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CHURCHILL COMMUNITY RALLY AROUND THOMAS DRAKE VOL. 3 ISSUE 29

Sept. 1, 2020 - Sept. 8, 2020

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WHAT IF HE WINS? DONALD TRUMP'S FIRST TERM IN OFFICE HAS BEEN A NIGHTMARE, BUT WAIT UNTIL YOU SEE WHAT COULD HAPPEN IN A SECOND. BY JERRY DICKINSON PA G E 6


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

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PA Coronavirus Small Business Assistance Program Round two is now open! Could your small business use some extra funds to cover COVID-19 related expenses and losses? Grants are available for small businesses that meet certain criteria and are being administered by the Northside Community Development Fund and other local CDFIs. The second round of funding closes August 28. All applications submitted before the close of this round will be considered for funding. See if this program could help you at NSCDFund.org/PABusinessGrants

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | SEPTEMBER 1, 2020 | 3


STAFF Publisher/Editor: Charlie Deitch Charlie@pittsburghcurrent.com

contents

Associate Publisher: Bethany Ruhe Bethany@pittsburghcurrent.com

Vol. III Iss. XXIX Sept. 1, 2020

Advisory Board Chairman: Robert Malkin Robert@pittsburghcurrent.com

NEWS 6 | Four more years? 10 | Thomas Drake 12 | Pittsburgh Schools

EDITORIAL

Music Editor: Margaret Welsh Margaret@pittsburghcurrent.com

OPINION 14 | Larry Schweiger

Visuals Editor: Jake Mysliwczyk Jake@pittsburghcurrent.com

EXTRA

Social Justice Columnist: Jessica Semler jessica@pittsburghcurrent.com

16 | Savage 16 | Matthew Wallenstein 18 | Parting Shot

Contributing Photographer: Ed Thompson info@pittsburghcurrent.com Contributing Writers: Jody DiPerna, Justin Vellucci, Atiya Irvin Mitchell, Dan Savage, Larry Schweiger, Brittany Hailer, Brian Conway, Matthew Wallenstein, Emerson Andrews, Eric Boyd info@pittsburghcurrent.com

COVER PHOTO BY JAKE MYSLIWCZYK

Logo Design: Mark Addison TO ADVERTISE :

Senior Account Executive: Andrea James andrea@pittsburghcurrent.com

The Fine Print

Bethany Ruhe Bethany@pittsburghcurrent.com

The opinions contained in columns and letters to the editors represent the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Pittsburgh Current ownership, management and staff. The Pittsburgh Current is an independently owned and operated print and online media company produced in the heart of Pittsburgh’s Beechview neighborhood, 1665 Broadway Ave., Pittsburgh, PA., 15216. 412-204-7248.

The contents of the Pittsburgh Current are © 2020 by Pittsburgh Current, LLC. All Rights Reserved. No portion of this publication shall be duplicated or reprinted without the express-written consent of Pittsburgh Current LLC. One copy per person. The Pittsburgh Current is published twice monthly beginning August 2018.

Email us or don’t: info@pittsburghcurrent.com.

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Climate Crisis and Corrupt Politics By: Larry J. Schweiger Free Shipping Paperback $29.95 or purchase an eBook for $19.00 (Read the first 25 pages for free) There is only one earth and our world is undergoing dramatic changes brought on by the climate crisis and other human-induced ecological disruptions. The world's top scientists studying these threats and the forces behind them have been warning us for decades to end the use of fossil fuels or face catastrophic consequences. Their long-ignored warnings have become more dire. Larry Schweiger has long been on the front line of efforts to enact rational clean energy and climate policies and has witnessed efforts to undermine our democratic system that has been rigged leaving America hoodwinked and held hostage to dirty fuels. Climate Crisis and Corrupt Politics pulls back the curtain on the central role of big oil, coal, and gas interests in American politics through the flow of money to fabricated entities for independent SuperPAC expenditures for mass deception through distorted advertising. Larry wrote this urgent message aimed at parents, grandparents and young adults who care about their children forced to live on the ragged edge of an unprecedented climate crisis. This book is especially for leaders who understand that we must act now with a "Green New Deal" scale response. Together, we must confront and overcome the many toxic money influences, reverse a failing democracy and retake the reins of government to enact policies that secure our shared future and the future of life on earth.

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NEWS

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NEWS

FOUR MORE YEARS?

WHAT THE FIRST-TERM TRUMP PRESIDENCY TELLS US ABOUT THE DANGERS OF A SECOND-TERM TRUMP PRESIDENCY BY JERRY DICKINSON - SPECIAL TO THE PITTSBURGH CURRENT

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t a campaign rally this summer in Tulsa, Oklahoma, President Trump thundered that Joe Biden “should not get rewarded with an election victory on November 3. It shouldn’t happen. It will destroy this country.” Trump’s campaign rally invoked an opposite concern. What will the second-term of President Trump look like if he wins reelection in November? To answer that question, let us examine the Trump Presidency in the first four years. It tells us a lot about how our constitutional republic will fare over the next four years (and beyond) should Trump be re-elected. Trump is arguably the first President in American history to embrace nationalistic authoritarian demagoguery. For nearly four years, Trump has appealed to the prejudices of a large swath of the American electorate to create an illusory “us versus them” dichotomy. In fact, Trump checked off all the boxes for “authoritarian behavior,” outlined by Harvard political scientists

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Left: Donald Trump autographs a section of his border wall during a visit to Arizona.

Daniel Ziblatt and Steven Levitsky, in a startling short period of time. He exhibited a weak commitment to constitutional rights and democratic norms. He’s denied the legitimacy of political opponents. Trump has tolerated or encouraged violence and displayed a willingness to curtail civil liber-

ties. Indeed, he’s regularly threatened to repudiate the Constitution or expressed a willingness to violate it. In fact, Trump has not only exhibited these behaviors, but has attempted to wield his executive powers to act upon many of these behaviors. Trump attempted to stop

Mexico from bringing, in his words, “drugs…crime… [and] rapists,” by signing an Executive Order in 2017 mandating the construction of an international border wall between the U.S. and Mexico. In The Washington Post, shortly thereafter, I argued that Trump’s use of his executive powers to mandate a wall was “in service of a wrongheaded immigration policy” that ran afoul of “our country as a symbol of democracy and inclusion.” When he couldn’t get his border wall money from Congress, Trump shutdown the government and then declared a “frivolous and partisan” national emergency. In The Hill, I argued Trump misused his executive powers to unlawfully circumvent Congress’ power of the purse to declare an illusory immigration crisis in order to divert unauthorized military funds to build his wall. Trump said, “I can do it if I want” and that he had the “absolute right” and “absolute power” to do it. I explained in the The Atlantic that, “the courts, however, may see things otherwise.”

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NEWS

PA G E 7

Today, some federal courts have seen things otherwise, while sometimes the Supreme Court has not. Trump also barred refugees and citizens from predominantly Muslim nations from entering the country, because he believed we needed a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims…until our [country] can figure out what the hell is going on.” Trump then attacked the legitimacy of the “so-called [federal] judge” who blocked his ban. He’s consistently repeated his attacks on the independence of the federal judiciary throughout his first term. Notably, however, the federal judiciary has held firm, ruling against an overzealous Trump Administration in record numbers. Trump’s “us versus them” demagoguery resulted in his unconstitutional border separation policy, aggressive arrests of immigrants in cities, and attempts to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. These were concerted efforts to force thousands of undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children out of the country, inflict cruelty on thousands of migrant children and tear immigrant families apart to appease to Trump’s base. The federal judiciary stepped up to slap down the separation policy

Demonstrators protest Trump's visit to the site of the October 2018 synagogue shooting. (Current Photo by Jake Mysliwczyk)

and effort to rescind DACA, but the policies have instilled fear and anxiety in our immigrant communities. This same authoritarian demagoguery has been used to agitate white supremacy in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement. Civil liberties have been curtailed with the deployment of federal agents into American cities, snatching of protesters with extraordinary use of force to quell protests, all at the expense of the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments of the Consti-

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tution. Recently, he refused to commit to accepting the Election results or leaving the White House, further undermining political norms and expressing a willingness to violate the Constitution. On foreign affairs and national security, Trump and his associates conduct during the campaign and shortly after inauguration raised serious national security concerns. He broke political and legal norms, often the bedrock of our democracy, by firing James Comey for investigating his involvement in Russia.

This led to Robert Mueller leading an historic special counsel investigation that resulted in the Mueller Report describing multiple factual instances where Trump may have obstructed justice and possible collusion with Russia. Trump has pardoned confidantes convicted of crimes, such as Roger Stone, and attempted to shield others, including him, from further political or legal investigation. Likewise, the House was forced to take the extraordinary step of beginning impeachment proceedings against


NEWS Trump when he committed an abuse of power by requesting a foreign power, Ukraine, to investigate his political opponent, Joe Biden. That led to the historic impeachment of the President in the House, but failure to remove him from office in the Senate. The above scratches the surface of Trump’s authoritarian demagoguery. Here is what Trump’s first-term tells us about his second-term if he secures a victory in November. As I wrote in the Washington Post in 2019, it is inherent in modern government for the Executive Branch to expand and enlarge its powers in small and large ways. But that reality is deeply troubling when the Executive is led by a populist demagogue. Typically, demagogues view electoral victories as an express mandate to continue to erode democratic institutions and undermine constitutional norms. The problem is that once in power, demagogues wield their expansive executive powers to lay the future ground work to slowly grind democracy to a halt with a “whimper, not a bang.” Indeed, much of what the country experienced under Trump in his first-term will likely become entrenched into his second-term agenda, except he will perceive his second victory as an

express acknowledgment by the American people that authoritarianism is an acceptable alternative to democracy. We can expect Trump to aggressively push the same “us versus them” narrative to promote heightened xenophobia. Trump will likely continue to stack his administration with personal confidantes who will protect him from legal and political investigations. The pardon power will be wielded to further inoculate his personal circle from public criticism, if not legal scrutiny. Emboldened by his Senate acquittal during the impeachment proceedings, President Trump will likely (or is currently) coordinating other abuses of power to advance personal and political gain against political opponents. He will likely use the demagoguery playbook to aggravate white supremacy in response to the Black Lives Matter movement to further normalize our nation’s racial chasm. We can expect Trump to continue to nominate an historic number of conservative federal judges and Supreme Court jurists upon vacancies, all in an effort to further entrench the expansive reach of his executive agenda. Watch to see if Trump uses a crisis — possibly the pandemic — to justify his exercise of dictatorial powers available to

him during times of emergency to further curtail civil liberties and loosen constitutional constraints. All that said, there is good news. Trump has not shredded the Constitution. The security features of the Constitution that protect against authoritarianism – such as federalism, the federal judiciary, the massive administrative state, bicameralism, Congress’s Article I lawmaking powers, and power sharing between Congress and the States, to name a few – have been bent, but not yet broken. It is unlikely Trump will completely overthrow our democracy and plunge the country into an authoritarian regime in the next four years if reelected. Instead, the bad news is that we may be experiencing the beginning of “democratic backsliding” that leads the country down a road where the democratic rules of the game are quietly changed through traditional legal channels, which invites the potential for autocracy. While some of Trump’s actions have been unconstitutional, many more have broken constitutional and political norms. Excessive norm breaking in short periods of time accelerates the withering of democracies, because it signals a lack of respect for the democratic rules of the game, which

negatively influences Americans perception of and faith in democratic institutions. The fear is that further erosion of norms coupled with constant attacks on the Constitution will pave a wider path for a far more competent and calculated authoritarian demagogue to rise to power and push us over the autocratic cliff after Trump has left office. There is hope. Article II of the Constitution presents what is the most overlooked feature of our democracy to thwart authoritarian demagogues, like Trump, from power. It’s called the staggered system of presidential elections every four years. The results on November 3 will signal whether America is committed to keeping its republic out of the hands of its first authoritarian demagogue, or whether the country is willing to continue to gamble with a dangerous experiment that may lead the nation down the road towards autocracy. As Benjamin Franklin stated, we have “A republic, if we can keep it.” Jerry Dickinson is a constitutional law professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. He is also a former candidate for U.S. Congress

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NEWS

PA G E 7

O

SATURDAY MARCH PLANNED FOR CHURCHILL MAN HARASSED BYNEIGHBOR, IGNORED BY POLICE

n July 21, the Pittsburgh Current told the story of Thomas Drake and the years of harassment he endured from a neighbor and a complete unwillingness by the Churchill Police Department to raise a single finger to help him A lot has changed in that time, however. Drake’s story has not only led to him finally getting the help he needs, but a larger discussion in the borough about both police and community reform. Drake, a disabled Black Vietnam veteran suffered three years of harassment by his white neighbor. The neighbor called the Churchill Police and municipal authorities on Drake countless times. The reasons for the calls vary, Drake said. Sometimes it was because Drake has a boat in his yard. Sometimes it was because Drake’s dog wandered into the neighbor’s yard. Sometimes it was because Drake played his music too loud while he and his grandchildren planted tomatoes. After his story was first published by Pittsburgh Current, Drake received a letter in the mail from the Allegheny

BY BRITTANY HAILER - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CONTRIBUTING WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM

Thomas Drake. (Current Photo by Jake Mysliwczyk)

Health Department stating that a neighbor reported rats in his yard. Because of the calls, Drake had to give his beloved dog to his son. Although the borough has said that Drake can bring his dog back to his home, he says it would break his grandchildren’s hearts to take the dog

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away from them. He hopes to get a new pet as a service animal. “I just want the right that he can’t do it again. I want the right to get another dog and the right that he can’t harass me when I get my new dog,” Drake said. Felicity Williams, a local activist and attorney, has

been rallying the community around Drake. She’s connected him with community members and activists such as Fawn Walker Montgomery of Take Action Mon Valley, Leonard Hammond of Hammond Initiative, Eric Howze of No Hero Left Behind, Camile Redman, and Terrence Bennet who


NEWS have been attending Churchill borough meetings and meeting with Drake at his residence. The group announced that a march will take place Sunday, Sept 6 in Churchill. Marchers will meet at 3335 William Penn Highway. More details are pending. “I’m real happy about that. I am going to try and be a part of the march. I’ve got my Black Lives Matter t-shirt and my flag flying,” Drake said. Pittsburgh Current filed Right To Know requests for police reports and 911 calls regarding Drake's harassment. Both Allegheny County and Churchill requested 30 day extensions on Aug 3. While the public and Churchill Council also wait for the reports to be released, community members have requested the borough to identify the officers who responded to Drake’s residence. The borough has yet to release that information. “I just want him to treat me with the respect a human deserves. They know who the two police officers are, and they won’t release that information because they’re scared they’re going to get sued. I just want proper treatment from the burough, I wouldn’t sue them,” Drake said. Drake’s neighbor has yet to receive any action or fine from the borough or police.

“The pressure they put on me is yet to be put on him. I haven’t seen that,” Drake said, “They have yet to make him do the things they came after me for. But I am not calling the police constantly.” Enforcement could come down to some ordinances that are not yet in place in the borough. Churchill Council President Jay Dworin was previously working on an ordinance that would impose a $500 fine for calling the police to harass someone based on a protected class, such as race. Because Drake’s neighbor has employed the municipality to harass him, the CAREN (Caution Against Racially Exploitative Non-Emergencies) Ordinance will be expanded to include municipal services as well. If passed, this ordinance will be the first of its kind in Pennsylvania. “We have made it explicitly clear that Churchill is not the place for the racists, the sexists, or the homophobes,” said Dworin in an interview with Pittsburgh Current, “ If you want an inclusive and progressive community this is your spot. The CAREN ordinance is the tool we can use. Ordinances do just as much work just being on the book---knowing that you’re moving to a community that says, listen,

we are not OK with this. If you see what we are doing and think, we don’t want to move to Churchill, we don’t want you anyway.” Pressure from Williams and others has resulted in some commitments and proposals from Dworin, the borough, and the Churchill Police Department which include: Churchill Police Chief Ronald Akerley and Dworin agreed to meet Drake to redress past experiences (By publication of this article, neither Dworin or Akerley have visited Drake at his residence). • Borough will follow-up on identifying officers who responded to Drake’s resilience • Burough will comply with Right To Know requests. • Churchill Human Relations Commission, previously inactive due to lack of participants, will be resurrected after 5 Chuchill residents (Two Black men, including Drake, one Black woman and two white women) volunteered. The commision will advice council on human relations and civil rights issues and work to protect residents against discrimation.

• Dworin committed to a listening session for other Churchill residents to share their experience with Churchill police. • Dworin proposed extending Dash Camera and Body Camera footage retention because there is no footage of the times police responded to Drake’s residence. Currently, non-evidentiary footage is deleted after 30 days. Churchill has never had a woman or person of color as a police officer. The police department is working to identify diverse candidates to reflect Churchill’s demographics. In that same meeting, Dworin said he expected to have the 911 calls and police reports relevant to Drake's harassment soon. "I will address it. I don’t think they’re in a position to not provide. I don’t know if they recognize the urgency." Martell Covington, legal aide to Sen. Jay Costa said in the Aug. 10 meeting, " The Jay Costa office is extremely interested in what is happening with Mr. Drake...by the time the policy is in place, a call can be made and a life could be lost...this is an issue of life and death."

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OPINION

WITH OR WITHOUT LAPTOPS, PITTSBURGH SCHOOLS START MONDAY BY MARY NIEDERBERGER - PITTSBURGH CURRENT EDUCATION WRITER

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ith or without the remainder of its needed computers, virtual classes will begin in the Pittsburgh Public schools on Tuesday. The Pittsburgh Current reported Saturday, Aug. 29 that the start of classes in the district would be delayed until Sept. 8 because of a huge shortage of computer devices. The district said it was still waiting to receive 7,000 devices. Online classes were supposed to start Monday, and for weeks, district officials said they expected to have enough devices for all students if those who had access to family-owned computers continued to use them. As the Pittsburgh Current reported on June 16, after a disastrous spring of online learning, superintendent Anthony Hamlet said that every student would have a laptop or tablet by the start of school. In fact, as late as Monday, Aug. 24, PPS Superintendent Anthony Hamlet said in a virtual public forum sponsored by the Forbes Fund unequivocally that school would be ready to start on Aug. 31. Then, two days later, the PPS Board of Directors voted 7-2 to award Hamlet a new fouryear contract that will run until June 30, 2025. Hamlet’s current contract wasn’t set to

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Parents of PPS students waited outside of Westinghouse High School in Homewood this morning, Saturday, August 29, to pick up computers for their children to use. Parents who were not already in line by 10:30 a.m. were sent home because the district did not have enough devices. (Photo courtesy of Ann Belser/Print)

expire until June 2021. Three days after that, as parents showed up and waited in long lines to pick up devices for their children’s education, the district announced it had run out. Later on Aug. 29, school was officially delayed. “Due to supply chain issues and high demand, we have exhausted our current supply of computer devices early and all sites are now CLOSED. Additional distribution dates will

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be announced next week when we expect a large delivery of devices. More information will be provided this evening,” the district posted on its Facebook page early Saturday. In a Saturday evening press release, the district cited “unexpected delays caused by continued technology supply chain shortages around the country” for the shortage of devices for students. District spokesperson Ebony

Pugh said Hamlet gave the Aug. 24 assurance because he expected shipments totaling 7,000 devices would arrive by the end of that week. Those devices did not arrive but are expected by the end of this week. In addition, Pugh said the need for computers was greater than anticipated and more families were showing up to pick up devices than expected. She said families who initially


NEWS indicated they had computers for their children to work on started to question whether they would be able to handle the Schoology and Microsoft Teams platforms the district will use for online learning. Those two factors led to the distributions being shut down early on Saturday. “The need was larger. We have more needs than anticipated. There was a misunderstanding with families that their devices wouldn’t work,” Pugh said. “The numbers of people coming were higher than expected. It was really hard to judge where we were.” In addition to new devices, there are about 1,800 computers that were given to students in the spring that must be brought back to the district to be reimaged to accommodate the platforms being used. The district is still waiting for families to return most of those computers because they will not work without the reimaging, Pugh said. She said the shipments are expected to come in smaller batches of 200-700 at various times this week. If the district receives all 7,000 by the end of the week, every student who needs a computer will get one. If not, the school will still start on Sept. 8 with some students working from paper materials that will be prepared by their teachers at their schools -- not general packets prepared centrally by the district as in the spring, Pugh said. Pugh said the district will decide on a distribution plan later in the week for whatever

number of computers arrive this week. She said district officials have a more targeted list of families that need computers and may distribute them from sites other than the centralized locations last week. Superintendent Anthony Hamlet said in the Saturday release that Pittsburgh’s delayed start date was similar to others in the region. “At this time the distribution of devices is only for those families of students who do not have access to a device. By delaying the start of school we can ensure that no student is inequitably disadvantaged because they do not have access to the tools they need to start the school year successfully,” Hamlet said in the release. As of Aug. 27, the district exchanged or distributed 6,440 of the devices ordered in the spring to students. On Friday and Saturday, another 1,200 devices were distributed to students in grades 2-5. School staff will use this week to refine lesson plans and Individualized Education Plans for students with special needs, contact hard-to-reach families, and participate in professional development. The district will also survey staff and families to “identify which adjustments will be made to the district’s calendar” and will work ensuring materials are in place for students in the event that delays in devices continue beyond the start of school.

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OPINION THE DANGEROUS REPUBLICAN NATIONAL PLATFORM BY LARRY J. SCHWEIGER - PITTSBURGH CURRENT COLUMNIST

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e have witnessed two presidential political conventions. One conducted virtually to avoid the spread of COVID-19, the other illegally and recklessly held on White House grounds with large gatherings and few masks. The contrast could not be starker, yet the more dramatic contrast is in their environmental policies and the direction of our democracy. The Republican convention solidified the notion that it is all about Donald Trump and his xenophobic, racially provocative, and lawless proclivities. Some in the media suggested that Trump has no political platform for 2020. That is not entirely accurate. Instead of formulating a timely platform as the Democratic Party did through virtual means, the Republican National Committee's Executive Committee voted on June 10th to reconfirm the deeply flawed 2016 platform unchanged. By so doing, the recreant Republican National Committee avoided drafting a platform that would guide and restrain Trump’s erratic and unpredictable actions and random policies by tweets. The committee members passed a one-page resolution that “enthusiastically supports President Trump and continues to reject the policy positions of the Obama-Biden Administration… (T)he Republican Party has and will continue to enthusiastically support the President’s America-first agenda…” The 2020 Republican National Convention adjourned without adopting a new platform until 2024. Since this craven action leaves in place, Trump's 2016 so-called “America-first” plan, here are some

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excerpts addressing three environmental elements from 2016 and, therefore, in the 2020 Republican platform. Trump’s Environmental Platform: “The environment is too important to be left to radical environmentalists. They are using yesterday’s tools to control a future they do not comprehend. The environmental establishment has become a self-serving elite, stuck in the mindset of the 1970s, subordinating the public’s consensus to the goals of the Democratic Party. Their ap-

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proach is based on shoddy science, scare tactics, and centralized command-and-control regulation. Over the last eight years, the Administration has triggered an avalanche of regulation that wreaks havoc across our economy and yields minimal environmental benefits.” Here is one example of Trump’s so-called radical environmental agenda from the 3-million-member Natural Resource Defense Council. “NRDC is tackling the climate crisis at its source: pollution from fossil fuels. “We work to reduce our

dependence on these dirty sources by expanding clean energy across cities, states, and nations. We win court cases that allow the federal government to limit carbon pollution from cars and power plants. We help implement practical, clean energy solutions. And we fight oil and gas projects that would pump out even more pollution.” This agenda expressed by NRDC is anything but radical. It should be on every voters' list to protect our world from the fast-approaching calamity of climate change.


OPINION While Trump is withdrawing from the Paris Accord, Biden will lead the world to address the climate emergency and guide through the power of example by ensuring the U.S. achieves a 100% clean energy economy and net-zero emissions no later than 2050. The Biden-Harris plan promises to rally the rest of the world to meet climate change. He will establish transparent and enforceable standards that fully integrates climate change into foreign policy, national security strategies and trade, Biden will need a highly respected Secretary of State to rebuild our tarnished reputation around the world and be a credible advocate for robust worldwide carbon reductions. The Biden-Warren environmental plan promises to build a stronger, more resilient nation creating millions of clean energy jobs while committing the U.S. to move towards the elimination of carbon pollution. At the same time, Biden will seek to establish enforcement mechanisms, including "milestone targets" no later than the end of his first term, while making historic investments in clean energy, climate research and innovation. The Biden plan incentivizes the rapid deployment of clean energy innovations across the economy, especially in communities most impacted by climate change. Vulnerable communities, disproportionately impacted by the climate crisis and pollution will be a priority. Contrary to the dark-money advertisements running across Pennsylvania and Ohio, Biden will not ban fracking. It is not a part of his platform. While the pollution reduction targets fall short of what we need to do, the plan will build momentum towards a clean energy economy. The Science behind the Climate Crisis:

While Trump claims the climate crisis is a hoax and his platform claims: “Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a political mechanism, not an unbiased scientific institution. Its unreliability is reflected in its intolerance toward scientists and others who dissent from its orthodoxy. We will evaluate its recommendations accordingly. We reject the agendas of both the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement, which represent only the personal commitments of their signatories; no such agreement can be binding upon the United States until it is submitted to and ratified by the Senate. We demand an immediate halt to U.S. funding for the U.N.’s Framework Convention on Climate Change in accordance with the 1994 Foreign Relations Authorization Act…” The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was created by the United Nations Environmental Program and the World Meteorological Organization in 1988 through the leadership and support of President George H.W. Bush. Contrary to the Trump platform claims, the IPCC is a trusted scientific data and modeling source about the climate crisis. The IPCC has been very cautious in its five separate reports produced since 1988 by scientific teams representing more than 80 countries. The fifth assessment report is the most comprehensive synthesis to date. It represents six years of work by more than 830 lead authors and review editors. It draws on the peer-reviewed and published works of over 1000 contributors. Another 2,000 expert reviewers provided over 140,000 comments that the authors addressed as they synthesized their conclusions from thousands of peer-reviewed studies. The synthesis is slow, thorough process, and involves a lot of consensus-based decision-making based on sound

science. IPCC has warned: “Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, sea level has risen, and the concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased… Changes in many extreme weather and climate events have been observed since about 1950. It is very likely that the number of cold days and nights has decreased and the number of warm days and nights has increased on the global scale. It is likely that the frequency of heat waves has increased in large parts of Europe, Asia and Australia. There are likely more land regions where the number of heavy precipitation events has increased than where it has decreased. The frequency or intensity of heavy precipitation events has likely increased in North America and Europe…” The IPPC’s latest report looks at how fast the planet may be approaching the very dangerous 1.5 C. threshold and suggests: “While the pace of change that would be required to limit warming to 1.5°C can be found in the past, there is no historical precedent for the scale of the necessary transitions, in particular in a socially and economically sustainable way.” According to the most recent IPCC report, doing nothing as Trump’s platform suggests, will place all life on earth in a reality with no historical precedent, as soon as 20 years from now. Impacts of climate change on human and natural systems will include “adverse outcomes for livelihoods, health and well-being, ecosystems and species, services, infrastructure, and economic, social and cultural assets.” We are facing a climate crisis calling for bold action, not climate denial and misplaced attacks

on science. Because we must aggressively abate carbon pollution now, the 2020 election will be the most consequential election since the fourway race that Abraham Lincoln won in 1860. The Party of Lincoln and Eisenhower that I once served an elected committee member is no longer a political party in the strictest traditional sense. It is a dangerous cult of Trump's narcissistic personality that will create more social unrest and division, continued pandemic chaos, and increasing environmental calamity if Trump gets a second chance. The Trump environmental platform is an anti-science, pro-exploitation platform that will jeopardize future generations including our children. We must vote like our future depends on it because it does.

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | SEPTEMBER 1, 2020 | 15


SAVAGE LOVE Savage Love Love | sex | relationships BY DAN SAVAGE MAIL@SAVAGELOVE.NET I’ve been married for thirty years to the same man. I have dealt with his tantrums, his screaming, and his fits. He’s always had anger management issues. He strangled me once a few months after our son was born and never did it again. I would have left otherwise. He’s had relationships with other women but always swore it was just online. Then, a few years back, I got into an online relationship with someone online. I never actually met this person, just as my husband claimed he’d never met the women he was talking to online. I had opened up to this person about our troubles and I talked about my husband’s anger issues and some other private things. This person encouraged me to have an affair but I kept putting him off. Finally, I told him I did it, I had an affair, it was great, etc. It wasn’t true but it seemed like that’s what he wanted to hear. About thirty minutes after I told him I got a call from my husband! This person had sent it all to him! All of our conversations, everything, every detail. My husband flipped out but we worked it out and moved on. Then a few months ago, right at the start of the pandemic, I found out that my husband has been speaking to other women. I also found out that he’s been meeting other women in hotel rooms in other cities and all this time I believed him about never meeting with anyone in person! He claims he has erectile dysfunction but it was clear from the messages I saw that he is having sex with these other women. So he’s somehow fucking other women despite the erectile

dysfunction that prevents him from fucking me?!? I’m beside myself because over thirty years we built a life together and now I don’t know what my future is going to look like because of this. I can’t provide for myself monetarily. I still work full time but if I lose this job or retire, Dan, I will have nothing. And we both have medical issues. I don’t want a divorce because a secure future for both of us really does hinge on us remaining together. I know for a fact that he’s still seeing these women while forbidding me from having even online conversations— to say nothing of relations—with another man. Neither of us can make it on our own. I don’t know what to do. Why wouldn’t he want an open relationship? Divorce Invites Serious Consequences Or Real Distress Your husband doesn’t want an open relationship, DISCORD, because he doesn’t want you to have the same freedom he does. And while he doesn’t want to be sexual with you for reasons that have nothing to do with erectile dysfunction, he doesn’t want you seeking sexual attention—much less sexual fulfilment—in the arms or inboxes of other men. Which means your husband sees you not as a human being like him, i.e. a person with needs and feelings and agency, but more like a car he keeps in his garage and refuses to drive and won’t let anyone else take for a spin. You’re not a car, of course, and

16 | SEPTEMBER 1, 2020 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT

you’re not his property. You were also faithful to him even as he cheated on you—even after he assaulted you—and you stayed in this marriage despite being deprived of sex and other forms intimacy. But even if you guys had been fucking on a daily basis for the last thirty years, DISCORD, even if your husband wasn’t an abusive asshole with anger issues, you would still have every right to indulge in sexual fantasies that don’t involve your husband and every right to explore those fantasies on your own time. Partnered or not, monogamous or not, we are all entitled to a zone of erotic autonomy. You say divorce isn’t a viable option for you, DISCORD, so I’m gonna recommend a different d-word: detach. Make peace with your circumstances and the best of your living situation. Don’t go searching for evidence that your husband is cheating on you, just accept that he is. Don’t feel the need to confront him about his fucking hypocrisy, just accept that he’s a huge fucking hypocrite. And then, DISCORD, just like your husband, go and do whatever and whoever you want. You don’t need his permission to seek attention elsewhere. And if being honest about the attention you get elsewhere upsets your husband—if being honest swapping dirty texts with other men makes your husband and your homelife unbearable—then don’t be honest about it. Just as he made an effort to be discreet in order to hide the scale of his cheating and his hypocrisy from you, DISCORD, you can be discreet in order to avoid conflict and drama. Get back online, DISCORD, go make a new friend. And just because that last guy turned out to be a sadistic asshole who drew you out in order to blow up your life, that doesn’t mean the next guy you meet online is going to be a sadis-

tic or vindictive asshole. Billions of people get online every day to chat with strangers and millions of people share explicit fantasies with strangers every day. While revenge porn is definitely a thing—and definitely a crime—it’s almost always jilted IRL lovers who lash out like the way that asshole did. If it was even remotely common for people to be exposed to their spouses the way you were exposed to yours, DISCORD, if it happened even .01% of the time, we would hear about constantly. We don’t because it isn’t. But to be on the safe side, DISCORD, you might to keep it anonymous. Don’t share your real info with someone you only wanna swap hot fantasies with and never intend to meet in person. And when your husband is being an asshole or just generally getting on your nerves, DISCARD, you can fantasize about the statistical likelihood that you will outlive your husband by many years. Because orgasms aren’t the only sweet release. I just read your advice for CATMAN, the person who asked if there was a name for his specific and newfound fetish: he wants to marry a submissive bisexual guy and then pick up and dominate submissive women together with his guy. As I read it, I wondered is this a sexual fantasy or is it a fetish? Then I wondered what the difference is between a fantasy and a fetish. Is there one? Does it matter? Knowingly Investigating Newly Kinky Yearnings What CATMAN described— what CATMAN was looking for—was a relationship. He was fantasizing about his perfect partner and wondering if he was out there somewhere. Since literally everyone does that, KINKY, I wouldn’t describe fantasizing about a perfect


ESSAY partner/partners as a fetish or a kink. Vanilla or mildly kinky or wildly kinky, we all want that perfect match, i.e. a person or people whose sexual desires and/or relationship goals parallel our own. And a lucky few manage to find someone who comes really close. People don’t just fantasize about sex, of course; people fantasize about dream jobs, dream vacations, dream weddings. (Wedding fantasies aren’t about who you’re marrying but how you’re marrying them, e.g. a destination wedding, a traditional wedding, a non-traditional wedding, etc.). But when it comes to sex, KINKY, fantasies are best understood as scenarios or situations that incorporate important elements of a person’s sexual desires—desires which may involve kinks or fetishes or may not. Think of fantasies as sexy little movies we screen for ourselves in our heads and kinks or fetishes as optional plot points and/or props. The natural follow-up question: What’s the difference between a kink and a fetish then? While people often use those terms interchangeably, KINKY, they mean different things. Dr. Justin Lehmiller recently unpacked the difference on Sex & Psychology (www.lehmiller. com): “Kink is a very broad concept that encompasses pretty much any form of sexual expression that falls outside of the mainstream. This includes the eroticization of intense sensations (such as mixing pleasure and pain), playing with power differentials, deriving pleasure from inanimate objects, role playing, and more... [whereas] fetishes involve heightened attraction to certain objects (like boots and shoes) and/or body parts beyond the genitals (like feet and armpits).” So, all fetishes are kinks but not all kinks are fetishes. I hope that clears things up!

THE BANANA MAN BY MATTHEW WALLENSTEIN - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CONTRIBUTING WRITER

I

saw The Banana Man last week. He was standing in the middle of the Family Dollar parking lot, sort of teetering. I rolled my window down and said hello. He said hello back and asked how I was. Then he went on his way, shuffling along, leaning side to side as he went. He is an older guy, well under five feet tall, stooped over. He wears his clothes in the way the farmers did in the town I am from. What was left of his hair was sticking up and blowing around in the wind. His nose looked the way cartoon noses look, round like a tiny light bulb. A web of wrinkles spread out from it. Before that it had been years since I last saw him. Back then he lived in an assisted living facility close by to the cafe where B worked. He would come in, wait in line, he would tell her she had nice legs and she would say, now you know you shouldn’t say that to women. He would chuckle. He called her Pony. He always ordered an ice tea and a banana. Then he would walk over and sit down at one of the tables. She would put old music on for him, the stuff she knew he liked. The Banana Man would bop his head back and forth, put pack after pack of sugar into his tea. He’d tap out something close to the beat of the music, but not quite the beat, on the table with his fingers. Then he would usually fall asleep for a while, mouth agape, head tilted back. I used to go there sometimes to get a sandwich from B on my breaks from work. I always thought I was lucky when I caught The Banana Man. I could tell when he was taken

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care of and when he wasn’t. It was the length of his finger nails, length of his stubble. I would give him rides sometimes from the cafe or when I saw him walking around. He would usually want me to bring him down town to his favorite fast food place. He liked it best when my dog was in the car. Usually he was pretty chipper, he had this laugh that could really get you. Sometimes he’d be blue, worn out. He would carry himself like his body was actually something the rest of him had to carry. There was this slow burden of movement, of going through it, of the task of life. I asked him a lot of questions about himself. He was from a town not far from Pittsburgh. He was older than 70. He hadn’t ever been outside of Western Pennsylvania. The Banana Man ended up in Pittsburgh when he was young because his father remarried and his stepmother wanted him out of the picture. She sent him to the mental hospital. He was there a while, after that it was halfway houses, in and out. Then one day The Banana Man didn’t show up to the cafe, and didn’t show up, and didn’t show up, days, a week. It had been too long and B got concerned. She called the assisted living place where he stayed. Eventually they got back to her and explained that The Banana Man had been assaulted, beaten almost to death. He was at the hospital and it looked bad. He was old and he was small. His head was split open. She called almost every day for updates. When he regained consciousness he had lost memory and quite a bit of his motor skills. The story was he had gone to the arts festival downtown. He loved art fes-

tivals, any kind of event like that where there were people, things to do and see. He said he didn’t remember what had happened exactly, but he had been jumped. She was persistent and was able to talk to him on the phone. She told him it was Pony calling. She told him he better get better fast because the bananas were piling up and no one was there to eat them. He didn’t know who she was, he didn’t know much anymore. He went back every once in a while after the hospital let him out but not like before. He did tell B she had nice legs again though. I saw him outside of the cafe one day. He didn’t remember me. He was very cagey. There was an enormous scar that ran from just above his right eye into and past his receding hairline. It spread out wide. It was shiny and purple. Just up the hill the street was shut down for some kind of event with venders. He liked that sort of thing. I asked if he wanted to walk with me. He was unsure but started to warm up to the idea. We started in the direction of the vendors and he started to laugh again, to remember who I was or at least that I was familiar to him somehow. We talked to each other and walked around for a little while and then went our separate ways. They moved him to a spot across the river where its residents stand or sit outside, stubble faced, smoking cigarettes pressed deep in their knuckles. They wear baggy shirts, ill fitting pants. And there is a man there bent over so far he is nearly kissing his own toes. His eyes in a bed of wrinkled skin. I see him some days when I drive by. He is The Banana Man.

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | SEPTEMBER 1, 2020 | 17


PA R T I N G S H OT

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Pittsburgh Current. Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020, Issue 3. Volume  

The Dangers of a Second Trump Term, Pittsburgh Schools computer shortage and community rallies behind Churchill man

Pittsburgh Current. Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020, Issue 3. Volume  

The Dangers of a Second Trump Term, Pittsburgh Schools computer shortage and community rallies behind Churchill man

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