Author Archives: David Safier

Good-bye BfA. Hello, The Range.

by David Safier

I just put up my first introductory post on The Range, which means this is my last piece at BfA after 6 years and 3,000-some posts. You can continue to follow me over there if you wish. And (maybe I shouldn't say this, but…) if you aren't interested in the music/food/entertainment/weird-videos postings at The Range, interspersed with some more serious stuff, you can bookmark my writing here and get a listing of all my blog posts and columns. Myself, I like to skim through and look for things that interest me, which is kinda what blogs are about, but it's up to you.

It's been great. The writing company as well as the reader loyalty and informative commenting have been wonderful. See you in the blogosphere.

A second self-indulgent trip down memory lane

by David Safier

As I count down to my exit from BfA and entrance onto The Range, I'm taking a look back on my tenure here. Mike Bryan says I've written over 3,000 posts, and I believe it. Even scrolling through them at lightning speed takes some time. Here's a continuation of my first self-indulgent trip down memory lane, stopping just before the horrific January 8, 2011, shooting.

• I started blogging about charter schools in earnest in 2009, looking at the Imagine School chain, which has gone from bad to even further downhill, BASIS, which does a good job at what it does but lies through its teeth about how it does it, and other charters.

• I went after candidate Steve Kozachik in a post in 2009 when he ran for city council for the first time. Boy, was I wrong. Sorry about that, Steve.

• I began my series about the "Creative Headline Writing Team" at the Star in 2010 when it was coming up with jaw-droppingly misleading and/or politically slanted headlines. I capped the series with a "Worst Star Headline of the Year" contest in December. Probably coincidentally, the paper's headlines have gotten better since then.

• The Goldwater Institute's education guy, Matthew Ladner, was pushing the "Florida education miracle" pretty heavy. I wrote a series of posts, "The Floridation of Arizona Education" in 2010, taking apart the not-so-miraculous educational progress in the Sunshine State. Since then, Arizona has adopted a number of Florida education ideas, while Florida has backpedaled on some of them. Ladner now works for Florida ex-Guv Jeb Bush.

• G.I.'s Matthew Ladner made possibly his single most laughable statement when he wrote about the huge bureaucracies in Arizona's school districts. To do that, he included people like bus drivers, maintenance workers, cafeteria workers and secretaries in his list of bureaucrats. I shamed him in post after post, but he stood his ground, and I have a letter from G.I. voicing its support of his "Bus drivers are bureaucrats" contention. [Note: Arizona spends a lower percentage of its funding on administration than any other state in the country.]

• In June, 2010, a reader told me about an event Jesse Kelly was holding. I put the image in a post. The announcement read: "Get on Target for Victory in November. Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office. Shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly." At the time, people shook their heads and moved on. Six months later, after Gabby Giffords and others were shot, the image went viral, appearing on the Rachel Maddow Show, Talking Points Memo and all over the Twitter-verse. BfA got 10 to 15 times more visits for the next few days than usual.

• Speaking of the Maddow Show, producer Bill Wolff came to town and held an event at the Congress. Mike Bryan and I attended and shot a video with him. As Mike was leaving, he said to me, "Tell Bill about the private prison/Jan Brewer connection!" I did over a beer. The more I talked, the more Bill listened. A few other people chimed in, adding details. A few days later, the Maddow Show led with the story, then continued to cover it for a few days after that. Terrific series. Later on the Maddow Blog, Bill credited "our friends at Blog for Arizona" for alerting them to the story.

There's still 2011 through 2013 to look over. I don't know if I'll get around to those. My time on BfA is growing short.

This can’t be good

by David Safier

The Arizona Chamber of Commerce announced its 2014 legislative agenda. Along the way, Speaker of the House Andy Tobin, who's running for Congress in CD-1, said Washington is what's wrong with Arizona.

“If the federal government took its foot off the throat of Arizona, we would be doing a lot better,” he said.

The ed news is, the Chamber wants to promote a world-class education system. So far so good. It wants to do it by adding more educational choice — not so good. That's code-speak for more vouchers, more money and latitude for charters and a continuing shrinking of funds for our school district schools. If there's any question about the direction this is heading:

Toward that end, the Arizona Chamber announced nationally recognized education leader Lisa Graham Keegan, a past Arizona superintendent of public instruction, will lead an effort to bring about major reforms to Arizona’s education system.

Keegan brought us charter schools when she was in the state senate, made sure they were under-regulated when she was Arizona's Ed Supe, was McCain's education advisor when he ran for president, and currently works fist in glove with Craig Barrett, the multi-millionaire ex-CEO of Intel who is Brewer's point man for the state's conservative "education reform" agenda and has said he wants to make sure we don't "throw money" at education.

At least there's no question where the Chamber stands.

Explorer News, a press release is not a news story

by David Safier

In the interest of full disclosure, I need to mention that I write a monthly column for The Explorer, a weekly distributed mainly in the Marana/Oro Valley/Foothills area. But seeing as how I'm criticizing the paper, it probably isn't necessary.

Melvin_newsclipA few days ago, I went to the online home page of The Explorer and found the image at right among its news clips. No problem with the headline, "State Senator Al Melvin signs 'No New Taxes' pledge" or the pic of him shaking Grover Norquist's hand. But I looked at the copy below and thought, "This sounds like it's written by Melvin's PR team, not by a reporter."

Sure enough, I followed the link to the "story." It's more than a mere puff piece. I'll bet my blogger's hat it's nothing more than a copy of a Media Release Melvin sent to The Explorer, and most likely to every news outlet in the state (except maybe the Weekly, which Melvin hates).

If the Explorer thought this Media Release was newsworthy, it should have rewritten it as an objective piece stating what Melvin did — he went to Washington D.C. and signed the "No New Taxes" pledge. The paper could include a quote from the release, that's fine. But to publish a campaign-crafted puff piece with all its self-congratulatory language as news goes against any notion of what journalism is supposed to be.

If the paper is going to publish all or part of a Media Release, at least it should be called what it is by revealing the source. Don't simply put this at the bottom:

"© 2014 The Explorer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed."

If I'm right, that's not even accurate, unless The Explorer can copyright material that was sent to the paper.

NOTE: The link to the Melvin story is no longer on The Explorer's home page. However, the story itself is still on the website.

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?"