Thursday, January 31, 2008

WSJ defends Obama on the Rezco Thing

The Journal's Op Ed page ran a piece today explaining that Obama's only legal work connected with the recently indited Rezco was some five hours reviewing legal documents connected with the closing on a building for a church group, that Rezco was helping. The Journal properly reported that the writer is a friend of Obama's, but clearly the Journal thinks this is the real truth, otherwise they wouldn't have run the piece.
Interesting. The Journal takes some time and space to defend Obama against a piece of mud thrown by the Clinton's. Must be they like Obama (he is very likable) and don't like Hillary much. Especially interesting as from a narrow Republican viewpoint, we'd like to see the Democrats nominate Hillary, she will be easier to beat than Obama. Looks like the Journal druther see some fair play than see an easier-to-beat democratic candidate.

Dress for success, woman's version

We have a cute blond news anchor interviewing the brand new just as cute and just as blond Miss America on Fox&Friends. News anchor is wearing a pink suit with an above-the-knees miniskirt and cleavage that goes way , way down. She is well over to the sexy side of attractive. Miss America on the other hand, is wearing a dark blouse buttoned up to her throat and a pair of khaki slacks, probably Dockers. She looks pretty but she shows a lot less skin than the anchorwoman.
Assume anchorwoman dress as they do 'cause it's a job requirement in the news business. Miss America, crown now firmly bobbie pinned in place, can wear something a bit more conservative that makes her feel comfortable on national TV. She's paid her dues and no longer has to make the guys tongues hang out to keep her job.
The guys on the show wear suits, white shirts and ties, and look just fine. One of the benefits of being a guy, is your wardrobe choices are straight forward and well understood. We have it better than the girls in this respect. We even get pockets.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Democrats water board Mukasy

Watched the hearings on CSpan. Democrats, Biden and Grassley and others tried to get new Attorney General Mukasy to say that waterboarding is torture. Mukasy did a duck and weave and managed to avoid getting pinned down. A least in the morming session. Didn't bother to watch the afternoon session. The democrats wanted Mukasy to call waterboarding torture because there is a law against torture. With waterboarding defined as torture by the new US Attorney General, they can go after some waterboarders, making the administration look bad.
We are pretty sure CIA waterboarded some ugly captives, that fuss about "interrogation tapes" last week must have been about a video taped waterboarding session. CIA summoned up the guts to destroy the tapes before they got posted on UTube. CIA has been fairly worthless lately but at least they have some sense of self preservation. It's a start for them. Needless to say the last thing Mukasy or anyone else wants is a another Valerie Plame kind of case where some special prosecutor goes looking for CIA waterboarders. It's just too messy, and damaging to the national interest. So Mukasy won't say waterboarding is torture, even if they waterboard him. Besides, these are senators. If they feel waterboarding is torture they can pass a law to that effect, if they have the votes, which they probably don't.
Personally I'm not in favor of duress, extreme duress, or torture for interrogation. Under duress the subject will tell you anything you want to hear, just to make it stop hurting. It's against the principles of America, the principles of my religion, and my conscience. Plus I gotta weak stomach.
On the other hand, if a few Al Quada scumbags got waterboarded that's too bad. Some practical minded Americans decided to extract information by practical measures. I don't necessarily approve, but I am not ready to condemn. Especially not for terrorists who dress teenagers in explosive vests and send them out to kill innocent bystanders.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Go see "Charlie Wilson's War"

Great movie. Good dialog, funny bits, cast of 1000's, good guys win in the end. Good acting, follows the book closely enough. Charlie Wilson is a hard partying, hard drinking, trouble-getting-into Texas Congressman with a staff composed entirely of hot women. An outrageous rich Texas society woman gets Charlie into Pakistan, and the Paki's helicopter Charlie up to an Afghan refugee camp. The Afghan's misery and willingness to fight the Soviets wins Charlie's heart. Back in DC he hooks up with an old line CIA case officer, Gust Ava-something-or-other. Unlike most CIA troops, Gust hates communists and wants to fight them. Charlie gets the appropriations thru Congress, Gust gets the arms into Afghanistan, and the Russians start taking hits. Good scenes of Afghanis packing ultra modern guided missiles on muleback, US Congressmen in dark suits and dark glasses walking thru refugee camps full of camels, refugees in native dress, burning tires, tents, jeeps, kids.
One downer. The sound men have muddled the sound track and a lot of the funnier bits of dialog cannot be heard over the score and the sound effects. Plus the actors mumble.
Go and see it. This is one of the few decent movies to come out of Hollywood.

The glass is only half full according to NPR

The clock radio was play NPR this morning, and they had a long piece on President Bush's State pf the Union address. They picked over every paragraph, and rephrased it in negative terms. "The war is Iraq is going better" became "It has a long way to go". "The Iraq parliament passed the debaathification law" became "They haven't passed an oil law". And on, and on...
I used to think NPR was reasonably non partisan. That seems to be fading. This broadcast was a democratic party hit piece.

Monday, January 28, 2008

President Bush's State of the Union address

I watched it. Not bad, I stayed awake to the end. Bush spoke well. The content of the speech was a long long laundry list of things the Congress oughta do. Most of them were OK bu me. He said "future" earmarks in committee reports will NOT be honored. The congress critters will have to actually get the pork into the appropriations bill and get it voted on and signed, as opposed to the current system where the administration works from the committee report, a behind the scenes document the no one has seen.
Too bad "future" pork means next year's pork, when Bush will be out of office. I wish he had said "all earmarks starting with the ones in the 07 omnibus spending bill".

How smart are bankers, really?

Brian Wesbury writing on the Wall St Journal's op-ed page said "Beneath every dollar of counterpary risk, and every swap, or leveraged loan is a real economic asset." Oh really? Let's parse that out. "Real economic asset" should be something like a house, a car, a factory, an airliner, something physical that can be repossessed and sold. Then there are "near real economic assets" like paper money, stocks and bonds. Issued by powerful governments or corporations, the near real stuff depends upon the strength of the issuer rather than intrinsic value. Both real and near real assets are reasonable things to buy and sell.
Then we come to "securitized mortgage bonds". Are these real? A mortgage is real, the mortgage holder can seize the property if the borrower defaults. The owners of securitized mortgage bonds don't get that right. Are they backed by powerful corporations? No way, they are "off the books" and offered by "special investment vehicles". In short, the "sub prime mortgage crisis" roiling Wall St is the trading of unreal securities. Investors wised up last summer and stopped buying them.
Brian Westbury is the chief economist for First Trust Portfolios, L.P. His faulty understanding of the economy seems to be wide spread on Wall St. Investors with First Trust are in for a bad time in the very near future.

Falling Satellites

News is full of stories about a US reconnaissance satellite about to de orbit. It's fairly big and they have no prediction about where and when it will actually reentry. Much of the usual "sky-is-falling" talk. Vermont Public Radio compared the incident with the Skylab re entry and another US satellite reentry. VPR made no mention of the Soviet nuclear powered radar ocean reconnaissance satellite that crashed in northern Canada twenty odd years ago, complete with fallout from the smashed nuclear reactor. I guess they don't want to accuse the peaceful Soviets of flying military recon satellites, even when the Soviets have been out of business for better than a decade.
For that matter, VPR always describes the spacecraft as "spy satellites" rather than "photo recon satellites". Spying is illegal, and spies get executed. Reconnaissance is a legal operation of war or peace time.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Cuckoo's Egg gets real.

Back in the late 1980's Clifford Stoll was a computer systems admin at UC Berkeley. Small amounts of University CPU time were un accounted for. In running down the discrepancy Stoll discovered that he had a hacker logging into his Unix machine and fishing around for passwords and classified data. After a year or more or cat and mouse computer games, Stoll localized the hacker to an apartment in Hannover West Germany. He had the telephone number, the street address, the name of the hacker. West German police wanted to bust said hacker, but West German law was very protective about civil liberties. The West German cops said they needed a complaint from the Americans before they could arrest the hacker since breaking into American computers was not a crime in West Germany.
Stoll tried every thing he could over a course of months to get the FBI interested in the case. No luck. The Bureau was into its stupid phase.
Now, twenty years later, the Americans are going to do something about hackers. About time. According the the Wash Post, American intelligence agencies will be watching the net for hackers breaking into US government computers.
More effective would be to ban the use of Windows for all government work due to rediculous vulnerability.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Peggy Noonan says Bush destroyed Republican Party

Op ed piece in the Wall St Journal here. Peggy really unloads on Bush. Lists Iraq, spending, growth of government and immigration. She feels Bush deliberately went against the desires of the party members, leading to demoralization and back biting.
I suppose. On the other hand, I still feel Bush did right by going into Iraq after 9/11. The other course of action was to retreat to Fortress America, and let Al Queda, the Taliban, Hamas, and other terrorists consolidate their bases in the middle east. Bush decided to take the war to the enemy by occupying the enemy's downtown. And he has stuck to his guns despite endless attacks by the media, the CIA, State Dept, and the armed forces bureaucracy.
The offensive in Iraq gave us freedom from terrorist attacks on US soil since 9/11. Why? Simple, offer young jehadi's the choice of combat in friendly Iraq, where they can speak the language and can blend in, or boarding an airliner bound for the great Satan, where they stick up like sore thumbs and might get lynched if their cover fails. Even young jehadi's are smart enough to figure the odds on that choice.

Marketing 101 for car ad agencies

You've seen 'em, the soft focus TV ad, often in black and white. Camera brushes over the car lightly, then dwells on the scenery, or the pretty girl or the open road, anything but the car. Best view of the car is some arty shot from a strange angle. At this point you are wondering what the hell brand of car is being sold. The modern jello styled four door sedans all look alike, it ain't like in the '60's when you could recognize the make from four blocks away. The ad rolls on, you are still wondering what they are selling. Only at the very end of the ad do they flash up the maker's name for about 2 seconds.
Does this sell cars?
Have you seen the Toyota ad for "green" cars? Shows a car made of birch bark and twigs sort of flowing together as the wind whips the stuff around. Shape suggests a Prius, but could be anything. Then as the voice over is saying green things about recycling, you see the birch bark car decompose back into soil and disappear.
Somehow that ad doesn't speak to me either. To much like watching the final victory of body rot.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Newsies can ask the stupidest questions

Watched the Republican debate last night. Outstandingly stupid question comes from Tim Russert. "Mayor Guiliani, how do you feel about your drop in the polls from 40% to 20%?" Russert doesn't need to ask this question, we all know the answer. It gave Guliani a few minutes to tell us how morale in his campaign is high, the polls will change, and he will win. We know that, and we know Guliani is gonna say it. Why bother with the question?
Then the newsies spent some time trying to get the Republicans to say mean things about one another on stage. The candidates may not be the sharpest knives in the box, but they are too smart to start negative campaigning right on TV.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Sixty airliners per hour is why your flight is late

Good article on air traffic congestion here.

Space flight to t he asteroid belt (Aviation Week)

Aviation Week reports NASA insiders are pushing for a manned trip to the asteroid belt, or the Lagrange points before doing a lunar base. Such a mission does not require a lander, a vessel with the rocket power to soft land and then lift off again. Such a lander does not exist now, and might take halfway to forever to develop. An asteroid mission only requires a space craft large enough for a years long mission. It has to carry enough food, water, and air for the round trip. Going to a near earth orbit asteroid would reduce the travel time to a matter of months, as opposed to years for a mission to the Martian moons, or the main asteroid belt.
Such a mission would create the kind of excitement the Apollo missions enjoyed.

Barack Obama remembers Willy Horton

Back in 1988, George Bush ran a devastating TV ad against Mike Dukakis. The ad accused then governor Dukakis of paroling/pardoning/letting off the hook, an ugly con named Willy Horton who proceeded to commit some ghastly crime while out of stir. The ad was effective, and Dukakis made the mistake of not replying to it. Silence gives assent. Dukakis should have said something. He could have denied that it happened, that it was all the parole board's fault, it didn't happen on his watch, it was a terrible mistake what has been corrected, whatever. Instead he said nothing in public and the ad sank in. Voters expect mud to be thrown in an election. But they also expect the victims to fight back. The mud doesn't stick if the target denies it. If the target says nothing after being slimed, the voters begin to think there must be something to the charge.
The Clintons have thrown a bit of mud at Obama, and Obama has very properly denied the charges and politely accused the Clintons of lying. Obama remembers Willy Horton and remembers that silence gives assent.
The newsies are delighted, and have instant replayed the mud slinging to the point of nausea among us political junkies. (only true political junkies bother to watch) And pontificated about how terrible it is and how the candidates are pulling the campaign down to unspeakable issues like race and sex.
Malarkey. This is a spirited, and largely positive campaign that has galvanized the electorate.
Just look at the primary turnout figures.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

P51 Mustang fighter flies again

South Korea has been developing a turbo prop trainer/light attack aircraft since 1980. It's an aircraft type with considerable promise. Lighter, cheaper, and with more endurance than jets or attack choppers like F16 or Apache, it still carries enough firepower to be very useful against Al Quada type enemies. It can carry a pair or 500 pound bombs, 76 rockets in pods, or four .50 cal machine guns, any of which can do serious damage. With air support like that on call, platoons can go deep into Indian country and fear no evil.
The Koreans have had some development problems over the years. The Americans got stuffy about furnishing American parts for aircraft sold to Indonesia. A prototype was lost after both ejection seats accidentally ejected the crew in flight. A deal with Columbia fell thru after the Columbians asked from a night attack version loaded up with enough avionics to create a propeller drive F-22. Despite these obstacles, Korean Aerospace Industries has managed to deliver 105 aircraft to the South Korean Air Force, so the aircraft is a reality, rather than aerospace vaporware.

So who is an Independant, really?

The pollsters are getting tied in knots, rating candidates by their appeal to registered Democrats, registered Republicans, and registered Independents. So and so's support in the primary is reported as coming from shifty independents or true blue party members. The implication is that support from true blue party members is "better" than support from independents.
Actually, there are a huge number of democrats and republican who register as independents so that they can decide which primary is worth voting in at the last minute. In one party states like Massachusetts republicans will register as democrats to allow them to vote in the democratic primary, which is the only election that means anything. In a one party state, win the democratic primary and you are as good as elected, the Republicans don't every bother to put up candidates for most offices.
So, when I hear a pollster waxing eloquent about the "quality" of a candidate's support, or the number of independents who vote for him, I figure I am listening to a pollster who doesn't understand voters. A vote is a vote, idenpendent votes are counted just the same as true blue party votes.
The pollsters like voters who do their work for them by registering for a party. The dumbest pollster can count party registrations and from that pontificate about the outcome.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Create a new species, then endanger it

Skiing at New Hampshire's Cannon mountain is being held up because of endangered species Bicknell's thrush. This bird is alleged to nest in wooded areas above 2500 feet.
Bicknell's thrush only became a species in 1995. Prior to 1995 it was called the Grey Cheeked Thrush. Audubon's website reports "Bicknell's thrush is not safely distinguished in the field". In other words Bicknell's thrush looks so much like a gray cheeked thrush that no one can tell them apart.
Cannon has been a top ski area since the 1930's, so it's older than Bicknell's thrush. In short, the skiers came first. Bicknell's thrush was only invented 11 years ago, the skiers have been on the trails for 70 years.
Recipe for driving people off federal lands. Invent a new species. Then declare it endangered.

Save Windows XP

Infoworld article includes a petition to MS to save XP from the chopping block. One study shows that XP is twice as fast as Vista. Since XP is sluggish at best, Vista must be a real turtle.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Something in the water makes Wall Street stupid.

As Wall Street stocked up on shaky subprime backed bonds, they did worry about defaults. So, they started buying default insurance ("Credit default swaps") from a little known place called ACA Financial Guarantee Corp. Business for ACA was good. They sold $69 billion worth of insurance. Trouble is, ACA only has $425 million to pay off claims. Now with all $69 billion worth of sub prime bonds getting ready to default, it just occurred to the combined financial geniuses of the Street, that (wait for it) they ain't gonna get paid.
In fact, now that the default insurance has become worthless, the biggies are writing down yet more sub prime paper.
Come to think of it, Why does a biggie like Merrill Lynch want insurance from a pipsqueak like ACA? Merill is plenty big enough to bear the risk of the occasional default. No pipsqueak insurance company has enough money to pay off a market crash, where everything defaults. So, what was Merrill thinking about when they wasted money on "insurance" that doesn't insure?
Kinda like flood insurance. The commercial insurers won't write flood insurance, 'cause when the river floods, every house gets swept away, and they know they won't be able to pay them all off. Nobody has that kind of money. A market downturn is like a flood, and nobody can pay off an entire market worth of defaults.

Mountains of paperwork.

Upon the same mountain that used to bear the Old Man of the Mountains, there two ski areas, Cannon Mountain and Mittersill. Mittersill, started in the late 1940's, had a permit from the Forest Service to put trails and lifts onto US owned land. Later in the 1970's Mittersill went dormant and stopped running the lifts. The trails are still there, and hardy skiers have been using them, abet lightly. Now, Cannon Mountain wants to expand it's trail system and re open the old Mittersill trails. Sounds simple.
I attended a meeting last night at which a nice middle aged lady from the Forest Service spent a half an hour explaining all the paperwork that would be necessary. Lordy, there were environmental impact statements, assessments, obscure legal footwork of which no one had ever heard of, protection of a bird that no one had ever heard of, along with some odd weedy plant that even the Forest Service lady could not name. The Manhattan Project started with less paperwork than is now necessary to ski down an existing ski trail on federal land.
Environmentalists are like watermelons, green on the outside, Red on the inside.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

GM sees brighter future (WSJ)

Strange article. The body of the article talks about cost cutting, and new union contracts, and GMAC's losses from playing in the sub prime mortgage market. Thousand of hourly job cuts,buyouts, and early retirements will realize billions of dollars of saving by 2011. The GM suits think they can cost cut the company back to profitability. Good luck Rick Wagoner.
There is a scary graph at the top of the piece, plotting GM profit or loss from 2007 back to 2000. From 2000 to 2006 the bar chart bumps up and down by a few billion a year. Make a few billion one year, loose a few billion next year. For 2007, the bar drops thru the floor with a $40 billion loss. That deep black hole was invented by GM's accountants last fall when they took $37 billion worth of "tax credits" off GM's books. A 40 billion loss in a company with a market capitalization of only $13 billion is not real accounting, it's play acting. Real companies cannot loose three times their net worth in only one year. In short this "loss" actually amounted to taking imaginary assets off the books. I'm sure the books looked a lot better in the year those imaginary assets were put on the books. In short the $40 billion loss is a correction of years of accounting jiggery pokery. Harsher critics might call it accounting fraud.
Not a single word about the new Chevy Malibu and the new Caddy CTS. The only thing that will make GM profitable ever again is good new cars that sell. Why didn't the GM people talk these cars up with the Wall St Journal people? Are GM's suits so removed from the car business that they never think about what they make? Or do the suits know these two expensively created new cars aren't going to sell? What kind of a car guy doesn't talk about new car designs? Or is it that the GM suits aren't car guys but mere bean counters?
Sell you GM stock ASAP, the General is doomed.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Electric Trolley cars are cooler than diesel buses

The electric trolley car ("light rail") is way cooler to ride on than buses. I don't know why, but it is true. Given a choice between the bus and the trolley, every one in Boston takes the trolley. (Boston still operates both). I'm not sure why this is true, the ride is no smoother, the old fashioned trolleys were fairly noisy. The slick PCC cars from the 1930's are whisper quiet, but the ordinary trolleys had a distinctive loud gear whine and the compressor for the air brakes banged away as loudly as a jack hammer. Street running city trolleys had no speed advantage over cars or buses at rush hour. Be that as it may, trolleys are cool, buses are last resort.
From an economic standpoint buses are way cheaper than trolleys, simply because they run on the public streets. The bus operator doesn't have to buy, build, maintain, electrify, fence, and mow his right of way, the government takes care of all that. The bus operator can change his route at will without laying new track.
The only objective reason to prefer the trolley is those rails. When you board a trolley you know where it's gonna go. Whereas a bus might go anywhere, and passengers worry that they got on the wrong bus and will wind up in the wrong place.

Yale meets University of Delaware

Not to be out done by a mere state university, Yale is now hiring "diversity councilors" to make sure Yale students are trained multi-culti's. At Delaware (my alma mater!) diversity training was pretty close to brain washing. ("All whites are racists. When did you become aware of your sexuality") An Ivy like Yale ought be be able to raise diversity training to truly Gulag levels.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

What's gotten into kids these days? (WSJ)

"Glennette Scott was horrified when heer daughter Brianna, 3, started picking fights, throwing chairs, and having emotional meltdowns in pre school."

Could it be that 3 is just plain too young for preschool?

Do we really need more roads?

Contractors love roadbuilding contracts. Automakers like more roads. Real estate people want roads that raise the value of their raw land.
A twelve member federal panel issued a Surface Transportation report the other day. It called for jacking up the federal gas tax to pay for $225 billion a year in "infrastructure investment". Most amazing fact is that one quarter of the panel, including US Transportation Secretary Mary Peters refused to sign the report. Doubtless she fears the money would go for more bridges to now where. The vice chairman of the committee went on C-Span defending the majority spend-a-lot report. Turns out he is a lawyer. What does a lawyer know about surface transportation? Another member is a state transportation secretary. Where are the truckers, the civil engineers, the railroaders, the shippers, the bus operators and AAA on this committee?
And, with $4 a gallon staring us in the face, do we really think traffic is going to increase that much in the future? Especially as we already have interstate highways running the length and breadth of the land. No where in the US is far from an interstate. Do we want to double them up to carry more traffic? I don't think so.
Fuel costs are going to press the truckers into more piggyback (trailers hauled cross country on railroad flatcars) operations. That will keep the freight moving.
Traffic expands to fill road available. Build more roads, speeding up peoples commute, and they will take jobs further from home. It is impossible to build enough road to prevent rush hour traffic jams.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Medical Costs, FDA enhancement thereof

February Popular Science has a round up article on new treatments for various diseases. Two different researchers, on two different projects, are quoted saying they have no plans to commercialize the treatment because getting the treatment thru the FDA approval process is just too expensive.
FDA has been in a CYA mode ever since the thalidomide disaster in the 1960's. They always demand more tests, more clinical trials, more studies, more time, and more money. The small laboratory or independent researcher lacks the money, skill, endurance, and connections to even contemplate entering the obstacle course that is FDA drug approval trials. The classic technique for jacking up prices is to eliminate competitors. FDA is doing that for the pharmaceutical business.

How Detroit can meet the 35 MPG CAFE,

Simple. Vehicles that can run on ethanol, the so called flex fuel vehicles, get a 50% bonus on gas mileage for the purposes of Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) calculations. Make all the company's vehicles be flex fuel vehicles and presto, chango, each company's CAFE jumps from today's 27 mpg to 40.5 mpg. Problem solved.
Cost? Trivial. They have to specify that fuel system elastomers (mostly hoses and gaskets) will withstand ethanol. This isn't hard, this stuff already withstands gasoline, and most elastomers that are gasoline proof are also alcohol proof. The auto makers simply specify alchohol resistance on all their purchase orders, and the suppliers will do the rest. Alcohol resistant hoses and gaskets don't cost anymore than what the industry uses today. The fuel injectors have to inject about 1/3rd more alcohol than gasoline, but the injectors are all controlled by microprocessors. Add a bit more programming (code) and the micro will squirt in the right among of alcohol for proper engine operation. More code is cost free.
Marketing can have a field day trumpeting how green the flex fuel vehicles are.

Obama, the only Democrat in favor of nuclear power

Caught the democratic debate on MSNBC last night. The field has been whittled down to Obama, Clinton, and Edwards. Quite a bit of shrinkage since the first debates. The NBC newsies moderating the debate ( posing the questions) made a couple of attempts to stir up some racial tension but Obama and Clinton weren't buying any of that. With one exception the three survivors are all coming from the same place, issues wise. Obama was the one exception, he spoke favorably about nuclear power, whereas Clinton and Edwards both said no way. Obama did qualify his support a bit, calling for more testing, review panels, environmental impact statements, and such, but he did say yes.
On this issue Obama is the only grownup. Candidates who obsess about addiction to oil, energy independence, CO2, and global warming, which Clinton and Edwards did, while rejecting the only existing technology that will reduce same, are being childish.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

TV news brings race into the Democratic primary

During the NH primary Bill and Hillary made a couple of remarks that could be interpreted as slights to Martin Luther King or Barack Obama. You have to work at it to see the remarks as racial slights, but the TV guys have a lot of time to do just that. The TV news has been rerunning, commenting upon, and asking "have you stopped beating MLK" kinds of questions for a week now. Even Lehrer's News Hour rose to the bait last night. With enough air time they can convince the electorate of many things. I find it shameful for newsies to egg the candidates on to disgraceful behavior. So far the candidates have kept their cool (mostly) but how long will that last with the national press calling for a fight over who is more racially prejudiced?

Fox News agitating for better air traffic control system

Must be the Fox TV people are getting irritated by delays, canceled flights, lost luggage, cattle car seating and taking off of shoes. They had a guy on Fox News this morning ranting that all could be fixed by some miraculous but unnamed technological improvement that the FAA was supposed to do but had not.
Not true. The congestion, delays, and cancellations are caused by too many aircraft trying the operate out of too few airports. The only fix is to bring more airports into service. Right now the bulk of commercial traffic goes thru 35 hub airports which is too many airplanes. An airport can only safely operate about one flight per minute, and no amount of technology can do much about it. It is very dangerous to allow the following flight to touch down before the proceeding flight has cleared the runway. Likewise it is dangerous to allow the following flight to release brakes before the proceeding flight is airborne.
The solution is to bring more airports into service. In New England airports in Providence Rhode Island and Manchester New Hampshire take a good deal of traffic that used to go to Boston. Which is one reason Boston is not on the FAA's list of overloaded airports.

Fusion Power in our time?

Dr. Robert Bussard gave a talk to Google people here. He told of an 11 year R&D program to achieve fusion thru a "compress to a point" process. Six electromagnetic coils are arranged in a cube. Their magnetic fields squeeze electrons into a trap in the center of the magnetic coils. A good big clot of trapped electrons creates a strong electric field that sucks in positive ions (hydrogen, deuterium, tritium, lithium or boron). Once in, the positive ions are trapped by the negative charge, and zip around at high speed until they go head on with one another and fuse.
Bussard's EMC2 corporation built a series of small (under a foot) models, ran them and took data. His last and best machine dubbed WB6, operated in a pulsed mode to keep the heat down, achieved a record setting level of fusion as measured by neutron detectors.
Bussard is convinced that break even fusion can be obtained by scaling the WB6 machine up to 5 or 6 feet (from the 1 foot prototype). He says a $200 million dollar budget over 5 years would lead to a 100 Megawatt fusion reactor.
Bussard is a serious scientist, well known and respected in the science and engineering community. $200 million isn't much money. You can only buy two jet liners for that price. It's peanuts compared to the spending in the ITER tokamak project. Maybe some fairy god senator could slip a $200 million earmark for Bussard into the federal budget.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The McLaugflin Group

This is the PBS news commentary show where everyone shouts at everyone else. They were hashing over the Hillary surprise from New Hampshire. McLaughlin was pushing the idea that voters were looking for experience. The other talking heads weren't buying. Neither was I.
I, and a lot of voters, are looking for someone with good judgment. Someone who will make the right call in an emergency. Someone who we can like, because it is impossible to trust someone we dislike. We figure any competent adult, who has achieved high office, has all the experience necessary. Plus as president he/she has every expert in the world offering advice. Hillary isn't going to achieve the nomination 'cause we think she has experience, she has to make us voters like her. The competition, Obama, is very likable, Hillary has to match that.

16% of GNP spent on health care (W

One dollar in six goes for pills and plasters and doctor's bills. Our international competitors Japan, Germany, France, the rest of the EU, spend half that. And, after paying twice as much as anyone else, we don't get anything for it. Objective measures of health, life expectancy and infant mortality are no better in the US than in Europe.
So, the price of every American product is jacked up 16% to feed the medics. Our competitor's prices only bear an 8% load. Can a US firm compete with an 8% cost disadvantage? Can our salesmen close the sale when our products are more expensive? Probably not. Why does the US run such a humungous trade deficit every year? Over priced products are one good reason.
Back in 1980 health care costs were only 8% of GNP. In the 28 years since, US health care costs have doubled. Is the quality of 2008 health care any better than 1980 health care. Life expectancy and infant mortality say no; they have not improved. We are just spending an awful sum of money and getting nothing back for it.
The economic drain of health care costs is too great to bear now. The democrats want to offer free health care to everyone in the country. That will push the percentage of GNP even higher, and really wreck the American economy. If something is free, more people will use it.
Let's cut the outrageous costs of health care. If the price were reasonable, ordinary people could afford to pay their doctors.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Sen. Judd Greg brings home the pork for Littleton

The Littleton Courier reports that Sen. Greg announced that the 2008 Omnibus Appropriations Bill includes $492,200 for renovation of the Littleton Opera house. There is bad pork and then there is good pork. The Opera house is a glorious three story Victorian clapboard structure, on a commanding site overlooking the Amnoosuc River. It was the town police station, meeting house, and museum up until a busy body structural engineer declared the structure unsafe for human habitation a couple of years ago. The building is dear to the hearts of all of Littleton. The total bill for renovation is a couple of million, much of it raised by the town of Littleton. The $492,200 kicked in by the feds helps, but the town is on the hook for a lot of money too. It isn't a pure gift, it's matching funds.
I am not sure if residents of other states would see the matter just this way...
It does give everyone up here a good warm feeling about Sen. Greg...

Thursday, January 10, 2008

How to Unbreak the banks (WSJ)

"The business model for big US banks is broken. Let us count the ways.
One: Banks no longer scrutinize a would-be borrower to decide whether he is good for the money. Instead they "originate and distribute" loans. "

Cheers. This is only the second WSJ writer to understand the sub prime mortgage scam. John Snow was the first a couple of months ago. The rest of the gallons of ink spilled on the subject have been bafflegab. The maker (originator) of the loan must lending his own money, and know that if the borrower defaults, he get hurt (or at least his bank gets hurt). If the originator can sell the loan and dump all the risk on the buyer, he will loan money like a drunken sailor. If the bank needs more money to do mortgages, let it attract more deposits.

Frank Luntz blames the voters

Frank Luntz, pollster and focus groupie extradinaire, was on Fox this morning. This is the guy, back before NH primary poll closed, who did the video of a room full of voters. He opens by asking everyone who hasn't made up their minds to raise their hands. Every hand goes up. Then Frank gives his pitch. At the end he asks how many will vote for Romney. Every hand goes up. Message: Everyone really wants to vote Romney. Just let me give 'm my patented Romney pitch. Why do I have trouble believing this?
Anyhow, back to Fox this morning. The Fox guys ask Luntz why the NH polls predicted an Obama win. Luntz says a couple of really astounding things. "Oh the tremendous turnout threw our models off". Translation, the pollsters fudge the raw poll data based on past history. I didn't know that. I thought that "40% favor so-and-so" meant the 400 people out of the 1000 polled said they mean to vote for so-and-so. Apparently the pollsters "correct" the counts before releasing them to the press.
Second, Luntz said "Oh its a racial thing, 20% of whites are secret racists and say they will vote for Obama to conceal their racism, not because plan to vote for Obama." I don't believe this either. Obama is charismatic speaker, good looking young guy, a real politician who has achieved high office and is very attractive to every one. Even us old McCain republicans think Obama is one hellova candidate. I dislike having a slippery pollster like Luntz, call us Yankees racists. I think Luntz is excusing his polling failures by blaming the voters.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The accountants giveth, the accountants taketh away

KB Home (a builder) took a solid hit today. Accountants erased $514 million from the company's books. Zap. A half a billion dollars just evaporates.
How do they do that? Accountants in the past had computed that KB Home had tax credits worth $514 million that could be used to reduce their taxes, when and if they ever made any money. Accountants are allowed to enter potential tax breaks onto the company books as an asset. Wow. Add $514 million to the bottom line, that will make the company look profitable. Pumps up the stock too. Great.
Unfortunately the auditors decided that the chances of KB Home ever making any money were remote and they insisted that the $514 million be removed, 'cause it wasn't ever going to do KB any good.
Something like this happened over at GM last year to the tune of $39 Billion (yes, b for billion).
This kind of book keeping doesn't help investors evaluating the company or managers trying to improve the company earnings. It is a deceptive practice intended to make the company look more profitable than it really is. There oughta be a law agin it.

Hillary wins and confuses every pundit in the land

Going into yesterday's primary I, all the TV talking heads, and Hillary's people all expected Barack Obama to mop the floor with her. One pollster was giving Obama a 10% lead. Hillary staffers were crying in their beer with the media. Wall St Journal reported Hillary's people predicting a horrible loss, they were looking for jobs, a total wipeout.
Damn. I figured by 10:30 there would be enough election returns in to make turning on the TV worthwhile. And there she is, a solid 5000 votes ahead of Obama with only 65% of the vote counted. Then Obama clinched her victory by giving a gracious concession speech.
Wow. How did that happen? Pollsters completely blew it, predicted the wrong winner and everyone lapped it up.
One thing that threw the polls off was the speed of the thing. With only four days from the upheaval that was Iowa, the voters were still in a state of flux. Iowa changed Obama from a nice guy but too young to be a contender into a real contender. And it promoted Mike Huckabee from "Who is he?" to a second real contender. A huge bunch of voters started to think thoughts that they never thought before. Takes more than the alloted four days to settle voters down. The pollsters cannot poll as fast as voters can change their minds. The reported polls represented the voter's intentions as of Saturday or Sunday. By Tuesday a lot of voters had changed their minds. The pollsters just aren't fast enough to catch the mood shift before primary day.
Then Hillary allowed some of her emotions to leak out on TV. I watched it and before the election, said to my son," That is the most effective speech Hillary has given in the whole damn campaign." I saw Hillary's no-nonsense facade soften enough to let us voters see that she really cared about something. It must have changed some minds, the TV replayed it all day, you couldn't miss it.
So, on to super Tuesday.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Northrup to compete for next Humvee (WSJ)

Last year I posted about buying MRAPS armored trucks for $500,000 apiece. Todays WSJ has ar article about Northrup bidding on a new "Joint Light Tactical Vehicle" to replace the Humvee sometime in the future. Target price is $300,000. Cheaper than MRAPS, but that ain't saying much. The plain old Jeep which worked just fine in WWII, Korea and Vietnam, and is still in production after 60 years, has an MSRP of $20,000. The much bigger fancier Humvee goes for $56,000. This here Joint Light Tactical Vehicle has gotta be wonderful to justify its price.
The picture of it shows fat offroad tires, no mudguards. A four man closed cab with a light machine gun on the roof and a slanty armored bottom. Boxy windowless van body on the back.
Other bidders include Lockheed Martin, BAE systems, Boeing, and General Dynamics. Hellova lot of high techie aerospace companies to do an armored car/truck. Either the military airplane business is drying up, and they need the work, or they expect to design high tech Future Combat Systems digital radio stuff into the guts of the vehicle. Which is a boondoggle. The fancy electronics should not be custom designed to fit just one vehicle. Design one good package and use it on everything from jeeps to tanks. Cheaper that way and much easier to stock spare parts for, train for, and manufacture in real volume.
The article mentioned that the brand new MRAPS armored trucks, first of which are just getting out to Iraq, have a few "issues" . Like too big and heavy to go off road or into the narrow streets of Baghdad, where they get stuck going round sharp street corners.

Heavy turnout in NH

Or at least in my part of it. Franconia, about 981 registered voters, and heavily democratic. Voted at midday and the traffic was heavy, heavier than it was for the last general election in 2006. I haven't bothered to turn on the TV today 'cause I don't think there is anything to know until the polls close. Then we get the exit polls, for what ever they are worth, and the real results will trickle in all evening. Franconia just puts real paper ballots into a wooden ballet box and counts them by hand, after the polls close.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Science Fiction gets to GM (WSJ)

GM has a project to invent an automatic self driving car. Rick Wagoner, GM CEO, will give a key note speech at the Consumer ELECTRONICS show (Las Vegas). Wagoner is convinced that being the first with game changing innovations is the solution to one of GM's fundamental problems, its battered image.
Sell your GM stock ASAP.
Letting a micro processor drive in Rt 128 rush hour traffic would scare the hell out of me. I don't care how cool it is, or how much testing it passed, no micro processor is going to be as reassuring as my two hands on the wheel, and my foot on the gas. Plus decent engine power, strong brakes and good handling. Like my Deville gives me.
GM's problem isn't battered image. It's problem is crummy product. The only thing GM makes that anyone wants to buy is Corvette. The rest of their cars & trucks are so plain and boring they make the blandness of Toyota and Honda look exciting. GM's problem is a management of bean counters (Wagoner is an ex bean counter) rather than real car guys, engineers and salesmen. Only a bean counter would think you could sell an automatic drives-itself car.
Sell your GM stock. The company is doomed as long as this bunch of suits are running it.

McCain rally this morning

It was at 8:00 AM down at the Littleton VFW hall. It's warmed up here, and the snow is melting off the parking lots. Bunch of people were there, to hear, not McCain himself, but a bunch of old Hanoi Hilton comrades, and a US Congressman from Rhode Island. McCain himself was doing the more populous southern NH, and sending bunches of supporters out to the vote shy northwoods. It was a pep rally sort of affair, everyone was wearing stick on McCain badges, and the speakers quickly figured out that they didn't have to preach to the choir. After a couple of hours of schmoozing with neighbors, drinking Dunkin Donuts coffee, and listening to get-out-the-vote type speeches, the affair wound down and we all drove home. The McCain guys re boarded their bus and set off for their next stop. According to one of 'em, they planned to drive 385 miles today. Better them than me.
Tomorrow will tell, but McCain may do very well indeed.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Got my first push poll tonight

It was a robo call with enough voice recognition to under stand yes and no. When I told it I was for a candidate, the robo caller then said "Are you aware than Candidate So and So failed to vote for the Bush tax cuts". I played along, just for fun, and the push poller managed to deliver negative information on a couple of more candidates, it seemed to be an equal opportunity bad mouther. At the end the robo caller announced that it was not affiliated with any candidate and mumbled it's organization's name too rapidly for me to catch.
No sooner than I started this blogging about the robo caller than the phone ran again. Another robocaller who announced he was Tom Ridge and then proceeded to tell me about the goodnesses of Senator McCain's immigration policy.
At this rate all the telephone exchanges are gonna melt down from heavy calling.

Took down the Christmas tree, Christmas is over

It was time, tree has been up three weeks. Still looked green, but the needles were getting dry and crackly. Plus youngest son is going back to college in a few days. Doing it now, with his assistance is nicer than doing it later all by my self. Taking the tree down and packing all the stuff away for next season is never as much fun as putting the tree up before Christmas.
Note to the Christmas tree decoration industry. Cellophane windows in the boxtops suck. The weaken the always flimsy box, making it harder to pack the fragile stuff away. And, maker of bubble lights, is it necessary to use 16 gauge lamp cord to light 5 watt bubble lights? Surely something thinner would be cheaper? And lessen the cord drag that keeps turning the bubble lights on their heads. And those flimsy molded on plastic hooks break too easily leaving bubble lights hanging head down and not bubbling. Surely metal clips are not that expensive.

Obama in NH

Did some chatting about the primary at coffee hour, which follows church services. Iowa has moved Obama from "interesting new guy" to "possible Democratic nominee". He is likable, a good orator, and now he looks like he could win. If he takes NH, and he could, he looks like he could go all the way. The voters moods are shifting rapidly up here and I don't think any poll is current enough to be trustworthy. The feel up here is that Obama could follow up Iowa with a solid win in NH. I'm watching TV pundits saying the same thing.
On the Republican side, John McCain is looking stronger and stronger. Should the charismatic Obama be the democratic nominee, the charismatic McCain would be the Republicans best bet. I don't think Huckabee is going to do much, unless he taps into a large previously in active bunch of voters. Which is what he did in Iowa. I don't think this will work for him in NH, but after Iowa, I am reluctant to write Huck off. I personally hope McCain beats Huckabee solidly, I think that's highly likely, but Huckabee surprised us all in Iowa.
If Obama and McCain become the nominees, and that's looking likely, then Iowa and NH voters will have made the nominee selection for the rest of the country. I say that's the way it oughta be, any right thinking NH blogger can see that plainly. Primary voters in the Super Tuesday states may not agree, and any state voting after Super Tuesday is wasting it's time.
The presidential season is just too damn long. We are selecting the nominees nearly a year before the election. I think we ought to push all the primaries back a good three months. Pick the nominee no earlier than April, so the primary votes represent voter opinion closer to election time. Nominees that look good in January may not serve the party well in November.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Patents are exhausting (WSJ)

Patent law used to hold that patent rights expired upon first sale of the patented product. The patent holder could put restrictions on the patent licensee, for example licensee was only good in a limited area. But, after the licensee sold the product, the buyer could do anything he pleased. In the case of area restriction (e.g licensee is only good for sales within 10 miles of Boston), a buyer of the patented product could resell it anywhere he pleased. In short, patent owners rights to control the product end when the product is sold. I can buy a patented product and then do anything I please with it. The patent holder cannot tell me that the product may only by used on alternate Tuesdays, or under water, or anything. I have bought the product and that makes it mine. Patent holders rights have been "exhausted" to use lawyer jargon.
Seems like Korean chip maker Lucky Goldstar licensed Intel to use some LG technology but with some restrictions. Intel sold product containing the LG licensed technology to customers, and said customers failed to comply with LG's restrictions. LG sued Intel's customers.
LG lost in district court. Judge held that LG's rights had been exhausted upon first sale by Intel. LG lawyers appealed and won. Case is now on the way to the Supreme Court. LG vs Quanta.
Let us hope LG looses. Other wise patent holders could say things like "You may not watch Fox News on your TV because we hold patents on your TV's electronics and that gives us legal control of your TV." Let us hope the nine dumb-as-rocks-lawyers on the Supreme Court can get this one right.

Primary is coming

Wham bam thank you ma'am. Smoke from the Iowa caucus is still rolling around the New Hampshire woods. It's too close to the primary for any useful polling, so we won't know nothing until election night (Next Tuesday) I'd say Barack Obama's chances just got a whole lot better. Many NH democrats were for Hillary, not because they particularly liked her, but because they thought she was the party's best candidate against the Republicans. Some, perhaps many, of those Democrats can now vote for Obama, with a clear conscience. Obama is a stirring orator, young and good looking, is preaching a message of "lets get together and stop the backbiting" which is hard to argue against. Now it looks like he could win the general election. Why stick with Hillary?
Republicans up here are less than entranced with Huckabee. To many the Huck sounds like a hick, totally ignorant of foreign policy, too ready to raise taxes, and too preachy. I do not believe Huck's Iowa victory will carry much weight into New Hampshire. Up here McCain, Romney, and Thompson are all strong and any of the three could take the Republican primary. Guiliani hasn't campaigned much, where as McCain has, and his war record is appealing in a state full of veterans.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Window's Panes, Part New, Services

Windows runs a lot of programs behind your back. Your machine may look idle, but under the hood, anywhere from 30 to several hundred programs are active, slowing your boot, consuming RAM and runtime.
Lift the hood and take a look. Click on Start -> Settings -> ControlPanel. Then click on the Administrative Tools icon. In the opened Administrative Tools window click on "Services" (has an icon of a pair of gears meshing).
Services will display a humongous list of "Services". Each service has a computer-geek type name, a description, a startup type, and a status. Services can tend to wireless modems, do network gruntwork, permit strangers to log into the computer from the internet, set the clock and calender, many things. Some services are critical, Windows won't boot without them. Some are dangerous security risks, some are malware, many merely waste RAM and slow the machine down.
Each running service will appear in Task Manager under "Processes". It is reasonable to have 30 running services. A hundred running services is NOT reasonable and is a cause for concern.
Services are controlled by "Startup Type". Auto startup means run the service at boot up time whether it is needed or not. Auto start of unused or seldom used services makes boot take longer. Manual startup is Microsoft speak meaning "Run this service ONLY if some program asks for it". Disabled means never run this service no matter how badly programs scream and cry for it.
You can slim down the service load by setting services to manual or disabled. Care is required to avoid breaking the machine. Number one safety rule: NEVER do anything to service "Remote Procedure Call". Without RPC Windows won't boot, and the only fix is to re install Windows. A painful and difficult process. You have been warned.
With that one exception it is safe to change Auto services to Manual. A manual service that is never requested won't start, saving time and RAM. If it is needed, it will start when some program requests it. Manual services that show as "Started" have been requested.
No one can remember all the services and what they do, (or don't do). Googling on the service name will get a load of hits, some of them useful and some of them boiler plate. There are a number of websites that carry lists of services and recommendations as to which should be made manual. There is a good deal of disagreement between the various sites. Black Viper runs one of the best sites.
Web surfing in these waters will bring you in contact with advertisements for programs promising to speed up your computer, remove viruses, optimize the registry, and perform other software miracles. Some of these programs are themselves viruses, spyware, sombies, and other bad stuff. Unless I have strong recommendations from several trusted sources, I don't mess with such stuff lest bad things happen to my machine.

Global Warming brings record snowfall and 8 below zero

Concord NH reports December snowfall broke the record established way back in 1867. I'm about 70 miles from Concord and I got 30 inches on the ground. New Years Day dropped another 8 inches. Thermometer read 8 below zero at 8 AM this morning. Why do I think the winters are getting colder?

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Kiss your old files goodby

Slashdot reports that Microsoft has announced that support for older office file formats will be removed "for security reasons". Translation. Old Word documents and Excel spreadsheets will become unreadable by Office 2007. Any one who has old stuff that they care about has to convert it to the new formats or risk losing it forever.
Thanks Microsoft. "Security reasons". Right... It improves the financial security of Microsoft to force every one to buy Office 2007, at full list price no less.
The real sin here is Microsoft's practice of allowing executable Basic programs to live inside, come to life from, and do bad things from within Word and Excel documents. Any junior hacker can write a destructive Basic program and hide it in a .doc or .xls file. The "run a Basic program from a Office document" frill only helps spammers and other low life netscum. No real user of Office ever uses that capability.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

New Age at the New York Times

Maureen Dowd, the conservative's favorite punching bag, comes across as a New Age crystal worshipping kook here. They actually posted this on the NYT website. Sounds like the conservatives haven't been punching hard enough.

So who am I gonna vote for?

As a New Hamster, I gotta be responsible and set a proper example for the rest of the country. God appointed New Hampshire to lead the nation and we New Hamsters are under the gun to vote in the primary which is JUST NEXT WEEK.
I gotta stop being undecided and make up my mind real soon now.
Let's take this a step at a time. First I'm going to vote Republican, 'cause the Republicans will continue the mission in Iraq, where as the Democrats will pull out, leaving everyone at the mercy of Al Quaeda, kinda like we did to the South Vietnamese many years ago. We have put lives, money, political capital, reputations, American national unity, and six years into Iraq. We are very close to establishing a decent, liberal, democratic and Muslim government in the land of dictatorships, monarchies, and theocracies. If we can get Iraq going, and keep it going, the rest of the Middle East will follow suit, throw out the dictators, and become liberal democracies too.
They say liberal democracies don't make war on each other. A liberal democratic Iraq is a step in the right direction.
So, of the Republicans, who to go with? First scratch Ron Paul and Mike Huckabee, they are fringe nutcases. Guliani is a good man in a storm, pulled NYC together, and did a fantastic job on 9/11. But he is on the wrong side of the hot button issues (abortion and gun control) , has a messy personal life, and probably quite a bit of dirty laundry from his time in NYC. Fred Thompson is a likeable guy, right on the issues, but his poll standings are miserable. I fear a vote for Fred would be a vote wasted. Mitt Romney is hard working, good looking, smart, right on the issues now. Back when he was running for governor of MA he was on the other side of the hot button issues (pro abortion or at least not anti abortion and pro gun control). He has publically disavowed his previous stands, for which he has attracted a host of enemies who call him "flip flopper". I personally might forgive and forget his change of mind, but I fear a lot of voters won't.
That leaves McCain. Good man. I was serving in Viet Nam the year he got shot down. Real American hero. Right on most of the issues, except the McCain Finegold campaign spending law and last summer's immigration bill. A man who commands the respect of most Americans. A president McCain would be able to stand up and speak from the bully pulpit and things would happen, 'cause a lot of Americans trust him and admire him, and would go where he led.
So looks like I vote for McCain.

Fat pills might be possible

Science Digest is reporting that obesity in mice has been tracked down to a single gene.

How about CAFE for houses?

At $3 a gallon (and up) my personal energy costs are too damn high. Of my three big energy bills, two of them are in the news, becoming subject to federal law, but the third and biggest nobody talks about. We have a law requiring better gas mileage on cars. We fortunately failed to pass a law requiring electrical companies to shower cash upon the makers of solar cells and windmills. Neither of these efforts addresses my biggest energy bill, heating oil. And, there is a straight forward technological fix for heating oil use. Better house insulation will reduce heating oil use. Enough insulation and the house will stay warm without a furnace, even in New Hampshire. Enough in that case is two feet, but it can be done. I know people with houses built just that way with no furnaces, up here in northern NH where it gets really cold.
Stiffen up the building codes to require super insulation on new residential construction and the new homes won't require heating oil.
Why is the public and media attention all focused on cars and electrical generation and not home insulation? Surely even the most ignorant newsies have paid an oil bill?