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E Unum Pluribus


Does it really make sense, when as a country and society entirely shaped by immigrant influence on everything we have been, are, and are becoming, that we continue to embrace the exclusion as a solution? As  a third culture kid, I’m often reminded that we were all immigrants once. As a political economist, I am often exasperated. The data are overwhelmingly and empirically clear aliens augment expansion, as evidenced in  scholarly as well as general interest material – Wharton, UM, Hoover Institute, The Atlantic, even “illegals” are a net positive as shown in this WSJ article .

Yet political pandering is often opposite. Why?

Economics are not the only reason for considering and enjoying our alien neighbors. It’s not. Tonight at Panera, I had a wondrous Thai soup. Last week, I had Chinese. How many of us have eaten sushi? Kielbasa? Brats? Baklava? Café con leche? Enjoyed a steel drum, or taiko performance? Listened to Chopin? Or. the. Stones. Sure Mick doesn’t live here, but the point is our lives are enriched by so many of the very things that we have as a result of the differences among us. And the Stones were influenced by our own Blues musicians. Who hasn’t enjoyed Italian, Greek, Polish, German, Native American, or other ethnic festivities?

At tonight’s first of five meetings entitled, “From Other to Us”, at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater in East Liberty,  I was reminded of this importance once again. A poet refugee, from Burma, Tuhin Das, spoke of his fight to be free. Wasi Mohamed, a typical young natural born American millennial discussed a refugee at a Muslim food bank, who never smiled, and this young man’s attempt to reach this immigrant to make him smile, and his realization, the man is a refugee, he’s black, and he’s Muslim, or as Wasi called this, “the perfect trifecta”, of course he was unhappy, plus he was taking handouts. Janera Solomon, Director of the Strayhorn, talked of coming to the USA at a time of mass immigration from the Caribbean and  West Africa, and the hominess of community gatherings without regard at the time that these gatherings perpetuated enclaves. Certainly to some extent this is natural as people arrive and seek to become part of the fabric of the USA.

Do we want to give up the vibrant variety these interactions afford us? Are permanent enclaves more desirable? Ultimately, all aliens have historically assimilated into the richness of America, and we have all benefited. Is it really desirable to give up the depth of this oneness from many to dissolve from one to many?



I was talking to a friend who wanted to know why it is I write. What in my background makes it important? I started writing a journal in many forms about as soon as I could write. I particularly kept one in great detail, but youthful detail, when I had lymphocitic lymphoma IV. It’s a killer. I survived, some might argue I thrived, I am still alive. By most standards my life is quite good.


Challenges have confronted me, as they do all of us, and I have varied in my life from being highly disciplined, to being focused only on task. Think about that. Task interferes with discipline, with purpose, with desire, with service, with contemplation, with reflection, and most importantly with believing. Obviously tasks must get accomplished, else we won’t eat or remain clean.

It isn’t the tasks, it is the emphasis on task in the extreme. We can only do one thing at a time, even when multitasking, thus task ensures we eat and bathe, yet it is contemplation that shapes us, that allows us to evolve both as individuals and as a species.  It is reflection that enables taking the path less taken. It is purpose and service that provide meaning to the process of living. It is discipline to do these things and believing to act on them that moves us and enables thankfulness.

To focus solely on task is to devolve to hunter gather stage – collect, consume, sex, rest, resume. Is that where we want to live? Work, consume, pay, TV, entertainment, sex, rest, resume. Discipline focuses us on things that matter most.

Writing in a way is a task but a disciplined one. I’ve written many things for the purpose of task. To get a job done. This is not that. Task is a tree that inhibits seeing. To paraphrase Kierkegaard, one must change vistas to understand more, to become more. Writing as discipline explores those new vistas.

An Open Letter To Reince Priebus

Dear Mr. Priebus,

This country was founded E Pluribus Unum. From many one. This is who we are.

The GOP has traditionally been the party of decency. The GOP stood for something other than politics and partisanship. The GOP has a long history of standing up for rights, freedom, and the ideals of our founding fathers. Many have complained that the founding fathers would not have, and in fact did not, end slavery. Yes, and at the same time Jefferson’s statement to the effect: we have the lion by the ears, and cannot hang on, but dare not let go, was a clear indication that he wasn’t happy about it.

This party’s inaugural President, made the decision early in his life to end slavery. Had he lived, we would live in a much greater integrated society, of that I am sure. The rhetoric of hatred against any of the “many” is not what he stood for. Neither did our Rough Rider, Ike, or Reagan. Neither have the Bushes or any of the other candidates the GOP has had in recent years.

Stand up Mr. Priebus, stand up and be counted. Declare that the GOP is not just the party of the right, but of the righteous liberty founded in the principles of the Declaration of Independence, and Madison’s Constitution including the Bill of Rights demanded by the Jeffersonians.

Recant your statement that the GOP stands with Trump. Declare with authority that in the interest of the Republic, the interest of Honor, the interest of Dignity, and with respect to your mom, Mrs. Priebus, your wife Sally Priebus, and your daughter Grace, that the GOP and RNC withdraw unequivocally all support for Mr. Trump, and encourage all Republicans and lovers of the Constitution and this Free Republic to vote for someone else.

You could even go so far as to really show chutzpah (guts) and encourage a vote for the two term Republican Governor of NM, Gary Johnson, and his running mate successful two term Republican Governor of MA, William Weld who are running on the Libertarian Party Ticket. Then demand that they, and for the sake of normalcy, even Dr. Stien, be allowed to debate in the final debate. That sir is how you win an election and possibly, though not likely, save the GOP.

To do anything less is to fail to represent the ideals for which the founders of the GOP stood.


Bernhard Erb

Inevitably Every Party Must End and Another Start

In 2004 or 2005, crossing Bigelow at Fifth, I remember having this discussion with one of my EMBA classmates and telling him that a major shift would happen, most likely in the Republican party given the current state of affairs. The Tea Party is almost that. I am not sure it is. At one time I thought it was – until a member told me to leave the Republican party because my views on what governments should do regarding homosexual marriage were too liberal.

Perceived government abuses, and idealogical differences led to the rise of both major parties we have today. In the early days of our republic the changes were frequent. We haven’t seen a major shift since the rise of the Republican Party in the 1860s.

As David Boaz of Cato says libertarianism is on the verge of a political breakthrough. Whigs, Federalists, Anti-Federalists, Democrat-Republicans, Democrats, even independents all were elected in the early years. Then what? Republican and Democrat were elected over and over, and over and over again.

The results were of course predictable. We expanded the size, scope, and supremacy of the government in every facet of life. Rather than enforce the rule of law, and the blindness of the law to all sorts of things, we have implemented failed policies through prohibition and the ensuing “war on drugs”, poverty preservations, and government controlled retirement.

George Washington warned, “The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism.” Herein lies the reason we need a change. The rising libertarian influence, whether it leads to a strengthened Libertarian Party, a renewed vitality in the Republican Party, a more fiscally conservative Democratic Party, or something else entirely has yet to be seen. What is clear is that two things are unsustainable – uncontrolled government largess and government controlled activity.


Triblive Monroeville Mayoral Primary Coverage

Triblive Monroeville Mayoral Primary Coverage

The Trib/ Times Express covered the Mayoral Primary pretty succinctly, but, my entire responses to the questions are as follows:


Why am I running?


My sole reason for running is out of a sense of obligation and service to this community. Many decry the present as less than the glorious past. I do not think one needs to attempt holding on to a past that may or may not have existed save for a sense of nostalgia. The present and the future can be shaped by decency and a positive view of the opportunities before us. I gain no advantage running for Mayor. In many respects the Mayor Office is defined as an incredibly weaker position than a Council Member Office by Home Rule Charter. Understand, my family, my business commitments, my church and the Boy Scout Troop 184 where I volunteer have plenty to do, that is, quite frankly, more enjoyable and far more rewarding. My wife doesn’t want me to be involved in this race. When I announced I would not seek re-election I received scores of calls and people who to my face said I needed to run again – either for that seat, or for Mayor. It is at the behest of many constituents who watch our meetings that I am running.


What am I passionate about?


People tell me that our meetings cause us to be the best comedy on cable. The Mayor is to run a meeting with dignity and encourage substantive debate. I will bring this to our meetings, something last seen when Jim Lomeo was Mayor.


We face numerous issues for the foreseeable future.  We need to find ways to address the money we need without stripping wealth in order to hold to the commitments made to residents and Municipal employees. We need to find ways to more effectively create realistic expectations given the money we have in order to weather the changing economics of being a government. This must be done in a way that encourages business activity, wealth building and a great quality of life for a wide array of people who chose to become part of a unified community. Without a vote, I think I can influence and help develop this debate more effectively. This is the one thing the Charter provides for. The Mayor is to guide debate in a sensible, calm, collaborative manner even in the face of the most astounding controversies we may face.


All of the issues are not negative. We must deal with the opportunity for deep drilling that exists in our community for three reasons: we have land that can bring real revenue, land owners have land that can increase their wealth, and we are at a location in SWPA that puts us in a prime spot for ancillary services that can bring jobs to this community. We still have enormous budget issues and retirement commitments that we need to address. Only a Mayor that unifies members while encouraging debate can get these dealt with.


Look we either find ways to encourage new money coming here, find ways to address our budget concerns, and help create an atmosphere that allows our residents to grow their wealth, or we will need to strip the wealth of this community in order to maintain the status quo thus harming all residents. The status quo tends to favor a long standing cronyism establishment that is upset that things are changing. Ultimately, the council must establish guidelines and a policy agenda, while recognizing that they must get out of the building, and have the manager deliver that vision according to precepts of the Charter and to the benefits of the people not the elected or appointed officials.


My Background: I spent a number of years in service in my twenties. I have a BA from Marist College, Poughkeepsie, NY in Political Economics and an MBA from PITT through the EMBA program. Most of my career was in sales and operations in the Computer Networking Industry. I was promoted to VP Operations and transferred to Pittsburgh in September 2001. The experiences give me a perspective dealing with change, financial challenges and pressure that is likely unique among candidates. I’ve served on the Planning Commission, including as Chair for two years. I have been a member of Monroeville council since 2010.


Current Employment: Currently in my day job, I work for the Commonwealth as a District Administrator in the Department of Revenue. I am also founding executive of a company, Sagamore Group, Inc. in RI (all three other founders are from Eastern sea board states) focused on healthcare and medical sales. We are a privately held company that currently in its fourth year has 12 employees and is growing.


Family: Married, Laura, 2 children, Sophia, college sophomore and Max, Eagle Scout


Birthdate: 4/17/64


Organizations: Cross Roads Presbyterian Church, Monroville Area Chamber of Commerce, Boy Scout Troop 184, Infragard; as a council member – Library Board Liason, Turtle Creek Valley Council of Governments, Monroeville Foundation

Resolved 2013 – Get or Knit More Funky Socks

Certainly Funky Socks

My 2013 Resolution

This I can do. No weight-loss/ -gain/ -stay-the-same, reading more, watching less/ better TV or other potentially failed resolutions. But we all need one right? I have one dilemma I need to fix this year, and I am resolved to get it done.

Blue, Grey or Olive Double Breasted Suits. Love ’em. Glenn Plaid Two or Three Piece. Ditto. Traditional Blue Blazer. Wouldn’t think my wardrobe complete without it. The same goes for my traditional 120’s tab collar double cuff (French) white shirts. I can’t get by without having wing tips, cap toes, and I sure would love to include bluchers in the shoe set. White executive fold pocket squares are a daily mainstay. Certainly silk squares are great for the celebratory evening.And while they tend on the traditional side , the ties I sport and the braces I wear are heavily colored (braces from Brooks Brothers and Burberry’s; ties mostly from Paul Frederick or Macy’s).

Which altogether begs the question regarding accessories in general, more specifically socks.Why, why must socks be black, blue, brown or short? Maybe you’ve noticed it too. Maybe not. In a general sense we are captive to the overbearing regulation of the fashionistas and other experts who hawk clothing.

The socks pictured I received for a stocking stuffer.

They are mid calf. Okay. Most of my argyles are low calf and 40% of the time when I sit they show part of my leg. And no, my trousers aren’t short, they are properly tailored with a heavy break when I stand. This year I am changing the game. All the socks I buy, except white ankle length, will be both long and funky. If I have to I will do as the sailors of yore – I will knit proper length over-calf knee highs.

This is certainly a resolution I can keep. What’s yours?

Keep Promises Through Partnerships

So many services, so many commitments, so many costs. The only way to preserve the commitments that government has made locally, statewide, or federally is to increase tax takings. Well so the supporters of “continuance of service” would have us believe. They typically don’t say things exactly that way. They say things that sound more benign and foreboding at the same time, “If we increase taxes we won’t cut any services”.

This fallacy is too fraught with problems to address adequately. But three points bear listing. First, it is not axiomatic that taking more from people means services remain. Insolvency is a growing option for many governments. SW PA is filled with communities that could be midwestern ghost towns, often due to ever-increasing taxes that produced destitution for residents who stayed. Second, it is not axiomatic that cutting costs reduces services. Third, it is not axiomatic that all government services are worth keeping by the government at least. Regarding the first point understand this – taxes are exercising of the power governments have to legally hold up their residents and citizens, and sometimes simply people who work in a location. Taxes are not voluntary.

The second and third points are somewhat related to each other. Too many times governments take on roles that have nothing to do with the scope of government. This contributes to untoward costs from commitments related mostly to retirement commitments governments make to employees (see earlier blog: Why Unions aren’t the solution – Employees aren’t the Problem). Private entities, whether for or non-profit, typically deliver offer expertise, efficiency, and economies of scale that governments often don’t have otherwise. This stems from the first point – taxes are taken not voluntarily given. Third parties have the market to contend with – deliver value or get no donations or customers. Thus by taking strategic steps governments can cut costs and guarantee sustainable services, often better services than the government can provide alone.

Still wish to preserve every service?

Interestingly, Private Public Partnerships are mostly used for what they should be used for least, economic and real estate development or redevelopment, and often propounded by the keep-current-services crowd. Economic development is served by strong policies that support growth, at the lowest feasible tax rates. Austin’s evidence is that services can be performed better by third parties and for less. It’s time to make American style privatization and outsourcing the public norm as the way to improve, not preserve, the commitments made to citizens. Infrastructure projects to save the failing infrastructure of the USA governments is one key area that has proven more than successful.

San Bernardino has led the way showing ethics can be improved by eliminating nepotism. Maywood, CA outsourced in order to avoid the plight of Stockton, CA and forced outsourcing. Sandy Springs incorporated without incurring the infrastructure and costs of personnel. With the proper will, lots of effort, and clear direction, the evidence shows through these communities that vibrant important and even vital services can and must be outsourced if governments are going to deliver on the promises made.

We can and must improve services, and this points the way, but I ask again, still wish to preserve services?

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