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A Few "Censless" Questions

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A Few "Censless" Questions

Understanding (sort of) the 2010 census

April already? Wow, where’d the winter go? Or is it still with us? I don’t know as I’m writing this barefoot in February with my t-shirt and cutoffs makin’ their season debut. No, I’m not in Cancun, just hangin’ out on my North Idaho deck barbecuin’ dinner and wonderin’ when or if Old Man Winter might return from the East Coast to startle our fragile gardening that seems bent on beginning the growing season a little early this year. Volunteers are everywhere!

When you see crocus showing in mid-February you get the feeling this could be one of those years. One in which you can’t bet a piss-ant won’t eat a bale of hay, so to speak. Morels a month early perhaps, or snow on Memorial Day like usual.

April brings to mind two great topics: gardening and taxes. They can both get you to sweat, swear, palpitate, bend over, cry, throw fits and work a bit harder. A lot like havin’ kids or even horses.

Taxes tend to be ‘ever bearing’ in that they always seem to be coming up. But I’ve got all the confidence I can muster in our government’s ability to spend mine wisely. Take the 2010 Census for example. The GAO (our esteemed national bean counters), who seemingly cannot tell a lie and, like three-year-olds, often blurt out startling and embarrassing facts their parents would rather not talk about, have come out with their estimated cost of the current census.

Are you sitting down? If so, are you filling out yer taxes or your census form (or just plain fillin’ out)?

Last month I discussed mathematics and dogs and I’ve kept my calculator handy ever since. So far I’ve calculated that the barn might get repossessed before the cows even wake up.

But I’m driftin’ off subject; are you still sittin’ down? The GAO estimates it’ll cost $72 per household (give or take a few homeless shelters and city/county parks) this time around to count all us American beans and ask us ten silly questions we’d rather substitute with more relevant material. That’s an increase of $16 over ten years ago! Maybe it’s just me, but that sounds a little steep. I think I could do my whole neighborhood for $72, which would take one afternoon and a twelve-pack of Lite beer to accomplish. And I’d get enough info to fill volumes of raw, in-depth data as well as startling statistics and innuendo that would have to be cleverly arranged, tallied, interpreted, verified, deduced, reduced, expanded, contracted, collated and prorated until it all boiled down into somethin’ useful to the Commerce Department, who likes to sponsor this event.

They would like to know how many live in your home, apartment, mobile home, camper, trailer or culvert, whichever the case may be. They would also like to know how well you can count by asking the first question twice. Number three asks if whatever you are living in is paid for, financed, rented or being squatted on. Number four is for phone numbers, ostensibly so they can play phone tag with you for a month or two in order to clarify some point or other. They they want the names, sexes, ages and birthdates of everyone there on April 1. After that you can let ‘em know whether or not you are of Hispanic origin as well as the point of that origin. Second to last inquires what race yer in. I’d like to put down “SWENGI” for Swedish, Welsh, English, Norwegian, German and Irish, but they’ll prefer I just check the “White” box. I get enough phone calls anyway.

The last question seems to have originated in the same think tank as question number two. Do you (or any of your co-habitants) sometimes live or stay somewheres else? Like, do they mean on that one day, April ‘Foolst’, 2010? This is probably the “three billion dollar question” I’m thinkin’, as it will require a toilet load of cross-referencing and double or triple checking undoubtedly including a small herd of cash cows for some lucky software company to ensure that no one gets counted twice.

Now, I understand the importance of the census as its basic purpose is supposed to be about political apportionment and equal representation in the halls of Congress. What I don’t get, however, is that the census doesn’t even count all the lobby groups, yet they obviously get way better representation than the rest of us do.

At this point my enquiring mind “googled” erroneous census questions and up popped a number of items so I picked on ESCAP II: ACE erroneous..., which produced these two curious little paragraphs, which I have a feelin’ has something to do with that last question.

“When the knowledgeable respondents indicate not knowing the follow-up person or if the name is found to be a pet, a matcher codes the E-sample person as discrepant in the block cluster. This means that the person may have existed, but should not have been enumerated in the census within this block cluster and thus was erroneously enumerated...” At this point my right middle finger twitched, which I have finally learned, can cause a little havoc when unintended, depending on just where the damn mouse is hanging out! When I got back in the saddle I found this little gem:

“When CE probabilities were imputed for the unresolved people, these possibly discrepant-unresolved people were given lower probabilities than other unresolved people. Thus, a change in match code to a discrepant person in these cases has a much lower impact on the CE component of the DSE compared to other unresolved cases.”

That’s where my Humorus-Maximus locked horns with my Pessimisticum-Articulous-Cerebellum and out popped my bubble gum.

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Scott Clawson Scott Clawson No, he's not the electrician, he's the OTHER Scott Clawson, who's a quality builder when he's not busy busting a gut while writing his humor column for the first issue of each month, or drawing his Acres n' Pains cartoons.

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