Tuesday Mashup (11/3/09)

  • As noted here, ten years ago today, Morgan Lee Pena, all of 2 ½ years old, died when the car in which she rode was broadsided by a driver who failed to stop for a stop sign while using his cellular phone.

    With that in mind, this story tells us the following…

    OXFORD, England — Inside the imposing British Crown Court here, Phillipa Curtis, 22, and her parents cried as she was remanded for 21 months to a high-security women’s prison, for killing someone much like herself. The victim was Victoria McBryde, an up-and-coming university-trained fashion designer.

    Ms. Curtis had plowed her Peugeot into the rear end of Ms. McBryde’s neon yellow Fiat, which had broken down on the A40 Motorway, killing Ms. McBryde, 24, instantly.

    The crash might once have been written off as a tragic accident. Ms. Curtis’s alcohol level was zero. But her phone, which had flown onto the road and was handed to the police by a witness, told a story that — under new British sentencing guidelines — would send its owner to jail.

    In the hour before the crash, she had exchanged nearly two dozen messages with at least five friends, most concerning her encounter with a celebrity singer she had served at the restaurant where she worked.

    They are filled with the mangled spellings and abbreviations that typify the new lingua franca of the young. “LOL did you sing to her?” a friend asks. Ms. Curtis replies by typing in an expletive and adding, “I sang the wrong song.” A last incoming message, never opened, came in seconds before the accident.

    With that as evidence, Ms. Curtis was sentenced in February under 2008 British government directives that regard prolonged texting as a serious aggravating factor in “death by dangerous driving” — just like drinking — and generally recommend four to seven years in prison.

    And to tell you what Pennsylvania is doing by contrast, this tells us of Senate Bill 1097 currently working its way through the legislature that “stipulates mobile telephones and hand-held communication devices. Similar to House Bill 1827, Senate Bill 1097 has exceptions built in for law enforcement and 911 calls. The fine for a violation of this law is $100. Hands-Free devices are allowed under the proposed driving law.”

    H.B. 1827 stipulates a fine of $50, by the way.

    As opposed to 21 months in a high-security prison for “death by dangerous driving.”

    You tell which country is serious about trying to fix this problem and which one isn’t.

    I believe that most people know to conduct themselves behind the wheel, but for the benefit of the few knuckleheads who may be reading this who actually don’t, I have a simple (if unoriginal) message:

    Hang up and drive.

  • Also, I got a kick out of the following remark here from Mississippi Repug Governor Haley Barbour concerning the NY-23 U.S. congressional fiasco, in which Barbour claimed that the voters were “cheated” out of a primary between Dede Scozzafava (who of course dropped out and endorsed Dem Bill Owens) and conservative independent candidate Doug Hoffman (who, based on this, is apparently not a whiz at math).

    In principle, Barbour is partly right, but all he cares about here is nursing his grudge over the fact that Hoffman wasn’t officially “blessed” by the New York State Repug politicos in advance of the general election (as opposed to that “values-voter” infidel Dede Scozzafava).

    It’s hard to take seriously any pleas for good government from Barbour who, as noted here, was ordered to move the candidates for last year’s U.S. Senate race to the top of the ballot where they belonged in accordance with state law (the corrected ballot stood, by the way).

    But just remember anyway that Barbour complained about the absence of a Republican primary in NY-23.

    On CNN.

    We’ll have to “leave it there.”

  • And finally, in last Sunday’s New York Times, Tom Friedman opined as follows here (just getting to this now)…

    More and more lately, I find people asking me: What do you think President Obama really believes about this or that issue? I find that odd. How is it that a president who has taken on so many big issues, with very specific policies — and has even been awarded a Nobel Prize for all the hopes he has kindled — still has so many people asking what he really believes?

    I don’t think that President Obama has a communications problem, per se. He has given many speeches and interviews broadly explaining his policies and justifying their necessity. Rather, he has a “narrative” problem.

    “You can’t get nation-building without shared sacrifice,” said (Harvard political theorist Michael) Sandel, “and you cannot inspire shared sacrifice without a narrative that appeals to the common good — a narrative that challenges us to be citizens engaged in a common endeavor, not just consumers seeking the best deal for ourselves. Obama needs to energize the prose of his presidency by recapturing the poetry of his campaign.”

    Yeah, maybe Obama can come up with something to rhyme with “Suck. On. This.,” eh, Tom?

    And this was a “poetic” moment too, wasn’t it?

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