Monday, August 23, 2004

 

Sheesh . . . when will the Dispatch wise up about the Buckeye Institute

Hypothetically speaking, friends in high places can sometimes re-open doors. A year ago, the Columbus Dispatch got burned when Columbus Dispatch editorial page editor Glenn Sheller allowed two of his wingnut friends at the Buckeye Institute, Joshua Hall and Sam Staley, to rail on in an op-ed column about the benefits of outsourcing and offshoring government services. (Note: the BI column is only available through the Dispatch's paid-as-you-go archive.)

Unfortunately, Glenn forgot to do basic vetting on the column. Usually, that means some basic fact-check, but Glenn also forgot to plagiarism-check. Too bad, since not only was the Buckeye Institute spew wrong but it also previously appeared on the op-ed page of the Baltimore Sun with a different byline.

When the plagiarism was pointed out to Dispatch editor Ben Marrison, he confront Hall who continued to lie about writing the column. According to Marrison, Staley eventually confessed that the column had been written by a PR firm in Virginia and passed out to conservative "think" tanks to plant in their local papers under a local byline. Marrison came clean in the paper on the whole affair and published an apology.

The punishment to the Buckeye Institute seemed good at first. Marrison said the Dispatch would ban future columns from Hall and Staley. But nothing was said of Sheller's responsibility or if he was held accountable. That's okay, since Marrison could legitimately argue that Sheller's status is an internal matter. But, Sheller has again been putting out the welcome mat to another BI stalwart David J. Owsiany.

Why the Dispatch should give one-inch to the Buckeye Institute is beyond me, and Owsiany's latest is a doozy, arguing against the action of eight states who have gone to federal court to stop the pollution that is being dumped on the Northeast from five Ohio and Midwest power companies.

A summary of Owsiany: It's all political, it will cost the utilities money, it bypasses the states' regulatory processes, it will hurt the economy. All without a shred of evidence, at least in regard to the economic affects.

In particular, the comment "Scientific data is unclear on the relationship between carbon dioxide and global warming" should have stopped this column from ever appearing. Wingnut science is just that, and, at best, should be left to the letters to the editor section and denied the extra credence that a full blown op-ed provides.

Moreover, Owsiany apparently has forgotten (or more likely never knew) that the civil rights movement of the 50s and 60s faced similar footdragging by states and Congress. I mean, the Northeast states and Canada have been complaining for at least a decade, if not longer, about Ohio Valley utilities allowing their smokestacks to do damage downstream. Obviously, as in the civil rights case, the federal courts eventually have a role, if for nothing other than the issue of interstate commerce. Expecting the Midwest states to regulate their utilities (or the Bush administration's EPA) to bite the hand that feeds them is beyond serious consideration.

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