Wednesday, December 29, 2010


The theme for this, my last post of 2010, was stimulated by many converging events all happening this week. It started when my friend Bonnie Weiss told me she was spending New Year's Eve at a party hosted by someone who teaches something called Biodanza. I Googled it and found it to be a new personal development sensation around the world that originated in South America--a combination of dance and emotional sharing and group dynamics.

This reminded me of an old friend and mentor in Miami, Poldi Orlando. Every Monday night at the Unitarian church, she taught her creative movement class, and we all learned to move in new and energized ways. I have experienced some of the most celebrated movement teachers in the world, but not one of them could hold a candle to Poldi, the Polish dynamo. She was a dancing magician, transforming many klutzes like me into graceful beings. Joining me at many of those Monday nights was my favorite beautiful dancer, Rupa Cousins. We also attended Sufi dancing classes at the church, and Rupa has since become a teacher of Sufi dancing herself, along with her bodywork and therapy practice, her workshops on Dance As Prayer, her folk dancing, and all the other amazing stuff she does.
And when Rupa and I talked about this yesterday, I mentioned that I had had two women in my life with whom dancing was like making love, though neither of them were romantic partners. Then today, I found this great quote from Anne Morrow Lindbergh's Gift From The Sea (one of the ten landmark books given to students of the mail order Famous Writers School). You can see why many couples writing their own wedding vows like to include it:

"A good relationship has a pattern like a dance and is built on some of the same rules. Dancers know they are moving to the same rhythm, creating a pattern together, and being invisibly nourished by it. The joy of the pattern is not only the joy of creation or the joy of participation; it is also the joy of living in the moment."

And I was also reminded of my dear friend, the late Ric Masten, often called by such celebrated fans as Bill Moyers "The People's Poet". He also came to the Miami Unitarian church from his home in Big Sur--he was a Unitarian minister as well as poet and troubador.
Perhaps Ric's most popular song was Let It Be A Dance:

Let it be a dance we do.
May I have this dance with you?
Through the good times
and the bad times, too.
Let it be a dance.

And one thing Ric said once has stuck in my mind for many years. He said if we could only speed up the mountains, we would see that they were dancing.

And so I have two words for what I prefer calling one of my New Year's Revolutions.

More Dancing!

May your 2011 be filled with the moves and melodies to delight, nourish, enliven,
and inspirit you.

It's been a profound pleasure dancing with you all through 2010 on these pages.


Monday, December 20, 2010


As is my habit at the end of each year and approaching of the new one, I have been doing a lot of meditating and reflecting on the way things are, the way they have been, and the way I hope they will be in the future. This has been colored dramatically this year by the loss of my closest friend, Susannah, reported here in the previous edition.

I went through the grieving, denial, anger phases very quickly, and now have focused on the important lessons I have learned, and noticing the huge gap in my life with her absence.
I wrote about some of this on my prosperity blog:

A comment on that post from Kristine Baker summed up two contradictory qualities Susannah brought to the table that are rare to find in a single person, let alone a friend. She was very traditional, stable, and consistent in many ways--someone you could really depend on to say what she meant and do what she said she was going to do. But she was also one of the most spontaneous and adventurous people I've known. Kristine wrote:

I've been a fan of yours for many years having read your book MoneyLove a long time ago and taking valuable lessons from it. I also have known Susannah in Santa Fe for the past few years through our mutual soprano voices. I would say she was a rock! and a hoot! I'm very glad to have known her.

I just had the thought that maybe I should have titled this post, A Rock And A Hoot!

But also, as I feel the gap that is left, I appreciate even more the friendships that are still here, ever more precious to me now. I talked in my early book, FRIENDS: The Power And Potential Of The Company You Keep, about what the friends you choose can reveal about you and how important this aspect of one's life is. I think of friends I've had for a long time, people with whom I've shared many joys, triumphs, and even some sorrow. Rupa, Mary Ann, Rachel, Gregg, Bonnie. Shared memories have a lot to do with my affection for these friends, but their continuing presence in my life is what I treasure most--as you are no doubt well aware, not all friends hold up so well in the test of time.

But since my release from prison, two very special men have come into that circle of dear friends. Barry Dunlop, big Moneylove fan and successful Internet entrepreneur, who has been a major supporter and mentor in some profound and remarkable ways. And Tony Busse, who has also added much to my still-on-parole limited lifestyle. Barry has taught me a lot about the possibilities and potential of reconnecting with my Moneylove audience online. Tony has painted the wonders of Panama so vividly that I am determined to make it one of my first stops on my post-parole travels in nine months. Both have offered valuable insight and feedback for my re-emerging efforts, and both have made the past year richer and more fulfilling than it would have been otherwise.

So as I celebrate and commemorate the passing of one remarkable friend, so do I also give a prayer of thanks for the arrival of new friends into my life. In this holiday season, counting my old and new friends as my blessings, their presence is the best present of all.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Susannah Lippman exemplified what it meant to be a true friend, and helped inspire a book I once wrote on the subject. She died suddenly, but painlessly, this past weekend, on the way to see a play with two friends, one of her very favorite things to do. Her life was long and productive, and she went the way all of us would probably like to go, easily in the blink of an eye. Sadly though, still filled with dreams and creative projects and things left undone.

The most painful part of her passing was visited on those of us who loved her and survive: we have to deal with an enormous gap in our lives. I still expect the phone to ring and hear her unmistakable Midwestern accent, or find an email sharing some new information or insight or silly video or political petition. Susannah could be exasperatingly determined in her high standards, but always tempered this with fairness and unconditional love.

I first met her when she attended the very first workshop I ever gave, on a chilly Valentine's night in New York City. She was a producer at WNET public television. We both got involved in the Association for Humanistic Psychology, and she was the coordinator for the Eastern region AHP conferences--amazing events featuring workshops with all the stars of the blossoming human potential movement.

We celebrated triumphs and the beginnings of love relationships together, and cried on each other's shoulders when things didn't work out. Susannah often joked that some of her best friends were my former girlfriends. We had many adventures, on the beaches of South Florida, Southampton, The Bahamas, and Jamaica. With her Master's in English, she was one of the best editors I ever encountered, and I often would show her my writing before doing a final draft. And I acted as a consultant when she founded Alphasonics International with Gordon Pierce, and started producing and marketing the world's most powerful subliminal audio programs.

This was by far my longest lasting deep friendship, nearly forty years, and perhaps the most significant thing I can say about it is that in those moments when I might have doubts about my being a worthwhile person, these were resolved by the simple knowledge that Susannah Lippman was my friend.

It was everything a friendship should and could be, and the only thing that keeps it from being perfect is that she's not here anymore. On the other hand, because of all those memories we shared, Susannah cannot ever really die. She has made too much of an impact on the very core of my being to ever disappear. Her passing does leave me with one unanswered question:
"Whose shoulder do I cry on about this?"

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Just kidding. I had a great time visiting my former cellmate Keith and his colorful (an understatement to be sure) family and friends on Thanksgiving. As usual, the holiday fare was exquisitely prepared and served. I am writing this almost a week later as I needed the time to digest the experience and the opulent turkey and ham feast.

What I like about this way of celebrating one of my favorite holidays is that it puts me into a completely different world, somewhat akin to one of my favorite mystery writers, Anne Perry, whose stories set in 19th Century England created a delightful alternative universe when I was serving my prison sentence. The first new people I met were two very pleasant and engaging women, though not lovers, they are both lesbians, and both have California's vaunted medical marijuana license, so Keith's wife's sister Janeen ("call me Lou") and her younger friend Caroline were puffing away on their very feminine pipes through most of their visit.

Almost everyone else is addicted to tobacco and crowded the small balcony to do their thing. As someone who doesn't smoke or drink, the company was convivial enough that I didn't even feel left out. I particularly enjoyed Caroline, very shy when we initially met, opening up quite a bit and telling me some of her life story. Though she doesn't wear makeup, has short cropped hair, and was in baggy hiphop clothes, this is a very stunning women who has the facial structure to be a supermodel.

One thing that was different this year from my visit last Thanksgiving was the sons of Keith playing musical chairs (or maybe I should say musical bunks?). Last year, Michael was living with Keith and Jackie, along with his sexy wife Jessica, extremely jealous and volatile, and either threatening to walk out or actually doing so every half hour, mostly because Michael was visiting his baby mama and former girlfriend Jennifer to spend some of the holiday with his young son. I'd only heard about the other son, Stephen, as he was in prison. Subsequently, Michael and Jessica did break up and Keith told me he thought it was completely over.

But here to share Thanksgiving with her young son with a former lover was Jessica, back in her marriage. As usual wearing a sexy low cut outfit (which doesn't both me at all so long as nothing falls into the gravy). She seemed a lot calmer this year, but then Michael wasn't present. He's at San Quentin. But recently paroled Stephen is now living with Keith and Jackie, along with his attractive blonde fiancee Mo and his shaved head and heavily tattooed torso. Seriously, are you following all this?

Bill, a 50ish friend of Keith's who was with us last Thanksgiving isn't any longer. He died of liver failure and other complications due to substance abuse over many years. He was a nice guy and intelligent and interesting conversationalist--just pointing out some of the tragedy of our drug culture. But if we needed a reminder of how blessed we all are to be alive and well and enjoying a full plate, Bill gave us that gift with his absence.

Lou showed off pictures of her home near the Oregon border, with massive marijuana leaves hanging to dry on the inside porch, and the plants themselves surrounding the house. She is also a champion Farmville player on Facebook and was coaching Keith, who wasn't as sociable as last year as he is now addicted to the time-consuming, time-filling game. Lou is evidently in the running to score the most points anyone ever has.

The seven of us crowded into a small two bedroom apartment, but it didn't feel cramped. What was lacking in space was made up in sheer entertainment value. I mentioned to someone how good it feels to get back to my solitary existence after such a visit and she said it must be like banging your head with a hammer and then having it feel so good when you stop. No, I replied, because there was nothing less than interesting and pleasant about my holiday companions--It's more like having an exotic and delicious ethnic meal and then returning home to your favorite grilled cheese sandwich.

More interesting adventures on my prosperity blog at

Friday, November 19, 2010

10 Reasons I Am Grateful For 12 Years In Prison

Well, I finally completed my list for a short talk this Sunday at Unity San Francisco.

1. Keith. Keith Crawford was my cellmate or "cellie" at Pleasant Valley State Prison. And as a former meth addict he thought I must have been on that drug to commit my harebrained crime of trying to hijack a motorhome. We talked more after I told him I had never done drugs, and two years after my arrest I figured out why I had been acting so erratically--I was taking a nutritional product for five years, three times a day, loaded with potent ephedra, then thought to be healthy and legal. Keith jumped up and said, "Ephedra--that's what I used to make meth!" So, though unintentionally, I was doing drugs. At least I knew I wasn't crazy.

2. Karen. Karen Wilson was a beautiful friend, author and management consultant, who had insisted that I move into an apartment in her Orange County, CA home (on Pleasant Street) when I was released, and she would provide free room and board and even had some thoughts on helping me produce income, helping her teach some classes at UC-Irvine, and co-author a book she wanted to write. Tragically, she suddenly died around this time of year two years before my release. But for ten years, I had a place to go to and purpose, so I'm grateful tho sad I can never properly thank her.

3. Inner Work. When dealing with the dehumanizing, debilitating prison environment, the best weapon is the ability to ignore the physical plane and go inside yourself. I was lucky that over twenty years of presenting and attending workshops on consciousness all over the world ideally prepared me, so that I was rarely present in prison--quite often lying on a hammock in Tahiti or Bali instead.

4. Creativity. Though I didn't know at the time that it was about getting off ephedra, within a few days of my arrest, my mind seemed to clear up, and for the first time in several years, I began to write and create all sorts of future projects--a definite sanity saver.

5. Sense of Humor. An essential factor in overcoming any adversity, but especially in prison, where I was surrounded by violent, sadistic, drug addled men who thought of me as the lowest form of life--and that was just the corrections officers.

6. Writing and Reading. One of my great blessings during these twelve years was that I was able to continue, and even increase, two of my favorite activities from my former life. I read over 1000 books, and wrote up a storm. In the first few months, in the dismal county jail in Martinez, California, I actually wrote an entire mystery novel, my first, using scraps of paper and the only writing instrument available, a small wooden golf pencil I had to sharpen with my teeth. I went on to write hours of stand-up material, 15 legal pads of prison journals, several stories for Chicken Soup For The Prisoner's Soul and its two sequels (the original was my idea, which I passed on to my old friend Jack Canfield), and over 10,000 cartoon gags which I sent to several cartoonists, a number of which they drew up and sold to major publications.

7. Friends. Or as I described them in my 1974 book, FRIENDS, a "supportive interpersonal environment." This was vital to thriving in the prison setting. Some famous friends like Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Wayne Dyer, who kept me supplied with books and magazine subscriptions and words of encouragement. And some famously caring and supportive friends like Rupa and Susannah and Karen and Kalei and Rachel and Mary Ann and Gregg and Marla, Steve and Lenny, Judi, Julie, Tom, Will, Bonnie, and Andrew.

8. The Internet. Though I had no access to a computer, let alone the Internet, it did keep my name out there. Several friends let me know that many of my quotes were being circulated by MSN, Google, and Yahoo. Though I had no idea of the full extent of it until I got out there. And this got me off and running into my own online activities, including this blog, as several top Internet gurus and entrepreneurs knew of my existence and volunteered to help me get a foothold in this amazing medium.

9. Discipline and Patience. I'm not sure exactly how this happened, but during my incarceration I dramatically increased these two qualities. The big difference friends who have known me a long time have noticed since my release is my huge gains in discipline and patience and creative productivity.

10. Savoring. In prison, if you're lucky, you get to take big, big pleasure out of even the smallest treats. My favorite definition for "savoring" is: "To give one's self to the enjoyment of." I did that big time whenever anything good showed up. Like the time some Mexican inmates grew tomatoes in a secret garden. I was able to obtain these from them for several months--tomatoes and onions were almost unheard of in prison and at the top of my list of foods I felt deprived without. To this day, I savor every bite of a tomato (or onion) and usually have them at least once a day. And you'd better believe I've enjoyed the handful of homecooked meals I've had in the past two years. In fact, I savor everything with a new zest, even fast food--I loved my burger at In 'N Out last week. And this also includes every sensual delight in my life, from hugs to compliments to fun new websites to the feel of the sun on my face.
I hope your Thanksgiving will give you as much to be grateful for.

P.S. One of those people who searched me out as a result of my Internet presence during my incarceration helped me design my prosperity blog:

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


This past evening I had a unique and most enjoyable experience. I spoke on the phone to my long-time good friends, Gregg and Marla Sanderson, in Clearwater Beach, Florida, where they were partaking of a meal at Bob Heilman's Beachcomber restaurant. The reason for the call was that I was paying for the meal, as a result of this month's election results. Yes, I bet that the Democrats would retain the House, and I think this is the first election bet I have lost.

As I use almost everything that happens to me and around me as material for future books, my two blogs, and my audio club programs, I tend to look at new experiences with laser vision and as much self-awareness as I can muster. And I realized, somewhat surprisingly, that I did not feel upset at the election results or at losing the bet to Gregg. I know it has become popular of late to be very pessimistic about the direction this country is taking, and it seems to me that many of the people whose candidates won are still predicting doom and gloom in the immediate future. And there is nothing more boring than an unhappy winner.

I am exceedingly optimistic that we will find a way out of our difficulties, as we always have. And to personalize it to the extreme, the Republican victory has allowed me to have the very real pleasure of taking Gregg and Marla out to dinner. This was a special treat for me as well as the two of them. The last time I had the satisfaction of buying a couple of friends dinner was before I started my 12 years of incarceration back in 1996.

And this was unusual in that it was done at a great distance--me in California, the two of them in Florida. So, I was not present, I did not get to enjoy my own meal at the Beachcomber, but I am planning to vicariously savor every bite as Gregg promises to give me a full report with photos. All I know at this point is that he started with Oysters Florentine while Marla had Vichyssoise (I have gotten some weird reactions in restaurants when asking if they could heat this cold thick soup--it just doesn't seem like soup to me unless it's hot.).

After we talked, I went online and read some reviews of the restaurant. And I already have a complaint about Gregg's choice of an appetizer (we have a long and fun history of sticking our noses in each other's business). Several of the reviews mentioned that a specialty of the house was Clams Casino, one of my own favorites, so my vicarious thrill would have been even more so if that had been their first course.

The truth is that I plan to get more out of this long distance taking of friends to dinner than if I did it in person. This is about intention. And reflection. Gregg and Marla and I have had many meals together, as Gregg and I also did with his beautiful and amazing first wife, Linda, who passed on much too soon. They were divorced for some years when that sad event occurred, but had remained really close and supportive friends.

So this meal tonight reminded me of many others we shared. At the Red Diamond, an Italian place in Miami where we would go after one of my early workshops at the Cornucopia growth center. At the Court of the Two Sisters in New Orleans, where Gregg almost took his pants off--but that's a story for another time. At some great places in San Diego and Nevada City where Gregg and Marla lived for a time. At a great lobster place Gregg introduced me to in Rosarito Beach in Baja, Mexico.

We've broken bread at many meals in many places, and always with a zest for the epicurean delights being offered and a warm conviviality nurtured in the warmth of each other's company. So I felt much of that good feeling as Gregg and Marla enjoyed dinner on me, and consider it a prelude to many more meals enjoyed together once I am off my parole period and able to freely travel.

And of course, I look forward to a rematch in 2012, when I'll be the recipient of Gregg's generosity and hospitality, assuming I get better at reading the electorate in these weird and wonderful political times.

Friday, November 12, 2010


In the aftermath of the 2010 mid-term election, there is more than enough material for a reality show. But I think we have all overdosed on politics, especially since we are probably plunging right into the 2012 Presidential campaign. After all, that election is just two years away, and you may remember the 2008 campaign got pretty much into full swing after the 2006 mid-terms.

So where are we now? Well, the Republicans have a lot of promises to deliver on. But blowing big opportunities is unfortunately not foreign to their past experiences (nor is it for the Democrats). Some academics have suggested that government as now constituted just cannot function in this modern word of the Internet and 24 hour cable news. They may have a point, but having some knowledge of how politics works, as a one time speechwriter for a U.S. Senator, and a broadcast journalist, and once even being approached to run for office by some powers-that-be, I am not optimistic that enough current politicians on either side of the political spectrum will ever forgo personal ambition for the good of the country. Time and again, I have seen idealistic candidates become disillusioned once elected and finding out how things work in the real world of governance.

As a nation, I don't think we can be proud of the recent campaigns. On either side. More uncivil, bigoted, and abusive behavior was present than ever occurred leading up to the famous 1804 duel between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton. Racism reared its ugly head on more than one occasion, aimed at both black and Latino candidates. But I think some of the most egregious example of how low we've sunk in our political discourse is the demonization of such women candidates as Christine O'Donnell and Nancy Pelosi. Whatever their respective political positions, both women are intelligent and sincere in their beliefs. Unlike some of the hypocracy present among so many candidates, they spoke out with passion and never-wavering authenticity.

In terms of Christine O'Donnell, whom I definitely disagree with on most issues, I think she is a charming media figure and absolutely a better sport than most men would be if they were subjected to the treatment she received at the hands of Karl Rove and late night comedians. You may say that Karl Rove shouldn't be grouped with Jay Leno, Jimmy Kimmel, and David Letterman--but I think that's exactly where he belongs. Her post-election appearance on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno was a study in graciousness and honesty. I have much more respect for her than I do for the majority of pundits on Fox, she is refreshingly human and she might have made an interesting U.S. Senator. But she has the last laugh, as probably the person who has gained the most in this last election--an opportunity to capitalize on worldwide fame. I imagine she is fielding a lot more varied and interesting offers right now than almost any other candidate, winner or loser.

So it's all over, though for me I still have to take my friend Gregg to dinner as a result of the Democrats losing the House. Most pundits on both sides are predicting two years of gridlock, with little or nothing getting done in Washington. Maybe that's a good thing. I don't know, quite honestly, whether we are better or worse off for now having a split government. There are good arguments for both sides of that debate. But I do know that I will continue to be fascinated, frustrated, and amused by politics in general and certain candidates in particular. Maybe that's the American Way.


Monday, November 1, 2010


On my prosperity blog, I just did a post about the value of old wisdom.

And quoting from John 8:32, "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free," sometimes translated as, "and the truth shall set you free," is pretty old but potent wisdom. Understandably, people often ask me about what changes I noticed after coming back out into the world after 12 years in prison. One of the things I've noticed is how much more acceptable lying is nowadays. Even by prison standards, it's gotten pretty out of hand. We now expect our leaders to lie, and political candidates, and anyone selling anything--and all of these rarely disappoint us.

Then there are our sources of information. The so-called mainstream media often lies by omission--they don't do the research, the background checking, the vetting of sources that used to be the standard of maintaining journalistic integrity when I was a newsman in the 1970s. Remember Watergate and The Pentagon Papers, and how much work editors and reporters did to check their facts before releasing the information to the public?

And where the mainstream media lies by omission, the Internet often lies by intention. And what has diminished us as a civilization as much as anything is the fact that more people believe what they read and see on the Internet than from any other source. Including voters. I can't tell you how many ridiculous stories people have sent me from websites that they have fallen for lock, stock, and barrel. There are even a number of websites to counter this avalanche of lies and rumors, such as:

It used to be said that Americans were the best-informed people on Earth. We pioneered so many technological breakthroughs in communication, and had a commitment to truth. Remember when President Dwight Eisenhower admitted we had sent the U2 spy plane over Russia despite the damage it would do to our reputation and diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union? Now he would be considered a fool for not taking the easy path and lying about it. One of the most shocking things revealed in the documentary I talked about in my last post, The Most Dangerous Man In America, the story of my friend Daniel Ellsberg and The Pentagon Papers, was that the American people have been lied to by every recent American President, going back at least to Harry Truman on the subject of Vietnam, but probably about a lot more subjects and a lot further back.

One could say that political leaders lie to us for our own good, because the truth would hurt us, demoralize us, give comfort to our enemies. But these disputable noble intentions soon get lost in the layering of lie upon lie, until veracity is seen as a liability, even a bad habit. In some Facebook posts not too long ago, I suggested that all political candidates be given lie detector tests, or be made to swear to "tell the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth," when they take office, or even when they run for office. More and more, I see that this might be a good idea. The truth is we can't be truly free without freeing truth from the dark cave it's now buried in.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


I don't think I have ever before seen a movie that has moved me as much, or provoked as much thought about the nature of our nation and its politics as, The Most Dangerous Man In America, on PBS--the Academy Award nominated documentary depicting the story of Daniel Ellsberg and The Pentagon Papers.

At several points during the film, I had tears in my eyes, something that only usually occurs during beautiful love stories, or scenes with puppies or kittens (which weren't a part of this movie at all). There was a beautiful love story briefly depicted amidst the exciting drama of this man's astoundingly courageous life, the one between Daniel and Patricia Ellsberg. And just enough was shown of the young anti-war activist and broadcaster Patricia meeting the pro-war high level military analyst Daniel, and the amazing relationship that unfolded and changed the world as we know it, to give a hint of what a great follow-up movie could be possible.

Here is a short video of Daniel and Patricia introducing the documentary in San Francisco. Not great video quality, but worth watching anyway to get a sense of their presence.

I met the Ellsbergs last year and was very impressed with their dignity, warmth, intelligence, and quiet charisma. Daniel and I chatted and he was fascinated that I had spent twelve years in prison and asked me a bunch of questions about that experience. After all, at one point, Richard Nixon was trying to send him to prison for the rest of his life. Luckily, he told me, he had only spent a few nights in jail during the course of some of his anti-war protests.

A few weeks later, Daniel sent me a copy of his book, Secrets, the source material for the documentary. I admit I avoided reading it for a few months. During my career as a broadcast journalist, even including a six week stint as a radio correspondent in Vietnam, I thought I had read everything I ever wanted to about that ignoble event. But I was wrong and when I finally got to it, knowing the film would be shown on PBS's POV, I was very impressed. I had also thought I knew a lot about the story of the release of The Pentagon Papers, but there were many points revealed in the book I hadn't known, as there were about the war itself.

All of this was fascinating, but did not have the emotional context of the movie, and I think this was largely provided by the forthright appearance of Ellsberg himself at various stages of his life. To steal a phrase from JFK, he's "a profile in courage"--a towering, emotionally contagious profile in courage.

And as seems to be true of almost every event in my life, there were a couple of serendipitous happenings involved. The first was that I discovered that Patricia Ellsberg was the sister of a woman I knew and had long admired, Barbara Marx Hubbard, a leading voice in the New Age Movement, and the first woman to seriously run for Vice President of the United States. I met her back in the 1970s, and she became president of the Association for Humanistic Psychology at the same time as I headed up the Florida chapter of that organization.

The second "six degrees of separation" moment occurred in the panel discussion following the PBS showing of The Most Dangerous Man In America. Former NY Times Managing Editor, Max Frankel, related an anecdote about the leaking of classified material and told how President Johnson bragged to him how he got the best of Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygn during the Glassboro, New Jersey summit conference in 1967. According to Frankel, LBJ told him he had arranged to have all of Kosygn's telephone conversations to Soviet colleagues recorded, so that he knew everything the Russian leader was telling them about what went on and his reaction to it. LBJ evidently considered this the major triumph of the summit, making it a big win for the U.S.

And, coincidentally enough, I was there at Glassboro. I was one of the radio reporters covering the summit for KYW Newsradio in nearby Philadelphia, and even won an Associated Press award for my reporting. This also was an accident, as the connecting lines broke down between the summit itself being held in the Glassboro State College president's home, and the hundreds of reporters in the college gym, myself included. Our chief correspondent, in the summit location itself, was unable to broadcast, so I had to basically adlib for close to two hours on the air. I still remember how pleasurable it was to roll the name of the summit location off my tongue during those two hours, Hollybush Mansion.

Ellsberg and what he did and is still speaking out about is very relevant today in the current political climate--and most especially in light of the WikiLeaks story. In fact, Ellsberg himself made a surprise appearance at a WikiLeaks news conference in London just a few days ago, praising that organization for releasing its huge cache of documents on the war in Afghanistan.

I think one of the most profound statements by Ellsberg happened in the conversation PBS broadcast after the film, with several NY Times editors and reporters. Ellsberg reminded us that the Founding Fathers intended that a free press have as its true purpose, protecting the governed rather than the governing. And Ellsberg said at that time, and repeated during the WikiLeaks news conference, something that everyone planning to vote next week should consider:
"Secrecy is essential to empire... Under Obama, as under Bush, we are moving more toward the British system of control of information, which is after all, The Official Secrets Act, which is a legacy of empire and that torch is passing. A Republican administration -- a Republican House and Senate, if that comes in to being in the next month is almost certain to pass a British-type Official Secrets Act. Essentially ending leaks of the sort we have seen over the last forty years, sixty years."

This would mean that the release of any and all classified material would become illegal, and journalists would become more unlikely to take the risks that they take today to get the truth out. Scary stuff. And Daniel Ellsberg remains a hero. In fact, if he wore a cape and could fly, Ellsberg could not be more of a superhero for truth, justice, and authentic American values.
(By the way, do check out my prosperity blog at

Saturday, October 23, 2010


So one of my conservative friends forwarded the following joke to me today:

A driver is stuck in a traffic jam going into downtown Chicago .
> Nothing is moving north or south. Suddenly a man knocks on
> his window.
> The driver rolls down his window and asks, "What happened, what's the hold up?"
> "Terrorists have kidnapped Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Rosie O' Donnell, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.
> They are asking for a $10 Million ransom. Otherwise, they are going to
> douse them with gasoline and set them on fire. We are going from car
> to car, taking up a collection."
> The driver asks, "On average, how much is everyone giving?"
> "About a gallon."

Now as a sometime comedy writer and cartoon gagwriter who has often used sarcasm for humorous purpose, and even occasionally mean-spirited humor, perhaps I should just let this one go by without comment. But I won't. First of all, it is beyond mean-spirited and definitely reminiscent of some of the jokes aimed at Jews by German comedians in the 1930s and white racists during the civil rights turmoil. It resembles some of the bad jokes told at Ku Klux Klan rallies in the South that I covered as a reporter in the 1960s.

I know it also seems like some of the jokes about lawyers, suggesting that the only good lawyer is a dead lawyer--but by not being about specific lawyers, the harmful intent in those is greatly diluted and not worthy of being taken nearly as seriously as the above joke. Perhaps conservatives and Tea Partiers won't be willing to admit it, but if you belong to neither group, don't you agree that many of them would not be upset if someone actually did set fire to all the above-named people?

I recently heard and agreed with an analyst who said that the difference between the people on the extreme far right and the extreme far left is that those on the right are nasty, self serving, and willing to lie to get the results they want. And just like ordinary non-racist citizens in the South and in Nazi Germany didn't protest at the attacks against blacks and Jews, ordinary, otherwise decent conservatives don't protest some of the outrages of the lunatic fringe--often won't even admit it's happening, even though nowadays there are videos of almost every political utterance.

Here's an example of appropriate anti-Obama humor:
President Obama and the first lady say they will not be exchanging Christmas gifts this year. Michelle Obama says they used to, but she got tired of Barack promising big things and then not delivering.
Pretty cutting, but funny rather than mean. And a few of my own gags:
"Well, Sidney, I'd like to tell you the results of the last election. Do you have room to turn over down there?"

"The bad news is you lost your appeal, the good news is you won reelection."

"I think I lost the election because of the underhanded way in which my opponent kept on repeating every stupid statement I made during the campaign."

Many in the Tea Party and the conservative movement would say that, of course, this joke isn't seriously suggesting all these liberal icons be doused with gasoline and set alight--that can't anyone take a joke, for gosh sake? But this is the epitome of rightwing denial. Here's what Glenn Beck, the presumptive head and most admired spokesperson of the Tea Party, had to say:
"I'm thinking about killing Michael Moore, and I'm wondering if I could kill him myself, or if I would need to hire somebody to do it. No, I think I could. I think he could be looking me in the eye, you know, and I could just be choking the life out."
Obviously, Beck's vaunted born-again Christianity doesn't run to acceptance of or adherence to The Ten Commandments.


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Saturday, October 16, 2010


It is really surreal to emerge back into the world after 12 years in prison to find that there is more corruption and dishonesty permeating American politics than can be found in the average prison cellblock. And it is so blatant nowadays. Okay, maybe transparency is good, but I don't think its advocates meant that you should openly bribe candidates, or have them state provable lies that can be preserved forever on video.

The O'Reilly Falsehood Factor

Take Bill O'Reilly, please. On his recent widely publicized brouhaha on The View, Barbara Walters caught him and called him on a direct lie. He claimed he hadn't said we were attacked on 9/11 by "all Muslims" but just Muslim radicals. But he actually said "Muslims killed us on 9/11." O'Reilly's exact words (I just watched the video again), which he repeated two more times.

But that was not nearly the biggest O'Reilly lie of the past week. After Bill Clinton told an audience that Fox News "carried water for Republican candidates," O'Reilly went on the air and said only "leftwing loons" believed Fox supported and endorsed Republicans. I don't like Nazi analogies, but since Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's "Information Minister" was the most famous proponent of "The Big Lie", I am compelled to assert that even Goebbels never put out as big a whopper as this O'Reilly statement--the Nazi propaganda master was more subtle than that.

Here are some facts about Fox News and the Republican connection thereof. The founder and owner of the network, Australian-born Rupert Murdoch and his News Corporation gave $1 million to the Republican Governors' Association two months ago. Then, just the other day, he gave $1 million more to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for their work in supporting Republican Congressional candidates (In fairness, I should note that there are two fairly conservative Democratic candidates they are supporting along with dozens of GOP members). No money to any Democratic organization from the "fair and balanced" network.

And then there's the fact that the head of Fox News is none other than one of the most notorious Republican operatives/consultants of the past three decades, Roger Ailes.

I knew Roger Ailes in the old days. We both worked in the Walnut Street building owned by Westinghouse Broadcasting in Philadelphia. I worked as a newsman for KYW NewsRadio, and he was an executive producer at KYW-TV, and was primarily producing The Mike Douglas nationally syndicated talk show. In 1967, the co-host for a week was Richard Nixon. (Douglas was fair--Hubert Humphrey was co-host another week that year--I even had a long chat with him on the plush leather bench in the lobby at KYW--the most loquacious politician I ever met.)

During conversations with Ailes in that week, Nixon liked what the producer had to say about how to present himself on TV and hired Ailes to be in charge of his TV appearances. Ailes went on to work on a number of major Republican campaigns. He's even widely believed, though he denies it, to be the creator of the infamous Willie Horton racist ad that helped elect George H.W. Bush as President.

But none of this factual background is really necessary to figure out that Fox is a major propaganda arm of the Republican Party--just listen for a few minutes to most of their on air personalities. Of course, there are many who think it's the other way around and that the Republican Party is a subsidiary of Fox News.

On to more deviousness. Another current controversy has to do with a mistake President Obama or someone on his staff made. They claimed that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was using foreign money to fund U.S. political campaigns--which would be a major felony. At this moment, while this may or may not be true, there is no evidence anyone can cite that it is so, so at the very least Obama jumped the gun. And even if proof is found, the impact has been diminished by his gaff. Oh, the Chamber, which funds mostly GOP candidates, does receive a lot of money at offices overseas, but they claim they keep this separate when it eventually arrives at their U.S. headquarters.

Of course this whole area is pretty blurry nowadays, since the Supreme Court ruled that corporations can give huge undocumented funds for political purposes without having to identify themselves. Billions are pouring in, and by one estimate, 9 to 1 in favor of Republicans. has stated that about 85% of the claims made in these ads funded by these funds that don't have to be labeled are false.
Let me point out that this is not so with the ads where the candidate says, "I'm so and so and I approved this ad, " where the claims are often true.

And, of course, you have Rupert Murdoch, Australian-born and very involved in British politics as well as American and Australian, giving that $2 million to Republicans.
And, in another tangential aside, what do you think right wing talk shows would have to say about a foreign religious cult operating a major Democratic-leaning national newspaper?

Well, we have the strange case of The Washington Times, home to such iconic conservative columnists and commentators as Tony Blankley, Frank Gaffney, Jr. and Tony Snow (it's no coincidence that many of their columnists appear regularly on Fox News). The Times is controlled and was founded by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon of Korea, head of the controversial Unification Church, the Moonies, and their original mission statement was "To teach America about God." Since he and his followers consider Moon himself to be divine, this seems rather self-serving.

The Washington Times was also largely founded in Washington, D.C. to counter the influence of The Washington Post, which the Moonies claimed was the most powerful anti-Unification Church voice in America because of the Post's many investigative reports on abuses and aberrations of the church. The first president of the newspaper was Moon's top aide, and 25% of its initial staff of 125 reporters were members of the Unification Church.

Moon has, by his own reckoning, lost several billion dollars backing The Washington Times, a widely influential but very low circulation newspaper. Being quoted by many conservative outlets is probably why the paper is so powerful, because its daily circulation is less than 40,000 while The Washington Post tops half a million.

I really don't mind that a Korean cult leader and Australian media mogul have so much impact on U.S. politics, but I cannot respect them as they continue to consider truth with such condescending contempt.

Saturday, October 9, 2010


This is a follow-up to the post I wrote on June 22, So You Think That's Funny,
Do You?
In that piece, I wrote that the title came from what someone in authority might say to you when you are being funny at inappropriate times or in inappropriate places. More recently, I found a similar perspective on humor from one of my favorite mystery novelists, Anne Perry. I have long asserted that reading fiction is a vital as reading nonfiction in gaining an understanding of who we are and what our higher purpose might be. This is because many novelists have a unique perspective on the human condition and are often as well qualified as psychologists or philosophers in those respective fields of intellectual awareness.

When I was in prison, I kept a school composition notebook that I filled with quotes that moved or inspired or informed me from the hundreds of books, mostly novels, that I read during my incarceration--a total of about 1000 in nearly 12 years. And the quotes from novels are just as insightful as any from self-help and spiritual books, if not more so. I wrote about this in a recent post on my prosperity blog:

Anyway, here is Anne Perry's comment on humor:

"I have come to believe that a sense of humor is almost the same thing as a sense of proportion. It is the absurdity of disproportion which makes us laugh. There is something innately funny in punctured self-importance, in the positioning side by side of that which is incongruous. If everything in the world were suitable, appropriate, it would be unbearably tedious. Without laughter, something in life is lost. Sanity, perhaps."

Upon reading this, I was immediately reminded of how little humor is present in today's political discourse. Especially the self-deprecating humor famously demonstrated by such consummate politicians as Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan.

From Lincoln: "If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?"

From JFK: "Mr. Nixon in the last seven days has called me an economic ignoramus, a Pied Piper, and all the rest. I've just confined myself to calling him a Republican, but he says that is getting low."

From Reagan: "Politics is supposed to be the second-oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first."

There does seem to be something unbearably tedious going on in politics today, and maybe some sanity has been lost as a result of it all being so very serious.

I sometimes wonder how some politicians can say what they do with a straight face. Like California's Republican candidate for governor, Meg Whitman, talking about how she is going to bring fiscal responsibility if elected, while spending $110 million of her own money in the campaign. Doesn't she see the humor in that?

And I do think about such quirky ideas as whether she would have made more of an impact if she took that money and helped a few thousand homeowners in foreclosure keep their homes.

On the other hand, politicians taking themselves so seriously provide a treasure trove of material for comedy writers and comedians. As you probably know, one of the things I do to keep my sense of humor fired up and creative energy stimulated is write gags for several major cartoonists. One I recently turned out:

Scene: Aide to politician.

Caption: "Good news, Senator. The judge has agreed to combine your swearing-in ceremony with your plea bargain hearing."

Have funny,


(by the way, I also recently wrote a piece on humor for my prosperity blog, which you can check out at: MoneyFun. Stop Taking Prosperity So Seriously!)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


It started when my friend Will sent me one of his right wing propaganda links about doom and gloom and how Obama is destroying the Earth with his socialist government takeover policies, etc. In the margin of this web page, I found the following article about an old friend, Barry Farber, and I've just been reminiscing in my mind about some fond memories as a guest on his New York radio show.

I first met Barry in the 1970s when my friend Randie Levine was producing his show. I usually was a guest whenever I had a book to promote, or was doing a Moneylove Seminar in the city. Barry had a unique voice, and those amazing language skills, and ended segments with a unique kind of teaser that made you want to keep listening after one of his masterful commercials. Along with my other good friend, Long John Nebel, he ruled the late night airwaves, not only in New York, but in many other states the show was heard in.

Barry was responsible for one of the great thrills of my life when about 3am, after we finished a stint on his show, he took me as his guest to the comedian's table at The Stage Deli, where several world famous comedians were gathered. At the time, these included Phyllis Diller, Henny Youngman, Sid Caesar, and Milton Berle, whom I think was in New York to be honored by The Friars Club. I also met a woman Barry was dating and later, with his permission, I went out with her a few times. She was a beautiful Hungarian woman who was supposedly a Princess.

Another memorable Farber moment occurred when the other guest on his show was Gloria Swanson, legendary film actress of silent film fame and star of the iconic Billy Wilder film, Sunset Boulevard. She had to be in her late eighties at least, but was still majestic, lovely, and very energetic, keeping up with Barry and me all through the night on the air. She had brought a number of little Tupperware containers filled with various healthy food items as she was hyperglycemic and had to eat frequently. This was before it came out that she had been the longtime mistress of JFK's father, Joseph Kennedy, when he was a film producer in Hollywood.

Barry Farber also had an ill-fated run for mayor of New York, but was trounced by Ed Koch. He's an amazing guy and his far out political views now don't diminish my affection and admiration for his broadcast skills one bit.

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Monday, September 27, 2010


On my other blog today, I put some powerful quotes I think can be life-changing.
I mentioned that I kept a composition book filled with quotes from among the 1000 books I read during my nearly 12 years in prison. This, along with the dozen or so legal pads I used as journals, will provide source material for several books in the future, as will a number of the 110 posts I've so far written for this blog, and the several dozen for my other, newer blogsite.

In looking over some of these quotes, I found the following five that I really like and which I found inspiriting, one of my favorite words. It is defined as "to fill with spirit," and, "to cheerfully encourage."

1. "You must understand the whole of life, not just one little part of it. That is why you must read, that is why you must look at the skies, that is why you must sing and dance, and write poems, and suffer; and understand, for all that is life."

2. "Wisdom lies in engaging the life you have been given as fully and courageously as possible and not letting go until you find the unknown blessing that is in everything."
Rachel Naomi Remen

3. "Most of us come from the past, and we re-create the present. Those who excel come from the future, their vision, their mission, and it pulls them forward."
J.F. Freedman

4. "We wouldn't care so much what people thought of us if we knew how seldom they did."
John Lanchester

5. "We don't forget. Our heads may be small, but they are as full of memories as the sky may sometimes be full of swarming bees. Thousands and thousands of memories, of smells, of places, of little things that happened to us and which come back, unexpectedly, to remind us who we are."
Alexander McCall Smith

And a bonus quote that, like the preceding five, can stir our thoughts and give us new fuel for considering what constitutes a life well lived and results worth celebrating.

"I am very impressed with the mind's ability to make a complete shift,
to keep a corner free."
Madeleine L'Engle

Are you keeping a corner of your mind free--for new ideas, new adventures in consciousness, even a new you?

Sunday, September 19, 2010


I suppose you could say of me, "once a newsman, always a newsman." Which is why I often, in the past twenty years, have found myself gritting my teeth at blatant distortions and underreporting, and journalistic malfeasance. And I'm not talking about Fox News, which deserves its own place in the Journalism Hall of Shame. No, I'm talking about the other major network newscasts, where reports often totally ignore historical perspective and fact checking.

When I started my broadcasting career in the 1960s, journalists were expected to do their homework before going on the air. One of the few who sticks to that code of honor is NBC's Andrea Mitchell, who was a friend and colleague at KYW Newsradio in Philadelphia. Perhaps it's the circumstances of the 24 hour news cycle that dictates little or no preparation before something is reported and labeled as a "fact" with little evidence that this is really so. But the pressures of getting stuff on the air and filling all that space is no excuse for the total lapse in journalistic integrity visible throughout the media.

Maybe it even goes back to the major deficiencies in today's education standards, with less an emphasis on American History, World History, Geography, Social Studies. These are not considered the "money courses" designed to help students eventually earn a living--unless, of course, they want to become news people.

And with general standards of quality so shoddy, it is no wonder that mere negligence has evolved into propagandizing and misrepresentation. Take Charles Krauthammer of Fox News, The Washington Post, and various other media outlets. I find him interesting and entertaining, I'll admit. He's actually a psychiatrist, and the fact he is confined to a wheelchair, which is rarely apparent ala FDR, is a testament to his courage, which I do admire him for. He is one of the more influential voices of the right, though I much prefer the non-shoot-from-the-hip style of David Brooks. He is also a solipsist, which has become one of my favorite words since I first discovered it in prison in 1997. It's the attitude that you are the only person in the world, at least the only person you can be sure exists. It is a quality often found in habitual criminals and famous pundits.

An example: On August 13th, in The Washington Post, Krauthammer wrote a column titled, "Sacrilege At Ground Zero," in which he stated:
"When recently asked whether Hamas is a terrorist organization, Imam Rauf replied, 'I'm not a politician...the issue of terrorism is a very complex question.'" Talking about leaving important stuff out. But this is part of the narrative right wing opponents of the New York Muslim Center known as Cordoba want us to believe, that Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is favorably inclined towards and refuses to condemn Hamas. But I just watched the video of Iman Rauf's interview with Chistiane Amanpour on ABC's This Week, in which the Iman clearly states, "Whoever commits terrorist acts, I condemn--and Hamas has committed terrorist acts."

And you never hear the right wing commentators (and to be fair, it's also underplayed in mainstream media) refer to the Imam's Sufism. He is a Sufi, the mystical form of Islam, and a hated enemy of radical Muslims. In fact, just about a month before the Krauthammer article equating Iman Rauf with the radical extremists, a group of them blew up the Data Darbar Sufi mosque in Pakistan, 42 people were killed, and there have been many such attacks.

I get little indication that the people reporting on opposition to the center near Ground Zero even know what a Sufi is. I've long been an admirer of that tradition, going back to attending dance classes based on Sufism at the Unitarian Church in Miami in the 1970s. And I've often used Sufi stories and jokes, usually termed Sufi Tales, in my seminars. My longtime dear friend, Rupa Cousins, actually is a student of Sufism (while still considering herself a Jew and honoring that tradition). She is trained in one of that discipline's most notable cultural contributions, the dancing turn of the Mevlevi Sufi Tradition (Whirling Dervish) of Turkey, which traces back to the spiritual teachings of noted 13th century Persian poet and mystic, Rumi . Rupa also knows Imam Rauf and his reputation as a peacemaker over a number of years due to her own work as a peace activist and interfaith advocate.

The Imam is a major mover and shaker in interfaith activities between Muslims and people of other faiths. And he is a devout American, just returning from one of a number of diplomatic missions overseas sponsored by the U.S. State Department. One can have serious concerns about the symbolism of a Muslim Center two blocks from Ground Zero without demonizing the man or inciting violent reaction by lying about his spiritual discipline or politics.

Even the Iman says he wouldn't have gone ahead with the proposed location if he had known all the controversy it would stir up. He says he is a man of peace, not controversy. But any decision must be carefully thought out, as moving it could inflame irrational radical reaction around the world.

If this really is to be a center of interfaith cooperation, designed to show the Muslim world that Americans respect their religion and to show non-Muslim Americans that only a handful of the billion followers of Islam are violent nutjobs, then perhaps it belongs close to Ground Zero, and some have even suggested it should be moved closer, become a part of the rebuilt World Trade Center.

There is no excuse for ignorance in reporting, especially on sensitive and controversial issues. And I'll finish with a Sufi story collected by Iries Shah that Charles Krauthammer should read:
One guru tells another, "Always say things that cannot be checked." "Why?" asks the second guru. "Because," replies the first guru, "if you say 'Mars is peopled by millions of undiscernible beings, and I have met them,' people will not dispute it. But if you say, 'It is a nice day today,' some fool will always reply, 'But not as nice as it was yesterday'".

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