Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Life's not fair: why we can't delay the individual mandate

When liberals accuse conservatives of being “heartless,” they (we) should try to bear in mind that just about everybody believes it is wrong to deny health insurance coverage to a person with a pre-existing condition. Most Americans don’t think insurance companies should be allowed to discriminate against people based on things they mostly cannot control.

  • 89% total: 63% of respondents said ending pre-existing condition discrimination "absolutely must" be part of a healthcare reform law, another 26% said they "would prefer" it. September 2009
  • 64% say they support the provision that prevents insurance companies from denying coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. December 2010
  • 0% of those who said they wanted all or part of the ACA repealed indicated that they specifically wanted coverage for pre-existing conditions removed (see page 19). January 2011
  • 82% of respondents favored banning insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. June 2012
A Kaiser Family Foundation health tracking poll found that half of Americans say they have someone in their household who has a pre-existing condition. Of those, a fifth say they've had trouble getting coverage. It's not surprising that most Americans, regardless of political or even religious ideology, are fair-minded about the issue. They don’t think people should be turned down by insurance companies just because they already have arthritis or are pregnant or have been a victim of domestic abuse.

Insurance is a bit like small scale opt-in communism, sold as a private product. We could bastardize Marx and describe it thus: "From each according to their liability, to each according to their need." People with pre-existing conditions have greater needs, which drives up the total cost of care for all members of the pool, which drives up premiums for healthier members. If we don't want everyone's existing premiums to skyrocket when those with pre-existing conditions are added to the pool, we need something to offset the cost of their greater risk (ie more expensive care).

Most developed countries have solved this dilemma by having a public or semi-public healthcare system (single payer or two-tier, both of which come with their own set of potential issues). Public healthcare of that magnitude is not especially popular in the United States. Its supporters are substantial within the electorate, but not enough to get their agenda through a system which has notoriously difficult barriers to major legislation. Remember that even with the Presidency and super-majorities in both houses of Congress, Democrats still failed to enact their pet healthcare project; a government/public option, and instead passed a reform bill based partly on an earlier conservative plan. To enact any reforms at all, public measures for inclusion would have to be balanced with something else to support our private healthcare industry, which makes up about 18% of our GDP and would hurt us grievously if it were to disappear or take a body blow. It is not surprising then, that America’s recent healthcare reform was essentially a public-private hybrid solution.

Here's the idea: people with pre-existing conditions must be sold health insurance. To keep premiums from rising for those of us who already have insurance and to prevent people from gaming the system by only purchasing health insurance when they're already sick or injured, the government will require everyone to purchase health insurance or pay a tax penalty. The government will use tax penalty revenues from those who could afford health insurance but will not buy it to help offset the costs of subsidizing insurance plans for lower-income Americans through the exchanges. If it works, rates will not rise significantly when the higher risk people are added to the pool. If we're lucky, the big influx of healthier, lower risk people into the insurance market (whether they qualify for a subsidy or not) will help lower premiums for everyone. It should also lower the number of citizens who misuse the emergency care mandate established in the mid-80s which could also lower premiums and would definitely drive down the costs of Emergency Medicaid.

If nearly all of us want to make it illegal for insurance companies to discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions without making existing premiums increase as a result, but not enough of us want a single payer or two tier system (socialism!), and most of us don't want to cripple or seriously harm an industry which makes up about a sixth of our GDP: any reform which ends discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions by allowing them to purchase the same insurance as everyone else must include an individual mandate of some kind. Otherwise we might as well not bother.

Make no mistake: the House Republicans' goal is to yank down a load bearing wall by any means possible and then blame the contractors for faulty construction as the law continues to go into effect without a provision it absolutely requires to succeed. Ending pre-existing condition discrimination without the individual mandate will not only decimate the ACA, it will all but guarantee massive premium hikes for those of us who are responsible enough and/or lucky enough to have insurance in the first place.

Delaying the individual mandate creates a dreaded "unfunded mandate"the government will not take part of in the revenue expected to pay for low income insurance exchange subsidies or other government-funded aspects of the law. The provisions of the law intended to balance each other out fiscally will be out of whack.

Many Americans believe that delaying the individual mandate is "only fair" because they've heard that the President gave a substantial break to the business community. Like most talking points, this is a bit misleading. The issue of "fairness" is twofold. First, many people believe that if businesses are given a one year delay of their mandate to provide insurance, individuals should be granted the same delay. The thing is, the employer mandate is not the hinge upon which the entire ACA turns (which is why the extension was granted after businesses demonstrated that they were working towards compliance in good faith), but again: the individual mandate is absolutely integral to the success of the law. Without enforcement (via penalty) of the individual mandate, the ACA will not work. Think of it this way: the ACA is a house which can function without internet for a while if it must, but everything screeches to a halt if the power goes out.

The second issue of "fairness" is the belief among many Americans that certain businesses were made exempt from participation in the law at all. It is true that some businesses have been granted waivers but these employers did not receive a waiver for a full exemption from the employer mandateThe administration has granted temporary waivers to about 1231 employers, which represent fewer than two hundredths of one percent of the total number of employers in the country. Here's where the GOP's claims of "fairness" fall apart:  These 1231 employers received a temporary waiver for compliance with new rules about annual and lifetime limits on coverage. Read more in this bit of testimony to the House Oversight Committee regarding the waivers ('The Bridge to 2014' section especially).

The ACA may or may not fail on its own merits. It will fail in its first year if this Tea Party-inspired congressional meltdown manages to delay the individual mandate, which is the lynchpin holding together many popular provisions of the law, including mandatory coverage of those with pre-existing conditions. Republicans say we need to give people a chance to "see how it works," but the thing is: the newly enacted provisions of the law won't work without the individual mandate. (Catch-22, much?) Louie Gohmert might think this all makes perfect sense, but Speaker Boehner and plenty of other House Republicans ought to know better.

Republicans demanded a massive sacrificial offering last week when they proposed a delay of the individual mandate in exchange for funding the government at Paul Ryan budget levels. They were not asking for a small, reasonable budget concession as has happened in the past. They were not asking for something "fair" to reflect the drop-in-the-ocean number of businesses which have received temporary waivers for compliance with new annual and lifetime limit rules. They were not exercising their "power of the purse." They were asking Democrats to deliberately sabotage their signature legislative achievement even though Republicans lost all three popular votes last election: for the presidency, the Senate, and the House (they hold the House thanks only to creative gerrymandering, but that's a tale for another time).

Egged on by the Tea Party, House Republicans want to force Democrats to eject the ACA's warp coreafter which they will almost assuredly criticize it for not being able to travel at light speed: "We told you it would fail!"

Some Republicans say failing to fund the government and using the debt limit as leverage is "no big deal."

If you were trying to make a group sabotage something they value and take great pride in (warts and all), would you offer (more accurately, withhold) something relatively worthless in return? I doubt it.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

In which I promise not to blog about feces

Late last January I found myself puking on the sidewalk in front of a local bar. Had this scene unfolded back in 2005 (the year I turned 21) it wouldn't have been a remarkable tableau in the least. Since it happened in 2012 and I was brought down by only 3-4 beers over the course of four hours (unheard of!), the public regurgitation signaled that something was amiss.

That's the night I figured out I was pregnant. I didn't urinate on a stick for another week or so, but look: if 3-4 beers takes me down like the Titanic (too soon?) then I'm either pregnant or my liver's finally erupted into open rebellion. As it is, my liver's fine and come October I'll push from my nether regions a human who will inevitably incite actual rebellion against me in 13 to 16 years.

My guess is that rebelling against aging hipster parents mostly consists of wearing cardigans like they're necklaces and listening to a lot of Pat Boone. And not ironically.

This is a wanted, planned kid. We're happy. Still, I'm not looking forward to the back end of gestation; I already feel like a sperm(ed) whale and I only weigh 135 pounds. I'm ~15 weeks in. Go ahead. Hate me. I know. I'm sorry. Neither am I looking forward to having a newborn, having been around enough of them to know that only something deep within the reptilian section of our brains stops us from leaving the screaming excrement-machines outdoors to suffer from exposure. Who actually looks forward to begging a tiny bundle of rage & tears to please, please let you know what's wrong because you already fed it, burped it, sang to it, and changed it? One night in the not-too-distant future, Husband is going to be awakened by my anguished shouting from second bedroom:

 "English, [insert expletive]! Do you speak it!?!"

I'm looking forward to having a potty trained kid with a smattering of language skills. I'm looking forward to finding out what sort of person results from mixing my DNA with Husband's. I'm looking forward to (hopefully) raising a decent human to counteract the swelling population of awful humans. I'm looking forward to being able to call out horrible parenting for what it is without some dolt saying "Oh! But you don't have children yet!" as though I need to have children to know that parents shouldn't slap their kids around for anything short of a secret meth lab in the garage.

Pregnancy obviously makes for good blog-fodder though, especially when you're as cynical pragmatic about it as I am. Expect another Syndicate revival, but don't worry, I'm not going to morph into a doe-eyed mommy-blogger. Expect semi-regular updates on why I hate it when people think that I want to talk to them just because I'm incubating. Don't expect pictures of the spawn, either inside me or once it's out. Expect diatribes against the concept that human reproduction is "miraculous." Don't expect a lot of stories about poop. I know no one wants to read about that sh*t.


Friday, September 23, 2011

Rick Santorum thinks talking about your loved ones is a sex act

A few ugly Americans flew their bigot flags on national television during last night's Fox News/Google-sponsored Republican primary debate. Stephen Hill, a gay soldier currently serving in Iraq, asked the candidates whether they planned to reinstate DADT if elected. A fistful of audience members booed the active duty serviceman as he asked his question, adding "booing a soldier" to a rap sheet which already includes "cheering for the death penalty" and "cheering for the deaths of the uninsured." One wonders if the jeering meatheads would be willing to fly to Iraq in order to boo Mr. Hill's rippling biceps in person.

Co-moderator Megyn Kelly directed the active duty soldier's question to professional gay-basher Rick Santorum, who answered with his usual steaming pile of incoherent, pseudo-moralistic excrement:
SANTORUM: I would say any type of sexual activity has absolutely no place in the military. The fact they are making a point to include it as a provision within the military that we are going to recognize a group of people and give them a special privilege to, and removing don't ask don’t tell. I think tries to inject social policy into the military. And the military's job is to do one thing: to defend our country...  
KELLY: What would you do with soldiers like Stephen Hill?  
SANTORUM: What we are doing is playing social experimentation with our military right now. That’s tragic. I would just say that going forward we would reinstitute that policy if Rick Santorum was president. That policy would be re-instituted as far as people in, I would not throw them out because that would be unfair to them because of the policy of this administration. But we would move forward in conformity with what was happening in the past. Which was- sex is not an issue. It should not be an issue. Leave it alone. Keep it to yourself whether you are heterosexual or homosexual.

What "special privilege" did the repeal of DADT give gay & lesbian service members other than the right to willingly risk taking a bullet (or, more likely, an IED) without having to lie about who they're writing home to? Gay & lesbian service members haven't been granted any "special" privileges in a post-DADT military, they've just been granted regular privileges—like the right to speak with honesty about how much they miss their significant others without fear of being booted out of an all-volunteer armed forces.

Santorum's incoherence reached operatically idiotic heights as he argued that "sex is not an issue" in the military, that it should be "left alone" and people should just keep their orientations to themselves. Mr. Santorum, like many of his ilk, fails to understand what "keep it to yourself" really means meant for a gay soldier.

It meant that when everyone else talked about missing their wives, husbands, boyfriends, and girlfriends, the gay soldier had to remain silent. Or, if s/he wanted to commiserate with buddies about the pain of being separated from a significant other, then the gay soldier was forced to lie. It meant that gay soldiers had to actively hide their private lives from their fellows and superiors, constantly living with lying just to continue to be allowed the "privilege" of risking their lives for people who would boo them on national television.

Men like Rick Santorum believe homosexuality is only about having sex. In his world, gay people don't form genuine bonds with their significant others, they don't rely and depend upon their partners for support, they don't yoke themselves to each other and build a life together. In Rick Santorum's world, DADT served the purpose of shutting gay soldiers up because he thinks they're icky.

"I would say any type of sexual activity has absolutely no place in the military." Rick proclaimed. But DADT wasn't really about just sexual activity, it was about orientation. A straight soldier saying "Hey, I sure miss my wife!" is not a heterosexual sex act, and a gay soldier saying "Hey, I sure miss my boyfriend!" is not a homosexual sex act. Stephen Hill was not committing a sex act when he showed his face on national television and admitted to being a gay soldier, which could have gotten him discharged just one year ago.

Of course, Mr. Santorum might actually believe that service members ought not be allowed to talk about their significant others, period. But more likely he just doesn't want to face the reality that there are gays & lesbians who chose to do something he has never done: risk life & limb for their country while enduring long separations from loved ones. And he can't tell them to shut up anymore.

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Monday, September 19, 2011

In which I tack toward dead people & people who are just dead inside

My willingness to be intimate with the whole internet only goes so far. Once I'd shared my thoughts on divorce and nasty break-ups, my well of personal-narrative flavored blog fodder went dry. If I had a nickel for every time I've attempted to write a post only to end up in the fetal position at the bottom of the self-defeat pit, I'd be pissing off some bank tellers or diving into a pool full of nickels while wearing a duck bill. Either or. After several months of weighing the pros and cons, I've officially decided to talk history & politics here at the Syndicate.

For a long time I've been hesitant to write about much more than my own inability to walk in a straight line even when sober, partially because female bloggers are often subject to psychotic harassment. I get the feeling that women who write about politics & history are even more subject to the rantings of frothy market-and/or-biblical fundamentalists than your average narrative blogger. I considered writing anonymously. Then I rejected that idea. While I do not have colossal delusions of grandeur (usually), I like being recognized when my internal chimpanzees manage to pound out something intelligible.

Second, I've been hesitant to pontificate at length about history, politics, and related topics because I'm painfully aware that while I'm certainly more intelligent (or at the least more knowledgeable) than most people, I'm also acutely aware that what I don't know could displace every water molecule in the Mariana Trench. I'm the daughter of a man with degrees in political science from Oxford and Duke (not to mention a published book & a half). Every time I think I know what's up I go home for dinner only to realize that, compared to the genius-level types, I am every bit as lacking as the people who believe Jesus & George Washington wrote the Constitution on the back of the Ten Commandments after the Noah's Ark rainbow prophesied the Laffer curve.

But while I readily and happily admit that there is much that I do not know, and much more that I might never know, I get stark raving angry when I encounter ignoranceespecially if the ignorance seems willful. Think about how much you hated Felix Gaeta by the end of BSG. It's like that. My desire to write about politics stems not from a desire to be the Explainer (the world has plenty of those), but because I need an outlet. Otherwise, I fear I may die of a ruptured temple or a heart attack.

For example, my conversational partner in a recent social media dust-up curtly (if not smugly!) informed me that the Post Office is an unjust encroachment by the government upon an industry that "should have remained private", and as such is counter to the founding ideals of our country. Nearly a month later, I am still flabbergasted. I thought it was common knowledge that the Post Office is explicitly mandated by the 1787 Constitution. That someone with any level of higher education could be so apparently clueless about the history of the USPS and its origins in the founding of America kept me up nights; partially because ignorance makes me sad, but moreso because my eyeballs throb with rage when obvious falsehoods & inaccuracies are cited as though they are self-evident facts .

The Federation doesn't even use the Constitution anymore and they know that sh*t.

With that said, I won't just be dealing in current events. I'll be discussing American history in general (those of you who follow my tumblr aren't surprised), as well as pop culture through a historical and political lens. I fully expect that I will demonstrate huge gaps in knowledge and understanding on a regular basis. It is my hope that at least a few of my more authoritative readers will help me fill those gaps when they crop up. To that end, I plan to install a more interactive comment platform before lift-off.

While this is a major shift in subject matter, don't expect a huge shift in tone. Political and historical ignorance might make me Hulk-out, but not so much that I lose my sense of humor. Also, while I think a lot of ideas and beliefs are patently stupid, I also understand that people (generally) come by these ideas sincerely. I'm not out to make anyone feel bad about themselves, but when Texas is replacing Thomas Jefferson with St. Thomas Aquinas & John Calvin or when perfectly intelligent people long for the non-existent halcyon days when we "just got along" I am single-minded in my compulsion to call that crap out.  

Finally, I have a few loyal followers spread across several social networks who have often encouraged me to alight the soapbox in a more public setting. As a gigantic walking mouth, I am happy to oblige.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

And just where have you been, young lady?

Mid-term elections have a tendency to whip me into a rabid frenzy; those of you who keep up with me on Twitter can confirm that last November's results gave me what I'd like to casually dub a rage boner. Years like 2010, I thank myself profusely for giving up cable television in favor of making the monthly comics budget rain. Even without cable news to rile me up like a wet bobcat in a gunny sack I still spent the last few months writhing in the throes of political junky-ism. Rather than allowing the Syndicate to morph into a spittle & froth coated amateur politics blog, I opted to take a sabbatical. (You're welcome.)

When I wasn't twitching uncontrollably at some new spurt of idiotic demagoguery, Husband and I spent the last few months of 2010 preparing for our escape from Orange County. We came tantalizingly close to moving just a stone's throw down I-40 away from my hometown, but we changed our plans just as my visions of Carolina-born babies were looking more and more like imminent reality. Instead, we stayed in California and moved to an old (and until recently, decaying) citrus boom town with a population of just 70,000.

Granted, 70k isn't small by my grandmother's standards - she grew up in a Virginia-Carolina border town home to less than 200 people (I'm related by blood or marriage to just about all 200 of them) - but 70k seems downright quaint  once you've lived in a major population center for a decade.

Moving away from Orange County lowered our expenses by hundreds of dollars, freeing me up to quit my labor-intensive job and dedicate myself to taking care of our house (read as: preparing it for the spawn we plan to make in the next year or so). I'm relieved and grateful to have been freed from the shackles of punching a time clock, but I still need something other than the relative strength of various household cleaning agents to occupy my brain cells. To keep my synapses from atrophying irrevocably, I'm going after a few freelance writing gigs. We'll see how it goes.

Now that I'm not busy packing up all of our worldly possessions or ripping my hair out in frustration over election-season hackery and my rather serious crisis of confidence has abated, stay tuned for more regular posting.

Thanks to everyone who asked after me during my radio silence.

See you next week.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

"That Black Boy Took My Swing!" or, Dr. Laura Deserves a Time-Out

Soon-to-be former talk radio personality Dr. Laura believes that she's "lost her First Amendment rights" because sponsors aren't willing to stick with a woman whose advice to a black caller concerned about how to deal with epithets from her husband's friends was that she "shouldn't have married outside of her race." Here's the thing Dr. Laura: You can holler the N-word all you want and (not-so) obliquely insist upon racial purity all you want. You can even do so without legal recourse as long as you're not attempting to incite a hate crime, but that doesn't mean anyone has to listen to, condone, or finance your drivel in national syndication. You can still go get yourself a soapbox and a megaphone and stand up on a street corner and holler whatever you want - but nowhere in the First Amendment are you guaranteed freedom from criticism or the social consequences of acting like an asshole. 

One sticky Carolina afternoon a year or so after Reagan left office, I made a complete ass of myself too. I took a flying leap from a swing on a dare and landed nearly knee first in the dirt. Triumphantly, I dusted myself off and turned around to go again, but my swing? Was occupied.

A little boy whose name I can't remember had quickly usurped the vacated swing the second I flung myself off of it and into the air. I was pissed.

"I. Am. TELLING!" I shrieked, and I stomped off to the gazebo where our afterschool counselors were gathered around a picnic table, ostensibly making sure no one died.

I marched up to one of them, interrupting the counselors' (I just realized they were younger than I am now) rousing game of Uno. I tugged at at the nearest grown-up sleeve and pointed towards the playground.

"That little black boy took my swing!" I shouted nastily.

The counselor's eyes popped wide open in shock. He slid off of the picnic table bench and squatted down. I began to shift my feet around inside my Keds as he looked me square in the eyes.

"Who took your swing now?"

I set my jaw.

"That. Little. BLACK. BOY!"

I should point out that the afterschool counselor was also black. (I can't remember his name either, and I'm not sure what that says about me considering my usual propensity to never forget anyone, ever.)

"Do you mean the little boy took your swing?" .

"NO! I mean that BLACK boy TOOK! IT!"

The counselor shook his head and walked over the the gazebo's railing. I followed, expecting justice for my stolen swing to be quickly meted out just as soon as the counselor realized that I'd been robbed; that he was focusing on the wrong thing here.

Instead, the counselor came back down to eye level and asked me a question I've never forgotten.

"Why did you call him black?"

What the hell kind of a question was that? And what about my SWING, HUH?

"Because he is black!"

"What if a white boy had taken your swing? Would you have screamed that the white boy took it?"

I turned that one over for a moment.

"No. But that boy is BLACK. And he TOOK my swing! And I WANT IT BACK!"

The counselor looked away for a moment.

"Did he push you off of the swing?"


"Did you get to swing for a long time before he got on?"


"Don't you think you ought to be sharing?"

"Y- NO! I was THERE FIRST! And I just did my jump and I was going to go back and then that-"

I pointed again, wildly,

"-little black boy took it away!"

The counselor had finally had enough.

"Margaret. I want you to sit here. For ten minutes. And I want you to really think about sharing. And about why you feel like you need to holler about what color he is."

I was shocked. Time out was unacceptable. My swing had been stolen, where was MY justice? Why was I being punished for calling the swing thief what he so obviously was? I crossed my arms and slunk to the ground to do my time, but just in case the counselor didn't know how I felt about this whole thing, I yelled,

"Fine! But I am TELLING that you put me in time out because I said he's black when he IS! You put me here because I'm WHITE!"

He walked back to other counselors and re-joined the Uno game. I thought one of the white counselors might release me from my time out; I was obviously being punished unfairly. After a few minutes of enraged muttering, which impressed no one, I fell silent.

So I sat and I pouted, but inevitably, I pondered. In 1990, I was sure I'd been grievously wronged, that the counselor and the boy were obviously in league against me because they were black and I was white.

In high school, after not thinking about the incident for years, I recounted the story to a friend and realized that I had been a complete asshole.

The counselor didn't put me in time out because I was white. He put me in time out because I'd come up to the counselors demanding that the little boy be ejected from the swing because I wanted it all to myself, and on top of that I'felt the need to scream about the boy's race, even though that wasn't the issue.

But it wasn't simply that I'd said it. It was how I said it.

I can still hear my voice, a tiny five year old white Southern girl demanding  - in her haughtiest, most nasty voice possible - for that swing thieving little black boy to be dealt with, because she sure as hell didn't HAVE to share with him or anybody else.

I deserved those ten minutes. That time out didn't harm me. That time out didn't squelch my First Amendment rights; they let me holler and mutter until I wore myself out. But it did punish me for acting like a greedy, borderline racist little brat.

When I hear people screeching that their First Amendment rights have been violated because no one wants to put up with their borderline or blatantly racist drivel (What up, Dr. Laura?), I almost always flash immediately back to that afternoon, and I can't help but wonder:

Are you really being discriminated against, or silenced unfairly? Or are you just getting a Time Out for acting like an asshole?

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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Giraffe-Necked Baby Was All In Your Head

Thursday night, I dreamed that I gave birth to a little giraffe-necked girl who could talk from the moment she was born.

When my dream-water broke, Husband and I drove to a bizarre urban log-cabin house-that-was-a-hospital, where I was assigned to a birthing room filled by an enormous bed. As soon as I was prone, a nurse straight out of 1944 stuck me with a gigantic syringe. I must have Dream-Blacked-Out, because the next moment I was waking up as Husband handed me our little long-necked girl.

I want boys, by the way. More than once I've instructed Husband to inform his swimmers of my preference.

We called her Julie or Juliana or some variation thereof, but she insisted at least twice that she wanted to be named after me (Listen, my darling little dreamed up giraffe-necked talking baby girl, do NOT encourage me. Your mother is self-aggrandizing enough as it is.). The dream was so vivid that my brain kept trying to force the whole scenario to jive with reality. When our families paraded in to meet her, not even the presence of dead grandparents was enough to set off my "This Isn't Real!" alarm. My sense of reality was completely warped. Dream-Husband and I were willing to reconcile ourselves to just about any absurdity. We even dismissed with a laugh how strange it was that I gave birth so suddenly - we didn't even know I was pregnant!

And when I woke up it took several minutes for me to register that it was all just a dream. I opened my eyes confused, wondering where my kid was. I almost called in sick to work.

"I can't come in today, I had a baby last night."
"Wait. You were pregnant?"
"I know! So weird! We didn't even know until- waaaait a second."

For a moment I lay in bed, gripping my phone and ready to dial. I even heard wailing from the next room.

"Ohmigosh! I've got to go get the baby!" I thought, and then immediately after,

"Wait. That's the cat."

I put the phone down as I realized that my giraffe-necked daughter didn't exist. For a few groggy minutes, I was heartbroken.

And there was no flute in a space-probe to remember her with.

I spent most of Friday hoping against all logic that the churning in my stomach meant I was pregnant (except I was also broken out and bloated, so not so much.) My reproductive organs snaked up through my body and my fallopian tubes plugged themselves directly into my brain which is now screaming "BAYBEE!!! BAYBAY!!!"

(Not that I wasn't gung-ho to spawn before my brain decided to trick me into believing I had a daughter. The little voice in my head has been hollering ever since we made a solid plan to start trying next year.)

When Husband got home I told him all about our little giraffe-necked baby girl, how I spent half the dream worrying that she'd manage to break her freakishly long neck. And how I missed her. He grinned, not a little bit smugly, and said

"Does this mean you're okay with having girls now?"

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Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Rubber Snake I Won at that Primm, Nevada Casino is Very Precious to Me

Today, I deleted my MySpace account.

I also inadvertently deleted the first "Hey! Let's hang out!" message Husband ever sent to me. I just missed screencapping it - by about ten seconds - before the account cancellation took effect and y'all? I was devastated. At first, I thought, "Oh! I'll just log into Husband's account and get it!"

Except Husband isn't a massive digital packrat who keeps messages from over three years ago hanging out in in his inbox, unarchived.

Husband: I don't think I saved that, Honey. I don't save my messages.
Margaret: NOOOOOO :-(
Husband: Sorry, honey. If I'd known back then, I would have saved it for you.

I chose to appreciate how nice he is and ignore the fact that my first thought was, "Well, you should have known!" Because I am a little bit crazy. But just a little bit, because I only thought it. Because I would actually be a little weirded out if he'd known he was going to marry me when he asked if I wanted to carpool to a Deerhoof show. Anyway.

We moved into our cozy little half of a 1949 duplex the moment we got legally married. Over a year and a half later, Husband's parents still have a closet half-full of his stuff, waiting for the day I throw away enough of my crap to make room for it here.

I keep everything - everything - but earlier this year I managed to part with enough little bits of paper and plastic to fill our trash collection bin twice. I still had piles left over afterward. A few weeks ago, I moved ten more huge boxes of stuff out to the garage. (Fine. Technically Husband moved the huge boxes of stuff out to the garage.)

As I pawed through the garage-bound tubs, I found a marked-up copy of Macbeth from my junior year of high school, which, now that I've actually looked inside it, isn't even my old copy of MacBeth, but High School Boyfriend's copy. As I shelved it with some other old paperback books, I commented that we were mostly re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic as far as my pack-rat tendencies go, but at least the deck chairs were finally out in the garage, not piled up behind the couch gathering enough cat hair to knit a sweater.

Maybe I save everything because I've moved every two years or so since I was ten years old. Maybe I hang on to things because the people and moments they remind me of were mostly lost to interstate moves and growing pains.

Maybe Husband doesn't feel compelled to save things the way I do because he's lived within the same thirteen mile radius his entire life. If he wants to go hang out in his hometown or visit his boyhood home, where his parents still live, we can drive there in about ten minutes. For me to do the same, we've got to shill out a few hundred dollars to fly east and knock on familiar doors belonging to strange people.

(Or maybe it's just because I'm lady and he's a dude.)

Even though my nostalgia is heavily mired in geography, I didn't just save pieces of back home. There's a box for all but one of my ex-boyfriends. (I guess I finally had some memories I didn't want. I torched a shoe box full of mementos and threw the jewelry into a man-made lake a few years back, and that may have marked the first time I ever got rid of any of my personal relics on purpose.) There's a box for every session of Jesus Camp, and a box for every year of Marching Band. I've got copies of my high school literary magazine and a box full of black & white xeroxed rock show flyers. I've saved hundreds of concert tickets, airline tickets, train tickets, baseball tickets, and I've got movie tickets so faded I can't even make out what the film was anymore.

I've got a cloth napkin that High School Boyfriend swiped from Disneyland, an empty pack of cigarettes First Boyfriend and I shared right before I moved to California, notes my girlfriends slipped into my locker in seventh grade, huge D&D grids covered in sharpie-drawn maps scribbled all over by the folks I used to play with, programs from shows I was in, programs from shows I wasn't in, dilapidated puff paint t-shirts from elementary school Field Days, a weird half bandanna from a Disney Cruise, my baby teeth, sugar packets from some restaurant in D.C., a paper crane made out of a San Francisco restaurant menu, and a few hotel key cards from the Marriott near Vegas where we stayed during a marching band trip. Oh! And my old colorguard uniforms - spandex I'll never fit into again, packed in an unfinished cedar chest my great-grandfather made just before he died, right next to my cheerleading trophy and the dress my mom married my Bio-Dad in.

That's just a sampler. I've got tubs upon meticulously labeled tubs full of proof that I Did Things and Knew People, and when you click back through my Gmail inbox you'll hit 2004 after a few thousand messages. In the days before the advent of Gmail's nearly endless storage, I printed out emails because I wanted to save them. I've got boxes for those too.

Part of me is still devastated not to have at least a JPEG of the first time Husband asked me to hang out.

But then I realized something.

I still have him, so what do I need the JPEG for?

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

There's a Difference Between an Etch-a-Sketch Drawing and a Master's Degree

If we throw out everything I wanted to grow up to be when I was a kid - Astronaut, Starfleet Officer, Writer, or President - and make a list of only the majors and career paths I've gone down (or talked about going down) as an adult, here's what you get:

Marine Biologist because I once got a 100% on an oceanography exam.
Teacher because I was working with kids.
Early Childhood Administrator see above.
Social Worker see above.
Fashion Designer because I remembered I was kind of okay at sewing after I caught an episode of Project Runway.
Cruise Ship Worker because I went on a cruise and the DJ was hot and I and didn't realize the workers slept in racks.
Merchandising Manager because I got 13 sketches in and realized I'd actually be a crap fashion designer.
Rock Music Journalist because I once read a lot of Pitchfork and then re-watched Almost Famous.
Event Planner because getting paid to party is a sweet job.
Mathematician because I got smashingly good grades in Calculus when I bothered to show up.
Accountant because it was a more viable ($$) career choice than mathematician.
Famous Genealogist because I didn't realize it had already been done.

My day job involves food and a hat, so obviously none of those illustrious careers ever panned out. Some of them might have gone somewhere if I'd cared enough to make them happen, but I was distracted by a Boyfriend or some free beer or some other lark every time. By the time I'd put my sh*t together again I was on to the next thing.

Buckling down and doing something felt claustrophobic; and I resented feeling like I had to choose which Barbie I wanted to be for The Rest of My Life. So I flitted about from True Calling to True Calling until I wound up dependent on my paycheck. Luckily, I'm paid so ridiculously well for what I do that when a girlfriend of mine told me how much she'd be making if she landed a job she interviewed for at Google, I laughed and pointed out that she'd be making less at Google than I make wrapping hamburgers.

You can go cry over your master's degree now. I'll wait.

But I'm not slinging burgers because I've finally realized my lofty dreams of grease-covered glory.  I'm there because it's a living. I'm there because I like it alright and it pays the bills and leaves my brain free to think about other things, like making jokes on the internet. I'm there because I had a proper grown-up job with a cubicle and a title and business cards- and it made me so miserable that I clawed my face in my sleep.

My back hurts sometimes, but I? Never go to bed worried about office drama.

But as I was portioning out a fry one day, one of our regulars asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up.

"Well, I was going to be an astronaut!" I answered cheerily.

I slipped a napkin in the bag and handed him his food with a big smile and then I died a little bit inside as he laughed at my Funny Joke.

My twenty sixth birthday is looming less than two weeks away and I still have no idea what I'm going to be when I grow up. I've got no designs on Fast Food Management and I flubbed the whole astronaut gig when I f*cked off in the eighth grade. And NASA cut the budget on the manned space program anyway.

My options are limited by more than just the crap economy; I never did get around to procuring an expensive bit of paper to prove that I'm as smart as my Mama says I am.

And even if I had a Master's Degree, or even a Bachelor's, I would cry over mine too because I wouldn't know what to do with a degree- other than hang it up in a gilt-frame and screech,

"LOOK. AH'M SMART. AH GOT MAH PAYPER!" every time I noticed someone noticing it.

On the other hand, I'm happy to not be working my student loans off in indentured servitude to the Olive Garden, which is where quite a few Masters of Whatever slag off even with a fancy smart paper. Standardized testing and the 99th percentile I scored every time back in high school be damned- I don't have mah payper, y'all. I've been running around doing just about anything I wanted (other than finding a Real Job) for eight years.

Astronaut is out, Starfleet's not real, and President looks like a loser job (in the sense that if you have it, you can't win), so out of the all the things I swore I'd grow up to be, Writer would appear to be the only viable option left.

But I am deathly afeared of sucking at it.

So thanks for reading.

If next week I decide I'm going to be a chef because I parked my ass in front of TLC for a few hours, y'all will be the first to know.

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(this title of this post was lifted from the song "Permanent Kitten" by the now defunct band The Actual.)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Star Wars versus Star Trek: Mommy and Daddy, Why Are You Fighting?

Guys. Guys. You guys. Look. Star Wars and Star Trek both have "Star" in the title, but that doesn't mean we can't fervently love both franchises. This is not a sports rivalry. This is not Duke versus Carolina. This is not Jacob versus Edward (about which I know next to nothing, but a lot of other people with matching chromosomes do. And they take that rivalry pretty f*cking seriously.)

Star Wars? Is six movies. Seven, if you count The Clone Wars. Which I don't.

Star Trek is eleven movies and thirty seasons of serial television, encompassing seven hundred and twenty seven episodes in all. And yes, some of them are awful.

Just like the Star Wars prequels.

So let's just throw out the crappy phoned-in episodes of Star Trek and pretend the Star Wars prequels didn't happen.

Both franchises involve SPACESHIPS AND SPACE, but they aren't about the same thing.

Star Wars is about redemption. And loyalty. And why fascism is bad and Han Solo (or Slave Leia if you're a dude, or both if you're into that) is the sexiest anything ever. Star Trek is about humans convincing ourselves that we don't suck - only to find out that we still sort of do - so we gallivant about the galaxy trying not to suck. Star Wars is about what people are like when we're awesome, even though we kind of suck. Star Trek is about what people would be like if we were awesome, but still sucked sometimes. Star Wars is a character piece. Star Trek is a morality play.

Check us out! BFFs! Hey! Where are you going? To have sex and play football? FINE.

Star Wars is about its characters. Star Trek is about an idea.

Star Wars happened to some other folks a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. Star Trek happens to us in a few hundred years.

Yes. The Empire could crush the Federation with one or two well-placed Death Star blasts. But the Empire? Was a bunch of Assholes.

Star Wars and Star Trek aren't rivals. They're not even playing the same game. Saying you can't love one if you love the other is like saying you can't root for the Dodgers if you're a Laker fan.

The one thing I'm sure we can all agree on? Pre-Sith Anakin Skywalker and Season 1-3 Wesley Crusher were equally annoying.

These are the things that keep me up at night, people.

[Let's play nice on Twitter.]
[You can also become a minion and subscribe to the syndicate.]

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Story of DICKME or, I Got B.O.N.ed!

Blogger decided to wave the magic Blogs of Note wand over me! Now that some guy named TG has taken the time to spam every entry I've ever written with a link to his "custom wood furniture," I suppose I should answer a few questions. By the way TG, I admire your pluck, but if you want adspace please send me one million dollars first.

(1) You spelled Crymes wrong.

First of all, that's not a question. Second of all, it's my last name so no I didn't spell it wrong. The dictionary spelled it wrong.

(2) Is that really your last name?

Yup. I married into it. My maiden name involved a slang term for the male anatomy. When I took the PSAT many moons ago, I was required to bubble in the first four letters of my last name, followed by my first initial, followed by my middle initial, which spelled out, wait for it:


The PTA-mom proctor of the exam walked by and told me to "TAKE THIS SERIOUSLY!" I didn't have a photo I.D. at the time so they had to call the assistant principal down to confirm that no, I was not actually f*cking off. For once.

I really like my new last name. The Husband it came with is cool too.

(3) Why "The Crymes Syndicate" then?

Ever heard of a little place called Earth-3?

(4) What are you doing here?

Running my mouth on the internet. What are you doing here?

(5) The photo of you in your "About Me" is really small. I can't tell if you're hot.

Again, not a question. But here you go:

You've interrupted my binge. And no, I don't pluck these brows.

Here are some entries I'm particularly proud of:

Stuff My Parents Taught Me: There's No 'C' in Klingon
Karma is a Bitch and I'm Gonna Delete All You Haters! (Please Like Me.)
Don't Make Fun of My Sunflower Shoes, I Will Fork You Up
The Sliding Scale of Suck
Your Mother Got Engaged on a Pirate Ship!

So there you have it. Now subscribe! I'll need about one thousand of you to fire up the death ray and take the world hostage for a lifetime supply of Oreos. Let's make it happen, people. Teamwork makes the dream work. I'll even share the Oreos after I'm done licking off all the frosting.

You can also follow me on The Twitter for more hijinks.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Wait for the Ding! or, The Day We Thought We Were Dead

When Husband and I have cause to travel by plane, we're usually headed all the way back east (or further) to visit my family. We rarely find ourselves on a flight shorter than five hours.

Three weeks ago: We're leaving North Carolina, a few thousand feet up in the sky on the first leg of our trip back to California. Husband is staring past me, out the window. And Husband? Looks agitated, like a dog before an earthquake. I glance up from my Economist, concerned.

"What's wrong, honey?" I asked, my voice still dripping with drawl after a week back home.

"We're descending really fast," he said, "It feels too early for that."

I peered out at the wing.

"Oh my gosh, we are!"

The passengers around us seemed blissfully ignorant of our imminent demise. I dropped my voice to a whisper so I wouldn't disturb them and continued, "Isn't it too soon? It is too soon.We're descending real fast."

Silently, we grasped hands as our dreams and plans for our entire life together crumbled. We gazed at each other, eyes full of fear and love and trepidation.

"Wait. Honey. This flight's only from Charlotte to Atlanta. We're just landing."


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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Five Things That Are Still Awesome About Air Travel

With my family scattered haphazardly around the country and the two years my mom & stepdad spent living in England, I've spent more time on an airplane than your average bear. (Bears, on average, fly once or twice in their lifetimes, usually because they refuse to mate with the only other bear at the zoo so they're shuffled around via FedEx until they make more bears. I'm sure this is a fact.) Maybe I have fewer SkyMiles than the Executive Vice President Of Making More Money than Me, but there's still been a lot of airport security in my life. And I hate flying. I despise it. The air is icky and the seats hurt my butt and even getting drunk sucks. But even though flying is the bane of my first world existence, I present for your stale pretzel snacking enjoyment: Things That Are Still Awesome About Air Travel.

(1) Winning at Security: Remember ten years ago when you could just get on a plane? I remember hopping off a plane at LAX with High School Boyfriend in August 2001. His mom met us immediately at the gate next to the little airport Wolfgang Puck's. I mean she was RIGHT THERE. Then 9/11 happened almost exactly a month later and now we're scared of shampoo, so airport security is a little more intense than it used to be. Still, I pretty much always win at baggage/body screening. I'm so good at travel that I don't check bags. No, I enter the screening area with all my sh*t and I can get my laptop out of its case and my shoes off my feet before the rest of y'all even realize you'll have to remove your belts. The TSA loves me. In some airports, they even have a special Black Diamond "expert" lane for people like me, people who are awesome at airport security.

(2) The People Mover: This thing is like the Speed Force. You get on it and you're walking at TWICE your normal speed while your badass rolling suitcase grinds along behind you. You can thumb your nose at the plebes on their first plane ride to Orlando who don't understand that they're supposed to stand on the right so you can breeze by them on the left in a cloud of self importance as strong as half a bottle of Clinique Happy. Don't they know who you are? Don't they know you're in seat 38C on the next Delta flight? MOVE.

(3) Airports with Trains in Them: Because they are airports. With trains in them. Detroit probably has the best example of a Train in an Airport, but they also sell underwear with "Motown" scribbled across the butt, which almost cancels out the indoor train, but not quite.

Add a log flume & a dark ride and you've got a theme park.

(4) Excuse to Buy Celebrity Gossip Rags: Sadly, I don't take advantage of this nearly often enough. I usually buy The Economist because I am a self important windbag who is terribly concerned about what other people on the plane will think of me, and at the very least I want to make certain they all notice that I'm more worldly and intelligent than they are because I'm reading the f*cking Economist on an AIRPLANE while they thumb through last week's People. Hell, reading The Economist should get you automatically bumped to first class. Dear Sir - I am awesome. Except when I'm travelling with my sister. She buys People. And I desperately beg her to share.

(5) SkyMall: SkyMall is the greatest thing ever. Only when flying would it occur to anyone that they definitely need a six foot replica of King Tut's sarcophagus to go with their new "personal massager." While you're at it, why don't you get some patio furniture covers, a bridge for the front yard and a f*cking seat from Yankee Stadium.

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[Um, wanna 
buy a book from me? Or some other stuff? This SkyMall bill isn't gonna pay itself.]

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

In Which I Lament My Guatemalan Place Mats

I almost cried over Guatemalan place mats the other night, and before you ask, no I wasn't PMS-ing or pregnant. I just take place mats pretty f*cking seriously.

Husband picked up a bigger share of the chores when I starting picking up longer shifts at work. On the night in question, he cleaned the kitchen counters, put away the dishes and all sorts of other helpful things. He's so awesome you probably want me to clone him, but I've seen that episode of Star Trek y'all, and genetic decay is NASTY.

So, Husband, because he is helpful and awesome, noticed that our place mats were dirty and asked if we shouldn't wash them. Overwhelmed by his loving attention to detail, I said,

"Sure! Throw them suckers in there with the dish towels!"

Except...except that our place mats have frayed edges (you know, like cut-off jeans) and Husband put the place mats in the dryer. (Because that's what you DO when you wash things. He's no dummy. It should have occurred to me to tell him not to dry them, because according to perfectly reasonable Boy Logic what comes out of the washer goes into the dryer. The nuances of tumble dry versus hang dry versus OH MY GOD DO NOT PUT THAT IN THE DRYER YOU WILL END THE WORLD dry are not part of Boy Land. Or part of Margaret Land most of the time, for that matter.)

Four of our six place-mats are a good two to three inches smaller than the other two now, and the edges are an absolute snarl of unraveled threads. When Husband brought them into the house and unfolded them, the backs of my eyes started to sting and I smacked the counter and hollered "F*ck!" Then I snatched up my beer and had to 'rassle with my internal gamma radiation so I didn't Hulk-out at Husband over f*cking place mats, but they were a wedding present from one of my closest girlfriends and she got them in Guatemala so it's not like I can just hop over to Bed, Bath, & Beyond to replace them and she also gave us matching napkins and now two of my place mats are 20% larger than the other four and I felt like they really pulled the room together and THIS IS WHY I CANNOT HAVE NICE THINGS, EVER.

Don't even try to front. This would drive you crazy too.

Husband can tell when I'm about to go supernova over something stupid, and unlike pretty much everyone else I ever dated, ever, rather than attempting to contain the implosion himself (as if he could), he quietly left the room. After a few minutes of slamming around spaghetti ingredients and cursing the lentils, I shuffled over to the bathroom doorway to talk to Husband, who was perched on the edge of the tub.

"Um, honey, you know I'm not mad at you, right? I mean, it's not your fault, you were just trying to wash the place mats and that was really nice of you I'm just sad because I can't go to Guatemala and I really liked the place mats. It's kind of like when your parents' house got robbed and your mom was more upset about the pillow sham the robbers jacked to carry the jewelry away in than she was about the jewelry, because she was going to have to buy another full set to replace the one sham, and that's a real pain in the ass you know? This is like that, but slightly worse because they were a Friend Present. So do you wanna come be around me again now?"

And he did. He came into the kitchen and annoyed me while I cooked dinner which made me laugh which made me mostly Get Over It. After a few minutes, I gave him a hug and then, without prompting, he said, "I'm sorry," even though the Place Mat Annihilation wasn't really his fault. He thinks I'm crazy and he's right, but he totally gets it when it comes to Stupid Girl Things like lamentations over the loss of matching Guatemalan place mats.

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[Um, wanna 
buy a book from me? Or some other stuff? Then I can go to Guatemala and get new place mats.]

Monday, July 5, 2010

Cuervo-Infused Minds Think Alike: A Shakespeare Quickie

After the fireworks ended last night, a few girlfriends and I were out back on the patio slurping the last of the AMERICA flavored Jell-O shots when Husband's Buddy and his Wife came outside to say their goodbyes.

"Friends-," Husband's Buddy began, saluting.

"- Roman Countrymen!" three of us shot back in chorus. I turned to the others.

"Whoa! Did we all just do that? High Fives!"

We slapped hands and burst into giggles. After a few moments, I stuck my palm out.

"No, but seriously, your ears. Give me them."

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[Um, wanna 
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