Christmas, Shooting, Birthday

Pamela Olson
February 6, 2007

Here are a few pics from Halloween, Christmas and shooting in Oklahoma, and my Birthday.

Things are still going well in DC. I'm looking for a new job (because I'm so done with the whole "Defense" thing -- it was interesting, and I learned a lot, but it's not my scene) and a new house (roommate issues). A general change of scenery will be refreshing, I think. I'm still studying Arabic and enjoying the people around me. Definitely looking forward to spring.

I'm planning a two-week trip to Palestine and Jordan hopefully in April with a couple of American friends. [Note: the trip was postponed until June, and one American friend will come along.] I can't wait to tour them around so many incredible places, see all my friends in the West Bank (and hopefully a couple of buds in Israel), and camp out in the Jordanian desert again.

Halloween was nice this year. I dressed up like some kind of gypsy belly dancer for Ben's Halloween Party (where something like half of DC showed up, to the point that random people for weeks would talk about "Ben's Halloween Party" in Ben's presence, having no idea he was Ben) where I met a Palestinian girl who has since tried to get me a job with her group at the World Bank. Wish me luck on that. I think I would enjoy working with a bunch of young internationals (as opposed to the bunch of old white guys at my current job -- not that I have anything against old white guys as such, but a change of scene would be nice). The ones I've met so far are quite cool and seem properly thoughtful.

Later, still in costume, I went out to a bar with my friend Isis, and we got hit on by a cowboy with a foreign accent. I asked him, "Are you Iranian?"

He said, astonished, "How did you know?"

I tried and utterly failed to explain why meeting a Persian cowboy was so hilarious for an Oklahoman. I guess you just have to be one. (I had to bite my tongue to keep from asking if he knew how to do a "Persian Good-bye.")

Christmas was fun this year, too. The whole fam-damly got together at our home in Stigler, everyone but cousin Luke, and some got together to play the guitar and fiddle and we all played Frisbee and football in the front yard. Good times. Christmas morning, my nephew Dylan got an electronic drum set, and hilarity ensued.

Holly and Emily and Holly's husband Daniel came to visit and hot tub on Christmas night, and the next day Emily, Mom, Bill, Val, Bobby Dale, Josh and I went out shooting on some of my step-dad's spoil banks (un-reclaimed coal strip mines that leave behind scraggly land where not much grows).

We set up a cardboard box with paper targets and used that for practice until we found a salt lick, which we annihilated in short order. Our arsenal included two .22s (one of which had a telescopic sight that only confused us traditionalist types), one 3030, a .357 Magnum, a .38 Special, a shotgun, and a Derringer.

It inspired me to write the following:

    On the twelfth day of Christmas, my dealer gave to me:

    12 moving targets,
    11 3030's
    10 AK rifles
    9 .38 specials
    8 .357s
    7 M-16s
    6 thousand rounds...

      FIVE RPGs!

    4 Derringers
    3 shotguns
    2 .22s

    And some spoil banks in Haskell Countyyyyyyyyy!

For New Year's, I visited Gerald Ford's coffin at the Capitol Rotunda and then had several very stiff drinks at a neighborhood bar called Wonderland and danced in 2007.

* * *

During the first week of January, at the exact same time that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was at a peace summit in Egypt with President Mubarak, a veritable parade of armored Jeeps and tanks pushed into the center of Ramallah, overturning and flattening civilian cars and obliterating the entire central vegetable market on their way to arrest a wanted man.

They didn't get their man, but they did arrest four people (whom they released almost immediately because they weren't wanted for anything) and kill four other people, one of whom was a man who sold coffee from a cart on the central traffic circle, another a man who saw that cars were being crushed and rushed out to move his car out of the way of the tanks. A local journalist was among the seriously injured.

Olmert of course said, "Things developed in a way that could not have been predicted in advance. If innocent people were hurt, this was not our intention."

Obviously not. When you crash into a peaceful civilian scene in broad daylight destroying private property and shooting live bullets into crowds, there can't possibly be any intention to hurt innocent people. It was obviously a complete accident. Totally understandable. I'm sure the IDF investigated and found itself not guilty.

The next day I opened my morning paper to see a picture of a friend of mine wearing his Palestine Red Crescent Society uniform and helping to rush a bleeding man somewhere, presumably to an ambulance or hospital. It was nice to see a picture of him, though of course I wish it could have been under different circumstances.

* * *

My friend Nafis and I both have birthdays in January, so we decided to have a joint party. Of course this meant we both waited around for the other one to plan things, and at the 11th hour we just went with the same deal we did last year: Dancing and drinking at Ozio lounge. For parties of fewer than 20, there's no reservation fee, and it's a pretty swanky place. It worked out well, and even if we did end up with more than 20, I don't think anyone was counting.

A couple of weeks ago I went to a talk by the Afghani Ambassador, a man who grew up in Afghanistan but came to America and became a lawyer and has been here ever since. I was all set to view him as a bit of an out-of-touch quisling, but in fact he was quite forthright in his criticism of the Bush Administration's policies and seemed uniquely competent to champion Afghanistan's needs as a professional with many contacts and an impeccable command of English.

One thing he said struck all of us, and that was that even when the American government would earmark money for the right purpose, say $10 million for a new school building in some outlying province, the money would go directly to a Washington, DC, consulting firm, which would take perhaps 20% off the top in exchange for sub-contracting the job to a Turkish company. The Turkish company would in turn sub-contract it to an Indian company and take another thick slice.

By the time the money actually got to the Afghani province that needed the school, there would be maybe $90,000 left. The builders would build a shoddy structure maybe even in a valley prone to flash floods. And then next spring it would be cracked, collapsed, and/or gone.

This is what the Afghanis see, and it's no wonder they're turning to warlords or even the Taliban when the occupier is providing so poorly for them. The Ambassador's hope is that aid to the Afghani government will increase significantly and that contracts will be given to more appropriate companies. The Afghani government can never stand on its own while the occupier's actions are so thoroughly undermining its legitimacy. Not that anyone "standing on their own" was ever the Bush Administration's intention. There was actually, theoretically hope for a positive outcome for the Afghanis, and indeed it could have been a tremendous success story already if the American government done it right. By "right," I don't mean if they had been smarter occupiers. I mean if they had done something that was simply not in their natures and put the Afghanis and their wishes and interests first -- which, ironically, in my estimation, would have been in the true American public interest. But again, this is never what the Bush administration cared about.

Instead they are pouring all of our resources and attention into the apocalypse of Iraq. The Taliban is resurgent in Afghanistan, and it may be too late for anyone to do much about it.

At least marriage is safe. Thank God for that.

I also attended the massive anti-war rally in DC on January 27. It was a treat to be around an enormous crowd of people who wore their humanism on their sleeves.

As opposed to being around people who think flesh-shredding weapons are cool, entire countries can be neatly classified as "evil," and human rights are for appeasers.

I believe that in the current mainstream world climate, such people can safely be classified as "extremists." It's a great shame that they have so much power and authority in Washington. The Romes of history truly never learn, do they? America could have been a wise and respected leader for hundreds of years, but the current regime is burning us out (often building on actions of previous regimes). And for what?

Most of the protesters were ordinary folks, and one was even from Oklahoma. She had gathered three other women and driven 24 hours to be there. I was quite impressed. It was a beautiful, warm, clear day, too. Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, and Jane Fonda (the usual suspects) gave nice speeches, as did several extremely fed-up servicemen.

Our generation's "Pentagon Papers" are already staring us in the face, and it will be a lingering shame that we effectively stood by and let it all happen. Just the other day, former chief of the CIA's Europe division, Tyler Drumheller, gave an incredibly shocking interview with the German publication Spiegel International. The crux of the interview was:

"The policy was set. The war in Iraq was coming and they were looking for intelligence to fit into the policy."

But the details are even more jaw-dropping.

Meanwhile, my think tank is trying to figure out how to retain the forces we have, build up for a surge, AND increase the overall size of the military under fierce political and budgetary constraints during an unpopular, deadly, immoral war with no end in sight in which pretty much everyone and everything has already been stretched to near if not beyond the breaking point. (Yeah, the view from the inside is even worse than the one from the outside. It's bad.) Sounds like a pretty Sisyphean task to me, but my colleagues are taking it on cheerfully.

At one meeting, a guy said, "Hell, during Vietnam we once got 500 kids off the streets, got their hair cut, got 'em trained up, and shipped 'em over within six months. We can do that again if we need to."

I thought, "Er... Do you remember how Vietnam turned out? And do you have any idea what happened to those 500 kids that you sent into a hopeless meat grinder -- those kids who were somebody's son, somebody's brother? Do you even care?" I felt nauseous and sad.

Yeah. Not my scene.

At another meeting, I thought I overheard one particularly straight-laced manpower guy say to someone else that the faltering economy would be good for recruitment. I asked him if that was indeed what he had said.

He said, "Sure, when unemployment goes up, people have to find some other way to make a living. It's a classic demand problem, really. Because, I mean, how can you make more people?"

"Abstinence education," I said brightly.

The words seemed to have slipped directly out of my mouth without venturing anywhere near my brain.

"Eh, pardon?" he said, thrown off by my apparent non-sequitur.

"Oh, well, you know," I mumbled, "I've heard there's a positive correlation between abstinence education and teen pregnancy..."

"Uh huh," he smiled and nodded blankly.

I get that a lot.

A few days later, while riding an escalator up from the Metro, I saw the following headline on a newspaper someone next to me was reading:

2006 Worst Year Ever for Ford

I thought, "Well, obviously. It's the year he died, isn't it?"

And then... yeah. Not ex-President Gerald. The Motor Company.

Anyway. The Fable of Megastan is up and running for anyone who has interest. Please note that it is not a fiction about America's future, but rather an unorthodox (and fairly brief) re-telling of Iraq's past 30 years of history.

I've also done some analysis on the Iraq problem.

And the following article -- "The Way out of War," Harpers Magazine, October 2006 -- outlines the plan for Iraq, drafted by George McGovern and William R. Polk, that I believe is by far our best hope at this point. I was at the House chamber when they presented their plan to the Progressive Caucus. Scandalously, I can find almost no mention of it in any major news publication.

Instead, Bush is allowed to go around saying, "If you don't like my plan, show me an alternative." As if there is no alternative. Meanwhile, Democrats are busy arguing about which mealy-mouthed non-binding resolution to pass.

Anyway, here's the article that summarizes the plan.

Not a lot else going on. Parties and people and talks and walks. Hopefully I'll have a new job and a new house soon, and hopefully I'll be in Palestine on schedule. I'm contemplating applying for some kind of PhD next fall, maybe in economics or sustainable development. Getting a Master's of some kind in England is also tempting, mostly because England sounds like a lot of fun. Expensive, though. There's the rub. At least sciency people can usually get a PhD paid for.


P.S. I found a copy of this song in an old email, and I found it touching. It's written by something precious and rare: an anti-war country singer.

He said in a press release for his album Childish Things, "I've always been a little put off by activists. So you know it's a dire situation when I have to become an activist myself."

We Can't Make it Here Anymore

James McMurtry

Vietnam Vet with a cardboard sign
Sitting there by the left turn line
Flag on the wheelchair flapping in the breeze
One leg missing, both hands free
No one's paying much mind to him
The V.A. budget's stretched so thin
And there's more comin' home from the Mideast war
We can't make it here anymore

That big ol' building was the textile mill
It fed our kids and it paid our bills
But they turned us out and they closed the doors
We can't make it here anymore
See all those pallets piled up on the loading dock
They're just gonna set there till they rot
'Cause there's nothing to ship, nothing to pack
Just busted concrete and rusted tracks
Empty storefronts around the square
There's a needle in the gutter and glass everywhere
You don't come down here 'less you're looking to score
We can't make it here anymore

The bar's still open but man it's slow
The tip jar's light and the register's low
The bartender don't have much to say
The regular crowd gets thinner each day
Some have maxed out all their credit cards
Some are workin' two jobs and livin' in cars
Minimum wage won't pay for a roof,
won't pay for a drink
If you gotta have proof
just try it yourself Mr. CEO
See how far $5.15 an hour will go
Take a part time job at one of your stores
Bet you can't make it here anymore

High school girl with a bourgeois dream
Just like the pictures in the magazine
She found on the floor of the laundromat
A woman with kids can forget all that
If she comes up pregnant what'll she do
Forget the career, forget about school
Can she live on faith? live on hope?
High on Jesus or hooked on dope
When it's way too late to just say no
You can't make it here anymore

Now I'm stocking shirts in the Wal-Mart store
Just like the ones we made before
'Cept this one came from Singapore
I guess we can't make it here anymore
Should I hate a people for the shade of their skin
Or the shape of their eyes or the shape I'm in
Should I hate 'em for having our jobs today
No I hate the men sent the jobs away.
I can see them all now, they haunt my dreams
All lily white and squeaky clean
They've never known want, they'll never know need
Their shit don't stink and their kids won't bleed
Their kids won't bleed in the damn little war
And we can't make it here anymore

Will work for food
Will die for oil
Will kill for power and to us the spoils
The billionaires get to pay less tax
The working poor get to fall through the cracks
Let 'em eat jellybeans let 'em eat cake
Let 'em eat shit, whatever it takes
They can join the Air Force, or join the Corps
If they can't make it here anymore

And that's how it is
That's what we got
If the president wants to admit it or not
You can read it in the paper
Read it on the wall
Hear it on the wind If you're listening at all
Get out of that limo
Look us in the eye
Call us on the cell phone
Tell us all why
In Dayton, Ohio
Or Portland, Maine
Or a cotton gin out on the great high plains
That's done closed down along with the school
And the hospital and the swimming pool
Dust devils dance in the noonday heat
There's rats in the alley
And trash in the street
Gang graffiti on a boxcar door
We can't make it here anymore

Next: New house, new job, new bike!

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