Revisiting the USA, part 3

Andreas Ortmann
5 min readNov 27, 2022


So, … while still in Brunswick, I spent Monday morning 20 minutes on the phone to friggin SSA … trying to reach a live person. Ha! Ended up being told, by some automated voice, that I needed to call back since I called outside office hours which would start at 8 a.m. It was 9:30 a.m..

Later in the day I gave it another try and after an hour gave up when I was told, again by some automated voice that, after having correctly entered my SS number and birth date, it had no record for me. Dah.

I also sent an email briefly describing my situation and a couple of days later got a useless response telling me in general terms about bilateral Social Security agreements and the conditions that would entitle me to benefits. Right. Clearly whoever answered my query did not bother to look at my account.

The next morning, after a pleasant ride with the Amtrak DownEaster, and a half-hour walk (luggage and all), I arrived at the SSA office in Portland early and first in line. Good thing that because when I left an hour later, there was already a considerable queue.

It was a good idea to show up there in person. The SSA dude confirmed that my account is still active but, though he tried (thank you!), he also did not manage to set up an account for me, as I have no US driver’s licence, or other acceptable forms of identification.

He pushed the whole thing up the access-rights hierarchy and I will have an appointment — by phone — with someone 9 January 2023. Meanwhile they will apparently check my credit record and with my Aussie phone provider. Had to agree to that. Fortunately, I do all my shady deals with burner phones. ;-)

More seriously, it seems that SSA is not there to help. I wonder what happens to people who have less determination, or maybe means, to sort these kinds of things out. A Facey friend commented sarcastically:

One does not live in the U.S. because of the services the government provides. One lives in the U.S. despite those services (and despite the high taxes that are supposed to fund those services).

No wonder confidence and trust in government services is low.

I did, finally, manage to get a proper haddock sandwich, at an unlikely place. But I forgot to take a picture, so it did not really happen.

Meanwhile the influx of immigrants at the South border to Mexico has again become a major issue that the Republicans, not surprisingly, try to milk for political capital. McCarthy — the likely future speaker of House —demanded DHS Secretary Mayorkas’ resignation over border issues and warned of a potential impeachment inquiry if he would not resign, one of at least five major inquiries that Republican lawmakers have foreshadowed. Not sure these inquiries will help them win the 2024 elections. McCarthy made his demand while speaking at the southern border in El Paso, Texas. Something about a picture and a thousand words here.

It was otherwise a fairly uneventful, or at least inconsequential, week in politics otherwise. Trump had another rough day in court, had another lawsuit filed against him, and apparently lost the support of Elon Mucketeer who as declared that he will support DeSantis. In related news, Ye West, formerly known as KanYe Kardashian, the delusional cookie who has since descended in certifiable nuttery, declared his presidential ambitions for 2024. Ye, whose latest spiritual buddy is Nick Fuentes, indicated that he has enlisted Milo Yiannopoulos as his 2024 campaign manager. Birds of the same feather … The only interesting question is whether Ye will get more votes (70k) than he managed to attract in his 2020 campaign. Not likely me thinks.

Also meanwhile another mass killing followed earlier in the week, and just before Thanksgiving, several gut-wrenching ones in the weeks before (Colorado Springs, Q club, University of Virgina, Charlottesville, University of Idaho, Moscow). (There have been at least 609 mass shootings this year — incidents where more than four people were shot — compared with 638 shootings last year at this time and 690 shootings in 2021, according to the Gun Violence Archive.) Mainstream and social media are all over these events which most likely adds to the probability of some of them happening. In the latest of these, a Walmart employee (and shift leader) killed six of his co-workers with a weapon that he had bought in the morning. He then turned his weapon on himself. Since then it has been reported that he left a “death note” accusing various people of having harrassed him or being mean to him. (None of these people were apparently among those that killed.)

It’s a crazy country that allows essentially free access to guns and it is unfortunate that it remains a bone of contention between Republicans and Democrats, a persistent partisan divide indeed.

I took a bus from Portland to Boston on Thanksgiving, arriving there as one of only three paying customers. All shops were closed, with the exception of the hotel bar and cafe. So I had to improvise a little bit regarding the Thanksgiving dinner. Happy to report, it came out fine.

Watched a few of the World-cup games while in Boston … great game by the USA against their old colonial oppressors. They really deserved to win that game, the USA that is. As did Canada against Belgium.

Now, after a bus trip yesterday that took longer than advertised (presumably because of heavy Thanksgiving weekend traffic), in The Big Apple. I had expected a pleasant ride in an empty and up-to-snuff Flix bus — alas the bus was at capacity and on top of it quite the old coach (provided by Lucky Star, partnering with Flix, something that was not revealed when I booked the trip), without functioning seat lights, no power outlet, self-service at storing and retrieving your luggage, and some irritatingly inconsiderate co-travellers. Apparently the existence of headphones is not widely known on the East Coast. (Note to self: Make sure to get a better bus for trip to Washington later next week.)

Notwithstanding the somewhat belated arrival in The Big Apple, I did a walk down memory lane with my good friend Michel who I had not seen for ages. We know each other from high school, so it was a long walk indeed. He (ole beer-drinking prol that he is) has invited me (posh me) to plunder his wine cellar the next couple of days. Consider it done, me friend.

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Andreas Ortmann

EconProf: I post occasionally on whatever tickles my fancy: Science, evidence production, the Econ tribe, Oz politics, etc. Y’all r entitled to my opinions …