You Can’t Fool Me, Ozark Billy Long

My congressman, Ozark Billy Long, has pushed himself away from the poker table long enough to become a national figure, in terms of GOP attempts to screw over the poor and the sick. For a while there, it looked like he was going to be something of a hero—if only 20170502_071344 (2).jpgfor those who don’t really know him—for being a critical “no” vote on the latest iteration of the anti-health act that Republicans call the American Health Care Act (AHCA).

If you’ve been with me since at least 2010, you know I was there at the beginning of Billy’s career. In fact, I did a video interview with him that year (his facial expressions in that interview were analyzed by a fellow Republican using the theories of psychologist Paul Ekman; that version of my interview has since been taken down from YouTube). At the time of the 2010 interview, Billy was involved in a controversy in which a local right-winger accused him of bribery. The right-winger, a Tea Party blogger named Clay Bowler, had been very publicly critical of Long. Ozark Billy met with him and, according to Bowler, offered him some kind of job if he’d shut the hell up by shutting down his “Long is Wrong” blog.

That was just one controversy surrounding Long that I covered, and I met him three times, the last time during the aftermath of our killer tornado in 2011. By that time, Ozark Billy recognized me and refused to talk to me about his hypocrisy involving wanting federal money to help Joplin’s post-storm recovery efforts while voting against providing federal money to help other parts of the country recover from their own disasters. In any case, Ozark Billy has now hit the big time. As I write, Sean Spicer is talking about him on national television.

It’s because I have followed Long’s career that I wasn’t fooled by his recent, and completely phony, excuse for not supporting the GOP’s second attempt at pretending to “repeal and replace” Obamacare. The liberal site Daily Kos called Long’s opposition a “big deal,” while reporting his statement of opposition:

I have always stated that one of the few good things about Obamacare is that people with pre-existing conditions would be covered. The MacArthur amendment strips away any guarantee that pre-existing conditions would be covered and affordable.

Yippee! said everyone this side of Rush Limbaugh. Even I thought it was at least a faint sign that Billy wasn’t a completely heartless jerk. But then I got to thinking about something. Long voted a gazillion times, when it didn’t matter, to repeal Obamacare. He didn’t give a damn, when he cast all those votes, about anyone with pre-existing conditions. He didn’t give a damn about anything other than sticking it to President Obama, just like all the Republicans who voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act were doing. We can see that now. We can clearly see that now.

Allow me to share with you Long’s press release (titled, “The People Have Spoken”) about the Affordable Care Act from March 23, 2011, three months into his first term. Please read it and tell me if you find any concern for folks with pre-existing health conditions:

Today, Congressman Billy Long issued the following statement on the one-year anniversary of the Obama’s health care law:

“The American people have spoken and they don’t want Washington bureaucrats coming between them and their doctors,” said Long.  “You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear but that’s exactly what the majority tried to do last year by using ten years of taxes to pay for six years of expenses.”

The Obama Administration’s health care bill was pushed through the House and the Senate by the Democratic supermajority using parliamentary tactics and big pay-offs like the “Louisiana Purchase.”  The Democratic bill passed without a single Republican vote and increased Federal spending by $2.6 trillion.  The bill gave unprecedented control of the American health care system, approximately 1/6th of the economy, to the Federal government.

Congressman Long believes people, not the government, are the source of prosperity and make the American health care system the envy of the world.

“In this country we have the finest doctors, the finest nurses, the finest protocols, and the finest facilities in the world,” said Long.  “And that is not a government-run system.”

Congressman Long made repealing Obamacare his number one priority when he came to Congress and voted to repeal the intrusive and expensive law shortly after being sworn in.

Repealing the law was Long’s “number one priority.” Not number two. Not three. One. And not a word about pre-existing conditions. Not a single word. But that was early on. Perhaps he grew over the years. After all, Long, 20170501_220540 (2)in his widely published statement yesterday, said “I have always stated that one of the few good things about Obamacare is that people with pre-existing conditions would be covered.” He has “always stated” such, he said. Always.

Nope.

In June of 2012, another press release was partially titled, “Marks 30th Vote to Repeal or Defund Health Care Law.” In it Long said:

My House colleagues and I will continue to work on repealing this awful law and craft better solutions that keep the federal government out of your health care.

Not a word about his concern for pre-existing conditions. The law was, he said, “awful.” But the release did note—ironically, given the situation Republicans find themselves in now—that the ACA “was forced through Congress by Democratic majorities in the House and Senate.”

In August of 2013, he bragged about being a co-sponsor of a bill that would be “another important step in the House’s efforts to repeal this law by prohibiting the IRS from enforcing or implementing Obamacare.” In September of 2013, he said, “I continue to believe the best course of action is to repeal this law and start from scratch.” In May of 2016, he hailed as “a great victory” a federal court judge’s ruling that “the Obama administration unlawfully funded parts of Obamacare without congressional approval.” A July 2016 press release noted his participation in “roundtable discussions with local health and business leaders” in Springfield. Long said, in true Tr-mpian style:

Today’s roundtable discussions were a great opportunity to show my record of success in Congress, like how I’ve been fighting against America’s opioid epidemic and harmful rules and regulations that threaten businesses across Southwest Missouri.

What a great opportunity to mention protecting folks with pre-existing medical conditions. What a great missed opportunity. In fact, there are 39 press releases on Long’s congressional website that come up under the category “Health Care.” Go see if you can find a single one in which he said anything good about the Affordable Care Act. Bet you can’t.

As I said, when I heard about Ozark Billy’s opposition to the second iteration of the phony GOP repeal effort, I was tempted to think he wasn’t as bad as I thought. That was until I started remembering things, things like his newfound concern for the “good” parts of Obamacare. And things like the fact he actually supported the first iteration of the Republican’s “health” care plan. You know, the version which the Congressional Budget Office said would increase the number of uninsured people by 24 million in ten years, a majority of that number coming as a result from cuts in Medicaid, the nation’s health insurance for “low-income adults, children, pregnant women, elderly adults and people with disabilities.” You see, the Billy Long I know is the guy who would do something like cut folks off Medicaid, not champion the popular parts of Obamacare.

In any case, none of the Billy-is-a-hero stuff matters now. As of today, Ozark Billy, after a visit to the White’s House, is back on board. I just saw his mug on TV again, saying he has met with Tr-mp and convinced him that yet a third version of the plan is the way to go and Billy is now a “yes” man. A CNN headline went up:

New momentum for GOP health care bill after key votes flip

And here is a clip of Long bragging about how hard he fought for the original health-hating bill and misleading us about how much he has talked about the good parts of Obamacare:

People with pre-existing conditions “need to be covered, period,” Ozark Billy told us, as he stood in front of the White’s House, now home to the world’s most famous pathological liar. And he added, “I’ve said that in all my literature.” Well, no he hasn’t. He hasn’t said it in any literature I could find, at least in any of the literature he has posted about health care on his website. He just hasn’t. Maybe being around Tr-mp for an hour has side effects or maybe Billy was lying all those years about Obamacare or maybe he’s just lying now. Beats me.

But what about this latest amendment that Billy thinks fixes the problem he said bothered him enough to oppose the second version of the bill? Come on. You know it ain’t good. The great Sarah Kliff, of Vox, explains why in detail:

The Republican solution to sick people who need health insurance in a post-Obamacare world is increasingly coming to center on three words: high-risk pools.

The White House has reportedly secured the support of Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), a longtime legislator, by promising an additional $8 billion to fund these programs. That would mean the Republican plan has nearly $115 billion that states could use, if they wanted to, for high-risk pools.

High-risk pools are a way for the government to offer subsidized health insurance to the most expensive patients — people with illnesses that could range from diabetes to cancer. The idea is to give those people coverage but keep premiums lower for other, healthier patients by pulling these sicker patients out of the insurance pool.

But high-risk pools also have a history of running into a big problem: They cost a ton of money. Pooling together the sickest patients means that a state high-risk pool will have really high medical claims. […]

The Republican bill doesn’t require states to build high-risk pools — it just gives them the option. And it has little to say about how states should build them if they decide to do so. It is possible they would also have lifetime limits and preexisting condition waiting periods. Those details are hugely important, but are unlikely to get sorted out until after the bill passes and the Trump administration begins to write regulations.

It’s hard to estimate how much it would take to fund adequate high-risk pools. Emily Gee, an economist with the left-leaning Center for American Progress, estimates that the Republican bill would need another $200 billion in high-risk pool funding, plus the $115 billion it already appropriates, to cover 1.5 million people (5 percent of current small-group and individual market enrollees).

But whenever there is a funding cap, like there is in the Republican bill, high-risk pools get, well, risky. The program has to live within a budget and serve a group of incredibly sick patients. The way states typically have done that in the past is by serving as few patients as possible, while also asking them to pay a lot for the program.

Kliff says that under the GOP plan the various states will have a choice whether to set up high-risk pools or choose from six other options. She also notes that the CBO has already estimated that states won’t set up those high-risk pools, but instead use the money “to stabilize the individual market and provide payments to insurers there that get stuck with especially high-cost patients.” That means, of course, that the stingy amount of money Republicans have pledged to help subsidize insurance for people with pre-existing medical conditions, even with Ozark Billy’s additional $8 billion over five years, will not be enough.

And, given they all know what the CBO has said, Republicans know it will not be enough. This is all phony. It’s all a sick game of politics, designed to save face for people like Long and for is hero, Tr-mp. As the health advocacy group Families USA put it:

The Upton-Long amendment is not even a fig leaf: It is a laughably inadequate attempt to ameliorate damage done by the provisions of the AHCA that would drastically undermine the ACA’s guarantee of affordable comprehensive coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.

Billy Long can talk all day about how much he has always publicly valued Obamacare’s protection of folks with unfortunate pre-existing health problems. He can talk all day about how much his new amendment to a very bad idea is a good thing. He can try to fool folks who don’t know any better.

But he ain’t foolin’ me.

Here is a way to tell him he ain’t foolin’ you either:

Washington DC Office
202-225-6536
 
Springfield, MO Office
417-889-1800
 
Joplin, MO Office
417-781-1041

Before The Next Mass Shooting, Missouri Voters Ought To Know Where Their Politicans Stand

As a reminder, and because it continues to bother the hell out of me, and because Missouri voters ought to know where their elected representatives have been morally and legislatively standing—the next time a mentally ill person gets a gun and kills kids or anyone else—here is a story from GovTrack Insider from last week:

The Obama Administration in its closing days instituted a new regulation instituting a novel form of gun control. The rule included those who received Social Security checks for mental illness or for being “unable to handle their own financial affairs” into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System for gun purchases.

The rule was finalized by the Social Security Administration (SSA) on December 19, 2016. Approximately 75,000 people would be affected and potentially barred from purchasing a weapon as a result.

Public Law 115–8 was recently passed by Congress and signed by President Trump to overturn this rule.

Although the law passed and signed by Tr-mp did have a few Democrats on board, mostly it was done by Republicans. Here in Missouri, my congressman, Ozark Billy Long, was co-sponsor in the House. In the Senate, Roy Blunt was a co-sponsor. That’s the same Roy Blunt who wouldn’t do a damn thing after the murder of school children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December of 2012 because, as he wrote in a piece for USA Today, the real issue was “fixing our broken mental health system.” He wrote:

People with mental health problems are almost never dangerous. In fact, they are more likely to be the victims than the perpetrators. At the same time, mental illness has been the common denominator in one act of mass violence after another.

It’s hard to square what Blunt said (all true) with what he did by sponsoring a bill designed, albeit somewhat feebly, to help prevent “one act of mass violence after another.” But a lot of things Republicans do these days are hard to square.

It doesn’t take a Tr-mpian jeenyus to figure out that, even though the determination of who is “unable to handle their own financial affairs” is, like all human decisions, “subjective,” (a complaint often made by Republicans) there has to be some limits on the purchase of firearms by people who competent professionals have deemed a risk. Otherwise, there can be no such thing as a restriction, ever, on anyone owning a firearm. Even the Supreme Court’s disastrous Heller decision okayed restrictions on gun ownership “by felons and the mentally ill.” In both cases, the people who fall into one of those two categories do so by way of subjective determinations.

A person becomes a “felon” either through the decision of a jury, a judge, or by lawyers making plea bargains, all of them subjective players and quite fallible. A “mentally ill” person likewise is so labeled, or should be so labeled, by professionals who are trained to recognize specific behaviors and connect those to a diagnosis. Again, there is the possibility of misdiagnosis and mislabeling. But wouldn’t it be better to slightly err on the side of caution, when it comes to questions of mental illness and gun ownership?

Related imageI recognize the Obama administration’s rule, which wouldn’t have taken effect until December of this year, wouldn’t have come close to solving the problems our society has with gun violence. And I realize that stigmatizing people with mental illness as “dangerous” is a real concern that has to be taken very seriously. But damn, people. If we can’t even agree that folks who receive “Social Security checks for mental illnesses and people deemed unfit to handle their own financial affairs” ought to be put in the national background check database, then our biggest problem with gun violence is that there is nothing—nothing—Republicans want to do about it.

Colbert, Comcast, And Corruption, Featuring Roy Blunt And Ozark Billy Long

“I guarantee you there is not one person, not one voter of any political stripe anywhere in America who asked for this. No one in America stood up at a town hall and said ‘Sir, I demand you let somebody else make money off my shameful desires. Maybe blackmail me one day.’”

—Stephen Colbert

The Verge published a great piece yesterday (“The 265 members of Congress who sold you out to ISPs, and how much it cost to buy them”) on the shameful passage—first by the Senate and then the House—of a resolution overturning a common-sense FCC rule (thank you, Obama!) that would, if it were to take effect this year, require Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to explicitly get your permission before sharing data about your browsing history, email content, geographical location, and other forms of sensitive communications. The Joint Resolution (S.J.34) passed the Senate 50-48, with no Democrats supporting it. In the House, it passed 215-205, with, you guessed it, no Democrats supporting it. Tr-mp has indicated he will sign it, since, obviously, he doesn’t have a damned thing to hide from anyone.

As Stephen Colbert said, one can’t imagine there was a public outcry for such a stupid and privacy-damning move by Congress. So, then, why did it happen, and happen so fast? From Verge:

The only people who seem to want this are the people who are going to make lots of money from it. (Hint: they work for companies like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T.) Incidentally, these people and their companies routinely give lots of money to members of Congress.

Routinely. Give. Lots. Of. Money. To. Congress.

Helpfully, The Verge published the amount of money the telecom industry gave to each of those who voted for the resolution. For those of us who live in Missouri, and particularly for those of us who live in southwest Missouri, we can see how much the locals got for selling out our privacy to our ISPs (the amounts are for the most recent election cycle for each member):

Senator Roy Blunt got $185,550. Yep—$185,550. To put that in perspective, only Mitch McConnell ($251,110) and John Thune ($215,000) got more than ol’ Roy.

Rep. Ozark Billy Long got a whopping $57,250. To put that in perspective, of the 215 Republicans who voted for the resolution, Long got more money than all but 16 of them, and some of those who got more than he got were part of House leadership. You can do a lot of eating and drinking and gambling with $57,250, something Long has a passion for, as opposed to, say, holding town halls in his district.

Here is Colbert’s take on it, even though, if you think about it, none of what is happening is really all that funny:

Apathy And Its Consequences

All Democrats who live where I live expect our candidates to lose each and every election. That’s just the way it is here in ruralish Southwest Missouri. This year, of course, was no exception. Ozark Billy got almost 64% of the vote against Jim Evans, the valiant Democrat who received only 29%.

Most of Missouri’s eight U.S. House districts produce pretty lopsided election results, six of them going for Republicans and only two for Democrats. That’s the way the Republican-dominated legislature designed these districts. They are heavily partisan with predictable results.

But there is a fact that stuns the soul of every democracy-loving Missourian, or at least it should. Democrats got 41.8% of all votes cast in Missouri’s eight U.S. House races in 2012, when turnout was 65.7%, yet it was only possible for them to end up with 25% of the seats, which were essentially capped at two. Republicans got 54.6% of all votes in House races across the state in 2012 but ended up with 75% of the seats. Some of us don’t think that is very democratic, but that’s the way it is.

This year turnout in Missouri was a paltry 35.2%. Think about that. A little more than half of the registered voters in this state who voted in the presidential election two years ago bothered to vote in this one. That amounts to 608,119 fewer Democrats and 627,051 fewer Republicans who didn’t vote, all things being equal. Those numbers look like they might be an advantage for Democrats, since more Republicans bugged out this year than Democrats. But it is a matter of percentages.

In 2012, as I mentioned, Democrats got 41.8% of House votes and Republicans got 54.6%. But in 2014, with the dropout of voters, Democrats only got 35.9% of House votes and Republicans got 58.8%. The lesson: voter apathy hurts Democrats in states like Missouri much more than it hurts Republicans. (Another lesson is that even just getting 35.9% of House votes would, if this were a perfectly tuned democracy, get Democrats an additional House seat, but that’s another matter.)

As an example of how this phenomenon can affect individual races, let’s look at House District 5, which comprises a big chunk of the Kansas City metro area, as well as some suburbs in Jackson County (by the way, that’s where many Mormons believe the Garden of Eden was and where many believe God will return to establish the New Jerusalem—I kid you not). Normally this seat is a very safe one for the Democrat. Emanuel Cleaver, an African-American pastor, was a city councilman in Kansas City for 12 years and mayor of the town for eight years. He first won this House seat in 2004 with 55% of the vote, and has since faced the same Republican opponent, Jacob Turk, five times. Yep. Five times.

Cleaver, who is fairly liberal, beat Turk, who is really conservative, in 2006 and 2008 with 64% of the vote. But he only beat him in 2010 with 53% of the vote. Remember that year? Of course you do. It’s the Democratic Party’s ongoing nightmare. It was a very low turnout year for Democrats, especially in Kansas City, which that year saw only 38% of its registered voters show up. In Jackson County, with all the suburbs, the turnout was almost 48%. One of those suburbs was Independence, Harry Truman’s hometown. Turk beat Cleaver there. Thus, with that turnout disparity, you can see why Cleaver only got 53% and Turk got his then-best mark of 44%. In 2012, with a turnout of 65.7%, Cleaver rebounded and beat Turk with 60.5% of the vote.

Now let’s finish up with this year’s race, which, you will remember, featured a statewide turnout of 35.2%. Cleaver and Turk tangled again and Cleaver only got 51.5% of the vote versus Turk’s 45%, his best showing ever. The Libertarian got 3.5%. Now, it’s true that Cleaver still won the race by 6.5 points, but it’s also true that had voters had a different Republican candidate, one with new ideas and a new face and one that didn’t have any Libertarian pulling votes away from him, Cleaver may have gone down to defeat. That could have happened to a long-time and popular Kansas City Democratic officeholder.

It’s this simple: No Democrat should struggle to get 51.5% of the vote in a metro area like Kansas City. But apathy is not just poison for the soul—for the soul of democracy—it is especially dangerous for the soul of the Democratic Party here in Missouri and elsewhere.

Dumb Republicans

Conservative Republicans, it being their nature, say and do some dumb things. Take, for instance, this one:

A Michigan Republican with a criminal record for breaking into cars and masturbating is urging residents to move out of state to avoid the “homosexual agenda.”

You’ll be happy to know that this guy is running for a seat in the Michigan legislature. And, if you live in Michigan, you’ll be happy to know that he thinks “as long as there are those that love God here, we can win souls and see God move in this city and state.” Yes, in case you didn’t know, legislating is all about winning souls watching God “move.”

And speaking of God moving, mysteriously he was moved yesterday to reveal to the Huffington Post a video he shot of Joni Ernst, the testicle-hating senatorial candidate from Iowa, telling folks at some gun rally in 2012 that she packed heat and reserved the right to use it against “the government, should they decide that my rights are no longer important.” As many have now pointed out, this is the same wacky ball-hater that wants to castrate the rights of women to control their own reproductive health.

But even slightly more sober conservatives say and do dumb things. Chris Christie recently said to his Chamber of Commerce pals that he is “tired of hearing about the minimum wage.” Then, after he realized how dumb it was to say something so dumb, he said something equally dumb:

My comments are never almost universally interpreted the way I mean them.

And we can see why.

But some Republican conservatives not only say dumb things, they say dumb and dangerous things, things that scare and mislead people. Rand Paul, plagiarist and self-certified ophthalmologist, said recently that the Obama administration has inaccurately described Ebola to the public and has “tried to downplay the transmissibility” of the disease, when, in the opinion of the self-certified ophthalmologist, Ebola “is something that appears to be very easy to catch.”

Man, that level of numb-headed irresponsibility makes Chris Christie look good, which is no small feat.

Speaking of small feats, there is my congressman Ozark Billy Long. Let me show you a still from a campaign commercial that is airing here in Hooterville, and I should tell you this commercial was actually “Approved by Billy Long. Paid for by Billy Long for Congress”:

billy long commercial

Shouldn’t the Democrat running against Long, Jim Evans, be running that ad? I mean, Long is bragging that he did something 56 times that failed. He was recently accused of being an ineffective legislator and it turns out his own ad proves it! Brilliant stuff that.

On the darker side of local politics around these parts, I present to you a scene from a campaign commercial running here in Joplin put out by Rep. Lynn Jenkins. She is a Republican from Kansas who represents my old home town and who, in August of 2009, told Kansans that “Republicans are struggling right now to find the great white hope.” Here is a screen shot of the ad I saw last night:

jenkins ad against wakefield

Just who is that woman in the ad? And who is that shifty and scary looking negro standing behind her? Well, the woman is Democrat Margie Wakefield, who happens to be Jenkins’ opponent and who happens to be giving Jenkins a run for her money. And I think you all know who the other guy is. He is The Scary Negro himself. And, man, doesn’t he really look like he’s up to no good? Maybe he has a gun in her back or maybe he’s about to stick a shiv in her. Maybe he’s about to rob her and take her money or, God forbid, something worse like force her to support ObamaCare. What other reason would he be standing so close and looking so creepy?

Sad thing is, this ad doesn’t really qualify as another dumb thing conservative Republicans are saying or doing these days. It’s actually pretty smart, in a Southern strategy political sense, to remind people in mostly rural Kansas that The Scary Negro is out there, ready to do something ugly. But whatever ugly thing that Barack Obama might do between now and the end of his term, it won’t be nearly as ugly as that ad.

Ozark Billy Ain’t Doin’ Much Legislatin’

Have you ever heard of the Legislative Effectiveness Project? Yeah, me neither.

Here is how its creators, political scientists Craig Volden of the University of Virginia and Alan E. Wiseman of Vanderbilt University, describe it:

The Legislative Effectiveness Project (LEP) is a joint research project that seeks to understand which members of the United States Congress are the most effective at lawmaking. We use a precise research methodology to calculate a Legislative Effectiveness Score for each member of the House of Representatives, where the average score in each two-year Congress is equal to 1.

Given the title of this blog post, I think you know where I’m going. From the Springfield News-Leader:

Rep. Billy Long was not a very effective legislator in the last Congress, according to a new analysis examining lawmakers’ legislative success.

Among Missouri’s nine House members, Long, R-Springfield, earned the lowest score from the Legislative Effectiveness Project, a new website developed by two political scientists at Vanderbilt University and University of Virginia.

Long scored “well below expectations,” said Craig Volden, one of the website’s creators and a professor at the University of Virginia.

Mr. Volden got one thing wrong. For some of us, Long’s legislative prowess is not “well below expectations.” It is pretty much what we expected. Although I would have to say he is performing somewhat better than I imagined he would. I thought he would be the least effective legislator in Congress. Turns out that among his 245 Republican colleagues, he comes in at 212. So I suppose that’s something he can be proud of. There are 33 Republicans who do less legislatin’ than he does.

He outscores many more, though, when it comes to spending campaign cash on vittles. As Randy Turner has been tracking,

Federal Election Commission (FEC) documents indicate the Billy Long For Congress campaign committee has spent nearly $100,000 for meals since the beginning of 2013, including more than $20,000 in the last three months.

That’s a heapin’ helpin’ of hospitality right there. You could fill Jethro Bodine’s belly on that kind of tab.

As an example, Turner reported that,

On August 27, the Long campaign reported two meals at the Capitol Hill Club, one for $116.12 and the other for $215.10, and a third meal at Nicolas Ristarante in Springfield for $1,062.41, for a total of $1,393.63.

nicolas in springfieldIn case you, like me, can’t afford to eat at Nicola’s Ristarante in Springfield and therefore have never been there, fortunately you can go online and check out its fancy dining room and allow your taste buds to dream of sampling the “Sea Bass with saffron sauce” for a mere $25 or the “8 oz. beef tenderloin with gorgonzola cheese sauce or green peppercorn sauce,” a steal at only $29.

This is not the time to once again remind everyone how depressed wages are in Billy Long’s district, but now is the time to ask out loud, as Deirdre Shesgreen did,

Where is Rep. Billy Long? His campaign won’t say

Shesgreen is the Washington correspondent for Gannett’s Ohio and Missouri papers, including the Springfield News-Leader. Her story began:

Springfield-area residents who want to talk to Rep. Billy Long in advance of Election Day might have a hard time finding the Republican congressman.

highland springsWell, only those residents who can’t dine at fine places like Nicola’s Ristarante or the Highland Springs Country Club in Springfield (where Long’s campaign spent $5,573.50 on August 13th for a “campaign event”) will have a hard time finding Ozark Billy. Those who do frequent such places get plenty of access to the former auctioneer. (For the record, Long was invited to a local event here in Joplin to discuss pending legislation related to the Postal Service. No one from his local office bothered to show up, even though the Postal Service is needlessly closing a plant in Springfield next year that will cost the local economy around 300 good-paying jobs.)

As for the rest of his constituents, Deirdre Shesgreen reported that Long’s campaign manager, no doubt a beneficiary of at least a few of those campaign-financed meals, said that Ozark Billy has many good reasons for not showing up to events—like last week’s League of Women Voters forum—in which he might get asked tough questions about his time in Washington. And according to Shesgreen, Long’s campaign manager “refused to give out any details of Long’s upcoming campaign schedule.”

Now, think about that. Deirdre Shesgreen is the area’s number one political reporter, in terms of telling the locals what their legislators are doing (or, as the study above indicates, not doing) in D.C. and around the district. Yet Billy Long, with the election just two weeks away, won’t even tell her what his campaign schedule is!

That is how politics works here in Republican-dominated southwest Missouri. Long has always had a strategy of lying low and keeping his mouth shut because he knows that come November, the locals will run not walk to their polling places and give him about 65% of the vote. So why shouldn’t he keep bellying up to the buffet and gambling tables and avoiding the press and his non-moneyed constituents?

Oh, yeah. I almost forgot. Try finding anything in the Joplin Globe about this stuff. You’d have an easier time finding Ozark Billy.

Let’s All Drink To Ozark Billy! He’s Made The Big Time!

What does a resident of Southwest Missouri and a Las Vegas gazillionaire have in common?

Billy Long.

Congressman Long, far from the Ozark hills he sort of calls home, will serve as master of ceremonies and will be introducing Dick Cheney at gazillionaire $heldon Adelson’s $uck-up-a-thon in Las Vegas this weekend. In what many are calling the “Adelson primary,” several GOP presidential hopefuls are prostrating themselves before Adelson, a major GOP donor, hoping against hope that they will get his very important vote and subsequently stuff their campaign pockets full of casino cash. (The overtly Jewish* Adelson reportedly “earns” $32 million each and every day from his gambling empire. Praise God).

billy long poker2Speaking of gambling, we all know Ozark Billy, the “citizen legislator” from Springfield, Mo., is fond of the poker tables in Las Vegas and elsewhere. And, of course, part of the Adelson suck-up-a-thon festivities are, uh, poker tournaments! Congratulations, Billy! You’ve died and gone to heaven!

In case any of you low-dollar locals want to celebrate with your congressman, well, don’t bother looking into it. As Time reported:

Most of the action will be taking place behind closed doors, as the speakers meet with Adelson and other top-tier donors privately.

As thousands of Southwest Missourians relax at home this coming weekend, many of them after putting in grueling hours at low-paying jobs and many of them enthusiastic Billy Long voters, may they rest peacefully knowing their family-values congressman is hard at work playing poker, drinking, and rubbing bellies with $heldon Adelson and Dick Cheney, much of the fun on donors’ dollars I’m guessing.

Life is good, if your name is Billy Long and if you have convinced a bunch of working stiffs from the Ozarks to vote Republican.

____________________________

adelson* The event is officially a leadership conference of the Republican Jewish Coalition, which describes itself as “the voice for Jewish Republicans” and “the most trusted and sought-out Jewish advisor to Republican leaders.” Sheldon Adelson is on the Board of Directors.

Something To Do This Year

Salon.com published one of those New Year pieces that attempts to look ahead with hope in the heart. This one was titled,

New Year’s resolutions for the left: What liberals can win in 2014

Hmm. I suppose, given what is going on in Congress and what is going on around the country in the various right-wing controlled states, that it is a small victory to even imagine that liberals can “win” anything this year. But perhaps the various contributors to the piece, liberal activists all, are right that some important things can be achieved, even though I have serious doubts. However, what you won’t find on the list of things “liberals can win in 2014” is perhaps the most crucial of them all, in terms of saving the very idea of American democracy: getting big, bad, and increasingly dark money out of politics.

It was bad enough when rich folks and corporate interests could openly court our legislators and throw money at their campaigns in order to secure the blessings of legislation or the blessings of writing regulations that stem from legislation. Now, dark money, that money that rich people and corporations can put into political activity anonymously—thanks to a conservative-controlled Supreme Court—allows these moneyed interests to control our politics—sometimes both sides of our politics, I hate to say—without us voting peons knowing exactly who is pulling the political and public relations strings.

Let me share with you a recent AP article on what Texas Republicans are worried about. The piece begins:

The deaths this year of three major Texas Republican donors, including a billionaire who died over the weekend, could signal a generational change for party kingmakers in the nation’s largest GOP stronghold.

Now, just why God chose to call home these wealthy right-wingers in 2013 I will leave to your imagination, but while they were still breathing the three managed to help transform Texas:

All three men were considered conservative renegades when they got involved in politics. However, as the state grew more conservative, they became part of the GOP mainstream.

You see? In a state like Texas—where, just like here in Missouri, there are no limits to how much dough you can stuff into the pockets of politicians—if you have enough money you can make the stream of politics bend to your will.

One of those Texas billionaire gave $31 million—think about how much money that is—to conservative groups in just a two-year cycle (2011-2012). Another gave “at least $75 million in political contributions in his lifetime.” And that doesn’t count the Supreme Court-blessed dark money he was able to give without his name publicly attached.

Ominously, the AP writer, speaking of the dark money aspect of today’s environment, wrote:

The full extent of their donations may never be known, since many were made privately.

“Privately.” Their donations were made privately. Their donations to public campaigns, to public policy initiatives, were made privately, so that the public would not be in a position to judge whether the public relations campaigns on TV and radio, and whether the politicians they elected, were serving the public interests or the interests of a private political donor or donors who had a lot to gain.

It’s shameful. And it is sad that many liberals don’t even dream of changing things, although some still are gallantly trying.

To end this beginning-of-the-year downer, I will leave you with a peek into the world of my congressman, Ozark Billy Long. I checked on the Federal Election Commission’s site to see how Billy was spending his donors’ dough this year. Remarkably, the man who has struggled with his weight has spent a lot of money on meals and fancy hotels and, well, don’t tell anybody, but some of those expenditures happily coincide with Billy’s fondness for the poker tables.

In April of 2013 he jetted out to Vegas and spent about $1500 bucks (from his campaign war chest) for accommodations at the Venetian (a big poker tourney was going on at the time). Earlier in the year he flew down to Florida (paid for by the campaign donors) and spent almost $2400 of campaign cash at The Ritz-Carlton in Naples. You ever been to a Ritz-Carlton? I know, I know, me neither. Here’s what the one Billy stayed at looks like:

ritz carlton in naplesJust in case some of you cold southwest Missourians think that anyone who can afford it ought to be able to pass time on a pristine beach in the middle of winter in Naples, Florida, I will agree with you. I just don’t think politicians ought to be able to do it on money given to them by donors, that’s all. If Ozark Billy wants to belly-up to a beach-side bar in paradise, he ought to have to spend his own money.

Oh, have you ever been to The New York Palace in Manhattan? Didn’t think so. But Ozark Billy has. He spent $1329 there in June of last year, all of it from campaign funds. If you ever decide to run for Congress and win, here’s what you can look forward to your donors paying for:

They don’t call it The New York Palace for nothing. Man, what a place. And paid for by anyone who has ever given Billy Long a dollar, or a thousand, or ten thousand. Mind you, campaign expenditures aren’t secrets, even if the sources of the money given to political activities are fast becoming very secretive. In fact, Randy Turner, writing for Daily Kos, has done a good job of documenting Ozark Billy’s use of campaign funds, especially the fact that the hungry congressman has spent a lot of campaign dough on meals, while voting to pass a farm bill without funding for the food stamp program.

In any case, my particular favorite Billy Long meal expense was a couple of meals at a Ruth’s Chris Steak House in Manhattan in August of 2013. These two “campaign event” meals cost more than $2000. That’s a lot of Ruth’s Chris. But here’s the way I like to think of it in order to make myself feel better. A local family of wealthy Republicans, the Humphreys (who are well-known nationally as big-time donors), have given thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars to Ozark Billy. In fact, David Humphreys gave Long $2500 in March of 2013. It sort of makes me feel good to imagine that most of that money was spent at a steak house in New York City feeding the fed-up congressman and his entourage, or possibly all of it was spent at the Ritz-Carlton in Naples. You know what I mean?

But I wonder how it makes David Humphreys feel? Oh, then again I suppose it doesn’t really matter. When you have big money to toss around, it probably doesn’t worry you all that much that some of it ends up at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse in Manhattan or at the Venetian in Vegas or at The New York Palace or at a resort complex overlooking a beautiful beach in Florida. It’s just the price of doing business.

However, if you want to help change this sick and sickening system, there are ways to do it. Go here or here or here or here or here. Go somewhere and do something before more damage is done. It is, after all, a new year.

Congressman Ozark Billy Long: Cheap Shot Artist? Nope. He’s No Artist

cheap shot artist:
An individual who raises the act of taking a dishonorable, lowbrow, disrespectable action to an artform. This is accomplished either through frequent and conspicuous use of cheap shots or a particularly noteworthy low blow.

—from the Urban Dictionary

Geeze.

I had heard that my congressman, the former auctioneer Ozark Billy Long, participated in the farce that was Wednesday’s hearing conducted by the House Energy and Commerce Committee on “implementation failures” of the Affordable Care Act. But even I, a long-time critic of the congressman, never dreamed he would make such a cheap shot-shooting splash on the national stage.

Here is the painful transcript of Ozark Billy’s moment in the anti-ObamaCare sun. And keep in mind that he had plenty of time—almost three and a half hours during the hearing itself—to formulate his questions:

OZARK BILLY LONG: …thank you, Secretary, for being here today and giving your testimony. Earlier in today [sic] you said that “I’m responsible for the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.” I’ve heard you referred to, maybe yourself, as the point person for the rollout, the architect of implementing Affordable Care Act, so you are kind of the President’s point person, are you not, for this rollout?

SECRETARY SEBELIUS: Yes, sir.

OZARK BILLY LONG: I, uh, earlier, you were asked—and there’s a lot of things striking about the rollout of this and about the Affordable Care Act altogether—but the thing that’s most striking to me is that when we have the point person for the rollout here, and you’re not going into the exchange. Now, I’ve heard you say that—and you’ve got some advice from the folks behind you—but I’m asking you today could you tell the American public, if your advisers behind you, if they happen to give you some wrong information, if it is possible for you to go into the exchange like all these millions of Americans that are goin’ into the exchanges, will you commit to forgo your government insurance plan that you’re on now and join us in the pool? Come on in, the water’s fine, all the congressmen, all of our staff, have to go into the exchanges. We have to go into the D.C. exchanges.

And I will say that I tried to get on the website, I was successful during the hearing earlier, and I got to the D.C. exchange, which is where I have to buy from, and I got part way through and then when I got to the point where I had to enter Social Security number, billy long cheap shot artistI could not bring myself to do that from what I’ve heard from people like John McAfee and folks about the security, will you tell, if your advisers are wrong, and it is possible, for you, and I’m not saying it is, but if it is, if it is possible for you, to forgo your government program you have now, will you tell the American public that, yes, I will go into the exchanges next year like everyone else?

SEBELIUS: Sir, the way the law is written—

LONG: It’s a yes or no—let’s say that you’re wrong on that. Yes or no. If you’re wrong, will you yes or no…

SEBELIUS: I don’t want to give misinformation to the American public…

LONG: You what?

SEBELIUS: I don’t want to give misinformation…

LONG: I want you to go on and research it…if, if, if you’re wrong…will you go into the exchanges? If you can, will you? That’s a yes or no; if you can, will you?

SEBELIUS: I will take a look at it. I don’t have any idea…

LONG: That’s not an answer. That’s not a yes or no.

COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN FRED UPTON (R-Michigan): The gentleman’s time has expired…

LONG: You’re the architect of the whole program and you won’t go into it with the rest of the American public…

SEBELIUS: I did not say that, sir. I think it’s illegal for me—

LONG: —If it’s not illegal, if it’s legal will you go in? …Come on in, the water’s fine…

UPTON (R-Michigan): The gentleman’s time has expired…

CONGRESSMAN HENRY WAXMAN (D-California): Mr. Chairman, Mr. Chairman, I have a unanimous consent request…

SEBELIUS: (turning to someone behind her and muttering) …don’t do this to me…

WAXMAN: …Madame Secretary, I’d like you to answer for the record: if you were able to do what the gentleman just suggested…and went into the [exchange] to buy an individual policy, would you be able to find one that would protect you from cheap shots…?

Yikes. Cheap shots, indeed.

First of all, besides the cheap shots and incoherent mess that was Long’s questioning, when he asks Sebelius, “will you go into the exchanges like everyone else?” we know that “everyone else” will not be going into the exchanges. It will typically be only those Americans (about 15 million) who don’t get coverage through their employers or through Medicare or Medicaid or who are self-employed or who are owners of small businesses trying to provide insurance for their workers (or members of Congress and their staff who were, unfortunately, put into the exchanges by a Republican provision that Democrats adopted).

Second, Sebelius already has health insurance and doesn’t need to go into the exchanges. Her employer is the federal government and, by law, her employer must provide her with affordable insurance, which it does. And since apparently she is enrolled in Medicare Part A, she couldn’t go into the exchanges without withdrawing from that program, which would be dumb since it is, uh, free. Thus, in order for her to sufficiently prove to Billy Long that she loves ObamaCare, she would have to give up her government-provided health benefits, quit Medicare, and start paying out of pocket for her health insurance. Dang, I wonder why she doesn’t do that?

Third, when Long says that Sebelius “is the architect of the whole program,” he is either lying or he doesn’t realize that the architects of this program were largely Republicans, who, before Obama embraced their enhance-the-private-insurance-industry scheme, were all in favor of enhancing the private insurance industry. And if Sebelius were the architect of the program, she would understand it much, much better than she does and would be able to explain it much, much better than she has so far.

Fourth, when Ozark Billy referenced John McAfee, I thought he was kidding. John McAfee, besides being the founder of the anti-virus software company that used to haunt our computers, is actually a “person of interest” in a murder case in Belize. He is one weird cat. House Republicans solicited his “expertise” on October 14, those Republicans being in desperate need of a clown to complete their anti-ObamaCare circus act.

Instead, they settled for Ozark Billy Long, whose cheap shot artistry was long on cheap and short on art.

Geeze.

Here is the entire hearing in front of the House Energy and Commerce Committee,  and you will find the complete display of Long’s lack of artistry near the end, at 3:23:22 or so:

Here is a clip:

We Now Know How Many Dangerous Radicals There Are In Congress

Here is the sad reality facing the country:

The final vote in Congress to temporarily open the government and to temporarily preserve the full faith and credit of the United States:

House of Representatives: 285 in favor (198 Democrats and 87 Republicans) and 144 against (all Republicans).

Senate: 81 in favor (52 Democrats, 27 Republicans, 2 Independents) and 18 against (all Republicans).

Thus: We now know there are at least 144 Tea Party radicals in the House (62% of all Republicans) and at least 18 Tea Party radicals in the Senate (40% of all Republicans). That’s about 58% of all congressional Republicans. Think about that: 58% of all congressional Republicans are nutty enough to wreck the economy in the name of Tea Party radicalism.

Let me repeat: Nearly 6 in 10 of the current complement of Republicans in Congress are radical enough to not only shutdown the government and keep it closed, but radical enough to severely damage the credit worthiness of the our centuries-old Republic and blow a hole in the economy.

God bless America.

Odds and ends:

♦ Democrats, once again, saved the country from utter chaos and ignominy.

♦ My own congressman, Ozark Billy Long, voted with the radicals. He obviously doesn’t give a damn about the viability of government or the full faith and credit of the United States. But the local paper and local television news outlets will never question him about his irresponsible vote or hold him accountable for it.

♦ Every single Missouri Republican in the House voted with the zealots. Yes, every one of them.

♦ A strange woman, apparently an official House stenographer, began yelling on the floor of the House during last night’s vote, saying something about our Freemason Constitution and that God will not be mocked. Poor lady. God is mocked every day in that Republican-controlled chamber and obviously since God has thus far failed to stop the mockery, she thought she’d give him a hand.

♦ After the Republican surrender, Rush Limbaugh now says the Republican Party is “irrelevant” and “made a decision not to exist.” God, for once I hope he’s right.

♦ The quack masquerading as a doctor on Fox “News,” Keith Ablow, said that President Obama’s language about the GOP “holding the whole country hostage” is simply the President “going back to when his dad abandoned him, when his mother left him with his grandparents.” Obama is, said the quack, extending his victimization “to this country.” Just part of another day of fair and balanced broadcasting on the Republican News Channel.

♦ Georgia congressman Jack Kingston told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes last night that the estimated $24 or 25 billion or so that the government shutdown and debt default scare cost the American people was worth it because it allowed Republicans to send a message to the public that they don’t like ObamaCare. I don’t think such stupidity needs any additional commentary from me.

♦ Club for Growth and Heritage Action and Freedom Works all put out an alert on the vote, warning legislators they would be using it to score their loyalty to Tea Party conservatism. We know it worked because of the 62% of House Republicans who followed the zealous lobbying groups and the 40% of Senate Republicans who did so. If that doesn’t scare you, you are unscareable. Right wing lobbyists are slowly ruining the country.

♦ We now know that Tea Party Conservatism doesn’t believe in personal responsibility—they oppose the individual mandate in ObamaCare that the Heritage Foundation originally championed—or in national responsibility—they voted to say to hell with paying the country’s bills. What kind of conservatism is that? If Edmund Burke were alive, he would fall over dead.

♦ How petty are these extremists? Look at this:
russert tweet

Obama’s “victory speech” was, of course, not a victory speech. He could have rubbed it in the faces of these extremists, but he didn’t. Why? Because unlike his political enemies, he has class.

♦ I want to mention one particular senator who gets much credit for being a reasonable Republican. He ain’t. His name is Tom Coburn and he’s a right-wing freak. He has been a cheerleader for not raising the debt ceiling. As Huff Po reported:

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) voted with Cruz, but nevertheless said he thought the fiasco had been entirely predictable because it was obvious Democrats and the president would never end Obamacare, and they control two of the three relevant parts of government. He had a tart piece of advice for Cruz and others: “Have a coordinated strategy that’s based on reality rather than one that’s not.”

Coburn voted with Cruz and then advised him to have a strategy based on reality? Thank God Coburn is getting the hell out of the Senate. He has lost his mind.

♦ Finally, for the record, here are all the Republicans who voted against the shutdown-debt ceiling deal. May their names live on in utter infamy:

HOUSE:

Robert B. Aderholt (AL) Justin Amash (MI) Mark Amode (NV) Michele Bachmann (MN) Andy Barr (KY) Joe L. Barton (TX) Kerry Bentivolio (MI) Rob Bishop (UT) Diane Black (TN) Marsha Blackburn (TN) Kevin Brady (TX) Jim Bridenstine (OK) Mo Brooks (AL) Paul Broun (GA) Larry Bucshon (IN) Michael C. Burgess (TX) John Campbell (CA) John Carter (TX) Bill Cassidy (LA) Steven J. Chabot (OH) Jason Chaffetz (UT) Chris Collins (NY) Doug Collins (GA). Michael Conaway (TX) John Culberson (TX) Ron DeSantis (FL) Jeffrey Denham (CA) Scott DesJarlais (TN) Sean Duffy (WI) Jeffrey Duncan (SC) John J. Duncan Jr.(TN) Renee Ellmers (NC) Blake Farenthold (TX) Stephen Fincher (TN) Chuck Fleischmann (TN) John Fleming (LA) Bill Flores (TX) Randy Forbes (VA) Virginia Foxx (NC) Trent Franks (AZ) Scott Garrett (NJ) Bob Gibbs (OH) Phil Gingrey (GA) Louie Gohmert (TX) Robert W. Goodlatte (VA) Paul Gosar (AZ) Trey Gowdy (SC) Kay Granger (TX) Sam Graves (MO) Tom Graves (GA) Morgan Griffith (VA) Ralph M. Hall (TX) Andy Harris (MD) Vicky Hartzler (MO) Jeb Hensarling (TX) George Holding (NC) Richard Hudson (NC) Tim Huelskamp (KS) Bill Huizenga (MI) Randy Hultgren (IL) Duncan D. Hunter (CA) Robert Hurt (VA) Bill Johnson (OH) Sam Johnson (TX) Walter B. Jones (NC) Jim Jordan (OH) Steve King (IA) Jack Kingston (GA) Doug LaMalfa (CA) Raul Labrador (ID) Doug Lamborn (CO) James Lankford (OK) Robert E. Latta (OH) Billy Long (MO) Frank D. Lucas (OK) Blaine Luetkemeyer (MO) Cynthia M. Lummis (WY) Kenny Marchant (TX) Tom Marino (PA) Thomas Massie (KY) Michael McCaul (TX) Tom McClintock (CA) Mark Meadows (NC) Luke Messer (IN) John L. Mica (FL) Candice S. Miller (MI) Jeff Miller (FL) Markwayne Mullin (OK) Mick Mulvaney (RC) Randy Neugebauer (TX) Kristi Noem (SD) Richard Nugent (FL) Alan Nunnelee (MS) Pete Olson (TX) Steven Palazzo (MS) Steve Pearce (NM) Scott Perry (PA) Tom Petri (WI) Joe Pitts (PA) Ted Poe (TX) Mike Pompeo (KS) Bill Posey (FL) Tom Price (GA) Trey Radel (FL) Tom Reed (NY) Jim Renacci (OH) Tom Rice (SC) Martha Roby (AL) Phil Roe (TN) Mike D. Rogers (AL) Dana Rohrabacher (CA) Todd Rokita (IN) Tom Rooney (FL) Dennis Ross (FL) Keith Rothfus (PA) Ed Royce (CA) Paul D. Ryan (WI) Matt Salmon (AZ) Mark Sanford (SC) Steve Scalise (LA) David Schweikert (AZ) Austin Scott (GA)  James Sensenbrenner (WI) Pete Sessions (TX) Jason Smith (MO) Lamar Smith (TX) Steve Southerland (FL) Chris Stewart (UT) Steve Stockman (TX) Marlin Stutzman (IN) William M. Thornberry (TX) Michael R. Turner (OH) Ann Wagner (MO) Tim Walberg (MI) Greg Walden (OR) Jackie Walorski (IN) Randy Weber (TX) Brad Wenstrup (OH) Lynn Westmoreland (GA) Roger Williams (TX) Joe Wilson (SC) Rob Woodall (GA) Kevin Yoder (KS) Ted Yoho (FL)

SENATE:

Tom Coburn (Okla.), John Cornyn (Texas), Mike Crapo (Idaho), Ted Cruz (Texas), Mike Enzi (Wyo.), Chuck Grassley (Iowa), Dean Heller (Nev.), Ron Johnson (Wis.), Mike Lee (Utah), Rand Paul (Ky.), Pat Roberts (Kansas), Jim Risch (Idaho), Marco Rubio (Fla.), Tim Scott (S.C.), Jeff Sessions (Ala.), Richard Shelby (Ala.), Pat Toomey (Pa.), David Vitter (La.).

If you ever hear any of these people raging against wasteful government spending (as Tom Coburn does every time he opens his mouth) or droning on about the national debt, you can tell them to go straight to hell, as they voted to waste billions of dollars, break the legs of the economy, and thereby significantly increase the national debt.

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