Mark Meadows: Making government less accountable

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If you don't like the data, get rid of the analysts:

On Monday—the same day the president attacked political rivals in a speech to Boy Scouts and the U.S. Senate prepared to vote on a health care bill that no one had actually seen—Mark Meadows, chairman of the Freedom Caucus and representative of North Carolina's Eleventh Congressional District, proposed his own means of undermining democratic norms.

His big idea: gut the Congressional Budget Office, the agency that has consistently projected that GOP efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare would leave more than twenty million Americans without coverage. In an amendment introduced Monday, Meadows proposed slashing eighty-nine positions from the agency's Budget Analysis Division, a $15 million cut that would effectively abolish the division.

While it may be doubtful this amendment will have any legs, his real motive for it may be even more ominous than the amendment itself: It sends a chilling message to those analysts that their future data and reports need to be more supportive of the majority's policies, or else. These bullying tactics are rooted in the Tea Party movement itself, which relies on fear of retribution to get its way, instead of scholarly debate, which it simply isn't qualified to engage in. And probably more than anyone else, Mark Meadows has capitalized on that formula, vaulting himself into a position of leadership of a caucus he created for that sole purpose. North Carolina in general, and the 11th District in particular, owes an apology to the rest of the nation for sending this petty tyrant to DC.

Thursday News: The usual suspects

REPUBLICANS BRING HOFELLER BACK TO HELP DESIGN NEW MAPS: Republican leaders have tapped a familiar consultant to help with the drawing of new districts for electing General Assembly members after maps he drew six years ago were found by the federal courts to include illegal racial gerrymanders. Tom Hofeller, a seasoned GOP mapmaker and a chief architect of the 2011 N.C. maps, is working with legislative leaders again on how to create new districts that will pass muster. Rep. David Lewis, a Harnett County Republican and House redistricting leader, informed a group of legislators on Wednesday of Hofeller’s return to a process that could determine how the state is divided into political districts for the rest of the decade. Hofeller was profiled in The Atlantic magazine in 2012 in an article titled “The League of Dangerous Mapmakers.”
http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article163823333.html

Coal Ash Wednesday: Insurance companies say "Nope" on paying for cleanup

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One big reason Duke Energy is trying to make us pay:

Dozens of insurance companies say they’re not obligated to help pay for Duke Energy Corp.’s multi-billion dollar coal ash cleanup because the nation’s largest electric company long knew about but did nothing to reduce the threat of potentially toxic pollutants.

The claim is in a filing by lawyers for nearly 30 international and domestic insurance companies that were sued by Duke Energy in March to force them to cover part of the utility’s coal ash cleanup costs in the Carolinas.

In a perfect world, the NC Utilities Commission would be keeping a close eye on this civil case, and if the defendants prove their case that Duke Energy was at fault and should be responsible for shouldering the costs of cleaning up their coal ash, the NCUC would deny Duke's rate increase request on the same grounds. And if Duke Energy won against the insurance companies and they were forced to pay, then there would be no need to jack up our rates. But we don't live in that perfect world, and Duke Energy is notorious for being able to conceal the big picture when they want something. Here's more:

Wednesday News: Turncoats

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BURR AND TILLIS VOTE TO MOVE FORWARD ON DAMAGING HEALTHCARE LEGISLATION: Senators Richard Burr and Thom Tillis of North Carolina voted to proceed with debate on Republicans’ efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act on Tuesday, keeping alive their party’s attempt to keep a long-standing campaign promise. Republicans needed ailing Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who recently was diagnosed with brain cancer, to return to Washington to get to 50 votes, allowing Vice President Mike Pence to cast the tie-breaking vote to move forward with debate. Two Republicans – Maine’s Susan Collins and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski – voted against the motion to proceed as did all 48 senators who caucus with Democrats.
http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/politics-columns-blogs/under-the-dome/article16...

Tuesday News: Getting out while the getting's good

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CHIEF INVESTMENT OFFICER QUITS UNDER TREASURER DALE FOLWELL: Kevin SigRist, the chief investment officer for the $94 billion state pension fund the past four years, has unexpectedly resigned. Folwell has cut fees paid to outside money managers by more than $60 million on an annualized basis, easily exceeding his campaign promise to slash fees by $100 million during the course of his four-year term. In conjunction with that cost-cutting, Folwell has shifted billions of dollars previously invested in stocks into investment-grade bonds and cash – for example, investing in things such as short-term U.S. Treasury bills. At times, according to internal memos reviewed by The News & Observer, Folwell has overruled the recommendations of the pension fund’s investment staff in shifting those funds out of stocks. Critics say the pension fund’s potential returns are being reduced because stocks typically outperform bonds and cash.
http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article163373913.html

Tuesday Twitter roundup

The show is about to begin, but nobody knows what it's about:

And if you want to see what it is, you'll have to buy the ticket first:

Is Raleigh's Airbnb kerfuffle turning into the new "Free Market" battlefield?

A business model in dire need of government regulation:

Like many cities, Raleigh is grappling with how to regulate Airbnb and companies like it. Unlike hotels and traditional bed and breakfasts, Airbnb is unregulated in most places. In Raleigh, Airbnb hosts don't collect or pay state or local sales tax, or the local hotel occupancy tax, which in Wake County is set at 6 percent. Airbnb rentals aren't required to get a business license or special-use permit. Nor do they have to submit to health and safety inspections. Hosts don't even have to tell their neighbors that they're renting rooms, though the information is publicly available on Airbnb's website.

Personally, I have no desire to spend the night in a stranger's house, and my one experience with a bonafide B&B was a little too personal, if you catch my drift. My door got knocked on like six times, and I was barely able to keep Evil Steve from yelling, "What now, for God's sake!" But that's just me. The above article is from 2 1/2 years ago, but the "task force" empaneled to solve this problem just recently hammered out some recommendations for a proposed ordinance. Pay close attention to who is co-chairing the group:

Monday News: Channeling Goebbels?

TRUMP'S NEW PRESS SECRETARY SCARAMUCCI HINTS AT PROPAGANDA CAMPAIGN: President Donald Trump's new communications adviser says it's time to hit the "reset button." Appearing on Fox News Sunday, Wall Street financier Anthony Scaramucci pledged to begin "an era of a new good feeling" and said he hopes to "create a more positive mojo." He also promised to crack down on information leaks and pledged to better focus the message coming from the White House. To that end, Scaramucci suggested changes to come, noting: "I have in my pocket a radio studio, a television studio, and a movie studio. The entire world has changed; we need to rethink the way we're delivering our information."
http://www.newsobserver.com/latest-news/article163190198.html

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