Posts Tagged ‘south carolina

The Real Story on South Carolina’s Subversive Activities Registration Act

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As the old saying goes, truth is stranger than fiction. This applies to the latest fiction circulating the internet about this “new” law in South Carolina — the Subversive Activities Registration Act — which requires subversive groups to register with the Secretary of State and pay a $5 processing fee, or face a $25,00 fine and/or up to 10 years in jail.

For starters, this law is nearly 50 years old, a relic from the McCarthy era Red Scare — no different from the laws that still exist on the books in many states. The fact that this dusty South Carolina law is on the books is not new, nor is it news.

However, the fact that four South Carolina state senators recently filed a bill to repeal this law may very well be news. Think about it. What would compel four Republican senators from South Carolina (the first state to secede from the Union and the next-to-the-last state to relinquish Jim Crow segregation) to repeal a law requiring subversive groups to register with the Secretary of State?

I’m just saying.

Think about it. Take a closer look at these four Republican senators — all of whom jumped onto the tea party bandwagon with both feet, all of whom have spent the past year as part of the “tenthers” movement and any other movement that constitutes an affront to the Obama Administration — and ask yourself: What do you suppose would compel them to want to repeal this dusty old law?

Senator Lee Bright: Sponsored Senate Bill 424 in February 2009 to “remind” the U.S. Congress of South Carolina’s sovereignty under the 10th Amendment. It took a year of fighting with South Carolina Democrats, but the Republicans finally won out, as — just a few weeks ago — the S.C. Senate officially and for the record declared our state’s right to just say no to the federal government. Afterward, Senator Bright said he was “glad to be finished with the protracted battle,” then added with a laugh, “If at first you don’t secede, try again.”

Senator Kevin Bryant: Made national headlines in July 2008 when he posted a photo of an Obama-Osama T-shirt on his blog (see webshot, below) which read “The difference between Obama and Osama is just a little B.S.” Naturally, Bryant was flummoxed when fellow South Carolinian leaders called his decision to post the photo “classless.” When asked to explain himself, Senator Bryant said,

“It was meant tongue in cheek. I’ve got some questions about Senator Obama’s ties to — such as his comment that we should negotiate with Iran. Iran’s a country that would like to destroy Israel, that bothers me. But is this picture appropriate? I don’t know.”

Senator Larry Martin: After serving for 30 years in the South Carolina legislature, Senator Martin is what you’d call old school. He doesn’t pull dumb stunts like posting classless photos on his blog, nor make jokes about seceding from the Union. But he’s firmly in the camp of the tea baggers. And he’s on board with the tenthers, too, having served in the forefront of the later movement in South Carolina, which began shortly after Obama’s inauguration, when Senator Martin — sensing a state of emergency — astutely urged the S.C. chamber to give priority status on the Senate calendar to the 10th Amendment Resolution so that South Carolina could wage a war of redundancy and hopefully reaffirm, ASAP, our sovereignty under the 10th Amendment. Sen. Martin also does favor for good old South Carolinians. In 1998, for instance, he rallied on behalf of the Sons of Confederate Veterans — and the Confederate flag for which they stand — during the infamous Battle of the Azaleas. (What say? You’ve never heard of that battle? Read the SCV’s blow-by-blow account here.) And, lest we forget, it is Senator Martin who is also heading the move, as introduced in the bill last week,  to repeal the Subversive Activities Registration Act.

Senator Lee Cromer: A relative newcomer to the South Carolina ratpack, Senator Cromer has flashed enough racial code, through the teabagger, tenther and other anti-Obama movements to ensure a long political career in South Carolina politics. You do the research.

Think about it: What would compel these four South Carolina senators, who have been riding Obama’s ass ever since his inauguration — resurrecting the ghosts of John C. Calhoun, nullification, states’ rights and secession — to repeal a law that targets seditionists? What would compel four senators who — having just recently celebrated their latest state’s rights victory (as reported here on the “tenther’s grapevine”) to introduce a bill to repeal the Subversive Activities Registration Act?

Think about it: nullification, sovereignty, state’s rights, secession, repealing the Subversive Activities Registration Act…. Could sedition and/or civil war be far behind?

Rust Never Sleeps

To truly understand the tea baggers, the tenthers and this latest effort by these four South Carolina senators to repeal a dusty old bill aimed at thwarting communists and other subversives, it’s helpful to remember that — once upon a time in South Carolina and elsewhere in the South — civil rights activists and the NAACP were considered to be subversive groups. Billboards were erected throughout the South to warn us about this communist threat in our midst. President Truman became a subversive, too — at worst, a communist, at best “soft on communism” — after he proposed efforts to end discrimination, after he integrated the military and proposed integration of public places, after he proposed (but never followed through) on the idea of enacting anti-lynching laws. It was the height of the Red Scare. Astute Southern politicians — finding themselves backed into a corner — seized the opportunity: they hijacked McCarthy’s House un-American Activity Committee and made it their own; they capitalized on the Red Scare by painting blacks as communists; they exploited state laws on subversive groups as yet one more tool to deny civil rights to blacks.

Billboards, such as the one above, showing Dr. King and Rosa Parks attending an integrated event at the Highlander Folk School in 1957 were erected across the South. To the white power structure, integration was a communist plot against the “Southern way of life.” Therefore, anyone attending an integrated event was — by definition — a communist.

Flash forward to the mid-1970s (only 5 years after South Carolina had finally been forced to fall in line with the rest of the South and actually integrate its public school system — and with various anti-discrimination and equal opportunity laws being passed at the federal level) and you’d find South Carolina legislators dusting off those old McCarthy era laws. Even as the Supreme Court had long-since ruled such laws unconstitutional, and even as the rest of the country had put the McCarthy witchhunts behind them — Southern leaders began warning us again of the subversives among us. Borrowing from fears of the communist threat of Viet Nam, they chastised the rest of the country for growing complacent about the subversives among us.  In 1976, a handful of South Carolina legislators (Senators Gilbert McMillan, Cooley and Wise, and Reps. Fewell, Klapman and Hines, not to mention the venerable U.S. Senatory Strom Thurmond)  grew so concerned that they revived the state’s Internal Security Committee, an offshoot of McCarthy’s HUAC. They began meeting again and watching “certain” blacks for signs of subversive activity. Rep. Hines even named a few blacks in the state who he said, “might bear watching” for signs of communist activities. These leaders could at least take some comfort in the fact that NAACP members —  being deemed along with the Ku Klux Klan as part of a subversive group — were not allowed to buy guns.

It was Lee Atwater, in the Reagan era, who perhaps saved us from this pathetic attempt to resurrect the ghost of Joseph McCarthy, as Atwater found a new tool for disenfranchinsing blacks — the fiscal conservative movement. Through this nifty tactic, Southerners could now deny equal rights to blacks by pointing out the cost of any program that might benefit or level the playing field for blacks. In the wake of the Atwater era, minorities and the evil liberals who promoted their causes were deemed fiscally irresponsible and to blame for the national debt and our chronic deficits. No matter that it was, and has since been wars and the defense industry sucking our national coffers into the red  — the Southern leadership capitalized on the Atwater offensive and used it to wake the slumbering beast that is racism. Atwater’s movement was so successful, in fact, that — in the early 1990s — South Carolina leaders deemed that dusty old law obsolete and took a mind to repeal it. In 1994,  Bill 4654 was introduced to repeal South Carolina’s Subversive Activities Registration Act. While it initially generated some enthusiasm, it was ultimately referred to committee, where it fell back into obscurity to collect more dust.

It is no coincidence, today, the timing of this latest effort to repeal that law. Call our legislators knuckle-draggers, call them what you will, but they are nothing if not law-abiding citizens.  They make the laws and they keep them. And when the laws no longer suit their purposes, they get rid of them. Or they make new laws. When all else fails, they cry “States’ rights!” and wage war.

This is why the Civil war was about state’s rights, not slavery, and certainly not about morality. The Jim Crow era was also about state’s rights, not white supremacy. The battle against desegregation — the bombing of black churches, the torching of houses, the killing and violence committed against blacks during the civil right era — this, too, was about state’s rights.  The ongoing battle with the Obama Administration, just like the battle against the Truman Administration, is also about states’ rights. And — courtesy of Lee Atwater’s legacy — it is also about that sleeping beast that was awoken at the moment Obama took office: the fiscal conservative movement.

Nevermind that these same fiscal conservatives sat on their hands for 8 years, raising nary a pip while the Bush Administration nearly doubled the debt per family (teabaggers and evil liberals alike) to $82,292. Nevermind the economic armageddon — the collapse of our economy, the soaring unemployment, the skyrocketing foreclosure rates — that Obama inherited from the Bush Administration, prompting the stimulus bill that added another $10,000 to this total.  This is not about race, folks. It’s about saving our country.

To this end, our state leaders find themselves between a rock and a hard place — between a black president and the laws of the land. They are staring down the barrel of a long gun, realizing that unless they do something drastic, blacks might actually —  despite centuries of slavery, Jim Crow law and the myriad subversive efforts to institutionalize discrimination –make gains in their long struggle for equality. What the fiscal conservatives need is a transformative figure. To this end, they have resurrected the ghosts of John C. Calhoun, Jefferson Davis, Benjamin “Pitchfork” Tillman, Joseph McCarthy, Westwood Pegler, Ronald Reagan and Lee Atwater. But what they need is a flesh and blood leader, a living demagogue to serve as a lightning rod to their cause.

Several have applied for the position — from Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann, to Joe the Plumber and Joe Wilson. While these folk have made impressive inroads, none have gained quite the degree of fervor necessary to inciting violent rebellion. If history is any indication, however, it may be just a matter of time before some capable hand lights the fuse. And when that time comes, our leaders will be ready. They are, if nothing, law-abiding citizens. To this end, there’s that dusty old law on the South Carolina books that needs to be repealed — an effort whose urgency should be self-evident to anyone who knows the history of our country.



The Infidelities of Mark Sanford: A Tale of Pitchforks, Lust & Lies

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lipstick Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

Mystery solved. We now know what compelled Governor Sanford to seemingly disappear into thin air. We know why he impulsively hijacked a S.C. State Law Enforcement vehicle (fully-equipped with weapons, lights, sirens, bells & whistles), driving at high rates of speed as he departed in the middle of the night for parts unknown, abrogating his sworn duties to the citizens of South Carolina, and leaving in his wake a trail of lies as treacherous as certain passages on that very footpath  he was hiking. (psyche!) Mystery solved. The governor can now add dereliction of duty to his resume.

God hates lawlessness and is tireless in His desire to dissuade man from his fascination with lawlessness. Our hearts are lions’ dens of devouring lusts. Lawlessness torments righteous souls every day.  — Mark Sanford’s spiritual advisor, Warren “Cubby” Culbertson, whom the governor terms “a spiritual giant.”

Fortunately for Sanford, he was a Christian before embarking on his second trek to Argentina, making forgiveness pretty clear-cut, regarding matters of God and mortal sin. That leaves just us. Can we, the citizens of South Carolina forgive Governor Sanford for his marital infidelity — even as his hypocrisy makes him an even bigger liar than Bill Clinton?

Under the right circumstances, most people —  even athiests, heathens and other non-Christians — are pretty compassionate when they see another human fall. But the fact is, the extramarital affair of King David (as he’s now annointed himself) is ultimately a painful and private matter between the governor, his family and his concience. But what of the governor’s conscious decision to walk off the job — leaving his state unattended  and vulnerable to catastrophe for 6 days? 

I don’t know how the folk in Sanford’s circle handle such things, but where I come from, when you pull a no-show, no-call on the job, that’s it. Unless you’re laid up in the hospital or dead at the morgue, you’re fired, I don’t care who you pray to.   

lieTo be clear, South Carolinians couldn’t care less about the governor’s private life, even as his private lies reflect certain truths about his character. We are most concerned with his on-the-job mendacity —  including any pertinent fascinations with lawlessness that torment his righteous soul every day. These infidelities and lies — which have become somewhat of a pattern under his watch — belong entirely to the citizens of South Carolina, on whom the governor has been cheating for years. 

Several years before he absconded to Argentina, the governor secretly tried to sell (aka privatize) the state’s largest utility, Santee Cooper, to Credit Suisse. Then he lied about it. And, for years, he’s been running around with some sugar daddy scalawag from New York. Jenny Sanford has her own story to tell about the governor’s infidelities, which can only hope to scratch the surface of his lies. Here’s ours. 

Bibles, Pitchforks & Patriots: A South Carolina Tradition 

The longstanding object of Mark Sanford’s devouring lust is a real estate millionaire mogul from New York named Howard Rich, who has not only made a whore of Mark Sanford, but has purchased the loyalties of every Palmetto State politician whose ethics could be bought. As such, it is increasingly the idealogy of a man ironically named “Rich” that drives the political agenda of our state. The pity is that the sordid details of Governor Sanford’s affair with Howard Rich are not sexy enough to warrant wall-to-wall national media coverage. In fact, Howard Rich’s agenda — (dismantling public education in South Carolina) — is so unsexy, that it doesn’t even warrant mention outside the state.

I view guys like him as patriots. He’s a guy that passionately believes that choice in education is better education.Governor Mark Sanford, speaking of Howard Rich, who donated a total of $21,000 to the governor’s campaign

It is our state’s well-deserved reputation for backwardness makes South Carolina fertile ground for a man like Howard Rich. One hundred years ago, we were the second most illiterate state in the country (see pg. 56), ranking in 49th place. Things have changed little since. Today, we still rank among the lowest in the country for graduation rates (49th) and SAT scores (47th/48th), while we rank among the top ten  highest states (and you won’t hear these statistics from Howard Rich or Governor Sanford) on infant mortality (45th), low birthweight babies (47th), child deaths (40th) teen births (42nd), children living in poverty (42nd), children in single-parent homes (48th), violent crime (50th) and unemployment (48th as of May 2009). In 2008, South Carolina earned the distinction of being the third worst state in the country for human health (up 6 notches from 2007). It comes as no surprise, then, that South Carolina also rates as one of the worst places in the country (46th place, at last count) for raising children.  

Lucky for us, Governor Sanford and the rest of Howard Rich’s political henchmen have a solution. Rather than address the pathology of our diseased state, they’ll simply ignore it. Rather than aspire to unshackle South Carolinians from our historic bondage to poverty, illiteracy and disease, they’ll  legitimize it. It worked in the Jim Crow era; it can work today: simply make make laws that will disenfranchise all but the rich white folk. The trick is in getting the poor white folk to go along with the plan.  

One way to doing this is to blame the “other folk” (them’s who ain’t rich or white) for everything  that’s wrong. Another is to wave the flag and give the Bible a few good thumps. If you play your cards right, you can convince the poor white folk that — no matter how much it hurts ’em — it’s their patriotic duty to their country and God to do whatever our flag-waving Bible-thumping politicians tell them to do.   


To this end, the Rich-Sanford message has been crafted to appeal to the same classes of wealth, racism and religious zealotry that have been ruling this state since the first slaves arrived on our shores. Howard Rich — for all his talk about improving education — would be powerless, if not for his appeal to the most narrow-minded of South Carolinians. Lucky for him, the state still holds a majority of whites who have yet to forgive the Democratic Party for giving blacks the right to vote in 1965.


tea party

So far, so good. To date, Howard Rich and his gang have made substantial progress toward convincing South Carolians that:

  • Public schools, being a form of socialism, are ineffective and inherently evil.
  • By privatizing our school system, we will lower the cost of education and raise the quality, due to the hoo doo magic of that same free market competition that did such wonders for Wall Street and the U.S. health care system.
  • It’s cheaper, per child, to subsidize private school tuition than it is to fund a public school education.
  • Therefore, a better use of our taxpayer dollars would be take that money out of the public school system and use it, instead, to subsidize private school tuition for those families who “choose” to send their kids to private school.  

To those of us who worry that taking money out of the public school system to subsidize private schools for rich folk might further degrade our public schools — or that it will (and, in practice, does) resurrect the institution of racial segregation — the Rich-Sanford folk have an answer. See, there’s nothing barring minorities and the poor from enjoying these tax cuts and school vouchers. All they have to do is cough up the $3,000 out-of-pocket tuition, per child, per year — or, alternately, choose from the many charitable organizations that will no doubt be clamoring to give scholarships to blacks and poor people who cannot afford private school tuition. 

This is how we do things in South Carolina. This is how we “get around” inconvenient laws. This is nothing new. The roots of South Carolina politics were born in the plantation system, with our entry into the 20th century driven by wealthy plantation owners who had a gift for exploiting the ignorance, fears and racism of poor whites. It was Governor “Pitchfork” Ben Tillman who crafted the 1895 S.C. Constitution on the backs of these ignorant, fearful masses — giving birth to the Jim Crow era that disenfranchised blacks and the poor, and granting license-to-lynch to the second era of the Ku Klux Klan that terrorized this state for nearly half a century. Things have changed little since.

The same bogeymen conjured at the turn of the century by S.C governors “Pitchfork” Ben Tillman and Coley Blease are the same bogeymen being conjured today by Rich-Sanford and their henchmen: socialists, communists, blacks and any one else who poses threat to the sensibilities of the red-blooded, God-fearing, white American citizens of this state. The only difference, today, is in the semantics — a code, of sorts, which has evolved from the fiery rhetoric of Pitchfork Ben’s day, to the infinitely more polite racial code being used today. The architect of these semantics (South Carolina’s own adopted homeboy, Lee Atwater, aka “the Boogieman”) plainly described the evolution of this code during an 1981 interview, while explaining the Republican Party’s Southern strategy in the Reagan campaign:

Atwater: As to the whole Southern strategy that Harry Dent and others put together in 1968, opposition to the Voting Rights Act would have been a central part of keeping the South. Now [the new Southern Strategy of Ronald Reagan] doesn’t have to do that. All you have to do to keep the South is for Reagan to run in place on the issues he’s campaigned on since 1964… and that’s fiscal conservatism, balancing the budget, cut taxes, you know, the whole cluster…

Questioner: But the fact is, isn’t it, that Reagan does get to the Wallace voter and to the racist side of the Wallace voter by doing away with legal services, by cutting down on food stamps…?

Atwater: You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me—because obviously sitting around saying, “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”

Today — courtesy of the Rich-Sanford plan — the words “school vouchers” and “tax credits” and “school choice” are part of this code, interfacing nicely with the economic concerns invented by Atwater. Could the Boogieman and Pitchfork Ben only hear as well as they speak from the grave, they’d be tickled pink: 


Hey, I grew up in South Carolina. I remember the mass exodus of Southern Democrats to the Republican Party in the wake of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. I remember the mass exodus to private schools in the wake of integration and, later, to home-schooling in the wake of Reagan’s moral majority campaign. 

And when I listen to Howard Rich’s spin on saving taxpayer money and cutting spending, I hear the dog whistle loud and clear. I know exactly who and what he’s talking about when he says:

The other side is in it for one thing: taxpayer dollars. They love it every year when the legislature gives them more money for what they call [insert finger-quotes —->] education.

I’ve also been the recipient of the Howard Rich robocalls, attack ads and slick mailers, smearing the records of those candidates (Republicans and Democrats alike) who have refused to jump in bed with Daddy Howard’s money. I’ve been witness to those malicious smear campaigns — always cleverly delivered last-minute before election day, just in time to ensure that these candidates couldn’t effectively defend themselves against the dirty lies and accusations waged against them. I’ve seen enough of Howard Rich and his paid henchmen to know that they represent that most backward element of South Carolina politics that keeps us all chained to the dark ages. 

I’ve also watched Governor Sanford’s uncanny rise  to the call of fiscal responsibility — refusing stimulus money, organizing tea parties and being just generally contrary to anything and everything Obama — even as the good governor sat on his hands for 8 years while the Bush-Cheney Administration pilfered our economy, running up the largest federal deficits and debt in U.S. history. The old axiom is true enough in South Carolina: the more things change, the more they stay the same. 

We of the South have never recognized the right of the negro to govern white men, and never will. — “Pitchfork” Ben Tillman

But, hey, we must like it this way. We must care very little for the integrity and well-being of our state and the people who live here. We must also like being the butt of late-night jokes. We must like the fact that our state’s name is synonymous with stupidity. Otherwise, we  wouldn’t keep electing these politicians over and over — politicians whose agendas are little more than thinly-veiled attempts to correct the outcomes of the Civil War, the Voting Rights Act and school desegregation. And we wouldn’t continually be drawn — out of malicious spite, it seems  — toward policies that disenfranchise some folk at the expense of all. We wouldn’t self-righteously cling to the nativist ignorance that has earned us every negative statistic and stereotype we’ve ever earned. Namely, that we are a state of backward, illiterate racists. We would, instead, call the Rich-Sanford solution exactly what it is: a school system even better-equipped to keep us chained to our ignorant past.  

Deaf, Dumb and Blind Ambition  

Every politician has a bad moment from time to time, but viewing Governor Sanford’s infamous July 2008 interview with Wolf Blitzer carries new meaning today, given the contrast of his overflowing wordiness in the now-infamous emails to Maria, written during the same week as this interview. As we now know, the governor was not only basking in the limelight as a VP potential on the McCain ticket, but was also basking in the glow of consummated love. Here, we get a truer portrait of the man who has been governing the state of South Carolina for the past 6 years.

This is not the portrait of a fiscal conservative, much less a politician of stature or substance. Governor Sanford is simply a garden-variety “good old boy,” politician, doing business as-usual in South Carolina. It’s just like Lee Atwater said: 

…. fiscal conservatism, balancing the budget, cut taxes, you know, the whole cluster… You can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites.

Fortunately for the entire country, Governor Sanford — who was poised to take his infidelities and his lies (along with his gentry-class sense of priviledge, his selective obedience to morals, his veiled racism and his Bush-esque approach to fiscal responsiblity) all the way to the White House — never got a chance to make his pitch to a national audience. And he never will.



by Mantis Katz for the canarypapers


Governor Sanford at a recent tea party, protesting Obama’s evil ‘socialist’ agenda