Washington Post slams VA AG Ken Cuccinelli

“The attorney general’s logic is so tenuous as to leave only one plausible explanation: that he is on a fishing expedition designed to intimidate and suppress honest research and the free exchange of ideas upon which science and academia both depend — all because he does not like what science says about climate change.”


This week, Virginia AG Ken Cuccinelli attempted to criminalize all of climate science “” using Post Normal logic.  Yesterday, Tom Toles had the above cartoon, and the Washington Post wrote a powerful op-ed, “Ken Cuccinelli seems determined to embarrass Virginia“:

When Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli II on Monday revived his anti-climate science crusade with a new, 30-page civil subpoena demanding boatloads of documents from the University of Virginia, we wondered what he might have discovered recently about the work of former U-Va. researcher Michael E. Mann, the object of the probe, that would justify further investigation. The answer: essentially nothing.

Slapped down once by a Virginia judge in his effort to investigate Mr. Mann, the attorney general is trying again with a screed that rehashes a lot of the old arguments about Mr. Mann’s findings, including the complaint about his famous “hockey-stick” graph in 1998, which shows a spike in world temperature during the 20th century. What Mr. Cuccinelli doesn’t discuss is a 2006 inquiry from the National Academy of Sciences on reconstructing historical temperature data, which found that Mr. Mann might better have used some different statistical techniques but that his methods weren’t unacceptably poor. Instead, the academy stressed that his basic conclusions appear sound. Nor does Mr. Cuccinelli spend much effort discussing the fact that Penn State University, Mr. Mann’s current employer, also cleared the scientist of scientific malfeasance this year; or the fact that subsequent study has supported Mr. Mann’s essential findings; or the fact that, in response to criticism, Mr. Mann has refined his work since 1998 — the normal give and take of academic work.

What’s particularly astonishing, though, is that Mr. Cuccinelli’s legal case against Mr. Mann seems unrelated to any of the controversial research the attorney general spends so much time attacking. Mr. Cuccinelli is supposedly investigating whether Mr. Mann committed fraud when the scientist applied for and received a state-funded research grant — to study what Mr. Mann describes as “the interaction of the land, atmosphere and vegetation in the African savannah.” The topic “has nothing to do with climate change or paleoclimate,” Mann says. The attorney general appears to argue that, since Mr. Mann listed his controversial papers on his curriculum vitae when he and two other scientists applied for the savannah research grant, he may have committed some kind of fraud.

The attorney general’s logic is so tenuous as to leave only one plausible explanation: that he is on a fishing expedition designed to intimidate and suppress honest research and the free exchange of ideas upon which science and academia both depend — all because he does not like what science says about climate change. Among other things, the attorney general demands that U-Va. turn over any correspondence it may have between Mr. Mann and 39 other scientists. Mr. Mann points out that among those Mr. Cuccinelli did not list by name are the two other researchers on the African savannah research grant that the attorney general is supposedly investigating.

What is this farce costing? To defend itself from Mr. Cuccinelli’s investigation into the distribution of a $214,700 research grant, the University of Virginia has spent $350,000, with more to come, and that doesn’t count the taxpayer funds Mr. Cuccinelli is devoting to this cause. Sadly, though, that’s the smallest of the costs. The damage to Virginia’s reputation, and to its universities’ ability to attract and retain top-notch faculty and students, will not be easily undone.

Hear!  Hear!

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31 Responses to Washington Post slams VA AG Ken Cuccinelli

  1. Rockfish says:

    If the WP thinks this is a fishing expedition, just imagine what we are in for with a Republican House! They’ll make Capt. Ahab look like a homebody.

  2. Bob Doublin says:

    How many homeless people could be in a shelter for a year with the money this scum is wasting? How many meals could a food bank supply in a year with this money? How many winter coats could be supplied for children? Pardon me, I need to go vomit.

  3. Leland Palmer says:

    Chances are, what Cuccinelli wants with the emails is to selectively quote and cherry pick from them, as was done during the CRU hacking incident (the so called Climategate). So if he gets them, get ready for Climategate II, I think.

  4. Esop says:

    Most excellent piece by the Post. At least some things are moving in the right direction.

  5. Dickensian American says:

    Off topic, but an interesting though short article went up at Science News yesterday regarding the effects of climate change on endotherms.

    Short of it is though the poles will likely experience greater warming overall with climate change, the balanced biospheres of the tropics and subtropics may be in for a huge gut punch with endotherms experiencing exponential increases in their metabolic rates with from only a little local warming. This may lead to species loss and food web restructuring in such locals.

    Between this and temperate zones facing challenges as plants and pollinators get out of sync, the next 1000 years promises to be an interesting one from an evolutionary standpoint. There will be a lot of pressure on mutants and oddballs within their species to carry the water till they can replicate and fill the some of the gaps that AGW will be opening.

  6. Anonymous says:

    This is just the first shot across the bow by the GOP. Scientists (and not just climate scientists) have been put on notice that the GOP after the mid terms intends to inaugurate a new Dark Age. Be afraid….be very afraid.

  7. mike roddy says:

    Virginia voters should organize a recall election.

    You’re right about the House, Rockfish. The Democrats should have asked the Government Oversight Committee to investigate the climate denial and political influence peddling industry. If they decline to do so before 2011, the task could be taken up by a well staffed media company. It would be a big job, with a lot of tentacles, and if there are no volunteers among the big newspapers (TV networks are pretty hopeless), it should be financed and organized independently.

    Corruption is killing us as much as anything, through disinformation and subversion of the political process. Joe, if you or a friend knows someone like Soros or Berkle you may want to think about approaching him about supporting this effort. There are plenty of capable researchers and writers who would love to plunge into this.

    Mayer’s recent New Yorker piece was a great example, and Climate Coverup out of Canada is a good primer, but both are just at the tip of the iceberg. Universities and media companies have been compromised too. After the piece is written, there would be a TV buy as well as magazine circulation. This could be a planet changer. Otherwise, rabid hillbillies like Cuccinelli, lapping at the troughs of the oil and coal companies, will continue to poison public understanding.

  8. Rob Honeycutt says:

    “Nnnnnnoooooobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!!”

  9. paulm says:

    This sort of thing could be an indication of the cracks forming in empire due to the stress brought on by GW and Peak Oil.

  10. JasonW says:

    The press is starting to wake up: Here is a powerful article published in Germany’s biggest news magazine DER SPIEGEL. It highlights the denier propaganda machine as perfected by Singer, the Marshall Intitute et al.

    What is remarkable about it is the fact that not long ago, the magazine published a series of credulous articles concerning the e-mail hack, the IPCC and it’s chairman and so on. One particular nauseuous piece featured Lomborg and Pielke Jr. prominently as honest brokers, without question.

  11. paulm says:

    Couple of good articles in Reuters…the area where many even the trained have a hard time seeing the big picture.

    Why Planning for the Worst is Best in Coping With Climate Risks

    The Importance of Transferring Risk in Climate Adaptation

  12. Peter M says:

    This man seems intent of destroying his career- give him enough rope-and guess what?

  13. john atcheson says:

    Impeach this bozo, Virginia.

  14. Andy says:

    Drepressingly terrible article on climate change and weather over at NPR:

    Worst paragraph in the whole thing (IMO): “Bad weather can be good: Treacherous winds drive windmills. There are upsides to downpours: Torrential rains fill rivers and water tables. Heat can be cool: Intense sun splashes on solar panels.”

  15. Andy says:


    Completely OT, but I would highly recommend reposting this Grist article on Proposition 26 in CA. It has received nearly as much industry money as Prop 23, but is much more subtle and insidious.

    The article concludes: “Proposition 26 is a Polluters Protection Act. Its goal is simple: Whatever Proposition 23 can’t undo openly, Proposition 26 will undermine sneakily. AB 32 will seek to impose fees on polluting businesses; Proposition 26 would require a two-thirds approval (which is virtually impossible in gridlocked California). Californians are enthusiastically mobilizing against Proposition 23, but they need to be equally energized against Proposition 26 and for Proposition 25.”

    Some more information:

    “Propositions 25 and 26, by comparison, are MEGO (My Eyes Glaze Over) propositions dealing with the state budget… Proposition 26 would amend the state constitution to require a two-thirds majority on certain business fees by declaring them “taxes”; both the California Democratic Party and Los Angeles Times recommend “No” votes.”

    “While officially remaining neutral on Proposition 23, California-based oil companies Chevron and Occidental, and the California Chamber of Commerce, have been quietly funnelling their cash into a No on 25/Yes on 26 political action committee (PAC). I’ve reviewed donations made through the end of September 2010. All of the following data is from California secretary of state’s office…
    TOTAL CONTRIBUTIONS 1/1/2010 – 09/30/2010: $6,051,060.29”

    By contrast, total contributions to the Yes Prop 23 PAC for the same period are $8.4 million – more than Prop 26 but same ballpark.

    The article is here:

  16. Scrooge says:

    It looks like parts of the sleeping giant, the press, is starting to stir. If more start doing the job they were meant for and actually do research for the news, it will only help the USA and the world.

  17. John Mason says:

    It’s difficult to figure this from a UK perspective – we have people like that but perhaps less of them, and mostly they are regarded as fringe types. The fact that this guy is already where he is is – to me – the worrying bit. How can someone so plainly bonkers rise to this height?

    Cheers – John

  18. homunq says:

    There’s another interpretation – as another commenter recently suggested, he’s showing off for the Koch brothers. Hopefully, he’s now overplayed his hand and blown his chances of running for higher office, but he should still be in line for some nice, cushy wingnut welfare.

    Seriously, if he didn’t have that fallback, can you imagine him sticking his neck out this far? This is yet another part of the evil penumbra of the Kochtopus.

  19. MapleLeaf says:

    Andy @14,

    Their use of the term “windmills” is a dead giveaway. I do not know why, but I have seen many skeptics refer to wind turbines as “windmills”.

    To stay on topic, hopefully the media make a big deal about KC’s links with the Koch brothers and his propensity to abuse his power for personal gain and advance the Tea Party ideology.

  20. Russell says:

    Cuccinelli’s barratry may be driven by the territorial factor that led him to cover the breasts of Liberty on Virginia’s Great Seal.

    It’s a relatively small state, and there is only room for one boob in the Attorney General’s office.

  21. Cinnamon Girl says:

    Coochie’s resume-padding for a run at higher office, IMO. Same for that dolt Abbott in Texas, who seems bent on making Coochie look….smart. From the looks of their work product, neither could survive a month as an independent lawyer. To both of you fools–stop with the frivolous lawsuits, which you claim to despise (at least when someone else is bringing them). I guess we’re working to produce the finest brand of Fascism that the world has seen, so we have that going for us. Which is nice.

  22. Re NPR story (Andy #14):
    The author, Linton Weeks:
    “In 1990, he was named managing editor of The Washington Post’s Sunday magazine. Four years later, he became the first director of the newspaper’s website, From 1995 until 2008, he was a staff writer in the Style section of The Washington Post.”

    ’nuff sed.

  23. Christopher S. Johnson says:

    Texas is also going forward with a similar case, but with the EPA.

  24. Barry says:

    Toles = brilliant.

  25. riverat says:

    When you look up barratry in Wikipedia one of the things it says is that barratry is a misdemeanor in Virginia.

  26. caerbannog says:

    Michael Mann just got a column published in the Wash Post. He unloads on the deniers with both barrels here:

    Mann’s next appearance in front of Congress should be entertaining — he’s not about to back down an inch, and thanks to John Mashey and DeepClimate, he’s got plenty of ammo to fire back with (plagiarism in the Wegman Report, etc.)

    Go tear ’em a new one, Dr. Mann!!!

  27. Dan B says:

    Can we say ECONOMICS?

    Cuccinelli and Koch are betting the farm on 19th Century energy. Inertia and lack of a simple and compelling vision keep the public from demanding deployment, ie: Clean Jobs.

    It’s like the monarchies of Europe at the start of the 20th Century – already dead but for two world wars.

    Hell and High Water, famine, pestilence, war. Is that the future America’s elites will usher in? I’m reminded of the image of Caroline Kennedy dressed to the nines at the Met a few feet from David Koch. Her family opposes the Cape Wind project. Is there hope for the rest of us if the richest 10% own more than the rest and show no sign of parting with any more than pennies.

    We need some heroics from a few of those elites.

  28. Bob Potter says:

    Michael Mann’s column deserves widespread circulation….and its own post in CP. And he deserves our thanks and our support.

  29. alan b says:

    Bob Doublin – what environmental improvements could be made with the $140 BILLION PER YEAR the US will spend cashing the CO2 bogeyman? What could have been done for human health and the environment with the $100 Billion that western govts have spent over the last decade sudying “climate change”? How much has Cuccinelli spent in comparison? You’ve missed the forest for the trees my eco-socialist friend. The same UN that fosters the AGw Thermageddon paradigm says out of the other side of it’s mouth that basic human needs of clean food, water, and basic healthcare could be provided for over 1 billion of the world’s most poor for about $70 billion per year. Your supposed outrage makes me sick.

    Joe, how ironic, using the cartoon of Galileo. Is it lost on you that Galileo WENT AGAINST the prevailing wisdom of the gaia-centric view of the universe taught by the Catholic Church, despite the overwheming acceptance by the populace?

    We “skeptics” and “deniers” are exposing you and your kind for the eco-socialists that you are. When history looks back on this sad episode for science, it is YOUR crowd who will be viewed almost universally as simpletons. Good luck with that.

  30. JasonW says:

    alan b,

    Nice trolling – very textbook. Your skwewed, simplistic world view is a dead give-away. But have you got anything besides hysterics to offer? I thought not.

    Oh, and the bit about Galileo which seems to be lost on YOU: Galileo went with verifiable data against ideology, in this case Church ideology. Climate science these days, in a thankfully far more enlightened era, goes with verifiable data against right wingnut ideology. Do you understand?

    …I thought not.

  31. TomG says:

    alan b @ 29 said we’ve missed the forest for the trees.
    Would that be the dead and dying forest alan b?