The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Visa mystery resolved

Romi Tharakan at Henley & Partners AG, the Swiss firm who produced the visa-free travel list I mentioned before, sent me their master list of visa-free travel as of 24 July 2008. I was right: the lists for the U.S. and Canada are not completely orthogonal. Americans (but not Canadians) can travel visa-free to Côte d'Ivoire and Equatorial Guinea; Canadians don't need a visa to visit Bolivia (but Americans do).

Mystery solved.

Canada's Czech issue

After posing my question about why Canadians need a visa to go to one more country than Americans do, several commenters on the original Gulliver post chimed in about a squabble Canada had with the Czech Republic at the end of the last decade.

It seems, however, that the commenters, and quite possibly the report Gulliver quoted, were out of date. According to the Canadian Embassy in Prague, the countries ironed out their differences in 2004:

The Government of the Czech Republic has decided to lift its visitor visa regime for citizens of Canada. As of May 1, 2004, holders of valid Canadian passports no longer require visas to enter the Czech Republic for visits up to 90 days - such visitors are prohibited from engaging in gainful employment during this time.

Canada lifted their requirement that Czechs have visas in 2007.

So, either is there yet another country that prefers Americans to Canadians (I mean, officially), or is the report out of date? I will endeavor to find out with all the passion and zeal required by such a question.

Update: Of course, the report could well be up to date, but the lists might simply not be orthogonal. It has occurred to me that there might be many countries that have different visa regimes for the U.S. and Canada. I'm still curious, as the Czech Republic hypothesis actually had some evidence behind it.

Visa restrictions worldwide

I had a conversation with a Ukrainian friend over the weekend about visas. As an American, I blithely travel all over the place and rarely think about entry requirements. In Europe, for example, I think I need a visa to visit Russia, but I can go to any other country from the Bosporus to Greenland just by showing my little blue passport. She, on the other hand, needs a visa even to visit next-door Hungary.

It turns out, via The Economist's Gulliver blog, only Danish, Irish, Portuguese, and Finnish passport-holders can travel to more places without a visa than we Americans (156 for Danes, 155 for the other three, 154 for us.) Ukrainians can only go to 50; woe to the bottom-ranked Afgnanis who get 22. (I wonder what the 22 are, too.)

Oddest, to me anyway, is that Americans can travel to one more country than Canadians can. What country, in all the world, requires a visa from Canadians but not Americans? Now that's odd.

New Orleans, Chicago style

A report released today says the century-old Illinois Sanitary and Ship Canal is crumbling, which could be bad news for Joliet:

"We have 39 feet of water that we are holding off Joliet," [Lockmaster Dave] Nolen said, pointing downstream to downtown Joliet as he stood Thursday on a deck overlooking the watertight gates at one end of the lock. "People in Joliet probably wouldn't be able to sleep at night if they knew how devastating the flooding would be because of a breach," he said, raising his voice to be heard above the roar of 25 million gallons of swirling water being released downstream after a barge traveling up-river passed through the lock.

... "Modernizing the nation's waterways provides an incredible return on the dollar," said Jim Farrell, executive director of the chamber's infrastructure council. "It's a relatively minor cost compared to fixing O'Hare [International Airport] or modernizing the rapid transit system in Chicago." A single barge has the cargo capacity equivalent to 15 jumbo hopper freight cars or 58 large semitrailer trucks, according to transportation experts.

Of course, the Godforsaken Old Party would call fixing the locks an "earmark," so it's unclear where the money will come from.

South Beach and Sint Maarten

As promised, more photos from last weekend. First, South Beach:

As much as I enjoy the beach, I actually think the Art Deco buildings are the coolest aspect of Miami Beach.

Three iconic images of Sint Maarten follow. First, a reminder that Sint Maarten and St.-Martin have two distinct identities:

I took this, for example, in St.-Martin, in Sandy Ground:

And this, on Simpson Bay in Sint Maarten:

More tomorrow.

You think Illinois has problems?

No matter how bad it seems in Illinois right now, at least we have a functioning state government. California, on the other hand...

A state budget deal to close a $41 billion shortfall has been put further into question early this morning after Senate Republicans ousted their leader who had helped negotiate the long-awaited plan with other top lawmakers in California.

...[T]he ousted Minority Leader Dave Cogdill, R-Modesto, ...was one of the four legislative leaders who negotiated the emergency budget deal with the governor. Their compromise budget package, reached after three months of negotiations, contained nearly $16 billion in program cuts, $11 billion in borrowing and $14.4 billion in tax increases. The most contentious debate has been over the proposed tax hikes.

Republicans selected Sen. Dennis Hollingsworth, R-Murrieta (Riverside County) as their new Minority leader. Hollingsworth is part of the conservative wing of the Senate Republican caucus and he has been adamantly against raising any taxes.

The New York Times has more:

The state, nearly out of cash, has laid off scores of workers and put hundreds more on unpaid furloughs. It has stopped paying counties and issuing income tax refunds and halted thousands of infrastructure projects.

Twenty-thousand layoff notices [went] out on Tuesday morning, Matt David, the communications director for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, said Monday night. "In the absence of a budget we need to realize this savings and the process takes six months," Mr. David said.

When you're talking about the 7th largest economy in the world, this is somewhat disturbing.

How I spent my Presidents Day weekend

Very little of it involved watching planes land, but this was damn cool to see:

That's what a 757 looks like when it lands on your head. In this case I was standing about 30 m from the edge of runway 10 at Princess Juliana Airport (SXM), Sint Maarten. I'll have more from the trip later this week.

Update: I forgot to mention, Sint Maarten was almost, but not quite, as fun as the Presidents Day Bash used to be. Hard to believe it's been five years...

Geography of Cotton and Democrats

Via reader KT, the Boston Globe picked up on a map comparison of voting patterns this election and cotton agriculture in the antebellum South:

The bottom map dates from 1860 (i.e. the eve of the Civil War), and indicates where cotton was produced at that time.... The top map dates from 2008, and shows the results of the recent presidential election, on county level. ... The pattern of pro-Obama counties in those southern states corresponds strikingly with the cotton-picking areas of the 1860s, especially along the Louisiana-Mississippi and Mississippi-Alabama borders (the pattern corresponds less strikingly and deviates significantly elsewhere).

The link between these two maps is not causal, but correlational, and the correlation is African-Americans.

In related news, the runoff for the Georgia U.S. Senate seat currently held by Saxby Chambliss (R) will go ahead. We'll see.