The Pencil Today:


“This preposterous idea, that things must pay their way or be dispensed with, is perhaps the most intractable legacy of the Thatcher years, so much so that it has become received wisdom even among many liberals. But when you think about it even for a nanosecond, it is perfectly obvious that most worthwhile things don’t begin to pay for themselves. If you followed this absurd logic any distance at all, you would have to get rid of traffic lights, schools, drains, national parks, museums, universities, old people and much else besides.” — Bill Bryson

Author Bill Bryson & Former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher


Cartoonist Charles Addams was born on this day in 1912 (h/t to Google). His work graced the pages of The New Yorker magazine for many years. His fictional “Addams Family” eventually became the eponymous sitcom.

Well, fictional to an extent. It’s said both his wives looked uncannily like Morticia Addams. And by the way, if you’re making a list of very hot female sitcom stars, Carolyn Jones as Morticia has to rank at least in the top five.

Gomez And Morticia


Back to Maggie Thatcher. Is it my imagination or is her image is being remade these days, thanks in part to that new movie, “The Iron Lady,” starring Meryl Streep?

All of a sudden it seems Thatcher is being repositioned as a great icon in the history of the advancement of women. Never mind that she rose to the top employing all the mannish characteristics that have pushed the world to the brink of catastrophe time and again. She was stubborn, insensitive, bellicose, nationalistic, and smug. She cared far more for an economic philosophy than for trivial things like human beings.

When she pushed her country to go to war for some godforsaken piece of rock in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, I observed that she was merely trying to show the world that her dick was as big as any man’s.

In fact, there’s a scene in the movie dealing with the lead-up to the Falklands War. The character playing US Secretary of State Alexander Haig, himself a former Army general, cautions her against being so gung-ho about sending battleships full of soldiers to fight over the little islands.

Thatcher: “We will stand on principle or we will not stand at all.”

Hiag: “But Margaret, with all due respect, when one has been to war….”

Thatcher (interrupting): “With all due respect sir, I have been to battle every single day of my life. And many men have underestimated me before!”

Need I mention that there’s a huge difference between breaking the glass ceiling and a “principle” which cost 907 lives, 1843 wounded, 11,428 taken prisoner, a cruiser, 2 destroyers, a submarine, two frigates, four cargo vessels, a half dozen other sea craft and 75 aircraft?

By the way, British warships and submarines that were part of the expeditionary fleet were armed with tactical nuclear weapons, just in case, I suppose, the Argentinians failed to grasp Thatcher’s “principle.”

Argentine Dead After The Battle Of Goose Green


As of last night, one woman remained in People’s Park, refusing to leave despite Mayor Mark Kruzan’s eviction order. She’d chained her tent to a tree and stayed inside, refusing to come out when city workers descended on the scene to clear away any personal belongings that were left by the protesters.

Apparently, the city is not going to force her to leave just yet. Officials are hoping to avoid an unpleasant scene.

City officials lauded the Occupiers for the most part, saying many of them helped city crews clean up the park.

Now Bloomington police will again enforce the regular 11:00pm-5:00am park curfew.

And yesterday, Josh Johnson was was arraigned before Judge Mary Ellen Diekhoff. He’d been arrested during the New Year’s Eve Dance Party disturbance Saturday night and Sunday morning. He was charged with two felony counts of resisting arrest with injury to a police officer.

SNICKERS today presents a list of the best candy ever made. Snickers is ranked number one.

I have absolutely no quarrel with that.


Finding it difficult to wake up in the morning these days? It may be because these days have the latest sunrises of the year, according to

The science site explains why the late sunrises in the Northern Hemisphere and the concurrent late sunsets in the Southern do not coincide with the solstice (which, in 2011, was December 21st.)


Elvis Costello once said he couldn’t wait for Margaret Thatcher’s state funeral so he could dance on her grave.

5 thoughts on “The Pencil Today:

  1. nrhiller says:

    Nice! I especially appreciate your attention to the distinction between war as a literal versus metaphorical phenomenon and your observation that Thatcher moved up the ladder by embracing “mannish” values and behaviors. (Remember Margaret Tutweiler? I call them the two Margarets.)

    At the same time, I would argue–in this case from a historically informed rather than a normative or even perfectionistic feminist perspective–that it’s unfair to come down too hard on Thatcher for adopting those attitudes in order to further her career. First, I wonder whether she was even aware of an alternative (remember, she did not grow up in the kind of intellectual family where pros and cons of different “feminisms” were likely discussed over dinner). Second, THAT she did so, and thereby broke a barrier (last time I checked, we in the States were still waiting for a woman president), has almost certainly increased opportunities for women, in addition to provoking a more nuanced appreciation of what feminism is, or arguably should be.

    But back to substance. I lived in England during Thatcher’s Prime Ministership and saw a dismantling of important services that was eerily similar to what we’re seeing here today. (How long will we on Bloomington’s south-west side continue to enjoy the Stanford Post Office, I wonder.) Your Bryson quote is SPOT ON. Thank you.

  2. Here’s a Brit TV movie from the late1980s/early 1990s, “Tumbledown,” starring a very young Colin Firth, about the experience of a Scots Guard Lieutenant who was grievously wounded in the hours before the Argentine surrender. This is from YouTube, because the controversy around the story of wounded soldiers essentially being “thrown away” by the British Government has prevented it being released on DVD.

    Agreed, the Bill Bryson quote is PERFECT. Think about babies! Do they “pay their way”?

    • nrhiller says:

      Joy, thanks for making me aware of Tumbledown. I have made a note of it and hope to watch it soon. I also hope that I did not appear to be defending Mrs. Thatcher’s rush into the Falklands War, which even I, as an apolitical 20-something, considered an obvious and indefensible political move. (Huh, reminds me of someone else, quite recently, who had no direct experience of war but apparently had no qualms about sending other people’s sons into battle.) My point was intended as a corrective to the ease with which most of us, myself included, tend to judge others when we have the benefit of hindsight–in this case, more than two decades’ worth.

      • I caught your point and thought it was well-taken. Generally the “first woman” leaders *have* to be everything a man is and more so, “backwards and in high heels” as Ginger Rogers put it.

        I wonder, did the pearls and femininity finally make us all wake up and *see* the horror of policies that came to be called “Thatcherite”? After all, support for her positions didn’t just fall out of a clear blue sky.

      • nrhiller says:

        As someone–even a then-apolitical someone–who found most of her policies and actions abhorrent, I can’t answer this. Did you perhaps mean to say that the pearls and femininity KEPT people FROM waking up and seeing the horror? There may have been a Palin-like attraction, as in “Way to go, babe!” (not that I share this attitude toward either of these women, and, perhaps to her credit, Thatcher never presented herself as a “babe”). Some people must surely have responded favorably to her “For god’s sake, buck up and deal with it!” governess-like demeanor. Too, I was reminded in the autumn of 2008 that there’s a strong culture among lower-middle- and working-class Brits of feeling responsible for problems that are not of their own making. (“We’ve all been on a bit of a bender, and now we’ve got to sober up,” even though the “bender” was wrought/enjoyed/perpetrated by those we now call the 1%.) This likely worked in Thatcher’s favor.

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