Lawmakers with Nothing Better to Do

How’s this for inane micro-management of the education system? Sen. Dave Marsden, D-Burke,  submitted a bill requiring all textbooks approved by the Board of Education, when referring to the Sea of Japan, to note that the body of water is also referred to as the East Sea.

Only Marsden knows what prompted this exercise in geographical correctness, but it clearly messes where the General Assembly shouldn’t be a messin’. It seems that the Koreans are irate that the body of water lying between Japan, Korea and Russia (see map) should be referred to as the Sea of Japan. They propose the neutral-sounding “East Sea.” Of course, the sea is “east” of Korea, but “west” of Japan, thus implicitly endorsing its connection to Korea. If I were Korean, I’d probably get torgued up, too. But it appears that the Japanese are equally keen upon retaining the name. (Two posts by Japanese citizens upon the Richmond Sunlight website make good reading, if you are interested in geographic and historical arcana.) Thankfully, the Russians have kept their noses out of it so far.

It has been common usage among Western countries to call the body of water the Sea of Japan since at least the early 1800s, and so the name appears in the textbooks read by Virginia students.

The last time I checked, the federal government is responsible for the conduct of diplomacy and foreign affairs, not the Commonwealth of Virginia. (Very few of the things that the federal government does are legitimate, to my mind, but this is one of them that is.) We have no dog in this fight. But both the Koreans and the Japanese are vital partners to Virginia’s economic prosperity. All we can do by taking sides is to tick someone off. Let the textbook publishers take the heat.

Thankfully, the state Senate did the right thing… though just barely. The Education and Health Committee defeated the bill in a 7 to 8 vote. I can’t begin to imagine what the seven “yea” voters were thinking.


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7 responses to “Lawmakers with Nothing Better to Do”

  1. DJRippert Avatar

    Let’s add this to the Personhood Bill, the bill to provide tax breaks for orbiting space urns and the pre-abortion ultrasound bill.

    Our General Assembly – always focused, always relevant.

  2. CommonsenseVA Avatar

    “Only Marsden knows what prompted this exercise in geographical correctness…”

    Yeah, it’s impossible to know what Senator Marsden was thinking….without doing a simply Google search. Of course, if you’d even bothered to do so, you would have found a link to an Examiner article, which rehashes everything you wrote, but, you know, did it first. If you had, you couldn’t have published a misleading hachet job on a Democractic legislator without feeling really dishonest I guess.

    “Sen. Dave Marsden introduced the legislation to address concerns of Virginians of Korean-American descent and other Asian origins.”

    This is a classic case of a constituent making a request for legislation and a lawmaker being RESPONSIVE to his constituents. Happens hundreds and hundreds of times a year in the GA. It’s also precisely what we WANT our legislators to do, or should want them to do at any rate. Senator Marsden has a large Korean American constituency and he was responsive to their request. Somehow I doubt that Virginia textbooks are going to cause an international incident, nor was the State Department likely on high alert over this bill.

  3. This just shows Dave Marsden has more Korean-American constituents than he has Japanese-American constituents.

  4. I do not thing anything that is done to support “constituents” is appropriate for the govt do do.

    We might argue about what ought to go into textbooks or not but I can assure you that you and I do not want legislators having their staffs start going through textbooks to please some of their constituents.

    Maybe they do business this way in Korea… seems like I’ve also seen them throwing chairs at each other in their legislative soirees.

    Marsden is wrong. I do not want those idiots in Richmond deciding what goes into text books.

  5. Waldo Jaquith Avatar
    Waldo Jaquith

    It’s a lucky thing that his constituent didn’t want the statewide speed limit increased to 120mph or to see crack cocaine consumption made mandatory!

    Say, what’s Sen. Marsden’s role in this process, anyway?

  6. CommonsenseVA Avatar

    It’s to represent his constituents, Waldo. Just like when you write David Toscano and Creigh Deeds (or go see them or call them or send them a carrier pigeon) and tell them how much Marshall’s personhood bill will make a mess of the Code of Virginia.

    In a democracy we have representatives. Those folks are supposed to listen to the people who they represent and vote or legislate accordingly. Sure, there’s an element of judgment involved and typically they don’t count noses before every vote, but generally, they should be responsive to the people who elect them.

    Sen. Marsden had a group of constituents who felt that this change would be fair. Seemingly harmless, he introduced it. A number of his colleagues also thought it would be fair, though slightly more (7-8) disagreed. You may think it’s silly, but a significant portion of Virginia’s Korean community disagrees with you. Some think Lee-Jackson Day is silly. To each her own.

    Interestingly, other than your hyperbole, you can’t actually present a case of why this is a bad idea. You can’t make a case as to why this represents bad judgment. How would this bill harm Virginia? I can tell you that it would make a large portion of a particular constituency group feel that their Commonwealth is listening and respects their view, even if it’s in a tiny way, like a second label on a body of water, on a map in a textbook.

    The weakest, though sadly most used, argument against a piece of legislation in Richmond is that it’s “the camel’s nose under the tent.” That’s your argument Waldo. “Well if he’s going to listen to a constituent about that, then what else is he going to introduce for a constituent?”

    When someone makes that kind of argument, all they’re really saying is that they can’t actually come up with a good reason to oppose this, but they fear it will lead to other bad legislation. It’s lazy argumentation at its worst.

    To which I would say, well then oppose THAT bad thing. If you think Sen. Marsden will introduce a bill to make the speed limit 120 mph, oppose THAT. Otherwise, perhaps you should keep your powder dry unless you have something resembling a legitimate criticism. If you think it will lead to nefarious mucking in Virginia’s textbooks, oppose those efforts, or explain how this is nefarious. No one has done so yet.

  7. laws for A constituent or even laws for a number of constituents – with interests that differ from most of the rest of constituents is not good law.

    good law applies to all constituents and serves the interests of all constituents.

    good law does not dictate content to textbooks. you’ll find that most people in Va do not want that even if it’s for seemingly good purposes because later on, others will use it as a precedent to change textbook content.

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