Crosscut Talks
Your Brain Wasn’t Made for 2020. Plus, What Restaurant Workers Really Think

Your Brain Wasn’t Made for 2020. Plus, What Restaurant Workers Really Think

September 17, 2020

Jacob Ward, host of 'Hacking Your Mind,' tells us why humans are more susceptible to misinformation and partisanship, and what we can do about it. Humanity is facing some daunting challenges right now. The pandemic, massive wildfires, civil unrest and economic uncertainty all threaten the livelihoods of billions on a daily basis. Such challenges demand a rational, thoughtful response. Yet that doesn't appear to be what's happening. Public health recommendations from experts are discarded along with possible responses to climate change that are supported by science. Meanwhile, social problems that demand considered contemplation and collective action serve as fuel for political partisans. Instead of coming together to battle a crisis, people are more divided than ever. At fault, says Ward, is our own evolutionary biology. As detailed in Hacking the Mind, a new PBS series hosted by the former Popular Science editor in chief, the attributes of the human mind that helped humanity survive in prehistoric times may be putting it at risk in modern times. This week on Crosscut Talks, Ward discusses the reasons humans are so susceptible to misinformation and manipulation, the role that social media plays in amplifying our worst tendencies and what can be done to fight this biological reality. Plus, Crosscut reporter Margo Vansynghel tells us what restaurant workers really think about going back to work.

The Hidden History and Possible Future of Family Separation. Plus: Concerns Over Released Prisoners

The Hidden History and Possible Future of Family Separation. Plus: Concerns Over Released Prisoners

September 3, 2020

NBC News journalist Jacob Soboroff talks about Trump’s zero tolerance immigration policy, its origins and its possible return. When it was first reported that the United States government was systematically separating families at the southern border, the news was met with a kind of disbelief bolstered by a presidential administration that denied it had any such policy. But the signs that America was headed for a hardline approach to immigration policy were abundant in Donald Trump's campaign for the presidency. Once he was elected, his rhetoric turned to action, as his administration sought to transform American immigration policy on almost every front, but especially on the southern border. Eventually public resistance led the president to back down and rescind the policy, the policy the administration had denied existed. But before there was a public battle over the 5,400 immigrant children held by the federal government, there was another battle taking place within the federal government that pitted political appointees against career bureaucrats. This week on the Crosscut Talks podcast, This week on the Crosscut Talks podcast, Soboroff talks about that hidden fight, which he details in his book Separated: Inside an American Tragedy, how it likely prevents more families from being separated and whether the reelection of Donald Trump could result in a return to family separation. Plus, Crosscut reporter Lilly Fowler talks about one of the unintended consequences of pandemic relief in our prisons.

What Makes the Boogaloo Movement Different and Frightening. Plus: A Tourist Town Contends With a Pandemic

What Makes the Boogaloo Movement Different and Frightening. Plus: A Tourist Town Contends With a Pandemic

August 27, 2020

Reporter Leah Sottile discusses how an internet meme became a violent new movement. When people began appearing at state capitols across the country in the spring, demanding that their governments rescind the restrictions put in place to contain the emergent coronavirus pandemic, there were well-known groups in attendance: Trump supporters, anti-vaxxers and militia-members. But among the ranks of the disgruntled was a new kind of reactionary. Wearing Hawaiian shirts with their tactical gear and carrying long guns, these men — and they were predominantly men — flew a different kind of flag: A black-and-white version of the American flag featuring a single floral stripe and an igloo where the stars would go. These were the adherent of Boogaloo, a leaderless movement that has sprung into the public sphere in recent months, bringing with it confusion and violence. The confusion is due to the inconsistent politics of its followers and the violence is in the service of a disturbing aim expressed by many of the adherents, to bring about the downfall of American society. This week on the Crosscut Talks podcast, Sottile discusses her recent story for the New York Times Magazine that explores the origins of this new cultural force, what makes it different from the right-wing militias she has covered and why it's so difficult to understand exactly what it is that the Boogaloo wants. Plus, Crosscut reporter Manola Secaira tells us what happens to a tourist town when the tourists don't show up.

Imagining a Post-Trump Republican Party. Plus: The Resignation of Seattle’s Police Chief

Imagining a Post-Trump Republican Party. Plus: The Resignation of Seattle’s Police Chief

August 20, 2020

Conservative Washington Post columnist Henry Olsen discusses the split he sees between President Trump and many of the people who vote for him. When the Republican National Convention opens next week, it will be entering uncharted territory. Not just because of pandemic considerations that will prevent the party from packing an arena with delegates, but because those delegates will be supporting a party that is not using the quadrennial event to introduce an updated party platform and a president who is running without any new policy goals that might address the considerable problems the country faces. And while politics watchers can make some safe assumptions about the run-of-show for the convention, the future of the Republican Party is far more difficult to discern, especially if you believe that the president could very well lose the election. Where will the populist fervor that has overtaken the party in the Trump era go if Joe Biden wins the presidency? And how might the leftward pull of the populists in the Democratic Party ultimately affect what a new Republican Party might look like and how it might govern? For this week's episode, we invited Olsen to discuss the rift he sees between Trump and his party, the possibility that Trump could beat the odds and win re-election, and what he believes might happen to the Republican Party and its voters if he loses. Plus, Crosscut city reporter David Kroman discusses the sudden resignation of Seattle's police chief.

Delay, Negligence and Death in Our Prisons. Plus: Will Washington’s Shield Law Protect Its Journalists?

Delay, Negligence and Death in Our Prisons. Plus: Will Washington’s Shield Law Protect Its Journalists?

August 13, 2020

Reporter Levi Pulkkinen discusses his investigation into the prison health care system, where a treatable illness can put a prisoner in a body bag. Gross medical negligence in America's prisons isn't anything new. As long as there have been reporters investigating this nation's corrections departments there have been gruesome tales of medical procedures gone wrong and the prisoners who suffer. But new reporting from Crosscut suggests that poor medical care for the incarcerated in Washington state is more prevalent than just the extreme cases. Reporter Levi Pulkkinen found that nine of 10 prisoners who leave our prisons in body bags die from illness. And these aren't just older prisoners finishing their life sentences. Nearly a third of those who die from illness are under 55. The prisoners and families Pulkkinen interviewed for the investigative series, "Prison's Other Death Sentence," say that delays in care that result in poor, sometimes fatal outcomes are a normal part of the prison health care experience. For this week's episode of Crosscut Talks, Pulkkinen discusses what is at the root of all this suffering, why people on the outside should at least acknowledge that suffering and whether state lawmakers may introduce a new normal into prison health care. Plus, Melissa Santos discusses the court case that has every newsroom in the state on edge.  

What Regulation of Big Tech Might Look Like. Plus: Are We Ever Gonna Dance Again?

What Regulation of Big Tech Might Look Like. Plus: Are We Ever Gonna Dance Again?

August 6, 2020

This week, tech historian Margaret O’Mara visits us to discuss what could be in store for the Big Four. Last week's congressional hearings on Big Tech lacked some of the pomp and circumstance of previous antitrust hearings, but there was little doubt that it was a big deal. A gathering of that much raw economic power — even if it was via videoconferencing — is itself notable, but the fact the lawmakers were actually challenging that power is exceedingly rare. The CEOs of Facebook, Amazon, Google and Apple had been brought together to defend their companies against accusations of anti-competitive practices, and lawmakers were prepared with evidence from a yearlong investigation. It was a very different look from a federal government that had for decades been largely deferential to a tech industry that had brought innovation and growth to the economy. And it appeared that regulation could be in the offing. For this week's episode of the Crosscut Talks podcast, we are speaking with O'Mara, the University of Washington history professor and New York Times columnist, about what happened in the hearing, what regulation might look like and where the tech industry could be headed as a result. Plus, Crosscut staff reporter Agueda Pacheco Flores tells us how the pandemic is impacting Seattle partner dance scene.

American Hypocrisy in the Fight for Democracy in Hong Kong. Plus: Seattle Responds to the Federal Deployment

American Hypocrisy in the Fight for Democracy in Hong Kong. Plus: Seattle Responds to the Federal Deployment

July 30, 2020

When the Chinese government enacted new national security law that outlawed dissent in the semi-autonomous city of Hong Kong, it signaled a new, and perhaps final, stage in the city’s pro-democracy movement. Since 2014, activists had staged sit-ins and clashed with police while calling for greater transparency in the city’s elections and decrying Beijing’s influence over its government and police. The new law, which went into effect at the end of June, made it illegal to even speak of such things. Now many activists and sympathizers have been shutting down social media accounts, or even fleeing the city, for fear of being arrested. Some political leaders in the United States, meanwhile, have denounced the new law, despite the state department’s support for the Hong Kong police, a force that has sought to quell dissent. For this week’s episode of the Crosscut Talks podcast, we speak with Wilfred Chan, a contributing writer to The Nation and a Hong Kong leftist, about the new law and the movement it threatens to quash. He shares his views on the history of protest in Hong Kong and the complicated role that the United States has played in the conflict. Plus, Crosscut city reporter David Kroman tells us what happened after Seattle activists learned the feds were coming to town.

Inside Joe Biden’s $2 Trillion Climate Plan. Plus: What Washington Voters Think About Masks

Inside Joe Biden’s $2 Trillion Climate Plan. Plus: What Washington Voters Think About Masks

July 23, 2020

When the Joe Biden campaign introduced its Build Back Better plan earlier this month, it was delivering what promised to be a kind of silver bullet. The presumed Democratic nominee for the presidency was proposing to fuel an economic recovery, beat back climate change and deliver racial justice through a robust package of programs and standards that would reshape a large portion of the U.S. economy around clean energy. The price: $2 trillion. It was a bold move from a candidate not known as a leader on climate and so it isn't surprising that much of the plan is borrowed, some from his former opponents. This week on the Crosscut Talks podcast, environmental policy expert Leah Stokes talks about the work that led to this plan, tells us who is responsible for what and contemplates the likelihood that this silver bullet will ever be fired. Plus, Crosscut news and politics editor Donna Blankinship walks us through the latest Crosscut-Elway Poll, which looks at Washington voters' attitudes toward the pandemic response and asks, "Are you wearing a mask?"

Patty Murray’s Fight to Reopen Schools Safely. Plus: Will Seattle Really Cut Police Funding by 50%?

Patty Murray’s Fight to Reopen Schools Safely. Plus: Will Seattle Really Cut Police Funding by 50%?

July 16, 2020

Patty Murray has been busy. As the ranking member on the U.S. Senate's Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, the senior senator from the state of Washington is intimately involved in developing legislation to guide federal oversight of the areas of American life most impacted by the novel coronavirus pandemic. In the last month alone she introduced the Coronavirus Child Care and Education Relief Act and issued a white paper calling for legislation that would assure that a vaccine be made available to all Americans. But Murray is also in the minority. At a time when so much is at stake, the Democratic lawmaker is tasked with both identifying solutions that she believes will save many lives and pushing them through a legislative process dominated by Republicans at a moment of hyper-partisanship. On this week's edition of the Crosscut Talks podcast we speak with the Senator about her efforts to shore up schools and day care providers, the deep frustration she has for the Trump administration's approach to the pandemic and how, exactly, she plans to turn her plans into action. Plus, Crosscut reporter David Kroman delivers the latest on the Seattle's efforts to rethink public safety and policing.

The Battle for Enthusiasm in the Race for the White House

The Battle for Enthusiasm in the Race for the White House

July 9, 2020

Former Obama campaign manager David Plouffe discusses electoral excitement in the era of coronavirus. For years, the presidential election of 2020 has been touted as the most important of the modern era. There was little doubt that the months leading up to the November election would be filled with packed arenas and firey stump speeches. Instead the dominant images of the early stages of the general election have been empty seats in Tulsa and basement communiques from Delaware. With multiple crises dominating the national conversation, the presidential race has taken a backseat to more immediate concerns. Meanwhile President Donald Trump's handling of these crises appears to have done serious damage to his approval rating and the threat of coronavirus has limited the public appearances of his challenger Joe Biden. In the race for the White House, enthusiasm has been hard to come by. We invited Plouffe to weigh in on the state of the race. We talk about the apparent lack of excitement for these campaigns, whether it is a sign of things to come, and if dread and anger will replace enthusiasm as the driving force for this election.