The 'ruination' of Peter Gleick

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Oooh, sfgate has dropped climate scientist Peter Gleick's column on the City Brights section of the site. Harsh, man; I guess that's enough to "damage, if not ruin" the reputation of one of the world's leading authorities on climate change. Fired by City Brights; I bet he feels as if he's been unfriended by Garrison Keillor.

I continue to be amazed at the ethics of the San Francisco Chronicle, which can't tolerate Gleick but still allows Willie Brown to write a column in the news section of the paper.

And I'm amazed at all the handwringing over this incident. I means, what, exactly did Gleick do that is going to destory his scientific reputation after years of unimpeachable work? Here's what he did: He contacted the nuts at the Heartland Institute and asked them to send him some material. Oh, and he didn't give his real name.

It doesn't appear that he broke into the Heartland office, or hacked into the Heartland server, or went in under false pretenses and made a bogus video. In fact, I'd argue that, whatever the Chron's legal sources say, it's pretty hard to call this "stealing."

Look, if my phone rang and the person on the line said his name was Warren Buffet and he asked me to send him confidential Guardian business information because he was thinking about investing $1 billion in the alternative press, I'd make a coupla phone calls first -- wouldn't you? If I ran a right-wing nonprofit and somebody called and said she was a board member and could you please send a package of sensitive internal documents to an address in Oakland, California, I'd call back at the number I had for her and ask if she'd move to crazyland -- wouldn't you? Who on Earth sends that kind of material out without making sure it's going where it's supposed to go -- unless the vast majority of what Heartland sent Gleick was in fact the same sort of stuff that the loonies there regularly ship out to other loonies who they think might agree that Al Gore was born a thetan and is secretly plotting the United Nations takeover of the planet so that nobody can have round light bulbs any more.

I'm not condoning this sort of behavior -- although the history of journalism (sometimes excellent, important journalism) is filled with examples of reporters using what some would call dubious methods to get through what Robert Scheer used to call "the palace guard." But compared to shit the right wing pulls routinely, as a matter of practice, this is hardly a major crime. And you have to put some of the blame on whatever fool at the Heartland Institute mailed the company secrets off without checking where they were going.

And isn't it good that we now know how the oil industry is trying to create a K-12 curriculum that denies climate change?