Archive for the Recent History Category

Sarah Palin: McCain strategist: Palin thought candidacy was mapped by God

Schmidt, McCain’s chief campaign adviser, said he asked Palin about her serenity in the face of becoming “one of the most famous people in the world.” He quoted her as saying, “It’s God’s plan.” Palin has not ruled out a run for the presidency.

John Edwards: Saint Elizabeth and the Ego Monster

There was nothing legit, however, about Hunter’s behavior. It was freaky, wildly inappropriate, and all too visible. She flirted outlandishly with every man she met. She spouted New Age babble, rambled on about astrology and reincarnation, and announced to people she had just met, “I’m a witch.” But mostly, she fixated on Edwards. She told him that he had “the power to change the world,” that “the people will follow you.” She told him that he could be as great a leader as Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr. She told him, “You’re so real. You just need to get your staff out of your way.” She reinforced everything he already believed, told him everything he wanted to hear.

Edwards swooned. He spent hours talking to Hunter, listening patiently to her ideas about the state of American democracy and advice on media strategy. (She had intuitions about Chris Matthews.) He ate every meal with her, sat next to her on the plane and in the car, offered to wheel her bags through airports. He told the staff to treat her like a principal. He behaved as if she were a combination of an adviser and a spouse. If Baldick suggested that she not take a trip, Edwards would resist. When Hunter wanted access to some event that Brumberger thought she shouldn’t attend, Edwards would order, “Let her do it.” Or plead, “C’mon, just let her do it.” Or whisper conspiratorially, “Just let her do it this one time.”

Ronald Reagan: Reagans reported to use astrology in governing U.S.

WASHINGTON (KNT-Special) – U.S. President Ronald Reagan has made key decisions, including the scheduling of major events, based on advice his wife [Nancy Reagan] got from an astrologer, sources close to the couple say.

The closely guarded secret about the Reagans’ fascination with astrology will be detailed in a few weeks in a new book by former White House chief of staff Donald Regan, the sources said yesterday.

Other sources close to the Reagans confirmed that the first lady has a keen interest in astrology and has used it to shape the president’s schedule and influence decisions. They declined to reveal the California astrologer’s name.

Crossposted from the TM-Free Blog.

(A statement of one man’s opinion, with quotes from, and links to, published historical references.)

Today is “National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day.” Designated by the Center for Mental Health Services of the US government’s Department of Health and Human Services, Awareness Day, among other things, serves to raise “awareness of effective programs for children’s mental health needs.”    

As always seems to be the tendency among those who market Transcendental Meditation, the names of legitimate institutions, federal agencies, and their programs and activities, like this one, are simply devices that they feel free to pick up, use, and abuse, hoping that some of that legitimacy will rub off on them and their promotional efforts. Unfortunately that also seems to be true for this year’s Awareness Day.

I hear that the David Lynch Foundation, along with the Communication Office of the so-called “Raja Hagelin’s Administration for an Invincible America” (boy, that sure sounds legit… pardon me while I stifle laughter) is right now emailing its minions in an attempt to gain both press coverage and word of mouth attention for a webinar that they’ll be running in honor of this Day… tomorrow. On that webinar will be a number of employees of the DLF, the TM movement’s university, and a few other doctors who inexplicably lend their names to this nonsense, specifically to propose TM as if it were something helpful in treating Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), as part of Lynch’s ongoing efforts to introduce the TM program into schools. It will not be a pretty sight for those of us who are familiar with a few decades of the TM movement’s futile efforts of this nature.

The exaggerated claims for TM often take the form of this one, from the first few pages of The TM Book, which I think sums up, in the broadest sense, the attitude that its promoters exude:

The Transcendental Meditation program changes the quality of life from poverty, emptiness, and suffering to abundance, fulfillment, and happiness.

I’ve emphasized “suffering” in the above quote; it’s where the promise of a uniformly improved quality of life inherent in that quote, a panacea that’ll fix everything that ails you, completely falls apart.

That children and young people who grew up in and around the TM movement, and attended its schools, have suffered from mental illness is a fact. That students at Maharishi University of Management, who are required to practice the TM program, have suffered from diagnosed but untreated mental illness, in one case resulting in a murder, has also been documented. Likewise, the children of long-time, committed meditators have also suffered from mental illness, in one recent well-documented case resulting in suicide.

We know these things are true because the long history of suffering, and tragedy, is a subject of common knowledge among the TM community in Fairfield, and from time to time such things are reported by the media.


1990: Mark Totten

In the late fall of 1990, this obituary appeared in the TM-EX Newsletter:

Mark Totten

Mark Alan Totten, 27, a resident of Building 123 B, Maharishi International University, Fairfield, Iowa, was killed early November 29, 1990 after apparently placing himself in the path of a oncoming Burlington Northern train near the Fairfield depot.

The railroad crew reported hitting a body on the tracks at 2:12 a.m. Totten originally was from the Boston area. He was the son of Norman Totten of Newton, MA, and Peggyann Sekton of Weston, MA.

Mark’s sister Julie later founded Families for Depression Awareness in memory of her brother and others. It’s an organization that, among other things, works to help depressed people obtain or manage treatment for depression, and prevent suicides.


2004: Shuvender Sem

On March 1, 2004, Shuvender Sem, a Maharishi University of Management student, stabbed and killed fellow student Levi Butler in the university’s cafeteria. Sem was found not guilty by reason of insanity.

Shuvender Sem’s history of hospitalization for psychiatric problems was reported by the Fairfield Daily Ledger and the Des Moines Register, including the detail that he had not been taking medication for several months before the stabbing:

Prosecution agrees Sem was insane. Fairfield Daily Ledger, June 8, 2005

Prosecutor Virginia Barchman told the judge that in 2002 and 2003, while living in Pennsylvania, Sem had been hospitalized between nine and 12 times for psychiatric problems. She said his illness had usually been diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenia, which caused auditory and visual hallucinations, acts of violence and paranoia.

Ex-student ruled insane in stabbing.The Des Moines Register, June 14, 2005

Sem drifted from anger to elation before and after the attacks and reported hearing voices in his head.

Before he attended Maharishi University, Sem had been hospitalized between nearly a dozen times in 2002 and 2003 for psychiatric problems.

Sem had not taken psychiatric medications for several months before the stabbing.

Levi Butler’s estate subsequently sued Maharishi University of Management for negligence. In the complaint, this allegation appears: “While at Maharishi University of Management, Shuvender Sem did not take anti-psychotic medications that had been prescribed to control his chronic schizophrenia.”


2008: Nicole Rowe

From Mental health advocates praise new legislation, mourn those lost to suicide. The Gazette, October 7, 2008

Nicole Rowe planned her suicide carefully.

According to her father, North Potomac resident Kenneth Rowe, it happened sometime between the hours of 9 p.m. and midnight on Sept. 13. Nicole Rowe, who had several months before moved to Iowa from her home in Montgomery County to be with her mother, had a long history with mental illness, including several previous suicide attempts.

That night, her father said, she was having problems with her boyfriend, and had recently threatened that she would kill herself. She dressed in dark clothing and made her way to a nearby train track, at a spot where she knew there was a bend in the rail line. She waited for an oncoming train. Then, she threw herself in front of it.

She was 20.

Kenneth Rowe, when asked to describe his daughter, said she was beautiful and intelligent. “She was a really good athlete — she was good at the 800 meters,” Rowe said. “She had a beautiful voice and she wrote beautifully.”

Nicole had a long history of struggling with bipolar disorder, Rowe said. Though bipolar disorders can often be treated successfully with medication, Nicole refused to take it, Rowe said.

As a child, Nicole attended Maharishi School for the Age of Enlightenment, a since-defunct elementary school founded by TM teachers in the Washington, DC area. Her mother, Lisa Stickels, was once an advocate of Transcendental Meditation in public schools. A published account of a meeting promoting TM in schools in 2003 reported that Stickels had practiced TM since 1971.

While advocates of TM are quick to point to the endorsement of doctors and scientists to support their marketing claims – to the point of creating a “” website – the actual attitudes, common among long-term TM devotees and the organization’s leaders, appear to diverge from an endorsement of science and medicine to outright hostility. It is difficult to nail down the existence of those attitudes, and even policies, since they travel by word of mouth, in advanced lectures, residence courses, and other such venues. They do not normally appear in print or on websites. But over time, evidence of this hostility eventually comes to light.  

I once visited Maharishi University of Management. The lobby of one of the buildings there, Dreier Hall, is apparently used for various exhibitions of the movement’s marketing materials. One exhibit that was hanging on the wall there, in mid-2004, was particularly striking. It consisted of two large plastic boxes, in each was a stack of paper representing published scientific studies. A short stack, maybe six inches tall, was labeled “side effects of Ayurvedic medicine.” Another stack, perhaps six feet tall, was labeled “side effects of Western medicine.” Clearly the creator of this exhibit intended to get the point across that the TM movement’s Ayurvedic products are somehow safer and more effective than western medicine. (I, on the other hand, note the obvious – that fewer unintended effects implies less effect of any kind, beneficial or otherwise.)

Perhaps the most spectacular evidence of this hostility toward medical professionals appears in an internal document recently made available to the public by way of, an organization that specializes in the publication of leaked, confidential documents. The “Governor Recertification Course Overview of Policies and Procedures” purports to be a review of the policies presented during the 2005 recertification course for TM teachers. All TM teachers who wished to continue teaching TM under the official auspices of the TM organization were required to complete this course in residence, involving a commitment of a few weeks of time and some thousands of dollars.

The document was written by, among other people, Kingsley Brooks, who was also involved with the movement’s Natural Law Party in the 1990′s. Brooks, at the time he wrote this document, was “Raja of New England,” which along with the role of being one of the movement’s regional managers, involves wearing a golden crown and being called “His Highness.”

In between a considerable amount of mundane administrative detail of a regional branch of the TM organizational structure, this section concerns the operation and promotion of “Maharishi Ayurveda and Day Spas.” Here is a striking reversal: where much of the promotion of TM, particularly to schools, exploits the legitimacy and authority of medical professionals, here the involvement of medical professionals is clearly, strongly discouraged, with a sweeping false and destructive claim that “medical professionals give poison” and the tired old claim that TM is part of a program to “create perfect health.”

Governor Recertification Course. Overview of Policies & Procedures, May, 2005

  • We are not going to take help from medical Drs. as medical professionals give poison. So don’t engage any medical Drs. for anything — absolutely whatever it is — even if they are in our Movement family
  • Raja Raam’s discovery shows us that without handling consciousness there is no hope of handling health–there will never be total health. And we have the programs for handling consciousness.
  • Hold onto the fact that we are the supreme authorities on health—we know how to create perfect health—we are challenging all governments in world.




The implication that TM is a cure for everything, and that it’s effective for everyone who tries it, has clearly been disputed by many.

The TM movement’s claims that its people are the “supreme authorities on health” and that they “know how to create perfect health” are obviously the kinds of claims one normally hears from quacks and fraudsters, even if they were only made in private. It’s as if the movement’s management actually believes that they hold a monopoly on effective health care.

That the TM movement is, internally and at any time ever, broadly dismissive if not hostile to medical professionals and scientists, while at the same time gaining the endorsement and participation of those professionals, is an important fact in evaluating the marketing claims of the TM organization and the closely allied David Lynch Foundation.

That an organization that works to gain access to schools, has at any time expressed such overwhelming and generalized hostility to medical professionals of this nature, should permanently disqualify them from ever gaining such access.

We may never know, exactly, why mentally ill young people who’ve attended the movement’s schools, or grew up in the movement’s cultural stew, did not seek, or maintain, treatment for depression and mental illness. But we can clearly point out the obvious: such attitudes held against medical professionals, expressed by the TM organization’s management, may eventually serve to undermine the provision of health services to young people who are involved with any part of the TM organization. And that is reason enough to keep the sellers of Transcendental Meditation far away from schools.




Sources and References

TM-EX Newsletter, Fall 1990

Coping After A Suicide. Families for Depression Awareness, 2008.

Estate of Levi Andelin Butler v. Maharishi University of Management et al. Complaint and jury demand. February 24, 2006. From Yahoo group Fairfield Life.

Colleges have varying policies on reporting criminal incidents. Fairfield Daily Ledger, March 9, 2004

Prosecution agrees Sem was insane. Fairfield Daily Ledger, June 8, 2005

Ex-student ruled insane in stabbing. Des Moines Register, June 14, 2005

Judge enters ‘not guilty’ verdict in murder case. Fairfield Daily Ledger, June 15, 2005

Settlement expected in killing at Maharishi school. Intelligencer Journal, January 9, 2009

Mental health advocates praise new legislation, mourn those lost to suicide. The Gazette, October 7, 2008

Genealogy Record For Nicole Rowe. Mark Stickels Family Website, April 20, 2009

Residents advocate meditation in public, charter schools. The Gazette, September 17, 2003

Governor Recertification Course. Overview of Policies & Procedures, May, 2005 – via

The Palladium-Times, January 19, 1985
The Palladium-Times, January 19, 1985

It’s a new blog, a new beginning of sorts. I thought I would, in a sense, wind the clock back to a point in time where some of my personal experiences that I’ve never before written about were in some way relevant to current events, particularly with respect to the media as we know and experience it today.

It was the fall of 1984, and along with a few other young people, I became involved in owning and managing a small radio station in a small town in upstate New York. A company that had bought a pair of stations, AM and FM, had moved the FM station to Syracuse and sought to spin off the AM to a buyer. We bought the station in December of 1984, moved from the Baltimore-Washington area to the town of Fulton, and tried to make a go of it.

Thus began a period of about a year and a half of learning all about running a small business for the first time, the hard way.

We thought with a few improvements to the programming, beginning by running the station with air talent who were at least listenable, and a consistent “middle of the road” music format geared toward adults, we would make the station viable. We brought on an extra person to do frequent newscasts in the morning, and tried to serve the entire area with a quality product, not just the small town where the station was located.

How to sum up the result of all that effort?

Almost nobody noticed.

Example of a John Birch Society column in the Oswego Valley News, April 1981.
Example of a John Birch Society column in the Oswego Valley News, April 1981. This newspaper published other JBS columns during 1985. (

We’d arrived in Fulton at the end of a period that started in the early seventies, when most radio listening moved from AM to FM. As listeners became accustomed to listening to FM, by means of other changes such as the FM radio becoming standard in new cars, the number of stations in the area effectively doubled. This left many AM stations in a threatened position, with increased competition. We also learned that, for a myriad of reasons, some specific to the town, there was considerable bias against the notion of radio advertising in the area; in fact, historically, this radio station was never really a viable business. Business owners seemed to prefer newspapers, where they could justify their spending on advertising with a clipping out of the paper that they could paste to the side of their cash register. They preferred a physical object; it seemed that the idea of paying for something that couldn’t quite be held in the hand hadn’t yet caught on there.

After awhile, I began to notice other unexpected things. One of the local newspapers, the Valley News, occasionally would run columns furnished by the John Birch Society. I’d previously thought that publications like that were something you had to seek out, maybe find in an obscure bookstore or send away for by mail. Here, all one had to do was open the local newspaper. It was just like any other column, wedged in between plenty of ads for local businesses.

Obviously, some things that I’d probably never see back home were to some degree socially acceptable here.

Portion of USGS map, Fulton, NY, 1960.
Portion of USGS map, Fulton, NY, 1960. From the Maptech historical archive

Another example was probably related to the fact that, in 1980, in a county of 113,000 people, only 445 were counted by the U.S. census as ‘black.’ We learned that the road the station was situated on was once named “Niggerville Road” – it led to a nearby little crossroads that was so named because of the skin color of a landowner who settled there in 1828. The name of the road wasn’t changed to the generic “Lakeshore Road” until sometime in the early to mid-1960′s.

There were many other contrasts with my past experiences, having grown up and lived in an urban area. Basic expectations, that people expected and supported change and “progress,” and that Americans were mobile, were challenged. Some people in this town hadn’t even once visited Syracuse, a city less than thirty miles away.

More generally it seemed that, along with much of that part of the Northeast, many who had mobility had already left town with the jobs and industry long departed. What was left were the brewery, the chocolate factory, and a smattering of other businesses.

One part of the population that was mobile, highly skilled, and employed were the workers who were building the nuclear power plant on Lake Ontario. Our apartment complex was packed full of these residents, so much so that we were on a waiting list for an apartment for some time before moving there.

A year after our arrival, plant construction came to an end, and people began to depart. A rash of business failures followed, including, inevitably, our own. I turned the station off and handed the keys to the seller, since they’d financed our purchase. I headed back to Washington DC and eventually found a job there.

Here this story came close to ending. This “dark” radio station almost disappeared permanently; the company I’d handed it back to was in the odd position of having already bought another AM station in the area. Back in those days, before deregulation, they couldn’t operate two overlapping AM stations – so they couldn’t put the station back on the air. They’d have to find another buyer for it, or hand the license back to the FCC, likely silencing the station permanently.

But some years later – by now, it’s 1988 – another fellow and his wife finally bought the station and put it back on the air. This time, though, the station would sound a bit different: large parts of its broadcast day would be filled with talk programming, delivered by satellite.

In the intervening years, there’d been some advancements in the technology of radio, an ongoing evolutionary process that, in fact, I’d been a part of. Broadcast networks had been gradually moving from landlines to satellites for distribution. At first, the technology was relatively primitive, expensive, and really only available to the major networks at the time: ABC, CBS, NBC, Mutual, along with the AP and UPI wire services. Previously, I’d worked for Mutual – then a subsidiary of Amway – in a multi-million dollar uplink facility specially built for that purpose. But the financial and regulatory boundaries to entry into this kind of business were coming down, largely driven by advancements in technology.

By the late 1980′s, other entrepreneurs were looking to get into the business of network radio. One of these people was a guy by the name of Chuck Harder, a former disk jockey turned radio talk-show host. He started the “Sun Radio Network” from the garage of his home.

From the perspective of an owner of a small radio station just getting by, networks like Harder’s offered a viable option. For the one-time cost of a satellite downlink – which could even be leased – an inexpensive, if not free way of filling airtime became available. One person, or a couple, could operate a radio station all day and do other tasks, since they need not be on the air all that time. After a few hours of “live” programming on weekday mornings, the rest of the day’s schedule could be filled by programs off the satellite, with only the addition of local commercials for a few minutes an hour.

Viewed most cynically, commercial broadcast programming is just a matter of filling in the spaces between commercials, providing ears and eyes for those commercials. Filling those spaces with some guy sitting in his garage in Tampa, saying whatever comes to mind, is a lot cheaper than paying a number of people to play music. In particular, it’s a lot less expensive than a subscription to the Associated Press newswire, which cost hundreds of dollars a month for even a small station.

But as the nature of the players changed, as the programming sources moved from the traditional to the new, so did the content.

Here was one marker of that contrast: the product of a news organization – produced by trained journalists who are paid, ideally, to separate fact from fiction, and who uncover things that are often disturbing, unexpected, and not what the audience cares to hear – costs real money.

Some guy sitting in his garage telling his audience what they want to hear – remember, this is about attracting ears for those commercials – costs nothing.

In this case, it follows that one of the frequent topics of Chuck Harder’s radio show back then was the “black helicopter” myth. Completely fictitious stories, like the allegation that armed federal agents in black helicopters were enforcing the Endangered Species Act, took on a life of their own. Stories like these having little connection if any to reality, propagated by talkshow hosts, were then picked up by politicians who ride the wave of the underlying attitudes embodied in these stories – paranoia, pointless anti-governmentalism, and distraction from more important concerns.

On a visit to the area in the early 1990′s, I heard Harder on the Fulton station I’d briefly owned, babbling with callers about these same mythical helicopters.

Thus began massive changes in the radio business. AM radio became dominated by talk hosts including Rush Limbaugh, whose national show also started in 1988. Talk radio fills up space on the dial – cheaply – and it need not fulfill any traditional expectation of being somehow connected to reality, even while it’s not clearly perceived to be simply “for entertainment purposes only.”

Fast-forward ahead almost twenty years to the present day. Now, it’s not just the little rural radio stations that are undergoing a similar transition.

Today, you have the schedule of CNN Headline News migrating to something filled with things other than news, with trash talkers like Glenn Beck and Nancy Grace.

There was once a time when if you had a half hour and you wanted to find out what was going on the world, you could turn on CNN Headline News and get a summary of current events. Now, I can’t remember when I last watched that channel.

In some ways similar to the transition of AM radio twenty years ago, a similar change is in progress. CNN, faced with more competition as the number of TV channels available by cable and satellite has exploded, along with the Internet, has changed the programming of what was a full-time news channel, replacing large blocks of time with the similar rantings of talk show hosts.

Again, this time in the search for eyeballs, the distinction between fact and fiction becomes blurred in the quest to provide an audience with what it wants to hear.

So I find it kind of quaint, when John and Joe at Americablog call for Glenn Beck’s firing, and then later notice that CNN president Jonathan Klein would rather fire qualified hard news reporters instead. And while Beck is a homophobe, and Grace is – well, out of her mind – they speak to the same background “hum” that all such personalities work to address.

That is where the eyeballs, ears and, consequently, advertising revenue come from. Endlessly repeating a narrative – a portion of the background “hum” – full of retribution against evildoers and violence, direct or implied, against outsiders and transgressors is where the money is. Facts, or the corrosive effect of this kind of narrative on society and governance, are simply irrelevant.

Which brings me to the odd little postscript of this story, which is that one of the sea changes over the past twenty years in American media, and in the broadest sense, culture, is the “mainstreaming” of certain views across media; that elements of articulation of that background “hum” that were always there have moved from relatively obscure to predominant. Rather than having to seek out the back pages of small rural papers, or tiny little radio stations that can barely be heard, to hear certain views that used to be championed by what some mistakenly called “the fringe” like the Birchers, all one need do today is turn on CNN or open The Washington Post.

And as for that little radio station in Fulton? It later went through a succession of owners, one who apparently coupled it to a free local newspaper with some success, and another who attempted to drop the talk format for “traditional country.” Ultimately the station failed again, and went dark for a while last year. Now it’s just a relay of a Syracuse radio station, which in turn runs “Radio Disney.” As broadcast media wholesale adopted the talk radio model, this station was in some ways obsolete, and likewise, Chuck Harder’s program and network have, relatively speaking, declined in recent years. Harder’s website still lists the long-gone Fulton station as his only New York State affiliate.

Photos from my time in Upstate New York can be found at my gallery site,

The man who put the station back on the air in 1988 went on to teach communications and write books about vintage outboard motors.