First National slides closer to oblivion


Investors appear increasingly doubtful about the ultimate survival of Spartanburg, SC-based First National Bancshares.

On Friday, the company’s stock hit an all-time low of 85 cents a share before closing at 91 cents. That represents a drop of 90 percent from a year ago, when First National was trading at more than $9 a share.

First National lost nearly $1.4 million in the first quarter of the year, which came on the heels of a $44.8 million loss last year, and the company recently revealed it had been turned down for federal bailout funds, as well.

Its subsidiary, First National Bank of the South is no longer categorized as being “well capitalized.”

In April, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency gave First National 120 days to improve its balance sheet by raising capital, limiting growth or selling assets. 

If the bank fails to comply with the capital and liquidity funding requirements in the OCC consent order, or suffers continued deterioration in its financial condition, “we may be subject to being placed into a federal conservatorship or receivership by the OCC, with the FDIC appointed as conservator or receiver,” the company stated in its May 13 SEC filing.

Also, First National’s independent registered public accounting firm has stated “that the uncertainty created by our inability to repay or replace our holding company’s line of credit or to obtain a waiver of covenant defaults on that line of credit through December 31, 2009 raises substantial doubt about our ability to continue as a going concern,” according to a May 1 SEC filing.

Jumonville Glen and the genesis of America


It’s doubtful that one in a 100 Americans recognizes the geographic locale of Jumonville Glen, but 255 years ago this week it was the site of a small but crucial event that helped lead to the creation of the United States of America.

On May 28, 1754, George Washington, then a lieutenant colonel in the Virginia militia, was on his way through the Pennsylvania frontier to reinforce a British fort when he learned that a French force had been spotted in the area.

He and about 40 men went on a reconnaissance mission and came upon the sleeping French camp shortly after dawn. What happened next is still mired in controversy: The French maintained that their diplomatic party had been ambushed, while Washington reported that he had been fired on first.

When the smoke cleared, the entire French force appeared to have been killed, wounded or captured. The dead included the French commander, the Ensign Jumonville, who had been slain by Half King, an Indian ally of the British.

Called the Battle of Jumonville Glen, the event was the opening battle of the French and Indian War. The conflict not only ultimately gave Great Britain control of Canada and much of North America, but it laid the groundwork for the American Revolution.

“The goal was for the British to remove the French from North America , which they did,” Thomas Markwadt, public relations director at Fort Necessity, told The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review in May 2008. “It left the British with a large empire, which created the need for more revenue, which resulted in higher taxes for the colonists.”

As the colonists took on more of a role in their own defense, they began to assert their own identity.

“Because the colonists were no longer threatened by the French, the colonists no longer needed British protection,” Markwadt said. “They wanted to handle their own affairs. It set the stage for the American Revolution.”

Washington was just 22 years old at the time of Jumonville Glen and the battle marked his first test under fire. Although the Battle of Jumonville Glen was a victory for Washington, he lost the campaign when his troops were surrounded by French and Indian enemies a month later.

Former NBSC chief out at Synovus


Southeastern banking company Synovus Financial Corp. said Thursday that company president Fred Green, the former chief executive of National Bank of South Carolina, has resigned.

Columbus, Ga.-based Synovus, the parent of NBSC, gave no reason for Green’s departure.

Synovus CEO Richard Anthony issued the following bland statement: “The Synovus family is grateful to Fred for the service he has offered over the past 14 years, and we wish him the very best as he pursues the next stage of his career. I am confident that the foundation he has helped build will be a tremendous asset as we continue the work of positioning Synovus to emerge stronger from today’s challenging economic environment.”

Synovus reported a net loss of $136 million for first quarter of 2009. Its stock trades for a little more than $3 a share.

Green was the head of NBSC when Synovus bought the Columbia bank in 1995. He helped grow it into a banking powerhouse, increasing its asset size to $4 billion by the time he moved to the parent company in 2006.

Green is a well respected banker and an all-around good guy. Columbia could do a lot worse if he were to return to the Palmetto State. 

What’s a ‘clean coal energy campus?’


Lucky South Carolina! We could shortly have a “clean coal energy campus” right here in the Palmetto State.

At least, that’s what a guest columnist called the coal power plant that’s been proposed for the state’s Pee Dee region.

Hogan Gridley, the executive director of an organization called South Carolina Action for Jobs, authored the “Coal campus would bring needed jobs” op-ed that appeared in The State Wednesday, and termed the coal-fired plant that utility Santee Cooper wants to build a “clean coal energy campus.”

The piece is a non-too-transparent attempt to generate some positive PR for the proposed plant, which has drawn the ire of environmentalists.

Santee Cooper, which wants to build the 600-megawatt plant near the town of Kingsburg in Florence County, said it needs the plant by 2012 or its customers could face brownouts and blackouts.

Regardless of whether the plant is good for South Carolina or not – and one suspects that given the state’s surging population and ever-increasing energy demands, it’s a necessary project – to call it a “clean coal energy campus” is ridiculous.

It’s a coal plant. Its purpose is to burn coal in order to produce energy, plain and simple.

Presenting an issue or cause in a positive light is all part of the public relations game, but when someone trots out an elaborate euphenism like “clean coal energy campus” it makes one wonder what’s really going on.

Collexis continues to pump out stock


The rate at which Collexis Holdings is diluting its stock would make the leaders of inflation-ridden Wiemar Germany of the 1920s proud.

Columbia, SC-based Collexis has issued 44.5 million shares of stock in the past few weeks, all at 7 cents a share. That netted the struggling technology company a little more than $3 million, helping it keep its head above water financially.

Now, more dilution is on the way. In the company’s most recent quarterly report, it said that it is conducting an additional private placement of common stock to try and raise another $4 million.

Should this offering be fully subscribed at what appears to be the current going rate of 7 cents a share, it would mean the company would issue another 57.1 million shares.

Given the fire sales prices on company stock, Collexis’s future remains, unsurprisingly, murky at best.

“With the full subscription of our $4.0 million private placement referred to above, combined with any funds generated from our operations, we believe we will have sufficient cash to fund our operations through July 31, 2009,” the company said in a recent filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission. “However, this will not provide sufficient capital to pay our deferred purchase obligations of approximately $2.2 million due over the next three months.”

Collexis has had to dilute its stock to stay afloat because the company has suffered major losses over the past couple years. It lost more than $5 million for the first nine months of the current year and more than $11 million during the fiscal year ended June 30, 2008.

Last year, the company’s independent accounting firm included an explanatory paragraph in Collexis’s annual report that expressed substantial doubt about Collexis’s ability to continue as a going concern.

Not surprisingly, Collexis’s stock price as dwindled as the company continues to issues shares. It closed Wednesday at 8 cents a share, compared to its 52-week high of 75 cents a share. Collexis’s stock sold for as much as $12 a share just a couple years ago.

NY Times says no to Big Government


Jeffrey Tucker over at the Ludwig von Mises Institute’s blog lauds The New York Times for denouncing big-government socialism.

He highlights an editorial in which the newspaper takes a politician to task for pushing a platform heavy on competition curbs, income taxes and the role of a central bank.

The publication said that the American people are too intelligent and have too much common sense to be deluded by the “shallow sophistries of Roosevelt Socialism.”

Yes, sadly, the NY Times’ piece was published in 1913, in reaction to the platform of Teddy Roosevelt.

Nearly a century later, it’s clear that while the American people, or at least some of them, are still too intelligent and have too much common sense to embrace this kind of big-government interventionism, the same most definitely cannot be said of The New York Times.

State takes note of foundering Collexis


It would appear that The State newspaper has rediscovered Collexis, the Columbia, SC, technology company it was all too happy to puff up just a couple short years ago.

Last week, The State reported that Collexis was selling stock to raise enough money to operate through July.

According to the paper, “The company said it had a $3.12 million commitment from a private investor and expects to receive an additional $300,000 over the next 15 days. With that money and regular operating revenue, ‘we believe we will have sufficient cash to fund our operations through July 31, 2009,’ the company said in the report.

“However, that will not be enough money for Collexis to repay $2.2 million of debt that is owed over the next three months, the report said.”

The report added that the company lost $1.4 million during the first three months of 2009.

What’s remarkable about the story is that, according to Lexis, the piece marks the first time in more than a year that The State has bothered to report on Collexis’s struggling financial condition.

Here’s what the paper neglected to cover over the past year:

  • Collexis lost more than $11 million during the fiscal year ended June 30, 2008, and another $4 million-plus over the last six months of 2008.
  • The company’s independent accounting firm included an explanatory paragraph in Collexis’s annual report last October that expressed substantial doubt about Collexis’s ability to continue as a going concern.
  • Over the past few weeks, Collexis has diluted its stock by issuing nearly 40 million shares at 7 cents a share in an effort to raise money to meet operating costs.

The thing is, there was a time when The State couldn’t get enough of Collexis. The paper ran six full stories about the company between Sept. 24, 2006, and Oct 4, 2007, and another half dozen shorter mentions, according to a Lexis search.

The highlight was a profile that ran in September 2006. The 1,200-word piece was titled “Google on Steroids.”

But since May 2008 – once the bad news really started to pile up at the tech company – the paper has managed little more than a handful of short pieces, basically rewriting company press releases on such events as former University of South Carolina President Andrew Sorensen joining the Collexis’s board and the company getting an award.

It’s not like Columbia and South Carolina have a lengthy list of corporate entities which precludes The State from being able to keep close track of publicly traded companies.

If The State believes a company’s worth profiling when it’s ostensibly got a good story to tell, doesn’t it have an obligation to its readers to follow up when things aren’t going so well?

The transparency of ‘mandatory’


The term transparency is thrown around a lot these days in reference to government officials, as in how easy do elected leaders make it for the public to see what they’re doing with tax dollars.

A second use of the term transparency might be that the actions of many of our politicians are so very easy to see through. 

Take Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., who plans to introduce the Paid Vacation Act — legislation that would be the first to make paid vacation time a requirement under federal law, according to Politico.

“The bill would require companies with more than 100 employees to offer a week of paid vacation for both full-time and part-time employees after they’ve put in a year on the job,” according to Politico. “Three years after the effective date of the law, those same companies would be required to provide two weeks of paid vacation, and companies with 50 or more employees would have to provide one week.”

Rep. Grayson’s brilliant reasoning: More vacation will stimulate the economy through fewer sick days, better productivity and happier employees.

“There’s a reason why Disney World is the happiest place on Earth: The people who go there are on vacation,” Rep. Grayson was quoted in Politico.

And there’s a reason Rep. Grayson is shilling for mandatory vacation time and Disney: Orlando, the home of Disney, is part of his home district.

The fact is, most employers offer paid vacation, particularly those whose organizations value their employees and want them to stick around. 

For Rep. Grayson to attempt to use the federal government as a cudgel to boost his constituents’ coffers is inane and draconian, and one that’s startlingly easy to see through.

(Hat tip: Cafe Hayek)

Confederacy easy target for pious press


Nothing seems to get the modern-day journalist riled up like the Confederate States of America.

Nearly 150 years after South Carolina became the first of 11 southern states to secede, journalists and former journalists today are falling all over themselves to take on the Confederacy, whether it’s attacking Confederate monuments, the Confederate flag or, as here, Confederate Memorial Day.

The reasoning for such brave assaults on a cause that ended nearly 15 decades ago are simple: it’s for the good of mankind:

“You have to marvel at the power of the mythmakers for the Confederacy,” according to former Atlanta Journal Constitution reporter Keith Graham at blog Like the Dew. “They really have convinced some people, even all these years later, that there was something noble about the Southern cause in the Civil War, even though that cause happens to have been one of the most ignoble imaginable: the right to enslave other human beings.”

Unfortunately, with most of these self-righteous scribes it’s fruitless to try and discuss the myriad causes of the War Between the States, which included federal economic policy such as the Morrill tariff, taxes that were seen as unfairly burdening Southern citizens, States’ rights, expansionism, and, yes, slavery.

But to say the Confederate States of America existed solely to ensure the continuation of slavery is inaccurate.

As historian Thomas DiLorenzo has pointed out, “In 1861, Southern slavery was secure, although not perfectly so. The 1857 Dred Scott decision had just ruled that slavery was constitutional and that the document would have to be amended in order to end slavery. (Abraham) Lincoln announced in his First Inaugural Address that he had no intention to disturb Southern slavery, and that, even if he did, there would be no constitutional basis for his doing so.”

So, while it would be incorrect to say that slavery played no role in the War Between the States, it would equally incorrect to say that the war was waged by Southerns solely for the right to enslave other human beings.

However, attacking the Confederacy is an easy target for liberal journalists and other like-minded folks. After all, it’s easy to take a stand on an issue (especially if one doesn’t make the effort to fully understand it) that was settled nearly a century and a half ago.

This is not unlike the great upswell in civil rights support that’s taken place at many Southern newspapers over the past 30 years.

Today’s modern journalist is completely convinced that had they been of age 45 years ago, he or she would have gladly walked alongside Martin Luther King Jr. and faced down the tear gas and billy clubs on the marches from Selma to Montgomery in 1965, or spoke truth to power following the events at Orangeburg, SC, in February 1968.

In reality, they would have almost certainly have done just what nearly all their counterparts at Southern newspapers in the 1950s and ’60s did: either ignore the issue or blame them on radical influences.

Right or wrong, we’re all products of the periods we grow up in, which is something these self-proclaimed Gandhis either don’t realize or don’t want to realize.

Historical revisionism to boost one’s own ego is the worst kind of intellectual dishonesty. If you don’t like the Confederacy because some of the folks who wave the battle flag today aren’t as educated as you, don’t speak as well as you or don’t share your same sophisticated views, then just say so.

But don’t use a simplistic interpretation of one of the most complex periods of American history as a soapbox to brag about how enlightened you are.

B-24 pilot remembers fallen comrades


Jack Oliver of Naples, Fla., piloted 35 missions during World War II. He was one of the fortunate ones – the B-24 Liberator he flew had a couple of rather unflattering nicknames: the Flying Boxcar and, worse, the Flying Coffin.

On this Memorial Day weekend, The Naples Daily News has a nice profile of Oliver, recounting his service during “The Big One.”

Oliver, now 91, lost two of his crew and many of his fellow pilots in the fury of Hitler’s last stand during World War II. He remembers the intimate terror of German fighters streaking by his plane, one “so close I swear I could see the octane rating in German,” Oliver told the paper.

In the story, Oliver recalled his most harrowing mission, over Odertal, Germany, on Dec. 17, 1944:

“Nazi fighters began coming at their group a half hour before they reached their target. A report by Oliver’s engineer gunner, Charles Keller, tersely recounts seeing three B-24s go down.

‘Didn’t see any chutes, but was too busy to watch for them,’ it mourns.

The mission was disastrous; 12 of 28 bombers had been shot down.

‘They didn’t tell me until we arrived back at Toretta. They knew I’d be a little disturbed,’ Oliver says grimly. ‘No — terribly disturbed.’

His voice wavers when he speaks of the deaths of two of his own crewmen, navigator Peter Konapaka and nose gunner John Reiser. Neither died from enemy fire.

Oliver remembers most that he had just given Reiser permission to fly on another pilot’s plane for a final mission — the magic number that would earn Reiser a 30-day leave to go home and see his newborn son. The plane collided with another in a routine maneuver.

‘It was a milk run,’ Oliver says grimly.”

Oliver won the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with 3 bronze oak leaf clusters, the European theater, the American theater; World War II victory medal, and the Distinguished Unit Citation with 7 Battle Stars.