Mark and Carrie Special: 2024 Primaries, the wars in Ukraine and Gaza, what’s next for the UK’s Labour Party

We’ve got a lot of exciting new Trending Globally episodes coming up in the next few weeks and months, but this week we’re sharing an episode of another podcast from the Watson Institute: Mark and Carrie. 

The show is hosted by political economist Mark Blyth and political scientist Carrie Nordlund. On each episode, they discuss, debate and, occasionally, make fun of the biggest headlines of the day. The conversations are always thought-provoking and informative, and while the topics are sometimes somber, the show is not. 

On this episode, they discuss some of the factors shaping the 2024 U.S. elections, the state of the wars in Gaza and Ukraine, and what’s next for the U.K.’s Labour Party. They also ponder: is Mark too old for VR headsets? 

Listen to more of Mark and Carrie and subscribe. 

Learn about all of the Watson Institute’s other podcasts. 


[MUSIC PLAYING] DAN RICHARDS: From the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University, this is Trending Globally. I'm Dan Richards. This week, we're sharing an episode of another podcast from the Watson Institute. It's called Mark and Carrie. For those of you who aren't familiar with it, the show is hosted by political economist Mark Blyth and political scientist Carrie Nordlund. On each episode, they discuss, debate, poke fun at, and ultimately add context to the biggest stories in politics and economics.

In the first half of the episode, they focus mostly on the United States. They get into the Twenty Twenty-Four primaries, including concern among Democrats around President Biden's age and the House Republicans' collapsing effort to impeach the president. They discuss the Alabama State Supreme Court's ruling that frozen embryos have the rights of children and how reproductive rights more generally will factor into the race to come. Later on, they get into the war in Ukraine and some of the major political and economic stories across Europe.

This episode was recorded a few days ago, so some of the facts they discuss may be a little different by the time you listen to this. That said, we think you'll still find their conversation enlightening and entertaining. Anyway, here are Mark and Carrie.


CARRIE NORDLUND: Hello and welcome to Mark and Carrie from the Watson Institute at Brown University. Hello there. And how are you?

MARK BLYTH: I'm fine. I'm Mark Blyth. And I'm in my basement because I misread the instructions on where we were meant to be today. So hello from my basement. So anyway, what's been going on in the world? That's what we do, isn't it? Come on, Carrie, hit me with it.


MARK BLYTH: What's going on? What do you-- what's-- I love this one. Some people like to say this one when they do these kind of talk show things. So what's top of mind for you, Carrie?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Well, talk about not listening to instructions, and that is the recent report about Biden had to classify documents and whether they were going to pursue the case. And in the report was the sizzling line of that Biden is a well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory, which also makes a good title of a book.

And then so the Democrats were like, oh, we forgot he was old, and then, of course, started to talk about how he was old again and like if someone going to take his place. And all the thought pieces and the pundits are like, he's got to step aside, and all that jazz. It seemed to get wiped out the front page of the paper once Trump did his NATO-- like, if I become president, we're not going to protect NATO unless you pay your dues sort of stuff.

MARK BLYTH: It's funny. I mean, something also happened that-- last week or the week before or this week, I can't even remember when-- was the whole sort of impeach Biden thing fell apart when it turned out that the star witness was basically a serial liar and possible Russian agent, right? Alexander Smirnoff. He was an ex-FBI informant. But he allegedly lied to federal agents, and he was also communicating with Russian intelligence.

The whole impeachment inquiry depended on Smirnoff, right? And it's almost as if the news cycle has literally become an eight-hour thing.


MARK BLYTH: Because all the things you just mentioned, right? So the first one is like, an independent prosecutor comes out and says, look, I can't prosecute him because basically he's a daft old man, right? That's huge, right? And then that just disappears, right?

And then, as you said, Trump comes along and says, I'm going to encourage Russia, who is the people we defend against, by the way, and NATO was going to be anti-NATO. I'm going to encourage the anti-NATO to attack our friends unless they keep up their dues. And everyone went mental for like 12 hours and then stopped, right?


MARK BLYTH: And we seem to like run on this incredibly short and shorter and shorter and shorter attention span theater for everything to do with this election. What's going on?


MARK BLYTH: Why does nothing stick? Even sort of the idea that like, you're going to replace a sitting president because of his age concerns, that's a big thing. And it's sort of like, yeah, we're really concerned with this. And then sort of like, oh, look, that dog has a fluffy tail. Quick, run.

CARRIE NORDLUND: True that we have sort of no attention span whatsoever. And yet, it's the same persistent storylines, right? Trump has all this baggage, and Biden is old. And then we just circle back to that with a few different details. So you're right that we have no attention span, the bright shiny thing we get distracted by, but then we also-- it's the same storylines. And you wish that it would change.

And people try to stir the pot-- Biden should step down, so-and-so should come forward-- but then it still goes back to the same old thing. So I don't know what that says about us-- that we're really boring, that we're not creative as a humanity? I'm not sure.

MARK BLYTH: Or possibly none of this stuff matters, right? I mean, Biden, unless he dies before November, he's running.


MARK BLYTH: Trump, unless he dies or goes to jail before November, he's running. Everybody knows it. Everyone else is priced in. It's all just noise, right? Little example of that. Michigan had his Democratic primary at the end of February.


MARK BLYTH: 13% of Democrats voted uncommitted instead of choosing President Biden. When Obama was running for his re-election, 11% voted uncommitted in the Michigan primary. So this was meant to be a referendum on Biden because there's a lot of Arab-Americans, Muslims, young voters, and people of color who live in Michigan. They're clearly upset with them, and they're the key voters in a swing state in a very tight race.

But it seems that he's only 2% worse off than Obama was. So what should we actually take from this? Is there something here, or is this just noise as well?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Oh, that's interesting. I didn't realize the Obama comparison of what percentage he had received. I mean, if we just take it for what it is that the uncommitted votes in Michigan coming from those who are really angry at the administration for their stand on Israel-Gaza and they want a ceasefire today and they don't want the US to be involved with Israel anymore period, then certainly Biden has a problem.

But that point of reference, like, it was lost. And so maybe it's not as relevant as the newspapers are screaming at us about.


CARRIE NORDLUND: So then it's all noise, and we should just like close up shop and go home. I mean, that's also kind of bleak.

MARK BLYTH: Let's jump forward a little bit. How does this look for the whole sort of Senate map? We talk about Trump coming in, but we forget about the House and the Senate, right? So what's your feel on this? Let's imagine Trump gets in. Does he win the House? Does he win the Senate?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Well, this is-- thank you for taking me up for this. I mean, so there are three branches of government. And the Senate, we're going to talk about the second branch of government, which is Congress, right? So the House and the Senate, right now you look at the House and you're just like, it really is a circus. The speaker of the House has a very slim majority, if we even want to call it that.

And the Senate map, which a lot of people said was really favoring Republicans, now looks like it's in play for Democrats.

MARK BLYTH: So why is that? What shifted?

CARRIE NORDLUND: You have these candidates in Montana and in Ohio, the current Democratic senators, and they look like they have a slight edge over the Republicans because the Republicans are putting forth people who are not viable candidates for mainstream, general, statewide elections. So the primary system is just putting forward these fringe candidates.

MARK BLYTH: Fringe candidates, as we like to call them, our elected leaders.

CARRIE NORDLUND: That's right.

MARK BLYTH: All right, sticking with all things US, I'm just going to basically bother you with questions today and talk a bit about that.

CARRIE NORDLUND: I know. I'm like-- yeah, yeah.

MARK BLYTH: So come on, Carrie, you're on the stump. Let's go. So up next, the courts. I don't know if you or anyone you know is thinking about IVF, but you're probably not thinking about it in Alabama--

CARRIE NORDLUND: That's right.

MARK BLYTH: --at this moment in time.


MARK BLYTH: That's, of course, since the Alabama Supreme Court ruled the other week that frozen embryos are children. And this has effectively shut down in vitro fertilization services in the state. This is-- can I just say for a minute? This is one of these moments where like the European side of me goes, oh, come on.

And it's like-- and everybody else and the rest of the world looks at America and goes, really? I mean, like, you would really do this? What do you think about it? And I saw this bit of an interview with whoever it was leading politician, I don't know. And they were like, yes, it's all about protecting kids, and this is why we do this.

And he goes, yeah, but what you're going to do is you'll have less kids because this means that you've criminalized basically people having kids. And it was just the look on his face like, really? Did we do that? And now they're spinning around trying to figure out a way out of it. But, I mean, it's just a brilliant example of just like an ideology just gone bonkers.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Oh, completely. I think that was Senator Tuberville too. Because he was like, we want people to have more kids. And the reporter was like, actually, this means they'll have less. He's like, oh.

MARK BLYTH: Yeah, that's it. Exactly.

CARRIE NORDLUND: OK, you're like, good one there. I mean, it's a weird case when you cite VeggieTales, the cartoon, in your judicial decision. Republicans have walked back from this. Even Trump took a, quote, unquote, "moderate stance" on this.

But I think if we think about the election and the impact on it, it shows how the Republicans have twisted themselves into knots around dismantling Roe v. Wade and how this is still a mobilization issue. And if we think about the voters where Trump is vulnerable-- college-educated, suburban women-- I mean, this is the sort of thing that just could potentially move them to voting for Biden, question mark, staying at home, and maybe just not voting for Trump.

MARK BLYTH: Speaking of Trump, the ex-president owes more than $450 million in civil fraud penalties. That sounds like a lot. But according to The New York Times, the deadline for those penalties might coincide with a major business deal that would rake in maybe $4 billion for Trump?


MARK BLYTH: So here's how it's going to work. Do you remember that laughable thing called Truth Social?


MARK BLYTH: Right. And it's 100% certainty that he's going to basically get the nomination, right?


MARK BLYTH: So what happens when just when he gets the nomination and it's all locked up? He then takes Truth Social public, and people are able to buy shares in it.


MARK BLYTH: Estimate his cash hoarding on it according to this guy that I read? About $4 billion. $500 million? Chump change.


MARK BLYTH: Ah, isn't that-- everyone thinks this guy is dumb as a box of hammers, right?


MARK BLYTH: It's distraction stuff. This is going on in the background. And what are we paying attention to? The sneakers.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah. The gold sneakers, yeah.

MARK BLYTH: And everyone's like, Oh, my god, he's so desperate. Who's going to buy those sneakers? It's so ugly, whatever.


MARK BLYTH: It's like, it doesn't matter. This is all distraction. This is, look over here, I'm about to do this huge media deal and crush it.

CARRIE NORDLUND: You just like-- this is when I just want to rail at the system of it. Takes money to make money, and you just think, the little guy, he's getting crushed at the supermarket. And then there's $4 billion for this social media thing that's just words on an electronic page.

MARK BLYTH: Exactly. Amazing, isn't it? I have no idea if that's true, but it does sound very plausible to me.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Oh, yeah. Yeah.

MARK BLYTH: Puts the sneakers into a different category of stuff, doesn't it?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yes. Yes, it does. So I don't know if you saw Biden eating an ice cream cone when he was in Michigan, but I was so worried the ice cream cone was going to fall as the reporters were like-- and then it missed his mouth, and then he'd be even older. But in any case, at that moment, it didn't. The ice cream cone held everybody. He said that he thought there would be a peace or at least a ceasefire by the weekend.

MARK BLYTH: Yeah. I-- I-- I-- I-- no. Just-- no, I don't see that at all. I mean, we're talking about Israel-Gaza now, right? I mean, the only thing keeping Benjamin Netanyahu in power is a forever war.


MARK BLYTH: Why is it going to stop? And the idea that his major priority are the hostages, well, they've been at it for months now. There's still a hundred hostages there. The hostage families themselves know that this guy is basically selling them down the line. So, yeah, I mean, I don't think that that's the case at all, no.

Unfortunately, the slaughter continues. And if they go basically full-on into the last Southern enclave, where you've got 1.2 million people, and they're meant to evacuate to where? I mean, have you seen the pictures of Northern Gaza? It's just rubble.


MARK BLYTH: Like, where are they going to go, right? So this is just a-- it's still continually awful. And there seems to be no way at all of changing Israeli direction on this. And as we've spoken about before, it's like essentially you've got maybe a kill ratio of the two populations since the October 7th attack of some fourteen hundred Israelis dead to around thirty thousand Palestinians.

If you go into the South, you could probably effectively double this by the end of the war. You might kill every single Hamas person you can find, but you're going to create a legion of new ones.


MARK BLYTH: So I just don't see how this ends well unless the end goal really is the expulsion of the Palestinian population. But then the Egyptians are on the other side building walls to make sure that that doesn't happen. So, I mean, they're just caught between two terrible, terrible forces. And, of course, as far as they're concerned, this is their home. This is where they live. This is where they have their lives and their families. And they don't want to move.

And they're being, let's say, pushed and pulled in every possible direction. As to the direction as to where this goes, I think ceasefire is a great idea, whose time will never come, unfortunately.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Could they do-- OK, so let me start asking you questions. Could they do a ceasefire that is like a long-term ceasefire without saying it's the end of anything? Like, does Netanyahu-- is he still able--

MARK BLYTH: Then Netanyahu goes up for election, and then he's out in his arse.

CARRIE NORDLUND: OK, so there's no different framing that he could use to keep him in power but allow for it to end.

MARK BLYTH: I mean, I suppose you could do that. But you have so many different constituencies in the Israeli parliament. I mean, you have such a low threshold of representation in the parliament. This is why you have all these extreme fringe parties. All of which have been cobbled together in the coalition. Many of whom are direct, sort of like get them out. This is the policy that they'll explicitly focus on.

So it's incredibly hard to imagine that coalition doing anything other than continuing the war. But unfortunately, it seems as if the war has become an end in and of itself.



DAN RICHARDS: You're listening to Trending Globally, from the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University. This week, we're sharing another podcast from the Watson Institute called the Mark and Carrie show. In the next half, they look at some other stories from around the world. They discuss UK politics and how the Labor Party plans to govern should they regain power.

But they start with the war in Ukraine and the global political forces that are shaping its outcome. Here's Carrie.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Let me do a thought experiment with you here for a second, and that's around the role of America and Europe I think in terms of thinking about international relations and soft power and that these two entities, and especially Europe, needs to think about their particular role in this while also protecting their borders with increasingly more Americans. And I'm actually not sure about the European side being much more isolationist.

MARK BLYTH: I mean, if you look at Ukraine as the comparator, I mean, what you're seeing is that European populations are also just-- in many cases, Germany, for example-- just as skeptical as Americans.


MARK BLYTH: And the overwhelming tide of support for Ukraine simply has ebbed and flowed and sort of collapsed in many places. And you see this in terms of now that the Americans are unable to supply the way that they would want to. Most of this has fallen on the Germans. The Germans basically had this decision to send these long-range cruise missiles. They weren't going to do it because they knew that that would hit Russia.

Most recently, Macron, the French president, has said, why don't we just do a tripwire thing? We'll just put our troops there. And like, what are you going to do? You're actually going to like shoot at NATO troops. And, of course, the Germans are like, yes, that's exactly what he would do.


MARK BLYTH: And we have absolutely no capacity to back this up. So they're between their own rock and a hard place-- one that they've sort of done themselves whereby they totally misunderstood the forces at play. What matters is how many bombs, guns, and tanks they can make. And Russia can make almost as much as anybody else in the world.

So that's the problem. The defense stocks and the defense industries of Europe have been sort of like run down to practically nothing. Getting them up and running is going to take five years-- two years just to rebuild the stocks. So they're in no position to do anything. All of which leaves Russia basically sitting in the catbird seat.

So they're waiting to see what happens with the election. They're pretty confident that Trump wants to see a deal rather than a continuation of support-- and they might be right on that-- along with many Republicans. Let's not forget the Carlson interview and all this sort of stuff.

So there's a very strong possibility that Europe here will no longer have strong American support for something that's throwing its weight behind. That was only possible if the Americans threw their weight behind it. Once they take their way out of it, the Europeans are like, oh, oh, we have to deal with this now? Oh, crap. Like, we spent 1.6% of GDP on defense, and most of that goes for wages. So, yeah, they're in no position to do this whatsoever.

I mean, I think the bigger picture thing that you're talking about is, essentially, is there a sort of a new isolationism everywhere? And I think--

CARRIE NORDLUND: Mm, yeah, that's right.

MARK BLYTH: --I think that there is. And I think this is something else that people who are very much sort of the establishment in both Europe and the United States. It's still very much transatlanticist, NATO-focused view of the world. And I remember when Biden came in-- and I think we might have even said this in one of our podcasts-- does this type of ideology, do these types of connections, outlast this guy?

Because what happened was the whole lot got torn up when Trump came in. And then when Trump left office, at that point, the Europeans went, whoo, we don't actually have to look after ourselves. The Americans are back. Woo-hoo, yeah-- but as long as Blinken and Biden are there. What happens if they're not?

CARRIE NORDLUND: The echoes of the policies still remain even if the person in charge is different, and especially while they're waiting to see whether or not Trump comes back. I was reading this thing when you're talking about munitions factories. I was shocked that it takes so long for them to make bullets. I mean, because Amazon delivers me my socks in one day. You just kind of think, oh, all this just happens overnight.


CARRIE NORDLUND: But just the infrastructure of everything that it takes and the length of time, it was surprising to me.

MARK BLYTH: Well, this is where the Republican critique of European defense spending really stings hard, which is, I mean, most of the expenditure is basically wages, salaries, upkeep, and basic maintenance. There's very little actual CapEx, if you want to put it that way-- capital expenditure on buying new equipment, all that sort of stuff-- which is why Germany was going to spend $100 billion. What do you get for it? You get like 60 new tanks and 50 helicopters. I mean, this stuff costs a fortune, right?

And you haven't made it for years. You've allowed your stocks to run down, and your factories to atrophy. And you don't even like this stuff. You don't really want to do it. You're not really into doing this stuff at all.

So the highest in Europe that's spending on defense I think is Poland, with about 3.4%, 3.6%. And they consider themselves to be on the front line against Russia. Ukraine falls there next. They're busy buying hundreds of tanks from the North Korean-- South Koreans, I should say, and really just unilaterally defending themselves because they just don't have any faith that the Germans or the French got anything to back this up


MARK BLYTH: Even the Brits who have historically had a 2% target, I mean, we just have these totally ridiculous show projects. So we have an aircraft carrier. One missile and it's over. Like billions, right? Why do we need this?

Then there was the test of the trident nuclear deterrent last week-- I don't know if you caught this one-- that basically we took our ship out and stuck a missile on it-- thankfully, without a nuclear warhead. It was meant to fly three thousand miles and plop off the coast of Africa. We launched off of Florida, and it landed just outside the submarine outside of Florida.


MARK BLYTH: Yeah, for real. It doesn't even work.

CARRIE NORDLUND: So it didn't--

MARK BLYTH: So half the stuff doesn't work. Like the Bundeswehr, the German army, the kit's broken. Meanwhile, the Russians are like, OK, so we blew through twenty thousand tanks. We'll make twenty thousand more. And we can do this because the sanctions are basically not working.

Despite the fact that you go to every seminar in every university in every campus in the United States, and it's like, the sanctions are working. It's like, no, they're not. Just look at the bilateral trade between Russia and places like Tajikistan, Azerbaijan, and then look at their country's current accounts and then look at what they're doing with places like Germany and England and other places.

So when the Russians need to buy some kit to dart up their missiles, they can't buy it directly from England. No. But somebody in Moldova can. And then it can get shipped through a third party. John Otters, the economic journalist, has been all over this recently. And just looking at the charts, you just see there's like exports out of Kazakhstan going to Russia, just going through the roof. It's like, I wonder what all that is.

CARRIE NORDLUND: So the threat of a World War III, we're going to fight with hatchets or something because none of this--

MARK BLYTH: Well, one side will have tanks, and the rest of us will have like iPhones.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah. Yeah. And then like 50-page white papers to talk about what they're doing is bad.

MARK BLYTH: Yes, exactly.

CARRIE NORDLUND: I mean, that's just fascinating that the stuff is just busted.

MARK BLYTH: Well, when you consider the fact that despite all the sanctions and all the rest of it, the Russian economy is expected to grow between 2% and 2.5% this year, which is pretty much where the US is. And meanwhile, Europe once again is mired in a self-designed recession. Because while all this is going on, of course, they're all freaking out about their budgets again.

And now it's back to like austerity budgets everywhere. It's like, OK, so how are you going to do your green transition and your defense expenditure and balance your budget at the same time? You're not. So which one are you going to do? You're going to do the one that the grandparents like. You're going to balance the budget because it makes you feel safe-- probably not the right choice.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah. Speaking of that, now, OK, I'm not caught up on this, Blyth, so you got to take it slow with me here for a second. What is the status of the election in the UK? Is it being called? Is it not being called?

MARK BLYTH: Well, it's not being called. And it's weird that it's one of those things where you're like with a patient in a hospice. And it's just a question of when rather than if.


MARK BLYTH: OK, for those who need a refresher beyond the hospice comment, how are when an election is called in the UK? It used to be at the discretion of the prime minister of the governing party, then they went to a Fixed-term Parliaments Act. Then they got rid of that. I'm pretty sure they got rid of that. It's been a bit chaotic over the past few years.

But essentially, it's now up to Rishi Sunak when he decides to call it. But there is a convention you don't go beyond five years, so it's coming up soon. And things have just broken down, parliamentary discourse, everything. All these Tory MPs know that they're going to be out of a job. So when the leadership tells them to do something, they're like, to hell with you. I'm not doing that, whatever.

And labor's just sitting on the sidelines just watching them implode and have a 30-point lead. Now, the thing that's worrying about this, it was a really good piece in The Guardian by a couple of political scientists-- Tom O'Grady and a guy whose name escapes me now. And it basically said there's a real danger here that if labor comes in and they don't actually go, OK, now we're in. Things are really bad. We need to do lots of stuff. Let's mobilize resources. Let's build houses. Let's do this, whatever, right?

Then, if the exec come in and just go, oh, well, we can't afford to do anything, thanks very much for voting for us, then they're going to be very much like the SPD and the coalition in Germany just now. So a couple of years ago, they come in. It's the Greens, and they're going to do the Green transitions, the SPD, and they're going to do more on this, whatever.

And then a couple of bad things happened-- namely, basically, Ukraine, et cetera. But that then wakes up the whole defense establishment. We're going to have to do things, blah, blah, blah. And guess what happens? They all start fighting amongst themselves. They can't afford anything. They stop doing anything. And then all their votes collapse.

So labor has this problem whereby they haven't said they're going to do anything. And unless they come in and actually are seen to make a real attempt to do something different, they're going to be out for another 10 years. It's just going to be a total lost opportunity.

CARRIE NORDLUND: But if they come in, will they have the-- will they have some sort of wind at their back to actually move stuff along?

MARK BLYTH: They're going to have an enormous-- it's just this weird form of politics where they're going to have one of the largest electoral majorities in history. And they're going to come in and say, well, there's no money, and we can't do anything. Thanks for voting for us.


MARK BLYTH: It's like, well, what was the majority for then?

CARRIE NORDLUND: And so it's just maintaining the status quo.

MARK BLYTH: The government's like, we don't have any money. And it's like, well, possibly because you're just handing it out to banks. What are you doing? They have these things called basically payment on reserves. Basically, it's interest on reserves. It's just really weird.

The payments out from the treasury, out to these banks, are totaling in the tens of billions of pounds. And the government's like, we don't have any money. Yeah, you're handing it the banks for showing up.

CARRIE NORDLUND: I mean, to me, who's just Joe consumer right now, I'm like, what? That is nuts. And this is why a dozen of eggs cost like $100.


CARRIE NORDLUND: I mean, I know it's probably like tangentially so. But like it has some sort of effect on wages and consumer prices and all that stuff in some way that I don't quite understand.

MARK BLYTH: But it's certainly-- I mean, whether it has a direct inflation effect or not, that's debatable-- but probably not. But, yeah, I mean, it's tied up in this thing. It's like there's this behind the curtain. All these people are playing all these games that make people trust things even less and less.

And then when they find out interest on reserves, basically, banks get paid just for showing up with cash. I don't get paid for showing up with cash. I've got a savings account at a local bank here. I literally get paid like two-- I must be about-- the real rate of return on this must be about 0.2%.


MARK BLYTH: Anyway, what can I tell you?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Here's an advertisement and then a bridge to our lighter fare is that Apple has their credit card. And then if you set up a savings account with them, you get like 3%, which is like gigantic in terms of the savings account.

MARK BLYTH: I have that card, and it's 4 and 1/2%.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Oh, it's 4 and 1/2.

MARK BLYTH: Oh, yeah.

CARRIE NORDLUND: But still. I know there's a boondoggle in there. I just don't know--

MARK BLYTH: No, there isn't. It's just that their cost of capital is so low. They're sitting so much cash they don't need to act like a bank. They don't need to go borrow somebody else's money to lend out to someone else and sit in the middle. They just have cash. So they just-- what do we do this cash? I don't know. Why don't we just run a credit card?

Goldman Sachs were running it for them, and they weren't making any money out of it because it's just so cheap for them to do it. So they've backed out, and somebody else is going to run it now. But, I mean, it's great. I mean, I got 4 and 1/2% for showing up. It's almost like I'm going to the Central Bank.

CARRIE NORDLUND: [LAUGHS] It's like you're the Bank of England. Are you going to use that money to buy the VR headset?

MARK BLYTH: No, I'm not. Absolutely not. Because we already have an Oculus 2, and that got used for about 10 days and has been sitting gathering dust ever since. So the thing about headsets-- I don't know if you've ever had any experience with these things-- is after wearing it for an hour, you're like, get this thing off my face.


MARK BLYTH: It doesn't matter how good the experience is.

CARRIE NORDLUND: No, that's interesting. Because some of the reviews were saying that humans, we don't want to have our peripheral vision cut off. Like the dinosaurs or the mastodons or whatever, we want to be able to see to the sides, and that does that. Plus, it's a pain. It's like a thing, a goggles, on your head, and that's heavy.

MARK BLYTH: I mean, even the Oculus, it doesn't weigh that much. But unless you get a special supporting headdress that has a kind of a counterweight at the back, you literally can't wear it for like an hour. It's crazy. So anyway, I think all that's nonsense. I mean, it's just--

CARRIE NORDLUND: Do you? You don't think it's the future.

MARK BLYTH: Oh, god. No, the whole meta thing and all the rest of it, this is again another example of the billionaire paradox that was spoken about before. What's the billionaire paradox? They have so much money they never know when they've failed. Because you can bond through $2 billion, and you've got 20 left. And Zuckerberg, this guy, he'll never fail because there's never an end to how much money you can chuck at a project. So it's always just a question of time, et cetera, et cetera.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Well, actually, a couple of my friends, one of my friends said that they almost cried when they tried on the Apple headset because it was just so-- and it wasn't that they were in a different world, just the ability of them being able to see. And I've not tried them on, so this is just totally anecdotal. But I was kind of surprised that my friend was as emotional as he was. But you're just shrugging.

MARK BLYTH: Maybe there's an immersive experience there that I haven't experienced yet. But it's not-- I'm too old.

CARRIE NORDLUND: You're a well-meaning elderly man with a poor memory.

MARK BLYTH: That's exactly right. That is true. I am Joe Biden. Wow.

CARRIE NORDLUND: [LAUGHS] Yes. Well, on that note--

MARK BLYTH: I think we've come to our time.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Great to see you.

MARK BLYTH: You too.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Thank you for listening.

MARK BLYTH: Bye, folks.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Talk to you soon. Bye.


DAN RICHARDS: This episode was produced by me, Dan Richards, and Zach Hirsch. It was engineered by Eric Emma. If you like Trending Globally, please leave us a rating and review on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen. And if you haven't subscribed to the show, please do that too.

If you have any ideas for guests or topics for the show, send us an email at trendingglobally@brown.edu. Again, that's all one word, trendingglobally@brown.edu. We'll be back in two weeks with another episode of Trending Globally. Thanks for listening.

About the Podcast

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Trending Globally: Politics and Policy
The Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

About your host

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Dan Richards

Host and Senior Producer, Trending Globally