Attorney General Cuccinelli stubbornly continued his assault on science and reason with a recent court filing against the University of Virginia. Super Cooch continues to press his “case” that Professor Michael Mann committed “fraud” against state government by conducting climate change research that failed to conform to the looniest conspiracy theories of the far right:
“Neither academic freedom nor the First Amendment have ever been held to immunize a person, whether an academic or not, from civil or criminal actions for fraud, let alone immunized them from an otherwise authorized investigation,” Cuccinelli’s filing with the Albemarle County Circuit Court states.
In order to truly appreciate what a radical and precedent-shattering act Super Cooch has undertaken here, it’s important to understand what a deadly serious (and rare) situation it is for a state’s top legal official to charge someone with fraud for conducting legitimate academic research.
Wikipedia has a helpful list of categories of fraud, to illustrate the type of major crimes we’re talking about here:
Types of criminal fraud include: • bait and switch • bankruptcy fraud • benefit fraud, committing fraud to get government benefits • counterfeiting of currency, documents or valuable goods […] creation of false companies or “long firms” • embezzlement, taking money which one has been entrusted with on behalf of another party • false advertising • false billing • false insurance claims • forgery of documents or signatures, • health fraud, for example selling of products known not to be effective, such as quack medicines, • identity theft • investment frauds, such as Ponzi schemes and Pyramid schemes • […] • rigged gambling games such as the shell game • securities frauds such as pump and dump • tax fraud, not reporting revenue or illegally avoiding taxes.
Also from Wikipedia is the following list of the 10 elements needed to prove fraud:
1. a representation of an existing fact; 2. its materiality; 3. its falsity; 4. the speaker’s knowledge of its falsity; 5. the speaker’s intent that it shall be acted upon by the plaintiff; 6. plaintiff’s ignorance of its falsity; 7. plaintiff’s reliance on the truth of the representation; 8. plaintiff’s right to rely upon it; and 9. consequent damages suffered by plaintiff
We’re not talking about debatable differences of opinion here, but rather about malicious lying in order to rip someone – or everyone – off. And Super Cooch is aiming such heavy charges, not at a real criminal, but at one of the world’s most accomplished climate scientists. Professor Michael Mann, currently Director of Penn State’s Earth System Science Center, is known not for cheating old ladies out of their Social Security checks or launching Ponzi schemes, but rather for publishing over 80 peer-reviewed journal articles and serving as a major contributor to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports that have convinced countless scientists, and those who take science seriously, that climate change is a very dangerous trend for humankind that is being driven by human activities.
Considering how extensive Professor Mann’s work has been, it surely must include the occasional error, as all human works do, and as Mann – like all good scientists – has admitted when logic, mathematics, experimentation and/or empirical evidence have proven him wrong. But the scientific process is designed to deal with errors by testing all propositions and disregarding those that don’t make sense, don’t conform with the facts or can’t be replicated.
To inject a criminal fraud investigation into the honest differences of opinion that arise during scientific debate is to derail and exploit the whole scientific process for cheap political gain.
But this is not to say that no one is committing fraud in this case. In fact, a fraud trial may make sense if you simply shift the prosecutor to the defendant’s table. Indeed, Cuccinelli’s attack on Mann, UVA and climate science in general sounds an awful lot like the knowing misrepresentation of facts for material gain.
You could say that Super Cooch is innocent because he actually believes what he is saying. But this man is no backwoods yahoo. Cuccinelli has a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from UVA and both a J.D. and an M.A. in International Commerce and Policy from George Mason. It is safe to assume he is smart enough to know that his misrepresentation of climate science is utterly spurious, but that he is pursuing it because he believes it can help his political career.
He probably believes, justifiably, that he can benefit politically both from gaining more contributions from fossil fuel-driven corporations like Massey Industries and from winning more support from the hyper-paranoid Tea Party psychos who are busy taking over the Republican party.
And so the man elected to protect Virginians from shysters and crooks is himself perpetrating what is arguably the greatest fraud in the Commonwealth’s history, trying to undermine current climate change theories, not through respectable scientific methods but though the blunt weapons of state power and virulent propaganda. Like the nice-sounding man calling your grandma on the phone and telling her why she should hand over her bank account number, he does it all while trying to appear so earnest, logical and sincere.
We can only plan and wait for his judgment day to come, whether it comes in court or at the polls – when Cuccinelli’s fraud is ultimately rejected and science triumphs over yet another political swindler.