Monday, June 30, 2008

Injured British war veterans to receive free public transportation in London

Injured British War veterans to get free public transportation in London

By Walter Haan,

All injured British war veterans are to get free bus and subway travel in London.

The plan, which will start in November, will be open to all British veterans and their widows, widowers and dependents, whether London residents or visitors to the city.

The new plan will particularly benefit about 2,600 war veterans and war widows aged under 60 living in London who are not already eligible for free travel on public transportation such as buses, Tube (subways) and tram (trolleys). It is expected that British veterans and their family members could save about 200 British pounds per year.

The plan is being instituted to recognize the sacrifices of injured veterans, their families and dependents, because of the veterans' service in places like Afghanistan and Iraq.

It’s a great idea and I think we should copy this plan in every city and town in the United States. Of course, one of the impediments to the plan here is that American mass transport is nonexistent in most of the United States. Which is particularly unfortunate now that gasoline prices for our cars are going through the roof. And that is effecting everyone, not just veterans.

By the way, you’re probably seeing articles in newspapers and online about “poor General Motors” losing market share and its inability to sell cars in this high gas price environment. Don’t feel any sympathy for its shareholders. In the 1930s, General Motors instituted a scheme to buy up public transportation, particularly trolley lines, to dismantle them. This was a marketing plan to force more Americans to buy cars to get around. We’re all paying for that scheme now. Oil is over $143 a barrel this morning. Copyright 2008 by Walter Haan,

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Tim Russert

By Walter Haan,

Just saw another television tribute to Tim Russert at 11:25 this morning. It was the usual about how wonderful he was in his preparation and asking the big questions on Meet the Press. I watch several Sunday morning news, talking heads shows every week and I'm struck by several things.

First I want to emphasize that Russert's death at 58 of a heart attack is a massive loss, not for the nation, but for thinking Americans and of course for his family. As those who have been reading me know, my wife Wanda died at 59 from an unexpected heart attack on January 30, 2003. I know what that loss feels like. I remember waking up about two weeks after she died and thinking to myself that I felt good. Then I looked over at the other side of the bed and experienced real, physical pain as that empty side of the bed reminded me of my loss. I imagine that Tim's wife must be experiencing unexpected physical pain like that too. It's horrible.

Second, in general, the Sunday talking head shows ignore all presidential candidates except for the Republican and Democratic Party candidates. Tim Russert was an exception to that, at least once in 2004 and in 2008 when he had Ralph Nader as a guest on Meet the Press to announce his candidacy for president as an independent. As a supporter of third party and independent presidential candidates, I thank Tim for that.

Third, other than those two notable exceptions, the talking heads ignore Ralph Nader, Bob Barr and other independent candidates. On one of the shows this morning they showed the results of a poll that had Barack Obama defeating John McCain. Together they had 87% of the votes in that poll. That means there were 13% who supported other candidates or were undecided. No details were provided for that 13% as usual.

I have voted for independent candidates for president since 1992 when I voted for Ross Perot.
In 1996 I voted again for Perot and I voted in 2000 and 2004 for Nader. I will vote for Nader in 2008 because he wants to end the war in Iraq, now. Why you might ask, particularly since I publish war books and a continuation of war would be good for business.

I have read hundreds, if not thousands, of war memoirs by former soldiers who fought during World War II, and the wars in Korea and Vietnam. And that is why I'm voting for Nader. We had no choice but to battle to save the free world during World War II. In Vietnam we learned that we should not have fought that war because it really was a war of our choosing. The war and occupation of Iraq is the same. Our men and women soldiers are dying and being wounded for an unnecessary war of choice! We didn't need to do that. Bin Laden and Al Quaida and weapons of mass destruction were not in Iraq in 2002. But thanks to us, Al Quaida is in Iraq now.

One of my sons-in-laws says I shouldn't be saying things like this because it will turn potential customers away from buying Southfarm Press military books. That may be true. But I have a five month old grandson now and I'm thinking of him and his future when I support Ralph Nader and his anti-corporate, anti-war platforms. Because it's only the future we can shape now and I don't want my grandson to be cannon fodder for someone like George Bush who dishonestly rushes to war.--Copyright 2008 by Walter Haan,

Friday, June 13, 2008

American general orders an RAF pilot to trim his mustache

American general orders an RAF pilot to trim his mustache

By Walter Haan,

One of our generals with obviously way too much time on his hands in Afghanistan recently ordered a young RAF pilot with a handlebar mustache to trim it. Mustaches are a proud tradition in the RAF so the British airman refused to comply.

Flight Lieutenant Ball was told to trim his facial hair while being posted with American Air Force 366 Fighter Squadron in Afghanistan. Lieutenant Ball flies an F-15 fighter-bomber. The airman pointed out that his mustache was in line with RAF regulations.

American pilots are only allowed to grow small mustaches in Afghanistan evidently.

But this is just another incident that proves we simply don’t recognize the importance of adapting to local customs around the world. In 2007, the RAF relaxed its restrictions on facial hair for British forces serving in Afghanistan because the Afghans believe beards are a sign of status.

The American general was last seen checking spit shined boots in the Afghani desert. Good luck with that. No wonder we can’t defeat the Taliban and find Bin Laden.--Copyright 2008 by Walter Haan,

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Abuse of our military

By Walter Haan,

As I mentioned in my last post, I have read many manuscripts by veterans about their experiences. One that stands out was written by a young Puerto Rican veteran where he describes what happened to him when he first landed in Vietnam for the first time during the Vietnam War.

Having gotten off the airplane in South Vietnam, this young man was standing outside the terminal wearing his combat fatigues and carrying his rifle, probably an M-16. He was suddenly confronted by an officer who ordered him to go around to the side of the terminal building where other new arrivals were lined up facing a tall, long wall made of hedge. Ordered to get in line with the rest of the troops, he did so. All of the soldiers had their weapons and they could not see over the thick hedge or through it.

The line of soldiers was suddenly ordered to face the hedge, raise their rifles as if to fire at the hedge and then ordered to fire at the hedge until ordered to stop. All opened fire.

By this time he realized that there were Viet Cong lined up on the other side of the hedge and they were being mowed down. Upon being ordered to stop firing, our soldiers were marched away.

And this was the author's introduction to the Vietnam War.

I didn't publish the young man's memoir because it was poorly written and would have required a complete rewrite to make it publishable. But I have never forgotten this scene. I have been haunted by it ever since. The author was certainly haunted by it.

Now that we're mired in Iraq and Afghanistan and have been flooded with stories of abuse against innocent Iraqis and Afghanis by members of our Armed Forces, I can't help but be angry that our young men and women have been put in such positions. They receive no cultural education about the peoples and countries they find themselves thrust into. And so they consider everyone around them in the foreign country as a potential enemy, a Raghead, instead of being thought of as humans like us with the same concerns, likes and worries that we have back in our civilian worlds.

Two days ago, Congressman Dennis Kucinich introduced 35 articles of Impeachment in the House. When he started to speak, there was audibly noticeable conversations and shuffling nearby. Kucinich had to point out to the Speaker that the house was not brought to order. Speaker Pulosi pound her gavel again and finally quiet was achieved. This is a symbolic moment that speaks volumes about Americans not paying attention, not attempting to bring President Bush to the dock for his crimes that have put our young people in peril based on lies.

On Saturday night, June 7th, I attended a rally for Ralph Nader in Middletown, Connecticut. There were only about 50 people in the audience but Nader gave a rousing one hour speech and took questions afterwards. He quoted Cicero: "Freedom is participation in power."

But we seem powerless to stop our participation in the armed conflicts in Iraq. The Bush government right now is attempting to force Iraq to accept 57 permanent American bases in Iraq. And so, our government will continue to expose our military young men and women to unnecessary danger for who knows how long. This is a further abuse of our military and its members. --Copyright 2008 by Walter Haan,