Friday, August 01, 2008

Calhoun’s Can(n)ons, The Bay News, Tolosa Press, SLO, CA for July 31, 08


It’s official, now. We live in Fungible Fact Nation. Story in the July 13th, L.A. Times: “U.S. Census Bureau won’t count same-sex marriages. The federal agency plans to edit the responses of legally married gay and lesbian couples.”

Well, why not? Ronald Reagan once observed that “facts are stubborn things.” But then he also declared ketchup was a vegetable in order to make school lunches for poor children appear whole and balanced. And our own Dear Leader declares “Heck of a job, Brownie!” to a demonstrably incompetent hack, then gives fulsome praise and Medals of Freedom to incapable bunglers. The EPA deletes important data, then makes up a story as to why the data is deleted. Everyone snickers. Who needs facts? They’re annoying and get in the way of politically pleasant ideologies.

Notes the Times: “The U.S. Census Bureau, reacting to the federal Defense of Marriage Act and other mandates, plans to edit the 2010 census responses of same-sex couples who marry legally in California, Massachusetts or any other state. They will be reported as ‘unmarried partners,’ rather than married spouses, in census tabulations – a policy that will likely draw the ire of gay-rights groups.

“The Census Bureau followed the same procedure for the 2000 census, [before marriage was legal in California or Massachusetts] and it does not plan to change in 2010.

“Critics say the census plan will mask the records of legally married same-sex couples and therefore degrade the quality of the government’s demographic data.

“’I just think it’s bad form for the census to change a legal response to an incorrect response,’ said Gary Gates of the Williams Institute, a think tank at the UCLA law school that studies gay-related public policy issues. ‘That goes against everything the census stands for.’”

Gosh, ya think?

I can see the census takers now. They’ll have to cross their fingers when they take their oaths to faithfully and honestly record the information they are charged with gathering. And keep a goodly supply of Pink Pearl erasers on hand. But think of the creative opportunities. Does this administration think there’s too many Mexicans self-reporting that they’re, well, Mexican? That maybe the numbers could raise too many questions about illegal immigration and just who’s hiring all those south-of-the-border folks to run their giant corporations so their CEO’s can hob-knob with the Washington elite, including the President? No problem! Just tell the census taker to change the racial designation. Sorry, the Mexican box is full. We’ll make you Samoan.

And if we’ve got too many people showing up in low-paying, dead-end jobs, then we can just set a “poor people’s” quota and start bumping people up to the next income bracket. Heck, why stop there? The census takers can randomly start checking off the boxes marked, “Lawyer,” or “Brain Surgeon.” We can’t have too many of those. Increase their number in the census and the overall picture of the American economy starts to take on a rosy glow.

And since federal money often follows the numbers, lobbyists can begin to haunt the U.S. Census Bureau with their nice bribe --excuse me -- “contributions,” so as to make their case for mis-reporting in certain areas in order to use that incorrect data to start up the federal largess. For example, the data could show that in San Luis Obispo County, the Medicare payments are completely out of date and simply don’t reflect real costs, thereby causing Doctors to stop taking Medicare patients, who then have to go die in the streets. A few box checks here and there, and Voila! Problem solved.

Or consider the fate of Los Osos. All our enumerators need do is to record the “fact” that there isn’t a single piece of indoor plumbing in the whole town, that we’re a worm-ridden, rat-infested, sewage-flooded community of impoverished, uneducated dolts who spend all day on our sagging porches playing our banjos, and federal infrastructure monies will surely rain down on our Beloved Bangladesh by the Bay. Which would be a good thing.

So who needs facts? The loopy president of Iran came to New York to announce adamantly that there were no gay people in his country. Hey, same here. There are no married gay couples in the whole of California. Or Massachusetts. And we have the census numbers to prove it!


*PG-13 said...

So, uh, why take a census if you're not going to count the returns? Dumb question. Isn't this just more of the same stupidity? I mean, at some point it just becomes a joke.

I have a friend (really I do) who is, uh, fairly anti-establishment. (Read: he thinks the US government is both totally ineffective and its very existence is morally wrong. Search: Andrew Galambos .) Curiously while I have never actually been asked to complete a census form (a miracle?) he seems to be asked often. He's definitely on their radar. And he simply refuses to return the forms. By law he's supposed to return them, signed, as accurate. He either never returns them or - when cornered - returns them incomplete. Which means the census takers have to chase him hither-and-yon. Census takers have actually arrived at his door accompanied by cops. It is testament to his convictions that he still has never - to date - submitted a signed and completed census form.

And now this? Why bother? If they're not gonna tally the answers given why bother giving them answers? Or truthful answers?

How Stuff Works > "In early March 2000, 98 million census forms -- both long and short forms -- went out in the mail to about 83 percent of the nation's residences. In addition, census enumerators personally delivered about 22 million additional forms to homes that lack street-name and house-number addresses, mostly in rural and remote areas. These represent about 17 percent of the nation's housing units. Hundreds of thousands of census takers and support personnel have been hired to account for the anticipated 118 million housing units and 275 million people across the United States.... As census methodology has become more sophisticated, researchers have begun to learn more about who responds and who doesn't. For example, the overall non-response rate in 1990 was 25.3 percent.

As confidence in our government continues to erode. And as the objectivity of the census is turned into a joke. I suggest that the non-return rate will increase significantly. Or the validity of the count will be seriously compromised. Ya think the fact they take the census on April 1st has any meaning? Me? You all know I'm a dirt poor Mexican/Iranian/Samoan lawyer/brain surgeon with a family of 15 still living under one roof in Los Osos. And would you believe we're an officially married gay couple? Just the facts, Ma'am.

Churadogs said...

hahahah. Too true. The POINT of a census is to act as a "reality check" on the ground so that the government can see where needs are and move in anticipation of needs and trends and . . . "reality." Rather than simply make stuff up to fit some ideology, like the NeoCons did with their PNAC document and Iraq War. (We'll be greeted as liberators and the oil will pay for the war BECAUSE OUR MANIFESTO DECLARES THAT TO BE THE WAY IT SHOULD BE).

Which is why God invented feed-back loops, so you can keep updating your reality checks. But when you put policical ideas ahead of reality on the ground, you always run into trouble.

Which is what makes this census decision so silly. Real demographics done honestly can supply a lot of useful information. Phony demographics can give you a lot of useless information or wrong information and if you act on that wrong information you can end up in a world of grief.

This issue is another example of what Steve Allen called DUMBTH.

*PG-13 said...

> The POINT of a census is to act as a "reality check" on the ground so that the government can see where needs are and move in anticipation of needs and trends and . . . "reality."

hahaha. Ann, sometimes you are too funny. What high school civics book did you read when you were in high school? I'll bet it was titled something like - "Foundations of Democracy, The Legacy of Our Founding Fathers". You are giving our government way too much credit for using census data creatively and appropriately. Since the days of Herod the the only real purpose of a census is to correlate with the tax records. Census surveys are presumed more truthful than tax returns. We expect tax records to be fudged so every ten years the government takes a census to measure just how much fudging is being done. They measure different things .... but not really.

> Which is why God invented feed-back loops, so you can keep updating your reality checks. ...

And why this particular administration is notable for its extreme cloisturism. No feedback wanted. Nana, nana, the world is how we see it. And don't tell us any different. So there!

Churadogs said...

Actually, census numbers are used to affect budgets and planning from school boards, city planning, etc. And for getting grant money, funneling tax monies to (pork barrel) projects & etc. (which is good or bad depending on whether the pork's coming to help YOU (good)or The Other Guy (bad) It's all about demographics which translates into Mo' money.