And now for something quite different …

Wow. One can only imagine how many broken bones, bruises and abrasions he incurred over the years to acquire this kind of ability.

Given what he can do, I’d say it was worth it.

(HT: Coyote Blog)

First Citizens acquires failed bank


First Citizens Bancorporation of South Carolina is the Palmetto State’s second-largest bank company, but it’s making a run for the top spot.

Friday, Columbia-based First Citizens assumed the deposits of $2 billion Georgian Bank, following the latter’s closure by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

Atlanta-based Georgian Bank’s five branches will reopen Monday as branches of First Citizens, a closely held company with more than $7 billion in assets.

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Countybank registers $456,000 loss


Closely held Countybank of Greenwood, SC, posted a second quarter loss of $456,000, according to the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council.

That compares to a $2.1 million gain during the same period in 2008 and a $545,000 profit during the first three months of 2009.

Countybank, with assets of more than $250 million, had loan loss provisions of more than $2.5 million during the three months ended June 30.

Countybank was formed during the Great Depression and until recent years, concentrated most all of its efforts on Greenwood County, where remains a dominant player.

In the past few years, though, the company has expanded into Greenville County, which offers potential for greater growth.

Making friends, influencing people – not


The only thing worse than the protracted sycophant-like treatment the media administers to the National Football League in general is the protracted sycophant-like treatment the media gives the NFL’s preseason.

Come on, you know the routine:  “Where seldom is heard a discouraging word/ And the skies are not cloudy all day.”

Which is how we get to this:

San Francisco 49ers first round draft choice Michael Crabtree is threatening to sit out the 2009 season by negotiating off mock drafts which didn’t occur rather than the real one that did.

Crabtree was selected by the 49ers, who had the No. 9 choice in the draft, after after the Oakland Raiders selected wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey seventh overall.

Crabtree had been rated higher in predraft rankings than Heyward-Bey, but Raiders owner Al Davis, long known for doing the unorthodox, opted for Heyward-Bey. 

“Crabtree has decided that he shouldn’t have to be paid less because – based on all the made-up, predicted drafts – Al Davis made a mistake. He wants to be paid more than Heyward-Bey, demanding his contract reflect that it was actually he who was the higher selected receiver,” said Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports, who terms the concept ground-breaking, if intellectually bankrupt.

Crabtree’s camp said Thursday that he is even willing to sit out the year and re-enter the draft next spring unless he gets more than the $23.5 million the Raiders guaranteed Heyward-Bey. Anything less than that stratospheric number is apparently “unacceptable,” Wetzel reports.

“We are prepared to do it,” David Wells, a cousin of Crabtree, told ESPN. “Michael just wants fair market value. Michael is one of the best players in the draft, and he just wants to be paid like one of the best players.”

Peoples’ financials show continued weakness


Financials for Peoples Bancorporation of Easley, SC, for the quarter ended March 31, 2009, showed continued balance sheet weakness, particularly in the company’s loan portfolio.

The parent of Peoples National Bank, The Bank of Anderson and Seneca National Bank reported $14,056,000 in non-performing loans and $4,921,000 in other real estate owned as of March 31, 2009, compared with $5,309,000 in non-performing loans and $930,000 in other real estate owned a year earlier.

According to information filed Monday with The Securities and Exchange Commision, Peoples’ non-performing loans as of March  31,  2009 consisted of $13,850,000 in mortgage loans, $202,000 in commercial loans, and $4,000 in consumer loans.

Non-performing assets as a percentage of loans and other real estate was 4.78 percent as of the end of the first quarter of 2009, compared to 1.47 percent a year earlier.

On the plus side for the company, all figures for first quarter 2009 were an improvement, albeit slight, over those of Dec. 31, 2008.

Given the condition of the economy, Peoples doesn’t anticipate things improving significantly any time soon.

“Management believes further deterioration of economic conditions in the Company’s market areas is possible in the short-term, especially with respect to real estate related activities and real property values. Consequently, Management expects that further increases in provision for loan losses may be needed in the future,” the company said in its most recent 10-K filing.

Stock in Peoples closed at $3.50 a share Monday, down from its 52-week high of $9.76.

Why demonizing ‘the fringe’ hurts us all


One of the downsides of our essentially two-party political system is that it tends to devalue individuality.

People with ideas too far outside the mainstream platform of either major party tend to be viewed somewhat suspiciously (until at some point down the road their ideas are sometimes co-opted, that is).

For all the talk about the Republican and Democratic parties being “Big Tents,” or what have you, both are still pretty rigidly defined organizations that don’t sway too much from the official line. 

And that’s okay; Freedom of Association is a good thing. 

But that does leave a sizable number of folks whose thought process doesn’t quite mesh with either party either uncomfortable grouped with the Dems or GOP, or outside what would be commonly referred to as the “mainstream” – on the fringe.

This political fringe often overlaps with what many in the mainstream might also describe as the societal fringe.

These individuals are outliers, holding views on any number of subjects that are seem radical to larger group as a whole: the guy who keeps a small arsenal of guns, not because he’s plotting a revolution but because he likes guns and worries that some day someone in power may think him untrustworthy of having such weapons; the businesswoman who rides a Harley and thinks it’s time to return to the Gold Standard; the guy who isn’t for or against gay rights per se, but instead simply wishes everyone to be treated equally, et cetera, ad finitum.

The Delaware Libertarian has an illuminating post about said “fringe,” and how it not only makes up a lot more of society than some people want to believe, but also how demonizing the fringe points to something disturbing among the non-fringe that feels the need to devalue those considered outside the mainstream: 

“The Fringe has a very unsavory connotation today; it’s a term used to marginalize and demonize – mostly out of fear rather than vindictiveness, but that doesn’t change the effects of the process.

“People worry about fringe elementsinfiltrating rightwing political groups; just the mention of the word brings out the calls for government surveillance, extra care, politically correct denunciation.

“It has become impossible in these days of 24/7 MSM rectal examinations, YouTube, and blogs for many of us to see those with social and political views way off the beaten paths as … well … people.

“Here’s the thing: I’ve grown up with, lived with, worked with, joked with, even deployed to foreign countries with so many people that were so fringe in so many different ways that it is often the supposed mainstream that worries me more.”

As the Delaware Libertarian points out, most of the folks classified as “fringe” are too busy struggling through their own lives that even if they did secretly dream of something as grandiose as overthrowing the government – which 99.9 percent don’t – they wouldn’t wouldn’t have the time, energy or resources to do so. 

His view is that there are bigger threats to each of us than those on the fringe:

“The Fringe doesn’t scare me, but I will tell you what does. I also spend hours and hours with suited bureaucrats who raise perfectly manicured children, give to the United Way, and routinely screw over the people they are supposed to be helping/educating/supervising.

“The little Eichmanns scare me…”

“The problem with Adolf Eichmann, as Hannah Arendt discovered in Jerusalem, is not that the bureaucrat who administered the Holocaust in any way belonged to The Fringe, but that he was terrifyingly banal, disturbingly normal.”

The fact is, this country was built by “the fringe,” and it’s one of the the things that’s made it unique for 230-plus years.

The folks in power today certainly have no obligation to pay heed to every “fringe” idea that comes down the road, nor are they required to pay attention to people who see the world differently than they do.

But they do themselves and the country no favors by demonizing those that see things differently than the majority.

(Hat tip: Waldo Lydecker’s Journal)

Community Capital opts out of TARP


Another South Carolina bank company has said “Thanks, but no thanks” to the federal government’s bailout program.

Community Capital Corp., the Greenwood-based parent of CapitalBank, said it has withdrawn its application for funds to the TARP Capital Purchase Plan.

“As a result of the current uncertainty of the government’s investment in financial institutions and the perceived unduly burdensome requirements imposed by the government on the entities that receive the Tarp funds, the Board of Directors determined that the withdrawal of the corporation’s application for TARP funds was in the best interest of Community Capital Corporation and its shareholders,” the company said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

In March, it was revealed that although First Citizens Bank of Columbia had been approved for a $50 million loan through the TARP program, the bank had decided against participating, concluding the program’s costs outweighed its benefits.

Southcoast Financial Corp. of Mount Pleasant has also said no to the TARP program.

Community Capital is faring better than many other SC banks. It earned $863,000 during the first quarter of 2009, up from $781,000 a year ago, and a sharp increase from the $4,000 profit the company showed for the final three months of 2008.

Interest income was down from a year ago – $9.5 million for first quarter 2009 compared to $11.9 million during the same period a year earlier – but Community Capital showed a significant reduction in interest expense, as well. Non-interest income was about the same as the previous year.

Total non-performing assets rose to $36.6 million from $18.4 million.

Shares of Community Capital closed Thursday at $5.14. The company’s 52-week high is $14.76.