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User ID: 554

The evidence against Perry was prejudicial, but that's not the end of the analysis. All evidence is prejudicial to some degree. The question is whether the prejudicial nature is outweighed by the probative value, and it was because it was clearly related to motive. The argument wasn't that it was evidence that Perry was a bad dude but that he specifically contemplated the actions which he was accused of. The evidence of Foster's prior actions wasn't admitted because it would only be relevant if Perry was aware of it at the time of the incident, and there's no evidence that he had seen those posts. Even then I don't know if it would be admissible because simply blocking a street isn't a deadly threat, and intent to intimidate doesn't necessarily mean intent to injure, but since Perry didn't see the posts, we don't need to go that far with the analysis.

The prior incidents of protesters shooting at cars is all well and good, but they're only relevant if the defendant knew about them and they influenced his decision, and the only way to admit that evidence is if he testifies to it himself. While that evidence may have helped his case, that help almost certainly would have been outweighed by the fact that he'd have to testify and open himself up to cross examination, which almost never ends well.

I've got more written but this is taking quite a bit of research to do the way I want to do it and I've been unusually busy for the past month so my apologies for not getting the installments out sooner. In the meantime, I owe you answers to your questions.

Does CMU being the best CS university in the world affect the day to day of the average person in Pittsburgh? For example, the JHU's excellence at Medicine or Clemson at Automobile Engg. defintely seems to affect the economic makeup of their respective cities.

Not unless you live near campus, but I doubt that's the kind of influence you're talking about. I have a friend who works at the robotics lab but his place of employment makes no difference in my life. The so-called city fathers hype up our tech prowess all the time, but I'm guessing that all cities with any kind of tech industry do that, and Pittsburgh is still like 18th in number of tech jobs, so I'm inclined to say that any influence is minimal. The one exception may be in East Liberty; it gets a lot of hype for being recently gentrified and having a Google office near there, but for all the housing they're building I've never heard of anyone actually living there, and normal people don't hype the area up like they do other trendy areas. That's more of a discussion for the installment on East Liberty (there's certainly a lot to unpack there), but off the top of my head I'd guess that all the apartments are rented by techbros without social lives, which is why I haven't heard of anyone wanting to move there.

Does Pittsburgh ever feel like a college town? Upitt + CMU makes for 50k students not that far from downtown.

And Duquesne just outside of Downtown, and Point Park in Downtown, and Carlow right next to Pitt, and you get the idea. So yeah; any remotely trendy part of the East End with decent bus service is going to have a relatively high number of student renters, particularly grad students. I've never heard of any of them wanting to live in East Liberty, though. The only part that feels like an actual college town, though is Oakland, where you're right on campus, but being in the city makes it qualitatively different than if you're in a town that revolves around a huge state school in the middle of nowhere. I'll go into greater detail in the section on Oakland.

I've seen Pittsburgh compared to Seattle wrt weather, hilliness, whiteness and having tech. How fair is the comparison ?

I've never been to Seattle so take my response with a grain of salt, but I think it's reasonably fair. The climates are probably comparably dreary, but here we actually have 4 seasons with hot summers and cold winters. Our climate is mild compared to places like the Rockies and interior New England, but we're quite cold and snowy for a major American city. Culturally, though, I don't think that Seattle has the working class industrial history that gives Pittsburgh its sense of grit. I'd also wager that they're a lot less "ethnic" than we are; everybody here is Catholic and has names like Bob Schlydeki and Larry Deldino and you can still smoke in bars here. People I've know who moved here from Seattle are surprised by the amount of industry that still exists and the fact that working class people actually have accents. Most had assumed that the mills had died completely and that accents were an affectation from television that nobody had anymore.

You're assuming that Trump is actually behind the compilation of these lists. From what I've read, it's all conservative think tanks like the Heritage Foundation that have proven in the past they don't give a shit so much about loyalty to Trump as they do advancing their own agendas. Using these outside lists when he didn't have a clue himself is a big part of what got him in the position he was in during his first term. Asking them to come up with more names isn't going to change that. And competence does matter. At a certain point you're getting less into people whose job consists of making policy decisions and more into the realm of everyday managerial functioning. For instance, say that Trump thinks the ATF's FFL application review process is too strict and wants to make it more liberal, and he fires the guy responsible for this process with a gun nut who's dedicated to making sure practically anyone who applies gets an FFL with minimum hassle. That may be great in theory, but if the guy in question has no clue about how the review process works and ends up bumbling through his job to the point where delay times are so long that applications that would have been a breeze under the old guy are suffering inordinate delays, the exact constituency he's trying to appease isn't going to be very happy. I can just see the article in The Atlantic now: "He thought Trump would make it easier for him to run his gun store; instead it's become a nightmare."

I hate to do this but you did the math wrong in the earlier post. You said:

Presumably the first 1,000 were selected basically at random and showed a 9.5% voting rate among people that had been deemed mentally incompetent and weren't allowed to vote. If that rate held, that would be over 2,000 votes from ineligible, mentally incompetent voters, just in Dane County.

The article says that there are about 22,000 voters on the incompetent list in Wisconsin. A random sample of 1,000 taken showed that 95 people had cast ballots at some point since 2008. Without numbers specific to 2020 there's no way to estimate how many improper votes were cast. That being said, if they want to implement a system to catch this I'm all for it. If they want to prosecute the people who voted illegally, I'm all for it, though going after incompetent people probably isn't a good look.

The same is true for the indefinitely confined. If you want to go after these people that's fine, but you'd better be prepared to investigate all 250,000+ instances and prosecute each one that doesn't meet whatever strict reading you want to give the law. You can't just go into Milwaukee and find a few black people or bleeding heart liberal activists who violated the law and use them as an example of "Democrat voter fraud"; you have to be willing to go into rural areas and ask MAGA hat guys detailed questions about whether Grandma is really indefinitely confined when she still has an active driver's license and was seen at the grocery store walking around the day before submitting her application. That isn't going to sit well with anybody, which is why nobody is ever going to suggest such a thing.

Project 2025 has approximately zero chance of succeeding:

  1. The president is already allowed to appoint approximately 4,000 people to high-level agency positions. At any given time in the Trump Administration, approximately 1200, or about a third, were unfilled. If he can't manage to fill these it's unlikely he's going to fill anywhere from 5 to 50 thousand additional posts.

  2. He's already notoriously bad at picking aides who are loyal to him. He fought with his own cabinet more than any president in recent memory. There's no reason to believe that four years of not having to appoint anyone is somehow going to make him better at this role. This problem is magnified by the fact that most of these positions aren't going to be under his direct supervision, and he'll only know that they don't have the requisite loyalty when a scandal erupts. Not a good look.

  3. If you remove a career bureaucrat and replace him with a political hack, the new guy isn't likely to have an in-depth understanding on how things actually work. Bureaucrat A doesn't do what you want so you replace him with Bureaucrat B. Bureaucrat B is dedicated to doing what you ask, except he isn't well-versed in the Administrative Procedure Act or the various other laws governing the office, and he's essentially starting from scratch. Except there's no time to get up to speed because the president wants this done now, so he ends up doing something that violates the law and the action ends up getting tied up in court for the next six months while the new guy in charge bungles various other duties of the office that were an afterthought under the first guy. Now the president's in the position where he has to fire Bureaucrat B and replace him with another guy who didn't make the cut the last time and is now even more likely to screw things up. Meanwhile guys appointed to non-contentious positions are making their own little messes that just become fodder for your opponents without any political gain. This obviously isn't going to happen every time, but when you're talking about thousands of positions the Venn diagram isn't always going to match up and there's a good chance you find you've appointed a moron.

Prosecuting the Tides foundation isn't going to do much. As a "dark money" organization most people haven't heard of them the way they've heard of the NRA, so the chance that anyone will actually care is low. Furthermore, as a foundation, they don't actually do anything themselves but simply distribute money to other groups. It takes a long time for an advocacy organization like the NRA to build up the donor network and social capital to have the kind of influence they've had. If you're just distributing money, there's plenty of other advocacy organizations that can easily take up that slack.

The biggest problem, though, is that most of the alleged malfeasance on the part of Tides is directed towards liberal advocacy groups who claim they mismanaged money intended for their benefit. For example, they're currently being sued in California by BLM, who claims the group misdirected 33 million in funds that were raised as part of a joint campaign and were supposed to be earmarked. Any other prosecutions are going to be in a similar vein. It's hardly an own of the libs if most libs haven't heard of the group you're prosecuting and the ones who have are likely to be your star witnesses. If BLM ends up siding with the administration it's hardly a good look.

The problem there is that going after voter fraud in a non-grandstanding way means he actually needs to name names and have evidence. You can't just say there was MASSIVE FRAUD in Detroit or wherever; you have to actually say here is a corrupt election official and here's exactly what he did and here's the evidence to prove it. Most of the voter fraud stuff in 2020 was more along the lines of "I don't like the looks of this", which doesn't exactly help you out too much when it comes to a prosecution.

Studying and interacting is much different than expending considerable resources on something, which in turn is much different than waging war or making large economic investments in something. Sure, we spend money on researching things out of curiosity already, but it's not a lot. Numbers are hard to come by, but one figure I saw says we spent about $7.2 billion on botanical research in 2013. However, the context of this figure was talking about money spent on crop science research, and I'd be willing to bet that the money spent on projects like some professor studying rare ferns of Appalachia is much less than what we're spending on more practical applications. If an alien civilization were to visit earth from the distances described, it would be an incredibly costly mission with no guarantee of success. My guess is that if they wanted to study us they'd send unmanned vehicles first, then maybe a small research party like at the beginning of E.T. I highly doubt they'd come here with cargo ships ready to exchange resources for technology, let alone bring an army to mount a full-scale invasion. After all, we've been sending stuff into space for 60 years and we still haven't got past the curiosity stage yet, with the exception of satellites that are within driving distance. We certainly haven't gotten to the point where it makes sense to start mining the moon or something similar, and that's practically right on top of us in astronomical terms.

I'd preface this by saying that since these "powers" were so poorly defined by the OP, speculating about who they'd find acceptable seems kind of pointless, since any discussion can elicit a response of "no, the powers aren't like that". Anyway, I'm going to proceed on the assumption that these mysterious overlords are left-leaning but not too far left, avatars for the man they're actually trying to keep in the White House. Which I guess makes me one of them, though I'm opposed to assassination and, in any event wouldn't know where to start, but I'll nonetheless use this as license to consider myself somewhat of an expert, especially since most of the people in my social circle are of roughly the same opinion.

Desantis was a credible Bogeyman two years ago but his absolute inability to outmaneuver Trump has rendered him impotent in the eyes of the Powers. And in the eyes of Trump supporters he's totally disloyal and probably a cuck, too for taking abuse from Trump and not bothering to fight back. Desantis's main advantages over Trump were that he was supposedly more competent and that he was actually willing to fight rather than get involved in messy political disputes. His campaign showed that he was totally uncharismatic and couldn't run a national campaign to save his own life, allowing also-rans like Nikki Haley to run circles around him. And he his profound unwillingness to attack Trump, even in the face of his abuse, didn't exactly project the image of a fighter. He's a guy most lefty Democrats would reflexively dislike and bitch about for his policy positions, but he isn't the kind of guy whom anyone would be concerned about the country over. If Trump, as charismatic as he is, was unable to cow the governmental apparatus into bending to his will, then Desantis sure as hell isn't a threat. He's also too much of a traditional Republican at heart to make any serious changes. He'll talk about ending woke but when he realizes that there isn't much he can do about it he'll just shift to enacting more tax cuts. PLus, the guy does have actual executive experience running a large state.

As for Youngkin, I've never met a Democrat who has strong feelings about the guy. I don't live in Virginia, but outside of there the man comes across to most Democrats as as somewhat moderate, the kind of Republican who can actually win a statewide election in Virginia. While he wouldn't be as acceptable as a guy like Phil Scott, he's not exactly the MAGA menace Republicans would need to nominate to really scare the lefties. For Trump to be assassination-proof his putative successor would have to be someone like MTG or Boebert, and there's no way in hell that's happening. And if it somehow did happen, there's no way someone like that is defeating an incumbent. And even if someone like that did beat Biden in the general, it would pose no real threat to any powers that be because these people are totally incompetent and more interested in soundbites than government.

This is totally anecdotal but it proves my point. A friend of mine has a winter house in Boebert's district in Colorado. Being in the West, there's some local water authority, basically a citizens group, that relies on the local rep to get Federal funding for their operating budget. This isn't exactly controversial politically, but they have to meet with the rep every year to go over the budget and whatnot so the rep knows how much to ask for and can justify the number if pressed. First, instead of attending the board meeting, Boebert wanted to do it over the phone for no plausible reason other than that she was too lazy to attend. Okay, whatever, but when she's on the phone it's clear to everyone involved that she wasn't actually listening. When she asks for clarification of something that she should have understood had she been paying attention, it's clear to them that she's either a complete moron or has such a short attention span that she can't even listen to the answers to questions she asked (Which weren't pointed clarifications of someone involved but simply asking them to repeat what they just said). Then she terminated the meeting early by actually telling them it was boring. These aren't the kind of people who are going to make any significant change if in the White House.

If these mysterious powers that be really don't want Trump to be president to the point that they're willing to assassinate him, and we presume they have the ability to pull it off, why wait until he gets elected? Anyone even more odious than Trump is probably someone who has even less chance of getting elected — and none of the personality cult — than he does, so why not do it now? Especially since the security of a sitting president is almost certainly much tighter than whatever he's getting now. We've never had a major party candidate drop dead during an election season before, so it's uncharted territory how much of a shit show it could turn into trying to find another nominee on short notice. The veep is the obvious choice, but I'd be willing to bet that the actual primary candidates will feel like they deserve a shot since they actually got votes at the convention and Trump's pick was only for vice. Or hell, do it now while there are still primaries to go and Haley is still on the ballot. She may have a better shot of beating Biden in the general but four years of her are certainly better than four years of Trump. Why even give the guy a chance if you don't have to?

I agree with most of what you said, but aren't you an American expat living in London? There seems something a bit off about someone in your position saying that immigration restrictions are the only thing that matters.

Calling Cliff Asness a "lifelong Democrat" is disingenuous at the very least. I used to keep CNBC on as background noise when I was in law school and his name rings a bell as the guy who was complaining that one or another of Obama's bailouts was too friendly to workers and not friendly enough to hedge fund billionaires such as himself. Some further internet research shows he was a Rubio supporter in 2016 and a Haley supporter more recently. I don't know what the details of his voter registration are, but he definitely comes across more as one of those never Trump conservatives who Republicans spent the last 8 years assuring us were electorally irrelevant.

I just spent all day defending large companies in products liability actions, and I'll do the same thing tomorrow, etc. I don't have the time or the inclination right now to give a crash course on how personal injury litigation actually works, but suffice it to say that the jury is irrelevant. We often bring it up but it's more of a theoretical construct than a real thing, because there's no way in hell a case actually goes to trial unless things go significantly off the rails. Damages in a case aren't related in any way to coverage limits or how deep the defendant's pockets are. The damages usually aren't even alleged and when we're evaluating cases are projected awards are just estimates. But no one wants to go to trial; these things settle. Plaintiffs' lawyers, as I said earlier, have to work for free until the case is resolved. The plaintiffs themselves don't want to wait, either, and their engagement agreements require them to accept any reasonable offer. Most of the work involved in a case is less legal razzle-dazzle and more going through the evidence systematically to determine an appropriate amount for settlement negotiations. The idea of a rainmaker gunning for a huge verdict is something more out of a John Grisham novel than the reality of day to day lawyering. There are some Plaintiffs' attorneys who are like that, but they tend to get shitty cases that it quickly becomes apparent aren't even worth trying for a big score; they usually end up just taking whatever we offer them. Some are more aggressive than others, but they're all pragmatic. They have businesses to operate, and they can't afford to throw 200 grand into a holein the hope that it turns into a big score. Any Plaintiff's lawyer working on contingency needs a war chest, and it's much easier and better for their clients to make sure they get a fair settlement then to burn through all their operating capital in search of a huge payday. There's also the added wrinkle that most jurisdictions now have mandatory settlement conferences with the judge; judges in general aren't necessarily averse to trials, but they don't like it when the parties can't settle straightforward cases with no major issues. If one party is intransigent, they aren't getting any help there. As for the insurance companies, they're durable. They survived asbestos, where they're still paying millions of dollars a year on decades-old general liability policies that had low premiums to begin with. They survived countless natural disasters where everyone in a large metro suddenly needs a new car or house at once. They'll survive self-driving cars just fine.

One caveat I'd add is that this is, of course, dependent on self0driving cars being as good as if not better than human drivers are overall. If they're not that good then they'll never be able to market them in such a way that will absolve the driver from any responsibility. Despite recent gains, I'm skeptical that they'll ever get that good in our lifetimes, in which case this exchange is pure navel gazing. But if they do, I don't think liability is going to be a huge issue.

The part you're forgetting is that if Ford has to insure against all those accidents then the driver doesn't. The up front cost to the consumer may be more, but it's effectively prepaying an insurance policy that lasts the life of the vehicle. Whether or not you're actually coming out ahead depends on specific numbers, but as long as they're somewhere in the ballpark of what you'd spend on insurance then it's a question of how much you value self-driving capability, which is already enough of an advantage that people would be willing to pay a steep premium.

As a products liability lawyer, I can tell you that insurance coverage is a lot more complicated than that. Any hypothetical policy would base the premiums on the number of vehicles sold. If there's a defect that results in injury, only a small percentage of the affected vehicles are going to result in claims, and only a small percentage of the total claims are going to involve huge losses. Huge verdicts only result when the insurance companies are adamant that there is no liability and are looking to get out from under it. Once it's clear there's liability (and often not even then), they'll settle claims at standard rates. You may get a couple of eye popping verdicts but these won't become a normal thing. No Plaintiff's lawyer is going to spend 100k+ taking a contingency case to trial chasing a verdict that's likely to bankrupt the company and leave him and his client waiting 5 years in the unsecured creditor line in a Chapter 11 hoping they can recover a percentage of the original verdict. Better to take the cash now.

You're assuming the car companies are the ones footing the bill. They buy insurance for things like this, and the premiums reflect the risk and the average settlement value. This is how every company manages risk, including the car companies, who already get sued in product liability actions. Unless the risks are so high that they effectively become uninsurable, the cost of the insurance will just be reflected in the price of the vehicle. And if they are uninsurable, then self-driving cars are probably too dangerous to be marketed as such anyway. I would mention that I say this as someone who is skeptical that full self driving will be available in his lifetime.

I don't know that any of these are great examples. Let's approach them individually:

Pregnant Worker's Fairness Act

It's a bit academic, but it should be noted that the EEOC doesn't actually have Title VII rulemaking authority. The "rules" they promulgate are merely interpretive documents that inform businesses on how to comply and inform courts on the agency's interpretation. The courts themselves are only bound to follow EEOC guidance if it's "reasonable". Now, there are decisions out there that say that courts can't just wave these away and should give the agency deference, so there's a pretty big hurdle to overcome if you want to go against this guidance, and it gets pretty complicated here, but suffice it to say that courts aren't bound by these rules the same as they would if they were promulgated by an agency that actually had rulemaking authority. It should also be noted that the EEOC still has to follow the APA when it comes to procedural matters in promulgation (like notice and comment), so this lack of authority doesn't exactly make it easy for them to run wild.

As far as the actual rule is concerned, it's hard to say from a Republican perspective what the EEOC should have actually done. Saying outright that the law didn't apply to abortion would have created a situation where the EEOC guidance was directly at-odds with any reasonable canon of legislative interpretation; I don't think any textualist could argue with a straight face that abortions aren't pregnancy-related. Saying nothing about the matter isn't an option either. Since they're still bound by the APA, they have to address the comments they received, and they received plenty of comments about abortion. And even if they could have just omitted the abortion section, all that really does is kick the can down the road for when a court actually has to decide the matter, and it's unlikely that any but the staunchest anti-abortion judge would rule that abortions aren't related to pregnancy.

But that's all irrelevant because it's unlikely that this rule (or lack thereof) would ever result in litigation. The rules pretty clearly state that the effect of this guidance is that an employer is required to give a woman leave (paid or unpaid) to receive an abortion. While this seems like raw culture war bait, the reality is that, excepting for circumstances where someone is trying to rub it in an employer's face, no one is specifically asking for time off to get an abortion. I've personally never had an employer ask about the nature of any medical procedure I've taken time off to get, or had them ask me which doctor I was going to, and if a doctor's excuse is required, I doubt many employers are going to do internet research to determine if this is a doctor who exclusively performs abortions. Employers generally aren't allowed to ask employees about medical conditions that aren't work-related, except to verify leave, although as long as a doctor confirms that the absence is for a medical reason they can't really inquire further. And I doubt they would, since hunting for people who are getting abortions means, practically speaking, that they'd have to investigate every employee's medical leave, which I doubt any really want to do. There may be some unlikely confluence of factors where this could become a real issue, but I doubt it. Most women seeking abortions aren't going to tell their employers that they need time off specifically to get one.

If Republicans felt that strongly of this, they would have sought to get specific language into the bill. They didn't, and complaining about this is just them getting hoisted by their own petard given the electoral consequences involved.

FFLs When the entire point of specific statutory language is to expand a definition, you can't complain too loudly when that definition gets expanded. If you had sole rulemaking authority with regards to this, how would you expand the definition to conform with the new law without simply restating the old definition? I'm sure you can think of a dozen ways that this could be done, but that's beside the point. The point is that someone has to come up with these definitions and they have to conform with the statutory language without being overbroad. But that's tricky. The problem here is that there are two basic categories that are uncontroversial. One is the people who are actually running gun stores who need FFLs for legitimate business purposes. The other is people who simply have a gun they don't want anymore and want to sell it. But there's a third category of people we've talked about before who the government really doesn't like — people who want to sell guns part-time or as a hobby. You mentioned in a previous post how the ATF no longer will issue FFLs for hobbyists. You can disagree with that stance all you want, but it seems to me that Congress agrees with that and that was the specific intent behind the change in language. Now it's up to the ATF to flesh out that definition to cover the myriad circumstances in which someone might be selling guns "for profit". And that's hard! The problem as I see it doesn't stem so much from the law itself or ATF's interpretation of it but that there is a group of people for whom any further restrictions on gun sales is bad and needs to be stopped. They simply aren't arguing that the law was a good idea but ATF bungled the implementation; they're arguing that the law was a bad idea to begin with and using the ATF's interpretation as proof. But those are two separate arguments.

FACE Act It's telling that this law has only become controversial in recent years, after the Biden Administration used it aggressively in the wake of Dobbs. For the first 30 or so years of its existence, the fact that it was never used in cases of church vandalism was never an issue. At least not enough of an issue for 2 Republican presidents to invoke it in 12 years, one of whom was devoutly religious and the other of whom was devoutly into culture warring. It's also telling that the act also allows for private enforcement via a civil cause of action that few parties seem bothered to sue under. That being said, anti-abortion protestors necessarily do most of their work when the place is open and in full view of the public. Most of the church vandalism was done at night by people who actually disguised themselves. One type of crime is much easier to investigate than the other.

Of course, that doesn't really apply to the Nota case, because the perpetrator was caught in the act. But it doesn't compare to the Houck case, at least if you actually look at the procedural posture. The information in the Nota case was filed the day before the plea was entered. This itself was several months after the incident. What this suggests was that this was already a done deal by the time it was even on the court's docket; for all we know, the prosecutor could have threatened to throw the book at Nota before offering a misdemeanor charge and a sentencing recommendation as a lifeline. Houck, on the other hand, was found not guilty by a jury. For all we know he could have been offered the same deal as Nota but turned it down; I'd be surprised to say the least, if there was no deal offered at all.

Any activity level can cause unexpected injury; all it takes is to move something the wrong way. There was a period of time when I was riding my bike about 25 miles a day after work, and 50 to 80 miles on the weekends, and I ended up throwing my neck out while reaching for a drink on the top shelf of a convenience store cooler. If you're repeatedly injuring yourself in the same way after doing the same thing, then I'd stop to reassess my plans or seek professional instruction, but one-off injuries are par for the course for reasonably active people. It's probably more of an "I moved something the wrong way" injury than an overuse injury.

He's not going to send in troops in any year, because there are already other enforcement mechanisms built into the law. The most obvious consequence would be that Texas loses Federal education funding, which is a hug deal because education funding accounts for about 20% of all Federal money Texas receives, and the state school system — which is already among the lowest-spending in the country — is already facing cuts now that the COVID stimulus is gone and the state legislature can't agree on how to pay for the shortfall. This won't happen immediately, though; my guess is that someone will file a lawsuit and enforcement will be dependent on a favorable court ruling, which won't come until well after the election. The real question is whether Abbott will be willing to enforce his own edict. State schools will be caught between a rock and a hard place if compliance with one law comes down to breaking another. Biden has the luxury of time, but if a school decides to do what they want to do then Abbott has some tough decisions to make.

How far are you willing to take this, though? See what they're talking about in San Francisco relating to preventing grocery store closures due to "food deserts" and "underserved communities". Ensuring access to food is more important than ensuring that porn companies maximize their revenue (after all, they can still sell magazines and DVDs). I don't see how you can set a reasonable standard without opening the door to further regulation.

The issue isn't that they were doing their own preg checks, it's that they were operating and advertising a business that did it for other people for a fee. You can write your own will, for instance, but if you write wills for other people it's the unauthorized practice of law. Now, we can make the argument that that requiring a vet to do this is both unnecessary and outside the bounds of the statute, but there are two general problems I forsee with that.

The first is that the introduction of technology makes a lot of things that used to be the domain of trained professionals increasingly accessible to the general public. Take land surveying. Anyone of average intelligence can pull a deed from the courthouse, buy pro-grade survey equipment, and locate a pin, which is probably enough to do the trick if you're trying to see where you can put up a fence on your own property. But the field is deceptively complicated, and when the same guy decides to go into business for himself as a surveyor with no more training than basic YouTube tutorials, he's asking for trouble. The second problem is that most professional fields are so varied that it's impossible to define every specific thing one needs a license to do. The legislature can't run back into session every time someone comes up with a new medical procedure to make sure that you need a license to do it.

As for specific problems with allowing unlicensed people to do preg checks as a business, I can't comment on because I don't know anything about vet science. But if this is something that's plausible then the solution is to lobby the state legislature to clarify the law to specifically allow it; God knows the farm lobby in PA is powerful enough to make it happen if there's that much of a call for it and the only real opposition is from vets that don't like it. But the solution isn't to start a business doing it and ignore the state when they tell you to stop.

I don't think China is going to stop selling to the US just because they might integrate the materials into weapons that will be sent to Ukraine. China is pro Russian, but not that pro Russian.

People really need to quit with the whole "land acknowledgment" thing. According to a professor friend of mine, it's fairly common in the world of academia for things like panel discussions to open with them. Because they're not giving the land back, it's almost like they're rubbing their faces in it. It reminds me of the part in the Always Sunny in Philadelphia Christmas special where Mac learns that all his childhood Christmas gifts were stolen, so they take his robot toy to one of his old friends to apologize, but they don't give it back. And he says "so you brought something that you stole from me just to show it to me?"

Pittsburgh: An Urban Portrait

For a while I've wanted to do a comprehensive survey of a city to examine it in terms of urbanism and the principles of what make a place a good place to live. In particular, I want to examine what makes certain places "trendy", and what causes some neighborhoods to gentrify while others stagnate or even decline. Most examinations of the urban environment are merely case-studies of a few neighborhoods that have seen change in the past several decades, for better or worse. But I think that those kinds of studies, while instructive, miss the big picture. Most cities are composed of dozens of neighborhoods, each with its own story and its own potential, and most are simply forgotten about. I've selected Pittsburgh for this exercise, for the simple reason that I live here and can talk about it as an insider rather than someone relying on news reports. You can talk statistics until the end of time, but the only way to properly evaluate a place is if you have a pulse on what the common perception of it is from those who are familiar with it. Before I get to the neighborhoods themselves, though, I want to give some preliminary information about the city so those who are unfamiliar (i.e. almost everyone here) can get the view from 10,000 feet. It also gives me the opportunity to present a few general themes that I've noticed during the months I spent researching this project. Note to mods: A lot of this survey will touch on a number of culture war items like crime, homelessness, housing, density, traffic patterns, etc. For that reason, I'm posting this in the culture war thread for now. That being said, there will be large sections where I look at nondescript parts of the city where I expect the discussion to be more anodyne, and I don't want to be hogging the bandwidth of this thread, especially in the unlikely event that I can crank out more than one of these per week. I can't really anticipate in advance what's most appropriate where, but I'd prefer to post these as stand-alone threads once I get past this initial post. If the mods have a preference for where I post these, I'll adhere to that.

I. The Setting Pittsburgh exists in a kind of no-man's land. It's technically in the Northeast, but people from New York, Philadelphia, and the like insist that it's actually more Midwestern. They may have a point; we're six hours from the nearest ocean, and the Appalachian Mountains are a significant barrier to transportation and development. No megalopolis will ever develop between Pittsburgh and Philly, and we're much closer to places like Cleveland and Columbus. We're also not assholes. That being said, nobody here thinks of themself as Midwestern. First, it's possibly the least flat major city in the US. Second, most Midwestern cities act as quasi-satellites of Chicago in the way that Pittsburgh simply doesn't. Additionally, being in the same state as Philadelphia makes us much closer politically and economically to that area than we are to places that may be closer geographically. Some people try to split the difference and say that Pittsburgh is an Appalachian city, but this isn't entirely correct, either; Pittsburgh is at the northern end of what can plausibly be called Appalachia, and is a world away from the culture of places like East Tennessee. There are close ties to West Virginia, but these are more due to proximity than anything else; for most of that state, Pittsburgh is the closest major city of any significance, which is reflected in things like sports team affiliation. And the Northern Panhandle (and associated part of Ohio) is practically an exurb of Pittsburgh, with a similar development pattern around heavy industry. But for the most part, West Virginia swings toward us rather than us swinging toward them.

The physical landscape can best be described as extremely hilly. For reference, I describe a "hill" as any eminence that rises less than about 700–1000 feet above the surrounding valley, with anything in that range or higher being a mountain. The area is built on a plateau that has been heavily dissected by erosion. Relief is low to moderate, ranging from about 200 feet in upland areas to 400 feet in the river valleys. The natural history results in an area where the hilltops are all roughly the same height, about 1200–1300 feet above sea level, while the valleys range from a low of 715 feet at the point to about 900–1000 feet at the headwaters of the streams. And there are streams everywhere. The most prominent ones are the three rivers (the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio), but there are innumerable creeks that spiderweb across the landscape. The upshot is that flat land is rare around here, and traditional patterns of urban development are difficult to impossible. Most people live on hillsides since the little flat land available is often in floodplains. Roads are windy and difficult to navigate; you may miss a turn and think that if you make the next turn you'll eventually wind up where you want to be. Instead, you find yourself winding down a long hill and end up in one of three places: In view of Downtown from an angle you've never seen before, at the junction with a state highway whose number you've never heard of, or in West Virginia.

What this means for the urban environment is that neighborhoods are more distinct than they are in other cities. While flat cities have neighborhoods that blend into one another seamlessly, Pittsburgh's are often clearly delineated, with obvious boundaries. The city is defined by its topography. One advantage of this is that a lot of the land is simply too steep to be buildable, even taking into consideration that half the houses are already built on land that one would presume is too steep to be buildable. The result is a lot of green space. Another advantage is that it means you get views like this from ground level. The actual green space itself is typical of a temperate deciduous forest, but with a couple of caveats — there's plenty of red maple, sugar maple, red oak, white oak, black cherry, black walnut, and other similar species, but not as much beech as you'd see in areas further north, and not as much hickory as you'd see in areas further south. There are conifers but most of them are planted landscaping trees. White pine and eastern hemlock are native to the area, but they're much more common in the mountains to the east. I should also note that the topography means that there are some weird corners of the city that have an almost backwoods hillbilly feel.

II. The Region

I'd describe the larger region as a series of concentric rings. First is the city proper, which is small for a city of its size. While that seems like a tautology, what I mean is that the actual city limits are, well, limited, giving the city itself a proportionately low population compared to the total metro area. This is because PA state law changes in the early 20th century made it difficult for the city to annex additional territory. The result is that the boundaries were fixed relatively early in the era when America was urbanizing rapidly, and only sporadic additions were made thereafter. The next ring would be what I call the urban core. This is the area where the density and age of the housing gives what are technically suburbs a more urban feel than traditional suburbs; in many cases, these suburbs feel more urban than the later-developed parts of the city proper. These would include typical inner-ring streetcar suburbs, though Pittsburgh has fewer of these than most cities of its size. Most of the areas thus described are towns that developed as the result of industrial concerns, or suburbs of such towns. These are most prominent to the city's immediate east, and also include the innumerable river towns in the river valleys. These towns extend along the rivers for a considerable distance, but there's an area close to the city where they form an unbroken geographic mass. If not for limitations on expansion, they would likely be part of the city itself.

Next, we obviously have the true suburbs, by which I mean areas that developed after World War II but still revolve around Pittsburgh more than a regional satellite. Then we have the exurbs, which I define as areas that are developed, but more sporadically, and are often revolve around a satellite county seat rather than Pittsburgh itself. This is the area where couples looking for an extended date will get a hotel in the city for the weekend (My family makes fun of my brother for doing this because he lives in one of these areas but always insists that he's close. Nevermind that it would be ridiculous for any of us to get a hotel room in Pittsburgh if we weren't planning on getting seriously wasted.) Finally, we have the much broader greater co-prosperity sphere, which is roughly everywhere that falls within Pittsburgh's general influence, be it rooting for sports teams to being the destination when you need to go to a hospital that isn't crappy.

III. History I'll try to make this as quick as possible, since there are obviously better, more comprehensive sources for people who want more than a cursory review. The city was ostensibly founded when the British drove out the French during the French and Indian War and established Fort Pitt. The war began largely as a contest between the British and the French for control over the Ohio Valley, a vital link between the interior northeast and the Mississippi River. The site of Pittsburgh was particularly strategic, as it was at the confluence of two navigable rivers. The surrounding hills were rich in coal; combine this with the favorable river network, and the location was perfect for the nation's burgeoning iron and steel industry. This new wave of prosperity attracted waves of immigrants from Italy and Eastern Europe, who later came to define the region. A number of satellite industries developed as well, including glass (PPG), aluminum (Alcoa), chemicals (Koppers, PPG), electrical products (Westinghouse), natural gas (EQT), etc. Pittsburgh's place as an industrial powerhouse continued until the triple whammy of the energy crisis, inflation, and the Reagan recession sparked a wave of deindustrialization that turned America's Rhineland into the Rust Belt. By the '90s the region was bleeding jobs, and much of the working-age population decamped for the Sun Belt. The outright population loss has stabilized in recent years, but the region is still slowly losing population.

The odd thing about this, though, is that in 1985, at what should have been the city's nadir, it started ranking high on the "liveability" lists that were becoming popular. The city had been making a concerted effort to reduce pollution since the '50s, and by the early 2000s it had become a bit of a trendy place to live. I don't want to speculate too much on why this is, but I think there are a few factors at play. First, the crime is low for a rust belt city; there aren't too many really bad areas, and the ones that exist are small and isolated. What this means is that there is a certain freedom of movement that you don't have in other Rust Belt cities like Cleveland or Detroit with large swathes of ghetto. Even in the worst areas, the only time you might find yourself in trouble is if you visit one both at night and on foot. Even the worst areas are fine to walk around in the daytime and I wouldn't worry about driving through anywhere, which is more than I can say about friends of mine's experiences in Cleveland or Chicago. Second, the housing stock is more East Coast than Midwest. Many of the neighborhoods have architectural character, as opposed to other Rust Belt cities that are nothing but rows of nearly identical derelict frame houses (though we have plenty of those, too). Third, the housing is actually affordable. People have been bitching in recent years about significant price increases, but it's still nowhere near the level the major East Coast cities or the trendy western cities. Years ago I met a girl who moved here from New York because she wanted to live in a brick row house but it was simply unattainable where she was. She looked at Baltimore and Philadelphia, which are true row house cities, but the ones she could afford were all in the endless expanses of ghetto. In Pittsburgh, meanwhile, you could snatch a renovated nee in a good area up for well under $200k, and rehabs were being sold for under $50k. You aren't getting them for anywhere near that now, but $500k gets you a nice house in the city, and if you want to do the suburbs you pretty much have your pick of 4BR 2000 square foot homes in excellent school districts. Finally, the outdoor recreation is better than you're going to get in a city of comparable size or larger anywhere east of Denver, and the hotspots don't get the crowds that the western areas do. In the Northeast you have to drive a lot father to get anywhere, and the places are busier. In the Midwest the cities are surrounded by corn, and the areas worth visiting are few and far between. In Pittsburgh, the mountains are only about an hour away, and the general area is hilly enough and forested enough that a typical county park has better hiking than anything within driving distance of Chicago. The mountain biking and whitewater are nonpareil, and that's still a secret to most locals.

I've gone a bit off track here, but I want to make one general observation that I've noticed when studying the history of the city: Everything changes all the time, and there are no meta-narratives. The first statement may seem obvious, but when discussing urban dynamics, people often act like there was some golden era where everything was in stasis, and if we're still in that era then any change is bad and disruptive, and if we're not in that era then any change should be aiming to get back to that era. The meta-narrative is simpler: American cities developed in the 19th century, and grew rapidly during the industrialization in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This was largely due to high immigration. Few had cars, so people needed to live close to where they worked, and public transit networks were robust. Blacks lived in segregated neighborhoods, and this was a problem. After The War, people started moving to the suburbs, a process which was hasted by not wanting to live alongside black people, who were gradually getting better access to housing. This white-flight drained cities of their economic base, and the new suburban commuters demanded better car access to the city core. Once decent neighborhoods were turning into black ghettos. The response of municipal leaders was to engage in a number of ill-advised "urban renewal" projects that which were blatant attempts to lure white people back into the city by resegregating the blacks into housing projects so they could build white elephant projects and superhighways. Then in the 90s hipsters were invented and they looked longingly at the urban lifestyle. Hip artist types moved into ghettos because they liked the old architecture, could afford the rent, and were too cool racially to be concerned about black crime. Some of them opened small businesses and white people started visiting these businesses, and the neighborhood became a cool place to live. By 2010, though, that neighborhood was expensive and all the cool spots were replaced by tony bars and chain stores and all the bohemes had to find another neighborhood. Meanwhile, the poor blacks who lived here before the hipsters showed up started complaining about being displaced from their homes, and now the same hipsters who "gentrified" the neighborhood are concerned about the effects of reinvestment on long-time residents.

This narrative probably fits somewhere, but the reality is often more complicated. One common refrain I heard from older people in the '90s was "neighborhood x used to be a nice place to live and now it's a terrible slum". Usually, the old person in question was the child of an immigrant who grew up in the neighborhood but decamped to the suburbs in the '50s. She'd return regularly to visit her parents, and watch what she saw as the decline of the neighborhood firsthand. The problem with this is that most of the neighborhoods I heard people talk about like this growing up were always slums. The only thing that changed about them was that they got blacker and don't have the business districts that they once did. Second, in Pittsburgh at least, the changing demographics in some neighborhoods is more in relative terms than in absolute ones. While some places did see an increase in the black population in the second half of the 20th century, most places did not. Before World War 2, Pittsburgh only had one truly black neighborhood, and even that was more diverse than one would expect. Blacks normally lived in racially mixed neighborhoods alongside Italians, Poles, Jews, etc. of similar economic standing. The changing demographics were oftentimes caused more by whites leaving than blacks moving in. It's also worth noting that some areas went downhill long before any of the factors cited in the meta-narrative really kicked in. People tend to be ignorant of urban dynamics in the first half of the 20th Century, which is viewed as this juggernaut of urban growth. No one considers that a neighborhood might have peaked in 1910 and gone into decline thereafter, because the meta-narrative doesn't allow for it. But in Pittsburgh, I see these sorts of things time and time again.

IV. The Housing Stock I mentioned housing stock in the last section, but I want to go into a bit more detail here because it's important when evaluating a neighborhood's potential for future growth. When Pittsburgh was first settled, most of the housing was simple frame stock. Most of this is gone, but, contrary to what one might think, the little that's left isn't particularly desirable. These houses tend to be small and in bad condition, essentially old farmhouses from when most of the current city was rural. Later in the 19th century, brick row houses were built in the neighborhoods that were relatively flat lowlands. Almost every row house neighborhood in the city is desirable, as these neighborhoods have a dense, urban feel. It should be noted, though, that through most of the 20th century this was housing for poor people, as most middle-class and above felt these were outdated.

Also from around this time is the Pittsburgh mill house. These are similar to what you'd find in most Rust Belt cities, and are proof that not all old housing has "character". These were houses built on the cheap and have often been extensively remuddled to keep them habitable. Most of these in the city aren’t exactly true mill houses, as they weren’t built by steel companies as employee housing, but most 19th and early 20th century frame houses fit the same mold. These were mostly built on hillsides and hilltops where building row houses was impractical. Not a particularly desirable style.

Combining the two is the frame row. These were built during a period in the early 20th Century when the area was experiencing a brick shortage. They aren't as desirable as brick rows but still have more cachet than mill houses, although the purpose for which they were built is similar. Most of these were remuddled at some point (by this I mean things like plaster walls torn out in favor of wood paneling and drop ceilings, window frames modified to fit different sizes, wood siding replaced with aluminum siding or Inselbric, awnings, etc.). By the 1920s and 1930s, the classic streetcar suburban style took over. These include things like foursquares and bungalows, the kind of stuff you see in old Sears catalogs. The brick shortage had ended by this period and the houses were larger and better-appointed, making them popular for middle-class areas. The remuddling on these was limited, and they’re highly desirable. After the war, more suburban styles took over, though by this point the city limits were mostly built-out so they aren’t as common as other styles. Most of the suburban stuff was built during the first decade after the war in odd parts of the city that were too isolated to have been developed earlier, though a fair deal was built in neighborhoods that were rapidly declining into ghetto in an attempt at stabilization. There’s nothing wrong with these houses in and of themselves, but they aren’t particularly desirable, as this is exactly the kind of development urbanists hate most.

There are obviously other styles, but the rest of the housing is either multi-family or infill housing that may or may not have been built with consideration given to the vibe of the existing neighborhood. The city has gotten better in recent years about building new houses to match what’s already there, but there are plenty of hideous miscues out there.

V. Neighborhood Dynamics

Pittsburgh is roughly divided into four geographic quadrants, based on the points of the compass. The East End roughly includes anything between the Monongahela and Allegheny rivers, and is where most of the trendy neighborhoods are. The North Side is anything north of the Allegheny; the neighborhoods in the flat plain along the river are mostly desirable, if less obnoxiously trendy. The South Hills are roughly everything south of the Monongahela; most of it isn’t trendy at all. The West End is everything south of the Ohio, and is beyond not trendy; it’s basically terra incognita to most Pittsburghers, as the neighborhoods are boring and obscure.

Pittsburgh officially recognizes 90 distinct neighborhoods, but the official geography isn’t entirely accurate. First, the official boundaries are based on census tracts that don’t always line up neatly with a neighborhood’s generally-accepted boundaries. Second, there are a number of bogus or semi-bogus neighborhood designations. Large neighborhoods are often split up into smaller geographic divisions (e.g. North Haverbrook, South Haverbrook, etc.) that may or may not line up with the way people actually talk. Conversely, some neighborhoods include areas that everyone treats as distinct neighborhoods but are officially unrecognized. Some neighborhoods had their names changed because the residents didn’t want to be associated with a declining part of the neighborhood; in some cases these new names caught on but other times they didn’t. For this project, I will be discussing the neighborhoods based on what makes sense to me based on having lived here all my life and knowing how people actually treat the matter. When necessary, I will use historic designations that don’t necessarily match up with the official maps, but this is rare. I will always make reference to the official designations to avoid confusion for those following along at home.

As I was examining the neighborhoods in detail in preparation for this project, a few things jumped out at me with regard to gentrification, stability, and decline. First, a gentrifying neighborhood needs a relatively intact business district. This could be nothing more than boarded up storefronts, but the physical structures need to be there; there has to be some indication that the place has potential, and it’s much easier for businesses to move in when they don’t have to build. Some depressed areas lost practically their entire business districts to blight, while others never really had a business district to begin with. This second scenario decreases the chances of gentrification even further, as there is often no logical place to even put a business district. The presence of a business district is important for two reasons. First, walkability is a huge selling point for people who want to live in a city as opposed to suburbs, and an area that’s dense but unwalkable is the worst of both worlds. Second, neglected neighborhoods don’t get “on the map”, so to speak, unless there’s something to draw in outsiders. Related to the above, there are two general kinds of businesses that can occupy a business district. The first are what I call Functional Businesses — grocery stores, dry cleaners, corner bars, banks, professional offices, hardware stores, etc. The second are Destination Businesses — restaurants, breweries, boutiques, trendy bars, specialty stores, performance venues, and other miscellaneous stuff that will actually draw people in from outside the neighborhood. There's obviously a continuum here, as, for example, a coffee shop could be either depending on how much it distinguishes itself, but you get the idea. Both are essential for a neighborhood to fully take off. There are plenty of areas with perfectly functional business districts that don’t get a second look because there’s no reason for anyone who doesn’t already live there to go there. But if a neighborhood consists exclusively of destination businesses then it will feel more like a tourist area than a real neighborhood; it’s a hard sell for someone to move to a place where they can get artisanal vinegar but not a can of baked beans. Often, the presence of a robust functional business district will stymie a neighborhood’s potential for gentrification. One thing I’ve noticed is that destination businesses rarely replace functional businesses, usually moving into abandoned storefronts or replacing other destination businesses. Functional businesses just sort of exist and don’t move out until the neighborhood has declined past the point of no return.

As I mentioned in the previous section, housing stock is another major contributor to gentrification potential. Urban pioneers have to look at a neglected neighborhood and see the potential to return to a faded glory. Houses that are worth restoring, not dumps that should have been torn down ages ago. The one exception to this is the spillover factor; if a neighborhood with bad housing stock is close to other gentrified neighborhoods that have great amenities but have become too expensive, nearby neighborhoods will get a boost from this, especially if they have intact business districts.

On the other side of the equation, decline follows displacement. The story of declining neighborhoods in Pittsburgh follows a pattern. First, in the 1950s and 1960s, civic visionaries sought to clear slums by replacing them with ambitious public works projects. Forced out of their homes, the residents of these slums needed somewhere to go, and moved to working class neighborhoods that were already in a state of instability, if not minor decline. (It should be noted that slum clearance was much rarer in Pittsburgh than in other cities, though some wounds still run deep). More recently, the city has demolished public housing projects that had become crime-ridden hellholes, but their problems only spilled out into low-rent, working class neighborhoods. What results is a game of whack-a-mole, where revitalization of one area simply leads to the decline of another. That’s why I’ve been less critical of low-income set-asides than I was in the past. I used to be totally free market on the housing issue, but it seems like an inflexible standard only ensures that poverty will remain concentrated, which does little to improve the situation of the poor. Section 8 was supposed to address this problem by getting people out of public housing hellholes and into regular neighborhoods, but it’s only worth it for slumlords in declining areas to accept the vouchers, and the result is that entire neighborhoods go Section 8. I grant that it’s better than things were previously, but I think things could be better still if we agreed that every neighborhood was going to subsidize the housing of a certain number of poor people. That way we can at least make it so the honest, hard working people don’t suffer unnecessarily, and the kids grow up in a more positive social environment. Maybe I’m being too idealistic, but it seems better than any of the existing alternatives.

Finally, a brief note on stability. Stable middle-class or working-class areas tend to be boring areas that are too far away from bad areas for any spillover or displacement to affect them. There may be some long-term factors that may lead to their eventual demise, but there are no obvious causes for concern. The flip side is that as much as some of these places have been touted as the next big thing, the same factors that keep them from going down also keep them from going up. One factor playing into this is the number of owner-occupied houses and long-term rentals. New residents, whatever their economic condition, simply can’t move into a neighborhood if there are few rentals and little turnover in ownership.

VI. The Neighborhood Grading Rubric

The initial goal for this project was to discuss what the future holds for these neighborhoods, and to discuss special considerations that factor into the whole thing (actually, it will mostly be about special considerations, at least for the big neighborhoods). One thing that’s important to this exercise is to discuss where the neighborhoods are at now. I initially developed a complex classification system, then scrapped it because it was too complicated and still didn’t explain everything. But as I got to thinking about it, I decided that some sort of grading was necessary to put things in proper perspective rather than rely on qualitative description. So I developed a much simpler rubric that should catch everything. I would note that the below isn’t to be construed as a ranked desirability ranking, although it will be made apparent that some of the categories only describe undesirable areas.

Upper Middle Class: This includes upper class as well, but truly upper class areas are rare enough to make this a distinction without a difference. These are highly desirable but may have gone past the point of trendiness to the point of blandness (though not necessarily). These include places where gentrification reached the point where it’s all chain stores, but also places that never really gentrified because they were always nice.

Gentrifying: These are the hotspots that everyone knows about. What separates them from the upper middle class areas, even if they are more expensive, is a sense of dynamism and a raffish air. Students and bohemian types still live here. There may be older working class homeowners who never left, and poor renters who haven’t been forced out yet. There may still be a few rehabs for sale at somewhat decent prices. Most of the businesses are locally owned, and it probably still has a functional business district from the old days.

Early Gentrification: This is the point where a neighborhood starts making the transition from working-class or poor to middle-class or trendy, but isn’t quite there yet. Most of the businesses are functional, but there are a few cool places for those in the know. The hipsters are starting to move in. People are buying derelict houses at rock-bottom prices and fixing them up. But the normies don’t know about it yet; tell most suburbanites you’re going to a bar there and they either think you’re going to get your wallet stolen or wonder why you want to hang around old people. The neighborhood is still rough around the edges, and may still have a decent amount of crime and a high minority population. It probably still looks rather shabby. It’s perfectly safe for those with street smarts, but it’s still sketchy enough that you wouldn’t recommend it to tourists.

Stable: Not necessarily boring, but not going anywhere. There’s probably a good functional business district, but few destination businesses. Every once in a while one of the destination businesses might become popular enough that people think the whole neighborhood is going to go off, but it never seems to happen. And that’s if it’s lucky. The upside, though, is it’s very safe, and affordable to buy here. This also includes middle-class black areas that suburban whites assume are hood but are actually rather quiet.

Early Decline: These are the neighborhoods that just don’t seem like they used to. Crime is up, property values are down, and the houses are starting to get unkempt. Most of the long-term residents are elderly, and the newer residents are transients who are of a distinctly different class than the elderly ones. They may be blacks who were displaced from nearby ghettoes, or they may be white trash. There’s increasingly conspicuous drug activity, but no gangs yet. There still may be a functional business district, but there is rarely anything destination, maybe an old neighborhood institution that is still hanging on. These are perfectly fine to rent in if you don’t mind a little excitement in your life, since they’re still relatively safe for normal people, but they aren’t places you want to commit to.

Rapid Decline: This is the point where gang activity has become a problem, and gunshots are no longer a rare occurrence. If there was a white working class here they’re now dead and gone, and if there was a black middle class they’re very old. Residential sections are starting to see blight and abandoned houses. There’s still probably a reasonably intact business district, but it’s entirely functional at this point and mostly caters to stereotypical ghetto businesses. It is, however, still well populated.

Ghetto: A neighborhood that has bottomed out; it can’t get any worse than this unless it disappears entirely, which seems almost inevitable at this point. Few intact blocks remain. If there’s any business district left it’s scattered remnants (though there’s almost always some kind of newsstand). There’s probably gang activity, but there’s little territory worth defending. The atmosphere is desolate and bleak, as the remaining residents are only here because there’s nowhere else to go. Crime, while still a problem, is probably lower here than one would think, simply because there aren’t too many people here to be criminals, and equally few available victims.

The below ones are special cases that don’t fit into the above continuum particularly well.

Deceptively Safe: These are areas that look sketchy as hell but are actually decent places to live. They are usually poor neighborhoods where the properties are in somewhat shabby condition but are occupied. Unique to Pittsburgh (probably), this also includes places that look like part of West Virginia was transported into the middle of the city. These are mostly very small micro-neighborhoods that are poor but just don’t have the population or foot traffic to support any serious crime. Buy low, sell low.

Projects: Pittsburgh has a few “project neighborhoods” that only really exist because it built most of its public housing in odd places where nobody wanted to build before. Most of these projects don’t exist anymore, so saying these are invariably bad areas is a misnomer, especially since one of the few remaining projects is a senior citizen high rise. Most of these are an odd mix of different uses that merit individual treatment.

Student Areas: Transient population, unmaintained properties, exorbitant rent for what you get, multiple unrelated people living together common, noise, public drunkenness, vandalism — everything a real ghetto has except violent crime and gang activity. This doesn’t describe all student areas, but areas where the percentage of students reaches a certain threshold have a much different dynamic than regular neighborhoods. First, these areas are relatively safe considering how dysfunctional they are in every other respect, and second, while the properties are in poor condition, there is little blight or abandonment because the slumlords know they have a captive audience. Also, the presence of a university usually means that the area sees a lot of outside visitors so more destination businesses develop, and there are plenty of places catering to students. Altogether a unique dynamic, though no one not in college would even consider living here.

That’s it for the preliminaries, stay tuned for Part I, where I discuss Downtown and the other “tourist areas” in its vicinity.