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It’s not often that I’ll seriously call a policy stupid. This is a stupid policy.

The US government has decided to kick off an advertising campaign to bring tourists back to the United States. On the same day, at the same press conference, it also decided to charge tourists $10 to enter the US on a visa waiver program. Has it occurred to anyone that there might be some contradiction in these two messages? Please, come to the US. Pay us $10.

I mean, I know you guys are having a bit of a hard time with your budget crisis. Consider removing the Federal Education Department, or the Department of Homeland Security. Neither are actually needed. A campaign to bring in tourists is a good idea, but funding it in a way that pisses off tourists is not a good way to do it.

Plus, have you actually considered why people are coming to the US less and less? It may have to do with the reason more and more Americans have Canadian flags stuck to their luggage. America’s reputation in the world has declined drastically during the Bush years and I don’t just mean in some abstract sense. Tourists who go to America are put through all sorts of shit. We now have to go to the airport 3 hours early (compared to 1-2 hours for other flights). Airport security has increased vastly – and yes, we know its the US pressuring everyone else to do it. We can tell because if you’re on a US flight, there’s a second round of security checks before you get on the plane. And we’re not stupid, we can tell these security checks don’t actually make us safer because of how stupid and arbitrary they are. They take away our nail clippers, but then give us metal knives on the plane? They let us buy alcohol in easily-broken glass bottles at the duty-free shop? I mean honestly, after every time I’m singled out for a “random” test because I have dark skin and am a young male travelling alone, I secretly plan to blow up Congress and the idiots who passed these laws.

Then we get off the plane, and are asked to scan our fingerprints and have our photos taken? After standing in a ridiculously long line? At JFK airport (NY) in 2008, whilst waiting in line, I actually had to watch a a video of some guy from the NSA or Homeland Security tell me how he was protecting America from terrorists. PS: Foreigners hate it when Americans make bold patriotic assertions in our faces. These are people who might just have endured a 13 or 16 hour flight without sleep. Now you’re forcing them to stand and wait in line. And then pay $10 for the privilege of doing so. Are you stupid?

So America. Fix up the ridiculous security measures that you have in place. They don’t actually stop terrorists attacking you (I have a half-written post somewhere explaining why, I’ll have to post it now). Then perhaps the tourists will come back. By the way, you’ve lost $500 billion US dollars in tourism revenues from your ridiculous laws. You can’t anal probe people, then try to earn their forgiveness by a furious marketing campaign.

(PS: I’m also assuming that you have to pay upon entry to the US, rather than as part of your air ticket, since its contingent on you using the Visa Waiver Program – and they can only tell when you’re actually in America which program you’re using. That also means that you have to carry US currency on you when you arrive in the US, rather than exchanging it once you get there (which I often do if I’m travelling to multiple destinations).

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