A self-indulgent trip down memory lane

by David Safier

Stay_classy_rangeMy new home on The Range is official. While New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is clinging to his last shred of plausible deniability, Weekly editor Dan Gibson lost his when he committed to my new position in print. He went so far as to say my presence on the blog "should class up the joint a bit." Stay  classy, The Range!

I've been looking through my old BfA posts and found (a) there are a lot of them and (b) a few of them are worth remembering. So, without anyone requesting it, I'm taking a trip down memory lane. This one stops in July, 2009. If I don't get bored, I'll keep plowing up through to the present.

• I met Mike Bryan, who started BfA, when he and I co-blogged an election integrity trial in late 2007. At lunch one day, I told him I'd like to write regularly on the blog, mainly about education. He quizzed me, probably to see if I had anything to say, then handed me the keys to the kingdom. I wrote my first post under my byline in February, 2008. Since then, the blog has grown to include multiple contributers from the Tucson and Phoenix areas.

• McCain declared his rustic pleasure palace in the Sedona area was a "ranch" in 2008. Dr. Word (a character I created for that post) was furious, saying that a ranch had sheep and cows and animals like that, and McCain's spread was all opulence, no cattle. A few others made the same observation independently of mine, but the Guardian in the U.K. actually referenced my post directly. I decided to look through the web to see if there was a real McCain Ranch and discovered there once was an appropriately fictional McCain Ranch, owned by The Rifleman on the old TV series. I uncovered a bunch of black and white stills from the show, put McCain's head on Chuck Connors' shoulders and captioned them.

• Also in 2008, I received emails from an anonymous source telling me K12 Inc. was sending student essays to India to be scored and commented on. After receiving enough details, including student papers and other materials, I wrote a long post, which I followed with other long posts. Phoenix-area journalist Brahm Resnik was the first to pick it up, then the Star, then Education Week. K12 Inc. ended the practice, stating in a letter to stockholders that "bloggers" had written about the outsourcing, that it was a mistake and the company would no longer send papers out of the country. The for profit corporation left open the option of outsourcing the papers to graduate students and others in the U.S. I've been writing about K12 Inc. regularly ever since, including a post yesterday. Many current K12 Inc. stories include a reference to the outsourcing scandal.

• Late in 2008, I received an email (I depend on the kindness of tipsters) from a young woman vet from Missouri with a young child who returned from Iraq and went on a four generation vacation to the California shore. She happened to stay at a beach house owned by then state Rep. Vic Williams, who stiffed her family for its $400 deposit. She sent me all the documentation, including the court records (she took Vic to court!) that said Vic owed her family $1800 because of expenses and other particulars. Vic continued to ignore the judge's decision. Jim Nintzel took up the cause in The Weekly. Long story short, Vic paid up, the vet used the money to help pay for tuition and books at a local community college. She and I are Facebook "friends." She seems to be getting along well.

• I began going after Goldwater Institute's education guy, Matthew Ladner, in early 2009, beginning a series of "Fools Gold" posts. Ladner decided to comment, and comment, and comment. Between him, me and a slew of verbose and knowledgeable commenters, the discussion/arguments stretched for thousands of words. Among the subjects was Ladner's contention that Arizona actually spent more per student on education than other states — something like $9,700. After back-and-forths stretching days and weeks, Ladner had to admit that his figure included capital outlays (money for buildings, etc.) which are not included in the state-by-state comparisons for a number of reasons. In a rare admission of error, Ladner wrote in one of G.I.'s Daily Emails that I had pointed out the error in his figures (he even mentioned me by name) and admitted he shouldn't have included those figures in his comparisons. Later on another blog where he contributes, Ladner called me his personal troll because I dogged his tracks so diligently. These days, Ladner works for Jeb Bush and edits the ALEC Education Yearbook, where he uses that same high figure I refuted when he writes about Arizona education spending.

• Sen. Steve Yarbrough's taxpayer-funded goldmine, his School Tuition Organization funded by Tuition Tax Credits, is back in the news. Coutesy of Tucsonan Jen Darland's voluminous research, the whole STO story made the Republic and the East Valley Trib in mid-2009 in two extensive, damning, multi-part series. I covered it as well. The Star to its discredit ignored the story, even though it was uncovered right here in Tucson. Mari Herreras wrote a very good summary of the issue in the Weekly, but anyone in Tucson who didn't read alt weeklies or blogs didn't have a clue.

• I'll end with a quote I posted in 2008 from William Makepeace Thackery's 19th century novel, Vanity Fair, which I was rereading at the time after reading it once in high school and kind of enjoying it. It's like Thackery was writing about our bitter, hatred-filled right wing. Everything old is new again.

"He was proud of his hatred as of everything else. Always to be right, always to trample forward, and never to doubt, are not these the great qualities with which dullness takes the lead in the world?"

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