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Think Inc.
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Sunday, April 11, 2004


» Show us the jobs
» Wireless Web cams have place
» More on PLAs

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PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY BRYANT FUKUTOMI / BFUKUTOMI@STARBULLETIN.COM





Show us the jobs


Late last month, California billionaire Alex Spanos -- who, along with his immediate family, was Gov. Linda Lingle's biggest campaign contributor -- hosted a fund-raiser at a Washington, D.C., hotel for George W. Bush. While 1,100 donors awaited Bush's appearance, the presidential motorcade pulled up to the service entrance of the hotel to avoid hundreds of protesters affiliated with the "Show Us the Jobs" bus tour.

Unemployed and underemployed workers from every state had just finished traveling by bus to 18 cities in eight states over eight days, highlighting the personal impact of the tremendous loss of jobs during the Bush Administration.

The 51 bus riders have personal stories of economic struggle (see www.showusthejobs.com) that are heart wrenching. While these job losses have been personally devastating to those directly involved and economically crippling to regions that have been hardest hit, the overall impact is national in scope. Despite better than expected job numbers in March, Bush is still on track to have the worst job creation record of any president since the Great Depression.

According to a study released this past week by American City Business Journals, "Ninety-nine of the 100 largest markets had worse employment records under George W. Bush than Clinton. The sole exception was Honolulu."

However, the fact that Honolulu is the only city out of the 100 studied with an employment situation that has not worsened under Bush is of little comfort to Kalena Miyashiro, Hawaii's representative on the "Show Us the Jobs" tour. Kalena is a single mom who works in Honolulu as a hotel phone operator and whose priority is providing a good future for her 13-year-old daughter. Miyashiro says that participating in the "Show Us the Jobs" tour was a humbling experience because she considers herself one of the lucky ones -- so far.

Honolulu's one out of 100 ranking may be good news for Miyashiro and other working families in Hawaii in the short term. Unfortunately, the longer-term reality is that Hawaii's tourism industry is dependent on the economic health of the mainland metropolitan areas that are home to Hawaii's visitors.

An examination of employment data reveals that, since Bush took office, more than 1 million jobs have been lost in the 20 U.S. cities that are home to nearly half of Hawaii's annual visitors. (By contrast, 8.1 million jobs were created in these cities during the Clinton administration.) Honolulu cannot hope to be the lucky one for long.

The "Show Us the Jobs" tour was an effort to put real faces from across the country on the myriad employment statistics and job loss studies. Another one of these faces is Myra Bronstein, who traveled with Miyashiro on the bus tour as Washington state's representative. She is now featured in a television ad on the jobs crisis that has been running in 11 states.

A year ago, Myra was a well-paid software engineer who was looking forward to spending more of her disposable income on travel, with Hawaii on her list of places to visit. But in speaking with her, Myra made it clear that since her job became "disposable" she no longer has the disposable income to spend on travel.

Unfortunately, Myra's situation is far from unique. Her face is on the cover of Fast Company magazine along with the faces of other high-tech workers and a cover headline that that reads, "LOOK INTO THEIR EYES: These people lost high-tech jobs to low-wage countries."

Myra, who spent four weeks training her two replacements from India, summed up the situation in Fast Company's cover story. "If you're just laid off, you can tell yourself that the economy swings back and forth, but if it's outsourced offshore, it ain't coming back. It still exists, but it just exists in another place. The IT industry in the United States has gone from being a very high-level, well-paying industry to being very low-paying sweatshop labor, and that's an inexorable trend."

Myra's depiction of the severity of the situation is not overstated. A University of California-Berkeley study concludes that as many as 14 million jobs are at risk and the job loss predictions of other recent studies are also in the millions.

As a member of HERE, Local 5, Miyashiro has a decent job with benefits. But what's to stop that job from being moved overseas and how can her union help her if it does? As folks in Appalachia learned when Travelocity.com announced earlier this year that it was shutting down a local call center that employed 250 people, old union tactics that worked with in the past are not as effective today.

"The situation with [the mining company] was physical," a local Travelocity employee told the Los Angeles Times. "We could block the roads and block the trucks, and there was no way they could get the coal out. But there's no way to block the Internet. If we tried to do a strike, they'd just ignore us."

One home-grown approach to addressing this economic dilemma was first developed in Hawaii and embraced by Gov. Ben Cayetano during his second term: Protect labor of the mind in the 21st century as Hawaii protected labor of the body in the 20th century. But with Lingle as governor, it is unrealistic to expect the state to back any economic strategy that requires the partnership of labor.

Therefore, a strategy that was initially undertaken in Hawaii is now beginning to be implemented on a national level through the newly created American Ingenuity Alliance. The overriding goal of this strategy is to create an alliance between organized labor and inventors as well as other creators of intellectual property.

The American Ingenuity Alliance is working to combine the legal leverage of independent intellectual property holders with the organizing power of labor unions to protect the fruits of American ingenuity and to use them in forging an anchor for good jobs in America.

For information on the alliance visit www.americaningenuity.org.


Ian Chan Hodges is a principal of Responsible Markets LLC on Maui. He can be reached via e-mail at chanhodges@hawaii.rr.com


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TECH VIEW



Wireless Web cameras
aid surveillance efforts


Remember those cheesy spy-cam "X10" pop-up ads from a few years ago? You couldn't get away from them. They would show a pretty blond woman sitting seductively in her living room in a bikini. Don't ask me why she'd be hanging out at home in front of a Web cam in a bikini, but that's what was depicted.

Despite those silly ads, I've found that Web cams (or "spy cams") have their place at home. If you need to keep an eye on the keiki, or perhaps on your ailing grandma, Web cameras offer a cheap, simple solution.

Unfortunately, like most peripherals, PC-based video and Web cameras need a live computer to connect your remote access to the Internet. Wireless Web cams first came out a few years ago and have improved both in quality and ease of installation. Think of them as a networking device, linking directly to either 802.11b (Wi-Fi) wireless access points or on Ethernet cable-based networks. Thus you'll need a simple network already installed to add the camera.

(Note that a "spy cam" can be either a hidden camera viewed through a TV or on the Web. The type viewed through a TV can be seen on a local network -- say, at your home -- but not necessarily on the World Wide Web. A true "Web cam" can be seen anywhere there's a PC connection to the Net.)

You can buy any number of "spy cams," ranging from excellent $200 to $300 models to so-called hidden surveillance or "nanny" cameras that are disguised as clocks, AM/FM radios, light bulbs, speakers and other familiar household objects (see www.digital-pc.com). Then there are our old friends at X10.com, who offer a variety of kits that provide all the gear you need to broadcast video and audio directly to a TV or VCR so you can tape your sessions just like the pros.

Most of the models are built around inexpensive video cameras that can be mounted on an interior or exterior wall or on a surface such as a shelf or table. They transmit wireless signals at 2.4 GHz, much like cordless phones, or on 802.11b wireless local area networks. (Note that these types of "spy cams" do not work on the Web.)

It may seem spooky at first, but these devices really come in handy if you want to keep tabs on your baby sitter or just to be certain that when the kids are suddenly quiet, they are not up to mischief. There also are obvious uses such as seeing who's at the front door or even in the back yard if you're concerned about who's prowling around after dark.

I've heard of a family that uses a camera to monitor a child who is subject to asthma attacks, and others who find it useful for convalescing adults or children.

The basic X10 $80 XCam2 kit consists of a camera that broadcasts in color and a receiver. The camera plugs into a power outlet, and the receiver plugs into a TV or through your VCR. The camera itself is about the size of a golf ball, so it's pretty inconspicuous. The X10 also provides an option for a USB converter so you can view live video from your XCam2 cameras on your PC rather than a television.

One word of caution: Before installing any wireless equipment, it's important to be aware of security and privacy risks. The New York Times reported that security experts (and hackers) can intercept X10 signals from more than a quarter-mile away using basic equipment.


Kiman Wong, general manager of Internet services at Oceanic Time Warner Cable, is an engineer by training and a full-time computer geek by profession. Questions or comments should be addressed to kiman.wong@oceanic.com


Be well informed before
choosing a camera

If you're serious about setting up a high quality Web-cam system, Andrew Lanning, a Honolulu-based security specialist and president of Integrated Security Technologies (www.istechs.net) suggests that you start by purchasing gear that is designed for the environment in which it will be operating.

For example, if you're setting up an outdoor camera, keep in mind that lenses are limited in their capacity to "see" in changing lighting and focal plane conditions. In general, cheaper cameras have poorer imaging capabilities. It's important to get the proper imaging technology in place so the action that you wish to capture is rendered with the proper focus and resolution.

Second, Lanning advises that you set up a Web-cam system that meets your needs and lifestyle. "For example, when your children come in the door from school each day, it may be more convenient to have the cameras that send a still image of their arrival to your office PC or enabled telephone rather than for you to have to log on and watch a live camera until you see that they are there."

He suggests that "serious" users check out equipment from www.axis.com.

The Axis camera server lets you attach any standard NTSC camera for digital image transmission via HTML, Java, FTP or even e-mail. Sony also offers a line of professional-grade IP cameras, as do D-Link and other manufacturers.

Lanning also likes software-based digital video recorders (DVRs), which are available through Lenel Systems International (www.lenel.com/onguard/video_LNVR.htm). These recorders permit the user to record (to an external USB hard drive, for example) and manage digital video streams through a software interface.

Proper management makes it easy to record and recall only the images that are important to the user, such as when a door opens or closes, or when someone approaches an object or travels down a corridor.

Software-based recorders can be purchased a single video channel at a time ($200), which brings the expense of professional digital recording into the budget of the small commercial business or homeowner.

Finally, the recorded video is only as reliable as the computer management practices that maintain it. Businesses and homeowners alike need to deploy anti-virus and anti-spam technologies on their DVRs or digital recording PCs. They must perform daily backups, maintain software patches, install firmware and security upgrades, and they must test their system's functionality frequently to ensure that it's working properly. You don't want to miss that one opportunity you had to catch the action.





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[Letter to the editor]

Project labor agreements might not be in the best interests of anyone in Hawaii, with the exception of union leaders as they work toward increasing their membership rolls, and thus increasing their take through membership dues.

Local contractors, both union and nonunion, should protest any form of PLA. PLAs allow nonunion contractors to use the resources that union companies have developed. Time, money and other efforts were used to develop workers by union contractors over the course of many years through the use of apprenticeship and other programs.

Many times, workers were kept on payroll during slow market periods at the expenses of union companies to ensure that they would be available when needed. PLAs will allow others, without the same investments, to use these resources.

Nonunion contractors also should protest any form of PLA as it will change the way they and their employees conduct business.

Employees will not have a choice and in order to keep their jobs, they will have to join the union and pay dues.

Nonunion contractors have developed their own work forces through years of training and nurturing, becoming efficient and competitive in the open market place. They will lose all of those advantages to out-of-state or newly formed companies who will use union employees.

All local companies should protest the PLA. It allows out-of-state contractors to use "our" resources to compete with us. They don't invest in Hawaii's work force or infrastructure, and don't have local overhead costs, but they will be able to use "our" workers if they win a sub-contract on a PLA project.


George Toyama is president of General Trades & Services Inc., a nonunion shop based in Waipahu.


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