Greatest fact check in journalism history now a movie

by Dan Curry

We talk a lot about truth these days. A battalion of self-appointed experts ascend to their mesh chairs every morning to point out what is true and what isn’t. Most of these efforts are derailed by sloppiness, ideology and a lack of humility. They ultimately lack authority and further muddy the definition of that elusive truth.

There once was a “fact check” that truly mattered and ended with timeless authority. One that took two years to complete. Done by one of the most outstanding journalists in the country — a hard charging investigator with a Yale law degree.

By 1981, Chicago Tribune Legal Affairs Editor Lee Strobel came to a horrifying conclusion. At least horrifying in the sense he wanted his verdict to come out exactly the opposite. The then-atheist originally thought it would take only a weekend to prove that the central story of Christianity — that Jesus rose from the dead — was a fraud. He undertook the project because he wanted to convince his wife Leslie that her new conversion to Christianity was folly, believing that would restore their lives back to normal. His long weekend turned into a two-year whirlwind of intense research. He ultimately came to the following four core conclusions, based on concrete historical evidence:

  • Jesus was a real person — FACT.

  • Jesus was crucified and died on the cross — FACT.

  • Jesus’ tomb was found empty three days later — FACT.

  • Jesus rose from the dead and was seen afterwards by more than 500 people — FACT.

When the evidence became overwhelming to him, Strobel realized it would take more faith to remain an atheist. He confessed his sins and accepted God’s grace, becoming a newly minted Christian. Strobel didn’t stop there. He drifted away from journalism into the ministry, becoming a teacher, author of more than 20 books and one of the world’s most important evangelists. His most influential book, “The Case for Christ,” tells the story above in compelling detail. The book has been converted into a major motion picture debuting Friday across the United States.

I mention this story for several reasons. Strobel is a person I aspired to work for many years ago. I was an ambitious investigative reporter at the same newspaper as Lee for a brief time and hoped to one day do great things together as a team. That dream faded when Lee left journalism and I did as well several years later.

But Strobel’s work inspired me and was a factor in my own conversion from fallen Christian to committed follower of Jesus more than two years ago. Nearly every Christian I talk to mentions “The Case for Christ” as a book that either helped establish or maintain their faith. I got a chance to thank Lee in person this weekend when he appeared at the same Chicago area mega-church that forms the central locale for his real-life story and movie. We barely knew each other back then, but we are brothers now and forever.

The most important reason I write this is as an invitation to Christians and non-Christians to see the movie. I particularly hope that my journalist and ex-journalist friends will check it out. From the trailers you can see it is a well-produced, intriguing story that is both a taut tale of investigation and journalism and a personal tale of a family in turmoil. Lee told me that ex-journalists will particularly like the authentic re-creation of newsrooms, circa 1980, with clunky typewriters, cigarette smoking and snarly old-school editors. Strobel said that focus groups reveal that non-Christians like the movie as much as Christians.

No one as talented as Lee Strobel has undertaken a more vigorous “fact check.” We all say we want to follow the facts wherever they might lead. That’s what he did — for two years. It would be difficult to find a more credible truth seeker. Our culture is yearning for what can be found at a movie theater near you this weekend.

Fight back against climate hucksters

by Dan Curry

Conservatives and others who have looked beyond the hype and bandwagon cheering for “climate change” understand it is a political movement masquerading as an imperative driven by neutral science.

But while realists may be winning the battle on facts, they are not paying enough attention to what the climate zealots are doing in the political arena.

Just last month a group of liberal state Attorneys General supported by climate millionaire Al Gore decided they would stand up for “clean power” and threatened to sue companies who dissented with “settled science” that is far from settled. If the science was settled, all the zealots’ climate models would be coming true instead of failing and global satellite temperatures wouldn’t be flatlining for the last 18 years.

But that doesn’t matter to the partisan AGs. They want to sue “dissenters” to the left-wing political movement in a move rightly compared by one commentator to the Spanish Inquisition.

Conservatives need to wake up and fight back. While they are happy that the public seems to believe “climate change” is not an important issue, liberals at all levels of government are stuffing budgets with billions of dollars of agenda-driven programs paid for by unsuspecting taxpayers.

For example, a federal government report from 2014 said the federal government spent $21.4 billion in climate-related programs in 2013. The money is not concentrated in a single agency; it includes $1.8 billion in NASA, $455 million in the Department of Defense and $356 million in the Department of Treasury.

In other words, our federal government has essentially said based on “science” it has a blank check to create bogus programs for taxpayers to fund.

At the state level, the same thing is happening. In Illinois, Stimulus money for “weatherization” of homes was found to be an almost complete waste of money by the Department of Energy. Instead of reading that report, the state of Illinois created another weatherization program once the Stimulus money evaporated. Many cities are creating similar boondoggles on a smaller scale.

I’m not a lawyer, but there needs to be a legal challenge to this spending. At its root, it is relying on a manufactured scientific consensus that purposely ignores conflicting information. It needs to be challenged. Since the mainstream media refuses to dig into this, a lawsuit that forces discovery might pierce the silence. Some type of class-action or whistleblower type suit aimed at a climate-related program at the federal, state or local level should be explored.

You would think conservative members of Congress would fight back against dubious spending, but with few exceptions they are afraid. They know the MSM is completely in the tank with the climate zealots and don’t want to be labeled a “climate change skeptic” or worse. So they just tolerate the waste.

Indifference to the issue won’t make it go away. Liberal activists have been planning for decades to use climate as a means of controlling energy production. They are moving full speed ahead, regardless of the facts. Conservatives need to wake up and expose the fraud or we will continue to pay for it.

What do the Cardinals do now?

by Dan Curry

Now that John Mozeliak, Bill DeWitt and the Cardinals have been pantsed in broad daylight by Theo Epstein and the Cubs, what is the countermove?

The beauty of this signing if you are a Cubs fan is that in addition to thoroughly changing the dynamics the next few years in the NL Central, it invites the Cardinals to further wreck their future with one of the expected responses.

Signing Alex Gordon, for example, provides short-term relief and makes the Cards a bit more competitive next year and 2017 but it accelerates the aging of St. Louis’ core. Another big free agent, Chris Davis, would provide pop but would give the team a lineup full of whiffers in addition to the huge risk of erratic Davis turning into an expensive bust.

No, the Cardinals’ front office needs to think creatively now. We are not confident that is within the DNA at 700 Clark Street, but the Heyward fiasco demands it.

What made the Heyward (or Price) signing imperative this off-season from a strategic standpoint is that it would have given the Cardinals an infusion of youth to offset the past-prime core of Holliday, Molina, Peralta and Wainwright. It would have acted as a bridge to the future, which, in just a year or two, includes a new fleet of young mid- to top-rotation pitching (Reyes, Flaherty, Weaver) to supplement Wacha, Martinez, Cooney, Gonzalez, etc. Young pitching is the one advantage the Cardinals have over the ascendant Cubs.

Instead, almost beyond comprehension, the Cardinals allowed the Cubs to sign Heyward from their grasps, seemingly because they structured the contract more favorably by offering opt-outs. Because Heyward is so young, the Cardinals should have been willing to do anything it takes to sign him. If he walked after three years and $75 million, who cares? They would have just received three prime years from him and moved seamlessly to the next wave of pitching talent.

Instead the Cardinals fell further behind the Cubs in talent. According to FanGraphs projections for next year, the North Siders are 12 games better than the Cards as of this moment. That gap is trending the wrong way for STL as its core ages and the Cubs’ lineup moves into prime years.

Yes, games are played on the field and projections are often wildly off. But lots of variables have to go right for the Cards to be competitive with the Cubs next year. Translated, it means Pham, Grichuk, Adams, Wong and Piscotty need to outperform their projections while Cubs’ players regress and/or are beset by lots of injuries. Unlikely.

With that in mind, the Cardinals need to try to do enough to stay in playoff contention without damaging their future. Even with the most aggressive short-term strategy possible, the Cardinals can’t match the Cubs next year on paper. Don’t try. Here is what they shouldn’t do:

  • Trade from their core of top young pitching. Everybody will want Alex Reyes and Jack Flaherty. Do not move them. Retain the team’s only advantage over the Cubs.

  • Fiddle away draft picks. The one small upside to the Cubs’ signing of John Lackey and Heyward is that STL receives two extra high draft picks. Certain free agents, including Gordon, come at a cost of a pick. Gravitate to free agents without picks attached.

  • Get saddled with a long-term contract for an aging, declining bat. Say no to Gordon, Cespedes, Upton or Davis.

Instead, they need to be creative. Among the possible moves:

  • Try to trade for young core players if possible. This is difficult and expensive and nearly impossible to do without trading young pitching. Freddie Freeman is a possibility. Adams, Grichuk/Pham and a young pitcher not named Reyes, Flaherty, Weaver, Martinez or Wacha might do it. Freeman is owed $20 million a year for six years and Atlanta would welcome the salary dump. Mo needs to exhaust all MLB for targets that fit this profile.

  • Think about moving Trevor Rosenthal into the rotation for a year. That would allow you to fill the fifth spot without signing an expensive free-agent. Make Sam Tuivailala, Jordan Walden, Kevin Siegrist or Jonathan Broxton your closer. Not ideal, certainly, but worth a try.

  • Look for a couple additional good bullpen arms. Build a top-notch pen. Plenty of non-attached free agents are available and several high-end relievers are on the trade market.

  • Look for value upside free agents. Gerardo Parra is one example. He could platoon or fill-in at all outfield spots and has a bit of offensive upside. He probably could be had for something like 3 years/$27 million.

Follow this general blueprint and STL projects to be a 90 or 91 win team next year. Not nearly good enough to compete with the Cubs and their 100-win dynamo on paper, but it would give the Cardinals a fighting chance to reload on the fly as their young pitching advances to the majors and some promising position players move right behind them.

This “plan” is not pleasing or ideal but it is the new reality that Mozeliak and DeWitt created by failing to understand the battleground they were standing on. They need to step back and not make a second major blunder that could sink the franchise into the NL Central abyss.

A Democrat dares question the Church of Global Warming

by Dan Curry

About a month ago, an extraordinary global warming essay was posted on the internet. Extraordinary because of its author (a self-proclaimed Democrat, environmentalist), its length (9,100 words) and its conclusion (the so-called consensus on global warming is wrong).

David Siegel is the essayist. He is a business innovator and author who likes to challenge conventional wisdom and get to the truth of matters. I was not aware of Mr. Siegel prior to reading his essay. I tweeted my approval of his persuasive piece and have started a dialogue with him below that I am sharing today .

Siegel’s essay drew 50,000 visits and 10,000 reads but he’s having trouble getting the mainstream press or mainline liberal websites to pay any attention to it, despite its provocative conclusion and well-organized and logical presentation.

You can read the essay here. Almost immediately, a group of warmists posted a similarly lengthy (7,000 words) and hollow rebuttal. You can read that here. Then, Siegel, with the help of others who rallied to his side, demolished the rebuttal here. (If you want to see a fun exchange with a MSM reporter who I urged to read Siegel’s piece, see this tweet thread).

Slowly, behind the Iron Curtain of the mainstream media blackout of dissenting opinion on global warming, the facts are turning against the warmist hypesters. One of the most damaging blows has been an 18-year flatlining of global satellite temperatures, a real problem for advocates who predicted considerable warming. But voila! the Obama administration’s weather agency (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) produced a “study” recently that said the global satellite data is all wrong and there has been no leveling of global temperature. Republicans on the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space and Technology smell a rat and have asked for underlying documentation of what looks like a politically induced work of defensive propaganda. The Obama administration is refusing to release the documentation and Republicans have issued subpoenas. Stay tuned for developments on that front.

Meanwhile, here is my email Q and A with Siegel:

You are a self-proclaimed Democrat and an initial believer in global warming yet you decided to look more deeply at the issue, which in most liberal circles is an article of faith. Tell us a little about your background and explain what motivated you to study the issue. How did you go about your quest for the truth about global warming?

I have been studying rationality and decision science for four years now, spending a lot of time at sites like I have an amazing mentor who answers my questions. What I've discovered is that what most people (including me) believe tends to be a very distorted version of the facts, and that in general our mental models of the world are not very reliable. Reading "Thinking Fast and Slow," by Danny Khaneman was also a turning point for me. What we usually call thinking is usually just reacting. At some point, I emailed my mentor and said "So, I suppose you're going to tell me that global warming is also a load of BS," and he replied "Do you want to take the red pill, or the blue pill?" As it turns out, he had spent a lot of time sorting this out several years ago, and he started pointing me toward the sources I cite in my essay. I had lunch with a "green" friend, and I asked her about global warming. She said "Really, the science is settled, trust me," and that made me look deeper. Soon I was upset enough that I started to write. The first drafts were pretty confused, but eventually, with the help of Richard Lindzen, Willie Soon, and others I reached out to, it came together. My goal wasn't to really interpret the science, only to try to explain clearly what we think we know at this point.

Tell us about what happened when your blog post hit the internet. Did you lose friends? Gain new ones?

I was told I was going to lose friends. I did. About five long-time friends took one look at my essay and decided they didn't want to hear from me again. I got some very angry emails from people saying I was simply wrong. It's amazing how the people who are with me talk about the data and the science, while the people who think I'm wrong simply resort to name calling and trying to discredit me. They never talk about the science, not even really in the rebuttal that group published, which weighed in at around 7,000 words. It was simply reiterating their position and trying to use psychology to discredit me, rather than addressing the scientific claims in the papers I cite.

One interesting thing happened. I was contacted by quite a few retired engineers, who said they had figured this out for themselves and were astonished that it wasn't more mainstream. Many of them offered to help me and said I was brave to launch a piece like that while trying to start a new consulting company. It's interesting that people who have spent their lives solving problems have decided to spend their time looking into this and trying to do something about it, now that they don't fear retribution from bosses and peers.

You have noticed that the mainstream press and major liberal-leaning internet sites have all but ignored your blog post. While this blackout isn’t surprising to conservatives used to the MSM ignoring non-liberal narratives, did it surprise you? Did it open your eyes to the way the liberal media operates?

I don't think it's a black-out. I think it's a blind spot. Listen, no media outlet wants to run too much on creationism, because they don't think that issue should be given "balanced" coverage. They are right. Since they have been told so many times that the science is settled, they simply have no incentive to even read my pitch or my essay, let alone think about publishing it or reviewing it. Bill McKibben at The Rolling Stone got back to me immediately, saying (he writes in lower case, which I like): "i think the likelihood that jim hansen etc have made up global warming is...unlikely." They have no incentive to open any cans of worms, even though it's really their job to do so.

I was hoping that the more neutral organizations (Slate, The Atlantic, Huffington Post) would be interested in a two-sided debate, but no such luck. They all ignored my emails.

Considering you have drilled down and reached what you consider the best truth possible about the global warming question and it is being summarily rejected by so many so-called “authoritative sources,” does it make you question other conventional wisdoms and narratives?

I am collecting them in a file I have and also on my blog, which I hope people will discover. I would write a book about applied rationality if book economics weren't so bad these days (I've written six books and my books used to really sell and make money - these days it's much harder). I try to teach this to business people in my seminars. I have a YouTube channel dedicated to Bayeisan Reasoning. But it's very difficult to get people to change their fundamental view of the world. If Bill Gates would give me $10m, I'd start a new nonprofit to do just that and get the word out. I think people should at the very least study decision science and behavioral economics, to learn that their view of the world may not be that much aligned with reality.

What is your next step? Do you have a plan to further highlight this issue, or is your experience so disheartening you are simply moving on to more pressing matters in your life and your work?

I've encountered several people who have given up. I still think my role is to be a communicator, not a front-line researcher. I would like to do something similar for nutrition, which is equally misunderstood. The evidence-based medical movement fascinates me. And professionally, I hope to help managers and executives understand that their personal view of the world may not be optimal and that cognitive diversity is a powerful business weapon. This is the new field of evidence-based management, which I think can really change the world. If more people made evidence-based decisions, we might be able to have a smarter conversation on energy. But I'd like to be part of the energy solution somehow. If I can see a way to add my particular talent - explaining - to the cause, I will continue to do so. Perhaps I'll end up creating a seminar that I can take to various cities to help people be less wrong and more open to new ideas. That would be fun.