The DHEC board has once again missed the point. Sometimes it's hard to tell if they're blowing smoke to cover something up, or if they are really that stupid.
South Carolina is one of the few states that requires the name of anyone testing HIV positive to be turned over to the authorities. In what was really a referendum on anonymous testing, the board voted on Feb. 8 against allowing home testing for HIV.
With logic that would have been rejected for a Buchanan ad, DHEC board member Richard Jabbour said he's concerned that home testing could allow someone who is HIV positive to become the next "Typhoid Mary."
While DHEC worries that anonymous testing would drive those infected with the disease underground, they have never understood that their rules keep people from coming in to be tested.
DHEC Commissioner Bryant and a majority of the board are essentially arguing that it is better for people not to know that they are HIV positive if DHEC isn't able to be in on the information.
Meanwhile, people who want to find out if they have the virus without DHEC's help continue to drive to Atlanta and Charlotte.
Rep. Jakie Knotts (R-Lexington) the Redneck Emeritus of the legislature, has teamed up with two of his black colleagues to sponsor a bill to change the way that bonds are granted to citizens charged with a crime.
HR 3036 would allow personal recognizance bonds to be granted on a once a year basis and only for a first offense. Since it's a sure bet that most people stupid, unlucky or desperate enough to get busted twice in one year probably aren't going to have the money to post a cash bond.
Accordingly, the major effect of this bill will be to increase the burden on taxpayers for keeping people in jail while they are awaiting a trial to determine their possible innocence.
The amazing Barnwell dump that educates children, rolls back taxes, swallows nuclear waste and seems to live forever will appear at the state Supreme Court on March 20.
An environmental coalition led by the South Carolina Environmental Legal Project is asking the court to find that the state legislature kept the dump open illegally.
A provision was added to the state budget bill that kept the Chem Nuclear dump in Barnwell open with the intention of using the revenue for education. The state constitution prohibits "bobtailing" an unrelated piece of legislation onto another bill. The law was designed to prevent legislators from slipping things into law without debate or a recorded vote (like nuclear dumps in the budget.)
If the Supremes (none of whom are up for reelection for another two years) bust the legislature for bobtailing, none of them will have to go to jail. They will, however, be forced to do something that could get them run out of office. They will have to go on record and vote if they want South Carolina to continue being the nation's nuclear dump.
With Bob Dole counting on Carroll Campbell to deliver southern votes, the national media is starting to pay attention to the former governor and pool hall owner from Greenville.
The March 18, edition of The New Republic is running an article titled "Dole's shady ally, Campbell Soup" about Campbell's "anti-Semitic" past. The article recounts how Campbell and his handler Lee Atwater may have taken advantage of a poll they commissioned that asked voters if they would be more likely to support a native born South Carolinian (Campbell) or a foreign-born Jew who didn't believe in Jesus Christ as the savior (Campbell's opponent was Jewish).
"It gets worse," the story continues, relating Campbell's 1979 appearance before the Liberty Lobby. The Lobby's journal publishes articles claiming that the Holocaust was a hoax and that a Zionist conspiracy runs the world. The article concludes by noting that Campbell is perceived as representing the GOP mainstream, and "if this is what passes for moderation and enlightenment these days, what on earth is happening to the Republican Party?"
When Sen. Mike Fair 's Legislative Committee on Children and Families announced its seminar on "Adolescent Sexuality: Restoring Health and Virtue," observers wondered how such an unabashedly Christian fundamentalist event could be organized through a state office.
The program included speakers from Family Honor Inc., Traditional Values Coalition, Christian Life Commission, Americans for a Sound AIDS/HIV Policy, and other "abstinence only" sorts.
The Sunday keynote was "Restoring Social Virtue and Purity to South Carolina," by Mary Wood Beasley, who is credited with restoring the governor's virtue.
She suggested that kids of today aren't like her husband, they will wait until they are married to have sex. The message of the seminar was that virtue can be restored by not teaching school kids anything about contraception, banning birth control devices to those under 18 (House Bill 3468 Fair), and praying for a return to a time in the past when sex was dirty and nice girls didn't do it.
We have news for Mary Wood. Nearly 12,000 teenage girls in this state had babies last year. God knows how many more lost their virtue.
You can outlaw condoms, ban sexual education hell, tie their legs together and brand A's on their foreheads and you still won't be able to legislate, mandate or pray your way to adolescent abstinence.
Sex is a natural urge that children need to be taught to deal with responsibly. We can encourage them to wait, but short of saltpeter in school lunches, a lot of girls are still going to get knocked up. It's a God-given affliction, Mary Wood; just ask your husband.
The Christian Coalition's God and Country rally on the eve of the Republican primary was quite a show.
"If this won't choke you up nothing will," said a middle-aged white participant who resembled the rest of the faithful.
The overflow crowd of about 800 people enjoyed a light show, balloons and patriotic music while waiting for the main event.
The Coalition's wunderkid Ralph Reed whipped the crowd into a frenzy before he introduced the chosen one, Pat Buchanan.
Obliterating the line between church and state, Reed exhorted, "The banner we walk under doesn't bear a donkey or elephant, it bears the cross of Jesus Christ our savior!"
Taking credit for winning the last election for Jesus, Reed told the rapt crowd, "They called him fringe, they called him a lunatic, they called him a Christian Coalition type. Today they call him Governor Beasley!"
Buchannan pandered to the crowd. "We're going to terminate that character," he said about the federal judge presiding over the Citadel case. "Never let them take that flag down," was his position on racial harmony. No more U.N. No more Department of Education. No more National Endowment of the Arts. No more abortion-tolerant Supreme Court.
When South Carolina's Republican heavies hit the stage after Buchannan, the crowd was spent. The applause for Dole, Beasley, Campbell, Thurmond and Condon was polite, but you could tell this crowd wasn't voting for these wimps.
"Dole doesn't appeal to the Christian Coalition," said a middle-aged white guy from Irmo. "These are churchgoing people who recognize the right to life and local control."
Dole's victory in the South Carolina Republican primary indicated that Campbell's gang still has control of the votes. The good news is that as long as the Christian Coalition controls the party apparatus, the Republicans are their own worst enemy.
The Close campaign figured out why television stations were cancelling interviews with Strom Thurmond's Democratic opponent, Elliott Close.
The television news can't get the most senior senator to do a live shot, and the stations don't want to air only segments from Close.
Whether the news teams are showing a bias for Thurmond or evidencing concern for balanced reporting is unknown. Thurmond's handlers have decided that the senator has nothing to gain and everything to lose by doing interviews.
At the recent God and Country rally, Thurmond's silence was as notable as his feeble presence. With Gov. Beasley propping him up, the senator was able to smile and wave on cue.
The biggest showdown over the House budget bill was a fight to block the privatization of the Medical University of South Carolina's hospital.
Normally, the legislature attaches provisos to the budget to get away with something they don't want to debate or vote on. This time, they attached a rider that will give them the opportunity to vote on the disposal of the Medical University's hospital.
Hospital Corporation of America has reached an agreement with MUSC President Jim Edwards to pay off the school's $100 million debt and lease the facility.
Edwards says that dumping the hospital is the only way to save it. Edwards flew to Columbia in MUSC's plane to lend his presence to the budget debate. He was joined by HCA lobbyists Dwight Drake, Fred Allen and Warren Tompkins.
"When you see that type of firepower assembled behind a former governor, it's generally a done deal," said one legislator.
But Rep. Lynn Seithel (R-Charleston) led a successful fight to block the disposal of the hospital without legislative approval with a vote of 53 to 49. Seithel says that there are too many unanswered questions and wonders, "If things are so bad (at MUSC) why does a big corporation dedicated to profit want to take it over?"
MUSC had a $31 million profit last year. The contract Edwards has negotiated limits the role of the school's Board of Trustees to an "advisory" capacity. HCA will also be allowed to sell off $10 million in assets each year without any additional authority.
Edwards seems intent in closing the deal in spite of pissing off the legislature and a coalition of more than 300 Lowcountry doctors who have reservations about the plan. The state treasurer and comptroller general are trying to persuade Edwards to get an opinion on the deal from Attorney General Charlie Condon. Condon doesn't want to get involved and wants the state Supreme Court to decide the issue. Observers think it unlikely the Supreme Court will accept jurisdiction.
"We are going to get sued over this," said one state official. "It makes sense to get your lawyer's opinion before you do something stupid."