Four states, three demographic groups!

MONDAY, JUNE 24, 2024

Reading scores, Grade 8: Last Saturday, Kevin Drum surprised us with a post about California's public school students. More specifically:

How well did California's eighth graders perform on the most recent NAEP reading test? Compared to their peers from other states, it seemed to us that the Cali kids had performed surprisingly well:

DRUM (6/22/24): Among the 50 states, California ranks 13th in reading for white students and 9th for Black students. (But a weaker 22nd for Hispanic students.)

As one of Kevin's graphics notes, nine states didn't have enough black kids to produce a representative sample, given Naep procedures. That means that Cali's kids came in 13th among the total 50, ninth among 41.

On balance, Cali's kids did pretty well. We got to wondering about the way Cali's scores compared to those from some other major states. We decided to look at four such states—two of them red, two blue.

A bit of nostalgia was involved. Here are some of the data we churned:

Average scores, Grade 8 reading, 2022 Naep

White kids:
U.S.: 267.11
California: 268.69
New York State: 273.14
Texas: 263.85
Florida: 264.92
Black kids: 
U.S.: 242.77
California: 245.42
New York State: 246.41
Texas: 246.71
Florida: 246.91
Hispanic kids: 
U.S.: 249.81
California: 249.32
New York State: 248.03
Texas: 248.21
Florida: 259.98

We see no particular bombshells there. For all Naep data, start here.

Quickly, a basic point:

According to a very rough rule of thumb, ten points on the Naep scale is often said to be the rough equivalent of one academic year. 

That's a very rough rule of thumb, but it gives you a general idea of what those statistical differences might (roughly) suggest. And yes, that includes the differences in average scores between those three demographic groups within those four large states.

A bit of nostalgia was involved in this effort. We thought back to the days when it was still possible to imagine that someone, somewhere, actually cared about something resembling this.

Those days are long, long gone. A large amount of pretense may have been involved in the expression of such apparent concerns. 

Still, you could still pretend.

Today, the public discourse is all about who can seem to be more senile, depending on the way you edit tiny bits of videotape from their recent public appearances. On balance, our discourse is an undisguised, rolling clown show—a gong show all the way down.

In some ways, the most interesting information we collected involved the demographic distribution of the eighth graders in those four large states. The Naep provided these data:

Student population, Grade 8, 2022 Naep
White / Black / Hispanic kids

U.S.: 45% / 15% / 29%
California: 18% / 4% / 58%
New York State: 40% / 16% / 30%
Texas: 28% / 12% / 51%
Florida: 35% / 21% / 36%

Just to be clear:

According to the data from the Naep, California's grade 8 population in 2022 was 18 percent white, 4 percent black, 58 percent Hispanic.  With respect to the other jurisdictions, you can take it from there.

(The last we looked, they were all good, decent kids. That includes the kids who may have lost their way due to mistreatment, anguish, stress, disorder, abuse, neglect.)

At one time, it was possible to imagine that someone somewhere actually cared about what occurs in our public schools. Back in the 1960s, Jonathan Kozol arrived on the scene, and this (briefly) became a major topic within the liberal world!

Not long ago, our nation's journalistic thought leaders were still pretending to conduct discussions of such matters. As everyone must surely know by now, those days are gone, long gone.

Not to forget these kids: But what about Asian ancestry kids? Citizens, thank you for asking:

Average scores, Grade 8 reading, 2022 Naep

Asian ancestry kids:
U.S.: 281.07
California: 282.97
New York State: 277.49
Texas: 286.07
Florida: 272.59

At one time, this sort of thing seemed like a matter of interest. Those days are gone, long gone.

IMITATIONS (OF LIFE): This Thursday, we stage our latest event!

MONDAY, JUNE 24, 2024

Our latest imitation: We've never known why Imitation of Life was called Imitation of Life.

On the most literal level, the well-regarded 1959 film carried that name for an obvious reason. It was a remake of a well-regarded 1934 film of the exact same name.

That film, in turn, had been an adaptation of Fannie Hurst's 1933 novel, Imitation of Life.  The evocative title—Imitation of Life—was passed on, down through the ages. 

On Thursday night, we within our failing nation will be staging, and will be consuming, our own most recent imitation of life. At present, the people who pretend to be journalists are pretending to discuss that upcoming imitation of life.

Why were the novel and the subsequent films called Imitation of Life? We still don't know, but the leading authority on the later film thumbnails it in this manner:

Imitation of Life (1959 film)

Imitation of Life (1959) is an American drama film directed by Douglas Sirk, produced by Ross Hunter and released by Universal International. It was Sirk's final Hollywood film and dealt with issues of race, class and gender.


In 2015, the United States Library of Congress selected Imitation of Life (1959) for preservation in the National Film Registry, finding it "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." (The 1934 version of Imitation of Life had been added to the National Film Registry in 2005.)


Though it was not well-reviewed upon its original release and was viewed as inferior to the original 1934 film version–many critics derided the film as a "soap opera"–Imitation of Life was the sixth highest-grossing film of 1959, grossing $6.4 million...[One critic] wrote that, in contrast to the novel, this film and the previous film had received "far more critical attention." With a wider audience, the second film became "more famous" than the first.

In 1959, somewhat improbably, Imitation of Life "dealt with issues of race, class and gender." That may help explain why it received so much critical attention, some of it dismissive.

Having said all that, we're still not sure why the film, and the original novel, were called Imitation of Life. In certain ways, Hollywood may have attempted to fashion the 1959 film as a fairly standard type of imitation of discourse:

Imitation of Life (1959 film)


In the 1950s there was increased activism in the Civil Rights Movement, with milestones such as the Brown v. Board of Education US Supreme Court case, and the Montgomery bus boycott gaining national attention. In addition, more women had been working during and after World War II. At the same time, the writers acknowledged that racial discrimination and its inequities were still part of society.

They created a plot line in which [the Lana Turner character] becomes a Broadway star by her own talents, with Annie assisting by being paid to serve as a nanny for Lora's child and general household manager. Producer Ross Hunter also was cannily aware that these plot changes would enable Lana Turner to model an array of glamorous costumes and real jewels, something that would appeal to a female audience. 

Lana Turner's wardrobe for Imitation of Life cost over $1.078 million, making it one of the most expensive in cinema history to that time.

In a highly improbable addition to the plot, the Lana Turner character turns into a big Broadway star! Come see Miss Turner's stunning wardrobe and jewels, the producer may have been whispering into the public's ear.

Did that constitute an imitation of discourse—a distraction from the challenging heart of the film? Each citizen, whether Red or Blue, is going to have to decide.

But what we'll see this Thursday night will be a full-blown imitation—a well-disguised imitation of human intellectual life. The same can be said of the pseudo-discussions which are now being broadcast about Thursday night's imitation of a debate.

Thursday's event will feature two imitations of American political leadership. The current imitations of discourse are being conducted by a wide array of imitations of journalistic thought leaders, Red and Blue alike.

As we ingest this rolling imitation of a functioning democracy, we think of what Michael Moore said at the 2003 Oscars. On stage at that high-profile event, the gentleman offered this:

MOORE (3/23/03): I've invited my fellow documentary nominees on the stage with us, and we would like to—they are here. They are here in solidarity with me because we like non-fiction.

We like non-fiction, and we live in fictitious times.

We live in the time where we have fictitious election results that elects a fictitious president.

We—We live in a time where we have a man sending us to war for fictitious reasons.

Whether it's the fictition of duct tape or the fictitious [sic] of orange alerts, we are against this war, Mr. Bush!

Employing a lovely turn of phrase, Moore spoke that night of "fictitions." Twenty-one years later, we're inclined to say that our culture has advanced to the point where we're all living inside a full-blown imitation of life.

(Back then, it was Moore who was alleging "fictitious election results!" Today, one of our imitation candidates insists on making that unsupported claim about our last election.)

In a brilliant joke from the dead-and-gone Soviet Union, a public employee of the Soviet state was said to make this wickedly sage observation:

We pretend to work, and they pretend to pay us.

Today, within our own imitation of life, it may work more like this:

They pretend to discuss an election and we pretend to listen. 

On the whole, the people cast in the role of journalists are on the air, every day and then all night, pretending that nothing essential has changed. In our view, the time has come to abandon that pretense. 

The time has come to drop that pose. Also, we'd have to say this:

It's no longer clear that there's any known way "back out of all this now too much for us."

This afternoon: Out of nowhere—where you'd least expect it!—a brilliant presentation

SUNDAY: Reportedly, it was this hot in the east!

SUNDAY, JUNE 23, 2024

Our nation's ongoing dysfunction: Friday evening, at 10 o'clock, the termagant started fast. 

It had been very hot in New York. For that reason, he opened his program with a bit of topical humor:

GUTFELD (6/21/24): The heat wave continues in the East. It's so hot Nancy Pelosi had to put on her backup face.


It's so hot she had to replace the stick up her ass with an ice pop.


That's how the termagant started.

For the record, how hot was it in the east? Reportedly, it was this hot:

GUTFELD: It's so hot Jerry Nadler sold the shade under his ass to the highest bidder.

It's so hot he filled his sports bra with Haagen-Dazs. So hot he put a Klondike bar under each testicle


It's so hot Rachel Levine called in the National Guard to fan his nuts.

That's the way the termagant started his primetime "cable news" program. These observations had all been delivered by 10:03 p.m. 

When it came time for his nightly comment on Joy Behar, he compared her this time to a cow.

(We're withholding the link for a reason. Click ahead to 10:07 p.m. if you choose.)

For the record, the termagant is 59 years old. He comes from a sunny land. 

His angry and disordered conduct has been normalized by the silence of everyone else, none of whom want to tangle with Fox. That said, this is American cultural carnage. It airs in primetime weekday nights.

In truth, it had been very hot in the east. The termagant, such as he is, was simply reporting the facts.

SATURDAY: Fun and games on Fox & Friends!


The death of a 12-year-old girl: If there were some such thing as very bad people, these would be very bad people.

Starting in today's 6 o'clock hour, they got busy proselytizing viewers of Fox & Friends Weekend, a gruesome propaganda vehicle on the Fox News Channel.

Viewers of this morning's show heard Barack Obama described as "our shadow president." They heard a chuckling discussion of an amusing sign in Florida—signs which direct this slogan at new arrivals from blue states:


You can't get dumber than these people are. On the other hand, you can be fairly sure that they're going to try. 

DON'T FAUCI MY FLORIDA, the alleged signs allegedly say. Insanely, it turns out that the clever slogan in question dates to merchandize produced by Florida's governor in 2021, back before his White House campaign crashed and burned.

Don't Fauci their Florida! In prime time shows this past week, Fox News colleagues like Watters and Gutfeld staged performative acts in which they seem to encourage physical violence against this killer of millions. So it goes on this insane "cable news" channel, as more elegant orgs like the New York Times reuse to comment or judge.

Back to this morning's performance:

You can't get dumber than these people are, but they're going to try. More than anything else, this morning's performers continued to pound away at an Associated Press news report which appeared late Thursday afternoon.

In the past two days, this short, initial AP report has been widely pseudo-discussed on Fox News Channel programs. So has the vicious crime the AP was starting to report, with special attention devoted to the AP's initial headline, which only referred to "men:"

2 men arrested in strangulation of 12-year-old Houston girl whose body was found in a creek

HOUSTON—Two men who were seen on surveillance footage with a 12-year-old girl before her body was found in a Houston creek earlier this week were arrested Thursday in her death, police said.

Johan Jose Rangel Martinez, 21, and Franklin Jose Pena Ramos, 26, each face a charge of capital murder in the killing of Jocelyn Nungaray, police said. The medical examiner has determined that her cause of death was strangulation.

It was unclear if the two suspects had attorneys yet to speak on their behalf. Their names were not listed in jail or court records as of Thursday afternoon.

Jocelyn’s body was found in the shallow water of a creek early Monday morning. Police have said that she sneaked out of her nearby home the night before.

Police said that surveillance footage showed the men meeting up with Jocelyn before walking to a convenience store with her.

There wasn't much more than that to that initial AP report. As of the time the report was filed, the two suspects had just been arrested. As you can see in the report, little more was known about the two men at the time.

There's no reason why this vicious crime shouldn't have been reported and discussed. It's been widely discussed on the Fox News Channel because, as it turns out, the two suspects are, in fact, "Venezuelan nationals who entered the United States illegally in March." 

Who are we quoting in that passage? We're quoting the Associated Press, which filed a second, more informative news report yesterday afternoon, more informative headline included:

Capital murder charges filed against 2 Venezuelan men in the death of a 12-year-old girl in Houston


The two men are Venezuelan nationals who entered the United States illegally in March, according to a statement Friday from the U.S. Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Martinez was arrested March 14 and Pena on March 28, both by U.S. Border Patrol near El Paso, Texas, about 670 miles from Houston, the statement said. Both were then released with orders to appear in court at a later date. How they traveled to Houston has not been revealed.

According to court documents filed Friday, the suspects allegedly lured the girl under a bridge and remained with her there for more than two hours. They allegedly took off her pants, tied her up and killed her before throwing her body in the bayou, a Harris County prosecutor wrote in a court filing.

The ugliness of this crime has become more clear. Meanwhile:

As of yesterday afternoon, the legal status of the two suspects had been reported by the U.S. Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Accordingly, it had also been reported by the Associated Press.

Back to the other very bad people, the ones we watched on the Fox News Channel this morning:

This morning, the very bad people in question were still clucking and wailing about that original AP report. The AP is refusing to tell its readers that the two suspects were here illegally, these clucking corporate idiots continued to claim

Yesterday, a wide array of performers on this channel had engaged in this keening and wailing. By this morning, the keening and wailing were completely bogus—but so what?

The keening and wailing continued this morning at a high-decibel level. Yesterday's second news report went unmentioned as the friends continued to assail the AP for refusing to report the men's legal status.

Briefly, let's be fair:

As of this morning, it's entirely possible that the three friends in question didn't know anything about this second AP report. No serious person can seriously claim that people like these typically know what they're talking about when they go on the air and start their aggressive promulgation of pre-approved corporate script.

It's entirely possible that Rachel, Charlie and Will didn't know about yesterday's AP report. That said, they're part of a deeply destructive "journalistic" arrangement which has helped create two Americas out of what used to more closely resemble one.

At any rate, Rachel, Charlie and Will outdid themselves this morning. They did so with their keening and wailing about the way the AP refuses to reveal the suspects' legal status—long after the AP had done that very thing.

Please don't make us transcribe their clowning behavior! But to see a minor first example at 6:26, you can just click here. At 7:00, Brother Cain started the program's second hour with this gong-show effort:

CAIN (6/22/24): It's the 7 a.m. hour of Fox & Friends Weekend, starting with this:

Houston residents, holding a vigil to honor a 12-year-old girl allegedly murdered by illegal immigrants. But the Associated Press? They won't mention those details.

As Cain declaimed, up on the screen went a photo of the original AP headline—the original AP headline from that first, brief news report. 

To see where the clowning went from there, you can click this link to see the hapless Charlie Hurt screen that original headline again, as he complains about the way the AP refuses to tell you the truth.

Knowingly or otherwise, MSNBC's Joy Reid played a similar game with a similar story earlier this week. For a partial report from Mediaite, you can just click here.

 Needless to say, Reid's grossly misleading report has been widely discussed on the Fox News Channel in the past few days. Reid may not have known how bogus her presentation was at the time she aired it. Whether she knew what she was doing or not, her bogus report has been widely discussed on Fox.

Just a guess: This morning's misstatements by the channel's three friends won't be discussed there at all.

Given the basic shape of our vastly imperfect human nature, there's no way to avoid behavior like this. Rather, there's no way to avoid such behavior once you've accepted "segregation by viewpoint" as the basic organizing principle of your nation's journalism.

Once that structure has been normalized, corporate entities will pay large salaries to willing enablers, Red and Blue alike. We can always say that The Others are worse than Us. But at this time, each of our leading "cable news" entities have spun out of control.

Over there in Red America, there they were, this very morning, still pimping the headline from Thursday's initial AP report. The trio of friends gamboled and played, and played the fool, in line with their employer's basic business model.

 We'll have more on this matter next week. For today, we'll close with this point:

As of this morning, we find no sign that the vicious murder of this 12-year-old girl has ever been mentioned by the New York Times. 

Most likely, it's better to say nothing at all than to say the soul-draining things the three Fox friends have now said. That said, Red America has been pushing this broader topic very hard in the past week. 

Over here in Blue America, is the broader topic being disappeared? Also, is it a serious topic—an important topic which actually should be reported and discussed?

Is a serious topic possibly being disappeared? Inevitably, so it will go when "the new segregation" reinvents us as Two Different Worlds.