Monday, March 16, 2009

Conservative talk radio on the wane in California

Lawrence K. Ho, Los Angeles Times
John Kobylt, left, and Ken Chiampou at KFI in April 2008.
The economy's downturn has depressed ad revenue at stations across the state, thinning the ranks of conservative broadcasters.

By Michael Finnegan
March 15, 2009
Tune in to conservative talk radio in California, and the insults quickly fly. Capturing the angry mood of listeners the other day, a popular host in Los Angeles called Republican lawmakers who voted to raise state taxes "a bunch of weak slobs."

With their trademark ferocity, radio stars who helped engineer Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's rise in the 2003 recall have turned on him over the new tax increases. On stations up and down the state, they are chattering away in hopes of igniting a taxpayers' revolt to kill his budget measures on the May 19 ballot.

But for all the anti-tax swagger and the occasional stunts by personalities like KFI's John and Ken, the reality is that conservative talk radio in California is on the wane. The economy's downturn has depressed ad revenue at stations across the state, thinning the ranks of conservative broadcasters.

For that and other reasons, stations have dropped the shows of at least half a dozen radio personalities and scaled back others, in some cases replacing them with cheaper nationally syndicated programs.

Casualties include Mark Larson in San Diego, Larry Elder and John Ziegler in Los Angeles, Melanie Morgan in San Francisco, and Phil Cowen and Mark Williams in Sacramento.

Two of the biggest in the business, Roger Hedgecock in San Diego and Tom Sullivan in Sacramento, have switched to national shows, elevating President Obama above Schwarzenegger on their target lists.

Another influential Sacramento host, Eric Hogue, has lost the morning rush-hour show that served as a prime forum to gin up support for the recall of Gov. Gray Davis. Now he airs just an hour a day at lunchtime on KTKZ-AM (1380).

"It's lonely, it's quiet, and it's a shame," Hogue said of California's shrinking conservative radio world. "I think this state has lost a lot of benefit. I don't know if we can grow it back any time soon."

The immediate question facing the state's conservative radio hosts is whether they can wield enough clout to block Schwarzenegger's ballot measures in May. They portray them as reckless proposals that would hasten California's economic decline. The worst, they say, is Proposition 1A, which would extend billions of dollars in tax increases for an extra two years, even while it imposes a spending cap long sought by conservatives.

In a special election likely to draw a dismal turnout, they hope that those most upset by the $12.5 billion in new taxes will be the ones most strongly motivated to cast ballots. Their inspiration is Proposition 13, the 1978 ballot measure that capped property-tax increases.

"What we see is a significant parallel between what is happening now and what happened in 1977 and 1978, when established political elites, whether in the media or in Sacramento, pooh-poohed the idea of a taxpayer revolt," said Inga Barks, whose talk show airs in Bakersfield and Fresno. "People are very upset."

Unless organized labor -- which is divided on the budget measures -- spends millions of dollars to get its supporters to vote, "the only other ones who are going to show up at the polls are the die-hard, true-blue American voters, and those are the ones who listen to talk radio," Barks said.

Still, in a state that Obama won handily in November, a decisive conservative push-back against the tax-spend-and-borrow ballot measures is far from certain. The older white Republicans who tend to listen to conservative radio are a shrinking portion of the state's voters.

It's also no sure bet that the radio shows are converting listeners who might disagree with their agenda.

"All these people are going to vote the conservative line anyway, or they wouldn't be listening to those shows," said Jim Nygren, a Republican strategist.

Conservative radio reached its peak in California in 2003, when stations prodded listeners to sign petitions for an election to recall Davis, then drummed up GOP support for Schwarzenegger as his replacement.

Since then, it has been a favorite ad vehicle for Republican candidates and causes, such as Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage last November.

Leading the charge against Proposition 1A are John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou, whose afternoon drive-time show on Los Angeles' KFI-AM (640) draws 670,000 listeners a week, according to the Arbitron ratings agency. That makes them the most popular conservative talk radio hosts in the state.

Day after day, they pound Schwarzenegger and the Republican lawmakers who joined Democrats in approving the tax increases. They are encouraging recall drives against the legislators. Their website features pictures of the governor and the lawmakers -- with their severed heads on sticks.

"They're all pretty shaken up by it," said Nygren, who counts some of the lawmakers as clients.

Last week, John and Ken urged listeners to show up with tax-revolt signs "outside Octomom's house," taking advantage of the media presence surrounding Nadya Suleman, the Whittier mother of octuplets.

"It's guerrilla warfare," one of the hosts said.

Many of the others on California's conservative radio circuit are less belligerent. "It doesn't need to be ranting and raving all the time," Hedgecock said.

And apart from KFI, whose morning show with Bill Handel draws 652,000 listeners a week, the California shows are far less popular. The only hosts of conservative programs with a weekly audience of more than 100,000 are Doug McIntyre of KABC (790) in Los Angeles, Lee Rodgers of KSFO (560) in San Francisco and Rick Roberts of KFMB (760) in San Diego.

"The content is the same," said Hogue, "but it doesn't have the reach it once did. There are major players gone."

Original here

Bilderbergers excite conspiracists


Some conspiracy theorists think that Obama's team is infested with shadowy elitists members.
Some conspiracy theorists think that Obama's team is infested with shadowy elitists members.
Photo: AP

The highest levels of the Obama administration are infested with members of a shadowy, elitist cabal intent on installing a one-world government that subverts the will of the American people.

It sounds crazy, but that’s what a group of very persistent conspiracy theorists insists, and they point to President Obama’s nominee for Health and Human Services Secretary, Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, as the latest piece of evidence supporting their claims.

It turns out that Sebelius – like top administration economists Timothy Geithner, Larry Summers and Paul Volcker, as well as leading Obama diplomats Richard Holbrooke and Dennis Ross – is a Bilderberger. That is, she is someone who has participated in the annual invitation-only conference held by an elite international organization known as the Bilderberg group.

The group, which takes its name from the Dutch hotel where it held its first meeting in 1954, exists solely to bring together between 100 and 150 titans of politics, finance, military, industry, academia and media from North America and Western Europe once a year to discuss world affairs. It doesn’t issue policy statements or resolutions, nor does it hold any events other than an annual meeting.

Past participants have included Margaret Thatcher, who attended the 1975 meeting at Turkey’s Golden Dolphin Hotel, former media mogul Conrad Black, who has been to more than a dozen conferences, and Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, King Juan Carlos of Spain and top officials of BP, IBM, Barclays and the Bank of England.

It is precisely that exclusive roster of globally influential figures that has captured the interest of an international network of conspiracists, who for decades have viewed the Bilderberg conference as a devious corporate-globalist scheme.

The fulminating is aggravated by Obama's preference for surrounding himself with well-credentialed, well-connected, and well-traveled elites. His personnel choices have touched a populist, even paranoid nerve among those who are convinced powerful elites and secret societies are moving the planet toward a new world order.

Their worldview, characterized by a deep and angry suspicion of the ruling class rather than any prevailing partisan or ideological affiliation, is widely articulated on overnight AM radio shows and a collection of Internet websites.

The video sharing website YouTube alone is home to thousands of Bilderberg-related videos.

“I don’t laugh at the people who claim that they understand the connections, but I’ve never really spent much time tracing that through,” said Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), a former presidential candidate whose libertarian sensibilities have made him a darling of the Bilderberg conspiracists.

“The one thing that concerns me is that the people who surround Obama or Bush generally come from the same philosophic viewpoint and they have their organizations – they have the Trilateral Commission, the CFR [Council on Foreign Relations] and the Bilderbergers, and they’ve been around a long time. And my biggest concern is what they preach: Keynesian economics and interventionism and world planning,” he said.

While it's easy to dismiss the Bilder-busters as cranks, these voices have a way of making themselves heard on the margins of the debate in ways that can prove to be a real, if minor, distraction to Obama’s political team. Bill Clinton had trouble shaking rumors that he was behind a shady criminal syndicate operating out of the Mena airport. George W. Bush was sometimes portrayed as the puppet of clandestine Middle Eastern oil interests.

Obama’s selection of numerous Bilderbergers for key posts “certainly would verify their suspicions,” said Paul, referring to fears of the group’s influence.

“And I don’t think it’s just Obama. Whether it’s the Republicans or the Democrats – Goldman Sachs generally has somebody in treasury. And the big banks generally have somebody in the Federal Reserve. And they’re international people, too. And they’re probably working very hard this weekend, with the G20. And they get involved in the IMF. But that is their stated goal. They do believe in a powerful centralized government and we believe in the opposite.”

One popular website, “Prison Planet,” greeted Sebelius’ nomination with the headline “Obama Picks Bilderberger for Health Secretary.”

It’s obvious why Bilderberg is a frequent target of conspiracy theorists, who’ve credited it with anointing aspiring presidents, selecting their running mates, creating the European Union and instigating the war in Iraq and the bombing of Serbia, among other coups.

Bilderberg meetings are closed to the press, participants are asked not to publicly discuss the proceedings and the attendee list is only occasionally released. As a result, the group has come to be viewed as a more publicity-shy cousin to the Trilateral Commission and the Council on Foreign Relations – other influential international think tanks that are staples of fringe group conversation.

Unlike Bilderberg, though, those organizations have opened their proceedings to public scrutiny, maintain websites and have long listed their members.

The Bilderberg group, in a rare press release last year, laid out a benign if vague mission: creating “a better understanding of the complex forces and major trends affecting Western nations.”

“Bilderberg is a small, flexible, informal and off-the-record international forum in which different viewpoints can be expressed and mutual understanding enhanced,” read the press release, which noted that a list of participants would be available by phone request between 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM on the second and third days of the conference.

The Bilderberg conspiracists first pounced on the Obama connection during the 2008 campaign, when news leaked in May that the candidate, who at the time was closing in on the Democratic presidential nomination, had initially tapped former Fannie Mae chairman Jim Johnson, a top Bilderberger, to help him select a running mate.

IRS filings show that Johnson as recently as 2006 was the treasurer of a non-profit group called American Friends of Bilderberg. The group has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years to pay for meetings--including $125,000 in total contributions from Bilderberg stalwarts Henry Kissinger and David Rockefeller in 2005 and 2006 plus $25,000 in 2005 from the Washington Post, whose chairman Don Graham has attended in the past.

Johnson did not return a message inquiring about his role at Bilderberg.

“The news further puts to rest any delusions that Bilderberg is a mere talking shop where no decisions are made,” reported Prison Planet. “It also ridicules once again any notion that an Obama presidency would bring ‘change’ to the status quo of America being ruled by an unelected corporate and military-industrial complex elite.”

One month later, in June, Johnson was joined at the 2008 Bilderberg meeting by Geithner, Holbrooke, Summers and Ross, as well as Obama’s first choice for HHS secretary, Tom Daschle, and Sebelius, who at the time was included on some short lists of prospective Obama running mates and who also attended the 2007 meeting in Istanbul, Turkey.

According to the Bilderberg press release, the meeting was designed to “deal mainly with a nuclear free world, cyber terrorism, Africa, Russia, finance, protectionism, US-EU relations, Afghanistan and Pakistan, Islam and Iran.” Approximately two-thirds of the 140 expected attendees came from Europe, according to the release, and the rest from North America.

Had the meeting been held outside the United States, that might have been the end of the Obama angle. But the conference, which took place from June 5 through 8, was held at a heavily guarded hotel in Chantilly, Va. in suburban Washington—coincidentally overlapping with an Obama campaign event in the area.

While Obama’s schedule indicated he was to fly home to Chicago for the weekend—and journalists were herded on a campaign plane under the impression they were headed there along with Obama—the future president slipped away for a private meetings and never actually boarded the flight.

As it turned out, Obama secretly met that evening with Hillary Rodham Clinton in Washington, D.C., but not before raising alarms among the Bilder-busters, who were convinced something was rotten in Chantilly.

Prison Planet connected the dots and concluded Obama and Clinton met at the Bilderberg meeting, declaring that “the complete failure of the mainstream media to report on the fact, once again betrays the super-secretive nature and influential reputation that the 54-year-old organization still maintains.”

“It is now seems increasingly likely that the secret meetings with Bilderberg this weekend will herald the decision to name Hillary Clinton as Obama's VP candidate,” predicted a sister site,

Even the snarky D.C.-based Wonkette blog weighed in, half-seriously positing that “really, it sounds like” Obama and Clinton rendezvoused “at that creepy Bilderberg Group meeting, which is happening now, and which is so secret that nobody will admit they’re going, even though everybody who is anybody goes to Bilderberg.”

Curiously, though, the episode wasn’t the first time a Bilderberg meeting intersected with vice presidential selection machinations.

In 2004, both Time magazine and the New York Times noted that then-Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C) had impressed Bilderbergers at that year’s conference in Stresa, Italy—roughly one month prior to his selection as Sen. John Kerry’s (D-Mass.) running mate-- when Edwards debated Republican Ralph Reed. Then, as in 2008, Jim Johnson led the vice presidential vetting.

Time reported that then-Sen. Jon Corzine (D-N.J.) and Holbrooke attended and called Kerry “with rave reviews” about Edwards' debate skills.

In its tick-tock of the vice-presidential selection process, the New York Times also noted the Bilderberg effect.

''His performance at Bilderberg was important,'' a friend of Kerry told the Times. ''He reported back directly to Kerry. There were other reports on his performance. Whether they reported directly or indirectly, I have no doubt the word got back to Mr. Kerry about how well he did.''

An attendee of the 2004 meeting dismissed the notion that Edwards’ Bilderberg performance helped land him on the Democratic ticket.

“It wasn’t because of his performance at the meeting – he was at the meeting because he was going to get picked” said the attendee, who did not want to be identified breaching Bilderberg’s off-the-record rule. “He was there as a surrogate for Kerry” and to boost his foreign policy bona fides, said the attendee.

Either way, the attendee contended, the Bilderberg conspiracy theories don’t make sense on their face, if only because the wide array of ideologies represented would make it difficult to reach consensus.

“There were so many different people there with so many different viewpoints that it belied the opportunity to really conspire, because obviously a Kissinger and a [prominent neoconservative Richard] Perle are going to come down in a very different place than say a Holbrooke or a Johnson,” the attendee said.

Besides, the attendee observed, it’s almost impossible to name a Bilderberger-free Cabinet.

“You’d be hard pressed to find an administration that hasn’t reached into those ranks into the last 20, 30, 40 years. “

Original here

Of Hyperbole and Hypocrisy and the Great Socialist Interstate System

Welcome to pre-socialist America, back in the day when the federal government pretty much kept to itself. Or, in another way of putting it, neglected the country it had been put in place to govern. Evidence of this neglect is, to the left, Iowa, but this photo is illustrative of the entire country just before the First World War. Dirt tracks. Some 2.5 million miles of roads, most of them looking exactly like this when it rained (a mere 150 miles of roads were actually paved).

Many roads went nowhere. Nobody was responsible for building them, really, and nobody was responsible for repairing them. There was no rhyme or reason to them; they just developed over time as need demanded. Some were built by states for various reasons. Military roads, mostly. All in all, it is safe to say that travel across the United States had not progressed much since the days of the covered wagon.

Alexander Winton, who made cars for a living, became famous for a failed attempt in 1901. He managed to escape California but his wheels spun to a stop in the deserts of Nevada. National Geographic reports on a later attempt:
Two years later, Dutch reporter Marius Krarup successfully crossed the same stretch of sand. He rode in a 1903 Packard driven by Tom Fetch, one of three teams that left San Francisco for New York City to claim records in cross-country driving.

The pair failed in their bid to be first, but they did chart the most treacherous route.

Upon reaching Colorado Springs, Colorado, Krarup spoke of the conditions that preceded: "Nevada is awful, but Utah is the worst I ever saw. We carry a pick and shovel along, and we found it necessary in more than one instance to use them when we had to build roads ourselves, cutting along the sides of hills."

Colorado provided a brief respite. After Denver, Krarup and Fetch wouldn't see another surfaced road until Illinois.

The first driver to make it from coast to coast was Dr. Horatio Nelson Jackson, who drove out of San Francisco in a 20-horsepower Winton touring car in the Spring of 1903. The America Jackson encountered was frozen in time. As recounted by Ken Burns
Traveling with his co-driver Sewall K. Crocker and a bulldog named Bud (who wore goggles, just like his master, to keep the dust from his eyes), Jackson had the adventure of his life. He encountered pioneers in wagon trains, cowboys who used their lariats to tow him out of sand drifts, ranch wives who traded homecooked meals for a brief ride on the "Go-Like-Hell Machine," and people who deliberately sent him miles out of his way just so their relatives could get their first glimpse of an automobile.

If America was to have roads worthy of the name, transportation arteries that encouraged travel, private citizens would have to build them. The first such highway was the Lincoln Highway, organized by Carl Fisher, the man who created the Indianpolis 500 and who developed Miami Beach. His dream came about in 1912, almost a decade after Jackson's fabled trip. The estimated cost was $10 million.

John Ford declined to donate to the project. He was one of those rich men from whom wealth is supposed to trickle down. In this case, as in so many others, it did not. He thought the public should pay for the roads, not private industry. In other words, the average working man, the middle class, should bear the brunt. Not the class from whom Republicans believe today will provide prosperity and development if we but decline to tax or regulate them heavily.Funding for the almost 4,000-mile-long highway came from a variety of sources. He sought donations from auto manufacturers like Ford, and automobile accessory companies (he himself owned a company that made headlights) of 1 percent of their revenues. Members of the general public was able members of the highway organization for a five dollar donation. The Federal Government, presided over by a Republican president, William Howard Taft, was spending $1.7 million on a statue to Lincoln but was not building any highways to improve the nation's infrastructure.

That said, it is useful here to note that Taft would have found little support among today's Republicans. For one thing, he considered himself a progressive. Among his sins was a strong regulatory bent: strengthening the Interstate Commerce Commission, expanding the civil service, establishing a better postal system, and promoting world peace. A socialist if there ever was one, by today's standards. We would do well to steer clear of the assumption that today's Republicans are not those of yesteryear, whatever claims they make today.

But back to our highway and funding. Carl Fisher lamented that "the highways of America are built chiefly of politics". It is interesting that today, our infrastructure maintained in largely the same manner - by Congressional earmarks. And Henry Ford had his wish in a way: the Interstate system is largely maintained by tolls paid for by the public and by gasoline taxes, also paid for by the public. Even so, it was the federal government that finally build a highway system.

The Lincoln Highway was the pre-war's Route 66. It had a mystique about it that persisted long after the highway had become US Highway 30. The loss of its name was part of a process begun in March 1925, when the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO) began to set up the by now familiar US highway system. Every highway got a number. Every named highway lost its name - including the Lincoln, when in November of that year, the secretary of agriculture approved AASHO's plan.

In 1919 an army convoy followed the Lincoln Highway. One of the members of the expedition was a young lieutenant, Dwight D. Eisenhower. In 1956 Eisenhower, by then a Republican President, would remember that trip and the German autobahns built by Hitler's Third Reich. As a result, the federal government, under the auspices of a Republican administration, undertook one of the biggest socialist building projects in America's history. The Interstate System is not only the largest highway system in the world but the largest public works project in history. And let us reiterate here: It was built by a Republican administration.Given the extent of Eisenhower's crime against everything the Republican Party stands for, should we give it back? Should Republicans refuse to drive on it, or perhaps be banned altogether? Or should they simply drop the hypocrisy and shut up?

Let's take a look at the expense. Begun in 1956, finished in 1991, the actual Cost to build the Interstate Highway System was $114 Billion over 35 years ago, and $500 billion in 2008 dollars.

What was the cost of FDR's New Deal, in comparison? According to The Nation, "During the New Deal, the Roosevelt administration spent about $250 billion (in today's dollars) on public-works projects, building about 8,000 parks, 40,000 public buildings, 72,000 schools and 80,000 bridges. The entire cost of all the New Deal programs (in today's dollars) was about $500 billion."

It is safe to say the Interstate System transformed America. But it cost $500 billion. The same price as the New Deal. Identical in value. Both transformed America. Is it hypocrisy to condemn the one and laud the other? I am unaware of any Republican criticism of the Interstate System. Republicans use it as much as Democrats. But Republicans detest the New Deal with a religious fervor. Yet both projects came from government spending. An identical amount of government spending. Why is one evil, and the other not?

If, as Republicans say, government spending is itself the sin, then they must shut their mouths or be hypocrites. There seems to be no other option. That, or they can stay off our Interstates and out of our libraries and away from every thing else government spending has provided for our benefit.

Original here

John Dean: Cheney is guilty of 'murder' if Hersh claims are true

David Edwards and Rachel Oswald

Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh’s bombshell earlier this week that Vice President Dick Cheney controlled an “executive assassination ring” continues to reverberate throughout Washington, with Nixon aide John Dean going so far as to accuse the former VP of murder if the charges are true.

MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann visited the issue on his show Countdown Thursday night where he discussed the legal implications of Hersh's allegations with Dean, who was White House legal counsel under President Richard Nixon.

“It’s potentially a war crime,” Dean said of the reported assassination ring. “It’s potentially just outright murder and it’s clearly in violation of the Ford Executive Order.”

Hersh told the students at the University of Minnesota on Tuesday that the assassination squad was “a special wing of our special operations community that is set up independently. In the Bush-Cheney Days, they reported directly to the Cheney, Cheney office. They do not report to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff or to Mr. Gates, the secretary of defense. They report directly to him. Congress has no oversight of it. It’s an executive assassination ring, essentially.”

“If this is true you have to prosecute this. There is no way around this,” said Olbermann, noting the 1976 executive order of President Gerald Ford which explicitly outlawed the engagement of political employees in political assassination. Cheney was Ford’s chief of staff at the time the order was issued.

“By the time Cheney was back in the West Wing it appears that Cheney had forgotten his own boss’s executive order, or worse, he had decided to ignore it,” Olbermann said.

Dean told Olbermann that “the President’s the only one you can argue who may have the authority to engage in assassinations.

Newsweek editor Howard Fineman shared with Olbermann his own investigation into the veracity of Hersh's claims. Fineman said his talks Thursday with sources in the intelligence community had revealed that while they are skeptical of the existence of any assassination ring, they had too much respect in Hersh's reporting to dismiss the allegations outright and that they warranted further study.

However, not everyone is buying the claims made by Hersh. The Weekly Standard's Bill Roggio writes, "Hersh has made a living of making fantastic claims that don't quite live up to the hype. Chalk this one up as another Hersh fantasy."

Claims by the CIA that the Hersh allegations were “utter nonsense,” are not surprising, said Fineman.

“If there is in fact such a thing... and the CIA was kept in the dark about it, the last thing they would want to do right now is to admit it,” Fineman said.

Fineman said he has been told by aides to Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee who has proposed forming an independent ‘Truth Commission’ to investigate abuses of the Bush administration, that not many members of the Senate have signed on to the proposal as of yet.

However, the new allegations by Hersh may be shocking enough to push more senators over to Leahy’s side, Fineman said.

“This could be that thing, depending on how much it pans out,” Fineman said. “One more really serious allegation…I think you’re going to see a lot of senators wanting to join Sen. Leahy’s side on this.”

This video is from MSNBC's Countdown, broadcast Mar. 12, 2009.

Original here