AUTHOR LAILA LALAMI TO SPEAK ON 'CONDITIONAL CITIZENS' VOL. 3 ISSUE 36
Oct. 20, 2020 - Oct. 26, 2020
" H O N E S T " D A RY L ' S DEEP DISCOUNT R E A L E S TAT E ! " O U R P R I C E S A R E S O G O O D , YO U ' L L S W E A R S OM E O N E E L S E I S P AY I N G ! "
ARE YOU A PUBLIC OFFICIAL LOOKING FOR A LITTLE PRIVACY? ARE YOUR EXPENSES PAID FOR BY PENNSYLVANIA TAXPAYERS? ARE YOU RUNNING OUT OF ROOM TO DO VITAL "LEGISLATIVE WORK?" IS YOUR EGO SO LARGE THAT YOU DON'T BELIEVE YOU ANSWER TO ANYONE?
IF SO, HONEST DARYL HAS THE OFFICE SPACE FOR YOU!*
*HONEST DARYL RESERVES THE RIGHT TO DISCRIMINATE AGAINST DEMOCRATS, MEMBERS OF THE LGBTQ COMMUNITY, MINORITES, IMMIGRANTS, MUSLIMS; PEOPLE WHO MIGHT BE IMMIGRANTS, MINORITIES, DEMOCRATS, MUSLIMS OR MEMBERS OF THE LGBTQ COMMUNITY; WOMEN. WOMEN SEEKING REPRODUCTIVE JUSTICE, PEOPLE AGAINST MASS SHOOTINGS, PEOPLE AGAINST MASS INCARCERATION, BLACK MEN AND WOMEN TIRED OF BEING SHOT BY POLICE, THE MEDIA, ANYONE WHO QUESTIONS HIS NONSENSE AND MEN WHO INADVERTANTLY TOUCH HIM IN PUBLIC MEETINGS.
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Oct. 29, 7:00 p.m.
Just days before the election, join us for a dynamic virtual discussion with national political columnist, Salena Zito, author of The Great Revolt: Inside the Populist Coalition Reshaping American Politics, and commentator for CNN, Washington Examiner, NY Post, and The Wall Street Journal.
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PITTSBURGH CURRENT | OCTOBER 21, 2020 | 3
STAFF Publisher/Editor: Charlie Deitch Charlie@pittsburghcurrent.com Advisory Board Chairman: Robert Malkin Robert@pittsburghcurrent.com
Vol. III Iss. XXXVT Oct. 21, 2020
Music Editor: Margaret Welsh Margaret@pittsburghcurrent.com Visuals Editor: Jake Mysliwczyk Jake@pittsburghcurrent.com Sr. Contributing Writer: Jody DiPerna Jody@pittsburghcurrent.com Social Justice Columnist: Jessica Semler firstname.lastname@example.org Contributing Photographer: Ed Thompson
NEWS 6 | What's at Stake? 8 | Metcalfe's secret office 10 | Laila Lalami OPINION 12 | Electorally Speaking 14 | Larry Schweiger ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT 16 | Record Reviews EXTRA 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 |
Matthew Wallenstein Dan Savage Jessie Sage Parting Shot
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OFFICIAL ADVERTISEMENT THE BOARD OF PUBLIC EDUCATION OF THE SCHOOL DISTRICT OF PITTSBURGH A DV E R T I S E M E N T F O R B I D S Sealed proposals shall be deposited at the Administration Building, Bellefield Entrance Lobby, 341 South Bellefield Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pa., 15213, on November 10, 2020, until 2:00 P.M., local prevailing time for: Pgh. Allderdice HS Domestic Hot Water – PE Wing Plumbing Prime
Pgh. Crescent ECC Boiler Replacement Mechanical, Electrical and Asbestos Abatement Primes
Pgh. Montessori PreK-5 Domestic Water Booster System Plumbing Prime
Pgh. Sterrett 6-8 Entrance Doors General Prime
Various Schools: Pgh. Classical, Pgh Perry, Pgh. Colfax Replace Electrical Distribution Systems Electrical and Asbestos Abatement Primes
Service & Maintenance Contracts at Various Schools, Facilities, Facilities & Properties: • Concrete Maintenance • Extraordinary General Maintenance and Repairs • Extraordinary Masonry Maintenance and Repairs • Extraordinary Electrical Service, Maintenance and Repairs • Extraordinary Roofing Maintenance and Repairs • Fire Extinguisher and Fire Hoses Service and Maintenance • Gas and Oil Burners, Boilers and Furnaces Inspection, Service, and Repairs • Integrated Access Control, Intrusion Detection, and CCTV Surveillance Systems Service, Maintenance, Repairs, and Programming • Plumbing Maintenance and Repairs • Chillers and Refrigeration Systems Service, Maintenance and Repairs • Vertical Transportation Systems Preventative Maintenance and Service Project Manual and Drawings will be available for purchase on October 12, 2020 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.
REQUEST FOR PROPOSALS FOR GUARANTEED ENERGY SAVINGS ACT (GESA) PROPOSALS INCLUSIVE OF ENERGY-EFFICIENT BUILDING UPGRADES Sealed proposals shall be deposited at the Facilities Design and Construction Offices, School District of Pittsburgh, Service Center, 1305 Muriel Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15203 on December 7, 2020, until 2:00 P.M., local prevailing time for: IMPLEMENTATION OF ENERGY CONSERVATION MEASURES ON A PERFORMANCE CONTRACTING BASIS AT THE SCHOOL DISTRICT OF PITTSBURGH Requests for a copy of the RFP and all communications including questions to District relating to this RFP shall be in writing to Aldo Mazzaferro, Director of Technical Services, by email at Aldo@theECGgroup.com copying Michael Carlson (Michael@theECGgroup. com). Project details and submission requirements are described in the RFP. PITTSBURGH CURRENT | OCTOBER 21, 2020 | 5
ELECTION 2020 THOSE WITH THE POWER TO CHANGE THE SYSTEM AND IMPACT ELECTIONS NEED TO STEP UP AND DO THEIR JOBS BY ALONA WILLIAMS - SPECIAL TO THE PITTSBURGH CURRENT
t’s no secret that in a country built off the work of Black people, that even in this country’s most crucial moments we are being asked to clean up a mess we never created. The issues of this country affect us a lot deeper, and we have a lot less say about how this country runs. Over 50 percent of white women voted for Trump, yet young white leftist feel like voting doesn’t matter. Voter suppression is at an all time high, but liberals are adamant that “every vote counts.” People who have been convicted of felonies make up eight percent of the population of this country, and one in 13 Black people of voting age have felonies. This is a rate more than four times more than non Black voters. This statistic is higher in states like Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia which happen to be some of the most conservative states. This is the most familiar way of voter suppression, but with the pandemic and the emphasis on mail-in ballots, other issues of suppression are being brought to the forefront. Pennsylvania Department of State officials urged local groups to drop a federal lawsuit regarding voter suppression based on an election official’s opinion on if the voter’s signature matches the one on file. The lawsuit says that, “In Pennsylvania’s June 2 primary alone, when 1.5 million voted by mail, more than 26,000 votes were rejected including for signature related errors or matters of penmanship.” Gov. Tom Wolf is trying to work around the Republican majority to ensure penmanship is not an issue but counties are still waiting on a decision from the courts. For the last four years as a nation,
WHAT'S AT STAKE? Alona Williams
we have been given very little hope in regards to the power we have as a people. Voting has turned into this taboo topic where younger voters are feeling like the “lesser of 2 evils” isn’t good enough anymore (as if the “evils” directly impact them the most); or wealthy liberals positioning the election as if it relies heavily on the vote of Non-white, and Black people. It’s clear the Democratic Party has moved to scare tactics in order to emphasize this point, with Joe Biden threatening to take our Black cards away if we don’t vote for him. Scary sight. This land was pillaged and devoured by very lazy and greedy people, no matter which way you look at it. This is directly reflected in today’s election culture with the idea that Black people, specifically women can “save” this country. White liberals are so shaken by the problem they created from their lack of intention, that they want a figurehead that can rock them back to sleep. There is no plan to hold the Democratic Party accountable, which is something only upper mid-
6 | OCTOBER 21, 2020 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT
dle class white people can do. On the other hand, the young, white and uninspiring leftist that have the privilege to impact elections on a state and national level refuse to use this privilege. They live in this dream world where they feel they can spark the revolution with communist rhetoric and endangering the lives of Black people at peaceful protest by agitating the police. Both these groups refuse to listen, support, and consistently dedicate their time to Black leadership in their respective groups; yet we are the ones they are banking on. I have yet to see white people be creative in anything other than stealing, exploiting labor, or violence towards Black, Indigenous, disabled, immigrant, queer/trans, and poor people. I don’t foresee them dreaming of a world where they don’t do this. So white people not voting is completely out; white people only voting in national elections is out; and white people asking Black people to do work they should have been doing 4 years ago is definitely out. In a country where the system is not useful for non-white people, it would behoove any white person
who wants to help deconstruct white supremacy to infiltrate said system. It takes intentionality, creativity, and over all decency; but it’s not impossible. What is impossible is to keep going on the way we’ve been, and expecting change with no change of tactics. Black people and other exploited groups did not create the problem, if you feel white supremacy is a problem, then stop trying to mule out Black folks and clean your house. It stinks. ALONA WILLIAMS is a poet and Pittsburgh native. She is a 2020 graduate of Chatham University where she earned a BFA in Creative Writing with a Minor in Music. She participated in the Winter Tangerine’s 2018 workshop, and has been published (or has work forthcoming) in 1839 Magazine, The Minor Bird, MoonStone Arts Center’s Philadelphia Says: Resisting Arrest, and Femme Literati: Mixtape. She is a contributing author in two anthologies, the forthcoming Pittsburgh Neighborhood Guidebook and the recently released Tenderness – a Literary Anthology and Book of Spells:
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.
PITTSBURGH CURRENT | OCTOBER 21, 2020 | 7
PA G E 7
PA. HOUSE EXPENSE REPORTS SHOW THAT REP DARYL METCALFE CHARGES TAXPAYERS FOR AN OFFICE THEY EITHER CAN'T ENTER OR DOESN'T EXIST
ince at least January 2017, Republican Pennsylvania Rep. Daryl Metcalfe has paid more than $15,000 for a district office that does not appear to exist. According to Metcalfe’s Pa. House expense records, He has made payments of $475 dollars per month to The Johnson House Inc. for a “district office lease “ The Johnston House is an events venue and a tea room in Mars Pa.. However, Metcalfe also pays $873 per month for a district office at the Cranberry Municipal Center on Rochester Rd. On Metcalfe’s website, as well as any other public search, the controversial farright-wing legislator lists an office in Harrisburg and the one at the Cranberry Municipal Center. The Municipal Center and the Johnston House are about 5.1 miles away from each other. Typically, elected officials with more than one district office usually have those offices spread across the district. The Current visited the exterior of the Johnston House this morning and there is no signage indicating that Metcalfe has an office there. A woman answering the phone at the location this morning told the Current, “Oh, I think
BY CHARLIE DEITCH - PITTSBURGH CURRENT EDITOR CHARLIE@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
you’re going to have to talk to the owner about that.” So far, the call has not been returned. Earlier today, the Current reached out to Metcalfe, a spokesperson for the House GOP and Speaker of the House Brian Cutler. So far, those messages were not returned. Metcalfe is known for flagrant obstructionist behavior, homophobic comments, the belief that crisis actors helped fabricate the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. But one of his biggest claims is that he is a good steward of taxpayer money, as he points out in his mailers: The Current specifically asked the following questions: Despite appearances to the contrary, do you have an office at the Johnston House or some other property owned by Johnston House LLC.? If the answer is yes, why isn't this office listed on any government or public listing as a taxpayer-funded district office? If yes, When is the
8 | OCTOBER 21, 2020 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT
NEWS office open? If yes, How many staff members are in this office? If yes, what is the square footage and nature of the rental space? If you do not have a public office at this location, why have you been paying $475 per month for at least the past three years to the Johnston House Inc.? What is this money paying for? With all due respect, It does not appear that you have an office at this location. Please explain the expenditure in detail. If this expenditure is not for an office, how do you think that lines up with your claims that you are a watchdog for the taxpayers? In two weeks, Metcalfe will face off in the General Election against Democratic challenger Dan Smith and a write-in challenge from Republican Scott Timko. Metcalfe beat Timko in the primary. When contacted Monday afternoon Smith told the Current: "For someone that claims to 'Protect the Taxpayer' for the past 22 years, as a taxpayer myself, I am rather shocked after learning more of my opponent’s rather creative bookkeeping. Working in the financial sector for 25 years, this kind of spending would not be tolerated and be unquestionable grounds for termination. This is exactly the kind of behavior we have grown to expect from a career politician and, regardless of your political party, all voters should be just as upset as I
Above: The Johnston House in Mars Pa., where Daryl Metcalfe has paid $475 a month for at least the past three years. (Current Photo by Charlie Deitch) Left: Information from Metcalfe's expense report and a social media post.
am.” While still not returning the Current's calls for comment, Metcalfe made some statements on a critic's Facebook page, calling the story, "lies." "I have had office space there for years that is used for legislative work," Metcalfe wrote. "They have office space in the lower level of the building, which is leased. The office space was needed and is used for legislative work due to limited space being available in the township building where my main district office is located. The office at the Johnston House is not open
for walk-in constituent service which saves the cost of staffing and signage." However, Metcalfe's explanation comes hours after the initial inquiry by the Pittsburgh Current to both his office and the Johnston House. Also, several calls to his municipal center office and his Harrisburg Office continually went to straight to voicemail. Suzanne Almeida, interim Executive Director of the government watchdog group, Common Cause Pennsylvania, says Metcalfe owes it to taxpayers and constituents to
fully explain this office that they knew nothing about. "Constituent services are an important part of legislators’ jobs, and district offices are part of the infrastructure to provide those services. However, rental agreements for those district offices should be made at arms-length and at market rates – so there is no question of improper benefit on either side," Almeida said. "Anytime there is the appearance of impropriety in spending taxpayer funds, especially on something like constituent services, legislators must answer to their voters."
PITTSBURGH CURRENT | OCTOBER 21, 2020 | 9
PA G E 7
AUTHOR LAILA LALAMI DISCUSSES 'CONDITIONAL CITIZENS' IN VIRTUAL PGH ARTS & LECTURES SERIES BY JODY DIPERNA - PITTSBURGH CURRENT SENIOR CONTRIBUTING WRITER
hen you add carbon into iron, you get steel, a material which is less brittle, lighter and more durable. It's pretty important around these parts. On our good days, the story that Americans like to tell ourselves is that the heart of the American experience is like the alchemy of steel: the nation folds in new generations of immigrants to become a stronger nation. Politicians reach for that melting pot image on the stump constantly. Then there are the times when it is expedient to spin the tale the other way -- when immigrants and immigration can be used to create a cleaving point in the social fabric. Entire campaigns and political careers have been built on the belief that immigrants are dangerous, a drain on our resources, and even bring disease or a virus. People of color, people for whom english is not their first language, and those who don't adopt western styles of dress are all easy marks. The questions creep out of the shadows and corners about what it means to be a citizen and how we make those assessments in live time, in the blink of an eye: who is a real American? And who gets to do the judging? Just last week, a woman was caught on videotape calling
Pennsylvania's second Lady, Gisele Fetterman, a noxious racial slur. Laila Lalami, author of four previous novels, a Pulitzer prize finalist and professor of creative writing at UC Riverside, has written a book that is part history, part data driven investigation and part memoir, which interrogates all of our assumptions and conceptions in Conditional Citizens: On Belonging In America (Pantheon Books, 2020.) "[I]f you are a non-white citizen, because of the history that connects citizenship to race in the United States, if something happens -- like a pandemic or terrorist attack or some large disturbing event -- then you start to see accusations against that community. Accusations of being different, being traitorous, being spies, all of that," Lalami told the Current via telephone, noting America's long history of colonialism, xenophobia and racism. "There's always the chance, when an event like this happens, that you'll be told that it is your fault, or go back to your country, or you did this." Just last week, outside the Aldi's in Forest Hills, a white woman was caught on videotape calling Pennsylvania's second Lady, Gisele Fetterman, a noxious racial slur. The implication was clear:
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you are not a real American and you don't count. There can be other consequences in the form of hate crimes and harassment by the state. Bureaucracies and systems are built to make it hard for certain people to engage in civic life, like draconian voter ID laws and inaccessible polling places. Lalami also writes about the obstacle course that American capitalism sets up to
punish and essentially criminalize being poor. "We have a lot of communities that are heavily policed, heavily surveilled -populations around the border, populations around the inner cities, by race. There are all kinds of situations in which citizens are essentially surveilled, policed and harassed by their government, even as they believe that they live in the land of the free,"
NEWS We've all seen assimilation used a political hatchet brandished to gin up xenophobia, fear and hate. Those immigrants aren't assimilated enough. They aren't assimilating fast enough or even trying to assimilate. "Basically, assimilation is something that is wielded as a cudgel and it is used as an accusation against people. You never hear about it when
everything is going fine. Whenever there is a newer group that arrives, then suddenly there are questions about assimilation," she said. Pittsburgh Arts and Lectures is hosting a virtual event with Laila Lalami on Monday, October 26th.
FREE TO she said. Lalami herself is a naturalized citizen. She grew up in Morocco, an almost entirely Muslim nation and she was already living in the US when the 9/11 attacks happened. She's now had twenty years to reflect on the backlash against Muslims and people from the Middle East that happened in response. Personally, she had all kinds of interactions with people that were hurtful or racist or unpleasant, but there were much more violent and invasive actions. "That includes not just the spike in hate crimes, but all sorts of other things," Lalami recalled. "People who were immigrants from Arab and Muslim countries (I think the list was 26 countries) -- had to register with INS. It was called a special registration program. That was for men. Then there was the spying by the NYPD on pretty much every Muslim in the New York area and that lasted several years. These are actions by the govern-
ment, not just by random people throwing a brick in a Mosque. It was a combination of personal experiences and hate crimes, but also government sanctioned discriminatory practices." We are living in a time when young children are separated from their parents at the border and kept in cages. We are also living in a time, she points out, when Chinese Americans and Asian Americans are targets because of the coronavirus. "It reminds me of the days after 9/11," Lalami said. "People have reported being spat on, being accused of spreading Covid." Lalami writes about assimilation with real nuance and understanding. She was quick to point out the ugly history of assimilation here because of what happened with indigenous people. But even when assimilation is not forced, when people arrive and want to engage in American civic life, some aspects of culture are lost in the process.
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PITTSBURGH CURRENT | OCTOBER 21, 2020 | 11
PA G E 7
HOW A TERRIBLY CONSTRUCTED LAW IS BEING TAPED TOGETHER IN OUR COURTS
n October 2019, Act 77, an election reform bill authored by Republicans in the Pennsylvania legislature was signed into law by Governor Wolf. A majority of Democrats in both houses voted against the bill and were critical of its contents, some citing serious logistical deficiencies and lack of procedural integrity. The cementing of the law, from introduction to passage, took only 48 hours and consisted of no hearings or public discussion. The result is what we are seeing play out in our courts today, creating a great deal of uncertainty and confusion for voters and election officials. The sheer lack of preparation in crafting the bill and the resulting deficiencies, juxtaposed with the added pressure and demands of a global pandemic, has led to a number of legal challenges regarding processes and procedures for PA elections. Suits challenging the use of drop boxes, signature matching of mail-in-ballot and employment of outof-county poll watchers
BY ERIN MCCLELLAND AND CHUCK PASCAL - SPECIAL TO THE PITTSBURGH CURRENT INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
have managed to tie up the Commonwealthâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s election departments for the past 2 months, with one case still pending, only 2 weeks to go and thousands of votes already cast. In one case, the Republicans challenged the Commonwealthâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s process to count mail-in-ballots received after election day. The PA State Supreme Court (SCOPA) ruled
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that, in response to the pandemic and concerns regarding the processes of the US Postal Service, for this election cycle ONLY, valid ballots postmarked by or on election day can be accepted for up to 3 days after the election. That ruling was appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). Last night, after nearly 2 weeks, the SCOTUS finally declined,
without comment, to take the Republicans' case attempting to block the counting of Pennsylvania mail-in-ballots received after election day. As a result of the 4-4 decision, valid mail-in-ballots received up to 3 days after election day can be legally counted in Pennsylvania. In this ruling, it is important to address the lack of comment by the court. The
complete absence of opinion is leading many to interpret the decision’s ambiguity to mean the court has avoided setting precedent in the case, fully intending to address it at a later date. So stay tuned ... The only case that remains pending is that in which Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar petitioned SCOPA to invoke “King’s Bench” privilege (the SCOPA’s right to pluck from a lower court any case they deem pertinent.) The unusual aspect of the Secretary’s request is, there is no existing case in the lower courts for the Supreme Court to pluck. The Secretary is essentially asking the Court to provide her legal advice on interpretation of ACT 77 and corresponding guidelines for herself and the state’s County Elections Departments. The court agreed to take the case, but not without Justice Baer articulating his lack of enthusiasm with the court being employed as legal consultants. “In my view there is no case or controversy for this court to address and the legal question presented has been resolved in a federal lawsuit. Thus our exercise of jurisdiction would provide nothing more than an advisory opinion,” he wrote. Justice Dougherty opined to accept the case stating, “Although I note my disapproval of the precise manner to which this case
was presented for our review, I am persuaded by the Secretary’s assertion that only this court can render the ultimate determination concerning Pennsylvania law.” One might interpret this statement to mean, “I don’t like it, but I’ll take it, because no one else is capable of cleaning up this mess.” The court is expected to rule on the Boockvar decision very soon, concluding the pre-election challenges to ACT 77. But the level of systemic disruption created by this poorly constructed, hastily fast-tracked bill, on a process so integral to our democracy, remains of great concern that will yield more intense debate after the election. When our legislators are too irresponsible to protect and defend with vehemence and diligence the very foundation of our democracy, requiring our courts to intervene, rescue, and reassemble the broken pieces, we the people must rise in opposition, subdue this overreach, and restore the integrity of the American electoral system.
OPINION OFFICIAL ADVERTISEMENT THE BOARD OF PUBLIC EDUCATION OF THE
SCHOOL DISTRICT OF PITTSBURGH Sealed bids will be received in the Bellefield Avenue Lobby, Administration Building, 341 South Bellefield Avenue until 11:00 A.M. prevailing time November 4, 2020 and will be opened at the same hour in the administration building cafeteria:
Refuse Removal/Recycling ServicesVarious Locations General Information regarding bids may be obtained at the Purchasing Office, 341 South Bellefield Avenue, RM 349 Pittsburgh, PA 15213. The bid documents are available on the School District’s Purchasing web site at: www.pghschools.org: Click on Our Community; Bid Opportunities; Purchasing - under Quick Links. The Board of Public Education reserves the right to reject any and all bids, or select a single item from any bid. We are an equal rights and opportunity school district
Electorally Speaking is a series on the extensive impact and complications ACT 77 has affected on Pennsylvania’s election processes, scheduled to run now through election day as a collaboration between Keystonevote. com and the Pittsburgh Current. PITTSBURGH CURRENT | OCTOBER 21, 2020 | 13
THE POST-GAZETTE ON THE CLIMATE CRISIS
he Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (P-G) claimed in an October 14th climate editorial that “Environmentalists perennially exaggerate the problems, while Republicans, at least since 2012, have belittled them.” The P-G wildly claims, "By their guiding principles, namely a commitment to free-market solutions over heavy-handed regulation, conservatives are in a position to present America with a much more viable approach to addressing climate change than the Green New Deal.” As a lifelong environmentalist, former CEO of several environmental and conservation organizations, and author of two books addressing the climate crisis, I must respond to this outrageous charge and baseless claim. First, it is hard for environmentalists to exaggerate the dangers of climate change. Carbon dioxide levels are now at 410.89 parts per million compared to 281 ppm preindustrial. These heat-trapping levels have not been seen on Earth for over three million years, according to the most detailed reconstruction of the Earth's climate by researchers at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research published in Science Advances. We are rolling back the climate system to the Mid-Pliocene when the average global temperatures were between 3.6 and 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit warmer
BY LARRY J. SCHWEIGER - PITTSBURGH CURRENT COLUMNIST
Larry Schweiger honoring the late-Sen. John McCain for his sponsorship of the first bipartisan climate bill voted on in the US Senate.
than preindustrial levels. Ninety-three percent of the excess heat of climate change ends up in our oceans, causing enormous evaporative increases, higher humidity, more intense hurricanes, and violent storms causing deadly storm surges, destructive floods, and landslide risks. During the Mid-Pliocene, the Arctic Sea was free of ice, and much of the Greenland ice sheet melted. Sea levels were higher by between 13 and 37 meters. It will take decades for sea-lev-
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els to reach these levels again. However, there is little chance the glacial melt on Greenland and Antarctica coupled with the oceans' thermal expansion can be reversed unless we act boldly to end carbon pollution, plant a trillion trees, and manage soils to capture carbon. We are also witnessing record-breaking destructive "climate" fires in twelve western states that have killed at least 35, destroyed communities, and burned more than four-million acres in California alone.
Still burning, Colorado fires continue to set new records for acres consumed. Second, we have known that climate change is a severe threat, but our leaders have long ignored the warnings. Rachael Carson wrote the best-selling book “The Sea Around Us” in 1950, including a chapter she called “The Global Thermostat." While working at the Fish and Wildlife Service, Carson determined that fish populations were shifting poleward worldwide. She
OPINION wrote, "now in our own lifetime we are witnessing a startling alteration of climate…" While her book was on the bestseller list for 84 weeks. Oil company scientists confirmed her warnings in the early '60s. Still, for decades, big oil executives lied about the dangers inherent in relying on fossil fuels and were instrumental in killing market-based solutions. During the summer of 1979, I summarized available research and wrote an article for Pennsylvania Forests analyzing the published science. I declared, "acid precipitation (was) one of the two most critical environmental problems.” The other was the buildup of atmospheric carbon dioxide with its longterm potential for profound climatic alteration and warning that “atmospheric carbon dioxide has increased by 12% since 1850.” Pennsylvania Republican Senator John Heinz read my article and entered it into the Congressional Record. Heinz testified before the National Commission on Air Quality. Heinz was a co-sponsor with Senator Tim Wirth, a Democrat from Colorado, of the market-based law that ended acid rain as a significant threat. My point: environmentalists did not "perennially exaggerate" acid rain, air or water pollution, loss of biodiversity, or climate change. As a former elected Republican committee member and a lifelong environmentalist, I have not changed. The Republican Party that Senator Heinz was once a leading voice no longer exists.
We are now witnessing a deliberate effort to trash science when it conflicts with the Republican political agenda. In 2005, Chris Mooney wrote a prescient book entitled The Republican War on Science. Mooney detailed how, for some years, the Republican Party has deliberately fostered "flagrant misrepresentations (that) goes far beyond mere dishonesty. It demonstrates a gross disregard for the welfare of the American public…" The Post-Gazette has downplayed the dangers of the climate crisis and mocked Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., the Puerto Rican-American lawmaker that Trump and his followers constantly attack. Reflective of her generation, AOC is rightfully anxious about the future and is one of the Green New Deal's prime sponsors. The P-G claims, "A strong case can be made that anyone who makes a statement so divorced from science and reality is not fit for office, but Ms. Ocasio-Cortez simply inherited a long tradition of leftist climate alarmism.” For whatever perceived failings she may have, AOC understands something that the P-G editorial ignores. We need to act fast to avoid a “significant release of methane due to melting of the vast deposits trapped by permafrost and in Arctic clathrates" that scientists have long warned. The Green New Deal is an aggressive climate platform needed now since the fossil fuel industry, and dark money forces have caused our government to dil-
ly-dally for decades. We now have a small and closing window of time to end carbon pollution before we pierce the dangerous thresholds. Runaway warming can accelerate beyond our reach, triggering nature to give up its carbon stores. In a climate crisis, nature bats last and carries a mean bat. Burning forests and the rapid decomposition of terrestrial biomass coupled with catastrophic releases of methane hydrate from ocean sediments and tundra soils, nature responds to high temperatures by giving off methane and carbon dioxide. Calling the science-based, urgent warnings "the apocalyptic rhetoric from the left…” and suggesting that conservatives relying on free-marketing solutions can solve the climate crisis, the P-G editorial is dangerously out of touch with the legislative history. The hollow claim that “conservatives are in a position to present America with a much more viable approach to addressing climate change than the Green New Deal” is a clueless suggestion. Promoting a conservative free-market solution would be laughable if the risks were not so severe. Market-based solutions have been repeatedly blocked for more than 20 years. In 1997, the Senate pre-empted the market-based Kyoto Protocol modeled after the successful Heinz-Wirth Acid Rain program stating that the United States should not enter into any international climate agreement. In 2003, Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman sponsored the first Cli-
mate Stewardship Act that was defeated in the U.S. Senate by 55 votes to 43. A second bipartisan market-based bill died in the Senate in 2007. During the Obama years, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 was the third attempt at a market-based approach. It passed the House but was blocked in the Senate despite Senator John Kerry’s tireless efforts. Conservatives in both the Pennsylvania House and Senate passed House Bill 2025 recently to block Pennsylvania from joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. Governor Wolf wisely vetoed the bill aimed at preventing Pennsylvania from entering a successful 10-state market-based approach to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Conservatives in the state legislature and in Congress believe in a free-market approach, which to them means they will do nothing to stop climate change. Nature Is fast approaching a climate cliff. Avoiding it can create 25 million good-paying jobs by cutting emissions by 85% in 15 years, according to an assessment made by Rewiring America that started with the question of “what is technologically necessary?” to achieve the scientifically established targets. While Joe Biden is not proposing the Green New Deal, he has proposed an appropriate populist approach to curbing the climate crisis that promises to move us in the right direction while creating five million American jobs.
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RECORD REVIEWS BY MARGARET WELSH - PITTSBURGH CURRENT MUSIC EDITOR
Watererer Nearly-There ongoingbox.bandcamp.com David Bernabo began writing Nearly-There, the second record from Pittsburgh-based collective Watererer, while he was in Japan last fall. His wife was there on business and he tagged along, spending his days exploring Osaka and Mishima, his nights working on music in his AirBnB. As an unsurprising result, Nearly-There functions as a travelogue. “Thank you for being in English,” Bernabo sings, with a shade of apology, in the shimmery album opener, “Soft Marine Roar,” which recounts a confusing journey from point A to point B. The tone of the track isn’t one of a stressed commuter; rather it captures the sense of surrender that sometimes comes with being truly out of your element. Musically, there’s an expansive, wandering openness, the strange loneliness of wandering through an unfamiliar place. Amorphis progressive jazz track “Biking Osaka'' is similarly evocative. The sparse lyrics stick to the literal -- “Thanks to my wife, I’m struggling to keep up” -- while the instrumentation builds out the scene, playfully approximating sounds of traffic and rushing wind, prompting visions of flashing lights and crowded streets. Bernebo references Van Dyke Parks’ “gnarled arrangements” and Stan Kenton's big band orchestration as inspiration, and certain moments of orchestral grandeur bring to mind a noise pop Rodgers and Hammerstein (see: “Proof Through the Night”). The loose, amiably indie rock elements, plus Bernabo’s papery vocals recall Yo La Tengo. There’s quite a show of musicianship here, too: the lineup includes PJ Roduta on percussion, cellist Nadine Sherman, Jeff Berman (vibraphone), Matt Aelmore (bass, trumpet, french horn), Renee Copeland (tamburello), Patrick Breiner (tenor sax, clarinet). Bernabo plays guitar, pedal steel, wurlitzer, synths, and water percussion. Back at home, Bernabo finished writing the record (the surprisingly rollicing slowburn rock/funk track “Three or Four Days in a South Texas Spring” is an amusing shift in scenery, though not a jarring one). “With no real responsibility there’s an openness to the creative process,” Bernabo writes in the press material. Anecdotal evidence says that’s truer on vacation than in, say, pseudo-lockdown. But Nearly-There is a welcome escape from the same four walls. Earnest listening and exploration (both geographically and musically) and makes for a lovely audio postcard.
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first met Tom Halamoutis when I was in a band and was told the day before we left for a threeweek tour that he was our new bass player. In the couple of years we played music together I knew him to be an absolute wild man, but also kind-hearted and loyal. Shortly after the band broke up he moved into his Grandmother’s house to keep an eye on her. This was in Haverhill, Massachusetts where he was from. After she died, Tom moved to New York. Some of his cousins moved into his grandmother’s place but they had serious substance abuse problems and Tom had his concerns about the house and his things he had left there. He ended up moving back and living there again. Tom was working at a pizza shop and doing sign painting as a side gig. He taught himself and was pretty adept at it. He also did expressive non-commercial paintings and drawings. Much of it was abstract, a lot of the rest of it was inspired by the underground comics of the ’70s. He rented a space in an industrial area to use as a studio. It was right down the street from the spot where this shoddy punk venue used to be. I went there all the time when I was a teenager. He cleaned the trash out of the room he rented, swept, painted, made it look halfway decent. When Tom was a kid his father had rented a room in the same building. He installed and fixed large refrigerators. When Tom’s mom kicked his dad out of the house he lived in that office for a while. Boxford borders Haverhill. It is more rural, smaller, not as densely populated. Tom went running out there almost every day. Down one of its windy back roads he found an abandoned house. Just stumbled on it by luck. It was tucked away, not visible from the road because of the thickly overgrown trees. He explored it. It was pretty run down, the floor
ESSAY TOM'S ART SHOW BY MATTHEW WALLENSTEIN - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CONTRIBUTING WRITER
was close to collapsing, there was no insolation, there weren’t windows. It was a gutted thing, its innards taken by scrappers, its walls had scribbled dicks on it, had SO AND SO IS A PUSSY graffiti, SO AND SO IS GAY graffiti. Tom kept passing it on his runs and he got to thinking. All those paintings he had piling up at his grandmother’s and taking up space at his studio, he could hang them out there in that abandoned house. And that is just what he did. He threw some art in his van and drove over. He unloaded it in the middle of the day without interference or issue. Tom loved looking at art, getting to see it displayed, getting to see it arranged. But he hated the art market for its pretentiousness and stupidity both as an artist and a viewer of art. It nibbled away at the honesty of the thing. He wanted to show art without money or status involved. He cleaned up the place a little but there wasn’t much to clean. It was in rough enough shape that most people left it alone. He hung the paintings up as one would for a solo gallery show. He took care to make it look just as he wanted it to. Then he left. It was his hope that some kids would duck in there to smoke weed or explore and would find it, or a jogger, or kids out there riding BMX would come across it, as he had. Maybe it would startle them, maybe a brave one would take a painting home with them. After that Tom didn’t give it much thought. He still passed the house when he went running but it wasn’t much more than a brief idea. A few months ago Tom was on his shift at the pizza shop and his phone started ringing. It wasn’t a number he recognized so he didn’t answer. The same number kept calling and Tom went on making pizzas and not picking up. He forgot about it until a little while
later when there was yet another call from them. Tom gave in and said, “Hello?” “Is this Tom?” “Yes, this is him.” “Did you recently have a large amount of your art stolen?” Tom was thinking this was probably the beginning of some sort of phone scam. “No,’” he said. “Did you move your art into an abandoned house?” Tom said, “I’m busy, man.” He hung up on the guy. He figured he owned the place and was pissed at him. Then it was text after text from him. He ignored them. Tom liked the idea that maybe this man was a little disturbed by his paintings being there. After a little while he became curious and read the text messages. The owner of the house was just
asking Tom if he would like the paintings moved somewhere safe. Tom said no, said he made them and that was enough. He said that honestly he just hoped people would find them and have the guts to steal one or two or all of them. He apologized for trespassing. The man said it was alright. He told Tom his paintings looked almost identical to the paintings of Nik Spatari— a member of his family. He was an artist of some note and the creator of the Parco-Museo Santa Barbara, a museum in the south of Italy. Spatari had died very recently, in August. The homeowner wanted to meet Tom. Tom was hesitant though. He thanked him for being understanding. After looking up the work of Nik Spatari Tom did think it was very similar in style to a lot of his own work. The colors and execu-
tion, the shapes of the abstraction, the overall look is close enough that without being told who made what, most people would not be able to guess with much confidence. Tom never found out how the guy got his number. He doesn’t sign most of his work, but there is a chance his name was on the back of one and he was tracked down from there. He has gone on making more paintings, sometimes nailing them to trees in the woods or leaving them to be found in other places. If you ask him he will tell you he doesn’t give a shit what happens to them. He is driven to make, to produce. He recently wrapped up two sign painting jobs for a restaurant and a food truck and has plans to paint the hull of a friend’s boat.
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SAVAGE LOVE Savage Love Love | sex | relationships BY DAN SAVAGE MAIL@SAVAGELOVE.NET Borrowing Gen Z's love for labelling everything, I'm a 46-year-old homoromantic asexual Canadian faggot. For me that means I'd like to love and be loved by another man but I'd hate having sex with him. To add a vexing complication, I also need some sort of power imbalance. Ideally, I would fall somewhere between being a man's sub and being his slave. I've been searching for this since I came out in my early twenties. I've tried everything. Online, bars, hobby groups, friends, hookups. Vanilla relationships, single Masters, dominant couples, sex workers. I've spent thousands of dollars on both men and therapy, but here I am busted, miserable, and alone. The point is that no one—and I mean absolutely no one—wants what I want. My dream dude doesn't exist. It's easy to tell someone to move on, that there are other fish in the sea, etc., but sometimes your sea is a puddle and you really are the only guppy. I'm considering ending my life before the end of the year. I can't shake the deep sadness and disappointment and misery that I feel—and this isn't even touching on my current unemployment or newly-chronic health issues. What would you do if you were in my shoes? How does one switch off the built-in romantic drive? Sought A Dom Accepting Sad Singlehood I’m sorry you haven’t found your ideal man, SADASS, or the right dominant couple or a vanilla guy you could love and a dominant sex worker you could see on the side. Not everyone finds their ideal mate/ position/situation, despite our best
efforts, which is why it’s important that we build lives for ourselves that are rich and rewarding while we look for our dream dude(s). Because then even if we’re unhappily single—or we find ourselves unhappily single again—we would still have meaning and pleasure in our lives. And that makes it easier for us to live in hope that, should all the planets align, it could still happen for us or happen for us again. (Please note: I’m qualifying “single” with “unhappy” here not because all single people are unhappy—which is absolutely untrue—but because this single person, SADASS, is unhappy.) I have to assume it has happened for you once or twice, SADASS. While none of your relationships with any of the vanilla guys, single Masters, dominant couples, or sex workers you’ve met along the way turned into long-term connections, there had to have been some good times and real—if not lasting—connections over the years. Instead of seeing those relationships as a string of failures because they all ended, SADASS, you should see them as a long series of successful short-term relationships. And while you may regret that none lasted for years or decades, there’s nothing about being partnered that immunizes a person against regret. If you were still with one of those vanilla guys, you might always regret not meeting a Master; if you were with a Master or a dominant couple, you might regret—from time to time—not having a more egalitarian relationship. Although you say not be interested in having sex, SADASS, your
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interests are erotically charged. If your erotic-if-not-sexual fantasies are causing you distress—if you want to switch off your built-in romantic/ erotic drive—anti-depressants often lower and sometimes tank a person’s libido. For most people that’s an unwelcome side effect, but you may find it a blessing—at least for now, SADASS, while you’re dealing with your health and employment issues. It’s an extreme move but it’s far less extreme than the one you’ve been contemplating, so it might be worth discussing with a sex-positive, kink-positive, reality-aware therapist. Finally, please don’t end your life. The world is a far more interesting place with you in it. And while finding a romantic partner is never the solution to our problems—it’s only the start of a whole new set of problems—I’ve heard from countless people over the years who found something close to what they were looking for in their fifties, sixties, and even seventies. But it can’t happen for you if you aren’t here for it. Crisis Services Canada maintains a 24-hour suicide-prevention hotline: 833-456-4566. In the United States please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255. I'm bisexual man who works on a military base with so many hot men. But how the hell do I even get a quick cock to suck without getting fired for coming on to the wrong guy? Or beaten up? How do I approach someone who could be interested? It’s been forever since I've had a guy! Don’t tell me to try Grindr. I already did and most of the guys on there are not my style and the two that were blew me off. I wish I was totally straight or totally gay cause the bisexual world is really depressing! Basically I’ve Got Unfulfilled Yearnings
Totally gay guys get blown off on Grindr and Sniffies and Recon all the time. Totally straight
guys get blown off on Tinder and Farmers Only and Christian Mingle all the time. I’m not minimizing the unique challenges bisexuals face by bisexual men and women—biphobia is real—but everyone faces rejection, BIGUY. And while some gay guys don’t wanna date bi guys, you aren’t looking for a date. You’re looking for a dick to suck. So get back on Grindr. When you see a hot guy on the street, on the subway, or your military base, quickly open Grindr—or Scruff or Sniffies or Recon or all of the above—and if they’re on there too, send ‘em a message. If they’re interested, they’ll write back. If they aren’t, they won’t. And if you’re worried a guy won’t let you suck his dick if you tell him you’re bisexual and you don’t mind blowing guys who might be biphobic, don’t disclose your bisexuality on your profile and stick to, “Sup?” and, “Looking?”, when you message them. And you know… back when men picked each other up in bars… you had to make eye contact with a lotta guys before you locked eyes with the right guy. If you made eye contact with a guy who wasn’t interested—if you weren’t his style or his type—he wouldn’t make eye contact with you again. That’s essentially what a guy is doing when he “blows you off” on Grindr: he’s taking a quick look, deciding you’re not for him, and looking away—the exact same thing you’re doing to guys who aren’t your style or type. Guys left the bar after two guys looked away never got to suck a dick, BIGUY, so don’t give up after a couple of guys blow you off on Grindr. Just keep looking around.
PEEP SHOW PEEPSHOW: AN ODE TO ANAL BY JESSIE SAGE - PITTSBURGH CURRENT COLUMNIST
Editor's Note: This story contains adult themes and graphic descriptions of sex. The night was already magical. After dancing in the wooden barn lit by strings of white lights, we slipped down to the water with some of our friends, stripped our clothes off, and swam naked into the vast lake until the only thing visible was the moon’s faint reflections on our wet skin and the lanterns we carried to the beach burning in the distance. Eventually, we wondered back to our cabin. Pulling the bobby pins out of my hair, I let my towel drop to the floor as I slid in bed next to my lover. He pressed my ass against him and could feel that his cock was already hard with anticipation. He ran his hands down my body and my legs opened almost instinctively as an invitation. I was already wet and swollen; my juices ran down his fingers as they found their way inside my body. For a few moments he used his fingers to apply pressure in the way he knows drives me wild with desire. Sliding his fingers back out, he grabbed his cock and rubbed some of my juices on it before starting to tease me with his head. He grazed my clit gently, back and forth a few times, then guided his tip down, over my lips and along my shallowly pulsing slit. He didn’t stop there. He pulled his cock back further and further until I felt its pressure firmly against my asshole. He pulled my head toward him and whispered in my ear, “Tonight, I want to cum inside my wife’s ass.” I took a deep breath, let it out slowly, and moaned as I gave way to the pressure and to my own pleasure. Sweat ran down my back as he moved his thick cock in and out of my ass until we both came. Panting,
Collage by Courtney Trouble
we collapsed in each other’s arms, my wedding dress in a ball on the floor. … When I was younger, I remember being afraid of anal—afraid it would hurt or that it could be embarrassingly messy. I remember partners begging for it but not feeling like it was something I wanted to do or could do. I believed there were other people out there whose bodies and sexualities somehow worked differently than mine, who seemed to enjoy receiving anal sex, but I couldn’t imagine why that would be. Then one night, as a previous partner and I started fucking after a long date, I encouraged him to slide into my ass—a request that surprised both of us. He started slowly at first, while I adjusted to the intense (and new-to-me) sensation of fullness. I let that feeling wash over my body, embracing the experience and letting go of my fear. That I can go from being fearful to craving anal so badly that I wanted it
on my wedding night perhaps says more about me than it does about the act itself. Like all sexual acts, the pleasure any individual gets from it depends on a myriad of factors: where they are in their lives, their history and upbringing, their physiology, the way they relate to their partner(s), and the association they have with the act. When I say I enjoy anal, I do mean, in part, that I enjoy the physical act. Having my asshole massaged, fingered, licked, and fucked makes my pussy swell and pushes me into having intense, full-bodied orgasms. But it would be too simple to say I like anal because it feels good. A lot of things feel good, but different things can feel good for different reasons. When I first started having anal regularly, I realized that everything about it was different than the sex I had become accustomed to having. Anal made me feel vulnerable, but in a way that was emotionally powerful: it was a submission that required my entire full attention, one that pulled
me out of my head and into my body and the moment—which is something I struggle with. As a writer and former academic, I am prone to living in my head, to occupying a world of ideas. It is easy for me to forget to do practical things like pay my bills, and it is more natural than not for me to feel disconnected from my body. I can write about sex in my capacity as a sex columnist because I primarily relate to it as an idea, as something interesting to think about, talk about, analyze, and dissect. But having anal sex was different. If I didn’t tune in to my partner and give my full attention to the act, it could be painful for both of us. He couldn’t lazily pound me for 5 minutes while I went over how I was going to structure my next essay in my head. The intensity of anal penetration called me back into my own body, and into communion with my partner; it requires a presentness —a thereness—that I have a hard time achieving without effort. This presentness also fosters an intense intimacy. The first time my husband we were fumbling in the dark, kissing, and learning each other’s bodies when I told him I wanted to feel him fill and stretch my ass. He licked his fingers and massaged my hole, getting me ready to take him. I laid back on the bed, spread my legs and ran my fingers over my clit while he massaged me, applying a little more pressure with each motion. Then he climbed on top of me, looked me in the eyes, and told me to relax. I wrapped my arms and legs around his body while he gently entered mine. At that moment, I felt more connected to him than I ever had. I crave anal for my own emotional wellbeing, as well as my feeling of connectedness to my partner (as well
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PA R T I N G S H OT
PITTSBURGH CURRENT PHOTO BY JAKE MYSLIWCZYK PITTSBURGH CURRENT | OCTOBER 21, 2020 | 20