You are currently browsing the Breaching The Web blog archives for June, 2002.

Dying for Work

June 14th, 2002

Illegal migrant workers who come from Mexico to the U.S. in search of work frequently travel through some of the most inhospitable, dangerous land in the United States. Humane Borders, an ecumenical organization of 33 different religious groups, is trying to reduce the number of deaths by errecting water stations along frequently traveled migrant routes [the story is from the Tucson Weekly].

The story is one of 291 border deaths in fiscal 2001, of a rich nation that awards only 20,000 visas each year to the people of a poor neighboring country where it takes a day of hard toil to earn what a Tucson busboy can make in a single hour, of a government lobbied by agribusiness and other employers who depend on cheap labor not to enforce its own laws against hiring undocumented workers.

Humane Borders wants to rewrite that story, and although it is a non-profit organization, it is allowed to lobby because of its 501(c)4 status under the tax code.

A year ago, the Pima County Board of Supervisors awarded Humane Borders a $25,000 contract to maintain water stations, hoping to save lives and reduce emergency medical costs. On April 4, Libertarian activist Ed Kahn and a handful of other citizens filed suit against the Supervisors and Humane Borders, claiming a conspiracy to misappropriate funds to “provide aid and comfort to foreigners, drug smugglers, and potential terrorists.”

Worked to death

June 14th, 2002

This Mortal Toil [from the Syracuse New Times] examines the link between the death and type of work. The surprising finding is that people who work at boring jobs die sooner than those who work at high-stress, but interesting, jobs.

The findings, published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, involved a 23-year survey of the physical and psychological working conditions of members of 5,000 households. Employment positions were classified according to decision-making opportunities, psychological demands, security, support and physical demands.

The most outstanding discovery was that individuals whose employment provided the fewest decision-making opportunities were 43 percent more likely to die than those having autonomy in the workplace. A related finding was that people who worked at passive jobs, described as those with low demands and little control over what work was done and when, were 35 percent more likely to die than the average worker.

Shadow Boxing

June 13th, 2002

Seth Gitell examines the implications of a Gephardt-Gore showdown in the 2004 primaries in the Portland Phoenix (Maine). And they aren’t good.

Democratic observers are of two minds about the prospects of a final Gore-Gephardt match-up. On the one hand, they look forward to it as great political theater. “It certainly would be a clash of titans in a way,” says one former Gephardt operative. But they also worry that such a contest would only weaken the Democrats. “I don’t think [Bush political strategist] Karl Rove could imagine a better scenario than those two guys squaring off,” the Gephardt ally adds.

Private Parts

June 12th, 2002

Rebecca Kastl is a transitioning male-to-female transsexual. She was on the faculty of Estrella Mountain Community College in Arizona, until officials of EMCC demanded that she prove she did not have a penis before using the women’s restroom. She protested and was fired. This outrage occured in spite of the fact that Ms. Kastl had already legally changed her name and her sex on her drivers’ license and other legal documents. Ms. Kastl is suing EMCC under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, arguing that she is being discriminated against on the basis of her sex.

Water woes

June 10th, 2002

I have previously written here about fresh water shortages around the world, and increasing water problems in the U.S. I think this is a serious problem, one that most people would rather not talk about. Solving our water problems would require difficult political and personal choices about taxes, conservation and lifestyle.

The problem is reaching crisis proportions in one tiny spec of the U.S. — Maui. Maui could run out of fresh water in as few as five years. Much of the problem is due to sugar cane (which requires one ton of water for every pound of sugar produced) and tourism (large resorts use up to one million gallons of water per day). Much of Maui’s fresh water is captured in underground pools formed by gaps in volcanic rock. Unfortunately, as that water is pumped out, sea water rushes in to take its place. It is then impossible for more fresh water to accumulate.


June 10th, 2002

The coolest person I know in Tucson, Arizona just gave me the nicest compliment I have ever received:

I think if you had a male counterpart it would be Alton Brown. You’re both so funny and smart and love diving into small details about things I never ever would think about.

I’m honored to be in such company! Thanks ASH!

New Weblog

June 7th, 2002

My plan for world domination is advancing nicely at

In addition to Breaching the Web (politics and randomosity) and Virtual Marginalia (books), you’ll also find a new weblog i-dabble, which focuses on cooking and food.

Oh, and don’t forget, there are dates in the sidebar to indicate when Virtual Marginalia and i-dabble were last updated.

Smelly Dirty Habit

June 7th, 2002

R.J. Reynolds Fined for Ads in Youth Magazines. For the first time since the 1998 national tobacco settlement went into effect, a tobacco company has been fined for marketing its product to teenagers.

The California Attorney General’s office brought the suit because several magazines that carry Reynolds’ ads (such as Spin, Vibe and Rolling Stone) have a substantial proportion of youthful readers (15% or more). Attorney’s for Reynolds defended their company’s actions under the First Amendment; representatives said they had a right to market their product to adults.

The 1998 settlement bars tobacco companies from taking “any action, directly or indirectly, to target youth.” However, it doesn’t mention magazine advertising, and it doesn’t define what it means to “target youth,” a criticism many anti-tobacco activists (myself included) made back in 1998.

Grand statements without specific guidelines are nearly always unenforceable. In spite of this ruling (which Reynolds is appealing) I believed then, and I believe now, that the tobacco settlement is doomed by its own lack of specificity.

All You Can Eat

June 6th, 2002

Tim Sullivan’s investigation of the All You Can Eat Buffet culture is mythic:

…there is something in the freedom of the all-you-can-eat, in the possibilities of the portions and the ability to waste, that is undeniably American. And these buffets attract Americans in every size, age and economic class. While most restaurants feature burgers, fries, pizza and ethnic food, the buffets offer a trip back to when dinner at a restaurant was more or less like dinner at home without the work…

Juice Sucker

June 6th, 2002

I found this article from the Arizona Republic about whether a black widow spider would kill a baby hummingbird fascinating.

I think that’s a sign that I’m working too hard.