26 January 2007

tax refunds? why you shouldn't be getting one

Since I've received my old w-2s finally, I guess I'll say something semi-related to my actual job instead of ranting aimlessly on the grave political conundrum we're in.

Here's my point. Tax refunds. The average for 2005 was roughly $2400. This is of dire concern to me. There are many reasons why giving the government an interest free-loan is a stupid idea (not the least of which is what they do with the money when they get it). But lets have a look at what could be done instead.

First of all. There is a large segment of the population who somehow believes this money is the government giving them a check. There are some people for whom this is true. They are mostly totally broke (EIC) however, so we'll ignore them. For most people it is the government returning funds that belong to them as though they sat in a wallet and were suddenly found at the end of the year. This does not mean it is free money, it is a refund. 'Refund' implies you paid them too much money, not that they are giving you money. If you paid at a restaurant or store too much you would expect the cashier to give you your change right then and there, at least I would, not we'll mail this to you in about 8 to 10 months.

Second. Its is not a savings program. If you want savings, take the $2400, split it into 12 months and put $200 in the bank every month. The bank pays you for your money. The government does not. This is not a savings program. It is your money being held hostage for 12 months. A decent online bank nowadays pays at least 5% interest. Which, over $2400 means at least an extra $120 dollars on top of it. 2520 is greater than 2400 last time I checked. This doesn't sound like much, but you could also put it to work in other ways.

What do most people do with the money? Well, they either blow it (vacation!) or spend it on bills. Bills like credit cards or loans. Hmm. They charge interest don't they? What if you used the $200 each month instead? Well, that saves you interest every time. Paying a lump sum if you have low or no interest on them is probably ok. But in every case, paying a consistent sum (above the mins) will attack principal and that means less interest is paid over time. Which means you're in debt less and end up paying less (alot less). I can run people through the numbers, but in general, you're better off having the disciplined attack than taking the lump sum. Interest payments destroy your earnings potential. Only a mortgage is deductible, the rest should be avoided like plague if at all possible.

There are a variety of side effects to this also. A person who disciplines themselves to use the money for good effect each and every month develops a habit of saving or at least of paying loans prudently. The lump sum can be shown in the effects on lottery winnings. Many lottery winners blow the winnings in under 5 years (and this is including people who get the money over many years). Millions of dollars just thrown away; makes me angry to think of it. People don't deserve power if they can't use it responsibly. I'll take the disciplined person over time over a lottery winner any day.

One other note. If you go through a tax service, don't get the money advanced to you. They charge about 2000% interest. If thats the case, who cares if you must wait an extra 2 to 3 weeks. If you're smart you have the money direct deposited anyway and only wait a week or two.

This does not mean you shouldn't pay only the amount you owe. If the government owes you some money back, take it (something like 100,000 people a year don't claim their refunds). But for next year, get set up so you can keep your money and put it to work. You can go to about a 10% underpay without penalty, but shoot for as close to zero as possible for the safe play. Otherwise, you're sending them a check every April 15th which isn't exactly fun either.


Education, what is it good for?

I had a brief but enlightening discussion over the subject of education with a fellow student whose mother is a public school teacher. What occurred to me during this discussion is what I will now share. She did not have any idea what education is for.

The topic of discussion centered around the idea of how to teach, namely whether it was better to teach to the highest students and demand excellence or high standards, and risk the self-esteem and standing of some less motivated or poorly qualified students or whether to teach down to the lowest students and risk alienating the best and brightest. The dividing line does not take full effect in many schools until middle schools and this division allows some flexibility in how this is done in better school districts, fortunately. But really what I realized the discussion was about was the basic purpose of education. It seemed clear that the concern is that abandoning or washing out the academically challenged among us was a dire concern. I appreciate the fact that there are some who do not benefit from good schools or healthy home environments to explore the premises of learning.

But the basic purpose of an education is not what she claimed was important here. It was not the self-image and esteem of the individual that should be in question. It is likewise not the premises of imparting specific fields of study and knowledge, which the various standardized tests claim are important. Really what we are looking for in education is the possibilities it offers us. Learning is the central and most specific aspect of education, not math, not history. We are going to school to study learning. At our earliest age, this is difficult to do in unique and distinct ways because our minds are not usually psychologically prepared for the ideas and concepts. Very few people demonstrate the prodigy quality and even then it is usually in things centered on patterns, music or mathematics. At our young age, yes, education is about imparting specific skills and a few ideas. Adding, reading, perhaps an exposure to sciences, in some places a love of country or God is slid in there for some reason.

But something happens as we age. Our skills become more and more defined, more and more specific. Some of us even have a good idea of what we want to do. I didn't know too many of those people personally, but they do exist I'm told. The importance of education as our lives continue beyond elementary schools is not the continuing 'download' of specific skills and knowledge. It is the idea of learning itself. Somewhere along the line we are not studying history or algebra, we are learning how to learn. There are distinct differences in the many branches of academic study in how learning is approached and this provides us a with different avenues of understanding. History for example can be very different from organic chemistry. Philosophy very different from computer science, and so forth. Thus what becomes clear is that the specific fields we are learning about are secondary to the actual purpose of education. Simply having the knowledge imparted to us is meaningless without the discipline of learning and the requisite understanding to make use of it in later life.

This central argument was completely missed by someone who has direct links to the educational system itself. The entire focus seemed destined to concern itself with how we treat failure. While this is in itself an important lesson of life, it is not the central purpose of a proper school system and its curriculum. The most central example I can think of is Jaime Escalante, who taught inner-city kids Calculus. Pushing forward and demanding more and more is how we get more out of our education. Dumbing down so we feel better or get better graduation rates is not what the mission is. Fearing failures is ludicrous when we examine this versus our central mission. At our core in educational pursuits we are imparting the idea of learning and how to approach any new endeavour with vigorous interest in understanding it. It is this goal that should be in mind because this goal allows us the capacity to change, to grow and expand into the new challenges of every day life throughout our lives. I like hearing about how a teacher gave a child hope or a dream, that's great too. But making kids like us is not what teaching is. There is a difference between kids liking us and teaching them, giving them hope and dreams through the miracle of learning. Making them feel good is what parents or friends are for.

24 January 2007

SoUA 2007 Overall

Some thoughts.

The health care change is ok. It's nice for me since I'm one of the intelligent/responsible people with my own coverage.. .tax credits on top of the HSA credit = less taxes for me. Muy bien. I'm not sure its a great idea overall. It's a start. Encouraging people to get their own coverage rather than the employers paying will eventually push the cost down. But doesn't do much in the short run. There we have to fix the overseas/generic drugs and get more people insured overall (bankrupting on credit cards is one thing, bankrupting on medical bills is bad news for the rest of us).

Social security didn't come up really. Needed to. That has to get fixed. Ireland and Australia both fixed theirs a decade ago. Galveston did a long time ago. Pork earmarks need to go (Clinton had that nifty line-item veto that the Supremes took away, about the only intelligent thing I liked about the guy). I've written that they have to be exposed and publicized, dramatically. There used to be members of Congress who specialized in this sort of thing. Now they specialize in grand robbery/treason instead.

Iraq is still touchy. And Congress is still obviously partisan. Very few things overall got both sides of the aisle up (malpractice protection of all things!). As far as Iraq goes. I'm in agreement with most of us that more fighting settles nothing. It does very little to remove the root cause of the problem. It does kill a few hardliners and make life difficult for terrorists. But it's not a plan, more like another finger in the dike. Until we refine our definition on what we are in fact fighting and fighting for, we're going to lose. Sun Tzu and Clausewitz both say that a victory depends on breaking the will of the enemy to resist. We've done nothing to break the will because we've not addressed the root source of the will. In fact in some ways, it's stronger. Kurdistan is looking nice though, not that anyone talks about it.


Education: I'm still against NCLB. Part of the responsibility is with the parents for not actively caring about education. Part of it is ours for allowing the government to take over this area. Government does not DO anything well (outside of law/order and sometimes military affairs). It oversees things. It has done a few things by destroying mismanaged and failing schools. This has helped, but is no substitute for a real school choice program which does the following: all parents (not just the ones that can afford to and do move to a good district) are actively involved in education by choosing where children get an education, and two it eventually weeds out crummy schools anyway. The money should follow the child, not the child follow the money.

Energy reform was going well until we acknowledged 'global climate change' which is code for 'human-activity global warming'. As far as I know the jury is still out on this (despite the media's coverage and Al Gore's Oscar nomination). Humans can and should do much to control our emissions,etc. But the reality is that the global climate has so many variables its impossible to isolate and study the specific effect of heavy industry with any reliability. 30 years ago these same scientists were talking about a global cooling even. Consensus in politics is necessary. Consensus in science is irrelevant, only facts matter. And to me, the facts still say there are alot of things at work. I have no problem with getting off oil/fossil fuels, but not because I'm worried about our grandchildren.

sotus katrina

Katrina.. I'm inclined to ignore that issue, not because Bush screwed up (he did), but because the entire thing was bungled by government at any level. Disasters are handled best, in my observations, when ordinary people work together to resolve their common fate and when government speaks out for patience and cooperation, not "we'll take care of it". The blizzard here in Ohio several years ago, we were not plowed out from under it for several days by the city. But many people worked together to free cars from parking lots, shoveling snow with pure strangers, etc. I was very pleased by the feeling of community that unfolded unbidden, without influence, on its own (9/11 was a different story). Katrina has been handled well by ordinary citizenry, in many instances (just look at the private $). Where there is a problem is where people have taken advantage of the system or demanded the system take care of them, instead of themselves taking some responsibility first (Nagin is a perfect example). People who have taken the money and time and patience of a nation, and have done nothing to repay it through their own efforts.

While the shock and pain of losing a home and possessions, even loved ones, is a difficult and recognized issue. This cannot have been prevented by the current government. They don't control the weather. They do however issue instructions for people to get out of the way and take precautions when it's bad. To be honest, the thing I was most upset about was the stories about dogs/pets left behind. What with the toxic water, some would leap into it when they saw rescue workers on boats. The rescuers could do nothing but bite their tongues and pretend not to see the dog. Once in the water, that dog was going to die. Bringing it on board would put them at greater risk too. They were the helpless ones. People have feet, cars, planes, trains, buses to move with and hotels or friendly homes to stay in. Even we're stuck, we have stores to raid for supplies of water and food, and at worst, weapons to defend what's left of our abode. Animals have the zoo (which did fine) or a kennel (which wouldn't have). Some hotels, to their credit, looked the other way on this issue.

Certainly it will take years for the city to recover. But the situation is not helped along by the circumstances of the city's refugee population. It is not impossible to use the relocation to find work, to go to schools, to be honest and hard-working people and move on with life, even temporarily as a displaced person in our already mobile society. Many have done so. Some have not. Houston for example took in many thousands of refugees. Some of these have used the relocation to start gang wars. Others have been accused of fraud or have misused appropriated funds which were intended for relocation and assistance. I'm not surprised. But I can be disappointed too. I'll boo every time we talk about using more government money to 'lift New Orleans' out of the wake of Katrina. Considering all the money that has already been wasted. And all the money we've donated. I'm not interested in rebuilding a place that doesn't belong there (Americans are stubborn and build, and re-build, cities in stupid and dangerous locations) for people who seem to take rather than earn. Just wait your turn San Fran or LA, you're not getting any love either if a huge quake hits and this is how you act.

Addendum: The San Francisco Quake in 89 during the WS still gives me chills seeing people working on the collapsed bridges where a multi-story highway crushed motorists and workers were doing all that work with little hope of anything more than recovering bodies. The post-9-11 world we live in forgets about such things quickly, but the people that were there don't. I doubt SF would react the way it did then now however. And that's the sad part.

23 January 2007


Question: Is it really necessary that we have a Presidential election in 2007 just after we had the Congressional one. Oh, my mistake, I must have misinterpreted all these news reports on Presidential primaries that don't take place for another freaking year. Give it a rest. Nobody cares, especially since Obamamania will pass in about two weeks (once more people realize he was raised Muslim, which we here in America hate and consider now worse than atheism. We're ignorant like that).

In other news. It snowed. Finally. I'm glad I got new tires, but I can't say I was all that excited with driving in it. Mostly because other drivers kept trying to kill me. I'm convinced this is the goal of all elderly people. Must. Kill. Young. Whippersnappers. Not that there were many old people on the road. They saw the snow and realized their OWN mortality was at stake. But there was some ugly bag of flotsam who tried to merge right on top of me while going 20+ mph slower than me. That was interesting. The swerve into oncoming traffic was also entertaining (fortunately, they too were going 20+mph slower than me). Suffices to say, I'm not looking forward to driving in snow much, at least during the day when the reverse-vampires (the aged wonders) are up.

12 January 2007


Fundamentally the two major parties right now are basically the same on their individual policy slants. What is different is the ideology they supposedly base party membership on. The actual practices and members are so varied however as to make the core values indeterminable.

So with that in mind, here are what I feel the 3 major core values as to the nature and function of the state (any state, not just ours).

1) Centrism. Fundamentally, this is the core value of most governments. Both Republicans and Democrats share this value on some issues (Republicans generally with moral and defense matters, Democrats with social engineering). The root belief is that the function of government at the highest level is to organize and centralize a particular issue, such as say health care or education. Effectively, the national government will determine and enforce policy and levy taxes for the funding of said practices. Occasionally there are matters on which this makes sense, for example in time of war, it is crucial that the defense of country be organized at the highest strategic levels, otherwise it will be doomed to failure by the thousands of little hands pulling in different directions. In a democracy, this is what I refer to as 'the tyranny of the many'. Effectively, once power is consolidated in a central area, it will appropriate more and greater powers which the people will come to depend on and even demand. In theory, the centralising authority makes for quicker and responsive decisions. In practice, the crushing weight of bureaucracy often makes it impossible to breathe. Nevertheless, as I stated, there are times when this belief is useful.

2) Socialism. This differs from capitalism in that it also represents a social government, where as capitalism merely requires a social structure and a government suspected of bribery and corruption. It is also distinct from centrism in that the government assumes direct control, rather than merely establishing national policy. For example, at the moment a variety of companies operate as government-mandated monopolies in necessary fields such as telecommunications or transportation, this is centrism. But it is government funds that build and maintain roads, this is socialism. Government funds also build and staff many schools. Thus public schools are a form of socialism (which includes the series of indoctrinations that we must perform in attending them). The principle advantage is that public monies and will is applied to matters which require organization and public use. Private roads would be somewhat odd and create a network of roads that would not be available for the use of others for example. I suppose tollways could be viewed in this light, but in practice, anyone can use them if they wish (for a fee). Constructing private phone lines or tv cables would likewise create a bizarre mishmash of intersecting wires over our heads that would soon become impossible to maintain. Where this fails is when it tries to direct matters that should derive their usefulness from competitive markets. It would be better, I believe, if there were fewer car companies, but not better if the government made them. There is a sort of inefficiency sometimes from too much of competition, but conversely, it manages to force levels of efficiency into our economic and social landscape that otherwise would not exist. Socialism, while professing to attend to all our needs, will succeed in meeting none. It does well when it has limited tasks to perform or a small arena in which it works. Not on a national level. We will find mostly Democrats who will hold to this belief that it is government which mandates and controls wealth and disperses it to the people for their amusement, rather than the other way around. What it does do well is point out when society is screwing with people too much and demands action on a particular problem. Whether that action should be forming a government agency however is another problem entirely.

3) Libertarianism. This last core value has a party supposedly based on it. Intuitively, most of us do not wish to have much government interference in our lives. Even those of us who may depend on government assistance for disability or poverty will not wish to have overbearing surveillance and required obedience in exchange for our handouts. Consequently, it is surprising that the party best representing this belief has fared so poorly on a national, indeed, even a local level. There are of course core platform issues that many in this country will find distasteful or even unworkable. This is true of the major parties as well however. What is at work at the base is the fundamental belief that less government is better. What is good is the full provision of civil liberty and freedom (within reason, don't start killing people and peeing on park benches yet). What is bad, well there isn't a whole lot of government programs to help people. That can be bad. But in practice, governments aren't always good at that sort of thing. What governments tend to do better is distribute such aid more coldly and equally. Private charity on the other hand goes more swiftly, but only where the money wants to go.

Governments exist to provide for law and order for the protection of civil liberty, for common defense, and the regulation and promulagation of free and fair trade. What is odd about our political landscape is that this belief is not defined as the extreme right. In fact it is the far extreme to state emphatically that government does not belong in this matter. It is not somehow further along the same line of thinking to state that government belongs because there is a moral-religious (bs) issue. That is in fact a leftward thought, to involve government where it provides no fundamental value to society. Thus I propose that the Religious Right be renamed the Religious Base. I don't want them anywhere near me politically and in fact they aren't. Sometimes they agree, most of the time not. Thats the nature of all ideologies. They coordinate at times and matters, and most times not. The interplay of these is essential to good governance. Until they are fully exposed and represented by clear and ideologically based parties, we will have no choice but to accept bad government and have only ourselves to blame for the mess.

05 January 2007

religious profiling

On life, there are many issues confronting the world, and in particular our country. Fear, aggression, despair, and drudgery are rampant. But if we were engaged in their defeat, by simply and honestly looking at the problems, wouldn't they subside? Racism has long been an issue of historical and inevitable consequence. What we fear of it by talking about it, is that we will discover that we ourselves have ingrown prejudices, faults and errors in our thinking that cloud our judgment, if only for a moment. All of us are guilty of this, if not in dealing with race, then in other matters. And to remove this doubt, we must face it. Racism is no different.

What in fact are we talking about though? Racism is a word. Words convey ideas, but in fact those words convey many ideas. Herein we are conveying principally two similar ideas but which have different connotation and use. The first being the idea that the generalized, inherent differences, whether actual or imagined, of the different sets of humanity subscribe to the idea that some set is superior, or that at least the members have greater inherent value and consequently, achievement. There are many instances of this, but I would venture to say that the idea of the supremacy of race is far from many people's minds when they use the word "racism". Supremacy is still a popular idea for many, for the convenience that it offers in decisions by demeaning others for our amusement or some other misfortunate use. But its basically confined to secrecy or at least, open mockery for most.

But in general, what we are instead referring to when this word comes up is a term more in line with discrimination or intolerance. The standard of conduct designed to demean a particular group on the sole basis of racial profile. This is still distinguishable further from the legal term of racial profiling, which at times, has use. A cop hearing a description of a thief is not going to set about detaining people who do not fit that description in an attempt to apprehend a criminal. But conversely, they shouldn't set about haressing people who are merely driving around what appears to them 'a nice car'. We have dealt with this problem of late in relation to the airport security (a stupid idea on its face, but if we're going to do it, at least get it right).

What we are faced with is the idea that someone who looks Arabian is somehow dangerous, when in fact, I can recall Sikhs being beaten on 9/12. WW2, Chinese or Korean shops were vandalized or their owners haressed for similar reasons when Imperial Japan attacked us. Racism in this form does not know nationality, does not see differences in reality, but merely sameness in that difference. It is a cold, almost scientific, calculation by its sweeping generality. We fall prey to this distinction when we detain people for resembling our fears, when in fact there are those among our own who we might be far more appropriate in placing our fear. Militant Islam and the terrorist tactics that it employs in its worldwide assault on Western Civilization (and Eastern for that matter) has no distinction in its fight. All who stand in the way are subject to random acts of violence, even other Muslims. But to distinguish a singular individual, even when the power they might weild is so terrifying, is folly. An average Muslim or Arab is not violent, not militant in their daily endeavours, though there are many who are. They conduct business and daily lives just as we, perhaps different in custom and certainly in different garb or tongue. But human beings are pretty much the same.

The difference up till now had been that here, and perhaps somewhat in Europe, a person could air grievances publically without violent measures. Today however, we live with both the fear that our grievance may be met with deafness but also with militancy in response to our most basic fascinations and dreads. To question a faith is a human moment. It is a basic weakness of all to seek verification of what they seek. Religions have some answers, some practices that restore our spirits. But what they lack is often tangible proof of the mysteries they seek to explain. Many of the Western traditions have been embattled by this process, tortured by the questions that come about from our daily experiences and sufferings. Islam has stubbornly refused to subject itself to this worldly and natural problem. And in the process, it has gained itself many enemies, and many misunderstandings. One can only hope that we, in our quest to understand what drives this hatred of the 'infidel' and quell it, do not forget their mistakes.

04 January 2007

12 parties of a New America

Finished with my research, I decided to outline first the lobbies and come up with the parties that way.

The top lobbyist in terms of money. What is pharmaceutical companies? Yes, this is not a shock. Everyone can look at our lovely policies on overseas drug companies and shake their heads in wonder that someone can perpetrate such a fraud without going to a small concrete room. There are a number of places where Americans get gored in the wallet, and the drug companies are doing a bang-up job of imitating a bull. When we go down the list, there are a number of varying industries and major corporations who give generously to campaigns around the country. What this tells me is that there are a few key industries who need spokesmen.

1) Health care - this is prevalent for two reasons, one seniors who need drugs and two, because we have an increasingly unhealthy country who needs treatment (or who needs drugs of a different sort for some reason)

2) Manufacturing - This is a vital industry and also encompasses the military-industrial complex (that which Ike warned us about). They need an open seat rather than the back door orifice that they've been running in and out of. I think at least it would be more comfortable for us to sit down. What is not vital is that Ford be represented over say Toyota. Both of them employ American workers. I don't care who does better (well I do right now.. considering what's parked out there). We can park the Military/Veterans issues here as well. (see #10)

3) small business/independent farmers - Something tells me this is supposed to be the backbone of our country. Fresh ideas and hard work.

4) technology/R&D - Government isn't supposed to be doing the entire load of this, but it at least could funnel it in the right directions. Don't think we can't come up with a fuel-efficient or non-fossil fuel car.

Then come the other players.

5) Unions. Most of them are to be wrapped up into one neat ball. They are right now too strong and too weak to truly represent the workers. Instead they are interested in their own power, not the workers at the bottom. That fight is largely over in this country. The focus now should be on trade agreements that raise standards elsewhere. Call it the Labor party

6/7) Energy/Environmental issues. Al Gore is not a Democrat. He's a nut case, but I respect that he has his views and he should have his own place in a party that gives him such a platform. There are parts of what he has to say that I agree with. But most of it is based on weird science. Anyone who's heard of Drake's equation will know what I'm talking about. This is really two parties, one for the provision of energy and the other for the protection of clean air/etc.

8) Education. The teachers union is somewhat different. And it needs to go away unless we want people dumb and dumber. But here again, the issue raised needs a political party around it. Education and social security are two of the 3 most crucial issues (campaign reform being the 3rd) to my mind (and yes, I'm in my 20s). We have to de-nationalize this and copy shamelessly from how Europe has modeled its educational system. It works doesn't it?

9) Religion. I think its high time that religion entered politics in a more meaningful way. I'm an atheist by the way. But I have noted religion's intrusion into our public policy for my entire life. Creationism, abortion, gay marriage rights, the war on drugs. These are largely moral social engineering problems posed by religions (except Creationism, which is just naked stupidity). I believe we'll be fine so long as people recognize that religion is supposed to tell us how to live privately. But I have no problem with a few people who think otherwise and acting political. They do it anyway (go look at some Republicans).

10) Military/Veterans - There need to be some policy makers involved here. If we are going to send them in harms way (which is after all what they are for?), then at least get them a seat at the table of power. There can be a Pacific party to oppose the Hawks too, mostly arising around times of war.

The others will be ideological in nature and I'll go through them in due time.

blinking stereotypes


I find this enlightening. I also find it strange that the arguments over the car dealerships over quoting black men are so vehement and controversial. I intuitively see this as bad stereotypes at work in the marketplace. There are things we can base stereotypes on that sometimes work. Stereotypes exist because we have ingrained a few morsels of truth or experience into our scheme of life and make from these instant decisions about the nature or character of an event or personal encounter. Consistent stereotypes about race to determine a potential character for business relationships or otherwise are inherently flawed. The average characteristics of a person are likely to be distinct from the average characteristic of a particular group. There are not standards of conduct and behavior that I, as a white college-educated male have to conform to. There are expectations that others may have based on those facts. But the fact that I listen to 2pac or Pearl Jam is probably not among them. Such facts are often surprising, even startling to others. I find it doubly strange that others place so much prevalence on things such as educational standing and race to make determinations on one's character. Maybe I've been around the wrong crowd and have too much variance in my own stereotypes. I'm not sure.

I find it offensive too when they work the other way, when someone expects a stereotype to come up. I had an encounter some time ago with a women who was chain smoking, she was also black, on her patio by the door. I distinctly waited patiently some distance away for someone else to answer the door. As I departed, she asked if she had done something to harm me, which I took to represent a statement as though her presence offended me. It did not, and I stated quite emphatically that I did not care to be around so much smoke when I had perfectly clear and fresh air some distance away. She was somewhat surprised by this remark and her reply that it "was her house" was indifferent to the problem I had posed her. I don't have to like it, and if I can avoid the problem, I will. But the stereotype here is that I was in some way acting suspicious because of her race and she moved to strike as though I was being particularily prejudiced when I was mostly trying to preserve my ability to breathe (smoke tends to flare up the asthma). I think my health is more important than playing race cards with someone who wants to play that game when I could care less about it.