Mike Mann Defamation Update: The Unbearable Weirdness of Denial.
July 25, 2012
Normally, I try to stay out of the weeds of “inside baseball” conflicts between denialists and, well, sane people, but in this case, given Mike Mann’s recent call-out of the latest lunacy, I think it’s germane to get an update on a related situation that’s been simmering under the radar.
It looks like Tim Ball’s legal defense in the defamation suit brought against him by climate scientist Michael Mann has gone entirely off the rails. Its a long story, and one that I must admit fell off the radar for me to the point where I didn’t realize how weird it was all getting.
It began back in March of 2011, when Ball accused Mann of scientific misconduct for his role in what has come to be known as “Climategate”. Mann launched a defamation suit, and Ball turned for legal advice to one John O’Sullivan, co-author and driving force behind Slaying The Sky Dragon, a book purporting to “expose the climate fraud”. You’ve heard it all before; the only thing distinguishing Sky Dragon from other similar titles was its sheer awfulness; not even the skeptic friendly Judith Curry could get behind its theories.
In any case, O’Sullivan went about his duties with great enthusiasm. Here he is, for example, soliciting funds for Tim Ball’s defense at Anthony Watts blog. Similar pleas for cash dating from the same time-frame can be found elsewhere. More recently, O’Sullivan joined the chorus of people who have compared Mann to fellow Penn State luminary Jerry Sandusky.
However, a couple of days ago, science journalist Andrew A. Skolnick left the following comment on Michael Mann’s facebook page:
It’s depressingly hilarious that one of the loudest-mouthed crackpots “linking” Prof. Mann to “pedophiles” is a former school teacher whose career ended in scandal almost a decade ago following his arrest and trial for sending dozens of obscene text messages to a 16-y-o school girl. Former high school art teacher John O’Sullivan was acquitted after his step-daughter testified she had sent the obscene messages — testimony that the judge said he did not find fully credible. O’Sullivan then published an autobiographical novel (titled “Vanilla Girl”) in which he defends what he called “kiddie fiddling” — I kid you not.*Now, the thing with it is, he’s not kidding. Every point in the above has been thoroughly documented, even the last bit. For example, this series of emails traces the laborious process by which Mr. Skolnick confirmed that O’Sullivan purchased his law degree from “Hill University”, an on-line diploma mill that sells any degree in any field with a “promised delivery in just 14 days!” Here is a brief account of O’Sullivan’s trial, and if you are so inclined, Vanilla Girl can be found through Google.But wait! There’s more! And it gets even weirder!Skolnick next took O’Sullivan to The Law Society of British Columbia for representing himself as a consultant with Pearlman Lindholm, Tim Ball’s real lawyers. The society then opened an investigation into Michael Scherr of Pearlman Lindholm for allowing an unauthorized person to practice law. Here’s the result of that investigation; the society accepted Scherr’s contention that O’Sullivan worked for Ball, not the firm and, well, Scherr just assumed the guy was a lawyer. I’ll give Mr. Skolnick the last word: I should point out how funny I find Mr. Scherr’s explanation to the Law Society. He admits to having handed out money from Ball’s legal defense fund to O’Sullivan for his “consulting” services, but states that O’Sullivan was working for Ball, not for his law firm and that he “took no steps to investigate Mr. O’Sullivan’s professional status.”
So here he was paying someone who didn’t know the name of the court that is hearing the case (in his published comments O’Sullivan kept calling it the “Vancouver Supreme Court”), someone who didn’t know where the law firm he was helping is located (he repeatedly claimed it’s in Vancouver, a two-hour drive from Victoria, where it’s actually located), and someone who didn’t seem to know that the name of the PLAINTIFF ALWAYS comes first in the title of a law suit (O’Sullivan called it “Tim Ball vs. Michael Mann). And Mr. Scherr never thought to inquire about Mr. O’Sullivan’s credentials? How very funny.So what’s the take-away message? I dunno. That within denier circles they bullshit one another as thoroughly as they do the general public? That anyone can practice this law thingy in B.C.? We can definitely conclude that Tim Ball’s legal fees have been going up a bit recently.PS. A quick note. As several people have noted, you can’t actually drive from Vancouver to Victoria, as it is located on Vancouver Island. The car ferry you take over does take about two hours to get there (1 hour 40 minutes to be more precise). I’m not sure if that’s what Skolnick meant to say or not.