Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Marlboros and a Bach Concerto

Smoke billows as crescendo grows
Remembering youth, days of ole
Resting my head, feather pillow
Marlboros and a Bach Concerto

Straight line, winds make cusp
Back then, was it us
I’ve tried the wine, just fine
Laying here, marking time
Marlboros and a Bach Concerto

Allegrissio, images appear
Never catching the ones
I hold, most dear
Fear keeping us apart
For you dear, my heart, my heart
Marlboros and a Bach Concerto

Prestissimo, and although
Around and around, mind goes
Must hold image, Sostenuto
There you are, and far away
Barely can see you, through the haze
Marlboros and a Bach Concerto

Misterioso, can I feel
When you were near, so near
Track changes, now Chopin
Washing it all away
A miner, with a pan
Marlboros and a Bach Concerto

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Real Immigration Issue

Here is a copy of a letter I sent to the Paisano, the Student Newspaper at UTSA.
It was written in response to a previous letter http://www.paisano-online.com/2.840/statue-is-a-symbol-of-strength-1.28218
arguing for not removing a statue that depicts a border crossing into the U.S. by Mexican Nationals.

Here is the link to my original: http://www.paisano-online.com/2.840/economics-of-immigration-1.28179

The original issue was that the statue should be removed, but the person I wrote a rebuttal against said no. My letter was the response.

The Real Immigration Issue
By John T. Sharp
April 4, 2006

While reading the 4 April edition of The Paisano I was shocked and appalled by the opinion letter submitted by Ms. Bowman.
First, I am concerned by how she cloaks her argument in the veil of racism and has the audacity to call anyone who is arguing for the removal of this statue a racist. Granted, using a racist cloak makes for an effective argument and generates popular support and sympathy, I expected more from a person as erudite as her title implies.
Also, the claim of covert reverse discrimination can made against her argument by her omission to any “adversity” faced by Irish-Americans in New York after the Irish Potato famine beginning in 1845 or any other American that has to mark “Caucasian” on government documents because there is no special block for them.
Second, her statement regarding the rightful ownership of Texas land confuses me. These illegal immigrants have no title to any property in Texas. The Mexican government once possessed title to this great state but after the Texas Revolution of 1836 this title was lost due to the ineptitude of the Mexican military and political leadership. It could be argued that the historical corruption and ineptitude of Mexican political leadership has exacerbated the current issue of illegal immigration. The Mexican-American War of 1848 further reinforced the claim to U.S. possession of Texas. To claim that this land is rightfully “theirs” is to flout international law of treaties.
Third, she makes the claim that these undocumented workers pay into the Social Security system, “a system they will not be able to partake in”. I fail to understand how an employer can pay into the Social Security system for a worker with no Social Security number.
Fourth, she says she has never seen an unemployed illegal immigrant. If you want to see some unemployed illegal immigrants, I ask only that you go downtown around the jail and you will find plenty of illegal immigrants that are unemployed.
The real issue at stake here is economics. If there were no incentives to come to the U.S. (e.g. jobs, health care, education) there would be no cause for the “Border Crossing” statue nor would there be cause for massive illegal immigration.
I am in agreement that the current house bill on immigration is misguided. Why would the house pass a bill criminalizing being here illegally? By the nature of the definition isn’t being here illegally already against the law? However, I do support the provision of the bill that authorizes state and local police to enforce immigration laws and to transfer aliens to federal custody.
The most effective way to prevent illegal immigration is to remove the incentives. By this I suggest that the government crack down on businesses that employ illegal immigrants. Fines should be imposed that represent the real lost revenue to the government plus associated interest. If there are no jobs available to illegals they will seek work somewhere else.
Additionally, health care and education should be denied to all persons who are not citizens and do not posses a social security number, unless here as an official guest of the U.S. government. Illegals “de facto” steal money from tax paying citizens when their children are educated in the public school system. This is a particularly acute problem in Texas because schools are financed by property taxes, increasing the tax burden on the average tax-paying citizen. Not only is this unjust to the citizens of this state but these illegals even think it prudent to demand bilingual education which further increases this burden.
The same issue of the “de facto” stealing of taxpayer dollars by illegal immigrants is evidenced by a visit to your local hospital emergency room. Illegals go to the emergency room for care because U. S. law says that no one can be denied emergency services in the health care industry. These services and fees have to be paid for by someone and it is not the illegals in most cases.
If these Mexican nationals, who are here illegally, and their supporters, who wave the Mexican flag on U.S. soil in their protests, want to effect real change their current strategy should be revamped. A positive strategy to pursue is for these foreign nationals to withhold remittances to their home country. Remittances are the 2nd largest source of income and make up 70% or Mexican GDP. Without this money the Mexican government and business interests will be more willing to support real economic and social change to further the betterment of these proud Mexican people.

John T. Sharp
Undergraduate Student and Citizen

German Unification

Here is a copy of a paper I wrote back in May of 2006 for a class on Europe in the 19th Century:

German Unification

At the beginning of the 19th century the Germany we know of today did not exist. The German peoples were established as a confederation of states after the Napoleonic wars, each ruled by their own princes or kings. Austria and Prussia both contended for power and influence over the confederation. The two main currents were a gross Deutschland strategy and a Klein Deutschland strategy. The gross Deutschland proposition placed Austria at the head of the confederation with Prussia included. The Klein Deutschland strategy, the one pursued by Prussia, placed Prussia at the head of the German confederation and excluded Austria. By the close of the 19th century and into the 20th century Germany was a unified, formidable force in central Europe and a world power. Germany had a robust economy and had overseas colonies, primarily in Africa.

Not since the time of Charlemagne had Germany been a unified entity under one ruler. Many Germans wanted to be united and longed for the nostalgic time when Germany was one. Only one man was able to achieve this unification of the German principalities into one nation. This man was Otto Eduard Leopold von Bismarck. Bismarck was able to maneuver around the domestic and international political landscape to achieve unification. Bismarck’s skill in statecraft and diplomacy was unmatched by his peers. Bismarck is remembered in posterity as the Father of German unification.

This essay will focus on two key foreign policy maneuvers and two key domestic policy platforms that Bismarck used. The foreign policy tactics helped to achieve the actual, final unification of Germany after a long series of steps employed by Bismarck. The two domestic policy points in the essay will center on how Bismarck tried to strengthen the unification and nationalization of The German Empire, while cooping the radical socialist elements that existed in German society at the time. Most all of the tactics that Bismarck used were effective in achieving their goals, but not all of them.

To understand how Bismarck was able to wield so much power in the Prussian government to achieve this unification, one must understand the responsibilities inherent

in Bismarck’s positions in the Prussian government. Bismarck was the Prime Minister of Prussia and the Foreign Minister of Prussia. As Prime Minister of Prussia, Bismarck was directly responsible to the King of Prussia, King Wilhelm I and he also presided over parliament. In this capacity, to question Bismarck was almost to question the King himself. This position as prime minister gave Bismarck a wide degree of latitude to implement the policies necessary to achieve his domestic policy agenda. As Foreign Minister of Prussia, Bismarck was also directly responsible to the King of Prussia. In this position, Bismarck possessed total control over Prussia’s foreign affairs, its dealings with other nations, whose power was only checked by the King himself. Additionally it must be noted that Bismarck was a Junker. A Junker was word used to reference the landed aristocracy of Prussia. As a Junker, Bismarck had a vested interest in increasing the power of Prussia as the head of a unified Germany. Bismarck was fiercely loyal to his king, in all his dealings with other nations and domestic politicians, and he used his personal skill of statecraft, negotiation, and manipulation to increase the power of the King of Prussia.

In 1863 the Danish king, King Fredrick VII died leaving no male heirs to the throne. The Danes presided over the duchies of Schleswig-Holstein. The duchy of Schleswig consisted primarily of Danish peoples, whereas the duchy of Holstein was made up of Germanic peoples. Once the king died the Danes and the Prussians competed for control over the duchies. The Prussians wanted control of the duchies to establish a naval base in the harbor of Kiel. This base was important to the Prussians, which would enable them to establish control over the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. With control over these seas the Prussians could trade coming out of the Rhine and from Russia with ports along the Atlantic coast. Furthermore, Bismarck wanted to build a canal across the duchies to keep the Prussian government from having to build to navies, one in the Baltic Sea and the other in the North Sea.

The Treaty of Ribe stated that the two duchies were inseparable. Disregarding this treaty the newly appointed King of Denmark, Christian IX, passed a resolution annexing Schleswig for the Danish peoples primarily because of the large population of Danes that lived in the duchy. Bismarck used this action as a base of argument in the international arena to seize control of the duchies.

Bismarck was aware of the international forces that had an interest in one, checking the power of Prussia, and two, ensuring legitimate transfer of power in the duchies. Bismarck used the Austrian government achieve these ends. If Prussia invaded the Holstein duchy with out the aid of Austria then, internationally, it would seem as though Prussia was trying to make a grab for power in the North Sea. The British would not have allowed this encroachment on their power in the North Sea and would have made war against the Prussians and would have come to the aid of the Danes. The Prussians needed the Austrians to invade the duchies. With Austria on the side of the Prussians the other main powers of the time (Brittan, France, and Russia) would not have wanted to get involved in what merely seemed to be a succession disagreement. Additionally, it is interesting to note how Bismarck manipulated the Prussian king to decide in favor of invading the duchies. King Wilhelm stated in a letter to Bismarck, “I have no right to Holstein” (Bismarck, vol. II, pg.13). Bismarck casually reminded the king that every recent King of Prussia had taken action to add territory to Prussia and that it was his duty to intervene. Bismarck was able to manipulate the Austrians by using their sympathies with the gross Deutschland strategy.

Needless to say the Austrians and the Prussians invaded the duchies and defeated the Danes in what is referred to as the Second War of Schlewig. The circumstances could not have been more favorable to Bismarck. Through is diplomatic skills of negotiation he was able to influence Austria to assist Prussia in the invasion while keeping the other main powers in Europe out of the conflict.

The Austrians and Prussians jointly decided that they would occupy the duchies as independent powers in support of the German confederation. After this conflict the Austrians controlled the administration of Schlewig and the Prussians controlled the administration of Holstein. Due to the circumstances of the relationship within the duchies under joint Austro-Prussian, Bismarck was able to provoke Austria in to war with Prussia by claiming that Austria had violated their administration agreement under the Gastein Convention. Austria declared war on Prussia, which made Austria appear as the aggressor. It was important that Austria declared the war so Prussia would not appear, to the international community, to seek power. The Prussians defeated the Austrians in Austro-Prussian War in 1866.

The importance of this war was significant for a number of reasons. First, this proved the military strategy of Bismarck was effective and proved that the Prussian Army was a major force. Second, the two duchies now came solely under the influence of Prussia and the German Confederation virtually excluding the Austrians. This is exactly the Klein Deutschland strategy that Bismarck pursed all along. Third, Prussia achieved these goals while merely appearing to be defending their own sovereignty.

Prussia controlled the states of northern Germany, which were primarily protestant, but the southern German states of Baden, Bavaria, and Wurttemberg were still independent. These south German states were primarily Catholic and were somewhat sympathetic to Austria, which was also a Catholic country. Although sympaethic, these south German states were still Germans and were interested in a unified Germany. The French were disturbed with the new balance of power in central Europe and the humbling of Austria after its defeat by Prussia. The French sought to neutralize this growth of Prussian influence because they saw this growing Prussian hegemony as a threat to their national security. Understanding this while still trying to increase Prussian dominance in central Europe, Bismarck was looking for a way to influence these states to join the Bund.

This opportunity came in 1870 when the Spanish offered the throne of Spain to a Hohenzollern prince, Prince Leopold. Prince Leopold was a distant cousin of the Prussian king, King Wilhelm I. The French under Napoleon III, due to internal and external crises, were looking for a foreign policy victory. The French were afraid that ascension of a German prince to the Spanish throne would ally the Spanish to the Prussians. With this kind of alliance the French would be in effect, boxed in, by Prussian influence and considered this a definite threat to their national security. In the event of a war the French would have had to fight a war on two fronts. Napoleon III government asked the Prussian king to influence Prince Leopold to withdraw his canadicy to the throne of Spain. King Wilhelm I acquiesced to French demands and the prince withdrew. Napoleon III was disappointed that the Prussians gave up so easily because what he really wanted was a war with Prussia, which, in defeating Prussia, he would strengthen his power in France. The French sent their ambassador, Vincent Benedetti, to demand that King Wilhelm I agree that he would never support the candidacy of a Hollenzollern prince to the Spanish throne into perpetuity. King Wilhelm declined to support French demands and sent an account of his meeting with Benedetti to Berlin in what is know as the Ems Dispatch.

Bismarck took this opportunity to instigate a war with France. If the Prussians won a war with France, Bismarck’s goal of German unification could be completed. It was important still for Prussia to appear to play the part of defender, not as the aggressor. Bismarck basically falsified the Ems Dispatch. He did not add anything extra to the text of the telegram; he took out a few key lines. In effect he strengthened the language of the telegram to make it appear that King Wilhelm I was insulted by the actions of the French and their ambassador (Bismarck, vol. II pg. 97). Bismarck knowingly edited the message in this way to provoke France. Being as how the French were looking for a war, by offending the French with this telegram he felt for certain that the French would take action to defend their honor. This is political manipulation at its finest hour. Furthermore, Bismarck released this telegram at the direction of the king, which could have merely been left as an internal message, to the press. By releasing the telegram to the press he could garner sympathy and support from the German peoples for a war and in the same token he the French people would support their government in a war with Prussia. This action had its desired effect. The French were insulted and promptly declared war against Prussia in July of 1870.

The French were defeated in the Franco-Prussian war. This war established Prussian supremacy in central Europe and was the last step, in a long series of steps; Bismarck took to unify the German peoples under one crown. The German Confederation and Prussia were re-designated as the German Empire. King Wilhelm I led this empire as the German Emperor, a first among equals (Wikipedia). Once King Wilhelm was made the German Emperor he appointed Bismarck as the Imperial Chancellor of the German Empire. Now that this unification had been achieved Bismarck pursed policies which he hoped would solidify and strengthen the German Empire.

As Bismarck began this strengthening of unity towards the new German nation he turned his attention to domestic policy. Within the new empire was a large portion of Poles. These Poles due to the nationalist sentiment of the era were pressing for more autonomy. These Poles were also Catholic. Bismarck began implementing polices to reign in this growing threat of Polish nationalism in the state of Posen which he saw a danger to the newly formed empire. These policies were collectively known as the Culturkampf, a culture struggle. It has generally believed that these policies were directed specifically at the Catholic Church and its worshipers. According to Bismarck, the Prussian government was not anti-Catholic, but really just anti-Polish (Bismarck, vol. II, pg. 137). Bismarck on a personal and political level generally tolerated differing religions as long as those religions did not impose upon the authority of the government (Bismarck, vol. II, pg. 137). The policy aims of the Culturkampf were to acquire the means of combating Polonism, removal of certain articles in the German constitution, and most importantly making the state as head of the school system. The legislation passed during this time was known as May Laws. The May Laws put disciplinary authority over priest in Germany under state control, made the state in charge of education of the clergy, introduced civil marriage, and extended state control over the education in general. The Catholic Church would not recognize these laws so the German government cut off all financial aid to the Church. What Bismarck was trying to do with these laws was to limit the power of the Catholic Church inside of Germany which he felt was the driving force behind Polish nationalism. Because of these policies the progressive party in Germany defected to the Centrum party which was the party of the Catholics (Bismarck, vol. II, pg. 145). These laws were basically a failure in domestic policy for Bismarck. Instead of creating greater unity in the German empire; this policy created deeper divisions among the Catholic minority and the Polish elements. By 1879 Bismarck realized this failure in policy and repealed most of the May Laws.

Emerging in Germany and across Europe in general was a growing socialist movement. Bismarck felt that this socialism was an even greater threat to internal security that the Catholic Church or Polish ideas of independence. In 1878, after two attempts on the life of the German Emperor, King Wilhelm I by socialist radicals, the Reichstag under the direction of Bismarck passed anti-socialist laws. These laws were meant to check the growing influence of Social Democratic Party in Germany. Bismarck re-aligned himself with the Centrum party to help him get these laws passed. These laws were wholly reactionary and failed to achieve their stated aims. The anti-socialist laws forbid meetings of socialist groups and socialist leaders were arrested (Wikipedia). A person who held socialist beliefs could still run for office in the government, so socialists would just run as independents. By doing this the socialists basically circumvented the anti-socialist laws and were strongly gaining more influence in the German government. Based on the lessons learned by the failures of the Culturkampf policies, and with Bismarck realizing the anti-socialist laws were also failing, Bismarck tried a new strategy. Instead of combating, head to head, with the socialist why not coop their policy platforms into the governmental policy thereby reducing their influence among the constituents. If Bismarck could successfully coop the socialists their whole reason for political unity would crumble. Bismarck succeeded in this strategy. Bismarck took the first steps in creating labor laws. In 1883 a Health Insurance Act was passed. This health insurance allowed the workers to pay two thirds of the policy premium and the employer would pay the other third. Additionally accident insurance was provided to workers in case they were hurt on the job. In 1889 pensions and disability insurance were also given to workers who were retired or who were disabled. These reforms were dynamic in the fact that there was no precedence for this in any government until Bismarck. In our own time workers expect that health insurance and disability will be provide along with a retirement check from the government. Workers across Western Europe and United States ultimately have Bismarck to thank for these "rights". These reforms did not entirely bridge the gap between workers and government, but it can be said that these reforms stifled any type of worker revolution that the socialists were clamoring for.

Bismarck was the most influential figure in European politics in the second half of the 19th century. His realistic views of the political situation and his pragmatic approach to unification allowed him to unify the German states into a strong and cohesive nation state. His foreign policy built a German juggernaut in central Europe which other European powers respected. Although most of his domestic policy can be viewed as a failure, he was merely trying to build the strongest internal cohesion that would allow Germany to become a great nation. Bismarck achieved these goals overall and it is thankful he did not live to see this great nation, only forty-seven years after his death, become mired in two world wars, in which they were soundly defeated, and brought to its knees due to the political ineptitude of his successors.

Friday, December 4, 2009


Onward, Onward, Onward
I run, Onward into the sun
Reaching for you, cannot grasp
Calling for you, voice rasp
Yearning for you, void remains
Love for you, always restrained
Passion for you, never fulfilled
Feel with me, this invoidable will
Onward I run, into the sun

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Poem For You

I remember us then
Were just kids, rail thin
In rain played, by day
Danced and laughed, what'd you say
Love me forever, yes ever

Hair blowin wind, bills set in
Wishin, we were rail thin
Go out on Friday, we may
Must meet responsibilitays
Love me forever, maybe never