Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category

The end is nigh: lesson’s learned

July 25, 2010

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

July 17, 2010

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?

July 13, 2010

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?

July 1, 2010

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…

June 29, 2010

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.


June 24, 2010

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

Lockheed Martin Part II

June 19, 2010

From the person who will hence forth be known as Publius, who also attended the Lockheed Martin dinner this past Wednesday, some more thoughts on the presentation:

At its best, Dr. Trice’s 30-minute PowerPoint presentation effectively conveyed the importance of America’s aerospace and defense (A&D) industry and demonstrated the perhaps underappreciated challenges faced by defense contractors: inefficient government procurement systems, whimsical political decision-making, and astronomical research and development costs, to name a few. He also gave a succinct history of the industry, logically explained why the A&D market consolidated, and showed big defense companies to have more diverse operations than expected. But his finest point came during the question and answer period. When asked by a fellow student whether the U.S. military was perpetually preparing to fight the last war, Dr. Trice responded by listing innovations that have originated with private A&D firms over the years and previewed some developments to come. Military advancements such as new armor suits, communication devices, and satellite technology are expected to save lives in the near-team, even as the nation begins to withdraw from ongoing overseas engagements. And innovations related to cyber-security, logistics management (including radio-frequency package tags), and information transmission show promise for spillover effects into the broader economy.

However, Dr. Trice often used hyperbolic language designed to obfuscate the true size and power of America’s A&D industry, no doubt aimed at derisively debunking the supposed myth of the Military Industrial Complex. While most interns seemed to drink this alluring tonic, to the more skeptical of interns his disposition only served to arouse greater suspicion. Three points stood out:

1)       “I wish I was in the business of making Frosted Flakes. That’s where the money is. We’re a niche company.” While no one is claiming A&D is bigger than the food industry, this struck many as an odd point. After all, Lockheed has a higher market cap than Kellogg (the maker of Frosted Flakes), has a higher average salary than Kellogg, and has seen their stock price grow over twice as much over the past ten years as Kellogg. If Dr. Trice had invested in Kellogg or had been employed there as a median or average worker instead of at Lockheed Martin, he would most assuredly be less well-off.

2)       “Lockheed is small potatoes.” This is similar to the above point. Lockheed generates more revenue than Pepsi or Coca-Cola, than Apple or Intel, than Best Buy or Sears, than Time Warner or Comcast, than Disney or News Corp, and on and on. It is true that many companies with smaller revenues are seen as much more valuable, but in terms of actual money received (as well as net profit) there are few potatoes larger than Lockheed.

3)       “We have a very poor customer.” To some this seemed to be almost insulting to a country that accounts for over 50% of all A&D spending worldwide, that allocates 49% of its discretionary spending to the Department of Defense, and that has single-handedly, as Dr. Trice would later admit, caused a boom in the A&D sector over the past ten years. This was especially puzzling coming from Lockheed, who are more reliant on the government than other A&D firms. According to Washington Technology, Lockheed received more in government contracts than any other company in the country; they received more than Northrop Grumman (2nd) and General Dynamics (6th) combined.

Overall, it was tough reconciling how a small potatoes company could account for such a large portion of U.S. exports, how a company that couldn’t pay its employees or shareholders like a cereal company could be so competitive hiring top talent, or how a government so difficult for an industry could simultaneously give them so much of its tax dollars. That being said, Dr. Trice was an engaging speaker and the burritos were delicious.