Since Republicans began accusing Barack Obama of socialism during his 2008 presidential campaign, the Democratic Socialists of America say their membership has increased 64 percent.  “Suddenly there are more people who want to know what it actually is,” says Fred Hicks, head of the Committee of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, in Louisville, Kentucky.

“This is a wonderful gift the Republicans are giving us,” Frank Llewellyn, the national director of the DSA, told the Louisville Courier-Journal. “We’ve had more attention in the last 12 months than in the last 12 years. But most people don’t have a clue what socialism is.”

Marvin Williams, head of the Central Indiana chapter of the DSA, told the Courier-Journal he noticed an increase in younger attendees at a November state convention.  He says some of them were drawn by concerns about “red-baiting” tactics used by conservatives.

With leaders like these, you don’t need enemies: South Carolina’s stumble-tongued public officials, including a former state elections chief who recently compared an escaped zoo gorilla to First Lady Michelle Obama, have contributed to a considerable insecurity among the state’s citizens.  A new Winthrop University poll shows 60 percent of South Carolinians believe the rest of the country has a negative opinion of the state and 68 percent believe the state’s reputation declined the past year.

In other bad news: Two of the three people believed to have been killed by SeaWorld whale Tilikum during its lifetime were from South Carolina.  Dawn Brancheau, the trainer drowned this week at SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida, was a 1992 graduate of the University of South Carolina.  Her friends from USC days remembered her as a generous, happy person.   In 1999, the body of former Columbia, South Carolina, resident David Dukes was found draped across Tilikum’s back after Dukes apparently hid in the SeaWorld complex and jumped in the whale tank after hours.

No peace in Alabama gambling war: – Alabama Governor Bob Riley’s anti-gambling task force raided an electronic bingo operation in Chickasaw just hours after it opened.  Players and workers were escorted out of the hall but no one was charged.  Officials in Greene County have threatened to use sheriff’s deputies against the task force if it raids the one large electronic bingo operation still open in the state.  The Alabama Senate still hasn’t voted on a bill to put the gambling issue to a referendum vote in November.  Meanwhile, in Florida, even some conservative legislators are speaking favorably of allowing casinos at the state’s beach resorts.  In Mississippi, state-licensed casinos reported January revenues of $193.2 million, up about $8.3 million from December.

What is it with the swords? A Memphis, Tennessee, woman was arrested after she allegedly ran through the halls of her child’s school waving a sword, apparently intent on confronting the parents of another child.  Earlier in the week, a man in Georgetown County, South Carolina, was charged with killing his mother with a sword.  Then there’s that case still pending against a man accused of attacking a Georgia Tech researcher in early February with a samurai sword.

Dew Droplets: Little Brownie Bakers is recalling Lemon Chalet Crème Girl Scout Cookies in Kentucky because they may “smell and taste odd” … Veterinarians in Florida have seen an inordinate number of dogs suffering botulism, apparently caused by eating the carcasses of iguanas killed by the cold … Feral hogs are tearing up the manicured lawns in exclusive Plantation Acres, Florida … A Kentucky House committee killed a state Senate bill that would have required doctors providing abortions to perform an ultrasound before the procedure and offer the patient a chance to view the images of the fetus … Kentucky has revised its proposed lethal injection protocol, removing the possibility that a condemned inmate will have deadly chemicals injected into his neck if attempts to find other veins fail … TVA has agreed to consider using weapon-grade plutonium from discarded nuclear bombs to help fuel its nuclear plants in the next decade … Tennessee state Rep. Ty Cobb, a Columbia Democrat, has introduced a bill that would allow barbershops to have fish tanks … Charleston, South Carolina’s longtime mayor Joe Riley received the National Medal of Arts from President Obama.

Check out our News and Opinion Feeds for a lot more Southern happenings.

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Ron Taylor

Ron Taylor

Ron Taylor was born and raised in Georgia and worked more than 40 years at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution as a reporter and editor and as an online producer for ajc.com and AccessAtlanta. He served for a time as the newspaper's regional editor, overseeing coverage of the South. He is co-author, with Dr. Leonard Ray Teel, of Into the Newsroom:  An Introduction to Journalism and has conducted workshops in the Middle East on feature writing.