If you were one of the folks who shook their heads in disbelief when you heard that Gov. David Beasley requested last month that the state health department stop passing out condoms, you're soon going to have a lot of company.
National Condom Week happens to be coming up (appropriately, Feb. 14 -- 21), and the national Planned Parenthood has sent a suggested press release to all 50 state affiliates.
After pointing out the obvious, that condoms are a cheap and effective way to deter sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies, the release notes, "Yet some people still insist that responsible sex education has no place in our society."
Gov. Beasley was the only person mentioned in the national press release as one of those "people." Beasley will be quoted in papers across the country as saying that passing out condoms "condones behavior that many of our citizens view as unhealthy and inappropriate."
The unfortunate truth is that our teen pregnancy and HIV infection rates are among the highest in the nation, and our governor is going to be perceived as a narrow-minded, fundamentalist airbrain.
Beasley's request to stop condom distribution came the day after his meeting with a new fundamentalist group, seen as competition to a flagging Christian Coalition, headed by Cindy Mosteller. Mosteller is challenging Coalition boss Roberta Combs for the hearts and votes of the extremely faithful.
Mosteller also happens to be a Beasley appointee to the DHEC board, which plans to take up the question of condom distribution at its Feb. 13 meeting -- just in time to kick off Condom Week celebrations.
The welfare reform revolution came to South Carolina early. It was ushered in by the Republicans who took over the House and Governor's Office in 1994. The Family Independence Act that was intended to move people from welfare to work passed the state legislature and was signed into law by the governor in 1995.
So when the feds passed welfare reform last August and set an Oct. 1, 1996, deadline for states to come up with an acceptable plan to take over welfare programs, South Carolina should have had its papers in order.
When the Children's Defense Fund and the National Organization for Women released a summary of state plans in December, a bold footnote stated that South Carolina was the only state that "specifically refuses Family Violence option." The option refers to strong recommendations by the feds that states build provisions for domestic violence into their welfare plans.
Since nearly all of AFDC recipients are women, and studies indicate that 60 -- 80 percent of women on welfare have been or are currently victims of domestic violence, the feds argued that state welfare plans should include domestic violence provisions to be truly effective.
Considering that the FBI ranks South Carolina as the fifth most violent state in the nation, and that women here are the victims in 52 percent of the violent crimes, it defies reason that policy makers would adopt a welfare plan that doesn't address battering.
That's exactly what our legislature and governor have done. To eliminate any notion that it was an oversight, they did it twice.
The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families plan submitted to the feds in October was lifted from the Family Independence Act. The state plan requires recipients, most of whom are single women who have been in abusive relationships, to comply with rules that put them at risk of further violence. To retain services, women must provide the name and other information about the father.
While the state plan considers abuse to be "good cause" for not meeting some requirements, women must provide documentation that is often not available or places them at further risk.
The feds suggest that recipients be screened for a history of domestic violence and referred for counseling and supportive services. Program requirements that put women at risk of further violence should be waived, the feds say, with documentation required only in cases where the recipient has proven untrustworthy.
Several days after POINT asked the agency why there was no domestic violence provision in the state's welfare plan, DSS officials released an "issue paper on Options for Domestic Violence Policy." Now DSS intends to submit revised welfare regulations that include domestic violence to the legislature later this session.
When Rep. Dan Cooper (R-Anderson) heard about the Maryland highway department recalling personalized license tags from the Sons of Confederate Veterans, he saw an opportunity.
Cooper figures that if the Confederate flag flies from the dome, it should fly everywhere. He quickly introduced legislation to provide special license plates to South Carolina's Sons that "must prominently display" their Confederate flag insignia.
You're right if you guessed that Cooper serves a majority-white Republican district.
The recently proposed monument to commemorate African-American history isn't the first memorial to have a hard time finding a home on the State House grounds.
The Confederate monument that stands in front of the State House was commissioned in 1869 as a tribute to dead Confederate soldiers. Records on file at the Confederate Relic Room in Columbia note that "owing to the government being in the hands of carpetbaggers and Africans, no attempt then made to use State House grounds," to locate the monument.
The Confederate monument's first home was to be on Arsenal Hill, overlooking what was then Sydney Park.
In 1873, as workers laid the foundation, they struck quicksand, and the site was abandoned. Work then began to erect the monument at the entrance to Elm-wood Cemetery but was abandoned for lack of money.
"In 1878, alien rule having been overthrown," the records state, "the General Assembly granted a spot on the State House grounds and appropriated $650 to move the base from Elmwood."
The monument was erected on the east side of the capitol, close to where the African-American monument is now planned. "The monument was struck by lightning several times, the last stroke, demolishing the figure."
The statue was rebuilt and erected on its present "better and more conspicuous position" in 1884.
The monument to Women of the Confederacy was erected in 1912 on the south side, with $7,500 from the state legislature and $11,000 raised by The State newspaper. That the legislature won't come off a nickel to erect a monument to blacks, who were in a clear majority during the Great War, hasn't become an issue.
The latest shot fired in the unending and futile War Against Drugs is legislation filed to make possession of drug paraphernalia a felony.
The bill -- proposed by Herb Kirsh (D-York) -- calls for five years in prison for possession and up to $50,000 in fines for selling pipes and other do-dads that can be used to smoke marijuana. The current law calls for only a $500 fine if you're caught with any pipe-like device for smoking dope. (Does that include Budweiser cans?)
Rolling papers are still available at you corner market, so it's not clear how successful the law will be at stopping folks from lighting up.
Gov. Beasley's new stand on the Confederate flag should come down has been greeted with mooted hoots in some quarters. Critics argue that as long as the governor pushes legislation and policies that have a disproportionately negative impact on the black community, his "awakening" about the flag doesn't mean squat.
One nauseated Negro observed that Beasley's conversion came shortly after a disparaging article about racism in South Carolina appeared in Der Speigel, a leading German magazine. The article posed the fight over the Confederate flag in an ugly context, referencing the recent random shooting of black teens by two white men who had just attended a Confederate flag rally.
"It wasn't God that spoke to David Beasley," said the cynic, "it was Bob Royal. And Bob said, David, this flag thing is screwing up business deals we've got cooking in Germany and the London Times is doing a negative piece next week.'"
And Beasley saw the light and the way. He also realized that he was already losing ground with the extreme conservatives that brought him to office. He knew that Attorney General Charlie Condon was making the Big Pitch for the rabid Right, and that his future was safer in a more centrist base.
So Beasley spoke the words, "Take it down."
His former friends in the House voted to snub the governor's plans for removing the flag, deciding to weasel out and throw the vote to the white-majority electorate.
If the Senate supports the bill to let the people decide whether the Confederate flag should fly over the State House, the question may be on the ballot in November.
The pending referendum is a chance to make the point that the flag is only the tip of the racist iceberg that chills this state's progress.
A referendum to take the flag down would be the organizing challenge of the century. It just may be the briar patch that freedom-loving people need to be thrown into to get us out of the histrionic limbo of a romanticized past.
We warned you about this month's sleazeball in Loose Lips a couple of years ago when he was the loose cannon on the Charleston County School Board.
He made a name for himself by pushing "White History Month" and fighting "satanic" references in children's literature.
This guy stands out in a field full of right-wingers because he seems to be more fascist than fundamentalist.
Since his elevation to the House of Representatives, he hasn't introduced any legislation, but he did set a few heads shaking with his remarks about the Confederate flag. He advised blacks to, "Quit looking at the symbols. Get out and get a job. Quit shooting each other. Quit having illegitimate babies."
One bemused legislator noted that "this guy makes Jakie Knotts (Redneck Emeritus-Lexington) look lovable."
Be the first caller to identify this sleazeball and win a free trial subscription to POINT.