Sunday, July 15, 2007

Sunday Musings

Jeff Jacoby wrote some brief and random musing on currents events today in his Sunday column. Here's some snippets from the commentary:

On the Fairness Doctrine:

TWENTY YEARS ago the Federal Communications Commission scrapped the never-very-fair Fairness Doctrine. Now talk of a revival is in the air as Democrats, complaining that talk radio is dominated by conservatives, have started lobbying for Washington to get back in the business of refereeing public discourse.

"It's time to reintroduce the Fairness Doctrine," Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois announced on June 27. From across the aisle, there has been some pushback: On Wednesday, GOP Senators Norm Coleman of Minnesota and Jim DeMint of South Carolina offered legislation to block the FCC from resurrecting the Fairness Doctrine.

Better than a debate over the Fairness Doctrine, though, would be a debate over whether radio and television should be regulated by government in the first place. The standard justification for such regulation is that the airwaves are public property. There are only a finite number of broadcast frequencies, the statists say. If the government didn't own and license them, the result would be chaos.

Well, the supply of land is finite, too . Yet no one argues that real estate should be nationalized and licensed by the feds. It is obvious that land can be bought and sold in a free market without resulting in anarchy. Why should the broadcast spectrum be any different?
On English language assimilation:

More evidence that the immigration crisis is really an assimilation crisis: the current flap in Boston over whether the names of candidates on Chinese-language ballots should be printed in English or transliterated into Chinese. Because such transliterations can have ludicrous unintended meanings -- Mayor Thomas Menino's name, for instance, could be read as "Barbarian Mud No Mind of His Own" -- the state's top election official is insisting that the names remain in English. The US Justice Department and Chinese community activists insist that they be rendered in Chinese. Nobody, apparently, insists that American citizens voting in American elections should do so in the language of American civic life.

Bilingual ballots, mandated by federal law in 1992, are incompatible with the American tradition of E Pluribus Unum. A multitude of proud ethnic identities make up this country's vibrant cultural mosaic, but superseding them is a shared American identity indispensable to full-fledged citizenship. A crucial element of that identity is proficiency in English -- an element we undercut when we provide foreign-language ballots to citizens who don't share the common tongue.

Immigrants know that to follow a Patriots game, read a Boston street map, or order off the menu at Legal Sea Foods, learning English is a prerequisite. If that effort is worth making for football or a cup of chowder, surely it's worth making for the right to vote.
I always enjoy Jacoby's essays. For more on the Fairness Doctrine, check out the posts from Althouse, Captain's Quarters and ConLawGeek. For more on assimilation, check my posts on English as an official language, here and here. For a radical anti-American take on English only laws (evidenced especially in the comments section), check here.

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