Masks, Facebook, sexism, Trump, unemployment. Guests Dana Nessel, Joe Schwartz, Jonathan Oosting.

July 27, 2020

Michigan Policast for Monday, July 27, 2020

  In this episode:

  • Mask Up Michigan! And Ohio! And Indiana!
  • Facebook and fake COVID news
  • Dana Nessel on EOs, Trump's invasion, and more
  • Bad week for RWNJs
  • Sexism in politics (and life)
  • Joe Schwartz on the fight to preserve the Governor's emergency powers
  • Political Notes
  • John James wants to talk. But also doesn't want to talk.
  • Jonathan Oosting on Michigan's Unemployment Insurance system
  • Transcript


Jump to:

Mask Up Michigan! And Ohio! And Indiana!



Indiana COVID-19 data from


Facebook and fake COVID news

‘We found that millions of the platform’s users are still being put at risk of consuming harmful misinformation on coronavirus at a large scale. Representing only the tip of the misinformation iceberg, we found that the pieces of content we sampled and analysed were shared over 1.7 million times on Facebook, and viewed an estimated 117 million times.' ~Source

Dana Nessel on EOs, Trump's invasion, and more

'Courts have upheld @GovWhitmer's EOs in every instance. The orders absolutely 100% are law, and it’s very troublesome when local sheriffs say 'it’s not really a law, so I don’t have to enforce it.' They’re very wrong.' @MiAttyGen #MaskUpMichigan Click To Tweet
'Most county prosecutors, sheriffs, and municipalities have been cooperative. First and foremost, they want to educate people. The go-to move should not be to issue a citation .. more times than not, people comply.' ~ @MiAttyGen #MaskUpMichigan Click To Tweet
Had @RealDonaldTrump not fought back and mocked the wearing of masks, we wouldn’t be in this situation at all, and everybody would understand that the CDC has made this recommendation for a very long time.' ~ @MiAttyGen #MaskUpMichiganClick To Tweet
There are instances where it would be appropriate for federal authorities to come in, and when there’s a legitimate purpose behind it, the federal authorities have worked well with the state and local authorities.' ~@MiAttyGen Click To Tweet
'@RealDonaldTrump demonizes elected officials that are of another political party, calls our cities war zones and talks about dominating residents engaged in lawful protests that are protected under #1A.' ~ @MiAttyGen #Detroit #BlackLivesMatterClick To Tweet
.@RealDonaldTrump has shown that he has no interest in abiding by the Constitution. He literally doesn’t care .. so we have to utilize the offices of @MiAttyGen to fight back until he stops acting illegally or he's out of office.Click To Tweet

Bad week for RWNJs



Sexism in politics (and life)


‘We believe that Rep. Ted Yoho’s recent actions and words as reported in the media are not reflective of the ethical standards expected of members of our Board of Directors.

Bread sought his resignation as an action that reaffirms our commitment to coming alongside women and people of color, nationally and globally, as they continue to lead us to a more racially inclusive and equitable world. ~Source

”“I'm dying here a woman talking strategy is like a man explaining what its like to go through menopause. PLEASE,” Eric John Mayer said.' ~source

Joe Schwartz on the fight to preserve the Governor's emergency powers


'This is a worldwide #pandemic .. a lot of Americans have never had to go through this before. I mean, it’s been 100 years, 102 years, since the last pandemic of any kind.' ~ Joe Schwartz, #KeepMichiganSafe @MarkBrewerDems #MaskUpMichiganClick To Tweet
'We have the best science in the world. We will defeat this and come up with a vaccine. So let’s do the things that the reputable #publichealth people, epidemiologists, biologists are telling us to do.' ~Joe Schwartz #KeepMichiganSafe @MarkBrewerDemsClick To Tweet
'Take a realistic look at this, you just can’t open up now. I would love to have everything open, but we really have to get hold of the situation.' ~ Joe Schwartz #KeepMichiganSafe @MarkBrewerDemsClick To Tweet

‘Keep Michigan Safe's attorneys are Mark Brewer, former Michigan Democratic Party chairman, and Chris Trebilcock, who has previously represented Whitmer's campaign interests. The group's treasurer is former Republican U.S. Rep. Joe Schwarz, who served on Whitmer's gubernatorial transition team.” ~Source

Political Notes




John James wants to talk. But also doesn't want to talk.






Jonathan Oosting on Michigan's Unemployment Insurance system

'The pandemic has just exposed these long-standing flaws in the Michigan UIA system, known as MiDAS ... it flags fraud at too high of a rate.' ~@JonathanOosting @SteveGrayCares @BridgeMichigan #COVID19Click To Tweet
Some GOP lawmakers want to ensure that workers can get up to $600/wk #PUA but not more than they would earn if they return to work. I don’t know how feasible it would do it would be to do in MI. ~@JonathanOosting @BridgeMichigan Click To Tweet
The Michigan UIA system seems to be built for fed compliance, not the user experience, and the notifications are so full of legalese that people can't understand them. ~@JonathanOosting @BridgeMichigan @SteveGrayCares Click To Tweet

‘A review found that MiDAS adjudicated—by algorithm alone—40,195 cases of fraud, with 85 percent resulting in incorrect fraud determinations' ~Source

‘In effect, MiDAS was built upon the assumption that anyone claiming unemployment insurance was trying to defraud the UIA, and it was up to claimants to prove otherwise.' ~Source

‘it’s actually more common than not for state government to abuse their UI systems in any number of ways: restricting eligibility such that a minority of workers can actually get access to benefits, keeping benefit levels as low as possible, but especially deliberately underfunding their Reserve Funds.' ~Source



Walt Sorg  00:00

The presenting underwriter of the Michigan Policast is Progress Michigan, providing a strong, credible voice that holds public officials and government accountable and assist in the promotion of progressive ideas.


Dana Nessel  00:13

So they absolutely 100% are law. And it's very troublesome to me when you have local sheriffs who will say, well, it's not really a law. So I don't have to enforce it. They're very wrong and the courts have said that


Walt Sorg  00:27

that's Attorney General Dana Nessel facemask keep us safer from infection, but a vocal and sometimes violent minority of our population lashes out wrongly claiming that the governor's executive orders aren't law that they aren't enforceable. We'll talk with Attorney General Nessel about enforcement of the governor's orders and or ongoing battles with the Trump administration. This is the Michigan Policast, we're all about Michigan policy and politics and the national issues impacting our pleasant peninsulas. I'm Walt Sorg. person, woman, man camera. tv


Christine Barry  01:00

person, woman. Oh, I'm Christine Barry 100-93-86-79 I too am a stable genius and cognitively there.  also on the pod this week to right wing petition drives bite the dust. That conservative spin machine lies about governor Whitmer and police funding. Trump hints at a military invasion of Detroit. And AOC calls out a sexist pig on behalf of all women everywhere.


Walt Sorg  01:32

And we'll be joined by Bridge Magazine Jonathan Oosting and his investigation into the mess that is the Michigan unemployment compensation system. Also by physician and former Republican Congressman Joe Schwartz, he's helping fight efforts to overturn the governor's emergency powers. We begin with mask up Michigan, and a small minority of Michiganders who see wearing a piece of cloth is an attack on their freedom, their health and the American way of life.


Speaker  02:15

–Put on your mask —


Christine Barry  02:22

and that is Gloria Stephane, part of a new music video she produced as a message to her neighbors in South Florida. It seems like all the major national and regional retailers are now on board with mandatory use of face masks and more Republican governors add their states to those requiring masks in public. Ohio's Mike DeWine and Indiana's Eric Holcomb are on that list. Holcomb’s order makes non-compliance a criminal misdemeanor punishable by a fine or even up to six months in jail. Presumably, you'd have to wear a mask and yourself.


Walt Sorg  02:54

Yeah, they actually isolate them there. So that's a good start.


Christine Barry  02:59

Well, That said Holcombe has made it clear that there are no mask police. He made a comment that this is more of an educational initiative. And the police, like in Michigan are already saying they will not be policing the wearing of masks. However, they'll respond to trespass calls if someone refuses to leave a location after being turned away.


Walt Sorg  03:21

I'm really fascinated to see if this works. I spend a lot of time in Indiana, my grandkids are down there. And so I'm down there visiting fairly regularly. I don't have any contact with any other human beings, but I do see people on the streets. And the last time I was in Indiana, hardly anybody was wearing a mask anywhere and my wife reports was the same problem in most stores as well. Will this executive order make a difference? There are going to be like in Michigan where most people comply, but a few people just say To hell with it. Indiana's Attorney General is issued an opinion that the order is not valid. Of course, there's quite a rift between the governor and the Attorney General. The Attorney General down there actually isn't a lawyer Right now, his law license has been suspended by the state Supreme Court as the result of groping for women at a party, one of them a state legislator. He also recently lost his primary election for another term. So he's a lame duck. And apparently he's just decided he's going to go out and have a ball of fury.


Christine Barry  04:18

Yeah, I feel like groping women at a party is going to be a theme in this podcast.


Walt Sorg  04:23

For some reason sexism seems to be everywhere.


Christine Barry  04:27

Oh, the anti-mask movement has been fueled by Facebook groups. Just in Michigan, there are a half dozen groups devoted to spreading the virus and attacking governor Whitmer. Facebook is taking note of this misinformation being spread by these groups. They're doing a few different things, groups that repeatedly share false news will not be promoted and they will appear lower in news feeds. So those little things you see on the side that say, here's a group you might want to join. They won't those groups won't be featured like that. Facebook is also adding warning labels. When someone interacts with a post that has fake Coronavirus information. So if you like it or share it or comment on it, they remove pseudoscience as an advertising category which frankly Walt I can't believe even ever was one that's very disappointing. As of last week, they've removed more than two and a half million pieces of content that promoted fake COVID information,


Walt Sorg  05:23

As we pointed out in the open, one of the chief claims of the anti-mask crowd is that the governor's executive orders are not law and that there's no legal obligation to comply with them. That's where I began my conversation earlier this week of the Attorney General Dana Nessel. In the interview. We also talked about the possibility of the president sending federal forces in Detroit as he's done in Portland in Kansas City. hours after we talked, the White House announced in fact, there would be Feds moving into Detroit, but supposedly in a different role than the Stormtrooper tactics in Portland, General.


Walt Sorg  05:56

So first of all, let's talk about the governor's executive orders. One of the things I see online a lot from the people that are resistant, especially to the masking is it's just an order from the governor. It's not a law, and so they don't have to obey it. How do you respond to that?


Dana Nessel  06:11

Well, it is a law. And actually, that is power that was appropriated from the legislature to the governor in a law that was passed in 1945, for emergency situations exactly like this. And so it is actually a law that all of these executive orders are promulgated under. Now, there have been at this juncture, dozens of challenges, including by the legislature, to these orders, and both in state court, and in federal court, all the challenges have been defeated. So the courts have upheld these executive orders in every instance. So they absolutely 100% are law, and it's very troublesome to me when you have local sheriffs who will say, well, it's not really a law, so I don't have to enforce it. They're very wrong. And the courts have said that


Walt Sorg  06:59

Enforcement It is an issue. And a lot of people are ignoring it. You see it in Lansing with traffic laws. They don't get enforced. people ignore them. What can be done with with the mask situation? Will your office in the state police start enforcing it? Or is it going to be voluntary compliance?


Dana Nessel  07:15

Well we have enforced it in some instances. But we've been more than anything coordinating with the counties and with the municipalities. And for the most part, I know there's a lot of attention that is paid. Anytime you have anybody in law enforcement who says we're not going to enforce it, everybody pays attention to that. But for the most part, most of the county prosecutors and most of the sheriffs and the municipalities have been cooperative. But of course, first and foremost, they want to educate people. The go to move of course should not be to issue somebody a citation. It should be to talk to them and say, hey, look, this is the law we need to abide by. If you don't feel comfortable with it, then please, you know, don't enter this store or this thing. location because you're not permitted to do so. And more times than not people comply. I will say that I am grateful that at long last, the president now is finally broadcasting the message that it's important to wear a mask. And I think had he done that from the very beginning. I had President Trump not fought back and really sort of mocked the the wearing of masks, we wouldn't be in this situation at all. And I think that everybody would would understand that the CDC has made this recommendation for a very long time. I think there's a a wide consensus if not unanimity amongst medical professionals that the best way to prevent the spread of the virus is by both parties who are in proximity to each other to wear a mask. But finally that message is getting out and so I think we're going to see a little bit less in terms of hesitation or outright defiance of the mask order and that's my hope anyway.


Walt Sorg  08:56

You're also getting a lot of support from the major retail chains, which has got to make your Life's a little bit easier.


Dana Nessel  09:01

Oh, absolutely it does. You know, when you have a store, if you have Walmart or Target or Kroger or what have you saying, Hey, listen, you you absolutely cannot enter unless you're wearing masks. People need to go to those stores for many different reasons. And so when it's the policy of the store, I think that people will understand that it's absolutely not negotiable. Yes, you have a few instances here and there where people have become angry and are, you know, engaging in behavior, which is sometimes illegal, but I think for the most part, people are complying and when I've been out to the store, I really haven't seen that. Personally, I'm in the Metro Detroit area. And I don't from what I've seen people are widely compliant. And I haven't seen any disturbances even though I've been in stores with hundreds and hundreds of people.


Walt Sorg  09:49

The President has made it clear that while he may not be real keen on enforcing mask requirements, he is keen on bringing the army at least into a couple of cities. He's done it announced it now with two He's Portland, escalating the violence by bringing in military. And now he's going into Kansas City talking about going to Chicago, you and the governor's spoken out pretty strongly about any efforts by the president to bring the federal forces into Detroit. What can you do if he decides to do it?


Dana Nessel  10:15

Well, first of all, I mean, there are instances where it would sometimes be appropriate for federal authorities to come in. And you know, traditionally speaking, when there's legitimate purpose behind it, the federal authorities have worked well with the state authorities and with local authorities, but there has to be a plan where they're working together in concert. And the problem is, what the President has done is he has not shown that he's interested in working together with state and local authorities to assist when it's needed. Instead, he demonizes elected officials that are of another political party. He calls our cities war zones, and he talks about dominating our state residents who are merely engaged in lawful protests that are protected under the First Amendment. So that doesn't really seem like a situation where he's trying to help out. He's trying to take over. That's the language that he's utilized in the past. And in those cases, obviously, we would reject such efforts.


Dana Nessel  11:16

Now, if the federal authorities want to come in and coordinate with everybody, and really make an effort in terms of trying to fight back against violent crime, which we have seen a rise of, since the pandemic has begun. I mean, people are maskively unemployed. We've had thousands and thousands of people die. And it does seem you know, what causes unrest when you are in this very unstable situation, which I blame, you know, in large part the federal government for in the first place, but that being the case, if they want to work with us, I think that's a different story. But in order for them to come in there are only  limited circumstances that they can do so if they have not already coordinate if they haven't specifically coordinated with law enforcement. that has requested that they come in and for them to do so they really have there has to be an emergency situation for them to do that. And I would argue that, you know, peaceful protests, which they largely have been, you know, is not tantamount to an emergency situation where federal authorities are required to be here. And when we have seen any kind of unrest has been so limited. I mean, we're talking about minor misdemeanors that have been committed that don't require the use of federal authorities. And I what what bothers me more than anything, is what we saw in many of those videos that occurred in Portland, where you literally have federal authorities that we don't know what agency they're from, they're not identified, and they seemingly are just snatching people off the street and putting them into unmarked vehicles and taking God knows where those that's all the hallmarks of an autocratic society. That's not how things are done in the United States. And I've never been done that way. So obviously, we would reject that in any event that we saw that absolutely I would file a lawsuit to ask a federal court to prevent the federal authorities from doing that.


Dana Nessel  13:08

And I know I saw the prosecutor in Philadelphia talk about even prosecuting federal agents who engaged in that kind of conduct especially, we have a situation where there's no probable cause for an arrest. And they're simply coming in and swooping people up. And they don't have the authority to do that. There are only a few enumerated reasons why federal authorities could operate that way, if they're not working with state authorities under the auspices of state law, you know, to protect a Federal Building, or if you had groups, that we're engaging in interstate activities, but if you absent those types of things, it's not appropriate and I would take action against the federal government in the event that they engaged in those kinds of activities.


Walt Sorg  13:48

It seems as though the state attorney general, the democrats have been the last line of defense against some of the abuses of the Trump administration. I've lost track of how many lawsuits you're involved in with your Fellow ages from around the country, where do you begin? Is it overwhelming even for you?


Dana Nessel  14:05

Yeah, you know, it's funny to joke when I was on the campaign trail that I would sue the federal government every day if I had to in order to protect our state residents, but I thought I was sort of exaggerating when I said that sometimes it does seem like we have to sue the federal government every day. You know, I mean, just there are multiple actions that Trump administration and, you know, and Donald Trump's various departments and agencies take on a daily basis, which violates federal statutes, violate Administrative Procedures Act and violate the constitution. I mean, just just the other day, he all of a sudden filed signed an executive order saying that undocumented persons would not be counted in the census and it clearly violates the Constitution. It is not a maybe, you know, it absolutely does. There's no question about it. But, you know, Donald Trump has displayed time and time again, that he has no interest in abiding by the Constitution. He literally doesn't care. at all whatsoever as long as it meets his political agenda, and so yeah, we have to utilize the offices of the State Attorney General to fight back and to be as aggressive as possible in doing so. And I will say that the cases that we filed we have about an 80% win rate in the courts. So these are hardly frivolous lawsuits. They have been largely our challenges have been largely Did you know sustained by the courts so egregious have been the activities of the Trump administration and that's what we're going to have to continue to do until one of two things either he stops acting illegally on such a regular routine basis, where he's out of office, whichever comes first.


Walt Sorg  15:43

Attorney General Nessel, thanks for joining us on the poly cast and keep making good trouble.


Dana Nessel  15:48

Thanks so much for having me and take care.


Christine Barry  15:51

Can I just add here how much I just adore Dana Nessel her passion for justice just gives me warm fuzzies.  I  just really appreciate her.


Walt Sorg  16:02

the energy coming out of that office has really been pretty incredible. They're they take on so many issues and they're all really people oriented issues. And as we talked about in the interview, a lot of them involves suing the Trump administration, but it's basically on behalf of protecting the people of Michigan from the overreach of Trump on so so so many issues, the latest being this attempt to rig the census. The irony of it is when we had our first census back right after the constitution was enacted, we became a country, the only people that were counted or immigrants, Native Americans weren't counted. And slaves were only counted as three fifths of a person. The only people that were counter were basically European white European immigrants.


Walt Sorg  16:48

This segment can be titled this very bad week and right wing politics. First it was a bad week for right wing petition drives right to life had to scrap its abortion. banned ballot drive, they were short on signatures, they got a recount from the Board of canvassers, and they still were short on signatures, and rather than to continue to pursue it, they just dropped it. And to me, what's significant about this, Christine isn't so much that right to life was unsuccessful in their effort. It is that it shows how hard it is to get signatures, right to life is really very well organized. They're very well funded, and they couldn't come up with the numbers. So it First of all, makes me a little proud of what we do with voters not politicians and getting our signatures. But also, I think it is a good sign for the petition drive that's underway right now, regarding the governor's emergency powers of repealing those we'll be talking with one of the people fighting that in just a few moments, but it's going to be very, very difficult given the combination of the numbers involved and the pandemic and the complications that poses to get the half million signatures that they need. And so I'm glad to see of course the right to life petition drive scrapped because it basically would have banned second term abortions also


Walt Sorg  18:00

So, this one was really funny because it was announced on Facebook, Chad Baase who started the petition drive to recall the governor, which was going nowhere they wanted to, they needed over a million signatures in 60 days. They weren't going to get them. But he announces on Facebook that he had fired the campaign manager for his committee, and the campaign manager made off with all the data files, and so they couldn't contact anybody. So he just posted I'm sorry, guys, David Blair, after being fired last night. hijack the recall committee page and recall website. The recall is over before it begins. Ups.


Christine Barry  18:37

That's good stuff. You hate to see it. Well, it's also a bad week for right wing internet trolls. Their viral meme of the week turned out to be a total lie. You probably saw the meme on social It was a big image claiming that Governor Whitmer his executive order number 155 defunded the police and the prison by tens of millions of dollars and that meme was picked up by other sketchy right wing amplifiers like Steve Gruber, and Breitbart, and the meme itself was shared thousands of times just in the first few hours. Now the cuts that they refer to when they talk about defunding the police in the prisons, these are part of a bipartisan budget deal was negotiated between the governor and the legislature. And even Republican members of the legislature have come forward to say that this is not true. The police the prisons are not defunded, major news outlets and even Michigan capital confidential has published an article explaining it. So that meme was debunked hard. But you know how these things are Walt, I don't think we can deny that it had the desired effect, at least on some people who saw it.


Walt Sorg  19:44

Yeah, I'm sure there going to be republicans campaigning for the state legislature and maybe even for Congress that use that misinformation as part of their campaign. It was also a bad week for at least one right wing congressman Florida's Ted Yoho. Or is it yo yo He hurled some insults one on one at New York's Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez calling her crazy dangerous out of her mind and wrapping up his little diatribe by calling her a fucking bitch. He later apologized what kind of apologize was sort of a half assed apology, which included the denial that he had said it. AOC is, among other things, a former bartender. So she's heard those words before and said in a very remarkable speech on the House floor that she wasn't personally hurt by the tirade even though it was on the steps of the US Capitol. And even though it was overheard by some reporters, what pissed her off Yoho uses the defense that he had a wife and a daughter,


Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez  19:50

but what I do have issue with is using women, our wives and daughters as shields and excuses for poor behavior. Mr. Yoho mentioned that he has a wife and two daughters. I am two years younger than Mr. Yoho's youngest daughter. I someone's daughter, too. When you do that to any woman, what Mr. Yoho did was give permission to other men to do that to his daughters. He gave permission to use that language against his wife, his daughter's women in his community. And I am here to stand up to say that is not acceptable,


Walt Sorg  21:26

and is not acceptable here in Michigan, where our state is basically at least on the Democratic Party side, run by women. Governor Whitmer, Attorney General Nussle, Secretary of State Benson, Senator Stabenow, five of the seven Democratic members of Congress, House Democratic Leader Christine Greig, about half of the house of Democrats as well as the chair of the Michigan Democratic Party, Lavora Barnes and I hear this stuff all the time. This kind of sexist insults being thrown especially if the governor right now, in addition to be calling Hitler and Stalin and a lot of other things she's called the A lot of sexist things as well in the arguments over the executive orders. But I think what AOC was saying you had it, right. She wasn't just speaking out on in her own defense. She was speaking on behalf of all women that are under these attacks all the time in public life.


Christine Barry  22:14

And, you know, you mentioned governor Whitmer. And you you kind of expect a certain kind of attack against a woman in Executive Office. I think how Mike Bishop treated Jennifer Granholm certainly set an example for Mike Shirkey and the way that he works with Gretchen Whitmer, and Mike Bishop was terrible to Jennifer Granholm even so much as like running from her when she tried to shake his hand just that was a bad relationship. But look, it's not just the big three in office, look at how Shirkey and his friends rejected and Anna Mitterling's appointment to the Natural Resources Commission saying now we know there was stuff going on behind the scenes but his statement on that was that she couldn't make tough decisions. Give me a break and and There's a reason that Senator grabass thought it was okay to get all gross with Alison Donohue Senator McMorrow Melissa Osborne. Because it's because you know when something in your workplace is acceptable, whether it's in the rules or not, you know, when something is accepted and when something isn't. And if you do something and assume you're not going to have consequences, it's because there's a culture there that says it's acceptable. And it isn't just words. Walt it's remember at the protests where there were people carrying naked Barbie dolls that were supposed to represent Gretchen Whitmer, nobody would do that with a Ken doll.


Walt Sorg  23:40

Rick Rick Snyder could be that lucky actually comes with pretty hunky guy.  We will have the full speech by AOC on our website if you haven't seen it. It's really it's very remarkable that you don't have to be at AOC fan to appreciate what she said I'm not her biggest supporter or biggest booster but what she said in the way she behaved The floor allows representatives i thought was was quite remarkable.


Christine Barry  24:03

Well, resentment over the governor's use of emergency powers during the health emergency has brought one right wing effort that has a chance of success, a petition drive to repeal the emergency Powers Act, even though the governor's performance has the support of the vast majority of Michigan voters. Republican coos around the public will collect about 450,000 petition signatures and jam a veto proof bill through the legislature. A Campaign Committee has been formed to fight that effort The Keep Michigan Safe Committee. One of the leaders of that group is physician and former Republican Congressman Joe Schwartz.


Walt Sorg  24:39

Dr. Schwartz, what is your motivation in trying to get this petition drive overturned first to the courts and is not in the courts so that the legislature doesn't pass it?


Joe Schwartz  24:47

Well, there's several one as a physician, I think we have to be very, very careful. And if we use Texas in California and Florida as examples, we know we have to be careful And opening things wide right now, the COVID virus is very infectious. It's ubiquitous now. And we know the effect it can have on, on people, especially senior citizens. And now we're seeing it because of some of the inability of some of our youngsters to say that you, you really, it's a good idea to wear a mask and and to socially distance. We're seeing it in younger people as well. But this is a worldwide pandemic. And I think, in many ways, because a lot of Americans have never had to go through this before. I mean, it's been 100 years, 102 years, since the last pandemic of any kind, really, truly pandemic, and they don't understand what we're going through and the consequences can be dire. I mean, they're dire enough as it is.


Joe Schwartz  25:47

So what I'm trying to say is, come on, let's use our heads. We have the best science in the world. We will come up with ways to defeat this and we will ultimately and I cannot define ultimately, but we will ultimately Come up with a vaccine. So let's not get out there and be close to each other, not wear masks do all of the things that the reputable public health people, epidemiologist biologists are telling us not to do. What they're telling us is correct and and we should follow their lead.


Walt Sorg  26:19

As a physician yourself. There's a perception that only old people are really at risk for this virus. But it would seem especially now what we're seeing in Florida, Texas, California, that it really it's all age groups that are at risk.


Joe Schwartz  26:33

Oh, yeah. all age groups are at risk. It's just a matter of how it started and where it was introduced first. And of course, we know that in the nursing home community, there was a tremendous number of cases and fatalities early on in this and there still are problems but nothing like there used to be. What we are now seeing is because of I think some some lack of of good epidemiological behavior. on the part of young people and you and I understand being young people because I was one young once a long time ago, but I look at and say, God, this could have been me if it was, so many years ago, I might have been doing the same thing. They're exposing themselves because they're not socially distancing. They're not wearing masks. They're attending social events like the one in the in the bar up at at East Lansing or the lake down in Cass County, up at Torch Lake up north the same, and they're not doing any of the things that they have been warned about been told about time after time after time. And the outcome. In other words, the increase in cases in that age group was foretold with that sort of behavior. And now it's happening.


Walt Sorg  27:45

Ok, on the politics was this. For this to become law, basically, they have to collect 340,000 plus valid signatures in a relatively short period of time because I want to get it to the legislature this year, if this hangs over into next year.  I'm sure the fear of the conservative Republicans is that the State House may flip, and they won't be able to get it passed. Even if they get it to there in December. By then, should we have this under control as it is sort of like closing the barn door after the horses out?


Joe Schwartz  28:14

We don't know that I mean, that's a consummation devoutly to be wished that we have it under control in December and perhaps we'll even have a vaccine by December. So that's one thing you could hope for and that's one thing. You keep fighting, you keep fighting, you keep fighting, but the fact of the matter is for those of us who who take a realistic look at this, you just can't open up willy nilly now you can't do it. I would love to have everything open. I like nothing more than going to my favorite bar and having a beer and a chili dog. I can't do that now because I don't have a man my age. I simply don't want to expose myself to the virus . And we have to think that way. We're not I mean, some of us are but None of us are not. And we really got to get the whole get a hold of the situation.


Walt Sorg  29:05

It seems to that the long term implications of this really haven't been thought of very seriously. Because it's not just about this particular situation. This is about the next emergency too.


Joe Schwartz  29:16

well, there will be another emergency, there will be another emergency. I mean, we saw something just last week in the news media. If you read, I would say, deeply enough into some articles, there's another virus that seems to be arising in China, and who knows what it is and how infectious it is. But people should be should be aware of the fact that especially in these these hugely populous countries, like China and India, the chance that a viral disorder or bacterial disorder could come out of those countries is there every day, it can happen. And because of international travel, it's not going to stay there. It's going to go all over the world.


Walt Sorg  30:00

Dr. Schwartz, always a pleasure to talk with you, thank you so much.


Joe Schwartz  30:03

hank you very kindly Good to be here as well.


Christine Barry  30:10

All right time for some short takes on politics and policy. There's an agreement in Lansing on a budget fix for this year that involves a combination of one time federal assistance and the state's rainy day fund. So we have a $2.2 billion problem with our budget, and that's just short term. democrats and the republicans did come together to negotiate a deal that plugs that hole with funds from federal relief money and Michigan's Rainy Day Fund, and it includes significant cuts to the state's current budget. Now, the budget cuts rely on discretionary spending, temporary layoff days, hiring freezes and federal relief dollars to sort of backfill some of those cuts. There's also a net increase to K 12 schools of $175 per pupil, which I appreciate this was a bipartisan deal and I don't know about you Walt, I feel good seeing something positive come out of Lansing. And I think that this, this budget deal had to be really difficult to come to. I will link to a breakdown and other resources on this so people can dig into where these revenues and cuts are coming from. But for once this year in Lansing, I, I feel like something really good came out of this this terrible thing that's been happening.


Walt Sorg  31:27

I think this is a real good demonstration of why it's great to have a governor who spent 14 years in the legislature, the governor to lead this effort. It was a bipartisan effort. It required cooperation on both sides. But the fact that you had somebody leading the talks, who's been around longer than anybody else in the talks, and has been digging into this for a long time, I think really made a difference. But we've got to remember this only gets us through September. That's when the budget year ends and beginning October 1, we are in a deep, deep, deep hole. And if mitch mcconnell doesn't get out of his turtle shoulder and Do something in the Senate to provide relief to all the states. We are going to have cuts for the next fiscal year that starts October 1 that justify belief.


Walt Sorg  32:10

Meanwhile, Joe Biden socially distance campaign got a lot of attention in the week as the vice president brought out his most formidable supporter, a 15 minute online chat with Barack Obama took direct aim at the character of one Donald J. Trump.


Joe Biden  32:25

There's two ways in which presidents motivate people by doing something really ignoble, important and people go all or to do something really bad. This guy has generated a sense out there that people are waking up to that he ran by deliberately dividing people from the moment he came down that escalator and I think people are now going, I don't want my kid growing up that way.


Barack Obama  32:56

And the thing I've got confidence in Joe is is your heart and your character. And the fact that you are going to be able to reassemble the kind of government that cares about people and brings people together. And for all the specific policies that we're going to need more than anything. It's just that basic decency and an understanding about what's best in America that I think people are gonna be hungry for.


Walt Sorg  33:23

Kind of says it all. That's really what the campaign is about is not so much about issues. It's about character. And I think the nation is looking for a return to normalcy and a return to decency in the White House is really very reminiscent of the campaign george bush ran in 2000. After all of the sex scandals involving Bill Clinton, the nation wanted to return to decency and normalcy and that's the one thing that george bush they thought would would bring to the White House.


Christine Barry  33:50

I guess he did in the family sense. If you're looking for family decency, you know that the Donald Trump campaigns going to lean in hard on Biden's integrity, they're already doing smearing hunters smearing the people around him


Walt Sorg  34:02

but it's not working. It's not take. It's not taking hold. It's not working, which is why he's going on this lawn order kick and tried to scare the crap out of white people in the suburbs. That's basically that's the whole campaign right now, on the Sunday shows they had their surrogates out there talking basically about this issue and making it sound like the world was on fire, when in fact Portland, it wasn't really that big of a problem till the feds came in.


Christine Barry  34:25

Now it was actually waning. The numbers were getting smaller and in I didn't follow it that closely, but I didn't get the impression that there was as much violence there as what is being portrayed by the feds. So anyway, let's talk about john James.


Walt Sorg  34:41

Oh, yeah.


Christine Barry  34:42

He has promised to actually talk about some issues, but only if Gary Peters will debate him four times. And he called out Gary Peters on social media. He said it's time for them to stand side by side to compare Records, which to me is hilarious. I don't think they'll be comparing records on anything other than maybe military records. And to be honest, I don't know much about Gary Peters military record because he doesn't use it as a political tool. This is going to be a debate between a guy who knows policy and another guy who knows what the Pledge of Allegiance?  Helicopters.


Walt Sorg  35:19

I went on to his campaign website again, just before we recorded, and there's still nothing about issues on that website with the exception of his promise to protect pre existing conditions under insurance, although he has yet to say how he would do that, since he's also for the complete repeal of the Affordable Care Act. So that's the only issue he's talked about. And just to see how would they would react I went on to their Facebook page for the big john James support group. And I just asked a question very politely to look at I respect the men's military history and his backstory and all that, but I can't find anything about what he'd actually do as United States. Senator, can you refer me to anything that talks about issues And you would expect that a Facebook page like that that's ardent supporters of a candidate that I would get flamed right and left. Nobody responded to my question.


Christine Barry  36:11

I mean, what is there to say, then that pre existing conditions content that you mentioned? I don't is that in response to that ad about those pre existing conditions, because there's an ad that brings together the information about the ACA that protects pre existing conditions, and then john James support to repeal the ACA because he calls it a monstrosity that has to go. And it's been somewhat effective. And I'm just wondering if the information on his website was a response to that? Because if that's the only way to get him to talk about issues that's, I mean, this guy is such a weird candidate. And I understand it's because he's caught between Trump and


Walt Sorg  36:58



Christine Barry  36:58

Yeah. That's his problem to deal with. And so far the only thing he's really showed up with is a helicopter.


Walt Sorg  37:06

Yeah, well, it's the problem the republicans have had from the beginning with the ACA. They've been saying for 10 years they wanted to repeal and replace. And so far all they've done is try to repeal and they've come up with nothing to replace. James also did another interview on Fox News, which seems to be the only place where he'll talk when we look for interviews with Michigan media or statements on things like the Portland military occupation, or this week's end the federal unemployment benefits for more than 1 million Michiganders and the loss of health insurance coverage for hundreds of thousands of Michiganders.


Christine Barry  37:49

And I think one thing to mention before we leave the john James segment is that despite the fact that he's been raising more funds each quarter than Gary Peters, Gary Peters still has more cash on hand and Gary Peters has consistently led in the polls right now RCP has him at plus 10.1. So, Gary Peters out there kicking butts still.


Christine Barry  38:15

Okay, well, let's get to one of the leading contenders for dumbest member of the state legislature. And this is, I mean, there's a lot of competition UP republican Beau LaWhatever has introduced legislation to have the state sent an itemized statement of the damages, costs, expenses and other losses, spurred by the covid 19 pandemic to China. So he was a bill China before all of the costs of COVID, saying that it is not a partisan issue that brought COVID to the shores of the United States. It was China that did that. This is stupid. And a couple of Democrats have signed on to it. And he said it isn't a symbol, but that it would be Good symbol if it was a symbol, he seems to really want to do this. I think he's just messing around again, but people have signed on to it. I think it's going to lead to more racism to actually do something like that. We already have students who are not just from China, but really Asia. The students at the universities here are already experiencing racism. It certainly isn't China's fault that the virus was as bad as it was in Michigan. I can't believe it. I just can't believe that anybody would introduce something so ridiculous.


Walt Sorg  39:32

I an believe it. Actually, I think China is already angry at us because we sent them Kentucky Fried Chicken and Taco Bell. And it's just retaliation for that. Before we get to our political Attack of the week. I look back at a recent interview. We talked with the founder of the Right Way PAC, which is working to get Republicans to support Joe Biden. We interviewed former Ohio GOP Chairman Matt Borges. Who started that effort. Well, Mr. borgess seek out a little problem. Turn He's one of five people indicted in Ohio this last week in a $60 million bribery scandal, which also involves the republican speaker of the house. That makes Matt Borges. Officially our very first felony suspect guessed, at least as far as we know. Oopsee.


Christine Barry  40:18

And you know, I don't even know what to think about that. I don't know much about Matt Borges. And I'm certainly not going to wish him well. But one of the things that I really noticed if you listen to him, and you listen to Jeff Timmer the difference in the way that the republicans are attacking Trump in these two different groups, where the Lincoln project with with Jeff Timmer is just tearing down the house, right, just just trying to clean house and start over. And Matt Borges just comes in and says, No, I want everybody to be reelected all the republicans to be re-elected that except Trump. It was a total different approach and I thought that that was one of the most interesting things that came out of that interview was the contrast between the two and probably a conflict that is playing out across America with Republicans everywhere.


Walt Sorg  41:17

Now, the political attack ad of the week that doesn't even sound like an attack yet, but it really is. It comes from the Joe Biden campaign.


Joe Biden  41:26

Today, we're facing a serious threat. You have to meet it as one country. numbers don't lie. infection rates are now going up in more states than they're going down. You gotta fight this too. You wear a mask, keep your distance limit the size of crowds. May be inconvenient, may be uncomfortable, but it's the right thing to do as an American. We need a president will level with the American people a President who will tell us the unvarnished truth. President take responsibility instead of always blaming others. President will listen to the experts follow the science, allow them to speak President who will lead,  be an example for the nation. We have to do all we can to keep our fellow Americans safe and healthy.  I'm Joe Biden, and I approve this message.


Walt Sorg  42:25

And the polling shows that's working. That message is working because the American people are buying it. It is the reason that Donald Trump revived the Donald Trump Comedy Hour, aka pandemic briefing, at least for a while last week, because he's going to get a cheese trying to get on top of the issue. The problem is you can't spin your way out of a pandemic that's already caused 150,000 deaths in the United States. About one fourth of all the deaths from this virus in the world have been in the United States and Donald Trump can't escape that fact.


Christine Barry  42:58

Honestly, well It is so surreal to me that that man gets up there and talks about the pandemic. And it's the same guy in another interview that brags about his cognitive test where he recognized an elephant. I don't understand how we got to this point. It hurts on so many levels.


Walt Sorg  43:17

person, woman, man, camera, idiot.


Christine Barry  43:23

He did the best ever on that. on that test though.


Walt Sorg  43:32

Michigan's unemployment compensation system has been tested beyond belief. More than 2 million Michiganders have received unemployment benefits during the pandemic. It's been a bumpy ride and extension of problems that have plagued the UI system for several years. Bridge Magazines Jonathan Oosting has done a deep dive into the mess. That is the UI system.


Walt Sorg  43:52

Jonathan, thank you for joining us on the podcast. How much of this problem with the UI system is the result of the unprecedented volume of claims How much is the result of for one of a better term preexisting conditions with the system?


Jonathan Oosting  44:05

Yeah, I don't know if we can quantify exactly, you know, what, what, you know, percentage of the problem is attributable to either of those factors. But certainly it's a combination of both. So basically, you know, experts we've spoken to court records we've looked at show that, you know, the, the pandemic has just exposed these long standing flaws in the computer system used by the Michigan unemployment insurance agency known as MiDAS. This is the same system that got the state in a bunch of trouble a few years ago with the false fraud scandal. And the problem with this system is even according to the director of the unemployment insurance agency, it over flags people so it uses algorithms to detect possible errors or fraud, and it does that at too high of a rate. So A lot of people, for instance, get these flags called non-monetary issues, which means that maybe a record doesn't match up exactly data you've submitted versus data your former employer submitted. Now that had been happening for years. But suddenly you've got this huge volume of a million people plus applying for benefits and these non-monetary issues started to really happen in a larger volumes. And what happens is when you have one of these issues, then you need to call or go to a Michigan unemployment insurance agency office which are closed. So because there were so many more of these issues popping up on the website, so many more people had to call the state helpline, the state call center and that got overwhelmed as well. So it's sort of a vicious cycle right that the computer system caused these issues for people probably at a higher rate than it needed to be Then those people needed to talk to someone at the state, which didn't have enough people to handle all of the volumes.


Walt Sorg  46:06

One thing that stood out to me in reading your articles and bridge was that maybe the biggest critic of the system is the guy who runs it now, and he is not satisfied and is taking every step he can. How is Steve Gray progressing with fixing this mess that's been around now for several years.


Jonathan Oosting  46:24

Steve Gray, you know, as a former claimant advocate, he ran a clinic at the University of Michigan that worked with jobless residents trying to battle the state's unemployment insurance system. In in that role, he actually helped expose the false fraud scandal between 2013 and 2015. The same computer system might as wrongly accused 10s of thousands of residents of fraud. An audit later revealed that had a 97% error rate during that time. So Steve Gray actually blew the whistle on this system. You know, he alerted federal officials to problems Michigan was happening that sparked, you know, state reviews, federal reviews, reforms, all of this stuff. And the state did change some things. For instance, it now requires a human being to review any accusation of fraud that the computer system makes. But what the state didn't change is that it's still using the system. And as far as we know, it's probably using a lot of those same algorithms. Still, these algorithms are closely guarded secrets. Neither the state nor the private contractors that built this system will reveal them. And by the way, I think that's a problem for transparency and government.


Jonathan Oosting  47:42

So Steve Gray has come in and he's been on the job about a year so I don't think anyone expected that he would have completely overhauled the system. You know, he was working on some other issues his first year in office, he said in in legislative testimony that he You know, talk to staff when he came in and identified what were the most pressing issues that they had to address. And one of them was they overhauled their phone system. That was a process that had already started before Steve Gray came in, but he saw it through to completion. And in fact, the state call system had been doing a little bit better prior to the pandemic wait times were down and stuff like that. But that all got thrown out of the window. And when that, you know, record claims started coming in, but you know, one thing he didn't do and during his first year of office was replace Midas or, you know, start to look at other vendors. As far as as far as I know, he, you know that the contract is up for renewal here in late August and Steve Gray told me that, you know, if they really wanted to replace it at this point, they would have already had to, you know, be soliciting bids and stuff like that. So they're not likely to replace the vendor which is Fast Enterprises. At this point, but they are during this pandemic, now trying to get a whole bunch of changes made, you know, to address some of the problems that they're experiencing one of those is flagging for non-monetary issues or over flagging, Steve gay told me that's something that they've asked mightest to make changes on during the pandemic, but a bunch of other technical stuff. I mean, this whole system automates and not only findings, but it, you know, spits out the notices that are sent to people. And you know, Steve Gray has said, a lot of the system seems to be built with federal compliance in mind, not the user experience. So these notices, make sure that the state agency is like checking a box, so they won't get in trouble with the Department of Labor, but it's sending messages to people that, you know, like, experts can't even decipher, you know, these things are full of legaese and confusing. And, you know, for instance, I've used this term non-Monetary issues like people get that notification, they don't even know what it means. And that's a big problem. So he has been Steve Gray says he's been trying to work with Fast Enterprises to make some changes, but acknowledges that there's a lot of big usability issues. That still has to be addressed moving forward.


Walt Sorg  50:21

As we record this, the deadline for the current federal stimulus is this week, this is the last week that people will be getting benefits in Michigan from the feds unless Congress takes action. Assuming Congress does take action, how quickly will the system be able to respond cuz it's gonna take some reprogramming to take care of the benefits determine who's eligible all over again? Are they ready for 1.2 million people to have their benefit structure change all at once?


Jonathan Oosting  50:51

Well, that's a good question. Well, two mean. One thing we haven't touched on yet is the fact that there is a major fraud allegation on, and the state has been trying to tweak the way people apply for this pandemic unemployment assistance over the course of the last several weeks to try and make sure that they do qualify to weed out imposters or people who might not, you know, necessarily deserve that benefit.


Jonathan Oosting  51:22

But yeah, I mean, some of the stuff we're hearing from Congress, you know, Republicans in particular are concerned that $600 a week PUA benefit for some people has actually been a pay raise for them and might deter them from wanting to go back to work when if and when their companies reopen. So some Republican lawmakers have talked about this idea of somehow building into the system away to ensure that they can get maybe up to $600 a week but not more than they would normally earn your right that would probably require some major reprogramming, I don't know how feasible it would do it would be to do in Michigan. But one of the issues that Congress has to consider is that every state essentially uses their own system for this. So you know, what might be possible in one state might not be possible and another


Walt Sorg  52:18

Jonathan dosering, from Bridge Magazine. Thanks as always, for joining us.


Jonathan Oosting  52:22

Thanks. Walt


Christine Barry  52:24

all right, and we're done for the week. For more information on today's subjects head on over to our website. It's Michigan podcast calm. We'll have links, tweets, photos, we cite all of our sources. So feel free to dig into what we're saying. And if you disagree, let us know.


Walt Sorg  52:40

As always we welcome your comments, email us at or reach out through the Michigan Policast page on Facebook or on Twitter.


Christine Barry  52:50

And thank you so much for joining us. We will be back in a week. And never forget —


Donald Trump  52:55

Person, woman, man. Camera, too.  They say, That's amazing. How did you do that? I do because I have like, a good memory because I'm cognitively there.

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