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Government The Courts

Subversives In South Carolina Mostly Safe 200

Posted by kdawson
from the as-you-were dept.
sabt-pestnu sends in an update on our story about South Carolina and subversives. "According to Eugene Volokh, the Raw Story article has got it backwards. Westlaw says that the cited statute dates back to 1951, when a lot of anti-Communist statutes were being enacted nationwide. What brought Raw Story's attention to it may be that South Carolina is once again trying to repeal the archaic law. And in any event, a half-century-old case (Yates vs. United States, 354 U.S. 298 (1957)) took most of the teeth out of such laws."
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Subversives In South Carolina Mostly Safe

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  • Mostly harmless.

  • Doh! (Score:5, Funny)

    by sargeUSMC (905860) on Monday February 15, 2010 @08:46PM (#31150894)

    How do I withdraw my application?

    • Just send your withdrawal letter to the FBI.
    • Dude, I've gotta explain why I thought they were talking about subversion, which I'm sure will go over real well.

      • by SEWilco (27983) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @01:36AM (#31152482) Journal
        Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of /.?
  • by zappepcs (820751) on Monday February 15, 2010 @08:55PM (#31150958) Journal

    How is this law, real or not, any different than thousands of other laws on the books in various states that aim to make something illegal by requiring that you register your 'group', business or service?

    Anyone wanting to do something contrary to the morals of the standing legislators is likely to fall foul of one or more laws with the same miasmal qualities. For instance, look at sex laws; they are nothing but attempts to stop 'subversive' elements of local society, or at least make it so you can fine them if they do those 'subversive' things, and generally make them unwelcome in the community.

    I say we should hang those that enact such laws if it were not so hypocritical ....

    • by shentino (1139071)

      What worries me is that with all these "unconstitutional" laws still being on the books, all it will take is a few braindead SCOTUS rulings to dust them off and put them back in full force.

      • by RenderSeven (938535) on Monday February 15, 2010 @10:44PM (#31151592)
        Whats far more likely is a brain-dead local authority tries to dust them off and apply them and SCOTUS tosses them out. You and I may not always like the outcome of SCOTUS decisions but they do tend to serve the Framers' intent of keeping legislators and their more ridiculous laws in check.
        • Whats far more likely is a brain-dead local authority tries to dust them off and apply them and SCOTUS tosses them out. You and I may not always like the outcome of SCOTUS decisions but they do tend to serve the Framers' intent of keeping legislators and their more ridiculous laws in check.

          Yeah, like, maybe 200 years ago. Certainly not in this century or the last have they done much of keeping things in check. Things like the changes to eminent domain that they magically puffed into existence, because we all know taking land and giving it to business interests is for "the public good."

          Or how about that case of the farmer who did not want to comply with legislation that regulated what amount of wheat he could grow? That law was billed as being supported under "interstate commerce," and then a

  • by Qzukk (229616) on Monday February 15, 2010 @08:55PM (#31150960) Journal

    What's the point of being subversive if it's not forbidden?

  • by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Monday February 15, 2010 @09:04PM (#31151002) Homepage
    Very often laws on the books stop mattering not because they are repealed by the legislature but because they cease to get enforced or get enforced very rarely. The classic example of this is laws against pornography which still exists in many jurisdictions but by and large don't matter since almost no one is prosecuted. Unfortunately, you then get every few years someone like John Ashcroft in charge who decides that prosecuting porn makers should be a high priority of the federal government and then assigns multiple agents full time to prosecute videos made of consenting adults. So getting rid of obsolete legislation when one can is a good idea since it can't come back and bite you when an extremist manages to get elected or appointed to a relevant position.
    • by fm6 (162816) on Monday February 15, 2010 @09:28PM (#31151138) Homepage Journal

      Unfortunately, you don't have to wait for a particularly repressive official to get persecuted by such laws. You just have to be somebody with no political clout.

      Classic case: not so long go, most states had laws against "sodomy" — basically, oral or anal sex. Theoretically, this law applied to everybody, but in practice it only got applied to gays. (Well, also rapists, but there it was just used to add counts to the existing charge.) Eventually, most states repealed these laws, but even the liberal Warren court refused to find this hypocrisy unconstitutional. Curiously enough, the remaining anti-sodomy laws were finally thrown out by the hyper-conservative Roberts court. That probably says a lot about the change in attitude towards homosexuality during that time period.

      • by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Monday February 15, 2010 @09:41PM (#31151218) Homepage
        Huh? Lawrence v Texas, which threw out the remaining anti-sodomy laws was decided in 2003. Renquist didn't die until 2005. So it wasn't the Roberts court. (I'd argue with the claim that the current court is "hyper-conservative" but that's a separate issue).
        • by fm6 (162816)

          You're right, it was the Renquist Court. I got my times wrong. But I think you'll agree that the court under Renquist wasn't a lot more liberal than it is now.

      • by davidwr (791652) on Monday February 15, 2010 @10:08PM (#31151370) Homepage Journal

        Lawrence v. Texas (2003) threw out laws that banned private sex acts between consenting adults.

        Even after 2003, there is still anti-gay discrimination when it came to consenting acts between teenagers compared to the same acts between consenting heterosexual couples:

        1) I think some states still have laws on the books that make gay sex a felony, those laws are theoretically enforceable against a 17-year-old gay couple.

        2) Likewise, in states where there is no Romeo and Juliet law, straight couples can have sex all they want if they get married first. Gay couples, well, good luck getting a marriage license outside of a handful of states. Even when the laws are non-discriminatory, the application can be - some prosecutors may look the other way when an 18 year old man has sex with a 17 year old almost-woman, but they'll be happy to throw the book at an 18-year-old man with a 17-year-old male youth. Or the prosecutor may not be biased but the parents of the girl may be willing to not press charges but the homophobic parents of the 17 year old boy may insist on it.

        • by fm6 (162816)

          On point 1, there's nothing theoretical about it. A few years ago, I was watching one of those MTV reality shows. One of the characters was a gay college-aged guy from Massachusetts — yes, the first state to issue same-sex marriage licenses. When he was in high school, he'd asked another guy to the prom. When his date's parents found out, they tried to bring criminal charges against him. They were able to get a hearing, because he was past the age of consent (16 in that state) and his 15-year-old date

        • by maxume (22995) on Monday February 15, 2010 @10:29PM (#31151484)

          The government should just stop recognizing marriage.

          (the big downside there would likely be companies that stopped extending health benefits to families of employees. I can't think of any other real big ones (most other stuff can easily be handled with contracts))

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Martin Blank (154261)

            And then inheritance and child custody issues go all to hell.

            Government has a Supreme Court-recognized interest in promoting the family. They are always -- always -- delicate in how they word that, and they always address the balance between personal rights and improving society. They have in a number of cases taken away government's power to regulate family life -- interracial marriages, adoption/child custody by gays, use of birth control -- and I expect that in the near future they will remove the powe

          • by steelfood (895457)

            You can't outright get rid of marriage. You have to replace them with something, i.e. civil unions.

            That should solve the matter once and for all.

        • by tehcyder (746570)

          in states where there is no Romeo and Juliet law

          What if you're a 14 year old who has sex, both you and partner must kill themselves?
          No, I'm not American.

  • by fm6 (162816) on Monday February 15, 2010 @09:12PM (#31151050) Homepage Journal

    Westlaw says that the cited statute dates back to 1951, when a lot of anti-Communist statutes were being enacted nationwide.

    When I went to college in the 70s, I had a number of jobs at the same state U I was attending. All University employees, including me, were required to sign an oath that they were "not a member of the Communist Party or any other organization which advocates the overthrow of the Government by force or violence". Naturally, I had to wonder what kind of namby-pamby insurrectionists Moscow was infiltrating our way, if they were willing to violently overthrow the government, but not lie about their willingness to do so!

    This is not quite a dead issue. Quite recently, a Quaker hired to teach remedial math at Cal State East Bay lost her job after somebody noticed that she'd amended the mandatory oath she'd signed when she was hired. (The oath requires the signer to "support and defend" the California and U.S,. constitutions; not wanting to violate her religious principles, she'd inserted the word "nonviolently".) She was eventually rehired after the usual legal squabble, which ended with the state AG ruling that the unamended oath did not obligated the signer to do military service!

    • by Chris Burke (6130) on Monday February 15, 2010 @09:15PM (#31151064) Homepage

      (The oath requires the signer to "support and defend" the California and U.S,. constitutions; not wanting to violate her religious principles, she'd inserted the word "nonviolently".) She was eventually rehired after the usual legal squabble, which ended with the state AG ruling that the unamended oath did not obligated the signer to do military service!

      Aw. I was hoping the issue was resolved when they balanced the score by hiring someone who amended the oath by inserting "exclusively through violence".

    • by Nidi62 (1525137)
      You still have to sign that oath. I know, I did it last fall to get a part-time job at my university.
      • by fm6 (162816)

        The University I mentioned also still requires an oath. But it's not the same oath — the anti-Commie language I quoted is gone. I'd be surprised if yours did either.

    • by mhajicek (1582795) on Monday February 15, 2010 @09:43PM (#31151240)

      (The oath requires the signer to "support and defend" the California and U.S,. constitutions;

      If I had signed an oath like that I would be forced to attempt to overthrow those who claim to be the government, and reinstate a government that actually follows the constitution.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Brett Buck (811747)

        (The oath requires the signer to "support and defend" the California and U.S,. constitutions;

        If I had signed an oath like that I would be forced to attempt to overthrow those who claim to be the government, and reinstate a government that actually follows the constitution.

        So, you have somehow concluded the that requiring someone to "support and defend the constitution" as a condition of employment, is, itself, unconstitutional? Fascinating.

        • by fm6 (162816)

          I think he's arguing that he has a constitutional obligation to overthrow a government he considers unconstitutional. I'm guessing he's a birther...

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            And I'm guessing that you have not read (or read and not understood) the Constitution if you think this current government is operating within the parameters.

            • by Lehk228 (705449)
              herp derp.

              not any more unconstitutional than things have been running for 100 years
              • by Asic Eng (193332)
                And a lot less unconstitutional than the previous one. Still wouldn't it be reasonable to expect the government just to stick to the constitution? Election in the US is not a choice between good and evil but between very evil and not quite so evil. There is room for improvement methinks.
                • by lwsimon (724555) <lyndsy@lyndsysimon.com> on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @10:08AM (#31154656) Homepage Journal

                  I'm no defender of the Bush administration (particularly the second term), but I think you'd be hard pressed to show that Obama's has been a "lot less unconstitutional".

                  Obama's Nobel Prize money springs to mind, though it isn't quite germane to this discussion, as it is not strictly a constitutional issue. According to law, he has 60 days from receipt to dispose of the money - he can't keep it. Where is it?

                  • by Asic Eng (193332)
                    I don't know about the money, but torture, going to war on false pretenses, compromising FBI agents, the enemy combatant concept - these things are far more important to me. Sure Obama has been a great disappointment on that, basically failing to clean up anything the previous administration did but at least he didn't actually come up with that stuff.
          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Hardly. He's just claiming that current government violates the constitution(s), and that IF he had signed an oath to defend said constitution(s), he would then be obligated to attempt an overthrow. He isn't saying the constitution(s) obligate(s) him to do anything of the sort. Nor saying requiring such an oath as a condition of employment violates them.

    • by Kjella (173770) on Monday February 15, 2010 @10:33PM (#31151510) Homepage

      This is not quite a dead issue. Quite recently, a Quaker hired to teach remedial math at Cal State East Bay lost her job after somebody noticed that she'd amended the mandatory oath she'd signed when she was hired. (The oath requires the signer to "support and defend" the California and U.S,. constitutions; not wanting to violate her religious principles, she'd inserted the word "nonviolently".)

      Personally I find the whole oath thing weird, here in Norway being a public school teacher is just a job not being an agent of the state. It binds you no more or less to uphold the constitution than it should for any other citizen, not that being a citizen is required either. And even for a citizen I find it weird, think of some of the amendments that have been repealed like Prohibition, what if you say "I don't support or defend Prohibition, it is wrong and should be removed"? Such oaths should not infringe on your first amendment rights.

      • It's weird in a lot (most?) of the US as well. I've had jobs at 3 different colleges now, and I have yet to have to sign anything like that.

        Frankly, I find that pretty disturbing. There have been plenty of things added and repealed from constitutions over the years. There's no reason to think the the documents currently align with, and will always align with the signee's morals.

        If forced to sign something like that for a job, I'd modify it too. Probably by inserting inserting the words "a copy of" befor
    • by billstewart (78916) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @01:56AM (#31152608) Journal

      Back when I had a security clearance in the 80s, they also asked if you had any family members who were part of organizations advocating the overthrow of the U.S. One guy had marked "yes" - his explanation was that his great-grandfather had fought for the Confederacy during the War Between The States. They let him in anyway...

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by fm6 (162816)

        Too cute. And you know, it represents a kind of doublethink. It's OK to support a rebellion that would have destroyed the nation and maintained the enslavement of a huge population. After all, it was just a bunch of good old boys.

        Now if I had to get a security clearance, I suppose I'd have to mention that my grandmother was a Ukrainian anarchist. I never met the lady, and I doubt if I share any of her political views, but somehow I suspect it would be more of an issue than this CSA guy.

  • by LostCluster (625375) * on Monday February 15, 2010 @09:19PM (#31151082)
    Al Queda of South Carolina has declared a victory!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 15, 2010 @09:41PM (#31151224)

    Prosecutor: Tell the court why you think he is a traitor to this country.
    Miss America: I think Mr. Mellish (Woody Allen's character) is a traitor to this country because his views are different from the views of the president and others of his kind. Differences of opinion should be tolerated, but not when they're too different. Then he becomes a subversive mother.

    - "Bananas" (1971)

  • It was a similar kind of law passed back then. I don't know if it was repealed or is just being ignored because it was declared unconstitutional. Someone named Ober had pushed it.

    There were a lot of these laws passed during the time Senator Joseph McCarthy was conducting his witch hunts ^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H investigations. There was also something at the time called the House Un-American Activities Committee that did similar things (often involving guilt by vague association) . Then came the famous Ar

    • by ravenshrike (808508) on Monday February 15, 2010 @10:07PM (#31151366)

      While McCarthy's investigations were quite vile and unconsitutional, they were not witch hunts. A witch hunt implies looking for something that's not there. Oddly enough, most of the evidence that came out after the fact confirmed a great deal of those he investigated to in fact be communists.

      • by tsm_sf (545316)
        A witch hunt implies looking for something that's not there.

        You're thinking of a snipe hunt.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by cptnapalm (120276)

        Mod parent down! We don't allow reality here!!!!

      • by maxume (22995) on Monday February 15, 2010 @10:19PM (#31151430)

        You are playing a definition game. McCarthy wasn't simply looking for Communists, he was looking for a threat to the American way of life. Oddly enough, it wasn't there.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Garwulf (708651)

          "You are playing a definition game. McCarthy wasn't simply looking for Communists, he was looking for a threat to the American way of life. Oddly enough, it wasn't there."

          Actually, yes it was. It just wasn't where he was looking.

          McCarthy was an opportunist who destroyed a lot of lives while running a witch hunt for communists - more or less taking what the FBI was doing and running rampant with it. And, up until the mid-1990s, the history books didn't have the information the FBI did from the NSA. So, ac

        • McCarthy wasn't simply looking for Communists, he was looking for a threat to the American way of life. Oddly enough, it wasn't there.

          Oh, yes, it was - just a little closer than Sen. McCarthy was willing to believe.

      • the problem is that you would be outed, ostracized and otherwise derided

        you defeat communism because it is ideologically inferior. you don't defeat communism with thuggery. let communists speak openly and without fear of reprisals with their views. and let them fall and fail on the incoherence of their flawed ideology

        unfortunately, we see the same braying thuggery "socialism! socialism! bark! bark!" today as in the mccarthy era. as if socialism is anything but medicare, the interstate highway system etc.: t

        • by dr_dank (472072) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @01:15AM (#31152352) Homepage Journal

          so why the hell do so many americans defy universal healthcare?

          It's the irrational fear that somebody somewhere is getting something that they didn't earn or deserve.

          • by c6gunner (950153) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @01:45AM (#31152550)

            It's the irrational fear that somebody somewhere is getting something that they didn't earn or deserve.

            No, we weren't talking about gitmo ...

          • the moral argument: if someone is lazy, they don't deserve a wii or an iphone. and they won't get one. but that doesn't mean they deserve to die early of easily treatable diabetes for example

            the investment argument: when you invest in the health of your community, it pays dividends to you in terms of: your own kids not getting diseases from sickly other people, your coworkers showing up and working instead of out on disability, the breadwinner actually able to work, so his kids don't wind up trying to burgl

          • by Arccot (1115809) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @10:09AM (#31154678)

            so why the hell do so many americans defy universal healthcare?

            It's the irrational fear that somebody somewhere is getting something that they didn't earn or deserve.

            Everyone I've talked to who opposes universal healthcare believes the government, by increasing restrictions and tightening regulations, will make the situation worse rather than better, being an often poorly run government.

            Not everyone who doesn't think as you do is an idiot. There's no need to attack and marginalize people who disagree with you. Hopefully that's not the kind of person you want to be, and you'll re-examine your perceptions in the future.

          • by Ogive17 (691899)

            so why the hell do so many americans defy universal healthcare? It's the irrational fear that somebody somewhere is getting something that they didn't earn or deserve.

            My opinion is that the Federal Government can't do it efficiently, at least not with what they've been proposing to this point. There are much easier ways to improve the current system that should be taken before socializing health care.

        • by moeinvt (851793) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @10:02AM (#31154602)

          Your assumptions and arguments conveniently ignore the U.S. Constitution. You referred to "Americans" in a collective sense, so I'll assume you're talking about the Federal government.

          "...a transparent government whose mandate is to keep you alive?"

          We haven't had anything close to a "trasparent" government at the federal level in recent history. Furthermore, the government's madate is NOT to "keep us alive" or "keep us safe". Their mandate is to preserve our individual liberty and carry out a very limited and specifically defined set of functions. Providing healthcare is not one of those functions.

          "...why the hell do so many americans defy universal healthcare?"

          1. It's un-Constitutional (i.e. illegal)
          2. The government can't even be trusted with their existing powers. Why do so many Americans want to give them even more?
          3. The government's biggest welfare programs are all insolvent. They've clearly demonstrated their unwillingness and/or inability to actually manage welfare programs.

          "socialized universal healthcare is not perfect, its simply BETTER than the current retarded system we have. admit it, and lose your ignorant fear of the scary word "socialism".

          See #2 above. I'm sure that you're a well-meaning individual, but what you get out of Washingon D.C. is legislation with a nice cover sheet that reads "Healthcare Reform" placed on top of 2000 pages of corporate welfare, tax increases, and expansion of government power. Do you actually believe these people are going to pass a bill that threatens insurance and pharmaceutical company profits?

          "...all they do is wind up killing some of their neighbors and friends, the same as they do when they oppose universal healthcare."

          Now you're being as irrational as the people who suggest that the government wants to give grandma a lethal injection.

          "...same as the mccarthy era- its not based on logic and reason, but based on fear of the unknown."

          There is some opposition to government run healthcare that may be due to fear of the unknown, but there are very logical and reasonable arguments for opposing it. Fear of the "S-word" is a fortunate counter-balance to the blind acceptance of the empty promise that government is going to provide free universal healthcare. A promise that they have no intention or ability to fulfill.

          • What part of even the most government-run health care isn't covered by the "general welfare" clause of the US Constitution? You may not like its existence, but it puts general welfare on a par with defense (they're parallel clauses in the text).

            Why do you think the United States is uniquely inept? Pretty much every other developed country has a health care system at least as good as ours (measured by public health numbers), often better, and spends a lot less per capita. When I grew up, the general at

      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 15, 2010 @11:48PM (#31151924)

        The witch hunt analogy is very appropriate. In Salem, etc. they persecuted witches (or anyone who wasn't Bible thumpin protestant or they just didn't like). Didn't matter if the witches/communists were actually bad people doing bad things. The possibility that you might be a communist/witch was enough to get you or your career burned at the stake depending on the century. So yes, McCarthy was on a witch hunt. The morality and wisdom of such a hunt is left as an exercise for the reader.

      • by dbIII (701233) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @12:14AM (#31152040)

        Oddly enough, most of the evidence that came out after the fact confirmed a great deal of those he investigated to in fact be communists.

        The defendant gives money to the poor and obeys the ten commandments - he must be a filthy commie!
        When you expand the definition of Communist to anyone you can harrass if it gets you closer to the White House as McCarthy did then that is a lot of people. He was nothing but an opportunistic scumbag that would have got furthur if he hadn't decided to pretend that the US armed forces from General Marshall down were Communists.

  • Those damned activist judges on the Supreme Court, always working against individual liberties! What we need is more state governm...

    Oh, wait.

  • The law is full of cruft like this. It's literally dead code. Legislators, by necessity, cannot simply cut code from "the program". They actually have to vote on all the changes. As frustrating as programming can be, can you imagine how it would be if you literally had to have a vote on every commit to the repository?

    I used to work in a shop where we printed law books. I got to inspect the printing plates and sometimes had time to read them. My favorite was the law from some mid-western state that put

    • by lwsimon (724555)

      I note that they trap them, not shoot them.

      With the price of ammunition these day, $1.50 per head - or per paw, as the case may be - wouldn't even cover your expenses.

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