The end is nigh: lesson’s learned

Posted July 25, 2010 by bluffcityed
Categories: Uncategorized

To all those that read my blog throughout the summer, thanks for your patronage.  But I’m sad to say that this is the end.  I’ll be leaving DC in ten days and I have several projects that need to be completed before then, so there will be very little time to blog about that last week.

This blog began with a vision that it would be a place for those interning in DC could come to tell their stories and tell the rest of our friends and family what it’s like to be a summer intern in Washington DC.  It was a great idea in concept, but unfortunately those of us that chose to found this blog didn’t quite understand how little time the fast paced DC life would leave for blogging.  We also learned that we would be unable to blog about much of what we’re doing at work.  However, I hope that those who decided to follow my somewhat sporadic posts were able to learn a bit more about the life of a DC resident.

I wanted to close this blog with a few of the lesson’s that I’ve learned:

  • Its very difficult for one person to blog on only one topic.  Quite often I would have ideas that would have nothing to do with life in DC, but chose not to write about them because they would be more oriented towards theology or Wisconsin commentary
  • Its not easy to make yourself sit down after working 8 hours and walking home in 90 degree heat to write a brief blog about that thing you went to the other day that was somewhat interesting
  • when you’re working in an environment where information and secrecy is at a premium, its very difficult to blog about what you see and hear every day in the office because that information could find its way into the wrong hands and seriously damage the efforts of your organization or boss to advance their policy goals.  I’ve even found myself censoring what I talk about in restaurants, because you really can never know who exactly is sitting at the table behind you. It makes me understand the reason why many congressional staffers that speak with the media do so on an anonymous basis.
  • Lastly, there needs to be a passion behind what you blog about.  It’s a great aspiration to help others to learn, but without a driving force or a purpose behind that information, it quickly becomes very difficult to continue the initial intensity produced by the first few blog posts that you write

These are lesson’s that I’m sure most bloggers have learned over the course of their experience, and lessons that I hope new bloggers can learn from.

That said, this has been a very insightful and inspiring summer.  I’ve met so many fellow Badgers in DC, read many books, gained a completely new insight into legislative procedure, and gained a better understanding of where I hope to end up after I graduate this next May.  DC is definitely on the radar, but most importantly I want to go where God takes me, wherever that may be.  Take care all, and God bless!


Capitol Badgers

Posted July 17, 2010 by bluffcityed
Categories: Uncategorized

UW Chancellor Biddy Martin and some of the Kind office badgers on the steps of the capitol.  Just another normal day in DC

For Safety’s sake?

Posted July 13, 2010 by bluffcityed
Categories: Uncategorized

A recent report by the office of compliance recently released its findings on the potential hazards of capitol hill:

Even so, the latest study offers arresting detail. Investigators estimate there are 1,742 electrical hazards, 1,058 fire-safety hazards, 102 storage shelving issues, 61 first-aid emergency-care lapses and 70 machine-guarding problems, to name a few found so far. Inspections are ongoing.

Workplace safety experts say that if Congress were a private-sector business, it would be at risk for massive fines from government regulators.

More than the over 6,000 safety hazards uncovered, I’m more interested in this article because of the failure of congress to live up to the harsh regulations it imposes on the private sector.  Considering the numerous threats against our government every day, coupled with everything that goes on in these buildings, its a wonder there has never been a serious accident to expose the thousands of safety flaws that exist.  Despite the hefty price tag for some projects, like the $18 million required to improve the stairways in the Library of Congress, I hope congress will act soon to improve the safety of its thousands of congressional employees (and interns).

Sorry mom, I’m still going to work tomorrow!

Gettysburg: what happens if the south wins?

Posted July 1, 2010 by bluffcityed
Categories: Uncategorized

Tags: , , ,

Not many people are aware of this, but July 1st was the day that saw the beginning of the battle of Gettysburg, which ran from July 1-3, 1863.  I hold these three days in very high honor, because many people argue that had the confederate forces defeated the Union soldiers in Pennsylvania that day, the North American continent would look very different today on a map. But let’s think for a moment; what happens if the Confederacy actually wins at Gettysburg?  Warning: quite long and full of civil war history.

The typical scenario goes thus: General Ewell doesn’t freeze (or the Confederate army acts on one or more of the numerous chances it was given to destroy the union army), takes the high ground in Gettysburg and the army of the Potomac beats itself to death trying to dislodge General Lee’s army.  The confederate army marches into Washington DC and forces Lincoln to surrender, effectively ensuring the south victory.

BUT, is this really what would have occurred, even under the most optimal circumstances?  The only way this occurs is if the army of the Potomac is completely destroyed.  Even if the Union Army had been defeated at the battle of Gettysburg, barring its complete destruction, which seems quite unlikely given the state of Lee’s army and the absence of Stonewall Jackson, who was perhaps Lee’s only commander with the ability to pull off such a crushing victory (such as he did at Chancellorsville earlier that same year before he was shot by his own troops while returning from a recon mission).   Additionally, Union troops outnumber Confederate troops by over 20,000 in the final tally, so the idea that Lee would be able to completely destroy the army of the Potomac without numerical superiority or his top offensive general seems highly implausible.

The confederate army is victorious, and has most likely not completely destroyed the Union army, but has instead forced it to fall back and regroup.  It is also a Pyrrhic victory, as casualties from most civil war battles were extraordinarily high, even for the winners.    For example, even at Fredericksburg, VA, where the Confederate army trounced the Union soldiers, losses still numbered in the range of 5000-6000.  Lee’s army, already numerically inferior, cannot afford even this loss. Even so, for the time being, he commands the area.

Washington DC seemingly lays open…or does it?  Washington DC was in reality encircled by an elaborate system of defenses of entrenchments and fortifications 33 miles long, which by war’s end included 68 forts and over 1,500 guns.  Even if those numbers are reduced by a third, that is still quite impressive and would pose a serious difficulty for the Confederate army in attacking the city to force Lincoln to sign a treaty.

So the union army limps away, either to Washington or to the North, and Lee’s army, though bloodied, for a time reign’s supreme on norther soil until new troops can be brought up to reinforce the army of the Potomac.  Lee cannot march into Washington to force Lincoln to let the south have its independence.  What’s next?

Even though the union general (Meade) ultimately won at Gettysburg, he was replaced soon after by General Grant as supreme commander of union forces.  We might assume that Sherman is then put in charge in the west, but that troops are funneled away to the eastern theater to counteract the threat that lee now poses.  We will assume that these troops, the army of the Potomac and any reserves and newly trained troops that Lincoln is able to draw on are enough to counter if not outmatch Lee’s strength.  Lee realizes that he will be unable to continue to rampage on hostile Northern soil unopposed and without great risk to the destruction of his army.  He retreats to the south, hoping that this victory breaks the spirit of the union to continue fighting.

Without a lot of background research, it is apparent that even through continual Union losses in the first two years of the war, such as Antietam and Mananas did not break Lincoln’s resolve to stop the war.  The only thing that ends this war is his former general turned presidential candidate, McClellan, defeating Lincoln in 1864 and making peace with the Confederates.   What ultimately wins the election for Lincoln is Sherman’s capture of Atlanta.  Assuming that troops shuffled away from Sherman’s army derail this possibility, Grant proved himself highly capable of carrying out an all out war on Lee in Virginia with the intention of completely destroying his army. As a side note, Atlanta was the rail hub of the deep south and was incredibly important as both a logistic and moral victory for the Union.  Once it fell, supplies from the deep south to the northern Confederate states were essentially ended.

Knowing that Sherman will not make it to Atlanta (which he historically captured September 2nd, 1864), Grant will push Lee’s army much harder and faster, knowing that he will either destroy Lee or capture Richmond if Lee fails to give battle.  Either way, Lincoln win’s his symbolic victory, in the process making the emancipation proclamation.  Lincoln wins reelection, Lee is crushed and the Confederacy is incorporated back into the Union.

So sorry to my friends in the south.  Even in my alternative universe, you can’t win the civil war (or the war of northern aggression, whichever you prefer).  By that point in 1863, you were doomed anyways.

My final synopsis: without much stronger and complete victories earlier on in the war, the industrial might and larger potential northern troop population would eventually overwhelm the south, as long as the will to fight remained.  As much of the will for the continuation of the war came from one man (Lincoln), it is fair to say that this one man literally changed the course of history.


update 10/17/2013: it’s been 3 years since I wrote this post, and wow, over 41,000 hits!  In a twist of irony I now live in Memphis where Sherman had his HQ before moving South to Vicksburg.  My opinion hasn’t changed that the south would have indeed lost the war regardless of the outcome with Gettysburg.  If anything, Lee’s invasion and victory would have likely weakened McClellan and the copperheads stance by demonstrating that the south was not just an innocent defender fighting to preserve their way of life.  Thanks for all the comments!

Badger badger badger badger…

Posted June 29, 2010 by bluffcityed
Categories: Uncategorized

Apparently there are UW Alumni in every nook and cranny in Washington DC.  From the Defense industry to non-profits, from capitol hill to the white house former badgers are secretly forming a network that will one day rule the free world.

Ok, so its nothing that sinister, but the fact remains that there are quite a few badgers living and working in Washington DC, to say the least.  I went to a Wisconsin Alumni event where about 40 or 50 different badgers from across the city and area showed up to reminisce and reconnect.  The official Wisconsin meeting place is Hamilton’s Bar and Grill on 2nd street right off the national capitol  building on 2nd street.  I hear tell that if you go there on a Saturday between September and December, there WILL be badger football on each and every television.

I met several badgers that are new to DC and are hoping to make a break and offer their talents in public service.  When I was a tour guide, we had a sign in the back of the theater that gave a tally of the previous three years commitments of UW Alumni to the peace corps.  I wish we had a sign somewhere that gave a tally of all the UW Badgers that are engaged in public service to our country’s government, as well as states and localities.


Posted June 24, 2010 by bluffcityed
Categories: Uncategorized

This has nothing to do with Washington DC, but this is still pretty funny.  Screw you John Oliver–into-africa—us-beats-algeria

Its what we call the news!

Posted June 23, 2010 by bluffcityed
Categories: Jon's Posts

Yesterday was my day off, and I spent most of it inside the recently opened Newseum.  Located right down Pennsylvania Avenue from the US Capitol, this museum is one of Washington DC’s newest and most technologically advanced attractions.  Despite the numerous smithsonians and art galleries dotting the city, I can say with all seriousness that this is hands down my favorite museum in Washington DC.  This from a guy who swoons when he sees a painting by Claude Monnet or Henri Mattise.  (note: the national gallery is right across the street from the newseum).

The price is steep ($20) but completely worth every penny.  One of my favorite features of the Newseum is that they allow you to buy the ticket one day and return the next if you didn’t get to see the entire place.  You enter and are immediately confronted with a gigantic projector screen TV about three stories tall.  From there you can proceed through exhibits including 9/11, the origins of the news, reflections on the first amendment (quick: can you name the five rights enumerated in the first amendment?), and even play interactive games with other patrons.

My favorite section of the entire museum is a collection of over a hundred front page articles from important days in our nation’s history.  You can see the NY times page the day the stock market crashed or the front page the day after Bobby Kennedy’s assassination.  These are not reproductions: they are the real thing.  While I have no personal recollection of many of the events, my uncle assured me that it is quite moving to say the least to be able to relive those moments of our history that were the most important, such as the moon landing.

Overall, what makes the Newseum a wonderful place to visit is the mixture of communication mediums.  On each floor, the visitor is offered theaters, constantly running TV’s in the main exhibits, brief summaries of important events and more substantive sections containing news papers.  It is very easy to flow from one medium to the next and creates a very engaging and ever changing environment.

And in case I don’t have you convinced, hear now Stephen Colbert