To the uninitiated, it would seem that a law preventing motorists from smiling while in the New Jersey department of motor vehicles would be superfluous. But wonders never cease. In September, the Garden State’s authorities began to enforce a new rule that prohibited applicants from smiling in their driver’s-license photograph. The change is the product of new face-recognition software that has been implemented statewide. It works by comparing the master license image to subsequently collected shots and ensuring that they match up. Smiling and other exaggerated gestures are problematic, as they render it more difficult for the software to recognize the subject in everyday situations, a complication that inexorably leads one to the conclusion that the powers that be in New Jersey do not expect its citizens to be smiling very much while going about their business.
Also in New Jersey, Democratic assemblywoman L. Grace Spencer, whose legislative achievements include co-sponsoring a bill to designate walking “the New Jersey State Exercise,” has introduced a first-in-the-nation measure requiring cats and dogs to wear seatbelts or incur fines for their owners. The widespread failure of pets to buckle up is “a bigger issue than people realize,” according to Spencer. Drivers who refuse to properly restrain their animals would face penalties ranging from $25 in most cases to $1,000 for infractions deemed “inhumane treatment,” such as allowing a dog to ride in the bed of a pickup truck. Bloomberg News reported that Governor Chris Christie has not taken a position on the proposed law. Perhaps the governor should make his opposition known, lest President Romney face impeachment the first time his official limo travels through New Jersey.