So I thought I had covered completely the texting-while-driving thing a couple of months ago in “Keep on Truckin’.” But I was wrong.
Now I’m not a perpetual complainer about the federal government (at least not since W was sent home and I do tend to take the weekends off in any case), but what does it say about the overall intelligence of said institution when you read in the New York Times that President Obama signed an executive order Wednesday night officially banning texting while driving for all federal employees who use government cellphones and cars?
Wow. I’m so relieved that objecting to such stupid behavior has been codified. I’m so relieved that federal employees, apparently incapable of figuring out on their own that texting while driving is dangerous and irresponsible, now have a clear guideline to follow. However, the order leaves a loophole. If federal employees are in their own cars and using their own phones and are not on government business, texting must be okay because the order didn’t specify what is acceptable off-hours behavior. Thank God. We wouldn’t want Big Government encroaching on our civil liberties any more than it already has.
Still in the works is a formalized ban of texting by drivers of trucks and buses that cross state lines. Yeah, see that’s a much more complicated issue. Banning texting while driving vehicles that weigh up to 100,000 pounds requires even more thought.
The administration should brace for pushback if the attitude of Rita Mylips is any indication. An assistant undersecretary working at the Federal Communications Commission, Mylips said she can't possibly get her work done and keep up with her BFF's if she can't text during her long drive times in the notorious traffic of Washington.
"Look, I'm on the job at the crack of 10 a.m. all the way to at least 3:30," she explained. "That's hardly enough time to handle my personal business. If I can't text in the car regarding FCC business, this country's goin' down. If God didn't want us to text and drive He wouldn't have invented the Blackberry with an auto charger."
Obama’s formalized ban of texting reminds me of an official sticker I saw on the side of a gas pump once. It read: Gasoline is not to be taken internally. I guess somebody out there thought a Molotov cocktail was an actual drink or something. Some bureaucrat somewhere figured out that the poor, pitful oil industry had to limit its liability by stating the obvious. After all, a wino might do the math and figure out that, at only $2.50 a gallon, gasoline would be a lot cheaper buzz than Thunderbird.
Indeed, the ban on texting, like the warning not to drink gasoline, is all about limiting liability in a courts system whose dockets are bloated with frivolous lawsuits. So President Obama is trying to protect us taxpayers on multiple levels by eliminating one possible basis of lawsuits against the Feds and making sure his employees do as little damage to the electorate as possible.
What the article did not mention is how such a ban is going to be enforced. Clearly, the government is going to have to set up a new division, something called FART (Federal Agency for the Reduction of Texting), to monitor all 4.5 million federal employees to make sure they are compliant. I can envision dedicated computer systems at FBI headquarters that tap into cellphone networks and monitor the time stamps of all text messages from federal employees as well as content, of course, to determine if the messages have anything to do with government business. Then these data will have to be cross indexed with electronic logs of government vehicles’ movement via satellite networks. If the time of a government-oriented message coincides with the time of a vehicle’s movement, bingo! You’re busted. My back-of-the-tax-return calculations suggest this new policy will cost a mere $6 billion or so annually to enforce.
On second thought it might be cheaper just to strap a newly hired enforcement employee to the hood of every government vehicle to visually monitor the situation. If we can add another million or so people to the government payroll we can start to make a dent in that pesky unemployment rate. After all, that really was the agenda behind the TSA at airports, giving tens of thousands of otherwise unemployable people the opportunity to fondle people and sniff their shoes.
I think we should hire this woman to be a FART agent, so stylish yet she'd get the job of reporting illegal federal texting done pronto!
The need to formally ban texting while driving once again proves common sense is an oxymoron in this country, where pundits are currently spending valuable air time debating whether or not Roman Polanski should be prosecuted for raping a 13-year-old more than 30 years ago. Well, ya know he’s such a great director and all, and after all he drugged this seventh-grader soooooo long ago, and those Swiss guys are being really mean and everything, and he's been forced to eke out an existence in the desolate south of France for God's sake, not to mention that girl was probably just asking for it anyway.
This morning on MSNBC it was reported that Hollywood has come out in force to support the pedophile, with more than 100 stars and directors signing a petition demanding his release. Included in the signatories were Martin Scorsese and Woody Allen. Well, we all know where Woody (interesting name in this context, no?) is coming from but Marty Scorsese? Is there something he’s not telling us?
Woody with his adopted daughter and eventual bride, Soon-Yi. Damn right he thinks Polanski should be freed!
And I’ll bet a subscription to Kiddie Titties this petition is being circulated on cellphones while they all tool around in their Maseratis. It’s a good thing none of them work for the federal government—or there would be hell to pay.
Roamin' Polanski: If he'll rape a 13-year-old, he'll obviously text while driving. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)