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ON MY MIND

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10 * 3 + x... but who’s counting? by Paul E. Kandarian Greetings, my fellow Americans. This year, 2010, also known as “Two-Thousand Ten,” or “Two Zero One Zero” or “It’s ten years into a new millennium and I’m still alive? Outstanding!” is also the year of the census, that time when a nosy United States government looks into your home to see who lives there and what you’re up to. Think of it as federally run reality TV. Over the years, the census has sought to do many things, mostly keep count of Americans. That was simple way back in the beginning of America when there was a small bunch of us and it was easy to keep tabs on who was who (few names, easy to pronounce), where they lived (in the woods mostly), and what they did (struggled to survive). It’s much more complex now; there are more than 300 million of us and it’s not easy to keep tabs on who is who (many names, hard to pronounce, like Gwakashinimokala Abba-Dabba-Ding-Dong Bangeiouaioueoooie), where they live (from globally warmed rising sea to globally warmed rising sea) and what they do (struggle to survive). The census is important, they say, because it will help communities receive more than $400 billion in federal funds each year for things like hospitals, job training centers, schools, senior centers, bridges, tunnels and other public-works projects and emergency services. Minus bailout money for banks, automakers and fat-cat CEO bonuses, of course, that leaves that aforementioned list with about a buck and a half to split among them. The amazing thing about the census this year is the technology involved. You can follow it on Twitter and watch it on YouTube. There’s a census director’s blog and a census road tour blog. You can get the word out about the census by Bleetbox, Blip, Bloggy and Baidu, by Blinklist and Bebo and BonzoBox and BizSugar. And I’m absolutely not making any of that up and I’m absolutely not even out of the B’s yet. 6

February 2010 / The South Coast Insider

And with all that, it’s completely natural to expect to be able to fill out the 2010 census online, saving millions of dollars in taxpayer-paid mailings and administrative costs, not to mention being exceeding convenient to the American public footing the bill for it, right? Wrong! You cannot fill it out online and there is no explanation, just a hopeful question at the website asking “Can I fill out my form online?” and the Civil Service-flavored dour response “No. Not at this time. We are experimenting with Internet response for the future.” Oh, the future! Uh, the future as it applied in 2000, when long after Al Gore invented it, the Internet was already being used to fill out forms? That future? So in 2020, will the site have a question asking “Can I fill out my form online?” and will the response be “I told you to stop asking! Now get to the back of the line, dammit, and start all over again!” followed by the sound of the collective slow, shameful head droops of hundreds of millions of Americans humbled by Big Brother? But anyway, this year’s census is remarkably simple in that there are only 10 questions, but complex enough, I guess, not to answer online. The answers will be secure, according to Bob Grove, census director, who tells you and me at the website in a little video clip that census takers swear in an oath that they will safeguard this information. Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh, OK. This is sort of like our honest, scrupulous politicians being sworn into office and taking an oath to do right by us and to not break the law and to generally not screw us over, right? Good, good, I feel better already. Those 10 questions key in on simple things, how many live in a home, phone number, ethnicity, age, gender. In short, stuff of no use to anyone. In this day and age, I’d have the questions as follows:

The South Coast Insider - February 2010  

The South Coast Insider magazine - February 2010