Via Julia at Sisyphus Shrugged, I learn that South Carolina is now on the verge of making cockfighting a felony ... but domestic violence, even after multiple offenses, is still a misdemeanor. I want to tell you a little bit about the self-righteous idiot at the center of all this, but first here's the story. (Skip down to the asterisks if you already know what's going on.)
The State House took up two pieces of legislation this week aimed at protecting two different groups. Up for debate was cracking down on gamecock fighting and protecting victims of domestic violence.
A bill protecting cocks passed through the House Judiciary Committee. Rep. John Graham Altman (R-Dist. 119-Charleston) was in favor of the gamecock bill, "I was all for that. Cockfighting reminds me of the Roman circus, coliseum."
A bill advocates say would protect victims against batterers was tabled, killing it for the year. Rep. Altman is on the committee that looked at the domestic violence bill, "I think this bill is probably drafted out of an abundance of ignorance." ...
Both cockfighting and domestic violence are currently misdemeanor crimes, punishable by 30 days in jail. If the bill passes, cockfighting will become a felony, punishable by five years in jail. Domestic violence crimes will remain a misdemeanor.
Now, for Altman, it wasn't enough to stop this bill. He had to insult one its supporters:
Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter (D-Dist. 66-Orangeburg) says of the two bills, "What we have said by the actions of the Judiciary Committee is we aren't going to create a felony if you beat your wife, partner. But now, if you've got some cockfighting going on, whoa! Wait a minute."
Rep. Altman responds to the comparison, "People who compare the two are not very smart and if you don't understand the difference, Ms. Gormley, between trying to ban the savage practice of watching chickens trying to kill each other and protecting people rights in CDV statutes, I'll never be able to explain it to you in a 100 years ma'am."
as well as a TV reporter who dared to question him:
News 10 reporter Kara Gormley asked Altman, "That's fine if you feel you will never be able to explain it to me, but my question to you is: does that show that we are valuing a gamecock's life over a woman's life?"
Altman again, "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."...
And sources have confirmed that he's the guy who made this truly vile comment at a Judiciary Committee Meeting:
The bill was titled "Protect Our Women in Every Relationship" or the POWER act....
The discussion on the tape is as follows:
"Can you tell me why the subcommittee in its great wisdom entitles this 'Protect Our Women in Any Relationship act'?"
"You would have to ask Ms. Cobb Hunter, Mr. Leach. They're the ones who drafted the bill and they're the ones who named it that. It was not the subcommittee."
"But the subcommittee thought that was a good enough idea to keep it as 'Protect Women' and not 'Protect Both Women and Men'."
"We didn't retitle the bill if that's your question."
"Call it 'POPER,' Protect Our People."
(Sources confirm Rep. Altman's comment.) "Pop Her Again."
"Pop Her Again" isn't John Graham Altman III's first controversial remark. Here are a few others:
In January 1997, state lawmakers battled over what to do with the Confederate flag. At a meeting of the House Judiciary committee, Altman took aim at flag opponents, telling them,"Quit looking at the symbols. Get out and get a job. Quit shooting each other. Quit having illegitimate babies. Let's move on from here."
It's just one of many times Altman's comments have enraged his critics. Later he wrote to state Education Superintendent Dr. Barbara Nielsen, who supported removing the flag from the State House dome. "The kindest help I can offer you on any level is to try to get you quickly qualified for the Federal Witness Protection program," Altman wrote. (Source.)
In 1994, he angered some by proposing that the Charleston County school board designate a "White History Month." (Source.)
On hearing that the Citadel Board had voted a resolution to remove the Confederate flag: "I never thought we'd find the Citadel Board of Visitors and the NAACP holding hands and whispering sweet nothings."...
The SC Representative, Charleston-R, is working to defeat Hate Crimes legislation in the SC House. He accused its proponents of "spreading drivel," and said, "This bill will make white heterosexuals second-class citizens." (Source.)
Altman believes the issue of civil unions is just a smokescreen, saying that gay people just want to get married "because they want to bugger each other. Can two heterosexual men get married? No, because you've got to follow up with conduct, which is having sex." (Source.)
And here are a few highlights from Altman's career:
* He had a charming response when a court rebuffed abortion opponents:
After a federal judge ruled the state's "Choose Life" license plate was unconstitutional because there was no forum to provide the opposing political viewpoint, a Republican lawmaker devised his own compromise - a "Choose Death" tag.
"My bill is simply a reaction to the abortionists," said State Rep. John Graham Altman, R-Charleston. "They're pro-choice. Well, they've got a choice - whether to buy [the tag] or not." (Source.)
* He tried to cut the budget of South Carolina Educational Television (ETV) when it dared to air a documentary on gay people in the South. Then again, he tried to get the entire board of ETV fired when he learned that it planned to air a film depicted some rural schools as rundown.
* Earlier this month, he made a bizarre proposal that his county secede from South Carolina for tax purposes, as a protest against assessment increases.
* Needless to say, he vehemently opposes gay marriage and supports "traditional marriage" -- even though he's been married three times. (Scroll down.)
This is old-school down-home conservatism, but it's also the modern GOP.
(Some links from Crack the Bell, which has more coverage and comments on Altman.)