On “Turkish Democracy Day,” the spot price of gold peaked at $1,345. Who cares? What does this mean for the future of the Turkish economy? https://joelsolkoff.com/access-turkeys-gold/

New York Time 1:58 P.M. July 17, 2016. Turkish time 9:02 PMAfter announcing coup on the previous evening, Prime Minister of Turkey causes a steep rise in gold prices at the Chicago Merchantile Exchange


Senator Tim Kaine on Turkey’s future


Prime Minister Binali Yıldrım, ” I kiss the people of Turkey on the head.” Turkish PM Binali Yildirim Press Conference After Military Coup (July 16, 2016)

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim holds a press conference and speaks on the failed military coup attempt in Ankara and Istanbul.”


Gold bug delight?



Ataturk gold coin

Turkish gold coin
Turkish gold coin

How to purchase



Being bearish is relative

“The U.S. dollar gained on the yen on Monday as investors unwound safe-haven trades in the wake of the failed coup in Turkey, while a giant takeover bid in the tech sector and the promise of central bank stimulus lent support to equities.”



How to corner the gold market

Simply convert wheat into gold

Cornering the wheat market in fiction and reality


The problem Norris had in understanding how a man can sell wheat he does not own is the problem most people have when they attempt to understand commodity future trading. What takes place on future exchanges such as the Chicago Board of Trade is not that people buy and sell wheat and other commodities.

Rather they buy and sell the future delivery of commodities.

When Norris’s hero realized he could corner the wheat market, it was April. The wheat he was buying in the octagonal pit of the Chicago Board of Trade was wheat to be delivered to Chicago in May.

For about 99 percent of the sales taking place today on the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade, wheat “buyers” do not want it delivered to them; wheat sellers have no actual wheat to sell.

Rather, buyers and sellers are hoping to make money on price fluctuations from the time the May wheat contract is first traded until the month of May. In May, when it comes time for delivery, traders who have bought wheat frantically “sell” it; those who have “sold” wheat frantically buy. By the deadline for delivery of May wheat, buyers and sellers resolve their contracts. As a consequence virtually all buyers and sellers have offset their positions; nobody has to deliver any wheat to anybody.


Warning: If you want to corner the gold market, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) may be watching. Or not



Globally, the financial press did the best job of covering the July 15th Turkish coup and its aftermath




The Government of Turkish President Erdogan has enshrined the date of the aborted coup attempt, “Demoracy Day.”

Chicago Merchantile Exchange
Chicago Mercantile Exchange ++++










Days away from receiving the Republica nomination, the Trump ticket’s views on banning Muslims from coming to the U.S. is divided. CNN reports


Republican ticket divided on trade



Note Syrian border
Note Syrian border







Channeling Jabotinsky [who died in 1940]: Covering the aftermath of Israel’s March 17th [2015] election

Coalition Updates posted religiously (always check the source for reliability):

Netanyahu endorsed by 61 MKs, set to assemble coalition

As President Reuven Rivlin enters second day of consultations with party representatives, Kulanu leader Moshe Kahlon recommends Netanyahu as PM • “We accept the people’s decision. The people want Netanyahu to assemble the government,” Kahlon says.
http://www.israelhayom.com/site/today.php Posted March 23, 2015.

N.B. Israel Hayom is published by Sheldon Adelson.  “As of July 2014, Adelson was listed by Forbes as having a fortune of $36.4 billion, and as the 8th richest person in the world. Adelson is also a major contributor to Republican Party candidates, which has resulted in his gaining significant influence within the party.”


President Obama’s post-Israeli elections game-changing interview (1)

“Obama Details His Disappointment With Netanyahu,” the Huffington Post wrote in describing  Obama’s  first interview after the Israeli elections.


This link takes you directly to President Obama’s video interview.

330px-Arianna_Huffington_2012_ShankboneForbes Magazine listed Arianna Huffington as the 52nd most powerful woman in the worldAOL acquired The Huffington Post for$315 million and  appointed Huffington President and Editor-in-Chief.

Huffington reported:

“President Barack Obama is operating under the assumption that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does not support the creation of a Palestinian state, despite the Israeli leader’s post-election efforts to recast himself as amenable to a two-state solution.

“‘We take him at his word when he said that it wouldn’t happen during his prime ministership, and so that’s why we’ve got to evaluate what other options are available to make sure that we don’t see a chaotic situation in the region,” the president said in an interview with The Huffington Post on Friday [March 20th].” (2)


How does the phrase “game changing” apply to this situation?

Macmillan Dictionary defines “game changing” as “completely changing the way that something is done, thought about, or made.” President Obama’s Friday interview made public his determination to completely change the nature of U.S. -Israeli-relations.

Doing so will have widespread implications. It is no exageration to say that what is at stake is whether Israel will be able to survive as an independent Jewish-controlled country. Period.

Given the nature of the Israeli parliamentary system it is unclear whether the March 2015 election will be significant. The purpose of this posting is to provide a comprehensive understanding not simply of one election and its results. ed himself into the Israeli election deliberatively trying to prevent  Benjamin Netanyahu from receiving the minimum of 61 votes in the Knesset required if Netanyahu continues to govern.

The U.S. provides Israel with three billion dollars annually for military and economic assistance.


1948 Behind the scenes friction within the Truman Administration regarding recognizing Israel

You can go directly to You Tube to view this rare footage of the Secretary of State George Marshall conferring with President Truman in 1948 regarding recognizing the State of Israel. Truman was eager to recognize, which he did. Marshall told Truman that if he recognized Israel, Marshall would not vote for Truman in the 1948 Presidential election. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UNtumTtZzJY 

Zionist time line critical for obtaining a bird’s eye perspective to current events

  1. The Balfour declaration {2 November 1917}. /http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balfour_Declaration. From the time I was eight, my father read out loud to me the Balfour Declaration (which was a letter). My friends’ fathers played catch—tossing the regulation softball back and forth. I read the Balfour Declaration aloud with my father. Reading the Balfour Declaration was a joyous experience because my father cared deeply about it and I loved my father.
  2. Significance of the Zion Mule Corps
  3. Profile of Ben Gurion
  4. Profile of Jabotinsky
  5. Arab riots in the 1920s
  6. Ben Gurion’s cooperation with the British to arrest or shoot to kill Menachem Begin, who later became prime minister of Israel
  7. 1948 War of Independence
  8. Altalena Incident
  9. 1967 Six Day War

Camp David accords

  1. Begin forcibly removes Jewish settlers in accordance with Israeli-Egyptian negotiation terms
  2. Assassination of Prime Minister Yizhak Rabin
  3. Netanyahu hosting a televised explicit video showing him committing adultery
  4. Demographic breakdown of Israeli citizens
  5. Maps of Israel including King David’s borders, Jabotinsky’s


,רק כּח

1948-1967, and 1967 to present


 Imagine my coming across a  letter in my late father’s files from Thomas Jefferson expressing gratitude for assistance in the American Revolution. This 1935 letter is the moral equivalent



Consider the obituary I wrote when my father Isadore Solkoff died

Obituary notice

ISADORE SOLKOFF, 1902-1989, Friend of Jabotinsky, Briscoe, and other early Zionist leaders


1880-1940jabotinski.4635 http://www.pandaamerica.com/details2.asp?item=5842&grp=1&categ=52


My father's obituary continues:

UNION, NEW JERSEY, January 15, 1989: Isadore Solkoff was buried at the Temple B’nai Abraham Cemetery.

In an Orthodox Jewish service officiated by Rabbi Phillip Goldberg of the United Hebrew Community of New York, the mourners were reminded of Solkoff ‘s work in introducing Vladimir Jabotinsky and Robert Briscoe to the Jewish Community of New York City.

Theodore Hertzl founder of The Zionist Movement

Theodor Herzl, founder of the Zionist Movement which created Israel ://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theodor_Herzl
My father's obituary continues:

“Vladimir Jabotinksy (1880-1940)   was an early Zionist leader who is buried in Jerusalem next to the grave of Theodor Herzl, the founder of Zionism.

“Jabotinsky was an extremely controversial figure. He was also a brilliant orator, capable of delivering his speeches in several languages, including English and Hebrew, which as an adult he learned to speak fluently because he believed that every Zionist should speak Hebrew.

“Although he died  in 1940, he predicted the Holocaust, advocating relief measures so Jews could be sent to Palestine . He also advocated strict military training for Jews and a series of summer camps for youth around the world were opened for that purpose. One of those camps was located in suburban New York.”

At the cemetery , in keeping with Jewish custom, I picked up a handful of dirt and threw it on my father’s casket. My elder daughter Joanna, who was five years old asked whether she could follow my example. I held her while she grabbed a handful from a pile nearby and threw it on the casket.

We returned from the cemetery to the home of my Uncle Lou, who had died eight years earlier. Uncle Lou , while the youngest of the siblings, had held the family together with the help of his wife Aunt Ida.

By the time I was born, my father was in a state of grief. For decades he had followed his beloved leader Jabotinsky in their attempts to warn of the coming Holocaust. Others did not believe the Holocaust was coming. My father believed. He spent much of his adult life working to avert the disaster he could not stop.

When I was born, he included me in the mourning. When Isadore died, I was 37 years old and had become a follower of Jabotinsky in the tradition my father taught me. I had found among his papers which were my papers an advertisement Ben Hecht published on February 16, 1943.  The ad, which appeared on the back cover of first section of The New York Times, read:

70,000 JEWS

Aunt Ida gave me a shot glass with schnapps. I said the appropriate blessing. Family and friends filled up their glasses, raised them high and said the blessing.

Then, I delivered a eulogy to my father. My eulogy consisted of my reading:

““Roumania is tired of killing Jews. It has killed one hundred thousand of them in two years. Roumania will now give Jews away practically for nothing.”

[See: See: http://jewishcurrents.org/february-16-for-sale-to-humanity-9093}



J’accuse, Netanyahu. J’accuse

Boiled down to basics, Netanyahu is the leader of the political party Jabotinsky founded. When Jabotinsky died in 1940, Menachem Begin took over the leadership. A political gemological chart will chart the leadership to Netanyahu.

Netanyahu has failed to keep to the true Zionist path Jabotinsky founded. The party Netanyahu now leads should expel him from its midst. This posting is written from the perspective of a 67 year old man whose father taught him Jabotinsky from childhood.

Israel has reached the proverbial crossroads. Sometime soon, the future of Israel is arriving  at the point where either Israel will survive or it will be too late. Elections come and go. It is difficult to predict precisely when the point of no return arrives.

This posting, clearly a work in progress, provides details on the issues. Perhaps, Tzipi Livni (see below), whose ties to the movement Jabotinsky followed, could form a government this time around. Livni has the potential to be a great prime minister.

Whatever Israel’s future brings, Netanyahu should be ousted from public service. It should not be Obama who throws him out. It should be Netanyahu’s own party. Fortune smiled on the Zionist Movement when Jabotinsky was a Zionist leader in truly troubled times. Now the inspiration Jabotinsky still provides should be incorporated in new leadership.

So long, Bibi. Coming soon after I get some sleep,  reports on the status of the coalition building process. Clearly, I could produce a lot of words on the subject, but nothing much is actually happening.


The Altalena Affair


The Altalena Affair was a violent confrontation that took place in June 1948 between the newly created Israel Defense Forces and the Irgun (also known as IZL), one of the Jewish paramilitary groups that were in the process of merging to form the IDF. The confrontation involved a cargo ship, Altalena, captained by Monroe Fein and led by senior IZL commander Eliyahu Lankin, which had been loaded with weapons and fighters by the independent Irgun but arrived during the murky period of the Irgun’s absorption into the IDF.

This silent video tells the story of the “Altalena Incident”–the classification term for the event


Solkoff arranged for Jabotinsky to speak to a packed crowd at Town Hall in New York City and Solkoff produced a film of Jabotinsky observing military exercises of Jewish youth, later shown at Jewish synagogues in the New York City area.

Solkoff arranged a secret, private meeting between Jabotinsky and Lou is Brandeis (1856-1941) then a Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Brandeis took pride in his influential role in the American Jewish community. The meeting did not go well. It took place at Brandeis’ Washington home. Jabotinsky gave Brandeis a warning about the American Jewish community’s ind ifference to the plight of Jewish European refugees. Later Jabotinsky reported to Solkoff the warning he gave Brandeis . “Your accomodationist stance with the British will result in millions of unnecessary Jewish deaths at the hands of the Nazis. ” Jabotinsky continued, “The blood of those Jews will be on your hands too and that of the rest of the American Jewish community. It will be on your hands even though you do not directly commit the murders .”

Jabotinsky was the founder of the Zionist political party now running the state of Israel. Yitzhak Shamir, the prime minister of Israel, was a follower of Jabotinsky. Former Israeli prime minister Menachim Begin had been an aide to Jabot insky. When Jabotinsky d ied in 1940, Begin inherited Jabotinsky’s movement. Solkoff supported Begin in his efforts to obtain arms into Palestine . Then in 1948 when the state of Israel was created and the War of Independence took place,

Who won the Israeli election?

No one won.

Isaac_Herzog_(12675983573) (2)

Did Isaac Herzog Leader,  Zionist Union Party really lose when he received 24 votes?


Did Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Leader of the LIKUD party really win when he received 30 votes?


The complexities of coalition building where a majority of 61 votes in the 120 vote Kennest is required to govern.

However, if the next candidate (the current presumed winner is Netanyahu) becomes prime minister with only 61 votes, the government will be a weak one.

All that would be required to pass a resolution expressing no confidence in the next prime minister then Israel would be back in the position it is today.

There would be another election with election results reported again just as they were  two days ago. Again there would be a frantic rush to find parties winning to be in coalition. At some point, one hopes because Israel requires stability as critical decisions are made which will determine ultimately whether can survive as an independent Jewish country,

Whatever happens in Israel’s Balkan-style politics, the real issue on the table is whether the country of Israel will continue to exist.

This posting is now evolving and will contain the following information:

  • Details about the process of securing a coalition
  • Description of each of the minor parties that are being wooed right now as I keyboard today’s post
  • Relevant history helpful in analyzing Israel’s political direction from the philosopher George Santayana’s perspective: One who neglects to learn the lessons of  history will be forced to repeat them. 
  • Relevant history will begin with the Dreyfus trial when anti-Semitism had taken over the government of France, Theodore Herzel’s formation of the Zionist, Movement, revival of the Hebrew language, the outcome of World War I where British victory meant the Britain would replace Turkey and turn Israel (at the time Palestine and not Israel was the name used for the land the British controlled), plus detailed descriptions of the many different maps of Israel from the Biblical Israel under King David when its territory was the largest ever including Jordan and Syria. Included would be the  map of a significantly smaller Israel in 1948 when the country became independent.
  • I will be comparing the 1948 Independence Day map with today’s map which includes land occupied as a result of the Six Day War of 1967.
  • In depth analysis of the relevance of the two fathers of modern Israel, David Ben Gurion and Vladimir Jabotinsky. The two men  served jointly as co-captains of the Zionist Mule Corps. Creation of the Corps was a significant event by itself. The distinct differences between the politics of each  founding father also brought decades of animosity between the two men.  Ben Gurion helped the British  in its efforts to arrest or shoot to kill on sight the leader of Jabotinsky’s party.


Meawhile, I will speculate on the chances of a “dark horse” female party leader emerging as the next prime minister.

A narrow 61 votes majority means any two members of the Knesset could become emotional about controversial policy. Israeli politics are my favorite brand of politics, far more intricate with cliff hangers appearing regularly and lasting indefinitely or just long enough to form another cliff hanger.

Could Tzipi Livni emerge (from weeks of coalition building failure) as Israel’s next Prime Minister or as prime minister in a government which follows the next vote of No Confidence?]

Tzipi Livni is the Previous Leader,  Zionist Union Party. From March 2013 to December 2014, Livni served as Israel’s Justice Minister.


Meanwhile, bitter fighting in Washington D.C. over whether Republicans or Israel loving  Democrats becomes more bizarre each passing day.

Plus, fighting among President Obama, Republican Congressional leaders, and Israel-loving Democrats are distracting. There are serious issues raised by this critical junction in Israel’s political crisis–critical issues such as whether can preserve its future as an independent self-governing country as the homeland of the Jewish people.

What is at stake here is whether Israel can continue to survive as an independent Jewish state.

If this election process goes south or if the coalition is so shaky it receives an early no confidence vote clarity…

What is taking place is a clear power struggle. .I find it unsettling Netanyahu may continue to rule.

I condemn Netanyahu’s passionate insistence the U.S. should not negotiate with Iran to find a solution to the nuclear missile crisis. Going from the specific to the general, I believe Bibi is a war monger.

 What is required to WIN?

Definition of win: Win means the candidate becomes Prime Minister. To become prime minister one must have at least a 61 vote majority in the 120 member Knesset.

Netanyahu has 30 votes.

To obtain the additional 31 votes candidates must ask leaders of Israeli’s insanely high number of political parties.

Leaders of some of the parties Netanyahu needed to govern are real slime bags.

Netanyahu has a history of tolerating virtually anything to win including having to work with slime bags on a regular basis. Speculation is that Netanyahu may take “the high road” and ask his opponent Herzog to become a member of his government.

Short term: There is currently and urgently taking place a hunt for Israeli’s minority parties to form a coalition government. These parties are referred to as “king makers.” Courting these parties is not an easy task. “It ain’t over until it’s over.”

Long term: Beyond the vote counting and the news reports on just how complex Israel’s democratic government really is, there is a critical issue regarding Israel’s future.

Theodor Herzl founder of The Zionist Movement

Will Israel as a Jewish state continue to survive?

Netanyahu’s answer is hard-line especially regarding territory. Netanyahu has successfully fought efforts to return land won during the 1967 Six Day War.

A large group in the significant but  becoming less powerful sector of the electorate is secular Jews.


Israel was created despite opposition from the Orthodox community.

Until 1948 creation of Israel, a large percentage of the orthodox community did not believe in Theodor Hertzel’s Zionist Movement to create a secular Jewish State under British-controlled until 1948.

Orthodox rabbis said Zionism was blasphemy and creation of a Jewish State should await return of the Messiah and the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem.

Especially since the 1973 War, the U.S.Orthodox community has become strong supporters of Israel. The are sending themselves, their children, and their grandchildren to defend Israeli territory with machine guns carried on a daily basis.

Given the large birthrate among the religious, the demographic makeup of Israel is changing.

Simply put: There are three equally large blocks of voters who determine Israel’s future:

  • One third Israeli citizens are Arab.
  • One third of Israeli citizens are militantly religious.
  • One third of Israeli citizens are secular and laid back about religious practice and who created and built the State of Israel. They have already lost the power to govern Israel.

The future of Israel as an independent state requires a peaceful solution to the terror, bus bombs, hard-line Palestinians who pose a serious threat.

Last night, Netanyahu announced he opposed a two state solution, namely creation of a Palestinian State on some of the land Israel currently occupies.

I support a two state solution. It is not simply Israel’s fault the Palestinian crisis exists. Arab states such as Saudia Arabia, where Palestinian workers are poorly treated, have used the Palestinian problem to obtain global sympathy for the Palestinian Cause.

Whoever is to blame, if Israel does not fix the problem, it will not exist. Peace is the only way Israel can survive. Talking about peace in the context of the violence currently taking place, including building of nuclear facilities in Iran, seems naive.

Nevertheless, there are a substantial number of Israeli citizens who are working intensely to give peace a chance. I believe peace is the only option available to secure Israel’s future. This blog is written with my  distinct bias. Bias of mine.


From Israeli’s oldest and highly respected newspaper Haeretz, which means “the land,” comes this ebulient prediction:

LIVE BLOG: Herzog congratulates Netanyahu, refuses to say whether he’ll join coalition

Final results: Netanyahu’s Likud scores decisive victory in Israeli election, set to win 30 Knesset seats, Zionist Union gets 24 • Netanyahu calls for ‘strong’ government to safeguard security, welfare • Meretz leader Zehava Galon resigns in wake of election results.

By | Mar. 18, 2015 | 11:15 AM |


From this morning’s White House briefing on President Barack Obama’s reaction to the Israeli elections,  the White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest en route to Cleveland, OH, 3/18/15 aboard Air Force One  answered the following:

Did the President speak with Prime Minister Netanyahu after the election?


“The President at this point has not telephoned Prime Minister Netanyahu.  I can tell you that earlier today that Secretary of State John Kerry did telephone Prime Minister Netanyahu to congratulate him on the Israeli elections.  The President, in the days ahead, in the coming days, I anticipate will also call Prime Minister Netanyahu to do the same thing.

“Just as a relevant piece of recent historical context is that there have been two Israeli elections during the Obama administration.  In both situations, in the aftermath of both elections, the President did not telephone Prime Minister Netanyahu until he’d already been directed by the Israeli President to begin the process of forming a coalition government.

“So I’m not suggesting that the President will wait until that direction has been handed down this time.  I’m merely pointing out that in previous situations the President has not telephoned the Israeli Prime Minister on the day after the elections.  But I do anticipate that the President will call Prime Minister Netanyahu in the coming days.”


Meanwhile, Republican U.S. Senators are criticizing President Obama for not calling Nitanyahu for winning the election.  Powerful Republican senators, such as Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), frequently mentioned as a likely candidate for winning the Republican nominationin2016, told Roll Call, a publication read by Washington insiders,

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is joining a slew of Republican lawmakers who criticized President Obama for not congratulating Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on his party’s victory in this week’s parliamentary elections.

“He’s showing more respect for Iran than he is for the prime minister of Israel, and that’s a terrible precedent that he’s set,” Rubio said late Wednesday on Fox News’s “Hannity,” while also slamming the White House’s negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program.




Isaac Herzog, who received a few votes less than Netanyahu) is defiant.

Each candidate is now actively scrambling to assemble a collation from Israel’s many fractious and influential minor parties.

English: The Knesset building, Jerusalem, Israel, on Independence Day. Taken from the south, from The Israel Museum. עברית: הכנסת Date24 April 2007

The Knesset building, Jerusalem, Israel, on Independence Day. Taken from the south, from The Israel Museum.
עברית: הכנסת
Date 24 April 2007


Isaac Herzog Leader of the newly formed Zionist Union Party

Wikipedia on Issac Herzog:

Isaac Herzog (Hebrew: יצחק “בוז׳י” הרצוג‎).

Yitzhak Herzog; born 22 September 1960, nicknamed “Bougie”, is an Israeli politician and lawyer.

Since 2003, Herzog has been a member of the Knesset and has held various ministerial posts, including Minister of Welfare and Social Services (2007–11).

He is chairman of the Labor Party and has been the opposition leader in the outgoing 19th Knesset. He contested the 2015 legislative election as head of the Zionist Union joint electoral list of Labour and Hatnuah.



My conclusion:

Neither of the two leaders has the 61 votes required to form a government.

One tally showed  28 seats for Netanyahu, over 27 seats for Isaac Herzog.

To be Prime Minister you have to have a secure 61 vote majority in the 120 seat parliament known by its Hebrew word The Knesset.

28 votes is not 61 votes.

Right now, the choice over whether Netanyahu or Herzog will be Prime Minister depends on the ability of either man to form a coalition.


About Me

I shoveled manure during the Six Day War

It was 1967.

I was 19.

I had just arrived in Paris en route to Israel early on a Tuesday morning  Day 2 Six Day War.

My step father had connected me with the Paris Jewish Agency,  mobbed with volunteers.

My father, an ardent Zionist especially during the 1930s and 40s, hated the Jewish Agency because it had collaborated with the British to keep Jews out of Palestine.

At the Agency, I was told it would be a long war. I should be patient and wait in Paris. I booked a cheap hotel. Bought every English language newspaper I could find.

My experience with British-based newspapers was limited. An item said someone was forming a Lincoln brigade, similar to the Spanish Civil War, in Cyprus. I booked a ticket to Cyprus for the following day Wednesday.

Unable to sleep, I walked through the city of Paris from 10 PM until after dawn. I said Bon Jour to everyone I passed and everyone replied friendly happy at what they were doing.

By morning, well-breakfasted, I had the feeling I had seen everything. I boarded the plane Wednesday morning flying down the coast of Italy and over to Athens.

The plane circled the Parthenon several times. So clear was the water I could see fishing lines down to the bottom of the Mediterranean.

The plane landed in Athens where I awaited a connection to Cyprus.

It was Wednesday evening.

At the airline desk, I learned there was a flight scheduled to Lodde airport later that evening.

By then, I had made friends with a graduate student and his wife who told me in detail about the Greek coup.

When I left the Paris-Athens plane, I was holding a notebook with the word Columbia on the cover. The graduate student, hoping to meet someone else, instantly identified my college with his and he and his wife helped me with arrangements.

The airline clerk cashed in the Cyprus ticket. As it would turn out, there was no Lincoln Brigade in Cyprus.

For a few dollars more I was waitlisted on a plane to Israel. I had $20 left in my pocket.

My new friends took me to their apartment where I slept until the phone rang informing that I had a seat on the plane.

Saul Bellow, covering the War for Newsday, stood next to me and we talked. A glamorous Life photographer also boarded the plane. He was replacing a colleague killed in the Sinai when his half track hit a land mine.

The windows on the plane were sealed shut just before daylight. My fellow passengers and I heard the sound of aircraft, but did not know whether they were friendly or not.

Ours was the first commercial plane to land at the airport. The runway was full of army tents and mounted guns.

We were greeted like heroes. It was day four of the Six Day War.



 Kfar Warburg

Wikipedia on Kfar Warburg:

Kfar Warburg (Hebrew: כְּפַר וַרְבּוּרְג, lit. Warburg Village) is a large moshav in central Israel. Located near Kiryat Malakhi with 98 farms covering an area of 6,000 dunams, it falls under the jurisdiction of Be’er Tuvia Regional Council. In 2006 it had a population of 873.

The moshav was founded on 31 October 1939 by members of the “Menachem” organisation. It was named after Felix M. Warburg, one of the leaders of the Jewish community in the United States and a founder of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.[1]

Notable residents include Yigal Hurvitz, a former Minister of Finance who is buried in the moshav.

During Netanyahu’s lengthy time in office, Netanyahu maintained power with a coalition of small political parties . Some of these parties, especially their leaders, are slimy. Netanyahu has been able to stay so long in office because of his willingness to make allegiances with very unsavory characters.


Prime Minister Netanyahu


Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu ( בנימין “ביבי” נתניהו ); born 21 October 1949) is the current Prime Minister of Israel.

He also currently serves as a member of the Knesset, Chairman of the Likud party and Minister of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs.

Born in Tel Aviv to secular Jewish parents, Netanyahu is the first Israeli prime minister born in Israel after the establishment of the state.

Netanyahu joined the Israel Defense Forces during the Six-Day War in 1967 and became a team leader in the Sayeret Matkal special forces unit. He took part in many missions, including Operation Inferno (1968), Operation Gift (1968) and Operation Isotope (1972), during which he was shot in the shoulder.

He fought on the front lines in the War of Attrition and the Yom Kippur War in 1973, taking part in special forces raids along the Suez Canal, and then leading a commando assault deep into Syrian territory.

He was wounded in combat twice. He achieved the rank of captain before being discharged. Netanyahu served as the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations from 1984 to 1988, as a member of the Likud party, and was Prime Minister from June 1996 to July 1999. He moved from the political arena to the private sector after being defeated in the 1999 election for Prime Minister by Ehud Barak.

Netanyahu returned to politics in 2002 as Foreign Affairs Minister (2002–2003) and Finance Minister (2003–2005) in Ariel Sharon’s governments, but he departed the government over disagreements regarding the Gaza disengagement plan. He retook the Likud leadership in December 2005, after Sharon left to form a new party, Kadima.

In the 2006 election, Likud did poorly, winning 12 seats. In December 2006, Netanyahu became the official Leader of the Opposition in the Knesset and Chairman of Likud. In 2007, he retained the Likud leadership by beating Moshe Feiglin in party elections.

Following the 2009 parliamentary election, in which Likud placed second and right-wing parties won a majority, Netanyahu formed a coalition government. After the victory in the 2013 elections, he became the second person to be elected to the position of Prime Minister for a third term, after Israel’s founder David Ben-Gurion.

In 2012, Netanyahu was listed 23rd on the Forbes magazine’s list of “The World’s Most Powerful People.” In 2014, he was ranked third on the list of the “Most Influential Jews in the World” by The Jerusalem Post. He had been ranked first on the list in 2012 and 2010.


 More of my election results analysis

Right now, Netanyahu is thinking of a High Road coalition which would include his opponent Herzog in Netanyahu’s Government. This would bring such a coalition would come close to obtaining the remaining Knesset votes.

My current thinking about Netanyahu’s likelihood to survive as prime  minister is that he won’t. He has always been the kind of wily guy who would do anything to stay in power. During one particularly ugly leadership fight, Netanyahu’s opponent blackmailed Netanyahu.

The opponent had an explicit video of Netanyahu having sexual intercourse with a woman not his wife.

“Adultery” became a trendy word during that period.

Netanyahu reacted by appearing on television and displaying the video of his adultery while Netanyahu’s wife was photographed watching .

Netanyahu said he cared too much about Israel’s future to be blackmailed.

Netanyahu won the leadership fight. He will do anything to win.


“Fifteen years ago, Benjamin Netanyahu admitted in a dramatic television appearance to an extramarital affair. It was at the height of elections for the Likud leadership, and Netanyahu accused his opponents (alluding to David Levy) of intent to blackmail him by releasing footage of him and his lover. This strange spectacle became a fiasco that haunts the Likud leader to this day.”


Media Coverage

From Tuesday’s New York Times at 11:04 PM in State College PA–the same time as New York City: 

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his chief challenger, Isaac Herzog of the center-left Zionist Union, appeared to win about the same number of seats in Parliament on Tuesday, according to Israeli news media and exit polls.”

In Jerusalem  It was 6 hours ahead of New York, it was already tomorrow.

Tomorrow at 5:10 AM .


(CNN)Preliminary exit poll estimates released by Israel’s three major broadcasters late Tuesday show an election too close to call.

Millions of Israelis cast their votes to determine their country’s next Prime Minister and the makeup of its parliament.

Channel 2 Israel reports the Likud party, headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has a slight lead over the Zionist Union, led by Isaac Herzog — 28 seats, over 27 seats. Channels 10 and 1 show the two tied with 27 seats each.

The incumbent claimed victory ahead of a final count.

“Against all odds, we achieved this huge victory,” Netanyahu told his cheering supporters. “Now we should form a strong and stable government that will be able to take care of the security, safety and welfare of each and every citizen of Israel.”

The Zionist Union responded by saying in a statement that the Likud party “keeps misleading.”

“The rightist bloc has shrunk. Everything is possible until the real results are in, when we can know which parties passed the electoral threshold and which government we can form. All the spins and statements are premature,” it read.

Official results are not expected to be published until next week, and the process of building coalitions could take much longer.

++++litical parties of the 120 remembers of The Knesset

Due to the low election threshold (currently 3.25%, but historically only 1%), a typical Knesset has a large number of factions represented;

  • five parties have at least 10 seats in the current Knesset.
  • Combined with the nationwide party-list system, it is all but impossible for one party to win a majority government.
  • No party has ever won a majority of seats in an election, the most being 56 won by the Alignment in the 1969 elections.
  • The Alignment had briefly held a majority of seats before the election after being formed by an alliance of two other parties.
  • As a result, all Israeli governments have been coalitions between two or more parties, though only three parties (or their antecedents) have ever led governments.

Parties with Knesset seats

The following parties are represented following the 2013 elections:

Party      Leader   Seats     Ideology

Likud      Binyamin Netanyahu       20           right-wing, nationalist

Yesh Atid             Yair Lapid            19           centrist, secular

Labor Party         Isaac Herzog       15           social democratic, Zionist

The Jewish Home             Naftali Bennett  12           right-wing, Orthodox, settler rights

Shas       Aryeh Deri           11           Sephardic Ultra-Orthodox

Yisrael Beiteinu  Avigdor Lieberman           11           right-wing, Zionist,[1] nationalist[2]

United Torah Judaism      Yaakov Litzman  7             Ashkenazi[2] ultra-Orthodox[1]

Hatnuah               Tzipi Livni             6             centrist[1]

Meretz  Zahava Gal-On   6             secular, left-wing,[1][2] environmentalist,[1]

advocates withdrawal from the West Bank[1]

United Arab List-Ta’al      Ibrahim Sarsur    4             Arab interests[1]

Hadash  Mohammad Barakeh       4             socialist, minority interests[1]

Balad     Jamal Zahalka     3             left-wing, Arab nationalist[1]

Kadima  Shaul Mofaz        2             centrist, Zionist[1]


Netanyahu’s party set to win 29 votes, Zionist Union gets 24; Netanyahu calls for ‘strong’ government to safeguard security, welfare • ‘Kingmaker’ Kahlon says doesn’t rule anyone out.Add Media

TO Uunderstand Israeli politics, you must know about the TWO Founding fathers of Israel David Ben Gurion and Vlademir Jabotinsky who served together in the Zion Mule Corps during World War I. They hated each other. My father’s single most important achievement in my father’s life was his relationship with Jabotinsky. My younger daughter is named after Jabotinsky in memory of my father.

David Ben Gurion the most famous of Israel’s two political fathers.


Edward R. Murrow interviewee Israel Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion on Feb 3, 1956 at Sde Boker kibbutz as part of Murrow’s ‘I Can Hear It Now’ series.

All audio was taken from the Columbia Masterworks Label ML 5109, that featured the complete unabridged interview on the release. An edited version of the interview with Ben-Gurion appeared on CBS TV’s ‘See It Now’ on March 6, 1956.

This interview clearly had audio issues, and wind interference is noticeable. All attempts to remove vinyl crackles, and audio enhancement have been made to the recording.





  1. 1  The Huffington Post [“Posted: Updated: before lengthy background necessary for understating the issues involved:

Saving Medicare billions: Trying too hard can get in the way

Ambulance parked in front of my bedroom window waiting to pick up a neighbor

Today is Sunday, February 26, 2012.  I took the photograph above last week. My apartment is within an eight-story building housing 90 low-income elderly and disabled individuals, an ambulance parks outside my window at least once a week. Sometimes my neighbors and I return. Sometimes, not. The cost for Medicare, Medicaid, and other services to go on the gurney ride to the hospital and beyond is many times higher than the cost of preventing and treating.

The following article appeared in the October, 2011 issue of  HME News and it still reflects an ongoing concern. Following the article, I will provide a memorial note on one of the residents who did not return.


The money saved as a consequence of concentrating on what is right will astonish the body politic

” I have saved up enough pills to kill myself,” a neighbor told me, “if I ever have to go to Centre Crest.”

I live in an independent housing apartment building in downtown State College, Pa. The nearly 100 residents of Addison Court are disabled or elderly. Most of us are poor–the more affluent are on Social Security or Social Security Disability and Medicare.
At least once a week, the ambulance stops by my window and a resident goes off to the hospital. The lucky return. The not-so-lucky move on to Centre Crest, the default public nursing home about 11 miles away, where assisted living means expensive round-the-clock care, diaper changes, attachment to machines that keep the biological aspects of life going, medical personnel who make sure medications are taken correctly, and a world view that echoes Dante’s inscription over Hell: “Abandon hope, ye who enter here.”
Last year, Pennsylvania’s Department of Aging estimated it costs Medicare $40,000 extra each year for a resident to move from an independent living to an assistive living facility. The loss of dignity to the individual is incalculable.
The French philosopher Jean Paul Sartre observed that when one tries especially hard to listen, often the trying gets in the way of hearing. Medicare is trying too hard to do the wrong thing. Medicare‘s purpose is not to save money, but to provide health care in a way that concentrates on improving the quality of life. Recent evidence on the brain’s adaptive capacity provides hope that not only can individuals resume physical capacity from the devastation of a variety of afflictions that affect us at Addison Court, but also we can regain our talents to improve this society, not simply take from it.
“The Brain that Changes Itself, Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science,” by Columbia University’s Norman Doidge, M.D., points to the brain’s ability to recover from strokes and other disorders with rehabilitation and concern.
“Traditional rehabilitation,” Doidge writes, “typically ended after a few weeks when a patient stopped improving, or ‘plateaued.’ And doctors lost the motivation to continue.  But…these learning plateaus were temporary…Though there was no apparent progress in the consolidation stage, biological changes were happening internally, as new skills became more automatic and refined.”
The Obama administration’s penny-wise-and-pound-foolish cutbacks on availability to durable medical equipment, rehabilitation services, and home health care are forcing residents of independent living facilities into the Centre Crests of this country. For example, the narrow focus is apparent in Medicare‘s frequent citations of the Congressional Budget Office‘s competitive bidding estimates of relatively insignificant savings for Medicare Part B ignoring the astronomical costs that will result to Part A when disabled individuals like me can no longer pick up the phone and call my local medical equipment provider. Instead, I must wait for a competitive bidding winner (several have unsavory reputations and some are based out-of-state) to provide a battery. Delays could easily force me into Centre Crest as a result of falls, problems getting to the bathroom, etc. Delays would rob me of the ability to work as an adviser on virtual reality models for construction of future aging in place housing–construction which will result in significant Medicare savings.
Medicare is discouraging the necessary alliance between rehabilitation therapists and medical suppliers. This alliance will help restore the ability of my fellow residents to function and contribute to society.
“Individuals with disabilities remain one of our nation’s greatest untapped resources,” said Rep Jim Langevin, D-R.I., the only quadriplegic in Congress. To release the untapped resources of the elderly and disabled, Medicare must stop thinking about saving money and start thinking about improving health. The money saved as a consequence of concentrating on what is right will astonish the body politic. Providers of durable medical equipment require the support of consumers like me. Providers and rehabilitation therapists have been slow to recognize that in unity there is strength. Together they must spread the word that when an individual becomes old or disabled, science is rapidly increasing the ability to regain talent and good health.
–Joel Solkoff is the author of “Learning to Live Again, My Triumph over Cancer” and is adjunct research assistant at Penn State’s Department of Architectural Engineering.
Memorial Note: Tonight, November 14, 2011, Jack Seidner aged 93, my neighbor and friend at Addison Court, State College. PA, died while talking to his son who had called from Israel. He died at Centre Crest, an assistive care facility in Bellefonte, PA, 11 miles from Addison Court.
Jack was a veteran of World War II and was a monthly calendar boy on the Jewish War Veterans calendar last year  He will be buried beside his wife in Harrisburg at a private funeral.
Jack was a wonderful man. He was basically an intellectual although he hid it as much as possible. When I wrote a story about home medical oxygen, oxygen which he received to stay alive, he refused to be photographed saying, “I have been studied enough.”
His sense of humor was ever-present, sometimes to the point of reciting bawdy limericks to the residents of Addison Court. I will miss him. He died at Centre Crest. The article below, originally published in HME News on September 27, 2011, is dedicated to his memory. In these days of turmoil at Penn State University, the need to care for the real needs of this community should be apparent.

Marilyn Tavenner Confirmation Watch June 19th Update: Who cares if anyone runs Medicare?

June 19, 2012 update on Marilyn Tavenner’s confirmation (don’t hold your breath) hearings:

“So what did Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) say when HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius asked him to hold a confirmation hearing for Marilyn Tavenner, acting administrator of CMS?

“’It’s going to be difficult to proceed with the Republican opposition,’ said Baucus, chairman of the powerful Finance Committee, when I asked him about the conversation.'”


You call the enthusiastic endorsement of Tavenner by Rep.Eric Cantor, House Republican Majority Leader,  “Republican opposition.” Give me a break Senator Baucus.

Senator Max Baucus, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, who helped write the original Medicare legislation that President Johnson signed into law.

Here is what I told Katrina vanden Heuvel , the editor and publisher of the Nation Magazine [who appeared this Sunday as a refreshingly articulate advocate for abandoning the current foolish policy of austerity above all else on This Week with George Stephanopoulos ] when she asked me to give my younger daughter a gift subscription as a college graduation present:


“I am shocked by The Nation’s failure to report on the deterioration of the current Medicare system which as a recipient and a left-of-center Democrat, I can report on what is actually going on (despite the Nation’s unexamined rhetoric). Indeed, I have suggested that I write about it for you to no avail. Hence, no subscription for my daughter Amelia: https://joelsolkoff.com/blueroof-reality/countdown-to-amelias-graduation/


In response to the report from the Wall Street Journal below:
11:52 pm May 21, 2012
Joel Solkoff wrote :

The failure of Max Baucus and the 12 Democratic members of the Senate Finance Committee, many of whom are liberals whose rhetoric on saving Medicare is voluminous, to hold hearings on Marilyn Tavenner to be head of Medicare and Medicaid is a disgrace. As a paraplegic who has experienced the deterioration of Medicare as it currently exists under President Obama, the fact that his Administration has not had a confirmed Administrator reveals the sharp disparity between a President who lauds Medicare while cutting its budget by half a trillion dollars as part of the cynical price paid to ensure passage of Obamacare. Eric Cantor’s support of Tavenner would have forced Senate Republicans to think twice about voting against her. As one who enthusiastically supported the President four years ago, my unenthusiastic vote for his re-election is indicative of the lukewarm support that could cost him the election. The Nation, The Progressive, and other presumed defenders of Medicare have failed to be critical of the President’s penny-wise, pound foolish administration of a program which he is currently destroying while speaking eloquently about preserving its future. A genuine confirmation hearing for an Administrator whose budget is larger than the Pentagon’s is long overdue. Failure to hold hearings undermines the Democratic pretense that Medicare is worth saving and makes me ashamed to admit that I am a Democrat. What happened to the party of Adlai Stevenson and Eleanor Roosevelt? The best way for Obama to prove his credibility is to push for the support of his nominee and to indicate his commitment to what used to be Democratic values.




Every day I:

1. Log onto the Senate Finance Committee website. http://finance.senate.gov/

2. Click http://finance.senate.gov/nominations/

3. Then, scroll down to here:


Marilyn B. Tavenner, of Virginia, to be Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, vice Donald M. Berwick, resigned

4.   Click

  Check Status

5.  Watch paint dry as I go to this site http://www.thomas.gov/cgi-bin/thomas which reads:

Presidential Nominations
112th Congress (2011 – 2012)


Nomination: PN1165-112
Date Received: December 01, 2011 (112th Congress)
Nominee: Marilyn B. Tavenner, of Virginia, to be Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, vice Donald M. Berwick, resigned.
Referred to: Senate Finance

Legislative Actions
Floor Action: December 01, 2011 – Received in the Senate and referred to the Committee on Finance.

Organization: Department of Health and Human Services

Control Number: 112PN0116500


Now for some background information. In December, I published the following article in HME News, the publication for the home medical equipment industry which may help you understand the circumstances behind the nomination of Marilyn Tavenner to head the half trillion-dollar agency which significantly affects the life and health of all Medicare and Medicaid recipients.

Who is in charge of Medicare?

The wide-ranging debate over Medicare, a major factor in the presidential election next year, primarily focuses on whether future generations will benefit in the same way that the current 46 million recipients like me benefit. Politicians, critics and would-be-recipients express the illusion that the health care I receive from Medicare represents the ideal. I believe that the only way to save Medicare is to dramatically improve the way it is run today so that it remains a program worth saving.
The primary audience for this commentary is the men and women who provide DME other equipment necessary to sustain and maintain the quality of life. Recently, 87-year-old Lilian Hutchinson, who gets around on an unstable walker, fell and broke her elbow in an independent living facility for 90 elderly and disabled residents where I live in State College, Pa. I believe that if Lillian had access to a scooter or a power chair in her apartment, she would not have fallen. The tales of needless suffering you could tell resulting from a Medicare bureaucracy that increasingly limits access to mobility equipment and medical oxygen seem beside the point.
Durable medical equipment represents only a small fraction of the Medicare budget. The whole system for providing medical care for the elderly, disabled and poor is not working efficiently in large part because of the absence of leadership at CMS, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. My intention here is to answer the question: Who runs Medicare? In theory, Dr. Donald Berwick, a distinguished Harvard physician with an outstanding reputation as an advocate for efficient health care, runs CMS.
Last year, President Obama named Dr. Berwick to be administrator of CMS, a position one senator described as the nation’s health czar since the job also includes putting in place much of the legislation passed last year, which, by one estimate, will extend health care to 32 million Americans who do not have coverage.
Sadly, the president had failed to appoint an administrator early on in his administration, when Senate confirmation would not have been a problem and when an adviser with the expertise and gravitas Dr. Berwick has in the medical community would have proven useful. The major flaw in the president’s landmark legislation was how he intended to pay for it. He decided against raising taxes, which might have doomed passage.
Instead, half the estimated trillion dollars required to extend healthcare coverage was targeted to come from savings to the Medicare budget as a result of achieving cost savings, reducing fraud and abuse, and increasing efficiency. Anyone who has ever made a New Year’s resolution to save money can tell you it is imprudent to spend it before the money is actually saved.
By the time Dr. Berwick arrived at Medicare, he was in the impossible situation of being required to save $500 billion, a requirement for which he had not been consulted and in a situation where the president had given him neither the time nor the authority to implement.
The political comedian Mark Russell observed, in a similar context, that exercising leadership without the necessary authority is equivalent to sending a eunuch to an orgy. Fearful of Republican reaction to Dr. Berwick’s appointment and unsure of the allegiance of Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee, the president refused to fight for Berwick’s confirmation or to find a replacement who would achieve bipartisan support.
Using the recess appointment mechanism, which allows a president to appoint an official on a temporary basis while Congress is not in session, Berwick currently serves as acting administrator and will be replaced next year by his deputy Marilyn Tavenner. Tavenner, while respected for her organizational skill, her background as a nurse and a hospital and state health care administer, does not have the stature required to lead what is in effect a cabinet level position.
Although CMS has a larger annual budget than the Pentagon, as I write this, there has not been a confirmed head of Medicare since 2006. For the purposes of comparison, if the Defense Department did not have a confirmed secretary for five years, there would be a national outcry.
–Joel Solkoff was a political appointee in the Carter Administration, serving as special assistant to the Under Secretary of Labor. He believes a bipartisan solution to the problems of Medicare is achievable.

On February 3, I sent the following letter to Senator Max Baucus (D Montana), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee which has oversight over Medicare and has the power to conduct confirmation hearings on President Obama’s nominee to run Meadicare:

The Honorable Max Baucus


Committee on Finance

United States Senate

219 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Senator Baucus

I am writing to request an invitation to testify at the confirmation hearing of Marilyn Tavenner to be Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

I am a paraplegic who is a Medicare recipient. While I am generally supportive of Acting Administrator Tavenner’s appointment, especially since it has been so long that CMS has had a confirmed Administrator; I have considerable concerns about durable medical equipment. As a user of mobility devices and as one who has researched other equipment in the durable category, especially medical oxygen, I think it important that my concerns be discussed.

Specifically, I am concerned about the cumbersome procedures involved in obtaining medical equipment. The current competitive bidding program, the absence of assurances that award winners will provide batteries, other necessary equipment, and maintenance are among the issues on which I would like assurance—both from Acting Administrator Tavenner and from the Senate Finance Committee with its oversight responsibilities.

I realize that no hearings have been scheduled as of this writing. However, given the importance of Medicare and Medicaid I would appreciate my voice being heard, especially on the subject of indigent disabled individuals who have suffered most from current and proposed CMS practices.

I write frequently on disability issues for Voices of Central Pennsylvania, HME News, the monthly publication of the home medical care industry, and for a variety of other publications. I am the author of three books including Learning to Live Again My Triumph over Cancer. My disability writing can be accessed easily by keyboarding my name into Google.

Thank you.


Joel Solkoff


Of course I cannot testify unless there are hearings.

For a number of reasons, it seems likely that Marilyn Tavenner is not a controversial nominee and the committee and the Senate would vote to confirm her.

It is hard to run something when you do not have the necessary authority.

Politicians are using this election season to talk about the important of Medicare and Medicaid. If they really believe what they say they would hold confirmation hearings.

There has not been a confirmed had of Medicare since the Bush Administration. 



Suggested stories:


What’s the fuss? [Grilled 101]

What’s the fuss? [Grilled 101]

I originally created this blog as a convenient way for readers to have access to my monthly column in Voices of Central Pennsylvania, published from October 2009 to February 2011. While recovering from minor cardiac surgery where the medical standard of “do no harm” was once again violated, I decided to quit my column rather than continue to be a person unable to change Medicare and thus always angry all the time. I wanted to love.

I am a frequenter of hospitals for pneumonia, rehabilitation to a right shoulder that cannot be repaired, diabetes, etc.–invariably released by Medicare dictate before it is necessary; frequently saved by homecare agencies now foolishly required to reduce their services.

In writing my column for February (the one below that begins with bull riding), I opted to reject anger.
Similarly, the once favorable economic conditions in downtown State College, PA where I live had given me the hope that government favorable to the disabled and elderly might provide us with the infrastructure, training, and understanding required to develop and benefit from the talent of those of us who are broken in body but sound in mind.

It is foolish to be angry at my fellow-town mates (in a place that is rapidly turning into a Bruce Springsteen song) who are so beset with troubles of their own that…

So, I gave up the column to work with engineers, architects, and designers who are planning a future that follows the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and where segregation of the sort I experience daily at Ye Olde College Diner and the like (whose lack of access is grandfathered ) does not exist.

What does exist is that I continue to live an independent life. I cannot get from my bed to the bathroom without a scooter or other mobility device. Yes, there is a point where reality requires that I cannot engage in submission, cheerful or otherwise.

I must have access to mobility devices. President Obama, for whom I worked and voted, should be ashamed of himself for not only tolerating, but personally advocating a competitive bidding program for durable medical equipment.

This plan, which the President inherited from President Bush (who used it as part of an effort to gut Medicare) is already, in Pittsburgh and other locations, so altering the process of providing medical supplies such as oxygen, wheelchairs, power chairs, scooters and other mobility devices that local suppliers, such as the three here in State College, would only be able to serve the rich.

The rest of us are or would be at the mercy of often out-of-state suppliers of dubious reputation who would take their sweet time providing batteries and maintenance, resulting in people like me falling and going into assisted living facilities. Thus savings in Part B of Medicare would result in large costs in Part A.

Last year’s measure to end competitive bidding received the bipartisan support of so many members of the House that if the Democratic leadership had called it up for a vote it would have passed. The Senate followed the lead of Senator Robert Casey, Jr. (D-PA) and no member of the Democratically-controlled senate endorsed the legislation.

While Sen. Casey publicly dithered about his position on the subject, his real position appeared to become clear. Sen. Casey is reportedly a friend of the President. The President, for reasons of his own, an informed source told me, personally believes in competitive bidding. Sen. Casey is not going to take a position that would make his friend angry.

Two columns below express the views of Rep. Jim Langevin, a liberal Democrat from Rhode Island, and Rep. Glenn Thompson, a conservative Republican who represent me here in the Fifth Congressional District of Pennsylvania, expressing their opposition to competitive bidding. Their specific advocacy was to the legislation introduced last year, but this year’s legislation is déjà vu all over again.

My friends who meet regularly at the Corner Room in this sliver of left wing political power here in the small borough of State College (surrounded on all sides by Republicans; Republicans to the north; Republicans to the south; Republicans to the east, and Republicans to the west) cherish the liberal’s dream that someday these evil Republicans will turn into progressive Democrats.

My fixation on competitive bidding has made me a source of jest and some mistrust. My support of Rep. Thompson, especially, has made some Democrats suspect my loyalty to the party.

I am a loyal Democrat who believes in the party of Eleanor Roosevelt and Adlai Stevenson. I have no trouble picturing Eleanor Roosevelt shaking her trademark index finger at President Obama and Senator Casey. If they want my vote, they had better start acting like Democrats. Democrats don’t treat people who cannot walk in a way that causes us to feel like cripples.

Shame on you President Obama. Shame on you Senator Casey.

I will pray that you find your way back to the ideals of the Democratic party.

Shame. Shame. Shame.

–Joel Solkoff, March 2011

Exclusive Written Interview of Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI)

Exclusive Written Interview of Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI) by Joel Solkoff, Voices of Central Pennsylvania
1. Why do you oppose the Obama Administration’s efforts to create competitive bidding for medical suppliers of durable medical equipment, such as medical oxygen, power chairs, scooters, wheelchairs, and other mobility devices?

The competitive bidding program was enacted as part of the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003 (MMA) in an effort to improve quality of service and eliminate excess costs in Medicare. While I support these overall goals, flaws within the bidding process sparked early concerns within the program.

Competitive bidding was implemented in July 2008. However, Congress delayed the program two weeks after it began, recognizing the new system was not generating the savings and competition the law had intended. Further, the program was acknowledged to be a potential threat to access and quality of services, vulnerable to corruption, and resulting in fewer suppliers capable of meeting the unique needs of patients.

During the moratorium, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services pursued other avenues that achieve higher quality care and succeeded in cutting costs, yielding savings of 16.5 percent. These alternatives underscore my belief that the original program is ineffective and unnecessary to keep as written law. For this reason, I cosponsored H.R. 3790, which would repeal the Competitive Bidding Program.

2. What are your objections to the attempt to repeal the first month purchase option for users of mobility devices?

Currently the Medicare program allows beneficiaries a choice as to whether they want to purchase the power wheelchair that is right for their size, disability, functional level and home situation, or if they want to rent it. Over 95 percent of beneficiaries choose the first month purchase option because their disability often involves a chronic, long-term condition and they require use of a power wheelchair to remain active and independent in their homes and communities.

The Affordable Care Act repeals the first month purchase option and requires a mandatory 13-month rental, regardless of the acuity of the condition or long-term need of the patient. Unfortunately, many power wheelchair providers do not have the capital or lines of credit in the current economy to bear the burden of paying the up-front costs to procure the appropriate wheelchairs from the manufacturers. Without a one-year delay, this policy could create significant access and quality-of-care issues as providers of this equipment struggle to make the significant changes to their business model to adapt to a new payment model, which has the costs front-loaded with reimbursements from Medicare spread over 13 months. They may also simply go out of business.

A one-year delay of this provision will allow providers of power wheelchairs more time to implement this significant policy change.

3. Why do you think President Obama waited so long to appoint an administrator of Medicare and Medicaid? (I would think a Medicare Administrator could have given the President valuable information and advice during the health care reform process.)

While I cannot speak for the President, I believe that vetting and selecting high-caliber individuals to lead departments and agencies can be a long and challenging process, particularly those that require Senate confirmation. As health reform was considered in Congress, counsel was sought from numerous stakeholders at all levels and throughout all steps of the process. Now that the law has been enacted, the Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is one of many Administration officials tasked with its implementation, which is equally, if not more important to the success of health reform.

4. What affect will Donald Berwick’s recess appointment, with its limited duration, have on the future of Medicare and Medicaid, especially given the strong Republican and Tea-party desire to cut Medicare even more.

Donald Berwick is a highly respected leader in the field of health policy. His knowledge and experience make him uniquely qualified to head CMS, particularly as we begin to institute payment and delivery reforms to maximize quality and efficiency in Medicare and Medicaid. While a Senate confirmation would have been preferable, some senators intended to make Donald Berwick’s confirmation process a referendum on health reform, placing ideology over his qualifications as a potential administrator. Republicans have long stated their intentions to “repeal and replace” the health reform law. We cannot dismiss the probability that they will use every means at their disposal to accomplish this, including the use of controversial amendments, defunding the program through the appropriations process, and blocking future nominees for positions in the Administration.

5. What are your views on the half trillion dollar cuts in Medicare as a way of helping to pay for the health care reform bill?

Health care costs in the United States are rising at an alarming rate. Yet despite the fact that we spend more per capita on health care than any other industrialized country, we produce disappointing outcomes by a number of important health measures. Furthermore, the U.S. remains the only developed nation that does not guarantee health coverage as a right to its citizens.

Health reform will expand coverage to 32 million Americans, promote a strong health care workforce, reduce the deficit by $143 billion over 10 years and protect Medicare for our seniors by extending the trust fund by a decade. These reforms are funded in part through Medicare savings, not benefit cuts.

Reducing health care costs and expanding insurance coverage does not mean we have to raid Medicare. On the contrary, we can and must use the money already in the system more efficiently to ensure a sustainable health care model.

6. As a Democrat who worked for President Obama’s election (and as a paraplegic), I have been disappointed by the President’s insensitivity to issues relating to disability, especially as they relate to the on-going difficulties in obtaining needed assistive technology. What are your views on the subject?

On July 26, 2010, we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This was an opportunity to both celebrate our accomplishments, and reflect on the continuing challenges.

Individuals with disabilities remain one of our nation’s greatest untapped resources, and they continue to face challenges in accessing employment, transportation, housing and even health care. This will only continue as we see increasing numbers of veterans returning with Traumatic Brain Injury, Post Traumatic Stress Disorders and other disabling conditions.

It is more important than ever that we educate businesses and connect them with proper resources to create more employment opportunities in our communities. We must collaborate with local and state governments to ensure that transportation is available and accessible to everyone so they can get to their job, or the doctor, or the grocery store. We need to provide more resources for our teachers so that every child can receive a proper education, which is the stepping stone to a better future.

We must also continue the development of assistive technologies and make sure that computers, PDAs and phones are fully accessible for the vision and hearing impaired. To that end, on the 20th anniversary of the ADA, the House of Representatives passed the Twenty-first Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act, which would require that certain technologies be compatible with devices used by individuals with disabilities, and attempts to increase access to technology through various funding and regulatory requirements. This was signed into law by President Obama on October 8th.

7. Here in State College, PA, I am a constituent of Rep. Glenn Thompson, a Republican with whom you have been working on issues affecting local suppliers of medical equipment. Would you describe what your working relationship with Rep. Thompson is like?

Disabilities don’t discriminate on the basis of party affiliation. I have a long record of working in a bipartisan fashion to enact policies that increase the quality of life for all individuals with disabilities. My relationship with Representative Thompson is no exception.

8. What are your views on the future of productive working relationships with Republicans on health care-, Medicare-, and disability-related issues over the next two years?

While the climate in Washington has been particularly partisan during the elections, it is my greatest hope that we will not let the issues that divide us keep us from the work we were elected to do. Nothing would be more detrimental to our economic, fiscal and social progress than the continuation of partisan rhetoric and the lack of courage to make the tough choices that will ultimately lead us into a more prosperous future.

9. Do you think a Republican-dominated Congress will be effective in preventing full implementation of the health care reform bill?

Passage of the health reform bill wasn’t the end; it was the beginning of a new chapter for health care in America. This law will be judged by the court of public opinion, just as it will be challenged in the courts and in Congress. Some changes will have to be made, and the policy will evolve as our society does. At the end of the day, I believe the reforms will prove popular and successful.

10. Donald Stockman, budget director for the late President Reagan, says the country is out of money, must cut back on everything, and said on ABC’s This Week with Christiane Amanpour that scooter manufacturers should cut back on production. Is the country out of money? Can we afford to provide our disabled population with the assistive technology we need to be productive? Can our economy afford not to develop the talent of people with disabilities?

Americans are innovative and resilient. Although we will have to make tough budgetary decisions to put our country on a fiscally sustainable path, we still have the resources to invest in key areas that will plant the seeds of economic and social growth. We can make transportation and technology even more accessible and available. We can provide more resources to teachers and students to achieve a better education. We can focus on income and asset development so families have the means to become productive members of their communities. If we act with courage and commitment, then we will provide the means for every individual to realize their true potential.

Thank you.

Joel Solkoff, November 19, 2010, Voices of Central Pennsylvania

[Please note: As a columnist, I have the liberty of injecting personal notes in my writing, such as the fact that I am a Democrat.]

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