Category Archives: Southern Discomfort

Slate is doing its best to keep Confederate flag flying in SC

Josh Voorhees posted this at Slate this morning, under a picture of the Confederate flag flying in front of our State House:

March Madness kicks into full swing today with games in Buffalo, Milwaukee, Orlando, and Spokane. Another four cities—Raleigh, San Antonio, San Diego, and St. Louis—will see men’s action on Friday. The women’s tournament then tips off on Saturday with weekend games spread out over 16 other cities. By the time the NCAA crowns a men’s and women’s champion in Arlington and Nashville, respectively, more than 30 cities will have hosted tournament games. None of those games, however, will be in South Carolina or Mississippi. The reason: The Confederate battle flags that still fly over the state capitol grounds in Columbia and Jackson.

In 2001, the NCAA imposed a ban on either state hosting post-season sporting events at predetermined sites (an important caveat I’ll get to in a second) as long as the flags continued to fly, and neither it nor the states have budged since. That is set to change somewhat next year when a format tweak will allow for a key exception for the women’s tournament. But that change won’t be in place in time to help the Lady Gamecocks, who are currently bearing the brunt of the NCAA post-season boycott of the Palmetto State…

As you and anyone else who’s ever read my stuff knows, I take a backseat to no one in my ardent desire to get that flag down. In fact, starting with my first editorial on the subject in 1994, I almost certainly hold the world record for number of words written with that aim in mind.

But as you probably also know, I think one of the most powerful factors keeping the flag there is the NAACP boycott. It causes a defiant backlash effect among the majority in the Legislature. History, and in our case personal experience, teaches us that the surest way to get a white South Carolinian to do something is to get someone from other parts of the country to try to make him stop doing it. (OK, technically, the NAACP boycott is driven by the South Carolina chapter, which had a lot of pull in the national organization at the time the boycott started — which is why SC is singled out while states like Georgia, which at one point during the life of the boycott even incorporated the symbol into its state flag, escape this censure. But the boycott is under the authority of the national organization, and in SC minds qualifies as out-of-staters trying to tell us what to do.)

And Slate smugly moralizing on the subject — the Tweet promoting this post said, “The (excellent) reason South Carolina and Mississippi don’t get to host March Madness” – only increases the effect. So, way to go there, Josh. Sheesh.

What’s in a word? From ‘nullification’ to ‘anti-commandeering’

Somehow, I missed Sen. Tom Davis’ announcement of how he was changing the emphasis of his nullification bill, until about three days later. So I didn’t write about it.

But now it’s been 10 days, and I think we should still at least make note of it, because it’s indicative of a shift of emphasis on the state’s rights front.

You’ll recall that Tom indicated earlier that he was backing away from “nullification,” which I saw as a positive development, since we really don’t need to revisit the discredited ideology of 1832. What Tom did 10 days ago was announce what he’s changing that wording to.

Here’s his release:

BEAUFORT, S.C. – Yesterday afternoon, State Senator Tom Davis (R-Beaufort) filed with the Clerk of the South Carolina State Senate a strike-and-insert amendment for H. 3101, a bill passed by the South Carolina House of Representatives in May 2013 that initially sought to nullify the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA).  Davis was appointed last June by Sen. John Courson, the President Pro Tem of the South Carolina Senate, to chair an ad hoc committee to review H 3101, and the committee subsequently held public hearings in Greenville, Columbia and Charleston.  Davis’ amendment, a copy of which is attached, would slow the spread of the ACA in South Carolina by:

 

  • Invoking the constitutional principle of anti-commandeering
  • Requiring legislative approval for ACA grants and programs
  • Rejecting the optional Medicaid expansion authorized by the ACA
  • Prohibiting the creation of a state health-insurance exchange
  • Registering ACA navigators with the state Department of Insurance

 

“The heart of my amendment is the anti-commandeering section,” said Davis. “The principle is a simple one: The federal government cannot compel a state to use state resources to implement a federal law.  If the ACA is bad law – and I think it is – then South Carolina’s resources should not be used to implement it.”  The principle of anti-commandeering was expressed by the United States Supreme Court in Printz v. United States, 521 U.S. 898 (1997): “The Federal Government may neither issue directives requiring the States to address particular problems, nor command the States’ officers, or those of their political subdivisions, to administer or enforce a federal regulatory program.”

 

Anti-commandeering differs from nullification, in that the latter is a flat refusal by the state to allow a federal law to be enforced within its borders. “My amendment doesn’t say that,” said Davis. “It says that South Carolina will not use its resources to aid and abet in the ACA’s implementation.  It really boils down to this: Why should we spend state money to implement a bad federal law?”

 

Other sections of Davis’ amendment would do the following: codify last year’s decision by South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley to neither seek an ACA-authorized expansion of the Medicaid population nor create a state health-insurance exchange; require public entities that want to apply for ACA grants to justify the application in hearings open to the public and to obtain legislative approval prior to seeking them; and protecting South Carolinians from unscrupulous practices by navigators who are paid by the federal government to enroll people in ACA health-insurance exchanges.

 

“Ultimately,” Davis said, “it is up to the United States Congress to repeal the ACA.  In the meantime, though, the states have the power and the duty to push back, and this is a way of doing that.”

 

The South Carolina State Senate is expected to begin debate on H 3101 next Tuesday.

 

 

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And here’s a link to the amendment.

This strikes me as less a move away from extreme aims than a move toward strategic pragmatism. Which sounds like it would be good — whenever pragmatism even slightly displaces ideology, it tends to sound good to me — but I suppose one could see it as a glass-half-empty thing as well, in terms of getting more practical about achieving extreme aims.

But let’s be glass-half-full as well. At least Tom is acknowledging that states can’t nullify acts of the federal government. “Anti-commandeering,” even though the term suggests something local luminaries might have come up with during the Federal occupation of SC after the Recent Unpleasantness, makes a somewhat more modest assumption — that the feds can’t set states’ agendas or priorities, or tell them how to spend their resources.

The intended effect, however, is the same — “We don’t have to do what you goddamnyankees are telling us to do.”

Although Tom himself wouldn’t put it that way.

This is not a totally improvised fallback position, by the way. If you Google it, you’ll see “anti-commandeering” used on websites like tenthamendmentcenter.com/.

We lose Maurice Bessinger and Harold Ramis on the same day

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Which means nothing, of course — I mean, the fact that they died on the same day means nothing; obviously their respective deaths mean a great deal to their families — but it struck me as an odd juxtaposition.

Maurice Bessinger, purveyor of yellow barbecue and “South Will Rise Again” tracts was 83. The man who gave us Egon “Print is Dead” Spengler and Army recruit Russell Ziskey (and as a writer and director, such gems as “Groundhog Day” and “Analyze This”) was only 69. And yes, my very first thought on the latter’s passing was that maybe collecting spores, molds and fungus was not the healthiest hobby. I mean that fondly, and intend no disrespect.

In Maurice’s behalf, I’ll note that his barbecue was my youngest daughter’s favorite. As the baby of the family, she had trouble understanding why the rest of us preferred not to give him our custom while that flag was flying at his restaurants. But now my daughter is off in Thailand with the Peace Corps, so I don’t think her BBQ preference limited her horizons or worldview any.

As for why the juxtaposition is notable, well… Maurice was a man who went out of his way to stand up for outmoded ideas, a man who insisted on pushing a discredited worldview even when it drove customers away. Ramis, on the other hand, was a harbinger of a new ironic meme in our popular culture, the smirking wise guy who poked gentle, mocking fun at our social foibles. One insisted on respect for ideas that had never deserved it; the other urged us not to take ourselves so seriously.

For what that’s worth…

Rep. Ted Vick calls it quits

This just in:

Rep. Ted Vick will not seek 6th term in SC House
 
Chesterfield, SC – State Rep. Ted Vick announced on Friday that he will not seek a 6th term in the South Carolina General Assembly.  Vick has served as a State Representative of Chesterfield and Lancaster for the past ten years.

Vick released the following statement regarding his decision:

“It’s time to spend more time and effort on my family.  My twins will be 11 this year and they need me to be more focused on their needs and our time together. My family and I have been talking for months about a new phase in our lives and we are looking forward to it.

It has been a pleasure to serve the people of SC House District 53 and I am honored they allowed me to represent them in Columbia.”  

Vick has chaired the SC House Rural Caucus, SC House Sportsman Caucus, SC House AG subcommittee, SC Wildlife committee, SC House Interstate Cooperation committee, and served as chief Minority Whip for eight years.
 
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Unfortunately for him, you will remember Ted Vick as the SC legislator whose DUI defense (that he was walking that way because he had a rock in his shoe) made the Daily Mail

Here’s an idea for Ravenel’s new reality show

This was pretty funny — at least, the parts that I could make out through that thick, awful, fake “Gone With the Wind” accent.

Yes, I can see how folks up north — in places “like Vermont, and South Carolina” — might laugh at Southerners’ overreaction to a couple of inches of snow.

But this gives me an idea for an episode of Thomas Ravenel’s new reality TV show, “Southern Charm,” which as I gather is about what happens to scions of old Charleston families in a time of general cultural decline and decadence.

There could be an entire episode in which T-Rav is trapped in his vehicle (possibly a white Escalade, as in this skit) because… wait for it… someone (possibly Yankees) have closed down his Daddy’s bridge on account of snow.

It could work… Hey, maybe it even happened…

Nice to see Tom Davis backing away from nullification

I’ve always seen Tom Davis as a (mostly) reasonable man, and have been distressed to see his drift into extremism over the last couple of years.

So I’m pleased to see him take a deliberate step away from the antebellum notion of Nullification:

Davis,TomCOLUMBIA, SC — A Republican lawmaker says he plans to take the “nullification” out of the Obamacare nullification bill before the state Senate….

“The conversation really has gotten off the rails a little bit,” Davis said Wednesday, after holding three public hearings across the state that drew hundreds. “Everybody talks about nullification. This isn’t nullification. We can’t nullify.”…

Amen to that, senator. No, we can’t. That’s been pretty clear ever since 1865, if not sooner.

But it’s a bit disingenuous for Tom to act like other people have somehow gone “off the rails” with all this nullification talk:

  • I remember his presence at this Ron Paul press conference at which nullification was spoken of approvingly.
  • Then there was his speech at a… Nullification Rally… at which he praised John C. Calhoun as “a great man who has been maligned far too long.” And by the way, Tom himself called it a “nullification rally” when he thanked someone for putting up video of his speech.

So… Tom no longer wants to nullify Obamacare. However, he does want to sabotage it, to do all he can to make it fail. Which is not the most positive attitude I’ve ever heard of with regard to respecting laws legitimately passed by the Congress.

But this is progress…

We don’t need outsiders calling our governor a ‘clown’

crew

Back in the first few years that I was back here in SC — I want to say it was about the time of the Lost Trust scandal in 1990; in any case, it was a time when we were struggling with some huge problem in Columbia — The Charlotte Observer ran a short, dismissive, truly snotty editorial asking what was up with South Carolina, and comparing us to the Three Stooges.

That was it. There was no serious analysis of the problem, and no recommendation (that I recall) on how to make it better. Just a setup for comparing South Carolina to the Stooges. Ha-ha.

Something crystallized for me in that moment. I had been a longtime admirer of the Observer before I came to work here. But since my return here in 1987, I had noticed that its coverage of my home state had a certain tone to it — a scornful fascination based in a concept of SC as the other; as a vastly inferior other that existed to make folks in that corner of NC feel good about themselves.

I fully realized what had bothered me as soon as I read that editorial. I felt that the Observer couldn’t care less whether things got better in SC, as long as we provided our betters with entertainment. (If I’m correct on the timing, this was at the time that I was conceiving of the year-long Power Failure project analyzing what was really wrong with SC, and offering a specific path to fixing the problems. So I had a markedly different attitude: I cared.)

Anyway, I was reminded of that Three Stooges moment when Celeste Headlee brought my attention to CREW’s second list of the nation’s worst governors. (CREW, by the way, is the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Government.)

For those of you interested in such things, of the 18 governors on the list, only two — Andrew Cuomo and Steven Beshear — are Democrats (Scott Walker makes the list for being anti-union, and accepting contributions from people who are also anti-union — really; those are his “sins”). But I’m less concerned with the fact that CREW doesn’t live up to its self-professed partisan impartiality than the fact that, by publishing a list such as this one, the organization gives the lie to the “responsibility” part of its name.

Of course, our own governor makes the list. And that would be OK, if CREW had some helpful criticism. Here’s what it has to say about Gov. Haley. I won’t bother repeating it since there’s no news in it. She’s been roundly criticized for these things in this space. But I stand today to defend her.

My beef is with the overall way that this list is presented. Someone thought it would be cute to give the list a circus theme. The 18 governors are divided into three groups — the “Ringmasters,” the “Clowns,” and the “Sideshows.”

Nikki Haley is listed among the six “Clowns.”

I’m mystified as to the reasoning behind this equal division into three groups. What, our governor is a “Clown,” but Rick Perry makes “Ringmaster”? Really? If someone forced you to pick one of them as a “Clown,” how could you pick her over him?

Beyond that, there is no evidence provided of her clownishness. I didn’t see anything funny in any of the things said about her. It is simply not a defensible metaphor.

Let me say unequivocally that Nikki Haley is not a clown. She’s a perfectly serious, earnest young woman who governs as well as she can, according to her lights.

She does not deserve to be called a clown.

And if CREW really cared about responsibility in government, it would desist from this kind of immature, dismissive, unhelpful nonsense. This is the kind of destructive thing the political parties do — denigrate and demean and utterly dismiss all with whom they disagree, making it impossible for people wearing different labels to work together toward the common good.

On its About Us page, CREW moans,

Many Americans have given up on our political system, writing off our elected leaders…

Well, you know why? Because (at least in part) of dismissive junk such as this.

If you have something constructive to say, say it. If you have any specific, serious advice to offer the people of South Carolina, we’re all ears — really. Not all of us have “We Don’t CARE How You Did It Up North” bumper stickers on our vehicles (although, admittedly, some of us do). Let’s hear your prescription.

But if you have nothing more helpful to offer than to call our governor a “clown,” then just shut up about it.

Nikki Haley could have saved herself (much of) this grief

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The SC Democratic Party sent out this release a few minutes ago:

Nikki Haley’s Terrible, No-Good, Very-Bad Week

After three days of condemnation, Haley finally drops white supremacist co-chair

 

It’s been a rough week for Governor Nikki Haley and her reelection campaign. But that’s what happens when you appoint, and then spend three days defending, a white supremacist co-chair to your campaign. Let’s recap:

 

One week ago, reports first surfaced that Nikki Haley had appointed a leader of a white nationalist group as a co-chair of her reelection campaign.

 

Southern Poverty Law Center: SC Governor Names White Nationalist to Reelection Committee. “Garcia-Quintana is a lifetime member and current board member of the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), which is listed as a white nationalist hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The CCC is the linear descendant of the old White Citizens Councils, which were formed in the 1950s and 1960s to battle school desegregation in the South, and has evolved into a crudely racist organization.” [SPLC, 5/22/13]

 

Two days later, amid calls for her to dismiss the white supremacist co-chair, Governor Haley and her team stood by him even as he doubled-down on his divisive rhetoric.

 

Haley rebuffs Dem demands that she dismiss controversial advisor. “Gov. Nikki Haley’s re-election campaign has no plans to remove a controversial volunteer who S.C. Democrats and others say has ties to white supremacist groups…. ‘Is it racist to be proud of your own heritage? Is it racist to want to keep your own heritage pure?’ Garcia-Quintana said.” [The State, 5/24/13]

 

Nikki Haley: No Plans to Remove Controversial Volunteer. “Over the past week, several media outlets have reported that one of the volunteers for Gov. Nikki Haley’s re-election has been active in groups linked to right-wing extremism. On Friday, Haley’s political director Tim Pearson told Patch Haley has no plans to ask the volunteer, Roan Garcia-Quintana, to step down from the team of 170-plus volunteers.” [Patch, 5/24/13]

 

Over the weekend, Haley’s team launched political attacks and pointed the finger at others, while still defending their appointment.

 

Garcia-Quintana said he had “no plans to step aside and has not been asked to.” “Garcia-Quintana, a Mauldin resident, said he has no plans to step aside and has not been asked to. Even if he were, he said he would still volunteer on behalf of Haley. Earlier this week, Garcia-Quintana was linked to an organization that advocates for purification of races. He did not back off those views when he spoke to Patch on Saturday.” [Patch, 5/25/13]

 

Finally, on Sunday night before Memorial Day, Haley’s campaign finally asked Mr. Garcia-Quintana to resign, claiming ignorance on his beliefs (which they had just spent three days excusing).

 

Volunteer exits Haley campaign group after accusations of racism. “Haley’s campaign had been criticized by civil-rights groups and Democrats for the role played by Garcia-Quintana, who they said has ties to a white nationalist group. The campaign initially stood by Garcia-Quintana. But Sunday the campaign said it requested his resignation, which was offered and accepted, because it was “previously unaware” of some of Garcia-Quintana’s comments.” [The State, 5/26/13]

 

Post & Courier: “Flip-flop much?” “Pearson’s about-face was classic. On Friday, he said: ‘There’s nothing racial about this Cuban-American’s participation in the political process, nor his support for the first Indian-American governor and the first African-American U.S. senator in South Carolina history.’ Two days later, he said: ‘There is no place for racially divisive rhetoric in the politics or governance of South Carolina. While we appreciate the support Roan has provided, we were previously unaware of some of the statements he had made, statements which do not well represent the views of the governor.’ Flip-flop much?” [Post and Courier,5/29/13]

 

Now, editorial boards and columnists around the state are weighing in and asking the same question as South Carolinians: why did Governor Haley and her team spend three days defending a white supremacist and refusing to disavow his beliefs?

 

Post & Courier: Haley’s call right, but was reason? “Hold the hypocrisy. The cynical view here is that Haley used the holiday weekend to distance herself some from unnecessary controversy. Self-preservation is nothing new from the governor’s office. But maybe Haley actually didn’t want to associate with a guy who holds intolerant views, which would bode well for her political maturity. Or maybe she just realized it would have looked hypocritical to get indignant about Jake Knotts’ ‘raghead’ comment and then ignore this.” [Post and Courier, 5/29/13]

 

Rock Hill Herald: Haley dumps volunteer. “Gov. Nikki Haley did the right thing in dismissing one of the co-chairs of her grass-roots political organization because of his ties to a white nationalist group. The only surprise is that it took her three days to do so.” [Rock Hill Herald, 5/28/13]

 

It really has been a terrible, no-good, very-bad week for Nikki Haley.

 

But sadly for South Carolinians who continue to struggle with one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, some of the worst public schools in the nation, and roads and bridges on the verge of crumbling, Governor Haley’s failure to lead is no surprise.

What I liked about it best was the headline that SCDP Communications Director Kristin Sosanie put on it: “Nikki Haley’s Terrible, No-Good, Very-Bad Week.”

Somehow, evoking children’s literature seems apropos, given the intellectual level on which we conduct politics in SC.

Other than that, the release is garden-variety, partisan, kick-’em-while-they’re-down stuff.

The governor could have saved herself some of this grief had she just not played the usual game. Her team treated complaints about this “Confederate Cuban” in a manner consistent with the standard playbook that SC Democrats and Republicans take off the national shelf: If the other side criticizes you, dismiss it, and criticize the other side for criticizing you — because that’s just the way those awful people on the other side are…

A small amount of due diligence — an hour or two spent looking into this guy before saying anything, then going ahead and getting rid of him on the first day, explaining that you just hadn’t known — would have left her looking better. It also would have been extraordinary, given, as I said, the level on which we conduct our politics in South Carolina.

She could have had a “Terrible, No-Good, Very-Bad” afternoon, rather than “Terrible, No-Good, Very-Bad Week” week. Or weekend, anyway…

Ted Vick makes the Daily Mail

Yes, the Daily Mail, as in the one in London — the one in “Paperback Writer,” for my fellow Boomers.article-2325324-19CE5AD1000005DC-443_306x366

Imagine my surprise. I just this morning loaded the Daily Mail app onto my iPod, and this was one of the first stories to pop up, right there on the main U.S. news page.

And why on Earth would an arrest of a South Carolina lawmaker be worth a headline in such a venue? I think maybe it was Todd Rutherford’s explanation about the rock in his shoe. They even squeezed that into the hed, “South Carolina Democrat arrested for second DUI in a year but blames ‘impairment’ on rock in his shoe.” An excerpt:

A South Carolina state representative has been arrested for his second DUI in less than a year despite claims by his attorney that his perceived impairment was because of a rock in his shoe.

State Rep. Ted Vick, D-Chesterfield, was arrested on the Statehouse grounds around 11 p.m. Tuesday by the Bureau of Protective Services, according to Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Sherri Iacobelli.

An officer followed Vick after seeing him stumbling as he walked into a parking garage in Columbia. Vick got into his car and hit a cone before the officer could catch up and ask him to stop…

But Vick’s lawyer, fellow Rep. Todd Rutherford, said Vick was not impaired.

Vick was walking funny because he had a rock in his shoe, said Rutherford, D-Columbia…

Jenny wins; Sanford admits to being in contempt

Of his divorce decree, that is:

By BRUCE SMITH — Associated Press

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Newly elected Congressman Mark Sanford and his ex-wife have settled a complaint that said he was at her home without her permission in violation of their divorce agreement….

Under the settlement, Sanford admits he was in contempt of the divorce decree then and on previous occasions. The judge agreed to withhold sentencing Sanford as long as he complies with the provision in their divorce settlement that he not enter his ex-wife’s Sullivans Island, S.C., home without her permission.

Sanford also agreed to pay her $5,000 in fees and court costs…

As to the matter of his showing contempt for the people of the 1st District, and them just eating it up, that’s another story.

He’s all yours, Lowcountry, and welcome to him.

Well, Sanford has SC to kick around again

The expected end to the special election in the 1st Congressional District has come:

Mark Sanford has won the South Carolina special election in a competitive race for what in normal circumstances is a safe Republican seat.

The former governor beat Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch, the sister of comedian Stephen Colbert Busch, for the state’s 1st congressional district.

The AP called the race for Sanford, with the Republican leading Colbert Busch 54 percent 46 percent…

Except, of course, it’s not the end. It’s just the beginning, or rather the resumption. One more thing for all of South Carolina to be repeatedly humiliated over.

Way to go, voters of the 1st District. You do realize that all of us will get the blame for this, right?

Smith: Anti-Obamacare witness transported on state plane

Here’s an interesting release that just came in:

Rep. James Smith Responds to Use of State Plane by Right-Wing Radio Host

 

Today, some members of the South Carolina General Assembly learned that one of only two people to testify in favor of H.3101, otherwise known as the Obamacare Nullification Bill, at today’s subcommittee hearing, was given special travel arrangements by being flown to Columbia from Washington, DC on Palmetto 2, a state airplane.  Dr. Walter Williams, a professor at George Mason University and popular right-wing radio host, gave testimony in favor of H.3101 today in Columbia after his taxpayer funded flight was authorized by Spartanburg State Representative, and lead sponsor of H.3101, Bill Chumley. The other person testifying in favor of the bill was a prominent Tea Party activist Kent Masterson Brown, who admitted he was paid $7500 to testify.

Representative James Smith, a member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Constitutional Laws, released the following statement in response:

“This is the height of hypocrisy and politics at its worst.  For taxpayers to be forced to foot the bill so that an out-of-state political zealot can push his extreme agenda is not only a dereliction of his duties as a public servant, it is just fundamentally wrong.  During his testimony, Dr. Walter Williams espoused the abuses of government spending and intrusion while engaging in precisely the same behavior.  While we work to make health care more affordable and accessible to our citizens, Representative Bill Chumley, would rather frivolously spend tax dollars to fly Tea Party ideologues down to South Carolina on the state airplane. I call on Representative Chumley to immediately reimburse the taxpayers for his reckless and irresponsible decision to spend tax dollars to promote his own extreme Tea party agenda.”

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Gee, I didn’t even know that a single member of the Legislature could authorize something like that…

First, key SC lawmakers were dead serious about nullification; now, they’re taking testimony from a secessionist. And yes, it’s 2013

We are really on a roll in South Carolina this week. On a rapid downhill roll, as on the proverbial handcart to hell.

SC Democrats put out this release today:

Well-known Secessionist invited by GOP lawmaker to give testimony in support of Nullification

The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Constitutional Laws held a hearing on H3101, otherwise known as the “Nullification” bill that seeks to nullify the Affordable Care Act, heard testimony from dozens of Tea Party activists on Wednesday. One of the speakers, Dr. Donald Livingston of Georgia, separated himself from the other speakers when he publicly advocated for secession during his testimony.

Dr. Livingston, a retired philosophy professor testifying in support of nullification, was invited to give the lead testimony by the bill’s chief sponsor, Representative Bill Chumley. Dr. Livingston later admitted in his testimony that he had not actually read Rep. Chumley’s bill.

Dr. Donald Livingston is the former director of the League of the South, a neo-confederate group that actively supports southern nationalism as well as secession from the United States. (Source) The Southern Poverty Law Center has classified the League of the South as a “racist hate group.” (Source) Dr. Livingston has been dubbed the “Intellectual Godfather of the secession movement” by New York Times journalist Chris Hedges. Dr. Livingston has written extensively in support of secession and southern heritage. (Source)

In 2001, he told the Intelligence Report that “the North created segregation” and that Southerners fought during the Civil War only “because they were invaded.” The next year, he established the Abbeville Institute, based in Atlanta, along the lines of the League of the South. (Source)

At a 2003 “Lincoln Reconsidered” conference he said that “evil is habit-forming” and no habit is as evil as believing that Lincoln acted out of good motives. (Source)

Representative James Smith, a member of the subcommittee, released the following statement in response:

“I was surprised and extremely disappointed Rep. Bill Chumley would invite Dr. Livingston to serve as his chief advocate in front of the Constitutional Laws Subcommittee. His extreme views on secession and his association with a known racist hate group insults the institution we serve and reveals the motives behind many who support this legislation. I fundamentally reject his vision for our country and I call on my colleagues to do the same.”

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It’s really been weird lately. At home in the evenings, I read Team of Rivals, and just started rewatching Ken Burns’ classic “The Civil War” on Netflix. Reading and watching at night, I think that what I’m doing is studying history.

But then I get up in the morning, and day after day, this insane nonsense turns out to be current events over at our State House.

Tom Davis at the ‘nullification rally’

This morning, I saw this on Twitter from Tom Davis:

Thanks, Ed Eichelberger, for this video of my speech at Tuesday’s nullification rally at the S. C. State House. http://fb.me/1eyP5zmGG

“Nullification rally?” Is that what was going on when I passed by on Tuesday.? Wait, let me go check. No, I was right: This is 2013, and not 1832…

I didn’t have time to look at the video until tonight. Before I wrap up for today, I want to take note of it here. We must all remember this when Tom runs against Lindsey Graham next year. If he does. Or when he runs for anything in the future.

I have always liked Tom Davis personally, and I have been very disturbed to see his steady descent into fringe extremism.

In case you don’t have time to watch it all, some lowlights:

  • Lee Bright’s absolutely right.
  • Launching on a history lesson — neoConfederates are big on condescendingly explaining their version of history to the rest of us, and Tom is picking up their habits — he says that George Washington was president in 1800. No, Tom, he wasn’t. Kind of makes you want to double-check all the other stuff he says. In case you didn’t already know to do that.
  • He says, with fierce, defensive passion, that as a South Carolinian he is “proud of John C. Calhoun,” whom he characterizes as “a great man who has been maligned far too long.”
  • “You have the intellectual high ground here.” This to the assembled nullificationists.
  • “I can’t do anything right now up in Congress…” As opposed to later, I guess.
  • “This state has a proud tradition of leaders stepping up and holding aloft the candle of liberty at a time when things were darkest.” Really? I would like to have heard an elaboration on that, with names and dates, so I can understand how Tom is defining “liberty” these days.

Gail Collins on SC politics

This ran a couple of days ago, but was only brought to my attention today:

Tea Party favorite Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina has departed, too, even though his term was only half over, to answer the siren call of a seven-figure job at the helm of the Heritage Foundation.

Thanks to the blog Smart Politics, I am able to report that this is normal behavior in South Carolina: one-third of all U.S. senators from South Carolina have resigned over the course of our history. (South Carolina is also the state that gave us the guy with the cane back in 1856.) DeMint was replaced by Representative Tim Scott, whose seat will be filled in a special election this spring. Right now one of the possible candidates is Mark Sanford, the governor who we all remember for flying to Argentina for an assignation with his lover while his staff claimed he was hiking on the Appalachian Trail.

Another much-discussed potential contender is Jenny Sanford, former wife of the above. People, while you are praying for a safe, sane and peaceful new year, I want you to make a small exception and pray that Jenny and Mark Sanford run against each other…

The “guy with the cane” thing was a reference to Preston Brooks, who practically beat Charles Sumner to death on the Senate floor — which made him wonderfully popular back home (northerners, not understanding the ways of Southern gentlemen, were outraged). Which is kind of SC politics in a nutshell.

I found the piece over at Smart Politics interesting — the one about how a third of SC senators have resigned (The last was Strom Thurmond, who promptly ran again and was elected back to his seat). Even though, of course, we’ve only known four senators in the past 46 years. No wait, five counting Tim Scott now.

Lee Bright: Trying to secede every which way he can

What with the holidays and all, I didn’t get around to snorting in derision at the latest secessionist (or at least nullificationist) nonsense from state Sen. Lee Bright:

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Lee Bright

CHARLESTON, S.C. — A proposed piece of legislation intends to exempt pistols and rifles made in South Carolina from federal regulation as long as they stay in-state.

The Firearms Freedom Act, pre-filed earlier this month by state Sen. Lee Bright, would mean that firearms, ammunition and gun accessories made in South Carolina aren’t subject to federal rules and oversight. Weapons made in South Carolina, the bill notes, must be stamped with the words “Made in South Carolina.”

Bright, R-Roebuck, says his bill would allow South Carolina manufacturers to skirt federal regulations because the materials would not cross state lines. He introduced a similar proposal last session, but that measure died in committee…

Y’all remember Lee Bright. He previously wanted South Carolina to coin its own money. Before that, he was the sponsor of a Senate resolution demanding that Washington stop stepping on our unspecified “rights” down here in SC.

You know how atheists these days — well, some of them, anyway — have taken to calling themselves “Brights,” seeking a more upbeat image? Well, if the senator from Spartanburg becomes any more of a household name nationally, they might want to reconsider that move…

SC’s historical resistance to Thanksgiving

The WSJ today had a piece today about the first official Thanksgiving proclamation — which was George Washington’s first proclamation of any kind as president — and it struck me how fitting that the main objections to it came from South Carolinians. During debate over the resolution asking the president to proclaim the holiday:

Rep. Aedanus Burke of South Carolina objected on the grounds that a Thanksgiving was too European. He “did not like this mimicking of European customs, where they made a mere mockery of thanksgivings.”

Rep. Thomas Tudor Tucker, also of South Carolina, raised two further objections. “Why should the President direct the people to do what, perhaps, they have no mind to do?” he asked. “If a day of thanksgiving must take place,” he said, “let it be done by the authority of the several States.”

Tucker’s second reservation had to do with separation of church and state. Proclaiming a day of Thanksgiving “is a religious matter,” he said, “and, as such, proscribed to us.” The Bill of Rights would not be ratified until 1791—but Congress had just approved the wording of First Amendment, and that debate was fresh in everyone’s mind.

It fell to a New Englander to stand up in support of Thanksgiving…

Of course, the only one of those objections that had a ghost of substance was the church-and-state one — you can see how someone who had recently debated the First Amendment might pause remembering the words “Congress shall make no law…” But of course, a reasonable person’s next thoughts would be that this was just a resolution, it only asked that the president recommend a day of thanksgiving, and it in no way established anything, much less a religion, or inhibited the free exercise thereof.

It’s not the substance of the objections that strike me. It’s that it’s so very South Carolina to be the ones objecting to even the most vanilla, Mom-and-pumpkin-pie actions by the federal government. I mean, leave it to a South Carolinian to inject state’s rights into a discussion of Thanksgiving.

What is it in our water, or whatever, that has always made white men from our state so prickly?

An apology from Jake Knotts (apparently)

Overnight, I got this email that says it’s from Jake Knotts (I didn’t know the email address):

STATEMENT BY SENATOR JAKE KNOTTS WITH REFERENCE TO: Release of leaked video tape

When this story first appeared two years ago, I was embarrassed.  I’m embarrassed again now.
It was a very poor attempt at satire in an interview given inside a pub.  But it wasn’t funny.  It was offensive.  And I very much regret my remarks.
Once again I offer my sincere apology to the Governor and her family.
I only hope people will realize this two year-old interview is being leaked by campaign operatives who hope to hurt me politically.  But that’s no excuse for my behavior.  Heated political rhetoric is not the answer.  I can only say again that I’m sorry.
This experience has made me a better public servant.  I’m not going to let attacks and leaks by opponents distract me.  My focus is on creating jobs and helping the people I represent build a brighter future for their families.

This is in reference to a clip showing his “ragheads” remark from Pub Politics, which has surfaced as an “exclusive” (which means no embed code, which is just plain stingy) on BuzzFeed.

Tell you one thing — whenever Jake’s up for re-election, things are never boring.

How’s your Confederate Memorial Day going?

Stream of consciousness this morning…

I got a bit of a late start and didn’t get to the Capital City Club for breakfast until after 9. I had been struck, when I parked my truck on the southbound side of the Assembly median between Lady and Gervais, that there wasn’t a single other vehicle parked on the block. Many days, you can’t get a space.

Forty minutes later exactly, I come out and my truck is still completely alone. What causes such fluctuations in the demand for parking in that area? No idea…

NPR comes on as I crank up the truck. As I move toward Gervais and prepare to turn left, author John Irving is being interviewed. This prompts thoughts about why he’s so celebrated. I read a review in the WSJ of his latest, and saw nothing that made me want to read it. At the insistence of a friend (who was sure I would love it) years and years ago, I tried to read A Prayer for Owen Meany. Distaste caused me to quit after the first chapter, much as I did with Conroy’s Prince of Tides. (I have a strong negative reaction to novels that start out heaping horrific personal misfortune on the central characters — I mean, come on; gimme a chance to get used to who they are first.)

Turns out that — possibly because his latest is about a sexual omnivore; at least they seem to be relating the question to that — he’s being asked about Obama endorsing the idea of same-sex “marriage.” Great. KulturkampfYesterday’s post was enough time spent on that for me. With an air of weariness, I change to Steve FM.

Just as I do so, into my view come two jokers dressed up in butternut imitation uniforms, standing at attention in front of the Confederate soldier monument. Aw, gee, not… yes. It’s Confederate Memorial Day.

I would say, “Get over it!” But what would be the point? South Carolina is so not over it that this is an actual state holiday. Really. In fact, this observance should have been on the front page of The State this morning, right next to the Obama gay-marriage thing, to remind us all where our state leaders’ priorities lay. But I had to be told about it by these guys.

So now I know why there was a whole block of empty parking spaces.

It’s a good thing I got some good personal news this morning (my mother, who is in the hospital, is doing better). Otherwise, the day would be starting out feeling rather hopeless.

In South Carolina, we can’t get our stuff together on anything that would actually advance our state and make the lives of its citizens better. Everything that might move us forward languishes, year after year. But we can decide to celebrate Confederate Memorial Day, yet again. Because that does everyone so much good, you know.

Here I would type “sigh,” but that wouldn’t express the weariness that I feel.

The infrastructure of a healthy society

Well, I’m back. I had some sort of crud yesterday that made me leave the office about this time yesterday– upset stomach, weakness, achiness. It lasted until late last night. When I got up this morning, I was better, but puny. So I went back to bed, and made it to the office just after noon. Much better now.

Anyway, instead of reading newspapers over breakfast at the Capital City Club the way I usually do, I read a few more pages in my current book, 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created, by Charles C. Mann. Remember how I was all in a sweat to read it several months ago after reading an excerpt in The Wall Street Journal? Well, having read the prequel, 1491, I’m finally well into this one.

And I’m reading about how settlement by Europeans in many parts of the New World established “extraction societies.” At least, I think that was the term. (It’s one I’ve seen elsewhere, related to “extraction economy” and, less closely, to “plunder economy.” The book is at home, and Google Books won’t let me see the parts of the book where the term was used. But the point was this: Settlements were established that existed only to extract some commodity from a country — say, sugar in French Guiana. Only a few Europeans dwelt there, driving African slaves in appalling conditions. Profits went to France, and the institutions and infrastructure were never developed, or given a chance to develop.

Neither a strong, growing economy with opportunities for all individuals, nor its attendant phenomenon democracy, can thrive in such a place. (Which is related to something Tom Friedman often writes about, having to do with why the Israelis were lucky that their piece of the Mideast is the only one without oil.)

Here are some excerpts I was able to find on Google Books, to give the general thrust of what I’m talking about:

There are degrees of extraction societies, it would seem. South Carolina developed as such a society, but in modified form. There were more slaves than free whites, and only a small number even of the whites could prosper in the economy. But those few established institutions and infrastructure that allowed something better than the Guianas to develop. Still, while we started ahead of the worst extraction societies, and have made great strides since, our state continues to lag by having started so far back in comparison to other states.

It is also inhibited by a lingering attitude among whites of all economic classes, who do not want any of what wealth exists to be used on the kind of infrastructure that would enable people on the bottom rungs to better themselves. This comes up in the debate over properly funding public transit in the economic community of Columbia.

Because public transit doesn’t pay for itself directly, any more than roads do, there is a political reluctance to invest in it, which holds back people on the lower rungs who would like to better themselves — by getting to work as an orderly at a hospital, or to classes at Midlands Tech.

It’s a difficult thing to overcome. Other parts of the country, well out of the malarial zones (you have to read Mann to understand my reference here), have no trouble ponying up for such things. But here, there’s an insistent weight constantly pulling us down into the muck of our past…