Thatcher a Hero or Horror?

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When Margaret Thatcher was elected Prime Minister of Great Britain in 1979, she wanted to change the economy of her country. “Pennies don’t fall from heaven,” she said in an NPR interview. “On earth, they have to be earned.” (

She wanted to change the nature of her country, maybe of the world in an interview with David Frost, she quoted “a world finance leader” who said, according to Thatcher,   “if you can roll back the frontiers of socialism, and roll forward the frontiers of freedom, other nations will follow.”  ( Thatcher loved the quote, and may have used it to guide her economic policies over her historic years as leader of her country.

According to Malcolm Dean, a writer for The Guardian, offered harsh criticisms of Thatcher’s policies. From the moment she was elected, Dean noted, “she made it clear she would be cutting benefits and squeezing public services. Dean said that Thatcher said that “public expenditure is at the heart of Britain’s present economic difficulties.”  ( She is also said to have said, “There is no such thing as society”  in a magazine interview she gave to Woman’s Own Magazine in 1987.

It is no surprise, then, that she was a good friend of the late President Ronald Reagan; the two of them were friends, and from where this writer sits, is was his economic policies, in particular his “trickle down” theory of economics, that helped begin this nation’s fall into economic disrepair. He was entranced with Thatcher and was said to have learned much from her.  Under Thatcher, the poor, especially pensioners and children, were worst his by her economics, and housing was the worst hit service.  Dean notes in his article that under Thatcher, child poverty more than doubled. Her policies, noted Tory minister Sir Ian Gilmour, was disastrous for far too many people. “The sacrifice imposed on the poor produced nothing miraculously except for the rich,”  Gilmour is reported to have said.

This writer is unsure of just how much Thatcher influenced Reagan, but influence was definitely there. Thatcher wanted smaller government; one of the things she did was to break the backs of trade unions in Great Britain because she believed their propensity to strike adversely affected economic growth. The government didn’t “owe” the poor anything; they were not to be given “pennies from heaven,” but would have to earn them. It seems Ronald Reagan believed that as well. He adopted the “trickle down” economic theory, a term and concept that actually began in the 1920s, and pushed it to a wildly excited Conservative party. The theory is that if taxes are cut for the wealthy, they will earn more, invest in “productive economic activities,” and will stimulate growth and more tax revenues from the wealthy which will then “trickle down” to the poor.

It has not worked, and according to some in Great Britain, Thatcher’s policies ripped apart any possibility for economic stability for the poor and made or caused the divide between rich and poor to grow ever wider. The same frightful condition exists in our own country, the chasm between rich and poor having become so wide that many call our nation an oligarchy, not a democracy at all.

Thatcher was also said to be an opponent of feminism; a reporter this writer heard on NPR this morning said that she said she hoped feminism failed. She did not have other women in her cabinet, and was unapologetic about it.  She had crashed through the glass ceiling but it seems she didn’t care to help anyone else do it.

Is the apparent fact that Thatcher had so little regard for those who struggle the most – the poor, the elderly, and women – the reason she was so tough? While her toughness is admirable, when it is juxtaposed against her apparent insensitivity for the downcast is not so admirable at all.

In these days, the “s” word, “socialism,” is thrown around like it is a deadly germ. It is as hated a word and/or concept as is “liberalism.” And yet, many who call themselves Christian follow a man named Jesus who apparently had great disgust for the Roman economy which created in like fashion as do countries today, a great gulf between the rich and the poor. It seems from the reading of this writer that Jesus advocated for the poor, for “the least of these,” and yet, Thatcher, Reagan, and perhaps many of today’s politicians, regardless of party, don’t share that sentiment. They derive a different hermeneutic from the same texts that I read …and their interpretation allows for the casting aside of the least of these with little conscience. Or so it seems and feels that way.

As a woman, I admire Thatcher’s strength, but her comments that show a clear and distinct disregard for those who struggle, frankly, are troubling. Ultimate strength is probably the capacity and desire to help and empower “the least of these” while forging ahead a strong economy. It seems that unless “the least” are more included in the capability to make a decent, dignified living, one doesn’t have a healthy country or economy at all. She was dubbed “The Iron Lady,” but her policies leave me feeling that her iron was a tad rusted…

A candid observation …

A Different Dream

English: Dr. Martin Luther King giving his &qu...
English: Dr. Martin Luther King giving his “I Have a Dream” speech during the March on Washington in Washington, D.C., on 28 August 1963. Español: Dr. Martin Luther King dando su discurso “Yo tengo un sueño” durante la Marcha sobre Washington por el trabajo y la libertad en Washington, D.C., 28 de agosto de 1963. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


As I have watched the festivities surrounding President Barack Obama’s second inauguration, concurrently being celebrated alongside the birthday of Rev. Martin Luther King, I find myself courting a different dream…and that is that the president’s presence, power and persistence in spite of tremendous odds, that more and more African-American boys will have someone in their lives whom they call “my dad,” aspiring to be like him.


When President Obama was first elected, he came to Columbus, Ohio. There was great excitement in seeing the president’s jet sitting in our airport; many people went to the airport and stood outside fences just to see him jaunt down the stairs of that big jet to go do … “president work.”


I was there, and I loved the jet and seeing the president, but what sticks in my mind are the images of young African-American men with little boys ( I assumed they were their sons) perched on their shoulders. I remember hearing so many of these young men saying to those little boys, “You can be president one day.” The little boys, some of them, clapped their hands and were clearly excited. I can still feel the energy those little boys and the men I assumed were their dads emitted that day. I suppose the presence of the president also ignited something inside their dads as well. Who knew that any of us would see an African-American be president of this country?


It was a powerful moment, on so many levels, but one of those levels struck me deeply. I know that little boys idolize their fathers, and I know that one of those little boys I saw that day internalized what their dads were saying to them. Those words for the little boys had power not just because the president of the greatest country in the world looked like them …but because their dads planted the seeds of hope into them that they could be anything they wanted to be.


Little African-American boys don’t often get that kind of encouragement. I have seen them labeled as behavior problems when they have just been being little boys. I have seen them ignored and tossed aside in schools, so that by third grade, many of them (African-American girls as well) have lost hope and excitement about life and learning. They are told they are bad and they can feel that not their teachers nor even their parents (mostly moms) believe in them.


I listened to Vice President Joe Biden‘s son today talking, saying, “my dad,” and I realized that not enough African-American children, and especially African-American boys, can say those two words. There have been plenty of sociological studies that try to explain to us why so many African-American men are not present in the lives of their children, and for sure, there are cultural, sociological and historical reasons for the plight and condition of African-American men in this country …but our little boys need their dads. They need dads who show them what strength and perseverance is. They need dads whom they can follow around and get advice from that only a dad can give a son. They need dads to show them how to stand up when the world knocks them down.


A lot has been said that America’s “War on Drugs” has resulted in more African-American men being incarcerated than whites; indeed, America has more people in prison than any other modern industrialized nation. Michelle Alexander, in her book, The New Jim Crow does an amazing job of showing how this “war,” initiated by Ronald Reagan, ended up being an instrument which made it legal to throw blacks in jail, not as much for violent crime as for minor drug offenses.


The “war” itself has resulted in “keeping blacks in their place,” some have argued. Once out of jail, these formerly jailed men cannot, oftentimes, get jobs, find housing, get food stamps, secure a driver’s license …they in effect have been shut out of life as it must be lived in America. They cannot survive, and many end up back in jail.


And who suffers? The society as a whole for sure, but especially the little boys who are left behind, with no fathers, and too often, overworked mothers who cannot give them what their dads need to give them. A recent movie called The House I Live In, directed by Eugene Jarecki,  shows what the “war” has done in this country…It is sad and disturbing, but a fact of our American life.


And so on this Martin Luther King holiday, thinking about his “dream,” I am stuck on a different dream – a country where the unfair and unjust “justice”  system that has put too many African-American fathers in jail will be addressed, modified, changed …so that more little boys can sit on the shoulders of their fathers, and be inspired as to what they can do.


A candid observation…







Gun Control an Issue Only if You’re the Right Color?

Official Portrait of President Ronald Reagan.
Official Portrait of President Ronald Reagan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have been fascinated by the arguments and wrangling over gun control – specifically, not understanding why some think that banning assault weapons and magazines which have more than seven rounds of ammunition does NOT mean anyone is proposing that nobody own a gun.

But I am even more fascinated that the idol of modern-day Conservatives, Ronald Reagan, actually signed into a law a bill that repealed a law that had permitted citizens to carry loaded weapons in public places. The so-called Mulford Act was signed into law in 1967, when Reagan was governor of California. The measure was introduced by Dan Mulford, an East Bay legislator.

Apparently, some Americans were a bit nervous about the work of the Black Panthers, who back then, had formed “police patrols.” Members of these groups would listen on scanners for police calls and when something was happening in the black community, would rush to the scene, “law books in hand and inform the person being arrested of their  constitutional rights.” ( These individuals would also carry loaded weapons, which they apparently displayed….but “they were careful to stand no closer than ten feet from the arrest so as to not interfere with the arrest.”

When the Mulford Bill was passed, members of the Black Panther Party protested, and went to Sacramento, carrying their loaded weapons (including rifles and shotguns).

According to a piece that appeared on the site “Keep and Bear Arms” ( Reagan “imposed gun control on America.”  According to the article, “Reagan declared his support for  a bill requiring a seven-day waiting period for handgun purchases.” The site confirms the fact that “Governor Ronald Reagan …signed the Mulford Act of 1967, “prohibiting the carrying of firearms on one’s person or in a vehicle, in any public place, or on any public street.”  The law, says the article, “was aimed at stopping Black Panthers, but affected all gun owners.”

The saddest thing about this entire gun control debate is that it really shows that the country really is not able or willing to deal with the proliferation of guns that exist in urban areas, where young men are shooting young men, most often poor and black. There are babies, black and brown babies, being slaughtered every day on city streets, but nobody really seems to care. There has been no cry for gun control on a level that would impinge upon ownership of handguns. If that were the case, there would be some legitimacy to the hue and cry that the call for the control of the sale and ownership of guns would be threatening the general right of people to own guns.

The fact that the Conservative’s darling, Ronald Reagan, signed the Mulford Act because he wanted to get assault weapons out of the hands of the Black Panthers says volumes about his feelings on race. If whites had shown up at arrest sites with loaded weapons, presumably to protect other whites from possible mistreatment by and from law enforcement, would the Mulford Act have been introduced?

What people are protesting today is valid; there is no need for anyone in an American city to have a military-style assault weapon.  Most of the massacres we have seen, with young men using these types of weapons, have involved young white men. If the majority of these attacks had been carried out by African-American men, would the protest against banning their sale and use be as vehement?  Would a law, similar to the 1967 Mulford Act, have already been passed?

Someone is going to groan, and say I am playing the race card, but the card has been played already by some, including Anne Coulter. The biggest problem with guns, she says, is in the inner cities of America. Perhaps, she again said, it is a problem of demographics…Her statements are telling, though, because even with the high number of homicides in urban areas, there is no cry for gun control. The cry from those protesting gun control is that “we need to protect ourselves” from government tyranny and thugs.

The thugs they’re talking about are not the troubled young men who have committed mass murders. The young men who carried the assault weapons and carried out such heinous crimes seemed to have come from nice …suburban, white homes.

A candid observation …

Voting for Obama

Official photographic portrait of US President...
Official photographic portrait of US President Barack Obama (born 4 August 1961; assumed office 20 January 2009) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I got the most interesting letter in the mail today. It was from a woman whom I do not know;  she included in the envelope a piece written about President Obama by Ed Lasky entitled, “The Amateur: Barack Obama in the White House.” The article was, of course, in reference to Ed Klein‘s new book by the same title.

The woman typed, “I doubt that you will read this, but really, you should. Then you will understand we have reasons NOT to vote for this man, then and now, and it has absolutely NOTHING to do with race.”

In her letter, she excoriated the president for his policies; “with all due respect,” she wrote, “poverty, education costs, affordable housing and unemployment have all been made WORSE by President Obama.” She wrote that President Obama and the Democrats “forced Obamacare on this nation against the will of the people”…and accused me and others of voting for the president only because he is black…and those of us who did that, she said, “are racist.”

She angrily says people have “acquiesced to the gay marriage issue because you don’t want to lose all of the “free” stuff you get from the Democrats! You are willing to let this President and the liberals throw away the foundation of societal structure we’ve known for thousands of years (sic) to get more free stuff???? I am outraged!” she wrote.

Well, now.

I think she’s right: things have gotten worse since the president took office, but not only because of his policies. I think “the Congress of no” has had a lot to do with where we are and are not. The economy was in free fall when Mr. Obama came into office, because of the policies of President Bush. President Obama had the unsavory task of trying to get the lumps out of the gravy, so to speak, and his job was made all the more difficult by a Congress which has refused to work with him.

For the life of me, I cannot understand why people say that President Obama has been against big business. It seems to me, with all the bailing out of banks “too big to fail” that the president made their lives pretty comfortable, so much so that they have gone back to operating pretty much in the way that helped get us into this mess. The President has done some spending that jacked up the deficit – to save and to protect people who were out of work with no income at all. They needed to survive and there were no jobs. One might not like that fact, but it was and is the truth.

The President has scurried to help the “new poor,” as the middle class, as we have always known it, has continually diminished. While bank executives have gotten huge bonuses, people who used to be comfortable are now scrambling to survive – hence, the “Occupy Wall Street” movement. The chasm between the “haves” and the “have-nots” has only widened – that, too, under Mr. Obama’s presidency.

The woman who wrote me criticized black people for always voting for Democrats. She notes that Lyndon B. Johnson’s “Great Society” has only managed to reduce poverty by 4 percent, after spending $16 trillion. That is quite definitely a sorry report …but has Ronald Reagan’s policy of “trickle down economics” helped the poor and “the least of these?”  The spirit of the letter is that if we blacks would get our heads out of the sand and stop voting for Democrats, the country would be better off…but we are unable to see or understand that.

The truth is, people vote for the party they perceive to have their interests at heart. It does not appear, nor has it appeared to have been the case in a long time, that Republicans have the interest of black, brown and poor people…at heart. If you look at the recent Republican campaign for the GOP presidential nomination, none of the candidates seemed particularly interested in the plights of black, brown and poor people. Heck, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich basically said that black people want to be on welfare. Their presidencies, they promised, would create a world where black people had jobs. That would be nice – and it would be nice if the jobs were more than menial jobs, so those working could support their families, but alas, history has shown that Republicans have not appeared to be all that interested in creating an America with a more level playing field; Republicans have sort of blamed the victims of discrimination for their plight.

That’s like blaming a rape victim for being raped.

That’s not to say that there haven’t been some good things done by Republicans for black and brown people (not so much poor people…) The most obvious feather for the Republicans is Abraham Lincoln.  President Eisenhower mandated that segregation in federal employment be ended,but come on, have Republicans really showed much heart or concern for any group other than white people?  It wasn’t a Republican, but a Democrat,  Harry Truman, who made the United States military desegregate. If the truth be told, both Republicans and Democrats alike have been pretty silent on the conditions that help keep black, brown and poor people in the status of second-class citizens. Neither a Republican nor a Democrat got legislation passed that outlawed lynching.  Historically, in spite of laws mandating integration of schools, for example, or outlawing segregation of the military, people, Republican and Democrat, have found ways to get around the laws and keep things “as they have always been.”

It was probably Franklin Delano Roosevelt who started the love affair between African-Americans and the Democrats, with his New Deal. If that period of history is examined closely, we can see that it wasn’t all that “new” or a good “deal” for many blacks, but there were enough blacks helped that it gave the perception that Democrats care about them. All people, no matter color, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender, want and need to feel like their government cares about them.

I will vote for Mr. Obama not because he is black but because I have more faith that he cares about me, an African-American woman, and my children, and all black, brown and poor people than I have that faith about Mr. Romney. I do not think Mr. Romney is a bad man. He is obviously a brilliant and talented businessman. But at the end of the day, there are more than successful white businessmen who make up America. There are 46 million poor people. There are women and Hispanics and Muslims and black people…who need to be considered and cared for. There are people who cannot pay their rent or mortgages and do not want welfare or food stamps, but want a viable job with a working wage. There are people who need the government to step up for all of the people, not just some of the people, as has been the case with both Republican and Democratic presidents.

This is not about race. This is about human dignity.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson said that civil unrest has always erupted when people have felt humiliated. It’s not been poverty or even racism that has made tempers explode; it has been the perception that they has a people have been humiliated one time too many. Blacks, he said, have adjusted to being terrorized in this country…but even those who have adjusted, just to get by, have a breaking point.

I am voting for President Obama because I don’t want people to get to a breaking point. The lady who wrote me, ironically, worries about “riots in the streets” like there’s been in Greece. We are worried about the same thing, but for different reasons.

I am not sure President Obama or Mitt Romney can quell the unrest that is simmering in this country, but for me, I’ll put my money on the president.

A candid observation …

The Big Business Called Prisons

Cover of "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarcer...
Cover via Amazon

While the country, or parts of the country, express justified rage and anger toward Rush Limbaugh and his hideous and inappropriate statements directed at Georgetown Law School student Sandra Fluke, another outrage is being allowed to move forward, quietly but steadily.

In a February 14, 2012 article posted on The Huffington Post, the story was told of how a private corporation, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) is offering cash-strapped states big money for their prisons. The article, by Chris Kirkham, said,”As state governments wrestle with massive budget shortfalls, a Wall Street giant is offering a solution: cash in exchange for state property. Prisons, to be exact.”

CCA is a for-profit operator of prisons. That means the corporation, and others like it, exist because there are prisons; their financial success depends upon prisons continuing to exist and continue to be filled. According to Kirkham’s article, CCA is “a swiftly growing business,with revenues expanding more than fivefold since the mid-1990s,” as the “War on Drugs” became a major issue in America.

Harley Lappin, who retired as the head of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, is the Chief Corrections Officer (CCO) of CCA, and Board members include only one African-American, Thurgood Marshall, Jr., the son of the late United States Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall.

What’s the big deal, you ask? The big deal is that America cannot seem to let go of its plantation system. With money in the picture, as the driver of how prisons are operated, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that there is a big incentive for America to keep its prisons filled. CCA is doing business; it is not interested in rehabilitating people. In a recent letter to governors of 48 states, Harley Lappin wrote “…CCA is earmarking $250 million for purchasing and managing government-owned corrections facilities. The program is a new opportunity for federal, state or local governments that are considering the benefits of partnership corrections.”

In that same letter, Lappin said that on January 12 of this year, CCA assumed ownership and management responsibility in a transition described as seamless. This transfer culminated a process that, according to state officials, generated more than $72.7 million in proceeds for Ohio taxpayers (he was talking about the purchase of an Ohio prison),about $50 million of which was allocated for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.”

What does all of this mean? It means that the “new Jim Crow,” as Michelle Alexander has so excellently written about in her book by the same name, is alive and kicking. Who will fill the prisons? Black and brown people mostly, as has always been the case. What Alexander describes in her book as “military policing” will increase in urban neighborhoods, so as to make sure the source of profit for those who are buying the prisons, does not disappear.

Clearly, the target of prison inmates, since the Reagan Administration’s declared “War on Drugs” has been black and brown people, primarily men, who are addicted to crack cocaine. From the time the “war” began, there was money to be had for state and local law enforcement agencies for the numbers of people they arrested. Now, with this blatant “prison for profit” industry rising as one of the, if not the, fastest industries in America, there will be even more money earned on the backs of America’s black, brown, and poor people.

CCA has recently found an additional source of revenue-makers: illegal immigrants. The HP article said that CCA has found a “new opportunity in the business of locking up undocumented immigrants.” It’s business, not personal, right?

While the politicians are mouthing off about contraception, nobody talks about this unethical use and misuse of law enforcement; in fact, the very existence of this “in-your-face” modern day plantation system leads one to muse, “what law enforcement?” If the focus of arrests and imprisonments were all drug users, prescription drugs and powder cocaine as well as street drugs, there would be much less room for cynicism. As it stands, however, under the guise of “law and order” and “protecting the taxpayers,” black and brown people are disproportionately going to be the ones who help CCA and other for-profit prison corporations get wealthier and wealthier.

There is so much that goes on in this country that “we the people” know nothing about. It is by design. If we do not know, “they” can do what they want. And in this instance, that is exactly what is happening, and what has been happening since the Conservative darling Ronald Reagan declared this infamous “war on drugs.”

With the war on women being waged in this GOP presidential nominee battle, as well as the war on voting rights, primarily for black, brown and elderly voters, and this unsavory ploy to keep prisons filled with only certain offenders, it makes me wonder about all this talk about “values.” The term seems to have a very narrow focus, but then, that is nothing new. From the beginning, “we the people” was a very narrowly defined group of white, male property owners, and the fight going on today seems intent on trying to keep that vision from slipping into obscurity. Women have pounced on the attack on themselves and their rights, but black and brown people, and now, undocumented immigrants, need to pounce on the very sneaky attack being waged on their very capability to remain free and eligible to become a part of “the American Dream.”

If CCA continues to have its way, the number of black and brown people who are in reality off of the plantation will be greatly decreased, and the new “massa,” big business, will go merrily on its way.

A candid observation …