GRABBING GRANNY'S GOODIES
When Charleston vintage clothing store Granny's Goodies was busted last month for selling drug paraphernalia, other King Street merchants asked the owners, "Who did you piss off?"
Granny's is one of many shops in Charleston that sells pipes sometimes used for smoking marijuana. But it is the only one of them to be raided, its owner arrested and its merchandise and bank account seized.
Solicitor David Schwacke's office claims that it picked the store randomly for a routine exercise. But since there are no routine paraphernalia crackdowns, it does beg the question: Who did they piss off?
What sets Granny's apart from the other shops who sell similar wares is the fact that its owners recently criticized the Charleston Solicitor's Office. In October, one of Granny's owners and her friend, a sexual assault victim, appeared on a local radio talk show to complain about the solicitor's apparent reluctance to pursue the case.
The talk show host and the victim had said they received calls from the Solicitor's Office warning them not to take the matter public. Less than a month after the show aired, Granny's was busted.
The store, sans paraphernalia, is open for business. The case is pending.
When 32 Republican Governors met in Miami for a conference last month, our own governor was in the spotlight. Gov. Beasley, who serves as Chairman of the Republican Governors Association, drew applause when he criticized the federal government's handling of almost $100 billion in education programs.
But Washington Post columnist David Broder wasn't clapping. Broder pointed out in a recent column that Beasley and his buddies are out of their element in claiming education as their issue in 1998.
After all, these are the same guys who want to abolish the federal Department of Education and who support tax vouchers for private schools.
The message, Broder said, was not simply "we care" but "we want control."
Beasley told his fellow governors, "Imagine what we could do with that money if it was block-granted to the states."
It was imagining what Beasley would do with the money that left Broder feeling unsettled.
"Many states," Broder wrote, without mentioning South Carolina, "have yet to prove themselves conscientious custodians of the well-being of all their schoolchildren, especially those from deprived backgrounds."
Broder doesn't trust Beasley, and neither should the quarter-million school children in this state who live below the poverty level.
HODGES' SECRET WEAPON
Just when you thought that Sheriff Jimmy Metts' campaign for governor couldn't get any more self-defeating, he has found a way to alienate all but a sliver of the lunatic fringe.
Metts took part in a late October press conference with the Council of Conservative Citizens to protest a federal court decision to retry, or release, two convicted murderers.
While we understand why Metts would rail against letting murderers walk, we question his choice of political bedfellows. Perhaps he should look under the sheets.
The Council is known in certain circles as "the Klan in ties." It is headed by William Carter, a chiropractor from Saluda who was David Duke's state campaign manager when the former Louisiana Klansman ran for president.
The Council's newspaper is overtly racist, and its supporters can often be found waving Confederate flags outside the state legislature. They're proud to be racists and not ashamed to tell you that the flag represents "the superiority of the white race."
Metts' animosity for Gov. David Beasley is reportedly fueling his Independent run for governor. If Metts, a former Republican, draws 7 percent of the ultraconservative voters away from Beasley, Democratic candidate Jim Hodges will probably win.
It's anybody's guess whether Metts will stay in the game to force a bitter end. Good Democrats may want to consider splitting their campaign contributions between Hodges and Metts.
TRUMPING THE RACE CARD
The Columbia Community Relations Council recently got Republicans and Democrats to pledge to throw away the race card. Republican Chairman Henry McMaster and Democratic Chair Ronnie Maxwell shook hands and agreed, in Maxwell's words, "that race shouldn't be part of politics in South Carolina."
How they plan to talk about education and affirmative action without talking about race remains to be seen. But if they can pull it off, surely that means progress.
It would be more honest if politicians just admitted that they have a bias against working-class and poor people, and leave race out of it. In the new world of racially sensitive politics, you judge a person not by the color of their skin but by what's inside -- their wallets.
When Condon recently announced "one of the biggest drug busts in the state's history," we expected he had nabbed a freighter loaded with cocaine. Not so.
His bust wasn't big in terms of the kind or the amount of drugs confiscated but by the number of arrests that were made.
Seventy-nine people were indicted in Operation Overnight Express and 500 pounds of marijuana were seized. It was a small-time bust except for the head count.
Put it this way: If each of the herb dealers gets the 25 years they face it will cost taxpayers an estimated $69 million to keep them off the streets.
"This raid will immediately reduce the amount of marijuana on the streets of South Carolina," Condon said at his press conference, which included six police agencies.
If it were really about reducing the amount of available drugs, Charlie could have bought the reefer directly from the dealers for less than $750,000, flushed it down his toilet and saved taxpayers a lot of money.
MOVE OVER, OPRAH
Condon, never one to miss a "media opportunity," managed to alienate two groups in the past few weeks with his grandstanding.
Condon arranged a press conference last month for the national Silent Witness Program to highlight the plight of battered women. Attorneys general from across the country work with victims' advocacy organizations in the program to protect the rights and well-being of abused women. Press conferences in other states were held in partnership with AGs and advocacy groups.
Condon did not invite any of the organizations who work with battered women in South Carolina to his press conference. He did invite Gov. Beasley, however -- the same governor who opposed the last domestic violence bill in the Senate (S-89).
The latest group to be burned by Condon's media machine includes cops and prosecutors.
Condon issued an opinion in early December that video poker was really an illegal lottery and that merchants making payoffs should be arrested. It's not the first time that Condon has confused his job with the legislature's.
"The attorney general's opinion is opinion," said Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott, "and we operate by what's law." Eleventh Circuit Solicitor Donnie Myers considers busting video poker dealers "just below jaywalking" on his list of priorities.
While Condon can possibly win a few votes grandstanding against video poker, payoffs of $125 a day are legal and cops don't want to get slapped with a false arrest suit for following Condon's order.
"I imagine," Myers said, "that the law on prosecuting Dr. Kevorkian is clearer than the law on video poker."
Cops, given the likelihood of being sued if they follow Condon's order, will likely opt for having another doughnut and a second cup of coffee while they wait for Charlie to get fixated on a new windmill.
Condon's next press conference is rumored to be with battered women cops who have arrested video poker operators.
NAME THAT SLEAZEBALL
This month's Sleazeball is a corporate duo that teamed up recently to put a happy face on their sorry environmental records. WIS-TV and DHEC are cosponsors in the Champions of the Environment program, which offers scholarships to kids for school-related environmental projects. Be the first to identify these shameless spin-meisters and win a free trial subscription to POINT.
Last month's Sleaze was Charleston Solicitor David Schwacke.