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Thursday, 28 October 2010

I miss America

When I was a kid, I wanted to live in the USA.

Many of our TV programs (In the UK in the 1950s and 60s) came from the USA, all of the cowboys (The Lone Ranger, Tombstone, Wagon Train) and the police stories (Dragnet, Streets of San Fransisco) and the war stories (Combat) comedies (Hogan's Heros, I Dream of Jeannie, My Uncle Martian) and hundreds of movies.

The society of the USA seemed to be an immensely strong one, from the UK at least, it looked homogeneous.

What the hell happened?

I've just bought some tickets to fly from NZ to the UK, via Los Angeles, and I was informed that I would have to apply to Homeland Security for a Transit Visa.

What the hell happened?

The USA used to exemplify the priority of the individual over the State, but that seems to have changed.

Here's an example.  In the 1970s (still as a reserve officer in the British Army), I planned to fly to Singapore to see my wife's family.  We had very little money, and the cheapest flight was via Moscow on Aeroflot. (I had to get permission from my Colonel to fly through the USSR)  We flew to Moscow in January, getting in to  Sheremetyevo Airport about midnight.  We had to carry our bags by hand to the transit lounge, and had to go through passport control to get to the transit lounge.
I can still remember the blank eyes of the  Border Security guy who was stamping my UK passport.  I can still vividly remember the finger of the KGB Guard behind him. 

The reason I remember the finger is that it was curled around the trigger of the AK-74 he was carrying.  Not around the trigger guard, but around the trigger.  I couldn't see the change lever, but my sphincter was twitching.  You just don't touch the trigger unless you mean to fire it.  Either this guy's training was crap, or all Soviet training was crap, or he really wanted to shoot someone, like me maybe.
However, my passport got stamped and we continued to the transit lounge and eventually Singapore via India.

Even in the extreme paranoia of the USSR in the 70s, I didn't need permission from them to transit through Moscow, so why the hell do I now need a visa to go from one plane in LA Airport to another plane in LA Airport (It might even be the same plane, after re-fuelling)

The one thing in the USA that was always the best in the wolrld was their human rights.  Their constitution protected their freedoms.  Not anymore.  I feel so sad that the champion of the individual has fallen so low.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not a lefty-liberal, I'm not in favour of any form of gun control, but I can see the USA turning into a Police State.

When you have a more restrictive border policy than the USSR had, you're in the shit.

Hope you can make the old times come back.


  1. Sorry to be pedantic but the show was called My Favourite Martian, not My Uncle Martian. I know these things because I spent my youth in front of the TV.

  2. Don't go via LA then! Also, be aware that you can get the visa easily on line and it is free. There are a lot of dodgy websites out there trying to get you to pay for this service. If you need the link to the real site let me know!

  3. If you figure out what the hell happened to my country let me know TSB. Secondly, if you can avoid LA I recommend it. It is a disaster.

  4. Richard [of RBB], thanks, you are correct. Obviously you must have spent much more time in front of the TV than me, and I thought I was a TV addict at that age.

    Pinky, thanks, the flight via LA was the cheapest by about $400, so my Scottish genes won't let me pay more. I believe the rules have changed about visas. Homeland Security's own web site is the one which offers the electronic right of travel for $14 (US). This is supposed to be an offer for travellers on AirNZ, where you DON'T have to go through the horrible standard immigration/security/customs rigmarole, but a special abbreviated transit procedure.

    Mike: Thanks and sorry. I don't know what happened to the USA. I also don't know what happened to the UK either, they've gone security mad in both countries.
    I know LA is horrible, I 've passed through twice, and it's my least favourite airport (although Bombay is a close second) I was amazed by the number of panhandlers allowed into LA. I think I got hit-on about 10 times a minute, for this good cause and the next. When I finally gave up and offered the guy all the coins in my pocket(maybe $10-$15) it was refused with contempt; he kept shouting "Paper, man, paper" I told him to fuck off. I felt much better after that.
    Actually thinking about it, there were more beggars in LA than Bombay. Sad.
    I have however seen many acts of politeness and kindness in LA. A couple of the cops on duty smiled back as I smiled at them. Smiles mostly beget smiles, everywhere in the world (USSR excepted), an immigration officer made a joke about Middle Earth (this was in 2003) about my NZ Permanent Resident Permit in my UK passport, and a baggage handler went and got me some Duct Tape to hold my extremely overloaded bag together when it burst open as it came of the carousel. People I think are basically nice. It's a philosophy I've used all my life. Until a bastard proves the occasional opposite, then I treat him accordingly.

  5. TSB - don't pay. It has changed sort of. I will explain tomorrow.

  6. I take it back. They are now making you pay. 3 months ago it was free. Sneaky ********!


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