__MAIN_TEXT__
feature-image

Page 1

INSIDE:

BUFFALO ROSE'S BORROWED AND BLUE IS A ONE-MIC WONDER

VOL. 3 ISSUE 15

May 26, 2020 - June 1, 2020

PGHCURRENT

PGHCURRENT

PGHCURRENT

IS ALLEGHENY COUNTY'S MASSIVE REDUCTION IN POLLING LOCATIONS A FORM OF VOTER SUPPRESSION?


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

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

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

2 | MAY 26, 2020 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT


PITTSBURGH CURRENT | MAY 26, 2020 | 3


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

contents

Vol. III Iss. XV May 26, 2020

NEWS 6 | Poor Poll Position 10 | Update: ACJ 11 | Stop-Gap Budget

EDITORIAL

Art Director: Larissa Mallon Larissa@pittsburghcurrent.com Music Editor: Margaret Welsh Margaret@pittsburghcurrent.com Visuals Editor: Jake Mysliwczyk Jake@pittsburghcurrent.com Social Justice Columnist: Jessica Semler jessica@pittsburghcurrent.com

OPINION 12 | Vote Progressively 13 | Rob Rogers 14 | Larry Schweiger ARTs & ENTERTAINMENT 16 | Buffalo Rose 17 | Clare Beams 17 | Still Booming 19 | Quarantine Couture EXTRA 20 | Savage Love 21 | Doggy Daycare 22 | Parting Shot

Contributing Writers: Jody DiPerna, Justin Vellucci, Atiya Irvin Mitchell, Dan Savage, Larry Schweiger, Brittany Hailer, Meg Fair, Matt Wallenstein, Emerson Andrews, Matt Petras info@pittsburghcurrent.com Logo Design: Mark Addison FOR ADVERTISING RATES :

Bethany Ruhe Bethany@pittsburghcurrent.com Charlie Deitch Charlie@pittsburghcurrent.com 4 | MAY 26, 2020 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT

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


All

Space

Your ad dollars go even further with our Space For All campaign. For every ad you purchase a struggling small business or non-profit will be able to place an ad of equal value. This applies to businesses that are currently closed during the COVID-19 outbreak, and can be applied once they reopen.

All

for

You are free to choose a business or non-profit, or we can help you find one. Let's all work together to help out our neighbors and get the word out when they can reopen their doors!

Leaderboard Medium Rectangle Skyscraper Interstitial (Pop-Up) 728 x ad 90dollars go even 300further x 250with our Space 120 For x 600 x 500 Your All campaign.600 For every ad you purchase a struggling small business or non-profit will be able to $150 $100This applies to businesses $100 $125 place an ad of equal value. that are currently per week during the COVID-19 per weekoutbreak, and canperbe week day closed applied once they per reopen. You Front are free to choose aFull business orHalf non-profit, Quarter or we can help you find Strip Email one. Let's all work together to help out our neighbors and get the word out when they can reopen their doors! $250 $600 $400 $175 $200

Leaderboard 728 x 90 $150 per week

Medium Rectangle 300 x 250 $100 per week

Front Strip Full pittsburghcurrent.com $600 $400

Skyscraper 120 x 600 $100

Half $250

per week

Interstitial (Pop-Up) 600 x 500 $125

Quarter $175

per day

Email $200

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | MAY 26, 2020 | 5


NEWS

Above and opposite page: Protesters at a "Promote the Cote Car-a-Van on May 18. (Pittsurgh Current Photos by Jake Mysliwczyk).

POOR POLL POSITION

ALLEGHENY COUNTY IS WIPING OUT 90 PERCENT OF ITS POLLING LOCATIONS FOR COVID-19 SAFETY CONCERNS, BUT IS IT HEALTHY FOR DEMOCRACY? BY ATIYA IRVIN-MITCHELL - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CONTRIBUTING WRITER

INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM

R

andall Taylor hopes for a day when voting will be as easy as grocery shopping. For the time being, though, he’s settled for trying to ensure that Pittsburgh’s black residents understand their different voting options for the upcoming Primary Election on June 2. This means participating in a collaborative effort with the Black Political Empowerment Project, Pittsburgh’s chapter of the NAACP, and the Pittsburgh Women’s March

going from neighborhood to neighborhood in a car-a-van answering questions and encouraging mail-in ballots. “The most important thing is we’re trying to let people know your polling place is going to be closed,” Taylor explained. “They’re moving different polling places to things like municipal buildings where they weren’t before, most likely we can confidently say your polling place will be closed on election day and that’s the message we’re trying to get

6 | MAY 26, 2020 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT

out to people.” When the Covid-19 pandemic hit the U.S. and large gatherings were discouraged as a matter of public health Pennsylvania pushed its scheduled April 28 election back to June. In a hotly debated move, members of the Allegheny County Board of Elections have stated is designed to prevent further spread of the coronavirus, instead of the usual 1,323 polling places that would be open on any given election day in June there will be only 211.

MORE ON THE JUNE 2 PRIMARY ALL T H I S W E E K AT PITSBURGHCURRENT. COM

However, advocates such as Taylor fear that there’s a great deal of confusion over how mail-in voting works as this is the first time it’s ever been employed in Pennsylvania. More than that pointing out that not everyone has consistent social media access, with so much of the information posted online this could


create digital disadvantage for black, brown and lower income residents who won’t have access to accurate information. “Any time information is dependent on social media, there’s going to be a lot of people who don’t have regular access to a computer or wifi who will be disproportionately affected,” Taylor explained. Taylor pointed to Pittsburgh Public Schools hiccups in distance learning as an example. In Taylor’s outreach, he says he’s come across residents who were aware that mail-in ballots were an option, however were confused about the procedures and the timelines. Additionally, he expressed concern over residents who might not receive their ballots in enough time. While many have expressed concern that the 211 polling places as opposed to the usual 1,323 would unjustly disenfranchise voters, Taylor would rather all polling places be closed. “I don’t think it’s safe,” Taylor stated. “I don’t think we should be encouraging people to work for 13 hours in that situation. We know a lot of campaign workers are seniors and I really don’t think we should put anybody in harm’s way. I’m in agreement about reducing polling places, I’m just concerned about any polling place that will be open.” Taylor’s not alone in his trepidation. County Councilwoman Bethany Hallam has been vocal about her disapproval of the polling place reduction plan. As the sole no vote on the Elections Commission which consists of herself, fellow at-large County Councilman Sam DeMarco, and County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, Hallam told the Pittsburgh Current that she was frustrated with the plan because she finds it is “ineq-

NEWS

uitable.” By applying a, “one size fits all” solution to the county’s many municipalities, Hallam said, the county had disenfranchised voters and placed poll workers at risk. “Instead of doing what other cities and counties throughout Pennsylvania have done which is [to] utilize data to develop a polling place consolidation plan, Allegheny County decided to take the easy way out,” Hallam remarked. As of May 19, the county elections office reports it’s received 225,000 mail-in ballot applications. However as of mid-May about 42,000 ballots have been returned, a return rate of less than 19 percent. That’s a number that worries Hallam because of the few number of polling places open on election day. The exasperated county councilor calls it a “fucking drop in the bucket.” During the 2016 primary, voter

turnout was 41 percent. That means a lot of ballots need to be returned and even more need to show up at the dramatically reduced number of polling places. The problem as Hallam sees it is that different municipalities would need a larger number of polling places based on how many registered voters in the area. In Allegheny County with municipalities like Penn Hills with roughly 30,000 registered voters and others like Wall with potentially a few hundred it’s unreasonable, Hallam said, to give both areas only one polling place when more voters suggest a need for more. “Some municipalities are tiny,” Hallam observed. “West View is one square-mile in total area; Penn Hills is fifty miles in total area so when you consolidate to one polling location you have folks who are potentially driving up to a half hour

each way just to cast their ballot on Election Day.” In October 2019, Act 77, a law that allowed for improvements to the commonwealth’s election process for the first time in decades was enacted. It allows for mail-in ballots, additional time to register, and more time to return absentee ballots. Months later Act 12 bipartisan legislation granted counties emergency relief to consolidate polling places due to the pandemic for the 2020 primary election only. However Hallam points out that Act 12 only allows for a 60 percent consolidation, whereas the county has opted to consolidate 90 percent of polling places with the permission of the department of state. Among many things, Hallam would’ve preferred a less-sizable consolidation to protect both voters and pollworkers. “Doing 60 percent, we could’ve staffed, we could’ve developed a better plan to make sure polling places were accessible and we just didn’t do that and I think that’s why I'm just frustrated now,” she said. Hallam added that no matter how hard the county pushed mail-in voting, there would still be voters who trusted in person ballots more. Therefore making only one polling place available, she said, makes voting inaccessible. Furthermore, Hallam expressed doubt that the plan in place will protect poll workers. “We can act like this consolidation plan was to protect public health,” Hallam said. “In reality what’s going to happen is that the poll workers that we do have working the polls on election day are now exposed to potentially thousands more voters than they would have normally been exposed to.”

Continued on Page 8

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | MAY 26, 2020 | 7


NEWS

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

PA G E 7

There was a research done,” she said. “There was no data compiled to develop this polling-place consolidation plan, the poll workers were not contacted like the country claimed they were. I can give you dozens of poll workers that can attest to that.” Due to the “overwhelming” of the elections division with requests for mail-in ballots, Hallam feared the county was opening itself up to a lawsuit for individuals who wouldn't be able to vote on election day.

A

llegheny County Councilor Sam DeMarco holds a different view. Along with Fitzgerald, he supported the consolidation on the grounds that there weren’t enough poll workers to safely and adequately staff the polls. “My job is to ensure that we provide people with the ability to safely and securely cast their vote,” DeMarco explained. “And we were told that there weren’t enough people willing to work because of the concern over Covid-19 pandemic to be able to adequately staff the normal 1,323 polls.” DeMarco recalled that back in April he wanted to survey poll workers to gauge how many people were willing to work. Ultimately it didn’t happen, but DeMarco contends that with the information provided the goal was to protect public health. “Neither Councilor Hallam nor myself saw the information, but we were told the same thing,” DeMarco said. “I voted the way I did because if I vote no and she [Hallam] votes no we still have 1,323 polls and no way to take in staff.” Additionally, DeMarco argues that on the topic of disenfranchisement by sending out mail-in voter applications to all eligible county voters was proof that the consolidation plan didn’t un-

fairly target or disenfranchise voters. “We’re only trying to make the process better, not trying to hinder it for anybody,” DeMarco insisted. “What happens is you’ve got 1,323 polls that require about 5,500 poll workers. If you’ve got a bunch of people calling up and saying they’re afraid to work it’s one thing to say you can’t close it down, but who’s going to work?” DeMarco added that he understood the consolidation procedures were inconvenient and that he himself at first believed there’d be 300 to 400 polling places available, but with the information he was presented with, he voted the best way he could. Still, doubts linger about what the end result will be. Even among Republicans there’s concern that the polling place reduction plan amounts to voter suppression. On May 22, members of the Allegheny County Republican House Delegation co-authored a letter demanding

8 | MAY 26, 2020 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT

that the Primary Day Election plan be abandoned. Within the letter, the officials alleged that the consolidation plan violated the law due to the county not providing evidence to justify the reduction in polling places and disenfranchised voters. Also, the officials which included Speaker of the House Mike Turzai, Reps. Natalie Mihalek, Jason Ortitay, Bob Brooks, Lori Mizgorski, and Mike Puskaric stated that the county failed to get the appropriate public input prior to sending its plan to the Department of State. “The decision to reduce the number of polling locations on the primary date is an affront to good faith decision making in a democracy and to rational and fair public policy,” the letter said. “Secretary Boockvar, your approval of Allegheny County's ill-conceived plan was not just unjustified, it threatens the public health, promotes voter disenfranchisement, and will result in severe voter confu-

sion that undermines the core of our Republic - free and fair elections.” The letter went on to outline grievances with the plan that included that the county didn’t provide data to support the merits of the plan, the plan itself possibly creates “volatile situations” for voters, and called on the county to return to 1,323 polling places or 530 at the least. “Given these facts, we insist that the Department revise its approval of Allegheny County's application and immediately require the County to return to the standard 1,323 polling places," the letter said. “At a minimum, the County must be required to allow for at least 530 polling locations in 530 separate buildings based on an equitable pro rata basis.” In response to the letter, County Solicitor Andrew Szefi and Elections Division Manager David Voye issued a statement insisting that the county had acted within the bounds of Act 12 and its guidelines and sought only to preserve public health. “The steps taken by Allegheny County, its Elections Division and the Board of Elections neither disenfranchise voters nor endanger public health,” Voye said in the release. “These steps, indeed, are intended to encourage the greatest number of voters to participate in the June 2 Primary Election while also protecting public health.” But advocates like Randall Taylor just aren't so sure. “Everything is different now, I just think that we all have to adjust to this period but we all have to stay safe," Taylor said. "A vote is going to take place, people are going to be elected. We just have to make sure as many people as possible have the chance to make their vote heard.”


SUPPORT THE PITTSBURGH CURRENT AND THE FUTURE OF INDEPENDENT JOURNALISM

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.

Donate to the Pittsburgh Current and the future of Independent Journalism Thank You,

Charlie Deitch

Publisher, Pittsburgh Current charlie@pittsburghcurrent.com PITTSBURGH CURRENT | MAY 26, 2020 | 9


NEWS NOT ALL YOUNG ADULTS ARE RECKLESSLY PARTYING THROUGH COVID-19. MANY ARE PLAYING IT SAFE BY BELLA PELLETIERE - FOR THE PITTSBURGH CURRENT

Temperatures hit the 80s in some places as families flocked to beaches around the country this past holiday weekend. Friends hit bars together, while some sat poolside, drinks in hand, listening to music, plastering Instagram with pics of the excitement. Even though it was the start of summer, however, it’s hardly the end of the COVID-19 pandemic. Pennsylvania announced yesterday, 15 new coronavirus deaths and nearly 500 new cases, while surges continue to surface in pockets nationwide. “Look at the numbers,” Dr. Seema Yasmin, a former disease detective at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told CNN over the weekend in response to the unmasked crowd scenes surfacing on social media. “You’ll see that [last] Thursday, more than 20,000 Americans were infected.” “The amount of people who have been going out without masks is insane and unsafe, and they’re going to be the reason it goes longer than it should be,” said Chloe Nanian, a second-semester sophomore at Emerson College. Her summer plans to travel with family and to visit her grandmother are cancelled; but as the country reopens, Nanian is still trying her best to enjoy the sun while social distancing. “Once a week I go to a parking lot and meet the same group of people to minimize the same group people I come in contact with, while still going out and spending time together while staying at least six feet apart,” Nanian said. “I feel like there is a way to stay safe and there’s a way to have fun.” Pennsylvania is still in the process of a cautious reopening, while many other states were already on to their

INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM

second and third phases last weekend. Videos of hundreds of people partying on Saturday at the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri—in large groups, and without social distancing—went viral. Those and similar images don’t tell the whole story though; it’s far less entertaining to show people having fun according to CDC recommendations, but not all young adults and partiers are putting the people around them at risk and recklessly exposing themselves. “I think that by opening, people have the mentality that everything is okay now,” said Katherine Michaud, a student at Roger Williams University in Rhode Island. Michaud doesn’t leave the house without a container of Clorox wipes and her mask. She makes sure to always disinfect her hands, keys, door handles in her car, steering wheel, and phone before going anywhere. “I’ve been seeing a lot of people I know hanging out with friends, and even sharing food, and it doesn’t seem the wisest to me,” Michaud added. “I think that the main things people need to understand [is that] this virus is still around, to be careful, and to really get creative with what you do.” Michaud mentioned a farm down the street from her, where you can hang out with goats for $10 and social distance, or order food to take to a nice area outside. She’s also committed to safely celebrating her graduation. “Everything isn’t going to be the same,” Michaud said. “People need to alter their plans. You can still have a good summer.” “Before, we used to just have to worry about packing sunscreen, but now it’s sunscreen, masks, hand

10 | MAY 26, 2020 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT

People jammed into beaches and pools around the country on Memorial Day Weekend, including Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri. (via Twitter)

sanitizer, disinfecting wipes,” said Jen Campisii, also a student at Roger Williams. Campisii, like most other young adults, had her plans for the season cancelled. She was supposed to visit Florida and meet her boyfriend’s grandparents for the first time in March. “We really had no choice but to do it sometime this summer, so we don’t lose the money and the tickets,” Campisii said. “We hope there will be things to do. [But] the beach is the same—as long as everyone stays their appropriate distance.”

“I remember being invited to a ‘corona-themed’ party by a friend, which I did not go to,” said Victoria Acosta, a student at Umass Lowell. “I recently hung out with my best friend and went on social distancing hikes.” When things do open, Acosta said it’s up to businesses to enforce strict policies—so that you don’t end up with situations like out in the Ozarks. “I definitely think that it will be up to them to keep order,” Acosta said. Hayley Garcia, who works for Amazon as a video editor, and Molli


NEWS DeRosa, a recent graduate of Emerson College, have only been strictly seeing immediate family and friends during quarantine. They both say they have found ways to fill up their time as warm weather arrives, all while social distancing and keeping themselves and others safe. “I think if a couple of your close friends are doing the same—following social distancing guidelines properly—I think it’s alright to have a short outing once in a while. Go to the park for an hour, walk or sit sixfeet apart, and wear masks,� DeRosa said. “We still have the ability to enjoy summer, but it’s definitely all about being cautious.� “I’ve only seen my friends Liv and Sam since this all started,� Garcia said. “We’ve just been walking around their neighborhood, or chilling outside of Sam’s. Trying to be safe, but also staying sane.� Garcia said that many of her peers would rather pretend the pandemic isn’t happening and live their lives unchallenged. For her, though, it’s important to make sacrifices. “There’s still plenty of things that people can do while staying safe,� she said. Chloe Nanian, the Emerson student, expressed fear of even hanging out by her house. Her neighbors have been walking around without masks, without any means of social distancing. Although Nanian agrees that there’s a way to enjoy your summer while staying safe, she fears things are going to get worse. “I get you miss your friends, but please don’t go partying, or go over each other’s houses constantly,� she said. “This can wait.� This story was syndicated through the non-profit Bostin Institute for Nonprofit Journalism (www.binjonline.com).

WITH A BOTTOM LINE ROCKED BY COVID-19, PA. LAWMAKERS SET TO PASS STOP-GAP BUDGET THIS WEEK BY STEPHEN CARUSO - FOR THE PITTSBURGH CURRENT

INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM

The Pennsylvania General Assembly is prepared to pass a temporary budget this week that would push off tough spending choices until after the 2020 election, according to two Capitol sources with knowledge of the process. The proposed budget was presented to House Democrats Monday afternoon in a virtual caucus, according to another three House Democratic sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly. The plan presented to them included a projected $5 billion shortfall between this year’s revenue and next year’s spending. The sources indicated that the budget would equal roughly five months of spending based on last year’s fiscal blueprint, which passed with bipartisan support in late June. Education funding would be an exception, receiving a full-year budget, but with no increase based on current, approved spending for fiscal 2019-2020. The temporary measure is due to the uncertain revenues from the COVID-19 pandemic, which have already zapped at least $2.3 billion from state’s coffers as of the end of April. Legislative leaders in both the House and Senate, controlled by Republicans, have floated stop-gap budgeting measures ever since the virus first started closing businesses and keeping people indoors. Speaking to reporters last week, Gov. Tom Wolf said that “there’s a lot there are a lot of unknowns, but added that “given those ‌ there’s really good bipartisan cooperation.â€? “I think that we’re actually making good progress,â€? Wolf said. Some of that revenue would likely be recouped over the sum-

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf delivers his sixth budget address to a joint session of the general assembly inside the House of Representatives chamber at the State Capitol in Harrisburg on Tuesday, Feb. 4. (Photo from Commonwealth Media Services).

mer due to the delayed income tax deadline, state officials have said. Negotiations are still ongoing, and likely will continue over the weekend, House Republican Spokesperson Mike Straub said Friday. “We hope for a potential budget vote next week, but we’re still a long way from making sure that happens,� Straub told the Capital-Star. But he confirmed that the plan would call for flat funded “as much as we can� before the General Assembly takes another crack when revenues are finalized. The Independent Fiscal Office, a non-partisan policy analysis office, estimated in May that the total cost to the state of the pandemic would approach $4 billion until next June, when Pennsylvania’s traditional budget years begin and end. Stephen Caruso is a staff writer for the PA. Capital-Star, where this story first appeared.

        

                  Â?Â? Â? Â? Â? Â?  Â?­   €    ­

   ‚€ƒ„Â…Â… € † ‡…„

      €ˆ ƒ‡  € ˆ       

     Â?Â?Â?Â?       Â?Â?Â? Â?­­ €€Â?Â?‚  Â?€ ƒ „      Â…Â  †Â?‡   ‡ˆÂ?Â? ‰…Â…   Â?ˆÂ?Â? Â…Â… Š       ‹       Â…            ‹  Â…

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | MAY 26, 2020 | 11


OPINION FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION BE PROGRESSIVE ON JUNE 2

BY CHARLIE DEITCH - PITTSBURGH CURRENT EDITOR

CHARLIE@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM

I

f you are able to vote in the June 2 (see our story on Page 8) primary it means you’ve made an effort to do so. Be sure to take full advantage of it. This year, there is a strong slate of progressive candidates who the Democratic Party establishment in this county want you to gloss right over. They are progressive candidates based on every standard that the designation has come to stand for. Many are challenging incumbent officials who have long had the support of the party and, many of whom claim to now embrace progressive ideals. It’s important to know the real deal from those who have changed stances on a few key issues to try and gain progressive street cred. Here are four races with strong progressive candidates who deserve your consideration on election day. essica Benham, House District 36. This is probably one of the easiest races to start with. Benham is so progressive that she every old-school, stuck-in-the-past party hack in the city’s southern neighborhoods teamed up to stop. These spirits of ward-politics past are so afraid of Benham taking office that there are three candidates standing in her way. Benham has been in this race the longest. She actually got to go out and talk to voters because she started running long before COVID-19 in an effort to take out closet-Republican and incumbent Harry Readshaw. Readshaw decided not to seek re-election this year and make no mistake about it, he did so to avoid running against and potentially lose to Benham.

J

Readshaw then endorsed Heather Kass, a person whose social media rants about drug addicts, those on public assistance and support of Trump would make Stephen Miller’s Facebook page look like it was funded by the DSA. Benham is the logical choice by any measure. It’s a shame that a week before the election we’re still wondering why some people haven’t been able to recognize that. ummer Lee, District 34. The campaign being run against Summer Lee is disgusting. Lee is one of the most active and outspoken state Reps from Western Pennsylvania and probably the entire state. She fights hard for marginalized people and communities. Yet, when it comes time for her reelection, the party turns their back on her. Well, not really, because they have never given her the proper respect and attention afforded to so many others. But this year, as an incumbent, the party, led by Allegheny County Chief Executive Rich FItzgerald spit in her face. Why? Because Summer Lee dares to challenge Fitzgerald’s mighty power and even mightier ego, especially when it comes to fracking and environmental matters. Let’s be honest, Rich Fitzgerald would probably let the gas companies frack under a highrise full of orphans, puppies and kittens if he decided it was a good deal. So, Fitzgerald gathered some unions, who have been convinced that Summer Lee is bad for business despite her tireless support for workers, and found a candidate, Chris Roland, willing to set up as many straw men and blow as many dog whistles as he can to try and oust Lee. Roland

S

12 | MAY 26, 2020 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT

immediately went to the muck with a series of mailers that, let’s be clear here, LIE about her voting record in Harrisburg. He’s treating the voters like idiots by thinking that they’ll fall for his negative campaigning. Chris Roland only cares about getting elected and Rich FItzgerald only cares about flexing his political muscles to show how in control he is. But the last several election cycles have shown he’s not half as strong as he thinks he is and voting for Summer Lee makes that point loud and clear.

E

mily Kinkead, District 20. The most baffling thing about this race is the level at which her incumbent opponent Adam Ravenstahl has pulled a Keyser Sose and convinced a lot of people that his past votes and positions don’t exist. This one doesn’t require a lot of examples, just one in fact. From the moment Ravenstahl took office, he has made no apologies about the fact that he was pro-life. He voted that way religiously up until the past year or so, when a lot of entrenched Democrats, thanks to some high-profile victories by progressive neophytes, began to realize their constituents are a bit more socially liberal than they liked to believe. The icing on the cake, however, came earlier this year when Ravenstahl actually WON the endorsement from Planned Parenthood’s political arm over Kincaid, a woman who has actually been on the frontlines lighting for reproductive rights. The endorsement caused a shitstorm of epic proportions and Planned Parenthood decided to endorse both candidates. It was a political compromise that never should have been made. That endorsement belonged to Kinkead and I know

for a fact, many people affiliated with Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania weren’t happy about it and that’s why the compromise was reached. Kinkead is a progressice candidate who believes in the values she talks about. Ravenstahl is an entrenched Democrat who is “progressive” only when he’s told to be by party leadership.

J

erry Dickinson, United States Congress, District 18. First, I have to admit that I like Mike Doyle. I always have. I think he's a good congressional representative and has always been willing to talk to me about issues facing the district and the country. Furthermore, he’s even a little further left than a lot of other Dems who’ve served for years in the same seat. But, Jerry Dickinson, the constitutional law professor from the University of Pittsburgh, is made a little differently and brings a unique, solidly progressive view to this election. He grew up in the foster care system and has lived in a world where social and financial inequities were a true fact of life. He is extremely liberal on every issue and he believes that the poorer parts of the district, notably black neighborhoods, need more attention from a representative. In addition to that, given the times that we live in, Dickinson would be an invaluable member of Congress because of his legal background, especially given that we have a president who violates the constitution on what seems like an hourly basis. In this race, I don’t believe it’s a slight to Doyle’s record and service to say that Dickinson deserves honest consideration in this race; that would be the case regardless of who the opponent is.


OPINION

ADVERTISE WITH US TODAY! WWW.PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM PITTSBURGH CURRENT | MAY 26, 2020 | 13


OPINION

SOCIAL MEDIA, FAKE NEWS, AND THE 2020 ELECTIONS

BY LARRY J. SCHWEIGER - PITTSBURGH CURRENT COLUMNIST

T

LARRY@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM

homas Jefferson once observed, “The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good government.” He added this warning, “Experience hath shown, that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.” Jefferson’s prescient warning is painfully relevant today. Political tyranny is perverting our democracy, and now we face reckless handling of the pandemic with an anti-science President. With 100,000+ deaths, Trump while refusing to wear a mask, has repeatedly put the care of human life far below his crass pursuit of re-election. He is pressuring Governors to prematurely reopen even when such action may hurt the economy by dramatically increasing the number of deaths. Trump weaponized the wearing of masks as he has politicized nearly everything he touches. It should come as little surprise that the two nations leading the world in COVID-19 deaths are Brazil and the United States. Both heads of state are cut from the same cloth. Trump lies so often that fact-checkers grow weary in counting. He distorts and overrides medical experts’ warnings, and propagates a disheartening array of conspiracy theories to create distractions. Childish name-calling once a shocking Presidential behavior has been normalized. Trump's legendary misogyny and bullying have continued on twitter unabated throughout his Presidency. Any confidence that Silicon Valley can self-regulate to prevent private information exploitation or stop the spread of disinformation should be gone, especially after Trump's recent tweets falsely accusing former Republican

Congressman Joe Scarborough of murder. Trump is a despicable human being who is temperamentally and emotionally unfit to be on the twitter platform yet, this former reality show host has been entrusted with the power of the Presidency and made much more significant by subservient and cowardly Republican Senators. They have repeatedly failed to hold him accountable for impeachable offenses. In an opinion piece in the Washington Post, Paul Waldman wrote: “If you gave many Republicans in Washington truth serum, they’d say, ‘Of course he’s unfit to be President. Of course, he's corrupt, of course, he's incompetent, of course, he's the most dishonest person ever to step into the Oval Office. But I can live with that because he reelected means Republicans keep power, we get more conservative judges, and we get all the policies we favor.’” On Memorial Day, as the numbers of deaths moved toward 100,000, Trump encouraged churches to reopen, went golfing, and claimed: "Cases, numbers and deaths are going down all over the Country!” How did we get here? In a rare bipartisan moment just days before Christmas 2018, the Senate released two reports produced by Oxford University’s Computational Propaganda Project along with Graphika and a second report by New Knowledge that confirmed that Russia engaged in an all-out social media campaign to elect Donald Trump's during the 2016 election and continued to support his actions after he was elected. Disinformation, and manipulation through algorithms are pervasive and deep-rooted. Facebook took money from Russian interests that spawned fake

14 | MAY 26, 2020 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT

Donald Trump. (Current Photo by Jake Mysliwczyk)

Facebook pages, distributed fake news, and used the multiplying power of bots to divide Americans and disrupt elections. Facebook executives also knew the Russians were running a campaign to divide voters and undermine our elections and did nothing to stop it. The second study found that the Russians tried to hack online voting systems and stole Clinton campaign emails, "which led to a controlled leak via WikiLeaks." Despite these findings, the Senate has done nothing to stop the electoral corruption or taken steps to protect the 2020 elections. Russian meddling, the rigging of

elections, and the criminal enterprise operating in the Trump administration make clear that we need to confront the flawed notion that the President and his minions are above the law. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vowed to be the "grim reaper," thwarting all progressive proposals on the Senate floor. His graveyard strategy is no accident. The Koch brothers heavily invested in creating a Senate firewall against any legislative action by building a big data file on every American voter. According to a Time Maga-


OPINION

zine piece entitled “Meet the Koch Brothers' Data Guru," written by Philip Elliott, in 2016, the Koch's targeted the Senate as a firewall against the passage of legislation. They funded the Koch-owned "i360 data giant that has gathered hundreds, if not thousands, of pieces of information" on each, and every voter gleaned from many sources enabling Michael Palmer with the help of the nine PhDs on his staff, to predict voter behaviors, and influence the outcome of races up, and down the ballot. "Palmer knows if your house buys more meat than vegetables. He knows if you have an American flag on your porch and a political sign in your

yard. He knows what car you own when you last voted, and if you have cats. In essence, he is the eyes and ears for the political network funded by industrial billionaires” for Republicans to keep the Senate. David Atkins wrote a piece in the Washington Monthly entitled: “We Need to Speak Honestly About the GOP’s Evolution Into a Conspiracy Cult." Atkins suggests, "One of the challenges in analyzing modern American politics is accurately describing the Republican Party without seeming unserious and hyperbolic. Major publications are understandably in the habit of presenting both sides of the partisan divide as being inherently worthy

of respect and equal consideration, both as a way of shielding themselves from accusations of bias and as a way of maintaining their own sense of journalistic integrity. Unfortunately, the modern Republican Party's abdication of seriousness, good faith, and reality-based communications or policy-making has stretched even the most open-minded analyst's capacity for forced balance.” In recent years, Americans have experienced data breach after data breach to the extent that we have become almost numb to the thief of our private data. A March 2018 story in the New York Times piece disclosed that Cambridge Analytica had obtained private information about tens of millions of Facebook users, and it used it to help elect Donald Trump. Trump adviser Steve Bannon then head of Breitbart News, used data gleaned from Facebook through Cambridge Analytica to incubate nationalist political movements and to sow divisions in England as in the U.S. In the U.S. In 2015, Cambridge Analytica boasted of having access to two hundred and thirty million Americans' voter-registration data, as well as other personal information, gleaned from 87 million unsuspecting Facebook users. Cambridge Analytica’s unregulated purchase of personal data and their capacity to develop opaque algorithms that identify behavioral profiles while creating targeted content through social feeds, and paid ads were profoundly effective. By identifying behavioral patterns of voters, big data managers like Cambridge have to be able to disaggregate America into political ideology clusters, and target voters with carefully crafted messages that move votes. Since being exposed, Cambridge Analytica has not gone bankrupt, as they would like us to believe rather the company has morphed into "Emerdata," a company that Jennifer and Rebekah Mercer-daughters of the ultra-wealthy Robert Mercer continue to serve as board members. As beneficiaries of these abuses,

neither Trump nor the Republican-controlled Senate has done anything with the revelations. In our naiveté, many voters did not fully understand the extent of ignorance, hostility, and greed of our opponents and their followers. The GOP has not lifted a finger to prevent future Russian hackers intrusion in our 2020 elections. Renewing American Democracy: Scholars from Stanford University proposed a comprehensive strategy called "Securing American Elections" to protect the integrity and independence of U.S. elections, focusing on the upcoming presidential campaign. The report identifies ongoing threats and offers 45 actionable measures to help the nation's lawmakers and technology sector leaders deter potential threats from foreign and domestic actors seeking to disrupt the American electoral process. While we know how to protect elections, yet no Federal action has been taken to address the Russian shenanigans in social media and we should anticipate and be on guard for much more intervention this fall. When the truth is fully revealed--and it will be-- historians will record Trump as a President compromised by his entanglements with Putin. He will be known as the first President who willingly betrayed his own country for personal gain. The corruption in the White House makes it clear that America needs a post-modern approach to democracy to replace broken parts, and restore fairness in our system. Rebuilding a functioning government after so much damage will be arduous and uncertain. In a democracy, things will not go in the right direction unless the voters collectively make them go right. Until reform is possible, we are on our own to screen Russian bots and others from our social networks. We are also on our own as we stay at home, safe distance, wear masks, wash our hands often, and vote by mail this November.

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | MAY 26, 2020 | 15


A&E 'BORROWED AND BLUE' NEW EP FROM BUFFALO ROSE IS DISTINCTLY ORIGINAL BUT STILL BLUEGRASS AT ITS CORE BY MARGARET WELSH - PITTSBURGH CURRENT MUUSIC EDITOR

MARGARET@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM

T

here are a couple of ways that Borrowed and Blue, the new EP from Buffalo Rose, might seem a bit anachronistic. First, it was recorded live, with all six members of the folk ensemble gathered around a single omni microphone -- an approach which harkens to the kind of studio technologies used by the band’s musical forebears in the early and mid-20th century. And second: Even though it was recorded earlier this year, there’s an intimacy and energy to Borrowed and Blue that many of us have been missing for what feels like a very long time. As Current editor Charlie Deitch wrote last month, “If there’s one thing to be thankful for in this godforsaken coronavirus-infested world, it's that Buffalo Rose got to record its new EP before social distancing.” “I would say we’re kind of an anachronistic band in a lot of ways,” agrees Bryce Rabideau, who plays mandolin. At their core, Buffalo Rose is a folk band, with many traditionalist Americana elements. But, he adds, “folk is a genre that is constantly changing and updating.” Recording Borrowed and Blue in a relatively old-fashioned way wasn’t a gimmick. “We don’t have to be precious about it,” Rabideau says. “I think our approach is to do anything we can to capture the feel of a live show.” And a record of live, single takes was the perfect way to do just that. On Friday, May 29, the band celebrates the release of Borrowed and Blue by reigniting that energy via a livestream on its YouTube channel. About a week before my Zoom chat with Rabideau and upright bass player Jason Rafalak, the

Buffalo Rose (Photo courtesy of Joanna Saykiewicz)

band had started very cautiously reuniting in person. “Now that we’re in yellow,” Rafalak says, “we did some soul searching and talked about who we’re interacting with, and worked out the specifics.” There was some rust to shake off, but “there’s definitely a spark, being able to play with each other again,” he says. “We spent a lot of time going, ‘This is weird, right? It’s weird that we’re here, right?” Almost three months apart was a long time for Buffalo Rose, which has been a band since 2016. Before

16 | MAY 26, 2020 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT

that, the members -- including singers Lucy Clabby and Rosanna Spindler, singer-guitarist Shane McLaughin, and dorboist Malcolm Inglis -- were all active elsewhere in the Pittsburgh music scene. But there’s something special about this specific configuration of artists. Along with the EP, the band is releasing a series of videos of the recording session. The musicianship is fun to witness it itself, but there’s a palpable electricity between the members that gave me goosebumps. The members swap

grins as instruments and vocal harmonies play off each other, and that unmistakable thrill of perfectly hitting every note radiates right through the screen. While traditional bluegrass is at the heart of Buffalo Rose’s sound, the band has adopted some poppier elements in recent years. And Borrowed and Blue showcases that range by opening and closing with some tricky covers: Madonna’s “Borderline” and a mashup of the White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” and Eurythmics’ “Sweet


A&E Dreams (Are Made of This),” respectively. Rafalak says that they didn’t just want these to be bluegrass versions of the songs, noting that a successful cover is a balancing act between retaining what you love about the song and adding something new. Both covers are pretty faithful, but the band manages to avoid the cringy twee irony that so often befalls similar attempts by indie folk-rockers. For “Borderline,” in particular, Rabideau says, “we tried to preserve the spirit of the song,” while, for example, swapping out a drum part for a mandolin. “If a band’s energy is solid enough, they can cover something and not sound exactly like the original, and not be boring.” The rest of the songs on Borrowed and Blue are originals that had been previously released on other records. But, Rabideau says, “I would say we’re a different band from when most of them were written.” Which meant that playing those songs felt a little like playing covers, too. As they transition back into collective performance -- now in front of a camera instead of a live audience -- Rafalak says that the hardest part is figuring out where to find energy. Borrowed and Blue shows that they have a lot to give each other. But sometimes it comes, in subtle ways, from an at-home audience too. The other day, Buffalo Rose participated in a livestream for Club Passim, in Boston. “After our first song, a GIF of Shia LaBeouf clapping popped up,” Rabideau recalls with a laugh. Other comments and emojis began coming through, too. “It’s like a little line directly to your ear,” he says. “So you’re getting direct feedback in a way that you wouldn’t from a crowd of people.” That may feel like a far cry from what was possible just a few months ago but, Rafalak says, “there’s something social about it. We’re all going through a struggle, but we’re making it work.” For more information visit www.buffalorosemusic.com

CLARE BEAMS' 'ILLNESS LESSON' IS HISTORICAL FICTION WRITTEN WITH 'PRECISION AND DREAD'

P

BY JODY DIPERNA - PITTSBURGH CURRENT LIT WRITER JODY@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM

ittsburgh author Clare Beams' new book The Illness Lesson (Doubleday, 2020) is a work of precision and dread, one part 'Little Women' and one part 'The Pit and the Pendulum.' Historical fiction bracketed very firmly in 1871 New England, it is macabre and chimeric, with an essential dose of feminist rage. The narrative is built on restrained, sick in your gut tension from the jump. Something bad is going to happen. We just don't know what. "My fiction does not tend to be very sunny," Beams told the Current via telephone. "I find satisfaction even in writing about dark things. It's a chance to look at things that have gone unspoken and understand them a little better." In the New England of transcendentalists like Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, 'The Illness Lesson's' setting is very akin to Fruitland, the utopian commune started by another transcendentalist, Louisa May Alcott's father, Bronson. (It didn't last a calendar year. Nobody really knew how to farm, they were trying to eat only fruit, and people were starving.) "It was a movement that had a lot of beautiful ideas. One of the things I was playing with is the contradiction in that thinking which is very much still alive and with us. Every human soul has equal value -- yet all these women are bustling around the edges, making all this brilliant thinking possible for these men," she said. "The things we tell women about their lives and possibilities still don't always match up with what women actually find in the world once they go to meet it. That's the contradictory space the book is playing with." The fictional Samuel Hood is a transcendentalist of some renown who had undertaken a very similar experiment to Fruitland, with very similar results. Twenty years later, he lives on

Clare Beams the property with his grown daughter Caroline. Bright red birds appear, a species never seen before except for a brief period during the first iteration of Samuel's commune. Named Trilling Hearts by Caroline's (now) deceased mother, their reappearance is seen as a harbinger of great things to come. Only Caroline is unsettled. They are about to start an experimental school for girls, where Caroline will teach English literature, leaving the 'meatier' subjects like natural science and philosophy to the menfolk, namely Samuel and his acolyte, David. "I wanted them to be this flourish of strangeness," Beams said of the fantastical and grotesque birds which dot the narrative. "Sort of like the girls' bodies are insisting on themselves, I wanted the birds to be more underscoring of the fact that something is not quite fitting. That felt important." The girls arrive and start school. One by one, they start to get sick. It is here that Beams downshifts into an even more unsettling level of dread and horror. The girls all have different symptoms -- rashes, vision problems, tremors, verbal tics, falling and fainting spells. The men see the ailments as failings of character or intellect.

"The girls are having real physical symptoms -- no one is faking. This is a product of this impossible, contradictory place they've been given to live inside. They are being given this wonderful education (and it is actually wonderful), but it makes no space for their actual female bodies. No attention is being paid to the fact that they're being educated like boys, but they're not boys … the world is not going to treat them like they're the same as men," Beams noted. A doctor is called in, a man so puffed up on himself he makes no space for anything but his own opinions. He considers himself expert at, honestly, everything -- from the female body to the new avian species the Trilling Hearts. With the consent of the school, he undertakes ghastly, but historically accurate, treatments. He convinces them all that this is group hysteria. And yet, the decision makers, the doctor, Samuel and David, and even Caroline, are wrapped up in their own kind of mania. This is the systemic hysteria that serves to maintain and protect institutions -- not just the school, but the deeply entrenched institution of sexism. Throughout, Beams builds an undercurrent of madness and danger. And by exploring the delusions and irrationality which drive the people in charge, she allows the reader to breathe in the madness that is misogyny. "It's such a strange piece of evidence that this sort of thing has always been there and still is there, to some extent," Beams explained. "That mindset is what I was writing about -- about what can happen when you decide that you must be seeing it wrong because someone else is telling you. The darkest things can flourish when women give foremost authority over their bodies to someone who is not them."

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | MAY 26, 2020 | 17


A&E STILL BOOMING

DESPITE THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC BOOM CONCEPTS IS STILL FEATURING ARTISTS FROM MARGINALIZED COMMUNITIES BY NICK EUSTIS - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CONTRIBUTING WRITER

INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM

T

he COVID-19 crisis has forced changes in nearly every facet of society, but the impact has been felt markedly in the arts community. Restrictions on large gatherings has made mainstay art events impossible for the foreseeable future, forcing art institutions large and small to get creative with how they present new work to the public. One such institution, BOOM Concepts, works to provide a space for artists and creatives from marginalized communities to create and display their work. Pre-pandemic, BOOM organized monthly art exhibitions at their Garfield headquarters, social gatherings, classes for the community, and more. COVID-19 has forced co-founder D.S. Kinsel and his team to rethink how they do business. “Our programs will be postponed right now as far as a lot of visitors coming to the avenue, visiting BOOM Concepts for a traditional exhibition,” said Kinsel. To solve this dilemma, Kinsel and his team decided to replace their monthly exhibition program with a new artist-in-residence program. “We wanted to still be in the community with our artists, and we wanted to still honor this season, knowing we had to adjust,” said Kinsel. “What we decided to do is offer a residency instead of an exhibition.” The residency includes regular critiques of the artist’s work, access to their gallery space for 30 to 45 days to work, and a stipend, among other benefits. “We’re giving them the opportuni-

From "Black Catholics" by Morgan Moody

ty to explore the exhibition that they planned on sharing with the public, and going deeper into that work,” said Kinsel. The first installment in this residency program will be the work of local artist, Morgan Moody. Her project, entitled “Black Catholics,” details the history of black Roman Catholics in Pittsburgh, as well as her own personal journey. "I was raised Catholic, like my mom and her mom, so identifying in this small subculture within religion

18 | MAY 26, 2020 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT

is really unique to me,” said Moody. “Black Catholics have a long, and at times arduous, history in Pittsburgh that dates back before the start of the Civil War. Through their tenacity these Catholics were able to create a space and a way of worshipping that is all their own.” While the entire work will not be presented publicly, select pieces of the work, as well as an interview with Moody, will be published on BOOM’s social media channels. In addition to these changes,

BOOM will also be continuing a partnership with sidewall, a mural exhibition space hosted on the side of a private residence, at 608 S. Millvale & Lima Way in Bloomfield. Starting in January, BOOM and sidewall began a collaboration featuring Kinsel as a guest curator for the sidewall mural space. “We’re doing a guest curatorship, and I’ll be curating and selecting all of the artists,” said Kinsel. Currently on display at sidewall is Jameelah Platt’s, “We bloom in Sep-


A&E

'We Bloom in September" by Jameelah Platt

tember.” Platt is a native Pittsburgher, and she studied at the University of Art in Philadelphia. Her work often deals with ideas of nostalgia, comfort, and fear, and those themes are evident in this work. “Told through gestural figurative painting, mark making and vibrant colors, memory is reflected through dichotomies of being bright, muted, fragmented, well-defined, everlasting and fleeting,” said Platt. “We bloom in September” is the second of eight works in this collaboration. Each work is exhibited for 30-60 days at a time. “We’re super excited to be working with [Platt], as part of our public art arm of BOOM Concepts,” said Kinsel. This collaboration to create public art pieces is certainly serendipitous during this pandemic, providing a safe outlet for artists to engage the public, something Kinsel intends to focus on in these uncertain times. “We’re responding, evolving, and maturing as we exist in today’s new world.” PITTSBURGH CURRENT | MAY 26, 2020 | 19


EXTRA

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

I don't want to become one of those people who write to you complaining about how I married someone I wasn't sexually compatible with ten years ago and now my sex life still sucks. I already know I need to break up with my boyfriend and I was about to do it when he got sick with the flu. This was at the beginning of March. I assumed he'd be sick for a week and then we would have an unpleasant conversation. But then the entire country shut down and my boyfriend was officially diagnosed with COVID-19. So I haven't seen him since the last weekend in February—Monday is Memorial Day, Dan, in case you've lost all concept of time—and I've been playing the role the supportive and worried girlfriend from afar. But it's been hard. Both my parents are in high-risk groups and my mental health has been battered. My boyfriend is finally getting better and I don't know what to do when I finally have to see him again. I'm not breaking up with him because he's a bad person and I don't want to hurt him but that's exactly what's going to happen. I feel guilty because I'm choosing my happiness over his. I know I shouldn't, Dan, but I do. Feeling Resentful About Uncoupling Dilemma Pandemic or no pandemic, FRAUD, you can’t stay with someone forever—you can’t be miserable for the rest of your life—to spare that person the routine and surmountable pain of getting dumped. Not breaking up with your boyfriend while he was fighting COVID-19 was the right thing to do, of course, and I don’t for a minute question the sincerity of your concern for him. (You want to see the relationship end, FRAUD, not him.) But don’t wait until you see him again to

break up with him. It’ll suck for him, of course, but the world is full of people who got dumped and got over it. And the sooner he gets over you, the sooner he’ll meet someone else. For all you know he’s been chatting over his backyard fence—at a safe distance—with a neighbor he would be interested in dating if he were single. For the past few months my GF and I have been in quarantined together. Except time we've spent working, we're constantly in each other's company and doing things together. It's been great so far. It's good to know that we won't get tired of each other or feel smothered. The main problem is finding something to watch or something to do. Any suggestions? Quarantined Until I’ve been reading The Mirror and the Light, the final installment of Hilary Mantel’s epic account of the inner life of Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s most powerful minister—the guy who arranged for the beheading of Anne Boleyn—while listening to whatever classical music my husband puts on. But just so you don’t think it’s all award-winning fiction and high art where we’re quarantining, we’ve also been watching 90 Day Fiancé, which is a complete (and completely engrossing) shit show, and The Simple Life with Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie, which I missed when it first ran. So obviously I would suggest fiction, music, and crap television—and anal, of course. My problem is that I am seriously worried about missing out on life. I’m a man. I find men attractive but I have no idea how to get to know one. For the first time last summer I met someone and we were sexual with each other. He was a hockey player. But he is gone now. And when I try to be friendly with other men, I get called out for flirting. I am gay and don’t know how much hurt I can take.

20 | MAY 26, 2020 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT

Hard

Making All These Connections

More than 80% of gay relationships got their start online before the pandemic began, MATCH, and that number is surely higher now. So if you got on gay dating/hookup apps instead of flirting with random men, you would be talking to a self-selected group of men who are inviting other men to flirt with them. You’ll still face rejection, of course, and you’ll still get hurt. To live is to suffer, as some philosopher or other once said, but the suffering is easier to bear if you’re getting your dick sucked once in a while. I'm 34, non-binary but presenting female. Due to a series of personal tragedies (death, deportation, illness—it was not a top ten year), I'm sheltering with my parents. Long story short, I'm 100% financially dependent on my parents right now. The upside is, I've had a lot of time to become comfortable with the fact that I really, really want to mess around with cross-dressing. I would love to get a binder and a masc getup and haircut and just see how that feels. My parents will want to know "what this means" and they won't take "fuck if I know" for an answer. It will be a long time (maybe years) before I'm either eligible for disability or ready to work again, and I just can't wait that long. So much of my life has already passed me by and I'm tired of waiting for a "right time." But binders and clothes and haircuts cost money. Keeping masc stuff around the house means people will eventually see it. Again, they'd probably be supportive, but I just want to keep this private. Is there a way to do it? Hoping For A Third Option Other than winning the lottery and moving out on your own tomorrow, HFATO, there’s no third option here. You’re going to have to pick your poison: risk having an awkward conversation with parents who are likely to be supportive or continue to wait— possibly for years—before you start exploring your gender presentation. The choice seems obvious to me. Got in an argument recently about pegging and its original definition: "a women fucking a man in the ass with

strap-on dildo.” I feel it’s moved beyond that and now means anyone wearing a strap-on fucking anyone else in the ass. My friends insisted that only a man can be pegged be pegged, and only by a woman. As the originator of the term, Dan, we turn to you: Can a woman peg another woman? A New Ass Licker

I will allow it.

Are some people just bad at sex? My partner has been overwhelmed with work and our sex life suffered a major decline. He’s working with a psychotherapist who told him some people are just not good at sex and he should just accept that he’s one of those people. It broke my heart to know someone said that to my partner. Am I overreacting? Is there some way to take this as anything but wrong? Or is this therapist a clown? Completely Undermining Negative Therapy There are people out there who are “bad at sex” by objective measures. There has to be. But “good sex” is so subjective that I’m not convinced objective measures really matter. For example, I got a letter yesterday from someone complaining their partner is “bad at sex” because they just lie there, silent and inert, while the letter writer “does all the work.” But if the person who just lies there was partnered with a necrophiliac, well, that “silent and inert” stuff would make them great at sex, not bad at sex, at least by a necrophiliac’s standards. As for your boyfriend, CUNT, you’re in a better position to judge whether he’s good at sex—by your subjective standards—than his shrink. Presumably. And if you enjoyed the sex you were having before your partner was overwhelmed with work, then he’s good at sex—he’s good sex by your standards—and here’s hoping you get back to having lots of good sex together soon. Join us for the Savage Lovecast Livestream! June 4, 7:00 pm PDT. Send your questions to Livestream@savagelovecast. com and I might answer yours on the show. Tickets are at SavageLovecast. com/events


ESSAY DOGGY DAYCARE

T

here was the doggy daycare. I needed something to pull in some money when I was between tours with my band. Mike who lived down the hall used to work there and set me up with it. It was 20 minutes away when the L train was working right, but that was rare. The night guy always came in late, Which meant I got off late. He would come in with a bag full of Oreos and jerky and other snacks that would drip or leave crumbs on everything as he sat watching reality TV in the front of the shop. I would be putting the dogs away, finally getting them calm and they would start going nuts again over the food smells and loud noises. That Christmas I, being the low man on the totem pole, had to work. It was off the books which is how they got away with $6 per hour. I figured with time-and-a-half holiday pay, plus whatever the Christmas bonus was, I would make out okay. But there was no time-anda-half, there was no Christmas bonus. It was me in the back with the dogs and the other guy up front dealing with the nonexistent customers. So Christmas day I was breaking up fights between Tess, a timid pitbull and Shiba, a Shiba Inu. The owners of that one were original enough to name him after his breed. Shiba could not be kept under control. He had these little needle teeth and had bitten me a few times over my short stint at the doggy daycare. Everyone who worked there had at least a few nightmare stories about him. A week earlier he had trouble pooping. It was stuck half in his butt and half out. I had to pull it out. It was almost

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

Matthew Wallenstein

the length of his whole body. He gave me a look afterwards like he did it on purpose, like he just wanted to show me he could. A few hours into my Christmas shift a sewage pipe burst and the place started to flood. Gallons of brown water, thick with chunks of things and toilet paper gushed from a hole in the wall. The guy from the front of the store rushed back to move all the dogs from the rising water as I mopped it up as quickly as I could. This lasted four-anda-half hours till the night guy showed up his usual forty-five minutes late. It was very cold. The sky was flat and grey, everything was grey. The trains ran slow and were very sparse due to the holiday. I got home, clothes reeking, soaked through and half frozen from the walk between the subway and my apartment. No one was home but me. I let the wet clothes drop onto the floor of the kitchen then went into the

Illustration by Matthew Wallenstein

bathroom to shower. I left my clothes there for two days. I read and ate beans in my sweatpants. I never returned to the doggy daycare. I sold underwear for the next few weeks before tour. I had done it before but it was a bit of a hassle. I would make the post, and if people emailed me I would send them a picture of me in the underwear. Then depending on what they paid, either deliver them in person or mail them out. For every one person who actually wants to buy them, you get ten who just want to tell you all the things they want to

do to you, or who just want the picture of you, or waste your time in one way or another. Later I heard that the manager came in on one of her off nights. After taking tab after tab of LSD, she had it in her head that the dogs were being held unjustly by some dark force. She woke them all up yelling about it, then let them out of their crates and opened the doors of the building. The night guy had to call the other employees, only one of which showed up, and they chased the dogs around Williamsburg trying to catch them.

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | MAY 26, 2020 | 21


PA R T I N G S H OT

PITTSBURGH CURRENT PHOTO BY JAKE MYSLIWCZYK

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | MAY 26, 2020 | 22

Profile for pittsburghcurrent

Pittsburgh Current. Volume 3, Issue 15. May 26, 2020  

Voter Suppression masked as safety measures in Pittsburgh, Vote Progressive on June 2, A new EP from Buffalo Rose and new exhibits from BOOM...

Pittsburgh Current. Volume 3, Issue 15. May 26, 2020  

Voter Suppression masked as safety measures in Pittsburgh, Vote Progressive on June 2, A new EP from Buffalo Rose and new exhibits from BOOM...

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded