Behind the Headlines
by Justin Raimondo

August 28, 2000


If you remember the classic science fiction movie Invasion of the Body-Snatchers, with its "pod people" from outer space ousting humans from their bodies and taking over whole towns, then this might help in understanding what has been going on with the Reform Party. In the movie, you recall, the aliens were essentially parasitic creatures, squishy larvae-looking things that couldn't exist on earth without a human host; in the Reform Party, these parasites have their equivalent in the supporters of John Hagelin and the Natural Law Party (NLP), who have descended on the Reformers in a full-scale invasion – and fully intend to displace their unwilling hosts.


But wait a minute: who are these guys, and what do they want? Organized in April 1992, the NLP is the political action wing of the Transcendental Meditation (TM) movement, whose Supreme Leader, the Guru Maharishi Maheesh Yogi, is the founder of a Vedic-based religious sect that promises its followers "bubbling bliss." The Maharishi, known as "the Giggling Guru" for his obnoxious habit of tittering at his own pronouncements of divine wisdom, scored a coup in the 1960s when his most prominent disciples were the Beatles. While the Fab Four grew disenchanted with TM – when the Maharishi called them on the carpet and asked why, John Lennon purportedly said, "Well, if you're so cosmic, then you'll know why" – one member of the cult who was faithful to the end was Doug Henning, the famous magician, who died of liver cancer at the age of 52, so addled by TM that he rejected his craft, which he had come to call "fake magic," for the "real magic" of the Maharishi. In recent years, the vision of the Giggling Guru has taken on an ominously apocalyptic tone: he believes that we are headed for a cosmic catastrophe caused by a combination of bad karma and bad food. Genetically engineered food will be mankind's downfall, according to the Maharishi:

"The gene is the intelligence value of the system. If you ingest the intelligence value of genetically engineered food, it doesn't fit with your body's intelligence. Those who eat these foods had better pray for evolution in the next lifetime, because they will not live to see enlightenment in this lifetime."


Politically, the advocates of the Transcendental Meditation techniques of the Guru Maharishi Maheesh Yogi, who believe that their so-called "yogic flyers" can actually levitate, are interested in one thing and one thing only: government subsidies. As John Knapp, of the Cult Awareness Network, put it:

"In 1992, the Maharishi urged his followers to enter global politics to avert coming global calamity. At his direction, leaders of the Transcendental Meditation movement founded the Natural Law Party and entered political campaigns in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, and many other countries. The thrust of the Natural Law Party's platform has been securing government funding for teaching Transcendental Meditation to American citizens and outlawing genetic engineering and other research they view as environmentally dangerous."


The solution of John Hagelin, the NLP's presidential candidate, to the Kosovo crisis was to send in a corps of what the TMers call "yogic flyers" – cult members who are able to levitate while they meditate – who would spread bliss and harmony throughout the Balkans. At a press conference held in Washington, Hagelin proposed that NATO set up an elite corps of Yogic flyers, whose beneficial vibes are "proven" to bring "tranquility and bliss." Hagelin cited the NLP's 1993 "Demonstration to Reduce Violence," when thousands of TM levitators converged on Washington in order to prove the efficacy of their meditation techniques – whereupon the murder rate in the nation's capital surged to an all-time high. Hagelin "explained" this by claiming that it would have been even higher but for the intervention of his army of meditators. As Bob Park trenchantly remarked in his newsletter, What's New [April 9, 1999]:

"The press conference ended with 12 trained yogic flyers bouncing around on mattresses. It was clear to me his plan would work. Serbian troops viewing 7,000 bouncing yogic flyers would be rendered helpless by laughter."


But the joke is on the rest of us – and the TM leaders will be laughing all the way to the bank. For the use of public monies to spread the TM gospel – and enrich thousands of TM "practitioners" – is the number one item on the Natural Law Party's agenda. In England, the NLP – given free television time along with all the other parties – garnered a bit of publicity by featuring shots of "yogic flyers" bouncing up and down on mattresses. In Canada, they pulled the same stunt, but, as one Canadian observer of the TM movement writes:

"Here in Canada, they have much bigger plans to pay TMers with tax money as 'senior Civil Servants' at $70K to $80K/year to devote all of their time and energy to 'yogic flying." They want to spend over half a billion of tax money to get a corps of 7,000 mattress humpers off the ground, so to speak. Apparently this number was derived by taking the square root of 1% of the worlds population."


What seems like a bunch of harmless weirdos is, in reality, a group of very experienced and wily scamsters: As ex-members put it, "Involvement in TM is not cheap." While the TMers have nonprofit status as an educational organization, they are certainly raking in the cash: the TM movement is valued between $2-3 billion dollars. Initiation starts at $1000: advanced mantras will cost you $390, health mantras a hefty $700, instruction in various psychophysiological techniques costs $700, and you can stock op on a supply of the Maharishi's sacred herbs for $1000 per year. Cleansing programs range from $2700 to $6600, while yagyas (religious ceremonies performed to solicit the aid of Hindu deities), "Jyotish" (Hindu astrology TM-style), and Ayur-Veda prescribed gems will all help drain your bank account. "Enlightenment" is going to cost you plenty. But these are not just enterprising entrepreneurs, they are also looking to insinuate their religious views into the healthcare delivery systems of countries throughout the world. The predominance of socialized medicine in the West – with the US the last holdout, as the left is constantly reminding us – makes this goal not only achievable but even pretty likely. Can't you just see Hillary's health plan including coverage for all kinds of "alternative" nostrums, such as TM and "aromatherapy"?


The media spin on the battle for the Reform nomination was that the party split was analogous to a dysfunctional family; their take was to portray two factions of the same grouping tearing down the house rather than let their opponents have full title. But this is completely in error: Hagelin and the NLP are interlopers who somehow gained entry and are now trying to take over – or else take off with the family silver. The Natural Law Party has always been not only separate from the Reform party, since the NLP's founding in 1992, when Hagelin was on over 20 state ballots, but also in direct competition with it. When the Perot movement was at its height, Hagelin ran against Ross: Hagelin ran again in 1996. With Perot also in the race that year, the NLP was on the ballot in 43 states plus the District of Columbia. It wasn't until 1999, however, that Hagelin and his crew decided to seek the Reform Party nomination – without, however, abandoning the NLP. The proposed "merger" of the two parties was overwhelmingly rejected by the Reform Party National Committee, and the deadly embrace of the Yogic Flyers has so far been avoided – unless the Federal Election Commission, a government agency controlled by the two major parties, gives this shotgun wedding the force of law. . . .


Hagelin and his Yogic Flyers are like those cowbirds that lay eggs in the nests of other species – their survival strategy depends on their ability to fool the foster parents into believing that the resulting baby cowbird is their own. They are basically interlopers, who were successfully repelled – managing to garner just about 20 to 25 percent of the delegate votes at the Long Beach convention. But that isn't the story we heard coming out of that convention: the wires, the television reports, the columnists all insisted that a mass uprising against Pat Buchanan and his dreaded Buchananites had split the party irrevocably into two roughly equal parts. In reality, however, the "split" was a bit of Kabuki theater, enacted for the benefit of the media – and the courts.


Everything about this phony "split" was prearranged, from the rental of the rival "Reform Party" convention hall across the way from the Long Beach Convention Center to the carefully-staged confrontations: the finale came when the Hagelinistas, having bussed in a couple of hundred vacant-eyed acolytes from various TM "communes," actually marched on the legitimate convention hall, demanding entry for each and every one of their mind-numbed robots as "delegates." They were politely asked by the cops, and Reform Party officials in charge of the convention, to turn around and march right back where they came from – and they meekly complied. Jim Mangia's gleeful prediction that there would be a "bloody" confrontation was never even in the cards. It was a ridiculous exercise that was the anticlimax of an entirely predictable scenario – and one enacted in an oddly ritualized manner, as if the actors were merely going through the motions. The media dutifully recorded this charade, as if the actions of the Hagelinistas had any political meaning – or legal standing – and it is against this backdrop that the FEC is going to make its decision. . . .


A parasite is essentially a destructive creature – it lives off the sustenance of others, and eventually starves its' host to death, whereupon it moves to the next victim. Hagelin's gambit, which might rightly be called the invasion of the party-snatchers, is slated to achieve a similar result as far as the Reform Party is concerned. The proof of this is in California, where – as in every other state – they are challenging the legitimacy of the duly-constituted Reform Party, while claiming to be the "real" Reformers. While already on the ballot as the candidate of the Natural Law Party, Hagelin is also claiming the Reform Party nomination as his own. The effect of his efforts in California is not to secure ballot status – which he already has – but to deny it to Buchanan. Hagelin's ends are purely destructive – to deprive Buchanan's many supporters in California from having the opportunity to vote for their man. With the Maharishi's vast wealth and the considerable resources of the cult at their disposal, the NLP is waging a persistent campaign to derail the Reform party and make sure that Buchanan is off the ballot in as many states as possible – even in those states when they could both be on. So much for Hagelin's lofty paeans to "reform," "democracy," and more "democratic" ballot access laws. These cowbirds are a special predatory breed: they not only lay eggs in other nests, but they also try to devour the rightful inhabitants.


The Republican Secretary of State, Bill Jones, initially put Buchanan on the ballot, at the instruction of the state chairman of the party – but then rescinded the designation when dissident members of the state executive committee protested that this was against their interpretation of the Reform Party's state bylaws. It was an unusual intervention by state election officials, to say the least – but less mysterious in light of George W. Bush's recent plunge in the polls. With the Republicans' double-digit lead, which they had enjoyed for months, evaporating virtually overnight, the GOP is in a panic – and Jones is their instrument. Gore is currently leading in California, and Nader's numbers are falling as the race gets tighter. Buchanan on the ballot in the Golden State could make the difference by taking votes away from the Republicans. Is the GOP "moderate" Jones using his power as California's secretary of state to keep Buchanan off the ballot for purely partisan reasons? It wouldn't be the first time the "major" parties used the power of government to their own political advantage, now would it? And speaking of Republicans . . .


There is some fascinating material extent on the GOP-TM connection – one that, believe it or not, is directly linked to the Bush family. According to a fascinating article posted on Mumball, a site that describes itself as "a critical look at the Natural Law Party and Maharishi University of Management, published by Bob Brigante, a satisfied TM customer since 1968," Alfred Jenkins, a longtime State department official known as "Mr. China" – an old friend of the Bush family who served as a trustee of Maharishi University from 1974-79 – was a longtime TM devotee with links to the Bush family and the GOP. Jenkins met George H. Bush in 1974, when Bush took over a diplomatic post in Beijing where Jenkins served as senior deputy. The article notes that Jenkins mentions his connection to TM in his memoir, Country, Conscience and Caviar: A Diplomat's Journey in the Company of History, and recounts the following:

"Jenkins still meditates but 'left the movement when it became more flamboyant, making what charitably can only be viewed as premature claims, and appearing to be more money-conscious than my taste could accommodate." (p.300) Jenkins says that he wishes that his friend Dr. Kissinger would practice TM (p.301), but neglects to mention that George Bush did take the hint and start TM. George Bush met Jenkins in 1974 when he took over the Liaison Office precursor to full diplomatic relations with China) in Beijing from David Bruce and his senior deputy, Alfred Jenkins. . . . Bush's initiation into TM (which his sons also started) inspired TM teacher Mike Love of the Beach Boys to raise lots of money for Bush when he competed with Reagan for the Republican presidential nomination. There are limits on what an individual can give to a politician's campaign, but there are no limits on what a musician can raise by holding concerts, so the efforts of Mike Love were especially prized by Bush and other Republican party officials There does not appear to be any reason why California surfer-hippie types like the Beach Boys, who never displayed any interest in politics before their support of Bush, would support a Maine-Texas Republican ex-CIA Director like Bush except for the fact that Bush started TM, a fact which was widely talked about in the can't-keep-a-secret TM movement back in the 70s."


Mike Love, we are told, now raises money for the Natural Law Party. The NLP-GOP-Bush family connection is not as far-fetched as it seems: while the Bush family involvement in TM is just gossip that has apparently been percolating around movement circles for years, the connections to TM of people in the Bush political orbit raises an interesting possibility. Never mind Dubya's visit to Bob Jones University -- let's hear what he has to say about his visit to Maharishi U, where he stumped for his father. If we ask the question, who benefits from the wrecking operation in the Reform Party aimed at Buchanan, the obvious answer is: the GOP, and specifically George W. In light of this, the possibility of a connection between the Bush family and the TM movement, either personally or politically, raises all kinds of disturbing questions, not the least of which is: John Hagelin and his Yogic Flyers – whose sock puppets are they?


The key fact to remember is that Hagelin and his yogic-flying scamsters need the help of the Federal Election Commission to pull it off their scam – and it is frightening to contemplate the circumstances in which such an unholy alliance might be consummated. A number of FEC officials, usually speaking anonymously, have suggested all kinds of possible solutions to what they uniformly claim is a baffling and unprecedented conundrum. One proposed that Buchanan and Hagelin divide the federal matching funds between them, while yet another suggested that they just might withhold the money entirely. If either event obtains, then perhaps we can look forward, in 2004, to Hagelin's campaign for the Republican presidential nomination – and it isn't hard to imagine the following scenario:


After being defeated at state party conventions and party primaries from one end of the country to the other, Hagelin and his Yogic Flyers travel to the GOP national convention with exactly the same tactical plan they executed in Long Beach. Hire a hall across the way, bus in as many "delegates" as possible, recruit a few sympathizers inside the legitimate convention, and stage a very visible and dramatic "walk-out" – from a party in which they were never actually members. Then go across the street, convene your own "rump" convention – and appeal to the FEC for custody of the GOP's federal matching funds, since, after all, you and your tiny band of wacko followers are the "real" Republican party. Think it would work?


Of course they'd never pull it off when it comes to one of the two "major" parties, who enjoy special privileges and protections not afforded to the parties of the "minor" leagues. However, the Reform Party is held to a different standard. Ominously, FEC Chairman Darryl Wold is cited in an Associated Press story as having said:

"It is possible that both will be eligible for the money. However, the federal statute 'doesn't provide any guidance in that regard, so we don't have any experience to fall back on. Agency attorneys are now analyzing what should be done in that case. We'll be in uncharted waters. It doesn't mean we'll be at sea or adrift, but we would open a new path.'"


There is, unfortunately, nothing new about the "path" the FEC is in danger of treading. Historically, the two "major" parties have used ballot access laws and other "legal" means to limit the electoral possibilities of third party movements. Pat Buchanan slogged to virtually every Reform Party convention, in every state but a few, winning the overwhelming majority of delegates and sewing up the party's presidential nomination fair and square. Now a cabal of embittered would-be Reform party bosses and some New Age nutballs are using the courts – and the power of the federal government – to harass, drain, and eventually derail his campaign.


As I put the finishing touches on this column, word has reached me that Buchanan is being sued by Ravi Batra, an economist and meditation enthusiast sympathetic to Hagelin, for "plagiarism." The news release announcing the suit was issued by the phony "Reform Party" of Russell Verney, who is quoted practically frothing at the mouth: "Pat Buchanan is not an honorable man," he rants. "Pat Buchanan tried to cheat his way to political fame and $12.6 million in the Reform Party, and now it appears that he tried to cheat his way to literary success and tens of thousands of dollars in book royalties." Such naked hatred is not a pretty sight, but then neither is Verney himself, an embittered old has-been who has had his fifteen seconds of fame and is about to drop back into the obscurity he so richly deserves.


According to the release, the "plagiarism" consists of duplicated charts and graphs that supposedly appear in both books – a dubious charge if ever there was one, since charts and graphs measuring the same phenomena – such as trade deficits – are bound to be identical. Are these maniacs going to be allowed to use the courts to continually harass their political opponents? As for Batra's own sympathies, they are not too hard to discern. As an admiring biographical sketch of the Indian academic puts it: "When Batra is not pontificating eruditely on the economies of the world, you may find him relaxing with a game of tennis. His other favorite: tantric meditation. The value-based tantric meditation that Batra practices demands that he lead a saintly life on strict principles of morality with no cheating, lying, meat eating and a life dedicated to social service and opposing injustice. It also involves high-powered meditation on the cosmic entity." Not content to write bestselling economic potboilers which invariably predict some impending catastrophe that never seems to materialize, Dr. Batra has also taken on the airs of a spiritual guru second only to John Hagelin, or even the Maharishi himself. To get some idea of his prose style – and the impossibility of the idea that Buchanan would have "plagiarized such woozy crap – let me treat you to a sampling of Batra's crackpot theorizing. According to the good Doctor, people

"have needs that cannot possibly be satisfied by material objects. The human thirst for happiness is infinite, but material things are all finite; hence they can never quench the human thirst. Human beings all seek unlimited joy, but material objects, being limited, can never offer that. The limited cannot yield the unlimited. Only an infinite entity can satisfy the infinite human hunger for enjoyment. Spiritual activity is simply a pursuit of the infinite entity."

No one in his right mind would possibly plagiarize such a turgid and unimaginative writer: it would be like shoplifting dollar trinkets from the five-and-dime. The Batra lawsuit is clearly harassment, but the Yogic Flyers have plenty of cash to throw around, and money is no object in pursuit of their destructive agenda:


Former members of the cult attest, and federal tax returns confirm that between 1985 and 1989, two of the Maharishi's companies transferred a total of $54-million out of the country to his secluded fortress headquarters located at Vlodrop, Netherlands. With a multi-million dollar income from selling "enlightenment" to hundreds of thousands of gullible disciples worldwide, the Transcendental Meditators are pumping lots of cash into the political arm of their movement – in spite of the legal prohibitions against religious organizations engaging in political activities. Since their chosen target is Buchanan, you can bet that they'll be far less closely monitored by federal authorities than, say, the Christian Coalition. Pat Robertson and his flock were targeted for putting out a voter's guide for Christians and faced all kinds of persecution by the federal government, but let an Indian guru pour millions of his ill-gotten dollars into a political movement such as the Natural Law Party, with the goal of taking over and neutralizing the effectiveness of the nation's third-largest party, and our federal overseers and regulators are conspicuous by their absence. What's up with that?


In a recent interview, Hagelin disdained the FEC money, saying that, if he didn't get it, it wouldn't really matter, and boasting about his ability to raise virtually unlimited amounts of money. Oh. really? Where is all this cash coming from – and to what end? The NLP is but one of a few dozen Natural Law parties from Canada to Pakistan, which regularly meet in international conclave and act in concert. To what extent the finances of the US branch are subsidized by the international organization is a matter that would normally be of great interest to federal overseers, but the only real investigation of the NLP has been over alleged voter registration fraud in California. With enormous resources of its own, as well as links to many well-heeled sympathizers with big corporate connections, the energetic "get Buchanan" campaign has been well-greased with ready cash – but where is it coming from? Inquiring minds want to know. . . .


In North Carolina, South Carolina, and in state after state, the Buchanan campaign is beating back attempts by these cowbirds to torpedo the Reform Party. Buchanan has been hospitalized twice in the past week for gallstones – a painful if not life threatening experience, I am told – is in good spirits, as usual, and cannot wait to get back into the fray. Those pundits who sniffed at the Reformers' unscripted convention and pretended that Hagelin was ever a serious candidate are in for a surprise. If the FEC dares to withhold so much as a dime from Buchanan, and openly uses its power to knock the Reform Party out of contention, the outcry will knock them off their feet with its fury. The Buchanan camp has played by the rules, but those rules could be changed in the middle of the game. If so, millions of Americans will be disenfranchised – and further alienated from a system they already distrust and often despise.


There is already a whole school of thought that considers Buchanan's positions on immigration, affirmative action, and other hot-button issues to be "hate speech": if uttered by a student on virtually any college campus in this country, such views could lead to his or her expulsion. In Canada, Britain, and parts of Western Europe, "anti-hate" legislation was passed by left-wing parliaments as an instrument of political repression, to block the formation of right-wing populist mass parties. While not yet resorting to such radical legal sanctions, the American arbiters of political correctness have done everything – and I do mean everything! – to make sure that Buchanan never even gets on a ballot, never mind anywhere near the presidential debates. If the Anti-Buchananites have their way, this presidential election year, our choices will be limited to three: the Center (Bush), the Left (Gore), and the Far Left (Nader). The Right, entirely absent, will be rendered illegitimate and driven largely underground. Most importantly, if Buchanan is kicked off the ballot or denied equal access to the same resources available to the other parties – as if this were Mexico in the bad old days of the PRI – it means that foreign policy will not even be discussed this election year. Buchanan has declared that foreign policy is going to be the linchpin of his campaign – and that is the last thing our rulers want at a time when war clouds are gathering on every horizon, from the Balkans to the Middle East.


The invasion of the party-snatchers is but one phase of an extended campaign to derail and destroy the Buchanan campaign, and it, too, is failing. But there's more in store for PJB: after all, the campaign season has hardly begun – and the Anti-Buchanan Brigades are just warming up. Well, let them do their worst. I suspect it won't be enough. After smashing the last desperate maneuvers of the frothy-mouthed Verney and his hate-filled cabal – and recovering from a painful but necessary series of operations, – Pat Buchanan is going to come out swinging. And that is precisely what makes them so afraid.


The source of their fear is Buchanan's intellectual and personal vitality, which keeps bouncing back with renewed vigor each time his political obituary is written. They said he was finished as a serious conservative leader when he dared oppose the Gulf war – and he went on to challenge and nearly unseat a sitting American president. They said his bold and elegantly-written book, A Republic, Not an Empire, would have to mean the ruin of its author – for no one is allowed to challenge the sacred mythology of internationalism and live to tell the tale. When that prediction failed, and Pat's move to make the Reform Party an instrument of conservative populism succeeded, the legal assault began – but this, too, shall pass, and (in a week or so) the FEC will render its decision. . . .


The Buchanan campaign has made its application for the federal matching funds due the Reform Party, and the feds have ten days to process the request. Let us be clear about what they are deciding. The question is whether or not peaceful political reform is possible any longer in a country lapsing into the final stages of imperial decadence. When all avenues to peaceful change are closed, either by state repression or the kind of private pressure that is often even more effective, society becomes a kind of pressure cooker – one just waiting to explode.

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