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38 mins

The Problem Podcast

Has America Learned Anything From Its Biggest Disasters? Not Really.

Jon talks to Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Sheri Fink, whose book Five Days at Memorial is the basis for the Apple TV+ series of the same name. They discuss why our healthcare system is always ill-equipped for disasters—and whether there’s something else coming our way that we should panic about. Writers Robby Slowik and Maria Randazzo also stop by to talk about the Trump raid, the oddest menu items at Mar-a-Lago, and the scourge of lanternflies

THE PROBLEM WITH JON STEWART PODCAST

Ep 206 Final Transcript

Maria: Something on my mind lately has been these crazy lantern flies. Have you guys seen them?

Jon: Absolutely. They’re all over Jersey. By the way, beautiful.

Maria: They are so pretty. You don’t want to kill them, but unfortunately you have to.

Jon: Can I tell you something? Their beauty makes me want to kill them more because I am jealous. 

[LAUGHS]

Jon: I am, I look at them and I say, how dare you walk this earth with such grace? They’re like if a ladybug took ayahuasca.

[MUSIC]

Jon: Hey, welcome to our end of summer Problem podcast with me, Jon Stewart. We got our writers Robby Slowik and Maria Randazzo. Let’s see, we have a television show, it’s on Apple TV+, it’s the, you know, they gave us a new premier date, I believe for the second season. October 7th! The show comes back on Apple TV+. And in a bit we’re gonna be talking to a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Dr. Sheri Fink. And that is not to suggest, Robby and Maria, neither of you are worthy of the Pulitzer Prize in journalism. You are.

Maria: Thank you.

Robby: Thank you, yeah, we keep applying.

Jon: Um, the summer for me is always bittersweet. It’s when I have to bring all my classified documents back home from my —

[ROBBY LAUGHS]

Maria: Right.

Jon: From my retreat, I have obviously a retreat that I live at.

Robby: Yes.

Jon: It’s a private community.

Maria: Beautiful.

Jon: It’s inside a, it’s on a golf course. It’s a minigolf course, but it’s still a golf course.

Robby: Ok, this sounds nice.

Jon: Do either of you possess any classified information that you would like to disclose right now that you would, that, that you’ve been holding onto?

Robby: Nothing classified, but lots of stuff I’ve stolen from places I used to work, you know, plenty of that stuff.

Jon: Okay, all right. Have you ever had when you left a job, your former employer come to you and say, “Hey, f***ing, gimme that back!”?

Maria: Wait. Yes.

Jon: Okay, Maria, go.

Maria: So, this is less of a job, more of a, I was in a musical in college. And —

[LAUGHS]

Jon: First of all, bless your, bless your heart. I’d like to know the name of the musical and the role you played.

Maria: You, you know, the musical, it’s Cinderella, classic Rodgers and Hammerstein.

Jon: Wow.

Maria: They kind of blew, uh, blew up the world a little bit. We were all fairytale characters. So I played Little Miss Moffit. 

Robby: This was like an Avengers.

[MARIA LAUGHS]

Maria: Yeah.

Jon: I’m gonna, I’m gonna ask you a question.

Maria: Yes.

Jon: And I want you to answer this as honestly as you possibly can.

Maria: Sure.

Jon: Did you steal a tuffet?

[ROBBY LAUGHS]

Jon: Is that what we’re dealing with here?

Maria: I stole a tuffet.

[ROBBY LAUGHS]

Jon: You son, son of a b****.

Maria: And the curds and whey… 

Jon: You know how hard those are to come by.

Maria: That’s what I said.

Jon: So you join the play.

Maria: Yeah.

Jon: You put on the production.

Maria: Put on the production, production ends.

Jon: Okay.

Maria: The costume designer hits me up and he’s like, “Hey, you took the cold cream that removed the makeup.”

Jon: How low budget a production are we talking about where the guy is inventorying cold cream?

Maria: I know he ran a tight ship. He ran a real tight ship.

Robby: Did you have to walk of shame it back to the theater department?

Maria: I did.

Robby: Did you come back with cold cream?

Maria: I was like, “Here’s your jar of Ponds.”

[ROBBY LAUGHS]

Jon: I’m not sure how we got here from classified materials. 

[LAUGHS]

Jon: But I enjoyed that story very much. 

Maria: Anytime. 

Jon: And Robby, I’m sure you’ve stolen s***.

Robby: Nonstop. One of the last jobs that ended up ending unceremoniously, I was working for you.

Jon: Oh yeah. In Red Bank. 

Robby: Yes.

Jon: Yeah. Yeah, yeah.

Robby: And you said, you were like, “You guys just take the laptops, just take the f***ing laptops.”

[ROBBY LAUGHS]

Jon: That’s right!

Robby: Yeah. Everyone was having a bad day and Jon’s like, “You know what? Just take a laptop.”

[ROBBY LAUGHS]

Jon: I hate to see sad people!

Robby: Yes.

Jon: But getting back to classified information… I find that so mind blowing that the psychology of, I know this is, uh, a secret that is crucial to the safety and security of the United States of America, but it’s mine.

Robby: It’s sociopathic, it’s and he keeps referring to everything that way, “These are my documents. This is my stuff.” It’s like, it’s the people stuff, you know, it’s the people stuff and he’s just internalized. “Mine. Everything’s mine.” Cuz that’s his worldview.

Jon: Well, I think he also treated the country like it is the Trump organization. It is because, most people, you know, if you run a public company, you have shareholders, you have things, in his — I always found this when I watched, uh, The Apprentice, which I did always watch by the way, I enjoyed it very much. Nobody fires Meatloaf like Donald J. Trump.

Maria: Ouch.

Jon: But when he would sit there at the table and he would have the two, it would be stereo Sicka fans. 

Robby: Yeah.

Jon: And one on one side, one or the other, sometimes it was that older gentleman, George, I think sometimes it was, uh Ivanka sometimes it was Don Jr. and whatever happened on the show, Donald Trump would do his thing and he would sit back and then he would turn to one side and go like, “That was tough.” And then whoever was on the right would be like, “You did the right thing, boss, great job.” And then the other person would be like, “What else could you have done? That was a great decision.” And you realize, oh, his worldview is the right of kings. 

Robby: I just want you to know that in this like podcast app, Maria and I are on either side of you just nodding along with your point as you make it.

[LAUGHS]

Maria: Yes. Yes.

Jon: “I have no shareholders.” 

[ ROBBY LAUGHS]

Jon: See, that’s how easy it is to turn into Hitler.

[LAUGHS]

Robby: So quick.

Jon: All you just need is two people who are agreeing… Here’s what I imagine at Mar-a-Lago, where he keeps the classified documents. You know, when you go to a hotel and they have that little safe.

Maria: Yeah. Yeah.

Jon: You think that’s where he keeps everything? In the, in the, like in one of the closets there’s that little —

Robby: He’s just got the little, yeah, the little mini bar safe —

Maria: The ironing board. Yeah.

Jon: And he just assumes that no spy will ever show up there and go, “What’s Donald Trump’s birthday?”

[LAUGHS]

Robby: Yeah. What do you know?

Jon: What do you think Maria?

Maria: What I wanna know is if any of this has disrupted the seafood and saxophone night that’s held every Wednesday night at Mar-a-Lago on the patio.

Jon: Do they really do seafood and saxophone? Every Wednesday?

Maria: I went on their website. 

[ROBBY LAUGHS]

Maria: I went on the Mar-a-Lago website. And in their dining section of their website it says, may I read you the breakdown?

Jon: I’d be honored.

Robby: Please.

Maria: Okay. It’s called “Six Star Seafood Night,” every Wednesday evening on the patio, in parenthesis. 

Jon: Right.

Maria: This dinner buffet features a sumptuous array consisting of an appetizer table, two pound lobsters, freshly grilled fish and meat items, salads, and a dessert bar.

[ROBBY LAUGHS]

Jon: Wait, I’m sorry. Hold, hold. Meat items.

Maria: Meat items.

[LAUGHS]

Jon: They’ve gone through so much. “Sumptuous,” the thing. Everything sounds amazing. Meat items.

Maria: Meat items.

Jon: I think we’ve buried the lead here.

[LAUGHS]

Robby: I’m a man who likes specificity in my meat, personally.

Jon: And I have never heard it called items. 

[MARIA LAUGHS]

Jon: Keep, keep going, keep going.

Maria: Salads and a dessert bar accompanied by a saxophonist under the stars.

Jon: I’m sorry. You know what that is? That’s not Mar-a-Lago, that’s heaven.

Maria: You’re right. That is the dream.

Jon: And, and from what I understand at Mar-a-lago, you do have free reign of the place, like all the seafood and saxophone people can just kind of wander. Like basically, when you go down there, you get a two pound lobster and nuclear codes.

[MARIA LAUGHS]

Jon: Like whatever you want under the stars.

Robby: Remember the North Korea thing, when Shinzo Abe of Japan was there and they were just looking at nuclear documents.

[LAUGHS]

Jon: They were just sitting at a table!

Robby: On the lido deck.

Maria: With their phone lights or something. Is that right?

Jon: Right. Yeah. You know what it, and what blows my mind about this whole thing is everybody’s got that thing like, “Is this it? Is this the thing?” And I keep trying to explain to people, “No, it’s not.”

Maria: Right.

Jon: Like why does anybody believe that there will be accountability in this man’s life on this earth?

Robby: Right, there’s been nothing up until this moment to ever show anyone, including him. And he’s just trained to believe that I can do anything I want.

Jon: How could he not feel that way? He f***ed a porn star while his wife was giving birth, paid the porn star $130,000 to keep it quiet. His wife is like, boys will be boys and his lawyer goes to jail for it. His accountant is going to jail. Everybody around him goes to jail. He’s like the Mr. Magoo of Absolved Sins. He just walks through this world and we never hold him… You know what we are? Oh, this is the worst thing that we are. We’re those parents. You guys don’t have kids yet, but there are certain parents that make a show of accountability.

Maria: Mm.

Jon: Got, Johnny don’t, I’m an account to three and then nothing. We’re, that’s who we are now. 

Robby: We are literally like “Donald what’s behind your back?” 

Maria: Seriously.

Jon: Are those classified?

Maria: What’s in the box? Take it outta your mouth.

Jon: Donald, one, two. No more porn stars. We’re taking away the porn stars. Donald.

Robby: If I get to three, we’re doing a gentle raid.

Jon: I, I love it. And I love my favorite thing about the whole thing is the things he puts out as exculpatory, it’s like, look, this is the warrant. All it says is I have top secret documents, it’s like O.J. Simpson going, look at this knife. It’s got a little blood on it, but I mean, come on! [ROBBY LAUGHS]

Robby: He’s, he’s only left with the dumbest people in his orbit around him, and they were just it’s own goal after own goal after own goal.

Jon: Dear Lord. Um, so I, speaking of, uh, and this is gonna be a terrible transition, but we are gonna talk to someone who is the antithesis of that. Dr. Sheri Fink. After Katrina she had written a book about a hospital down there. Where the infrastructure had failed and they had to get people out of that hospital and, and some of them died and like it was bad.

Maria: Horrible.

Jon: Anyway, that’s a show now on Apple TV+ now it’s like dramatized. By the way, Maria, there’s a great role in it that I think you could play.

Robby: Oh.

Maria: Oh, does it require tuffets?

Interview with Sheri Fink Begins

Jon: [JON LAUGHS]  So I am going to introduce, if I may, Dr. Sheri Fink, author of “Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in the Storm Ravage Hospital.”  As I called it, God knows how many years ago when, uh, Dr. Fink was on the Daily Show, this has gotta be turned into some type of film or movie. It is now a miniseries, uh, Five Days at Memorial, and it’s available to stream on, uh, a streaming platform called Apple television. And then there’s a, a mathematical sign afterwards. I believe it’s a plus sign. Dr. Fink! Welcome.

Sheri: You can call me Sheri Jon and it’s Apple TV+.

Jon: Plus. That’s what it was, plus I see. That’s why you’re a scientist and a journalist, and I’m just an idiot with a podcast.

Sheri: But you called it, you called it… 

Jon: So I should explain. So I interviewed, uh, Dr. Fink. after you wrote the book about Katrina. This was, I don’t even remember what year this was. What, what year did we speak on the Daily Show?

Sheri: It was 2013 that we spoke.

Jon: My God, ages ago. And first of all, tell, tell a brief, uh, recap of the story, uh, of what happened to this medical facility memorial after Katrina, during Katrina. What, what was, give us the setting.

Sheri: Sure. Yes. So it was 2005 and, uh, Hurricane Katrina came up the Gulf and in New Orleans, where the failure of the flood protection systems and the levies and, this beloved city, it’s like a bowl below sea level and it flooded. And the cities, medical centers, pretty much all of them were vulnerable to flooding. And so Five days at Memorial is about one of these hospitals. And what happened in that situation? How did they choose which patients to rescue first? And, you know, as things grew more dire, than issues of end of life, what about patients they worried that they couldn’t rescue. And then all of the issues that were relevant with this, horrible disaster, the failure preparedness, the failures of response, the vulnerable people, um, you know, different outcomes for different groups.

Jon: Mm-hmm

Sheri: So we explore all of that, both in the series and it’s in the book as well.

Jon: I mean, it, it, it really was an ethics class come to life. So, so much of what, you know, doctors learn obviously is anatomy and physiology But there was also a part of medicine maybe less talked about, about the ethics of, of medicine and being faced with situations that, you know, it’s a thought experiment. And yet the thought experiment became reality at Memorial. This idea that, you know, you triage the patients that you believe are the most injured, but also have the best ability to survive. The doctors were faced with this situation, no power, uh, limited food and water. And, and what were some of the decisions that they were faced with and that they made.

Sheri: Well, the first decision is very familiar to us, I think with COVID because it has to do with which patients get a share of a potentially life saving resource. When you feel like there’s not enough for everybody right away. I mean, we’re seeing it with monkeypox right now with like, who gets the vaccine or the treatments. That’s, that triage question. And, you know, surprisingly enough, you can talk to people who went to medical school like me, and it’s, it’s not something that we really learn about is how to do that. Especially once patients are in a hospital and in this case, the resource was rescue helicopters. They were arriving one at a time on the helipad and there were, um, you know, well, over 200 patients, there were 2000 people in this like two city block long– 

Jon: Oh, wow.

Sheri: — hospital complex. And so, you know, start to do that thought experiment yourself. And I think that’s part of why we tell this story is to think about, not so much to judge these people who were trapped in this situation, but what would I do or what would I want done? There are different, ethical things to weigh here. And it’s not really clear, but what is clear is that decisions like this, um, rationing in a way have important, ethical and valuing types of implications. And, then they can translate into who lives and who dies. And too often, even in normal times, we see rationing based on say ability to pay.

Jon: Sure.

Sheri: So we want these decisions to be made in a way that is ethically defensible. And that’s really important because. As we see we have analogs today with what we’re going through.

Jon: So you’re saying you’re not looking for an eenie, meanie, miney, moe situation. Now to be clear… for people who don’t realize they’re, they were evacuating people. From the hospital, not to the hospital. The hospital was the, uh, was the building, the complex that was in trouble. I mean the whole city obviously was in trouble, but this hospital where you might normally look at, uh, similarly to what happened at the super dome, you sort of look at these facilities, infrastructure, facilities that you imagine are built for this type of disaster to send people to what do you do when the facility that was built for such a disaster is in fact the disaster itself.

Sheri: Such a good point. I mean, this is why the larger issue here. We can look at individual decision making, which is really important because our infrastructure is a mess and it is likely that any of us could be a first responder de facto in our own communities, because we have these vulnerabilities to flooding, to power outages, um, to, you know, earthquakes. So, um, but you’re right. The larger importance here is, uh, we have to look at this infrastructure and what do we need to do to make these hospitals in flood prone areas hardened so that they don’t put people into these circumstances. And in fact, there were helicopters that landed, that did try to bring patients to this hospital because you’re right, in a disaster we need our health infrastructure. We need it in a pandemic. We need it in, um, a disaster like this. So we, we need these hospitals to keep working. Not only for the people who are already in them, but for people who might get injured, who might need help, who are being rescued.

Jon: And so the city is devastated and the infrastructure that is put in place to be there in just such a situation now, that is failing. So here’s what I think, you know, might be an interesting way to do this in, in the way that you triage a patient, right? Let’s triage that infrastructure let’s triage this medical system in, in your experience now, after having gone through Katrina and now boy, and I hate to even say this, but Dr., Dr. Fink wrote about the pandemic. When did you write about the pandemic? A year before the pandemic?

Sheri: Yeah, I worked on a documentary series. It was called “Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak.” And it premiered January 20, 2020.

Jon: And the pandemic hit February and March of 2020. What say you with this witchcraft?

Sheri: [SHERI LAUGHS] No. it’s that, that thing is, it’s exactly what you said. We need to triage because these are maybe rare events, but they are foreseeable. The whole docu-series was about how scientists all over the world were saying, we have to get ready. These are, this is gonna happen. It’s not a question of, will it happen, it’s when will it happen? And so we need to do all these things to get ready for it. So,why is it that we don’t make these investments? 

Jon: But we are not, we, we are not and have never been a prophylactic, uh, oriented society we are, and for the most part, people, I think in general are reactive. It’s, you know, you can say all along, like maybe we shouldn’t live uh, in a, in a flood basin, but generally you don’t do anything about it until you’re floating. And so, as you look at, let’s say, you know, let’s go writ large into more of the health infrastructure of the country. If you were going to triage the system, would you look first to the sort of broader based we shouldn’t be a for profit system or would you look at it and say it’s about coordination. If, if you were to reorganize and restructure us, triaging that system to make it more reactive, responsive, and prophylactic, to some extent, what would you address first? What would be the most dire need?

Sheri: I, I mean, well, I’m, I’m just gonna riff here because I’m no expert on healthcare economics, but, uh,

Jon: Come on.

Sheri: What comes first to mind is our healthcare uh staff who we forget about like the personnel, they’ve gone through such trauma.They’re having a lot of difficulties. We have shortages of health workers in really important areas. So there’s been rationing in some ways of care or a lessening of the quality of care, for example, during COVID surges. So we really need to look at our health workforce and support that. So when we think about infrastructure, it’s actually people as well.

Jon: How would you do that now? How far behind are we? And if this pandemic doesn’t ease or if monkeypox or whatever, they’ve got next coming for us, doesn’t ease. How do we invest in and, and get these people, A, the people that are already working there, some type of care to preserve their sanity and their wellbeing, and two bringing in the next generation of, of workers.

Sheri: I think it’s, it is mostly about supporting people in their jobs properly. paying them well and giving them the kinds of, support that they need to do the jobs that they have trained to do. And it, it’s also about all of us. You know, it’s about Americans. And there have been, you know, there’s been such a breach of trust during this pandemic. We talk about it with all sorts of our, you know, professionals, whether it’s trust in leaders and political leaders and journalists, but, uh, in public health, you know, officials who are attacked and, um, denigrated, but also the health workforce, believe it or not it, it feels the same way. When it comes to vaccine, a vaccine for COVID, you know, you, you will believe something that you see on social media over your trusted doctor. Why is that? That is very hard for health professionals or when people have gotten sick from COVID after, you know, not being vaccinated, perhaps, and then wanting a whole suite of treatment. Sometimes, that the doctors don’t believe it has efficacy that they don’t believe it will work. So, so some of that is also adding or has added in these recent years.

Jon: Yes, you are being so polite about this right now. I am very impressed with how polite you are and, and not just saying, well, the first thing we need to do is get crazy people off of Facebook. 

[SHERI LAUGHS] 

Jon: Get them off. It’s you know, I, I saw this in the local hospital here, when the pandemic first hit, man, the signs went up. Healthcare heroes work here and, uh, the fire departments would come and it, the changing of the shifts, everybody would stand outside and they would do a clap. And it was about, it took about eight to 12 months. And I remember driving by one day and it was probably around, the election had ended, and it was so we were past that and, and the toxicity within the public sphere was so high at that point. This was post, uh, January 6th. And there was a group of protestors —

Sheri: Mmhmm.

Jon: – In this same place of honor that they stood standing by those now weathered signs that still stood as healthcare heroes work here. And they were protesting the nurses and the doctors. So imagine you’ve just gone through hell. You’ve watched people die. You’ve been helpless. You’ve done everything you could to keep people alive. 

Sheri: Risked your own life before vaccines. 

Jon: You’ve risked your own life. And now not only are you not being hailed, you’re being attacked. Right outside your place of work. And I, I, I remember thinking, well, this on an emotional level, this must be infuriating and maddening and also despairing.

Sheri: You’re so right. That’s exactly what I saw in the hospital, so that this is a piece of it. And this gets to in any disaster, any emergency it, it is all of us. We have to respond. We have to do our part or else. There will be what we’ve seen, which is a, a horrific burden of death and suffering that is avoidable.

Jon: We’ve hollowed them out. 

Sheri: Yeah. And I think in journalism, maybe we didn’t do enough to prepare people for the idea that, this was a new disease and that something you hear today about, it might not be the same as what you hear tomorrow because you know, science will, will advance. And also the, the virus will change, potentially. And we we’ve seen that, but I think maybe people lost trust because they weren’t prepared for in fact, and this is always in whatever emergency that you have to, uh, be flexible. And you, you can’t just be rigid and have one way of doing things, or you will not be evolving. You will not be doing your process improvement in the midst of an emergency. So this is, this was true in hurricane Katrina. The events in this hospital, um, there was this race to try to find the perfect triage method. And the answer is there isn’t one, there, there has to be preparedness, but then we have to prepare to be flexible. And, and we did see that in COVID too, some really ingenious types of, uh, you know, adaptations and creative thinking that stretched resources. So we need to get out of that mindset of, you know, necessarily having to ration or, um, make these tragic decisions, but also thinking creatively about how to expand resources in a crisis. And I’ve seen that over and over again, that lives can be saved because of that.

Jon: Let me ask you, so this is, uh, you’ve been very prescient about some of the things that are, that are coming your way. Is there something on your horizon right now? Infrastructure wise. I’m gonna throw mine out there. What I believe it to be water, water will be the next great, uh, catastrophe that we face. It’ll be the antithesis of Katrina. It will be drought and it will be devastating and, uh, in, in slightly different areas. And I’m not sure we have the infrastructure to know how to deal with that. If you’re throwing odds, where do you, where do you see the next thing?

Sheri: Here’s mine. I would like us to do better right now with all of the disasters we are living through. one thing that we haven’t talked about and, uh, is, is the, the, and I know this means a lot to you too, but the sort of the inequity and outcomes and the people who suffer the most in these types of situations. And, um, you know, there are real disparities in the, the groups. And we talk about, um, socioeconomic and racial and, but there’s another one, which is disability too. And I was speaking with, uh, with an expert on this and, uh, just the other day. And she mentioned that — 

Jon: Mm-hmm

Sheri: — In her counting, um, that like more than half of the people who died of COVID in the US could be classified as, as people with disabilities. And, and that again get to this — 

Jon: Oh, wow.

Sheri: triage and who we value and where we put in the investments to — 

Jon: Uh-huh.

Sheri: — Infrastructure to make sure that there are adequate staffing ratios to support health providers. Um, and even, um, you know, I worked on an article during, COVID just looking at New York city, um, and the very different outcomes in that first horrific surge that all of us who lived in New York remember. 

Jon: Sure.

Sheri: In 2020 and, and the outcomes were very different by hospital.

Jon: Oh yeah, I had friends at, at Elmhurst that were, I mean, they had refrigerator trucks backed up. They were just, they were stacking bodies. They were overwhelmed and that’s a traditionally lower resource facility.

Sheri: Yes, Elmhurst is, is, uh, famous. There’s a video that went viral that, that, uh, drew the attention to, to that hospital. I spent a lot of time in the Brooklyn Hospital Center, which is one of the, the free standing hospitals, one of the few, that’s not part of a big system. And, um, you know, all of the hospitals unfortunately had those, those horrific, um, you know, trucks outside with the bodies. Not only that, do you remember, they had to actually build a second level — 

Jon: Yes!

Sheri: — Because they, they filled up those trailers. They got the, the carpenters, the hospital carpenters had to come out and build a second level. 

Jon: I have a friend who worked in the hospital who said it was, and he’s a veteran. He’s been to war. He said he’s never seen anything like it. And, and that it will haunt him till his dying day that it was as horrific as anything that he had ever experienced, and worse.

Sheri: So, how do we do better? We, we come together as a society. We listen to the advice. We care about the other people in our community. If everybody just thought about what can I do to make my own family, my own community more prepared? What can I do to look out for or include in the preparation process? The people who are most vulnerable, the people with disabilities who already have a lot of knowledge about how to sort of adapt to situations. It could seem overwhelming, I know that, but I also know. From having written about these stories from five days at Memorial to COVID that, um, the, the individual efforts can make a difference, a real difference. And it does take all of us, not just — 

Jon: It’s really interesting how you frame it because it is, you’re absolutely right. It’s overwhelming. And yet alarmingly simple. And, and it almost seems as though the, the, the real key to it is reminding people and convincing people that if you shore up the ground around us. If you shore up the ground around those who are standing on the most tenuous soil, it will strengthen everything. And it’s reminding people that, that investment in those that are most vulnerable, it’s not charity, it’s smart investment because it shores up the entire system. You know, there’s that old saying that rising tide lifts all boats, but not if you don’t have a boat and not, if you don’t have docks and infrastructure, like you’ve got to invest in putting everybody on more stable ground and that will make the ground you’re standing on less tenuous.

Sheri: So if we all come together to, uh, you know, improve things for the most vulnerable, it does, it is in our self interest I think you can make a very good argument for that.

Jon: Right. Right. The self interest of that. Let’s get the algorithm to drive people to that. Well, that’s, I appreciate you so much, uh, Dr. Fink, I follow your writing because I want to know what I have to be scared of next. What’s the next thing that we can look out for? 

Sheri: I think the one, the one thing I committed to early in this pandemic was to never predict anything and that, that turned out to be very, a very good thing. 

Jon: Yes, Dr. Sheri Fink. Five days at Memorial. It’s a miniseries on, on apple television plus. And, uh, thank you so much for, for joining us today. 

Sheri: Thank you so much Jon. 

Interview with Sheri Fink Ends

[GUITAR RIFF FADES IN] 

Jon: All right. We are back after having been sobered up by Dr. Sheri Fink, we are not prepared, you know, Dr. Sheri Fink gave such simple advice. Like it was really one of those things like other pandemic and, and Katrina and all that. What, what could we do? And she’s like, we could be better people [ALL LAUGH] and you’re like, Hmm.

Robby: Hmm.

Maria: Hmm. Interesting concept.

Robby: Now, whatta ya got that might work for us?

Jon: Now are you, are you guys relatively, sanguine about all this s***? Or are you, what’s your, uh, emotional state about the variety of disasters, which seem to be hurtling our way.

Maria: That’s such a good question. 

Jon: Thank you

Maria: [MARIA LAUGHS] I don’t really know how I should be feeling. And fact, I’d love to get your guys’ thoughts on some things that are kind of swirling around the news lately. Robby, how are you feeling?

Robby: It’s tough to be optimistic, there are, yeah, definitely some news stories, uh, that are weighing me down.

Maria: Yes, yes. Can’t decide whether or not to be stressed out. Something on my mind lately has been these crazy lantern flies. Jon, did you know that in New Jersey, they have a pub crawl that is dedicated to squishing lantern flies. 

Jon: Is that new?

Maria: I don’t know if it is. I just read about it this week?

Jon: Here’s what I’m gonna tell you happened, Maria. There’s a pub crawl while they were going. Somebody said, let’s f***ing kill this bug, but no, nobody got together. And did that specifically. It’s just that we drink a lot. We wander because all of us have lost our licenses because of the drinking. Let me ask you this, what does the lantern fly do that makes it such a public menace? Because we’ve been getting bulletins down here. If you see one, not only do you have to kill it, you have to call the authorities. I have had to notify the police or whoever —

Maria: The bug police. 

Jon: You know, probably not the, the right people to call, but I think the agriculture department in New Jersey about lantern flies.

Jon: So do you, Maria, do you know what they do? Is it, what’s the situation?

Maria: Yes, they will. They harm pretty much all trees and plants that they come in contact with mainly fruit bearing trees and, uh, vineyards. So if you like wine, gotta have a heads up about these flies. But pretty much just destroying vegetation, which obviously has multiple multiple consequences. And there is a real 800 number in Pennsylvania.

Maria: That’s one 800-BAD-FLY. 

Robby: When you call it, get ready for this. Get ready for this. When you call it, what do they do? Send a SWAT team.

Maria: Oooooh,

Jon: All right. I’m I’m I’m gonna go because

Robby: I knew I was gonna get fired at the end of this podcast.

Jon: That’s not —

Robby: I’m sorry. I, my apologies, my, my deepest apologies. [ROBBY LAUGHS]

Jon: That’s gotta be stopped. 

[MARIA LAUGHS]

Jon: So honestly, I think you’ve gotta, I think you’re gonna go the way the lantern fly.

[ALL LAUGH]

Jon: Right now in New Jersey, there is a pub crawl, looking for Robby Slowik.

Maria: Looking for Robby 

Robby: What are they gonna do, kick my ass? Yeah. That’s why I don’t go to Jersey anymore.

Jon: Hey, are you the motherf***er that did the SWAT joke? 

[ROBBY & MARIA LAUGH]

Jon: Hey, Hey, get over here. You piece of s***. 

Robby: Yeah after I finish at the Stress Factory, I go straight to my car. 

Jon: By the way, there’s no way that like individuals in New Jersey are going to crush enough lantern flies to make a difference.

Maria: You don’t think so. 

Jon: You know, I, I just don’t have faith in our ability to somehow eradicate some bug that can reproduce.

Maria: Real fast. 

Jon: By the million. Yeah. There’s, there’s no f***ing, basically by next year, we’ll be living in the lantern fly state. All right. Well, this has been lovely. This is our, uh, mid-August podcast, mid, to late. 

Maria: Mid, mid end. Yeah.

Jon: We’ve got some podcasts coming up. That’ll blow your mind. Some of the f***ing people that are coming on this thing for no apparent reason. 

[ROBBY & MARIA LAUGH]

Jon: It’s gonna be wild. I don’t want to, I don’t wanna say who’s coming

Robby: But people are coming. Yeah.

Maria: It’s classified.

Jon: By the way, the list of guests. On this podcast are being held right now one of those closet safes at, at Mar-a-Lago.

Maria: Robbie, do you know Jon’s birthday? 

Robby: Uh no, should I know Jon’s birthday?

Maria: Sure. Just for the code.

Jon: For the code on the, on the thing. Well, if you guys need me, you know, where I’ll be dancing under the stars, listening to saxophone and eating a meat item.

[ROBBY LAUGHS]

Maria: Yes.

Jon: All right, kids, thank you very much for joining us. Robby Slowik, Maria Randazzo, and of course Dr. Sheri Fink, uh, Five Days at Memorial is a miniseries available to stream on apple TV plus, and our show will be returning to apple TV plus October 7th. So, uh, hopefully that’s not gonna be a Wednesday, because — 

Maria: It’s a Friday.

Jon: Oh, thank God because I would hate to miss saxophone and seafood.

[ROBBY LAUGHS]

Maria: Yeah, luckily it doesn’t conflict.

Jon: Doesn’t conflict. Uh, and season one obviously is online right now. Anyway, thank you so much guys,

Maria: Thank you. 

Robby: Thank you, Jon.

Jon: A lot of fun talking to you and we’ll see you guys later.

[OUTRO MUSIC]

Jon: “The Problem with Jon Stewart Podcast” is an Apple TV+ podcast and a joint Busboy Production.

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