Between the Issues

Getting Rich in a Poor Market, Part II

If we are, in fact, facing a prolonged period of subpar returns in both stocks and bonds, as seems likely, there are almost limitless ways this future could play out. We might, for example, simply experience long years of generally positive – but low – returns, interspersed with down years.…

Pittsburgh Quarterly Turns 10

In early June, Pittsburgh Quarterly celebrated its 10th Anniversary with a cocktail reception for nearly 200 contributors, advertisers and friends at the Cultural Trust Cabaret Downtown.

Going Back in Time to Ambridge

Growing up in the early ‘80’s as a native-​son of a local borough named after a steel-​magnate, it’s easy to recall how mill closings affected my hometown. Layoffs were followed by hushed talk of unemployment checks, and later on, businesses shuttered leading to diaspora when folks looked to start fresh…

The City Should Welcome Shell to Downtown Pittsburgh

In the current issue of Pittsburgh Quarterly, Publisher Doug Heuck notes the collaborative work of Pittsburgh civic leaders in helping Pittsburgh’s economic rebirth. The recent announcement that Shell is now committed to building an ethane “cracker” plant in Beaver County is an opportunity to increase that collaboration.

I Knew I Wasn’t Poor

I knew I wasn’t poor, because I had a choice: buy tampons or birth control pills. I shoplifted. When I opened the oven door, splitting the closet-​sized kitchen in half, my only plan was heat. The ice smooth on the inside of the windows, the no money to pay the…

Getting Rich In a Poor Market

Virtually every thoughtful observer of the stock and bond markets has concluded that investment returns in the future are likely to be well below recent returns and even well below long-​term norms. This situation is reminiscent of the late 1990s. In 1999, following an almost uninterrupted 17-​year bull market, investors…

“It’s Bitcoin for Volunteers”

Dan Little has wanted to build the infrastructure of the future for a long time. So while he enrolled at Carnegie Mellon University to study architecture, he switched to civil engineering.

Offering a Way Out

There are about two dozen men — black, white, young, old — gathered in a well-​lit commercial space that occupies 704 Main Street, Sharpsburg. In the front window is a white cross with an orange life preserver draped over it that reads Jesus Saves Lives. Anchored against the interior wall, in front of floor-​to-​ceiling…

Why Are We So Afraid of Democracy? Part III

I’m arguing that there are three main reasons why our faith in democracy has taken a hit in recent years. The first reason is the deadlock in Congress that has everybody so frustrated. But as I pointed out, this isn’t a US phenomenon, it’s a global phenomenon. And it’s persisted…

Problem in Pittsburgh?

Pittsburgh’s unemployment rate, reported for the latest available month, April 2016, bumped up for the third month in a row to 5.8%. On the surface this is a disturbing figure given that most cities in our cohort group are experiencing falling unemployment rates. The unemployment rate in Charlotte is now…

Mark

About 10 years ago, a six-​inch bust appeared suddenly on top of a retaining wall in my back yard in Highland Park. How it got there was a mystery. Left by someone moving from the area? An abandoned kid’s toy? Or…something magical? The bust was creamy white and from a…

Should We Go Fishing for PayPal?

Recently PayPal announced the cancellation of a planned operations center in North Carolina resulting from the passage of North Carolina HB2 (the “bathroom” bill). The reasons a company chooses a particular location to establish a facility are complex, but I believe Pittsburgh offers practically everything that was to be found…

Room Service in Wonderland

The view from up here is majestic. The smudged, working class neighborhood of my youth has grown up to be a gentrified village whose renovated rooftops peer out of a sanitary blanket of January snow. I can almost hear the bustle of the hipsters and their Uber apps, heading out…

Why Are We So Afraid of Democracy? Part II

Profound disagreements among the voting public have led, as noted in my last post, to profound disagreements in Congress. This has, naturally enough, led in its turn to a substantial decline in collegiality, willingness to compromise, and even civility in that not-​so-​august body. It’s hardly an exaggeration to say that…

Giant Eagle Misadventures

I appear to be a fully functioning, generally normal human being. I have friends, a family, a job, and some interesting hobbies. No felonies, no spectacular talents, no debilitating weaknesses, either. Just your basic person. But as the old song goes, “Everybody plays the fool, sometimes…” My time was not…
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