The Sash My Father Wore, or How the Orange Came to Ireland

“I remember music. The Glorious Twelfth is celebrated in July as a grand march in Belfast to mark the occasion when King Billy of Orange (the Dutch prince who became the Protestant King William III of England, Scotland and Ireland) rousted the Catholic King James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.

We lived at a house on Marguerite Park, just off the Upper Lisburn Road where the bands from the Orange Order lodges would parade wearing their dark suits, orange sashes, and white gloves, with their big Lambeg drums beating out the rhythm of The Sash My Father Wore. My mother would play hostess bringing chairs for the family to sit on the crowded sidewalks and watch the marchers with their colorful banners of orange, green and white and pictures of William of Orange proudly displayed. We watched as my father marched by with his lodge and sash, and I remember the music.”

“The word orange,” according to author John McPhee “evolved from Sanskrit.” Originally a Chinese fruit, the orange traveled west through India and into Persia where it became naranj then finally orange in France. An old Roman city in the south of France had a name which sounded somewhat like the local word for orange – auranja – similar to the Spanish word for the fruit. The city eventually came to be known as Orange, and the prince of the city, Philibert of Orange, provided certain services to the Holy Roman Emperor of the time for which he “…was awarded a good part of the Netherlands…The Prince had no immediate heir, and his possessions and titles eventually passed to a German nephew. This was William of Nassau, Prince of Orange, who founded the Dutch Republic and the House of Orange.”(1) It was that subsequent holder of the title Prince of Orange who became William III. The Protestants in England were afraid of a Catholic resurgence and invited William to “invade” on a usual pretext in 1688 and depose James II. Thus, the orange was introduced to Ireland.

So sure I’m an Ulster Orangeman, from Erin’s isle I came,
To see my British brethren all of honour and of fame,
And to tell them of my forefathers who fought in days of yore,
That I might have the right to wear the sash my father wore!

It is old but it is beautiful, and its colours they are fine
It was worn at Derry, Aughrim, Enniskillen and the Boyne.
My father wore it as a youth in bygone days of yore,
And on the Twelfth, I love to wear the sash my father wore.

For those brave men who crossed the Boyne have not fought or died in vain
Our Unity, Religion, Laws, and Freedom to maintain,
If the call should come we’ll follow the drum, and cross that river once more
That tomorrow’s Ulsterman may wear the sash my father wore!

It is old but it is beautiful, and its colours they are fine
It was worn at Derry, Aughrim, Enniskillen and the Boyne.
My father wore it as a youth in bygone days of yore,
And on the Twelfth, I love to wear the sash my father wore.

And when some day, across the sea to Antrim’s shore you come,
We’ll welcome you in royal style, to the sound of flute and drum
And Ulster’s hills shall echo still, from Rathlin to Dromore
As we sing again the loyal strain of the sash my father wore!

Belfast – July 12, 2006.

(1) Oranges, John McPhee, pages 64-65. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 2000.

Single Audits and COVID-19 Relief Funding

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Something to be aware of if you are a nonprofit organization is the potential effect of COVID-19 relief funding on single audits. A nonprofit organization which expends $750,000 or more in federal financial assistance within one year must have a single audit. Grants, cost reimbursement contracts and loans, among other sources of funding, can be included in determining whether the $750,000 threshold is achieved. The Uniform Guidance is the authoritative set of rules and requirements for Federal awards.

The AIPCA has asked the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) a series of questions about the impact of relief funding on the need to have a single audit which you can download here.

Here is what the AICPA has said regarding whether Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans and Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) are subject to single audit:

One of the most common questions we have received is whether SBA PPP loans obtained by NFPs are subject to the Uniform Guidance single audit requirements. The good news is that we have recently received an answer to this question. Based on recent discussions with SBA staff, we have been informed that PPP loans made to NFPs will not be subject to single audit.

On the other hand, SBA informed us that loans made to NFPs under the EIDL program are considered a direct loan program disbursed from SBA to loan recipients. Therefore, these loans are considered federal financial assistance and are subject to the Uniform Guidance single audit requirements.

On March 19, 2020, the OMB released a memo apparently allowing a six-month extension for auditees to submit their single audit. Although according to the AICPA the memo has caused confusion:

The memo is not [emphasis added] instructing federal agencies to provide a blanket waiver for all recipients impacted by COVID-19. Instead, its guidance primarily relates to recipients receiving funds disbursed from the approximately $9 billion in emergency supplemental appropriations for coronavirus preparation and response (H.R.6074). Note that there could be cases where agencies may decide to apply the guidance in the memorandum for existing awards that are deemed by the agency to be for continued research and services necessary to carry out the emergency response relating to COVID-19.

Guidance is expected soon.

Relief Provisions for Individuals

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Relief programs of potential benefit to individuals under the CARES Act and the Families First Coronavirus Response Act include the following. Additional information is available at the IRS Coronavirus Tax Relief page.

Recovery rebates for individuals

To help individuals stay afloat during this time of economic uncertainty, the government will send up to $1,200 payments to eligible taxpayers and $2,400 for married couples filing joints returns. An additional $500 additional payment will be sent to taxpayers for each qualifying child dependent under age 17 (using the qualification rules under the Child Tax Credit).

Rebates are gradually phased out, at a rate of 5% of the individual’s adjusted gross income over $75,000 (singles or marrieds filing separately), $112,500 (head of household), and $150,000 (joint). There is no income floor or ”phase-in”-all recipients who are under the phaseout threshold will receive the same amounts.

The rebates will be paid out in the form of checks or direct deposits. The IRS will compute the rebate based on a taxpayer’s tax year 2019 return (or tax year 2018, if no 2019 return has yet been filed). If no 2018 return has been filed, IRS will use information for 2019 provided in Form SSA-1099, Social Security Benefit Statement, or Form RRB-1099, Social Security Equivalent Benefit Statement.

Rebates are payable whether or not tax is owed. Thus, individuals who had little or no income, such as those who filed returns simply to claim the refundable earned income credit or child tax credit, qualify for a rebate.

Unemployment Benefits

Includes an additional $600 on top of the current weekly benefit amount.

Waiver of 10% early distribution penalty

The additional 10% tax on early distributions from IRAs and defined contribution plans (such as 401(k) plans) is waived for distributions made between January 1 and December 31, 2020 by a person who (or whose family) is infected with the Coronavirus or who is economically harmed by the Coronavirus (a qualified individual). Penalty-free distributions are limited to $100,000, and may, subject to guidelines, be re-contributed to the plan or IRA. Income arising from the distributions is spread out over three years unless the employee elects to turn down the spread out. Employers may amend defined contribution plans to provide for these distributions. Additionally, defined contribution plans are permitted additional flexibility in the amount and repayment terms of loans to employees who are qualified individuals.

Charitable deduction liberalizations

The CARES Act makes changes to the rules governing charitable deductions:

(1) Individuals will be able to claim a $300 above-the-line deduction for cash contributions made, generally, to public charities in 2020. This rule effectively allows a limited charitable deduction to taxpayers claiming the standard deduction.

(2) The limitation on charitable deductions for individuals that is generally 60% of modified adjusted gross income (the contribution base) doesn’t apply to cash contributions made, generally, to public charities in 2020 (qualifying contributions). Instead, an individual’s qualifying contributions, reduced by other contributions, can be as much as 100% of the contribution base. No connection between the contributions and COVID-19 activities is required.

(3) Similarly, the limitation on charitable deductions for corporations that is generally 10% of (modified) taxable income doesn’t apply to qualifying contributions made in 2020. Instead, a corporation’s qualifying contributions, reduced by other contributions, can be as much as 25% of (modified) taxable income. No connection between the contributions and COVID-19 activities is required.

RMD requirement waived for 2020

In general, Code Sec. 401(a)(9) requires a retirement plan or IRA owner to take required minimum distributions (RMDs) annually once the owner reaches age 72.

The CARES Act provides that the RMD requirements do not apply for calendar year 2020 to: (I) a defined contribution plan described in Code Sec. 403(a) or Code Sec. 403(b) ; (II) a defined contribution plan which is an eligible deferred compensation plan described in Code Sec. 457(b) but only if such plan is maintained by an employer described in Code Sec. 457(e)(1)(A) ; or (III) an individual retirement plan.

The RMD requirements also do not apply to any distribution which is required to be made in calendar year 2020 by reason of: (I) a required beginning date occurring in calendar year 2020, and (II) such distribution not having been made before January 1, 2020.

Two Weeks of Emergency Paid Sick Leave

The law requires employers with fewer than 500 employees (including nonprofits) and government employers to provide their employees two weeks of paid sick leave, paid at the employee’s regular rate, to quarantine or seek a diagnosis or preventive care for the coronavirus. It also requires payment at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate to care for a family member for those purposes or to care for a child whose school has closed or child care provider is unavailable due to the coronavirus. These provisions expire at the end of December 2020.

Twelve Weeks of Emergency Family and Medical Leave

The law expands the number of workers who can take up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act for coronavirus-related reasons. After the two weeks of emergency paid leave (above), employees of employers with fewer than 500 employees will be eligible to receive at least two-thirds of each employee’s usual pay. Employees must have been employed for at least 30 days to qualify and meet a “qualifying need related to a public health emergency.” The qualifying reasons for the emergency paid leave are caring for a child if the child’s school or childcare center is closed due to coronavirus. The provisions would also expire at the end of 2020.

 

See additional information at:

Guidance for Stay-at-Home Order, Sacramento County (Wagner Kirkman Blaine Klomparens & Youmans LLP)

Defending Against COVID-19 Cyber Scams

Covid-19 Stimulus Programs for Small Businesses

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Three major pieces of legislation have been signed into law creating several relief programs. The following is a brief summary of some of these programs (the links provide sources of additional information). You can expect changes and clarifications, but due to funding caps and the number of businesses expected to apply for assistance, it is important to determine the course of action which best suits your organization.

According to the Journal of Accountancy as of April 16, the Paycheck Protection Program quickly exhausted the $349 billion in initial funding:

SBA has approved more than 1.6 million loans submitted by nearly 5,000 lenders. That has accounted for more than 14 years’ worth of loans in less than 14 days, according to a joint statement issued Wednesday night by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza. Mnuchin and Carranza also urged Congress to approve $250 billion in additional funding.

These programs aim to encourage employers to retain employees through a combination of: loans or credits towards payroll taxes for businesses which retain employees; payroll tax credits to cover the cost of providing coronavirus-related leave; and delayed payment of the employer-portion of payroll taxes.

Participation in some of these programs exclude one from participation in another, so they should be carefully analyzed.

SBA Paycheck Protection Program Loans

The Paycheck Protection Program is a loan designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll. SBA will forgive loans if all employees are kept on the payroll for eight weeks and the money is used for payroll, rent, mortgage interest, or utilities. The Paycheck Protection Program will be available through June 30, 2020.

Small businesses and sole proprietorships affected by the coronavirus pandemic can apply for loans under the federal Paycheck Protection Program beginning Friday, April 3. Starting April 10, independent contractors and self-employed individuals can apply.

Loan forgiveness is based on the employer’s maintaining or quickly rehiring employees and maintaining salary levels. Forgiveness will be reduced if full-time headcount declines or if salaries and wages decrease. You can apply through any existing SBA 7(a) lender, and the SBA is advising businesses to contact their local bankers.

The National Council of Nonprofits has a chart describing the different loan programs under the CARES Act.

Businesses participating in Paycheck Protection Program Loans may not receive the Employee Retention Payroll Tax Credit described below.

Employee Retention Payroll Tax Credit

A refundable tax credit has been created to assist employers in retaining employees. The credit is computed at 50% of qualified wages paid by eligible employers for up to $10,000 paid to each employee between March 13, 2020 and Dec. 31, 2020.

Employers can be immediately reimbursed for the credit by reducing their required deposits of payroll taxes that have been withheld from employees’ wages by the amount of the credit.

Eligible employers will report their total qualified wages and the related health insurance costs for each quarter on their quarterly employment tax returns beginning with the second quarter. If the employer’s employment tax deposits are not sufficient to cover the credit, the employer may receive an advance payment from the IRS by submitting Form 7200, Advance Payment of Employer Credits Due to COVID-19.

Qualifying employers must fall into one of two categories:

  1. The employer’s business is fully or partially suspended by government order due to COVID-19 during the calendar quarter.
  2. The employer’s gross receipts are below 50% of the comparable quarter in 2019. Once the employer’s gross receipts go above 80% of a comparable quarter in 2019, they no longer qualify after the end of that quarter.

These measures are calculated each calendar quarter.

Eligible Employers who paid qualified wages between March 13, 2020 and March 31, 2020, inclusive, will report 50% of those wages together with 50% of any qualified wages paid during April, May, and June 2020 on their 2nd quarter Form 941, Employers Quarterly Federal Tax Return, to claim the employee retention credit. Employers should not include the credit on their 1st quarter Form 941.

An eligible employer may not receive the Employee Retention Credit if the employer receives a Small Business Interruption Loan under the Paycheck Protection Program described above.

Coronavirus paid sick leave and family leave

Eligible small and midsize employers can claim refundable payroll tax credits, designed to reimburse them, dollar for dollar, for the cost of providing coronavirus-related leave to their employees.

The Department of Labor has issued this FAQ to address questions about the program.

Delayed payment of employer portion of payroll taxes

Employers (including self-employed individuals) will be able to postpone payment of 50% of 2020 employer-portion of payroll taxes until Dec. 31, 2021; the other 50% will be due Dec. 31, 2022.

Also see this recently issued COVID-19-Related Tax Credits for Required Paid Leave.

Insurance Coverage

The question naturally arises as to what, if any losses insurance policies will cover. As this is a highly complex matter that is likely to be litigated, no general predictions can be made.

IRS Scam Warnings

People are urged to take extra care during this period. “The IRS isn’t going to call you asking to verify or provide your financial information so you can get an economic impact payment or your refund faster. That also applies to surprise emails that appear to be coming from the IRS. Remember, don’t open them or click on attachments or links. Go to IRS.gov for the most up-to-date information.”

 

Information from various agencies can be found at these links:

Families First Coronavirus Response Act Poster

Internal Revenue Service

Franchise Tax Board

California Office of Business and Economic Development

National Council of Nonprofits

State of California

90-Day Mortgage Payment Relief

Eviction Protection for Renters

California Association of Nonprofits

Wagner Kirkman Blaine Klomparens & Youmans LLP covid-19 resources

U.S. Chamber of Commerce

FEMA

Candid – Listing of Funds for Coronavirus Relief

“Been a Breach of Promise”

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Back in the Sixties, Pete Townshend said he didn’t mind “other guys dancing with my girl.” It was fine because he knew “them all pretty well.” Now in the Teens as a septuagenarian, Townshend doesn’t mind “other guys ripping off my song.” Which he so expertly demonstrates by lifting the melody line from that early Who single and giving it a fiery new incarnation as All This Music Must Fade. It’s still fine now, because “we never really got along.”

The joke is that most music is recycled in some form or another. After all, there are only so many guitar chords. This is a theme The Who have visited many times. On the album Who Are You, Pete lamented that he wrote “the same old song with a few new lines, and everybody wants to cheer it.” On Who By Numbers, the complaint was that he’s “seen magic and pain, now I’m recycling trash.” And on Quadrophenia, he was already doubting his own relevance by declaring –

I have to be careful not to preach
I can’t pretend that I can teach
And yet I lived your future out
By pounding stages like a clown…

Thinking The Who no-longer had a place in music with the onslaught of the punk movement (which ironically was greatly influenced by The Who) in the late Seventies, Townshend issued his most angry challenge through his solo work on Rough Boys

Rough boys
Don’t walk away
I’m still pretty blissed here…

But back to All This Music Must Fade where Pete updates this feeling of irrelevance by declaring at the end “who gives a fuck?” The answer, or perhaps example, is found in the next song from the forthcoming album – Ball and Chain. The song is about Guantanamo, where men are “still guilty with no charge.” In this, everyone should care, because it remains one of the most egregious human rights violations committed by America. But when was the last time you heard anything about this “breach of promise.” We should all give a fuck.

If the rest of the record is as good as these first two songs, Roger Daltrey is right in claiming it is The Who’s best since Quadrophenia.

Who, due out December 6, 2019.

Returning to Earth

The fighter jet, a North American F-86 Sabre, flamed out. Or perhaps it ran out of fuel. Certainly, the later would cause the former – the extinction of flame in the combustion chamber – but the events are not necessarily synonymous. In the milieu of flight, these things happen. In the milieu of memory, what matters is that you safely returned to Earth.

The pilot has two friends was what you told me – speed and altitude. So you stayed high and continued your flameless glide. This was the right stuff – surfing the clouds and hoping for a break, for a sighting of Earth. 

With luck, you make your own, so why not double-up. When that break in the clouds appeared, not only was there Earth but also a glimpse of runway. You landed and because of that, so did I. You once broke the sound barrier, and now you have broken the speed of Earth and are with the stars, finally admitted to the space program.

In your all too brief instructions, the doomsday book, you began at the end and returned to the beginning. This is my journey to rediscover your life – my homage to you. This is how my mind works when inspiration steals sleep at 3am most nights. This is how I feel it all, find my compassion and kindness, and regain my footing on this Earth.

This will be the first time I am missing your encouraging comment on this blog – “well written son.”

 

What is to be Done?*

“Nihilists! Fuck me. I mean, say what you want about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it’s an ethos.”

Fascism is a surprising difficult word to define. The term itself has been reduced to a mere insult which obscures our ability to identify the dangerous trends in society that allow fascists to thrive. Rather than name calling, we should understand such trends and work at solutions to overcome and guard against them. These societal conditions are particularly insidious as they develop slowly, often unnoticed for many years, until by the right combination of events and party politics, a monster steps into the breach. It takes a society to create a dictator.

In looking at fascism as a movement, where do we start searching for lessons? Do we look at Russian Stalinism, German Nazism, or Italian Fascism? Do we mean totalitarianism or authoritarianism? What about czarist Russia? The argument quickly gets lost in terminology. In On Politics, Alan Ryan considers the essential elements of fascism to be “…racism, nationalism, irrationalism and antiliberalism.” We certainly see these elements in American politics from time-to-time.

Ryan also considers the existence of cults, namely the Cult of Leadership and the Cult of the Party. The Clintons, Bushes and even Obama have strong cult followings. And the current incumbent has added the Cult of Celebrity to the list. Certainly, the Cult of the Party is strong among Democrats and Republicans whose use of the word “patriotism” often seems a demand for loyalty. When does adoration transform into an obsessive following that we should worry about? Richard Evans, in The Third Reich in Power, explains that “[of] all things that made the Third Reich a modern dictatorship, its incessant demand for popular legitimization was one of the most striking” – another familiar note that can be heard in American politics.

This is not to say that America is on the road to fascism. The world is far different from that of the 1930s. But we have been passing some of the same sign posts. The Nazis “…always held the letter of the law and the institutions of the state in contempt” (Evans). There was a “…division of the world into friends and enemies,” and liberal democracy was regarded “…as a fraud perpetrated on them by the victorious Allies at Versailles” (Ryan). Intellectuals were scorned – another American trait. The Third Reich also benefited from the spread of radio as a means of mass communication. Oppressive regimes always seem to be early adopters of new technology. Mythology also played an important part. Goebbels’ propaganda machine (the Ministry of Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda, to give its full name) explained the murderous rampage of the Night of the Long Knives as a sort-of “Make Germany Great Again” moment which saved the country from ruin.

The development of European Fascism in the 1930s was the result of at least sixty years of tumultuous history. Longer if you include the Napoleonic Wars**. Go back to 1870 when Bismark provoked the French into attacking the German states, precipitating the Franco-Prussian War and the subsequent unification of Germany in 1871. The defeat of the French armies created a vacuum into which the Paris Commune stepped and briefly ruled. Karl Marx got some good ideas from the Commune and obtained some fame from his analysis of those events.

But the new German state’s acquisition of Alsace-Lorraine was to rankle the French for some time. Intellectuals considered it to be “…war in perpetuity under the mask of peace” (Edgar Quinet as quoted in Alistair Horne’s The Fall of Paris). Also remember that the American Civil War had just ended in 1865, with President Lincoln’s assassination shortly thereafter. The world was in a fragile state in 1871, and the stage was set for the First World War to follow when old divisions and grievances would be aired.

The American entry into the First World War resulted in the unconditional surrender of Germany by breaking the stalemate on the Western Front. The French were quick to take their vengeance in the punitive Treaty of Versailles. Had America not entered the war, the terms of an armistice might not have been as harsh. Add to this, the failure of democracy in Weimar Germany, crushing inflation, and finally the Great Depression, and you had conditions in Germany under which it would have been surprising had a dictator not risen from the ashes. Resentment and mythology were such driving forces behind nationalism at the time, that when Hitler accepted the French surrender in June 1940, he used the same railway car in which Germany had surrendered to France in 1918.

In “The Concentration Camps,” Hannah Arendt observed that “[t]he next decisive step in the preparation of living corpses is the murder of the moral person in man.” So what is to be done? “If we are keenly aware of the weakness of human reason, we can guard against that weakness. If we understand the extent to which we are governed by mythical forms of thinking, we can assist reason to exercise a proper control over our conduct” (Ryan).

We must beware of leaders, and of party politics. It is time for civil discourse. Time for reconciliation.

 

* Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, otherwise known as Lenin, felt the Paris Commune made three mistakes: banks were not seized; the proletariat was unnecessarily magnanimous; and “instead of annihilating its enemies, it endeavored to exercise moral influence on them” (Horne).

**It is interesting to consider that for a time, England’s King William IV was also the King of Hanover (later annexed by Prussia). William died in 1837, and his niece Victoria assumed the English throne. But Hanover subscribed to Salic Law which meant that only a male could succeed to the throne. But because of an accident of birth, how might history have changed?

Henry V also used Salic Law to justify his invasion of France – according to Shakespeare:

My learned lord, we pray you to proceed
And justly and religiously unfold
Why the law Salic that they have in France
Or Should, or should not, bar us in our claim.

See Alan Ryan, On Politics; Richard Evans, The Third Reich in Power; and Alistair Horne, The Fall of Paris.

Time Man of the Year.

Chronology of an Appendectomy

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Well…that’s the appendix gone. From start to finish, it was less than twenty-four hours. A blind-ending tubular structure arising from the cecum is no more, and I am reliably informed that it will not grow back.

Monday, April 23, 2018

3:00 am

I awaken feeling exactly like I did at Canyons 100k one year ago where I found myself lying on the ground at mile forty-three with severe abdominal pain. Thinking this was food-poisoning again, the next three hours were occupied with vomiting. However, there was something odd…only clear fluid was coming up.

7:15 am

Since the abdominal pain is not getting better, Debbie suggests I call Kaiser, and an appointment is made to see my primary care physician, Dr. Ferris.

10:30 am

After almost throwing up in – and thereby redecorating – my doctor’s office, I am given some ondansetron – often prescribed to prevent nausea and vomiting caused by cancer drug treatment and radiation therapy – nice! Since I have no fever, appendicitis cannot be diagnosed. Appendicitis is an infection, so there should be a fever. This could still be a gastrointestinal matter. I am advised to rest and monitor for temperature. If a fever develops, I should call 911 and go to emergency.

3:00 pm

With the pain level remaining constant, I notice my temperature is up by one-degree. Is that a fever? A faulty reading? Within the tolerable error of the measuring device? It’s warm upstairs. Perhaps I should go downstairs and check it there…Nope, still one-degree. I resolve to wait and see if it goes up by two-degrees.

3:56 pm

Email to Dr. Ferris. Is one-degree considered a temperature?

4:30 pm

Temperature now at 100.6 degrees. That’s my line-in-the-sand. So I change into hospital ready clothes and debate taking a book along in case I am bored. The book stays, since I sense the experience will be worth remembering…

4:44 pm

911 call is made, and I sit out front waiting for the ambulance.

4:49 pm

Text to Debbie to let her know what is happening. Ambulance arrives one-minute later and off we go (amount billed to insurance $2,366.54)…Debbie arrives quickly in the ER.

6:00 pm

In the ER, blood tests show dehydration with low electrolytes. Blood pressure is high. Lactated Ringers IV started which includes electrolytes – sodium chloride, potassium chloride, sodium lactate and calcium – good for an ultra marathon. Another dose of ondansetron is included, also good for an ultra marathon. At some point, I begin shaking uncontrollably, possibly because the IV is cold…so…

7:15 pm

Bring on the morphine! This stuff works fast. I know I am in pain, but I just…don’t…give a damn…

At some point, a CT scan with contrast material is performed which confirms the diagnosis of acute appendicitis.

8:30 pm

Zosyn, a penicillin antibiotic is started. One of the surgeons, Dr. Lehrer, introduces himself. “What do you think…should we take it out?”

Me – “seems like it will just cause problems if we leave it in. Let’s yank it.”

He explains the procedure which will be a laparoscopic appendectomy. Three incisions will be made, carbon dioxide gas will inflate the abdomen so that my insides can be viewed with a camera. The operating room will be available soon, so they expect to start around 10:30 pm. This allows Debbie to explore the Kaiser canteen, since she has not had dinner.

10:24 pm

I am given some mouthwash, probably because I’ll be intubated due to the anaesthesia. The nurses ask whether I have had general anaesthesia in the past. Debbie leaves to get a few hours of sleep…whatever I was given for anesthesia works remarkably well. I barely remember being wheeled into the OR…just before my lights went out, I recall seeing the operating lights and thinking it looked like a film set.

Tuesday, April 24. 2018

12:01 am

Although I have no recollection, senator, surgery is finished.

various times

I dreamt that someone was trying to talk to me. This confused me. Was I being asked if I knew my name, or where I was? Of course I know my name, what does it matter…can’t you see I’m trying to sleep?

3:00 am

I wake and look at the clock, realizing the whole appendix thing has been a dream. Turns out, I didn’t need to have it removed, and I am home. But wait…why am I in a hospital bed, and where are the cats?

Additional antibiotics are added to my IV drip – ceftriaxone and a gastrointestinal antibiotic called metronidazole, which is also used to treat vaginal infections. So I am covered under various scenarios…

various times

Throughout the early morning hours my legs are being treated with a type of compression device that alternatively inflates around each leg. Although this is used to prevent blood clots, it is very soothing on the calves.

5:32 am

Ketorolac, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, is added to the mix.

7:24 am

My vital signs are looking good. Blood pressure is back down at 122/71 and pulse is a respectable 51 (all that running).

8:26 am

Famotidine, which inhibits stomach acid production, is also introduced to the IV. Is this because I am about to be served breakfast in bed?

Dr. Lehrer visits me in the morning, and even though he said I would not remember him, I do remember his confidence and kindness from last night. His approach had just the right mixture of humor and professionalism which communicated that although any surgery has risks, this one should be just fine. There was never any moment of doubt.

Noon

I am discharged around noon, and Debbie’s bright and smiling face is there to take me home. I am prescribed hydrocodone (an opioid synthesized from codeine, one of the opioid alkaloids found in the opium poppy) for the pain. Rashly, I think I can make it through the pain without the opiates. This fallacy only lasts a few hours before I am ripping the top off the bottle…

In a few days, the pathologist will call to go over findings. There were no concerns, and the appendix was not perforated. However, the pathologist said my appendix was probably about 12-hours away from bursting. Both the surgeon and the pathologist noted that my appendix had gotten rather large.

My greatest thanks to Debbie who came to my side when I needed her. The joy of growing old together is that we get to take each other to hospital. And of course, thanks to all the doctors, nurses and paramedics. From primary care to the ambulance, from the ER to the OR, it is immensely reassuring to be surrounded by such a group of professionals.

I have pictures, but will spare the internet…hopefully back on the trails in four-weeks.

Stormy Weather

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Why Trump? After repeatedly backing Democratic candidates in the U.S. presidential contest, were the Russians tired of backing losers and thought it was time to splurge on the long-shot? New charges brought by Robert Mueller against former Trump advisors Paul Manafort and Rick Gates begin to connect some of the dots. It is staring to look like this tangled web starts with something called the Orange Revolution. And no, this has nothing to do with hair color.

Putin’s man on the ground in Kiev was one-time Ukranian president, Viktor Yanukovych. Ukraine held a run-off election on November 21, 2004, between Yanukovych and challenger Viktor Yushchenko. The exit polling showed Yushchenko defeating Putin’s ally Yanukovych with 54% of the vote. The next day, after armored vehicles rolled into Kiev, Ukraine’s Central Election Commission announced that Yanukovych had won the election with 49% of the vote. This did not sit well with Yushchenko and his supporters. The Revolution had begun.

A new election was ordered by the Supreme Court, and Putin criticized Western governments for attempting to interfere in the election (Ron Paul reported that “several US government agencies…sent US taxpayer dollars into Ukraine in an attempt to influence the outcome“). Shortly after this, Yushchenko disappeared. He was the victim of an assassination attempt – poisoned by dioxin, a toxin used in Agent Orange. Yushchenko eventually recovered and ended up serving as president from 2005 to 2010.

What does this have to do with Mueller’s investigation? Yanukovych, the ultimate loser in the Ukranian election, paid millions of dollars to Manafort and Gates for their work as political consultants in the Ukraine. One wonders what sort of advice they gave to Yanukovych. Did they end up giving similar advice to then candidate Trump? Putin most likely looked favorably upon Manafort and Gates for their assistance in the Ukraine. If Trump was their man, well then, it seemed only logical for Putin to become a Trump supporter…but it actually might be worse than this.

This new indictment of Manafort and Gates, includes an amazing list of allegations. The duo is accused of international money laundering, bank fraud, tax evasion, lying to the FBI, and a possible connection with another Putin associate, Oleg Deripaska, who is unable to obtain a US visa because of possible links to organized crime. All-told, approximately $75 million was funneled through off-shore accounts, and hidden from the IRS, by Manafort and Gates. There is also the possibility that Manafort and Gates influenced members of US Congress into taking pro-Russian views on the Ukraine.

It is difficult to know how this ends up for Trump. He can always claim that he fired Manafort and Gates after learning of their Russian connections. If you are Mueller, you don’t turn the screws this hard, unless you know you are onto something massive. My guess is that the issue of Russian influence in the election is a distraction, and that it is ultimately a money-laundering rap for Trump.

Mueller seems to be doing well by following the money. If Trump cash can lead to Stormy Danielle and Karen McDougal, where else might it take us?

A female Sumatran orangutan, Pongo abelii, at the Gladys Porter Zoo.

The Russians are Coming

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The Russians have been at it for some time…and will continue to do so. The United States cannot stop Russian interference any more than Americans can stop its own government from meddling in the economies and elections of other countries or from spying on its own citizens. The important thing, is to cultivate an informed electorate that is able to distinguish between logical, reasoned argument and bullshit. Given the unequivocal nonsense coming from both Republicans and Democrats, this, I fear, is the harder task. Common sense is in very short supply.

There are signs of hope coming from Florida students and the #MeToo movement. If they can both avoid the fate of the Occupy movement, there is a chance that politicians can be forced to engage in real policy debate, and even the possibility that the sway of that domestic terrorist organization which goes by the initials NRA will be diminished (ultimately, divestiture may be the answer to the NRA threat…it worked in South Africa).

The Student (#NeverAgain) and #MeToo movements would be wise to study the tactics used by the U.S. government against Occupy. It is now well documented that the Obama administration used several pages from Nixon’s play book to bring down the Occupy movement. Both the FBI and Homeland Security were used to infiltrate and inform against Occupy members. Obama also abused the Espionage Act to put “a record number of reporters’ sources in jail.” In fact, Obama used the Espionage Act more than any other administration combined, and this includes Nixon. Do the Russians really need to interfere in American internal affairs when our government has become increasing authoritarian and a threat to personal freedoms?

The 1984 (ironically) election slogan “Reagan Means War,” was a Russian (then the Soviet Union) plant. The Russians also didn’t go for Nixon and offered to finance Hubert Humphrey’s campaign. Well, you know what they say, if at first you don’t succeed…at least the Russians showed some bi-partisan spirit this time by backing a Republican candidate…

Perhaps the most audacious operation the Russians undertook was something called Operation Snow. Both Churchill and Stalin hoped the United States would enter World War II. Whereas Churchill used the overt mechanisms of diplomacy, Stalin covertly relied upon an agent within FDR’s administration to influence American foreign policy.

Harry Dexter White was a senior official at the US Treasury and was sympathetic to the Soviet Union. He was among the many who were fooled by Stalin, including FDR who fondly referred to Stalin as “Uncle Joe.” White became the pawn used by the Soviets to provoke the Japanese to attack the United States. You can read the detail in the links. Inevitably, the Japanese were going to attack America regardless of any Soviet provocation. But the point is, the Russians were inside Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s administration lobbying their own interests.

One benefit of having an idiot as president is that it draws the curtain back on the office. Those who run the country are not endowed with super-intellects or knowledge. Members of Congress, for the most part, are not smart. They only know what they are told by lobbyists and are bereft of the ability to critically appraise or analyze their own intelligence briefings. Pay no attention to what those men and women behind the curtain tell us to believe. Remember that they work for US. We, the people, will decide when it is appropriate to talk policy about gun control, the systematic abuse of women by the powerful, or whatever…

“Suppose you were and idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.” – Mark Twain

Spasibo!