Wednesday May 23, 2012
At last report the state Senate Finance Committee was demonstrating the restorative power of wisdom in the face of the House’s slash-and-burn budget priorities. Committee members late last week struck a receptive tone to state Inspector General Stephen Street’s pleas to restore his office’s budget, which the House cut as it finalized the state budget for the coming fiscal year. The 24-year-old IG office, established by former Gov. Buddy Roemer and made permanent by Gov. Bobby Jindal as part of his 2008 ethics reform agenda, has proven itself to be an effective, independent means of ferreting out corruption in Louisiana’s halls of power. As the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana correctly posits, Louisiana “needs a self-motivated watchdog agency to stop waste, mismanagement, abuse and fraud in executive-branch government.”
Louisiana’s representation in Congress — two senators and seven representatives — is a bunch of sophomores 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. That’s dead-on average for Congress as a whole. 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 foundation began rating congressional speeches. One could argue that the Tea Party has had 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 — at the 8.6 grade level or 518th among the 531 members.
A sportswriter’s frustration with tardy statistics led last week to national notoriety and to his new persona: former sportswriter. Kade Siebold was canned by the tiny — it doesn’t even have a website; what newspaper doesn’t have a website? — Rayne Independent, a weekly paper in the small Acadia Parish town, after inserting into a story about the statistical achievements of the Rayne High softball team the line, “Hailey Habetz had great [sic] year on the mound but unfortunately no stats were available due to the coach’s bulls**t and laziness.” The asterisks are ours, but the sentiment no doubt is shared by every sportswriter who has ever had to wait for a coach to call in numbers as deadline looms. In fact, Siebold told KATC that although the insertion was a mistake and he regrets it, he heard from sportswriters and bloggers “telling me that I’m their hero because I printed something that they’ve always wanted to print.” In other words, Kade Siebold took one for the team.