Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Tuesday, June 18, 2013 7:06 pm

I have one question about the so-called “gender gap”: Why isn’t it bigger?

Prominent, powerful Republicans in large numbers have made it clear they don’t think women have the right to control their own bodies. Doubt me? Well, check out this handy-dandy reference guide, ItsNotJustAkin.com. The drop-down* menu features dozens of GOP bigwigs, not all of them men, who have said things about women’s rights that were anywhere from butt-ignorant to sociopathic. It might be one of the more important timesucks you encounter between now and November 2014.

(h/t: My sister Jane)

*In the mobile version.

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Friday, July 2, 2010 6:04 am

Cleared

Michael Mann, the former UVa climatologist now at Penn State, has been cleared unanimously by a second Penn State committee of scientific misconduct.

This has not stopped Virginia AG Ken Cuccinelli from pursuing a witch hunt, ostensibly to investigate grant fraud (though no state grant money was at issue in Mann’s work).

Sure, there’s a tendency among climate-change skeptics to believe that any internal university probe would be nothing more than a whitewash, and I have a certain sympathy for that viewpoint (except when it comes from groups like the Competitive Enterprise Institute that are funded by carbon interests). But from Day One in Mann’s case, there has never been any there there.

Thursday, June 3, 2010 8:19 pm

Yeah, there’s fraud, all right …

… but, despite what Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli might think, former University of Virginia climate-change researcher Michael Mann ain’t the one who’s committing it:

Whatever the judicial doctrine of academic freedom may mean, at its heart it must protect those exercising core First Amendment rights—like researching, writing, speaking, and teaching. If government officials are allowed to dictate how the faculty exercises those rights, they are surely impinging on free speech. Indeed, the government impinges most directly on free speech by threatening to prosecute faculty for academic work that is wrong, shoddy, incomplete, mistaken, or fraudulent.

And this is precisely what Cuccinelli has asserted. He says he issued the subpoena because he wants to explore allegations that Michael Mann falsified data in his scholarship. Despite the fact that multiple academic inquiries into Mann’s research have vindicated him, it’s important to understand what the attorney general seeks to do here: Cuccinelli is not alleging fiscal fraud—he isn’t saying Mann used state funds to buy a Mercedes or finance trips to Aruba. Instead, Cuccinelli is investigating the scientific scholarship to make sure it meets his standard of academic integrity.

Using the threat of criminal or civil sanction to pursue “academic fraud” is the paradigm First Amendment case. Academic fraud is essentially what the authorities charged Galileo with—when he dared question the conventional religious wisdom that the sun revolved around the earth. It is what prosecutors alleged when they threatened academics during the Red Scare. And it is exactly what Cuccinelli is alleging here. The UVA subpoena violates both the individual rights of academics engaged in the exercise of speech rights on matters of public concern and the autonomy rights of the university to act independently from the government, as Frankfurter described in Sweezy.

“Academic fraud” is too easily used to suppress ideas that the authorities do not want to hear—in one case, the earth revolves around the sun; in another case, the earth is warming. It may be that what academics say is wrong, it may be that their methodologies are faulty, it may even be that they are twisting the evidence or making stuff up. But the government, through its prosecutors, cannot say anything about that.

I would add that not only is there zero evidence that Mann has committed academic fraud, we have multiple, independent reviews of his work that have found it sound. Pat Robertson protege Ken Cuccinelli is in this for the politics, pure and simple. Sadly, the only remedy for this kind of official misconduct is political as well.

Saturday, May 1, 2010 11:03 pm

“Say goodbye to science in Virginia.”

Virginia’s attorney general, Pat Robertson acolyte Ken Cuccinelli (and although I call him Robertson’s acolyte, I should clarify that I have no evidence suggesting Robertson ever sexually molested Cuccinelli), has gone fishin‘:

Now, it appears, [Cuccinelli] may be preparing a legal assault on an embattled proponent of global warming theory who used to teach at the University of Virginia, Michael Mann.

In papers sent to UVA April 23, 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.

Mann is one of the lead authors of the controversial “hockey stick graph,” which contends that global temperatures have experienced a sudden and unprecedented upward spike (like the shape of a hockey stick).

Translation: Cuccinelli’s going to try to create a whole new East Anglia brouhaha in Charlottesville, and never mind that the East Anglia scientists were cleared of all accusations of wrongdoing. Prediction: He’ll find something that he doesn’t understand, claim that it is a Bad Thing, and laugh up his sleeve as the scientifically illiterate media go along with him.

Even if my prediction is wrong, and even granting that a state AG has a right and even a duty to ensure that state funds are not misused, given the lack of probable cause to believe anyone has done anything wrong*, this strikes me as political harassment, pure and simple.

*”Somebody said some guys at a different university in a completely different country did something wrong (but they really didn’t)” does not constitute probable cause. Just sayin’.

UPDATE: What Cuccinelli is up to when he’s not on fishing expeditions:

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli apparently isn’t fond of wardrobe malfunctions, even when Virginia’s state seal is involved.

The seal depicts the Roman goddess Virtus, or virtue, wearing a blue tunic draped over one shoulder, her left breast exposed. But on the new lapel pins Cuccinelli recently handed out to his staff, Virtus’ bosom is covered by an armored breastplate.

When the new design came up at a staff meeting, workers in attendance said Cuccinelli joked that it converts a risqué image into a PG one.

The joke might be on him, said University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato.

“When you ask to be ridiculed, it usually happens. And it will happen here, nationally,” he said. “This is classical art, for goodness’ sake.”

Apparently just being a screwup at his job wasn’t generating enough persecuted-Christian hormones to warm the cockles of Cuccinelli’s Robertsonian heart, so now he’s pulling an Ashcroft and draping the government’s iconography. Yo, Ken, from one Christian to another, stop making us look bad, bro.

Previously.

Friday, March 5, 2010 11:24 pm

Before a stunned, horrified audience, Pat Robertson leaps out of his Ken Cuccinelli costume

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns! — Lex @ 11:24 pm
Tags: , ,

Virginia’s new attorney general tells the state’s public colleges to give that sleeping dog a good, swift kick:

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II has asked the state’s public colleges and universities to rescind policies that ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, arguing in a letter sent to each school Thursday that their boards of visitors have no legal authority to adopt such statements.

I didn’t follow the Va. elections, but folks who did tell me it was pretty clear that Gov. McDonnell and Cuccinelli were social conservatives mouthing moderate pabulum to get elected, and it would appear they were correct.

UPDATE: Here’s a surprise: Cuccinelli doesn’t know the law quite as well as he thinks he does.

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