On April 3, when the House took up Rep. Dan Cooper's (R-Anderson) bill to provide specialty license tags for the Sons of Confederate Veterans, it was as though the teacher had left the room.
After Rep. Joe Neal (D-Richland) posed the question, "What is this bill going to contribute to racial harmony?" the answer came back loud and clear: NOTHING!
Cooper filed a bill that places the Confederate flag on the Sons' tags as a direct response to Maryland recalling its tags because some folks found them offensive.
"The debate moved rapidly from the tag, to the flag, to race," Neal said later. Though the debate was ugly, it may have been the most revealing legislative venture to date into the flag debate.
"You cannot separate slavery from the flag," said an angry Rep. Mack Hines. (D-Florence).
"We have given and we have given, why can't you?" Rep. Becky Meacham (R-York) asked black legislators.
Meacham cited two black Speakers of the House (who had been stricken from the history books) whose portraits were recently commissioned by the House, and the proposed African-American monument as two things the white power structure has "given."
When Rep. Tim Wilkes (D-Fairfield) asked Meacham if she would support special tags for the "sons of Africa," she said that would have no relationship to South Carolina.
The flag-wavers have put themselves in the unfortunate position of denying racism in the past to defend their heritage today.
Cooper, a real estate agent, may have offered the most honest assessment to date as to how the legislature sees race. "You basically have two groups that have different views on history, and I don't know that they'll ever agree. That's basically what precipitated the war to begin with."
The latest moralistic flap in Greenville is over the public library's subscription to Playboy. In October, County Council member Paul Wickensimer asked the library to remove the magazine. The library, which has carried the magazine for 37 years, told Wickensimer to file a complaint. Wickensimer di them one better by appointing fellow Christian Coalition member and BJU graduate Mike Green to act as a library trustee. Green then filed a complaint about Playboy with his board.
While Green's fundamentalist politics decry everything feminist, he has taken the position that the magazine contains "degrading pictures of women." Green insisted that "We must end taxpayer funded pornography... (that) laughs in the face of commitment, respect and our basic code of right and wrong."
In 1953, the same year Playboy first started publishing, the American Library Association issued a statement that "people should have the freedom to read and consider a broader range of ideas than those that may be held by any single librarian or publisher or government or church."
In a recent press statement, Green said, "the ALA will stop at nothing in its efforts to see that pornography is readily available to our children."
Although the library keeps Playboy behind the desk and requires proof of age from readers, Green is not mollified. He has offered to cut the pictures out as a compromise.
At the Senate hearings on hate crime legislation late last month, Attorney General Charlie Condon's minions blew their bosses' cover. All along Condon had wanted us to think that he left gays out of his version of hate legislation because it just hadn't occurred to him. But under examination by the senators, Charlie's boys admitted that they didn't want to include gays as a class in hate crime legislation because that would endanger their other anti-gay positions.
Apparently, our fear that Attorney General Charlie Condon may be running low on topics to justify press conferences was misplaced.
Condon announced late last month that he was cracking down on Irish Travelers, that roving outfit of ambitious hustlers based out of Edgefield that you've probably seen profiled on Dateline or some other television news magazine.
With all the national exposure, Charlie is desperate to get in on the action. From what we've seen and read, an Irish Traveler's modus operandi is to travel from town to town in search of jobs, gaining the confidence of folks who put him to work with some money up front, only to have him flee the unfinished job.
Maybe Condon should take a closer look at his own career. He quit in the middle of his term as solicitor in Charleston so he could campaign for the job of attorney general. Immediately after gaining the confidence of a statewide constituency, he noisily began angling for the governor's job.
Maybe Charlie should send the Travelers his résumé rather than an indictment.
We hope by now you have had a chance to read Judge Falcon Hawkins' 86-page ruling dismissing the "Lost Trust" charges against possibly corrupt legislators because the government was definitely more corrupt. Former U.S. Attorney Bart Daniel's smooth talking aside, you'll likely be as pissed off as the judge.
The government prosecution, led by Daniel, was accused of criminal acts by the federal judge. Withholding evidence and letting witnesses lie were among the indictable offences. The judge also said the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility botched its investigation into Daniel's misconduct.
So what happens when the good guys turn out to be the bad guys? Who ya gonna call?
Phone calls to the Justice Department revealed the not-so-comforting news that "the Office of Professional Responsibility will make an investigation into the judge's allegations."
This is the same department that the judge said blew the first investigation.
The Justice Department can only call out an "independent prosecutor" when potential perpetrators are high-ranking political appointees, like cabinet members or presidents.
The state's top cop, Condon, would be our next obvious hope for justice. A call to Condon's office, however, revealed that the AG has refused to get involved because Daniel and his coconspirators are friends and colleagues.
The AG's office says that it is going to let the state Supreme Court handle the matter through its grievance procedure. Condon hasn't just passed on the investigation, he has unplugged it.
While suggesting that the Supreme Court will appoint a special prosecutor, Condon doesn't point out that the high court can't conduct a criminal investigation or bring criminal charges.
The complaint before the Supreme Court about "egregious prosecutorial conduct," brought by one of the Lost Trust defendant's lawyers, may result in a public hearing. If Daniel is found guilty of ethical misconduct, he could get a reprimand, or have his law license suspended.
If the attorney general recuses himself from investigating a criminal matter, he has the responsibility to appoint an independent prosecutor. Former Attorney General Travis Medlock did so for an investigation of voting fraud by Democrats in Williamsburg County.
Unless Condon appoints an independent prosecutor to look into the investigations of Lost Trust and the capital gains bribery, there will probably be no further criminal investigation into the all but proven crimes.
Don't bother to call SLED; that agency was instructed years ago to let the feds handle it.
Anyone got Sheriff Leon Lott's number?
Talk about traditional, Rep. Ronald Fleming's (R-Union) new bill for bringing back the chain gang includes an old-fashioned "sweat box" like they had in Cool Hand Luke. Now those were the days.
H-3526 requires all able-bodied inmates in state or county jails to work on the state's highways and byways "shackled in leg-irons."
Prisoners who refuse to work on the chain gang must be housed in "cells that are four feet wide, four feet in length and ten feet high with concrete slab floors."
THIS DON'T LOOK LIKE DETROIT
Lest you think that everything our legislature does is hateful or harmful, rest assured some of it is just plain stupid. Take H-3796, introduced by Rep. Chip Limehouse (R-Charleston).
This concurrent resolution would "Provide that the official nickname of South Carolina is The Motor State'and authorizethis designation on the state's official license plates."
Limehouse, with a bunch of "whereas's," points out that we got the BMW plant, and both Audi and Honda have expressed interest in locating plants in South Carolina.
The resolution continues, "Whereas, in the very likely event the State is successful in attracting both Audi and Honda, South Carolina would then become a major manufacturer of automobiles, a giant among automobile production states, and "The Motor State."
Yo', Chip, ever heard of Michigan?