July 30th, 2011

red panda eating bamboo

Small linkspam


21st-Century Slaves: How Corporations Exploit Prison Labor

Not only do they get laborers they can underpay (state prisoners receive "average pay of $0.93 to $4.73 per day"; federal prisoners receive up to $1.25 per hour), but they also get tax breaks for hiring them. Excerpts:
Michelle Alexander points out in her book The New Jim Crow that more black men are in jail, on probation, or on parole than were enslaved in 1850. Higher rates of black drug arrests do not reflect higher rates of black drug offenses. In fact, whites and blacks engage in drug offenses, possession and sales at roughly comparable rates.
the federal government subsidizes the use of inmate labor by private companies through lucrative tax write-offs. Under the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC), private-sector employers earn a tax credit of $2,400 for every work release inmate they employ as a reward for hiring “risky target groups” and they can earn back up to 40 percent of the wages they pay annually to "target group workers."
There has also been a disturbing reemergence of the debtors’ prison....According to the Wall Street Journal more than a third of all U.S. states allow borrowers who can't or won't pay to be jailed.
In Wisconsin, prisoners are now taking up jobs that were once held by unionized workers, as a result of Governor Scott Walker’s contentious anti-union law.
A couple of links on the subject of persuasion:

(Site is NSFW for language)

Scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have found that when just 10 percent of the population holds an unshakable belief, their belief will always be adopted by the majority of the society.
The general idea that a minority of strong believers can influence what the larger population believes I find sound, but the "just 10 percent" and "always" don't make sense to me. What happens if 10 percent hold one belief and a different 10 percent hold an opposing belief?

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red panda eating bamboo

Nutty online banking security stuff

I have a mortgage and I pay it online. When I log into the account, this is what usually happens:

1. They demand that I change my password to something different from what it was before. So I do it. I believe that the strongest passwords include letters, numbers, and symbols. So I enter a password like that. Then they tell me I can't use any symbols. So I have to redo it to something less secure.

I have a program that stores all my passwords now, but before I had that, I had trouble remembering what password I was using for this site (because I constantly had to change it and couldn't use symbols) and I kept having to call them up and get them to reset the account.

2. They demand that I answer a "security question" that I previously set up.

3. When I confirm my payment, they demand that I enter the last 4 digits of my social security number.

This seems ridiculous, especially since a mortgage account ONLY INVOLVES MY GIVING THEM MONEY. I can see reasons for using multi-factor security to protect checking accounts and credit accounts, but I can't think of any reason for someone to hack into a mortgage account.

This entry was originally posted at http://firecat.dreamwidth.org/732697.html, where there are comments.