Monday, May 03, 2010

Virginia vs Michael Mann: Ken Cuccinelli is right

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has begun an investigation of Michael Mann who was working at University of Virginia between 1999 and 2005 - right after he became famous for the his main "brainchild", the hockey stick graph - and who has received a substantial amount of the public money as a result of his hockey stick graph claims.

We're talking about half a million of dollars from the Virginia's state funds - which may be kind of "supervised" by the attorney general of the state - but of course, Mann has collected millions of dollars from other sources, too.

Because of the CRU e-mails, it seems conceivable if not likely to the prosecutor (and many of us) that Mann has committed a fraud against taxpayers as defined in a pretty clearly worded bill of the state of Virginia. Cuccinelli wants to see Mann's e-mails about the matters and other things. If he wins, Mann may be forced to return all the money plus other expenses.

Steve McIntyre strongly disagrees with Cuccinelli's activities because it's a witch hunt, Cuccinelli has become a bigger bully than Mann himself, and so on.

Well, Steve McIntyre has done many great things but when it comes to the basic insights about the AGW movement as a social phenomenon, I have never considered Steve to be a genuine skeptic - or at least not one of us "the deniers", so to say - so it shouldn't be too surprising that I completely disagree with Steve's opinions on this matter. Steve seems very naive to me.

Steve has seen - and, in fact, discovered - hundreds of "errors" in the AGW research that almost always happen to distort the reality in the "same direction" - as measured by their impact on policymaking - but Steve still thinks that it's surely just a collection of coincidences and the errors have nothing to do with the funding and the political goals, do they?

I find this guess to be very unlikely: it is de facto ridiculous. And you know, the academic freedoms exist to protect the scholars' freedom to articulate unpopular opinions but they don't exist to allow them to suck enhanced amounts of the taxpayers' money by scientific misconduct. Someone's being called "a scientist" can't provide him with this magic universal umbrella - Bernard Madoff could otherwise also claim that he was doing "a new kind of science".

Steve's neverending canonization of Judith Curry also seems strange to me. She's just trying to equip the same discredited preconceptions and predetermined final major conclusions about the climate with some "female human face". She explicitly claims that only the "makeup" of the existing climate science has to be improved.

And behind our backs, she's just badmouthing the skeptics. We learn that "pretty much everyone badmouths" Marc Morano, Rush Limbaugh, and Jim Inhofe. Well, I surely don't.

Her statement only means that she knows "pretty much no one" who is both sane and honest. And to pick an example, Rush Limbaugh - whose brand climatologist is Roy Spencer - is the most listened-to radio talk show host in America. 20 million Americans not only approve of his words but they actually listen to him every day. No doubt, these three people are closer to politics than many others and their politics is inconvenient to the likes of Ms Curry - but contrary to her assumptions, it doesn't mean that they're wrong. They have actually learned a great deal about the subject - and they have done more for the public's understanding of the key questions about the climate change than pretty much all alarmists in the world combined.

Back to Steve's assertions.

Is Cuccinelli bullying Mann? You bet. Is that wrong? Holy crap: Cuccinelli is the Attorney General. It's his job to be the #1 bully in his state. Steve's assertion that "Cuccinelli’s own expenditures on this adventure should be under equal scrutiny" as Mann's grants is completely preposterous.

Cuccinelli's very job description is to investigate potential criminals who have damaged the citizens of Virginia and he's clearly doing so. In fact, his office may be the most natural institution to do such things - especially in the atmosphere when the biased AGW advocates have filled many layers of the government and the Academia - layers that should normally be responsible for the "checks and balances" but they can only offer "whitewashes".

No other public official exists in Virginia to investigate and prosecute the Attorney General for his choice of the cases he pursues and that's true for a good reason: Virginia is a democracy so its Attorney General is actually elected in direct elections and Cuccinelli received 58% of the votes last year. (This paragraph originally stated that the AG is named by the governor.) On the other hand, Mann's job description has never been to push science towards particular policy goals or to bully skeptics. Mann was employed by UVA as a scientist which is something completely different. So when two people spend the public money for two different things, they are not doing the same thing, Steve.

Do I know a single fully analogous, institutionalized "witch hunt" against a climate skeptic? I probably don't. But let me also tell you why. It's because no skeptic has done as many dishonest and nasty things as the likes of Michael Mann.

For years if not decades, the climate alarmists have been harassing the climate skeptics wherever they could. In hundreds of "less visible" situations, climate skeptics were intimidated, verbally attacked, and their careers were deliberately and systematically undermined, despite the fact that pretty much no climate skeptic has ever received millions of dollars in grants. So it's logical that if someone's scientific misconduct has been much more obvious and he has received much more money for it, the investigation against him should be "much bigger".

This situation is pretty analogous to the dilemmas we had to face after the fall of communism. You know, communists were firing tens of thousands of inconvenient people from their jobs, their children were dismissed from schools, and many other things happened to the openly non-communist part of the population. But they were only keeping a few dissidents in the jail and they have executed pretty much no one for long decades.

After their regime collapsed, some of the communists may have been investigated or jailed. So someone may say that there was the same amount of bullying of democrats against the communists as the bullying in the opposite direction (excluding the 1950s).

Maybe. Except that the democrats who were arrested were pretty much innocent - they just had legitimately different opinions about political questions - while the communists were doing really bad things, harming many other citizens along the way (not to speak about executions in the 1950s or the treason that helped to bring the Soviet Army and others into Czechoslovakia in 1968). The communists were not prosecuted for their opinions: they were prosecuted for the damage they did to other people.

Let me also tell you something else. The climate alarmists have abandoned all the respect towards the impartiality of science and the academic freedom. Pretty much all of them have thrown scientific arguments away and they have replaced them by references to (fake) authorities - usually politically organized ones - that should almost be worshiped. Political power is the only thing they understand. So they must be talked to in the language they can understand.

When the death of the AGW movement began in November 2009, the public awareness of the serious problems in the climate research community significantly improved. Naturally, this change has to be reflected in the political power, too - in the balance of the institutions that are given the right to define justice. Clearly, investigations against climate alarmists who may have misappropriated the public funds has to become as simple as the investigation of the skeptics.

That's why I applaud Ken Cuccinelli's efforts to figure out whether Michael Mann is what he seems to be, a criminal and a witch that has to be hunted down, and I hope that eventually "bigger fish" will be investigated, too.

And that's the memo.

1. I live in the state of Virginia in the USA and I support Cuccinelli.

Is Cuccinelli acting like a "bully"? No - somebody has to be held accountable if Mann spent tax dollars and willfully defrauded the public.

Could Mann's analysis be construed as "mistake"? Anybody is entitled to make mistakes - but if you know that what you are doing is trying to make something appear different than it really is, then that is fraud. Did Mann know that he we creating deception? Of course he knew, but Mann's arrogance was so big that he never believed he would have to answer for it.

Steve M has it all wrong, I think. If Steve doesn't want Cuccinelli to look into what Mann did, who does Steve want to do it? Anybody? Just let it slide, ignore it?

2. Dear Dr. Motl,

From what I can gather, perhaps you think that Loop Quantum Gravity is pseudoscience.

The practicioners of Loop Quantum Gravity at the Perimeter Institute have received and spent money from the governments of Canada and Ontario.

Do you think that Virginia vs. Mann is analogous to Canada/Ontario vs. some Perimeter Institute scientists?

While I do think that the government money could have been better spent on social programs, I do not think that an audit of the Perimeter Institute's financial/scientific methods is necessary.

3. Dear Shawn,

I don't think that you could really prove "fraud" in the case of loop quantum gravity. It's just bad science - and some, although arguably not all, of the scientists actually genuinely fail to understand why what they're doing is wrong.

By the way, during the most recent months, the Perimeter Institute has made a dramatic U-turn to support quality physics - that's at least my understanding of various recent events such as hires.

Best wishes
Lubos

4. That's good to know. Although you can be a harsh critic sometimes, you are always fair. :)

P.S. It's May 4th, and it's snowing outside... :)

5. You're next. Cuccinelli is going after all frauds on all continents.

Of course, you have nothing to fear if you've never goofed in your life.

6. Well, Ed, I don't think you're referring to Lubos or me, since Lubos doesn't live in Virginia, and I have not received Virginia state government grants.

But I'm not sure what you mean by "goofed."

If "goofing" means taking State grants to fund some work providing results that I will present to the government in order to strengthen the Government's case for regulation - results I know full well to be deceptive, manipulated, and an outcome that I planned in advance, partly hidden by a deceptive statistical analysis,

then yeah, you're right, Ed, I've never "goofed" in my whole damn life

7. Any time a person or organization gets money or any other material benefit from the government, it always comes with strings. There is always an imposition of paperwork, regulation, or a limitation on freedoms. This is almost always true. Scientists are only now seeing the peril of government money and the problems that can come about from politicization of their science. They love to eat at the government trough, but get all indignant under the governments yoke.

8. No, Ken Cuccinelli is not right. He is only acting in the interest of the Right, which is not the same thing.

This is such a sad commentary on American decline. The extreme Right is taking advantage of an economic downturn to move the US back by 100 years.

I feel so sorry for Americans.

9. Thanks for your sympathy, Ray, but do you have any pity for the chumps of Mike Mann's cargo-cult "science"?

10. Brian:
Do you have a link for either the original charges against Mann or the written version of the judge's recent decision on two of the counts? I like the posts and your replies, but I'd like to see some of the actual language in both documents.

11. Cuccinelli's father is a lobbyist/consultant for natural gas companies.

His company Quest-Fore gave Cuccinelli's campaign 96,000 dollars.

According to Quest-Fore, the elder Cuccinelli has had business interests in "Europe."

Cuccielli's suit against the EPA cited the Russian press agency RIA Novosti in order to "prove" that climate scientists are corrupt. That article was an abbreviated version of a Kommersant article. Kommersant is owned by the Gazprom operative Alisher Usmanov.

12. Snapple, why is it so interesting? Every civilized person is linked to the energy or fuel companies in one way or another. They are essential for the world to run.

Maybe you are not linked - that would explain why you're a nasty, dishonest, and libelous hardcore Marxist asshole whose goal is to destroy the civilization.