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.

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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:

Sgt. Joseph M. Peters, R.I.P. — Rep. Billy Long, Shame On You

I don’t know what’s worse: Republicans shutting down the government and thereby shutting down the government’s ability to pay death benefits to the mourning families of fallen soldiers, or Republicans shutting down the government and then claiming they are “working to ensure our nation’s military families are not forgotten in their time of need.” 

That last quote is from Ozark Billy Long, my congressman. It seems the results of the government shutdown he helped engineer have hit very close to home, namely in Springfield, Missouri, where Billy Long lives. From the Springfield News-Leader:

Lawmakers introduced a bill today to provide a death benefit to the families of soldiers killed — including Joseph M. Peters from Springfield — that stopped last week when the government shut down.

Rep. Billy Long’s office said the congressman is co-sponsoring the Fallen Heroes and Families Assistance Act, which his office says ensures future death benefits will not be delayed because of the government shutdown.

Yes, you read that right. Billy Long is “co-sponsoring” a bill to fix what he and his Tea Party friends mucked up and he acts like he is a hero for doing so. What a piece of work is my Republican congressman.

For your information and as a reminder of what a real hero is made of, I will post here a report from Officer.com on the death of Joseph M. Peters:

A special agent with the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division was among four soldiers killed in an attack in Afghanistan on Sunday.

Sgt. Joseph M. Peters succumbed to injuries sustained when his unit encountered an improvised explosive device in the Kandahar Province, according to a news release.

The 24-year-old Springfield, Mo. native was assigned to the 286th Military Police Detachment, 5th Military Police Battalion in Vicenza, Italy.

Peters was the first special agent for CID to be killed in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Also killed in the attack were 1st Lt. Jennifer M. Moreno, Sgt. Patrick C. Hawkins, and Pfc. Cody J. Patterson.

“Special Agent Peters was a highly respected agent and soldier who sacrificed his life in the defense of this nation,” Major General David Quantock, the Provost Marshal General of the United States Army and Commanding General of the United States Army Criminal Investigation Command said in a statement.

“We are extremely proud of his service and what he accomplished as a CID Special Agent and as a Soldier. His death is a reminder to all of us of the unequaled contributions our military members and their families make on a daily basis in the defense of the freedoms that we all enjoy and value so dearly.”

Peters was a member of the U.S. Army for six years and had served two deployments in Iraq before being assigned to Afghanistan. He is survived by his wife and 20-month-old son.

He was posthumously awarded the Combat Action Badge, Bronze Star Medal and Purple Heart.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

In a related story, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, which reportedly is the nation’s largest such group, is calling on President Obama to fix the mess Republicans have made:

“Mr. President, yes, you warned Congress in advance, and yes, they are responsible for continuing the government shut-down. But please take the higher ground and initiate executive action to pay for all related expenses for the funeral arrangements of our fallen hero, Special Agent Joseph Peters, and all our fallen military heroes,” FLEOA National President Jon Adler said in a statement.

“The government is responsible for all expenses and payments on behalf of our fallen heroes who protect life and property; not just their salaries. There is no greater priority for our government.”

Amen.

[U.S. Army photo]

Sequestered Billy Long

Here is Ozark Billy making us shine here in southwest Missouri:

billy long and salon

According to KOLR10 News, the millionaire auctioneer was speaking at the Springfield Rotary Club, for God’s sake, when he said this:

The people that I’ve talked to seem to be doing well. In fact, when I got out in restaurants here in town, people come up to me. They want to see more sequestration, not less. So I think that’s different than it could be in some parts of the country, but we haven’t seen any measurable affect here at all.

Yeah, you tend not to see any negative sequestration effects when you spend your time in Rotary Clubs and fancy eatin’ places like the Metropolitan Grill in Springfield. But that’s our Ozark Billy. Wildly out of touch with his constituents, most of whom are too busy working their asses off just trying to survive, rather than hoping to catch a glimpse of a steak-chomping Billy Long in order to tell him about sequestration, whatever the hell that is.

Most of those folks can’t go to Metropolitan Grill and order the “Merlot demi-glace glazed filet Wellington with Gorgonzola in a puff pastry topped with a black pepper shitake supreme” for a mere thirty bucks. Some of those folks are worried about whether their kids will get booted out of Head Start or whether they’ll get another bite to eat from Meals On Wheels.

So, I would bet that where Billy Long goes to dine in Springfield or in Washington, D.C., or, heck, in his favorite gambling and watering hole, Las Vegas, unless a knowledgeable and brave member of the wait staff speaks up, Billy never hears a goddamn thing about sequestration from the people it is affecting. Thus, I would bet that those folks who “want to see more sequestration, not less” are not waiting tables or serving our congressman cocktails in some restaurant or casino. Those people more likely own the damn place.

The sad thing about all this is Billy Long will never hear from the folks he needs to hear from for at least a couple of reasons. One, unless you have a lot of money to contribute to his relection, your voice doesn’t exactly move him to action. billy long at rotary in springfieldSecond, he doesn’t hold town hall meetings around here, where the hoi polloi can bend his ear about their troubles. He runs from those brave enough to interrupt him and attempt to ask him critical questions, like the last time I ran into him.

In short, I have no doubt that Billy Long has met people around here who have the time and luxury to figure out what sequestration is and who, because it doesn’t affect them, want more of it. It’s those other folks, those other folks he is also supposed to be representing, those other folks who don’t have cash to stash in his campaign pockets, those folks with little time to mess around with figuring out what terms like sequestration mean, who he needs to hear from.

And the last time I checked, those folks don’t attend Rotary Club luncheons.

It’s Like Sex For Them

Remember the supercommittee from last year? Remember how it failed to engineer a deficit deal and thus triggered those dreaded sequestered cuts that were supposed to make lawmakers see the light or else?

Well, we all know that “or else” won’t likely materialize in the end, but why deprive Republicans of a little fun in the mean time? Despite knowing they will not get any cooperation from Democrats who have given too much already in exchange for, uh, not much, House Republicans are set to bring up a their own hand-crafted bill for debate this week that would replace $78 billion in sequestered cuts that are scheduled to take effect in 2013.

Now, wasting their time on such useless legislation before the election this November is perhaps understandable, since there isn’t much else for Republicans to do these days—the ongoing War on Women hasn’t exactly been a polling success.

But as I suggested there must be some fun in it for the hard-core legislators, and sure enough here it is:

In addition to the $78 billion in sequester replacement, the bill contains an additional $180 billion in cuts aimed at reducing the deficit. Among the federal programs hit are food stamps, funding for the 2010 healthcare and financial regulatory laws and the refundable child tax credit.

Ah, there’s the orgasmic rub: Besides taking a stab at the Affordable Care Act, they’re putting a hurt on those most in need by cutting food stamps and healthcare funding and the refundable Child Tax Credit—such needy folks aren’t exactly big donors to GOP campaigns, now are they?—all the while making sure that Wall Street gets to take off its greed-monitoring ankle bracelet and go back to its life of slime.

Fun, fun, fun!  The collective conservative climax that will result should this Republican effort pass the House this week will likely be audible all the way to Joplin. Ozark Billy‘s in for a good time as he contemplates how much damage his (likely) vote can do to folks around here who need food stamps and a little money refunded to help raise their kids.

Colonel Billy Long’s “Pump ‘N Propaganda” Tour Continues

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that today’s Joplin Globe featured a story—four-columns with a three-column photo—about Ozark Billy Long’s gas-pumping-and-lying-about-oil-production tour, most recently acted out in Carthage.

Expecting a puff piece on Long (it turns out that was the job of local television), I was pleasantly surprised that the writer, Wally Kennedy, did include some valuable contrary evidence to Long’s assertions about how much effect increased oil production would have on gas prices and, indeed, Long’s flagrantly false statement about current American oil production.

Here’s how Kennedy wrote up Long’s assertions:

As he placed the nozzle in Mack Shipp’s vehicle, Long asked, “Fill it up?”

Long told Shipp, of Carthage, that he is co-sponsoring three energy bills that would decrease oil prices, create thousands of jobs and increase America’s energy independence by ramping up oil production in the United States.

“They have forgot [sic] about drilling for oil here,” Long told Shipp.

Oh, yeah? Long’s energy bills would decrease oil prices?  “They” have “forgot” about drilling here at home?

Fortunately, Wally Kennedy included a section at the end of his piece highlighting comments from Deron Lovaas, a “transportation expert” with the non-profit, non-partisan Natural Resources Defense Council, a group dedicated to protecting the environment.

Here is a comment Lovaas made about the House bills Long touted:

The reality is that they will not affect gas prices. We are shackled to a global oil marketplace. When the price of crude goes up and down, it drags prices at the pump with it.

Lovaas also addressed the relationship of production to domestic oil prices by using Canada as an example:

They process 1½ times what they consume. Their prices track our prices. It’s because of the giant global oil marketplace. We can’t make a dent in globally determined prices.

Get that? Canada produces more oil than it actually uses, yet prices are in line with prices here.  How can that be, Colonel Billy?

Here is an excerpt from an article from The Canadian Press, posted today:

The April report showed inflation in Canada was almost completely tied to gas and energy — with energy prices 17.1 per cent higher than a year earlier and gasoline prices 26.4 per cent higher.

By the way, according to Canada Facts, “Nearly all of the surplus is exported to the USA,” and “The USA buys more oil from Canada than from any other country, including Saudi Arabia.”

One would think that those energy-rich Canadians (they have the world’s third largest proven oil reserves) would be smart enough to use all their excess energy production to keep their energy prices low at home, but, alas, they don’t have an Ozark Billy advising them.

Colonel Long’s other fib, that, “They have forgot about drilling for oil here,” was also disposed of by Kennedy-Lovaas:

With regard to production, Lovaas said: “Production is going to continue. We have more producing oil wells in the United States than all of the other nations combined.  We produce a lot of oil in this country.  The number of new rigs is actually up.

“We’re not sitting on our hands when it comes to production, but that production is eclipsed by a huge and growing global marketplace for oil.”

In fact, according to the Energy Information Administration, the U.S. now produces 9.1 million barrels of oil every day, making it the third largest oil producer in the world.  That represents about 11% of the world’s production.  The problem is we consume 22%.

Reality, as some of my friends say, is a bitch. And the reality is that poking more holes in American ground or offshore and extracting more oil will not result in lower gas prices, no matter how many times Colonel Billy says it at local gas stations.

Finally, I do have a problem with something I read in Wally Kennedy’s piece:

Long, who was accompanied by five members of his staff, held a news conference in the convenience store after pumping gasoline into a half-dozen or so vehicles. 

Now, a press conference, to my knowledge, involves the press. If press were present, were any questions asked?  And if questions were asked, what were the questions? It seems to me that given the current political debate over Newt Gingrich’s correctly labeling as “radical” the Republican plan to kill Medicare—a plan Colonel Ozark Billy voted for—then why were no questions asked about that?

Huh?

____________________________

Related to the phony Billy Long gas-pumping stunt, I watched a really, truly, honest-go-goodness example of counterfeit journalism in a report presented by Morgan Schutters on local outlets KSN and KODE TV. 

If you can believe it, the head of the Jasper County Republican Party, John Putnam, just happen to be at the Carthage gas station and just happened to have his gas pumped by Ozark Billy.  Putnam was identified only as a “Carthage Republican,” as if his job as GOP honcho for the county was irrelevant.

I almost bothered to provide a transcript of the report, especially the end, but I just couldn’t bear to do it. (You can see it and the video here.)  It is shameful, but, unfortunately, typical of local “news” reporting.  And it is a perfect example of why local politicians pull these dishonest stunts. They can get away with it.

Fortunately, in this case our two largest local newspapers, the Joplin Globe and The Springfield News-Leader, challenged Long’s contentions and presented relatively balanced reports.

 

Well, G-O-L-L-Y! Sur-prise, Sur-prise, Sur-prise!

Finally, Colonel Ozark Billy Long has found a job for which he is qualified.

The Springfield News-Leader reported yesterday that our congressman was at Wally’s Filling Station a Rapid Roberts gas station in Springfield on Wednesday pumping gas for his constituents.

The story, written by Roseann Moring, was a journalistic step up for the News-Leader. It began innocently enough:

Congressman Billy Long visited a Springfield gas station Wednesday to promote bills that would allow offshore oil drilling, saying the proposal would help defray the cost of gas prices.

But the next paragraph demonstrated the art of journalism:

But some say that premise is false and drilling offshore in the United States will not make gas prices cheaper anytime soon.

To say the least, I was shocked at this bit of honest reporting injected into a local story about Ozark Billy. That just doesn’t happen very often.  I applaud it.

Later in the story Ms. Moring wrote:

Offshore oil drilling is not an effective solution to gas prices, said Alexander Wait, a sustainability advocate and Missouri State University professor. It would probably take at least 10 years to even drill the oil, and the method would have to be significantly more expensive than those used elsewhere, he said.

“Who knows what we’re going to be doing in 10 years?” he said.

He said Long and other members of Congress who pushed this message in the last few days are either misinformed or making a political point without any evidence that it’s true.

“That’s just pure propaganda to say gas prices are high and offshore drilling is going to lower the gas prices,” he said.

Again, I was shocked.

Another story written by Roseann Moring about the gas-pumping event featured this:

At an event where Long met constituents at a gas station to talk about gas prices and oil drilling, he told several people that the extra cost is essentially a tax or is like a tax.

To a person whose tank holds 22 gallons, he said, “In essence, you’re paying a $22 tax every time you fill it up.”

Moring followed that example of Ozark Billy wisdom with this:

But while gas prices are about a dollar higher this year than last, it is not because the government has raised a tax on gas or oil by that amount.

Long said at a press conference afterward that he intended the statement to be an analogy.

“We’re paying a dollar more to somebody,” Long said.

Yes we are, Colonel Billy.  We’re paying it to the oil companies. The same oil companies that are making record profits.  The same oil companies to which you, Colonel, favor giving tax breaks. 

Now, fill ‘er up and don’t forget to clean the windshield!  We’re paying you to pump gas not talk.  Who do you think you are, Gomer Pyle?

Colonel Billy And The Marshmallow Media

I’ve sometimes criticized local media, print and broadcast, for its “give me your press release and I’ll be on my way” approach to local politicians. 

I’ve especially criticized the Springfield News-Leader for its mostly uncritical reporting on Colonel Ozark Billy Long.  Don’t believe me, though.  Just go to the paper’s website and do a search for “Billy Long,” and you’ll see what I mean.

I’m guessing that before interviewing Long, the News-Leader provides the Colonel with an edible marshmallow lounger, then fetches him a fluffy down pillow made from the under plumage of the most pampered white swans in Europe, offers him unlimited quantities of Valrhona chocolate, then brings in a shy reporter to ask him velvety-soft questions. 

That’s just my guess.

While I’ve grown use to the mostly friendly treatment of pols from our local press, I do expect the national folks to be a little tougher.  After all, what harm can a congressman from southwest Missouri do to folks at, say, National Journal?

I read a Q&A piece in the National Journal, titled, “Colonel of Truth.”  Nope. I didn’t make that up. Colonel of Bleeping Truth.

In any case, the piece, under the byline of Ben Terris, obviously featured Ozark Billy, and I must say, when I read the intro, I thought I had mistakenly linked to the Springfield News-Leader:

Rep. Billy Long, R-Mo., is becoming a larger-than-life figure in Washington. And it’s not just because of his large figure. The Missourian rode the smaller-government, less-spending wave into Congress last November despite (or perhaps because of) his lack of legislative experience.

Reporter: “Would you like a Valrhona chocolate, Billy?

You know you’re in for the marshmallow-lounger treatment when a piece of “journalism” is introduced with a description of the subject as “larger-than-life.” 

The piece informed me that Billy had a “booming voice,” that he is “not afraid,” that he is a “straight-talker,” and, most curiously, that,

the House GOP leadership has taken a shine to him.

Reporter: “Take as many Valrhona chocolates as you want, Billy.”

I’m going to list the questions Long was asked for this exercise in downy-soft journalism:

♥ How did being an auctioneer prepare you for Congress?

♥ Which do you prefer—colonel or congressman?

♥ Can you cite an example of where your salesmanship came into play?

♥ You also didn’t like the short-term budget deal. How did you feel about John Boehner as a negotiator?

♥ You’ve come across as a true tea party kind of guy, but you haven’t joined the Tea Party Caucus. Why is that?

♥ What are the prospects for the next budget negotiations?

♥ How do you feel about Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan? (We already know how Long “feels” about the plan. He voted for the damn thing. And there was no follow-up question.)

But there was a potentially news-making question:

♥ Will you vote to raise the debt ceiling?

Now, finally, there’s a question a journalist should ask and then follow-up with some aggressive questioning.  Long’s answer:

We are going to have to get some extreme, not extreme—we’re going to have to get some good-sized spending cuts before I’d even look at it. It’s going to be another negotiating thing.

Just being a lowly blogger here in Long’s district, I can think of some quick follow-ups:  

♦ What do you mean, before you “even look at it”? Have you studied the ramifications of not raising the ceiling?  Do you think the Treasury Secretary is exaggerating the potential effects on the economy—and on your constituents back home—of failing to raise the limit?

♦ And what do you mean by “good-sized spending cuts”?  How much? What are you holding out for?

♦ Since you didn’t vote for Speaker Boehner’s last budget deal, what makes you think he can negotiate a good deal on the debt ceiling?  Do you trust him to do that “negotiating thing”?

As I said, these are just a blogger’s ideas about follow-up questions for a politician. Naturally, a big time publication like National Journal had even better ones, right?

Wrong.  No follow-ups.

There was this, though:

Reporter: “How were those Valrhona chocolates, Billy?

Finer than a frog’s hair split four ways,” said the bigger-than-life, unafraid, straight-talking auctioneer with the booming voice.

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