Tag Archives: Centre County

Report by former FBI director Louis Freeh’s on the scandal at Penn State

Beaver Stadium where Penn State plays football at home

The following Executive Summary, Findings and Recommendations are six pages from the downloadable 267 page:

Report of the Special Investigative Counsel Regarding the Actions of  The Pennsylvania State University Related to the Child Sexual Abuse committed by Gerald A. Sandusky

[Note: The Board of Trustees of Penn State hired former FBI director Louis Freeh’s firm Freeh Sporkin & Sullivan, (FSB) LLP, (with offices in New York City, Washington, D.C. and Wilmington Delaware), to conduct this report. Freeh said, “In performing this work, we adhered faithfully to our original mandate: to investigate this matter fully, fairly, and completely, without fear or favor. We have shown no favoritism toward any of the parties, including the Board of Trustees itself, our client.” The New York Times reported: “In an investigation lasting more than seven months, Louis J. Freeh, a former director of the F.B.I., found a legendary football coach bending his supposed bosses to his will, a university staff that was mostly unaware of its legal duties to report violence and sexual abuse, and a university president who hid problems from the board of trustees and was guided by a fear of bad publicity.”

[Louis J. Freeh is a former Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) and a former federal judge. At the FBI, one of the investigations he conducted was of the 1996 explosion and crash of TWA Flight 800 killing all 230 persons on board shortly after it took off from John F. Kennedy International Airport. “FSS has an unmatched ability to provide key strategic counsel to obtain optimum results for its clients in myriad situations, including those requiring resolution of complex litigation-related issues, creative and practical crisis management solutions, or judicious and effective interaction with the most senior foreign and domestic government officials,” according to its website.

[“Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims by the most senior leaders at Penn State, ” Judge Freeh said in remarks introducing the release of the report on July 12, 2012. “The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized. Messrs. Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley never demonstrated, through actions or words, any concern for the safety and well-being of Sandusky’s victims until after Sandusky’s arrest.”]

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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

On November 4, 2011 the Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (”Attorney General”) filed criminal charges against Gerald A. Sandusky (”Sandusky”) that included multiple counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, aggravated indecent assault, corruption of minors, unlawful contact with minors and endangering the welfare of minors. Several of the offenses occurred between 1998 and 2002, during which time Sandusky was either the Defensive Coordinator for The Pennsylvania State University (”Penn State” or ”University”) football team or a Penn State professor Emeritus with unrestricted access to the University’s football facilities. On November 4, 2011, the Attorney General filed criminal charges against the University’s Athletic Director (”AD”) Timothy M. Curley (”Curley”) and Senior Vice President Finance and Business (”SVP-FBh”), Gary C. Schultz (”Schultzh”) for failing to report allegations of child abuse against Sandusky to law enforcement or child protection authorities in 2002 [This date was later determined by the Special Investigative Counsel to be 2001.] and for committing perjury during their testimony about the allegations to the Grand Jury in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, in January 2011.

On June 22, 2012, a Centre County jury in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania found Sandusky guilty of 45 counts of the criminal charges against him. As of the date of this report, the charges against Curley and Schultz have not been heard by the court.

The criminal charges filed against these highly respected University and community leaders are unprecedented in the history of the University. Several senior University leaders who had knowledge of the allegations did not prepare for the possibility that these criminal charges would be filed. In the days and weeks surrounding the announcement of the charges, University leaders (referred to on campus as “Old Main”) and the University’s Board of Trustees (“Board” or ”Trustees”), struggled to decide what actions the University should take and how to be appropriately transparent about their actions. The high degree of interest exhibited by members of the University community, alumni, the public and the national media put additional pressure on these leaders to act quickly.

On November 11, 2011, the Trustees formed the “Special Investigations Task Force (“Task Force”) of the Board of Trustees of The Pennsylvania State University” and selected Trustees Kenneth C. Frazier and Ronald J. Tomalis to lead its efforts. On November 21, 2011 the Task Force engaged the law firm of Freeh Sporkin & Sullivan, LLP (”FSS”) as Special Investigative Counsel, to conduct an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the criminal charges of sexual abuse of minors in or on Penn State facilities by Sandusky; the circumstances leading to the criminal charges of failure to report possible incidents of sexual abuse of minors; and the response of University administrators and staff to the allegations and subsequent Grand Jury investigations of Sandusky. In addition, the Special Investigative Counsel was asked to provide recommendations regarding University governance, oversight and administrative procedures that will better enable the University to effectively prevent and respond to incidents of sexual abuse of minors in the future.

The Pennsylvania State University is an outstanding institution nationally renowned for its excellence in academics and research. There is a strong spirit of community support and loyalty among its students, faculty and staff. Therefore it is easy to understand how the University community was devastated by the events that occurred.

FINDINGS

The most saddening finding by the Special Investigative Counsel is the total and consistent disregard by the most senior leaders at Penn State for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims. As the Grand Jury similarly noted in its presentment, there was no ”attempt to investigate, to identify Victim 2, or to protect that child or any others from similar conduct except as related to preventing its re-occurrence on University property.”

Four of the most powerful people at The Pennsylvania State University–President Graham B. Spanier, Senior Vice President-Finance and Business Gary C. Schultz, Athletic Director Timothy M. Curley and Head Football Coach Joseph V. Paterno failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade. These men concealed Sandusky’s activities from the Board of Trustees, the University community and authorities. They exhibited a striking lack of empathy for Sandusky’s victims by failing to inquire as to their safety and well-being, especially by not attempting to determine the identity of the child who Sandusky assaulted in the Lasch Building in 2001. Further, they exposed this child to additional harm by alerting Sandusky, who was the only one who knew the child’s identity, of what McQueary saw in the shower on the night of February 9, 2001.

These individuals, unchecked by the Board of Trustees that did not perform its oversight duties, empowered Sandusky to attract potential victims to the campus and
football events by allowing him to have continued, unrestricted and unsupervised access to the University’s facilities and affiliation with the University’s prominent
football program. Indeed, that continued access provided Sandusky with the very
currency that enabled him to attract his victims. Some coaches, administrators and
football program staff members ignored the red flags of Sandusky’s behaviors and no
one warned the public about him.

By not promptly and fully advising the Board of Trustees about the 1998 and 2001 child sexual abuse allegations against Sandusky and the subsequent Grand Jury investigation of him, Spanier failed in his duties as President. The Board also failed in
its duties to oversee the President and senior University officials in 1998 and 2001 by
not inquiring about important University matters and by not creating an environment
where senior University officials felt accountable.

Once the Board was made aware of the investigations of Sandusky and the fact
that senior University officials had testified before the Grand Jury in the investigations,
it should have recognized the potential risk to the University community and to the
University’s reputation. Instead, the Board, as a governing body, failed to inquire
reasonably and to demand detailed information from Spanier. The Board’s overconfidence in Spanier’s abilities to deal with the crisis, and its complacent attitude
left them unprepared to respond to the November 2011 criminal charges filed against
two senior Penn State leaders and a former prominent coach. Finally, the Board’s
subsequent removal of Paterno as head football coach was poorly handled, as were the
Board’s communications with the public.

Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley gave the following reasons for taking no action to identify the February 9, 2001 child victim and for not reporting Sandusky to the authorities:

  • Through counsel, Curley and Schultz stated that the ”humane” thing to do in 2001 was to carefully and responsibly assess the best way to handle vague but troubling allegations. According to their counsel, these men were good people trying to do their best to make the right decisions.
  • Paterno told a reporter that ”I didn’t know exactly how to handle it and I was afraid to do something that might jeopardize what the university procedure was. So I backed away and turned it over to some other people, people I thought would have a little more expertise than I did. It didn’t work out that way.”
  • Spanier said, in his interview with the Special Investigative Counsel, that he never heard a report from anyone that Sandusky was engaged in any sexual abuse of children. He also said that if he had known or suspected that Sandusky was abusing children, he would have been the first to intervene.

Taking into account the available witness statements and evidence, the Special
Investigative Counsel finds that it is more reasonable to conclude that, in order to avoid
the consequences of bad publicity, the most powerful leaders at the University–Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley– repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky’s child abuse from the authorities, the Universityfs Board of Trustees, the Penn State community, and the public at large.

The avoidance of the consequences of bad publicity is the most significant, but not the only, cause for this failure to protect child victims and report to authorities. The investigation also revealed:

  • A striking lack of empathy for child abuse victims by the most senior leaders of the University.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR UNIVERSITY GOVERNANCE, ADMINISTRATION, AND THE PROTECTION OF CHILDREN IN UNIVERSITY FACILITIES AND PROGRAMS

From the results of interviews with representatives of the University’s Office of Human Resources, Office of Internal Audit, Office of Risk Management, Intercollegiate Athletics, Commonwealth Campuses, Outreach, the Presidentfs Council, Faculty Senate
representatives and the Board of Trustees, and benchmarking similar practices at other large universities, the Special Investigative Counsel developed 120 recommendations for consideration by University administrators and the Board in the following eight areas:

  • The Penn State Culture
  • Administration and General Counsel: Structure, Policies and Procedures
  • Board of Trustees: Responsibilities and Operations
  •  Compliance: Risk and Reporting Misconduct
  • Athletic Department: Integration and Compliance
  • University Police Department: Oversight, Policies and Procedures
  • Programs for Non]Student Minors and Access to Facilities
  • Monitoring Change and Measuring Improvement

These recommendations are detailed in Chapter 10 of this report, and include several that the Special Investigative Counsel recommended to the Board in January 2012. The recommendations made at that time were designed to assist the University in  preparing for its upcoming summer programs for children. These steps should assist the University in improving structures, policies and procedures that are related to the protection of children. Some of these recommendations will help the University more fully comply with federal and state laws and regulations dealing with the protection of children. Other recommendations support changes in the structure and operations of the Board, or promote enhancements to administrative processes and procedures. Most importantly, the recommendations should create a safer environment for young people who participate in its programs and use its facilities.

One of the most challenging of the tasks confronting the Penn State community is transforming the culture that permitted Sandusky’s behavior, as illustrated throughout
this report, and which directly contributed to the failure of Penn State’s most powerful
leaders to adequately report and respond to the actions of a serial sexual predator. It is
up to the entire University community – students, faculty, staff, alumni, the Board, and
the administration – to undertake a thorough and honest review of its culture. The current administration and Board of Trustees should task the University community,
including students, faculty, staff, alumni, and peers from similar institutions and outside experts in ethics and communications, to conduct such a review. The findings from such a review may well demand further changes.

 

Old Main, Administration Building at Penn State

 

Lady Gaga: When you became disabled in “Paparazzi,” you needed cooler equipment

Living in Central Pennsylvania has isolated me from the world’s realities. Until last month, I was unaware of Lady Gaga. [This posting originally appeared on October 10, 2010 at the web site of Voices of Central Pennsylvania, my home away from home.  http://voicesweb.org/invitation-lady-gaga-perform-bingo-parlor-addison-court-plus-disability-suggestions-paparazzi .]

This Lady shattered my consciousness. Not paying much attention to the fact that Lady Gaga was on the cover of September’s Vanity Fair, I bought the issue anyway. I buy Vanity Fair for the political reporting and because it is one of the best paying magazines for writers. I figure buying and reading a copy is like buying a lottery ticket. You can’t win if you don’t play.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d2smz_1L2_0[/youtube]

The cover story on Lady Gaga says, “She is, without question, the world’s biggest pop star—with 12 million sales worldwide of her 2008 debut album (The Fame and bonus disc The Fame Monster). She had six No.1 hits on the Billboard charts: Just DancePoker FaceLove GamePaparazziBad Romance, andTelephone. She has had close to 800 million viewers of her videos on YouTube. She recently broke the record on Facebook with more than 12 million fans—surpassing those of President Obama.”

Then, Lady Gaga became a political activist.Lady  Gaga has close ties to the gay community. Indeed, there have been rumors that Lady Gaga is a man in women’s clothing—a rumor effectively quashed in a startlingly revealing scene in the brilliantly made video Telephone in which two prison guards strip her to determine that she is a woman. “Pity,” one guard says to the other guard.

Telephone is about a telephone call that takes place in a woman’s prison in which the astoundingly beautiful Beyoncé plays a featured role. I do not know whether Lady Gaga is beautiful or whether her songs are great music because she is basically a magician and I love her with a love that is more than a love.

At the end of September Lady Gaga engaged in one of the most bizarre forms of lobbying I have ever experienced. Groups such as the Service Members Legal Defence Network asked Lady Gaga to ask senators primarily REPUBLICANS to repeal the “Don’t ask; don’t tell policy” established during the Clinton Administration in which gays can serve in the military as long as they do not reveal their homosexual proclivities.

News 24 Entertainment Celebrity News reported: “In a black-and-white video posted on her website, the singer is dressed in a modest suit and tie, with a US flag as a backdrop, and looks somberly into the camera as she describes how ‘gay soldiers have become targets’ under the 1993 rule that has seen 14.000 Americans discharged from military service, ‘regardless of how honorable or how valuable they may have been to their units.’”

This story of a lobbying effort that began as a Twitter tweet was covered extensively. For another version as well as the tie in to the meat dress (at the Google prompt type in “Lady Gaga’s meat dress”); first, though, key in, “Lady Gaga lobbies Republican senators.”

The reason REPUBLICANS were targeted primarily has to do with the way the U.S. Senate conducts its business, a discussion that is too long for now. There were not enough Democrats willing to vote for gay rights and there were enough moderate Republicans who could have made the difference. Lady Gaga personally lobbied Senator Sue Collins of Maine, who said on the floor that she was in favor of abolishing Don’t ask; don’t tell. If she had voted then and there to follow her own convictions, then her vote would have made the difference. Instead, she chose not to vote for “procedural reasons” which the panel of Washington Week in Review said meant that in this election year, Senator Collins did not want to give the Democrats a win.

The following is Lady Gaga’s lobbying YouTube video. When she’s old enough (minimum age is 30), can you picture Lady Gaga in the U.S. senate? I can. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GG5VK2lquEc&feature=player_embedded

Lady Gaga says in the video that she is against all kinds of discrimination. I would like to enlist Lady Gaga’s help in helping solve ongoing problems here in State College regarding our disabled and elderly residents.

Lady Gaga is especially equipped to be helpful in this regard given her sensational video Paparazzi. Her lover throws her off a balcony and she emerges in a wheel chair, holding on to forearmed crutches (such as the ones I have in my closet): While she uses the crutches to get up, she is wearing a silver bodice, tight and revealing, singing:

“I’m your biggest fan/ I’ll follow you until you love me/ Papa-Paparazzi/ Baby there’s no other superstar/ You know that I’ll be/ Your Papa-Paparazzi./”

As she sings she wears a neck brace studded with jewels.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kH9thI-XRG8

[Fashion note: Suggestion to Lady Gaga. You might want to consider wearing a better class of brace when doing future versions. The forearm crutch comes in a number of variations. The top of the line is the Lofstrand forearm crutch (also known as the Canadian crutch) in wood. I saw a Mexican soap opera star who wore forearm crutches in oak which was polished to gleam and made him look very sexy. I have spent more time than I care to admit looking for a Lofstrand crutch in wood. Wooden versions of the crutch were commonly available 10 years ago, but comfort (aluminum and other materials are lighter) has given way to beauty. If, oh Lady, you decided to go with gleaming oak, I will find you a sexy crutch. As for a wheelchair, what you need is a scooter. Suggested manufacturers include Amigo, made in the USA. and Pride, designed in Scranton, PA. The movement where your sycophants carry you effortlessly up a stair, she be redone to make it clear that you and the chair are heavy.]

What I want you, oh dear Lady Gaga, as a disability and elderly rights advocate here in State College, Centre County, Pennsylvania to do is:

  1. Sing for us at noon at the bingo parlor at Addison Court, 120 East Beaver Avenue, State College. Addison Court is an independent residence for the elderly and disabled. There are 90 of us. Several of us could use cheering up. We do not get to hear a lot of live music. Dazzle us.
  2. Advocate for us. After Florida, Pennsylvania has more elderly residents than any other state in the union. Centre County is attracting large numbers of elderly residents who retire here. Yet the music venues in Downtown State College are closed to us because Downtown businessmen do not think it is worth their while to provide access so people using canes, wheelchairs, walkers, scooters, and power chairs can listen to live music.
  3. Meanwhile, you could do a lot to increase opportunities for elderly and disabled residents of my town.
  4. Come on by. Use your wealth to buy a front-wheel drive
  • or an Amigo real wheel drive
  • or a Pride Power Chair

See Amigo and Pride webpages for more details:

http://www.myamigo.com/

http://www.pridemobility.com/

Here in State College you can purchase these and similar products at T and B Medical

http://www.tandbmedical.com/

  • or Dick’s Homecare

http://www.dickshomecare.com/content/state-college-pa

Then drive around town and tell Marilyn Tavenner, (as of December 2011, not yet confirmed), Acting Administrator of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services what it feels like to use mobility equipment to get around and then to get stuck.

“I’m your biggest fan/ I’ll follow you until you love me/”

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Note: Here at Addison Court, we still have a candle lit to guide Lady Gaga to our bingo parlor.

Won’t ride ‘em cowboy: This is my final column

Note: The following is the text of my February, 2011 column at Voices where I announce the end of my From Where I Sit column. The hard copy text, complete with a photograph of me, is available at newsstands in Centre County. I am reproducing it here for two reasons. First a reader insisted that I was required to explain my rationale more fully or, in her words, “face a grilling.” I therefore intend to call my next blog Grilling in which I not only explain but provide the reader with reassurance that the issues of the elderly and disabled will continue to be covered at Voices–only not from me. Not within the context of this From Where I Sit monthly column. Writers interested in covering such subjects are requested to get in touch with me at the email address below.]

The handler applies the fully charged cattle prod to the rear of a bull bred for ferocity. The cowboy—Slim really is his name—holds onto his hat with his left hand. In his right hand are the reigns, two strips of leather held on tightly at first, but capable of falling apart to help the rider jump away from the bucking bull to safety after the regulation eight second ride is complete.

The maximum score is 100 points; 50 for the rider and 50 for the bull. A mean angry bull is the most desirable because he gives the rider the opportunity to make the most money. This bull is mean. When the bull jumps higher after the cattle prod, Slim smiles with optimism. The gate leading to the ring fails to open. Historically, when the gate sticks, a confined maddened bull has been known to break both legs of a rider. Slim, who attended rodeo schools, is aware of the danger.As a reporter at the World Series of Rodeo at Oklahoma City (before it moved to Los Vegas), I am sitting next to the handlers on the inside wooden planks of the chute. It took considerable effort to get permission to be this close to Slim—close enough to watch his pupils dilate into huge ovals displaying a fear he cannot disguise. The lead handler asks Slim if he would like to wait 20 minutes before beginning the ride. Slim nods him off. The gate opens.

Sometimes it is prudent to know when to give up. I have been writing this column since October, 2009. One reader observed that my columns made her suspicious because of their apparent clarity, establishing a formula where I said clearly what I was going to write about and wrote it. She asked if I were hiding something amid this seeming clarity. I have been hiding my overall intention; namely, the necessity for the physically disabled, regardless of age, to achieve independence—independence for those of us whose bodies may not work, but whose minds do. The requirements for getting a good job include the tools to do the job, the income necessary to get off public assistance, and the opportunity to develop our talents so we can improve the nation’s economy. This is a complex set of tasks and does not fit neatly onto a piece of paper affixed with a magnet to the refrigerator.

For those of us unable to walk, hear, or see the first task of necessity must be to rid ourselves of anger or at least pretend it isn’t there. Whatever the virtues of expressing how I feel, I have learned that when I am angry in public, I am on the express lane to defeat.

The Roman poet Catullus wrote, “I love and I hate. Do not ask me why I do so, but I am in torment.” Often when I write this column I am overwhelmed by the fluctuations (depending on my mood over the day) of love and hate projected on to a specific person or situation. Often I write multiple drafts of the same column, each thousands of words long until the emotion subsides and I can describe calmly a discrete 800 word section of my overall objective.Today’s current political situation leads me to despair that independence for individuals with physical difficulties will not come in my lifetime. It will not come because Democratic and Republican leaders do not regard it as a priority given our country’s other pressing problems.

Fortunately, I have the opportunity to leave my anger with the present and work on a training program at the virtual reality lab where Dr. John Messner has been creating 3-D programs showing how to construct accessible buildings before workers even begin to dig the foundation. Specifically, I am working with Sonali Kumar on what she calls “the bleeding edge” of technology to design models for independent elderly housing.

I am providing advice based on my experience as a disabled person who lives in independent elderly housing. Instead of maintaining the self-destructive illusion that I know more than everyone else, I am returning to a land of technology where what I don’t know fills the air like the thick steam on the top bench of a Turkish bath. There is so much to learn and all of it will help my people—individuals with disabilities. It is time for this cowboy to stop riding. I do not have the energy to both write this column and plunge into the future.

When I am sufficiently trained, I will report to Voices on what the future will be like.

Joel Solkoff, author of The Politics of Food. Contact him at [email protected]

Protect disabled, elderly from fires and disasters

From Where I Sit: My column in Voices of Central Pennsylvania, November 2010

My only experience with an earthquake was in the Silicon Valley of California.  I was staring at my broken computer when the earth moved beneath me. The following day The San Jose Mercury News put the earthquake on page one because of its intensity and also contained an editorial on the importance of being prepared.

My home (wife, two daughters, two cats) was back in North Carolina.  There I had worked in Research Triangle Park for two years (focusing on linking a computer to a telephone switch) had disappeared. Without warning jobs in documentation had become the moral equivalent of famine where two years previously had been feast. [At  a Northern Telecom job interview I had been told being a technical writer had secured me a guaranteed income for life (gold watch and all)] .

At the same time as my gold watch turned into costume jewelry, my ability to walk disappeared. I had gone from being able to jog on the beautifully wooded track on the corporate campus, to being unable to stand without holding onto something, to tripping on my toes and dislocating my right shoulder.

 

 An extensive search of databases showed San Jose, California, could not hire technical writers quickly enough. A longtime friend had extra room nearby and invited me to go west. I was hired immediately. I fell three times during a critical interview. My cane could not hold my weight. I had not yet acquired my first mobility device, a frontwheel drive scooter.

 

 After my third fall, directly in front of my prospective boss’ feet, Vicki, who was in charge of the corporate quality assurance team, said, “Don’t worry. We have to hire you.” The reason I had to be hired was that the company, a global leader in computer wafer inspection devices, needed a writer for its new product which could predict when a wafer in the production process would be faulty and remove it from its production line on a timely basis. What the company had not prepared for was any safety orientation for disabled workers.

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 These details are relevant to the evolution of fire safety policies at Addison Court in downtown State College. They are relevant because first, until recently the idea of protecting the disabled and elderly from fire and other emergencies was low on our society’s consciousness. Second, limiting safety and access to one location and one building has long-term negative consequences to our country’s economy—an economy which to its detriment fails to make use of the talent of its disabled and elderly population.

 

 R e g a r d i n g safety at Addison Court, a residence for 90 elderly and disabled individuals, where as a result of faulty fire alarms about two years ago, we learned from Steve Bair, fire director of Centre County’s Council of Governments (COG) and head of Alpha Fire Company, the proper way of evacuating a building made of brick with adequate sprinklers:

Do not evacuate. Wait for the fire company to come. Evacuation of disabled and elderly residents (in a multi-story building), especially when they have power chairs, wheel chairs, and the like, can induce panic.

 

 More on this do not evacuate concept which the fire authorities refer to as “defend in place” later. It makes good economic sense to protect disabled and elderly individuals from dying or being hurt in a fire or in some other disaster. A larger question is whether this society has the will to pay for safety, the understanding of where safety belongs in our order of priorities, and the willingness to teach and implement concepts like “defend in place.”

The most recent available Census Department statistics for Centre County (based on a 2006-2008 estimate) shows a total population of a little more than 144,000; 45,000 residents are 45 years old and older. Nearly 16,000 residents range in age from 65 years to over 85. What is the cost to Centre County and society at large to keeping these 16,000 residents safe and productive if many of them require special safety procedures? Who should pick up the tab? IWe need to invest in quieter, gentler fire alarms so that residents stay in place until the fire trucks come.

Several subjects require elaboration on the voiceswepage.org webpage: direct your browser to future blogs on the following subects:

  • Administrative efforts to reduce panic.
  • The continuation of my meandering earthquake story and where it fits into a larger picture.
  • Plans to make Lady Gaga Fire Prevention Celebrity for Centre County.

—Joel Solkoff, author of The Politics of Food. For a continuation of themes raised in this column, see Joel;s blog at voicesweb.org.Tell me how you liked the photograph of Lady Gaga and an illustrated critique of her disability-related video Paparazzi.

Ask candidates their position on disabled, elderly voters

From Where I Sit: My column in Voices of Central Pennsylvania, September 2010

“Who will protect us against the protectors?” Plato (428-348 BC) asks. Over the years, in a variety of situations, it has become useful to question what happens when people put in charge of helping others help themselves.

The question came quickly to mind Aug. 5 when I arrived in my power chair at the Spats Restaurant on College Avenue only to realize that I could not enter because there was a series of stairs. The previous week marked the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) providing, among other things, wheelchair access to public accommodations. President George H. W. Bush said: “Let the shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down.”

Here in State College, Pa., the shameful wall of exclusion continues in three prominent restaurants: Ye Olde College Diner, Baby’s, and Spats. They are exempted because they were constructed before the ADA went into effect. Today, access would be relatively easy because technology has developed attractive, low-cost ramps.

What makes my exclusion from Spats especially annoying is that the three people I was planning to see were disability professionals in town for a large autism conference—two of whom were reimbursed for the expense of their meals from their school’s budget on special education (that is, education for the disabled) and one of whom, an independent contractor with an autism patient who also has a physical disability, will be deducting the cost from her income tax.

There is arrogance here, especially profound because three individuals who are paid to help people in the disability community are unaware that it is immoral to patronize an establishment where disabled people cannot go. Imagine: when I was in the Civil Rights Movement and picketed a segregated whites only rrestaurant if I left the picket line and had lunch in the same restaurant I was picketing.

Only my insensitive disability workers did worse than that. They ate for free on subsidies paid for by federal and state funds—subsidies intended for the disabled. The federal tax code should be changed to prohibit deductions for otherwise legitimate expenses if the expenses are incurred in a restaurant that denies access to the disabled. The legislation might include a provision providing tax breaks when ramps are added to an establishment.

This is the first of my three-part series on candidates committed to bettering the lives of elderly and disabled voters here in Centre County or risk losing my personal endorsement. I am requesting that: Republican Rep. Glenn (“GT”) Thompson, the only candidate for federal office who as a physical therapist actually touched and helped heal disabled patients, promptly introduce legislation prohibiting tax deductions for disability professionals who purchase goods and services in non-accessible businesses.

Mike Pipe,T h o m p s o n ’s D e m o c r a t i c opponent, a former high level official in the Obama campaign and someone eager to prove that eventually the president will live up to his campaign promise(recorded on You Tube) to improve the lives of people with disabilities, request that the Obama Administration have the president sign an executive order prohibiting that federal funding for schools be used to reimburse special education teachers and others who incur expenses in non-accessible facilities. After all, Pipe agreed that Obama hasn’t lived up to his disability promises.

 Rep. Joe Sestak, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, who has been extremely helpful to constituents whose ability to breathe was being threatened by Obama Administration cutbacks in Medicare, use the powers of your current office in Congress to introduce legislation to ensure that our nation’s schools do not continue to subsidize discrimination.

Pat Toomey, the Lehigh-Valley-based Republican candidate for Senate, communicate. What are your views on Medicare, the controversial recess appointment of the new administrator of Medicare (an appointment whereby the president avoided Senate confirmation), and on the effects of competitive bidding on State College suppliers of oxygen, wheel chairs, and power chairs? In August, Toomey was 6 points ahead in polls that are unreliable because Nov. 2 is so far away. Centre County voted for Obama in the last presidential election and for Bush four years earlier. Toomey will answer.

Despite the fact that I am an Eleanor Roosevelt Democrat, the Obama Administration has done short-term damage to the disabled and elderly (especially those of us who are poor) that will have long-lasting negative effects, forcing people into expensive assistive living homes and needlessly robbing us of our independence.

I am focusing on candidates for federal office because the winner will vote on appropriations for Medicare and for medical equipment, may have direct oversight over Medicare and federal Medicaid policies, and will be dealing daily with Medicare and Social Security issues through constituent services offices. May the best man win regardless of political party.

—Joel Solkoff, author of The Politics of Food. Contact him at [email protected]. See http://voicesweb.org/joel-solkoff-0. This columnist would dearly appreciate the pro bono services of an attorney specializing in ADA and Medicare issues. Voices of Central Pennsylvania is a 501(c)3 organization and as such does not endorse legislation. The views expressed here are solely those of the columnist.

MY CHOICE TO HEAD MEDICARE a.k.a. Administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

[The following is my March, 2010 column for Voices of Central Pennsylvania see http://voicesweb.org/archive/10mar/10mar-community-lifestyles.pdf (end of pdf.) or visit a newstand in Centre County.]

Strangers, snow and rehabilitation

From where I sit

Thanks to a failure to act in January, the Obama administration has made a serious
mistake in allowing competitive bidding for durable medical equipment such as oxygen
canisters, wheelchairs, power chairs and other devices.


I believe that if President Obama had a Medicare adviser of stature to explain the
consequences, Obama would not have made this mistake that will continue to hurt
people with disabilities—including me.


As a result of this competitive bidding process, T&B Medical and Dick’s Homecare—the only two companies providing power chairs, scooters and other equipment in State College—are in danger of losing to outside competitors, including
competitors outside the state. What they are at greatest risk of losing are contracts to provide Medicare recipients such as myself with equipment and maintenance reimbursements.


Maintenance is the issue I worry about most. Some legislators have put together a plan, supported by a sizeable non-partisan group in the House, that would end the bidding process.

One of the authors of the legislation is Rep. Glenn (“GT”) Thompson, who represents Pennsylvania’s Fifth Congressional district, of which Centre County (his home)
is one of 18 counties in a huge, 11,000 square mile district.


I asked Tina Kreisher, Thompson’s press secretary, for a 20-minute exclusive telephone interview because I thought we could cover the details on Thompson’s health care background so readers can see the link between what our congressman knows and
the unsolved problems he is equipped to solve.


Thompson and I spoke by telephone for over an hour on Tuesday, Feb. 9 at 6 p.m. I did not realize the degree of detail we would get involved in, especially since Thompson is himself the father of a disabled Iraqi war veteran. Thompson does not make a practice of talking in public about 22-year-old Logan, who was wounded when shrapnel and explosives caught him by surprise.


Thompson called me from Tucson, Ariz. where he was attending Logan’s graduation from Army intelligence training, an experience that filled him with the special gratitude we in the disability community feel when someone we love makes progress toward
independence. The two feet of snow in Washington had left him stranded in Tucson and he observed, “There are worse places to be stranded.”


Thompson’s advancement in health care followed two tracks. Academically, he received a bachelor’ degree from Penn State in Therapeutic Rehabilitation, a master’s degree from Temple for Health Science Recreation and a certification from M a r y w o o d
University in Nursing Home Administration.


M e a n w h i l e , Th o m p s o n ’s career involved working in central Pennsylvania a a residential services aid, a recreation therapist and a rehabilitation services manger at Susquehanna Halth Services in Williamsport.


Thompson was at one time an orderly at Centre Crest Nursing Home, and for three years cleaned out bed pans, changed patients out of soiled clothes and changed bedding. He worked with his wife Penny, who did similar work as a nursing assistant.
At the same time, Thompson’s mother was a patient at Centre Crest’s Alzheimer’s facility.


Glenn Thompson [everyone calls him (“GT“)] developed a reputation for good work and excellent managerial abilities, including people skills. When GT visited State
College on Labor Day weekend, his charm was evident. He talked about health care in the social hall and bingo parlor (across the hallway from where I am keyboarding this
column) of Addison Court, which is an apartment house for senior citizens and those with disabilities. The Congressman arrived for the 8 a.m event just as the Webster’s coffee and goodies arrived. (It helps turnout for these events when food is present and Elaine Madder-Wilgus has been most obliging in providing the coffee
Thompson was so grateful to drink.) The 10 additional members of the audience were mostly men and women in their 70s, 80s and 90s.


GT charmed everybody—83-year-old Lilian Huffman, put her hand on my shoulder and said, “I like that fellow” and Lilian is very influential at Addison Court. Win Lilian Huffman and you have won votes at Addison Court. Lilian is a registered
Republican who voted for Obama.


In my interview with Thompson, I asked about each portion of his 31-year career, which ended when he was supervising 25 rehabilitation specialists and coming up
with strategies for improving ongoing rehabilitation.


For me, sitting in a power chair right now, Thompson is the guy to know. I am at a point where I can now go back to rehabilitation to Dr. Colin McCaul, a brilliant rehabilitation physician at Healthcare South, because I recently passed a cardiac stress test. Since I cannot walk, cannot stand without holding on to something and can dislocate my shoulder if I throw my right arm straight in the air, I need a specialist to adapt special exercising tools so I can get the cardiovascular exercise I need. In my considerable experience with physical rehabilitation in three states, the people who do
the hands-on work, the people who touch my body to show me how to do special exercises, when touching is appropriate (a pat on the back is always useful)—these people are uniformly kind and helpful.


I am impressed by the kind of work Glenn Thompson did and taught other rehabilitationspecialists how to do. Based on his experience, his testimonials, his conversation and his education, I feel sufficiently trusting to put my exercise program in his hands if he has time.


Obama, the president I helped elect, is doing some truly bad things to Medicare that will have severely negative effects on the disabled. They have potentially disastrous affects on me. I use my power chair frequently; I require battery replacements every six months. What if the competitive bidding process the Obama administration
is implementing results in requiring me to get batteries from an out-of-area supplier and I have to wait too long?


Right now, Travis would be right over with the batteries. With competitive bidding, I have to depend on some anonymous supplier. During that wait, if my batteries won’t take a charge and I soil my bed repeatedly, I might have to move to Centre Crest, which would severely limit my opportunities.


The failure of the Obama administration to reach across the aisle, as it promised to do, is shocking when Glenn Thompson’s special knowledge is going to waste. At the time of my interview with Rep. Thompson on Feb. 6, the President had yet to announce
an Administrator for Medicare and Medicaid. Medicare is the largest health insurance company in the United States. Medicare needs an administrator who can be confirmed by the Senate. Thompson would be confirmed by the Senate.

Or, President Obama, please find him a better job. Or wake up the Republican House Leadership and have him put on the Ways and Means Committee where he will have oversight over Medicare. Given the overwhelming Republican composition of the Fifth Congressional District, Thompson will eventually gain the seniority he needs.

I don’t want to wait. I want Thompson‘s special skills available to me now because I believe he can assure me a more secure future.


—Joel Solkoff, author of The Politics of Food ,can be reached at his Voices of Central Pennsylvania blog http://voicesweb.org/blog/1242

Kvetzing in Centre County, December 2009 Version

Preparing for the next column–a columnist kvetches 1.
Submitted by jsolkoff on Sat, 2009-12-26

Dear Reader

I write a column for Voices which appears in the Community and Lifestyles section. The column “From Where I Sit” is about the disabled and elderly. [Please note that according to the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (frequently referred to by academics reverently as “the APA style manual”) terms such as “the disabled and elderly” and “the blind” are incorrect; if you want to be published in an academic journal that uses the APA manual, your article will be rejected because, for example, “the blind” assumes that the individual defines himself as blind as opposed to using the politically required phrase “individual who is blind” or better yet “individual who happens to be blind” so that one does not identify individuals by their disability; this is a distinction that does violence to the English language, a language for which I have a lot of loyalty; but a discussion of the language of the disability community must await another time and requires some care).]

For the current issue of Voices (now available at Webster’s and the Corner Room and so on), I describe a telephone interview with John Wayne (conducted before he died) in which he describes his cancer experience. [Expressions such as “cancer experience” should be forbidden by law.]. He counseled people to follow his example. Two weeks after surgery, he was back on the set making a movie and telling people not be weak and feel sorry for themselves.

My original plan was to segue to the next [February] column on tools people who cannot see, walk, or hear require in order to work; dividing the column into three sequential columns and making the next one assistive technology for the blind.

A genius in Boston named Raymond Kurzweil http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raymond_Kurzweil
introduced in June 2005 the “Kurzweil National Federation of the Blind Reader”, which Wikipedia describes as “a pocket-sized device consisting of a digital camera and computer unit. Like the Kurzweil Reading Machine of almost 30 years before, the K-NFB reader is designed to aid blind people by reading text aloud.”

The K-NFB reader gives a blind person at the grocery store the ability to pick up a box of cereal, click the scanner, the device reads the ingredients out loud [available in 13 languages, a concept I find outrageous; imagine hearing words “modified corn starch” in Portuguese; I would find it hard to leave the grocery store, justifying my behavior as saving money on Berlitz—and the Romanian word for avocado is…].

I am eager to describe in detail the voice simulation and generation technology that made it possible for my friend Suzanne Erb, chair of the Philadelphia Mayor’s task force on disabilities, to help me communicate helpful information to the Centre County Obama campaign headquarters, housed in the former Verizon offices across the street from Schlow Library, a headquarters where I convinced the staff to cause new concrete to be poured for the disability entrance so I could take my power chair from my apartment to headquarters.

Erb, who is blind, is also an expert on voting, especially voting machines, contributing regularly to a complicated, detail-filled blog on the subject. Suzanne explained to me the machines the Centre County Board of elections uses and the problems associated with the expensive disability machines (not designed by people with disabilities). [People with disabilities who must use equipment must use equipment without having input in its design.]

President Obama—the candidate for whom I voted in the primary and general election and worked to elect)–is in the process of taking away from those of us with disabilities access to the kind of assistive technology that we used to help get him elected.

Yesterday, I received an email from the President (the same email sent to all Obama supporters on his extensive e-mail list) expressing pleasure at the passage of the health care reform bill by the Senate. Now the House and Senate bills need to be reconciled. I mention this with a sense of urgency because my column must meet a deadline of January 15.

My column is limited to 800 words [fewer words than in this blog posting] which limits me to the expression of only one idea and its exposition. So the question nags: Which new to you idea do I want to write about for the FEBRUARY issue? As a columnist I am obliged to see in the future. Yes, I know that the New Year’s resolutions you have not yet made you WILL break before February.

A predictor of Congressional events told me that reconciliation will take about 3 weeks. But if it takes 6 weeks, then maybe it is time for me to address the effect on Medicare cuts—which the Administration has inserted as an essential element to health care reform—on the ability of low income people with disabilities to obtain power chairs so, for example, I can go from my bed to the kitchen and make my own breakfast or to Webster’s to have Seth make me breakfast. Or, as the cuts continue, I fear being forced by my disability to go to an assisted living place instead, where the cost to Medicare would be $60,000 a year when the cost of my rent is less than $20,000 a year. If I am forced to go to assistive living it will rob me of my ability to take care of myself and it would bum me out considerably.

I will keep you up to date I my quest for the right 800 words for the right time.

Joel

New column speaks to disabled, elderly issues–from Voices of Central Pennsylvania

July 2017. State College/University Park, PA. Years later, this reflection on the Sandusky scandal still rings true:
++++

“As a former graduate student at Penn State with a disability and as one who is part of the elderly community, the focus by powerful officials on football-above-all has also been used to cover up exploitation of disabled and elderly students and students who are veterans (especially disabled-veterans) and to discourage recruitment of such individuals to become students. Also, this exploitation has extended to the community economically dependent on Penn State.”

 ++++
Note: I am in the process of critiquing the report issued by former FBI Director Louis Freeh issued in July of 2012. The report, which was commissioned by the Board of Trustees at Penn State, concerned what is popularly referred to as the Sandusky sex scandal. Freeh, in issuing the report, pointed out the danger of the "football culture" at Penn State which gave license to officials in power to ignore predatory sexual practices on children. 
As a former graduate student at Penn State with a disability and as one who is part of the elderly community,the focus by powerful officials on football-above-all has also been used to cover up exploitation of disabled and elderly students and students who are veterans (especially disabled-veterans) and to discourage recruitment of such individuals to become students. Also, this exploitation has extended to the community economically dependent on Penn State. As partial background regarding this contention, I am here republishing the monthly column I wrote for Voices of  Central Pennsylvania, then edited by the gifted Suzan Erem. The column appeared from October of 2009 until February of 2011. What follows is the first column.

From Where I Sit

In high school I was a junior befriended by a sensual senior who shared her physical love with others, but talked philosophy to me. I would have preferred it the other way around, but I had no choice. If I wanted to benefit from the privilege of being in her presence (and I did), then I had to sublimate my lust by talking about existentialism—
Sallie’s philosophical passion.

Existentialism is not as chic today as it was when I was 15 or 16. Jean Paul Sartre had not yet refused the Nobel Prize in Literature, nor had he turned his back on literature—deciding finally to complete Being and Nothingness and other non-fiction. The central philosophical question that haunted us adolescents—Why am I here?—remains through our old age.

For me the question takes on an added dimension. At 28 I was diagnosed as having a relatively rare form of cancer that a generation earlier killed virtually everyone who had it. For much of my early adulthood, an astonishingly large number of physicians believed the disease was universally fatal. Oxford University Press published an impassioned plea to physicians to reconsider their notions of doom. Today, the disease is nearly universally curable. For a while, the people who began the cure with radiation machines underestimated its power and a large number of radiologists died while curing others. My radiologist at George Washington University Hospital in Washington D.C. died before I reached the five-year disease free mark. Seymour Kaplan, the Stanford University radiologist who published the Oxford medical text, suffered a similar fate.

I lost the ability to run, walk, or stand without assistance, but the disease and its consequences did not prevent me from fathering two beautiful daughters. Why am I here? has become a consistent theme in my life. Consistent themes make it possible for people to become columnists for newspapers and for publications such as
Voices of Central Pennsylvania. So, what you are reading is the first in a series of monthly columns on the subject of having physical disabilities and being elderly here in Centre County.

I will not pretend that physical disabilities and old age are inherently fascinating subjects. However, one of the advantages of being a columnist is that I do not have to come to the point too quickly—as long as I get there. So for my readers, beginning
October, 2009 I plan to use my wiles to make me part of your life. I plan to start here at Addison Court, the 89-apartment complex in downtown State College, where at 3 a.m. nearly every day drunken students out of control (half a block from the police station) walk east in groups of 20 shrieking men and women who pause to urinate and vomit in our parking lot.

I plan to find out why the police do not interfere with drunken activity and how it makes Addison Court residents feel.

I can’t wait for you to meet my neighbors. A few weeks ago, Lillian (83), Audrey (80), Hilda (90), and I had a lively Corner Room breakfast talking about what it is like when most of one’s friends are dead or too-far-gone to remember the same old stories.

Addison Court residents, with the exception of those with physical and emotional disabilities, are 55 or older, live in rent-subsidized apartments, have little money, not enough to do, and most vote out of a sense of patriotic obligation.

From Addison Court, half a block north on Allen, is Webster’s Bookstore Café. Webster’s proprietor Elaine Meder-Wilgus surrounds herself with serious reformers who are not afraid to have fun. This column will discuss reform and fun from my distinct perspective. I am 62. I am a paraplegic. I have rotten teeth—17 cavities.

I have strong ideas about the importance of uniting with others such as myself because as Al Smith once said, “The only cure for the ills of democracy is more democracy.”

In the November column, I will tell you why I came to State College, how much money I earn, and how I plan to survive financial disaster.  [October 2009]

Joel Solkoff is the author of The Politics of Food.