Critical Mass San Francisco June, 27th 2008


One word describes this: badass

I was on my way to Pownce’s 1st Birthday and my muni perfectly timed a San Francisco Critical Mass on Market St. At the time I had no idea what it was, or why it was, and everyone on my bus was like HOLY CRAP look at all those bikes. Thankfully I had my pocket cam, turned it on, and started blasting video.

I gotta give a shout out to Tyler Howarth over at Rev3’s InternRow for helping me figure out what I had witnessed; thanks to his blog post.

Biography in Process

Imagine what information, advice, and ideas the world would have easy and free access to if the technology that is abundant today was available in centuries past. Granted we have a crap ton of books and essays and other writings documenting the histories, thoughts and ideas of great men and women; but what additional “gifts” would they have left us if they had blogs and YouTubes accounts?

What additional gifts would Benjamin Franklin have have left us? What YouTube clips, thoughts on meta-physics, blog posts on being industrious? It cannot be imagined how many more gifts he would have left the world. And this is only one individual! On top of that Franklin wouldn’t have had to entrust his life papers to a irresponsible illegitimate grandson, where they eventually found their way into a tailors shop and where used as patterns and weren’t rediscovered until 1840. Where as, a nice home at wordpress.com would have been much cozier.

But what about all the great men and woman of the world, since the beginning of time? dating as far back as Moses? Imagine if Jesus had a blog. That would be insane! and may even help answer numerous questions of today, questions many seek and questions many would rather not seek.

I am sure this idea of, the ease of which “gifts” can now be given to humanity is apparent to many, I however am finally visualizing and realizing the true potential and effects of the abundance of easy and cheap tech.

The downside is a constant state of information overload. However there are already many tools in service which help sort for the needles in the haystacks, targeting your specific interests, and I bet the tools will only get more refined and sophisticated.

All that being said I have decided to use my home here at ethanbloch.com and fresh out the box YouTube channel, ethanbloch, to post a constant state of updates, thoughts, information and experiences in and about my life. Even if this proves helpful to 1 person, I will be satisfied, however I hope it to be helpful to multitudes more then 1. You may be asking yourself what makes me special? Well my Mom told me I was special when I was 6!

Seriously though, I am on a mission to revolutionize the world, as I have been telling friends and family since 7 years of age, and I figure it best to not have to count on an illegitimate grandson to spread my “gifts” amongst the world.

Thoughts On Trade – Part 2

Please be sure to read Part 1 before continuing.

To trade or not to trade; globally that is. [cont.]

This is not an argument against globalization, but an attempt to open eyes and say “Hey, are you cool with this being the future.” Even though the future is largely uncertain you can estimate conceivable outcomes based on current actions and states of nature. This is what the point is here. So onward we go.

Firm A can’t pay $1 a day here but can move 6000 miles and whoa $1 a day is in fact possible. All the additional costs associated with moving production to another country far far away are recouped with the $1 per day labor. An executive may say “this is cool because now these same products sold domestically will be a degree cheaper and our bottom line will be a degree fatter.”

A question here arises: why would a domestic government be so cool with this situation when in fact that same government has policies in place against another country far far away from producing far far away and dumping domestically? In fact the country far far away winds up moving production into the domestic country, production ‘which doesn’t count for quotas’, so they can sell their products freely without government grief [a great example are Japanese car manufacturers who moved production into the United States in the 1980’s due to the Reagan administrations imposing of Japanese automobile import quotas, or more commonly called “voluntary restraint agreements”]. In that same breath that same government however, will allow one of their domestic firms to move production far far away and then dump this production domestically.

Domestic government A says if you do business here you must abide by these labor laws, these environmental laws and these tax laws. Or you can move your production to another country where you don’t need to meet any of our laws or restrictions and then you can just export your production back home. Destroy jobs and tax revenue, it’s okay, because if you aren’t braking the law on our soil we don’t give a flying f, just please go across the boarder and ship all your ‘domestic law breaking’ product back home, cause we as consumers will love to buy it and wont feel guilty that we are hurting our domestic country, or your country; because hey it’s being produced in a country far far away, oh and did I mention it’s so cheap?

Yes, that’s quite a critical assessment of free trade. However, it is probably also an inaccurate assessment and in contradiction, ideal globalization interwoven with free trade does and can yield magnificent results. A compilation of nations, which allow the free flow of capital goods and ideas, should and does improve life throughout the world, while modest in some places and grand in others. The current situation is not crystal clear and won’t be for years to come. An important question to ask is: are there really good jobs, aside from low wage service jobs, available for domestic workers that loose a well paying job due to globalization? Are we really lifting people out of poverty in developing trading nations, when they make $1 per day and of which many work in conditions that would be deemed illegal domestically? I hope the answers to both of these questions are yes. In terms of both, time will be the judge, and when we have a definitive answer it will most likely be too late to do anything about it.

Thoughts On Trade – Part 1

It should be dully noted here, I am not a qualified practitioner of economics. My thoughts below represent my outward thinking on the situation of Trade, thoughts that have been nurtured by countless books and articles. This is the first part to a multipart essay. It would be most beneficial if you would share your own thoughts, ideas, and or criticisms on the subject.

To trade or not to trade; globally that is.

Defiantly a large topic of discussion today, maybe even a large topic of discussion over past centuries. However, do we really have a definitive answer? Maybe the correct answers lies in the terms of exactly what one perceives as the desirable outcome. There is no doubting the benefits of international trade. Or better yet, free trade in and of itself has many data points which show us increases in standards of living and the enrichment of countries; some may argue it’s for the betterment of their citizenry others the exploitation. But how does one truly gage the advantage of trade between industrialized nations and nations developing. Between nations with strict labor and environmental laws versus ones with of no such kind of laws? I can definitely count the extra dollars in my pocket by buying products at reduced prices; reduced prices attributed to their production being in a country with more competitive labor in that specific product. This is just a single variable [labor] in the free-trade’s comparative advantage model which states, in short: free trade allows countries to pool their resources into the industries in which they are most competitive, thus in effect creating a sort of optimum efficiency between trading nations. Comparative advantages lay in the specific levels of productivity one possesses when producing certain goods and services. Productivity being the amount of output you receive per unit of input.

However the main concern with productivity is this: Offshoring and outsourcing, several firms [multinationals] state, is necessary because domestic labor is not productive enough. And by ‘not productive enough’ they mean they can’t pay $1 a day to domestic laborers to labor away.

Keep America Open To Trade

Another wonderful opinion piece in today’s Wall Street Journal, copied in full below. I’m currently writing a couple of articles on trade and I thought this piece was well suited to start the conversation.

Keep America Open to Trade
By CARLOS M. GUTIERREZ and ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER
May 12, 2008; Page A15

As immigrants, we’re proud of America and the strength it derives from being uniquely open to trade, to investment, and to ideas and people. Recently, prominent voices in punditry and politics have questioned the benefits of America’s openness and called for an isolationist U-turn that would choke off our innovation and prosperity.

In every state of the union, such a retreat would be disastrous for jobs, economic growth and consumer choice. Nowhere is this more clear than here in Torrance, Calif., where today we are visiting a Hitachi plant that remanufactures auto parts. This “foreign” company employs 16,000 Americans — 8,000 in California alone — and is just one of hundreds of overseas firms that invest directly in the U.S. From where we’re standing, what America needs is more openness here and abroad — not less.

“But what about American manufacturing?” one might ask. “What about American exports?” Even at a time when our economy has slowed, U.S. exports are booming. In 2007, we saw a record $1.6 trillion in exports, up 12.6% from the prior year. And exports are growing even faster in 2008. In the first quarter of this year, export growth is up nearly 18% from the same period last year. Nearly a third of all U.S. agricultural products and more than 20% of the goods we manufacture were exported last year. Indeed, exports have been a kind of silent stimulus over the past year, helping even a slowing economy stay in the black.

Here in California, exports are crucial to the economy. Since 2003, California’s gross domestic product arising from exports has grown by more than 25%. With one in seven jobs related to trade, California leads the nation in trade-related jobs. Over 50,000 California companies export their goods, and more than 40% of U.S. goods are shipped through California’s ports.

Opening markets and lowering barriers for U.S. exports creates jobs, spurs innovation, and gives our economy a competitive edge. Consumers also see the benefits — they get a greater variety of higher-quality goods at lower prices. Free-trade agreements (FTAs) — including those now pending before Congress with Colombia, Panama and South Korea — solidify our relationships with key allies and level the trade playing field by lowering export barriers to American businesses, workers and farmers. Congress should approve these FTAs this year.

Most Americans aren’t aware that the South Korea agreement is the most economically significant FTA outside of North America in U.S. history. Korea is California’s fifth-largest export market. The Los Angeles metropolitan area alone exported $2.6 billion in chemicals, computers, machinery and other products to South Korea in 2006.

Unfortunately, Congress has scuttled a vote on the first of the three FTAs, the Colombia agreement. Who gets hurt by this? American workers. Why? Because open trade provides more markets for the products they make, and because Congress has already given Colombian exporters duty-free access to the American market for more than 16 years. In the 538 days since the agreement was finalized, American exports have faced more than $1 billion in Colombian tariffs. All the FTA with Colombia does is provide American goods the same access Congress already gives Colombia.

Yet in the global trading system, America isn’t just a buyer and seller, we’re a huge investment magnet. That giant cash register sound you’re hearing is the nearly $200 billion pumped into U.S. businesses from abroad in 2006 alone. Foreign-owned companies operating in the U.S. employ more than five million Americans, and a third of foreign direct investment is in the manufacturing sector. For the 8,000 Hitachi employees here in California, some of whom we will visit today, and the other 8,000 spread across the U.S., foreign investment is a no-brainer.

California, like every state, wants to attract foreign direct investment that supports American jobs. Last week was “Invest in America” week, a federal effort to promote U.S. markets, our extraordinary workforce, and our innovation and business climate for foreign investors.

Yet for all the openness to trade and investment, it is America’s openness to people that is the indispensable factor in our growth. Each of us knows that well. While we need secure borders, we also need to develop a sensible, comprehensive immigration policy that is humane, practical and consistent with the spirit of openness that is our nation’s strength.

America is a launching pad for courageous creativity, with bold entrepreneurs churning out innovation after invention after idea. We’re one of the wealthiest nations on earth because our society fosters companies like Intel — co-founded by Andy Grove, an immigrant — whose business model is driven by access to global markets.

It’s true, we’re currently facing economic headwinds. While the bipartisan, $152-billion economic stimulus package will help, families are feeling pinched between energy costs, the housing crisis and rising food prices. These are complex issues without easy fixes. But there’s an apt saying that will be on our minds as we talk to workers in Torrance today: “Fix the right problem.” Because we’re immigrants, we have seen firsthand what works here, and what does not work overseas. To us, it is clear that stifling foreign investment, taking a trade “time-out” that hurts U.S. exports, or turning away from the ideas and energy of immigrants, won’t help America grow and prosper.

Mr. Gutierrez is U.S. secretary of commerce. Mr. Schwarzenegger is governor of California.

The Rebirth Revisited

I originally published the piece below on January 19, 2007; well over a year ago. Since then I founded a mini-news network, openSermo.com, to help reboot the news broadcast and push the movement talked about in The Rebirth. More interesting however, are the glacial changes taking place all throughout the News media arena, which in essence are proving my Rebirth or Reboot, true.

In the next few days I will be publishing an updated version. But first, I wanted to republish the old version to hear your thoughts and opinions on the subject. So here it is, in it’s entirety and original form:

The Rebirth
Posted on January 19th, 2007 by Ethan Bloch

Broadcast News is dead. The three-letter News broadcasting houses that were given the right to educate and inform the public have lost, lost, lost their marbles, forgotten their roles and ran askew.

Thankfully, respectable News sources still exist, many of which do a great job delivering quality content through the print and online mediums; but in terms of a quality TV News broadcast, good luck (Clearly the sources aren’t the problem, the News agencies are doing their job quite well, it is the delivery that’s terrible ie. three-letter News broadcasts). If one combines these respectable News sources with simple News aggregation (Google News), Digg, digg-a-likes, cautious Blogosphere navigation and Blog aggregation (Technorati, Techmeme), a very healthy News diet can be achieved (the more the merrier). The issue here is the tens of millions of people who still rely on a TV News broadcast as their main, if not sole source of information (things like this help one sleep at night).

It is understandable that watching a TV News broadcast is less taxing then reading and digging – not changing anytime soon – so here lays the predicament. The solution lies in a new form of TV News broadcast. If TV News broadcasts were delivered in a similar light to Pardon the Interruption, you would have a wider viewer base that’s better informed and maybe even engaged in some self thought (not saying they’re not today, but saying they’re not today). Granted there are many topics you can only sexy up so much, and others that would be just plain wrong to sexy up, there is still plenty that could be done to create a more engaging, fulfilling and informing News broadcast. It would be very difficult however, for any three- letter News house to try and create this internally. These three-letter TV News broadcasts still draw millions of viewers and in turn don’t feel any pressure to change; they feel no sense of urgency.

Screw urgency! We need something more. This something more will be done by outsiders, from the ground up. Considering the low cost of current technology used to create and widely distribute video, now is a riper time then ever for the birth of new News broadcasting (a rebirth). Another rebirth has been full steam ahead in the text based realm of News delivery; visible in the services I previously mentioned (which are just a few). But video is the cake to eat all cakes. Intelligently delivered engaging news, in video format which is and will continue to become easily consumed on any medium one sees fit, is king!

A video podcast like Diggnation is proof of what’s to come for more mainstream audiences. Diggnation does a tremendous job of staying entertaining, getting a point across, and at times proving educational. Unfortunately Diggnation isn’t going to replace the any o’clock news anytime soon (I know), but it does give us hope. In order to rebirth broadcast News for mainstream audiences the delivery needs to spread this reenergized enthusiasm and color of opinion onto a vast array issues and world on goings, while still housing enough acceptance standard deviations to remain widely viewed (coming soon).

Help push the rebirth! We here at openSermo challenge you. Talk it up with your friends and family and get their opinions on the current state of the three-letter broadcast. Feel free to share your thoughts, opinions or ideas concerning this tragic state in our comments. Please get informed, think for yourself, tip well and hopefully one day we will have something to proudly call, our broadcast News.

The Truth Behind Nafta

It’s a shame a lot of the Journal’s content is still subscriber only, because this opinion piece is something everyone should read and have access to. Furthermore, if it they were totally open, I wouldn’t have to copy the article here verbatim. Rather, I could just write my thoughts and then link to it.

Considering all the Nafta bashing taking place by certain presidential candidates, it is important to understand which actual goods and services are flowing so freely across our North American borders. And what goods are really casuing the United States’ Nafta deficit [highlighted in bold below].

Now I’m not sure if Mr.Engler’s calculations and assumptions are perfect, nevertheless, this piece is definitely eye opening and worth a read.

via. The Wall Street Journal

By JOHN ENGLER
April 21, 2008; Page A15

It is amazing how some presidential candidates are blaming the North American Free Trade Agreement for U.S. job losses. They seem to believe that a substantial part of the three million manufacturing jobs lost since 2000 resulted from Nafta, and that outsourcing of manufacturing production to Mexico and Canada resulted in a huge trade deficit.

Too bad they don’t know that the growth in the deficit isn’t due to manufactured goods, but to oil and gas imports.

There is no question that the imbalance of trade within Nafta has soared since 2000. That deficit has almost doubled to nearly $140 billion in 2007, from $77 billion in 2000. But the deficit in manufactured goods did not displace U.S. factory production.

What the antitrade advocates have been hiding from the candidates (or maybe don’t know themselves) is that almost all of the increase in our Nafta deficit since 2000 has been in increased U.S. imports of energy from Canada and Mexico. In fact, $58 billion of the $62 billion increase in our Nafta deficit has been in energy imports. That’s 95% of the total increase.

We need that oil and gas, and we would rather get it from our friendly neighbors. Surely no one seeks to argue that America would be better off saying no to Mexican and Canadian oil and gas, advocating that we instead import that energy from less secure sources farther from our borders.

Except for energy, though, our trade deficit within Nafta has hardly grown at all – only $3.5 billion from 2000-2007. Our agricultural and manufactured goods sales to Nafta countries have just about kept pace with our imports. That’s a lot more than one can say about the rest of our foreign trade.

While the nonenergy deficit within Nafta has grown less than $4 billion since the job loss started, with the rest of the world it grew over $150 billion. Put another way, the increase in our nonenergy deficit within Nafta has accounted for only 2% of the increase in our global nonenergy deficit since 2000.

Why are the candidates so focused on 2% of our trade problem rather than on the other 98%? Our nonenergy deficit with the high-wage, high-environmental-standard European Union (with whom we have no free trade agreement) grew 10 times as much as it did with Nafta. And of course, with China the deficit grew even more.

None of this is to say that some U.S. factories haven’t closed and their production moved to Canada or Mexico. Certainly that has happened. But in the case of Nafta, that job impact has been almost exactly balanced by increased U.S. production and exports of farm and factory goods.

Suppose our trade with the rest of the world had performed as it did within Nafta. Instead of seeing our nonenergy trade deficit grow over $155 billion, it would have grown only by $25 billion. That would have put us ahead by $130 billion, which sounds pretty good to me.

Nafta has been part of the solution, not the problem. We can do even better if we focus on how to make American manufacturing more competitive than it is.