Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Friday, 1 June 2012

Occupy Buffalo convinces city of Buffalo to withdraw $45 million from JPMorgan -

Occupy Buffalo convinces city of Buffalo to withdraw $45 million from JPMorgan - 

Buffalo City Comptroller Mark J.F. Schroeder announced on Thursday that the city would be pulling $45 million in funds from an account with JPMorgan Chase, following concerns raised by members of the Occupy Buffalo movement.

BuffaloNews.com reported that the Buffalo Sewer Authority funds will be deposited into a higher-yielding account with the local bank First Niagara. The new account will earn 0.30 percent interest. The account with JPMorgan had a 0.25 percent interest rate.

“Not only will the funds earn more interest with First Niagara, a major local employer headquartered in Buffalo, but it also sends a crystal clear message to JPMorgan Chase that the City of Buffalo is not happy with their business practices,” Schroeder said in a statement.

Members of the Occupy Buffalo movement and others had urged the Buffalo Common Council to withdrawal their funds from JPMorgan. The group of demonstrators have been critical of the major bank’s foreclosure practices.


Falling sheep rain down on drivers after truck rollover in Australia -

Falling sheep rain down on drivers after truck rollover in Australia - 

A truck carrying around 400 livestock has overturned on a highway overpass in southern Australia, causing sheep to rain down on the freeway below.

Police say the sheep fell onto the Princess Highway outside Melbourne on Thursday night after the truck crashed and flipped over onto its side, causing it to hang precariously over the freeway.

Several cars on the Princess Highway were damaged by the falling sheep and several people were injured. Allan Eade, a paramedic, says there were “a large number of deceased and injured” sheep.

Robert Leardi, who was driving a car damaged by the livestock, says he was lucky that he was not seriously hurt. He says he was driving on the highway when “all of a sudden these sheep are falling down from the top of an overpass.”


Dumb and Dumber - median grade level for Congressional speeches has dropped a grade from eleventh to tenth grade -

Dumb and Dumber - median grade level for Congressional speeches has dropped a grade from eleventh to tenth grade - 

You're not imagining things. Congress is dumb and getting dumber. 

According to the Sunlight Foundation, the median grade level for Congressional proceedings and speeches has dropped nearly a full grade level from eleventh to tenth grade. 

The result of studying the Congressional Record for the past seven years, the Foundation's data also suggests that both conservatives and new congressmen are responsible for dumbing the entire legislative body down.

But I don't know if I buy that when you consider that Republicans own both ends of the scale. 

For example, Rep. Rick Mulvaney , R-SC, speaks at an average grade level of 7.9 while Rep. Dan Lungren, R-CA, uses speech consistent with a college senior.

What I do find very interesting is that the majority of "sophisticated" speakers are only sophisticated when using prepared notes. 

The Sunlight data tells us when the majority of our leaders have to speak extemporaneously -a five dollar word in itself- they appear just as "dumb" as the rest of us. 

Maybe this explains why our leaders say so much yet actually communicate so very little.

Take the last 67 p residential addresses for instance. They were given at an average grade level of 10.7. 

Meanwhile, all of President Obama's State of the Union addresses have tallied at a level you'd expect of an eighth grader, according to the University of Minnesota's Smart Politics.

Dumbing Down the Message

I actually think there is something else at work here. It's sound bites. 

Our leaders are now trained to talk in them because they know that's what gets them re-elected and what sells in the nightly news. As a result, most politicians can't put together a string of intelligent sentences even if they wanted to.

Again, is this simply a matter of language? .... Or does it hide a bigger underlying issue? 

I suspect it's a little of both, which is why our leaders can't get their minds around the global financial crisis, our debt, the Eurozone, China or any of half a dozen other important issues facing our world today. 

They simply may not understand anything beyond the sound bites or what is needed to pander to their base on either side of the aisle. 

Perhaps I'm being too harsh. 

Maybe it's just that Congress isn't prepared to a) speak without a prompter and b) without properly prepared briefings. Our president certainly doesn't appear to be. 

Making things more readable or understandable isn't a new concept. 

In the 1880s, for instance, sentences had become 54% shorter at 23 words than they were in the Elizabethan era, when the average sentence was 50 words, according to Professor L.A. Sherman. 

Today the average sentence length is between 14-20 words. Perhaps cavemen were on to something with a simple "uhhh." Perhaps these days our politicians would be better served with "duuhh." 

Speaking of which, there may be another explanation here -- "vocabulary frequency."

Most people would never give this a second thought, but any language is really a series of building blocks. What this suggests is that the use of certain vocabulary and the frequency of its use can be tied to specific levels of intellectual development. 

Before computers, educators used to spend significant amounts of time matching students with appropriate reading materials using huge lists of "building block words" that were measured and ranked by how often they appeared. 

In early 2000, researchers working for the School Renaissance Institute and Touchstone Applied Science Associates took this a step further. They determined that three variables matter most when it comes to reading ease: words per sentence, the average grade level of the words themselves, and the number of characters per word.

This sounds very obvious, but in reality it's tremendously difficult to get right, especially for people who must speak and present their thinking to broad audiences. 

Read more -