Confederate Powderworks in danger


The city of Augusta,Ga.,is being asked to either act now to repair the Confederate Powderworks chimney or turn it over to a private organization before it collapses.

“The chimney must be restored at this time, or it will fall,” Lee Herron, the commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans’ Brigadier General E. Porter Alexander Camp No. 158, told the Augusta Commission’s Finance Committee last week, according to a story in The Augusta Chronicle.

Herron estimated that it would cost $134,000 repair the 147-year-old landmark, the last remnant of a vast Civil War munitions complex along the Augusta Canal. That’s an especially tall order for the city given the tough economic times.

The total estimated cost of repair is $192,000, and the SCV camp has already raised about $58,000, Herron said.

He said he doubted making up the difference will be a priority for the city this year, given the economy, but that maybe his group could raise the funds.

“It’s hard for someone to give money to something that they do not own,” Herron said, showing he has a solid understanding of human nature.

The Confederate Powder Works, the only permanent edifice constructed by the Confederate States of America, was built in 1862 and continued in operation until April 1865.

During its lifetime, the facility produced approximately 7,000 pounds of gunpowder per day, or 2.75 million pounds total. It produced enough gunpowder to fully meet the needs of the Confederate armies and still retained a surplus of 70,000 pounds at the end of the war.

Here’s hoping that the City of Augusta will take this opportunity to let a private organization take over maintenance of this important part of the region’s history, rather than either divert money needed elsewhere to fund core services or simply letting this one-of-a-kind landmark crumble beyond repair.

Congaree Bancshares to issue corrected financials


Congaree Bancshares will have to correct financial statements issued in the company’s 2007 annual report and quarterly reports for the first three quarters of 2008, it announced Monday.

“After discussion with the SEC staff between January and March 2009 and discussion among our management, accountants and audit committee, we determined it was appropriate to correct the financial statements included in the Original Periodic Reports,” according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing. “We had failed to include a valuation allowance that would offset our deferred tax assets recorded during the year ended December 31, 2007, and the three quarters ended March 31, 2008, June 30, 2008 and September 30, 2008.”

Specifically, the Cayce, SC-based parent of Congaree State Bank concluded that it should restate its financial statements to reflect that the company likely would not have realized all its net deferred tax assets within a reasonable period of time for the year ended Dec. 31, 2007, and the three quarters ended March 31, 2008, June 30, 2008 and Sept. 30, 2008.

“As a result, we have determined that our financial statements included in the Original Periodic Reports should be restated to reflect a valuation allowance of $1,352,119 for our deferred tax assets that offsets the previously recorded deferred tax benefit of $982,682 for the year ended December 31, 2007,” according to the SEC filing. “The restatement will eliminate the previously recorded deferred tax benefit of $982,682 for the year ended December 31, 2007 and $211,761, $284,878 and $253,705 for the quarters ended March 31, 2008, June 30, 2008 and September 30, 2008, respectively.”

Congaree State Bank’s Chief Financial Officer, Charlie Lovering, who is also interim CEO, had a conference call with the bank’s accounting firm, Elliott Davis, on March 27 to resolve the error and concluded the previously issued financial statements could no longer be relied upon.

The past few months have been trying ones for the young bank, begun in 2006. In January, founder and chief executive Hank Ray left the bank, though no official reason was given for his departure. Earlier this month another founding board member, Dr. Victoria Samuels, stepped down. Samuels left her position with Congaree Bancshares to take a position with an out-of-state hospital, according to the SEC filing.

Congaree State Bank lost $430,533 during the quarter ended Sept. 30, according to earlier information put out by the company. 

Earlier this year, the bank received $3.3 million in federal bailout money. Shares of company stock haven’t traded since early February.

Cotton acreage projections may be bumped up


Cotton plantings this year may not decline as much as originally anticipated, thanks in part to a drought in Texas and lower prices for potential alternative crops, according to a Bloomberg News survey.

Farmers may sow slightly more than 8.5 million acres of cotton this year, the Bloomberg survey indicated. That’s up sharply from the 8.1-million-acre estimate released by the National Cotton Council last month, but would still be down sharply from 2008, when nearly 9.5 million acres were planted, Bloomberg reported.

Bloomberg’s survey is in line with US Department of Agriculture projections that 8.5 million acres of cotton will be planted in the US in 2009.

Even if farmers adhere to Bloomberg’s findings, it would be the smallest amoiunt of cotton planted since 1983 and the second lowest acreage-wise since the War Between the States.

Texas, the largest producer of U.S. cotton, is experiencing a “severe drought,” the National Weather Service said on March 19. The dryness reduces the chance farmers will switch more acres to soybeans and corn, which need more water, analysts said.

While soybeans and corn still offer attractive returns, they aren’t high enough to supplant more cotton acreage, said O.A. Cleveland, a Mississippi State University professor emeritus. He projects farmers will plant 8.8 million acres with cotton and expects the USDA’s new estimate to be 8.6 million, Bloomberg reported.

While the Bloomberg story didn’t detail projections by state, the National Cotton Council’s earlier estimate reported significant declines expected for much of the Southeast for the coming year: 

  • South Carolina plans a cutback of 18 percent as growers shift primarily to soybeans.
  • Alabama reports a projected reduction of 33 percent;
  • Virginia anticipates a 23 percent decline;
  • Georgia expects cotton production to be off 17 percent;
  • North Carolina plan a cutback of 12 percent;
  • Florida was the only Southeastern state to indicate an expansion, with an increase of 3 percent expected for 2009.

Cotton is the single most important textile fiber in the world, accounting for nearly 40 percent of total world fiber production, according to the USDA. The United States, while typically ranking second to China in production, is the leading exporter, accounting for over one-third of global trade in raw cotton. 

Earth Hour produces a lot of hot air


In case you missed it – or were smart enough to avoid it – the second annual Earth Hour took place Saturday.

Earth Hour, for ignorant troglodytes too wrapped up in working, raising families or generally going about their lives, asks people to turn off their lights on the last Saturday of March between 8:30 and 9:30 p.m. and seeks to spread darkness around the world as a symbol of humanity’s desire to affect climate change.

According to the movement’s website Earth Hour “is a global call to action for every individual, every business, and every community. A call to stand up and take control over the future of our planet.”

Of course, Earth Hour is really nothing more than a style over substance because, as Jason King explains, “turning off light bulbs will almost certainly both increase energy usage and spend more money in the process.”

In fact, Earth Hour may actually damage the environment because of one of the most critical laws of economics: the law of unintended consequences, according to King:

“Let’s first consider what a family is saving by turning their “nonessential” lights off. To do this we’ll do some very simple math: being generous, one 100-watt light bulb costs around a penny per hour to operate and generates around 1 tenth of a pound of carbon. If one therefore ran 10 light bulbs, then, a little over 1 pound of carbon would not be emitted and a dime would be saved by Earth Hour.

“The question all individuals should ask themselves is, since this decision doesn’t occur in a vacuum, what alternatives are present to sitting in a dark, lightless house. What is this family going to do in the dark? They might burn candles — and if they’re paraffin, they are based in fossil fuels and will provide a dubious savings in either carbon or monetary cost. If they were to use flashlights instead of light bulbs the result would be an increase in carbon because candles and light bulbs are less energy efficient.

“What if that family drove for 15 minutes, went and watched the stars, and drove back home? That trip would cost whatever a half-hour’s worth of driving costs. If this trip took a gallon of gas, that would create around 20 pounds of carbon dioxide and would cost over $2 … for a dramatically increased cost in cash and carbon.

“One can wonder further about the ramifications on safety and efficiency of turning off “nonessential” lights  and conclude that no meaningful savings can be had. Because households are responsible for only 25% of the total electric lighting, we must also consider the commercial and industrial sectors. Instead of being at home, in darkness, will shopkeepers have to return to their stores to guard them for an hour? Will adults turn on lights in dark rooms when they need to move around the house? Will candles generate more fires? Obviously none of these unforeseen circumstances — all of which seem plausible — will improve our carbon footprint.”

Yes, as with so much else involving the environmental movement, Earth Hour isn’t about real change, it’s about symbolism and empty rhetoric, along with healthy doses of class envy and anti-capitalism. 

Going along with Earth Hour is a sucker’s bet, one the environmental movement is counting on a majority of people to buy into.

Lying down with dogs, GM chief gets up with fleas

GM Wagoner

Apparently not satisfied with efforts to nationalize banks, the Obama Administration is getting more involved in other industries, as well.

Sunday it was revealed that General Motors Corp. Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner would step down immediately at the request of the White House. The news comes as President Barack Obama prepares to unveil additional restructuring efforts designed to save the domestic auto industry.

Obama is to announce measures to restructure GM and Chrysler today in exchange for additional government loans. The companies have been living on $17.4 billion in government aid and have requested $21.6 billion more, according to The Associated Press.

So, either Wagoner disagreed with the Administration regarding GM’s future direction or the Administration simply wanted him out so it would have a free hand in telling company officials how to run the company.

One thing you can count on: All GM’s future problems, no matter who’s responsible, will be attributed to Wagoner. He’s now the official fall guy.

Remembering the politician who taxed urinals


Rome celebrated the 2,000th birthday of Emperor Vespasian over the weekend, kicking off 10 months of festivities to highlight the life of the man who help build the Colosseum.

Vespasian came to power amid great chaos in the Roman Empire, the last of four emperors who ruled Rome in a single year, 69 AD.

According to a story in The Independent about the anniversary of Vespasian’s birth, “he took drastic measures to restore sanity to the Roman Empire’s finances, which had been emptied by Nero’s extravagance.”

“He raised taxes steeply … and famously introduced a tax on public urinals, which is why in Italy they are associated with him to this day. When his son Titus remonstrated with him over this measure, the emperor held out a handful of coins for him to sniff. These come from the urinal tax, he said, “Pecunia non olet” (money has no smell).”

He taxed public urinals and did so without a shred of embarrassment. Sounds like someone who’d fit in just fine with our elected leaders today, doesn’t it?

Confederate musket auctioned in Edgefield, SC


A piece of American history was sold Saturday. An 1861 Springfield rifle carried during the War Between the States by W.A. Reynolds of the 55th Georgia regiment was auctioned off in Edgefield, SC, for $2,800 to an undisclosed buyer.

According to research done by Murrell’s Auction Co., Reynolds served as a private in Company D of  the 55th Georgia regiment, which was organized at Camp Randolph, Ga., in July 1862 and made up of men from Hall County, Ga., called the Hall Volunteers.

The 55th Georgia was sent to east Tennessee and later marched into Kentucky before returning to Tennessee. After surrendering at Cumberland Gap in September 1863, the 55th had the misfortune of being sent to Camp Douglas, in Chicago, Ill.

Camp Douglas was among the most notorious of the Union prisoner of war camps, with at least 6,000 Confederates dying in captivity between 1862-65.

Many Southern soldiers who died there were buried in a mass grave, which today is considered the largest in the western hemisphere. Camp Douglas eventually came to be called the North’s “Andersonville” for its inhumane conditions.

Some members of the 55th were later exchanged and returned to Confederate service, but it’s not clear what became of W.A. Reynolds.

The Springfield rifle musket was the most frequently used rifle of the Civil War. It was a single-shot, muzzle-loading gun detonated with a percussion cap. It had a rifled barrel, which dramatically increased accuracy over a smoothbore musket, and fired a .58 caliber Minié ball – an inch-long, bullet-shaped projectile – rather than a round ball as used in older muskets, according to Wikipedia.

The 38-inch-long rifled barrel made it possible to hit a target from as far away as 500 yards. By the end of the war, approximately 1.5 million Springfield rifle muskets had been produced by the Springfield Armory and 20 subcontractors, according to Wikipedia.

Senator strikes a blow for bread and circuses


One can’t help but breathe easier after hearing about Utah Senator Orrin Hatch’s desire to hold subcommittee meetings and possibly introduce legislation to rectify perhaps the most pressing issue facing humanity today: the college football Bowl Championship Series.

As Hatch told the Deseret News: “As I have said before, the BCS system is anti-competitive, unfair and un-American. I am looking forward to exploring what legislative remedies might be applied to fix a system that violates our nation’s antitrust laws by placing non-BCS universities at a serious competitive disadvantage.”

And who says there are no statesmen left anymore?

Of course, this has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that Hatch’s homestate University of Utah football team was the nation’s only undefeated team at the end of the last bowl season, but did not get invited to the BCS championship game — and finished No. 2 in the final Associated Press poll (which is not tied to the BCS).

Actually, this may not be a bad thing. Sure, getting pandering politicians involved in college football can’t help but be bad for schools, athletes and fans, but if it takes our elected leaders’ attention off things like micromanaging our economy for even a little while, it’s a good thing.

(Hat tip: With Leather)

Standing up for small-town South Carolina


Kudos to Brian McCarty over at Voting Under the Influence for striking a blow for his hometown of Honea Path, SC, and, by extension, small towns everywhere.

McCarty relates a recent experience that occurred in Columbia when, in response to telling someone that he was from the Upstate community of Honea Path (population 3,504), he was asked “Why in the world would someone like you ever move to place like that?”

Instead of punctuating his affection for his hometown with a few choice words, McCarty instead eloquently laid out the virtues of Honea Path – and that of many other small towns – on his blog.

Among the highlights:

“Someone like me,” remembers being able to walk or ride my bicycle all around town to places like the library or Wilson’s Dime Store to buy baseball cards. I remember small town legends like the late Sheriff E.E. “Duck” Cooley, coming into the barber shop and putting his gun on the sink as he got his hair cut and we boys looked wide eyed at him and the gun. I remember Bill Ashley, that old marine who fought in the Pacific, teaching me how to stack hay and telling me, “I am going to show you this one time boy and one time only.”

“Someone like me” hauled hay, cut grass, and worked in the local mill. No politician I ever worked for or any big client ever taught me as much about life as growing up in Honea Path did. In Honea Path I found heroes. My neighbor growing up, Tom Moore comes to mind. He had polio as a kid, but that did not keep him from teaching me the game of basketball. His grandson carries on the family honor flying helicopters in Iraq today. There was Dr. John Taylor, who taught me how a professional ought to be and conduct his career. There was the before mentioned Bill Ashley and so many others.”

Values such as hard work, integrity and honor aren’t exclusive to small towns, but they certainly do seem to be respected more there. There also seems to be a bit more emphasis on manners and humility in smaller communities.

Is life in a small town for everyone? Probably not. Is living in a big city the root of all evil? Of course not. But many folks fortunate enough to have spent time in smaller locales seem to understand the importance of having balance in one’s life, something city residents may want to consider once in a while as they rush about, wondering why they feel like hamsters on a treadmill and their lives seem so unfulfilling.

Well said, Mr. McCarty, well said indeed.

Leventis to retire as First Community chairman


Jim Leventis, who with Mike Crapps helped build First Community Bank into one of the premier community banks in South Carolina, will retire as chairman of holding company First Community Corp. in May, it was announced Thursday.

Leventis, who helped found the bank in 1995, was named chairman emeritus and will remain on the board.

He will be succeeded as chairman by Mitchell Willoughby, a First Community board member and, like Leventis, an attorney.

“Jim was the Chairman when we organized First Community in 1995 and has been our only Chairman in our fourteen year history,” Crapps said in a company press release. “He has been a role model to all of us in exemplifying servant leadership and true commitment to our community.

“We will miss his guidance as Chairman, but are delighted that we will continue to enjoy the benefit of his wisdom as he remains an important member of our Board of Directors,” Crapps added.

Today, First Community has 11 offices and $650 million in assets. First Community has always been a first-class operation, due in no small part to the Leventis’ efforts over the years.