Faster Katrina Recriminations
P.P.S.: Like many New Yorker policy articles, Gladwell's reads like a lecture to an isolated, ill-informed and somewhat gullible group of highly literate children. They are cheap dates. They won't think of the obvious objections. They won't demand that you "play Notre Dame," as my boss Charles Peters used to say, and take on the best arguments for the other side. They just need to be given a bit of intellectual entertainment and pointed off in a comforting anti-Bush direction. [Like highbrow sheep?--ed You said that.]
Supplemental reading: Here are excerpts from a Nyman article that indeed seems to be an argument against any copayment in many circumstances. Nyman also sketches some alternative cost-reduction strategies--including "global budgeting" to "slow the expansion of health care services down to levels closer to inflation and growth of the GDP." Global budgeting, at least as practiced in Canada, was trenchantly criticized in a 1992 WaPo article by ... Malcolm Gladwell. (See "Why Canada's Health Plan is No Remedy for America," Washington Post, March 22, 1992) ... .See also Gladwell's forceful, occasionally quirky defense of the American health care system in 2000. ("I don't know that young men need health insurance.") [Thanks to Dr. M]
**--Has Nyman never heard of a "gomer"?
Late hit: This is the second Gladwell article I've read that enthusiastically promotes the ideas in a book without grappling with even the obvious possible criticisms. (The other author given similar treatment was Judith Rich Harris). He's becoming the Cousin Brucie of the bien pensants! 9:59 P.M. link
Not so fast? Just when I thought the Able Danger claims might be explained by a conflation of one Mohamed El-Amir (a.k.a. Mohamed Atta) with another, come two potentially complicating developments:
1) Ed Epstein emails to say that J.D. Smith, the Able Danger contractor who made news yesterday (see below) did not say he relied on "public" information, but rather "open source" information, meaning information from sources not classified as secret. Epstein claims those sources could include airline passenger manifests and State Department visa applications. He has revised his post to argue more clearly how Able Danger might have culled Atta's name from these "open" sources in 2000. Update-Contra Epstein: A veteran reporter emails
open source info does NOT include airline manifests and credit card info, which is either protected by law from disclosure (like credit info in the US) or proprietary to the companies involved (and thus not usually available to investigators without a subpoena).
In any case, I'm told Smith was specifically asked at the Friday press conference if Able Danger had visa, credit or airplane info and he said they had nothing like that.
2) The New York Post comes up with a reason why the Able Danger contract to Smith's outfit was terminated--fear on the part of "military brass" that an unrelated chart on China-U.S. connections had put too much "focus on U.S. citizens." At first glance, the story seems to oddly shore up the Able Danger claims, by providing a good reason for a) the Pentagon's hostility to the program and b) the frustration of the Able Danger "whistleblowers" who have come forward. It also adds a slight Keystone Kops quality. (The Able Danger chart on China suggested "Condoleezza Rice and other prominent Americans as potential security risks.")
11:40 A.M. link
'Able Danger' Ball Advances: Fox News reports on this morning's press conference with J.D. Smith, the latest Able Danger figure to step forward. Smith, a defense contractor, claims Mohamed Atta's name and picture were on a chart on his wall well before 9/11. ... Bonus Value-Adding Info!Kf also hears: 1) Smith said the data mined by Able Danger was public data, which would seem to rule out the kind of searches (e.g. of "Arab males who applied for a U.S. visa with a newly issued passport") envisioned by Ed Epstein; 2) Smith acknowledged that the picture of Atta he claims to have seen on the chart was very grainy, but he says he recognized Atta by his distinctive cheekbones; 3) Smith maintains that Able Danger obtained the Atta information from a female researcher in California, whom he declined to identify; and 4) Smith didn't have a very good answer when confronted with the "Two Atta" theory first suggested by Tom Maguire--i.e. that the Able Danger people might have confused the 9/11 hijacker Atta with a known Abu Nidal terrorist with a near-identical name. ... That said, I'm told Smith seemed sincere. And if the Able Danger crew wasn't trying to talk to the FBI about Mohamed Atta, what were they trying to talk about? Were they just bureaucrats scheduling meetings to justify their existence? ... Take it away, Minuteman.
Update--the two El-Amirs: Minuteman delivers! J.D. Smith also said that Able Danger had gotten Atta's name by linking him to Omar Abdul Rahman, the blind sheikh implicated in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. But how could they have linked Atta to Rahman? Easy! It turns out, as blogger A.J. Strata discovered, that there are links--whether accurate or inaccurate [thanks--lawyer]--in the public domain between Rahman and a doctor, Magdy El-Amir--who may be completely innocent! [ditto]--but who has a brother named Mohamed El-Amir who has apparently been linked by Dateline--again, perhaps erroneously--to some intrigue or other. Mohammed El-Amir ... why is that name familiar? Wasn't that the same name used by Mohammed Atta at the beginning 2000? I think it was! In other words, here is a simple explanation for how Able Danger could have fingered an Egyptian with the name of the 9/11 hijacker, Mohamed El-Amir (whom we now know as Mohamed Atta). It was just a different Mohamed El-Amir. ... Why do I feel that through the power of the blogosphere we are asymptotically approaching the truth? ...
Photograph of John Kerry by Brian Snyder/Reuters. Still from Star Trek on Slate's Table of Contents © Bettmann/Corbis.