At Harris Bricken, we keep close tabs on what is happening around the world, and we know that our friends and clients do, as well. We are happy to provide this podcast series: Global Law and Business, hosted by international attorneys Fred Rocafort and Jonathan Bench, where we look at the world by talking with business leaders, innovators, service providers, manufacturers, and government leaders around the world.

In Episode #82, we are joined by Robert Lamb, a Harris Bricken international attorney. We discuss:

We’ll see you next week for another exciting and informative episode when we sit down with Sital Kalantry to discuss India’s fascinating Supreme Court!

This podcast audio has been transcribed by an automatic transcriber.

Fred Rocafort  00:07

Global law and global business go hand in hand, but never seem to keep pace with each other. The importance on the global stage of developing and developed nations waxes and wanes, while consumption and interconnectedness steadily increase all the while laws and regulations change incessantly requiring businesses to stay nimble. But how do we make sense of it all? Welcome to Global Law and Business hosted by Harris Bricken International Business attorneys. I’m Fred Rocafort.


Jonathan Bench  00:37

And I’m Jonathan Bench. Every week, we take a targeted look at legal and economic developments in locales around the world as we try to decipher global trends in law and business with the help of international experts. We cover continents, countries, regimes, governance, finance, legal developments, and whatever is trending on Twitter. We covered the important the seemingly unimportant, the relatively simple and the complex.


Fred Rocafort  01:02

We hope you enjoy today’s podcast. Please connect with us on social media to comment and suggest future topics and guests.


Jonathan Bench  01:21

Today we are joined by Robert Lamb, a corporate transactional attorney in our firm’s Salt Lake City office. He has a specific focus on international trade finance, joint venture structures and cross border and domestic m&a. He has represented clients on deals involving some of the best known brands and innovative concepts and technologies in the world. Over the last 20 years, he has traveled extensively lived and practiced in remote corners of the globe, and represented clientele from Asia, Europe, the Americas in the Middle East. Robert is also fluent in Mandarin Chinese. Rob, I’m particularly happy to have you with us today, partly because you and I are the firm’s core members of the Salt Lake City office. We both speak Chinese we both do a lot of international deals, you become a mentor to me. So this is, in one way, I thank you, but also a lot of fun. And certainly we’re happy to have you share your expertise with us and our audience today.


Rob Lamb  02:17

Thanks, Jonathan. I look forward to the conversation. I think we’re gonna have a lot of fun over the next hour.


Jonathan Bench  02:22

So we’d love to start out our podcasts by getting your background story. Why did you become an attorney? How did you get to this point in your career? What makes you tick?


Rob Lamb  02:31

Well, it’s a good question. I think I’m somewhat of an unlikely attorney in the sense that there was nobody in my family that that was an attorney that or had gone to law school or for that matter, had really gone to graduate school. I think that I was born of a curious and a critical mind. In my late teens, I started to travel a bit and that expanded my worldview, in my mind view. And in, went to school at the University of Utah, studied history, political science, and then got a minor in Chinese, together with some travel, became fluent in Mandarin Chinese, and decided that law school would be a good, good option, and a good way to sort of view and access the world or the globe.


Fred Rocafort  03:18

Rob, welcome to the podcast. It’s also a pleasure to to have this opportunity to, to chat with you and also to welcome one of our own, if you will, to to the podcast, it’s great to talk to those who can bring in new perspectives. And coming from different entities, different companies, but it’s also great to be able to dig deeper into into things with you. So turning to your areas of expertise, you have a deep background in international supply chains, and international supply chain finance. What’s happening in the world of supply chains, I know that there’s a lot of stories in the news about all the issues that are that are happening because of the pandemic and the different related issues and things like the container shortage that we are that we are facing. So could you give us an overview of what is happening and perhaps just to just to get things started, maybe a very brief one to two sentence definition of what is a supply chain, because this is one of those terms that is increasingly in our vernacular. And I think a lot of people have at least some inkling of what that means. But I think I fear that we may, we may be getting too far ahead of ourselves and getting to the point where people are just going to be afraid of even asking what that is. So So maybe let’s start off by defining what’s the supply chain and then sort of move on from there.


Rob Lamb  04:59

Supply chain? That’s that’s a great question. Supply chain really takes it’s a generic term that takes the very basic raw material puts it into use of some sort, depending on where where we’re at, there usually is some level of consumer demand that’s triggering the need for that product, whatever it is. And it takes the raw material all the way through some form of manufacturing, to transportation. There is an overlay of finance, which we’ll talk separately, I think it needs to be treated separately. And then all the way into into transportation, whether that be air, land, or sea, and puts it into the console ultimately puts it into the consumer. So it’s a generic term that sort of ties that full process of manufacturing and transportation and consumption into one idea, which is supply chain. And, Fred, to follow up on your question, it is interesting to me that it’s actually not talked about more. Certainly it is, you mentioned, you mentioned the crisis, right now with containers, which is part of it. It is somewhat of a cliche to say that, that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. We sort of live right now and in a time in an era where almost every single link is weak. And and because of that, it is really truly at at at at something of a at a crisis point. And let me give you just a quick two year, probably three year version of why we are where we’re at right now. And again, I this is this is sort of an a political discussion. I’m I won’t be waxing any sort of politics in this at all, but politics irrelevant, so we’ll just speak to him as facts. During the Trump presidency, about midway through the Trump presidency, he initiated What are now what we now know are the Trump sanctions against China. And and then there were sort of countermeasures to that. And the ultimate effect was a squeeze on supply. And you had this you had this law, you had this resulting low in manufacturing for the first time in a long time, across the board and across all different types of products. And then just when just when the market was starting to figure that out, you have an epidemic of the COVID epidemic, which suppresses demand even more. And, and the midst at the midpoint to the endpoint of 2020. You had the stimulus sort of global not just in the United States, we had global stimulus that pushed up rapid demands, there’s pent up demand, whether it be in audio, automobiles, electronics, or what have you, this pent up demand, and the infrastructure, the supply chain just absolutely wasn’t prepared for that. And they just you have to mobilize workforce, you have to mobilize factories, you have tooling and molding, you have all sorts of aspects and parts of the infrastructure that just weren’t on. And so the demand, the demand wasn’t met, or at least it was really slow to sort of get ramped up again. And And and frankly, that’s where we’re at now. And then you have an overlay of politics, access to raw materials is absolutely an issue. Silicon chips, for example, almost now become commodities and a trade war. And so politics overlays all of this, and you have this perfect storm of supply chain crisis. Fred, you you specifically mentioned that container shortage crisis. And that’s very much part of the problem. What happened with that is that is that Asia supplied so much of the personal protection equipment, the PPE equipment during COVID. And a lot of those containers went for the first time to a lot of remote parts of the world. And those containers didn’t come back, it became economically inefficient to send containers back into some of the manufacturing spots and ports around the world. And so that that’s part of the crisis. You also have a labor shortage. The laborers affect the ports and they also affect transport, whether it be the tractor trailers on the roads, or the rail stations, the labor shortages at also affected and ultimately hurt the supply chain. So you have this this sort of perfect storm of all of these components. Now the good news is that the consumer steel at least for now is still demanding the product. You have logistics companies that are very adaptable and good at what they do, and we’ll talk about that in a minute. But ultimately, you have the you have a level of delay and lack of product that you probably We probably have not seen in a long time. Just recently I was with my family in the springtime I was with my family in the Newport, California area, you could see it’s it’s an area of the world that I tend to go at least once or twice a year. And I’ve never seen containerships, almost as many as you could count more out into the ocean just waiting for their opportunity to be unloaded. That to me is is anecdotal evidence of the labor shortage and the inability to really take those goods off and get them distributed through the United States. So that sort of thing is happening all over the world now.


Fred Rocafort  10:38

Thank you for that explanation, right of what what a supply chain consists of I think that was that was very useful, very practical way of explaining it. Really, if you think about it, a supply chain, you know, even for, for goods that are produced exclusively from inputs found here in the United States, or would still be a supply chain, we sort of think of containers and ships, when we talk about about supply chains, supply chains don’t have to be international. However, that leads me to to my question, which is that? Well, obviously, when your supply chain starts to depend on places and inputs that are coming from very far away, that’s going to complicate things right? Even even under the best of circumstances, right? It’s not the same, to have a supply chain that is entirely located within one country or perhaps within a region, right, where, where there might be an international border, that has to be dealt with, but but it is it is a land border. So I think and going back to your point about how there’s that overlay of politics, obviously, it isn’t impossible really to extricate or differentiate between supply chains and the broader geopolitics. So I’m wondering if you have anything to say about that about what it’s meant, in our particular case here in the United States to increased dependence on international supply chains? And not only that, I mean, supply chains that really span the world, right, across the Pacific Ocean? Well, what are the implications of that particular type of supply chain?


Rob Lamb  12:24

Yeah, that’s a great question. And and that was that was that’s part of the solution. You’re hinting at part of the of the answer. And let me let me explain I, I’ve been in this space now for 20 years of my career, most of my career, I think about two or three years. And there was a book that everybody was thrilled about, excited about reading and bantering, called The World is Flat. And I think all of us on this call have probably read and digested that. And what’s happening now is the complete opposite. It is to domesticate supply chain, and to regionalize supply chain, that’s that’s what’s happening. I think that that most in the space are basically saying, we have gone to global, and now it’s time to, to contract, and to find ways to be less exposed to the risk of geopolitics, and more self sufficient within a region. Now, I think that that works generically. And I think that that will absolutely be the trend. And it already is the trend. And and we as lawyers do, that’s part what we do, we help companies sort of domesticate and regionalize supply chain, I have a client right now that we are taking some of their equipment, breaking it down from southern China and locating it here in the United States. They want to be completely self sufficient within a region. And and that’s the trend, I think that will continue continue to happen.


Fred Rocafort  13:57

So Rob, in addition to looking for regional self sufficiency, which which obviously is something that we have to to look at, what other alternatives might there might there be? This is a question with with really practical consequences, right? I mean, at the firm, we have a very active international trade practice. We have a lot of clients that come to us facing issues related to to the to the tariffs, to end to other other sorts of trade barriers that exist especially in the in the context of China trade. And the conversation will will take us in various directions often there are clients for whom turning to to a place like Mexico is an acceptable solution. There are clients though, that cannot do that. Right. And then we have to look at other possibilities. One thing that I’ll just throw out, but of course, what I’d really like to hear is your own take on this often. What are our proposed solutions entail is a separation of powers different elements of the supply chain in a way that allows the client to, to better contend with existing conditions. So for example, just to give a very simple example, let’s say a client is in the business of selling product, a, and there are issues with with product A, whether it’s tariffs that are imposed on that product or other trade issues. And in some cases, the the path forward is for for the client to separate elements of the supply chain, so that instead of doing everything in in China, for example, they’ll do some of the work in China, and then some of the work elsewhere or some of the work in the US, or once they go down that path, they might discover that, well, if we’re going to be separating the different components of the supply chain, we actually don’t need to rely on China anymore, because whereas we need China in order to be able to do the whole thing, if we’re only going to be doing 50% of it in country A before bringing it to the US and Country A can be any number of countries. So so that’s one thing that comes to mind. But again, I’d like to hear from you as to as to what might be some ways forward out of out of these, these issues?


Rob Lamb  16:17

Well, Fred, you’re exactly right. To domesticate or to regionalize your supply chain is, is is an interesting theory that may work for some and may absolutely not work for others. There’s another complexity, of course to this, and that is actual access to necessary and raw materials, that’s part of it, then there’s a related part is access to brain power, that is access to a skill set or two regions that have a certain level of skill set that can put chipsets together, for example, and then have that background education, educated populace educated working force. So all of those things matter with respect to your ability to regionalize. And, and I think because of that, you’ll see a lot of local governments, especially in the United States, and we’re seeing it already local, state governments, county governments that are trying to get ahead of the game a bit and and see that this regionalization is happening and will continue to happen. And and they’re allocating government resources to sort of make sure that happens and builds it out. That’s one thing you mentioned, moving from Asia to to Latin America. That is another trend, I think that three of us are dealing with almost on a daily basis, which is great. And we can help our clients sort of do that navigate through that. The other the other thing that’s happening too, and I got to speak generically to this just because we’d have to take it case by case. But anytime that there is strain on a supply chain or their strain on at consumers access to a desired good, and there is a need for that good, it’s ultimately going to work if the system is going to work and what’s happening are advances in technologies across the board, the the shifting from one raw material to another, or the the lack of need for that that raw material anymore into what now is a new product. And so we’ll see a lot of that building and growing. And the good news of that is that that’s opportunity, that almost always is opportunity and sort of growth, technological expansion is is creates a level of new industry. And we’re going to see new industry as there is more and more global strain on the supply chain, you’re going to see the rise of new of new technologies. I’ll just mention one other opportunity that I think our clients are taking advantage of, and this sort of gets to your product, a product B scenario, whereas I am seeing really good well, well established companies here in the United States that have an established infrastructure, they are lending, that they’re monetizing that infrastructure in partnership to other companies. And, and and doubling up on or lending resources, sort of in a mutual effort. Usually, those are non competitive products. And and they’re taking existing resources and basically finding ways to monetize those to land and almost become supply chain companies within these regions that are building and expanding out.


Jonathan Bench  19:28

And Rob, I’ve seen that recently as well. I just joined the board of World Trade Center Utah not too long ago, and you talk companies that are trying to import a lot of goods and have don’t have the individual capacity to negotiate better shipping terms and dedicated shipping lanes with common carriers who have been consolidated in the last several years. And so they’re they’re trying to find a business solution to that and they’re also as an as a group, right as an aggregate group, and also trying to find maybe a legislative solution as well. In In Utah in DC, to help shipping companies address address these needs in a real meaningful way, rather than just jacking up prices.


Rob Lamb  20:08

Yeah, I see the exact same trend.


Jonathan Bench  20:11

So Rob, money always matters, right? I mean, you you’re a supply chain finance guy, you and I have dealt a lot with this. There are a lot of terms that, frankly, scare people, right. And you talk about LC’S and different types of LC’S. And so can you start with the lingo on supply chain finance, tell us what it means how it fits in parallel with a supply chain. And then we’ll dig a little deeper into into opportunities as well, for companies that might not be the leveraging their their financial resources, the way that they could.


Rob Lamb  20:41

You bet. And let me speak to this, I get called almost on a weekly basis from somebody that’s looking to have a product made, or a product sourced, and they have found a manufacturer in Asia, usually it’s in China, not always, but usually it’s in China, and they want to have that product made and made to a certain quantity, and made to a certain spec and then shipped. And it’s always fun to speak to such entrepreneurs that have that desire and have that interest in in creating a product and then having it fully supplied back, it is quite daunting. And usually, usually it’s in this space, it’s in the finance space. And what we’re talking about is risk. That is if you go to if you go to a manufacturer in China, or in Taiwan, or what have you, and say I have the greatest product ever, and I want to get this made. And it is almost always sure we can do that this much is required to pay on the front side, it’s always a tug and pull on where are you going to land, the financial risk of that. And so and so there have been certain instruments that have been created and the letter so creditor one of them, escrow arrangements or another. And so let me let me sort of speak to those. And it’s basically using credit and debt leverage to finance the production of your good. And that’s ultimately the point of all of this. And, and I think all of us on this phone call have have heard the terrible story of going over to China, pre financing it all, putting a bunch of money into it, and then getting getting absolutely nothing ever in return. And that happens surprisingly, a lot. And there are these these facilities that we build out, are these facilities that we can give our clients access to these these financing facilities. They’re really about managing risk on your cash. And, and to a large extent, we help sort of negotiate with these factors. Because we’ve done it our whole career, we can negotiate with these factories terms, at certain level they have to get, they have to get the moldings done, they got to get the tooling set up. So there are upfront expenses, that there’s an expectation. And so what’s come around are these what we call letters of credit. And we won’t get into the details of all the types of letters of credit. But the basic concept is you go to your bank, and say this project is going to cost me a certain amount, we’ll say $100,000 to get this product all done and build out and get my initial supply $100,000. So you there’s a bunch of ways you can do it, you can pledge your credit with that bank, if you have it. Or you can actually put cash towards you keep it in your bank, you keep it safe, and you create this letter of credit that goes to either the factory or it goes to the factory’s bank. And it creates conditions on the pull down on the drawdown. And those are very specific conditions that we help negotiate that say when this is done, and this is done, and this is done to satisfaction, and then this is delivered, then at points of achievement or accomplishment through that process, amounts of dollars can be pulled through and pulled down. And it creates a really nice way to mitigate manage the risk of cash and getting products done. So so so I just sort of built that out on a on a theoretical concept. For medium sized businesses. This is available and with all of the bad news around supply chain, there still is a lot of money in Supply Chain Finance. Now like everything else where there’s high risk, there’s a higher level of scrutiny and getting approved for some of these. But if if you can demonstrate a demand, if you can demonstrate really strong paper where we say your purchase orders, if you can demonstrate that there’s a good chance for a medium sized company that’s looking to really expand their their product supply. Whether it be in China, whether it be in Mexico, frankly, whether it be in the somewhere in the United States, we can help put these letters of credit facilities in place, and they function to really make to gauge your cash risk, and to help us as lawyers put our heads around, what are all the triggering events that allow the factory to pull down on that cash, and to make sure you get it safe and supply and get it safe and sound in your factories or in your own warehouse?


Jonathan Bench  25:17

So Rob, can you talk for a minute about how letters of credit are functionally different from an escrow arrangement? I mean that I see parallels of course, but can you just kind of talk nuts and bolts about how it’s functionally different man, maybe even from a cost perspective?


Rob Lamb  25:31

Sure, they’re both governed by legal contracts or legal language. And they both both an escrow and a letter of credit, create conditional terms, conditional terms of pull down, what the difference between escrow letters of credit within the space of goods and supply chain, letters of credit are literally used thousands and thousands times a day. And so the institutions that are fluent with letters of credit, they just function and flow almost seamlessly. And and, and usually, really reputable manufacturers prefer them. Because there is a level of flow and expectation that they can they can budget on, they can count on. Escrow is almost always a private transaction. And usually you settle to escrow, that is you only go to escrow because the letters of credit structure just didn’t work for whatever reason you didn’t get approved or what have you. And so it’s it’s sort of like doing the same thing. But in a private transaction, a lot of times, you’ll use a independent third party bank, or you’ll use an independent law firm. And you’ll basically pledge the same amount of dollars into into an escrow account, and then you create conditions on draw down and pull down. Usually, there’s no credit involved, if you’re doing legit letters of credit, and you’re a medium to larger size business, and you have credit lines, you can actually leverage your credit lines, and pledge your credit lines to allow to allow payment. And and so and so in an escrow arrangement, you don’t get the advantage of having credit as part of the of the transaction in some of these medium, to larger size businesses. Cash flow is everything. So So letters of credit are definitely better. And and more fluent within the space of purchasing goods and making payments. But escrow can work. And you Jonathan, you and I have done many of them. And so escrow arrangements can work, but they’re a little bit more clunky, and you don’t get the advantage of credit lines.


Fred Rocafort  27:42

So Rob, let’s turn to to our practice and and to our day to day, and I’m excited about this this topic because honestly, on the on the podcast, we do tend to focus on the big picture issues, the the the substantive issues, but it’s it’s it’s good every once in a while to, to turn to fundamentals. And I know you are passionate about meeting your clients on their home turf, this requires you to travel extensively. And I’d love to hear more about these travels, perhaps you can you can tell us about some of the more unique experiences you’ve had. But why is this so important? I mean, I think some of this is intuitive. But it’s good to hear about it in concrete terms. What is it that you and your client gain from these in person interactions?


Rob Lamb  28:34

Fred, that’s a great question. And it’s something that I’m personally sort of struggling with in the sense that my entire my entire practice of doing these international transactions over the last 15-20 years has been, as you say, very, very interactive and, and in person and present. And I tend to see the world as social and to see the these transactions as an opportunity to make and to build relationships. And and that’s not just a personal ideology. I think that that is true for most of the world. There was there was one time that we were putting together a private, it was a non institutional bank. It was a private group, a family group that had done a lot of third party products financing. And this group was somebody that I had a relationship with that I had done a couple different transactions. And on behalf of the client, I went to him and said we have this we have this PO we would like you to finance the PO and they said you know what, come to come to China on this day. And so and so from the family office, we’ll be there. Let’s have the discussion. So I flew to Shanghai, had the meeting, meeting went great. And they said you know We would like to have our mother who was the sort of the, the matriarch of the family and the matriarch of the of the Fortune, we would like to have her approve it as well. And she is actually in Taiwan for Chinese New Year. And it would mean a lot to her if you could go over and have be part of the family dinner a Chinese New Year in Taiwan. And I realized, as they were talking that that was, like 36 hours away. And so and so I, you know, I talked to the client, they said, Yeah, go and, and you have to make sacrifices. Of course, I was supposed to be home at a baseball game by that time. But instead, I rerouted and went and had a wonderful Chinese New Year in Taiwan, and were able to help close the deal. And, and I know, I realized that to a large extent that that is sort of an old school mindset and mentality. But I think it still rings true. And perhaps, in this really weird world, this acrimonious world that we tend to live in now, where everybody’s sort of wondering what your politics are and what your ideologies are, that we there’s just enough animus out there that we’ve lost the the personal and human touch. And it’s hard during COVID not to be able to travel like I traveled before, and I still am confident once once the the the disease and the variants are all under control, that we’ll get back to that. I think that that the I where I can I like to do video conferences still, which which has been really, really nice. But I think ultimately, these it’s dealmaking. And I think ultimately dealmaking is, it’s still to a large extent, not handshaking as much anymore. But fist bumping and seeing people eye to eye and creating, creating trust within the transaction, but sort of relationships beyond that. And so that’s just been part of what I’ve loved to do. And and I hope that I hope sooner rather than later, we’re getting back to that.


Jonathan Bench  31:58

Rob, I remember you mentioned to me working on a deal and you picked up the phone, you were probably here in the States, you called one of your contacts in Hong Kong, and she walked over to the bank, to get face to face with someone to smooth over some hiccup in the financing that and that to me was indicative of this type of relationship management you’re talking about, where if you had just been in the US sending an email to Asia, you’re trying to get something done, they may or may not have paid attention to you. But when you can, or within your network, you can send someone to sit down face to face and get a meeting, you can get things done much faster. And you preserve those those real relationships rather than just those transactional relationships.


Rob Lamb  32:40

Building out the interpersonal infrastructure, as I call it, the relationships is as important as developing the skill set itself, the transactional or the legal skill set, to have to have people that trust you and that you can trust that you can trigger in those types of moments, I think is absolutely critical to the overall success. And frankly, it’s being lost a little bit with this with this weirdness that we’re in, in in with a global pandemic. There was this both to your point, Jonathan, and to Fred’s earlier point, that there was another time that I had helped transact a manufacturing arrangement on a on a consumer product with a group that was physically located in Shenzhen, but their corporate offices were in Hong Kong. And, and there was one term that we thought we had fully ironed out that indeed, we had ironed out, but that for whatever reason, some of the production, that when they reassessed production, they realized that they had to adjust a pretty critical term to the contract. And that was going to mean a firm that was going to squeeze the margin on the ultimate product for my clients here in the United States. I literally got on a plane and flew to Hong Kong. And then and then work my way over to Schengen just to help smooth that through and through that, and, and solve that problem. And and then literally flew back I think I was on the ground for no more than 12 hours and then back. And and so those are the types of things that I have done, done in my career. And I think that it’s just ultimately important. So these these types of relationships can build. And by the way, that relationship is really healthy to this day, and has been very lucrative for both of those those clients or for the client and for the manufacturer.


Jonathan Bench  34:38

Rob, you are a passionate reader. We’ve had lots of conversations about philosophy about your favorite writers. And so we have to talk for a few minutes about, about your reading regimen, about who your favorite philosophers are, why you read them what you get out of it and what the rest of us might be missing.


Rob Lamb  34:58

That’s a great question and probably my favorite subject out of all of this. I do tend to read and think and consider through some of the greatest thinkers. For me, it’s not a theoretical or esoteric exercise, I think that the, the world for whatever reason is so entrenched inside their own ideologies and married so deeply to their own dogmas, that it’s hard, I think, for whatever reason, we live in this world where people have a hard time sort of seeing the other side. And so I tend to seek out the, the antithetical and the iconic class, I tend to seek out those like Friedrich Nietzsche and Rene Descartes, William Blake to a certain extent, and I think if you ask the question, what is everybody else missing? I think that all almost every single deep and problematic issue that we deal with in the public sphere, right now has, to a large extent been reasoned through analyze through and address by some of the greatest minds that have ever lived, and, and they provide the tools for helping us sort of get through it and get past it. And so I like, I like that level of reading. Because I think that it helps us ultimately see a greater view of the world that we can all live in, to a large extent harmoniously, but peacefully. And so anyway, that that sounds a little bit high minded. But I do believe that there’s a lot to be gleaned from and gained by searching and exploring some of the greatest minds that have thought through some of these very problems that we’re dealing with now.


Jonathan Bench  36:42

And, you know, I was a literature major. So one of the things that rings true to me is when you are in someone else’s work, right, you’re in for this was work of fiction, right? You have to have your your willingness to suspend your disbelief, right? You have to even things you come up, you have to be in it, be really immersed in it. That’s how I like to watch movies. It’s how I like to read books. And that’s really how I like to engage in other people’s philosophies as well. When I have said this before, on the podcast, I consider myself very much a centrist on a lot of things, because I see good on on many sides of the spectrum. To the extent there’s more than just two sides to the spectrum. And this is my I want to understand something the way people who hold those beliefs very, very dearly, I want to understand the way they do. I think I remember reading an article, it’s been several months now. But it was talking about the the commonalities between what a lot of rural Americans and other rural people feel like the neglect, they feel like from, you know, from the political center is very similar to what others feel who are marginalized within urban areas to write and say, Well, if we just put their feelings on a spectrum and have them answer the same 10 questions, they’d probably answer that nine out of 10 of them the same way, even though from there’s one thing that rubs them the wrong way about each other, right. And so those commonalities, really, I tend to believe they can build much stronger communities where we can address our differences, which we certainly do have, rather than the other way around, where we’re holding on to our one piece that makes us different, while ignoring all the things that that bring us together.


Rob Lamb  38:17

Jonathan, I completely agree. I think one of the values of reading, specifically reading literature is to have a certain level of exposure to other people’s experiences. And and to me that is vicarious empathy. I think it’s a chance for us to sort of push down our own paradigms and see the world from a different view. And so I think that that is absolutely what is missing in the current public forum.


Fred Rocafort  38:45

Rob, it’s been a great conversation, really glad that we were able to sit down with you sit down with a colleague, I have to say, at least to me, right, it says so much about the people that I work with, that we can bring in a colleague and have the same kind of fascinating conversation that we have with some of our guests who are tuning in from all corners of the of the world. So it’s been a great experience. Thank you. Before we wrap up for today, though, I’d like to ask you for any recommendations you might have for us and or our listeners?


Rob Lamb  39:20

Well, you know, I’m going to I’m going to do a plug for you and Jonathan, I know that you’re expanding your practice a bit in the psychedelics and there is a book out there called the Immortality Key. And it is a historical treatment of the, of the relevance of psychedelics in the evolution of Christianity and a couple of other religions. But which is fine and and I think it’s it’s, he’s hypothesizing which is great, too. But what is really interesting is what’s going on in the clinical space of psychedelics. And so I think that ultimately There’s a there’s there’s some cool things that are happening in that realm and, and the expanding of the mind I think is happening as well. There are yet I tend to read original source material, I would like to see us get back to some of the some of the basics of thinking. Frederick Nietzsche’s the Birth of Tragedy and Beyond Good and Evil, I would recommend to anybody. And then William Blake’s Marriage of Heaven and Hell, I think if you want to paradigm shift a bit, that’s a good place to start.


Fred Rocafort  40:32

Jonathan, anything for us?


Jonathan Bench  40:34

Yes, my recommendation today is not nearly as heavy as Rob’s is. So maybe I chose us to balance out when you need a little bit of a break from the heavy philosophy. I’ve, there are three comics that I check out most days there, I read them online, I guess I started out reading Calvin and Hobbes and peanuts early in my life. So I read every day I read Dilbert. And I read the Far Side. Far Side is more, it’s the you can have the daily dose where you can get four or five comics from back in the 80s and 90s. But Gary Larson is also writing some new comics once in a while as well, which are a lot of fun. But I’m recommending today, the website is the same as the as the name of the website. So the address is the same as the website, it’s This was done, it’s done by a really smart guy who worked at NASA for a while. And he does three comics a week. So I think Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and they’re a mixture of you know, something, some social commentary, but he is a brilliant guy who is a, I think, a physicist, by a physicist or astronomer by maybe an astrophysicist by trade, since he was at NASA, right? So he, he writes these comics, and a lot of them are social commentaries, but they’re a lot of fun to read. And my favorite thing probably is his tagline that I think he might have removed since but I’ve been reading as comics for probably 10 years. And he says, XKCD, that some of these comics are going to be or will not be appropriate for young children. And some of the comics regarding math and science will not be appropriate for liberal arts majors. And so I kind of got a kick out of that, because a lot of times when he does one that’s very, very on the scientific path. I look at it, I’m like, alright, I don’t get this at all. And it’s okay, right? Because I know that the next day, there’ll be one for me. So it’s really fun to kind of stretches my brain and I just love humor in general. So a lot of fun to check out if you if you have a minute Fred, what do you have for us?


Fred Rocafort  42:37

So my recommendation this week is an article called The Lost Outlying Island of the Tachen Diaspora. A few months ago, we had a guest on our podcast who lives in one of Taiwan’s Outlying Islands, for those of you who are not too familiar with Taiwan and cross trades issues, Taiwan controls a few islands that are away from the from the main island of Taiwan and just opposite the, the mainland Chinese coast. And when we interviewed this guest, when Lee, he he explained that there was a another group of islands further to the north, that had actually been held by by by Taiwan for a number of years, until they had to to abandon them. So there’s an article that goes into this history. It’s called the last outlying island of the Tachen diaspora, that the islands that they’re there, they’re known as the Tachen islands. And this came out in a publication called Taiwan insight. The the website for the for the for the publication is And this was written by Kai-yang Huang, h, u, a n g. Very interesting. And while you’re at it, if you’re interested at all in this topic of the outlying islands, or Taiwan more broadly, do check out our interviews with with guests from Taiwan when Lee and better called Zoe. So we’ve got we’ve got a lot of good Taiwan content. So check that out. And with that, Rob, thank you for your for your recommendation. Thanks for coming on the podcast. We look forward to getting together with you again in the future.


Rob Lamb  44:28

Thank you both very much. It was a joy.


Jonathan Bench  44:33

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