If the sheet fits
The national media recently discovered the Council of Conservative Citizens. The resulting press is giving some Republicans that creepy feeling you get when you wake up and don't know who's in bed with you.
Surprise! It's the Klan in suits.
The South Carolina branch of the Council is the same group that has organized most of the rallies to keep the Confederate flag flying on the State House dome. Its members protested against affirmative action, arguing that black people get all the breaks.
They supported David Duke, the former Klansman from Louisiana, in his run for president. They have recently attacked the Congressional Black Caucus and U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn as "the true racists." Clyburn recently cosponsored a resolution condemning the Council as racist.
In a recent speech before the South Carolina Council, leader Dennis Wheeler declared that churches that preach racial integration, women's equality or homosexual rights "are exhibiting the mark of the beast."
The Council has been one of Attorney General Charlie Condon's most vocal supporters, and rallied outside the U.S. Supreme Court when he argued a death penalty case. They sang his praises when he split with former Gov. David Beasley over the flag.
"It is certainly the beginning of the end of white rule in this country," warned an article on the Council's Web site.
The state Republican Party has long been criticized for the racist nature of its policies. Now it is feigning shock that its platform has attracted overtly racist supporters.
Buddy Witherspoon, a Lexington County resident who represents South Carolina on the GOP national committee, gave a tearful denunciation of the Council and denied being a racist at a state Republican meeting Feb. 27. Witherspoon had defended his Council membership, claiming the group simply stood for Southern heritage and the Confederate flag.
Richland County GOP Chairman Rusty DePass, evidencing a greater understanding of the implications than some of his colleagues, argued that Witherspoon's mea culpa should have been handled in private.
"Our job is marketing," DePass said. "We are not here to stroke the flag and say how good we are; we're here to sell a product."
Rep. Charlie Sharpe (R-Aiken) was quoted in a national column defending the Council, "They think like I do. Particularly on the issue of marriage between whites and nonwhites. They're not supposed to mix. Cows and horses don't mix."
Council literature has referred to interracial marriage as "genocide" against the white race, and is firmly opposed to "mongrelizing" the species.
Contacted for comment, Sharpe said, "The group isn't racist. There are extreme elements in any group, but the group isn't racist. I have black friends who think that marriage between the races is wrong. It's not racist to be opposed to that."
Sharpe represents a district that, while only 20 percent black, voted 52 percent in favor of ending the interracial marriage ban.
South Carolina voted in the last election on whether to remove the constitutional ban against interracial marriages. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1967 that such bans were unconstitutional.
Nearly 40 percent of South Carolina voters to keep the ban. The six counties that voted to keep interracial marriages illegal (Cherokee, Chesterfield, Dillon, Lancaster, Saluda and Union) were all majority-white.
In the ever-escalating war on drugs, Sen. David Thomas (R-Greenville) has proposed legislation to plug another leak.
Thomas has introduced a bill that would make "selling or purchasing urine with the intent to defraud a drug screening test a felony" punishable by five years in prison.
This would give new meaning to the phrase "pissing your life away."
Rising tide that floats big boats
While South Carolina politicians have been slapping each other's backs about the swell economy, unfortunately the rising tide isn't floating all boats.
A U.S. Census Bureau study released in February reported that nearly one in six South Carolinians lives in poverty. Officially, that is a family of four making less than $15,569 a year.
Most of the state's poor are kids, with one in four living below the poverty level. In some counties, the rate is even higher. In Allendale, 47 percent of children are poor, and in Lee County the rate is 44 percent.
The House recently passed a bill to institute "alternative schools" in every school district. While they sound progressive, some people worry that the facilities amount to little more than poorly financed warehouses for kids who are seen as "problems," mostly black males.
While these students likely could benefit from a more disciplined and managed environment, the legislature is only committing $100,000 per district for the schools. While this will remove the "problem" kids from the general school population, it will not begin to address the problems the kids have.
Rep. Joe Neal (D-Richland) thinks his colleagues are shortsighted. He calls the alternative schools "prep schools for penal institutions."
Seems that the same legislators willing to spend $30,000 a year to keep a kid in prison can't come close to finding that kind of money for programs designed to keep him out.
Quoting Chairman Jim
Gov. Jim Hodges has been trying hard to position himself exactly in the middle of the road on all matters political.
Imagine our surprise when in the governor's State of the State address he said, "To paraphrase an ancient saying, a march of a thousand miles must begin with the very first steps."
Actually, the saying goes, "The longest journey begins with a single step." The quote is from Mao Tse-tung.
Your colleague may be hazardous to your health
In most states, when a worker is injured on the job it is a truck or car that is to blame. In fact, U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics for 1997 reports that 42 percent of occupational injuries are transportation related.
But in South Carolina, it's just as likely that a job-related injury (or death) was caused by a fellow worker. South Carolina leads the nation in the number of assaults and violent acts committed on the job.
The national average for worker-on-worker violence as an occupational injury is 18 percent. In South Carolina, the rate is 36 percent. In fact, in the Palmetto State you are just as likely to be hit by a fellow worker as by a truck.
When it comes to job-related violence, South Carolina is number one. Homicide accounted for 14 percent of worker deaths nationally, 17 percent in the Southeast, and 29 percent in South Carolina -- more than twice the national average.
The good news is that South Carolina tied for last place with Kentucky and Tennessee in the "Caught in or compressed by equipment" category with five injuries.
Condon's latest photo opportunity
We don't think our driver's license photos, or any other personal information, should be sold by the government, but we must take issue with Attorney General Condon on his defense of our rights.
Last year Condon argued, "No case supports the proposition that there is a constitutional right of privacy with regard to the information found in state driver or motor vehicle records... " He was right.
Condon met with Image Data last year and checked off on the company's plan to merchandise our photos. He didn't think this was wrong until a great hue and cry arose over selling the photos. He should have lobbied the legislature to change the law a long time ago, but he only became a champion of our right to privacy when it became a public issue.
See Dick and Jane pass laws
Legislation has historically been written in a manner that is purposely obtuse. It has long been assumed that laws should be written in such a way as to require a lawyer to explain them.
So it was something of a revolutionary proposal when Rep. Becky Martin (R-Anderson) sponsored a bill that "requires all legislation considered by the General Assembly to be drafted so a person with a high school education can clearly understand it."
Since nearly one of every three South Carolinians don't finish high school, perhaps Rep. Martin should consider lowering her standards.
If you thought that a "New Age of Enlightenment" was dawning in South Carolina with the demise of David Beasley, wake up and smell the coffee. Clearly, you have forgotten who runs the House.
Republicans, led by Majority Leader Bobby Harrell (R-Charleston), refused to fund Gov. Hodges' "First Steps" early childhood education program, calling it a "step back to wasteful and unnecessary welfare spending of the past."
These are the same guys who take credit for dumping more than 60,000 children off the welfare rolls, calling it reform.
Harrell attacked Hodges' proposal to put $20 million into programs for health care and day care that prepare children for kindergarten. Harrell rejected First Steps and rejected funding prenatal services and health care that he says is already covered by existing welfare programs. Perhaps he missed the portion of the proposal that says First Steps funds "may not be used where other state or federal funding sources are available or could be made available to that local community."
While House Republicans mouth platitudes about family values and improving eduction, throughout the Beasley administration they fought funding kindergarten -- until they found it politically expedient to do so.
Apparently, they have already forgotten that lesson.
Name that sleazeball!
At a recent House committee hearing on ChemNuclear's radioactive waste dump, Rep. Thomas Rhoad, the Democrat who represents Barnwell, said, "When I go by farms down there they are always spreading manure and it smells to high heaven. And, you know, when I drive by ChemNuclear I don't smell a thing."
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