South Carolina coastal insurance reform

Governor Dr. Robert Bentley recently appointed the Affordable Homeowners Insurance Commission to address “the troubled insurance market” with an eye to passing legislation in a special session.

Dr. Love says: “The lack of affordable insurance is an important issue that many in Alabama face. After the devastating tornadoes of April, insurance reform needs to be examined now more than ever.  I want this new commission to work together to stop the rising cost of insurance for the benefit of all Alabamians.”

In looking for information as to just what this means, I Googled “coastal insurance reform” – the top hit was my article on “Coastal insurance reform”.  That is no help to me (other than to feed my ego), and believe me it’s not much help to you either.  Fortunately, the South Carolina Omnibus Coastal Property Insurance Reform Act of 2007, co-sponsored by now-Governor Nikki Haley (R), was also listed. 

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Salty Nut News

Huntsville is the brewing capital of Alabama with Straight to Ale, Yellowhammer, and Blue Pants making great craft beers in the Rocket City.  Salty Nut Brewery is planning to have their “brews in bars by Mid-to-Late October!”  according to this Aleheads interview with founder Brent Cole:

We love craft beer and have a blast brewing beers that we come up with. It’s really exciting! The best part is brewing and then letting other craft beer lovers try our brews.  It’s rewarding to have someone enjoy drinking what we make!

We are a fully functional LLC now, we are in the process of signing a lease for our brewery location, we have ordered fermenters, and will be ordering the brewing equipment this week, and are also in the process of selecting a distributor.  We are trying to take all of the necessary steps to being set up correctly.  We will apply for our manufacturer’s license in October (yearly cycle renewal)…

Our first brew is our flagship brew; we are huge hop heads and love IPAs, so naturally we wanted to brew an IPA.  This one is called HopNaughty IPA.  We felt the name was fitting; it’s full of hops and…well…beer can make you naughty, so that’s that…

Alabama beer laws have come a long way thanks to the Free the Hops organization and the craft beer lovers in the State.  I think the future looks bright, and lest you think that sounds cheesy, let me explain: Hopefully, in the near future we can have larger container sizes which will allow for Alabamans to have more craft brews available to them.  This will open up the window for more styles and more flavors, which is what the beer lovers want.  Brewpubs will slowly but surely start to pop up and we hope to be in this market in the future. We want a one-stop shop for people to taste/try and take home our brews.

Thanks to all the Alabama legislators who voted for the Gourmet Beer Bill and the Brewery Modernization Act (aka the Jobs Bill).  It’s not often that you actually get to create jobs and expand freedoms through legislation – cheers!

Coastal insurance reform

The average cost to insure a home in Mobile and Baldwin Counties is eleventy billion dollars, if you can find an insurer.  Central and North Alabama are facing the same types of issues in the wake of the recent devastating tornadoes, so this is about more than ‘coastal insurance reform’.  Insurance reform may get addressed in a special session of the legislature, if not, it will certainly be a top issue in the next legislative session.

Governor Dr. Robert Bentley just named the members of the Affordable Homeowners Insurance Commission, led by Baldwin County Probate Judge Tim Russell (R).  Huntsville is represented on the commission by Wayne Parker and State Farm agent Joe Demos.  Some interesting appointments include K. Carl Smith (The conservativeMessenger) and Michelle Kurtz (Homeowners’ Hurricane Insurance Initiative).  State Senator Ben Brooks (R – Mobile), State Representative Mike Hill (R – Columbiana), and State Representative Steve McMillan (R – Gulf Shores) are on the commission – presumably to sponsor legislation incorporating the results of the Commission’s efforts.

I spoke with Representative McMillan last week after his fishing trip and he said that insurance reform was his top legislative priority.  The GOP legislature passed a couple of bills this year to ”create a tax deduction for strengthening homes against hurricanes and tornadoes, set up an Insurance Department trust fund for retrofitting homes, and require that insurers publicly disclose information when they ask regulators for rate changes.”

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Bentley to keep another promise

Governor Robert Bentley “said he intends to sign” the Brewery Modernization Act (SB192 – sponsored by our own Bill Holtzclaw R-2), according to Michael Tomberlin of The Birmingham News who wrote “Alabama Governor Bentley plans to sign beer bill into law”:

“When I represented my local community, I voted against Sunday alcohol sales and things of that nature,” Bentley said in an interview. “As governor, it’s a little bit different. I don’t feel I should impose my views on everybody in the state. The Legislature has had a chance to look at it and passed it. I’m sure I will sign it.”

The law will allow breweries to have taprooms and relax restrictions on brewpubs.  Our local brewers say:

“A tap room is already in the works,” said Dan Perry, one of the founders and brewers of Straight to Ale. “We haven’t nailed down the rest of our plans yet.”

Mike Spratley, brewer and owner of Huntsville’s Blue Pants Brewery, said the new law creates an avenue for growth for upstart breweries like Blue Pants.

“We’re putting together a scheme for the next phase of our growth,” he said. “Things like tours and a tap room will likely be in the plans going forward. We see that as a great way to grow the business.”

Free the Hops Vice President and political genius Dan Roberts said:

“That’s what it’s all about — enabling Alabama businesses to grow”

Governor Bentley is keeping a promise made during an interview on WVNN (Flashpoint on the radio):

Dr. Bentley opposed Free the Hops in the legislature (he says he consistently opposes alcohol and gambling); but I asked if as Governor he would sign the Gourmet Beer Bill – with some nuance, he said he would (since it would have passed the legislature). 

Thank you Dr. Love.


Walter Russell Mead wrote “Fanniegate: Gamechanger for the GOP?” reviewing a new book (tip to Instapundit):

Reckless Endangerment: How Outsized Ambition, Greed, and Corruption Led to Economic Armageddon. By Gretchen Morgenson, one of America’s best business journalists who is currently at The New York Times, and noted financial analyst Joshua Rosner…

We’ve known about corruption at the government-backed mortgage corporation Fannie Mae (Federal National Mortgage Corporation), such as Democrat fatcat Franklin Raines doctoring the books to increase his bonus or Democrat Congressman Barney Frank getting a job for his partner (and then defending Fannie Mae in Congressional hearings) or Democrat Jamie Gorelick (who helped bring on 9/11 and the housing crisis) ‘earning’ $26 million for bundling subprime loans into securitized financial instruments.   As bad as we thought the scandals at Fannie Mae were, nobody went to jail (not even the ‘Friends of Angelo’) and the fines imposed on the corruptocrats (if at all) were a small fraction of the amount looted from the American people.

“Reckless Endangerment” provides more insight into the Democratic Party’s culture of corruption.

The villains?  An unholy alliance between Wall Street, the Democratic establishment, community organizing groups like ACORN and La Raza, and politicians like Barney Frank, Nancy Pelosi and Henry Cisneros…

…the American dream didn’t die of old age; it was murdered and most of the fingerprints on the corpse come from Democratic insiders.  Democratic power brokers stoked the housing bubble and turned a blind eye to the increasingly rampant corruption and incompetence at Fannie Mae and the associated predatory lenders who sheltered under its umbrella; core Democratic ideas may well be at fault.

…Big government, affirmative action and influence peddling among Democratic insiders came within inches of smashing the US economy.

…The story illustrates everything the Tea Party thinks about the corrupt Washington establishment and the evils of big government.  It demonstrates the limits on the ability of government programs to help the poor.  It converts a complicated economic story into a simple morality play — with Dems as the villain.  It allows Republicans to capitalize on public fury at the country’s economic problems.  It links the Democrats to Wall Street — the one part of the private sector that the Republican base loathes.  It exposes that mix of incompetence and arrogance that is the hallmark of the modern American liberal establishment and links this condescending cluelessness to the real problems of real American families.  It links President Obama (through appointments, associations and friendships) with the worst elements of the Clinton legacy and it blunts some key Democratic talking points.

Read the whole thing.

Huntsville Retail Summit

This should be fun:

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, with his city coming off of a string of economic development successes, announced a community wide economic development summit and unveiled an interactive “Ideas Map” as part of his administration’s continued commitment to growth in Huntsville.

“Developing Ideas: Planning for Huntsville’s Future,” will be held on WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 19th at 6:00pm. The event is hosted by and will be held at the Hudson Alpha Institute for Biotechnology (601 Genome Way, Huntsville, Alabama 35806).

The event is free of charge and is open to the public.

“The successes we’ve seen in economic development over the past year have been unmatched by any other community in our nation,” said Mayor Tommy Battle. “Each of those successes started with an idea – and this summit is another incredible way for our residents to bring their ideas to the table.”

Steve Doyle of The Huntsville Times wrote “Trader Joe’s…”:

Called “Developing Ideas: Planning for Huntsville’s Future,” the event includes a panel discussion led by Mayor Tommy Battle and two city department heads directly involved in retail recruitment, Economic Development Director Joe Vallely and Acting Planning Director Marie Bostick.

Other panelists are commercial developer Don Beck, downtown real estate expert Donna Lamb, A.J. Smith of Smith Appraisals and Huntsville Development News blogger James Vandiver.

…”This will give citizens a chance to weigh in on what they would like to see here as far as retail stores,” Battle said Friday. “Some will fit and some won’t, but at least we’ll have input on what people are looking for.”

Battle said two retailers seem to be high on everyone’s wish list: Cheesecake Factory and Trader Joe’s, a specialty grocer with stores in Nashville and Atlanta but none yet in Alabama.

James Vandiver’s blog is Huntsville Development News:

The purpose of this summit is to get feedback from the public about where the city should be going in terms of economic development and planning. Representatives from the real estate community along with city officials and yours truly will be there to answer your questions. The format of this event is still evolving, and the attendance will ultimately determine what will be done.

Here’s my wish list:  H&M, IKEA, Brooks Brothers, Burberry, CCs (Community Coffee house), Nordstrom, Von Maur, American Girl, Lego Store, a Cracker Barrel at I565 and Oakwood, and a Taco Bell (or better yet Bandito Burrito) in 5 Points.  I’d also like for someone to carry “Volunteer Traditions” products.  I think the Von Maur, Brooks Brothers, Cracker Barrel and Taco Bell are doable, the rest are dreams…

Other retail I’ve heard mentioned in wish lists: Trader Joe’s, Cheesecake Factory, Saks, Diesel, Bulgari,  Johnny Rockets, In-and-Out Burgers, Joe’s Crab Shack, Coach, Urban Outfitters, Whole Foods, Bass Pro Shops, California Pizza Kitchen, Macy’s, Z Gallerie, Aldi, Chipotle, Wegmans, and Dave and Busters…

Huntsville breweries in Draft Magazine

Huntsville got a mention in the Draft Magazine feature story “12 breweries to watch in 2011″ (thanks to Damon for the tip):

Three new breweries in this tony Southern town bring Alabama’s brewery count to nine. The trio—Straight to Ale, Yellowhammer and Blue Pants—plans to keep the competition friendly in favor of elevating the city’s palate. “All I’m interested in is getting people to drink craft beer in general,” says Yellowhammer brewer Keith Yager. “The worst that could happen is that any one of us is bad, because then it turns everyone off.” Here’s what each outfit’s working on:

Straight to Ale
Launched in spring, this devil-themed brewery brews four regulars—Monkeynaught IPA, Lily Flagg Milk Stout, Wernher von Brown Ale and Brother Joseph’s Belgian Dubbel—plus several “occasionals” like a raspberry wheat. And it has already introduced a limited-edition lineup: the Right to Brew Series, a line of brews crafted in collaboration with guest homebrewers. The first, a Belgian quad, debuted in September.

Yellowhammer Brewery
Named after Alabama’s state bird, Yellowhammer introduced an IPA and a ginger-and-lime-leaf-spiked Belgian White in October; Yager will expand the lineup with a German altbier, a tripel and a kolsch next year.

Blue Pants Brewery

This quirky nanobrewery launched in October with Knickerbocker Red, a keg-conditioned, Cascade-hopped American red. Next up: Pinstripe Stout, an imperial version loaded with chocolate, coffee and vanilla.

These beers are available at The Nook, Mason’s, and 1892 East at Five Points.  Perhaps surprisingly, many of these beers are also available from Liquor Express (University / Pratt and Church), where you can buy half gallon and quart plastic jugs (tony Southern ‘growlers’) of draft beer to go.


Free the Hops (known around here as ‘Dan’) wrote a couple of articles about the next legislative session and the political climate for advancing beer laws in Alabama.  “The next term” addresses Governor Bentley:

The next Governor consistently voted against Free the Hops legislation as a state representative…

Free the Hops has never given endorsements in state elections – we’ll work with the members the people choose for us to work with…

For Governor-elect Robert Bentley, being a No vote in the legislature is a lot different than being a veto as Governor. During a radio interview in north Alabama during the primary, Bentley indicated to the listening audience that he would not have vetoed the Gourmet Beer Bill had it been sent to his desk as Governor. [Even better, Bentley actually said he would sign the Gourmet Beer Bill - Reactionary]

“The new legislative leaders, on beer” addresses presumptive Senate President Pro Tempore Del Marsh and Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard:

Senate President Pro Tempore
Senator Del Marsh (R-Anniston)

Senator Marsh has been on the Tourism and Marketing Committee, which has consistently voted in favor of our bills, since we first introduced the Gourmet Beer Bill. He has voted in favor of the Gourmet Beer Bill and Homebrew Legalization, and FTH members in his district report that he is responsive to their communication.

Speaker of the House
Representative Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn)

Since 2007, FTH members have relayed to us that Representative Hubbard supports our legislation, and he has consistently voted in favor of the Gourmet Beer Bill. Hubbard also completed the 2010 FTH Candidate Survey and reported that he supported raising the container size restriction, homebrew legalization, and the Brewery Modernization Act.

As much a part of Huntsville as the stars in the sky

Huntsville's own since 1944








South Huntsville, get ready for a treat – Huntsville’s own Star Market is coming to Bailey Cove, in the former Southern Family Markets location.

Marian Accardi of The Huntsville Times wrote “Star Super Market will open Thursday on Bailey Cove Road”:

“This is a great time to be opening a grocery store because this is one the busiest times of the year for the grocery industry,” said Darden Heritage, the owner of the Star Market stores and pharmacies.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony will be Thursday at 9:30 a.m., and the store will open for business at 10. The store will open with 120 part-time and full-time employees…

It will be a couple of weeks before the Madison County License Department’s satellite office opens in the store, said Heritage, and a U.S. Postal Service contract station should be open around the first of next year.

License Director Mark Craig said residents will be able to obtain vehicle and boat titles and renew and replace driver’s licenses at the satellite office. A tax collector drop box will be provided for payments.

Star is locally owned and operated and their commitment is “to serve every customer with courtesy, while offering the best value possible”.  Star offers a superlative butcher shop, great wine and beer selection, nice cheeses, fresh produce, Zapp’s chips, Green Mountain soap, and Terry’s Pizza.


Star is opening a new store and hiring 120 employees in the midst of troubling economic times.  Southern Family Markets employed 75 people when it closed due to “disappointing financial performance”.  As far as I know, Star isn’t getting a TIF or tax incentives.  There’s room in the comments section for discussion as to why Star thinks they’ll be successful…

The rise of civilization

Fair and balanced Fox News wrote “Beer Lubricated the Rise of Civilization” (tip Instapundit):

Signs that people went to great lengths to obtain grains despite the hard work needed to make them edible, plus the knowledge that feasts were important community-building gatherings, support the idea that cereal grains were being turned into beer,  said archaeologist Brian Hayden at Simon Fraser University in Canada.

“Beer is sacred stuff in most traditional societies,” said Hayden, who is planning to submit research on the origins of beer to the journal Current Anthropology.

…”It’s not that drinking and brewing by itself helped start cultivation, it’s this context of feasts that links beer and the emergence of complex societies,” Hayden said.

…”Feasts are essential in traditional societies for… developing more complex kinds of societies,” Hayden explained. “Feasts are reciprocal — if I invite you to my feast, you have the obligation to invite me to yours…”

“In traditional feasts throughout the world, there are three ingredients that are almost universally present,” he said. “One is meat. The second is some kind of cereal grain… The third is alcohol, and because you need surplus grain to put into it, as well as time and effort, it’s produced almost only in traditional societies for special occasions to impress guests, make them happy, and alter their attitudes favorably toward hosts.”

Free the Hops fully supports “the rise of civilization”.

We’re doing our part by supporting the Brewery Modernization Act:

If passed, breweries can sell on-premises like a brewpub, or to wholesalers, or to both. Although the breweries must be licensed, they do not need to be located in an historic building, have no production cap, and can be located in any wet county or city. There is also no requirement for a brewery to operate a restaurant in order to sell beer on-premises, although they certainly can and many probably will.

The passage of the Gourmet Beer Bill led to the start up of three breweries in Huntsville (we have a total of four).   That is new economic activity.  The Brewery Modernization Act has the potential to create an entire new industry in Alabama – and that means JOBS, JOBS, JOBS!

I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords

The Grand Opening of the Alabama Robotics Technology Park is rescheduled for November 10, 2010 at 1030AM.

The Alabama Robotics Technology Park will consist of three individual training facilities each targeted to a specific industry need. The three buildings will have an investment of approximately $71 million including robotics equipment.

The classes listed on the ARTP website are oriented to operator safety.  As far as leading to employment: “There are no job postings at this time.”

Robotics Technology Park
6505 U.S. Hwy 31 | Tanner, AL 35671

From Huntsville:
Take I-565 West (turns into Highway 20 at the I-65 interchange)
Follow signs to Decatur (westbound Highway 20) for approximately 2 1/2 miles
Take the Highway 31 North/Calhoun Community College exit right just before reaching the Tennessee River
The Park’s main entrance is located on the left (approximately 1 mile from Highway 20- across the street from Calhoun Community)


Note that the AIDT Maritime Training Center in Mobile is offering Free Welding Classes which may lead to jobs at Austal Shipyard building the Littoral Combat Ship class based on the LCS 2 design – USS Independence.  Austal is a good shipyard from what I’ve seen (note that IMO Bath Iron Works is the best US shipyard – plus it’s just up the road from L.L. Bean).

BTW for Navy news and analysis I read CDR Salamander – he knows the Navy.  His observations about shipbuilding programs on which I’ve worked were spot on, so he’s got lots of credibility with me.  Here’s CDR Salamander on the down-select:

From the same Generation of leadership that gave us “Every Child Gets a Trophy” and turned the Navy Achievement Medal into an addendum to PCS orders – via NavyTimes,

The long-awaited decision on which competitor will win the Navy’s littoral combat ship competition is expected to be revealed Wednesday afternoon, and the answer will surprise most people.

The winner? Both teams.

The LCS is seen as a replacement for the FFG class of ships (Frigates), but CDR Salamander describes LCS as “a large, expensive, low endurance, under-armed Corvette.”   

The Independence is a beautiful ship and while I like the tri-maran concept, the ship only has one gun (57mm).  It seems like it has lots of room but nowhere to put weapons (it had planned to mount the Army NLOS system – oops – cancelled).  Plus, the LCS2 program was plagued by overruns – the cost went from $220 million to around $700 million – almost a half a billion dollar overrun!  The competing LCS1 USS Freedom experienced similar overruns.  Will they ever learn?

Navy officials acknowledged that one reason for the cost overruns was the decision to begin production before the design was mature.

I agree with this comment at CDR Salamander:

Kill the entire program… Take those LCS we built and give them to the USCG as medium endurance cutters and cut our losses, accept our lessons, and make sure we don’t do this again.

The Navy doesn’t remember how to build ships and doesn’t seem to remember that they should be building warships.  If the new GOP Congress cares about being good stewards of our money and not just pork piggies – they’ll cancel LCS and start over.

I’m not just beating up on the Navy – we’ve got our own problems close to home – remember the Comanche (20 years and $8 billion)!

/rant on

You know what bothers me about DoD and NASA (and the Huntsville jail) cost overruns?  We know how to do better.  For example, Congress and the OSD are trying to institutionalize improvement with the CAPE office (more powerful than the old CAIG), but getting the brass to listen to bean counters or engineers can be difficult:

“It’s all about management. You can have all the safety rules you want, but if you don’t follow them, bad things will happen.”

The thing is – techniques have been around for years for cost control (earned value) and risk mitigation (probabilistic scheduling). 

/rant off (I could keep ranting about this for days, so I’ll just stop with that one example – don’t get me started about contract requirements that have nothing to do with actually making something or creating “bow waves” of unperformed work)