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INSIDE:

PITTSBURGH COMICS ARTIST TOM SCIOLI TAKES ON THE LIFE OF JACK KIRBY VOL. 3 ISSUE 21

July 7, 2020 - July 13 2020

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BREWING S U P P O R T

TA Z Z A D ' O R O B A R I S TA S S TA N D I N G T O G E T H E R F O R B E T T E R WA G E S , BENEFITS IN A POST-COVID WORLD


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.

PA I D A DV E R T I S E M E N T

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

Art Director: Larissa Mallon Larissa@pittsburghcurrent.com Music Editor: Margaret Welsh Margaret@pittsburghcurrent.com Visuals Editor: Jake Mysliwczyk Jake@pittsburghcurrent.com Social Justice Columnist: Jessica Semler jessica@pittsburghcurrent.com Contributing Writers: Jody DiPerna, Justin Vellucci, Atiya Irvin Mitchell, Dan Savage, Larry Schweiger, Brittany Hailer, Brian Conway, Matt Wallenstein, Emerson Andrews, Eric Boyd info@pittsburghcurrent.com

contents

Vol. III Iss. XXI July 7, 2020

NEWS 6 | Brewing Support 9 | Child Care 10 | Jail Contract 11 | Jail COVID Numbers 12 | Open Carry OPINION 14 | Larry Schweiger ARTs & ENTERTAINMENT 16 | Hero Story EXTRA 18 | Savage Love 19 | Lately 20 | Parting Shot

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NEWS BREWING SUPPORT

TAZZA D'ORO WORKERS STAND UNITED TO ENSURE FAIR CONDITIONS DURING COVID AND AFTER BY CHARLIE DEITCH - PITTSBURGH CURRENT EDITOR CHARLIE@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM

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ike a lot of businesses in March, coffeeshop Enrico’s Tazza D’oro shut down in an effort to slow down the spread of the COVID-19 virus. That left its employees, like others across the country, without a job for an unknown period of time. Then in May, employees received a message from the managesr of the Highland Park and CMU locations asking who was ready to return to work. That gave employees some mixed emotions. Sure it was a positive step that the business was talking about reopening. But what would a reopened venue look like? What precautions would be put in place to protect workers from COVID-19. “We hadn’t heard anything the entire time we were off and then all of a sudden, we hear that we are opening. It was all very abrupt,” says Jesse Shussett, one of the Tazza organizers. “There were a lot of questions that weren’t addressed at all. And there were other issues that existed before the pandemic like getting raises and employee healthcare.” So, before they would even consider going back to work, Tazza’s baristas started meeting and developed a list of requests that they wanted action on. Last month, Shussett was involved in a video conference held by Stacey Abrams that highlighted the conditions service workers deal with both before and after the pandemic. “We can't afford to get sick. We can't afford to wait for politicians to debate over what we need to survive. A demand we’ve raised for years, even more critical as service workers are crushed by the pandemic and recession, is a living wage: $15/ hour, at least, plus tips. We've seen organized service workers fight for and win this in other parts of the country, like Seattle - we need to take the fight everywhere else and demand more,” Shussett said at the time. “Essential workers in the coffee and fast food industry are being paid the same low wages that 6 | JULY 7, 2020 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT


NEWS we always have, while being asked to cut back on hours and risk our health as housing, healthcare, and education costs soar.” The list of demands were sent to Tazza D’oro owner Amy Enrico and posted in the form of a petition online, where it has garnered more than 800 signatures. Still, Shussett and co-organizer Grace Geisler said they’ve never heard back. On June 3, the employees were told in a message that because of the uncertainty of conditions that The requests were: Health Insurance for all baristas. Raises promised prior to COVID19 along with a “clear understanding of what raises we each will receive, as this information was never conveyed.” Paid Time Off with clear information regarding employee sick leave allowance and an updated employee handbook with that indicated. The city of Pittsburgh mandated paid sick leave to begin in March. Hazard Pay at all locations until the danger of COVID-19 has truly passed, according to medical professionals and scientists. Baristas will refuse to return if an additional 30 cents is not added “to each dollar of our regular pay.” Clear security actions taken to protect baristas from customers. Beyond providing us PPE and installing plexiglass, we also request that all customers clearly be required to wear a mask when they come into the stores. A clear outline of how the hours and pay for the security training will be handled in order to ensure that all baristas can maintain unemployment benefits. While Enrico did not respond to her employees, she did respond to a request for comment from the Pittsburgh Current, including responding to each of the employees’ requests. Prior to the statewide lockdown, Enrico says the shops in Highland Park and two on the CMU Campus provided 730 barista hours per week and 250 kitchen hours. She says if the cafe can reopen this year it will be just the Highland Park store at severely reduced hours--60-70 barista hours and 20-30 kitchen hours. “This takes us from 33 employees pre-COVID to about three or four part-time employees,” Enrico wrote in an email. “ In our most hopeful projections, our business will not reach the pre-crisis employment levels until 2022. The news coming in daily of Pittsburgh restaurants and cafes closing for good remind PITTSBURGH CURRENT | JULY 7, 2020 | 7


NEWS

C O N T I N U E D F R O M PA G E 7

PusAthat G Ethe7future of our business is unsure. “We communicated to all workers (not just those involved with the petition), prior to when the petition was made public, that four of the five items in the petition are things we planned to do (on health insurance, continue to do) if we can reopen.” In regard to health insurance, Enrico says the shop reimburses half of their employees healthcare premiums purchased on the ACA exchange because, she says, any insurance the small business could offer would be worse. Enrico says pay raises were to be announced prior to COVID-19 that would be based on testing that was administered prior to the lockdown. Those assessments were received in April. Enrico says wage ranges were expected to increase $10.50-$14.50 an hour to $11-$17.50 an hour. She said the raises would be implemented if the business reopens. Enrico also said the mandated paid sick time would be instituted. In regard to hazard pay, Enrico said “our understanding of hazard pay is that it is intended for essential workers when conditions are known to be high risk. … We will not re-open in an environment that the public health officials and scientists considered hazardous. A safe environment for our employees and customers is the deciding factor for the owner of the business. Charging customers a Covid-19 surcharge in order to increase employees pay by 30% would likely further hurt business during the pandemic if we are able to reopen.” Finally, in regard to safety measures, Enrico says when they

Jesse Shussett

originally announced a reopening, there was limited information included that all employees and customers would wear masks and there would be other safety measures that would be implemented and explained at a future training. However, the increase in COVID-19 cases eliminated the need for a training. In response, Shussett, who says it was “absolutely infuriating” that Enrico responded to a reporter but not to workers, says Enrico’s answers don’t explain away many of the requests. For example, while half payments for health

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insurance exist, Shussett says the information is not clearly passed on to employees nor is there a clear path to actually getting the reimbursement; the process, they say, is not clear and transparent to employees. When it comes to raises, Shussett said amounts of raises were never conveyed; and they say employees knew paid sick time was coming but never received any specific information on the program. And hazard pay? “Hazard pay has been offered to those that are working in the midst of this -- all of those that are essential workers. To say that we

are not essential workers but try to make us work is frustrating and disrespectful,” Shussett says. “We are seeing rises in cases across the country and in our own city that are unparalleled to those prior. Service workers are getting sick at higher rates. We would be thrown on the front line, so to speak, in Highland Park, where we have seen former customers walking around without masks. We feel unsafe contemplating returning under those conditions. “The reason this shop never opened is because we refused to return without either having our demands met or having had a conversation at the table with management to negotiate those demands. It has nothing to do with the rise in cases, as the initial plan to reopen was prior to the resurgence.”


NEWS WOLF ANNOUNCES $53M IN AID TO CHILD CARE CENTERS TO HELP THEM THROUGH PANDEMIC

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he Wolf administration said Monday that it’s directing $53 million in federal aid to child care centers across the state as they weather the COVID-19 pandemic. Gov. Tom Wolf, joined by Pennsylvania Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller, and others, announced the disbursement during a visit to a child care center at the offices of the Pennsylvania State Employees Credit Union in suburban Harrisburg. “This funding will help child care providers bridge the gap until their clientele returns,” Wolf said in a statement released by his office. “It will also help them with any increased costs that have been incurred due to the pandemic – things like cleaning and sanitization, which will help keep the 386,000 children who attend our licensed child care facilities safe, as well as the workers who do so much to care for them.” The state has already distributed $51 million in federal CARES Act funding to eligible childcare providers, with another $116 million to be distributed in the coming months. All told, the state will direct $220 million in assistance to childcare providers, the administration said. The money is being distributed through the Human Services Department’s Office of Child

BY JOHN L. MICEK - SPECIAL TO THE PITTSBURGH CURRENT

INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM

Pa. Secetary of Human Services Teresa Miller.

Development and Early Learning (OCDEL), which licenses child care providers across Pennsylvania. The office also is working with Penn State Harrisburg’s Institute of State and Regional Affairs to study the challenges facing providers as they reopen during the pandemic. Its results will be used to determine how to drive out additional aid, officials said

Monday. Statewide, 65 of the 7,107 state’s licensed childcare providers have closed as a result of the pandemic, the administration said. “While we do not know how this pandemic will look in a week, a month, or a year, we know that a healthy, robust child care system will be critical to weather the economic recovery ahead,” Miller said in

a statement. “This study will capture experiences and challenges child care providers have endured since COVID-19 arose in Pennsylvania and will allow us to direct additional funds how and where our child care providers need them most.” John L. Micek is the Editor of the Pa. Capital-Star where this story first appeared.

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | JULY 7, 2020 | 9


NEWS ALLEGHENY COUNTY WILL MAKE $4.3 MILLION PROFIT IN NEW CONTRACT TO PROVIDE PHONE CALLS FOR COUNTY JAIL INMATES BY CHARLIE DEITCH - PITTSBURGH CURRENT EDITOR

CHARLIE@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM

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llegheny County will be getting a $4.3 million windfall over the next three years thanks to a new contract awarded to Global Tel*Link, a Virginia-based telecom company. The problem is that Global TL will be providing inmate phone and communication service at the Allegheny County Jail and the money they’ll be using to fatten the county’s coffers is coming directly out of the pockets of incarcerated people and their families. Allegheny County officials were unable to comment by deadline. Telecom services are extremely important to incarcerated individuals, especially in the time of COVID-19 when normal visitation has been suspended. It’s a necessary inmate-service and instead of making the services as inexpensive as possible, the county set out in the process to make as much cash off the deal as possible. In a summary sent to Allegheny County Rich Fitzgerald for final review and signature, the agreement is officially called a “revenue-generating contract.” At first blush, when looking strictly at the benefits of the contract for incarcerated people, the deal will bring a

whole suite of communication options to inmates. Aside from phone service, there will also be a video-visitation component and access to tablets for those visits and to access other educational and entertainment apps. They’d also be able to send texts and receive photos from friends and family However, in order to access these services, inmates will need to pay a steep price

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According to the contract, there is the Inmate Telephone System (ITS) and the Video Visitation Solution (VVS). So, if you want to see a picture from your kid’s soccer game, it will cost you a quarter. If you want to see a 30-second video clip, it’ll be $1. A half-hour video visit will cost you $7.50. Wanna watch a movie, listen to music or play Candy Crush? The

cost is $3 an hour. And there are other fees as well, all of which are problematic and have some members of the Jail Oversight Board concerned. Under the contract, Allegheny County is set to receive a Monthly Minimum Guarantee (MMG) that will net at least $100,000 a month (it could be more if more revenue is brought in. Additionally, the county re-


NEWS ceived a financial incentive of $750,000, which will be paid in additional monthly installments of just over $20,000 a month for 36 months. Also important to note is that these numbers weren’t pulled out of thin air. They were calculated as a percentage of revenue based on a daily jail population of more than 2,300 inmates. So, now there is a financial incentive to keep the population up at a time when many advocates are calling for drastically reduced populations.  Making matters worse, not only is the county making money off its inmate population, the money isn’t even going back into the jail’s Inmate Welfare Fund. That has some elected officials up in arms.  “This is literally the definition of a racket,” says Allegheny County Councilor Bethany Hallam, a member of the Jail Oversight board. “Just take phone calls for example. The county receives 65 percent of all revenue made from phone calls. So, just by not trying to make a profit we could make phone calls 65 percent cheaper for inmates. “But instead, the county is going to profit $4.3 million by privatizing services for basic human needs. This contract was negotiated in the dark. Neither the public nor this board were included in the process. There was no transparency whatsoever. We couldn’t get any information about this deal until it was signed and the county secured its profit, which included

a bonus just for signing on three-quarters-of-a-million dollars.” Hallam said she and other board members have wanted the county for some time to consider making all phone calls for inmates free. But in recent months as they asked about that, they were told by jail officials that the contract was being negotiated and they couldn’t discuss it. The county has a lot of discretion when selecting bids from contractors. The only requirement is that they select the most competitive bid. But Hallam believes the only criteria used here was choosing the best deal for the county, not the best deal for the incarcerated population. At this point, Hallam says there are a few options to rectify the situation now and in the future. First, the county council can legislate that the county will not profit off of people in the jail. Secondly, according to the contract, the county can opt-out of the deal at any time with a 90-day notice. That, she says, needs to happen. “Any profit made off of members of our most vulnerable population is disgusting,” Hallam says. “This is not a good deal for incarcerated people in our county. It incentivizes the county to keep population numbers at the jail high at a time when everyone says our jail population needs to be smaller. It’s especially disconcerting that this deal was made in the middle of a pandemic.”

ALLEGHENY COUNTY JAIL NOW HAS 28 SUSPECTED CASES OF COVID-19 BY CHARLIE DEITCH - PITTSBURGH CURRENT EDITOR

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CHARLIE@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM

s of July 6, the Allegheny County Jail has 31 possible coronavirus cases–25 inmates and six employees are currently awaiting the results of tests. The number of pending and new cases of the virus had been stable at the jail until June 29 when the ACJ listed on its website that two employees had tested positive for the virus. At that time, four more employees and 13 incarcerated individuals had tested positive. The ACJ updates it’s coronavirus stats daily. So far, 28 inmates out of 148 tested have been diagnosed with COVID-19; all have recovered. Last week, several employees at the ACJ told the Current, they believe the cause of the spike is due to puzzling quarantine procedures and a drastic increase in new inmates. Several employees, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, say that an overcrowded intake wing and inconsistent quarantine procedures, along with other flawed processes, are the likely culprits for the increase. By rule, all new inmates at the Allegheny County Jail are ordered to be held in quarantine for 14 days before being allowed in with the general population. But many incarcerated individuals aren’t getting a full two weeks of quarantine. Here’s what’s happening: By ACJ rule, all new bookings must be held in a cell with another person as a suicide-prevention measure. As one inmate comes off quarantine and moved into the general population, another person is moved into the cell. But while the first inmate may be on day 10 or 12 of his quarantine, his new cellmate may only be on day 3. The first inmate’s quarantine has been disrupted by possible exposure, however, they are still moved out at the end of the quarantine if they are asymptomatic. The increase of potential cases at the jail tracks with what has ben also happening at the county level. Today, the county announced 218 new cases of COVID-19, yet another new oneday record. Since Friday, there have been 672 new cases over the Fourth of July weekend, which saw it’s share of unmasked events, including a “boat parade” for President Trump. Many advocates and elected officials have been concerned about a major outbreak at the jail and have requested universal testing, like other jails and prisons across the country have done. Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner along with Allegheny County Councilor Bethany Hallam sit on the jail board and attempted to have universal testing mandated on May 7. ACJ officials were against the testing and the board voted it down. PITTSBURGH CURRENT | JULY 7, 2020 | 11


NEWS PRO SECOND AMENDMENT LAWMAKERS WANT TO LET YOU CARRY A GUN DURING AN EMERGENCY BY STEPHEN CARUSO - FOR THE PITTSBURGH CURRENT

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s Pennsylvanians have taken to the Capitol steps in recent months to protest their government, some decided to take a shotgun or assault rifle along for the ride. But many of those demonstrators may have been breaking a rarely enforced state law that bans openly carrying firearms during an official disaster declaration. That potential collision of the right to bear arms and the state’s police power was eliminated by a bill that passed the state House in late June. Legal observers say the law, as written, is on solid constitutional ground, but their opponents strenuously disagree. Gov. Tom Wolf has declared two states of emergencies in the past months — the ongoing statewide COVID-19 emergency declaration, as well as a temporary declaration because of Black Lives Matter protests in some of the Commonwealth’s cities, such as Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Under Pennsylvania’s Uniform Firearms Act, during such an emergency, “no person shall carry a firearm upon the public streets or upon any public property” during a state of emergency. There are two exceptions,

one for an individual is “actively engaged in a defense of that person’s life or property from peril or threat” or if they have a firearm license, such as a concealed carry permit. A bill sponsored by Rep. Matt Dowling, R-Fayette, would remove these provisions from law. The legislation passed the House on

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127-74 on June 24 and is now in the Senate. All but two of the House’s 109 Republicans, and 21 of 93 Democrats, supported it. “Unfortunately, in the last few months, we’ve seen how easy it is for one person to choose to declare a state of emergency,” Dowling said in a statement. He added that it’s critical gun rights “remain

in place, even if the governor announces an emergency declaration.” The bill also makes one other related change. Under the state’s emergency code, the governor can “suspend or limit the sale, dispensing or transportation of alcoholic beverages, firearms, explosives and combustibles”


under their emergency declaration. Dowling’s bill would take away the ability to regulate firearm sales. In an email, Joshua Prince, a Pennsylvania-based firearms attorney, said that the law unconstitutionally delegates the regulation of an individual right to the executive and judicial branches, instead of keeping the authority within the Legislature. He also pointed out that pandemic-inspired office closures, in such places as Philadelphia, have delayed processing the very permits that would let a citizen openly carry during the emergency. “Those individuals are left with no recourse and are being stripped of their constitutional rights,” Prince said in an email. If someone breaks the rule, state law allows for your firearm to be temporarily confiscated. The state has taken a soft touch to potential violations. Neither Prince nor the state police could provide an example of anyone who had run afoul of the provision. “The governor worked with Pennsylvania State Police and local law enforcement to ensure that the opioid and COVID-19-related disaster declarations did not affect citizens’ firearms rights,” tate Police spokesperson Ryan Tarkowski said in an email. The commonwealth also has extended the expiration dates for concealed carry permits holders who may have come due amid the pandemic,

Tarkowski said. A similar proposal to Dowling’s has been around since at least 2018. Former state senator and GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott Wagner made political hay of the law when Wolf used the state emergency code to fight the opioid abuse epidemic. At the time, the Wolf administration accused Wagner of election year grandstanding. Two years later, the administration continues to oppose the bill. “The current disaster declarations in place are meant to help the administration fight the public health crises at hand and have no impact on citizens and their firearm rights,” Wolf spokesperson Lyndsay Kensinger said in an email. Violating the law would result, if prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, in a first degree misdemeanor. Those found guilty could be forced to pay a fine of between $1,500 to $10,000 and serve up to five years in jail under state law. If someone served more than a year in prison, Prince pointed out, that individual would not be allowed to legally own a gun again, under federal law. Prince added he could not envision a scenario where the law might prove useful to authorities. Other attorneys and legal observers interviewed by the Capital-Star mostly disagreed with Prince’s absolutist take. They pointed to other

circumstances when there might be a need to temporarily restrict gun rights, even a little bit, whether a hostage situation at the Capitol or violent riots in the street in Philadelphia. “This bill seemingly seeks to stop a problem that does not seem to exist, and almost certainly will not become law because of the governor’s opposition,” said Steve Ross, a law professor at Penn State University. Currently, gun stores can operate in Pennsylvania by appointment. At least five states, including neighboring New York, shut them down altogether during the pandemic, according to The Trace. Earlier in the pandemic, Wolf had taken a similar approach. His original list of “life-sustaining businesses” did not include firearm dealers. But Prince and others filed suit against the policy. In late March, the state Supreme Court turned down an appeal to hear the case immediately, instead forcing it to trudge through the state’s appellate courts. But that was by a slim 4-3 decision. Writing for the minority, Democratic Justice David Wecht said that the state should provide a way for gun buyers to safely purchase firearms while following public health restrictions. This would avoid “an impermissible intrusion upon a fundamental constitutional right,” Wecht wrote. Wolf seemed to take the

hint. He quietly reopened gun stores on March 24 in response to the court’s suggestion. Bruce Ledewitz, a law professor at Duquesne University, said that the move shows how Wolf has scrupulously avoided a final showdown to his executive reach. “If you’re going to allow sales in grocery stores, you can’t deny a sale that is [a] constitutional right,” Ledewitz, also a Capital-Star opinion contributor, said. Faced with a case where the constitution might trump his emergency powers, Wolf relented to keep the power intact, if limited. Without the law, Ledewitz said, the administration might not have had the legal authority to make sure that gun stores follow social distancing and mask requirements at all. But as for the bill itself, like Penn State’s Ross, Ledewitz thought it was more about politicking than balancing public safety and individual rights during uncertain times. “Republicans have had it with the approach to the virus, and this is just a way of registering their concerns,” Ledewitz said. “[Wolf] hasn’t denied sales of guns. Nobody can say what he is doing at this point is a violation of the rights to bear arms.” Stephen Caruso is a staff writer for the Pennsylvania Capital-Star where this story first appeared.

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | JULY 7, 2020 | 13


OPINION

TRUMP'S DISTRACTION FROM THE PANDEMIC AND HIS RUSSIAN FAILURES BY LARRY J. SCHWEIGER - PITTSBURGH CURRENT COLUMNIST

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INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM

ver the showman, Trump staged two separate 4th of July speeches demonizing protesters who were challenging police brutality in the murder of George Floyd. Calling protesters "far-left fascists," his baseless “Cancel Culture” message claims totalitarianism is “driving people from their jobs, shaming dissenters, and demanding total submission from anyone who disagrees.” Trump is firing up his shrinking base by stoking the perceived grievances of white voters. He proffered that “America is imperiled” apparently by those who seek police reforms and social justice. Instead of unifying America by finding solutions in the wake of the protests or announcing strong Federal actions to address the worst pandemic in a hundred years, Trump’s divisive messaging doubled down on cultural division. Trump called protesters "angry mobs." He claims they "are trying to tear down statues of our Founders, defac(ing) our most sacred memorials, and unleash(ing) a wave of violent crime in our cities... In our schools, our newsrooms, even our corporate boardrooms, there is a new far-left fascism that demands absolute allegiance. If you do not speak its language, perform its rituals, recite its mantras, and follow its commandments, then you will be censored, banished, blacklisted, persecuted, and punished. It’s not going to happen to us.” Taxpayers are footing the

bill for these divisive political events. From the military band, Mount Rushmore facilities, and fireworks to the jets and helicopters flying overhead, Trump’s extravagant reelection event for 3,700 Trump donors and supporters was held at our expense. Images of these lavish events will no doubt soon be a part of Trump’s political ad campaign. Trump claims to be concerned for monuments, but he dismantled the Native American's Bears Ears Monument by cutting its acreage by 85% for uranium miners. Trump’s border wall cut through the ecologically fragile Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. Trump cut the two-million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante Monument nearly in half to open it to coal miners. Trump's racist rhetoric and Antifa claims have consequences too. Armed self-appointed militia and white nationalists from around the country traveled to the National Parks at Gettysburg on the 4th of July to stop a hoax. An anonymous provocateur on social media created fake plans for non-existent “Antifa” protesters to converge Gettysburg on Independence Day to burn American flags. While it was a perverse hoax, it exposes Trump's followers who are being hoodwinked by false Antifa claims. When Trump tweeted a video of a Trumpster shouting “white power” at protesters, others in the administration falsely claimed that he did not hear

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Donald Trump before his Mount Rushmore speech escalated already volatile racial tens

those words. Trump's racist diatribes, blatant anti-Muslimism, treatment of innocent Latino children, and past comments about "very good people" who were chanting "the Jews will not replace us" has made it painfully clear that Trump is a racist. The racist shift in the Republican Party did not start with Trump. The Democratic Party longheld white southern voters dating back to when the Democratic National Convention in 1864 nominated General George B. McClellan-a reluctant general

that Lincoln fired for inaction. At that same convention, Democratic “Copperheads” succeeded in adopting a platform advocating dividing the Nation to seek an immediate peace with the Confederacy. Southern white voters consistently supported conservative Democrats, including racist President Wilson. A majority of black voters backed Republicans up to and including Eisenhower’s elections in 1952, and in 1956. Ike had a deep respect for his African American soldiers. He gave a good reason


OPINION

sions.

for African Americans to stay Republican. The Eisenhower administration following in the tradition of Lincoln’s Republican Party and accomplished much for civil rights. Eisenhower integrated the armed forces. He promoted more blacks into the federal bureaucracy than his predecessors. He appointed federal judges and lawyers to his justice department, who supported racial justice. In 1954, Ike sent U.S. National Guard troops to integrate Little Rock's Central High School enforcing the 1954 unanimous Supreme

Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education. While the courts were dismantling Jim Crow laws, the historical relationship between Southern white voters and the Democratic Party began to decay. The civil rights movement increasingly gained the support of Attorney General Bobby Kennedy, President Kennedy, and later President Johnson. When Johnson signed the Voter Rights Act of 1964, he acknowledged to his press secretary that he had just given the South to the Republicans. Bill Moyers shared with me that he checked in with the President each night before the President turned the lights out. "The night the Act passed, I found him in bed with the bulldog edition of the Washington Post lying on his chest. The headline was "Johnson Signs Civil Rights Act.” While the media proclaimed the unprecedented and historical Act, yet, Johnson was glum. Did I ask him why? The President responded, “I think we’ve just delivered the South to the Republican Party for the rest of my life, and yours.” Republican Presidential candidate Senator Barry Goldwater ignited a shift in the Republican Party when he voted against the Voter Rights Act. Goldwater believed Brown v. Board of Education, and associated Jim Crow court actions were “abuses of power by the court.” Goldwater also believed Eisenhower embraced socialism. With his racist rhetoric, Goldwater’s campaign ignited a movement within the party of Lincoln in the direction of Southern white voters angered by changes in Democratic leadership on civil rights. Martin Luther King Jr generously reflected, “While not

himself a racist, Mr. Goldwater articulates a philosophy which gives aid and comfort to the racists.” After hearing Goldwater at the GOP convention in 1964, Jackie Robinson helped launch Republicans for Johnson. Senator Albert Gore Sr. broke from the southern tradition. He lost his election in the conservative state of Tennessee in 1970 in large part because he voted for the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Republican Bill Brock attracted the support of many white, conservative voters who traditionally supported Gore and the Democratic Party. Despite Goldwater’s loss, Kevin Phillips, a Republican operative, recognized the trend and made a compelling case for the Republican Party's political realignment shifting southward and much more conservative. Richard Nixon embraced Phillip’s "southern strategy" and coded language calling on the "Silent Majority" to attract Wallace voters. Nixon’s Silent Majority was mostly blue-collar and white apolitical people in suburban, exurban, and rural middle-class. Embracing Phillip’s strategy, Nixon nominated Southern Conservatives to the Supreme Court and proposed a Constitutional amendment to ban school busing for racial integration. Ronald Reagan continued the phrase Silent Majority and found success using the same Southern Strategy. Republicans have appointed the majority on the Supreme Court that dismantled critical provisions of the Voters Rights Act undercutting the protections afforded to minority voters. During the 2016 campaign, Trump often referred to the Silent Majority and claimed in a Phoenix rally that "the silent majority is back, and we’re go-

ing to take our country back." Trump is now sowing racial divisions in the middle of a raging pandemic while he is winding down Federal testing for COVID-19 in critical locations. Ignoring the compelling evidence that Russians were paying a bounty to Taliban fighters to kill American soldiers, Trump calls the matter "fake news" and a "hoax." He has failed to respond to Putin's surrogate war against American Soldiers. Instead of confronting Putin to protect American troops in Afghanistan, Trump suggests that a “left-wing cultural revolution is designed to overthrow the American Revolution. In so doing, they would destroy the very civilization that rescued billions from poverty, disease, violence, and hunger, and that lifted humanity to new heights of achievement, discovery, and progress. To make this possible, they are determined to tear down every statue, symbol, and memory of our national heritage." The Lincoln Project, led by traditional Republicans, is running ads that make a compelling case for change. The Republican Party is no longer the Party of Lincoln. It now traffics in racial division and hatred. Supine Republic lawmakers are complicit since they fail to repudiate Trump's now blatant racism and his deeply troubling failures in leadership. Republican Governors are also failing to take the hard steps necessary to protect Americans from COVID-19, and Republican lawmakers are unwilling to differ with Trump to protect our troops in Afganistan. Voters who have traditionally voted Republican must now decide if they will be complicit in Trump's takeover of Lincoln's Party. Every Republican voter PITTSBURGH CURRENT | JULY 7, 2020 | 15


A&E HERO STORY

PITTSBURGH COMICS ARTIST TOM SCIOLI PENS THE LIFE OF JACK KIRBY

I

t’s clear from reading Tom Scioli’s comic books that he draws a lot of inspiration from legendary comic artist Jack Kirby. He describes Kirby as his hero. Just recently, he finished a biography of Kirby’s life in comic book form, a project he took on for a few years. “I felt very close to him,” Scioli says. “It felt like I was hanging out with him. I was spending that much time immersed in his world. In a way, it felt like I was sort of living his life.” Scioli’s 208-page comic book, Jack Kirby: The Epic Life of the King of Comics, releases Tuesday, July 14, telling the entire story of Kirby’s life from childhood to death. Kirby, who most prominently began to make comics in the early-'40s and passed away in 1994, co-created many of the most beloved and well-known superheroes from Marvel Comics, such as the Hulk, the Fantastic Four and Iron Man. Kirby also did a lot of work for rival company DC Comics throughout his career, most notably New Gods, a cosmic epic that serves as the source material for an upcoming film directed and co-written by Ava Duvernay. Scioli outfitted the book, published by Ten Speed Press, with narration written as though it’s a first-person account from Kirby and primarily used evenly-sized six-panel layouts, a go-to for Kir-

BY MATT PETRAS - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CONTRIBUTING WRITER MATT@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM

Tom Scioli (Photo: Gregory Neiser)

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A&E by in his artwork. Scioli set out to exhaustively detail every significant part of Kirby’s personal and professional life. “It starts with his parents and his birth and then goes through his whole career and ends with his death and legacy,” Scioli says. “What his life and work gave birth to.” Scioli leaned heavily on The Jack Kirby Collector, a magazine that, through dozens of issues, compiled Kirby’s art work and interviews he had given. “My education in Kirby largely came from there,” Scioli says. “Of course there were other sources, but because The [Jack] Kirby Collector has been so committed to cataloguing everything and putting it all in one place, that was an invaluable resource.” A significant chunk of the book focuses on the infamously tense relationship between Stan Lee and Kirby. Many fans contend that Lee took too much credit for the characters and storylines he co-created with Kirby. “I’d like people to walk away from this book having a better understanding of what the creative process is, the complexity of it and how far assumptions about who did what tends to be pretty far removed from the truth of these things,” Scioli says. Though both men played important roles in creating characters that have become household names, thanks in large part to the enormously successful Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise spanning movies like Avengers and Black Panther, Lee ultimately became the most well-known. Many people who’ve never read a comic would recognize Lee

from a picture. While Kirby certainly became a titan by the time he passed, he never quite reached that same level of fame. “Stan Lee was in a position of power,” Scioli says. “He was the editor. He had the last word. He had final approval. He could

put his name on everything and everywhere.” To some extent, it also came down to personality differences and Lee’s amazing ability to self-promote, Scioli says. “Stan Lee was a narcissistic figure,” Scioli says. “He loved

attention. He loved being in the spotlight, and he really came alive in those moments when he was on display and he could be charming and liquacious and everything you would want as a fan. He would just kind of put on a show for anybody.” Kirby was a complicated man who had a well-documented relationship with anger. “He was incredibly intense, but it was an energy that was mainly directed inwardly... He had a violent temper but would continually fight to keep it contained, almost like the Hulk,” Scioli says. “He was very generous. He was generous with his time and his attention and his work, very generous within his work and loved his fans.” Kirby did not showboat, Scioli says. “He had a sense of his accomplishments and his skills and had a realistic understanding of how exceptional his work was, but it never came across as arrogant,” Scioli says. “He still had a tremendous humility about himself and his work.” Kirby’s work had an unparalleled impact on the way comic books were and continue to be made, something Scioli wanted to capture with his upcoming book. His work in the 40s had a big impact, Scioli says, but it was his work for Marvel in the 60s that really touched the entire comics industry. “Everybody who came after had to at least reckon with what Jack Kirby did and understand it, and then maybe decide to do something different or build on that,” Scioli says. “But you still feel it today.

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | JULY 7, 2020 | 17


EXTRA

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

I’m a lesbian in a long-term relationship. After much conversation with my partner we’ve decided to explore cuckolding role-play together. I’m not comfortable bringing another person into the relationship—especially right now—but I am willing to explore this as a fantasy. The thing is, I’m having a hard time figuring out how to do it. There’s not a lot of info out there on how to engage in cuck role-play, especially between two women. Could you point me in the right direction here so we can have some fun while remaining monogamous? Couldn’t Undergo Cuckolding Kink’s Glories In Real Life “You can definitely introduce cuckolding themes and even a cuck identity into your relationship while remaining monogamous,” said Thomas, a married gay man and former cuck blogger whose husband has cucked him many times IRL. “In fact, many cuckold relationships are monogamous and cucking remains in the fantasy realm.” Thomas even sees his relationship as monogamous—at least on his side. “The definition of monogamy varies greatly for each couple,” said Thomas, “and I do consider myself monogamous because I'm the cuck and so I don’t technically have sex with other guys. My husband does. I just get to watch some-

times.” Let me quickly define terms for readers who somehow missed the three hundred other columns I’ve written about cuckolding over the years: A cuckold relationship is a one-sided open relationship where one partner is free to have sex with other people while the other partner remains faithful. What distinguishes a cuckold relationship from your standard open relationship where one person doesn’t care to sleep around is the element of humiliation. In most cuckold relationships, GUCKGIRL, the cuck—the person who remains faithful—enjoys being teased or mocked by their “unfaithful” partner; sometimes the “unfaithful” partner’s lover or lovers, usually referred to as “bulls,” participates in the erotic humiliation of the cuck partner. Thomas created a popular Tumblr blog about gay male cuckold relationships back when there was very little information about gay cuckolds online, CUCKGIRL, much less gay cuckold porn or other resources. In fact, there was once so little info online or anywhere else about gay cuckolds that many people—myself included—weren’t convinced that gay cuckolding was actually a thing. Cuckolding wasn’t a thing in Thomas’s marriage at the start. “Total monogamy had always been the plan,” said Thomas. “But I got interested after seeing some straight cuckold porn. I immediately identified with the cuck but I was too embarrassed to bring it up with my husband because it went against our

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vision of our marriage but also because I only ever saw cuckolding represented in straight porn.” Raising awareness of gay cuckolds—and representing gay cuckold relationships—motivated Thomas to start his blog. So if you’re not finding anything out there about lesbian cuckolding, CUCKGIRL, perhaps you could borrow a page from Thomas’s playbook and create the content and resources you would like to see. Sadly, Thomas’s gay cuckolding blog is no more. His was just one of the many sex blogs— deeply personal passion projects, one and all—that were lost forever after the geniuses who ran Tumblr decided to purge adult content from their platform. In a matter of days Tumblr saw its traffic fall by one-third and its value crater. Yahoo paid $1.1 billion to acquire Tumblr back 2013 but six years and one porn purge later the site sold for just $20 million—less than 2% of what Tumblr was worth when it still hosted Thomas’s gay cuckolding blog. (The moral of this story: Don’t fuck with gay cuckolds.) Thomas thinks it’s entirely possible for you and your partner to enjoy lesbian cuckolding fantasies while keeping your relationship monogamous on both sides. Indeed, that’s what Thomas and his husband did for many years. “My husband and I started playing around with cuckold fantasies several years into our marriage and it remained a hot role-play fantasy for a long time,” said Thomas. “It was fun, it was sexy, and it improved our ability to communicate with each other about sex in general.” They kept their fantasy play simple at first—for example, his husband would talk about a guy he found hot while Thomas blew him or Thomas would tease his husband about a sexy new coworker of his that he knew his husband had a crush

on. They would use insertion toys and pretend they were other guys’ dicks and only gradually did they introduce some humiliating dirty talk into their cuckold role-play talk, and then only as Thomas’s husband become more comfortable with the idea of humiliating him. “Making use of cam sites is also a great way to explore if you're comfortable with that level of monogamish,” said Thomas. “If you’re a cuck like me, watching your partner perform for someone else is incredibly erotic.” A more monogamous way to explore cuckolding without opening the relationship—not even a crack—is simply to ask your partner to tell you about her past sexual encounters. Listening to your partner talk about hot experiences she had with other women while you masturbate or while you two fuck is a great way to explore cuckolding without actually opening up your relationship. You’ll be bringing people up, CUCKGIRL, not bringing them in. “But just as a gay cuckold couple’s fantasies aren’t identical to a straight couple’s cuckold fantasies, a lesbian couple’s fantasies aren’t going to be the same either,” said Thomas. “CUCKGIRL and her partner just have to find their own way. But the most important thing is to keep communicating. Always communicate! If a particular form of role-play isn't working, tell your partner. And give each other veto powers and go easy on yourself. Cuckolding is a fantasy that plays with your fears around monogamy and infidelity—it can be very hot but it can be scary too. So take it slow.” Like a lot of sex bloggers who were kicked off Tumblr, Thomas migrated over to Twitter, where he currently has more than 13,000 followers. His handle on Twitter is @gaycuckoldhubby.


ESSAY LATELY BY MATTHEW WALLENSTEIN - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CONTRIBUTING WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM

I dreamed I was in shallow black water surrounded by trees and grey stones. There were snakes moving towards me curling into each other. I turned to swim away and they closed in, tying my limbs like rope and pushing their wet bodies into my mouth, sliding over me, swallowing my eyes. I could feel the empty sockets expand as they wriggled into them. I woke up and read for a few minutes. I got out of bed and lifted weights in the basement. After that I showered and went to work. I tattooed the chest of a pro wrestler. Before we started he told me not to think he was ignoring me if he didn’t answer when I asked him something. He was deaf in one ear and didn’t always catch what people said. I asked him how he ended up with the hearing problem. He told me about the 15 foot fall he had in a match that shattered his skull. His mother was at the event and she still thought it was part of the act even when they hauled him off in an ambulance. He was thankful for that because if she had known at the time it was real and not scripted she would have handled it very badly. In the hospital he discovered he couldn’t hear anymore out of one of his ears. Now he wore a device that helped by transferring sound from the bad ear to the good one. He didn’t always wear it though. He sat for the tattoo without complaining. I went to wash my clothes at the laundromat and get some food at the restaurant next to it. After eating, when the wash cycle was done I left my clothes in the dryer and headed home. I wanted to draw the pictures I was late on mailing out. When I turned up my street an ambulance came driving past me wailing and flashing its lights. When I was about a 100 yards from where I lived a police car pulled

in front of me and blocked off the street. There were already five or six other cop cars blocking off the rest of the intersection. I turned around and drove down a side street. My car jerked as it went over the gaps in the cobblestone. My tires were always bald and mostly flat. Braddock’s streets used to be cobblestone but most of them had been paved over. These side streets near my place hadn’t. When I made it to my house and looked down the hill they had the yellow caution tape out, wrapping it around a telephone pole, running it to a streetlamp, making a crooked square of it to fence off the intersection. There were a few people standing outside of their houses watching, or leaning on cars, or waving newspapers like fans in front of their sweating faces. I thought about interviewing them, playing journalist. But I’m not a journalist, I am more of a bum really. I went inside. My roommate was sitting on the couch with my dog. He was wearing basketball shorts and typing on his computer, complaining to the air that he was overworked. My

dog had wedged herself between the cushions of the couch and only her head poked out in its clear plastic cone. She had gotten her eye sliced open by a cat she tried to eat earlier in the week so she had to wear it. “Did you hear shots?” I asked. “Huh?” “Were there shots?” “Yeah, a bunch just like—maybe five minutes ago or something.” “Yeah they were taping off the street, I must have just missed it by a couple of minutes.” “So I shouldn’t go for a walk? I was going to go for a walk.” “Maybe.” I called my dog into the kitchen. I got her pills and eye drops from the refrigerator. One drop each from two droppers every 4 hours, one white pill every eight hours, two brown pills every twelve hours. In the right light you could see a grey line across her little black eye. Later in the week I was scheduled to see a specialist to find out if the eye was salvageable, and if it was whether or not I would need that $3500 surgery the ER vet was talking about. I peeled a

banana and pushed the pills into it. She loved bananas. She gobbled it up. I went up to my studio to work on the drawings. She climbed up the stairs after me, bumping the cone on each step. I had just laid out the paper and pen and figured out what music to listen to when she pushed the door open with her cone head. She stood in the hall looking up at me, wagged her tail, burped very loudly, then threw up the banana and pills. Most of it landed in her cone and she ate it again before I even had a chance to get out of my chair. I got some paper towels and cleaned the remnants off her cone and the hallway floor. She flopped over and I rubbed her belly. After a while she grumbled and went into my bedroom. I drew. Once my head started to hurt I took a break and went out into the hall. I heard a commotion coming from my room. The door was shut. I found her on my bed, she had rolled my blanket into a ball and was furiously humping it. When she saw that I was there she froze mid hump and stared at me. We stayed that way for a while, just staring. She looked guilty, a balled up blanket under her, her little black triangle eye looking at me from the side of her head. She was always shutting doors behind herself when she was up to no good. I went over and rubbed her belly some more. She grumbled and wagged her tail. Her eye ended up being fine. I probably left the cone on longer than I needed to but I wanted to be sure. She ended up using it on walks to scoop up dirt and smell it. Before that, the last time shots were fired in the neighborhood was about a month earlier. I walked out the front door with my dog on her leash and six or eight shots went off in rapid succession. They sounded like they were a few blocks away. I brought her back inside and ate some beans, gave her a banana, made plans to go up to New Hampshire.

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | JULY 7, 2020 | 19


PA R T I N G S H OT

PITTSBURGH CURRENT PHOTO BY JAKE MYSLIWCZYK PITTSBURGH CURRENT | JULY 7, 2020 | 20

Profile for pittsburghcurrent

Pittsburgh Current, July 7, 2020, Volume 3, Issue XX1  

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