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 2, Month 5, Day 27: What Matters Is That He Could See That Far!

The Wegman Report, used by Republican politicians to justify inaction on climate change, has been withdrawn by the journal which originally published it, following revelations that the whole thing was both filled with errors and substantially plagiarized. Heh heh heh.

Evidence of plagiarism and complaints about the peer-review process have led a statistics journal to retract a federally funded study that condemned scientific support for global warming.

The study, which appeared in 2008 in the journal Computational Statistics and Data Analysis, was headed by statistician Edward Wegman of George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. Its analysis was an outgrowth of a controversial congressional report that Wegman headed in 2006. The “Wegman Report” suggested climate scientists colluded in their studies and questioned whether global warming was real. The report has since become a touchstone among climate change naysayers.

The journal publisher’s legal team “has decided to retract the study,” said CSDA journal editor Stanley Azen of the University of Southern California, following complaints of plagiarism. A November review by three plagiarism experts of the 2006 congressional report for USA TODAY also concluded that portions contained text from Wikipedia and textbooks. The journal study, co-authored by Wegman student Yasmin Said, detailed part of the congressional report’s analysis.

A commenter at Daily Kos put the idea into my head about Ken Cuccinelli’s dilemma, and I decided to put it into a letter. Sent May 16:

So the “Wegman Report” from George Mason University turns out to be both flawed and plagiarized. This poses a problem for Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, whose harassment of climate scientist Michael Mann is predicated on Mann’s funding from the University of Virginia. Given that George Mason University receives extensive state and federal support, it’s inescapable: Edward Wegman’s academic misconduct qualifies as a misuse of public funds, and we may confidently expect Mr. Cuccinelli to pursue legal action against Wegman and GMU. Let’s pause a minute to let the hilarity subside, and remember that George Mason University also receives substantial funding from the notorious Koch brothers, well-known supporters of climate-change denialism. While Republican legislators are unlikely to repudiate the Wegman report, perhaps this scandal might inspire our more ignorant politicians to do some of their own science homework, rather than relying on the grownup version of a term-paper service.

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

Month 10, Day 8: Scientist Versus Idiot.

The Washington Post editorializes on Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, whose vendetta against climatologist Michael Mann has now reached obsessive dimensions. Read it and weep.

Virginia’s Attorney General is indeed an embarrassment, both to the State he nominally serves and to the legal profession. His posturings are representative of a virulent strain of know-nothingism which is profoundly damaging to the nation as a whole, despite its appeal to those politicians and voters who embrace the notion that expertise is inherently suspect. The Attorney General’s readiness to assert that this respected research scientist is engaged in a multi-year campaign of intellectual chicanery tells us a great deal more about Mr. Cuccinelli than about Dr. Mann. Unfortunately, American anti-intellectualism has resurfaced at precisely the time when scientific expertise is most needed, and willful ignorance has a profound moral dimension. With overall global temperatures rising and weather extremes increasing, the experiential evidence for climate change is no longer deniable. Another thing we can’t deny: Dr. Mann is a bigger asset to this country than the man persecuting him.

Warren Senders

Month 5, Day 9: Kicks and Kisses as Deserved

The Washington Post does the right thing every so often. This letter is a combination of orchid and onion.

The Post is to be commended for its editorial rebuking the Virginia Attorney General for his anti-science demagoguery. Ken Cuccinelli’s bogus crusade against climate scientists will undermine the reputation of the state’s many excellent universities, along with making it much more difficult for them to recruit professors and students. And, of course, as you correctly note, Cuccinelli has “declared war on reality.”

It’s good to see the Washington Post siding with science, which has been taking quite a beating recently. Unacknowledged in your editorial is the fact that the Post has been extremely active in confusing the debate over the validity of climate science, publishing the misleading and deceptive work of people like George Will, Bjorn Lomborg, Sarah Palin, Robert Samuelson, and Dana Milbank, among others. Dare we hope for a change in the Post’s editorial approach to the gravest existential threat humanity has ever faced — or is Friday’s editorial just a cameo appearance by actual reality-based thinking?

Warren Senders