Year 4, Month 6, Day 17: Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down

The Roanoke News takes on Ken Cuccinelli in a must-read column by Dan Casey:

The question of the day is, did Cuccinelli learn his law school lessons about fraud? His tenure as attorney general leaves you wondering. Let’s consider two prominent fraud cases Cuccinelli has been mixed up in.

The first concerns former University of Virginia climate scientist Michael Mann, who’s now at Penn State. While he was at UVa, Mann published a paper that revealed the “hockey stick graph,” a chart that showed steeply rising temperatures on Earth in the past 100 years.


During its probe, the attorney general’s office demanded UVa turn over many documents, including emails between Mann and 39 other climate scientists around the world that went back more than a decade. Nearly two years later, the Virginia Supreme Court shot down the fishing expedition, and the investigation ended.


The second case involves an alleged Florida con man who, under the fake identity “Bobby Thompson,” created and ran the U.S. Navy Veterans Association scam. Via telemarketing, the group raked in as much as $100 million nationwide; it reported taking in more than $2.6 million from Virginians in 2009 alone.

That year, Virginia suspended fundraising by the U.S. Navy Vets because it had failed to comply with charity paperwork reporting requirements. Rather than submit the paperwork, Thompson made $67,500 in campaign contributions to Virginia lawmakers.

Of that, $55,500 went in three separate contributions to then-state senator Cuccinelli, who was running for attorney general. Cuccinelli personally telephoned Thompson in August 2009 and requested the third contribution. That one was for $50,000.

Go read the whole thing. June 2:

Understanding Ken Cuccinelli’s crusade against climatologist Michael Mann requires us to look beyond the Attorney General’s contemptible defense of a garden-variety swindlers. Since politicians and lawyers often have a great affinity for con men, it’s hardly surprising that Cuccinelli wound up in “Bobby Thompson’s” corner.

Mann, on the other hand, is a scientist who has spent his professional life in a search, not for riches, but for robust historical evidence about the ongoing changes in Earth’s climate. Because his findings and analyses were problematic for the corporate forces who’ve bankrolled climate-change denial in America for decades, his work had to be discredited at all costs — hence the usefulness of an ideologically-propelled Attorney General.

Cuccinelli’s vindictiveness has historical parallels. For example, take the 19th-century discoverer of antisepsis: Ignaz Semmelweiss died at 47 after his life-saving findings were denounced by medical professionals who resented being told to wash their hands. Climatologists like Michael Mann are planetary doctors; rejecting their findings will translate into unimaginable losses of life and property in the coming decades — losses which will redden the hands of anti-science zealots like Cuccinelli, and be remembered throughout human history as a tragedy triggered by greed and ignorance.

Warren Senders


Year 4, Month 3, Day 28: What Kind Of Girls Do You Think We Are?

The Washington Post reports on Sheldon Whitehouse’s blast at Ken Cuccinelli, who deserves to be blasted like this 24/7:

RICHMOND — U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse frequently takes to the Senate floor to warn against climate change, having done so, by his count, at least two dozen times in the past year. So perhaps it was only a matter of time before the Rhode Island Democrat got around to calling out Virginia’s most prominent global-warming skeptic by name.

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II, the presumptive Republican nominee for governor, got a backhanded shout-out in a Whitehouse floor speech last week for his unsuccessful legal battle against a University of Virginia climate scientist.

“In 2010, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli used his powers of office to harass former University of Virginia climatologist Michael Mann and 39 other climate scientists and staff,” Whitehouse said in a speech Thursday, which was posted on YouTube. “As a U-Va. grad, I am proud that the university fought back against this political attack on science and on academic freedom.”

Good for him. This letter doesn’t mention Whitehouse, but it was fun to write. March 16:

When compared against the professional ethics and respect for truth demonstrated by climate scientists, Ken Cuccinelli’s vulgar denialist crusade against Dr. Michael Mann comes in a sorry second. It’s clearly projection: Mr. Cuccinelli assumes climate science is ideologically-driven because he cannot imagine any motivations beyond the sordid political expediency motivating his absurd and wasteful witch hunt.

Scientific methodology starts with observation, seeks explanations, and constantly tests and re-tests its theories’ predictive capability — an intellectual discipline which has helped humanity comprehend the universe in which we live, making our complex and interdependent civilization possible. Scientific statements require language that never overstates its conclusions and carefully quantifies uncertainty — whereas the Virginia attorney general’s hyperbolic pronouncements are often wrong, but never in doubt. Climatologists’ investigations are guided by facts and a respect for the physical laws governing atmospheric phenomena — while neither facts nor law command much respect from Mr. Cuccinelli.

Warren Senders

For your viewing pleasure:

Year 4, Month 1, Day 6: A Sphinctral Fricative

The Pottstown (PA) Mercury runs a column by a professional asshole named Gil Spencer, attacking Michael Mann:

The professor found this sentence written by Steyn to be particularly offensive:

“Mann could be said to be the Jerry Sandusky of climate science, except that instead of molesting children, he has molested and tortured data in the service of politicized science that could have dire economic consequences for the nation and planet.”

Pretty good, huh?
But Professor Mann found it not the least bit amusing. He demanded that Steyn’s snappy critique be removed from the NRO website and when it wasn’t, he sued.

I say, Professor Mann is not the Jerry Sandusky of climate science. I say he is the Jerry Falwell.

Sheesh. Have a nice day, everybody. Sent January 1:

Given that every single allegation against climatologist Michael Mann has been debunked multiple times, I’d say he has a right to be angered by the calumnies leveled at him by writers in the National Review. Since Mann first published his findings, conservatives have attacked him and his work, invariably coming up empty in their search for incriminating evidence. While scientific method is entirely built around evidence and analysis, lack of evidence poses no obstacle to the anti-science zealots who routinely reject any data that doesn’t fit their worldview.

Let’s put it plainly: scientists who have spent their lives developing expertise on Earth’s climate think there is a problem, and all of us need to talk about it. Writers and commentators on the payrolls of various petroleum-funded “think tanks” cannot refute the evidence of the climate crisis, and resort to ad hominem attacks instead. Gil Spencer’s column is an egregious affront to the rules of civilized communication, and an insult to the intelligence of your readership.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 4, Day 17: Hockey Fights

Looks like Asheville, North Carolina had a visit from Dr. Michael Mann, and Katie Rose-Anderson writes it up for the Mountain Express:

If you chart global temperature changes in last 1,000 years or so, the resulting graph looks like a hockey stick.

Climatologist Michael Mann published that conclusion in 1998, and he’s still explaining what the data means and how a simple graph became a controversial icon in the debate over whether human-caused climate change is happening.

On April 3, he spoke at Warren Wilson College, offering about 60 attendees a glimpse into his new book, The Hockey Stick and The Climate Wars. “I thought if I could write the book, I could explain why people discredit science,” said Mann. “We have to be more effective in presenting scientific truth.”

Since publishing the Hockey Stick in 1998, he has had his email hacked and picked apart for the purpose of incriminating and discrediting his studies; his family has received death threats, which was apparent at the presentation: A small security team escorted Mann.

Nobody should have to undergo what Mann’s had to undergo. Sent April 8:

Modern conservatism is nothing but a framework for rejecting inconvenient facts and the people who deliver them. Just ask Dr. Michael Mann, whose work has been attacked for years by powerful corporate interests. Over and over they’ve claimed that that his results are falsified, that he is guilty of academic malfeasance, that he has manipulated his results — and over and over Mann has been vindicated.

And has it made a bit of difference? Nope; the petrol-funded denialist industry cares more about its short-term bottom line than either the ethics of their egregious misrepresentations or the long-term survival of our species. For make no mistake, Mann’s research will be foundational for humanity’s struggle over the coming centuries, as we try to make sense of a world drastically transformed by a rapidly and chaotically changing climate. Conservatism’s anti-science stance must disqualify it from any status as a legitimate political philosophy.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 3, Day 5: Kill, Kill, Kill For Peace.

Time Magazine, on the war-on-science:

The climate war — the public opinion battle between skeptics of man-made global warming and those who believe in the scientific consensus — escalated to a new level of ferocity this past month. First a series of memos allegedly from the Heartland Institute — a libertarian think tank that has long supported climate skepticism — surfaced on the Internet, detailing the group’s previously anonymous corporate funding and outlining its plan to fight action on global warming. Then came the news last week that the Heartland memos had been fraudulently acquired by the environmental advocate and scientist Peter Gleick, who — after allegedly being sent an initial memo by a person he identified as a Heartland insider — impersonated as a Heartland board member via email in order to obtain several additional internal documents. Worse, Heartland now claims one of the memos was doctored — while nonetheless confirming that it plans to push global warming skepticism in the nation’s schools, opening up one more, very impressionable front in the seemingly endless climate war.

If there’s anyone who knows how nasty the climate fight can be, it’s Penn State climatologist Michael Mann. Mann, who has been involved with the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for over a decade, gets regular death threats at his office. He’s been the target of a lengthy — and, critics say, politically motivated — investigation by the attorney general of Virginia. His private emails to colleagues have been hacked and published, and he’s become a major public target for Heartland and like-minded groups. “I guess over the years I’ve experienced quite a few adventures,” says Mann, who is about to publish book on his experiences, called The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines. “It’s given me not just a solid understanding of the problem of man-made climate change, but also the campaign — largely funded by the fossil fuel industry — to deny that science.”

They go on to talk more about Gleick. I’m very tired and this letter was interrupted by family stuff repeatedly during its composition….but I feel pretty good about it anyway. Sent February 28:

It’s very easy to deplore Peter Gleick’s ethical lapse. After all, even the MacArthur-winning climatologist himself agrees that impersonating a Heartland Institute employee in order to verify documents was a bad idea. And all over America and the world, pundits are chiming in that this misdemeanor will ruin the credibility of climate scientists everywhere.

Lost in the squabbling over Gleick’s actions is the fact that Heartland and similar organizations have worked for years to ruin the credibility of climate scientists everywhere. They have used ample sources of corporate funding to impugn the veracity of dedicated researchers and misrepresent a worldwide scientific consensus. Consider the consequences of a runaway greenhouse effect over the next century, and add to them the consequences of inaction today — a paralysis the Heartland Institute actively supports — and ask yourself: would you tell a lie to save a single life? A billion lives? A civilization?

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 11, Day 27: Fool Me Twice…

The Washington Post addresses the new attempt to cobble together another “Climategate” from another batch of the same damn emails:

LONDON — The British climatologist ensnared in a major new email leak took his case to the public Wednesday, arguing that he and his colleagues’ comments have again been taken out of context.

The University of East Anglia’s Phil Jones was one of the major players in the controversy that erupted two years ago over the publication of emails which caught prominent scientists stonewalling critics and attacking them in sometimes vitriolic terms.

The University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit is one of the world’s leading centers for the study of how world temperatures have varied over time, and Jones came under particular scrutiny following the 2009 disclosures — even receiving death threats over allegations that he was a leading a conspiracy to hype the dangers of climate change.

Sarcasm isn’t usually going to make it into print, but it felt good. Sent November 23:

Goodness! What a coincidence that another batch of hacked emails from the University of East Anglia’s climatology team should be released just in time for this year’s Durban Climate Conference. One wonders if our nation’s journalists have learned anything from the last time this happened. The fortunate few who have access to the series of tubes known as the “internet” will discover that climatologists Phil Jones, Michael Mann and their collaborators were cleared of any wrongdoing by no fewer than six independent investigations.

Perhaps one or two reporters may sense a bigger story at work here: why are stolen communications from 2009 being released in the build-up for another important conference on global warming? Who’s behind the subterfuge? Who will benefit should these inconvenient scientists be discredited? Who gains from confusing the discussion, from delaying action on the climate crisis?

The losers, of course, are the rest of the world’s people.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 11, Day 6: DFH Activist Judge Edition

The L.A. Times runs the story: a rare bit of good news for the overly-harassed Michael Mann:

A county Circuit judge in Virginia has sided with the University of Virginia’s effort to restrict the release of personal emails from one of its former faculty members.

The decision late Wednesday would allow the university to alter an agreement it had reached with the American Tradition Institute, which was seeking communications between Michael Mann, a physicist and climate scientist, and other scientists from 1999 to 2005, when Mann was employed by the university.

The American Tradition Institute, headquartered in Washington, D.C., and Colorado, is a nonprofit policy research and education group that has close ties to energy interests that have opposed climate legislation, including the Koch Brothers.

Mann, now a professor at Penn State University, is best known for his contributions to the so-called hockey stick graph that has been at the center of warnings that Earth’s temperature rise has been precipitous and historically unprecedented. It has been used as one of thousands of data analyses that have led the vast majority of climate scientists to conclude that man’s emission of greenhouse gases is trapping heat in the atmosphere.

Perhaps the Tea-Party nuts will start finding Gaylord Finch’s got granite countertops, or something. Sent Nov. 2:

It’s always amusing to see “non-profit” organizations that are closely affiliated with some of the most profit-hungry players in our economy. Groups like the disingenuously-named American Tradition Institute exist entirely to carry out the bidding of their funders — people like the Koch brothers. One wonders if the Kochs would enjoy the experience of legal harassment quite so much if they were on the receiving end.

For make no mistake, the ATI’s demand for emails from Dr. Michael Mann has nothing to do with scientific integrity, and everything to do with hindering the work of a climate scientist whose work might affect the profit margins of the fossil fuel industry.

Perhaps it’s true that hostility to science is a long-standing American tradition — but is the self-serving behavior of the extremely rich and powerful really worthy of adulation?

Judge Gaylord Finch’s decision is the correct one.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 5, Day 6: Global Warming Was Born In Kenya!

The Hampton (VA) Pilot Online notes that Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is continuing to stalk Dr. Michael Mann. Since today was the day President Obama showed his Birth Certificate to the gawpers, I figured it was time to conflate climate zombieism with birtherism. What fun.

Sent April 27:

Ken Cuccinelli is, to put it succinctly, an embarrassment to the legal profession and to the State of Virginia. Since he lacks even the most basic level of scientific literacy, Mr. Cuccinelli’s continued harassment of climate scientist Michael Mann is not based on any logically consistent rationale. Rather, the Attorney General is what is technically known as a “climate zombie,” a public figure so ideologically wedded to the notion that anthropogenic global warming does not exist that no evidence would be sufficient to change his mind. Rather like the “birthers” who’ll continue to espouse delusional theories about President Obama’s citizenship, “climate zombies” believe that an international conspiracy of climate scientists is attempting to institute a New (presumably socialist) World Order, and no amount of evidence will deter them from their fixation. It is Virginia’s misfortune to have one of these deluded souls in a position of political power.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 1, Day 21: There’s IDIOTS and Then There’s *I*D*I*O*T*S*

C-Ville Weekly, a local paper in Charlottesville, has more on the Cuccinelli/Mann/UVA harassment story.

Since May, Cuccinelli has sought Mann’s documents as part of an investigation into whether Mann violated Virginia’s Fraud Against Taxpayers Act (FATA). UVA hired outside counsel to fight Cuccinelli’s demands, and the case is still before the courts, though UVA won an initial legal victory.

The legal bills for the initial defense cost UVA more than $350,000, paid for through private donations. In a separate request, ATI and Marshall also seek release of documents regarding the funding UVA used to fight Cuccinelli’s demands. The University responded that it has no documents that aren’t protected by attorney-client privilege, according to Horner.

The entire mess stems from so-called Climate-gate, the controversy regarding the contents of a pilfered server from Britain’s East Anglia University published online in late 2009. Global warming skeptics pounced on exposed e-mail chains between climate scientists, pointing to language like “trick” and “manipulation” as evidence of deliberately doctored data. Investigations in the U.S. and abroad have so far cleared scientists involved of wrongdoing.

The only good thing about this whole megillah is that it makes letter-writing easy.

Attorney General Cuccinelli’s continued harassment of Dr. Michael Mann is a monumental waste of taxpayer dollars and an embarrassment to the state of Virginia. Multiply exonerated of any wrong-doing or scientific malpractice by separate independent investigations, Mann has been singled out in an attempt to make the practice of climate science (and perhaps, finally, any and all science) impossible. The cost in Mann’s time and resources required to defend himself against state-sanctioned stalking is ultimately deducted from his scientific work; even in a less critical area of research this would be a shame, but given the magnitude of the problems Mann is investigating, Cuccinelli’s vendetta is particularly ill-considered. The Attorney General is patently unable to comprehend scientific method and practice, and his “climate zombie” stance is clearly designed to ingratiate himself with those voters who are offended by anything they can’t understand — a bloc that is, unfortunately, growing.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 1, Day 20: There Are Idiots, And Then There Are IDIOTS.

A couple of Democratic state senators from Virginia are trying to get VA Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to abandon his insane vendetta against climatologist Michael Mann, reports the Charlottesville Daily Progress. Good luck on that one; “Cooch” is about as amenable to sweet reason as Captain Ahab.

It is glaringly obvious that Ken Cuccinelli is ill-equipped to perform an analysis of scientific research; his investigative zeal would be better served in a search for genuine criminality than in a perseverative attempt to harass a climate scientist whose work has been vindicated repeatedly. After multiple investigations into Mann’s work and practices failed to yield any inculpatory evidence, Cuccinelli’s near-obsessive pursuit should have ceased. Given that the processes underlying climate change have been confirmed over and over again by multiple teams of independent researchers, and that Mann’s work has likewise been confirmed repeatedly, it’s time for the Attorney General to call it quits. That won’t happen, of course, since Mr. Cuccinelli isn’t motivated by concerns of rationality or logic; he is a “climate zombie,” ideologically wedded to the idea that global warming doesn’t exist, cannot exist, and will not exist. The state of Virginia deserves better.

Warren Senders