:

Is there an advantage to having more than one country's passport?

I've never had even one (note to self: must fix that soon), but I know having two passports means it takes two countries to revoke your ability to cross borders and allows entry to countries that only have relations with one of the passport issuers.

It also allows you to say under duress with some credibility, "I am not from the country that killed your family."

#82 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 07:53 PM:

Randolph, #49: Answers to your question, in no particular order of importance:
1) I've only lived here for 9 years, and border tensions have been a factor that entire time.
2) Money issues. The only reason we were able to swing that trip to Seattle was that we had free airfare AND your offer of crash space.
3) In Canada, they speak my language.
4) Time issues. It's hard for us to get even a few days away -- and I'm sure you remember that Russ got a number of business-related calls while we were there!
5) There are a lot of other countries I'd like to visit before Mexico even shows up on the radar. Right now, my top 3 are New Zealand, Australia, and India.

Janet, #59: Your new passport has an RFID chip in it. If you're worried about unauthorized people getting access to the information on it (something that's remarkably easy to do with the right equipment), get a small metal box to carry it in. An AOL free-CD box will do nicely.

Or just put it in the microwave on full power for about 5 seconds. Then you don't need the box.

Laurie, #76: "Quebecois" -- ideally with a cedilla under the C.

#83 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 08:06 PM:

Lee @ 82... Actually, there's no cedilla under the 'C' in Québécois as it is pronounced kaybaykwa, not kaybayswa.

#84 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 08:35 PM:

I've had a passport since late 1990, when I got one for a school trip that would have happened in early 1991 if we hadn't gotten involved in Iraq that time. Since I was underage at the time, it was only good for five years and I renewed it in 1995. When that one expired I dawdled about renewing it because it was my only proof-of-citizenship (my parents had my birth certificate, and I lived in a different state), but I finally sent it off to be renewed in late 2006 and got it back just before the "Oh, by the way, everybody needs one to fly to Canada/Mexico/the Carribe Caribb Jamaica and such." (why isn't That Word in the spelling reference?)

I think I have one of the last non-electronic passports issued by the US. Which is a relief, for the security concerns, although I now have to worry about whether they're going to declare the non-electronic ones invalid and charge me to replace the thing in less than the full ten years.

#85 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 08:45 PM:

This thread inspired me to go check, and sure enough, my passport expires in June 2008. I guess I'll renew. I don't need it for proof of citizenship; I have a copy of my birth certificate, but given the way the world seems to be tending, I think someday I might want to visit Canada or Mexico in a hurry...

#86 ::: PHB ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 09:02 PM:

xeger @ 26: I don't think the problem is the choice of roots, it is the idea that the only form of authentication that is valid is ultra-high assurance.

In DKIM we essentially dispensed with the need for a traditional PKI with certificates and such. Its a key centric model on the XKMS model, not a Kohnfelder model. You stick your email signing key in your DNS zone as a TXT record, easy, over and done with.

Thats perfectly OK for many users and uses. It allows us to build a critical mass of DKIM signers and verifiers. Third Party Authentication then comes as a value add where the third party is on notice that they have to demonstrate value.

So for example, you get email from a company you have never heard of, they sign their mail. You have no reputation data for them, what do you do? Today the only real option is content filtering which is inevitably error prone. Or consult some third party accreditation provider which is expensive if you have to pay. Better to have the sender pay for an accreditation by an accreditation provider that can demonstrate a trustworthy track record.

If an email is sent by a legitimate company that is willing to disclose a real physical address where process can be served the chance that they are a spammer is very small. 98% of all the spam being pumped out today is being sent by hard core out and out criminals. There is very little grey.

Receivers can choose the trust providers they accept in this application by performance. If they deliver an accurate indication that accredited senders have a low probability of spam it will be easier to accept the mail they send. If they don't add value their credentials can be ignored.

Accountability must be 360 degrees to work. That includes trust providers.

#87 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 09:21 PM:

Lee, #81: Sorry.

#88 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 09:32 PM:

Serge, #83: Okay. I could swear I've seen it with the cedilla, but maybe that was by people even more ignorant than I am. :-) At any rate, you're the Resident Expert, so I'll take your word for it.

Randolph, #87: Enh, my bad, I think. You said something as a joke and I took it seriously. Not to worry.

#89 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 09:51 PM:

Lis, #80: "it's a product of it being relatively hard to reach an international border--and even harder to reach an international border where they need a passport, and the languages and customs on the other side are not the ones that either they or their parents or their neighbors grew up with"

Lis, you're talking nonsense. There's a lot of people close to the Mexican border.

#90 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 10:08 PM:

Regarding military travel:

For places in which we have troops stationed there are Status of Forces Agreements (SOFA). The SOFA will define what travel is allowed, and what is required.

Generally the requirements are, individuals stationed in country, or in country to participate in an excercise, need only orders and ID card. In Europe, generally speaking, so long as one has a passport one can take "leave en route" and overstay orders.

Japan, forbids this. If one wishes to play tourist, one has to be stationed (or under orders) and take leave. When one's orders expire, one has to make landfall in the US, before one can return (on a civilian passport).

Ukraine used to require a passport (any sort) as well as orders; because the visa was categorised as "military purposes". Now they don't require a visa, and one may just present a passport at customs/passport control.

SOFAs are what allow sailors to take liberty without a passport.

As far as uniform. When I enlisted (1993) travel on orders was supposed to be done in Class B (shirt, slacks, low quarters, tie if one was wearing long sleeves; or the sweater).

By 1995, this was discouraged. Nowadays, lots of travel is being done in field uniforms, becase guys are going to/coming from leave.

#91 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 10:17 PM:

Randolph @ 89: Yes, but in the past a passport has not been necessary for U.S. citizens to visit and then return from Mexico. (Or Canada. Or Jamaica, etc.) Americans living in the continental U.S. have generally had to either cross an ocean or travel across Mexico before reaching any international border where a passport was needed.

Lizzy @ 85: I'm having those same thoughts. I've never had a passport before (like many, I didn't need one, as my only international travel involved visiting Canada) but now I figure I should get one so that I will be ready when/if it becomes necessary. Of course, complicating this is the fact that my last name will change in 2008, when I get married...

#92 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 10:27 PM:

Lee @ 88... No problem. Letter 'C', if followed by 'O', is always pronounced 'K'. Exceptions are with names like 'François', where the cedilla turns the 'C' into an 'S'.

#93 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 10:29 PM:

My God, Jim MacD @ #1, here in Texas we're dealing with the construction of Berlin Wall 2007--through wildlife refuges, sensitive wetlands (even more so because they drain playas and other semi-arid areas), and the towns and cities of the Rio Grande Valley. Unlike the survivalist-nutbags of the Arizona border, the residents on the Texas-New Mexico border, including their leaders and representatives, HATE this wall. Of course, as Dem politicos, they've received no response from Their Government except for threats from DHS.

Okay, I'm late to this thread, and maybe this has already been brought up. End of rant, for now. But remember, Texas is lots more than Governor Goodhair, Idiot Son and Idiot Ranch.

#94 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 10:52 PM:

'Summer Storms' @ 91 — Surely, if there'll be complications upon changing your name, it'd be easier to keep your birthname? Rather like clitoridectomy, it's not legally compelled, just socially enforced.

It's certainly been accepted here for some decades now. In fact, I remember one co-worker some 10 or so years ago marrying and having long & frustrating difficulties getting all her financial & personal identities changed.

#95 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 10:54 PM:

Epacris, the point is that I want to take my husband's surname when we marry.

#96 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 10:57 PM:

'Summer Storms' @ 91 — Surely, if there'll be complications upon changing your name, it'd be easier to keep your birthname? Rather like clitoridectomy, changing it isn't legally compelled, but can be socially pressed.

Keeping one's usual name has certainly been accepted here for some decades now. In fact, I remember one co-worker some 10 or so years ago marrying and having long & frustrating difficulties getting all her financial & personal identities changed.

#97 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 10:58 PM:

Randolph@89: Lis, you're talking nonsense. There's a lot of people close to the Mexican border.

There are 50 states. Only four of them border on Mexico. For that matter, only 14 of them border on Canada (and that's counting a couple where the "border" is out in the middle of one or another of the Great Lakes.) That leaves 32 states that don't touch any place except another state or a whole lot of ocean, which also leaves us a whole lot of people who aren't all that close to the Mexican border or to the Canadian one either.

#98 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 11:17 PM:

'Summer Storms' @ 95, of course, if that's what you've decided after considering the different aspects, I'm hardly going to try & forbid you. With a bit of luck, the system will deal with the change without problem, since it's still common.

It might be usefu, however,l to keep some sort of public listing that includes a maiden name somewhere, unless you're trying to break contact with earlier friends & relatives. There have been some very sad losses of connexion in my family where people searching for others after years apart haven't known married names.

Er. I'm sorry about the multi-post above, I must have slipped during editing.

#99 ::: Gar Lipow ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 11:22 PM:

Debra Doyle 87: and to reinforce your point and reiterate what has been said previously -- even people living on the Canadian or Mexican border did not need a passport until recently. I've made day trips to both Canada and Mexico with only a drivers licence and credit card for ID - Mexico when I lived in California, Canada when I lived in Washington. Until recently a U.S. citizens had almost an entire continent (North America) they could visit without a passport. The only exception was the small fraction of Guatemala that is in North rather than central America. For that matter passport free travel included the U.S. state of Hawaii, our colonies Puerto Rico and Guam, and I gather from up thread independent nation Jamaica as well. I wonder how many other places that extended to.

#100 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 11:31 PM:

Summer Storms at 91: if you don't yet have a passport, wait until you are married, and then get it. As I read the instructions, if your name changes between passports, you have to submit a certified copy of your marriage certificate with the application for the new one. The website for info is

#101 ::: Arwel ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 11:34 PM:

Abi @ 52.

It must have been a long time ago if you needed a passport to cross from the Netherlands to Belgium! In that neck of the woods, have you ever been to Baarle? Thanks to various medieval treaties, landswaps, and trades between aristocrats the border is famously complicated round there - the Belgian side is called Baarle-Hertog (just under 7.5 sq km, population 2400), the Dutch side is Baarle-Nassau, (population 5000). Baarle-Hertog is 24 separate pieces of land - there are 20 Belgian exclaves contained within the Netherlands, and there are 7 Dutch exclaves contained within the Belgian exclaves! The general rule is that a house pays taxes to the country that the front door is in, but quite a few buildings show signs of doors having been moved over the years. At one time, restaurant customers had to move tables to Belgium when Dutch laws required them to close an hour earlier than Belgian restaurants.

#102 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 11:35 PM:

#85 - Lizzy - be very careful about checking the rules. A colleague of mine was refused boarding of a plane, because his passport was not valid for "six months after his return date" - that is, the practical expiry is six months before the date. Shtooopid! This was for a one-week business trip from Canada to Israel. MSNBC story. The link in that to entry requirements is no longer valid, but the current version is Consular Information Sheets. The one on Canada is rather a through-the-looking-glass vision of Canada.

Anyone hold a NEXUS card?

#103 ::: Lis ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 11:39 PM:

Randolph @ #89--in addition to the points made by Summer & Debra (no passport needed until recently, "close" for residents of only four states), for millions of American citizens, the Mexicans don't even talk funny. They speak a language those Americans learned at home, from their parents. Sometimes even in Mexico. Yes, there area lot of illegal immigrants, but there area lot of legal ones, too--and legal or illegal, their children born here are citizens.

For the people who live close enough to the border to cross it easily, visiting Mexico is just not all that alien an experience. For the people for whom it might be, Mexico is a lot further away.

#104 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 11:46 PM:

Lizzy @ 100: Our honeymoon plans involve travel in Canada as well as the U.S. (via land) so I'm glad to hear that the passport requirement may not be in force until after that time. Although Murphy's law and its various corollaries being what they are, I'm thinking I ought to get that passport beforehand anyway, just in case (the wedding is planned for September). It will be a PITA to change it later on, but for immediate post-wedding travel it should still be good, and if we decide to postpone the big honeymoon trip until later, I'll have time to update the passport.

Like I said upthread, it's complicated, but not impossible.

#105 ::: James Davis Nicoll ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 11:48 PM:

39: "The Francophone Canadians all speak English."

For values of "all" equal to about forty percent.

#106 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 11:54 PM:

James, I concur. I visited Quebec (specifically Quebec City and Montreal) in the early 1980's and definitely found situations where the ability to speak French was very useful. Then again, I'm somewhat of the "when-in-Rome" type, and this particular trip was for high school students who were studying French - I was in my 4th year - so it isn't as if it bothered me any.

#107 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 12:03 AM:

Epacris @ 98: Yes, I'm sure I will maintain some sort of link via my maiden name for anyone who might want to get in touch with me. I just want to keep my "everyday" life simple by using the same last name as my husband. I'm not sure why, but that just strikes me as being less of a hassle than doing anything else. I will also admit to not being completely enamored of my maiden name, probably due to some rather annoying contortions of it inflicted on me by rude classmates in my childhood, and so am looking forward to the change.

#108 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 12:05 AM:

Lis @ 103:

legal or illegal, their children born here are citizens.

My secondmost recent e-mail from my dear cousin purports to show that the yearly cost of undocumented immigrants to the United States is roughly equal to the yearly cost of the war on Iraq and includes this gem of foul language:

5) $17 Billion dollars a year is spent for education for the American-born children of illegal aliens, known as anchor babies.

Anchor babies. Makes it sound like someone wants to put them in a sack full of rocks and throw them in the lake, doesn't it? I'm not sure if it's sickening, tragic, absurd, or what that the most recent email I got from him is titled
Christian Ways to Reduce Stress

My dear cousin. My poor country.

#109 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 12:15 AM:

extending Lis@80 (since I've run the great-circle program often enough to know this one): the distance between London and Athens is about half the average distance between the east and west coasts of the US. (Pop quiz: how many countries would you now cross on a reasonably straight line between the two?) An inadequate sample suggests that most Europeans don't understand how much almost-empty space is here, and most USians don't understand how much heterogeneity exists in close quarters in the rest of the world. (Horrible example: Bush not understanding that there were two religions in Iraq.)

Randolph@89: Aside from the common-language people mentioned above, there are those who consider Mexico a separate country rather than an erring protectorate. Also, if you look at a population map you'll see your claim is arguable. Example: LA is the 2nd-biggest US city, and ~3 hours from the border -- and it has ~1.5% of the US population. The next big near city is Houston (IIRC #4, <1%, ~7 hours). I drove through some of that territory a few weeks ago; there are good reasons it's thinly populated.

#110 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 12:15 AM:

John 108: I believe the expression I'm groping for is "well, bless his heart!"

I think the way he needs to reduce stress is by carefully not reading the Bible verses about welcoming the stranger. Then again, he's probably adept at that technique.

#111 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 12:31 AM:

Debra Doyle, #97: One of the largest urban areas in the USA--the Southern California coast--borders Mexico. In fact, the border divides that region, since San Diego is directly adjacent to Tijuana. That's nearly 24 million people on the US side. San Antonio, perhaps 100 miles from the border and 200 miles from Monterrey, has a population of 1.3 million. A million here, a million there, soon you're talking real cities...

Lis, #103: Mexican-Americans (bizarre phrase--they haven't moved Mexico to Europe last time I noticed) are an accepted and well-understood part of US culture? Then why are having so much hysteria? And, really, most second-generation Mexican-Americans are like most second-generation immigrants--more US than Mexican. Many don't speak the language, and those who do often don't have full competence in it (I live with an interpreter, if you are wondering how I know).

As far as I can tell, there's this weird disconnect in our thinking that starts at our southern border. Mexico is a very non-US place, Mexican culture isn't widely accepted or understood in the USA, and Mexico borders the USA and is near one of the biggest urban areas in the world on the US side. This is also true of Florida and the Caribbean Islands. Yet here we are arguing that somehow, it's just like America. No. Latin America is very close. And somehow there's a gap in our reasoning about it, except when we complain about Mexican migrants or Venezuelan socialists.

#112 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 12:40 AM:

CHiP, #109: You talk about LA like the city proper is all of Southern California. No, it's part of the Southern California coastal region, heavily urbanized, and running from the San Fernando Valley all the way across the border to Tijuana, where people commute across the border every day. The nearest Texan city is San Antonio which, while not as populous as SoCal, is a perfectly respectable size, and perhaps three hours drive from Monterrey in Nuevo León. No far, in other words. And then there's Caribbean Islands, not far from Florida. It's just weird. All this difference, right on our borders, and it's our mass consciousness.

#113 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 12:53 AM:

Henry Troup at 102, thanks for the warning. I am not, actually, planning to take a plane anywhere. Especially with the dollar falling the way it is, I couldn't afford to even if I wanted to. But it just seems smart to have a passport. I do have friends in both Mexico and Canada that I might someday want to see.

#114 ::: Nenya ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 12:58 AM:

That's really wonderful, if there is going to be an extra few months or a year for everyone to get passports. American/Canadian border culture is a wonderful, beauteous thing, and should not be stomped on like this.

This whole thing makes me sad--I am one of the Canadians who used to be proud of the fact that our border with the US was the longest undefended border in the world. I remember looking at world maps as a child and comparing our border with the one between Russia and China. I would read all these books about people trying to get into or out of highly-controlled countries and it seemed so bizarre, because my experience with border crossings was my dad pulling up to a little kiosk, being asked whether he and his family were Canadian or American, maybe showing his driver's license, and being let through. (This was in the late 1980's/early 1990's.) Of course as a kid if there was more documentation than that required I didn't notice it, but I remember crossing into Canada from the US in 2006 (the first time I ever did it, and just before the must-have-passports rule) and seriously wondering if they would let us through.

I now have an American passport (yay for windfalls that mean you can pay the $97) and hope to get a Canadian passport (I'm dual-citizen) as soon as I can. Living in the States now has me worried about not being able to leave. Maybe I'll be back home in Canada by June 2009. But I don't expect the DHS to lighten up much, Democrat win or no Democrat win. Which breaks my heart for the loss of the border culture that was so much a part of my youth. :(

#115 ::: Nenya ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 01:01 AM:

Er, crossing the border by myself as an adult in 2006, in case that was confusing. :)

#116 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 01:09 AM:

#86 ::: PHB @ 86 ...
Better to have the sender pay for an accreditation by an accreditation provider that can demonstrate a trustworthy track record.

Such as, perhaps, Verisign?

Oddly enough, it sounds as though you're suggesting that the best way to deal with spam is to pay somebody so they can 'do business' ... a practice that the mob was quite adept with.

If an email is sent by a legitimate company that is willing to disclose a real physical address where process can be served the chance that they are a spammer is very small. 98% of all the spam being pumped out today is being sent by hard core out and out criminals. There is very little grey.

This particular statement has an impressive number of things wrong with it. What's a "legitimate company"? I routinely get messages that I'd consider spam from various "legitimate companies", who don't seem to understand that opt-out should be the default, not opt-in...

... "where process can be served" ... would that be in Nigeria? Korea?

... "hard core criminals" - linking back to other threads, one persons freedom fighter is another persons terrorist...

Accountability must be 360 degrees to work. That includes trust providers.

Indeed - and trust also includes disclosure of biases, hmm?

[and to disclose biases, I don't speak for my employer here, or, in fact, have anything to do with that aspect of my employer's interests]

#117 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 01:23 AM:

Nenya @ 114: I'm with you on border culture. I grew up less than a two-hour drive from the New York - Ontario border at Buffalo/Niagara Falls, and trips to Canada were a fairly frequent feature of my childhood. To see that disappear is heartbreaking.

#118 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 01:39 AM:

Summer Storms, #107: I hear that! Although in my case, it was more that nobody could spell my birth name correctly, and an amazing number of people couldn't even pronounce it. (Two words, 8 letters, not Polish or Czech, and pronounced exactly as it's spelled.) So when I got married, it was well worth the hassle to leave it behind me -- and well worth not going thru the hassle to change it back again after the divorce!

For a long time, I did leave my telephone listing in my birth name. Partly that was to make it obvious when someone calling was a telemarketer, but partly it was also in case someone from olden times wanted to get in touch. As olden times have pretty much faded into disinterest by now, I no longer care about doing this.

#119 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 01:49 AM:

During college I was privileged to be the baby/house sitter for a visiting professor of Victorian Economics at U. Kan. they were from England, but had lived all over Europe with his teaching acccommocations, etc. and their kids were sent to boarding school at approximately when Harry was sent to Hogwarts (i.e. 11??).

One morning the professor called me and said, "wife and I are going to take a day trip to Omaha, can you come over and stay wit the kids?" I said "Sure, but let's talk once I get to your apartment."

Turned out that he'd looked at the maps and decided to go cross country (not over to I-29). I allowed as they might not make to Omaha but to enjoy the journey (this was early in their year at KU). I think they got as far as Atchison, KS, had a lovely dinner and returned. The kids and I had a fine day, they had wonderful children and we always had a good time when I was at their house.

They had a fairly distressing trip to Albuquerque during Spring Break, mostly because they encountered really strong winds and had to pull off for a while because they were scared their rented van was going to get blown over.

#120 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 02:02 AM:

Randolph@112: It's not the people in San Antonio who have trouble thinking about Mexico. The people in San Antonio can think about Mexico just fine, and often do.

It's people in places like, say, Des Moines, Iowa -- for whom the border is over 18 hours away by road -- who sometimes have problems.

#121 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 02:15 AM:

One of my labmates just moved to Los Angeles to take a teaching position there while she writes. A great deal of the reason is that she wants to be close to her family in Mexico.

I sometimes wish I had more experience with other cultures-- I'm extremely Midwestern. I speak Spanish pretty well, if not as well as in college, but never use it with my Spanish-speaking colleagues. It feels condescending and rude, and even though I know this is not entirely right, I can't shake it. I envied a couple high schol friends of mine who were bilingual, and later trilingual.
Of course, when I went to Southern California for an interview, I was slightly freaked out by everything. Not a lot of green, hallways open to the outside, labs with doors to the outside, what were they thinking?

#122 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 02:37 AM:

Debra Doyle, #120: "It's people in places like, say, Des Moines, Iowa -- for whom the border is over 18 hours away by road -- who sometimes have problems [thinking about Mexico]."

They have, I think, fewer problems thinking about France than Mexico, yet Mexico is much closer, and they are much more likely to encounter a Mexican than a French person. Which is my point.

Diatryma, #121: in my experience, Mexicans are usually delighted if you make an effort to speak their language, however poorly, as long as you are polite about it--they are mostly very proud of their culture and delighted to share it. You may, however, find that your technical Spanish gives you grief.

"Not a lot of green, hallways open to the outside, labs with doors to the outside, what were they thinking?" They're just listening to the weather gods.

#123 ::: Juliet E McKenna ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 05:39 AM:

Lis @80, I suspect mainland Europeans travel more than folk from the UK, what with us being surrounded by water. I'm going purely on anecdotal evidence here, in that French contemporaries of mine when I was a kid of eleven or so had generally travelled to most of the neighbouring countries - whereas I'd been to er, France.

I'm guessing about 50% of my UK classmates had been to France or Spain on summer holidays - and the ones of Irish extraction went there on a fairly regular basis. Anything more was unaccountably exotic - back in the 70s.

My own sons, now 12 and 14, have made various trips to France, Germany and once to the US, as well as making regular trips to Ireland. Their pals have been to places like Holland, Italy, Spain etc on a regular basis and up till the past few years, a sizeable minority had been to the US on Disney-type packages. And a small minority - say 2 or 3 in a class of 25 or so - have had regular holidays in places like the Maldives.

Then again, a comparable minority have never left the country. And a couple of kids my children know, to my certain knowledge, have never left the county. That's right. They're heading into their teens and have never left Oxfordshire. Unsuprisingly, there's a direct correlation between travel and family income.

One thing that I think has really changed is the amount of business travel. My husband and his contemporaries (and mine, come to that) in a range of professions will now most likely travel to assorted European destinations several times a year, in a way their fathers (and definitely their mothers) never did. And most of us now know someone who's lived and worked somewhere in Europe - or Japan or the US - for a chunk of time.

Apropos passports, going from reports by pals who teach, these days it's school trips to France or similar that prompt most teenagers to get one, if they don't already have one.

#124 ::: Sica ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 07:26 AM:

It's really interesting to see how passports are used/not used and needed/not needed in the States.

I'm Icelandic and over here pretty much everyone has a passport. I don't have my birth certificate. I think my parents have it buried in a drawer somewhere and I've seen it once but I find the idea of using that rather than a passport to prove who you are is quite weird to me.

I live in the UK and I need to use my passport there for a lot of things. When opening bank accounts, signing house rental contracts etc. and for travelling of course.

Post 9/11 I don't even dare go on an internal UK flight without my passport and the rest of the passengers seem to have them.

I lost my passport a few months ago and getting a replacement was easyish. I had to travel to the Embassy of Iceland in London (bit of a hassle since I live in Scotland), get photographed there and fill out a form (including explaining what happened to the old passport) 3 days later my passport arrived in the mail. Sent from Iceland. I was very impressed.

#125 ::: Lis ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 07:28 AM:

Juliet @ #123, I'm not sure you're getting the point about distances. When talking about how many Europeans have traveled the distances, that, if an American traveled that same distance from home, the American would need a passport, talking about those Europeans traveling in Europe is meaningless--no matter how many countries are involved. Most Americans traveling those distances would not reach an international border. For those who would, it would be Canada, where they speak the same language and do not have a startlingly different culture, or Mexico, which for millions of Americans, and very sizable percentages of those within that kind of short distance of the US-Mexioan border, is either the place where they or their parents came from, or a place where they at least speak the same language as the place where they or their parents come from.

When I was a young teen, over thirty years ago, a sizable minority of my classmates had been to Europe. But that's from Massachusetts; Europe was just one, albeit 6+ hours, plane flight away. When I was just a little older, in high school and college, going to the Caribbean or to Mexico on vacation was pretty normal--but of course did not require a passport.

Until the last couple of years, Americans simply did not need passports in order to visit anyplace as close to home as France is to even the most distant parts of Britain. Or as close to home as any part of Europe is to any part of Europe. Or even some places that are significantly further away, such as Hawaii for any American who doesn't live there.

#126 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 08:38 AM:

Fragano Ledgister @ 70

my first thoughts were Charles Krauthammer and Ann Coulter, but Carlyle was smarter than both of them put together).

Only that smart? Talk about faint praise, that's positively dim.

#127 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 09:10 AM:

Nenya @ 114

In the early summer of 1964 I celebrated graduating high school by taking a hitch-hiking trip from easter Pennsylvania to Michigan and then back by way of Ontaria and New York. I walked across the bridge from Detroit to Windsor* and was greeted cheerfully at the Canadian side with a couple of polite questions about my intended length of stay and purpose of visit, and no request for any sort of identity papers. At the other end, near Niagra Falls, it was getting late and the US border people were a little more bureaucratic: they asked for ID and were satisfied with a PA driver's license.

I flew to and from Vancouver, BC in 2004, and had a much longer and more annoying tour of the outer fringes of US hospitality. I had a passport, a purpose for the trip that involved the business of a large US corporation, and the US customs people were barely civil.

* It was a beautiful summer morning, just a tad warm as I recall, with lovely view. Driving would have been much less fun.

#128 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 09:14 AM:

Y'all have to realize that the USA is huge.

The distance from London, England, to Moscow, Russia, is 1,552 miles. When you'd traveled 1,552 miles in the USA, starting from Los Angeles, you'd still be 200 miles short of Chicago.

We've got 3,537,441 square miles.

France is 210,026 square miles.
Germany is 137,858 square miles.
Italy has 116,000 square miles.
The UK is 93,788 square miles.

And so on.

#129 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 09:20 AM:

Lis @125:
You're comparing apples and oranges here, or setting up some kind of meaningless test. Europeans don't travel those distances much because they don't have to. Everything they're going to is closer; why travel? As Scott Taylor said in comment 43, Americans think a hundred years is a long time. Europeans think a hundred miles is a long journey.

To subdivide it further, a hundred miles buys you a lot more variety from, say, Rhode Island than it does from Idaho. When I lived in rural California, everyone kept their tanks half full of gas, because you never knew when you had to make the 2 hour (each way) journey to Eureka for some necessity or other. In New York, how many people even own cars?

The core argument is sound - contact with truly foreign cultures is a lot harder from the US than from, say, the Netherlands. But then the people to look at are the Australians and New Zealanders, who also have to travel substantial distances to find a foreign culture. And yet a substantial percentage of young adults from both countries travel all over the world.

#130 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 09:28 AM:

Abi @ 129... you never knew when you had to make the 2 hour (each way) journey to Eureka

...and, if you happened to be going there when a time warp blew up in the lab, you'd find yourself making the trip again and again and again and...

#131 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 09:31 AM:

Serge @130:

And there we were just worrying about landslides and forest fires! Silly us.

#132 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 09:34 AM:

Abi @ 131... Forest fires that undoubtedly were started by the various death rays at the school's science fair.

#133 ::: Martin Wisse ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 09:38 AM:

With any kind of luck the Department of Homeland Security will have been dissolved.

Not a chance. The DHS was after all a Democratic initiative, before Bush stole it and puts his inimitable stamp on it.

As for the European/American passport lowlevel "flamewar" going on here, doesn't it reminds y'all of usenet? Made me postivily nostalgic.

#134 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 09:57 AM:

Ach, Martin, this isn't a flamewar. Where have you been of late? We've been all over the hot topics, from brtn to Gin Central to fraternity hazing.

You've been missing out, dude.

#135 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 10:02 AM:

Abi... You forgot to mention the bellicose crustaceans.

#136 ::: Bill ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 10:04 AM:

It's interesting to see how many Americans here are saying that they don't need a passport because "they only go to Canada". I'm Canadian, and I have a passport solely because I visit the U.S. Even before a passport became mandatory last-yearish, it was always strongly recommended as being harder to find fault with should one encounter a border guard in a bad mood, and that's on both sides - I know people who made it through to the states with no ID but who were then refused entry back into Canada!

p.s. On % of Quebecers speaking English - very much depends on where you are. Western/central Montreal, ~90%; Eastern Montreal, ~60%; Abitibi-Témiscamingue, probably more like ~30%.

#137 ::: Nathanael Nerode ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 10:05 AM:

Unfortunately, the Bushco motivation for this is perfectly obvious: to keep Americans *IN*. Same reason Germany closed its borders before WWII.... fascists all act alike, y'know?

#138 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 10:16 AM:

Randolph Fritz @ 122:

in my experience, Mexicans are usually delighted if you make an effort to speak their language, however poorly, as long as you are polite about it

You know, I've found that to be so, but I've typically spoken English with them anyway, on the theory that they're my guests in this country, they're here to stay and work, and it's to their advantage to get to practice their English.

I'd rather work on my Spanish. It's not very good--it probably reached its apex in the eighties when my conversation teacher asked me to explain to the class the difference between the styles of Walt Whitman and Gertrude Stein--and I could use the practice, but I figure they need it more than I do.

#139 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 10:24 AM:

When you sound like Christophe Lambert, you make sure you have a passport when you cross the border between the USA and Canada.

#140 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 10:54 AM:

Bruce Cohen #126: I'd say that was about right, but then I've been reading Shooting Niagara and the Latter-Day Pamphlets recently, so I might be biased.

#141 ::: Lis ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 10:59 AM:

Abi @ #129--Perhaps I will worry about comparing American behavior to Australian or New Zealander behavior when I'm not talking to Europeans citing their extensive international travel covering distances that wouldn't take most Americans halfway to the nearest border. Or in some cases, out of their home state.

And yes, Texans will drive distances to go out for dinner that New Englanders would consider more practical for an overnight trip. In either case, though, it usually won't involve crossing an international border. In New England, it's likely to involve crossing a state border, but not even that, in Texas.

Bill @ #136--yes, a passport is harder to argue with. But it wasn't required, and most people never had problem. I never heard of anyone who wasn't doing something seriously stupid (intentionally be cute and annoying to the border guard, for instance)*, having a problem before the last few years. No, I'm not saying in never happened; I'm saying that it was an unusual enough occurence that it didn't prompt the average American who was only traveling to Canada occasionally on vacation--or routinely to buy milk and bread, for that matter--to think they needed to have a passport.

People in the intermediate range, crossing the border often but not even every week on business--way more likely to have a passport, just in case.

*One exception. A woman I worked with told me the unsettling tale of her very pleasant visit to Canada ending in the US border guard, on her return, asking her, when she couldn't produce her driver's license, "Where were you born?"

She was born to American parents in the UK--and her parents dropped the ball and didn't get her birth registered when they should have. So she was legally a naturalized citizen, and should have had her naturalization papers, or a passport, or at least her driver's license which would have avoided the situation of the guard asking where she was born... After that, she got a passport and carried it with her, just in case.

#142 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 11:11 AM:

Eventually, we're going to get to a traveller's Smart Card that maintains all required information for travel.

As much as I dislike the need to carry something to prove identity, and the government keeping track of its citizens comings and goings, I don't see any way around it now and in the future.

#143 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 11:25 AM:

abi 129: I remember landing in the airport in San Francisco, and being driven two hours inland to a place that was still claimed to be "in the San Francisco area." I remarked that two hours from New York City would get you to Philadelphia with time to spare.

As for SOUTHERN California, my curmudgeonly comment about it is that if you're in a nice restaurant and you ask the waiter where the men's room is, he'll tell you how many lights. I don't drive, so in SoCal I'm completely dependent on others to do anything but stay put.

My parents have lived there for some years. When they visited me here, they didn't understand why so many nice restaurants here don't take reservations. They get all the business they need from foot traffic, and if you can't get in to the restaurant you wanted to go to, you walk half a block to another one just as good.

Back on perceived distances, in Key West I met a woman from Montana, who had been thinking of popping up to visit a friend in Key Largo. "It's a hundred miles!" said the friend. "So? An hour drive," replied the woman from Montana. And in Montana it would be, but on the Overseas Highway it's like four and a half. Similarly, when my brother visited me from SoCal, he didn't really understand that the seven mile journey from his hotel to my house could take substantial time, what with the blizzard and all. He arrived four hours later chilled to the bone in soaking-wet sneakers. Sigh.

#144 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 11:30 AM:

Lis @141:
Ironically, the Brits I have known who travel the furthest on a regular basis are often the most provincial. They go to the British resorts in the Canaries or to Disney World for their holidays (both of which meet your test for raw distance travelled). This means that they rarely go where people don't speak their language, or where the food tastes funny.

Instead of constructing a test specifically so the Europeans fail it, it might be best to just talk about why you're feeling so defensive. I know some of this emotional territory pretty well, because I'm on both sides of the fence. I'm American born and raised, and have lived in Europe for 14 years. My experience of the matter is that many Europeans are astonished that Americans don't have passports. But that's as much a form of provincialism as the Americans who don't - each is simply not used to the scale of the other place*.

The way I often address this is to talk about California and France. They're roughly the same size, economically. (California is, physically, closer to the size of the UK than France.) So, I ask, who knows the capital of France? Everybody does, of course.

So who knows the capital of California? Silence.

It's an effective demonstration of how little Europeans often know about the US.

But if you're sensing a little antagonism here from the European camp, it's because the US voters who never leave their home country are still deciding things that affect the places they regard with such suspicion. The resentment that breeds is inevitable, and probably inescapable.

Some criticisms you just have to take on the chin. Trust me - it's even harder to do when you're an expat, and you're facing it all the time.

* I once chatted to a taxi driver who was going to Disney World for two weeks. He had a couple of days to spare, and said he might just drive over to see the Grand Canyon for an overnight. It was almost painful to disabuse him of the notion.

#145 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 11:38 AM:

Lis @141, you're not (just) talking to Europeans. I'm an American, and I know how big both places are. Of course you (and James MacDonald) are right about the physical distances in the US. However, in trying to address your first question, I only meant to suggest that distances over here that many people travel for holidays are in fact longer than you seem to think. Norway-Spain, Holland-Croatia, or Germany-Bulgaria aren't afternoon jaunts.

I don't even disagree with your original premise. I would extend it, in fact. Yet another big reason (international) travel for US-Americans is difficult is the short amount of yearly vacation time most people have.

#146 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 11:56 AM:

Oslo-to-Madrid is only 1,200 miles. That's the distance from Boston, Massachusetts, to Miami, Florida. Not an afternoon's jaunt, but certainly a reasonable drive; lots of folks (the snowbirds) make the trip every year.

#147 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 12:13 PM:

Lis, #141: Texans will drive distances to go out for dinner that New Englanders would consider more practical for an overnight trip.

Yes, quite. Since moving to Houston, I've noticed a distinct shift in my perceptions of what constitutes a "long trip" -- and I'm fannish, and accustomed to driving several hours to get to a con! But we've driven to Dallas and Austin several times to meet and have dinner with online friends who were passing thru; and the equivalent trip from Nashville (which would have been to, say, Indianapolis or Memphis) wouldn't even have been on the radar.

OTOH, my parents were absolute non-travelers who considered the 45-minute trip from the west side of Nashville where they lived to the east side where my grandmother lived to be a Major Excursion. But they were both born in 1920, and grew up in the era when it was much more common for people not to travel outside their own county, let alone across state lines.

#148 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 12:29 PM:

Jim, #146: I think it's less useful to talk in terms of raw distance than of travel time. That Boston-to-Miami trip you mention is roughly 24 hours of driving time (Mapquest estimate) -- not counting traffic slowdowns or stops to eat, gas up, etc. For us (accustomed to fairly grueling drives), that would be a long and wearing 2-day slog; for the average traveler, 3 days minimum each way. Which isn't so bad if you're going to stay there for 3 or 4 months, but if all you've got is a week's vacation, you're damn well going to fly... which puts it pretty well out of reach for anyone below the middle class, unless some airline is having a Really Good Special Deal.

Does anyone here have an estimate of the driving time from Oslo to Madrid?

#149 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 12:40 PM:

abi #129: To subdivide it further, a hundred miles buys you a lot more variety from, say, Rhode Island than it does from Idaho.

A hundred miles buys you a little bit more than two Rhode Islands (the long way), in all its hugely heterogeneous glory.

#150 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 12:40 PM:

Lee -- figure two full days, somewhat longer if your destination is the Spanish coast (which many people's would be). That's with good weather and favorable traffic conditions, i.e. that a whole province hasn't just started summer hols. (Lemming-like behavior at such times causes unbelievable traffic jams.)

#151 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 12:42 PM:

Lee @148:
Google Maps says 1 day, 7 hours from Oslo to Madrid, but I'm not convinced that's reliable. There's at least one ferry crossing in the equation (into Denmark), which adds a timing element. And my experience of reality vs Google on the Dutch roads makes me want to add at least 15% to that estimate to cover the traffic around the various conurbations you pass by (notably Paris).

It's worth noting that most people who travel to Spain for their holidays go not to Madrid, but to the Mediterranean coast, which adds another five hours or so onto the GMaps estimate.

The only real life data point I can provide is that I have journeyed from Almería, Spain to Maastricht, (the very south of) the Netherlands by rail. That took three days and two nights, but included a lot of time waiting around train stations.

#152 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 01:21 PM:

#144 - abi

I once chatted to a taxi driver who was going to Disney World for two weeks. He had a couple of days to spare, and said he might just drive over to see the Grand Canyon for an overnight. It was almost painful to disabuse him of the notion.

I imagine it felt like telling a child there isn't really a tooth fairy. You just wish it could be true for him, somehow. Ouch.

#153 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 01:22 PM:

abi @ 52

Re. the Euro vs. different currencies: I (a Brit) go to a European zoo veterinarians conference every year. A few years ago I remember thinking "well, I can get Euros and if I don't use them all, I can use them on the trip next year." The next three years the conference was in Prague, Budapest and Edinburgh! 2008 it will finally be in the Euro zone again.

Your description of the matter-of-fact attitude to border crossing for people living in mainland Europe (certainly for those living near borders) also reminded me of going to a conference in Vienna and seeing road signs giving distances to cities in other countries. Quite an eye-opener, and really made me more aware of the relative insularity of the UK - dwarfed by comparison to the insularity of the USA.

#154 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 01:29 PM:

#86 PHB:

I suspect a lot of the problem is that the underlying model for authentication was developed under a very different kind of threat model (not that it works too well anywhere). The kind of authentication infrastructure you need for validating the origin of e-mail to make spamming harder is just *different* from the kind you need to make sure that a US government ID from Commerce can be read at Treasury to let you into the building, but not the restricted areas, which is different from the kind you need to verify that the encrypted e-mail you're getting from me is really from that guy you chatted with at FSE this year, which is different from....

As is so often the case, XKCD has a worthwhile contribution to the discussion, at least if you're into web-of-trust.

#155 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 01:31 PM:

This is such a depressing image of the USA, and things aren't always much better over her.

In the UK, there's some unpleasant paranoia about immigrants stealing jobs, and these days you have to prove you're British when you're taking a job. While there seem to be several ill-defined options, a passport is EU-wide proof of eligibility for employement in the EU.

It's a weird feeling to show your passport so that your employer can satisfy the bureaucrats.

I don't know the details of the border-crossing agreements that apply in the EU, but there's a long history of requiring personal identity documents. It has its roots on conscript armies, and war plans requiring the mobilisation of millions of reservists. And a big chunk of the evidence for the Nazi extermination of European Jews comes from the ID and change-of-address records that were part of such systems.

And in the UK the government is pushing for a high-risk technical solution to ID.

The first member of my family to get a passport was one of my mother's uncles. He and his wife went to France, about 85 years ago, to see their son's grave.

Somebody else in my mother's family emigrated to the USA by deserting from the Royal Navy in Vancouver, and slipping across the border. That branch of the family, the last I saw of them, seemed rather full of right-wing Jesus-freak bigots.

[I'm sorry, we folks in Lincolnshire seem to make a habit of sending you our religious loonies.]

#156 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 01:37 PM:

dcb @153:
My *jawdrop* moment came the last time I was in Limburg (the little Dutch province that extends like a tail in between Belgium and Germany). The local airport, Maastricht Aachen Airport, sits in the Netherlands and serves a city in Germany.

Now that is international co-operation.

#157 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 01:42 PM:

Jim, when considering driving in Europe you've got to consider a couple of extra differences from the USA: firstly, gas is roughly double the price (sometimes more), and secondly, roads don't run straight and wide and mostly empty the way you're used to: what eight-lane motorways/autoroutes there are, are chock-full of commuter traffic and trucks, and due to the population density, roads are routed around lots of local scenery -- they don't just go in straight lines through empty landscape.

Europe is physically smaller than the USA -- but it's got just as many people, and they all want to use the roads, which are consequently a lot more crowded and twisty. Driving 1200 miles in most of Europe is consequently considerably tougher than driving the same distance in the USA.

#158 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 01:48 PM:

Dave @ 155

I use my (expired) US passport as ID for my employers, too. (We have to provide a couple of kinds, to satisfy the bureaucrats in DC.)

#159 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 02:10 PM:

I won't deny that insularity, and often downright xenophobia, is a commonplace here in the US, but I believe that the reduction in the cost of international airfare over the last two decades has at least somewhat broadened the attitudes of the younger cohorts of the middle class, those who can now afford the trips and couldn't have before. When I was in my 20s, I had been to Japan, but only because I was in the Army, and to Canada several times. In their 20s, my older son toured Europe a couple of times, and visited most of the countries of Central America, and my younger son spent 3 weeks visiting friends in Tokyo. And because the older son and his wife are academics, they routinely go to international conferences.

Anecotal evidence surely, but it's suggestive. And it lends some credence to the theory that our government feels a need to reduce our international travel, lest we become too cosmopolitan.

#160 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 02:10 PM:

By the way, until recently, a passport was not required to cross into Mexico or Canada, and we are simply forbidden to travel to Cuba. (I didn't know--sorry for the confusion.) So that's why USers don't mostly have them; we used to have to go a very long way before we needed one.

That said, I still think passports have become redundant, and still find it odd that USers probably know more about Paris than Mexico City.

#161 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 02:22 PM:

#159 Bruce:

The internet does a lot of the same thing, much more cheaply, though still not in a uniform way across all social classes/regions/groups. During the first gulf war, I recall talking on IRC with an Israeli who had to drop off because of an air-raid siren. It kind of brought home how *real* it was, that it was happening to real people who hurt and bled and were scared.

#162 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 02:22 PM:

abi @ 156

I remember, having had that moment of insight, trying to explain to some mainland-European colleagues what a difference it made in outlook, our living on an island. That going to another country, whether close (France) or further away (Canada, Japan, Brazil) meant finding your passport, and organising the correct currency, and booking a flight or ferry tickets - this gives a different perspecive to grabbing a handful of change from the bowl and getting in the car! Some of my colleagues just could not/would not accept that this would give a different perspective.

I think for Americans, even in these days of relatively cheap air travel and English as the practically-universal second language, the ridiculously short vacation allowance does make travelling more difficult.

#163 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 02:38 PM:

#155 Dave:

We have to provide paperwork to prove our eligibility to work here, as well. Oddly, this is a pain in the a-- requirement that we all have to follow, and yet there are still said to be something like 12 million people living here (and some large fraction working here) illegally. It's reassuring to know that expensive and inconvenient security theater isn't just used to fight terrorism. Along similar lines, though with less effect on most of us, is the fence and that weird political move a couple years back where W sent some soldiers from the national guard to go somewhere vaguely close to the border and stand around looking useful.

Sooner or later, we will get national ID cards (google for RealID to see the current attempt). And soon after that, we will Get Control of Our Borders by setting up an online check for all legitimate employers. This will also fail to decrease illegal immigration (since your employer will get hassled for failure to fill out the forms, but Tyson foods will never, never face any serious enforcement action that would keep it from hiring a whole bunch of folks without proper paperwork), but it will have benefits. I figure it won't be more than a couple years after that when we get the first proposals to use this system to punish people. Deadbeat dads first, I expect. Maybe registered sex offenders, if the state has passed some kind of mark-of-Cain law about them, to keep them from working in certain jobs or communities. It will turn out to be extremely useful to have a way to deny whole large classes of people the ability to get a legitimate job. And it will be almost as useful to "accidentally" lose records sometimes. If you liked politically motivated IRS audits and "no fly" lists, you're going to *love* how we Get Control of Our Borders.

#164 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 02:41 PM:

albatross @161 -- During the first gulf war, I recall talking on IRC with an Israeli who had to drop off because of an air-raid siren. It kind of brought home how *real* it was, that it was happening to real people who hurt and bled and were scared.

I met my husband when he was an exchange student in the US in 1983. At the time Reagan and Gorbatschev weren't getting along so well, but it was all a little abstract. Meeting someone who would be extremely, directly affected if something went wrong with the Pershings and SS-20's being deployed in Europe made a huge impression.

#165 ::: Carl ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 04:11 PM:

I've lived in San Diego, CA for 40+ of my 50 years. Never had a passport.

During my 10 years in the navy, I never had or needed one. Visited more countries than you can shake a stick at (which is, after all, the purpose of the military), and never needed one, or was asked, and we took numerous day/weekend trips to visit the more distant parts of countries we visited, mostly those that bordered the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

When stationed in Washington state, we used to make regular trips to Canada (Vancouver and Victoria - wonderful cities), and never had a moment's pause, or need for a paperwork check.

Haven't been to Mexico in more than 10 years, though, as the 2 to 5 hour *regular* wait at the border is just not worth the hassle. Some days it's worse, though occasionally it gets down to an hour, or even a half-hour, but not often.

But even if I did have the money to travel (being a jazz musician doesn't pay diddly), I'm more tired of travel than looking forward to it any more.

I don't know how common my experience is, but am certain it's not unique.

#166 ::: Lis ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 04:42 PM:

Lee @ #148--you're overlooking the fact that the airlines often do have Really Good Special Deals, Boston-to-Miami, lots of young people are willing to make the drive in groups, sharing driving, with at most one night on the road, and it's a travel experience that pretty much everyone I know in this area has had. Had had, usually several times, before graduating college. Florida's an immensely popular Spring Break destination, just for instance.

Miami-to-Boston--for some reason that's not quite as popular. Can't think why. [contemplates lovely expanse of snow, just outside the window]

#167 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 06:07 PM:

abi (#144): Many Americans couldn't tell you the capital of California either.

After all, it's not a city of any particular worldwide note (unlike Paris). California has at least one world-renowned city (LA) and another that's probably fairly well known internationally (SF); neither of them is the capital. San Diego is also larger than Sacramento. (These are metropolitan areas, too; the city itself is only the seventh-largest in California.)

Now, try Europeans on the capital of Massachusetts; I'd bet that many more of them get that one correct, because Boston is also the largest city in the state (and, for that matter, region; New England has a total of about 14 million people in an area of about 70,000 sq mi, or about 1/3 of France's area but only about 1/5 the population).

Paris is, for many historical reasons, very much the center of France and would be even if the capital moved to France's seventh-largest city. (Which BTW is Strasbourg, so this would presumably be part of some weird EU deal.) Transportation links, company headquarters, and the like would all still be in Paris.

This paper lists Paris along with LA and San Francisco as in the "Smaller contribution and with cultural bias" category, right behind the London-New York duopoly. Sacramento isn't even mentioned. (Boston gets into "Incipient global cities" along with Amsterdam and some others, but IMO doesn't really rate that high; I'd put it last in that group and more likely down with Munich et al in "Subnet articulator cities". Whatever that means.)

#168 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 06:20 PM:


Lots of states have capitals that aren't the largest or best-known cities. Albany, Topeka, Harrisburg, Springfield, Casper, Salem, Olympia, Pierre ....
(I think LA is an upstart city: it was pretty much unknown before the 20th century, where SF was famous decades earlier.)

#169 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 06:38 PM:

#101 - Strange Maps on Baarle.

Living in the UK closer to Calais than London gives me a little insight to the (Mainland) European view - every now and then someone will suggest going over to France or Belgium at short notice* (and I grab the Euros out of the desk draw). The thing to note is not the distance in miles (40) but the difference in culture when you cross La Manche. (Yes, three quarters of the people you meet in Calais speak serviceable English. Most of them will respond in French if you greet them and start out in French. The only person who won't try and help you out if you're struggling language-wise (as far as I know) is the woman in the cheese and wine shop.)

* 6 hours from phone call to ferry is the shortest period however.

#170 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 06:39 PM:

Factoid: my province of North Rhine-Westphalia has 18 million people in 13,169 sq mi. And every one of them just shot fireworks off :)

#171 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 06:45 PM:

Debbie @170:
They're just trying to keep up with Noord Holland. It's quarter to one and the last straggling booms are still echoing in the sky.


#172 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 06:53 PM:

They're still going in front of my house, although admittedly those are stragglers, too. Happy New Year, abi!

#173 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 07:47 PM:

abi, Debbie, oh gee, thanks. I still have about 7 hours to wait before the damned things can legally be shot off. I'm coming up on the first sedative to be administered to the dog at the top of the hour.

#174 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 09:06 PM:

Abi @ #144: I once chatted to a taxi driver who was going to Disney World for two weeks. He had a couple of days to spare, and said he might just drive over to see the Grand Canyon for an overnight. It was almost painful to disabuse him of the notion.

I once met some German engineers who were here (Schenectady) for a few days of work - and, since they were already in upstate New York, the thing they most wanted to check off their life-lists was to run over to see Niagara Falls.

Their hopes were dashed when I pointed out that the Falls were still a five-hour drive away, a ten-hour round trip.

Also pertinent to the thread: I then got to explain to them that NY-to-LA was about as far as London-to-Teheran.

America = big.

#175 ::: Maggie Brinkley ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 09:07 PM:

An addendum to what Charlie Stross said @ 157: travelling in the UK takes forever because the roads are so awful. It took 21/2 hours to travel the 100 miles to Portsmouth from north of London to collect my daughter from university in December - and that was an easier drive than we have had in the past! Much of the delay is because the motorways have far too many entrances: they are used as local short-cuts, not as bypasses. Consequently there are far too many cars on what are supposed to be fast roads. As for the awful 10 hours it took to travel 250 miles to visit my father-in-law last year... *shudder*

I suspect that time, rather than distance, is the most important statistic. 100 miles is a long way when one travels at an average speed of 35mph!

#176 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 10:32 PM:

P J Evans (#168): This Wikipedia list of US capitals says that 33 of the 50 are not the largest city in their state. (Someone has helpfully added "note: mexico and canada are not states" [sic] for those who may have been confused. Ah, Wikipedia.)

#177 ::: Nell ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 12:23 AM:

With any kind of luck the Department of Homeland Security will have been dissolved.

Dream on. If the Democratic nominee is HRC, the whole approach will be the same -- just slightly milder. Evidence for same.

#178 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 05:26 AM:

When I took a trip to Alaska a few years ago, I read John McPhee's book about Alaska, Coming Into the Country. A big chunk of the book is about the process of finding a new place for the state capital (rendered a bit ironic by my after-the-fact knowledge that the process ended up coming to nothing). Of course, the people in Anchorage wanted to have the capital there -- but the whole rest of the state combined didn't want it there, on the grounds that being the largest city it already had more power in the government than they liked. And of course the capital couldn't be Fairbanks, for similar reasons. And so on.

European capitals were mostly set by decree of a monarch, who of course wanted to be Where The Action Was; thus they are the largest, best-known cities. When the capital is chosen democratically, other factors come into play...and that is why most US states have their capitals in relatively small and obscure cities.

#179 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 07:24 AM:

Perth, where I live, to the nearest actual city - no, I mean city, with an actual CBD with buildings over four storeys tall - is a little matter of 1700 miles. To get to Melbourne, be prepared to spend three days on the road, or else drive a van with a bunk bed in the back and swap drivers every eight hours. That'll cut it to a day and a half. And get this: when you see wheat fields, you know you're in civilisation. From Norseman to Eucla, and from Eucla to Whyalla, nothing except a filling station every two or three hundred miles. Nothing.

You follow the only strip of black tar that links one side of the continent to the other. Apart from that one single-lane and the single-track railway, you could walk from the Arafura Sea to the Great Australian Bight, north to south across the continent, and never cross a road.

I drove from Chicago to Albany, New York, once. That was supposed to be an epic journey. Pfui! I'm an Aussie. We drive that far to go to a shearing-shed dance.

#180 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 07:39 AM:

Christopher Davis @167: and that probably explains why I was about ten or eleven years old before I learned that New York wasn't the capital of the US, but it was some other place with a couple of initials after its name, for some reason.

#181 ::: PHB ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 09:19 AM:

Oddly enough, it sounds as though you're suggesting that the best way to deal with spam is to pay somebody so they can 'do business' ... a practice that the mob was quite adept with.

Actually not, I was suggesting that most busineses can cope with the issue of spam quite happily signing their email with DKIM without third party accreditation of the signature key. That is what DKIM does.

The 'bias' I have here is that if TTP acccreditations are to be used they have to add value. They cannot be simply a toll imposed on the use of the protocol whether they add value or not.

VeriSign does not offer a product of this type. From a strategic point of view my only commercial interest is that the market makes a decision. The company can make money regardless of what the choice is, but there must be a choice.

As for who a 'legitimate' company is: any company that accepts accountability. So if they give a real name and address where process can be served they are probably not a bulk spammer. Bulk spammers who give their name and address should expect some communications from some lawyers I know.

But the bigger value of third party accreditation is if you want to block certain phishing attacks. IE you want to be certain the email is from the US government. I proposed this in 1996 and implemented it on the Whitehouse communications linker long before I joined VeriSign.

#182 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 09:19 AM:

Dave (#179) I've a vague memory of hearing that the nearest city to Perth is outside Australia. Do you know if that's correct? I suspect many non-Australiasians don't know about Canberra as the capital (and the whole history of that), and assume it's Sydney or maybe Melbourne.

For most of the last 30 years I've lived in touristy areas of Sydney, which can entail trying to direct visitors, chatting to them while we're waiting for public transport, etc. I still remember the look on the face of one US couple when I explained that Australia was about the size of the 'contiguous 48 states'; and is about the same width as Europe, too, I believe. They started reconsidering plans.
OTOH, according to my geographical reference, Antarctica is almost double the area of Australia, which is kinda sobering.

#183 ::: PHB ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 09:31 AM:

Albatros @ 154

I don't think that the needs of government identification are as different from the needs of stopping email spam as you do, but only because the traditional approach to PKI does not work too well in its intended application domain either.

There are virtually no strictly hierarchical PKIs on the original PEM model in real world applications. Those that are are limited to very specific domains.

The web of trust model is also problematic at scale. Unless you have nodes of very high degree the minimum diameter of the trust graph becomes unacceptably large with millions of users due to the Moore bound. So what we actually use are hybrid models.

#184 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 10:55 AM:

#182 Mez: I don't believe so. The three air milage calculators I consulted say Adelaide is closer to Perth than the nearest cities in Indonesia or Dili, in East Timor. Mind you, they give differing distances.

I remember my Welsh cousin, visiting Australia for the first time, telling me that he thought it'd be nice to pop over to Ayer's Rock (sic) and back. He asked me if I thought it would take the whole day. Mind you, he was at the time a deep brick red from the neck up, not having read the bit about sunscreen either.

It would appear that in my family, it was the smart ones that emigrated.

#185 ::: Tlönista ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 02:37 PM:

abi, #144: Having just moved to the UK, it's a terrible letdown to discover how little the average Brit knows about Canada. The stereotype of pig-ignorant Americans is well inculcated in the national consciousness (see: Talking To Americans), but the average American (who made a road trip to Montreal to go bar-hopping at 18, has a cottage in Ontario, etc.) is far more well-informed than the average Briton.

The imbalance is made even more jarring by the fact that the past several decades of Britcom are practically required viewing for people of my particular age group and nerdiness level.

#186 ::: inge ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 02:39 PM:

Liz @80: Travelling far enough to have to cross a border in the US, that'd be what? 1K km?

Excluding business trips, that'd make a handful of trips of that length I took in the last ten years, twice that many in my life. But then, I'm one of the least-far-travelled people among my friends, family, neighbors and co-workers. I've only ever been to two continents (or 14 countries) so far.

#187 ::: inge ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 02:51 PM:

Paula Helm Murray @ 119: What got me was the speed limit. "200 miles on the Interstate, with no cities to slow us down, that's a two-hour drive, max..."

#188 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 02:53 PM:

Abi @ 125: When I lived in rural California, everyone kept their tanks half full of gas, because you never knew when you had to make the 2 hour (each way) journey to Eureka for some necessity or other. In New York, how many people even own cars?

In New York City? Not many. In New York state (since you're making a comparison to another state, California), *most* people own cars. Especially in rural New York. We never knew when we might be making 3-hour round trip to Buffalo for things we couldn't easily find in our smallish town.

#189 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 02:54 PM:

Sorry, that should have been directed to Abi @ 129. Mea culpa.

#190 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 02:56 PM:

Summer Storms @188:
I meant New York City. Sorry. The contrast is rural/urban, so contrasting it to rural New York isn't really effective, is it?

#191 ::: inge ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 03:05 PM:

Tlönista @ 195: It's always useful to remember that ignorance is universal. A friend was teaching "13th century German literature 101" at the Humboldt University (IIRC) in Berlin, and started class with an overview of the political landscape in the 12th and 13th century. Turned out that none of her students could find the Holy Land on a map (or none wanted to admit they could).

#192 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 03:16 PM:

Randolph @ 160: That's what we were trying to tell you.

#193 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 03:30 PM:

Abi @ 190: That's fine. It's just that people from NY State who are not from NYC have a tendency to be a little sensitive when references to "New York" get treated like they must by default refer to the city rather than the state in which it is situated. Especially those of us from areas of the state that are actually quite far from NYC (my hometown was basically a day's drive from NYC, forex), and my family never went there when I was growing up.

It sort of goes right along with something that happened right after I moved (at age 23) to a suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio. Upon hearing me mention that I had moved from New York state, a new friend remarked that I must find Cincinnati quite small and quaint by comparison. "Not at all," I replied. "This feels like a big city to me."

My friend looked at me rather oddly. "Really? I would think that just seeing the cornfields and cows in the outlying areas here would be pretty freaky for you."

I laughed. "I grew up amid cornfields and cow pastures."

"I thought you said you grew up in New York state."

"Yes, rural New York state."

By now my poor friend was horribly confused. "I didn't even know that New York state HAD any rural areas," she said.

Sort of made me wonder exactly where she thought things like New York sharp cheddar cheese and New York wines came from. Central Park, perhaps?

#194 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 03:42 PM:

There are some VERY cheesy parts of Central Park.

#195 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 03:50 PM:

Summer Storms, #192: Sigh. It's not the passport requirement; it's the sheer weirdness of treating a bordering country like it was inhabited by non-terrestrial life. Oh, and claiming that 25.5 million people in a trans-border urban region (SoCal Coast, including Tijuana) aren't "many". (If you want to keep it to just San Diego-Tijuana, it is "only" five million. But then I will insist on adding in 1.3 million people in San Antonio.)

But then, there are people in Des Moines who are convinced that New York is inhabited by aliens, and never mind San Francisco. Funny place, the USA.

Hippo Gnu Ear!

#196 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 03:59 PM:

Randolph @ 195: I was referring to the part where you said, By the way, until recently, a passport was not required to cross into Mexico or Canada, and we are simply forbidden to travel to Cuba. (I didn't know--sorry for the confusion.) So that's why USers don't mostly have them; we used to have to go a very long way before we needed one.

That part has nothing to do with population levels or the fact that some people think of Mexico as an alien planet.

#197 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 04:01 PM:

To clarify: you made that comment *after* I and several others had pointed out to you that passports had previously not been necessary for travel within North America.

#198 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 04:33 PM:

For those who think a van is slow here's one on the Nurburgring. Or just take a taxi.

"Never enter Karussell when on the brakes! I have gone round there on the roof, I know what I'm talking about." (Sabine Schmitz)

#199 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 06:59 PM:

I will point out, for the sake of being contrary, that Mexico and the US don't have a completely open border, but that for the first 50 miles south of the border one doesn't need a passport.

My sister had to get her passport for a trip to Cancun (and a visa, IIRC), in 1987.

#200 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 09:00 PM:

Terry, #199: actually, it seems that it wasn't technically a requirement...but many Mexican police thought it was, and you really don't want to run afoul of them, passport or no.

#201 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 09:32 PM:

Randolph@195: I think we're talking at cross-purposes here. You're treating "many" as an absolute term, while some of the rest of us are pointing out that 25.5 million is still less than ten percent of the total US population (currently somewhere between 301,139,947 and 303,096,000, depending on whose estimate you pick.)

#202 ::: Lis ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 10:28 PM:

Inge @ #186--

International Falls, MN (on our northern border) to Brownsville, TX (on our southern border) 2544km.

Oslo, Norway, to Geneva, Switzerland, 1556km.

Boston, MA to Los Angeles, CA, 4178km.

London, UK to Tehran, Iran, 4408km.

Distances that inevitably take a European across an international border, or several, take an American to various places inside the country, without coming crossing or even approaching an international border. A significant part of the US does not have an international border within 1000km, and even for those parts that do, if you're that close to one border, you're nowhere near that close to the other border.

Yes, we really do have only two international borders. You can't get the total count of countries in North America above three without counting the Central American countries, which is possible but dubious. And on the other side of one of our international borders, they speak the same language, the currency is familiar, customs and behavior for the most part aren't much more different than the regional variation within the US. And for both of those borders, the requirement of a passport to cross them is new.

It's not that Americans don't travel because we're insular; it's that we're insular because it really is relatively difficult to reach anyplace foreign. Especially, as others have pointed out, with only two weeks vacation.

How many of those fourteen countries you've visited are outside of Europe? Because, no matter how many times you count off the countries within Europe, you're still talking about distances that won't take an American outside the US, or at most might taken an American to Canada or Mexico or the Caribbean islands--all of which until recently didn't require a passport.

#203 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 11:06 PM:

Randolph Fritz: The airline wouldn't sell her a ticket without a passort, and it was checked at the gate before she left. Without it she'd not have been able to go. It may not have been legally mandated (though I've heard it from several sources) but it was a practical necessity.

Debra Doyle: I'd have to say that ten percent seems like a lot of people.

If I said ten percent of X country were going to die as the result of a plague, that wouldn't seem trivial. The Spanish Influenza Epidemic of 1918 killed only twice the number of people living in the Greater Los Angeles/San Diego area. That was worlwide deaths (estimated at between 20-60 million... so if we go with the high end, it 3X the population, and if we go with the low end it's a little less than the population).

#204 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 11:56 PM:

Terry, #203: That sounds right. Both in international travel generally, and domestically in Mexico, there are many official requirements that are not legal requirements. Thanks for agreeing that 10% is a large portion of the population, too.

Debra, #201: one of the things I find most odd about this argument is that I think we've all argued that 10% is a significant portion of a population--that's one reason I cited those numbers and I was surprised to find some people arguing that it is not. Even 2 or 3% (San-Diego-Tijuana and San Antonio) is usually considered significant. I am equally surprised by your argument, Lis, that there's no easy-to-get to substantially culturally different place near the USA. That's not so--for instance, the Mexican border is about as far from Des Moines as New York City, and much nearer than Los Angeles. While less dramatically different, Quebec is also not all that far.

I feel I'm dragging this out and my apologies for that. If I don't see some responses that show I'm getting through, I'll probably just drop out. I'd hate to, though, which is why I've gone this far; from my viewpoint there are things worth discussion here that don't get much attention.

#205 ::: Andy Brazil ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 07:15 AM:

Well I think I'm possibly the least travelled Brit here. Never had a passport - though I have made trips to France and Holland back when it was possible to get a 7 day travel document at the ferry port. (Ahh those were the days, a photo from the booth, your birth certificate and you were good to go, document issued by the ferry company when you bought your ticket. And we were in the middle of the IRA bomb campaign at the time - funny how we felt so safe back then.)

And the comment about relative distances in Europe and the US rings true - there's a bird reserve about 40 miles away from me that takes just under 2 hours to get to - winding country lanes don't make for fast travel speeds. Plenty of people I know have never been to London - and I live in Norfolk so it's about 130 miles away.

Thinking through last year I reckon there were at least 45 weeks when I never travelled further than 35 miles from home. Now I'm conciously trying to live a low-carbon lifestyle - hence the no passport thing - but I'm not that unusual around here, and I do know at least two people who have never been further than 30 miles from where they were born. I suspect that's much rarer in the US.

Of course the bit about 100 years is also true - looking out the window I can see the city wall built to keep out pirates in the 1350's; the street I used to live in was divided into lots laid out by the Vikings; and this house was built just before the news arrived that the colonies had declared independance. And none of that strikes me as old - I once lived next to Arminghall Henge (3000BC).

#206 ::: Marty Busse ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 07:44 AM:
Can we afford three thousand miles of minefields, barbed wire, and unmanned drone aircraft to stop a non-existent threat? Can we afford to do it and cut taxes at the same time? Aren’t the neo-cons aware that smoking that stuff is illegal?

Can you find me a neo-con who actually favors a border wall? It's paleocons who support the idea, and who argue that the neo-cons have a policy of "invade the world, invite the world."

Putting up a border wall is going to be a lot cheaper than you think-Morocco, which has a GDP about 11.7% of the one we in the US have, has a wall that it has used, rather effectively, to stop POLISARIO from operating in Western Sahara. This wall is about 2700 km: the US-Mexico border is about 3150 km.

It's well within our capabilities to do that on the US-Mexico border, and probably on the Canadian border as well. It would almost certainly be effective at reducing the flow of illegal migrants over those borders, too-although it's worth noting that there isn't much illegal immigration into the US from Canada.

There are problems with the idea other than feasibility, however.

Desirability is the main problem. Do we really want to have a defensive works on our borders? For everyone except a fringe, the idea doesn't sit very well, and that fringe gets even smaller when you start talking about the Canadian border as well as the Mexican one.

Will is another problem-our political leaders and the public, blow hot and cold on the issue. Except for small groups (some favoring open borders, their opponents favoring no immigration whatsoever) the country can't seem to make up its mind about the issue. Can we really put up one a latter-day limes and stick to it? (I know a lot of people like to compare a border wall to the old Iron Curtain. I think that this isn't the best comparison, since the Iron Curtain was supposed to keep people in, not out. The Moroccan Berm is the best modern comparison, the lime a decent ancient one and even those aren't very good ones, since the US border isn't being assaulted by armed bands of barbarians.)

There are plenty of ideas which are feasible that aren't desirable, after all.

It might be better if opponents of a border wall focused on desirability instead of making claims about feasibility which are untrue.

#207 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 03:09 PM:

Marty #206:

My take on it is that the real political question is what our policy should be on immigration. Specific details about how to enforce that policy are probably not going to be sensibly debated in national politics. ISTM that a fence or wall is a symbol that paleos like; if we still have a de facto policy of allowing a huge number of illegal immigrants live and work here (because it would p-ss off too many powerful interests or cost too much to the economy to do otherwise), the presence or absence of a fence will have very little effect.

I think you're right that most Americans can't figure out what to do about the issue. I guess I'd include myself. The immigrants I know personally are good folks, and immigrants in general apparently add a lot to the economy and the culture. On the other hand, importing low-wage labor really screws over citizens who aren't equipped to do much else--I've seen a huge transition in the demographics of people working in construction, for example, and construction work used to be something you could do if you came into the world without the brains (or just the desire) to go to college. And on the gripping hand, we've let millions of people live here and do our work for us, many of them have kids who've known nothing else and valued places in the community, and deporting them all seems both impractical and inhumane. But leaving them in a legal gray area, buying property and living and working here while not sure of how they'll be treated tomorrow, with limited recourse to law and courts and services, also looks like a bad choice. And allowing the people here now some kind of legal status creates a huge incentive for more people to come.

It looks to me like a really hard problem.

#208 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 03:14 PM:

It's well within our capabilities to do that on the US-Mexico border, and probably on the Canadian border as well.

Depending on how much you want to rearrange the landscape, since the borders are considerably less easy to cross than the anti-immigration people would like you to believe. (Most of the border with Mexico is desert or mountains; much of that with Canada is water or mountains.)

#209 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 03:24 PM:

Randolph@204: We appear, indeed, to have reached an impasse, since "a lot" is an entirely subjective term.

(And if ten per cent is "a lot," what then is ninety per cent, other than "a whole lot more?")

#210 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 03:48 PM:

Debra, #209: try "significant minority". 10%, for instance, is IIRC slightly less than the percentage of Jews in the NYC area, and probably considerably more than the percentage of gays in the USA. Would you regard either group, therefore, as insignificant?

#211 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 07:15 PM:

Randolph@210: It depends. If by "significant" one means "large enough to deserve respect and fair treatment, and to be free from bigotry and oppression," then every minority is a significant one, from a fraction of a per cent up to forty-nine-point-nine. If, on the other hand, by "significant" one means "large enough to be reasonably regarded as representative of the whole," then, no, ten percent is not significant.

#212 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 07:35 PM:

Debra Doyle: I'm confused. At one level, the difference in perceptions of familiarity are important. That's why the people in Des Moines have a different idea about the border from those who live in Sierra Vista, AZ (and the nature of Sierra Vista is why those people have a different perception from those who live in the San Diego border region).

At what point do the views of 10 percent become unimportant?

Because I can find a number of groups, who make up about ten percent of the population, who's opinions we give a lot weight.

And, to play with numbers, even if we assume the numbers quoted (about 11 million illegal aliens), to be true, are you going to argue that's not a lot of people?

What is the defining characteristic which makes a figure like ten percent of a population (esp. one which translates to roughly 30 million people), into a lot.

We'd certainly think they were a lot if they were the margin of victory for a presidential candidate. People were crowing about how large the 3 million, a mere one percent, who pushed Bush over the line in the last election.

#213 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 07:54 PM:

Terry@212: I never said that the views of ten percent of the people were unimportant; "not representative" is not the same thing as "not important."

For that matter, pointing out that it's not surprising, numbers and geography being what they are, that most Americans don't pay that much attention to what goes on in Mexico is not the same thing as denying that more Americans should pay attention to what goes on in Mexico.

#214 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 08:34 PM:

Debra Doyle: Ok, fair enough, in your last post you introduced the idea of that group being representative.

But that was the first time you made that part of the metric. As Randolph pointed out, the previous measure you used was that ten percent didn't count as, "a lot."

#215 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 09:41 PM:

Terry@214: No, what I said was that "a lot" was a subjective term. And it isn't really possible to state absolutely whether or not ten percent constitutes "a lot" -- it's a proportion, not a countable amount.

(So long as we're playing with analogies here -- if I left a ten per cent tip after a dinner out, I don't think that "a lot" would be the descriptive phrase that sprang to the waitperson's mind.)

Just to keep the record straight: I am fully in accord with the idea that Americans, as a whole, should pay more attention to Mexico than, as a whole, they do. Nevertheless, given the size and the geographical layout of the country, I'm not especially surprised that most of them don't.

#216 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 12:24 AM:

Debra, #211, 213, 215: Oh, I see. Say "signficant", then. But it seems to me that you are arguing that geography takes Mexico out of the US psyche, which doesn't explain why more distant places like China, Japan, and France are in it. Perhaps it is just a matter of wars fought in living memory. I do wish Mexico was more whole in US consciousness, rather than only the place where "those people who are stealing our jobs come from"; we might develop more compassionate and sensible attitudes towards Mexican migrants. For that matter, returning to the original subject, I wish Canada was also better understood; we might be less inclined to try to make it hard to cross the border.

#217 ::: Craig R. ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 02:26 AM:

PJ @ 158 -- if it's for the I-9, and you're a U.S. citizen, all you need is a U.S. passport (expired or current).

Something I had to point out to the HR critters at several places when I was contracting in I.T. (why cannot these people bother to actually *read* the forms they are supposed to be experts on?)

#218 ::: Marty Busse ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 12:48 PM:

I made an error..Morocco's GDP is about 1.2% of the US one, not 11.7%.

Which makes me think the expenditure of resources that would be necessary to build border fortifications along the US-Mexico and US-Canadian borders wouldn't going to stress our economy much.

The debate really should center on whether it would be a good idea or not. We have the resources to cheaply do a lot of things that would be a very bad idea, after all.

#219 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 12:53 PM:

Craig @ 217

The passport was backup to the other stuff - easier to have it, just in case.

#220 ::: EClaire ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 02:54 PM:

Late late late to this conversation... ironically because I was in Wales visiting my husband's family for Christmas.

If you can at all avoid it, do not get a passport just before you get married. I did it, and then sent it off to be officially changed, and all they did was type my new name on the back page. So now my passport is officially in my married name, and so I have to buy plane tickets in that name, and EVERY time they scan it or look at the boarding pass the airport/airline officials need to be told that the name change is on the back page. And automatic check in has been made impossible with Continental, because they scan your passport, and then you manually have to go in and change every detail because the name doesn't match the data strip. Luckily (?) I only have a year and a half to go until it's time to renew it.

Distances in Europe... my parents came over to visit me in the UK when I was studying there, and had planned for a two week trip, to drive around England/Wales, visit Ireland, go up to Scotland, and then take a ferry over to Germany to see where my dad's parents came from. I had to explain that although distances are smaller in Europe, they're also much denser. My husband drives from Central Illinois to Lafayette, LA to work every two weeks (about 850 miles), which shocks his family. They wouldn't consider driving from West Wales to Aberdeen to work, and that's just over half the distance. I just don't think distances can be compared, especially when driving time is added in.

(Also, when did the UK make people start taking off their shoes to go through airport security? It makes me sad that they're choosing theater over the security checks I'd always been so impressed with in the past.)

#221 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2008, 11:28 AM:

FWIW, there was a nice little story on Morning Edition this AM about the changes at the border in Derby Line, VT.

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