Why he fled Argentina

The death of Alberto Nisman under suspicious circumstances has rocked Argentina and raised serious doubts about the government. The AP roundup from Buenos Aires reports that “Death of prosecutor shakes faith in president, government institutions in Argentina.”

Journalist Damian Pachter broke the story of Nisman’s death last week. In the most recent chapter of the story, Pachter has fled Argentina for Israel out of concerns for his safety. Haaretz has published Pachter’s column “Why I fled Argentina after breaking the story of Alberto Nisman’s death.” (Access to the column may require registration, but it also accessible via Google here.)

Pachter contributes an important thread to the story. Those who have followed the story so far will want to attend to this:

So here they are, the craziest 48 hours of my life.

When my source gave me the scoop on Alberto Nisman’s death, I was writing a piece on the special prosecutor’s accusations against President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, her (Jewish) Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman, two pro-Iran “social activists” and parliamentarian Andrés Larroque. I learned that Nisman had been shot dead in his home.

The vetting process wasn’t too tough because of my source’s incredible attention to detail. His name will never be revealed.

Two things stood in my mind: my source’s safety and people’s right to know what happened that day, though not necessarily in that order.

Of course, for both speed and the contagion effect, Twitter was the way to go. The information was so solid I never doubted my source, despite my one or two colleagues who doubted me because I only had 420 Twitter followers — a number now eclipsing 10,000.

As the night went on, journalists contacted me in order to get the news from me even more directly. The first to do so was Gabriel Bracesco.

Once I tweeted that Nisman had died, hundreds of people quickly retweeted the news and started following me. That was my first of many sleepless days.

“You just broke the best story in decades,” lots of people said. “You’re crazy,” was another take. Either way, nobody questioned that the situation was very grave.

The following days were marked by a government trying to create an official story. First, the head of state suggested a “suicide hypothesis,” then a mysterious murder. They of course were not to blame. In anything.

That week I received several messages from one of my oldest and best sources. He urged me to visit him, but in those crazy days I underestimated his proposal.

On Friday I was working at the Buenos Aires Herald.com newsroom when a colleague from the BBC urged me to look at the state news agency’s story on Nisman’s death. The piece had some serious typos but the message was even stranger: The agency quoted a supposed tweet of mine that I never wrote.

Pachter then takes a bus to meet up with his source in a town several hours outside Buenos Aires. Upon his arrival he finds that he is being followed by a man he believes to be an intelligence agent. His source arrives and snaps a photo of the agent. “I then had to consider the best thing to do,” Pachter writes, “because when an Argentine intelligence agent is on your tail, it’s never good news. He didn’t just want to have a coffee with me, that’s for sure.”

Pachter decided to leave Argentina, buying a ticket from Buenos Aires with the destination of Israel via Montevideo and Madrid. He says he kept a low profile to evade security forces, adding this:

After I left Argentina I found out that the government was still publishing wrong information about me on social media. The Twitter feed of Casa Rosada, the Argentine presidential palace, posted the details of the airline ticket I had bought, and claimed that I intended to return to Argentina by February 2 — in other words, I hadn’t really fled the country. In fact, my return date is in December.

Haaretz caption: A tweet from the Presidential Palace showing Pachter’s flight itinerary.

Whole thing here.

As I wrote yesterday, borrowing from Lewis Carroll: curiouser and curiouser.

Occupy the Syllabus!

It appears the writers at The Onion have snuck one by the The Daily Californian, the student newspaper of UC Berkeley.  An op-ed published last week entitled “Occupy the Syllabus” complains about a course in “classical social theory” whose reading list consisted of “Plato and Aristotle, then jumped to modern philosophers: Hobbes, Locke, Hegel, Marx, Weber and Foucault, all of whom are white men.”  These authors are “obsolete,” the two writers of the op-ed claim.  You have to read it, not to believe it.

Now, silly me, but you’d think a course called classical social theory would, um, use the classics of the tradition, and if you don’t like so many white guys, then don’t take the course. (Similarly, I doubt these whiners would be satisfied if someone offered to teach a course by that notable person of color, St. Augustine, or Arabic authors such as Alfarabi.) No, I suspect these authors are serious, though it hard to take them seriously when they write of the aforementioned list of authors that they are “economically privileged white males from five imperial countries (England, France, Germany, Italy and the United States).” I’m having a hard time placing Plato and Aristotle in one of those empires (and I guess Locke is an honorary American?), but that’s just me.  And as for oppression, didn’t Plato write chiefly about a guy who was executed by the government for subversion? Why did Hobbes have to live and write in exile? And Foucault—what’s the problem here? I guess he’s not gay and left enough. Just how did the entire critique of oppression develop anyway?

Rather ironic to see Karl Marx included in a list of risible white males who are “obsolete” for understanding the present moment. I used to half-joke that some day conservatives might be the ones who stick up for Karl Marx; looks like that moment as arrived a bit ahead of schedule.

Judging from the comment thread, the two writers of this article have beclowned themselves with Berkeley students.

Michael Moore Film Festival! (Not)

If you’re on Twitter, dial up the thread under #MichaelMooreMovies.  If you’re not on Twitter, you’re missing some great suggested movie titles for Michael Moore (and some good photos. a few of which I’ve excerpted below).  For example:

Journey to the Center of the Girth

Around the Waist in 80 Days

Lord of the Onion Rings

Diet Another Day

Fahrenheit 7/11

The Ten Condiments

The Hunt for Red Lobster

Live Fat and Fry Lard



No Country for Slim Men

House of Carbs

The Right Stuffing

Dial “M” for McDonalds

The Hungry Games

Glazed and Confused

The Crown Roast Affair

The Silence of the Roasted Lambs

Plump Fiction

The Fat and the Furious

Dude, Where’s My Feet?

One Flew Over the Doughnut Shop

A Fridge Too Far

Moore 1 copy

Moore 2 copy


Moore 3 copy

Moore 4 copy

Last week in baseball history — cursed going and coming

Ask an old-time Cleveland Indians fan to name the worst trade the Tribe ever made and he’ll probably name the deal that sent Rocky Colavito to the Detroit Tigers. Ask him to name the second worst and he might say the deal that brought Colavito back to Cleveland.

The Indians famously traded Colavito to the Tigers for Harvey Kuenn in April 1960. It was a blockbuster deal involving the reigning American League batting champion (Kuenn) and the reigning American League home run king (Colavito).

At the time, batting average was a highly overrated measure of offensive performance. But even taking this into account, it’s difficult to understand why the Indians made this trade. In 1959, Kuenn had “produced” 170 runs (runs scored+runs batted in). Colavito had produced 201. Moreover, Colavito was three years younger than Kuenn and just entering his prime.

The deal outraged Cleveland fans. Colavito was a huge local hero, especially among female fans. If anything, though, this may have encouraged Frank (Trader) Lane to offload the Rock. After all, as general manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, he had tried to trade Stan Musial. However, Lane’s stated reason for the trade was that home runs are overrated!

Colavito went on to belt 139 of them, while driving in more than 400 runs, during his four years in Detroit. Kuenn lasted one year in Cleveland before being traded to San Francisco. In his best post-Colavito-trade season, playing for the Giants, he hit 10 homers and drove in 68 runs.

The trade came to take on epic proportions in the minds of Indians fans. There’s even a book, The Curse of Rocky Colavito, that attributes Cleveland’s decades of baseball woes to the original sin of the Colavito-Kuenn deal.

The Tigers traded to Colavito to Kansas City after the 1963 season in a deal I discussed here. Cleveland inquired about obtaining the slugger at that time, but general manager Gabe Paul deemed the price — up-and-coming third baseman Max Alvis — too high.

Colavito had a fine season for Kansas City in 1964 (.270 batting average with 34 home runs and 102 RBIs). However, he reportedly clashed with the team’s owner, Charlie Finley.

Whether for that reason or some other, the A’s traded Colavito to Cleveland on January 20, 1965. It was a sound idea in principle. Colavito was now 30 and his trade value would never be higher. The A’s were several years away from respectability, and Colavito would likely be washed-up by the time the club was a serious contender (this turned out to be the case).

Finally, the Indians were desperate to reacquire Colavito. The club had been struggling both on and off the field. There were even suggestions that it might leave town. General manager Gabe Paul was ready to pay a big price to bring back the idol.

Paul did, in fact, pay a big price. However, Kansas City didn’t receive it. Instead, Colavito returned to Cleveland via a three team deal in which the Chicago White Sox received the “Rocky premium.”

In exchange for Colavito, the Kansas City received Jim Landis and Mike Hershberger (a pair of outfielders) and pitcher Fred Talbot from the White Sox (Talbot came over in February, when the deal was completed). The White Sox received pitcher Tommy John, center fielder Tommie Agee, and catcher John Romano from Cleveland. The Indians, in addition to getting Colavito from K.C., received catcher Camilio Carreon from Chicago. Thus, the deal included a catcher swap between Cleveland and Chicago.

Even taking Colavito’s age into account, Kansas City got a poor return. Landis was an average player and Hershberger was below average. Talbot was a good prospect, but he never produced (he’s best remembered as Jim Bouton’s foil in Ball Four).

Colavito, meanwhile, had two productive years in Cleveland, during which he slugged 56 homers and drove in 180 runs. In fact, his first year back was stellar. He led the League in RBIs and walks. And he produced thrills worthy of his matinee idol status when, on opening day, he belted two home runs.

But to get Colavito, the Tribe gave up two sparkling prospects in Agee and John. Agee was American League Rookie of the Year in 1966. and in 1969, by which time Colavito had retired, Agee helped lead the New York Mets to the world championship.

As for John, with the help of the surgery that bears his name, he pitched for 24 seasons after the 1965 trade, winning 286 games. Twelve years after the Colavito deal, he was an ace on a Dodgers staff that won the NL pennant. John was even better when the Dodgers made it back to the World Series the following season. And he participate it his third Series in 1981 with the New York Yankees. By this time Colavito was 48 years old.

Notice, however, that the White Sox were not the beneficiaries of the major accomplishments of Agee and John. Both did play important roles on the 1967 club that made a strong run for the pennant. But at the end of that season, Chicago traded Agee to the Mets (with Al Weis, another hero for the 1969 Miracle Mets) for Tommie Davis, Jack Fisher, and two players of little note. Davis had a very disappointing 1968, and the White Sox fell to 9th place (out of 10 teams).

John continued to pitch well for the White Sox through the 1971 season, after which he was traded to the Dodgers for Dick Allen. Allen was great value in the short-run, producing an MVP season in 1972 and nearly leading the resurgent White Sox to the AL West crown.

The White Sox, then, made out brilliantly on the Colavito deal, just not as brilliantly as they would have had they had retained John and Agee.

By the same token, the Indians suffered by virtue of giving up Agee and John. To make things even worse, they got the short end of the catcher swap. Carreon was mediocre for Cleveland (as he had been for Chicago), while Romano, true to form, hit 33 home runs in 1965-66.

The trade might have made sense from Cleveland’s point of view had it been less obvious how good Agee and John were likely to become. But both were “can’t miss” prospects.

In 1964, at the age of 21, Agee hit .270 and blasted 20 home runs in the tough Pacific Coast League, playing against opponents who typically were around 25 years old. John, also only 21 that year, had pitched to a 3.91 ERA in the American League.

For a non-pennant contending team to trade two such prospects for a 30 year-old slugger in decline seems unconscionable, even in the name of trying to avoid a curse. And it seems daft for a last place team like Kansas City not to have snapped up prize prospects like Agee and John in exchange for their veteran star.

UPDATE: The Kansas City franchise won three straight championships in Oakland (1972-74). Would they have win more with Agee and John?

Not consecutively, it appears. The Baltimore Orioles defeated the A’s comprehensively in the 1971 AL playoff. I doubt that Agee and John would have made a difference.

Neither Agee (retired) nor John (injured) played in 1975.

John had a good year in 1976, when the A’s fell only 2.5 games short of the Kansas City Royals. He might have made the difference in that race. It’s highly speculative to suppose that Oakland would have won the 1976 World Series with John, but they might well have won their sixth consecutive Division crown.

Miss Colombia Wins Miss Universe

Miss Colombia, Paulina Vega, won the Miss Universe pageant tonight. No surprise there; she has been the betting favorite for the last few days. Miss USA, Nia Sanchez, finished second.

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In general, tonight’s Miss Universe finale followed form. The 15 semifinalists were announced early: Colombia, Italy, India, France, USA, Indonesia, Venezuela, Spain, Philippines, Argentina, Jamaica, Ukraine, Brazil, Netherlands and Australia. Not a lot of upsets there. None of my favorites–Miss Gabon, Miss Israel and Miss Puerto Rico–made the last 15. Miss Puerto Rico, Gabriela Berrios, did win Most Photogenic, however. Here she is with her trophy:

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What do you think are the chances we can persuade her to do an interview on the Power Line Show? I think it’s worth a shot.

The show went through all of the national costumes–an excursion into the bizarre–along with swimsuit and evening gown competitions. Ultimately, the group of 88 was winnowed down to five: Misses USA, Netherlands, Ukraine, Jamaica and Colombia.

The five finalists:

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There were some upsets here: leading contenders like Venezuela, India and Spain were gone, while Netherlands, Ukraine and Jamaica were relative upstarts. Of those three, I liked Netherlands and Ukraine.

Miss Netherlands

Miss Netherlands

Miss Ukraine

Miss Ukraine

The competition came down to the questions, as usual. They provided some drama. Each of the final five competitors got a question from one of the judges. The first was directed to Miss USA by boxer Manny Pacquaio: If you had 30 seconds to give a message to global terrorists, what would it be? This was a hanging curve from a sympathetic pitcher, and Miss USA, Ana Sanchez, whiffed, gurgling some nonsense about spreading a message of hope and love and peace.

The other questions and answers in the first round were unremarkable.

The last stage was a question submitted via Facebook, which was asked to each of the five finalists: What is your country’s greatest contribution to the world?

The first contestant to respond was Miss USA, and once again she stumbled. Rather than mentioning, say, WWII, or America’s role in preserving the peace for the last 70 years, she mumbled some platitudes about how the U.S. has a wonderful influence in the world. With one exception, the other contestants’ answers were not noteworthy. But the question was posed to Miss Ukraine, whose country, as she spoke, is being invaded by Russian troops. Miss Ukraine rose to the occasion. She said that right now, Ukraine’s most important contribution is to direct our energies to support our army and our people. Good for her. She immediately became my favorite.

But it wasn’t to be. This is a beauty pageant, after all. The final five were as follows: Miss Colombia, Miss USA, Miss Ukraine, Miss Netherlands and Miss Jamaica. Here is Miss Colombia after receiving her crown:

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Still, while the final results were not quite as I would have wished, the Miss Universe pageant has cemented its place as the only first-class, traditional, world-wide beauty pageant. We look forward to next year!

Turkey takes a dim view of Obama’s Syria policy

In an interview with Lally Weymouth of the Washington Post, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu offers a devastating critique of President Obama’s Syria policy. Turkey, of course, has its own interests, and on some matters they diverge sharply from America’s.

However, Turkey has a strong interest in (1) a stable Syria, or at least a Syria whose refugees don’t pour into Turkey by the tens of thousands, (2) a Syria not dominated by Iran, and (3) the defeat of ISIS, a revolutionary force that doesn’t recognize regional borders. There is, or at least should be, no divergence between these interests and those of the U.S.

Accordingly, Davutoglu’s critique is worthy of our attention. Here he is on how Obama’s longstanding unwillingness to institute a no-fly zone in Syria paved the way for the rise of ISIS:

In a potential crisis, if you don’t take necessary measures at the early stage, at a later stage you face much bigger problems. Yes, two years ago we were asking to have a no-fly zone . . . to allow the moderate Syrian opposition to have control in the north of Syria. If the opposition had been supported, there wouldn’t be the threat of ISIS.

Since we didn’t protect civilians or help the opposition, there was a tactical cooperation between the Assad regime and ISIS. When the Assad regime attacked opposition positions, [rebel] forces had to leave those towns and cities. The ISIS forces then occupied these towns. There was no fighting between the regime and ISIS until last summer. The presence of ISIS helped Assad to stay in power because everyone said there was a terrorist treat — it helped Assad legitimize himself in the eyes of the international community.

Here he is on Obama’s plan to train members of the moderate opposition to Assad and deploying them in the spring:

That is too late. We should not allow the Syrian people to be under two pressures — the regime and ISIS. A third option is needed — the moderate opposition.

Turkey has been criticized for its unwillingness to help in the fight against ISIS. It doesn’t even permit the U.S. to use its air bases. Davutogulu attributes this unwillingness to Obama’s failure to develop an integrated Syrian strategy — one that defends Syrians from Assad and robustly supports the moderate opposition, thereby depriving ISIS of its oxygen:

There was almost an agreement [with the U.S. on air bases], and there is still a possible agreement. What we want is simple — we don’t want to see any refugee flow or air bombardment by the Syrian regime. We don’t want to see the presence of terrorist groups. . . .

We say both threats should be taken care of simultaneously. We have to have a strategy to defend the Syrian people against ISIS and the Assad regime simultaneously.

When it comes to Obama’s refusal to enforce his “red line” on Assad’s use of chemical weapons, Davutoglu can barely conceal his contempt, a contempt that no doubt informs Turkey’s general approach to the U.S. under Obama:

Drawing a red line and not committing to it gives more courage to the aggressor. In those days when the U.S. administration requested our support to join the coalition of the willing against chemical weapons, we joined immediately.

But the Syrian regime misused good intentions. Still they have a chemical weapons capacity. Nothing has changed. They killed 300,000 people, and there are [millions of internally displaced people as well as millions of refugees].

Still, Assad is in power. There are people who think he may remain in power after so many crimes against humanity. This is unacceptable.

Unfortunately, it is acceptable to Obama.

The Middle East is the world’s toughest neighborhood. To survive in it, leaders must be clear-eyed and clear-headed.

Turkey’s leaders, for all of their many faults, answer to this description. So do the leaders of Israel, Saudi Arabia, and (now that the dust has cleared) Egypt.

All of these leaders are now at serious odds with Obama.

It’s conceivable that Obama, sitting in Washington, D.C. and relying on his his left-wing preconceptions, sees the Middle East more clearly than those whose survival depends on understanding the region. But it would take an extraordinarily prescient American president to pull that off.

The past six years teach us that, except as to matters of his own political survival, Barack Obama is not that president.

When Climate Heretics Speak. . .

. . . They usually mop the floor with the climatistas. That’s one reason why the climate campaign has resorted to rank conformism and outright bullying.

Matt Ridley offered his observations about the state of things in an article in the London Times a few days ago entitled “My Life as A Climate Lukewarmer.”

I am a climate lukewarmer. That means I think recent global warming is real, mostly man-made and will continue but I no longer think it is likely to be dangerous and I think its slow and erratic progress so far is what we should expect in the future. That last year was the warmest yet, in some data sets, but only by a smidgen more than 2005, is precisely in line with such lukewarm thinking.

This view annoys some sceptics who think all climate change is natural or imaginary, but it is even more infuriating to most publicly funded scientists and politicians, who insist climate change is a big risk. My middle-of-the-road position is considered not just wrong, but disgraceful, shameful, verging on scandalous. I am subjected to torrents of online abuse for holding it, very little of it from sceptics.

I was even kept off the shortlist for a part-time, unpaid public-sector appointment in a field unrelated to climate because of having this view, or so the headhunter thought. In the climate debate, paying obeisance to climate scaremongering is about as mandatory for a public appointment, or public funding, as being a Protestant was in 18th-century England.

Kind friends send me news almost weekly of whole blog posts devoted to nothing but analysing my intellectual and personal inadequacies, always in relation to my views on climate. Writing about climate change is a small part of my life but, to judge by some of the stuff that gets written about me, writing about me is a large part of the life of some of the more obsessive climate commentators. It’s all a bit strange.

Freeman Dyson

Freeman Dyson

There’s more; definitely worth reading the whole thing. Equally interesting is a back and forth exchange of public letters between the London Independent’s science editor, Steve Connor, and the legendary Princeton physicist Freeman Dyson, who has become one of the leading climate skeptics, much to the supreme annoyance of the climatistas. Because of Dyson’s eminence in science, he can’t be attacked or dismissed for supposedly bad motives or other low causes. Connor tries to corner him semi-politely, but Dyson won’t fall for it.

A few samples:

From: Freeman Dyson

To: Steve Connor

. . . The whole point of this discussion is that I am interested in a far wider range of questions, while you are trying to keep us talking about narrow technical questions that I consider unimportant.

You ask me where the extra trapped heat has gone, but I do not agree with the models that say the extra trapped heat exists. I cannot answer your question because I disagree with your assumptions.

From: Steve Connor

To: Freeman Dyson

Sorry you feel that way, I hope we can get back on track. I was only trying to find out where your problem lies with respect to the scientific consensus on global warming.

Connor’s use of “your problem” is very telling here, like an elementary school teacher correcting the math mistakes of an 8th grader. Anyway:

From: Freeman Dyson

To: Steve Connor

. . . The most I expect is that you might listen to what I am saying. I am saying that all predictions concerning climate are highly uncertain. On the other hand, the remedies proposed by the experts are enormously costly and damaging, especially to China and other developing countries. On a smaller scale, we have seen great harm done to poor people around the world by the conversion of maize from a food crop to an energy crop. This harm resulted directly from the political alliance between American farmers and global-warming politicians. Unfortunately the global warming hysteria, as I see it, is driven by politics more than by science. If it happens that I am wrong and the climate experts are right, it is still true that the remedies are far worse than the disease that they claim to cure.

I wish that The Independent would live up to its name and present a less one-sided view of the issues.