hexEngineers and computer programmers commonly do arithmetic computations using hexadecimal notation. Here is an example:

1A7 + C3 = 26A

Such computations needn’t be done mentally–we have hexadecimal calculators for speed and accuracy–although many are adept at it. Few practiced this much in school, but that matters little. If one understands mathematical principles, it is quite easy to master something new.

common coreMathematician Solomon Friedberg, writing in USA Today explains that students are best served by lessons that promote understanding:

Here is what good math learning produces: Students who can compute correctly and wisely, choosing  the best way to do a given computation; students who can explain what they are doing when they solve a problem or use math to analyze a situation; and students who have the flexibility and understanding to find the best approach to a new problem.

Noting that Common Core is “a list of topics everyone knows we should teach,” Friedberg continues:

Common Core promotes this. It systematically and coherently specifies the topics and connections needed for math to make sense, and promotes both understanding and accuracy.

I recommend Friedberg’s article, cited below, to anyone with questions or concerns about Common Core.

© William Hungerford – September 2014





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Teddy Roosevelt on Presidential Duty

We had an opportunity to revisit one of the most prominent and influential family in American politics by watching Ken Burn’s “The Roosevelts: An Intimate History” was shown on PBS this week. (The final episode will be on tonight. The whole series can still be seen on computers, tablets and other devices by going to the PBS website.) Centering around Teddy, his niece Eleanor, and his fifth cousin Franklin, it starts in 1858 when Teddy was born and follows the trio to 1962 with Eleanor’s death.

The series is more that learning about a unique family; we also see the evolution of the of the Presidency. Teddy Roosevelt reshaped the role of the President by his hands-on personality and personal progressive standards. Becoming President in 1901, he welcomed the new century by being the first President to have a bath-tub in the White House, the first President to ride in an automobile, and the first President to leave the country while in office. More importantly there were other politically firsts. For example he was the first President to invite an African-American (Booker T. Washington) to the White House for a private dinner. He also was the first President to get involved in a labor strike.

The Second Episode, “In the Arena (1901-1910)” told of Theodore Roosevelt’s life as our President.  In May, 1092, 150,000 Anthracite Coal Miners went on strike. Since Anthracite Coal was a harder, more efficient coal that produced less smoke, and it was produced only in central Pennsylvania, it was the coal of choice to use in the northeast portion of the country.

The miners were asking for higher wages (which hadn’t changed for 20 years),  shorter work week (Burns’ film reported the miners worked six 16 hour days a week., Wikipedia reported 10 hour days), and to have their Union recognized by the mine owners. The miners, often experiencing cave-ins and explosives, were concern with mining safety. Boys as young as 10 were employed to break large pieces of coal into smaller ones.

Management refused to negotiate with the workers. During the strike the price of coal went from $5/ton to $30/ton.  President Roosevelt was concerned that there wouldn’t be coal for the coming winter, and feared that would cause riots.  He told Senator Mark Hanna “A coal famine in the winter is an ugly thing and I fear we shall see terrible suffering and grave disaster.”

coalstriketoon2In early October Roosevelt called a meeting with the mining management. He told them and the union to meet with a group of arbitrators and accept their decision. Management refused.  They told the President that he had no constitutional authority to be involved with industrial matters. Roosevelt knew that. The founding fathers did not envision the 20th Century industrial system when they created the constitution. Roosevelt felt he had to intervene for the good of the country. He said, The President has a moral  duty  to the American People that is higher than his constitutional duty.”

The President threatened to nationalize the coal mines, and use the U.S. Army to mine the coal.   J.P. Morgan, connected to the coal industry through his railroad empire, and other coal industrial leaders, gave in.  The strike ended October 23. The Anthracite Coal Strike Commission was created to review the coal mines physical conditions and arbitrated the workers ‘benefits’.

The miners originally wanted a 20% raise, but received 10%. The miners wanted an 8 hour day, but agreed to 9 hours. The miners’ union was not recognized, but a six-man arbitration board was organized with the power to settle labor disputes.

In today’s gridlocked congress, President Obama has taken similar bold stances on many issues. The most recent issue that House has failed to even discuss is Immigration and the President has threatened a Roosevelt-esque, but  constitutional, response. President Obama may not have said the bold words that Roosevelt used, but he certainly feels that he has the duty to intervene for the good of our country.

Theodore Roosevelt was proud to be a Republican. Today’s Republican Party would have  no place for a present day Theodore Roosevelt. Perhaps the elections in November will move the GOP away from its extreme right-wing doctrines to a more moderate position.

Posted in Constitution, Economics, Environmental, Hydrofracking/Gas& Oil Industry, Protests, Rights | Tagged , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Rep. Capuano on McKeon, CR, and other matters

capuanoVote to Arm Syrian Rebels

As I reported to you on Tuesday, I could not support the amendment to provide funds for arming Syrian rebels as part of the Obama Administration’s developing plan to destroy ISIS. The amendment passed Wednesday and was added to legislation to fund the government beyond September 30th.

I still believe that the President should continue the air campaign against ISIS to protect our interests and allies, and continue working to build an international coalition. So far, we have not identified enough reliable allies willing to join this effort in a significant role.  I also remain concerned about the lack of information we have about the Syrian opposition rebel factions. I do not believe those groups have been vetted enough and I am just not comfortable handing weapons over. Let’s not forget, a year ago, many ISIS fighters would have been trained by the U.S. as part of a “trusted” force. 

As I stated Tuesday, if the strategy is clarified and international partners make firm and explicit commitments to participate, Congress can and should be called back into session immediately for further discussion and a vote on the matter. I voted NO. The amendment passed and was added to H.J. Res. 124, the Continuing Resolution.

Rep. Reed voted AYE.

Continuing Resolution 

On Wednesday the House considered H.J. Res. 124, Continuing Appropriations Resolution. H.J. Res. 124 funds the federal government through December 11th. As noted above, H.J. Res 124 includes funding to arm Syrian rebels. For this reason, I could not support it. I voted NO. H.J. Res. 124 passed.

Rep Reed voted AYE.


On Thursday the House considered H.R. 2, the American Energy Solutions for Lower Costs and More American Jobs Act.  This legislation with the great sounding title is a combination of twelve bills that the House has already passed. Some of the troubling provisions include a measure to approve the Keystone XL pipeline and make it exempt from federal permitting regulations, and prohibiting the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from studying the impact of carbon pollution. H.R. 2 also seeks to expand drilling on public land by limiting federal oversight and reducing the level of environmental review. The Administration has announced that it will veto this legislation. I voted NO. H.R. 2 passed.

Rep Reed voted AYE.


The House considered H.R. 4, the Jobs for America Act on Thursday as well. This legislation is also a combination of bills that have already passed, and it doesn’t really accomplish what its title suggests. H.R. 4 makes a number of business tax cuts permanent, such as bonus depreciation, without offsetting their cost. While this legislation focuses on business tax cuts, it does nothing to address tax cuts on working families. Some of these, such as the child tax credit, are set to expire. Because the tax cuts in H.R. 4 aren’t paid for, the legislation would increase the deficit by more than $500 billion dollars. The Administration has announced it will veto this legislation. I voted NO. H.R. 4 passed.

Rep Reed voted AYE.

trans bill Public Private Partnerships 

On Wednesday the Committee on Transportation’s Special Panel on Public Private Partnerships released its report. You may recall that in January, I was named Ranking Member of the Panel, which focused on the nature and scope of public private partnerships in the field of transportation. This is one of a series of special panels that the committee established to more fully explore specific aspects of our nation’s infrastructure. Throughout this process, my focus has been on how to best invest limited federal transportation funds, and what role Public Private Partnerships can play in stretching those dollars. The Panel studied numerous P3s throughout the country and found a mix of successful partnerships as well as ones that did not meet expectations. Although a transparent and functioning P3 can meet certain transportation needs, when it comes to improving our nation’s infrastructure there is no question that federal investment remains a key factor in project success. 

The report contains a number of bipartisan suggestions for ways to improve the use of P3s while ensuring that taxpayer funds are protected. I gained a lot of insight from my experience serving on the Panel and was impressed with the willingness of fellow panel members from both sides to remain open minded and focus on getting answers to the important questions P3s raise.

If you are interested in reading the full report, you may access it here:


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One in four Americans want their state to secede from the U.S., really?

new york partitionedIf we don’t like Westminster, are we going to like an English parliament better? — Mary Beard

Those we spoke to seemed to have answered as they did as a form of protest that was neither red nor blue but a polychromatic riot — against a recovery that has yet to produce jobs, against jobs that don’t pay, against mistreatment of veterans, against war, against deficits, against hyper-partisanship, against political corruption, against illegal immigration, against the assault on marriage, against the assault on same-sex marriage, against government in the bedroom, against government in general — the president, Congress, the courts and both political parties.–Jim Gaines in the article cited.

Twenty-five percent of Americans, really? That’s astonishing.

  • Men more than women (that figures)
  • Lower income more than higher
  • Southwest more than Northeast

Frustration with Congress, the courts, the President, and political parties may make us yearn for change, but there is little reason to see hope in Balkanization. Partition of NYS into two parts might set off a migration as with the partition of India, but is unlikely to leave either half better off. An independent Western NY would likely be a third world country.

As frustrated as we are with our government, there seems to be little hope of reform. Even when there is consensus for changes to the Constitution, as there is with the movement for campaign finance reform, Constitutional barriers to revision stand in the way. Our system of checks and balances discourages progress–divided government often results in deadlock.

Jim Gaines concludes:

The United States hardly seems to be on the verge of fracture, and the small secession movements in a handful of American states today represent a tiny percentage of those polled by Reuters. But any country where 60 million people declare themselves to be sincerely aggrieved — especially one that is fractious by nature — is a country inviting either the sophistry of a demagogue or a serious movement for reform.

© William Hungerford – September 2014


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What’s Extreme

kochForty-eight members of the Democratic caucus attempted to do something never previously done: Amend the Bill of Rights. They tried to radically shrink First Amendment protection of political speech. They evidently think extremism in defense of the political class’s convenience is no vice.–George Will


George Will writes that extremist Democrats, wishing to make campaign finance reform Constitutional, seek to change the First Amendment of The Bill of Rights. I find this claim false–it isn’t the First Amendment that needs change, but the recent interpretations of it. Can it be that the idea that corporations have the right of free speech, and that money spent by corporations on political advertising is speech, are not extreme, but attempts to reassert the right of the people to limit the influence of money in politics is extremism?

Will writes that Democrats wish to protect themselves from political speech that might urge their defeat. It is surely true that Democracy hangs on the ability of the people to oppose and defeat incumbent legislators. However, it doesn’t necessarily reflect the will of the people for incumbents to be defeated due to unrestrained spending by corporate interests.

Will argues that people do not give up their rights when they band together in corporations to advocate for political change. This sounds good, but assumes that corporate speech reflects the views of many rather than a few at the top.

© William Hungerford – September 2014

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Views on the McKeon amendment

levantRep. Amash (R-MI) writes:

What have we learned from the last decade of war? Those years should have taught us that when going to war, our government must:

  1. be careful when defining a military mission,
  2. speak forthrightly with the American people about the sacrifices they will be called to make,
  3. plan more than one satisfactory end to the conflict, and
  4. be humble about what we think we know.

These lessons should be at the front of our minds when Congress votes today on whether to arm groups in Syria.

Today’s amendment ostensibly is aimed at destroying ISIS—yet you’d hardly know it from reading the amendment’s text. The world has witnessed with horror the evil of ISIS: the public beheading of innocents, the killing of Christians, Muslims, and others.

The amendment’s focus—arming groups fighting the Assad government in Syria—has little to do with defeating ISIS. The mission that the amendment advances plainly isn’t the defeat of ISIS; it’s the defeat of Assad.

Americans stood overwhelmingly against entangling our Armed Forces in the Syrian civil war a year ago. If Congress chooses to arm groups in Syria, it must explain to the American people not only why that mission is necessary but also the sacrifices that that mission entails.

The Obama administration has tried to rally support for U.S. involvement in the Syrian civil war by implying that our help would be at arm’s length. The amendment Congress will vote on broadly authorizes “assistance” to groups in Syria. It does not specify what types of weapons our government will give the groups. It does not prohibit boots on the ground. (The amendment is silent on the president’s power to order our troops to fight in the civil war; it states only that Congress doesn’t provide “specific statutory authorization” for such escalation.) It does not state the financial cost of the war.

As we should have learned from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we must plan for multiple satisfactory ends to military conflicts before we commence them.

If the Syrian groups that are “appropriately vetted” (the amendment’s language) succeed and oust Assad, what would result? Would the groups assemble a coalition government of anti-Assad fighters, and would that coalition include ISIS? What would happen to the Alawites and Christians who stood with Assad? To what extent would the U.S. government be obligated to occupy Syria to rebuild the government? If each of the groups went its own way, would Syria’s territory be broken apart, and if so, would ISIS control one of the resulting countries?

If the Syrian groups that we support begin to lose, would we let them be defeated? If not, is there any limit to American involvement in the war?

Perhaps some in the administration or Congress have answers to these questions. But the amendment we’ll vote on today contains none of them.

Above all, when Congress considers serious actions—especially war—we must be humble about what we think we know. We don’t know very much about the groups we propose to support or even how we intend to vet those groups. Reports in the last week suggest that some of the “appropriately vetted” groups have struck deals with ISIS, although the groups dispute the claim. The amendment requires the administration to report on its efforts to prevent our arms and resources from ending up in the wrong hands, but we know little about those precautions or their effectiveness.

Today, I will vote against the amendment to arm groups in Syria. There is a wide misalignment between the rhetoric of defeating ISIS and the amendment’s actual mission of arming certain groups in the Syrian civil war. The amendment provides few limits on the type of assistance that our government may commit, and the exit out of the civil war is undefined. And given what’s happened in our country’s most recent wars, our leaders seem to have unjustified confidence in their own ability to execute a plan with so many unknowns.

Some of my colleagues no doubt will come to different judgments on these questions. But it’s essential that they consider the questions carefully. That the president wants the authority to intervene in the Syrian civil war is not a sufficient reason to give him that power. Under the Constitution, it is Congress’s independent responsibility to commence war.

We are the representatives of the American people. The government is proposing to take their resources and to put their children’s lives at risk. I encourage all my colleagues to give the decision the weight it is due.

Rep. Capuano (D-MA) writes:

The House tomorrow will vote on a continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government beyond September 30th. As part of that legislation, the House will also consider an amendment to provide funds to arm some Syrian rebels with certain conditions imposed. Here is the text of the amendment if you would like more detail.

Over the past few days my staff and I have attended numerous meetings, asking questions and gathering information. I wrote last week that I remain skeptical about arming the rebels but I am open to listening. I have approached all of the briefings this week with that perspective; I am keeping an open mind and am working to fully understand all aspects of current circumstances as well as strategies to address them.

Based on what I have read and heard, my opinion remains the same. I believe that the President should continue the air campaign against ISIS in order to protect our interests and allies. The Administration should continue building an international coalition; and the strategy should be refined as more information becomes available and as circumstances change on the ground.  Today, America does not yet have enough reliable allies willing to shoulder enough of the burden in this effort.  Today, we have not vetted any faction within the Syrian opposition enough to trust them. Let’s not forget, a year ago, many ISIS fighters would have been trained by the U.S. as part of a “trusted” force.

 At this time, I cannot support this amendment. If the strategy is clarified and international partners make firm and explicit commitments to participate, Congress can and should be called back into session immediately for further discussion and a vote on the matter. The House should not rush to judgment in such a complicated region until there is more certainty surrounding our alliances and the goals of any mission.

 Equally important, this issue should not be an amendment to a Continuing Resolution necessary to keep the federal government running until after the election.  These are separate and distinct issues and each is important enough to be voted on separately. Absent additional information, I will vote NO on the amendment.

Congressman Joe Kennedy III today released the following statement after voting against a House proposal to authorize funding for arming and training moderate Syrian rebels.

“Left unchecked, ISIL poses a grave threat to our allies and interests in the Middle East and – potentially – to the US homeland. Defeating them will require military action, diplomatic strength, coordinated allies throughout the region and viable partners on the ground in both Syria and Iraq. This means, however, that the authorization sought by the President today is not an isolated action but a piece of a much larger mission that could involve US resources and personnel for years to come.  No matter how targeted, the decisions to train and arm moderate rebels in Syria does not exist in a vacuum. It is a step towards escalating a costly, complex, and currently open-ended military engagement overseas. That’s not a step we can take lightly, quickly, or piecemeal. If the Administration is asking our men and women in uniform, their families and the American public to stand behind this mission, they must come to Congress and allow for the kind of thorough, comprehensive deliberation that decisions of war and peace demand.”

The amendment to arm Syrian rebels passed 273-156. Rep. Reed voted Aye. It must have been a difficult decision. I have no quarrel with Rep. Reed’s vote, but I do wish he would explain his reasoning.


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An Odd Couple

jk IIIJoseph Kennedy III and Tom Reed are an odd couple–Kennedy is a Liberal Democrat from Boston, while Reed is a Conservative Republican from a largely rural district in western NY. It seems unlikely that they would agree on anything, yet they have joined in sponsoring H.R. 2996, RAMI. What’s going on here, one wonders?

reed smilingRAMI is an oddity:

  • Proposed by President Obama
  • Favored by many Democrats
  • Inconsistent with libertarian views
  • Partially implemented with Executive Orders to the dislike of many Republicans
  • Got bipartisan support in House and Senate
  • Was contrived not to draw directly on the Treasury

It is surprising that the House would vote on such a bill, and that it would pass the House on a voice vote.

I speculate that both Kennedy and Reed needed a bill to claim as their own for personal reasons, and were selected by party leaders to sponsor it in a political deal. That would explain the unlikely sponsors, why the bill came to a vote, passed on a late-night voice vote, and now seems likely to become law. Still, questions remain:

  • The bill as introduced was amended by the Science and Technology Committee. Were the revisions substantive?
  • Are the House and Senate bills identical?
  • Did the House wait till September to vote to put the Senate on the spot?
  • If this bill is part of a compromise between House and Senate, what else is is included in the compromise?

Stay tuned–it will be interesting to see what happens next. One thing seems clear–both congressmen will continue to celebrate passage by the House whether or not RAMI becomes law.

© William Hungerford – September 2014







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