Random Stuff + Why People Hate the Government

A short clip of this Stones song was featured in “Argo.” The lyrics are obviously the result of a prolonged heroin binge, but the song rocks nonetheless:

In a comment on an Oscars thread yesterday, Robin G praised “Moonrise Kingdom.” I’d been meaning to see it and finally did last night. Awesome movie — highly recommended — and thanks for reminding me of it, Robin G: It was exactly the thing I needed to see.

Why People Hate the Government

My teenage daughter will soon go on a class trip that involves a domestic flight. Among the many neuroses her father and I share is an aversion to flying, but we try not to allow our eccentricities to completely dominate our child’s life, which is some of the hardest work in parenting. However, our ignorance of the demands of modern air travel nearly put the kibosh on a trip for which we’d already paid $1,400 (non-refundable!).

We foolishly assumed minors accompanied by fellow students, teachers and chaperones on a school-sponsored class trip would be allowed to board a winged bus to a destination within the United States with only common forms of identification like a student ID card and birth certificate. Not so; now, even a child must have an official state ID card from the DMV to board a plane. (Because of 9/11? If so, that’s reason enough to take a scuba trip to the North Arabian Sea, find Osama bin Laden’s skull and fashion it into a poop-scoop.)

Anyhoo, we learned that to obtain an official state ID card, a kid must have a Social Security card or a specific printout from the Social Security Administration verifying her application for a Social Security card. The form containing the same information that is issued to new parents to enable them to deduct children from their taxes doesn’t count, or so I was told by the DMV.

To obtain the magical correct form, one must have many additional forms of ID, which may or may not be acceptable to the person at SSA who ultimately reviews it. County school district vaccination records are considered a kind of gold standard, though. I learned this after finally reaching a human being following multiple excursions into the SSA’s hellish, circular automated call menu, which is designed to automatically dump callers if too many other luckless supplicants are in queue, a situation that is apparently the case 90% of the time.

Thus it came to pass that the kid and I took a day off of school and work last week and visited the Three Circles of Bureaucratic Hell in a nearby city. First we sat in the overflow holding area at the county health department to secure the vaccination records, occupying a zone teeming with screaming toddlers, anxious children and nervous families applying for citizenship or refugee status.

Then we languished in the waiting room at the local branch of the Social Security Administration with many crabby elderly folks, some of whom seemed to be practicing outraged speeches to unleash on the indifferent heads of bureaucrats seated behind numbered, Plexiglass-barred window openings in a vast, echoing hall that would make a great set for a MiniTruth scene from “1984.”

After emerging from that ordeal limp and exhausted by ennui, we made our way to the DMV for another crushing round of paper-shuffling and waiting. All told, it took around seven hours (not counting transportation), which was actually less than I thought it would. But it occurred to me that perhaps the experience of being gnashed in the gears of bureaucratic machinery is a more potent driver of people’s reflexive hatred of government than I’d realized.

I’m a confirmed fan of Big Government. I don’t enjoy paying taxes any more than I look forward to dental work, but I understand the necessity of both. The only thing that pisses me off about my tax rate is that Mitt Romney pays a lower percentage, and I’d gladly exchange a larger chunk of my income for a Scandinavian-style social safety net.

But I flatter myself and the Balloon Juice / Rumproast communities by believing that we’ve thought this through more than Honey Boo Boo’s core audience has. To them, the silly hoop-jumping requirements, appalling run-arounds and astoundingly inefficient service on display at the customer-facing outlets of local, state and federal agencies are The Government. Which makes it easier to understand why assholes like Rand Paul get elected.

Maybe better customer service would help consign Reaganism to the political dung heap it so richly deserves? It’s a thought.

Please feel free to discuss movies, music, parenting, soulless bureaucracy or anything else. In other words, open thread.

[X-posted at Rumproast]

113 replies
  1. 1
    RP says:

    Boy, I did not like Moonrise Kingdom. I didn’t feel any connection to the characters. Wes Anderson has fallen off a cliff since The Royal Tenebaums.

  2. 2
    Comrade Jake says:

    I don’t know why people hate the government. All I know is that when it comes to Michelle Malkin, what has been seen can never be unseen. Consider yourselves warned.

  3. 3
    Big R says:

    Yes to all of this. Also giggles at the mental image of a heroine binge.

  4. 4
    MikeJ says:

    Heroin. No final E, unless she was very brave.

  5. 5

    Maybe better customer service would help consign Reaganism to the political dung heap it so richly deserves? It’s a thought.

    Which is precisely why the wingnuts are so intent on “starving the beast.”

  6. 6
    Poopyman says:

    Well, at least you can rest assured that your daughter learned more in those 7 hellish hours than she ever could in actually taking the trip. Definitely something that is NOT taught in the schools, of course. Just a practice run of a real life-skill.

  7. 7
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    The entire clusterfuck you just described SHOULD be why people hate Rethuglicans.

    Because all this bullshit is a direct result of 9/11 and the resulting security kabuki. Not to mention demands by the usual xenophobe assholes of the GOP for a gazillion forms of ID in order to get an ID card.

    Up next: in order to control the brown menace, internal passports, ala the old Soviet Union.

  8. 8
    Mary says:

    Couldn’t she have used a passport?

  9. 9
    MomSense says:

    At least your kid gets to go on the darned trip. We shelled out a small fortune for our son’s senior trip to England and Ireland–and the volcano canceled it.

    In terms of our interface with “the government”, wasn’t it the post 9-11 hysteria of the Republicans that forced all of these ridiculous hoops and expenses on us.

  10. 10
    Xecky Gilchrist says:

    @Aardvark Cheeselog: Yup. You have to pay for good customer service, and that’d mean raising taxes.

    Raising taxes is bad, paying more money to a private contractor for worse service = freedom.

  11. 11
    Amir Khalid says:

    “This video contains content from UMG. It is not available in your country.”

    May the fleas from a thousand camels nest in the armpits of Universal Music Group.

    Amir Khalid in Malaysia.

  12. 12
    Betty Cracker says:

    @MikeJ: Right you are. Thanks!

  13. 13
    SatanicPanic says:

    @Mary: getting a passport is an even bigger pain in the ass. I try to keep mine at home unless I am actually going to another country. Not to mention, there’s the awful imagery of needing a passport to travel around one’s own country.

  14. 14
    Linnaeus says:

    Maybe better customer service would help consign Reaganism to the political dung heap it so richly deserves?

    Perhaps. But that would mean devoting resources that conservatives want to cut.

    And if we think that privatized services would be any better, well, just ask your HMO.

  15. 15
    MomSense says:


    Or your cable company, or Bank of America.

  16. 16

    If you think dealing with SSA and IRS is bureaucratic hell, try dealing with USCIS and its predecessor INS. And even dealing with these two agencies is a walk in the park compared with Indian bureaucracy in India (the Indian Embassy and consulates have much better customer service in the US). To withdraw money from your own bank account, you need to fill forms in the triplicate.

  17. 17
    Lee says:

    but we try not to allow our eccentricities to completely dominate our child’s life, which is some of the hardest work in parenting

    No truer words have ever been written on this blog.

    Even if you discount all of John Cole’s prognostications :)

  18. 18
    MattF says:

    FWIW, I had a positive bureaucratic experience about a year ago– I needed a brand-new copy of my birth certificate, and turned, with some dread in my heart, to the web page of the NYC Health Department to find out just what circles of Hell I had to pass through in order to get the document. And… of all things… it turned out that I could do it all online! And easily! Fill out the application, answer a few specific questions to confirm my identity (see footnote (1)), and pay the application fee. And that was it. An official copy of my birth certificate arrived in the mail shortly thereafter (footnote (2)).

    (1) It turns out, interestingly and weirdly, that there is a company that specializes in the job of confirming your identity online, and NYC had contracted out this bit of the process to the specialists.

    (2) It turns out, interestingly and weirdly, that my nephew’s wife works for the NYC Health department. When I told her this story, she told me that the birth certificate people had to go through years of internal bureaucratic battles in order to make it so easy.

  19. 19
    SatanicPanic says:

    @Comrade Jake: OH WOW. I thought the cheerleader video could never be topped.

  20. 20
    MikeJ says:

    And Moonrise Kingdom was one of the best films of the decade, not just the year.

  21. 21
    Villago Delenda Est says:


    Or just about any jerb creator controlled entity. Because having actual human beings to provide prompt customer service cuts into sacred profit, and will force our jerb creators to wait a full six months to buy a new Ferrari, or cut back on hookers and blow, and that infuriates Galtian overlord types.

  22. 22
    Mike in NC says:

    Wife recently went online to apply for a visa to go to India. It was an insane exercise in bureaucracy and cost us several frustrating hours we’ll never get back.

  23. 23
    Comrade Jake says:


    It’s something else, isn’t it? Funny in an epically bad kind of way.

  24. 24
    c u n d gulag says:

    Handy tip for going to any Federal, State, or Local agency:

    If you can, go near the end of closing on a Friday.

    Or, better yet, go near the end of closing on a Friday before a 3-day weekend!

    You’d be surprised how quickly the wheels of bureaucracy, and the the bureaucrats who staff the agencies, can move when they want to get out of Dodge, pronto!

  25. 25

    @Mike in NC: Tell me about it. My husband’s cousin and his wife wanted to come this January to visit his sibling in California. They had to cancel the trip because the cousin’s wife could not get her passport in time.

    ETA: She had applied for her passport months in advance.

  26. 26
    SatanicPanic says:

    @Comrade Jake: It’s so embarrassing it might be snark proof.

  27. 27
    Forum Transmitted Disease says:

    But it occurred to me that perhaps the experience of being gnashed in the gears of bureaucratic machinery is a more potent driver of people’s reflexive hatred of government than I’d realized.

    You should try being an employer and being required to do an EEOC audit.

    I no longer wonder why most small business owners are of the “burn down the government” wing of the Republican party – the wonder of it is that there are some that, in spite of what they get subjected to, are not.

  28. 28
    👽 Martin says:

    But it occurred to me that perhaps the experience of being gnashed in the gears of bureaucratic machinery is a more potent driver of people’s reflexive hatred of government than I’d realized.

    Look on the bright side – your daughter is now halfway to having enough identification to vote.

    Also, too. Now you know why the whole ordeal took eleventeen hundred hours.

    Also, also, too. Fucking Florida, how does it work?

  29. 29
    Scott says:

    You can blame the increase bureaucracy on politicians who want to make Government inefficient and burdensome so that the people get pissed. Then they won’t vote for taxes to pay for it thereby making Government even less efficient and desirable. I managed to get through 30 years without actually having the physical SS card. You would think the number would be enought. The irony of it all is that technology has not made things better.

  30. 30
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Comrade Jake: Here. This might help.

    @schrodinger’s cat: Weirdly, every dealing my ex and I had with USCIS throughout her green card and citizenship process went well. People were nice and responsive, and, when we did run into a bureaucratic snag, we always found someone in our local office who was willing to make a phone call and get it resolved. From everything I hear, we were exceptions, but I had no complaints at all.

  31. 31
    Joel (Macho Man Randy Savage) says:

    @RP: I’m with you. I feel like Wes Anderson has crossed into the Woody Allen territory where everything he does that isn’t terrible is going to get lavished with praise. But that brings to mind one of my favorite movie scenes, ever:

    Sickboy’s unifying theory of life.

  32. 32
    burnspbesq says:


    getting a passport is an even bigger pain in the ass.

    Say what, now? If you don’t need expedited service, the worst part of getting a passport is getting a photo that doesn’t make you look like a serial killer. After that, it’s fill out a form, write a check, and wait for your passport to show up in the mail.

    The single thing that most public-facing government agencies could do to improve customer satisfaction? BO OPEN ON SATURDAY, BITCHES!

  33. 33
    Forum Transmitted Disease says:

    All I know is that when it comes to Michelle Malkin, what has been seen can never be unseen.

    @Comrade Jake: I hope I live for at least five more minutes, because I will NOT allow that to be the last thing my eyes ever view.

  34. 34

    @Omnes Omnibus: My dealings with them have not been awful, just extremely tedious and you are right the individual agents that we had to deal with were quite friendly. I had to call the regional office a couple of times and they were nice too. But the amount of hoops they make you jump through just saps your strength that’s all.

    Indian bureaucracy is something right of a Dickens novel, though.

  35. 35
    Bea says:

    @RP: I loved “Moonrise Kingdom,” as did my 20-something daughters.
    De gustibus non est disputandum.

  36. 36
    MattF says:

    @burnspbesq: The trick to getting a passport is to submit your application in a post office that’s in a wealthy neighborhood. Everyone in the neighborhood has a passport, everyone in the neighborhood knows how to complain if the process gets screwed up… and the person in the post office who does the job has seen it all and is experienced.

  37. 37
    Ella in New Mexico says:

    We learned a lot of this a couple of years ago, fortunately early enough to fix everything by obtaining a passport for our daughter, who at the time had barely obtained her learner’s permit to drive, which was not an official photo id. She used it to go on a cruise with a family friend, then again last year on a school trip to France.

    Now I want ALL of us to get one, because, given the current politics of the US, I’ve got a feeling they’ll have to make it even HARDER for us to leave the country.

  38. 38
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: We had to deal with Romanian bureaucracy on the other end. It may have been the comparison that made the USCIS look good. My ex compared the Romanians to the Vogons wrt bureaucratic crap.

  39. 39
    Lee says:

    After reading the rest of your post (and the comments) some of this you brought on yourself.

    My kids have had a SS Card since they were born (and we still have it).

    We’ve have applied and already renewed passports for both kids. Both applying and renewing were relatively painless endeavors.

    The worst bureaucratic hell we have been through was getting my oldest her driver’s license. The reason for that is two fold, the Republicans have cut back the DMV in Texas to a skeleton of its former self and the online appointment application was so incredible vague that we made the appointment for my wife but the DMV would not let the kid take the test at the appropriate time since the name was incorrect

  40. 40
    artem1s says:


    It’s been my experience that the difficulty of bureaucracy hoop jumping is often directly tied to whether the agency brings in revenue and how much. You can file all your federal taxes online and pay the bill electronically. I can pay parking and most traffic violations online. I also had a to get a copy of my birth certificate and did the whole thing online. It pretty much benefits the municipality and cuts down on overhead if they let most of the transactions happen digitally AND they get their money faster. Most agencies have gotten clued into this.

    Also, I have found service can vary widely depending on the state, municipality or even individual standing behind the counter.

    Given that ID Cards of all kinds are tied to so many conservation policy issues that about restricting access to services it doesn’t surprise me that those government contact points are fraught with sheer awfulness.

    But I’m also frequently surprised when I run into public service employees who, despite getting yelled at all day, still try to make the system easier to navigate and understand. I honestly love those people and know that a well run bureaucracy is the most thankless job on the planet.

  41. 41
    catclub says:

    @SatanicPanic: On the other hand, I think the passport is probably more anonymous than a drivers license. (which probably is not very)

    No home address is listed on it.

  42. 42
    Gex says:

    You’ve just stumbled on one of my biggest pet peeves. So many “cut taxes, cut government” people I know complain about having to use a voice response unit instead of talking to people in government or they complain about long lines. Well, if you INSIST on eliminating as many government jobs as you can, what do you expect?

    So fucking tired of the extreme childishness that is conservatism.

  43. 43

    @Lee: They have cut the DMV to the bone even in liberal Massachusetts. The closest DMV is 10 miles away. It took me a whole morning to get my Driver’s License from Mass, last year, since we had moved from New York.

  44. 44
    What Have the Romans Ever Done for Us? says:

    I’m at a loss to see how the types of people in the waiting area are at the control of the beaurocracy in question. Sure, they could make it so fewer people have to occupy a waiting area, but the types of people there are what they are, and how you described them sounded a little snobbish.

    Also, too, your description noted that the whole process took less time than you expected. So they were more efficient than you expected, but you’re still pissed. Because they work behind plexiglass or something.

  45. 45
    catclub says:

    @burnspbesq: “BO OPEN ON SATURDAY, BITCHES!”

    Is this an advertisement by the president’s dog that he is
    available on Saturdays for the doggie sexy-time?

  46. 46
    merrinc says:

    But it occurred to me that perhaps the experience of being gnashed in the gears of bureaucratic machinery is a more potent driver of people’s reflexive hatred of government than I’d realized.

    Yeah, I’ve been saying this same thing for awhile. When you get shitty service and an attitude at say, Target*, at least your tax dollars aren’t paying for it, right? Meanwhile, those bastards at the DMV are getting rich, what with their government pensions and free healthcare!!! Cue all too typical response these days: I don’t have a pension, why should they?????

    If it’s any consolation a few months ago one of my FB friends from Canada posted a rant about jumping through similar bureaucratic hoops with her daughter. And as someone else pointed out upthread, it’s not like you’re going to get excellent service from free marketereers like your insurance company or bank. But it’s easier to blame the government.

    *I no longer buy wine at Target since a humorless clerk insisted I remove my driver’s license from my wallet and hand it to her so that she could hold it in her hand while keying my birthdate into their stupid computer system. I’m fifty-fucking-four, for ghod’s sake. Okay, so I can pass for mid 40’s on a good day. Still old enough to buy booze in every damn state in this union.

  47. 47
    handsmile says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    Unfortunately, this “entire clusterfuck” of responses to 9/11 is a bipartisan achievement of Rethuglicans and Democrats alike.

    One just needs to look at the Congressional votes for any bill (e.g, Guantamo, NDAA, domestic surveillance) that can be broadly construed as related to national security.

    A chilling and revelatory testament to this is the book Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State, by Dana Priest of the Washington Post, twice a winner of the Pulitzer Prize for her national investigative reporting.


    Perhaps of somewhat less importance here, but the decade is still young and Moonrise Kingdom is no more than a return to form for the oft-brilliant Wes Anderson (after the overblown Life Aquatic and Darjeeling). :)

    Here’s a delightful appreciation of Anderson’s films (astutely linking his work to Nabokov and Joseph Cornell) by the novelist Michael Chabon from the current NYRB:


  48. 48
    pillsy says:

    @Amir Khalid:

    Dude, if that was the Malkin video, UMG just did you a huge fucking favor.

  49. 49
    chopper says:

    thanks to obamacare, we get ourselves a free breastpump for the upcoming kiddo. made one phone call, 3 minutes later it’s in the mail. big gummint FTW.

  50. 50
    Mike E says:

    Wes Anderson is today’s Woody Allen, he keeps making the same movie over and over. Fantastic Mr Fox, also, tho different, being animated. Too.

  51. 51
    beth says:

    Did they recently change flying rules for minors? My daughter never needed an ID as recently as last year (when she got a driver’s permit and only used it because she had it). I can’t ever remember anyone asking her for any kind of ID – was this a requirement of the school and not the airlines?

  52. 52
    Lee says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    Do they just see it as a large line item and feel they can reduce it?

    Or they figure that since typically people go to the DMV so infrequently, that they can make it painful without people putting 2 and 2 together?

  53. 53
    Lee says:


    IIRC, if the minor is flying unaccompanied by a parent, they will need a photo ID and a notarized statement from one (or both?) parents that the minor is flying with their permission.

    EDIT: re-read your question. I believe it is an airline policy that dictated those requirements.

  54. 54
    Betty Cracker says:

    @What Have the Romans Ever Done for Us?: The point. You missed it. Oh well.

  55. 55
    RP says:

    Woody Allen is a good comparison (and the Royal Tenenbaums is to some extent an Allen homage), except that Anderson is the B- version of Allen. IMO, Rushmore is a great movie, Royal Tenebaums is very good, and everything else is mediocre and self-indulgent. Allen has been making the same movies for a long time, and most of them are junk, but he had a far better track record when he was in his prime, and every once in a while he still makes a terrific movie (e.g., Match Point).

  56. 56
    RP says:

    My Allen rankings:

    A: Crimes and Misdemeanors, Hannah and Her Sisters, Annie Hall Manhattan, Love and Death

    A-: Match Point, Zelig, Purple Rose of Cairo

    B+: Sleeper, Take the Money and Run, Bananas, Vicky Christina Barcelona, Mighty Aphrodite, Bullets over Broadway, Everyone Says I Love You

    B: Manhattan Murder Mystery, Broadway Danny Rose, Alice, Husbands and Wives, What’s Up Tigerlilly?

  57. 57
    MobiusKlein says:

    I’ve been trying to get in touch with the California Unemployment department for weeks, and it’s nigh impossible to talk to a person there. Gah, can’t we hire enough people to handle the folks who don’t have jobs?

  58. 58
    maurinsky says:


    It was extremely emotionally resonant for me. Sorry it wasn’t your taste, but that doesn’t mean Wes Anderson sucks now.

  59. 59
    Origuy says:

    To get a passport these days, Betty’s daughter would need that state ID card; a school ID is no longer sufficient. I just looked it up for a friend.

    I just got my tourist visa for Russia. Talk about bureaucracy. First you need an invitation from someone in Russia. If you are staying at a big hotel or booking a tour, they issue the invitation. However, I’m staying with a friend and her mother. This would normally be a private visa, but those are even harder to get and take longer than I had. So you go through a Russian travel agency who says you are booked in certain hotels. Everyone knows this isn’t true. Once you have an invitation, you go to the agency that contracts with the consulate with your invitation, visa application, proof of health insurance, and a photo. Plus $170 in cash. The visa application must be filled out online and if there are any errors, you go home and fix it and come back or pay another $25 for the agency to do that.
    After 9 business days, you come back and get your passport with the visa sticker covering an entire page. They didn’t use the photo I gave them. You can rush it to 5 days for another $110. Once you get to Russia, you have 7 days to register your visa, which means a trip to the post office with your host (unless you’re staying at a big hotel.)

  60. 60
    Fleem says:

    @Lee: @beth: My son, age 10, flew unaccompanied last summer without any trouble at all. We had to have a named grownup on each end with valid ID, but he wasn’t required to have any of his own.

  61. 61
    Chris Andersen says:

    Just consider that persistent butt of government hate: the DMV. Even fans of government hate going there.

    Of course, the people who really hate government are the very people who most oppose any attempt to actually improve it. Because if you made it better than people might not hate it as much as they do. So they have a perverse incentive to make sure that it never actually succeeds in its purpose.

  62. 62
    Mnemosyne says:


    The last time I was unemployed in California (which, fortunately, was about 10 years ago), I was able to do everything online and the paperwork magically appeared in the mail. Are you having trouble with the website, or is the issue that you have a question that’s not answered by the website?

  63. 63

    @Chris Andersen: I have lived in 4 blue states Maine, MD, NY and MA. Worst DMV was MD and the best was Maine. When I lived in Maine I did not get the hate people had for DMV.

  64. 64
    RP says:

    @maurinsky: Of course it’s my subjective opinion. I didn’t say that no one was allowed to feel otherwise.

    How was it emotionally resonant for you? It would be interesting to hear a contrary take on the movie.

  65. 65
    Yutsano says:

    The ebil gubmint worker is just gonna sit in the corner with mah cookies.

  66. 66
    DFH no.6 says:

    As an avowed liberal, I also believe that modern welfare-state government is necessary for the good functioning of society.

    I am not a cynical and reflexive “government is the problem” hater, and I realize that our very complicated modern civilization requires commensurately complicated government.

    That being said, I have my own recent (and on-going) experience with an inefficient-to-the-point-of-absurdity government agency that gives ammunition to my Teahadist bosses – California’s Department of the State Architect (DSA for short).

    In order to do energy-saving renovations at schools in California (a large part of my current business) it is sometimes required to get DSA approval (and that “sometimes” is a matter of significant interpretation and disagreement).

    When the decision has been made to submit work for DSA approval (often on the “when in doubt, do it” principle) you have committed to entering a black hole of ridiculously long delays, random and piecemeal requests (demands, really) for re-submittal, and near-total lack of communication (they have a web-site where you can update yourself on how long it’s been, officially, that you’ve been delayed. That’s all it’s good for).

    Delays of 6 months and more are not unusual for even the simplest work (replacing old classroom air conditioning units with new and more efficient units of the same size and type, for instance).

    As an example, almost all the work on one school project has been finished since last summer, but I have a small solar (photo-voltaic) installation at one campus that has been languishing at DSA for over a year for reasons we have not yet been able to find out.

    Supposedly, if you “know someone” you can get the skids greased, but we don’t, and many other contractors in our business are in the same boat as us – we’ve been told over and over by people with many years experience doing this business in California (we’ve been at it 3 years now) to just get used to DSA delays.

    No such unreasonable and nonsensical delays for the same work in Arizona.

    My bosses point to DSA and say, “You want to do business in a state run by Democrats? Well there you are”.

    Not a lot I can say, really. It’s fucking pathetic and embarrassing.

  67. 67
    Lee says:


    Betty’s daughter would need that state ID card;

    That is not the case here in Texas. For their initial passports all we needed was a birth certificate and both parents (and our IDs). The littlest did not even have a school id as she was so young.

  68. 68
    Mnemosyne says:


    It occurred to me during the Oscars that you may have liked Amour enough to check out some of Michael Haneke’s other work and I wanted to give you a heads-up that he’s actually mostly known for psychological horror films like Funny Games and The White Ribbon. Just thought I should give you a heads-up in case you put him on your Netflix queue without knowing his previous films, because IIRC you’re not a big horror fan.

  69. 69
    Fred says:

    I haven’t seen my SS card since some time in the 1970s. Back in those days my life was not too particular, not too precise. Not much more so now.
    Guess I better look into this, huh?
    As I recall there was a notice on the thing stating that it was not to be used as identification. ‘Course if the constitution is disregarded I guess what it says on SS cards is pretty much moot too.

  70. 70
    SiubhanDuinne says:


    Several years ago I had dinner at a restaurant, the name of which I’ve forgotten. Without asking, the waitress handed me a senior’s menu. Five minutes later, when I ordered a glass of wine, the same waitress carded me. I only wish I had known the acronym WTF back then.

  71. 71
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Fred: I needed to get a new SS card a couple of years ago. I went to the local SSA office, filled out a form, and showed them my passport. About a week later, I got the replacement card. Maybe I am just lucky with bureaucracies, but it was a no muss, no fuss sort of thing.

  72. 72
    Mnemosyne says:

    @DFH no.6:

    I don’t know why, but that kind of stuff is the WORST to deal with in California. We had a really ugly bureaucratic fight in our small city that got a fair amount of publicity when some city residents wanted to zero-scape their yard. They had one city agency giving them the instructions on how to do it and another city agency issuing citations because what they were doing was against city regulations … even though they were following the instructions of the first city agency. Freakin’ nightmare for these poor people.

  73. 73
    handsmile says:


    There’s probably some fancy-shmancy way for the tech wizards hereabouts to tabulate it exactly, but this Luddite’s observation is that no single filmmaker is more often cited and debated on this blog than Wes Anderson. I really am surprised how often here I read his name and emphatic opinions on his work.

    Myself: big fan; consider him to the most distinctive American filmmaker of the past generation. Bottle Rocket: noteworthy debut; Rushmore: superb; Tenenbaums: masterpiece; Mr. Fox: clever; others: see my #47 above.

    In what way do you regard Tenenbaums as an homage to Woody Allen? I do largely agree with your assessment of Allen, btw. In fact as a writer/director of around 50 films, his overall success has been quite limited (and even a number of those are not aging well.) The eventual posthumous reappraisal of Allen’s oeuvre will not be too kind I suspect.

  74. 74
    MB says:

    I’m as ready to hate on the dumbassery of the TSA as the next guy, but you’re wrong on it being required to have a state-issued ID to board a plane. Was this a school requirement, or something? Because those under 18 don’t need IDs at all, and those over 18 can do it with a bit of extra hassle and time in line.

  75. 75
    MobiusKlein says:

    @Mnemosyne: The application was all online, worked.

    They then found a reason they needed to talk to me about stuff, and set up an interview. They called me, and they said I worked for this company I never heard of, and wanted my full SSN. Since I don’t like getting phished, I said no, let ME call the EDD and verify it’s really you before I give that out over the phone.
    He gave me the #, and said to ask for him by name.

    That was the last time I talked to a human being there. The phone tree has a few escape hatches to get to a person, but they all have caps on the hold times, and kick you out if the hold count is too high.

    So I sent an email, another one, etc. But no reply. Apparently this inability to talk to a person has been happening since at least 2007. So I am actually getting the UI, but in the name of an incorrect company. I covered my ass, so I won’t complain.

  76. 76
    maurinsky says:

    Moonrise Kingdom for me was about the redemptive power of love – love felt and love expressed. I thought it was beautiful.

    My daughter is going to Europe this summer, and I don’t think I have to jump through as many hoops to make that happen as Betty had to! The only wrinkle was that her father lives in PA and so we had to get a notarized form giving his permission to get her passport renewed. Still, just a couple of forms, a couple of pictures, and an exchange of money and we are good.

    People think of the PO as the government, and I spent 25 minutes in line at the PO yesterday and had to leave to make the doctor’s appointment I had scheduled, and I don’t think I moved in that line in the 25 minutes I was there. I went to a different PO after my doctor’s appointment and realized that the self-ship kiosk is no help if you have a package that weighs more than 1 lb. So I had to stand in line again, this time for only about 10 minutes, but the thermostat in this branch was broken so it was tropical levels of hot in that office. Annoying, but not horrific. I’ve had similar experiences in fine retails stores.

  77. 77
    mainmati says:

    One of the advantages of living and working abroad is that everyone in the family has to have a passport. The kids got theirs before 9/11 when it was a lot easier.

    As for the gummint and services it provides, the most influential promoters of small government are, of course, the rich and powerful who mostly don’t use those services and so could careless whether they work or work well.

  78. 78
    Origuy says:


    That is not the case here in Texas. For their initial passports all we needed was a birth certificate and both parents (and our IDs).

    Betty didn’t say how old her teenager is, but if she’s 16, she needs her own ID. http://travel.state.gov/passpo.....t_830.html

  79. 79
    beth says:


    I thought that was the case – maybe it’s different since the school is taking the kids. We have taken a cousin’s daughter on a few trips the last few years (one was even out of the country) and we always have her birth certificate and notarized letters from her parents giving us permission to take her on the plane and not once has anyone ever even raised an eyebrow, asked to see any paperwork or ID or questioned why we were taking this child with a different last name on the plane. On the other hand, I had a friend who got stopped at the airport and couldn’t take her own daughter out of the country without a notarized letter from her husband. I guess it just depends on what TSA agent you get.

  80. 80
    Mnemosyne says:


    If I were you, I would be seriously concerned about identity theft — if someone else got hold of your SSN, they could have worked at that other company under your name. It can really screw up your taxes, among other things, so you really should check into it.

  81. 81
    burnspbesq says:


    No, that’s my brain not knowing the difference between my left and right hands. It was supposed to be “be open.”

  82. 82
    Paul in KY says:

    The Republicans know better service would lead to a higher opinion of government in general.

    That is why they have worked so tirelessly to defund the positions you would like to see more of.

    I’m sure you knew that, though.

  83. 83
    MaxL says:

    I guess that last student loan check experience is supposed to tide us over until whatever is left of social security kicks in at 70 or so. Cuz in between is just a lot of hassle and unpleasantness (at best!) dealing with the government. It really does make it hard to have any confidence in my liberalism.

    I prefer to rent, I have no kids, I have my own business and I don’t live near hurricanes or flood plains or tornadoes…so it really does feel like all I do is respond to the turning of the government screws. All I see in the news is my vote and policy preference obstructed even when those views are in the majority; my taxes go to subsidize various schemes for mcmansioners; I pay for my own health insurance but I get to subsidize somebody else’s, too (sweet, eh?), and my mailbox is littered with official letters describing some new fine or fee I need to pay to my dysfunctional state.

    These days, the half of the year I spend out of the country is the only real relief I get from my government’s dipshittery. At least I understand the law in Panama – it amounts to “Don’t be an asshole.” I guess I am not the type of asshole they worry about much.

  84. 84
    Betty Cracker says:

    @MB: According to the teacher, it’s an airline requirement. Maybe it just applies to kids traveling without their parents? Maybe each airline sets its own ID policy independent from the TSA? I dunno. We also had to submit notarized permission, etc. I do know that a school photo ID and birth certificate weren’t acceptable, which is ridiculous.

  85. 85
    handsmile says:


    Thanks very much, how very thoughtful of you! :)

    In fact, I’ve seen almost all of Haneke’s films (first introduced to him by The Piano Teacher). As you rightly note, all his films are disturbing to some degree and I could not bear to finish watching either edition of Funny Games (shudders). Prior to Amour, I found The White Ribbon to be the most impactful: socially and historically nuanced, and psychologically complex.

    Also too, I’m not a Netflix subscriber. Like you, I’m fortunate to live in a city with lots of movie-going options, and the handsmiles doing our part to keep in business a marvelous local DVD store.

  86. 86
    MobiusKlein says:

    @Mnemosyne: The incorrect company was not a problem, because it was just a different subsidiary of my parent company. More of a paperwork error than identity theft. I did check with our HR, and it’s not a fraud situation.

  87. 87
    SG says:

    Your experience in bureaucracy hell is exactly what drives the idiotic mantra, “If government was run like a business, all our problems would be solved!” It’s what makes third-rate CEOs run for office. It resonates with a lot of people who remember back when customer service was king and vulture capitalism was still in its infancy.

    Sorry to say, but it wouldn’t hurt government agencies to emphasize to their employees that they are employed at the pleasure of their citizen-clients.

  88. 88
    RP says:

    @handsmile: I think Anderson himself said that RT was his attempt to make a Woody Allen NYC movie.

    I strongly disagree re Allen. IMO, he’s made 4-5 masterpieces and 10-15 very good movies. That’s an incredible track record for any director.

  89. 89
    DFH no.6 says:

    I’ve heard a number of similar absurd tales at all levels of interaction with California governments (from the state down to municipalities).

    For building codes (and enforcement of same) there is at one end libertarian “paradises” like, say, Turkey (where, when there’s an earthquake, all the buildings fall down and everyone dies horribly).

    At the other end (or nearly so, anyway) is California’s DSA.

    From my experience, for all the laughable (and worse) rightwing nonsense here (and there’s plenty of that, for sure) Arizona has that aspect of governing business activities done correctly.

  90. 90
    gene108 says:

    Maybe better customer service

    Maybe people, who could read and follow directions would help a ton.

    The number of people, who don’t have a clue as to what they need, are incapable of navigating through a website and coming prepared with the correct forms and then assume the person they are dealing with has to bend the rules to accommodate them is as much a cause of the problem.

    They want government to basically smooth over their inherent inability and innate fear of reading directions and filling forms.

    For whatever reason, 5,000 years of civilization still hasn’t allowed us to evolve as a species, where direction reading and form filling becomes a natural process and not a dreaded experience that sends folks into states of paralysis and panic.

  91. 91
    Mary says:

    @SatanicPanic: True, but a lot of kids who are too young to have a driver’s license may already have a passport. Obviously not true of everyone, but if you have the resources I think it makes sense to ensure that your kids have an up to date passport.

  92. 92
    beergoggles says:

    I feel totally spoiled in my SSA and DMV experiences in Boston after reading urs. I’ve had to go to the SSA only once (post 9/11) and it was to update my SS card with my full name (my middle name was never put in it by the parents when they got me the first one). I was done with that in under 30 minutes including wait times. A couple days later I got my updated SS card in the mail.

    The DMV here has a website that lists wait times rather accurately. Since I work downtown I keep an eye on the wait time list and when it drops to 10 minutes I run over to the DMV to do whatever it is I need to do at the DMV that I cannot accomplish online (and it’s been several years since I needed to visit).

    Honestly I’ve had longer wait times at the dentist and doctors offices.

  93. 93
    Joe Max says:

    That’s not a bug, that’s a feature.

    All US Gov’t offices have been decimated by decades of “starve the beast”, so they are understaffed, under-equipped, and running ancient computer software. The powers-that-made-them-this-way are fully aware of this, and it’s part of the plan. As (surprisingly) P.J. O’Rourke once said, “Republicans are the party who says government doesn’t work, then they get elected and prove it.” It’s not an accident, or unintended consequences, it’s the whole point. Starve-the-beast makes people hate the beast all the more. And they don’t want the people that elected them to know that if we all paid ten bucks more a year in taxes to go toward fixing it, the SSA would run like clockwork.

    If it weren’t for the political attitudes of the Millennials that are coming of age now, I’d abandon all hope.

  94. 94
    JWL says:

    I wonder if those members of the bin Laden family who were deported in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 were forced to jump through similar hoops before boarding their plane?

  95. 95

    @Lee: I don’t really know. I haven’t been paying close attention to the state politics, since I moved. Although since Dems control almost everything here, it is hard to blame wingnuttia.

  96. 96
    handsmile says:


    Mileages do vary, and we do disagree. I would not have gathered from your #55 remarks that you were such an Allen partisan, but your #56 rankings do now give me a better sense of your perspective.

    On those, I fully agree that Crimes, Annie, and Manhattan are his best works (might add Zelig myself). As for Manhattan, I have to think that Isaac and Tracy’s relationship would be viewed far less benignly today.

  97. 97
    Chris Howard says:

    Betty, it must be an airline requirement. We’ve flown both kids unaccompanied domestically in the last year, and no ID was required. This was on Allegiant and American.

  98. 98
    Mnemosyne says:


    Just making sure — I’m past the point of my film-geek life when I enjoyed taking people to see Ken Russell’s The Devils without any warning, so I would hate to have anyone say, “Oh, that was a great movie about elderly people — hey, Benny’s Video is by the same director, let’s get that one next!”

    (It was fun while it lasted, though — they always looked like they’d been hit with a 2×4 when they came out of the theater. Assuming they were able to sit through the whole film.)


    Phew! Okay. I just had my credit card number stolen for the second time in six months, so I’m a little paranoid right now.

    @DFH no.6:

    Honestly, IMO it’s the persistence of our stupid libertarian streak (home of the Prop 13, after all!) where each small city is supposed to be allowed to make all of its own regulations without considering how they affect anyone else in the county or the state.

    Ironically, Phoenix, land of conservatives, has a lot nicer stuff than we do (including freeways and airports) because they still believe in government control of that stuff. LAX is a freakin’ hellhole compared to any other major city’s airport, and a lot of minor cities (like Phoenix — I spent a lot of time at Sky Harbor over the holidays and with my dad’s illness, so it’s fresh in my mind).

  99. 99
    Ruckus says:

    CA DMV has been really good over the last few years as far as customer service.
    I built a trailer and had to go to the DMV to get it titled and licensed. Took about 45 minutes about 1/2 of which was having the clerk apologize for having to look up the procedure as he had only done this once in 10 years. Otherwise almost everything is done online. Now at the post office… My experience is very mixed from very short wait times to extreme exasperation when having shipped a package one month, the next month this size/weight package is not acceptable and I have to use the brown stain or fedex.
    One thing I’ve noticed is that moving through a government agency it helps if you know not only what answers you will need but also what procedures are in place. Of course you won’t know those unless you use the service a lot or they are trying to make it hard. Building/business permits/zoning are one of those areas where it mostly depends on who you talk to and build relationships with. Otherwise forget about it.
    Another help is knowing how to speak government regulation. Which you do in every day life don’t you?

  100. 100
    tmf (formerly tesslibrarian) says:

    @Origuy: It depends upon her age. Under 16, the child needs no ID, but both parents have to submit copies of theirs (front & back) and sign the form. They’ll also need a certified birth certificate with both parents’ names on it to prove US citizenship. If renewing, they have to submit the old passport (proves citizenship; it is returned) and a copy of the birth certificate (to prove the parents have the right to get the passport for the minor). Minor passports are good for 5 years.

    Ages 16 & 17, if the child doesn’t have a photo ID, it’s the same routine with the parents’s IDs, but if the child does, then only one parent is required to sign along with the child, OR by writing the check to the State Dept., which is how parental consent is determined. At this point, the State Dept. considers them adults, sort of, which means the cost goes up to the adult fee, but it also is good for 10 years, and when they renew, if they do it within 15 years of applying for the last one, they can do it all by mail.

    18 & older, certified birth certificate and photo ID. It doesn’t have to be state-issued, though if all you have is a school ID, you may need to submit something else with your name on it, like a credit card. To renew, as I said above, if it’s been less than 15 years since getting your last one, just send the old passport, new pictures, a filled out form (Black Ink Only!) and a check to the State Dept.

    Turn around for most passports is 4-6 weeks; if you expedite, it’s 2-3 weeks, and in all cases you have the option of also paying to overnight it in both directions. When I expedited and paid overnight in both directions in November, which is a low season for passport applications (January, February, April, and September are heavy), I received my new passport within a week.

    And check public libraries. Ours does passports as a way to make up for the book budget being slashed over the last decade, and provide pretty good service. The only other place in town to get them is the post office, which has had its budget slashed and just doesn’t have the staff to handle the service anymore. When people came to the library and complained about them, I always told them that the post office was fine when I got mine there about 13 years ago, but their staff has been cut so they can’t provide the customer service. It shut up quite a few whiners about “government,” as if he weren’t in a freaking PUBLIC LIBRARY at the time.

  101. 101
    MobiusKlein says:

    For good experiences, I lost my SS Card, and needed a new one to finish being hired.
    Made an appt, got in, got out, no delays or problems.
    Got a temp card, and real one quickly.
    It does not have to be slow.

    And don’t forget the private sector suck’s sewage here too – I don’t want to start about current refinance issues. Just suffice that 90 days is not enough time if you have a complex situation.

  102. 102
    PJ says:

    @tmf (formerly tesslibrarian): You can also get your passport in one day at the passport office. A few years ago (2007?), I realized my passport had expired the day before I was scheduled to fly to Europe. I went to the passport office in Manhattan in the morning, filled out the paperwork, and picked up my passport in the afternoon. I can’t remember if there was an extra charge for this or not, but they did ask to see my plane ticket.

  103. 103
    Fake Irishman says:

    @MomSense: I think you mean “spend 60 minutes on hold” with your cable company or HMO.

  104. 104
    MobiusKlein says:

    and finally an email reply!

    Thank you for submitting your information to the Employment Development Department on 2/19/2013 at 9:37 AM.

    You have been scheduled for a telephone interview regarding this matter on 03/02/13.

    So it takes them a week to reply to an email, and then schedule a follow up phone call another week ahead, no time provided. And it’s on a Saturday. Fuck me.

  105. 105
    tmf (formerly tesslibrarian) says:

    @PJ: That has to be an official office. Until recently, the closest one to us was in Charleston, SC. Now there’s one in Atlanta, and it’s where we send the UGA students who show up flabbergasted that the public library at the poorest county in the state doesn’t just issue federal documents while they wait. :-)

  106. 106
    What Have the Romans Ever Done for Us? says:

    @Betty Cracker: I get your point. You seem to have missed mine though, so we’ll call it even. It would be great if everything in the world worked better, including the social security administration, the DMV, the public health records office or wherever you were surrounded by screaming toddlers. I’m sure people would be happier with government if customer service were better, and that might be better for government relations. All fine points.

    In recent years I’ve had to renew my passport, get a driver’s license and car registered in a new state, and acquire a birth certificate. All of said interactions with the terrible beaurocracy went pretty smoothly. Everyone along the way was courteous and efficient.

    Would I have rather been doing something else? Sure, but all in all my customer service experiences with the government have been OK. If these interactions are enough to sour people on “the gubmint” that sends them their social security checks, then they’re bitter cranks who hate the government, no matter how friendly it is. Maybe my experiences have been exceptional, but I don’t think so.

  107. 107
    marge says:

    @tmf (formerly tesslibrarian):
    a child does not need a passport or photo ID to travel in the US. A copy of her birth certificate as a just in case is all that is necessary. I have been a travel agent for 30 years and I doubled checked this before answering. A passport is a great idea anyway. I believe everyone should have one. She could carry a copy of the information page.

  108. 108
    Bill Arnold says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:
    I’ve had reasonably good experiences with several different NY DMV offices over the last 10 years. My current DMV is in a town with a broad mix of incomes, and it manages to work pretty smoothly. They use a ticket system to enforce the queue order, with multiple service counters. You can sit down until your number is called.

  109. 109
    mclaren says:

    How about a much simpler solution to your problems getting all that ID for your kid?

    Shut down the goddamn useless American national security state. No child needs a government-issued I.D. No child. Anywhere. For any reason. It’s horseshit.

    Get rid of it.

    Problem solved.

  110. 110
    FlyingToaster says:

    This is why, a year ago when we could finally get her to sit still, we went ahead and got WarriorGirl’s passport. I still have her birth certificate in the folio (we have different surnames), but I’ll be whipping out our passports for this year’s trip to Grandma’s.

    My parents went and got us our own passports when we were (mumble) 12 or so. But they both worked for an airline, and didn’t know which parent or school group or friend we might end up having to travel with eventually.

  111. 111
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    If you think dealing with SSA and IRS is bureaucratic hell, try dealing with USCIS and its predecessor INS.

    The bit of bureaucracy that born-in-the-USAians don’t have to deal with, and so they don’t really care that it makes Kafka look like light comedy.

    This isn’t about big government or small government, save that it’s about good government, and if you are of the small-government persuasion, then deliberately shit government is the next best thing.

  112. 112
    NorthLeft12 says:

    Not so; now, even a child must have an official state ID card from the DMV to board a plane. (Because of 9/11?

    You blame 9/11 and Osama bin Laden for all that security crap? Really?

    In case you did not know, you did that to yourselves. The clowns that pushed it would use any damn excuse to suggest enforce all their pet security measures. Nobody bothered to say “No, this is completely stupid.”

  113. 113
    jeffery bahr says:

    I visited the DMV yesterday in my hometown of Longmont, CO. I took a ticket from a machine that gave me 5 choices of service and was immediately called up to one of 5 open windows. After a pleasant 5 minutes, my new car was registered. It’s often like that unless you go at lunchtime or just after work. Also, the DMV office for license testing is separate and the usual nightmare of waiting. Virtually all of my experience with government has been between acceptable and excellent, including the SSA and IRS. Beats being on hold waiting for Dell support.

Comments are closed.