Days Like This

by Belle Waring on June 6, 2004

My mom, still right about everything. In a previous post, I explained her immediate skepticism about the Brandon Mayfield arrest. From the NYT today:

…the F.B.I. at one point told federal prosecutors that Spanish officials were “satisfied” with their conclusion.
But in interviews this week, Spanish officials vehemently denied ever backing up that assessment, saying they had told American law enforcement officials from the start, after their own tests, that the match was negative. The Spanish officials said their American counterparts relentlessly pressed their case anyway, explaining away stark proof of a flawed link — including what the Spanish described as tell-tale forensic signs — and seemingly refusing to accept the notion that they were mistaken….
Carlos Corrales, a commissioner of the Spanish National Police’s science division, said he was also struck by the F.B.I.’s intense focus on Mr. Mayfield. “It seemed as though they had something against him,” Mr. Corrales said, “and they wanted to involve us.”

The FBI continues to maintain it was just a random mistake by an examiner who didn’t even know Mayfield’s name, much less his religion, that initially led them to focus on Mayfield. I continue to maintain that’s total BS. Finally, does this fingerprint examiner have a family? Because I bet they would really, really like more time to be spent with them.

Statistical Update: This 2001 Washington Post article lists some widely varying estimates as to how many Muslims live in the US. The highest number was produced by a group of Muslim organizations and has been the subject of some doubt (numbers in millions).
Mosque Study Project: 6 to 7
2001 Britannica Book of the Year: 4.1
National Opinion Research Center: 1.5 to 3.4
CUNY Religious Identification Survey: 2.8
Reading the article, the methodology of the Mosque Study Project was obviously pretty bad. The total U.S population, according to the census bureau, is 293, 425, 566. So it seems as if probably more than 1% but substantially fewer than 2% of Americans are Muslims. I think that in the original article the FBI said the computer provided them with 50 close matches, from which Mayfield’s print was chosen as the best by an examiner (again, allegedly, without reference to his personal details).

Down in Cork he’d be known as a Langer

by Kieran Healy on June 6, 2004

The best-selling song in Ireland at the moment is a strike for local terms of abuse over international ones. A group from “Cork”: — Ireland’s second-largest city, its real capital, and my home town — is dominating “the charts”: with “The Langer,” outselling such international cursers as “Eamon”: and “Frankee”: “Langer” is a Cork term meaning — well, it can mean a lot of things, but “this clip from the song”: gives you the primary meaning. The song itself isn’t destined to be a classic of contemporary folk music, but seeing as recent political events have caused me to use the word myself a few times to uncomprehending Americans, I can now point them towards this. The song is also notable for being the first with a full verse _as Gaeilge_ to reach number one in Ireland. Appropriately the verse is about langers who think only they can speak Irish. Full lyrics are below the fold, courtesy of “The Cork Diaries”:

[click to continue…]

A question on the cost of nuclear power

by John Quiggin on June 6, 2004

If you take the problem of climate change at all seriously, it’s obviously necessary to consider what, if any, role nuclear (fission) energy should play in a response. I discussed this on my blog not long ago and concluded that “it may well be that, at least for an interim period, expansion of nuclear fission is the best way to go.” However, on the basis of my rather limited survey of the evidence, I suggested that, as a source of electricity, nuclear energy is about twice as expensive as coal or gas. If so, conservation is the first choice, and we should only move to alternative sources of electricity when the easy conservation options are exhausted.

By contrast, Mark Kleiman says that “Nukes, if run right, are fully competitive with coal, and a hell of a lot cleaner”, Brad DeLong says “He’s 100% completely correct”, and Matt Yglesias takes a similar view.

Kleiman cites the example of France, which I don’t find entirely convincing, since the French have always given substantial subsidies to nuclear energy. He argues that the US made a mess of nuclear energy for regulatory reasons, but doesn’t say anything about the British experience, which didn’t have the same problems and was still an economic disaster. I’ve looked briefly at Canada’s CANDU program, where experience appears to be mixed at best.

Can anyone point me to a reliable source of comparative information on this? Is there general agreement, or a partisan divide between pro-nuclear and anti-nuclear advocates ? I’d also be interested in comments on the general question raised in my opening sentence.