I’m posting this out of sequence. The leptin post will be the next one.
I haven’t verified any of this information, but I’m posting it as I got it for the benefit of those who are desperate for passports, but may not read all the string of comments, which grows daily.
An industrious reader writes:

An update to my earlier post and a few tips from the lessons I learned. I applied Mar. 17. Got my son’s passport on Tuesday and mine is out priority mail for delivery on Monday (we leave on Wed. Jun 20).
First, forget about the “877″ number. Call 606-526-7600. It’s a direct line to the passport agency. You’ll immediately be placed on hold, but you’ll get through pretty quickly. If you don’t want to incur the long distance charges, dial the “877″ number, don’t hang up when you get the “call volume” message. Press 9-3-1 and you’ll get right back in the loop. Next, call the passport task force in DC at 202-647-7948. They’re very helpful and will get involved to expedite if you’re traveling within 72 hours. My passport was in New Hampshire and I called them directly at 603-334-0523. Someone answered, took my info, then I got a call back within 2 hours saying my passport was expedited and would be sent out priority mail the next day. I also kept calling my congressman. And start calling everyone early!!! Don’t wait until the 14 days before that the passport agency suggests. Get on it and stay on it.
Good luck to those who are waiting!!

Good luck indeed!
Just imagine if we had government-controlled health care system. One might have to go through all this just to get a bunion fixed before a walking tour. Or any number of other ‘elective’ procedures that folks in this country can waltz in and get any day without hassle. And that people from other countries with nationalized health care fly here so that they can get them too.


  1. Good article: My neighbor called Rep. Patrick Kennedy’s (D-RI) office last Thursday (June 7) at 3 PM, and said that 4 passports being held up were needed for a trip on June 30. On Monday morning June 11, the passports were received from FEDEX. There had been 6 weeks of no information before that. Exactly how do the congressmen threaten the passport office, and get that response?
    David Futoma
    I haven’t a clue, but I’m glad they do.  It didn’t work for my DIL, though.
    Thanks for the info.

  2. It would be interesting to read a post from you on how you think the problems in our healthcare system should be solved. I’ve seen you deride government control of healthcare several times, but I don’t think I’ve seen you put forward your opinion on how you think the system should work. Maybe you think it works perfect right now??? Just curious…
    Hi hap–
    Maybe I’ll post on it sometime in the future, but for now, can you tell me one single thing that the government has gotten involved in that has become better as a result?

  3. Maybe this is just me, but who are these people who apply for a passport with a scant six to ten weeks before their summer vacation. I am sure they were planning their vacations for more than 6-10 weeks.
    I realize, I’m not one to talk, since I applied for one about six weeks before leaving for Asia, but that was the duration of the class and I decided to add it the first week of the class, so it was planned in maybe 7 weeks.
    But, if I hadn’t had it for my Asia trip, I would have put it on the To Do list well before two months before I departed on my Italian vacation this spring. Probably before I booked the tickets.
    IIRC, something like 10% of Americans have passports, which means that 90% can’t leave their own country and have never really thought about getting serious. That’s at least a little alarming that 90% of Americans haven’t ever given serious thought to exploring their world beyond the 50 states. Not that there’s not great stuff here. But there’s great stuff elsewhere too.
    Last thing: Your federal government is very good at delivering some services (health for veterans for instance). This is a prime example, but you’re never going to have a news item on government efficiency. It’s only news when they don’t work.
    Hi Max–
    Problem is that people are told it takes 4-6 weeks to get their passports if done regularly and 2 weeks if expedited.  And in the past it has worked that way.  Now, all of a sudden, it’s taking months, even if expedited.  If it had always been a major hassle, then people would have applied way, way early.  As it is, they acted upon their expectations built by years of previous experience.
    And I have to take issue with you on the Federal Government providing wonderful, inexpensive health care to veterans.  It may be cheap, but it ain’t wonderful.  I spent a lot of time in the VA system during my training, and I can tell you for a fact that it doesn’t hold a candle to the private hospital system.  Every VA I’ve ever been in is a training hospital, manned (or womanned?) by physicians-in-training, i.e., interns, residents, and medical students.  The faculty – or attendings, as they’re called in medical training parlance – are more interested in research than they are in patient care, and, if my experience is any judge, not all that good at patient care.  Don’t get me wrong, there are some great docs at the VA, but they’re the exception to the rule.  Most are – dare I say it? – federal employees and have the same federal employee mindset that you yourself have commented on.  Most veterans go to the VA and don’t ever go anywhere else, so they have nothing to compare it to.  And it’s free to them.  As a consequence, most think it’s great.  But those who know better don’t.  MD’s dad was a WWII vet and never used the VA, but the private hospital system instead.  He went to the VA one time, and from then on his comment was that he would go to the VA only if he was incapacitated and taken by someone else and didn’t have a gun with at least one bullet to do himself in before he got there.
    Because the VA is a federal facility it is difficult to sue.  As a consequence many things are probably done to veterans who are put in study protocols that would never, ever happen in a private hospital setting.  I remember one such study when I was on one of my many rotations through during medical school.  Vets undergoing abdominal surgery were randomized into two groups.  One group had one branch of their vagus nerve (the main nerve leading from the brainstem to the stomach) severed during the surgery.  The idea was to see if the group without intact vagus nerves developed fewer ulcers over the course of the following years.  The vagus nerve is an extremely important nerve, and I can’t imagine anyone agreeing to this procedure unless it was explained in the vaguest of ways or, more likely, wasn’t explained at all.
    I’m not a veteran, but having served my time there, I’m in agreement with MD’s dad.

  4. Sorry, I should have been more clear. I don’t disagree that government messes things up, including health care. The government being so deep into health care is part of why we’re in the mess we’re in. Even though I’m a Libertarian leaning, Ron Paul supporting Conservative, I’m honestly not sure which direction to go with health care because I’ve had the misfortune of running into some of the problems in our current system. Aside from the problems, we have a country full of people who think trips to the Doctor should cost $10 or maybe even nothing at all. That’s a big problem for moving out of our current nanny state. Anyway, I could go on for a while but will spare you. I’m just interested in your perspective given that I’ve seen you make the comment a few times in the blog.
    Hi hap–
    I could go on for a while myself.  I’ve talked to enough people who have been patients and a number of doctors from English-speaking countries with nationalized health care.  Most think it is a total disaster.  Canadians stream across our border to get health care that they can’t get in their own country irrespective of how much they’re willing to pay.  And, once it’s in place, it can’t be gotten rid of because then people come to see it as an entitlement and fight to keep it despite it’s being lousy.  They can’t imagine having to pay to go to the doctor – until they get a problem that their doctors can’t deal with due to bureaucracy, and they’re off to the US more than happy to pay through the nose for it.
    I don’t think for an instant that our health care system is perfect.  But the more government gets involved, the less and less perfect it will get everyday.  The best system would be one that encourages wellness and preventative care, but the patients don’t want it.   I was in active practice for a lot of years and I saw thousands and thousands of patients during that time.  And in all that time I never had a single, solitary patient ever come in and say to me:  ‘Doc, I just feel so good right now that I almost can’t stand it.  I want you to tell me what I need to do to keep on feeling this good.’  But I’ve had plenty come in when they are sick and seeking help.  Preventative care is good in the abstract, but no one is really interested.  Everyone claims to be interested, but no one wants to go to the doctor when they’re well.
    I don’t want to get started on this right now.  Maybe I’ll post on it in the future.

  5. I recently listened to an economics podcast discussing a study done back in the 70s by RAND where half the people were given free health care and the others had to pay for it. Both wound up with the same apparent level of “health”. They discuss reasons why “free” health care may not lead to the best health care. And they also discuss that the less than satisfactory health care in other countries may cause fewer people to get to see doctor’s as often leading to fewer complications caused by seeing doctors!

    Robin Hanson, of George Mason University, argues that health care is different, but not in the usual ways people claim. He describes a set of paradoxical empirical findings in the study of health care and tries to explain these paradoxes in a unified way. One of his arguments is that the human brain evolved in ways that make it hard for us to be rational about health care. He also discusses using prediction markets as a way of designing health care policy.

    It would be interesting to hear your views on some of their points if you get a chance to listen to it.
    There are some interesting discussions on the site. I’ve been burning through them pretty quickly since discovering it.
    You blog is great as well. I’m glad the blog gives you an outlet in between books.
    Hi Stanton–
    Thanks for the link.  I’ll see if I can get it on my iPod and listen to it sometime soon.
    Glad you enjoy the blog.

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