Saturday, May 01, 2010

Out Of Control Prosecutor

Via Thers at Eschaton, read this article.
In papers sent to UVA April 23, [Virginia Attorney General Ken] Cuccinelli’s office commands the university to produce a sweeping swath of documents relating to Mann’s receipt of nearly half a million dollars in state grant-funded climate research conducted while Mann— now director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State— was at UVA between 1999 and 2005.

If Cuccinelli succeeds in finding a smoking gun like the purloined emails that led to the international scandal dubbed Climategate, Cuccinelli could seek the return of all the research money, legal fees, and trebled damages.

“Since it’s public money, there’s enough controversy to look in to the possible manipulation of data,” says Dr. Charles Battig, president of the nonprofit Piedmont Chapter Virginia Scientists and Engineers for Energy and Environment, a group that doubts the underpinnings of climate change theory.

Just a couple thoughts. It sounds so public spirited, don't you think? Investigating the investment of public money in science. Except this is the kind of thing routine reporting on grant approvals usually covers. At least from my own experience with receiving grant money, there is a requirement to report back to the grantor on how the money was used - in excruciating detail - at several points along the way, with a final report when the grant period has ended. There is really no need for this kind of thing, of course.

Precisely because scientific research is about seeking answers to specific questions - what Kuhn called solving puzzles, as it were - the possibility that a particular answer might just be "no", as we all know. I am really curious as to what, exactly, the Attorney General thinks might be a crime, might be worth wasting the time and even more public money looking for. Fraud? In what way? That Mann might have willingly and knowingly perpetrated a fraud in the course of using his public funds? Since science is a public enterprise by habit and practice, the AG can peruse the publication list, one would think. All the other stuff - emails and private correspondence - might be interesting. Or not. It might relate directly to the research. Or, it might be gossip. I really doubt that, even if Mann were stupid enough to perpetrate fraud in the course of using taxpayer money, he would be dim enough to write something like, "So, what do you think of my outline for defrauding the Commonwealth?", or, "Do you think my paper, as written, disregards the data enough to prove global warming even though it doesn't exist?"

This whole thing is nothing more than an example of an ignoramus being given far too much power. Aren't there marijuana farmers in Brunswick County to harass?

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