Mark Blyth, political economist at Brown University's Watson Institute, and Carrie Nordlund, political scientist and Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Programs at Brown University, share their take on the news.
On this episode:
[MUSIC PLAYING] CARRIE: Hello, and welcome to another edition of Mark and Carrie. Blyth, great to see you. How are you?
MARK: I'm doing fine. And we are recording on an auspicious day. I believe that the bird has been freed.
CARRIE: Yeah, that's true. Let that sink in, as the new owner of Twitter carried a sink into his new office, which, I got the pun, but I didn't quite get it. Because it's a super funny pun, and I just didn't know.
MARK: Well, what did you think the pun was?
CARRIE: I took it literally. Let that sink in, and then I'm carrying a sink
MARK: Sink in, oh, I see. I think you'd be far too clever. I thought it was the, I'm throwing the whole kitchen sink in, which essentially means I've come here to bust up the company.
CARRIE: Oh, I see. Oh, OK. And then I was thinking--
MARK: Who knows?
CARRIE: The sink, the swamp, and he's going to clean it up. I didn't know, yeah.
MARK: It was just metaphor overload by that bloke.
CARRIE: Exactly. What-- I mean, of course, there's all sorts of talk about people leaving Twitter, not posting as much, all of them are part of this.
MARK: Yeah, it's all nonsense, it's complete nonsense. It's a platform, you're just going to go there, you're going to stay there. You're honestly telling me that any academic, for example, that's got a decent Twitter following is like, that's it, I'm done. This wonderful tool for self promotion, which has made me a really influential voice, only because I've got loads of Twitter followers, I'm just going to give that up? Nah, no chance.
CARRIE: I'm giving up my blue checkmark, yeah, to go somewhere else?
CARRIE: Here's my deep question for you on this is, is Elon trying to mimic the classic Russian oligarch model of buying up media, or is he doing this ironically? Like what-- I mean, Twitter is just a gigantic headache. I can't imagine that this would be fun. I mean, he fired the top people. I mean, what's your motive, what's the-- I understand the motivation, if it's as superficial as I think it is, and that's just buying a media company. Or does he have some sort of mastermind strategy behind this purchase?
MARK: I mean, if he does, it's completely opaque to me and most other people. I mean, it seems to me there's sort of-- the problem with being a multi super billionaire is you never have enough money to fail, right? And what I mean by this is it's like Jared Kushner buys a magazine, magazine blows up, everyone gets fired. He's still a multi-billionaire, right? There's no register that you've screwed up, right? So this one, if I remember the story right, is essentially, I have opinions on Twitter, I'm on Twitter. I have opinions about Twitter. I kind of talk myself into just throwing out a tweet that says, I might just buy this thing. And then, everyone sort of like drunkenly eggs you on and goes, yeah, go on then. Go on and buy it. He's like, I will buy it, you just watch. So then he does his thing, and then he tries to back out of it because he's obviously sobered up. And then, it's like, no, it looks like this court in Delaware was gonna actually make you buy it. So now, he owns it and that's it. And he may follow the standard billionaire playbook of just going, I'm going to change everything. And he's going to go walk in, and make it completely unstable, and all your staff's going to leave. And then, it's going to implode, and he's going to go, well, obviously it was a shit company anyway.
MARK: We'll see how it goes.
CARRIE: There's no doubt in my mind that former President Trump will be back on it very quickly here. Is there-- do you have-- is that your thought as well?
MARK: Well, I don't know. I mean, he might not do anything. He might just, you know, look at what I've got. I've got a shiny, new toy. So you're going to let Trump back on? Maybe, maybe not. We'll have to wait and see. Maybe Trump's going to have to be nice to me first for a change. I do-- I have to do how many favors, et cetera, et cetera. So yeah, we'll see how it plays out. I mean, this is what you-- when you have an oligarch-driven economy, this is what happens.
CARRIE: Yeah. But that's a much better strategy, to keep everyone guessing, right? Because then, it's the cliffhanger, is he or isn't he, meaning he, being Trump going to be back? And that's a much better strategy than letting him back on right away. And then, the big excitement's over, and the question's been answered.
MARK: Yeah, it's funny though. I mean, I was thinking about this from the point of view of myself, as a sort of like Twitter user with a reasonable number of followers, right? What actually changes for me? Not much. What changes for the vast majority of users? And I'd actually completely forgotten about the whole Trump Twitter thing. I mean, I literally had completely forgotten about that until you mentioned it. I'm like, oh, yeah, that's a thing. I forgot about that, that's a thing. It'll be interesting to see. He's taken a risk as well, right? Because he's super powerful, because in a sense, he's like the Phantom Menace. He's like floating around in the background, pulling the strings, and maybe he has, maybe he's not, right? But if he actually gets back on Twitter, and it turns out he's only got 10 million followers and no one gives a shit, ohh! That's a high risk one, right?
CARRIE: Yeah, that's such a good point. And even more reason to do then when is he going to be let back on, when is he not? And keep-- keep the lamestream media jumping on that.
MARK: And does he need it, right? I mean, you know, Trump's whole thing is we'll wait and see what happens at the midterms. And then, if I'm still the kingmaker, I can come and do this, or not. So that's how it's going to play out, why complicate it? Why complicate it with leaving a vote on you via Twitter before you're in a position whereby you're unassailable?
CARRIE: Yeah, that's such a good point.
MARK: Maybe he doesn't care. We'll wait and see.
CARRIE: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Someone who probably doesn't have very many Twitter followers is Liz Truss, 44 days.
MARK: Oh, bless. Yes. Was it 44 days?
CARRIE: I think so, yeah. 40-something.
MARK: Because this gets really weird then, because the new prime minister, Rishi Sunak, has appointed as chief whip this guy, I forgot his name. It's on my Twitter feed. And he's the double of this very famous soccer manager called Brian Clough who famously lasted 44 days in his position at Leeds United FC. So there's a weird sort of like rule of 44 going around this whole thing already.
CARRIE: Clearly, there's-- the aliens are starting to control us now.
CARRIE: Did you--
MARK: Yeah, the lettuce and all that sort of stuff, it was mental. That was totally crazy. I mean, for me, the serious point is I spent a chunk of my career studying the effects of economic ideas as things in the world, right? Rather than as ways to understand the world. There's weapons you deploy to win and stuff like this. And there's that brilliant moment, it's almost like the Wiley Coyote moment, whereby all the real libertarians, and gold bugs, and just weirdos in the Conservative Party finally get to run it because everyone else has already returned. And their idea of sort of like economics is well, we know what works, right? It's just tax cuts, that's what you do. You just do massive tax cuts. And we deregulate everything. And that's pretty much it, right? So we don't need to talk about it. We don't need to consult anyone. We don't need to foreground a strategy. We'll just do it because the markets will recognize this as being such a great idea. And it's super interesting because the prevailing sort of way to think about this, quite reasonably, is that when lefties come to power, bond markets don't like it because they think there's going to be more spending. And not more spending is either going to be a bigger deficit, which could be inflationary, depending on how it plays out through imports and all that sort of stuff. Or it could just be destabilizing for the value of the assets that they have. So that's potentially why the left pays a tariff. So if you think about Francois Mitterrand in Nineteen Eighty-One, big socialist comes into power, nationalizes the financial sector, or puts up capital controls and the world markets are just like, no! Right? And he eventually box off. This is the first time we've seen a right-wing government, a libertarian right-wing government being punished by the markets. And that's actually super interesting.
CARRIE: I also saw it as-- I think that her greatest sin was doing what she said that she would and what she was voted in to do. And we talked about this last time, that it was actually scarier that they actually believed in what they were doing. And that she was punished for it as quickly as she was. And I guess, I saw that somewhere out there in the world. And I thought that was kind of an interesting point that the party selected her to do what she did, and then they didn't like it, or they decided that she's worse.
MARK: Yeah. I mean, in a sense, they must have known what was coming. And then, to start saying, well, this isn't in our mandate, and it wasn't in the election manifesto. It was all kind of Monday morning excuse quarterbacking. You're completely right. You knew what she was going to do, and she went ahead and did it. So it's fascinating that basically the markets, quote unquote, "bond markets went, no you're not going to do this." But then also, it was so effectively disowned by the conservatives. I mean, if these people can't turn around and say, no, no more money for us, screw you. Eventually, it will work out. Tells you things have changed about them.
CARRIE: Is there going to be much difference with the new prime minister? I mean, it didn't sound like he was the tone, or the policies were going to be vastly different other than he seemed like more stability.
MARK: Yeah, I mean, it's less massive, unfunded tax cuts and more traditional Tory austerity. So it's not as if it's good as an outcome, but it's not like insane as an outcome. You can-- again, you know why they're going to do it. Because they have an accountant's view of the world. And the problem with this is state sovereigns are not households, and the accountancy thing doesn't work. And if you cut investment while the private sector are shrinking, then your net rate of growth, what you're trying to get up, has to fall, right? You're basically making an unforced error. So yeah, they will continue to make unforced errors because that's what the membership wants them to do. So yeah, we'll see where it goes. I mean, it's two years of like just not very nice for the UK, leading to an election. And we'll see where we are at that point.
CARRIE: Why would you think there'll be another-- that Sunak will be there the entire time, or is it going to be more turmoil?
MARK: Well, I mean, I posted, speaking of Twitter, I posted a sort of a series of questions sort of game, theoretically, on Twitter, which was, so what's the best play for the Tories, right? If they go for an election, no, they'll get totally wiped out. They'll lose 80% of the seats. So they have an incentive to hold on, but there's no guarantee in two years time things will be any better. So what do you do? And then, from the Labor Party, the point of view is if you get an election, no, then you essentially are going to come back and spend three years clearing up their mess. Everyone will begin to hate you, and then the Tories will come back and say, oh, things are so much better with us, why don't we do it again? So there's a chance that you just play the handmaiden rather than anything else. And then, I posted this, and a lot of people quite rightly got onto me and said, well, it's fine for you sitting in your academic ivory tower position saying this sort of stuff. Because people are really hurting, and they need the Tories to be thrown out. Because we are right now a boat of austerity on top of inflation, and rising interest rates is literally going to punish millions of people. And absolutely, mea culpa, I owned it for the insensitivity on that. It really was kind of-- it was thick of me not to think of that as being far more important than the strategic choices of the parties. But nonetheless, those choices are there. But the Tories are totally screwed, either way.
CARRIE: Yeah, but it is hard to imagine, as an American thinking about people's energy bills in Europe being 500% more than it was, and meanwhile, my little electricity bill is like $10 or something. And it's just-- so it's like that vast-- I mean, both literal and figurative ocean between what people's energy bills are, I mean, I think that we, in so many different ways, Americans live such comfortable lives. And we just don't quite understand what-- there are real-world consequences to so many things happening around the world.
MARK: Oh my God, absolutely.
CARRIE: Yeah, in a very different way of doing politics, this might be a bumpy transition, China, last week on Sunday, President Xi extended his term. So if we remember, in Twenty Eighteen, he eliminated the two year, or the two five-year term limits that were on the presidency in China. And so, now he's up for another third five-year term as-- and also got rid of any dissent within the cabinet level role as well. So he's 69 years old, will have another five-year term. So that happened on Sunday, and I just thought it was interesting to look at the timeline of events, was that a couple or week, maybe week and 1/2 before Biden, the Biden administration had announced these new regulations around no more microchips, no more American stuff to try to halt the progress of Chinese military stuff. Then Xi does this, and then another set of regulations, I think, came out either-- very close to that timing, or early this week, around Americans working in these companies that they'd have to get special license. So I mean, clearly, the Cold-- maybe Warm War is on.
MARK: Oh, no, I think that's exactly right. I mean, I think you've summarized that brilliantly. You've got a country that became rich by turning out to the world and becoming a kind of hub for globalization, which is slowly turning inwards. The two main Chinese stock market indices fell, I think, if I get this right, 15% and 30% last week. And there wasn't a single word in the official Chinese media about it. Could you imagine if the Dow fell by 15% and the S&P went down by 30% and no paper mentioned it?
CARRIE: Yeah, yeah.
Right? So it tells you that the priorities are political rather than economic. And what are those priorities? Well, one way to think about it is that he's kind of stress testing the economy for a wartime shutdown. Because what he really wants to do is to be able to withstand the shock of going for Taiwan and everything that's going to happen afterwards. And his supply chains are home, his supply chains are basically his because we moved them there. All of ours are still exposed. There's a question as if there is a showdown over Taiwan and global supply chains fall completely apart, who gets hurt by that? Well, it would be the other globalizers. So it would be also-- it would be the EU and everybody that's still doing business. So yeah, I think like that game fundamentally has changed. The question becomes, what are the lessons that they're learning from Ukraine and elsewhere about whether the game is worth the candle? But it seems that he's boxed himself into a corner to such an extent that he has to try and do this at some point. So that's kind of nailed on, which is extremely unfortunate and extremely disruptive. But the chip fabrication stuff that Biden did last week, if you work in an a fab lab for a Chinese company or with a Chinese entity and you're and American, and you need to get a license, and we're actually not going to hand these licenses out. There was a bloke-- there was a guy, who's inside the industry, tweeted about this, basically saying, he's literally watching people walk off the job going, bye, we're done now. So this one regulation has had more impact on actually sanctioning China and trying to restrain its high end development than all of the Trump sanctions combined.
CARRIE: Well, that's super interesting that-- right, the human-- that restricting the human part of things has had such a huge, would and has had such a huge impact on things. Yeah, and especially, the parties in Taiwan too-- I mean, you just can't-- your point about America being exposed on the market front, I mean, right, China can probably withstand stuff but can the US? That's I mean, yeah.
MARK: The reason we were able to tolerate such levels of inequality was because we were importing deflation from China in the form of goods that we sold in Walmart to people we haven't given a pay rise in 30 years. So inflation has already given them a negative real wage shock. And there's no organized labor to push back against us, so the only way is down. If you blow up those supply chains, literally, what happens to that way of being? It did a hell of a kick.
CARRIE: Yeah, which we're all, we, Americans, are completely addicted to, yeah.
MARK: Absolutely, absolutely. The vulnerability very much lies on our side. So we'll see how it goes. It's like somebody said the other-- a couple of weeks ago, the whole discussion of whether Putin is going to use a battlefield-level nuclear weapon, etc. It's irrelevant as a military tactic, but would you buy a 30-year Polish bond if you know that somebody has let off and nuke next door? Right? What are the financial consequences for this? It's absolutely enormous, we're not pricing those things in either-- anyway, let's go back to the good old USA. And let me pick your brain about some fabulous stuff that's been going on, right? So basically, we have men who should be recovering from strokes debating fake doctors. Let's come down to this, right?
MARK: And what else have we got? We've got a guy who basically eulogized, in a very odd way, his redneck family. And there's no sort of like running as the most right-wing guy you can possibly imagine. Why don't you try-- why don't you try and walk us through this, Carrie? Give us the three races in terms of mentalness, and then we'll discuss.
CARRIE: Well, and the word that you use is such-- is so fabulous. So approximately two weeks, 16 days-- no, I did my math wrong. 17 days until the midterm-- no, I think I did it wrong again. Anyway, it's close the midterm--
MARK: It's coming up. It's in November, we know that, right.
CARRIE: It's in, yeah it's, in the month after October. Yeah, man, if you watch that Fetterman debate, that was tough to watch. A man who clearly is still having some speech delays against a totally slick, made-for-TV, fake doctor.
CARRIE: It was-- that was hard to watch. But in any case-- but John Fetterman, the next day, raised like $1,000,000. So I mean, people were having a lot of empathy towards him. I don't know in terms of top three races, how to-- I think maybe top three in terms of-- seems to be the ones that are getting the most press, Pennsylvania for sure. Ohio, probably a little less, only because it looks like JD Vance is probably going to win that in a walkaway. And Ohio is so red now, it's no longer a purple state. Nevada, I think, is one to watch. The sitting, only Latina Senator is in a pretty dicey race. And the one that I would put on there, the third one, is kind of the wild card, is the Utah Senate race. And this is against Evan McMullin, who's running as an independent and has said very clearly he will not caucus with either the Republicans or the Democrats, running against a long-term Senator from Utah, Mike Lee. And McMullin is running pretty neck and neck with Mike Lee, so that one could be a toss up. And depending on how things go in Pennsylvania, Nevada, and the third one, which I'm blanking on right now, this could be-- I mean, it could be either the Democrats by plus 1 or tied, which would be plus 1 because of the vise president. Or the Democrats lose it by minus 1. So it's just going to be a real nail-biter, and I don't know. Georgia with Herschel Walker and Reverend Warnock, that's probably going to go to a runoff in December. So I guess, what Mark, you and I can talk about this into November, yeah.
MARK: Yoo-hoo! It never ends, absolutely. So we're back to basically governing by the thinnest margins. Let's suppose the Democratic hopes of everyone being totally shocked by abortion politics has now faded. Because as a nation, we have the attention span of a goldfish. But also, the fact that what our real voter concerns just now. I mean, particularly, if you're working class, things cost too much, right? And we don't seem to be able to effectively address this. Now, whether Republicans can or not is a different thing, but nonetheless, that's given them leverage. I mean, why are the Democrats like so bad at being able to get a message out and make it work?
CARRIE: I feel like this is the perennial Democratic-- big Democratic question is there's no-- I mean, what are you running on, you're running on like the economy? So there's no gas and grocery platform to really run on because things, like you said, are super expensive. There's no-- in the pro lens of a lot of political people there's no closing argument for Democrats to make, like vote for us because we suck less than the Republicans is essentially it. So it's not a super strong argument like we're slightly less crazy, maybe we're still slightly different-- a different kind of crazy than the right. And I'm not-- yeah, that's why it's just such a muddled message. I will say one bright spot, and this is just speaking purely as a political scientist, is that early voting in states like Georgia, Florida, North Carolina are up. And they're up as compared to the last midterm of Twenty Eighteen. So even in a state like Georgia, it's actually getting close to early voting numbers for Twenty Twenty, which-- so just the idea that early voting has increased is great. Of course, the youth of America are voting not at all so that's not a surprise. But if we take these kind of early signals, I mean, it's possible it's just a wave election in-- wave for Republicans. And so, in this regard, you have a pulse and you're getting a Dr. Oz, you're going to get elected. Because it's just the wave will push everybody in.
MARK: Right, so I don't know if you've seen this yet, that Nancy Pelosi's husband was attacked at home.
CARRIE: I did see that, yeah.
MARK: And I'm just looking at the BBC headline. It basically says, "Pelosi attacker shouted, Where is Nancy?"
MARK: Yeah, so we do have this issue that we need to basically confront, eventually, which is the level of violence in politics. Particularly, coming from the right against the Democrats is becoming really quite serious.
CARRIE: And on one hand, if you-- you see the world in a particular way, and then what you're seeing in terms of results and outcomes don't match that reality. So everybody around me voted for Trump in Twenty Twenty. All the yard signs, all of the stuff, if he doesn't win, how is that even possible? But then, to take it to the threats and the violence is-- I mean, I think that's such a uniquely American thing. I mean, we're just such an angry, angry group of people.
MARK: But you weren't always. Wasn't like this in the '60s? It wasn't like this in the '70s. It was over-contentious issues like civil rights and also over the Vietnam War but day-to-day violence against people simply for being politicians.
CARRIE: Yeah, it's the casual like--
MARK: I mean, that's--
MARK: Yeah, and in the level of vituperation, yes, everyone always had the racist uncle who was like, hang them all. They're all just commies, right? But was like the joke that was played up in Hanna-Barbera cartoons in the '70s. Like Wait Till Your Father Gets Home, they weren't serious people. But now, these are mainstream beliefs and mainstream behaviors. Is that really where democracy gets in trouble, do you think, rather than at the level of the Supreme Court?
CARRIE: I do because-- I mean, I think you're right. It's so easy now that I can call you, and leave a voicemail, and threaten to hurt you and your family. And there's no penalty for that. And so, in a lot of ways-- and I don't think we have talked about this. This is-- I've been paying attention, close attention to the Alex Jones trial. Only the crazy-- you know who said that all the same--
MARK: The crisis actors narrative, yeah.
CARRIE: Exactly, exactly, thank you. And I paid attention to it mostly because there are so few times that you actually see someone punished for bad stuff. But I'm saying stuff that isn't right, saying-- telling lies. And so, in hopes that maybe if we saw some sort of consequence, we would stop this sort of like, I'm going to threaten you and all your loved ones on Twitter, or sending you a voicemail. So it's-- I don't know what would be the end of this is, but it's scary, especially for people who are now saying, I'm going to sleep out next to the ballot box. People drop them off, and you're like, really? That's how you're going to spend your time? Just threatening people as they drop off their mail-in ballot? Yeah.
MARK: Yeah, exactly. It's not looking great. You know what else isn't looking great?
CARRIE: What's that?
MARK: Well, there's two things going on in November, and they're both in the Middle East. So one of them is the next UN Climate Summit, part of the court process, which is in Egypt, right? Which is kind of like what the whole world's going to look like if we don't get our act together soon, right? But really, the other brilliant thing that's happened at the same time is in Qatar, which is, of course, the World Cup. So we spent-- one of the things that's getting stolen all around the world, believe it or not, is sand. We're running out of sand, right? So people just show up at night and steal beaches and all that sort of stuff because it all wasn't a construction materials. So we've built-- basically, this entire infrastructure for hosting a World Cup in the middle of the desert, amongst a bunch of people that never play football, just for purely corrupt financial reasons. Thanks, FIFA. And that's going on, which is like this environmental disaster. If you think about how much carbon is produced in the production of concrete or whatever, that's there. And then, literally, just a couple of clicks along, in Egypt, everyone's getting together again to talk about how we really need to stop doing this. It's like the theater of the absurd at this point in time.
CARRIE: Aren't the matches also played at night because it's still too hot to play during the day?
MARK: Yeah, and even though it's November, absolutely. And what-- my favorite one, I don't know if they're still plotting to do this, right? But all the stadium they built were meant to be basically modular constructions. So you can put them on barges and then float them around the world and give them away to other countries. You know that's never going to happen in a billion years, yeah.
CARRIE: I still think about the point that you made, this is several episodes ago, that I turn off the faucet when I brush my teeth, and all that good individual behavior. But really, if businesses shut their lights off for 10 seconds, that's like 30% of emissions. I mean, I just think about that in relation to the Climate Summit, and that people sign all this stuff, and we're so excited. And yet, even the Paris stuff, you're like, OK, I can sense something.
MARK: Oh, yeah. We've blown through all that. That came out this week. I mean, basically, the latest estimates are-- the good news is we want five degrees, which is the end of life on Earth. But we might get to 3 and 1/2. There's no conceivable pathway to 1 and 1/2% anymore. We've just blown right through it.
CARRIE: Do you-- I've been watching the climate activists gluing their hands to like Vincent van Gogh's Sunflowers. And I don't quite understand the connection between climate change and then throwing red tomatoes at art, did you?
MARK: I'm not sure I got them either. I mean, I think that the intuition behind it, if you want to put it that way, is that by violating these supposedly sort of public spaces/secret objects, we bring people a shock. And the bigger shock is the way that you're living your lives, you morons. Then--
CARRIE: Oh, I see. OK.
MARK: But, you know-- but if it requires that much interpretation, I'm not sure that the message is getting through.
CARRIE: That's a good point, yeah.
MARK: That would be my point on it.
CARRIE: That's a great point.
MARK: So at the same time that we have in the Middle East in November an extremely pointless summit and an extremely pointless World Cup that shouldn't be happening, we'll still be fighting in Ukraine. And it was so interesting, like you tell me this because you got a feel for the sort of inside of Democratic politics, right? The progressive caucus writes this letter that essentially says, you really need to think about negotiations. And then, they all got cold feet and disowned it instantly, right? But what's actually wrong with what they said, and here's why I'm saying this, not because of the bravery of the Ukraine people standing up against aggression. Yes, we go a lot that, right? But wars end in one of two ways. Very, very, very occasionally, unconditional surrender and domination. You know that that's not going to happen with Russia. So then your only other out is a negotiated settlement. Otherwise, it's a permanent meat grinder. And what people are beginning to see, because it's bloody obvious, is Ukraine is being increasingly heavily armed, it's quite factionalized, right? Increasingly heavily armed. Every time that the Russians pull a new trick, we give them new defenses. You're upping and upping the amount of kit that you're actually given all the time to what is essentially a very broken and now extremely damaged and unstable country. And at some point, you're just going to allow this to continue, and what's the endgame? Now, the Democrats, in a sense, they said, oh, we wrote that months ago, and we didn't know, but, but-- what's changed, right? I mean, isn't that still the case? Either you're going to eliminate Russia, never going to happen, or there's going to be some kind of negotiated settlement. Why is it so hard to see that almost a year into this war?
CARRIE: I did not-- so I read a little bit about this. And then, I got fed up and frustrated, and I threw away the newspaper. I just did not quite understand why the progressives didn't just stand by the letter. I mean, like, OK, then great. And they didn't have a backbone.
MARK: I mean, the weird thing about it is it's usual, right? I mean, we can put this down to like Trump sort of love of other dictators, or whatever, right? But the beginning to wake up in the media now to something that we've spoken about before, which is the minute the GOP comes back, you could even get sold down the river, right? So you can either try and negotiate from a position of strength at your best moment, now or in the spring. If you hang around until '24, Trump's going to sell you down the river, it's all over. So we need to start thinking about how to close this out.
CARRIE: I didn't know if-- to the political side of things if they somehow didn't-- like they somehow got a very quick dressing down by the White House. But I don't know why that would necessarily scare them to then say that they disavowed the letter. I mean, it really puts the head of the progressive, Pramila Jayapal from Washington, out to try, I thought. So I just thought, wow what a bad organization people. Like at least get to make sure everyone's on board.
MARK: But the bit that got me was like, OK, so they said, oh, we wrote this back in March. And now, the situation has changed so we disavowed, right? OK, my question is this, how is the situation changed that what you said in March is now ridiculous? Is it because Ukraine's literally going to win a war against Russia, what does that actually mean? What does that look like? Are you to drive your tanks to Moscow and depose the guy, right? That's never going to happen. So what has actually changed that would mean that what you're saying is gone? I just-- that really worries me because it tells me that there is really no clarity on what American objectives are, other than to keep throwing weapons into an incredibly destructive war.
CARRIE: But I think that's probably what it is, too. I mean, that-- I mean, what is the-- has the president actually spoken about Ukraine other than to say platitudinous things? I don't think he has. At least, in the-- maybe I've missed something over the last few months. I mean, other than like rah, rah, go Ukraine, there hasn't been any clear policy of what America-- what the US is going to be.
MARK: Is it a restoration of the borders that happened before February last year? Is it to take back Crimea, right? Is that the objective? When do you draw the line and say, we're done? None of that is clear.
CARRIE: But even, I don't-- and I caught just a tiny bit of this. So I probably shouldn't even bring it up, but in Czechoslovakia, there was the big protest over in the last week around the borders. And essentially, them saying, we want-- we're not necessarily-- we're not really aligned with Russia, we're not really aligned with the West. We want to kind of be neutral in this and turn the pipes back on Russia, etc. And even that, I sort of think is like is-- I mean, the EU really isn't aligned, and all together, on a particular Russia-Ukraine strategy.
MARK: No, absolutely. I mean, the Germans have been typically horrible about this one, promising weapons deliveries and then like managing, oh, we've lost the key, or whatever it happens to be, right? Just to hold it up. I mean, the Ukrainians are in a horrible position. And I'm totally buying the line that Sanna Marin, the Finnish President, put it great. Which essentially, if Kyiv stops fighting, they don't exist anymore. If Russia stops fighting, the war ends. So they need to stop, right? But that's only going to happen if there's some kind of engagement. And that's clearly our job because we're the ones that are pouring the weapons in, right? I don't know, it seems that way to me.
CARRIE: And maybe Biden is like saving this like after the midterms. Though I don't-- I doubt that's probably the case.
MARK: Well, let's see where we are off to the midterms and take stock. Let's do a couple of super fun things, or at least-- or disturbing in a lighthearted way.
CARRIE: Thank you, [? Mark. ?] Thank you.
MARK: Kanye, can he? What? What's going on? What-- who-- can you explain any of that to me, please?
CARRIE: I mean, we started with Elon and we're ending with Ye, by the way.
MARK: Ye? Ye.
CARRIE: He essentially changed his name to Ye.
MARK: That's right, yeah, exactly. Which is-- you only get to be called Ye if you've now retired and become a member of medieval knights.
Right, ye'll. I-- the thing is, and I kind of-- I'm kind of on board with this, what I'm about to say is that-- so you know, Adidas has ended the deal with him, the Gap, like all the corporate interests. And the thing is that a voice like that, who has still a lot of power and a lot of money, becomes more dangerous the more marginalized he becomes and more powerful as well. And he now gets a-- he now gets his own Fox TV evening show to like spout whatever he wants to say. So in a lot of ways--
MARK: I think he might be a little bit more too erotic even for Fox because he's simply not going to stick to the script.
CARRIE: But you never know, Fox might be desperate. So I mean, we're not even desperate to see dollar signs. But I do think cutting people-- cutting him off from, not necessarily the corporate side of stuff but on Twitter as well, because I think was kicked off Twitter.
MARK: Yeah, and everything I think, yeah. But, you know, when you're a media a media star to be removed from every media platform is slightly problematic, definitely.
CARRIE: I mean, but the other thing, too, that I feel bad for is that, I mean, he clearly has some-- like some personality stuff, mental health stuff. I mean, like I think that's the most generic term I can use. And that he isn't getting the help or whatever he needs. And that this is playing out in the public, makes me just feel kind of bad for him. Though not really all that bad because he's really using his power in pretty negative ways.
MARK: Yeah, it's just I just find it-- it's amazing. It's another one like, you know the wheels come tumbling off, and it's also my estimate of like his net wealth because of this has gone from like a billion and a half to like a mere 500 million. I'm like, oh, the poor lad. He's still got another $500 million to burn through so we'll see how it goes. Speaking of people on the make, did you catch the title of Prince Harry's book?
CARRIE: I did catch it, Spare.
MARK: That's brilliant. You know where that comes from, don't you?
CARRIE: Well, I think it comes from The Heir and the Spare, but I just--
MARK: Yeah, that's it. The Heir and the Spare, exactly. Yeah, exactly. But just-- I love the cover, it's like this steely-eyed killer or stare. And I just said spare.
So I think we said this, we discussed this like two years ago though, like when he first moved over here. That the end game on this is pretty straightforward. He's going to write this book about growing up in Windsor but having red hair and not looking like any of them. And, you know, honestly, how is that actually possible? And he's just going to blow them all up. He's going to take aim at his dad, everyone. It's just going to be a boom, right? And that'll be 50 million My Way plays. I mean, if the Obamas can get like 50 big, fat ones for whatever drivel they were writing afterwards, then I'm sure that Harry can get it for some salacious gossip from the inside. So I'm actually-- I'm quite looking forward to this. I might even try and read it.
CARRIE: Really? I mean--
MARK: Yeah, I never read these books. But this one could be interesting.
CARRIE: Same. I'm so curious what the tell-all part of this is going to be. And especially given-- yeah, I mean, that his dad's now King. And I guess, also, he hasn't-- he and Meghan have not been invited to the coronation, which adds even more fuel to the fire.
MARK: Yeah, exactly. Did you catch the-- sorry, just to wind it back a little bit. Did you catch King Charles's weekly audience of the prime minister, and it was like video that was Liz Truss? And she came in, and she's like King Charles, it's wonderful to see you again. And he's on mic, and he forgets his phone mic, he goes, oh, you again? So soon. Oh, well.
CARRIE: Oh that, I wasn't-- I saw it for a second and then thought that it was fake. So I wasn't quite sure.
MARK: No, it was-- that was actually-- that was classic House of Windsor diplomacy. Oh, you again bloody [? hell. ?]
CARRIE: Wait, on this track, wait just a second. I don't know if you follow Number 10, Larry the cat. No, Larry the Cat @ Number 10 on Twitter. But this is the cat that lives in Number 10 Downing Street. And it's really funny because he actually is quite-- or he or she, whoever runs the account, has actually very insightful insight-- expert insight into British politics. But Larry the Cat-- also, there's like a little podium that the cat sat on and announced that he was still going to be the cat at Number 10, so anyway.
MARK: Fantastic. Well, when the whole country is run by a cat, is it any better than a lettuce? That's the question.
CARRIE: Yes, that is the question.
MARK: We will leave-- we're going to leave our listeners with the following question, is it better to be run by a decaying lettuce or a cat that doesn't know when to quit? That's the question.
CARRIE: That is the question. A question for you, do you celebrate Halloween, do you have a lot trick-or-treaters, do you have a costume?
MARK: I don't have a costume. I celebrate it by walking around the neighborhood with a gang of other adults who are all going, when are our children going to grow old of this shit? And it's on a Monday this year, so it's going to be crap. It will probably be raining. And I did have a wicked, wicked, wicked one. I was going to do it and my wife's like, no! Is recently, I had a conference with a whole bunch of my graduate students. And one of them brought me this gift, which is just brilliantly weird. You know those Anthon Berg chocolates that are filled with booze?
CARRIE: Oh, yeah.
MARK: They're on bottles, right? So it was the biggest Anthon Berg box I've ever seen, it was a kilogram of these chocolates. So there was-- I think there was 12 bottles each of each different types of liquor. So I stripped it all out and got rid of the box and put it all in a plastic bag. And I was like, I'm going to put this in the middle of Halloween. She's like, you are not handing out booze chocolates at Halloween!
I was like, well, how else am I going to get rid of them? She's like, they're filled with alcohol! I'm like, it's not real alcohol, it's sweetened beyond belief. But apparently, you can't do that without getting into trouble.
CARRIE: Probably with minors, yeah. So you're going as grumpy dad, good.
MARK: Yeah, I'll be going to sort of grumpy dad sort of, yeah. That's pretty much a-- pretty much grumpy dad.
CARRIE: OK, I was thinking of doing like a classic lawsuit, like dress up in a suit with laws into my-- so we'll see what happens.
MARK: Back in the day, when I was younger, Jules and I once went to a party as the Marshall Plan.
CARRIE: Oh, you did?
MARK: Yeah. So basically, she dressed up in a dirndl and like was this German as you could possibly be. And I dressed up as a composite allied soldier, and I just followed her around throwing money at her.
CARRIE: Oh, that's pretty good.
MARK: Which, of course, everyone was like, so she's a prostitute? And I'm like, no it's the Marshall Plan. Think about it, people.
CARRIE: Elevate yourself here.
MARK: Elevate yourselves for God's sake.
CARRIE: Well, happy Halloween. We'll have so many more fabulous things to talk about after--
MARK: I'm sure we will, exactly. We'll have all that to look forward to. But actually, we should do it after the midterms and probably after Thanksgiving. And then, we can talk about which turkey got the worst of it.
CARRIE: Yes. Oh, I like that, yes.
MARK: All right, till soon, love
CARRIE: OK, thank you for listening. Talk to you later.