Friday, April 24, 2015

I've never sued anyone, but I'm considering it...

I'm wondering about healthcare. I live in Texas, where former Gov. Perry refused to expand Medicaid. What that did was leave an enormous group of people--including my family--in a position where we make too much money for Medicaid, but not enough to get a subsidy for our insurance. Now, curse me if you like, call me lazy, tell me to get a better job or whatever, but we do fine. We eat great food, have enough cars to go around and so forth. We don't go out to dinner, don't buy many clothes, and our cars are 8-16 years old. So we do okay. But when I tried to sign up for the Affordable Care Act, we fell between "too much for Medicaid" and "Not enough for subsidies", what I've called The Rick Perry Donut-Hole. And there are several million people in it in Texas right now. To get good insurance--which means nearly zero deductible--I'd have to pay around $18,000 a year for the five people on my income tax return. If I earned another $8,000 I would qualify for a subsidy and pay about $300 a month, or $3600 a year for the same insurance. If I earned $8000 less, we'd all qualify for Medicaid. As it is, we are in that damned Perry Donut-Hole.
      So the question is this: Since Rick Perry, and our current Governor Greg Abbott have left the several million of us without the financial ability to buy insurance by not expanding Medicaid, could we collectively sue the state of Texas for imperiling our health? Yes, we have emergency rooms to use--and yes, I get checked and worked on in Peru when I'm there a couple of times a year--but Perry and now Abbott have left millions of us in a position where we cannot get screenings and checkups because they are unaffordable. That imperils us, because things like cancer are much more treatable if discovered early rather than in late stages.
     Maybe I'm nuts. But I'm already paying taxes for our emergency rooms and everything else, so why am I cut out of medical insurance, or better, why was Perry and why is Abbott allowed to put my family's health in a bad position when there was another alternative that could have easily been accessed--just accepting the federal dollars we already pay in to get our share of the subsidies coming out?
    Sounds like a darned good lawsuit if there's a good lawyer out there.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Push that Mortgage, Baby!!!

So here's the deal. I'm down to $3828 on my mortgage and had an idea. I called the bank that holds the mortgage with this question: "Right now, you've got about $1200 in escrow for this year. After May and June payments--assuming I can make them (please universe, let that happen)--you will have about $1800 in my escrow account. If I pay the principal down to just below what my escrow is, can that escrow be applied to my loan to finish paying it off?"
    The banker, speaking to me from Bangladesh, asked a supervisor and came back with a "Yes, you can be doing that. So long as your escrow is at least one dollar larger than what you owe, that will be fine."
    Which means if I can make two payments at the rate I've been paying, about $600 monthly in additional principal, I might just be free of the whole mortgage by June 1. Plus, turns out my home insurance has been pre-paid through the end of the year. I'll never get rid of the taxes and insurance, but I am starting to get excited about having this stone of a mortgage off my neck. That would be excellent!
    Oh, and since I had to see the doc about my leg this morning, I decided to get my shopping out of the way after the appointment. I wasn't really thinking I needed to cook much tonight, what with the fantastic meat loaf we've got left over, but then I saw sheep breast. It's a cut that looks suspiciously like ribs with a layer of fat left on them, but it is a cut I've never seen in a store before. And a 2.5 pound slab cost $4.91, so I couldn't really go wrong--except for killing the sheep, of course.
    I washed it and cut celery stalks to make a rack for the meat to sit on, then looked up cooking times: Appears to be about 2 hours at 300 degrees, then 20 minutes at 450 to brown the fat side. Cool. I've got a meeting this afternoon in Fort Worth and can put it in at maybe 280 degrees just before I leave and it should be near perfect by the time I return.
    For cooking, I sauteed garlic, onions, diced yellow and red peppers, and tomatoes in olive oil, then mixed that with sea salt, cracked black pepper, a bit of hot curry and some fantastic cumin. When it looked/tasted right, I rubbed both sides of the breast with it--sort of smearing the mix all over it--then put it on the celery stalk rack (celery as a bed to cook on keeps meat moist and lends a bit of a sweet flavor) and covered the baking dish with silver foil.
    It's ready to go whenever I leave. If it sucks, the dogs will have a great treat. If it's great, Madeleina and I will have a great treat. Somebody's gonna be happy. I see that as a win-win. Have a great meal tonight, everyone!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

You just never know what's gonna happen for dinner around here...

You just never know what's gonna happen for dinner at the Gormans on a given night. I don't even know what's gonna happen.
    Today I took out the garbage--the second pick up truck full--from Italo's work on redoing my bathroom: Lots of old tiles, cut new tiles, floor boards and all that heavy stuff. Then I came back, fed four dogs, four cats, noticed that a beautiful finch is nesting in the hole in my porch overhang ceiling and that three or four hummingbirds are digging on the hummingbird food hanging from the porch while half-a-dozen new families of cardinals--or returning old friends, it's hard for me to say--are digging on the wild songbird food hanging from the front tree next to the kid's tree swing.
   Done admiring the birds, I spent time cleaning the bits of tile paste that were on the bathroom floor from the recent installation, made calls for a couple of stories, got in a heated Facebook argument about Sapo, the Matses frog sweat medicine, cleaned the kitchen, did some pushups and then it was time to go to the store. I needed Comet to finish the bathroom floor. Plus paper towels, new chalk for the girls, garbage bags, catfood, dog food, new bathmats for when I'm done the finish work in the bathroom, ibuprofin for my damned sciatica, lettuce, onions, tomatoes.
   When I got to the store, part of which was accompanied by a full-blast Van Morrison Into the Mystic, I realized I'd accounted for everyone but Madeleina and I. What the hell were we going to eat? I was broke, so steak was out of the question. We had beef ribs recently, so the short ribs in the fridge didn't tempt me. I made fresh burgers last night so they were out, shrimp was super highly priced and small, we had salmon a couple of nights ago with the beef ribs...Okay, I picked up a loaf of fresh Italian bread with sesame seeds thinking I'd make nice, hot, roast beef and pepperjack cheese--with seared red pepper--sandwiches. But on the way to the deli counter I overheard some kid complaining to his mom: "Meatloaf is just hamburger meat in a dish. I hate that..." and so I got inspired to make meatloaf.
    I already had left over ground chuck, eggs, red onion, garlic, yellow and red peppers, tomatoes, ketchup, scallions, celery, good breadcrumbs...all I really needed was ground pork. I'd rather make it with pork/veal/beef, but I can't do veal for the last 25 years or so because I think that it's cruel even beyond my sensibilities--and I accept a lot of pain from the food I'm gonna eat. So pork and beef. But I got so excited I forgot the damned chalk!
    Madeleina was nice enough to re-up the garlic in olive oil we keep on hand while I diced all the other veggies and put the meat on the stove to cook it just enough to eliminate 40 percent of the fat.
    While that strained I sauteed the garlic in olive oil, onions, celery, peppers, scallions. When they were near done I added the diced tomatoes. While that was going on I salt-and-peppered the meat, added bread crumbs, a little ketchup, and pulled a few eggs from the fridge.
    When the veggies were done I added them to the meat/breadcrumbs and when it cooled a bit I added the eggs, some Worstershire sauce, more black pepper--butcher ground--then mixed it by hand till everyone knew everyone and the mix was even, then dropped it all into a pyrex container, topped it with a little ketchup, three slices of bacon, and tossed it in the oven at 340. It should be done in another half hour. It's starting to smell nice.
    If anyone asks, I don't really know how we wound up with meatloaf, except for the kid who hates his mom's meatloaf mentioning it loudly at the store.
    Hey! I'm not so proud. I'll take inspiration where I can get it.
    And Madeleina can use the Italian bread with sesame seeds to make a salmon sandwich to take to school tomorrow. It's all working out.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Another Anti-Hunter Rap

So someone posted a photo of a huntress lying next to a giraffe she'd just killed. She's lying next to it's neck and smiling so much she's beaming. The photo brought her a lot of heat. She responded by saying that she and other hunters were playing a vital role in conservation--as if managing giraffes has been a problem we've been trying to deal with, eh?
   Well, some nicely intentioned person wrote on a blog that they didn't see the difference between killing chickens and pigs to killing lions, hippos, rhinos, giraffes, black and brown bears, wildebeast, zebra and so forth. I do see a difference. And trust me, I feel for every goddamned tomato I had pulled from its life on the vine and every radish who's heart I cut to pieces because I know they feel the death and don't like it anymore than we would. That said, here was my short response to the well-intentioned woman:
    Yes, we kill to eat. But no one except perhaps some indigenous, eat giraffes, or elephants and certainly no one eats big cats as a rule. And yes, if people raised those animals on exotic hunting farms, as they do, there would be less outrage. But to have someone pay money to have someone else locate your often-endangered, exotic game, then drive you into the best possible position from which to shoot it, then have you shoot it and take you to it for photos as if you have done something good or important, well, that's what the outrage is about. This is not even hunting. These hunters are not out there tracking prey with a chance they will become the hunted. (Except for that hunter killed by the elephant recently). I take people to the Amazon jungle and sometimes get offers from hunters for big money to take them on a safari where they can shoot a jaguar. I tell them I'll do it on condition that we mount a camera on the barrel and remove the firing pin, so that when you pull the trigger, you get a picture of the jaguar up close, rather than a dead jaguar. In nearly 30 years, no one has taken me up on the offer, an indication that the thrill isn't in getting dangerously close to a very dangerous animal, the thrill is only in the killing. And that's just wrong.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

New Drug War Follies column in Skunk magazine

My new column for Skunk magazine. You know, I was very lucky to be asked to contribute to Skunk about 10 years ago. And I've run my column, Drug War Follies, in all but a couple of issues--I think I was late with it twice and then in the hospital once or twice and didn't write one. Today, the latest issue came and I got to see what I wrote about 6 weeks ago and I was happy with it. I was reading it and thinking, Gosh, I wish I wrote that!--and then of course, realized I did write that. Silly, but still a good rush to be happy with work well done. So here it is, and the whole issue is great because it covers the Women of the Cannabis Movement. And when the editor, John V, announced who he was going to cover, lots of us in the movement longer than him--and he's a well-seasoned pro now--reminded him of names some people have forgotten that he then included. So while nobody asked me to tell you to go buy the current issue of Skunk, with the key cover line being Women of Weed, I'm still going to tell you to do it. It's a good time to tip our hats to hundreds of women who have worked ferociously to end the drug war, to lessen the pain of the drug war, to inform a lot of us of illnesses that cannabis can help treat in a body-friendly way. These are women who put their lives and freedom on the line and they are fantastically brave and if I was a soldier and had the right, I would salute them all. As I'm not, I can only say a very respectful, Thank you. Thank you very much for your work, your sacrifice, your hearts. 
    Here's my new column:
Drug War Follies #84

Those irascible Repubs! That incredible DEA! Hell, we almost got a flippin’ lovefest going on here. Not!


By Peter Gorman


Well, well, well. We sat on our asses while the gerrymandering went on. We sat on our asses during the last election cycle. And now we’re gonna pay the price here in the U.S.A. for that. You people up in Canada have your own problems with insane Conservatives, I know, but when it comes to outright idiocy, I think my Congressmen and Senators from Texas alone have all of the nutty Canadian politicos beat. Batty John Cornyn? Can-Tex Teddy Cruz? Little Louie Gohmert? That’s a Texas-sized six-gallon hatful of fucking crazy right there.
    So in case anyone is not keeping score--and I know I’m getting off the drug war tact here for a few minutes but this is important, so pay freaking attention!--the Republicans maintained control of the House of Representatives and took control of the Senate recently. And emboldened by what they see as the will of the people of the U.S. after that victory, they lost no time in pushing through several bills that would not just set us back 100 years, but would have us fighting the Civil War all over again while they ate popcorn and applauded the bloodshed.
    Yeah, okay, so what did they do?
    Well, first thing was pass a bill allowing the Keystone Pipeline to proceed full speed ahead. Why? Because they’re freaking stupid, that’s why. For years everyone with a brain in their general vicinity has been noting that the Alberta Tar Sands won’t produce jobs, will not provide any petroleum products to the U.S., and TransCanada won’t even have to pay taxes on moving it through the States because it’s being shipped out of the international free port of Port Arthur. Nonetheless, top of the agenda: Push the Keystone through, with Crazy John Cornyn still insisting it will produce 250,000 jobs. John, take off the tinfoil, John. Lay it down easy there, boy. Don’t hurt yourself.
   Okay, we knew they were gonna pull that shit because it will make Obama veto it and then the Repubs can claim the president is obstructing jobs. Yeah, all 35-40 of them, mostly going to TransCanada execs--unless you count the thousands of jobs we’ll create to clean up tar sands spills--which can’t really be cleaned up. 
   Then they went after the Affordable Care Act again, lodging the 57th lawsuit intended to overturn Obamacare. For those who forget, among the provisions of the ACA are 1) insurance companies must use 80 percent of the funds they bring in for actual medical care, not for administrative costs; 2) insurance companies cannot turn people down for a pre-existing condition; 3) insurance companies cannot set limits on the money they spend for a person’s treatment; 4) kids up to 26 are kept on their parent’s insurance policies. 
    Those four items alone make it a fantastic law. Which is why the Repubs want to repeal it so badly. Just an ornery, dumb bunch.
    Then they’re about to shut down the Department of Homeland Security because they’ve tied funding our border patrol to quashing President Obama’s immigration policies--so he ain’t gonna be signing that any time soon. By the way, those immigration policies simply say that the U.S. deport criminals here illegally before they deport illegal parents of legal kids who got citizenship based on having been born here. 
    Then they’ve introduced legislation to ban abortion after 20 weeks, regardless of circumstances.
    They’ve said they will call for states to receive block grants for education from the federal government which they can utilize for anything at all--they don’t want education funds earmarked for education. Isn’t that special? How to balance a state budget on little Timmy’s back, 101.
    They’re planning even more nonsense: after having used the Senate filibuster a record 315 times during the first six years of Obama’s presidency to prevent bills coming up for a vote, they’re now suggesting they change the rules to prevent any filibusters by the Democrats.
   They’ve introduced a bill that would make it illegal for the president to create new national parks or national monuments--the standard way in which those parks and monuments have been created for more than 100 years. Hell, yeah, who needs more protected green space when we can use that land to strip mine for coal and copper after we’ve clear-cut the trees?
   They’re about to introduce legislation that will allow employers to not provide full time employees with health care.
   Bills are being introduced to provide more corporate tax cuts. They want to privatize social security. They plan on allowing corporations to cut their contributions to worker’s pension funds. They’ve introduced legislation cutting worker disability payments and food stamps. They’ve introduced legislation to further gut restrictions on banks and investment firms so that greed can run unbridled into the night.
   See where this is going? Straight to hell in a hand basket. Every goddamned decent social cause and safety net, trampled on. Who are these people? I know they say “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” and all that, but a person cannot do that if they ain’t got boots. 
   I got issues with the president and the Democrats. They’re way too wishy-washy for me, way too centrist and not nearly bold enough or brave enough to push through real reforms that would transform the U.S. back into an innovative powerhouse. Hell, they can’t even get money to rebuild freaking infrastructure--which would not only save lives but produce millions of good jobs--so yeah, I got issues. But the guys on the other side of the fence--they really suck. They really like to inflict pain on the weak, the young, the old, the infirm, the powerless. Probably haven’t got a full-sized dick among them.
   Watch out below, because the U.S.A. is falling fast.

Ya know, I just can’t get over going to the DEA’s official website and going through their top stories now and then. I’ve said it before, but somehow I think their top stories are going to involve intercepting 10 tons of coke or a ton of heroin or 1 million oxycodone or something like that. I mean, we spend better than $3 billion a year on them and so I expect they’re going to do spectacular things. Now, personally, I want all drugs legalized, period. I do not want one more person losing freedom or property over drugs, drug dealing, for the rest of time. I want the private prisons closed, I want drug cops laid off, I want drug courts abolished. BUT, if you’re going to spend $3 billion on the DEA annually, you’d think their top stories would be pretty spectacular accounts of airplane chases, cigarette boat chases, warehouse busting, you know Miami Vice sort of stuff. But that’s just not how it is: On a recent Monday, the top national DEA stories, the ones they were touting to show what a great job they were doing included one story about two doctors in Detroit illegally prescribing oxycodone and Roxicodone to patients, then buying it back from them and selling it to street dealers. Another top story involved a deputy sheriff and her brother trying to sneak 36 pounds of weed across the Mexican border. A third involved an operation called Operation Safe Schools, which netted 19 small time dealers within 1,000 feet of schools and playgrounds in the South of Market district of San Francisco.
   Those are pretty small time busts. I mean, for $3 billion anyway. But at least there were no reports of wrong address killings or the like, so that’s good. But considering that tons and tons of cocaine are imported daily to the U.S. and Canada, and that probably a full ton of heroin comes in and tons of meth, well, either someone’s asleep at the wheel or the real dealers are very, very good at what they do. If we’d legalize, it would all go away. And the people who get in over their heads? We’ll we could give them maintenance drugs or offer them a free hospital bed with all the money we’d save. That’s the ticket and we all know it’s true. But embedded bureaucracy is tough to dislodge. One way to do it would have the President come out for ramping up the war on drugs 20 notches. The Repubs would immediately object and demand an end to the whole damned drug war.
It would all be funny if people weren’t dying and the prisons weren’t full.


Friday, April 10, 2015

Madeleina's 18th!

So yesterday, April 9, was my daughter Madeleina's 18th. Happy Birthday, baby! We made it! That was the promise, and I'll try to be around for another 10-20, but we got this far and that's fantastic. At the same time, she had a show last night, Leading Ladies, by Ludwig, a bawdy farce about people trying to get at a dying woman's money. Very well done. Madeleina was the old lady and she, like the rest of the cast, worked very well together and were splendid.
    After the show, Chepa, the babies Sierra and Alexa, and my grand daughter Taylor Rain came over for ice cream cake and birthday gifts and Italo, my oldest was here working on the bathroom and he stopped long enough to sing and at one point, when I thanked him for his work he stopped me in my tracks with: "Hey, Pops! You don't thank me. We're partners in this life and the next life!" And I rejoindered, "And probably in the last life too." I love my boys and nearly died when he said that. Can you imagine hearing it? Just beautiful.
    Of course, that didn't mean he swept up all the nails and bits of tile from the bathroom floor that my feet found at my 3 AM piss. No matter. Small price and a limited amount of blood to pay.
    So my daughter is 18. That's something. She's smart, beautiful, talented and can help me run a ceremony like a 300 year old shaman. I'm saying out loud that I'm very, very proud to be her dad this time around. I have not regretted one instant of being her dad, or dad to Italo and Marco--though there were times all three infuriated me. But I would not trade one moment of dadness for a billion bucks. And I feel the same about Sierra and Alexa, though they're not mine biologically. They're still part of the family and I love them beyond love.
    So in case you all were thinking that us Irish are cold as potatoes, I'm here to tell you, that's not always true.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

The Mess, the Cleanup

I told you that my oldest, Italo, came over while I was food shopping--and the stuffed peppers turned out spectacularly, by the way--and tore my bathroom apart. Pulled the toilet, pulled the tub, tore up the tiled floor, pulled half the rotten flooring under the tile and half the wall on three sides of the tub/shower. Then he replaced the rotten flooring with new plywood. While he did that, Madeleina and I ate dinner. Italo didn't join: When he gets going, he's not stopping. Fortunately, I had a few beers someone brought over to keep him going.
    After dinner and a movie, I went to bed. He kept working and who knows when he went back home. All I know is there was a note on the bathroom door saying flush the toilet with the bucket--he'd replaced it for morning emergencies, thank you--and then added that he'd finish the job next year. Me? I got up at 5 AM knowing I had some calls to make but nothing on an emergency level, so I made coffee and settled in to read the newspapers on the internet. My jobs, other than cleaning up the kitchen from last night's dinner, and the living room where the two new dogs got into a couple of rolls of paper towel and left hundreds of bits of paper everywhere--along with a couple of ruined ping pong balls, one torn baseball and three ripped sox--was either to mow lawn or finish the back porch fence I've been redoing.
    The choice was overwhelming, so I went with the cleanup in the house, then sat back down at the computer. The lawn could wait because it looks like rain, I convinced myself.
    But then who shows up but Marco, my second, and he said Italo told him to come over to help with the bathroom. As Italo wasn't there, he said he'd start mowing some lawn. He did. I could not avoid joining the fray. So I raked and bagged the cuttings in the areas where the grass was really tall--under the bird feeder it was taller than two feet--then took over mowing. Marco got the direct front yard, so I hit on the side yard, a 40 X 40 stretch covered in fallen branches from the harsh winter winds. Then I hit the huge front lawn, about 40 X 110 and then here comes Marco with a second mower. He hit the fenced in part behind the house, a nice 50 X 80, then went after the huge space beyond the side lawn I'd done. Which meant I couldn't quit without looking like a sissy, so I hit a space between the creek behind the garage and office building.
    Thank god, he left for a while so I can relax, write and have a glass of wine. Next up, supermarket time, and then, I'm afraid, both Italo and Marco will be working on the bathroom, so I'm going to be forced to work on that back porch fence. I've got one section to put into place and another to rebuild--about 10 foot long, but I've got the wood all cut. After that, time to paint it all but that's almost fun.
   So things are a mess right now. There's crap and wood and tiles and old tubs everywhere. The lawn needs a serious raking and the fence needs finishing. But by the time we get it all built and cut and all that stuff, well, it's gonna look great. Only problem is: That's when the clean up starts. And as good and generous as my boys are, clean up is not in their vocabulary. Oh well, at least I won't have to worry about the tub falling through the floor when I'm showering. And the lawn looks absolutely fabulous, dahling.