Sunday, April 24, 2005
cases of the Neanderthal and the Man of Thin Skin
SC Statehouse Report
24, 2005 - - There must have been something in the water Tuesday
at the Statehouse. That's the only plausible explanation for
two dumb public relations moves that day.
First, thin-skinned Gov. Mark Sanford showed up at a press
conference by state Democrats as they criticized his truth-telling
over possible privatization of Santee Cooper, the state-owned
Hours later, foot-in-mouth GOP Rep. John Graham Altman of
Charleston verbally attacked and insulted a Columbia television
reporter asking questions about two bills dealt with by the
House Judiciary Committee.
The committee approved a bill to make cockfighting a felony,
but tabled action on another bill that would toughen penalties
and boost judicial education on criminal domestic violence.
(Current law does classify criminal domestic violence a felony
if it is of a "high and aggravated nature" that
involves a weapon or results in serious bodily injury. The
law, however, provides for the lesser misdemeanor version
that is commonly used by law enforcement officials.)
The fact that the committee voted to make cockfighting a
felony while putting off action on a tougher measure for batterers
prompted WIS TV reporter Kara Gormley to ask Altman, a member
of the committee, about the difference.
Gormley: "Does that show that we are
valuing a gamecock's life over a woman's life?"
Altman: "You're really not very bright
and I realize you are not accustomed to this, but I'm accustomed
to reporters having a better sense of depth of things and
you're asking this question to me would indicate you can't
understand the answer. To ask the question is to demonstrate
an enormous amount of ignorance. I'm not trying to be rude
or hostile, I'm telling you."
Gormley: "It's rude when you tell
someone they are not very bright."
Altman: "You're not very bright and
you'll just have to live with that."
It got worse. Here's one of the Neanderthal comments that
outraged women across the state:
Altman: "I mean you women want it
one way and not another. Women want to punish the men, and
I do not understand why women continue to go back around
men who abuse them."
Gov. Mark Sanford rightly spoke out against what Altman said
to WIS TV:
put the life of a chicken ahead of the life of a woman. That
just doesn't make any common sense. And to be insensitive
about, certainly there are nuances in any piece of legislation,
but to be insensitive about, the importance, the gravity of
that issue, I think causes people to have doubts about the
legislative process in South Carolina, about certain legislators."
For Sanford, Altman's shenanigans turned the media spotlight
away from what may become longer-term, serious political trouble
over what the governor said and didn't say about Santee Cooper.
As the State Democratic Party had a press conference complaining
about Sanford's "secret plans" to privatize the
state-owned utility, the governor rushed from his office to
attend the conference, reportedly standing just a few feet
from a podium as Democrats spoke.
WORLD: Pope-ular food at the Vatican
On Altman, cigarettes, more
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If it was a move to intimidate Democratic leaders, it didn't
work. It made the story even bigger. State Democratic Chairman
Joe Erwin thanked the governor for coming because it saved
him the price of a stamp. He handed a Freedom of Information
request to Sanford about what's going on with the utility.
After the press conference, Sanford denied having a secret
plan to sell Santee Cooper, according to The Post and Courier.
Instead, he said he commissioned a $100,000 study to assess
the utility's capacity to return more money over to state
coffers to fund government.
But according to the newspaper, documents obtained under
a different FOI request showed that a Sanford staffer "contacted
at least four investment banks in the fall, asking them to
submit bids for a confidential study on the sale of Santee
In his years of public service, people haven't always agreed
with Sanford's positions on policy issues, but his veracity
has rarely, if ever, been questioned. The governor's locked-jaw
zeal, however, over Santee Cooper has given opponents a real
political issue that will come back to haunt him in his 2006
Sanford needs to drop privatization efforts and tell the
whole truth about what's going on. Meanwhile, Altman just
needs to drop out of politics for good.
food at the Vatican
Another great cartoon from Bill McLemore:
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Is Altman brain-dead?
To the editor:
How is it that this man is still in office...can you impeach
someone on a state legislature? Or can we just declare that
he is in fact "BRAIN DEAD" and elect someone WITH
A BRAIN to the legislature.....How long will he embarrass
-- Tony Martin, Mount Pleasant, S.C.
Keep focus on issues
To the editor:
In your April 10
commentary you pointed out that the General Assembly was
wasting time with wedge issues while "thousands of South
Carolina's children go to school hungry, tens of thousands
of families live in poverty, the state's education system
is at the bottom, infant mortality rates are among the nation's
highest and the state has the third highest unemployment rate
in America." Then you joined them on April
17 by suggesting these important issues be sidetracked
in favor of developing a "state policy" on smoking.
We need to keep the focus on the issues you so accurately
stated on the 10th.
-- Laura Morris, Mount Pleasant, SC
Doing crime without the time
It was with disbelief that I watched the WIS
news interview with John Graham Altman (Dist. No. 119,
Charleston Co) on 04/20/05. I am absolutely appalled that
someone with so little understanding of current issues is
even allowed to participate in the creation of laws for the
citizens of this state.
John Graham Altman has publicly demonstrated his ignorance
of domestic violence when he stated there ought not
to be a second time and women should not return
to a man who abuses them Okay, what about the man who
beats his wife, who then subsequently leaves him. He then
begins dating another woman, who has no knowledge of his previous
history of abuse. He then beats her; she was unaware of his
prior arrest on domestic violence charges, is she somehow
at fault for being with a man with a previous CDV arrest?
Should she have somehow known about his prior
arrests? The ignorance and insensitivity displayed by Rep.
Altman is astonishing.
I suppose it also escaped his notice that half of his constituents
wonder if he expects to be re-elected after
his shameful comments and behavior? South Carolina ranks 1st
in the nation in the Rate of Women Murdered by Men
is the legislator going to wake up and do something about
this shameful statistic? The numbers put South Carolinas
homicide rate for women at more than TWICE the national average!
How many more women have to die before the legislator decides
to make domestic violence a felony offense, punishable with
jail time? This as a disgrace to our state and our citizens.
Honestly, it makes us look like a backwards, inept state that
is incapable of dealing with spousal abuse.
It is past time that tougher laws were out on the books and
every effort made to stop this shameful practice, yet our
legislative body seems more concerned with the rights of chickens
than the rights of victims of domestic violence! Why dont
we just advertise to the entire criminal element: Come
to South Carolina where you can do the crime without doing
-- Teresa Carrigan, Cassatt, SC
Shocked at smoking usage
To the editor:
I was excited to learn that there is some legislation pending
re smoking. (Commentary,
4/17). If every locality had the choice, then it would
be possible to start lobbying to get smokers out of public
places on Hilton Head Island. As excited as I was, I was also
shocked to learn of the high percentage of young smokers in
SC. Well, I guess it's nice to be able to claim leadership
It is fascinating to see how many things down here are driven
by the politics of "personal liberty." ... We come
here seasonally from New York State, and we spend a portion
of each Winter in California. So we are starting to forget
what it is to be inside a restaurant that reeks of cigarettes,
and we are increasingly jarred by this each year when we come
down. I am sure many other visitors quietly suffer as we do,
and they file it somewhere in their frontal lobe as a minus
for the area.
Upstate New York (our home) isn't all that much different
from here in that when the anti-smoking law passed a few years
ago there were all sorts of dire predictions -- lost revenue
in bars, people getting frostbite going outside, general civil
unrest, etc. That all died down within a few months, and everybody
is happier. It seems not to cross legislator's minds during
the debates on this issue that only 25% of the public smoke
so that smoking doesn't really have much of a contingency.
Legislation to let smoking continue in bars is insufficient.
The smoke always wafts throughout the restaurants, and many
people (my wife and I included) prefer to dine casually at
the bar when there is no smoke to contend with. We tilt our
dining experiences to places that are non-smoking.
-- Bruce Maston, M.D., J.D., Hilton Head Island, SC
Primary seat belt law needed
To the editor:
I work for Milliken and we sponsor a program in the high
schools of Abbeville County called "Seat Belts for Life".
We began this program in 2004 because the prior year we had
3 teenagers killed in our county. We have 3 high schools and
1 teenager was killed from each school. There were also 17
other fatalities that year and none were wearing seat belts.
We do random seat belt audits in the high schools and have
seen our percentages increase from 40% to 90%. We have offered
incentives to the teens who were buckled up ranging from gifts
(such as gift card, gift certificates to restaurants to Carowinds
tickets) to having stickers made with school logos to a competition
between schools with the school with the best results getting
a pizza party for the entire school. The biggest problem that
we are seeing is with parents bringing children to school
and not being buckled up and none of the children in the cars
buckled up. We have also seen a problem with black teenage
boys not buckling up.
We need a primary seat belt law in South Carolina--it is
important! If anyone from the Legislature would like to join
us when we do a seat belt audit, we would welcome them. Another
problem we are seeing here is that some of the local law enforcement
do not wear their seat belts and the comment is that they
are exempt. I try to use law enforcement in our audits but
I have refused to allow any officer to
-- Judy P. White, Calhoun Falls, SC
help if they do not wear their seat belts. I need people who
are examples to the teenagers--because they learn from our
example. We do use county deputies and we also work with the
South Carolina Highway Patrol.
In this new section, we will keep track of Statehouse Report's
record of forecasting what goes on in the legislature. For
example, at the beginning of the year, a commentary called
for no roads to be named for living officials. Sixteen days
later, House Speaker David Wilkins introduced such a measure.
In Statehouse Report:
disclosure needed to highlight influence peddlers:
"Voters deserve to know the people and money behind
efforts to influence lawmakers' votes because policies
that are passed will impact people across the state.
Similarly, state lawmakers deserve to know who is behind
efforts to persuade them to vote. More accountability
is called for. State lawmakers should consider beefing
up campaign disclosure laws to cover efforts to influence
In other outlets:
may consider changes to disclosure rules: "Some
lawmakers say they want to know who is behind it all
and think it is time for a change in the disclosure
laws. 'This thing has the potential
for costing billions of dollars out of the state treasury,
and we as legislators should know whos trying
to influence our state,' said Rep. Ted Vick, D-Chesterfield.
Legislative leaders, including
House Speaker David Wilkins, R-Greenville, say they
might be willing to consider the idea.
"Siphoning public money for private education could
lead to school resegregation, says the Rev. Joseph A.
Darby, the much-respected African American minister at
Morris Brown A.M.E. Church in Charleston." More.
"Now opponents say that tuition tax credits would
in effect re-segregate the state's schools, with whites
fleeing to private schools and public schools becoming
increasingly black." The
Screen: Changes ahead in House leadership?
may be appointed ambassador, successors lining up,
Post and Courier
SOUTH CAROLINA SCORECARD
Here's a "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" related to various
political events from the past week:
Taylor. Hats off to Rep. Adam Taylor for derailing
the statewide impact of the governor's voucher bill. Making
it a test project makes more sense than anything else (other
than killing it outright).
Where do we start this week?
Sanford. It's time to tell the whole truth about your
involvement with the wrong-minded idea to privatize Santee
Altman. It's time to step down from politics. Just
in the last few weeks, Altman has called for Charleston County
to secede for tax purposes, tried to shut down ETV and now
offended women nationwide with knuckle-dragging opinions on
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