Simply put: La. members of Congress are sophomore-ish
Louisiana’s representation in Congress — two senators and seven representatives — is dead-on average when it comes to the level of sophistication at work in their speeches delivered in their respective chambers. The state’s congressional delegation averaged out at a 10.6 grade level for the complexity of their speeches, based on an analysis by the Sunlight Foundation, a non-partisan open-government group whose researchers ran the Congressional Record through a computer algorithm.
The most troubling aspect of the data is not that the Louisiana delegation speaks collectively at the level of a sophomore in high school; it’s that the entire Congress’ speech has fallen nearly a full grade level since 2005 — from 11.5 seven years ago — when the Sunlight Foundation began rating congressional speeches.
One could argue — and I’ll take some heat for this no doubt — that the numbers reveal the Tea Party having a dumbing-down effect on Congress: Of the 20 members with the lowest scores for grade-level speech, 85 percent are Republicans, 65 percent are freshmen and 90 percent are members of the U.S. House of Representatives. Buttressing this supposition, Rep. Jeff Landry, R-New Iberia and a freshman GOP member of the Tea Party Caucus, scored the lowest in the Bayou State delegation. Landry, according to Sunlight, orates at the 8.6 grade level — that’s 518th among the 531 members or 13th worst. The self-styled Cajun conservative, a lawyer by training, does favor the home-spun and colloquial, which no doubt had an adverse effect on his score.
U.S. Rep. Rodney Alexander, a Monroe Republican, is highest in the delegation — and high among all members of Congress — coming in at 13.9 or seventh best overall. The remainder of the delegation is all over the map but tends to be below average (I guess we can thank Alexander’s erudition for lifting the state’s composite score): In ascending order from the bottom are Rep. Bill Cassidy (9.3 or 496 out of 531 members), Rep. John Fleming (10.0 or 457), Rep. Cedric Richmon (10.1/449), Rep. Steve Scalise (10.8/392), Sen. Mary Landrieu (10.8/388), Rep. Charles Boustany (11.2/327) and Sen. David Vitter (11.4/289).
Here’s some perspective via the Sunlight Foundation’s report:
By comparison, the U.S. Constitution is written at a 17.8 grade level, the Federalist Papers at a 17.1 grade level, and the Declaration of Independence at a 15.1 grade level. The Gettysburg Address comes in at an 11.2 grade level and Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech is at a 9.4 grade level. Most major newspapers are written at between an 11th and 14th grade level.
MAY 17 Here's a column from James Gill, this time in the Advocate. Gill, who has jumped ship from the Picayune, writes about the absurdity of dueling polls in this post. The numbers are so wildly different, it is obvious that both sides are "cooking the books," he writes. In particular, he looks at Sen. Mary Landrieu, and how her recent actions in DC have been received by those polled. Gill's acerbic, amusing prose is a welcome addition to a paper so conservative as to be occasionally lacking in personality.
MAY 17 Blogger Tom Aswell continues delivering bombshells about the state education department and Gov. Jindal's education "reform" efforts. In this post, he reports that students in the Shreveport area have been signed up for a charter school without their knowledge or consent. Most interesting to Aswell is how this Texas-based charter (with ties to GOP types) got the personal student information it has, if the students didn't give it.
MAY 17 This post by JR Ball in the Baton Rouge Business Report is an interesting tongue-in-cheek look at recent Baton Rouge economic development efforts. Among the items he examines is the idea that gaining a Costco makes BR a "world-class city." (Really? All you need is a different brand of Sam's? MK!) This effort, and other recent ones, are all built on the taxpayer's back, with tax zones, tax incentives and tax rebates, Ball writes.
MAY 17 Blogger CB Forgotston is critical of the legislature's reliance on a revenue-estimating committee's decision to include projected tax amnesty income in this year's forecast. That's a problem, CB posts, because the deadline for these people to pay their taxes is June 30, 2014. So when do you think these people who haven't paid taxes in years are going to pay their taxes? Surely not before June 30, and that means the money won't be there for this year's budget, he argues.
MAY 17 Here's an interesting blog out of California by a Hollywood writer, attorney and academic named Brian Alan Lane. He blogs about higher ed, and was a whistle-blower in a scandal over false credentials. In this post, he takes aim at LSU's new top dog, King Alexander. It's convoluted and a little confusing, but it sure makes Alexander a lot more interesting than he was yesterday.
MAY 17 Blogger Robert Mann writes about the LSU Board's refusal to allow Dr. Fred Cerise to testify before the legislature about Gov. Jindal's plan to close down all the state's charity hospitals and dump the poor on the private system. It's hard to imagine anyone more qualified than Cerise to testify about that, so why would anyone try to prevent him doing so? Mann thinks it is because the powers that be aren't interested in hearing any truth about the plan.
MAY 17 This post on the Louisiana Sinkhole Bugle, a blog that notes developments in the Bayou Corne and Jefferson Island salt domes, talks about a proposed expansion of the salt dome storage under Lake Peigneur in Iberia Parish. Residents are working against it for several reasons, including two biggies: the sinkhole disaster in Bayou Corne and the continuing, unexplained bubbling on the surface of the Lake.
MAY 17 NOLA police arrested more people Thursday accused of either being involved in the Mother's Day shooting or hiding the suspect afterward, this Gambit story reports. The NOLA police chief said he suspects the whole thing was gang-related and throws out a challenge to the gangs: he's got informants now, he says, and he knows a lot more than the gangs want him to know. The people who live in the neighborhoods terrorized by gangs are ready to talk, he says.
Is it a crime for citizens to photograph, video, or take notes of a police officer in the line of duty, or a right protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution? Locally, such activity, as witnessed recently, will at the very least result in a night spent behind bars.
David Calhoun and Elizabeth “EB” Brooks are the first two employees of Lafayette Central Park Inc., the nonprofit charged with turning Lafayette Consolidated Government’s 100-acre Johnston Street Horse Farm property into a passive public park. Calhoun was named executive director, and Brooks is director of planning and design.
Episcopal School of Acadiana’s Dr. Joshua Caffery, chair of the school’s English Department, is headed to Washington, D.C., and the Library of Congress as the latest winner of the Alan Lomax Fellowship in Folklife Studies.