Can Small Words Convey Monumental, Um, Big Ideas?

A variation of a theme… 

For the past several years I’ve held the opinion that folks writing television and film scripts are pretty much ‘Out of Ideas’.  I would normally say that these card-carrying-union screenwriters are “Devoid of original thought”, but this would not be in keeping with today’s post. 

More on this in a moment.  

Hollywood’s best and brightest (yes, these ‘real’ writers) re-hash frayed plot lines, release films based upon Hasboro Toys (from when I was a kid), and resurrect for the ‘Big Screen’ television shows from the 1980′s with reckless abandon.  The main difference here, of course, is that the resurrected ‘R-Rated’ big-screen version of the original 1970 – 1980′s era television show sports more profanity than Bob Beckel does on ”Hannity”.   

So what do Hollywood, New York, profanity, writers, and re-hashing of plots have to do with today’s post?  Well, not much, other than the fact that these literary hacks, and current Progressives fall back on the same formula time after time.    

Please allow me a moment to elucidate my thoughts here, so that your thinking will be translucent, transparent, and transformed…  Like mine [evil laugh]

[This is your final warning - if you do NOT want to think as I do, stop reading this post NOW!]

THE ORIGINAL THEME:  As illustrated by the Newsweek cover above, the Media asks the question:  “Why are Obama’s Critics So Dumb?” 

YESTERDAY’S VARIATION OF THE THEME:  “Is Congress Getting Dumber?”

Yes, this headline appeared online yesterday on news sites across the nation. 

And no, I’m not making it up.

Let’s go there, shall we?

“Let the sun shine, let the sun shine in the sun…”

As reported, NPR, May 21, 2012:

Sophomoric? Members Of Congress Talk Like 10th-Graders, Analysis Shows

Every word members of Congress say on the floor of the House or Senate is documented in the Congressional Record. The Sunlight Foundation took the entire Congressional Record dating back to the 1990s and plugged it into a searchable database.

Lee Drutman, a political scientist at Sunlight, took all those speeches and ran them through an algorithm to determine the grade level of congressional discourse.

“We just kind of did it for fun, and I was kind of shocked when I plotted that data and I saw that, oh my God, there’s been a real drop-off in the last several years,” he says.

In 2005, Congress spoke at an 11.5 grade level on the Flesch-Kincaid scale. Now, it’s 10.6. In other words, Congress dropped from talking like juniors to talking like sophomores.

Flesch-Kincaid equates higher grade levels with longer sentences and words with more syllables.

For example, just one sentence from the member of Congress with the highest grade ranking, Rep. Dan Lungren, a Republican from California, goes on for 62 words. (That sentence: “This Justice Department, in my judgment, based on the experience I’ve had here in this Congress, 18 years, my years as the chief legal officer of the state of California and 35 or 40 years as a practicing attorney tells me that this administration has fundamentally failed in its obligation to attempt to faithfully carry out the laws of the United States.”)

Lungren’s grade level during this session of Congress: 20. Overall since 1996: 16.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Georgia Republican Rep. Rob Woodall registers the second-lowest grade level: 8.01.

An example of Woodall’s speech: “What do they say about socialism, Mr. Speaker? It’s a great plan until you run out of other people’s money. Guess what? We’ve run out of other people’s money. I just want to show you a chart.”

That’s five sentences, an average of about 7.5 words per sentence.

“My mother will probably be embarrassed to hear this news,” Woodall says, “but I’m glad to know I’m not obfuscating our challenges with words that are too complicated.”

Woodall is part of the large freshman class that came into Congress in 2010 — many of them backed by the Tea Party movement. Sunlight’s Drutman says this infusion of new members looks to be part of the reason for the overall grade-level decline.

“Particularly among the newest members of Congress, as you move out from the center and toward either end of the political spectrum, the grade level goes down, and that pattern is particularly pronounced on the right,” he says.

Of the 10 members speaking at the lowest grade level, all but two are freshmen, and every one is a Republican. For the record, though, Drutman isn’t passing judgment about whether speaking at a lower grade level is a good thing or a bad thing…

According to this NPR Article, Freshmen Republicans are idiots, rubes, and they have a tendency to speak ‘at the lowest grade level’ of any who have ever had ‘Congressman’, or ‘Senator’ title preceding their names, right?

The funny thing is that this report appearing in the NPR article included a chart.  I copied this chart and added two lines.  

The first line, the BLUE line indicates when Congress first became 100% under control of the Democrats.  

The second line, the RED line, indicates when the Republicans were sworn in following the 2010 elections. 

Please note the direction of each line as it pertains to these two date-specific events:

Blue line = Democrat Rule = Continued lowering of grade-level of speech

Red line = Republican Rule (House only) = Increases in the grade-level of speech

If we take this chart at face value, we can say that according to the ‘Flesch-Kincaid algorithm’ (was this designed by ‘Al Gore’ by any chance?) that the Grade Level of ‘speech’ began its descent in 2005 under Republican rule of the House and Senate. 

This ‘fall’ continued until 2011, led by 100% leadership between the years 2007 – 2010 by… 

The Democrat Party.   

However, as noted above, the chart appears to indicate a rise is ‘adult grade speech’ once the Republicans took over the House again in early 2011.

But, hey, wait a second, isn’t this almost the EXACT OPPOSITE of what the NPR author is attempting to convey to us their narrative?

I’ll end the post with an excerpt from the actual report from the “Sunshine Foundation”:

Does it matter? 

Earlier this year, the University of Minnesota’s Smart Politics noted that Obama’s 2012 State of the Union address clocked in at an eighth-grade level for the third year in a row, and that Obama’s average grade level of 8.4 was well below the average of 10.7 for the previous 67 addresses. Fox News ran the story alongside the image of a child in a dunce cap, and right-wing blogs mocked the President’s intelligence.

[Moos Note:  See, it does NOT seem to matter, if it's the President speaking out loud, in public...]

Others pointed out that maybe speaking clearly was a good thing. After all, the SOTU speech was pretty much right at the level of the average American’s reading level. And writing gurus like George Orwell (“If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out”) and Strunk & White (“omit needless words”) famously advise simplicity.

[Moos Note:  It STILL does NOT matter, in fact, it's a GOOD thing to speak to Americans whose educational system has given them an average, 'dumbed down', reading level!]

But whether you see it as plain speak or you see it as a dumbing down, the data are clear: The overall complexity of speech in the Congressional Record has dropped almost a full grade level since 2005. And those on the political extremes, especially those on the far right, tend to be associated with the most simple speech patterns.

[Moos Note:  Oops, if you're a Conservative Republican it DOES matter, because, well, because you're a Conservative Republican!  How do YOU PEOPLE feed yourselves without biting off your own tongues?]

Yes, just another reason why YOU PEOPLE should never be in control of anything.  You’d probably spoof prior photos of the President and run covers like this:

Courtesy of ‘’

You are bad people.  You must be controlled.

You do not understand good things even when they happen to you.  

You are disloyal.  You are racist.  You are uneducated.  You are what 100 years of Progressive policies intended you to be.  Unworthy of an opinion and full of hate.

Have a nice day.  

No, wait, I take that back.  

Have another mediocre day in Year 3 of the Reign of Obama. 

Lastly, before I forget, I scored this post on the Flesch-Kincaid’ algorithm.  

When I included the entire article (the above ‘as is’) it scored an 8.96 grade level result.  

When I removed the NPR and Sunshine Foundation excerpts above, this post’s score rose to 9.57.  

One may ‘infer’ that I write at a higher level than the folks writing for either NPR or Sunshine Foundation.  I’m not saying that this actually MATTERS, but I find it interesting.

Have an interesting day yourself – see you around the blogyard!       


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6 Responses to “Can Small Words Convey Monumental, Um, Big Ideas?”

  1. Gabriel says:

    Moos…What the hell was that all about? I was confused when I started and even more confused by the time I finished. I think perhaps I write at around third grade level, but I truly AM smarter than a fifth grader Wonder how Obama would fare without his beloved teleprompter.

  2. MoosOfTheDay says:

    Sorry, I was being obtuse.

    Here are the Cliff Notes from the above:

    1. According to the scale referenced above, the TEA Party Freshmen have lowered the grade-level of discourse in DC

    2. However, looking at the chart provided, it appears that the grade-level of conversation has INCREASED over the past 18 months

    3. For the next five months we’ll be told repeatedly in stories (just like this one) that Republicans, Conservatives, and ‘normal folks’ in general are a.) Stupid, b.) Full o’ Hate, and c.) ‘below grade-level’

    4. I ran the above post through the Flesch -- Kincaid and discovered that when I removed the NPR and Sunlight Foundation excerpts, it scored HIGHER than when I left them in. Indicating that NPR and the Sunlight Foundation actually ‘dumbed-down’ my post. This, of course, from the folks yipping about low grade-level speech by, you guessed it, TEA Party Republicans.

    I found this to be sort-of-kind-of ironic given the topic at hand…

    Basic rule of life is that you have to go back and explain it, you didn’t do your job.

    Guilty as charged.

  3. consiglieri says:

    Udder: I like the way you write. It is unfortunate you have a brain around the size of a golfball. Seen the latest polls? You have a long way to go 9.57.

    • MoosOfTheDay says:

      Con Man,

      Brain the size of a golfball huh? Based on some of your comments here, it’s odd then, that you’re still mentally ‘out-gunned’.

      But it’s not all about size, now is it? It’s more about content, consistentcy, and commitment -- of course the ability to string words together cohesively helps. If I ever get there, I’ll let you know.

      Hey, but getting back to you -- It’s beneficial to the reader to actually reference what you’re talking about when making your most salient point(s).

      For example, from your question -- what polls should I be looking at? Please indulge me on this as while I enjoy watching “Long Island Medium” I have no ‘spirit guides’ to clue me in as to what you’re talking about. While Dead Progressive Democrats continue to vote in Presidential Elections, none have stepped forward to clue me in as to what your actual point is. If any do, you’ll probably hear me screaming from up here in New York.

      Any help from you to this end would be appreciated. And in case you’re going to go there -- no, I don’t see, nor do I speak to dead people, but here in New York State more than a few of them continue to get Social Security, Medicare, and Disability Benefits.

      Although, I guess you can make the case that ‘being dead’ is the most extreme version of being ‘disabled’…

  4. Gabriel says:

    Moos…As they say in the land of my ancestors…”danke schoen.” (think that is the way it is spelled) I know the name is messed up but I was adopted by father number two Father number one was named Reimer. Mom wanted the same last name for all. Now I understand where you are coming from.

    News you can use. Keep your fingers crossed. The LAST thing we need in the Senate is this prig, Warren.

  5. miss lynn says:

    Moos, I loved your analysis, even though I had a hard time truly understanding it. I do have a question in that regard, however. I seem to remember one congress person suggesting that some island was going to tip over if something happened. I also recall another guy that said no one reads these bills they pass, much less understand them. I am not attempting to equate your point with these two examples. It just seems to me that these two should never have been voted into office.

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