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Category Archives: Great American Rip-Off

Texas Prison Bans Books By Langston Hughes… But Hitler and David Duke Are OK

Yeah…The Aryan Nations Criminal Gang is just fine…Because they are white.

A man holds a French (L), a Finnish (C) and a Danish (R) edition of Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf" (My Struggle) at the Institute for Contemporary History in Munich (AFP Photo/Matthias Balk)

Texas prisons ban books by Shakespeare and Langston Hughes — but Hitler and David Duke are OK

When a prisoner is behind bars, he or she typically has access to a library of donated books to pass the time. There are stories about incarcerated people getting their GED or even taking college classes, others learned enough law to fight for appeals. Then some just read the classics available on the shelves. That is, unless you’re in jail in Texas.

According to the Houston Press, the type of books available are growing smaller and smaller each year. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice has consistently been working to rid jails of specific titles for decades, but after banning Wolf Boys due to finding a single page to be offensive, they’re finally drawing public outrage.

The new Dan Slater book is about two Mexican-American teenagers in Texas. They get drawn into a life of crime by the drug cartels and a Mexican-born Texas detective is tasked with finding them. According to reviews, the tale is a little violent and the outlook isn’t great, but according to The Guardian, it serves as a “thoughtful look at American society and the war on drugs.”

Before the book was even published, it was banned due to two sentences that described the way someone smuggled illegal drugs.

“The system is so aggressive and arbitrary,” the author said. “If you asked me to name 100 sentences that might have gotten my book banned those would not have made the list.”

But Slater’s book isn’t the only strange choice. Books by Langston Hughes, Gore Vidal, Flannery O’Connor, Sinclair Lewis and Thomas More have all been banned.

The guidelines for Texas are so loose that realistically anyone could ban any book for any reason. They were supposed to be banned if there is any mention of how to make weapons, drugs or explosives and if there is anything in the book that would “incite a prison riot” or has “sexually explicit images.” By that same logic, The Bible depicts murder, rape, sex and one of it’s leading characters encourages breaking laws and revolts against the King.

Strangely enough, books The Color Purple, which won a Pulitzer Prize, has been banned. A book of Shakespeare’s Sonnets was banned because of a nude painting on the cover. Dante’s Inferno and Buzz Bissinger’s Friday Night Lights are also on the blocked list. A collection of Leonardo Da Vinci’s sketches was also banned for nudity, but a kinky sex book titled The Pleasure’s All Mine passed through. To make matters worse, Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf and David Duke’s My Awakening also get the Texas Corrections sign of approval. As does Che Guevara’s Guerrilla Warfare, proving the book ban is not only arbitrary but ridiculous.

A 2011 investigation from the Texas Civil Rights Project found about 11,800 titles on the banned list. In just five years that’s grown to over 15,000.

While the issue is a national problem, Michelle Dillon, program coordinator of the Seattle-based non-profit Books to Prisoners, told The Guardian, “Texas is less rational than other states.”

To make matters worse, the decision of whether to ban is essentially left up to a mail clerk, who decides when books come in if they’ll be passed through to the inmate or not.

“There is no accountability,” Dillon says. She also noted there’s no consistency because one clerk will let a book go to the inmate while another will ban the same book because he or she is having a bad day or even because he or she has conservative values.

 
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Posted by on September 28, 2016 in Great American Rip-Off, The New Jim Crow

 

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US Collects Taxes on Those Olympic Gold Medals

Go to the Olympics representing the United States and win a Gold, Silver, or Bronze?

Well…There’s a tax for that.

For US Olympians, gold medals come with a hefty tax bill

She has flipped, tumbled and leapt her way into the hearts of millions over the course of the Olympic games. But when Simone Biles returns home she will be in for not just a major celebration but also a hefty tax bill.

The 19-year-old has won five Olympic medals – four gold and one bronze. She has cemented her title as the world’s best gymnast by taking home the gold in the all-around after three successive world championship titles – a feat only accomplished by three others in history.

But all that winning will cost her. On 21 August, Biles could be slapped with a tax bill close to $43,560 (£33,479)

That estimate is based on the $2m that she has accumulated in endorsement deals and assuming she is charged in the highest income tax bracket in the US – 39.6%.

Biles is not alone, her fellow US medallists will be slapped with tax bills for their victories as well.

American Olympians are subject to a so-called “victory tax” – a tax on both the money they receive from the Olympic committee for winning and on the value of the Olympic medal.

What are they taxed on?

US athletes who win a medal at the Rio games will take home the hardware and a cash bonus from the US Olympic Committee.

Gold medallists will receive $25,000, silver medallists get $15,000, and bronze winners earn $10,000.

Those winnings are taxed as income, the same way Americans are taxed on other prize money, like lottery winnings. Most countries exempt their athletes from these taxes.

But there’s more, the medals are also given a value and taxed. The value is based on the value of the materials the medals are made of.

Gold medals – which are mostly made of silver with a gold plating – are worth roughly $600 based on current commodity prices, silver medals are worth close to $300, bronze medals – which consist mostly of copper – have barely any monetary value, approximately $4.

How much is the tax?

Assuming the athlete was already a high-income earner, paying the top bracket of US taxes, they would be paying 39.6% on the combined value of the medal and cash payout.

Americans for Tax Reform calculated the bills to be: for a gold medallist $9,900, for silver $5,940, and for bronze $3,960.

That’s also assuming the athlete only won one medal.

 
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Posted by on August 18, 2016 in Giant Negros, Great American Rip-Off

 

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Drug Test the Rich!

This could get interesting. AFter Republicans passed laws to Drug Test the poor as a condition of receiving SNAP, an enterprising Democrat turns it around.

Drug Tests for the 1 Percent?

The poor must prove they’re clean before they can receive benefits from the government. Why not hold the rich to the same standard?

Ever since the earliest days of government benefits, when social workers would inspect the homes of welfare recipients for cleanliness, the poor have been asked to prove their worth in order to receive help from the state.

Now, a Wisconsin Congresswoman is asking: Shouldn’t the wealthy have to prove their worth for all the government benefits they receive, too?

Congresswoman Gwen Moore (D-WI) is introducing the Top 1% Accountability Act of 2016, which would require drug testing for all tax filers claiming itemized deductions totaling over $150,000. Moore’s bill would require those with the higher itemized deductions to submit a clear drug test to the IRS or take the standard deduction, which is lower. The bill is intended to highlight the fact that it’s not just the poor who receive aid, even if they’re the ones asked to prove their standing. Aid to the wealthy comes mostly in the form of tax breaks, which allow them to keep money that they would otherwise be required by law to pay to the government.

“We don’t drug test wealthy CEOs who receive federal subsidies for their private jets, nor do we force judges or public officials to prove their sobriety to earn their paychecks,” Eric Harris, a spokesperson for Moore told me. “Attaching special demands to government aid exclusively targets our country’s most vulnerable individuals and families.”

The number of government tests and requirements for poor people receiving government aid has grown in recent years. Utah in 2012 passed a law requiring drug testing for recipients for Temporary Aid to Needy Families, Alabama passed a similar law in 2014, and Arkansas followed in 2015. Other states, including Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Kansas require drug testing if “reasonable suspicion” exists.

These drug tests target people with almost no income who, in the case of states such as Arkansas, receive as little as $204 a month. And the drug tests hardly ever turn up positive. In 2014 Governor Rick Snyder signed a law in Michiganimplementing a pilot program to drug test welfare recipients in three counties; none of the people in the pilot program have tested positive for drugs.

Middle-class and wealthy Americans may not be getting housing vouchers, but they are getting tax deductions, which come when people itemize their taxes rather than take the standard deduction. Itemizing taxes isn’t worth it unless you’ve spent more on tax-deductible items (including mortgage interest, charitable giving, and also the odd luxury item, such as a yacht) than the standard deduction, which was $12,600 this year for a married household filing jointly. According to one report, more than 95 percent of tax filers making over $200,000 itemized their deductions in 2011, compared to just 13 percent of those with incomes of $50,000 or less….Read the Rest Here

 
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Posted by on June 19, 2016 in Great American Rip-Off

 

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Airport Security Lines Cause 70,000 AA Passenger to Miss Flights

Going to be a long frustrating summer for air travelers, with lines in some airports anticipated to be over 2 hours long.

TSA is a disaster, and seems to be going downhill fast. I, for one – don’t believe in the “shortage of staff” excuse.  It is now virtually impossible in this country to get from Point A to Point B.

Airport Screening Made 70,000 Miss American Airlines Flights This Year

A shortage of staff and a surge in air travelers have created a nightmare scenario for the U.S. Transportation Security Administration.

Airport screening delays have caused more than 70,000 American Airlines (AAL.O) customers and 40,000 checked bags to miss their flights this year, an executive for the airline told a U.S. congressional subcommittee on Thursday.

A shortage of staff and a surge in air travelers have created a nightmare scenario for the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA), with airport wait times in places like Chicago stretching beyond two hours.

While TSA is taking steps to shorten lines such as hiring more full-time officers, it lacks the staffing to handle peak travel times this summer, Administrator Peter Neffenger said on Wednesday.

American, the world’s largest airline, wants TSA to create a senior internal role focused on traveler concerns, said American Airlines Group Inc Senior Vice President for Customer Experience Kerry Philipovitch. The request comes days after Neffenger shook up TSA’s management, removing the head of security operations, Kelly Hoggan.

Philipovitch also recommended that TSA consider reinstating a risk-based screening program that it canceled last year because of high-profile lapses.

In the program, officers trained to detect irregular behavior would pull unsuspicious travelers randomly into “PreCheck” lanes that can process people faster, as they do not remove their shoes and other belongings.

TSA has projected it will screen 740 million people at U.S. airports this year, some 15 percent more than in 2013 despite a 12 percent cut in its staff.

 
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Posted by on May 26, 2016 in American Greed, Great American Rip-Off

 

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Dating Online? Your SAT Score May Determine Who You See On a Site

Interesting tidbit here, that some sites including the largest dating site, Match is using your educational data to manipulate who you see on the site, as well as who sees you. By collecting data such as your SAT Score, a test you likely took way back there in High School, a good analyst can determine a couple of things about you. First, people with the top 10% or so in SAT Scores tend to be College Graduates. Recent research has shown that that has no correlation to them being smarter, than say the next 25% – but being in the top 10% means you have a better chance of attending an elite school. One of the common characteristics of elite schools is a much higher graduation rate – typically over 90% for the very top schools vs 50-65% for State Schools. That also has some rather significant impact on potential income.

Along with the numerous personal tastes which drive selection of someone to date, liking tall women, or short men, redheads, or spiked hair and nose rings…

Is the correlation that relationships are based on shared experiences. There is a low likelihood that a woman whose job takes her around the world is going to chose a guy who is a construction worker. If I can’t dress her up and take her out with my friends and business associates without embarrassment…The relationship is very short lived. If a woman doesn’t want to date men with beards, then the fastest way to drive her off a dating site is to fill her potential matches box up with bearded guys.

Where the rub comes, is how they collect this information. And something I will call “disparate impact”, because black folks tend to have lower SAT Scores.

How Dating Sites, Thanks to Princeton Review, Know More About You Than You Do

When I was growing up, there were always three places that my parents said were great for meeting your future girlfriend, wife or significant other: church, work and, of course, school. Our church attendance had waned in my late high school years, and I worked at a bagel bakery—so college seemed the mostly likely option for me.

For me, living in the lily-white suburbs where dating options were fraught with complications (because racism), the idea that doing well on my SATs might put me in a college classroom next to my own personal Freddie Brooks, Monica Wright or Laila was enough incentive to put in those extra study hours.

Of course, it turns out that my parents were more prescient than they thought. Dating companies are starting to use college prep for matchmaking purposes, which causes some groups to worry about not only our education policies but our privacy, too.

At this point we’re all in the Matrix. Despite the extremes to which Edward Snowden went to show us how the government violates our privacy, most Americans give up terabytes of personal information every day for an extra 10 percent off at Target. Want this new free app? Give us access to all your phone contacts. Want to sign up for this new email account? We’ll scan your emails for potential advertising targets.

This kind of intrusive data mining is particularly important in the African-American community, where the majority of our Internet access comes through smartphones and our social media use, especially on places like Twitter, where our use is incredibly high. But what about when you don’t expect your personal information to be used?

Late in 2014, Match Group, the consortium that owns Match.com, OkCupid, Tinder and a ton of other dating apps and sites, decided that it wanted to improve its access to young, fresh, single people’s preferences and tendencies. So what did it do? It purchased the Princeton Review. That’s right, Princeton Review, the test-prep program most commonly used by African Americans across the country, now collects data on kids to improve the targeting, marketing and analysis of dating platforms.

Now, it’s not working all that well if you’re black and dating on OkCupid, but in general, the strategy was that all those random surveys you take in an SAT-prep class—like on yourcollege hopes and worries, what makes a good college, college-ranking surveys, etc.—are chock-full of data that can help dating sites down the road. The catch is that survey data that was ostensibly about education is now being used for purposes that the kids taking those surveys never intended.

As with other breaches of computer privacy, most Americans reacted with a yawn. What’s the big deal if scouring the academic insecurities of a bunch of teenagers helps an organization connect a neurotic grad student with a working-class Romeo a few years later? First, you’re not getting paid for it. Many public schools that are majority African American and subsidize SAT-prep programs to help kids get into college are essentially paying twice: once to get the test prep for students and then again by giving this company millions of dollars in free information that doesn’t come back to the school.

But the problem runs deeper than that. This aggregate collecting of big data without the knowledge of consumers leads to everything from increased insurance premiums to loan discrimination to identity theft. What if Match.com sells Princeton Review-survey information to corporations that use internal data to decide whether or not loans should go to certain communities? What if high school survey data is used to justify aggressive stop-and-frisk-type policies—providing a cheap shortcut for lazy police departments that don’t want to conduct their own research?

Or, quite simply, what about the preponderance of data breaches we’ve seen, from Sony to Target, that are made easier the more hands our personal data goes through without our knowledge? Several organizations, including Consumer Action out of California, have begun highlighting these problems, especially with the way consumer data is being extracted from minority communities withno regard for privacy, reimbursement or consumer protection. However, it wouldn’t hurt if some 2016 candidates talked about this issue, seeing as how just a few months ago, half the GOP field was willing to let the FBI just dig all around Apple’s data files….

 
 

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Democracy Spring Protest

Apparently utterly ignored by Cable News, the Democracy Spring Protest went on today with 400 arrests of the protesters. One of my young ones was at this, and I haven’t gotten a call for bail – so I assume they didn’t get busted…

 
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Posted by on April 16, 2016 in Great American Rip-Off, Occupy America

 

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US Bans Hoverboard Imports – Hoverboards Banned

And not because of them catching fire!

The U.S. Just Banned Hoverboard Imports

And it has nothing to do with their fiery explosions.

The International Trade Commission announced Wednesday that the United States is banning imports of so-called hoverboards.

But while some brands of the auto-balancing scooters are known to spontaneously combust, the U.S.’s decision had nothing to do with safety and everything to do with a request from Segway, the hoverboard’s nerdy uncle.

Hoverboards are often described in media reports as Segways without handlebars, or a cooler Segway. But it turns out the new scooters have more in common with their Paul Blart-endorsed predecessor than meets the eye.

Segway filed a complaint with the ITC in 2014, claiming that hoverboards, the vast majority of which are manufactured in China, infringed on some of their patents and copyrights. The particular patents they listed mostly have to do with technologies that allow Segways to self-balance and read user inputs.

“In recent years, there has been an influx of low quality two-wheel personal transporters built on the intellectual property developed by DEKA and Segway,” the company, which licenses the technology from research firm DEKA, said at the time. “If this influx is allowed to continue, this iconic American product and the U.S. jobs dependent on it will be threatened.”

While Segway is based in New Hampshire and continues to manufacture its products there, it was bought last April by Ninebot, a Chinese company that Segway actually listed as a respondent in its 2014 complaint.

The ITC’s ruling goes on to name several brands that are no longer allowed to be imported into the country, including UPTECH, U.P. Technology, U.P. Robotics, FreeGo China, Ecoboomer and Roboscooters.

Segway said it would work with both U.S. customs and the ITC to help implement the ban, although demand for these products is likely at a new low. Just last month, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission announced voluntary safety standards for all manufacturers, importers and retailers of self-balancing scooters due to their pesky tendency to catch on fire. Online retailer Amazon even agreed to refund all hoverboard purchases.

All of which means there might be a gaping new hole in the self-balancing scooter market. One that Segway could be poised to fill if it would only get cracking on asmaller, cooler-looking model.

The last isn’t going to happen. Segway will continue to sell vastly overpriced product now that there is no competition.

 
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Posted by on March 17, 2016 in Great American Rip-Off, News

 

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