ACB confirmation and the 2020 Election with Ilya Shapiro director of the Robert A. Levy Center for Constitutional Studies at the Cato Institute

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Ryan Morfin:

Elliot, welcome to the show. Thanks for coming on today.

Elliot Shapiro:

Good to be with you.

Ryan Morfin:

Welcome to Non-Beta Alpha, I’m Ryan Morfin. On today’s episode we have Elliot Shapiro, constitutional scholar from the Cato Institute, talking to us about the ACB confirmation process and the 2020 elections. This is Non-Beta Alpha. So you’re one of the foremost experts on the Supreme Court and you just wrote a book called Supreme Disorder. I’d love to pick your brain about some of the fundamental shifts that are coming for the judicial top bench chairs, Supreme Court, with the probable nomination in pushing through of ACBs confirmation. Maybe you could start with, do you think she’s going to get through? And then secondly, how is this going to change the Supreme Court going forward?

Elliot Shapiro:

I have no secret discussions with Senators, but Mitch McConnell says that he has the votes. So I have no doubt that she will get through. The final Senate floor vote as expected this coming Monday, and so I imagine she’ll be sworn in Tuesday a week before the election.

Ryan Morfin:

And so, she seems to be a little more conservative than Roberts and maybe Gorsuch and Kavanaugh. Would that be an accurate statement or… And how do people look at that? Is it from her, her historical track record at lower courts? Or how do you guys come up with that kind of rating?

Elliot Shapiro:

Yeah, it depends what you mean by conservative. She’s very much like her mentor, the late Justice Scalia for whom she clerked. In terms of originalism and textualism, this came up a lot during her hearings last week, where she explained, you interpret the constitution based on the original public meaning of the version you’re looking at. So it doesn’t mean that you don’t account for technological innovations, it doesn’t mean that you don’t… You discount amendments. No. Each part of the constitution is part of that, but you just… The words don’t change over time. You look at what that meant. And textualism is like originalism for statutes. So the plain meaning of the text of The Clean Water Act, The Clean Air Act, Sarbanes Oxley, whatever it might be, rather than trying to figure out what the purpose of the law is, or the intent of the legislators, or things like that.

Elliot Shapiro:

So, very much like Scalia in that, as well as on this question of stare decisis, when should courts overturn precedent that’s they think is erroneous? It’s not always, at least Justice Thomas might think it’s always, when there’s erroneous precedent, we overturn it. But Scalia disagreed with him in that. This is not an ideological thing, it’s a prudential consideration. She might be a little softer than Scalia perhaps, but nowhere near Thomas on that. And her views of individual rights versus government power to regulate, also on economic regulations, might differ more to State Governments. But on… When it comes to the Federal Government, again, holding the feet of both the Legislators and the Bureaucrats to the constitutional fire. So more… The outcome’s probably more conservative than Robert is a safe thing to say, because Roberts votes in the strategic manner and tries to be a judicial minimalist rather than an originalist.

Elliot Shapiro:

But the rest of them, it just depends on the case and the issue and how it comes up. But how do we evaluate these things? Yeah, I’ve spent a lot of time reading her law review articles, her judicial opinion. She’s only been on the bench less than three years, but she’s written, I think just under 75 opinions plus joining others. So there is a wealth of stuff to mine there that it’s not from the hearing. In fact, I’ve gone on TV and they’ve asked me, “So, what did we learn from the hearing?” I’m like, “Well, I learned she took French in high school and she and her husband take turns doing the laundry at home because all the professional stuff, there was nothing new from the hearing. It’s good movie theater and I already knew a bunch from the reading.”

Ryan Morfin:

That’s fascinating. Justice Ginsburg, rest in peace, she was one of the more liberal justices. So as this changes the epicenter, if you will, the court, do you think there will be other precedents that will be revisited going forward?

Elliot Shapiro:

So it’s not so much necessarily overturning precedent, it’s the direction of regulation, the type of challenges that are brought in the first place, that get to the court. Fundamentally, as I mentioned, John Roberts, especially given that he’s the Chief Justice and especially that the last couple of years, since Kavanaugh replaced Anthony Kennedy, Roberts has been the median vote, not the swing. There’s a difference. It’s not that he’s a squishy moderate, like Kennedy, if you will. He’s looking after the court’s institutional reputation as he sees it, making votes, not purely on the legal theory, but on… He feels that he needs to guard the court against charges of illegitimacy, things like that. Assuming Judge Barrett becomes Justice Barrett, he becomes a superfluous man, he becomes number six. So you can expect a more principal jurisprudence in a whole host of ways.

Elliot Shapiro:

And for example, on criminal justice, Barrett, like Scalia, is… Believes strongly in the constitutional provisions that provide protections for criminal defendants. Scalia was very strong on the fourth and sixth amendment, for example. And she’s had cases on the seventh circuit where I’m sure she’s voted to allow a criminal to go free on a so-called technicality, as Scalia would put it, that you wouldn’t want, but that’s what the constitution demands. So sometimes you have these coalitions of the left and the right against the middle in these sorts of cases. But overall on the margins, when you have five to four decisions, say invalidating an abortion regulation, those might be upheld now. Not overturning Roe V. Wade altogether, not attacking these fundamental principles, but at the margin. What these different areas… It’s not always that Roberts has gone with the progressive, certainly not at all, but in some of these areas, it’s going to be a more principled opinion or decision rather than going in these increments that Roberts favor.

Ryan Morfin:

And I guess there was some big news this week that came out that the Supreme Court decided not to hear a case about Pennsylvania and late voting. Do you think that was the right call and how do you think that’s going to impact the election in terms of just maybe a delay?

Elliot Shapiro:

So most of the litigation that we’ve seen before the election is in safe States, at least as a matter of the Presidential election is concerned. And so you see, you might see headlines out of California, Alabama, a lot of States, but there’s no real question who’s going to win that. Pennsylvania is an exception to that obviously. Wisconsin is another where there’s ongoing litigation over what kinds of ballots can be accepted. Do you need to have a matching signature on a COVID absentee ballot? Or when… This Pennsylvania case is mailed in ballots, the state Supreme Court ruled have to be accepted up to three days after the election, even if they don’t have a postmark on them through an interpretation or a rewriting, really to be less charitable of State Law.

Elliot Shapiro:

So this came up to the Supreme Court, not on the merits, they didn’t have argument, they didn’t have full briefing. It was an application to stay… To temporarily stop the state Supreme Court opinion and the court was four to four, meaning that the state ruling holds. Doesn’t necessarily mean that John Roberts, who obviously in this scenario joined the more liberal justices that he would vote that way on the merits, but at least at this procedural junction, did not want to rock the boat. If Judge Barrett becomes Justice Barrett, which way would she rule? I mean, she’s in a tough spot. The President put her in a tough spot because he said that, “Yeah, I’m nominating her because then she’s going to vote my way and all these election cases.”

Elliot Shapiro:

It doesn’t mean that she has to recuse. There’s a lot of hot op-eds and pundits saying, “Oh, that means she [inaudible 00:00:11:07]” no, no, no. The President putting her in a tight spot, it doesn’t mean that she has to recuse, but it does become awkward, particularly if John Roberts maintains his position with the liberals. But he might not necessarily, he’s hoping that the case never eventually gets to the Supreme Court or that Pennsylvania is not a pivotal state, that it’s a landslide or who knows what. That’s his thinking here. But yes, this does show that already, her joining the court as early as a week from now may have an impact on some of these closed cases.

Ryan Morfin:

And you’re in the legal industry as an academic and a tactician, you work at, I think the Cato Institute, are you guys worried that this election is going to be determined in the courts?

Elliot Shapiro:

Everybody is worried about it. We’re looking at issue spotting. A law students know that in their exams, they have to spot these issues and analyze them and so forth. Well, there’s lots of things and it’s not necessarily going to be a Bush V. Gore scenario. That 20 years ago was in Florida about different methods of counting ballots in different counties in Florida. And so, an equal protection argument about voters in different parts of the state being treated differently. The issues now might be completely different. It might be what kinds of mail in ballots are valid? When can they be received? Challenges on election day, whether have some arguments of voter suppression, voter fraud, you never know in what form these sorts of issues might come up. And by the way, if the court is four to four or if, whether because she’s not confirmed or because she’s recused, it doesn’t mean that that’s a constitutional crisis.

Elliot Shapiro:

It just means the lower federal or state court decision stands. And the loser of that, isn’t going to be any happier to lose there then than at the Supreme Court for that matter. But yeah, absolutely. There’s going to be a concern, particularly given the low levels of social trust by people on both sides, that if it’s a close election that gets litigated, it might not get to the Supreme Court. But regardless, these legal issues, the people on the ground, political operatives talk about needing to win the race beyond the margin of litigation. And certainly that would be healthier for the country not to have this uncertainty period, given this level of social trust. That’s below even where we were during Bush V. Gore.

Ryan Morfin:

And I’m not as familiar with the system. So, if the state courts… The Supreme Court is tied four, four and say, Pennsylvania is now contested, there would have been a state court or the state Supreme Court that would have made the determination on who wants Pennsylvania?

Elliot Shapiro:

It depends. In this particular case, that was in the news this week, it went through the state court system in Pennsylvania, because it was an interpretation of the state constitution or state election law. A lot of these challenges, including in Bush V. Gore, go through the federal system because you’re making a claim under the federal constitution or the violation of some federal voting rights statute, something like that. So it could come up through either, it could come up through both. There could be parallel litigation about state and federal issues coming out of the same state. And just to be clear, in the federal system, that means, let’s say in Pennsylvania, if somebody files a case in the Federal District Court in Philadelphia, that gets appealed to one of the regional circuit courts, in this case, the third circuit, which has a panel of three judges and then they can meet all of them. I think there’s 13 judges all tolled in the 13th… In the third circuit, they would make a decision. And from there you can appeal to the Supreme Court.

Ryan Morfin:

So if there’s multiple States that are all going through this process, what party has better infrastructure in terms of legal support? Or are they both pretty well endowed in terms of lawyers who will do this for free or funding mechanisms? How does that work?

Elliot Shapiro:

Yeah, litigation’s a lot cheaper than running a Presidential election campaign. So I’m sure there’s going to be money leftover. And there certainly is legal talent… Enough legal talent on both sides to handle that. I don’t think that’s going to be a limiting principle, but since you mentioned the possibility of litigation coming from different places, that might be on different issues. So it’s not the case that just because a Florida court rules one way and a Pennsylvania court rules a different way, it doesn’t mean that Supreme Court has to jump in to decide who is right. The issues might be completely different. They might be state issues for one thing, one under the federal Florida constitution, one under Pennsylvania, or there could be in one place, an allegation of fraud, and another case, some shenanigans with mail in ballots. Totally different issue. The Supreme Court might decide to hear one, not the other, for complicated reasons.

Ryan Morfin:

I have a feeling this winter Americans are going to get extreme education on state’s rights constitutions and the federal process. Is going to be very educational. Hopefully doesn’t wreck our economy.In 2000, the stock market dropped over five weeks by 10% and we didn’t have COVID, so it could be an interesting time. Well, in your book that is coming out, Supreme Disorder, you talk about some of the issues around judicial nominations, and the Kavanaugh nomination was quite ugly on both sides. Is this new in American politics, or is this just some of history repeating.

Elliot Shapiro:

There’re some things that are new, there’re some things that are different. So I wrote my book. I’ve long been thinking about doing a Supreme Court book and in the wake of the Kavanaugh process two years ago, it crystallized to me that we’re really in this toxic environment, the Supreme Court is in… Enveloped in the same toxic cloud as the rest of our public discourse. Well, how did we get here? And I don’t just mean going back to Clarence Thomas or Robert Bork, clearly there’s stuff before that. What lessons can we learn was, what can we do? What should we do going forward? And it turns out politics has always been part of the nomination and confirmation process. I’m not making a point about the court itself or judges or justices themselves acting as politicians.

Elliot Shapiro:

That’s a separate issue of jurisprudence or political science. I’m talking about the nomination confirmation process. George Washington had a nominee rejected. Half or more of our Presidents have had problems filling seats and it’s a delicate dance between the President, the Senate, but all of whom are politicians, obviously, outside interest groups of various kinds. It’s changed over the years, understandably. In the early Republic, it’s the capital left Federalists who want a strong new National Government versus the Democratic Republicans that emerged, the bitter Adams Jefferson fight, which involved court packing, court slashing, creation of lower court, all sorts of political shenanigans. Then of course the run up to the Civil War, Jacksonian Populism, there’s different issues. Politics obviously is always there, but plays a different role. What’s different now is that, so on the one hand, you have a very powerful Federal Government that’s aggrandized itself over the decades.

Elliot Shapiro:

And a lot of these decisions end up being resolved in the courts, not even in Congress. So the court itself and each justice is very powerful because they’re ruling on so many big political controversies. And then you have the culmination of several trends where, different interpretive theories map onto partisan preferences at a time when the parties are more ideologically sorted than they’ve been since, at least the Civil War. And so powerful seats, zero sum game with no compromise possible, you’re going to have these fraught situations whenever there’s a vacancy. And especially when there’s divided government. So when the Senate and the White House are controlled by different parties, we actually haven’t had a set of hearings during a time of divided government since Clarence Thomas, nearly 30 years ago. That’s why his we’re so contentious. Merrick Garland four years ago, of course didn’t get a hearing, but that divided government situation is why he wasn’t confirmed. Historically that united versus divided government gets you most of the way in predicting whether a given nominee will be confirmed

Ryan Morfin:

And it’s interesting because there’s sound bites from both sides of what’s fair and what’s not fair, to talk about Garland not getting a hearing. Historically looking at the court, Trump said this in the first debate, “I’ve got four years to my term.” Historically speaking, is this normal for Trump to push this through now? Or do you think historical annotation in context would show that he historically should’ve waited before or after the election?

Elliot Shapiro:

So let’s be clear. This is all a political argument to be made and charges of Senators on both sides being hypocrites, politicians flip-flopping, that’s obviously nothing new either. Just on the statistics, there have been 30 election year vacancies in the Supreme Court. This is the 30th now. Every single time the President has made a nomination, okay? So that’s what Trump should do or what Presidents historically have done. In terms of confirming them, during times of United government, 17 of 19 have been confirmed. During divided government, that leaves 10, if you’re doing the math, only two of the 10 have been confirmed. One of those in the lame duck after the election.

Elliot Shapiro:

So just knowing nothing else about the political moment, or the candidates, or the nominees, you would expect in 2020 for there to be a confirmation and in 2016 for there not to be. Just based on that history and the sheer political argument of it all. Now, if voters want to make their decisions based on who’s being a bigger hypocrite or who’s doing something appropriate or not, that’s perfectly fine, but that’s the argument that the Senators and the President are making.

Ryan Morfin:

Well that’s fascinating context. That really helps me make my personal opinion. Earlier on, Trump, when he was a candidate, made a list of potential candidates that he planned to a point to the Supreme Court. Will Biden do this? Has he done this? Should Presidential candidates do this? What are your thoughts on that?

Elliot Shapiro:

Well, clearly he’s not. We’re less than two weeks away from the election and he hasn’t released a list. It looks like he’s not going to. That was part of the reason for Trump updating or expanding his list in early September, was to put even more pressure on Biden to release a list, and Biden didn’t succumb to that pressure and might’ve taken some hits for it, but decided that he didn’t need to. And it’s not necessarily surprising historically, putting out a list four years ago, what Trump did, was an innovation. This is not something that is conventionally done. It had never been done because the conventional political wisdom is, that means you put targets on the backs of these people that you list, whether for the cabinet or potential Supreme Court justices, whomever. You’re also tying yourself to whatever negative aspects of all of these people might come out.

Elliot Shapiro:

It’s just… Why do that? Why give something for your opposition to attack? Trump needed to do it four years ago because there were serious doubts of his ideology, who would he appoint? He’d been pro choice, he donated to Democrats, what does he know about the Supreme Court? But he put out a list that was basically the same that constitutional conservative, Ted Cruz would have put out and really held the Republican coalition together. It has proved pivotal in key swing States because the margin was so narrow. He didn’t have to expand that list this year. I think he did to reward some people, not all the people he added were really serious contenders. There were political reasons for the list. Again, not surprisingly, and to put pressure on Biden. All Biden has said is that he won’t… He’s going to appoint a black woman.

Elliot Shapiro:

And he wants someone who views the constitution as a living document. So this is basically the opposite of originalism. This is the idea that the words on the page change over time based on our political culture, our conception of justice, that sort of thing. And well, with those two things, you get an idea of the types of people that he’s going to appoint. And the Republicans have tried to make hay out of that certainly. Historically Republicans have generally run on judges, run on the court, much more than Democrats because their articulation of it generally polls better, at least among swing voters.

Ryan Morfin:

And so the toxic environment that we’re in, is there some structural proposals to maybe depoliticize the process that candidates have to go through? I feel that just in politics, certain people don’t want to put their families through this process and we may not be always getting the best foot forward as a country. What are your thoughts on that?

Elliot Shapiro:

Yeah, in the third part of my book, like Gall, my book is divided in three, the past, the present and the future. And in that third part, I discuss all sorts of reforms that have been proposed. I’m most amenable to term limits. And I say amenable, not like three chairs, maybe one and a half chairs. Because, if you had, say an 18 year limit with a vacancy every two years, that would at least get rid of these morbid health watches over octogenarian justices or politically timed retirements, that sort of thing. We’d have some regularity and standardization in the process, which would increase public confidence, but A, it wouldn’t change the ideological balance of the court and it wouldn’t affect the courts power and its ruling on all these big issues that I mentioned earlier. And it would take a constitutional amendment. There’s been legislation proposed, but I think that’s too cute by half.

Elliot Shapiro:

So, if we had the political unity for a constitutional amendment, then we might not have the underlying tension in the first place. Other reform proposals expanding the court, there’s that kind of what’s talked about now, the purely political expansion of the court to “Remedy the Republican hijacking of the court.” But even if you take away that kind of political salience, maybe in the abstract, if you are creating a constitution of fresh, you would want a larger court. Because there would be fewer 10 to nine decisions say than five to four ones that we have now. And each one of 19 seats is worth less and therefore the battle will be less than each one of nine. Maybe that’s an interesting thing to discuss academically, but that’s not where we are realistically. And how do you transition from whatever from now to whatever the ideal number is without this hugely political component.

Elliot Shapiro:

And every time that the courts changed shape in our history, whether successfully or failed proposals to pack the court, like FDR in the thirties, that has not entered to the nation’s benefit nor to the benefit of the party, that’s proposed them. I mean, Roosevelt, after being reelected in a landslide in 1936, ended up proposing this thing that was really unpopular. His vice President was against it, his big legal advisor, Justice Louis Brandeis, big progressive was against it. The Democrats ended up losing 80 seats in the house and eight in the Senate at the next midterms. But years later, Roosevelt got to pack the court the old fashioned way by keeping power and eventually, just by 1941 had appointed seven Justices. So, then there’s more creative proposals. A lottery or a college of justices where there are no permanent justices and you just rotate through lower court judges by chance.

Elliot Shapiro:

And it cannot be no more than five of appointed by the President from any one party. That’s kind of… You have a zigzag in jurisprudence at that point and you push down these toxic battles to the lower courts even more than they are now. There’s all sorts of proposals. Some creatives, some have more merit, some less, at the end of the day, this is nibbling around the edges. This is addressing the symptoms. It’s trying to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic because the problem is not with the confirmation process, it’s with the product. It’s what the court’s ruling on, it’s the power of the Federal Government. The Titanic is the ship of state.

Elliot Shapiro:

The only way in the longterm or substantively to depoliticize, detoxify, lower the heat on these battles is to rebalance our constitutional order by pushing power back to the States and localities and the people. And within Washington, our separation of powers, making that neater and to force Congress to resolve more of these political controversies rather than punting them into the administrative state. Now, I say this knowing that that’s not an easy thing, let alone a quick thing either. So I have no magic bullets or overnight solution. It’s taken us decades to get to where we are both in terms of jurisprudence and in terms of the toxic confirmation battles. And I think it’s going to take us decades to unwind.

Ryan Morfin:

And for the layman that… For most of us, including myself, that isn’t a legal scholar, Pence was really harping on the VP debate about Biden packing the court. And you mentioned that Roosevelt did this, is this expanding the number of seats or what are your thoughts on [crosstalk 00:28:29].

Elliot Shapiro:

It’s not a legal term, it’s a political term of art. Court packing means expanding the court, adding seats for political reasons typically, is how that phrase is used. It’s not, as some Democrats have called it, filling the seats that are there and using every procedural trick that Mitch McConnell has to fill those seats. That’s just hardball politics in filling seats. Court packing is adding seats. And of course, Biden is being coy about whether he’d do it. He was against it in the primaries, now he doesn’t want to anger his base nor upset independents or swing voters who are generally against court packing.

Elliot Shapiro:

And it’s unclear whether necessarily the Democrats would do it because in the scenario where they could, that is, Biden wins and the Democrats win a majority in the Senate, that majority would be based on new Senators from States like potentially North Carolina, Iowa, Montana, Arizona, with those new Senators one of their first acts to be to vote to remove the filibuster. There’s still a filibuster for legislation, 60 votes you need to surpass to go to a final vote on a piece of legislation, which expanding court would be. And then to actually add those seats, they might go for the green new deal or even DC statehood or something like that before they went to pack the court.

Ryan Morfin:

Well, that makes sense. Well, thank you for that explanation because I wanted to get that clarified. I think some people have a misinterpretation but, so it’s adding new seats just to get the majority back. Wow. That would be, I think a very bad outcome for the Democrats if they did that just like, I guess, historical footnotes suggest. Well, I guess I do have one more final question. So Trump, in his speech last night, was calling for Hunter Biden to be prosecuted and all this and the AG Barr has been putting a pretty difficult situation. Have we ever been in a situation where the progeny of a candidate has been put in the spotlight like this? Where there could be charges that are being held? Cause I guess the DOJ and FBI don’t want to go ahead and prosecute a case during an election campaign to effect the outcome. Similar to what happened in 2016, right? With the Aberdeen laptop and the Wiener situation in New York city. Are we in unchartered waters?

Elliot Shapiro:

I don’t think there’s been cases with family members. There are certainly been cases with a political allies that have been investigated for that matter. There was a Supreme Court nominee in 1920, Harlan Stone, who was… As Attorney General was investigating part of the Teapot Dome scandal under Harding, was making some investigations that were… Made him unpopular in the Senate. And so they had a special hearing just about that investigation. We didn’t always, for that matter, we didn’t always have hearings. It took a very controversial nomination in 1916, the first Jewish nominee, Louis Brandeis, who was also a big crusading, progressive. They decided to hold hearings for the first time, but it was seen as unseemly for the nominee himself to testify.

Elliot Shapiro:

So his supporters and opponents who testified probably the most contentious confirmation process we’ve had. Obviously we don’t have the video records of what went on and the tweets and all of that, but took longer than any other confirmation. And after Brandeis was finally confirmed, another justice resigned to run against Woodrow Wilson in the Presidential election. So if you’re thinking about the intertwining of Presidential politics and the Supreme Court, I see year 2020 in 2016 and raise you in 1916.

Ryan Morfin:

That’s some fascinating history, I’m going to have to brush up on it. Well, so this is the last few questions of our show. We call it the human factor. I asked the same six questions of all of our guests on season two. And they’re really just a yes, no answer. Just to get a survey on some questions I think people care about. So first question is, if there was a COVID vaccine available today, would you take it? Yes or no? Second question is who do you think wins the election? November 3rd or January 20th?

Elliot Shapiro:

The Presidential, smart money is on Biden.

Ryan Morfin:

Okay. What type of shape are we in terms of economic recovery? If at all.

Elliot Shapiro:

I’m a simple constitutional lawyer so much as I wouldn’t take your legal advice, I don’t even want to hazard saying something that’ll make me a laughingstock and discredit everything that I’ve said, to your very economically savvy advisors. So I’m going to dodge that one, Ryan.

Ryan Morfin:

No problem. No problem. Is there anything that you achieve this summer while you were on quarantine that you’re particularly proud of? Any projects or books or?

Elliot Shapiro:

Well, my book, the manuscript was due the end of March. So I finished that up just as the pandemic hit. The editing of it was certainly in the high summer. I think we finally went to press the end of July, but yeah, putting that to bed and then preparing excerpts to be published and all that, this whole book writing and selling process was certainly my… For the last year, half pandemic half not, that’s been my baby.

Ryan Morfin:

That was fantastic. Are there any silver linings that you see in the economy going into 2021?

Elliot Shapiro:

Well, it seems like the recession that we’ve had is driven by the pandemic. So I’m hoping, again, I don’t want to get too far ahead of my skis knowing that the listeners actually know something about the economy and different industries and what have you. My hope is that once the pandemic is under control, whether because of therapeutics, or a vaccine, or a better testing regime, or what have you, but we can pick up where we left off in addition to the various innovation that’s happened in the meantime.

Ryan Morfin:

Absolutely. And the last question is, is there anything that you’re watching, listening to or reading right now, that’s shaping your thinking that you would advise our listeners to pay attention to?

Elliot Shapiro:

Well, I don’t know if you want to hear that I enjoyed watching Cobra Kai on Netflix. I’m not sure that’s shaping my thinking, although it did give me some nice warm and fuzzy nostalgia for the 80s. I’m just trying to get through this confirmation process and the election and trying to catch my breath after that. Typically spend the Thanksgiving break reevaluating and yeah, that’s when I’ll be catching my breath.

Ryan Morfin:

There’s a bar in Brooklyn I highly advise you to go visit called Cobra Kai. And it is decked out in Cobra Kai paraphernalia. I think it was one of the child actors that set up the bar so it’s a good, good tip for the Cobra Kai bars.

Elliot Shapiro:

[inaudible 00:35:25] I’ll be sure to sweep the leg.

Ryan Morfin:

There you go. Sweep the leg. I love that. That’s a good show. Well, Elliot, thanks for coming on and educating us on some of the history and where can people find your book Supreme Disorder?

Elliot Shapiro:

Absolutely. Anywhere where books are sold, whether online or in bookstores. And beyond that, if you go to Supreme Disorder.com, not only will you find various links to places that sell books, but you can download for free, like a 20 page PDF appendix of statistics and historical tidbits. You can really nerd out on all of the confirmation processes, historically, some of the lower court stuff that’s happened in the last couple of decades, really make yourself popular at your next virtual cocktail party.

Ryan Morfin:

Fantastic. I’ll be sure to do that. I do love this kind of history. I’ve never heard of the Teapot Dome scandal, but I’m going to go a Google that later. Elliot, thanks for coming on the show and we hope to have you back on at some point in the future.

Elliot Shapiro:

My pleasure it’s been a blast, Ryan.

Ryan Morfin:

Thank you. Thanks for watching Non-Beta Alpha. And before we go, please remember to like, and subscribe on Apple podcasts and our YouTube channel. This is Non-Beta Alpha, and now, you know.

 

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Ryan Morfin: Welcome to Non-Beta Alpha. I'm Ryan Morfin. On today's episode, we have Pini Althaus, CEO of USA Rare Earth, talking to us about the supply chain glut in rare earth minerals. This is Non-Beta Alpha.

Ryan MorfinPini, Welcome to the show. Thank you for coming on today.

Pini AlthausThank you for having me, Ryan. Good to be here.

Ryan Morfin: So you're an investor and a miner in rare earth minerals. Can you share with our listener base, what are rare earth minerals? Why are they important and why is there a geopolitical race going on globally?

Pini AlthausYeah, I mean, rare earths are an extremely ubiquitous part of all advanced manufacturing or technology manufacturing today's day and age. Several years ago, I had not heard too much about rare earths myself. I was not that familiar with it and being involved in this sector, in this company, for the past few years has given me an education of course. And I mean, I was sad to hear that 50% of all imports into the United States contain are earth elements and it runs the gamut from consumer electronic devices that we use every day. Our cell phones, our laptops, most communication devices, medical equipment. So there's a tie with COVID, which we can touch on at your discretion. Electric vehicles, defense equipment. So pretty much anything or everything high tech today has a rare earth element or critical minerals contained within them.

Ryan MorfinAnd what are some of the names of some of the more important rare earth? I know there's lithium for batteries, but what else is considered in this category, critical?

Pini Althaus: Yeah, so lithium is a separate category to battery material. The rare earths are 17 rare earths. The four, let's call it, key rare earths that we're focused on at our company, the four rare earths that go into the permanent magnets. And these are the magnets that are found, there are a number of them in your back of your cell phone or an iPad. But if you look at an F35 striker jet, you've got about a ton of rare earth magnets in those. And we've got two heavy rare earths and two light rare earths is part of the permanent magnets. You've got dysprosium, ytterbium are the heavies, and then you've got neodymium, praseodymium as the two light rare earths. So those would be key rare earths that are the focus.

Ryan MorfinAnd you use these in, I guess, in military applications as well, but historically, where has the United States sourced the rare earth for supply chain?

Pini AlthausYeah. And that's the shocking part. We've been securing those materials from China. So China controls the rare earth sector and has done so for the past 30 years or so. And it was a significant misstep on the part of the United States, allowing China to have this control. And actually this wasn't a question of China coming in and doing anything nefarious as far as stealing IP or anything. The US government made a conscious decision about 30 years ago to allow China to come to the United States and acquire the processing capabilities for rare earths. So just as part of some background, you've got the rare earth materials containing various mining projects, but once you extract them, you have to then process them and they go through certain phases before they get to the magnet phase. And China, the thought process was let China do the mining, let China do the processing.

Pini AlthausWe don't need to do that here. And we'll buy the materials from China cheaply and the premier of China at the time, Deng Xiaoping made the comment, he said, "The Middle East has oil. China has rare earths." And unfortunately we weren't smart enough to understand what he was saying. And the Chinese understood that the future of manufacturing is going to revolve around control of the rare earth and critical mineral supply chain. So if you think about it today, Ryan, we cannot build... Forget about consumer electronics and medical equipment. We cannot build the equipment that the US Pentagon or the US armed forces require, whether it's F35 fighter jet, Tomahawk cruise missile, communications equipment, without going to China and obtaining those materials. And it's obvious to all that this should be extremely alarming. We've seen China use this as a weapon, if you will, as far as how it interacts with other countries back in 2010, when there was a dispute between China and Japan on the East China Sea.

Pini AlthausSo China cut off rare earth exports from Japan for 40 days. Japan obviously being a significant user of rare earth elements for their high-tech manufacturing sector, that was stopped after 40 days. But in fact, it was President Obama that first made the United States aware of this, formed a division within the Department of Defense to handle this issue, but not much has happened. And we continue to be relying on China for these materials. And what has been made about trade war with China and whether the trade war is really the impetus for China withholding rare earth exports. And that is a huge misnomer. Whilst China had been talking or implying that they would cut off rare earth exports, the truth of the matter is that China, under it's made in China, 2025 mandate, its belt and road initiatives and others. And you seem to control the critical minerals and rare earth supply chain so that it can continue its dominance as a manufacturer or a global supplier of these materials and finished products.

Pini Althaus: It's the backbone of its economy. And in fact, China has become a net importer of rare earths from different countries like Miramar and others. So with that, they are decreasing the exports to countries like the United States, Japan and others.

Ryan Morfin: And was it ever a risk that the Chinese were going to turn off the exports of rare earth to the US during the trade war? How close were we to that? And was that ever some saber rattling that went down during trade negotiations?

Pini AlthausYeah, I think it was saber rattling. I think it would be paramount to an act of war. I can't say with any authority that that would not happen, but it would be probably, aside from war itself, it would be one of the most significant acts of war cutting the United States off from the ability to procure rare earths. But that being said, I mean, if you look at, as an analogy, the oil and gas sector and the reliance of the United States had for many, many years on OPEC countries to supply us with the oil. And we had embargoes and we had price manipulation by OPEC. This is far more significant given the ubiquity of where these rare earths go. And yes, we're always under the threat that China can cut off exports under the guise of a trade war or for any other nefarious reasons.

Pini AlthausBut I think even more importantly, to just as the natural run of the course of things with regards to their business and their desire to maintain themselves as the global leader in manufacturing and exporting of goods, China is in a position now where it actually requires these materials for their own domestic consumption and can legitimately cut off rare earth exports by stating that they need it for manufacturing and that would actually be somewhat correct. So we're in an extremely dangerous position here with this reliance on China. And it wouldn't just be China. If it was another country, it would be similar issues, not to the same extent, but reliance on one country for these materials is dangerous.

Ryan Morfin: And it's been mentioned in the past that in 2010, China flooded the market to really kill all the competitors in the rare earth mining industry. Where was the World Trade Organization during this period? And how did that play out and how does that set the chess board for China to run the tables?

Pini Althaus:

Yeah. So the WTO stepped in when China cut off rare earth exports from Japan, I think it lasted for about 40 days because the US and Japan protested the WTO, and they stepped in and China resumed exports. While I'm not an expert on these trade matters, one thing that I am aware of is that one of the reasons why China had to resume the export of rare earths was it did not legitimately need all the rare earths for domestic consumption. So therefore it was a nefarious act, if you will, to cut off rare earth exports. Now that has changed, which means China have to cut off rare earth exports today, they have a legitimate case to say that they require these materials. There's a shortage of these materials and they require them for their own domestic purposes. It is the backbone of their economy and there's very little we could do about this today, which is why it's becoming an even more urgent issue.

Ryan Morfin:

And the US government started stockpiling some of these after that incident. Can you talk a little bit about what DOD and DOE has done to start making sure that there's not a critical supply shortage going forward, and is it enough?

Pini Althaus:

Yeah, again, there is a national defense stock pile, and there are materials still that the United States needs to procure in order to shore up its stockpile. There are magnets, the finished magnet products as well, the United States government needs to stockpile. Again, there's a limited amount that the United States government has. It requires approval from Congress, whether it's in the NDAA or other approvals from Congress, to allocate monies for the national defense stock pile of these materials. That being said, there's no endless supply of these materials. And unfortunately, the apparatus, the way it's set up right now with the US government, it's going to continue to require having a secure supply chain of those materials for many, many years to come. So it's not a question of stockpiling for 10 or 20 years, and then this complacency and saying, we'll kick the can down the road. But keep in mind as well, Ryan, that US government accounts for low single digits of overall rare earth imports into the United States.

Pini Althaus:

We're talking about defense contractors, we're talking about the manufacturing sector. The direct impact this has on the economy, jobs, the automotive sector, and others is significant. So it's not just limited to the United States government. If you look at over the past couple of weeks, the sanctions that China have put on Raytheon, Boeing, Lockheed, et cetera. I mean, the question is where are they going to get those materials? And if we go beyond that, you need rare earths for the 5G network. Now that Huawei has been banned from installing the network, not only in the US but other countries, we have to have the ability to get a secure supply of these materials as well. Which currently, again, trying to control the hundred percent. So it runs across the board, both for government, defense and manufacturing in this country.

Ryan Morfin:

Well, and so help me paint a picture for our audience. Does China have all the mines for rare earth, or they're the only ones who started mining it? Or are their mines globally dispersed and nobody's been doing the actual infrastructure to do the mining?

Pini Althaus:

Yeah. So finding rare earth projects or rare earth elements is not the difficult part. It's finding them in significant quantities that makes a project economically viable. And part of that consideration are the environmental rigors that companies in the West have to adhere to. And China, even by their own admission, have had a complete disregard for mining these materials and even for processing these materials. And in fact, just the last week or so, the BBC did an expose on this, 60 Minutes has done an expose on this. But the Chinese have not denied this and have talked about cleaning up their act, but it has an effect on the bottom line for what the costs of mining and processing are if you have no environmental standards to adhere to. So China have exploited those rare earth projects they have, primarily in inner Mongolia, and have brought a number of projects online and quite quickly, and in a significant way, with a complete disregard for the environment.

Pini Althaus:

So it was seen as an environmental no-no in the West for many years. Now, what's happened over the past few years is you're starting to see rare earth projects in different parts of the world sprout up. You've got the Mountain World project in Australia owned by Linus, which is a producer of Nd and Pr, neodymium and praseodymium. So two of the light rare earths. They may have some heavy rare earths coming online at some point in time. And you've got Arafura, which is another company in Australia that we're working with to assist them with their processing so they don't have to send the materials to China for processing. But really these are a drop in the bucket for what the requirements are for the United States. And certainly what the requirements are for allied countries, the EU, et cetera. So there is a race, if you will, worldwide to start bringing projects online. The Chinese are very active in trying to secure assets outside of China.

Pini Althaus:

So in Africa. They have ownership of a project in Greenland. So there is somewhat of a race. The Australian government has stepped in and has started limiting the ability for China to own, or have ownership in, or off takes for the Australian rare earth projects. And that's part of the strategic Alliance between Australia and the US. Canada, similar thing as well. There are a number of projects that are looking to come alive, but these projects are, for the most part, will take many, many years to come online. We have to expedite the process. We have to assist with a [inaudible 00:14:41] supply chain and the domestic rare earth sector, because previously investors have been scared off by things like China flooding the market, which is not a possibility at this point in time, given that China can't actually afford to flood the market. They are already very heavily subsidizing their mine to magnet supply chain there.

Pini Althaus:

This is more now a case of being able to get production from non-Chinese sources so that the United States and allies have a viable, secure supply chain of these materials. And it's a concern worldwide. We speak to governments all over the world, and we're all facing the same issue. Some more than others, especially countries like Japan, that don't have their own rare earth projects there and are reliant on Australia where they've made some investments there. And in the United States, they've made an investment recently in Africa. So there is this race, if you will. And I think we've got a five-year window here to at least stand up a few projects worldwide. Otherwise we've lost this race and we will be dependent on China for many, many years to come. And Ryan, it's a bit of a hypocrisy. If you look at it where you've got materials going through clean, green energy applications, like electric vehicles, wind turbines, et cetera.

Pini Althaus:

That we're sourcing these materials from China, where they've, again by their own admission, has been complete environmental devastation to water bodies around these mines and processing facilities, to the communities. People have been getting sick around these projects yet we're putting these materials into our electric vehicles or wind turbines. It makes no sense at all. And people are starting to wake up to this. And that's why the sector is starting to see a lot of support come out of Congress and bi-partisan support. And in fact, it's one of the only bi-partisan issues right now in Washington. And it's good to see that some things decided to move in the right direction.

Ryan Morfin:

And is there a special process? You talk about the expense, is it really difficult to mine these? You have to go through a special chemical process to extract and clean and purify. Is it a lot harder than, say, gold or silver or some of the other, we'll call, more traditional elements?

Pini Althaus:

Yeah. It's all about the processing to some extent. So if you look at MP Materials in California, which used to be Molycorp before they went through their bankruptcy. They are a miner of Cerium and Lanthanum, which are two of the light rare earths, the lower valued light rare earths. Given that they do not currently have processing technology, they are sending those materials to China for processing where China is tariffing those heavily. Linus is also, they're doing their processing work in Malaysia and elsewhere. So it's really about the processing at this stage. One of the things that we've done, after we put out our PDA last year with our upgraded resource, which now includes a significant amount of lithium. We make a decision that, based on the test work that we had done around our processing methodology, that we were not going to send our materials to China. That it's paramount for us to do this work in the United States and in a collaborative effort as well.

Pini Althaus:

We've been asked by some of our investors, "Well, why would you be looking to help other projects with their processing?" And the answer is simple. There's no one project or one company that's going to put China out of business or make a dent, or somehow be able to take care of the overall demand worldwide for rare earths and critical minerals. And it's very important for us to have processing capability in the West. So that was the impetus for us opening up our own rare earth and critical minerals processing facility earlier this year, which we did in Wheatridge, Colorado. And in fact, we've made some significant progress on the method that we're using for this. And we're starting to collaborate with Australian companies, Canadian companies. We're currently talking to a group over in Europe as well, because this has to be a collaborative effort.

Ryan Morfin:

How does Europe solve for these problems? Do they have this better under control than the US?

Pini Althaus:

No, they're in a far worse position than we are. The EU commission recently put out a report, I think, a couple of months ago that the requirement for rare earths is going to increase tenfold within a short period of time. Lithium 18 times. They don't really have rare earth projects. Again, there are the Greenland projects, which people have heard in the news recently. Those need to further development work so they don't have rare earth projects ready to come online there. There are a couple of lithium projects that are spread around Europe, but for the most part, Europe is in an even more precarious position. If you look at Germany with the auto manufacturers, you look at the big companies like ThyssenKrupp and others, all these countries and companies are looking for alternatives to China, because we've already seen in the news about China withholding or reducing exports of some of these rare earths that are required for these industries.

Ryan Morfin:

And you mentioned earlier the regulatory posture of the US makes it difficult to mine. Is it becoming a more bi-partisan issue that we need to maybe relax some regulation around the mining exercise, to incentivize private sector to come in and start producing this? Or is the Republican party versus the Democratic party on two separate pages of music?

Pini Althaus:

Yeah. Good question, Ryan. I mean traditionally the Republican party is obviously being more pro-mining and in favor of less regulation when it comes to these things. With regards to our project, we're on Texas state land. So we don't trigger federal environmental permitting at this point in time. And obviously Texas being Texas, a mining state and oil and gas state, things are a lot easier in Texas than they are on projects on federal land where the Bureau of Land Management controls the environmental process around that. But the thing is here, and I don't want to step into what other companies are doing, et cetera, but we do need to be reasonable about allowing projects to come online if they're adhering to environmental standards that are acceptable worldwide. And what we do know, is that China is destroying the environment and cities and water bodies around their mines and processing facilities.

Pini Althaus:

We have standards here in the United States, and I think what we need to do is make it easier for companies to mine, while at the same time protecting the environment. And there are ways to do that. And we're definitely seeing buy-in from Congress, from both sides, with regards to looking how we can stand up a secure supply chain. And, obviously under the Obama administration, they had very strict regulations when it comes to mining. And that's changed under the Trump administration. Hopefully what we start to see is some normal middle ground that'll allow other projects to come online.

Ryan Morfin:

And typically in these rare earth mines, is it amalgamation of different minerals that are all consolidated together and you have to separate them out? Or do you ever find pure play, Europium, I can't even pronounce some of these. Gadolinium, Cerium. I mean, are they all mixed together and you've got to filter and sift them through, or are they pure play mines?

Pini Althaus:

No, they're generally they have a mix. So they're polymetallic projects. They have a number of different materials. Some projects, you more to what we call the light rare earths like MP in California or Linus in Australia. Our project is actually on the opposite end of the spectrum. We have a very high concentration of heavy rare earths. That being said, we do have to go through a process of separating these materials. But the case of our project where we've got 30 materials. We're not going to produce 30 materials. We're not going to market 30 materials. So what we're doing is we're focusing on the key materials that are marketable, that we need for permanent magnets, lithium as well, and working on the separation and the optimization of those materials in particular. But we're all faced with the same processing challenges and that is something that can't be set.

Pini Althaus:

There's no easy way to do this. There are different technologies that have been used in different parts of the world. So predominantly there's a process called solvent extraction, but it's big, it's bulky, it's not benign. It's a bespoke solution for one particular project. So it doesn't work for feedstock from other projects. What we've done is we're using a processing technology that's actually been around since the 1940s. It was part of the Manhattan Project. It's called continuous ion exchange. In fact, the Chinese use it to increase the purities from 99.99 to four nines, five nines, and even six nines. So for some applications you require higher purity levels. It's a far easier processing method to scale up and to take feedstock from other projects. In fact, we've demonstrated for the Department of Energy that we can take coal waste from Pennsylvania and do high purity separation of rare earths using our processing methods. So it's not a step that can be skipped unless one needs to send it to China for processing, which is not going to help us with our objectives here.

Ryan Morfin:

How many other, we'll call it, going concerns on any other businesses that are doing this, that are trying to, I guess, start the development of these mines. Are you guys one of a few or are you one of many? And is it an international or just a US game? Who's leading the charge at going after this?

Pini Althaus:

Yeah, well, I'd say the Australians are leading it outside of China right now. You've got some really good projects in Australia. Again, more skewed toward the light rare earths. There's one more heavy rare earth project in Australia, which is not yet producing. The United States, you've got MP Materials, you've got Ucore in Alaska, you've got the Bear Lodge project in Wyoming, which is also another light rare earth project. So as far as a heavy rare earth project that looks like it will come online in the near term, that would be our project. In Canada there are a couple of projects there as well, and again, more skewed toward the light rare earths. But we really need to get as many of these projects online as possible. Because again, I don't see it as competition. We all have a problem doing supply agreements or offtake agreements for our materials.

Pini Althaus:

In fact, one of the things that we're going to have to consider is looking at potentially scaling up our production, based on the demand that we're already starting to see. And I think other companies would find that as well. So it's all about the economics of the project. You have projects that were economically viable back in 2012 or rare earth prices with 35% or so higher than they are today, and are not necessarily viable today. So that's the challenge as well, economically viable projects. And we've got to get as many of them online as possible. It takes many, many years. I mean, our project has had over $70 million put into it to get to where we are today, and we're close to getting to the production scenario. It all revolves around processing at this point in time.

Pini Althaus:

We'd be very happy to see another couple of projects come online, because this is extremely important for national security and for the economy as well. I mean, if you think about it, Ryan, if you've got a billion dollars of rare earth materials, that translates into a trillion dollars or I should say trillions of dollars of finished product. So you've got a magnet in your phone there that's worth a couple of dollars and the cell phone's a thousand dollars. And electric vehicles and defense applications even more.

Ryan Morfin:

Yeah, everyone has one of these iPhones now, and there's tremendous amounts of rare earth on the circuit boards here. And I think people take it for granted that that supply chain is not secure right now. So one question for you, there's talk of this maybe medium term to longterm, but there's talk about mining in space. Do you think that's a feasible option in the longterm, medium term? What are your thoughts on that?

Pini Althaus:

No, that's just ridiculous. I mean, we're trying to find ways to make mining on earth economically viable. I think the cost of going up to space would be more than what our capex will be bringing our entire project into production. I mean, we've got about a 350 to $400 million capex to bring 130 year mine life into production. I'm not an aerospace expert, but I think sending a rocket, building a rocket ship and sending it up, I think maybe on the fuel alone, you could bring a couple of projects into production. So unless we have a fortunate situation or an asteroid lands on earth, and fortunate if it lands somewhere where we don't care, I don't see how that happens. And if it's big enough, it's a problem as well. It's nonsense. And even, options aside of the deep sea mining for rare earths, I mean, you've got all sorts of environmental issues around that as well. I think we need to look at projects that we can bring online, that can be done so in an economic way, that can be done so in an environmentally responsible way.

Pini Althaus:

I mean, one of the things that we've done at our project is we've got in excess of 60% of the materials that have come out around top, will have a clean green energy applicability to them. So we're using the benign processing method. We're going to be using renewable energy on site. In fact, we will likely be putting a solar farm on site as well. We've talked to a couple of companies that have approached us about that, and we'll be a net producer of power for the surrounding area. So there are ways to do it which don't affect the environment. Obviously if there's a project that's situated on a sensitive area, that's a unique situation for that specific project. We've seen it with the Pebble project, which is not a rare earth project. The Pebble project in Alaska where their environmental concerns is we've been recognized by both Republicans and Democrats, but we have to be reasonable about the projects that don't have environmental concerns.

Ryan Morfin:

So Pini, in season two, we ask all of our guests a series of six questions. They're usually, yes, no questions, but trying to take a survey of our conversations. And if you want to add a little context to the yes or no, feel free, but here goes the first question. If there was a COVID vaccine available today, would you take it?

Pini Althaus:

Yes.

Ryan Morfin:

Who do you think is going to win the election?

Pini Althaus:

Which election?

Ryan Morfin:

The US election.

Pini Althaus:

Well, I think it looks like Joe Biden's going to win it, but I think what happens, if we go past January six from my understanding is that the house will vote on it and it's one vote per state. But I don't know if I see it getting there at this point in time. I really don't have a crystal ball.

Ryan Morfin:

Third question. What type of economic recovery are we in? What type of shape is it taking? A V-shape, W, U, L?

Pini Althaus:

Yeah, I think 2021 is going to be challenging. I think we've been, and rightly so. I mean, we've had no choice as of almost every other country. We've been printing money for the past year because of COVID. And I think we've got to brace ourselves that, at some point in time, the chickens come home to roost. It was a necessary step. People needed it on an individual level. Businesses needed it as well, but I think we've got to do whatever we can to stimulate the economy, give people confidence to go out and work again, employ people. So I think we've got to watch ourselves, especially in 2021. And I have some concerns, but long-term, I think the approach in the United States is a healthy one.

Ryan Morfin:

During lockdown this summer and quarantine, was there anything in particular that you accomplished that you're particularly proud of?

Pini Althaus:

Yeah. A great amount of family time, which, if you would've asked me a few years ago if I could sit at home and be at home for six months, I would have told you absolutely not. I wouldn't be able to do it for six days, but it has... I'm sure it's done this with a lot of families as well. It's brought families together. We had a baby actually last year on Thanksgiving. So I was doing a lot of travel at the time and thought I wouldn't get to see my daughter in her first year or couple of years too often. And being home with her every day is actually been just the most amazing experience. So thankful at least for some silver lining in COVID.

Ryan Morfin:

Are there any silver linings that you see in the economy going into 2021?

Pini Althaus:

Yeah, I think we've gone through an absolute beating and it looks like we've got the ability to come out of it. And I think that's a testament to how strong the economy was built up in the years preceding COVID. So overall I remain an optimist. I mean, we are a country built on opportunity and going out and making it happen. And we're not a socialist country sitting and waiting for people to send us paychecks or wealth distribution or anything like that. I think the American dream still lives on. I think if you go out and you're willing to work and put your head to it and heart in it, I think we do have the ability to climb out of it. So if we look at what the economy is doing over the past few weeks, it looks like it's starting to rebound. And to me, that's assuring because it could go completely one way as well.

Ryan Morfin:

And the last question is, is there anything that you're watching, or listening to, or reading today that has been impactful on your thinking that you'd like to share with our audience?

Pini Althaus:

Yeah, that's a good question. I think it's been more personal stories. The news, I sort of take that in context or with more than a grain of salt. In some cases stay off the news channels for a number of days at a time, it became quite repetitive. But I think on the personal side, talking to friends, my family's all back home in Australia, they've just come out of 110 day lockdown, which we can't relate to that. It's been very trying on them and seeing the fortitude that they've had to come out of that and stay intact. I think the mental health issues that will come out of COVID are going to have a far longer effect than the economic issues. I think we're going to have to focus on mental health issues in this country for a long time to come.

Pini Althaus:

The impact on kids has been significant with regards to lockdown or remote schooling, et cetera. But to see people come through it. I think it's a testament to people in general and to the country and other countries as well, to see got that fortitude and survival instinct to try to get through whatever adversity we can. So hearing the personal stories, the challenges that people have gone through, I think it's made me a lot more aware of things that I have to be thankful for and where we can help out other people as well. I think we have to be united going forward because there are things...

Pini Althaus:

I think one of the things that COVID has shown us is we can get into this complacency and life goes on and we go one day to the next. And all of a sudden we get hit by something that affects everybody equally. I mean, COVID, whilst there were groups of people, whether it was the elderly or people with underlying health conditions, that got hit the worst. I mean, we all got hit in some form or another. So really, this should be something that unites us, not divides us.

Ryan Morfin:

Well, Pini, I appreciate you coming on today to talk to us a little bit about the supply chain crimp on rare earth and we'll definitely keep an eye on it and would love to have you back in the future.

Pini Althaus:

Thank you, Ryan. Thanks for having me.

Ryan Morfin:

Absolutely. Thank you. Bye-bye. Thanks for watching Non-Beta Alpha. And before we go, please remember to like, and subscribe on Apple podcasts and our YouTube channel. This is Non-Beta Alpha, and now you know.

 

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