Laughs, Tears, the Deep State and Russ Baker at NY Comedy Festival

Tim Dillon, Ray Kump
Tim Dillon and Ray Kump. Photo credit: Tim Dillon / Twitter and Hot Mess Comedy Hour / Wikimedia

Comedians Tim Dillon and Ray Kump, with their special guest, WhoWhatWhy founder Russ Baker, take on the world’s ills and still find a way to make the audience smile.

In a live podcast from the TBS Comedy Hub at the New York Comedy Festival, they address wars, nasty politicians, and the meaning of life as seen through an investigative lens — and from the dark perspective that writers and comedians share.

Full Text Transcript:

As a service to our readers, we provide transcripts with our podcasts. We try to ensure that these transcripts do not include errors. However, due to resource constraints, we are not always able to proofread them as closely as we would like, and we hope that you will excuse any errors that slipped through.

Tim Dillon:We have a guest who we’ve had on our show several times. He’s one of our favorite people. He’s an investigative journalist, he is the founder of a website called WhoWhatWhy.org. If you guys are interested in reading some really great investigative pieces on news stories, I would definitely suggest familiarizing yourself with his website. He’s also the author of a book that is one of my favorite books, and I think it’s an important book, called Family of Secrets, which talks about the Bush family, but it talks about a lot more than that. It talks a lot about the power structures in the United States and kind of how they formed and the influences and the power behind them. We’re really lucky to have him. We’re to talk to him today about some of the documents that were released about the JFK assassination and some other things. The great Russ Baker. Thank you for coming in. Thank you.
Russ Baker:My pleasure.
Tim Dillon:Yeah. We appreciate having you. We really are happy to have you here. What’s interesting, I want you to just … Just a quick little … One of the things I love about Russ’s reporting is that right now, it’s kind of sad in our business, you’re finding out all these things about people, and you really, you kind of realize, you don’t really know anybody. People’s public persona is very different a lot of times with their private dealings. Russ has really looked at that in the political realm, and he started writing a book called Family of Secrets. Just kind of recount for us where you were in your career then, and then how you kind of got into that book, and some of the things that that book made you see about the American political system.
Russ Baker:Sure. First of all, let me apologize, I broke one of the cardinal rules of vocal performance, which is don’t eat a piece of cheese before you speak. Did anybody know this? If you do performing, they always tell you, never consume dairy before you sing or anything like that.
Tim Dillon:Yeah. This is what I told you, investigative journalism. This is the type of stuff… You don’t get this on CNN.
Russ Baker:They don’t tell you the truth. Did you know you have to wash your hands constantly all day long not to get a cold? I Drive my assistant crazy because I’m always telling her this kind of stuff, did you get enough sleep, did you do this, did you do that? The new one will be don’t eat cheese before you sleep. Okay, there we go.
I got involved writing this book … It’s kind of funny, because when people say, “What’s your book about?” And when people introduce me, I always say, “Please don’t say my book is about the Bush family,” because immediately people are like, “Okay, what time is it?” Because who cares about them, because even if you thought they were bad, now you got Trump. So they’re all like, “Why didn’t you write a book about Trump? And I’m like, “Okay, that’s the next one.” It was very interesting for me, because I became interested in the Bushes when … And many of you are probably too young to remember the Iraq War. How many remember the Iraq War?
Tim Dillon:The second one, which one?
Russ Baker:Like half of you. The second.
Tim Dillon:Which movie, Iraq War two.
Russ Baker:The first one they definitely wouldn’t remember. We have so many wars. It’s so many. So little time and so many wars. The Iraq War turned out to be kind of phony, the long and short of it is, they sort of made up that there was a reason to go to war there, and I actually believed that they knew there was no reason to go to war there, except there was oil and the usual suspects. So I was working on that, and I thought, man, 2004 rolled around, and now there’s this guy John Kerry, I don’t know, again, how many of you remember him, but he was a US senator, and then was later the Secretary of State. John Kerry was this Vietnam war hero, and it was coming out that George Bush, who was this very macho, beating his chest, let’s go to war with everybody guy, had actually never served, really, in the military himself. He had basically skipped out on the National Guard during Vietnam. That was already where you really didn’t have to do much of anything but push-ups, and he skipped out on even that.
I thought, “Man, now the Democrats have this guy, who’s a war hero from Vietnam. A Democrat who’s anti-war, and the Republicans have a pro-war guy who skipped out. So this thing is going to be no contest.” Well, boy was I wrong. The next thing you know, John Kerry’s being accused of, well, he didn’t really do what he said he did in Vietnam and so on, and all the allegations against W., as we call our president formally, disappeared. So I said, “This is just amazing. What is this machine that can distract us like this, and people really respond?” Even worse was the media, because the media just totally folded up. One news organization, CBS, under Dan Rather, who was then their anchor—
Tim Dillon:CBS, not TBS. CBS.
Russ Baker:No, CBS, yeah, yeah. No connection that I know of. But they both have BS in the name.
Tim Dillon:Right.
Russ Baker:Anyway, he went after Bush on this military thing, and he was destroyed. Do you know that? That this $12 million year anchorman was destroyed and was forced out of his job over looking into this thing. I said, “Wow, there is some deep stuff going on here.” That caused me to start looking into like everything.
Tim Dillon:Yeah. Now, you broke a story with regard to George W. Bush’s military service. You broke a story. Tell us about that. One the reasons we’re doing a little backstory is, I think after the second Trump debate, you made a great point. You said, “Trump is like a symptom. It’s a deeply corrupt system cannibalizing itself,” which is what you said on Twitter, which was kind of a great way to put it. I think a lot of people that aren’t politically conscious or started to get politically conscious around when Trump was elected kinda don’t know a lot of what led us to kind of this point. One of the things I love about your reporting is you put a lot of stuff in context. We’re going to talk about the media too and why they so easily go to sleep, why they’re so easily led. But what was the story that you broke about George W. Bush’s military service?
Russ Baker:Well, there were several, and I’m trying to remember the details. Of course, if you get my book you can read the full story. But I did discover that… pretty strong evidence that he had skipped out from the military and that had been covered up by his father, who had already been President of the United States, George H.W. Bush. You may remember him … Probably the only thing you know about him is he’s in the news for grabbing women’s fannies, or something, some part. They were like, “Well, he didn’t really mean it,” or something. Anyway, so, that’s all we know about these people, right? How do you say, well, people are going to say, “Kevin Spacey, oh, he’s the guy who …”
Tim Dillon:Yeah.
Russ Baker:Yeah, no, no, he was actually an actor, yes. So I looked into this stuff, and what I discovered was that there were all these cover-ups going on around him and at very high levels, records, military facilities. I went to try to look at some of his military records, the entire facility, and I kid you not, I’m sure it’s a coincidence, the entire facility had burned down. Like millions of records went missing including his.
Tim Dillon:Convenient.
Speaker 4:It was microfilm, it’s just very flammable.
Tim Dillon:Yeah. Yeah.
Russ Baker:It really is. There’s another thing I got to say. I do a lot of work about the CIA and all this kind of stuff, and everything you want to see was destroyed because they needed to make room. Do you know the Secret Service records about the Kennedy assassination? Those are routinely destroyed, because, I don’t know, they …
Tim Dillon:They need room.
Russ Baker:They needed room.
Tim Dillon:For the Easter egg hunt photos.
Russ Baker:So there’s a lot of that kind of stuff going on.
Tim Dillon:Yeah, that’s pretty wild.
Speaker 4:I mean, the crux of the book, just if people haven’t read it, it deals a lot with George H.W. Bush, the father, and his whole … What we realized is, sensibly he was the head of CIA in the 70s, and that was the first time he was ever in the CIA, supposedly, but you uncover a lot of details about how it’s pretty clear that he was involved with the agency since the genesis of it, pretty much, and he was pivotal in a lot of the most devastating under the surface events of the past 50 years. Now, you first discovered that … You want to do that document you found …
Russ Baker:Yeah, yeah. Basically, so what happened was … I’m like everybody else, much of the stuff we’re talking about, I would have tuned it out as being nutty stuff. I’m like any other journalist with the credentials, and I have the bylines in the big places, and I have the degree from the good school and all this. I was pretty careful. I would try to be bold but careful, that was sort of my motto, and I think it is at most of the good places. When you hear stuff about Oswald and all this and you’re like, “Well, obviously, he did it, and anybody who thinks otherwise is a crackpot.” You got your friends who ask questions about major events, and is it possible that we’re not getting the whole story? There’s like, “Of course we’re getting the whole story. What kind of idiot are you? Of course we’re … Who would lie to us?” Okay.
In the course of doing this stuff I just started finding these really weird things, like the father is … Because my whole thing was, how did George W. Bush become president, because this guy is not the swiftest animal in the room? He really hadn’t accomplished much of anything. His big accomplishment, and I kid you not, his big accomplishment was to get other rich people to buy the Texas Rangers baseball team, so that he could stand at the games and wave to the crowd. That’s really what kind of made him and made him president. I’m not kidding. Anyway, I thought, “Well, how did this guy become president?” I would ask people, “How did he become president?” They said, “Well, he comes from that family.” I said, “Well, what family?” They said, “Well, his father was president.” Then I thought, his father was George Bush too, so maybe people got them mixed up. Maybe they thought the same guy was running again. So it actually turned out a lot of people didn’t know there was a difference between the two of them, I’m not making this up. This is unbelievable, and yet not somehow.
Tim Dillon:It’s America, it’s not that unbelievable. Actually not that shocking.
Russ Baker:It’s a great … It’s a make America great again. Make America great again. I was looking at a son, and I thought, “How did he become president?” They said, “Well, because his father was president.” Then I came up with this great question. How did the father become president? Because the father was, with all due respect to him, kind of a doofus. So I thought, “Well, how did this guy become president?”
I started asking people. I traveled around the country, I asked reporters, people who knew him, how did he become president? They said, “Well, he was vice president first.” So I said, “Well, how was he vice president first?” They said, “Well, I don’t know, he was CIA director.” Then I said, “Why was he CIA director?” Everybody said, “I don’t know.” So then I went, I looked and I read the articles in the New York Times, and they were all like, “Mr. Bush is a surprise choice for CIA director. Some analysts speculate that he was chosen because of his good looks and the fact that he’d been a congressman and the CIA was under a tremendous amount of scrutiny from Congress.” Actually in that period they were investigating the CIA, this was a period where it came out that the CIA actually kills people. All the stuff you know, [crosstalk 00:12:52]
Tim Dillon:They’ve overthrown governments in—
Speaker 4:Mind-controlled [crosstalk 00:12:54]
Tim Dillon:… Foreign countries. They admitted to MKULTRA, mind control experiments on the general public. They had done all kinds of nefarious things.
Speaker 4:It was in the wake of Watergate, this all kind of—
Russ Baker:Yeah.
Tim Dillon:Yeah. This all kind of came out. It was a Church Committee, Frank Church was looking into this. The Family Jewels, a great piece by Seymour Hersh came out, which kind of detailed all of these different transgressions that the CIA had done. Then they put in charge of their organization a guy with no experience in intelligence, which you found interesting.
Russ Baker:Yeah, it’s like, why? It’s like, why? The media didn’t even ask, this doesn’t make any sense. This is where I started going, there’s something wrong with the media, because they don’t even ask the big questions. They’re kind of like, let’s just skip over those and get into the daily skirmish, if you will, because … You know this, if any of you write for film or anything, you know it’s all about conflict, right, because conflict sells, and that’s what they do. So I went and I said I’m going to find out more about the father. Why was he CIA director? He had no qualifications.
I began digging. Family of Secrets is about my digging, and I discover that this guy actually was qualified for the job, because he, and you could probably figure out where this is going, was already in the CIA. It’s just that nobody knew it. Well, somebody knew it and he knew it, but nobody else knew it, and the media didn’t know it. He was being presented as outsider that was coming in to put a new face and clean this thing up. He wasn’t that at all. He was part of the cover-up. He was one of their most loyal people with a long history of doing weird stuff.
Tim Dillon:How did you find that out? What led you to believe that? Because you worked on this book for five years, and you had about 500 books on the Bush family in … Your library had grown to about 500 books about them that you were like analyzing. What pieces of information led you there, to the idea that he was, whether it’s called the Deep Cover operative, or kind of an asset for the CIA, somebody who’s unacknowledged on their … What led you to that?
Russ Baker:Well, first of all he went to Yale in the 1940s, and like everybody who went to Yale in 1940s worked for the CIA. I’m exaggerating a little bit, but—
Tim Dillon:Not that much.
Russ Baker:… Seriously, seriously, people don’t realize this, but back in those days, if you were from wealthy families, I don’t know how many of you’ve looked at your history going back to England—
Tim Dillon:How many of you are in the CIA right now? Just think of this as an idea.
Russ Baker:How many lived in England—
Tim Dillon:[crosstalk 00:15:10]
Russ Baker:… In the 1500s?
Tim Dillon:They’re all feds. Somebody [inaudible 00:15:14]
Russ Baker:I’ve seen all these people before.
Speaker 4:But a lot of people don’t realize that the early CIA, probably still, it came out of Wall Street and the investment banking community. It was a tremendous amount of permeability between those two worlds.
Russ Baker:Yeah, well, what you do with your kids if you’re a wealthy family, originally, what it was was one child, I don’t know if you know this, this is true, very wealthy sort of aristocratic families, one child was always a lawyer and one child was always some kind of an educator and one was a priest, one was always in the clergy. Then I guess at some point they were like, and one should be a spy.
Tim Dillon:Interesting. I’m an only child, so it was … You’ll just be a clown.
Russ Baker:You have to do them all.
Tim Dillon:Yeah, I’m doing them all.
Speaker 4:What was the first clue? Because I think what it was, it was that first memo you found, yeah.
Russ Baker:Okay. Okay, yeah, yeah, yeah. I had read that somewhere in another book, this really weird thing that on some TV interview, it was a foreign TV interview, George H.W. Bush, we call him Poppy, that’s his nickname, the father in the family. They were interviewing about his life, and must be … You’ve had such an interesting life and what do you remember about this and this, and you served in World War II. Where were you when you heard that John F. Kennedy was shot?
Tim Dillon:Which is something that everybody knows.
Russ Baker:He freezes. He goes whiter than he already is. He goes, “I can’t remember. I don’t recall where I was.” I read that, and I thought, that’s so weird. I mean, the guy was like 45. Kennedy was killed in Dallas, Texas. Mr. Bush was a Texan, was running for the United States Senate at the time, going to Dallas and that was one of the biggest cities there. How could you not remember this. I mean, surely your grandkids … I don’t know. So I started going around, and when I give talks, and I would ask people, “How many of you were over five years old in 1963?” I’m sure the answer is like nobody in here, right? Is there anybody who was over five at 1963 who would admit it?
Tim Dillon:But that guy in the back. I’m kidding, all right.
Russ Baker:No comment, okay. Anyway, so I would say, “How many of you were over five in 1963?” Then, certain people raise hands. I say, “Of you how many of you cannot remember where you were.” Of course, all the hands would drop, except one speech I gave in one place, and it was a very elderly lady. She actually wasn’t sure where she was when I was speaking. Anyway, I thought this is really interesting that this guy can’t remember. These guys are smart and they remember stuff about me and my work that I don’t remember, but anyway, I looked into this thing, and I said, “I have to figure out where this guy was.” I started looking through stuff, and I found this memo, the aforementioned memo, and this memo … Well, there were two memos. One memo had been sort of accidentally declassified by the government years later. It’s a phone call to the FBI from a Mr. George H.W. Bush of 4992 Greenbrier, Houston, Texas — which is him. He’s calling the FBI on November 22, 1963, the day that Kennedy is killed, he’s calling like an hour or two after, and he says, “I may know who shot the president.”
Tim Dillon:This is true. This is a fact. This is a real memo. This is not contested, it’s not a conspiracy theory, this is not your surmise, this is a legitimate fact, where you have George H.W. Bush calling the FBI two hours after the assassination going, “Hey, I might know who did it.” It’s a fact.
Russ Baker:Pretty amazing, right? And he doesn’t remember where he was. So I thought, “Wow, this is pretty interesting.” I just started digging in this thing. Then there was a second memo. The second memo was from J. Edgar Hoover. How many of you have heard of J Edgar Hoover? Okay, like half. All right, former head of the FBI. He was the head of the FBI for like half a century, I’m not making this up. From like the 1920s until he dropped dead in his job in the 1970s, this guy ran it like … The KGB never had somebody like that. Anyway, he ran this thing, and there was a memo from him, or I guess it was to him, and it says … It’s dated November, 23, I think it is, and it says, “We had a meeting to talk about the Kennedy assassination and whether the Cubans might be using it as an excuse to take some sort of action.” He said, “We debriefed two people Mr. Bob Smith of Naval Intelligence and Mr. George Bush of the CIA.” Well, knock me over with a feather.
So I thought, “That’s interesting. Is that the same guy?” Then there’s a whole back story where the CIA … Eventually, this became public, and they said, “Well, we never confirm or deny.” Then under pressure, because Mr. Bush was running for president at this point, he said, “You better say something,” and they said, “No, it’s another guy.” They said it was a certain other guy, but we can’t find him. Well, a journalist quickly found the other man, and he was interviewed, and he was, “Yeah, it couldn’t be me because I had a really low-level job, I never did anything of use.” Even better, he said, “I was recruited to the CIA in November 1963, I don’t know why, and then they got rid of me shortly after that.”
Tim Dillon:Right.
Speaker 4:Right.
Russ Baker:True story.
Speaker 4:Also, he’s a file clerk. The other guy being briefed is like one of the top guys in naval intelligence.
Russ Baker:Of course.
Tim Dillon:So it would be insane to brief a guy who was a low-level file clerk about the Kennedy assassination.
Russ Baker:They had hired him from the Social Security Administration.
Tim Dillon:Is that true?
Russ Baker:Yeah.
Tim Dillon:That’s insane.
Speaker 4:This is also common tradecraft for the CIA.
Tim Dillon:There’s a name for it in intelligence circles called block and bridge. Explain to people what block and bridge is, because it’s very interesting for the people here that aren’t spies, which is five to ten [crosstalk 00:21:15].
Russ Baker:I love that term, and you may know better than me-
Tim Dillon:I love that term.
Russ Baker:… Because I haven’t used it for years. I think I actually used it at one of your shows, and then as soon as I used it, I forgot what it meant. It’s something about what you’re doing is you’re taking proactive steps in order to anticipate problems that you’re going to have.
Tim Dillon:Future problems that might come up. You’re kind of preempting them by doing things that will make it easier for you to kind of cover your tracks, you’re kind of laying the groundwork.
Russ Baker:Yeah, and by the way the Bushes, and this is one reason to read the book, if any of you like ever lie to your parents or anything, this is a great primer for you, because they teach you how to lie masterfully about everything. They do stuff like George W. Bush had everything up his nose except a Kleenex. They realized this was a problem for him. Actually they started leaking disinformation.
This is a real true story, that one time, he’s on the phone, and the door to the bedroom’s open, and his campaign manager can hear him on the phone, and he hears him say, “Yeah, people say that I smoked marijuana, but if I ever did … I mean, maybe I did dope once or something.” Of course, that was that block and bridge, because they they leaked it, the Washington Post reported that it had been overheard that he had said, maybe he had once toked marijuana. This admission was block and bridge. Therefore, if anybody said, “Well, this guy was a coke dealer,” or something, [inaudible 00:22:47]. No, no, no, no. He once smoked a joint.
Tim Dillon:Yeah, so he’s controlling the narrative from the beginning with this … Now, just to go back for a second. George W. Bush calls the FBI, and he says, “I may know who…” Because this is really the crux of what is so interesting, and I know all these documents just came out about the assassination, but he calls the FBI, and he basically says: “I have a suspect for you in the assassination.” Just go into that for a second.
Russ Baker:Yeah, so he calls the FBI, but it’s kind of weird because he calls the Houston office. The assassination’s in Dallas, you’d think he’d call the Dallas office. He calls the Houston office, he’s from Houston, and he talks to this guy, and the guy takes a report. I later discovered that the guy who took the report was a friend of his. This is not in the report that he knew it.
Speaker 4:That’s just a coincidence, right?
Russ Baker:It just says, a Mr. George Bush called. Well, no, that’s your best friend. You play basketball with him. Okay, so that’s the first thing. Then it says, he says there’s this guy who has been talking about things like … Makes him think that he would maybe shoot the president. He doesn’t know too much about him, he knows a little bit about him. Then of course I looked into it, I found it that that man worked for Mr. Bush, and in fact—
Speaker 4:The man he was saying might kill the president was one of his employees?
Russ Baker:Yeah. Yeah.
Tim Dillon:He was informing on somebody. He had to inform on somebody.
Russ Baker:But he didn’t mention he was his employee.
Tim Dillon:Right, he left that out. He just goes, “This guy has been saying a lot of far right, the right wing stuff, maybe he did it.”
Russ Baker:I mean, this is like real Rob, Rob Schneider doing that to his assistant. It’s just crazy. It’s incredible.
Tim Dillon:Then you actually find out that there’s a great potential, that he’s informing on this guy who probably he knows is not guilty, but he’s really just trying to establish that … He’s giving himself an alibi.
Russ Baker:Well, there’s a reason he’s doing this, he’s putting a record in the system that he was calling and being helpful, but it’s not really that he was calling being helpful. He calls and he says, “I’m calling from Tyler, Texas.” The only significance I concluded was that he wanted to establish that he was somewhere other than Dallas at the time he called. Of course the time he called was, I calculated it was about an hour and some after the shooting, and he had been traveling on a private plane. I actually discovered that he’d been in Dallas that morning. I mean, again, I don’t think this guy was firing a rifle, I’m not saying anything like that, but for some reason, factually speaking, he did not want people to realize that he had been in Dallas that morning and he had been working for the CIA that day.
Tim Dillon:There were three presidents in Dallas that day, which was shocking. It was Richard Nixon, George H.W. Bush, and John F Kennedy.
Russ Baker:And Lyndon Johnson.
Tim Dillon:And Lyndon Johnson.
Russ Baker:Four, four …
Tim Dillon:Four presidents in the same … Just like a wild coincidence there. So to extrapolate, to zoom out for a minute, because all these things are very interesting on the surface, but when you kind of zoom out from 30,000 feet, you started to realize that when they write the American story in places like the New York Times and the Washington Post, they often leave out this element of power. A lot of it has to do with big-money players on Wall Street, in the defense industry people, companies like Raytheon and Halliburton was one of them that we heard about, these defense contractors, these major oil companies and the CIA, that this was its own kind of government. That they operated kind of in the shadows and they had a tremendous amount of influence. When did you start to flesh out what that was? People and institutions that kind of have a stake in subverting democracy.
Russ Baker:I mean, I had done some of that earlier in my career. You can’t be a political reporter or an investigative reporter without realizing that it’s all about money. I mean, it is. It’s all about money. If you really just want to understand how everything works, just keep saying that to yourself over and over again, and you’ll get it. It’s either about money or it’s about power or it’s about sex, which is often about power, which is often about money. So that’s a really easy way to kind of teach people their civics lessons. That’s why they don’t like, whatever you think of him, Bernie Sanders or something, because he’s talking about this stuff. That’s very dangerous to the system. So when you’re in the media you kind of deal with this up to a point, but you really don’t go very deep into it.
If you do go deeper people start going, “This is making me uncomfortable.” Then the sort of epithets — it’s hard to say — start flying. They start saying, “Yeah, I think that person’s off a little bit,” when you go deeper. By the way, the movies actually do get into this stuff. There’s lots of movies that have these kind of conspiratorial themes. There’s some of the great movies are like the The Matrix, The Truman Show, and they have these themes. And of course these great movies like Seven Days in May where there’s a military coup in the United States, but then everybody enjoys the film, they go, “I wonder if any of this could ever really happen?”
Speaker 4:Yeah, just like broad stroke it out. I mean, basically what you show … You can get the book on your own, but he’s involved in Watergate, in like framing, perhaps framing Richard Nixon. He’s ambassador to China, this guy is all over the world, involved in all sorts of the strange nexus of business and intelligence and goes on to the whole Saudi element and his connection with the Saudi royal family.
Tim Dillon:Yeah, when did they become so close? When do the Bushes and the Saudis … Because they’re such a close … America and Saudi Arabia, very close, a lot of oil interest, a lot of … And these are things that aren’t discussed that much. I know there’s something going on over there right now. We have some major—
Russ Baker:Some crazy, crazy shit, yeah. Absolutely. Well, the thing is that there’s always scheming going on. Just assume, while we’re all sitting here, somebody’s out there scheming right now. They’re scheming on the golf course with their buddies, they’re scheming at the Country Club, they’re scheming at wherever they are, they’re sitting in church whispering, scheming. That’s what people do, it’s the most enjoyable pastime. These kind of people were always like, “I got to reduce my taxes. I want to get rid of this guy who’s in my way.” That’s what they do. So the Bushes really just represent this larger tendency in our society which goes on everywhere all the time. For example, if I asked you, who are the most powerful element in New York City? What element or industry is most powerful in New York City? [crosstalk 00:29:16]
Tim Dillon:TBS.
Russ Baker:Is it TBS? Is it CBS? Is it PBS? Does anybody know what segment or industry …
Tim Dillon:[crosstalk 00:29:25] I don’t know, I don’t know.
Russ Baker:I’m not picking on like ethnic groups or something. What industry, what industry is the most influential in New York? Does anybody know?
Tim Dillon:Not us. Not clowns.
Speaker 6:Wall Street finance?
Russ Baker:Wall Street finance. It’s actually real estate. If you go to look at NYU, which is a big real estate power and owns everything and buys everything and ruins everybody’s neighborhood, their boards are all full of these top … These families that own real estate. You meet them and they’re perfectly lovely people. I don’t even think they’re bad people, but business is business. They own all these buildings and everything else, and they give a lot of money, and they influence the candidates. That’s how things work.
Tim Dillon:Yeah. You broke a story on your website too about Donald Trump and Russia, because you have been writing about a lot of the things that Robert Mueller is looking at now. You and your website, WhoWhatWhy had been investigating months ago. You had actually written a story … What is your belief, because … Do you believe there is something there? I think that you would look at this as closely as anybody. Do you believe there’s some shady activity there? I think probably yes.
Russ Baker:I think probably yes. It’s very complicated, because we’re taking the word of basically the CIA. They said we can’t release any information, but we know that they were hacking all these people’s mail in the election. The problem is, I don’t really entirely trust what they say either. So this makes it difficult. But I have to say, that if I were Putin … He doesn’t have the economy to support a huge military of the type the US has. He’s got to protect his own interest. The cheap way to do it is to get a bunch of pimply kids who can hack. I wouldn’t necessarily blame him for it.
Speaker 4:Well, I think both of them … You talked a lot about Philip Sater in your article.
Russ Baker:Felix Sater.
Speaker 4:Felix, sorry, Felix Sater. It seems to be clear you can elaborate that even if the hack itself didn’t happen, there does seem to be a deep connection, most likely, of Russian mafia money-
Tim Dillon:Gangsters and Trump.
Russ Baker:Yeah, let’s put it this way. Trump sort of like self hacked himself with Russians over the years. He had so many Russians … This is an article you can find on our site WhoWhatWhy, just type in S-A-T-E-R, this guy’s name. He had these people around him in his business who were from Russia. By the way, I’ve been to Russia and I have Russian friends, there’s nothing wrong with Russian people. I want to be absolutely clear, I think all people Iranians and Saudis, everything, people are people, there’s good people and bad people everywhere. It has nothing to do with that. We’re only talking about these little power elites in every country, which by the way just as soon cooperate with each other and against the rest of the people in their countries, because that’s how you split things up.
Anyway, he had these people working in his building and around him, and they were, as far as I could tell, they were virtually keeping him afloat. He was really … Because Trump is all about bragging and exaggerating everything. Some people think he’d never had really all that much money, that it was all just a kind of smoke and mirrors thing. But he had this guy Felix Sater working in the building there, and this guy had already been convicted of attacking somebody with a broken martini glass in a bar. He’d been involved with a Wall Street pump-and-dump scheme, ripping off widows and everything else. They’d turned him and he became an FBI informant. He was basically an FBI informant while he was working with the Donald.
Tim Dillon:As his special assistant.
Russ Baker:Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Tim Dillon:Trump’s assistant. This is not like a guy that works in the building, this was Trump’s special assistant, was a criminal, also an FBI informant, who had worked for the Russian mob. So that was his assistant.
Russ Baker:He says he didn’t work for the Russian mob, I have to put that disclaimer there. Anyway, whatever he did the FBI knows a lot about him. The FBI knows a lot about Donald Trump. You see this is where it gets complicated, because Mueller is the former FBI director, and now he’s supposed to get to the bottom of what Trump was up to. I don’t know how they do it. That was one article we wrote was, we don’t know how they ever get to the bottom of this stuff, because everybody’s got a little bit of their thumb in the pie.
Speaker 4:Well, that seems to be a common thread throughout a lot of your work. Just when you start looking into deep state is how much the FBI seems to know about stuff before it happens. Terrorist attacks, any kind of war, they always seem to have a guy on the inside, but it all went wrong.
Tim Dillon:Yeah, the FBI always seems to be … They’ve always interviewed people, they’ve always … A lot of what the FBI does, I don’t think people really know what the FBI does, but a lot of what the FBI does is they go out and try to entrap people. They send people into a radical mosque. They sit on a MacBook and pretend to be a fifteen-year-old to ensnare a pedophile. I mean, this is kind of what they do, that’s their MO. A lot of times this goes wrong and kind of blows up in their face. Maybe like when in the Boston bombing, when they had to admit, because Russian intelligence came out and said, “No, you knew who they were, these two guys. We told you who they were.” Then the FBI had to admit that they had a prior relationship with them.
So what have you looked into where you look at a lot of these things where the feds are surveilling people, they’re trying to entrap people, and then something kind of happens where they lose control of the people or … Because the people is like Whitey Bulger, who was a guy that the feds worked with for years and they allowed him to go out and they allowed him to do horrible things up to and including murder, I believe, in order to get information from him. So how often is the FBI doing that?
Russ Baker:I think they’re doing it constantly. I mean, that’s really how they operate. I mean, it’s not all they do, and there are some very good people in the FBI and they do some very good work, and I would hope that if I had a need for investigation, they would do a good job on it, and they very well might.
Tim Dillon:I wouldn’t hold your breath on that. If you need the FBI, the CIA, you better call someone else. I don’t know, the …
Russ Baker:Ghostbusters.
Tim Dillon:Yeah, I don’t think …
Russ Baker:Yeah. It’s all so weird, you see. The difference between me and the rest of the media or a lot of the media is I just left them behind, I don’t really care. I’ll just give an example. I was just reading today about that crazy dude the guy who shot up that church in that small town outside of San Antonio, you know, killed all those people?
Tim Dillon:Yeah.
Russ Baker:Not only did he teach Bible study, but I was just reading, there was … The article today, “They knew he had a bad temper when he was in the Air Force,” it says. What does that mean, they knew he had a bad temper, and that he was in the Air Force? Then I started looking at all of him, this guy in Orlando. Do you remember, that there’s so many of these massacres that we don’t even remember them anymore. Think how sick that is? We don’t remember them.
We’re like, “Boston bombing, what was that?” I was like, “Hello, they blew up the Boston Marathon,” you remember that? Two brothers supposedly did it, and they supposedly visited Russia, and then the Russians warned the US they were up to something, and the US was like, no, and then they claimed they didn’t know who they were. So this guy with the church, I’m just reading this, it says in the Air Force, he had a bad temper. Then it says, listen to this, I kid you not, when he was doing intelligence work. Did you see that?
Tim Dillon:No, I didn’t it. That’s crazy.
Russ Baker:Now, I just got … Pinch me, but I mean … I’m sure it’s a coincidence, but you go … The guy in the Pulse shooting in Orlando, Florida he was working for … Wackenhut, a big company that contracts from the US government. He worked for them. The two brothers in the Boston Marathon bombing, their uncle was married to the daughter of one of the top CIA officials. Their swim coach was in the Special Forces. I mean, I don’t know, it’s just … I don’t know what your life is like, but I I’m not consorting with those kind of people all the time. I mean, most of us weren’t in the military. Even most people who necessarily are capable of going postal weren’t necessarily in the military. It’s just weird.
Tim Dillon:People don’t realize when people get into the military, they get into these elite units, they become trained killers, they become trained at all these things. Many times it backfires, and many times that these people are then sent out and do things and then the government has an interesting kind of limiting their liability by basically … They don’t want to admit that these people were ever kind of on their payroll and that they have been trained to do these things.
Russ Baker:Can I just ask who’s a little bit uncomfortable right now?
Tim Dillon:That’s good, everyone should be. This is New York.
Russ Baker:This is normal.
Tim Dillon:It’s New York, it’s very hard to make anyone uncomfortable.
Russ Baker:If you think about fleeing and eating some popcorn-
Tim Dillon:They’re like, “We don’t understand.”
Russ Baker:… And watching the Care Bears or something, I get it. I get it. We all need that stuff, because this stuff is kind of hard to take.
Tim Dillon:It’s a lot.
Russ Baker:It’s a lot.
Tim Dillon:It’s a lot.
Russ Baker:It’s easy to write these things off as a coincidence. Everyone wants to go, “Well, he’s in intelligence, but what’s the difference?” Or like that guy you’re talking about, it was the head of the CIA guy who was the father of whoever, and it’s like, it’s a coincidence. If you go on a trip to like Barbados and you meet someone else from New York, that’s a coincidence.
Tim Dillon:Right, right.
Speaker 4:Right?
Tim Dillon:That’s true. I mean, these other coincidences, they’re funny, it’s like Reagan was shot by a guy named John Hinckley Jr. John Hinckley Jr.’s family, and this is again, it’s a fact, it’s like a weird … If you’re on a car trip, I was on a long car trip with a couple of comedians, I just brought this up for fun. It’s a fun thing to do. It’s fun, do it at Thanksgiving. Just in the middle of whatever you’re talking about, your parents yelling at you, you’re not married or whatever. No, listen. So more importantly, John Hinckley Jr., who shot Reagan, Neil Bush who was George H.W. Bush’s son, George W. Bush’s brother, was scheduled to have dinner with the Hinckley family the night that John Hinckley Jr. Shot President Reagan.
Russ Baker:Let me do the shorthand on that one.
Tim Dillon:Do that, yeah.
Russ Baker:George H.W. Bush wanted to be President of the United States for a really long time, and he ended up running against Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan beat him, and for some weird reason Ronald Reagan made Bush his vice president, okay? Almost immediately Bush was going to have to wait eight years to become president, because Reagan would have two terms. Almost immediately after the inauguration Reagan gets shot by a friend of the Bush family.
Tim Dillon:Just crazy coincidence, which would of course make George H.W. Bush the president. If Reagan died—
Russ Baker:I got to tell you that many people told me it has to be a coincidence, because otherwise it would be too obvious.
Tim Dillon:Right. I mean, it is just a weird—
Russ Baker:It’s weird. Yeah, it’s weird.
Tim Dillon:It’s strange.
Russ Baker:And it could be a coincidence.
Tim Dillon:Of all these families that you look at, when you look at the Clintons and stuff like that, do you think the Bushes are far and away the best at this stuff?
Russ Baker:They’re in a different league. This is really interesting, because they do seem like such kind of nothingburgers, but beneath the surface, they’re just … I have so much admiration for them. People keep saying, did they ever try to stop you, or did they ever invite you over, or … Well, neither of those that I know of have formerly happened, although the kind of stuff I do, you will never hear this on your favorite progressive nice voiced radio network, where they’re talking about immigrants and all of this. They never, ever talk about anything that really matters in a big way that’s new. So no, you’ll never hear this, so they don’t have to come after me, because here I am talking to you … I mean, it’s tough. The media is like, “Yeah, just not touching this stuff.”
Tim Dillon:What happened when you were writing your book, Family of Secrets, you had a few friends in the media that came over to you, and they came over to your apartment, they started telling you, like, “Hey, relax.”
Russ Baker:Yeah, all kinds of … I had this one guy, he had been a former New York Times guy. I went to have lunch with him. I remember he told me, “You’re doing some great stuff, but I would skip the Kennedy assassination stuff and I would skip the Watergate stuff,” which is by the way what made my book a best-seller, was that stuff, of course. I remember, we were coming back from lunch, and he had to go to the bathroom or something. I walked in his office for a second, and there on the wall was a picture of him with his arm around George H.W. Bush.
Tim Dillon:Yeah. That’s what it is, that’s what the media is, a lot of the high-placed people in the media are friends with the people in power. It’s a very cozy relationship.
Russ Baker:No, no. I’m sorry. Sorry, right. You were just asking me, Tim, about … A friend … I was getting in all this stuff, and I was like, “This is crazy. I must have lost my mind. I mean, I don’t think I have any boundaries anymore. I’m in some new, uncharted territory here, and I need to find out whether I’ve lost the perspective.” So I called a friend of mine who works at the New York Times who had won multiple Pulitzer Prizes, and I said, “I really have to see you. Can you come today to lunch?” He says, “Well, I’m really busy, but it sounds important.” He came over, we sat there at lunch, I talked for half an hour, an hour, telling him stuff I’d found. I said, “If I’m making a big mistake here and I’m going to ruin myself because I got this wrong, I want you to just tell me and I’ll stop.” He looked at me, and he said, “You better watch your back, buddy.”
Speaker 4:Crazy.
Russ Baker:True story.
Tim Dillon:What would you say differentiates you from somebody like Alex Jones, who’s clearly psychotic and insane. Very entertaining, he’s very entertaining, but he is … Even you have said, you watch Alex and you go, “This is crazy.”
Russ Baker:Yeah. How many of you have heard of Alex Jones?
Tim Dillon:I think everyone now, yeah.
Russ Baker:Okay. So I’ve heard of him for years, but here’s the funny thing. I was on his show once, believe it or not.
Tim Dillon:Yeah, a long time ago.
Russ Baker:He was like, “I haven’t read your book, but … But I know about who the Bushes are, yeah, yeah.”
Tim Dillon:[crosstalk 00:42:54]
Russ Baker:Then I was never invited back again. The thing about Alex Jones is, do you know there’s another Alex Jones? By the way, part of my work, it’s about the CIA always has like two George Bushes, two this, two that. There’s two Alex Joneses. The other guy used to write for the New York Times, and he’s actually on … I don’t know if he is any more, he’s on a TV show about the media. It’s called On the Media, and he’s like on there talking about the media and what the media has done right and wrong. I actually was at a dinner party on Martha’s Vineyard, there’s a number of people, very posh people, and they invited me as a sort of unwashed person there. There was this guy Alex Jones in The New York Times. In the dinner he said, “Do you guys know there’s another Alex Jones?” they were like, what? He said, “Yeah, he’s some ridiculous conspiracy guy,” and everybody just laughed. They’d never heard of him.
Tim Dillon:That’s so funny, yeah. When you look at a guy like that, who says some things that might be legitimate but a lot of it is crazy, and now he owns the territory of questioning anything. He just totally … A guy like that … What is your surmise of a guy like that?
Russ Baker:Well, I just have to say … I mean, I’m sure he’s an opportunist, to put it mildly. I think he’s playing on people’s fears. I think he’s benefited from this. He sells you your bomb shelter and your canned goods for an emergency.
Tim Dillon:It’s true.
Russ Baker:Listen to the ads on those shows, because there’s nothing normal people would ever use. But the other thing about it is that he … I’m not going to accuse him at all, and by the way if he invites me on, I’m going back on again, because you sell more books. I’m doing the KKK happy hour later today.
Tim Dillon:Is that true?
Russ Baker:No, no, it’s not true. The thing is that he serves the perfect purpose for the system, because what he does is he discredits real people who want to talk about real things, because then they say, “You’re in that camp.”
Tim Dillon:You’re in that realm, yeah. He’s a perfect … Yeah.
Russ Baker:This is called disinformation, and this is a major tactic in the intelligence world, but this is a major tactic in business. If a company has a problem, they hire a big PR firm, law firm, and so they immediately start looking for dirt on the other people for distractions. You probably notice with all these sex scandals you heard about, I suppose, Louis C.K. may he rest his soul.
Tim Dillon:Never heard of him, sorry. Moving on …
Russ Baker:No, no, no, but you heard what said. He said, “I did all those things. Everything they said is true.” I was like, wow, instead of this, like, “I didn’t, but I’ll go into therapy anyway.” See, even that was a strategy. Do you understand? They told him, you can’t do what the others did because it’s already been done, you have to do something else. So the point is, we have to get to be—
Tim Dillon:What a sick world.
-Russ Baker:… A little more … We have to be better, more savvy about the things that are … About our own lives. About the extent to whiis ch we’re kind of trapped in this … goldfish bowl, when we don’t see things, we’re distracted. Of course, I think one of you had said something about what people like and what they watch. We all like stuff that doesn’t matter, and that’s what they want to spend all their time on.
I gotta tell you, I mean, I watched part of the World Series, but you know what? It doesn’t really matter. If Houston lost, it doesn’t really matter. It really doesn’t. And I grew up in LA, even if the Dodgers won, it really wouldn’t change anybody’s life in LA except maybe people who own stock in the team. So it doesn’t matter. Then you take the other stuff. Honestly, what Kevin Spacey did or shouldn’t … Now it is an important subject, it is an important subject, and it does matter, but it’s not like it’s directly affecting each and every one of our lives for what he did. Do you see what I mean? The phenomenon of men abusing women and all this stuff does affect everybody, but these individual stories are sort of tabloid fare, because they each are a separate—
Tim Dillon:It obscures kind of the larger question, because if you’re like … You throw a couple of these guys overboard, it obscures the larger, systemic problem of abuse and the media not listening to people. You see it now, you had a great point about the media, where it wasn’t safe to go at Harvey Weinstein for a long time. In fact, it took 20 years of accusations, court settlements, for the dam to finally break. You had basically said that the media’s like a pack animal, and that eventually what happens is a certain threshold is reached where they feel like it is safe. But there were early people trying to write stories about Harvey Weinstein, those stories were then killed. What is that? How does that happen? Does an editor just tell you, “We’re not running it”? Well, how does that … Because they were big stories that got killed on Harvey Weinstein.
Russ Baker:It’s scary and it’s risky. Let’s say, wherever you work, I’m sure most of you work somewhere, you go in and write, you have an idea, there’s a meeting and there’s all these older people, and you raise your hand, you have an idea. I mean, that’s risky, right?
Tim Dillon:Right. Let’s take on Weinstein.
Russ Baker:Get your head cut off. Everybody says, “We want to hear new ideas.” Well, they do, but only a little bit. If your idea is just too different in your company or whatever it is, they don’t want to hear it, and it jeopardizes your career. So the goal is always to be going in the exact same direction that everybody else is going, but be slightly ahead. So when people talk about disruption, I hate that term, because I’m a disrupter. I mean, people who are like, reinventing tissue boxes, I don’t really think they’re disrupters, but they use those terms everywhere, and all they’re really doing is making little tiny incremental changes. That’s what the media is good.
Speaker 4:After Watergate, we were talking earlier about how the CIA was under this tremendous amount of scrutiny, and they really were kind of crippled for a couple years as far as operations they could do, their funding from Congress, there was just journalistic scrutiny upon them. It kind of hobbled them for a while, but then, as years go by, it all went away, and they were able to just do all these other … Go back to business as usual. Do you think this … Because ideally what would happen with this whole sex abuse stuff is that it would be a moral hazard, that men, these guys would realize, “No, I can’t do this, because even if a few years go by, someone’s going to come out and publish it eventually.” do you think that’s where we’re going to be at going forward? Or is it more like, we’re in a hot wave of journalism and then in five years we’re going back to the way things were?
Russ Baker:I don’t think anybody knows. I just had a little … I do little seminars with entry-level journalists, and we were talking about this. We were like, “Is this thing ever going to end?” Because, I mean, there were new … I can’t even keep track of how many of these sex scandals there are. I mean, could it go on for a long time? I mean, I guess it could. At some point people will start tuning it out, because there’ll be just lists, like who hasn’t been accused yet. So we don’t really know, it’s hard to tell. Of course, people just become so numb.
Tim Dillon:They become numb, that’s the danger. It’s good to report these things, it’s great to have this open exchange of information. At what point do people get numb? Do people like the Bushes have the same political clout and power that they once had? Does that faction, that old white male boys’ Yale Club have the same power, that eastern establishment, are they still wielding the type of power that they used to in your estimation? Or has the ruling class become more global, more diverse?
Russ Baker:Yeah, it’s totally changed, because they never expected to deal with them, like, 25 year-old Jewish kid, Mark Zuckerberg, they don’t know what to do with that guy. They don’t want to do with … He’s a Mark Cuban … These are these are outliers that have a lot of money and they don’t know what to do with them. So it’s very complicated. They try to do business with them. They try to get involved, to get on their boards, intermarriage, god forbid, they would never have married a Jew, and now you better marry a Jew than a Mexican or something.
They figured they have to do what they have to do, and that’s what they do. I think they still have influence. I think they split over Donald Trump. I think the old white guys split over Trump. Some of them, you hear … You probably heard the Bushes don’t like Trump, right? Well, they like Clinton. I mean, do you know that they call Bill Clinton, like a son? The father says he’s like a son to him. So that worries me, but what do the parties even mean? I mean, they’re like both different branches of Wall Street, sort of.
Tim Dillon:That’s why you saw the Sanders get a lot of attention. Trump for … A lot of the racial dog-whistle stuff he was doing, but a lot of this was people that were really kind of sick of … Because it was going to be … A lot of people, it was going to be Jebt and Hillary, Clinton and Bush, again. Again. People are just kind of like, are we living in the … And we are. Princeton did a study where it’s like, you’re living in an oligarchy.
Russ Baker:Groundhog Day, over and over.
Tim Dillon:It’s over and over again.
Russ Baker:Now I hear Chelsea is getting ready to run and the Bush daughters are looking …
Tim Dillon:Is that true?
Russ Baker:Well, I’ve heard they’re interested, and their cousin, George P. Bush … Do you know, this is a third George Bush? A third generation. What is he, the land commissioner in Texas or the railroad commissioner—
Tim Dillon:Something.
Russ Baker:… Which is an important position there, because the next thing he will be governor of Texas. Then he’ll be President. It’ll be a third generation of that family in the White House.
Tim Dillon:Well, Bush was in the White House for 20 of 24 years.
Russ Baker:Some Bush was in the White House for 20 out of 24 years, yeah.
Speaker 4:Specifically with Saudi Arabia. Not just the Bush family, but everyone who’s part of their administration is just entrenched in Saudi Arabia like ticks. These people like, well, there’s Halliburton or like with Carlyle Group, they’ve been doing business with the Saudis for years. Now, currently, Saudi Arabia is going through this radical change with this new …
Tim Dillon:Yeah, are they on board with that?
Russ Baker:I mean, who knows, there’s all this intrigue going on. I don’t know if you’ve been following this or not, but wow, there’s some real wacky city over there. Supposedly Trump is in league with the family that sort of has an internal coup going on and they got this guy under house arrest who owns all these big American companies. I can’t remember it all, but Fox, he’s a huge investor in—
Tim Dillon:Shareholder in all these companies.
Russ Baker:I don’t know. It’s like Twitter or whatever. He owns [crosstalk 00:53:09]-
Tim Dillon:Yeah, Prince Alwaleed is the big … Yeah.
Russ Baker:He’s under house arrest. I don’t know how that affects … Maybe that’s why they went from 140 to 280 characters, I don’t know.
Tim Dillon:Yeah. Right, right, right. Did it surprise you to find that how much of the American economy was dependent on war and the continued … This is what really gets to me, because this is what we don’t talk about. This is if you travel abroad, and obv iously we’re doing crazy things in this country with private prisons, with everything else, it’s horrible and should be stopped, but did it shock you to learn how dependent we are as a country on constant conflict and war? And how that is really our largest industry?
Russ Baker:Yeah, it did shock me. It also shocked me how it’s never talked about. It is, the largest industry is war. It’s the most profitable. In any business you’re in, I don’t care what you do, you make hoodies or—
Tim Dillon:Except TBS.
Russ Baker:… Or glasses or glasses or anything else, you want the big customers. Well, who’s the single biggest purchaser? It’s the military. So everybody wants a piece of that, it’s pretty sweet. Sometimes you get these no bid contracts. I remember I covered the former Yugoslavia, Bosnia, and I remember there was this huge American base at Tuzla. I went over to the base and I was trying to get in on a press credential, and they stopped me and I had to go through some security clearance. I asked the guys who they were, because they didn’t look like soldiers, and they said, we’re from … It was Halliburton. It’s this big company that Dick Cheney, who then became vice president, was the head of. I was like, “Why … What do you do? They said, “Well, we protect the soldiers.” True story.
Tim Dillon:Yeah. Now, the Betsy Devos, who is the education secretary, I mean, was the sister of Eric Prince, who started Blackwater, and now it’s called Academi.
Russ Baker:It’s a mercenary company.
Tim Dillon:Yeah, a private defense contractor.
Russ Baker:Then she’s this kind of total whack job who doesn’t believe in education and wants the schools to all teach biblical truth or whatever. Oh my god, things are really bad out there. I understand why we all seriously need to go out and eat some popcorn.
Tim Dillon:Yeah. Yeah.
Russ Baker:Yeah.
Speaker 4:One of the strange things about the scope or the size of the military budget and what they’re doing, in the five years after 9/11, I read, they lost, not what their budget was, they lost track of five trillion dollars, the Pentagon.
Russ Baker:It’s incredible. Do you know that the US has an inspector general for Afghanistan? It’s called SIGAR, I think, S-I-G-A-R. We run these things occasionally, it’s really quite sad, but you also have to laugh. Every one of his reports is like, “We gave so-and-so billion dollars to build 300 … We gave this coming to build 300 schools. We went and at least 200 of them don’t exist. The other ones that exist, the roof was caving in, and the teacher was somebody who didn’t know anything about education.” Every report they do is like that.
Tim Dillon:This slush fund of money that’s being lost, trillions of dollars.
Speaker 4:It’s hard to know for sure, but do you get the impression that it’s just pure like scamming and grifting and just everyone’s getting rich, or is this funding kind of like the shadow wars in the shadow, the military contractors, who aren’t necessarily in the Pentagon budget, or all these different countries?
Russ Baker:Listen, let me just say something. There are a lot of people are in the government who are great. When those people always attack government and always say government is bad, it’s not true. Government is people who do air safety, who do highways, who do schools, who do all kinds of really useful things. I like the post office, I don’t know why they’re always dissing them. I go in there, and like for a small number of cents they will take my envelope and deliver it to a person’s hand all the way across the country. So I don’t buy all that vilification, but within any system there are problems. There’s graft, a lot of people work in government, they know, if they leave, they will get a much better paid job in the private sector, and if you make the right connections. There’s a lot of incompetence. There’s a lot of chaos.
Tim Dillon:Washington DC now has, I think, more millionaires per capita or something like that than any other city. And a lot of these people have gotten rich off the Iraq war, the Afghanistan. Then a Syrian … There doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. So kind of in summation, we’re kind of coming to closing, do you envision a future where this country eventually moves to a more peaceful position on the world stage where we’re not involved in all of these conflicts? Or are we just kind of like an empire that’s past peak and it’s just going to degenerate from here into like ethnic and sectarian conflict in the street and burning of all of the … Eat Chobani yogurt, too.
Russ Baker:I can’t.
Tim Dillon:[crosstalk 00:57:55] for Chobani commercial at that point.
Speaker 4:Fudge Flips.
Russ Baker:I think you could actually have a better future. I’m an optimist, because otherwise I couldn’t do the work I do. I enjoy life and I enjoy getting up every day and doing something meaningful, but I really think it’s possible to almost at any point fix lots of things. I think you’d have to do several things. Number one, the media would have to be much better and bolder and tell people what the real deal is. Number two, we’d have to really care about who our elected officials were. We’d have to take an interest. It’s hard to find that that interesting, unless there’s an element of conflict, so the rest of the time we don’t know who’s on the ballot, we don’t know who they are.
It’s not necessarily our fault, by the way. Listen, I’m a political journalist, I just went to vote on this thing, I was like, “What the heck are these ballot measures? I don’t know what they are.” And nobody told me. So there’s a communication problem there that has to be sorted out. We have to make sure that people who are honest who run for office and want to do the right thing are protected. I mean, I covered all these countries where people went out in the streets, people in this country don’t want to inconvenience themselves. There’s a small number of people always hanging out in Union Square ranting about this and that, but I mean, in a concerted way we don’t have a system, we don’t have a method for all of us to kind of get involved, because there are a lot more of us than there are of them, and if somebody, all of us maybe together however could figure this out, things would change very, very quickly.
Speaker 4:Yeah.
Tim Dillon:Next year, maybe.
Russ Baker:Yeah, next year. Next year, yeah.
Tim Dillon:Maybe next year.
Russ Baker:Anytime.
Tim Dillon:WhoWhatWhy.org is your site. I think everybody should go to that. The book, Family of Secrets, if you really want to take a journey into post-Cold War America and learn kind of about a lot of these agencies, the CIA, the FBI, Richard Nixon, George H.W. Bush, a lot of these people, from the perspective of the guy that spent five years interviewing people, knocking on doors, writing it, Family of Secrets is the book. Is there a better place to get it, or can they just stop at anywhere and get it?
Russ Baker:I mean, I’d say the ebook or audiobook or whatever.
Tim Dillon:Yeah. They have all of that. Then WhoWhatWhy.org is the website.
Russ Baker:Yeah. Twitter, Facebook,
Tim Dillon:Twitter, Facebook, Russ Baker, yeah.
Russ Baker:Then I got my own Twitter, if you want to get my jokes, it’s RealRussBaker and I’m more rude on that one, yeah.
Tim Dillon:I mean, if you want to read the Trump-Russia thing, you’ve got how many words was that piece, 8,000?
Russ Baker:Yeah, [crosstalk 01:00:13]
Tim Dillon:You have an 8,000 word piece about the connections between Donald Trump and Russia. I mean, it’s insane real journalism. You also have a piece that we won’t go into, we don’t have the time, about Weiner, who is a scummy guy, but the political witch-hunt and how to get Weiner—
Russ Baker:We could do a whole other hour on that. You guys remember that guy, Anthony Weiner? Well, guess what, there’s another story there. I kid you not. Our research shows that in all probability Anthony Weiner was deliberately targeted, because they knew that—
Tim Dillon:He was a deviant, yeah.
Russ Baker:… Hillary Clinton’s emails were on his computer, and if they could catch him in a crime and get the FBI to go to the computer, they would get Hillary and it would turn the election.
Tim Dillon:Crazy.
Russ Baker:How’s that for a story? That story is getting no pickup at all, at all. We worked really hard on that one.
Tim Dillon:Some of your stuff does, some of the media will—
Russ Baker:Some of the stories get pickup, that one, nobody … I don’t know, they don’t want to touch it.
Tim Dillon:But it is … Because he is [crosstalk 01:01:04] …
Russ Baker:Because nobody likes the guy, nobody likes the guy—
Tim Dillon:He’s a deviant guy.
Russ Baker:… for obvious reasons.
Tim Dillon:It’s hard to feel [crosstalk 01:01:09].
Russ Baker:I met him once at the beach at the Hamptons, you could see, he was like totally self-absorbed douchebag. But that’s different than finding out what happened there and how his douchebaggery was used for another purpose. That’s the story I’m more interested in.
Tim Dillon:Yeah, we’re always interested in the behind-the-scenes stories. Again, this podcast is called Tim Dillon is Going to Hell, we’re on the GaS Digital Network or on iTunes. We have people like Russ on all the time. Sometimes we’re having fun, sometimes, like today, we’re talking about the end of the world. I mean, it is what it is. Listen, thank you guys for coming out, and we’ll talk to you soon. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much. (singing)

Related front page panorama photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from show art (Tim Dillon / Twitter) and Russ Baker (WhoWhatWhy).

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