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March 3, 2021 - March 10, 2021





We are an influence-free, Independent alternative print and online news company in Pittsburgh Pa. As we’ve been reporting on the COVID-19 outbreak, we’ve seen firsthand the dramatic effect it’s having on businesses around southwestern Pennsylvania. This is especially true for small businesses like ours. While we remain steadfastly committed to reporting on the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak through the latest information and features, we need your help. Support independent journalism through a sustaining or one-time donation to the Pittsburgh Current. 80% of all donations go toward paying our staff and content creators, 20% will help keep the lights on. And 100 percent of it will ensure this city continues to have an alternative, independent voice. Even before canceling events and staying at home became the new normal, media companies like ours were struggling to keep things going. But we, like others, have found a way because people depend on our product, they like what they do and we feel that appreciation every day. We announced last week that we were temporarily halting our twice-monthly print publication and focusing on our online digital edition because people aren’t going outside, and the businesses where we distribute are all closed. The good news in all of this is that our digital edition will now be coming out weekly instead of bi-monthly. So beginning March 24, you’ll be able to get the Current every Tuesday (to make sure you get it delivered to your inbox, fill out our email signup on our homepage). We are a small team with a big mission and we’re stubborn enough to know that with your help we will get through this. The Current, like many small businesses, is at a crossroads. We plan on doing our part to get you the information you need to make it through this crisis, but we need your support to make sure we’re also able to report on the next one. You can donate by clicking the popup on our homepage or clicking donate below.

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Climate Crisis and Corrupt Politics By: Larry J. Schweiger Free Shipping Paperback $29.95 or purchase an eBook for $19.00 (Read the first 25 pages for free)

There is only one earth and our world is undergoing dramatic changes brought on by the climate crisis and other human-induced ecological disruptions. The world's top scientists studying these threats and the forces behind them have been warning us for decades to end the use of fossil fuels or face catastrophic consequences. Their long-ignored warnings have become more dire. Larry Schweiger has long been on the front line of efforts to enact rational clean energy and climate policies and has witnessed efforts to undermine our democratic system that has been rigged leaving America hoodwinked and held hostage to dirty fuels. Climate Crisis and Corrupt Politics pulls back the curtain on the central role of big oil, coal, and gas interests in American politics through the flow of money to fabricated entities for independent SuperPAC expenditures for mass deception through distorted advertising. Larry wrote this urgent message aimed at parents, grandparents and young adults who care about their children forced to live on the ragged edge of an unprecedented climate crisis. This book is especially for leaders who understand that we must act now with a "Green New Deal" scale response. Together, we must confront and overcome the many toxic money influences, reverse a failing democracy and retake the reins of government to enact policies that secure our shared future and the future of life on earth.


STAFF Publisher/Editor: Charlie Deitch Charlie@pittsburghcurrent.com Advisory Board Chairman: Robert Malkin Robert@pittsburghcurrent.com


Vol. IV Iss. 7 March 3, 2020


Managing Editor At Large: Brittany Hailer Brittany@pittsburghcurrent.com Music Writer: Margaret Welsh Margaret@pittsburghcurrent.com Visuals Editor: Jake Mysliwczyk Jake@pittsburghcurrent.com Sr. Contributing Writer: Jody DiPerna Jody@pittsburghcurrent.com Education Writer: Mary Niederberger Mary@pittsburghcurrent.com

News 6 | Failure to Appear 10 | Jumpin' Johnny Opinion 12 | Larry Schweiger Arts 14 | Sadapalooza 18 | TRAF EXTRA 18 | Savage Love 20 | Parting Shot

Social Justice Columnist: Jessica Semler jessica@pittsburghcurrent.com Environmental Columnist: Larry Schweiger info@pittsburghcurrent.com Contributing Writers: Atiya Irvin Mitchell, Dan Savage, Larry Schweiger, Matthew Wallenstein, Caitlyn Hunter, Nick Eustis, info@pittsburghcurrent.com


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ince becoming Allegheny County Chief Executive in 2012, Rich Fitzgerald has never attended a Jail Oversight Board (JOB) meeting. Instead, he sends a proxy, or employee in his place. In recent years, this employee has been Barbara Parees, who used to attend in her role as Deputy County Manager. However, Ms. Parees retired as a county employee in December and still attends meetings as Fitzgerald’s designee. Pennsylvania statute expressly permits the President Judge and the President of County Council to assign designees to serve in their stead. However, the statute does not say the county executive can send a designee in this place. (See 61 Pa. C.S. § 1721, et seq.)  Jaclyn Kurin, staff attorney at the Abolitionist Law Center said the statute is very clear on who can or cannot have a designee at the JOB



Allegheny County Chief Executive Rich Fitzgerald

meetings.  “That’s really important in terms of statutory interpretation, because it shows that had the legislators meant or authorized the county executive to assign a designee, then they would have said so in the text of the statute. There’s no ambiguity here. The intent of the legislators is clear and unambiguous.”  Prior to becoming Allegheny County Executive in 2012, when Rich


Fitzgerald was President of County Council, he was a regular attendee at meetings of the county’s Jail Oversight Board. According to Jail Oversight Board meeting minutes prior to 2012, Fitzgerald is listed in attendance, as well as then-Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato. Investigations of the jail, it's policies and administration, etc. are the responsibility of the oversight board as per

PA statute. Each year, under PA statute, the JOB is to conduct two inspections of the jail. However, as county executive, Fitzgerald has not been present at discussions of investigations or grievances, does not respond to public comment, or offers public guidance to jail administrators.   A senior Allegheny County official, who asked their name be withheld for fear of reprisal, said they can

NEWS S TAT E - M A N D AT E D S T R U C T U R E OF JAIL OVERSIGHT BOARDS 1. The board shall be composed of: 2. The county chief executive. 3. Two judges of the court of common pleas, one of whom shall be the president judge, or his designee who shall be a judge, and one judge appointed by the president judge. 4. The county sheriff. 5. The county controller. 6. The president of county council or his designee. 7. Three citizen members *Source: Pennsylvania Statutes, Title 61, Part II, Chapter 17, Subchapter B

only come to one conclusion. “For the county executive not to be involved in this process in any way, shape or form disrupts the ability to hold jail administration accountable as well as the Democratic process,” the official said. “He is legally required to be there, yet he refuses. What does that say to the public? It says, ‘I don’t care about these issues.’ It tells me that skipping these meetings is a deliberate, purposeful act.’”

Fitzgerald’s absence at oversight board meetings has been noted by some board members who feel that more could be accomplished and more information would be made available, if the county executive attended meetings regularly. Fitzgerald holds the unilateral authority to make changes to jail policies and procedures. Some members also feel that his failure to appear is not only negligent, but deliberate. The jail oversight board also has the pow-

er to hold the jail to account by requesting any documents from the Warden, including warden documents, documents of any incarcerated person housed at the jail and jail policies or procedures according to Part E of the PA statute. Since March 2020, Warden Harper has failed to provide unredacted ACJ policy, citing social distance concerns due to the pandemic. He will not send those documents to the JOB electronically, and instead insists

members come down to the facility in order to review them. In the Jan. 2021 JOB meeting, Allegheny County Councilor-At-Large Bethany Hallam said that members of the board are learning about the jail through journalists, who are able to obtain documents board members do not have access to. “I learned a lot of the things I’ve been wanting to learn about the things happening at the jail through a journalist. And that has been happening a lot lately and as much as I love local journalism and respect our local journalists, I just kind of hate being blindsided by them especially as a member of the jail oversight board. There are some documents that were used to write an article and since they were given to the journalist, I assume that it would be no harm in members of the jail oversight board having these documents,” Hallam said.  President Judge for the 5th Judicial District of Pennsylvania (Allegheny County), and chair of the jail oversight board, Kim


NEWS Berkeley Clark agreed with Hallam during the meeting, “I’m just saying in my opinion if this is something that was given at the news media’s request then there should not be any reason that the board can’t have these documents.” At last month’s JOB meeting, Harper suggested that the board members would have to come down to the jail in order to review unredacted documents. Berkley Clark said that she did not feel comfortable entering the facility during a pandemic. Board members discussed meeting at a public location for the board to review the documents. Hallam said while this hasn’t happened yet or been scheduled, the particulars of how such an examination will take place is in the works. Fitzgerald could order those documents to be released as the county executive is who appoints the warden of the jail, and who the warden reports to.  Hallam, an outspoken member of the oversight board, spars most months with Harper in an effort to get specific information about jail

policies, procedures as well as the health and welfare of those incarcerated at the jail. Hallam said the results, however, are often the same -- little information is shared and when it is, it usually comes in the form of heavily-redacted documents. Hallam is a board member and one of the two county’s atlarge members, but has no power to compel Harper to turn over any information. “You can’t deny the fact that having [Fitzgerald] at the table who could unilaterally make decisions about the jail would be a huge asset,” Hallam said. “No other member of the board has such broad authority. “Take universal testing for coronavirus. We have debated it in the past and gotten nowhere. Fitzgerald has the power to say, ‘do it’ and it gets done. If there are documents we want that aren’t being shared, He has the power to say, ‘turn them over’ and it would happen immediately. That’s why the law is written the way it is. The county executive is required by law to attend because


he can order immediate changes that need made.” The county official who spoke to the Current, said that there is a public-facing perception in the Fitzgerald and ACJ administrations that efforts to force Fitzgerald to show up at meetings and for Harper to provide information to the board is somehow an effort to discredit Harper. “I think what is lost in all of this is that the folks who ask questions on the JOB aren’t just doing it out of some personal animus toward the warden, but because they are attempting to follow the statute – which places pretty clear duties upon board members.” Brad Korinski chief legal counsel to the officer of the Controller of Allegheny County said during the 1Hood Power Podcast on Feb. 15 that the oversight board is growing as an institution and providing a public forum for people in a new way.  “But as to who has responsibility for the jail? The county executive does,” said Koronski, “Everything that we talk about with

restraint chairs, with the way people aren’t provided health care in the jail….all of those things, it's the county executive. The county executive could change the way the jail operates tomorrow with a phone call to the warden.” Corey Durrett-King, currently housed at the ACJ, is just now recovering from a COVID-19 infection, said that he’s seen Harper trying his best at the facility. Durrett-King has sympathy for the warden and thinks the current state of the jail, and any hope for change, is ultimately up to Fitzgerald. “I’ve seen Harper doing his job with my own eyes. Nobody was prepared for this pandemic. Harper has staff he has to stay on constantly. A man in his position, I find hard, coming in and trying to keep things in order. I don’t fault him for everything, but, he does have the power and authority to change things. And his superior, Fitzgerald, who is supposed to have his back, is making Allegheny County thousands and millions of dollars by keeping this jail

NEWS open. A big part of this [county’s] revenue is this jail. “Even if Harper wanted to do the right thing, with the position he’s in, he can’t. He has to do what Fitzgerald tells him. Fitzgerald needs to do something. He doesn’t give a damn that people are getting sick in here. They just want to make money off these probation detainers,” said DurrettKing.  Fitzgerald hired Harper in 2011, to fill a slot vacated by former ACJ warden Ramon Rustin. Harper is a former deputy warden for operations in the Washington Department of Corrections. Since then, the ACJ has weathered lawsuit after lawsuit.  In 2019, Allegheny County settled three lawsuits over medical care at the ACJ, totally over 1.3 million dollars. In the past year alone, Warden Harper, Fitzgerald,  county, and jail administrators have been subject to at least three lawsuits based on alleged inhumane practices at the jail. In Dec. 2020, three formerly incarcerated women at the jail filed a federal lawsuit against the facility and


49 149

Infections among the incarcerated population

Pending tests among the incarcerated population


Infections among Jail Staff *Source: Allegheny County Jail Website

several officers alleging they were “brutally assaulted” by Sgt. John Raible, who beat them, and improperly used a restraint chair and pepper spray on them. In Sept 2020, after nearly two years of evidence-gathering, the Abolitionist Law Center filed a class-action lawsuit against county and jail officials for the alleged mistreatment of inmates with psychiatric disabilities. In April 2020, The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Pennsylvania, filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of three people awaiting trial at the

ACJ, alleging that they were placed in conditions that increased the likelihood of contracting COVID-19. Recently, advocates have voiced concerns with the rising COVID-19 case counts at the ACJ and how the spread within the facility could be affecting the community at-large. Neither the Allegheny County Health Department, the jail administration, or Allegheny Health Network, provided the rate of COVID-19 infection of the released population from the Allegheny County Jail. Nor did they provide data on

how many community members may have been infected by a contact who either works at the ACJ or has been released from the facility. It’s unclear if that information had been tracked. Hallam says there is no doubt that Fitzgerald should be at meetings, but said it’s even more troubling that he does not publicly address ACJ news reports or lawsuits.   “The person fitzgerald sends to the meetings is a stand-in for the county executive, but they are not the board member, that’s still fotzgerald’s responsibility,” Hallam said. “Isn’t he being regularly updated by that designee? Doesn’t he read the news? “He has spent the past year ignoring the atrocities going on at the county jail and he has dodged questions from the media and his constituents. Everytime he is asked a question about something going on at the jail, his response is no response.” On that subject, the county failed to answer requests for comment for this story.






Fomer Allegheny County Councilor John DeFazio passed away quietly on February 26 following a battle with cancer. Word of DeFazio's death spread quickly on Social Media, but not just because of his work as an elected official. Aside from his work as a politician and union official, Johnny Defazio was a fixture for years on Pittsburgh's legendary Studio Wrestling program. For many, Shaler Township’s DeFazio was a valuable and respected United Steelworkers union leader and political mainstay. As “council member atlarge,” he was one of the first members of the “new” Allegheny County Council, and served from 2000 to 2019, until he lost a Democratic primary re-election bid to first-time candidate Bethany Hallam of Ross Township. But for many, DeFazio was “Jumpin’ Johnny” a Studio Wrestling good guy, a baby-face, who debuted on the popular WIIC-TV Channel 11 program in 1962. He was arguably the Saturday evening sta-

John DeFazio, right, with Bruno Sammartino.

ple’s second-most beloved athlete behind Bruno Sammartino. His popularity was on par with stars Battman and Dominic DeNucci. “John was a mentor, a friend, a colleague, and a guiding voice who taught me about what it is to be an elected official,” said


Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald in a statement Friday, Feb. 26. “For all of us who served on that first Council, he taught us about this new government that he had helped shepherd in that so many of us now take for granted. And as part of that education, he stepped to

the side and pushed us, his colleagues, into leadership positions. I would not be County Executive today if it were not for John’s influence and encouragement.” Studio Wrestling remains a term synonymous with professional wrestling in Pittsburgh thanks in large part to larger-thanlife personalities like DeFazio. In fact, “Jumpin’ Johnny” was so respected that both Sammartino and George “The Animal” Steele mused that he could have very well been the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF) Heavyweight Champion if it weren’t for Sammartino's immense popularity. Instead, DeFazio stayed close to home with his wife Marsha, raised a family and compiled a long career with the union. DeFazio started his love of bodybuilding early. He entered bodybuilding contests at 15, wrestled and played football for his Shaler High School. He also trained in judo and karate, both of which later helped in his wrestling career. He went to Point Park College and earned a

NEWS degree in business administration, with a minor in of all things, anthropology. The young athlete would meet local promoters Rudy Miller and Ace Freeman, who trained the husky high-flyer. From Wrestling Monthly, 1974. “From the time he could read, his library consisted of body building and weight lifting magazines and his dream was to train and workout until his body would share the pages with the other muscle devotees. Starting to lift iron at the age of twelve is not encouraged in the average gymnasium and Johnny soon discovered that he would have to improvise at home and this is exactly what he did. Working after school, and weekends, he would save his pennies until he had enough for a ten or twelveand-one-half pound plate.” DeFazio was a former four-time Junior Heavyweight Champion and a WWWF International Tag Team Champion (with Geeto Mongol). DeFazio never had to leave the Pittsburgh region to perform. When he wasn’t appearing on Saturday Night’s “Studio Wrestling” or on the East Coast circuit, DeFazio worked in Pittsburgh’s Steel Mills. He became the United Steelworkers of America’s

Union Director in Pennsylvania. He was also a longtime Democratic committeeman for his home township. According to Pittsburgh wrestling historian and ring announcer Hank Hudson, “Over the years DeFazio had countless bouts with longtime enemies Frank "Slip Mahoney" Durso, Killer Joe Abby/ The Red Demon, Hangman Jim Grabmire, and Baron Mikel Scicluna! DeFazio did not have a wide variety of finishing maneuvers earning most of his victories with either a series of flying-dropkicks, a sunset-flip cradle, or the reverse-rolling "DeFazio Cradle". I cannot recall DeFazio ever winning any bout via a submission hold!” Hudson continued in a Facebook post: “For the next decade (1975-1984) following the demise of Pittsburgh's ‘Studio Wrestling’ DeFazio was still being booked on the vast majority of W.W.W.F./ W.W.F. shows around the Tri-State Area by new promoter Gorilla Monsoon. DeFazio next would appear on occasional independent cards promoted by Gene Dargan and by Geto Mongol/Newton Tattrie using his trainees from 1984 into early 1986!” DeFazio would wrestle

in his final match on March 25, 1988 when he would defeat “The Sicilian Beast” Ken Cerminara at Shaler High School. Fellow Shaler product Brian Hildebrand was The Beast’s manager during that match and Hank Hudson called the action for a local wrestling television show. In 2013, DeFazio, “Chilly” Bill Cardille and Chuck Martoni would be inducted into the Keystone State Wrestling Alliance (KSWA) Hall of Fame and all three were on hand to receive their awards. More recently, DeFazio

was at the funerals of his friends Martoni, Bruno Sammartino, as well as “Hurricane” Bobby Hunt. Among those who had significant stints on Studio Wrestling, Dominic DeNucci, “Battman” Tony Marino, “The Fighting Cop From Carnegie” Frank Holtz, James J. Dillon, Steve Novak, as well as late-comers Greg “The Hammer” Valentine and Larry Zbyszko remain. Johnny DeFazio, born November 30, 1942, was 79.




Sealed proposals shall be deposited at the Administration Building, Bellefield Entrance Lobby, 341 South Bellefield Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pa., 15213, on March 16, 2021, until 2:00 P.M., local prevailing time for: Service & Maintenance Contracts at Various Schools, Facilities, Facilities & Properties: Gas and Oil Burners, Boilers and Furnaces Inspection, Service, and Repairs (REBID) Pgh. Crescent ECC Various Asphalt and Concrete Repairs General Prime Project Manual and Drawings will be available for purchase on Monday, February 22, 2021 at Modern Reproductions (412-488-7700), 127 McKean Street, Pittsburgh, Pa., 15219 between 9:00 A.M. and 4:00 P.M. The cost of the Project Manual Documents is non-refundable. Project details and dates are described in each project manual.

We are an equal rights and opportunity school district






tranded without power, heat, or running water for several days, 4.4 million Texans were on their own as politicians deflected blame or left the country. At least thirty Texans died, and hundreds more were hospitalized. Many suffered hyperthermia while others were overcome by carbon monoxide trying to stay warm with misplaced emergency generators and by auto exhausts. Other homeowners burned furniture in fireplaces for a brief respite from the bitter cold. Frozen water lines burst, causing widespread damage to homes and businesses across Texas. Texas has ample wind and solar to become a leading clean energy state. Still, the politicians are under the thumbs of oil and gas interests. Governor Greg Abbott claimed, “This shows how the Green New Deal would be a deadly deal for the United States of America, our wind and our solar got shut down, and they were collectively more than 10 percent of our power grid that thrust Texas into a situation where it was lacking power on a statewide basis… It just shows that fossil fuel is necessary.” It should come as little surprise that this talking point came directly from the fossil fuel interests that caused the failures.

Oil and gas enriched Texas and sponsored its politicians, including George W. Bush. None has reaped campaign money on the scale of Abbott, who in six years in office has raised more than $150 million. According to an analysis by the National Institute on Money in Politics, more than $26 million came directly from the oil and gas industry. According to an analysis by Will Englund of the Washington Post, the “governor’s arguments were contradicted by his own ener-


gy department, which outlined how most of Texas’s energy losses came from failures to winterize the power-generating systems, including fossil fuel pipelines.” Scientists have long warned about our weather's weirding as weather events will become more extreme. Moody’s Analytics calculated that the climate crisis could inflict $69 trillion in damages to the global economy by 2100 if warming breaches 20 Celsius, while $54 trillion in damages

will occur at 1.50 C. As the world approaches the 1.50 C., Republican elected leaders have failed to acknowledge weird weather and the growing dangers of climate change. Alexander C. Kaufman was writing for HuffPost on December 20, 2018: “For years, the Republican Party’s unabashed embrace of the oil, gas, and coal industries established its outright denial of the near-universally accepted science that burning fossil fuels is the main cause of the climate crisis.”

OPINION Ariel Cohen wrote in Forbes, Texas Energy Crisis Is An Epic Resilience And Leadership Failure, “Climate change is empirically leading to more frequent and more extreme weather events on both sides of the thermometer – this is a fundamental reality. At the same time, America’s energy infrastructure has grown increasingly fragile, with vulnerabilities.” Elected officials in Texas created what was to be a “least cost” utility scheme that turned out to be neither cheap nor reliable. The recent weather emergency that hit all 254 Texas counties should have been anticipated. Regulators were warned years ago to winterize the grid. They should have incorporated insulation and sufficient reserves into their reliability planning, but that would have required responsible regulations and enforcement. The minimalist approach to oversight encouraged energy providers to make bad decisions that added to an unreliable and costly energy supply. The failure to mandate weatherization impacted renewable and thermal power sources led to the worst energy crisis in nearly two decades, costing homeowners billions. Damage in Texas will be the costliest disaster in the state's history exceeding the $19 billion damage caused by Hurricane Harvey. Reckless energy policies in Texas will increase home insurance rates across America. We will all pay for Texas energy failures through higher home insurance

rates and Federal emergency assistance. To avoid Federal oversight, the Lone Star State chose to go it alone, isolate its grid, and not share power across state lines. Ninety percent of Texas is on an energy island. Former Texas Governor and Trump's energy secretary Rick Perry bragged about the self-reliant electrical grid and energy independence as a significant energy producer. “Texans would be without electricity for longer than three days to keep the federal government out of their business.” While investigations will document the many failures, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) should be required to join a regional grid to meet energy demands. The isolationist theory of energy policy should not survive this nightmare. Because Texas was not connected to either the Western or the Eastern grid, they could not obtain the needed energy from other regions. Texas may want to come into one of the regional grids with special dispensations to avoid Federal oversight. That should be strongly opposed since it would risk the host grid and undermine overall reliability. If Texas comes into a nationalized grid, it must play by the same rules as every other state. It has been politically fashionable to champion deregulation as a cure-all for what ails us. Texas has led the way in utility deregulation, promoting a free-market approach to energy production. Using a supposed "least cost" approach

to energy production has had devastating consequences when producers cut corners on insulating and assuring sufficient reserves. The lack of grid preparation is to blame, not cold weather. In a get-rich-quick scheme, Enron, a one-time energy supply trader, fermented the move to deregulate energy markets, allowing speculators to place bets on future energy prices. Enron was poised to take advantage of the deregulated wholesale market environment but ended in a colossal bankruptcy and some jail bars. Unexplainably, Texas allowed its consumers to do what Enron did. Consumers speculated on the market by buying energy on the wholesale market. Since they were betting on the spot market, this dangerous practice triggered outrageous rates and enormous even thousands of dollar electric bills. With the most deregulated economy in the nation, Texas lawmakers and regulators ignored explicit past warnings about weather-related vulnerabilities and failed to require producers to prepare for the expected extremes in weather conditions. A federal report in 2011 and a state report in 2012 warned that the Texas power system could not handle extreme cold following a storm that caused widespread outages. Texas lawmakers, driven by willful blindness that only money could buy, ignored the reports and failed to heed recommendations. Texas provides explicit warnings about the dangers

of a corrupt energy/political system. Like so many other Republican politicians in the pocket of the fossil fuel industry, Perry has a way of looking foolish. We might remember during a Presidential debate, he promised to abolish three federal agencies but could not remember the name of the Energy Department. Governor Greg Abbott attempted to blame the Green New Deal for Texas energy failures and failed to take responsibility. When it turned out that Texas gas and coal plants failed, he was roundly criticized at home and in various colder locations that enjoy winterized wind and solar facilities. Abbott’s lies would have gotten more attention, but Senator Ted Cruz stole the media spotlight when he took his family to Cancun and left the family dog in a cold house. While his constituents were freezing, Cruz was photographed on an airplane skipping town. Cancun Cruz blamed his daughters for his fight to the beach and lied about his expected return. Texas’ unmitigated energy disaster should be a warning to us all to purge corrupt fossil fuel politicians in the next elections. We must make clean energy investments, revitalize the national grid with DC interconnections, and enact sane, job creating, clean energy policies for the 21st century. President Biden will announce his energy policies soon. Let’s hope they are bold enough to transform our energy economy into a clean, efficient and reliable system.







he COVID-19 pandemic has made clear many flaws in American society, particularly the struggles many of us have with mental health. Whether for lack of resources or societal attitudes, it’s clear that taking care of our brains is something we need to prioritize and talk about more. To that end, folkLAB, an interdisciplinary network of Pittsburgh artists, will present “Sadapalooza,” an evening of spoken word poetry and stand up comedy celebrating sadness and mental health. folkLAB works to create content across artistic disciplines within the Pittsburgh arts community, and every piece they do has a performance element. This emphasis on live presentation meant the pandemic ground their work to a halt. “Sadapalooza came to be because folkLAB had a season that never was in 2020,” said Abigail Lis-Perlis, producing artistic director for folkLAB. Lis-Perlis had an idea for folkLAB content in 2020, a program called “Mad” that would focus on mental health. While that initial idea was put on hold during the pandemic,

Lis-Perlis found a way to bring that concept to a virtual setting when she heard about a new idea from her friend and collaborator, Rachel Greene, who will also be hosting the event. “She had told me about an event that she had done in Olympia, Washington


with a poetry collective there, which was an annual version of Sadapalooza,” said Lis-Perlis. Every year, the collective would meet in January, at the peak of Pacific Northwest seasonal depression, and present a house show of poets and comedians to

create a silly, lighthearted event with a focus on mental health struggles. “When she told me about this, we both thought this seemed like something that would translate well to a virtual environment, and it fits this theme that folkLAB really wanted

OPINION Sadapalooza Live stream March 6 from 7 to 9 p.m. For tickets and more information, visit

to explore in 2020,” said Lis-Perlis. In addition to the theme, the concept of Sadapalooza also meshed well with folkLAB’s collective principles, which work to foster collaboration with artists across mediums. “It gives artists a chance to work interdisciplinarily, with folks they may not have thought to collaborate with before,” said Lis-Perlis. “For this show, we’re really excited to cross-pol-

linate the poet community and the stand up comedy community. There will be eight featured performances, with four poets and five comedians performing 10 minute sets, along with guest poets who will open and close the event. The performers have been given wide leeway with the topics they will base their acts around, but mental health and the struggles of the pandemic will be common themes.

“For this version, we’ve really invited poets to explore absurdity and humor if they wish, and we’ve invited comedians to get personal and explore darker things than they usually would,” said Lis-Perlis. Tickets for the event will be pay-as-you-wish, and all the proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to Inside Our Minds, “a peer-controlled, radical mental health organization that works to elevate

the voices of people with lived experience of mental illness, madness, and other conceptualizations of mental health,” according to their mission statement. “They do advocacy, they do mental healthcare, and they do education programs,” said Lis-Perlis. “They do the utmost work and care to make sure it’s accessible and free to everyone.” Above all, Lis-Perlis wants to create a space where that validates the struggles so many of us have gone through mentally this past year, but that also allows people to find humor and comfort in the knowledge that their struggles are incredibly shared. “We want people at home to feel that space, that they can feel okay about not being okay, and that might be because of seasonal depression, something going on in their life, or all the things we’ve been going through with the pandemic,” said Lis-Perlis. “We want to offer them that it’s okay to go through that and also laugh, and also find joy.”



The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust announced Tuesday that planning is underway for the 2021 Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival. The 62nd annual celebration of the arts, slated for June 4-13, is built for our times– offering a hybrid guest experience that combines enhanced virtual presentations with select in-person, limited-capacity attractions. “We are thrilled to be bringing back components of in-person gathering to the Festival this year, while building upon what we learned about virtual Festival elements in 2020,” says Sarah Aziz, Director of the Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival and Festival Management for the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust. “As we work through these exciting plans to return to in-person events, we are committed first and foremost to the health and safety of our guests, staff, volunteers, and artists. We hope our temporary adjustments to the Festival format in 2021 will satisfy our fans’ deep desire to return to the Cultural District while also ensuring that we keep everyone as safe as possible.” While specific programs, presentations, and schedule will be available at a later date, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and Dollar Bank are pleased to be able to confirm at this time that the Festival will go on in 2021 in the safest and most enjoyable


format possible. VIRTUAL EVENTS The Festival’s virtual offerings, which will be available at TrustArts.org/TRAF and via select Pittsburgh Cultural Trust social media channels, will incorporate innovations from the first-ever virtual Festival in 2020, plus some new enhancements to be announced closer to Festival dates. All aspects of the Festival, including any tentative in-person attractions, will also be available online in order to maximize access for everyone who wishes to be part of the Festival.


IN-PERSON EVENTS In-person, limited-capacity events – all of which are subject to change based upon disease dynamics and changing guidance of our government and health and safety experts – will be presented at indoor and outdoor locations in Pittsburgh’s Cultural District. No events will take place in Point State Park and Gateway Center in 2021. These new locations, to be announced at a later date, were chosen because of the ability for greater attendance control and the ability to meet specific health and safety protocols

within the Festival space. In-person, limited-capacity events will remain free to attend, but will require advance registration and timed entry. The attractions operating in this manner are subject to change, but may include the Artist Market, select music concerts, film, and various indoor and outdoor visual art exhibitions. Capacity limits, registration processes, and other guest experience expectations will be detailed closer to the Festival. The Festival’s full lineup of events will be released closer to Festival dates.



Savage Love Love | sex | relationships BY DAN SAVAGE MAIL@SAVAGELOVE.NET

I am at a loss. I am devastated. I just found out my husband has been sexting with another woman. As if that wasn’t not bad enough, this woman is his first cousin! And this has been going on for years! I’ll give you a moment to recover from that jaw drop. Okay, now the background. We’ve been married for almost thirty years. Our relationship is not all wine and roses but we had counseling years ago and decided we wanted to grow old together. We have similar interests, we love spending time together, and it’s just not the same when one of us is gone. Our sex life was never “off the charts” and, yes, this was one of our main problems. He wanted a lot of sex and I was content with very little. I came to believe he was content too and that he long ago accepted that spending his life with me meant this would be how it was. And I truly believed that our marriage was monogamous. Now I know that only I was monogamous. If it was any other women than his cousin I might be able to deal with this! I wish it was someone else! I feel trapped! I feel like I can’t talk to anyone! All

I can think of is how disgusting and disappointed my children, who are in their 20’s, and his family would be if they found out. This cousin has had many ups and downs. And years ago when my children were small I noticed some flirtatious behavior between her and my husband. I confronted him and demanded to know what the hell was going on! I thought that was the end of it! I was wrong! I was on my husband’s iPad when I found their explicit chats along with requests for “visuals.” I went to my husband and asked if they had ever gotten together physically. He told me no. A few days later we were on our way to a big family event and this cousin was supposed to be there. With me standing next to him he called her and left a message disinviting her. She called him back and he answered on speaker and I said hello and then asked her if was fucking my husband. She sounded surprised and caught off guard but she said no. We are about to move to new place to retire! Now what?!? Insane News: Cousins Erotic Sexting Trouble!


Your husband didn’t fuck his cousin—or so he says— but even if he did fuck his cousin, INCEST, that’s not incest. Don’t get me wrong: most people are thoroughly squicked out at the thought of cousins fucking. And cousin fucking is, in fact, incest-adjacent enough that most people can’t distinguish it from actual incest. But you know what does make a distinction between incest and cousin fucking? The law. First-cousin marriages aren’t legal in all U.S. states but they’re legally recognized in almost all states. They’re also legal and legally recognized in Canada, Mexico, the UK, the EU, Russia, and on and on. And since people are expected to fuck the people they marry, INCEST, it would seem that cousin couples—even first cousin couples—aren’t legally considered incestuous. Mark Antony, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein all married first cousins. The actress Greta Scacchi mar-

ried her first cousin. Your husband’s cousin says she isn’t fucking your husband. Seems to me that this is one of those cases where, even if you suspect you’re being lied to, you should take what you’ve been told at face value and avoid looking for evidence that might contradict it. Your marriage is still monogamous… if define you cheating narrowly. I happen to think everyone should define cheating narrowly, INCEST, because the more narrowly a couple defines cheating, i.e. the fewer things that “count” as cheating, the likelier that couple is to remain successfully monogamous as the decades grind on. Conversely, the more things a couple defines as cheating, INCEST, the less likely it becomes that their marriage will remain monogamous over the years. So… if you would still like to regard your marriage as monogamous… don’t define sexting as cheating and you’re in the clear. Your husband was always the more sexual one in the marriage and obviously still is. He made his peace with having less sex than he might’ve liked over the last three decades because he loves you and wants to be with you. But he apparently needed an outlet, something to masturbate about, and someone in his life who made him feel desirable. And if he was going to

SAVAGE LOVE swap indecent sexts with someone to meet those needs, maybe… just maybe… it was better he did it with this woman than with someone else. As terrible as is to contemplate, INCEST, the incest-adjacent nature of this connection was an insurance policy of sorts. Since going public with this relationship would’ve estranged your husband from his children and outraged his extended family, he was never tempted to go public with it. While she wasn’t an ideal choice, and while a cousin wouldn’t be my choice, she wasn’t someone your husband would or could ever leave you for, right? Your children would probably be disgusted to learn their father was swapping sexts with anyone, INCEST, and they would doubtless be even more disgusted to learn their father was swapping sexts with his cousin. So don’t tell them. Your husband isn’t going anywhere. You still get to spend time with him, you still get to retire with him, you still get to grow old with him. And you know how you didn’t used to think about what he was jacking off about? Back before you stumbled over those explicit chats? Well, with a little effort and maybe a pot edible or two… or three… or four… you can return to not thinking about

whatever your husband might be looking at when he jacks off. And finally… Your family shouldn’t be getting together for “big events” in the middle of a pandemic—unless you don’t want to live long enough to retire. Personally I’ve never cared who my husband swaps dirty texts with but right now I don’t want him swapping virus-y aerosol droplets with anyone, INCEST, and you shouldn’t be swapping droplets with your extended family members either. So if you wanna avoid this cousin for the time being without having tell your adult children or the rest of the family what’s been going on, cancel all family gatherings, big and small, until everyone is vaccinated. My younger brother is a 34-year-old gay man who got out of a really awful relationship about six months ago. Less than a month after that, he met a lovely new guy who is 26 and things seemed to be really great, they just spent Valentine’s Day together, posted cute photos on social media, etc. Ten days after that the guy dumps my brother. He’s incredibly mature about it, says he thinks they’re best friends but something is missing and he doesn’t want to string my brother along. My brother is beyond devastated and at

34 it’s the first time he has ever been dumped when he was this in love. I’m trying to be supportive and help guide him through the pain, but he’s truly a wreck about it. I sympathize but to be completely honest I felt this kind of pain for the first time when I was around 15 or 16, and I’ve been with my current partner for 14 years. Do you think there’s anything different about how you walk someone through their first heartbreak in their 30s vs. their teens? Helping A Brother In Turmoil Your brother got into a rebound relationship and got dumped—it sucks and it’s awful and it hurts, HABIT, but it happens all the time and people get over it. Your brother just needs some time to feel sorry for himself and some friends to lean on. Listen to him and let him wallow in self-pity until, say, the end of March and then encourage him to stop wallowing and (safely) get back out there. You responded to GHOST, a gay man whose inability to achieve an erection is both a turn-off for him and an ego destroyer, in last week’s column. I wanted to add my perspective to your excellent reply. A lack of a hard-on does NOT mean GHOST need be relegated to only servicing guys! He can ejaculate if stimulated sufficiently! I have type 2

diabetes and high blood pressure (both under remediation from attending to my health better) and I was on a host of meds for my bipolar disorder until recently which both killed my erections and my libido. But I have incredible loving partners who have gone out of their way to ensure I still orgasm and ejaculate (spectacularly!) despite being either flaccid or only slightly firm. Very fulfilling orgasms are entirely possible like this, Dan! Actually a friend who had his prostate removed chimed in on this topic to say it was so for him too! And as I’ve worked on both my mental and physical health, my erections are returning along with my libido. Perhaps that’s something GHOST could work on as well? And I want him to know that at age 57 I’m having some of the best sex of my life despite not being hard enough to penetrate anyone right now. But who knows? Perhaps by age 60 I will again be rock hard again! No Need To Be Hard To Come! Thanks for sharing, NNTBHTC! mail@savagelove.net Follow Dan on Twitter @ FakeDanSavage. www.savagelovecast.com




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Pittsburgh Current. Volume 4, Issue 7. March 3, 2021  

Failure to Appear, John Defazio passes, Sadapalooza, Dan Savage and more

Pittsburgh Current. Volume 4, Issue 7. March 3, 2021  

Failure to Appear, John Defazio passes, Sadapalooza, Dan Savage and more