Sep 012015


Most people think mass incarceration in the U.S. is a recent thing, having started in the 80s with the war on drugs.  This is a myth.  Although the prison population does seem to suddenly shoot up at 1980,  that’s just the way it is with exponential growth – only the most recent increases are noticeable.  If we focus on the first 100 years of data, the sudden shoot-up seems to happen at 1920.


Furthermore, it was growing back then for the same reasons that it is growing now: changes in law.

This is what the scholars were saying back then:

“Characterizing the trends in imprisonment in the United States, Barnes and Teeters wrote, in 1959: ‘in 1931, 76 per cent of all the inmates of federal and state prisons had been incarcerated for committing acts that had not been crimes 15 years earlier.” The authors noted that, since 1900, 500,000 new state laws had been enacted in the United States, and they characterized this country as an “overcriminalized society,” with the recently enacted “victimless crimes” contributing significantly to the high rates of incarceration.

Trends in Incarceration in the United States since 1880: A Summary of Reported Rates and the Distribution of Offenses. Margaret Cahalan Crime Delinquency 1979 at 9 (emphasis added)

And this is what the scholars are saying now:

“While the U.S. has a higher rate of violent crime than many comparable nations, most scholars in the field attribute the dramatic increase in the use of prison almost entirely to changes in policy, and not crime rates. That is, policymakers at all levels of government have enacted laws and procedures designed to send more people to prison and to keep them in prison for longer periods of time.”

“Lessons of the “Get Tough” Movement in the United States” Marc Mauer. The Sentencing Project. Washington, D.C., Presented at the International Corrections and Prison Association, 6th Annual Conference. Beijing, China 25 October 2004, page 2 (emphasis added)

So, both the first half and the second half of the 20th century experienced an exponential rise in U.S. incarceration, and, in both cases, it was caused not by growing crime rates, but by new laws, much of which targeted drugs or other victimless crimes.  It’s the same phenomenon, and it has the same explanation.

 Posted by at 4:00 pm
Jul 092015

Incarceration without Representation is the disenfranchisement of prisoners in a country that otherwise guarantees equal representation to everybody. It has the unfortunate effect of making prisoners valuable to lawmakers and anybody else who has to win an election to stay in office.

Incarceration without Representation is the cause of the exponential growth of the U.S. prison population, the escalating racial disparities in incarceration rates, and the deterioration of the criminal justice system.  It causes these things wherever it exists.

The prisoner’s value comes from something called ''prison-based gerrymandering.'' The more prisoners in the area when district lines are drawn, the fewer able-to-vote, non-prisoners in that district.  That means fewer votes are needed to win reelection, fewer people to be accountable to. The prisoners therefore generate political power for the lawmakers who represent these districts.

There are no controls for subjective bias in political science.

Naturally, this benefit distorts their judgment on issues of criminal justice.  It biases them in favor of laws and law enforcement policies likely to increase incarceration, and against reforms likely to reduce it.   At least, their actions are consistent with such a bias.

Now, the experts in the field have been saying for a long time that the exponential rise in U.S. imprisonment and the escalating racial disparities throughout the criminal justice system are caused by lawmakers continually pursuing tougher laws, not because they think it’s necessary, or warranted, but because they expect to benefit personally by doing so.  They say the evidence is overwhelming.

What nobody has been able to figure out is what this benefit is that American lawmakers always think they are going to get by pursuing tougher laws, or why it doesn’t seem to affect lawmakers in any other country.

There is good evidence that the missing benefit is the benefit created by incarceration without representation.

First of all, the only States in the U.S. that do not disenfranchise prisoners are Maine and Vermont. The states with the lowest incarceration rates in the U.S. are Maine and Vermont.incarceration rates by state                                                     source: http://www.prisonpolicy.org/global/

The odds of that happening randomly are 1 in 1,125.  It happened because prisoners are not valuable to lawmakers in Maine and Vermont.  To them, a prisoner is just another person to be accountable to, another vote you have to fight for.  There’s no such thing as prison-based gerrymandering in Maine and Vermont.

And the thing that separates Main and Vermont from the rest of the U.S. is the same thing that separates the U.S. from the rest of the modern world.

Lots of countries disenfranchise prisoners to some extent, but nobody does it like the U.S.A. Not only does the U.S. voting ban extend to all prisoners, in several states the ban continues after release from prison. Most European countries, on the other hand, allow prisoners to vote.  Some countries let some of their prisoners vote.  For example, Benin only disenfranchises prisoners sentenced to three months or more.

The stricter a nation’s prisoner-disenfranchisement laws,the higher its incarceration rate. The researchers who discovered the correlation did not try to explain it beyond suggesting that the more people a nation puts in prison, the more punitive it is, and the more punitive it is, the more likely it is to ''deprive prisoners of citizenship rights.'' I think they got cause and effect reversed.  First comes the loss of citizenship rights, then comes prison.

The only Western European countries that ban all prisoners from voting the way the U.S. does, are England and Wales, and England and Wales are experiencing the very same pathological phenomenon that the U.S. has been experiencing, just smaller.  They have the highest incarceration rate of any Western European country, and it’s growing exponentially.  They have growing racial disparities, in their prison populations, just like the U.S. does, and they blame it all on new laws, not increases in crime, just like the U.S. does. Some say what is happening in the U.S. is just a more excessive version of what is happening in England and Wales.

The reason it’s more excessive in the U.S. is that the U.S. had a very big head start.  This phenomenon only occurs in countries that distribute government representation based on the number of people living in the area.  The power has to come from the people, and not, for instance, from the property they own, in order for there to be any reason to increase the local population with prisoners.  It’s been this way in the U.S. since 1789.  It didn’t become a reality in Great Britain until well into the 20th Century. They’re just getting started putting people in prison.

Incarceration without Representation causes racism

Once you realize that lawmakers are deliberately, if unconsciously, increasing incarceration, it’s easy to see why African Americans have been growing increasingly over-represented throughout the penal system.

The lawmakers who wish to increase incarceration do not want to go to prison themselves, or put their children there.  Since most of them are not minority members, policies that focus their “toughness” on minorities are more likely to pass.

And since African Americans have historically been America’s largest minority group, policies that target African Americans are likely to cause a bigger increase in incarceration than policies that target other minority groups.  So these are the policies most worth pursuing.

I know everybody wants to reduce incarceration in the United States.  It’s not going to happen until we let prisoners vote.  As long as prisoners are valuable to lawmakers there will be lawmakers who are convinced we must get tougher on crime.  They’ll fight reform like their jobs depended on it.  Things will just keep getting worse.

On the other hand, once we let prisoners vote, the incentive to incarcerate will be gone, the perpetual droning to be tougher on crime will go away, and we’ll finally be able to turn things around.

Prisoner disenfranchisement serves no purpose.  It is not a deterrent.  Nobody doesn’t rob a liquor store because they’re afraid of losing the right to vote.

Here’s my fantasy.  This post goes viral, people quickly become aware of the need to get rid of our prisoner disenfranchisement laws, and they make it happen.

Make it happen.

“It’s almost the perfect crime. A legislator gets extra influence without having to be accountable to more constituents, and the data says the district is legit.”

Peter Wagner of the Prison Policy Initiative, being quoted in What Is Prison-Based Gerrymandering?

“The prisons are also a source of political power to upstate Republicans because the inmates are counted as permanent residents when legislative districts are drawn — even though they cannot vote and their actual homes may be hundreds of miles away.”

Less Crime: No Reason to Shut Prisons, New York Times, April 12, 2008

“The representatives of these districts literally have imported their constituents by advocating construction of prisons in upstate areas and maintenance of harsh sentencing laws.”

Brief Amici Curiae In Support Of Plaintiff-Appellant Jalil Abdul Muntaqim | Prison Policy Initiative.

“‘The people elected in those districts with high prison populations are more conservative and support more mass incarcerations and the existence of prisons,’ Green [Alice Green, founder and executive director of the Center for Law and Justice] said. ‘They use the numbers to get elected, but they don’t represent [the prisoners’] interests.’ “

 Keith B. Richburg, As Census Nears, How to Count Inmates Is Debated – washingtonpost.com,  (April 26, 2009).

“While the U.S. has a higher rate of violent crime than many comparable nations, most scholars in the field attribute the dramatic increase in the use of prison almost entirely to changes in policy, and not crime rates. That is, policymakers at all levels of government have enacted laws and procedures designed to send more people to prison and to keep them in prison for longer periods of time.”

Lessons of the “Get Tough” Movement in the United States” Marc Mauer. The Sentencing Project. Washington, D.C., Presented at the International Corrections and Prison Association, 6th Annual Conference. Beijing, China 25 October 2004, page 2

“Spiraling incarceration rates were not a simple mechanical response to crime rates… . Instead, rising imprisonment rates were due to policy changes in responses to crime, to the wave of “tough on crime” policies that increased the use of prison as a punishment for crime, increased the length of prison sentences for any given crime, and increased the rate of revocations of probation and parole. “

Explaining State Black Imprisonment Rates 1983-1999” Pamela E. Oliver and James E. Yocom University of Wisconsin, at 3

“It is well understood that the shifting crime control policies that led to these patterns in imprisonment were products of political decisions by elected officials to be “tougher” on crime generally…”

Explaining State Black Imprisonment Rates 1983-1999” Pamela E. Oliver and James E. Yocom University of Wisconsin, page 3

“The evidence is overwhelming that the spiraling imprisonment of African Americans is due largely to the political decisions and organizational incentives around the drug war.  Nationally, the policies were put in place because the people advocating them expected to benefit from the policies.”

Tracking the Causes and Consequences of Racial Disparities in Imprisonment, A proposal to the National Science Foundation. Pamela Oliver, Marino Bruce, page 6-7

“What we don’t know is why American policymakers, nearly alone among leaders of western governments, chose to enact such harsh policies and Laws, or why practitioners became so much tougher.”

Explanations of American punishment policies: A national history.” Michael Tonry. Punishment & Society July 2009 vol. 11 no. 3 377-394

“In 48 states (all but Maine and Vermont) and in the District of Columbia, citizens lose the right to vote upon conviction of a felony; in at least a handful of states, the right is also lost upon conviction of a misdemeanor.”

Voting With A Criminal Record – Executive Summary | American Civil Liberties Union,  (last visited June 25, 2015).

no other contemporary

Berans, Angela, Uggen, Xhristopher and Manza, Jeff. “Ballot Manipulation and the ‘Menace of Negro Domination’: Racial Threat and Felon Disenfranchisement, 1850-2000” page 562


“Most European countries allow prisoners to vote. ”

– BBC NEWS, Times Online, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/3523231.stm (last visited May 7, 2015).

 Uggen, C. and Van Brakle, M. L. “Punishment and Social Exclusion: National Differences in Prisoner Disenfranchisement” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the The Law and Society Association <Not Available>. 2009-05-25 from http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p96248_index.html, at 60

“Consistent with expectations, we find prisoner disenfranchisement to be concentrated in less democratized nations with high incarceration rates and low levels of economic development.” –  “Punishment and Social Exclusion: National Differences in Prisoner Disenfranchisement” page 59

“Finally, nations with the most restrictive disenfranchisement policies have a far higher incarceration rate than those that disenfranchise some or none of their prisoners.” –  “Punishment and Social Exclusion: National Differences in Prisoner Disenfranchisement” page 70

“We find clear evidence linking prisoner disenfranchisement to low political and economic development, high ethnic heterogeneity, and punitive criminal justice policies” – “Punishment and Social Exclusion: National Differences in Prisoner Disenfranchisement” page 74

“On average, European nations that disenfranchise all prisoners have the lowest GDP, arc the least democratized, and have the highest incarceration rate” – “Punishment and Social Exclusion: National Differences in Prisoner Disenfranchisement” page 70

“Although our quantitative analysis can only suggest the reasons for this pattern of association, it seems likely that more punitive nations devalue and stigmatize those convicted of crimes and are hence more likely to deprive them of citizenship rights.” – – “Punishment and Social Exclusion: National Differences in Prisoner Disenfranchisement”  page 72

“The 12 European countries that ban voting by all serving prisoners are Belarus, Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Kosovo, Latvia, Moldova, Russia, Slovakia, Spain, the Ukraine and the United Kingdom.  With the exception of the United Kingdom and Spain, these are all former Eastern Bloc states with limited histories of universal suffrage, constitutional rights, and independent courts. In the case of Spain, one authority advises that disfranchisement in Spain “rarely happens.”  –  ACLU Out of Step with The World.  An Analysis of Felony Disfranchisement in the U.S. and other Democracies Published May 2006 at 4-6

“Ireland and Spain both allow prisoners to vote.” – Berans, Angela, Uggen, Xhristopher and Manza, Jeff. “Ballot Manipulation and the ‘Menace of Negro Domination’: Racial Threat and Felon Disenfranchisement, 1850-2000” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American sociological Association, Atlanta Hilton Hotel, Atlanta GA, Aug 16, 2003

“Ireland, the Netherlands and Spain are among 18 countries with no ban. ” Call for prisoners’ right to vote, BBC NEWS, Times Online,  (last visited  May 7, 2015).

According to ACLU The only two western European countries that automatically disenfranchise all prisoners the way the United States does are United Kingdom and Spain, though in Spain it rarely happens.  Two other sources say Spain allows prisoners to vote. These researchers say Spain allows prisoners to vote, the BBC says Spain allows prisoners to vote.  

“England and Wales imprison a higher percentage of their populations than any other Western European country…Only Eastern European states imprison more than England and Wales. Spain (140.3 per 100,000) has the second highest rate of incarceration in Western Europe.”

England and Wales lead Europe in imprisonment – World Socialist Web Site, http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2006/01/pris-j25.html (last visited May 11, 2015).

“the [British] prison population is increasing exponentially at a time when crime rates are supposedly falling (Coyle, 2006).”

Women In Prison: A Review of the Current Female Prison System: Future Directions and Alternatives, Internet Journal of Criminology © 2008  page 25

“In the last five years the prison population has risen by more than half, from 43,195 to 65,000 in 1998; it is expected to rise to over 82,000 within the next seven years.[1] Lord Bingham of Cornhill, the Lord Chief Justice, has argued that ‘the reason for this exponential increase…[is] the vocal expression of opinion by influential public figures that custody is an effective penalty… Judges and magistrates have been the subject of criticism…for imposing what are widely portrayed as excessively lenient sentences’.”

House of Commons – Home Affairs – Third Report, http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm199798/cmselect/cmhaff/486/48603.htm (last visited June 27, 2015).

“[A] landmark report released today by the Equality and Human Rights Commission … shows that the proportion of people of African-Caribbean and African descent incarcerated here is almost seven times greater to their share of the population.  The report, which aims to set out how to measure “fairness” in Britain, says that ethnic minorities are “substantially over-represented in the custodial system.”

“The commission found that five times more black people than white people per head of population in England and Wales are imprisoned. The ethnic minority prison population has doubled in a decade – from 11,332 in 1998 to 22,421 in 2008. Over a similar period, the overall number of prisoners rose by less than two thirds.”

Randeep Ramesh, social affairs editor, More black people jailed in England and Wales proportionally than in US | Society | The Guardian,  (last visited June 20, 2015).

“The policies implemented in the last decade mean incarceration levels in Britain are now among the highest in western Europe. England and Wales have an imprisonment rate of 155 per 100,000 and Scotland of 149 per 100,000 of the population. This contrasts with rates of less than 100 per 100,000 for most of Britain’s neighbors.”

Randeep Ramesh, social affairs editor, More black people jailed in England and Wales proportionally than in US | Society | The Guardian,  (last visited Apr. 28, 2015)

“Owers accepted that ‘rhetoric’ from Labour politicians had created a ‘climate’ where the number of jailings was growing exponentially. ‘If you lock up this number of people this is the consequence. This is what is going to happen: more people are going to die in our prisons,’ she warned.”

Prison population in Britain reaches record levels – World Socialist Web Site, published by the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI)

“Whilst these [American] trends are exceptional in the western world – indeed, Garland (2001: 1) has described them as a ‘pathological phenomenon’ – it could be argued that they are once again merely a more excessive version of what is occurring in England and Wales, where the same period has seen the prison population almost double from 40,000 since 1971.”

Prison Readings: A critical introduction to prisons and imprisonment. Yvonne Jewkes, Helen Johnston.  2006. Willan Publishing. Pages 285-286

 Posted by at 12:39 am
May 312015

Everybody knows that the U.S. Constitution requires that a census be taken once every ten years.  Less well known – much less – is the requirement that the census be conducted “by law.”

The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct.  –  U. S. Const., Art. I, § 2, cl. 3. (emphasis added)

That’s an important phrase: “they shall by Law direct.”  It doesn’t appear anywhere else in the Constitution. Most of the Constitution details laws Congress can’t write, such as the prohibition against ex post facto laws; or can write if it chooses, such as election laws; or must write, under certain circumstances, like the requirement to write a law when drawing money from the Treasury. But there are only two laws that the Constitution requires Congress to write no matter what.

The first one has to do with how much money they pay themselves.  Article 1, Section 6 requires Congress to write laws that determine their salaries, and the reasons are obvious.  If they weren’t required to obey a law, they could just pay themselves whatever they wanted, and the public would have no way of knowing how much they were getting or should be getting.  But, If Congress has to put it in law, the public knows what Congress is paying itself, and can hold them accountable.

It’s the same thing with the census.  If there were no law mandating how the government was to determine where people lived for census purposes, the people conducting the census would manipulate it in order to shift representative power towards themselves, or towards other people in exchange for money or other considerations.  So the Constitution requires a law like the original census law, which outlined the rules for defining residence and described the record keeping in explicit detail.  Here’s part of it:

“That every person whose usual place of abode shall be in any family on the aforesaid first Monday in August next, shall be returned as of such family; and the name of every person, who shall be an inhabitant of any district, but without a settled place of residence, shall be inserted in the column of the aforesaid schedule, which is allotted for the heads of families, in that division where he or she shall be on the said first Monday in August next, and every person occasionally absent at the time of the enumeration, as belonging to that place in which he usually resides in the United States.” – Census Act of 1790

There’s no law like that now.  Current census law, known as Title 13, doesn’t direct anything.  It leaves it all up to the Secretary of Commerce.  Once every ten years he’s supposed to take a census “in such form and content as he may determine” and report it to the President.  That’s basically it.  There is no law requiring apportionment be based on that report.  According to the Supreme Court, it’s just a ''tentative recommendation,'' with “no direct consequences” on reapportionment.  Instead, reapportionment is based on a statement by the President, who is not required to use the data from the Secretary’s report at all.

So, to sum up current U.S. census law, once every ten years the Secretary of Commerce must create a tentative recommendation with no direct consequences on reapportionment.

Not only is there no real census law, there are also no regulations setting requirements for how the “actual enumeration” is supposed to be conducted.  The closest we have is something the Census Bureau calls “the Residence Rules.”  The Census Bureau says it’s the residence rules that determine where people are counted.  At various times the bureau has claimed that it has to follow the residence rules, and that it cannot, or should not, change them.

“At issue is the Census Bureau’s residency rules, which, bureau officials said, would require another act of Congress to change.” FOXNews.com – More Prison Inmates Could Mean More Money for Towns – Politics Republican Party Democratic Party I Political Spectrum

But the residence rules are not like any law or regulation I learned about in law school.  They’re not published in the federal register, as required by the Administrative Procedure Act, nor is the public made aware of potential changes to the rules or given a chance to comment on them, also as required by the Administrative Procedure Act.  Instead, the Residence Rules are “hidden,” “purely internal” to the Census Bureau, and ''not for public consumption.''

Sometimes they publish lists or partial lists of the residence rules – the one’s I’ve seen contradicted each other, were generally nonsensical, and the bureau sure doesn’t appear to actually follow them, but there’s no way of knowing,  because the Census Bureau does not keep records of the census process.  The whole thing is conducted in the dark.  They should call it the Census Intelligence Agency.  They don’t retain any of the information needed to evaluate their work, despite repeated requests from the National Research Council.

The bureau also keeps no records of important managerial decisions – including the names of the managers who made the decisions – on things like what methods of taking the census they should use, or how and when information should be released to the public, or what the cost estimate should be.

Surprisingly, the Census Bureau is not good at keeping records.  For instance, financial records – the Census Bureau has the worst luck when it comes to financial records.   For the past three decades, they have managed to mess things up so badly that the oversight agencies cannot audit them.  They’re always saying things like

“Inadequacies in the Bureau’s accounting system made it difficult to determine the actual cost of decennial census activities,” or

“Major deficiencies in the Bureau’s internal controls precluded the Bureau from producing financial reports that were auditable,” or

“We are unable to account for $1.3 billion.”

I don’t understand how that’s even possible.   How can somebody accidentally make billions of dollars disappear?  Even if the Census Bureau itself didn’t keep any records at all, wouldn’t the banks have the information?  They should be able to trace every penny they were given until it was spent or converted into cash.  But they never can, and everyone seems to accept that it’s just incompetence over and over and over and over and over again, and not malfeasance.

Meanwhile, the census is getting very expensive, and nobody knows why.

Census Costsclick for sources

Roughly 5 years from now – on April fool’s day – the Census Bureau is going to conduct something they call “the 2020 Census.”  It will be done off the record, without the benefit of law, without effective oversight, it will cost around $20 billion, and there will be no way to verify any of it.  We’ll just have to trust the Census Bureau.

“Because the Secretary’s report to the President carries no direct consequences for the reapportionment, it serves more like a tentative recommendation than a final and binding determination.”  Franklin v. Massachusetts, 505 U.S. 788, 11 (1992)

“Section 2a does not expressly require the President to use the data in the Secretary’s report, but, rather, the data from the “decennial census.” There is no statute forbidding amendment of the “decennial census” itself after the Secretary submits the report to the President.”  Franklin v. Massachusetts, 505 U.S. 788, 11 (1992)

“What we do find is that, in contrast with the enabling laws for international censuses, it is somewhat unusual for core census residence concepts in the United States to be as “hidden” as they have been in the past, deriving from the spirit of a centuries-old statute and kept in full form as a purely internal Census Bureau document. Accordingly, we suggest that census residence rules and concepts be made more transparent. Approaches to promote the transparency of census residence concepts to the public and decision makers could include posting notice of, and inviting comment on, residence standards through promulgation in the Federal Register, as the Bureau does with other basic operational plans.

“The first impression that comes from reviewing the 2000 census residence rules is that they are not organized in a way that a general reader can follow; in large part, this is attributable to the internal (not for public consumption) nature of the full residence rules document.”

Once, Only Once, and in the Right Place: Residence Rules in the Decennial Census, Panel on Residence Rules in the Decennial Census, National Research Council, page 53 (emphasis added)

“A major problem and frustration in 2000 was the lack of an audit trail; because the logical flags on the MAF were not time stamped in any way, it was difficult if not impossible to tell how and when various updating operations touched address records.  Such an audit trail is essential for effective evaluation.”

Once, Only Once, and in the Right Place: Residence Rules in the Decennial Census, Panel on Residence Rules in the Decennial Census, National Research Council, page 250

“Since 1985 several National Research Council panels on the decennial census have called for the development of a “master trace sample” database. Such a database would retain the crucial elements of the census procedural history for a sample of addresses to support census evaluation studies.….it is critical to retain sufficient data, preserving all relevant linkages, so that the result supports the examination of how the decennial census processes functioned for various subpopulations and domains.….. By guaranteeing access to this information, the Census Bureau would ensure that it could carry out evaluations that would guide the Bureau towards a more effective and cost-efficient design for the 2020 census. Therefore, we recommend that—as systems for the 2010 census are finalized by the Census Bureau and its contractors—appropriate archival outlets be created for all systems, including components of the field data operational control system, so that the relevant data to construct a master trace database or “audit trail” of census processes are retained.

ENVISIONING THE 2020 CENSUS, Panel on the Design of the 2010 Census Program of Evaluations and Experiments, NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL, pages 312-313

“the bureau did not document the methods it considered but decided not to test during the 2010 testing cycle or the rationale behind those decisions.  Further, for methods that the Bureau decided to test, officials could not provide support for how they selected or prioritized those methods

2010 Census: Census Bureau Needs Procedures for Estimating the Response Rate

“clear and specific documentation does not exist for how and when the release date and location are to be determined for the Income and Poverty Estimates and who should make those decisions…because this was not thoroughly documented, it is unclear to the public who made these decisions and how they were made.  Furthermore, Bureau officials told us that they did not retain any internal memos or e-mails that documented the decision to change the 2003 Income and Poverty Estimates release.”

DATA QUALITY: Expanded Use of Key Dissemination Practices Would Further Safeguard the Integrity of Federal Statistical Data page 9

“Officials acknowledged that the Bureau docs not have a centralized location in which to keep detailed documentation to support the assumptions and decision-making process. Further, Bureau officials stated that there is no written documentation of the process used by management to agree upon particular assumptions for use in the life cycle cost estimate, and that there is no systematic documentation regarding management decisions to make changes to the cost model or life cycle cost estimates.  According to an official, changes to the cost model have not always been well documented, and sometimes a decision memo is created to justify a change but not always. Best practices call for management approval of the cost estimate. Management approval of the cost estimate should also be documented, including management approval memorandums or recommendations for change, as well as management feedback.”

Census Bureau Should Take Action to Improve the Credibility and Accuracy of Its Cost Estimate for the Decennial Census page 15

Cost data for years 1800 to 1900 and 1930 to 1990 come from Measuring America: The Decennial Censuses From 1790-2000, by the Census Bureau.  I took the data for years 1910 and 1920 from “Decennial Census: Overview of Historical Census Issues“,by the Government Accountability Office, because the data in Measuring America is clearly wrong for those two decades, a decimal was misplaced.  I used Measuring America for the rest of the years because the data is more precise. Year 2000 comes from the June, 2008 GAO report entitled “2010 Census: Census Bureau Should Take Action to Improve the Credibility and Accuracy of Its Cost Estimate for the Decennial Census,” which, parenthetically, is one of the world’s great understatements. I used that data instead of the 2000 data from Measuring America because it is more recent. Year 2010 cost data comes from  The Economist, “Censuses: Costing the count” . I then adjusted the costs for inflation, using 2012 dollars, using this website: http://www.westegg.com/inflation/  I used 2012 dollars because it was 2012 at the time, and I’m too lazy to do it again.

 Posted by at 10:14 pm
Nov 232013

I always thought that a name was just a label.  Then I read the Bible.  Names are treated very differently in the Bible.  In the Bible, some names are better than others.

Philippians 2 :9

Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name.

Biblically speaking, it’s important to have a good name.  A good name is valuable, better than money or perfume.

Proverbs 22:1

A good name is more desirable than great riches;.

Ecclesiastes 7:1

A good name is better than fine perfume.

A good name will get you laid.

Song of Solomon 1:3

Your name is like perfume poured out.  No wonder the young women love you!

Isaiah 26:8

Your name and renown are the desire of our hearts.

A really good name can make you better than the angels.

Hebrews 1:4

Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.

You know who has a great name?  God.  God’s name is awesome.

Malachi 2:5

“My covenant was with him, a covenant of life and peace, and I gave them to him; this called for reverence and he revered me and stood in awe of my name.


Psalm 8:1

LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

God’s name is great and awesome (and he is holy).

Psalm 99:3

Let them praise your great and awesome name— he is holy.

God’s name is good, which I guess goes without saying.

Psalm 52:9

For what you have done I will always praise you in the presence of your faithful people. And I will hope in your name, for your name is good.

And mighty.

Jeremiah 10:6

No one is like you, LORD; you are great, and your name is mighty in power.


Proverbs 18:10

The name of the LORD is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.

Long lasting…

Psalm 48:10

Like your name, O God, your praise reaches to the ends of the earth.

Psalm 135:13

Your name, LORD, endures forever, your renown, LORD, through all generations.

Psalm 72:17

May his name endure forever

This is no regular name.   People have a weird S&M relationship with this name.

Acts 5:41

The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.

It’s a scary name.

Malachi 1:14

“I am a great king,” says the Lord Almighty, “and my name is to be feared among the nations.”

Psalm 102:15

The nations will fear the name of the LORD.

Isaiah 59:19

From the west, people will fear the name of the LORD,.

People want to fear it.

Psalm 86:11

Teach me … that I may fear your name.

That’s the smart thing to do.

Micah 6:9

To fear your name is wisdom.

People care about this name.  They worry about it.

Psalm 31:3

…for the sake of your name.

3 John 1:7

…for the sake of the Name.

Psalm 79:9

… for your name’s sake.

They risk their lives for it.

Acts 15:26

…men who have risked their lives for this name.

It’s almost as if God’s name gets the credit for everything.    It certainly gets the praise.

Psalm 100:4

Give thanks to him and praise his name.

Daniel 2:20

Praise be to the name.

And the glory.

Psalm 105:3

Glory in his holy name.

Revelation 15:4

Glory to your name.

And honor…

Jeremiah 3:17

honor the name of the LORD

Malachi 2:2

resolve to honor my name

They sing songs praising the name.

Psalm 30:4

Sing the praises of the LORD, you his faithful people; praise his holy name.

Psalm 61:8

Then I will ever sing in praise of your name and fulfill my vows day after day.

Psalm 66:4

All the earth bows down to you; they sing praise to you, they sing the praises of your name.”

They dance dances praising the name.

Psalm 149:3

Praise his name with dancing.

It’s the name that does it all!  It saves people,

Psalm 54:1

Save me, O God, by your name;.

protects people,

Psalm 20:1

may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.

tramples people,

Psalm 44:5

through your name we trample our foes.

It’s a telephone!

Psalm 116:13

call on the name of the LORD.

And a great place to have your horns exalted.

Psalm 89:24

and through my name his horn will be exalted.

The question isn’t what is his name, but where is his name?   Apparently, he shares his name with a house.

Jeremiah 7:10

…in this house, which bears my Name…

Jeremiah 7:11

Has this house, which bears my Name…

Jeremiah 34:15

in the house that bears my Name.

People live in his name.

Psalm 69:36

the children of his servants will inherit it, and those who love his name will dwell there.

Everyone who enters it is blessed.

Psalm 118:26

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD.

But you have to look for it.

Psalm 83:16

Cover their faces with shame, LORD, so that they will seek your name.

God’s name comes from far away.

Isaiah 30:27

…the Name of the LORD comes from afar.

His name is near.

Psalm 75:1

for your Name is near.

In Israel, his name is.  Great.

Psalm 76:1

in Israel his name is great

In the Bible, names serve a purpose.  For instance, the Messiah’s name is very interesting.  For one thing, it is the word of God.

Revelation 19:13

his name is the Word of God.

Only the Messiah can save, because only the Messiah has the name.

Acts 4:12

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name.

His name provides forgiveness.

Acts 10:43

forgiveness of sins through his name.

And hope.

Matthew 12:21

In his name hope.

He isn’t the Branch, his name isn’t “the Branch.” He isn’t named “the Branch.”  Nevertheless, his name is the Branch.

Zechariah 6:12

…the man whose name is the Branch…

etc., etc….

 Posted by at 3:52 pm
Nov 212013
crime wave with text

I’m going to show you some interesting things about the way the U.S. crime rate changes from year to year.  My point will be that only harmonic motion can cause such changes.   Harmonic motion in the crime rates has some strange-sounding implications, such as the existence of a restorative force that fights crime.

A Literal Crime Wave

Here is the total number of crimes committed per year in the U.S., from 1938 to 2011, according to the U.S. FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports:

crimes committed per year

Most people, I suppose, would look at that and not see anything interesting.  But it shocks me.  This data is supposed to be the result of conscious, human decision making.  And yet it looks like something you’d see in the window of an FM synthesizer.

three things

There seems to be something mathematical about it.  Just about half way up, starting at 1971, is the first of a series of 4 bumps that grow in size, as demonstrated in the image below.  The first three of these bumps are 5 years apart, the 4th comes 10 years after the 3rd.  And the top point at 1991 is almost exactly ten times greater than it was at the bottom (click image to enlarge).

4 bmps

Overall, the whole thing is just a big sine wave:

long crime sine wave smaller
Researchers use something called the “coefficient of determination,” usually abbreviated r2, to compare mathematical models, such as sine waves, with data, such as crime rates. In this case, r2 is 0.98498167. Theoretically, this means the sine wave above, which is just this simple equation, 'explains' over 98% of the changes in crime rates.  As silly as that sounds, I know there must be another equation that explains the changes even better.  I know that because if we look at the residuals, that is, the differences between the actual data and the sine wave, we see another wave-like pattern.


Notice how the data does not jump around randomly; it goes up and down in a smooth, evolving pattern.  The first 18 years of residuals looks like one cycle of a simple sine wave.  This then represents one 18 year period in which crime rates appear to be a combination of 2 sine waves, the blue one to the right and the big red one above.  But it is more likely a combination of many small waves, than two big ones.   blue sine
In the last half of the residuals you see the shape to the right:   blue harm
Miraculously, I happened to find this very pattern in a book that actually says it results from a combination of harmonically related sine waves.  Harmonically related sine waves are sine waves that share a fundamental frequency.  gray harm
That book is “Acoustics and Psychoacoustics” by D. Howard and J. Angus.  You can click on the image to the right to see the image as it is in the book.  Note that it states the pattern is formed by combining harmonically related sine waves.  This is a 25 year period in which crime rates appear to have a fundamental frequency.  harmonrel


Hiding in plain sight

There are patterns in the crime data that are not obvious at first blush, but are nevertheless quite striking once they have been pointed out.  It starts with a smooth upward curve lasting 30 years.

30 years of exp

After this comes a series of intricate, multi-year patterns that repeat themselves, reverse themselves, or show some other symmetry.   Starting at 1971 is a 6 year period of change that forms a slanted “S” shape, first going down a little, then curving up substantially, then flattening back down again.  Then, starting at 1976, the pattern repeats.

the esses
If this was the only repeating pattern in the data I probably wouldn’t think twice about it.  But virtually every part of the crime wave is involved in some kind of symmetrical repetition like this.  The patterns come one after the other.  The years from 1979 to 1985 form a 4 year pattern that is immediately followed by its own inversion.


From 1983 to 1992 is a 5 year pattern shaped like a hockey-stick, followed by another hockey-stick, same size and shape, but inverted on 2 axes.


Then the entire double-hockey stick thing happens again, only backwards, creating a mirror image of itself.


I’m not sure this image does it justice.  The next chart makes it a little clearer how close the 1992-2000 data comes to the mirror image of the 1983-1991 data.


I realize that if you stare at random data long enough,  sooner or later you’ll find patterns of some kind.  But not like this.  Here, the entire thing is one repeating pattern after another, and it all fits together to form a gigantic sine wave.


Also, I am not claiming that the sine wave can be used to predict future crime rates.  I’m not saying anything about predicting anything.   I’m not saying anything beyond this: harmonic motion is occurring.  An r2 of 0.98 between crime rates and a 70-year long sinusoid cannot be due to chance.  And the patterns in the residuals suggest an even higher r2 between crime rates and some other more-complex formula – a formula consisting of a combination of sine waves: a complex waveform.

So what?

Complex waveforms require oscillators that go up and down, like clockwork, in an organized, coordinated manner.  Not organized as in planned, organized like the molecules of a vibrating tuning fork.  They don’t even know it’s happening.  But like kids on a trampoline, the motion of one affects the motion of them all.   The correct metaphor is a physical medium undergoing harmonic motion.  So, if 70 years of crime data make out a complex waveform, harmonic motion must be happening.  And if harmonic motion is happening, there must be a restorative force in action.

Introducing The Force

All harmonic motion requires a restorative force that resists disturbances.  In the case of a vibrating guitar string, the restorative force is the tension of the string.   In the case of the solar system, the restorative force is gravity.  What might be the restorative force in the case of crime rates?  Karma?  God?  Let’s just call it The Force.  The  Force opposes evil.  The greater the evil, the stronger The Force pushes against it.  As a result, equilibrium is restored in the same amount of time – the same period – regardless of the size, or amplitude, of the disturbance.  But the equilibrium doesn’t last; the medium’s own momentum causes it to distort just as fast and just as far in the other direction.  The force opposes this distortion too, the cycle repeats, the medium vibrates and the distortion propagates out as a wave.


4 bmps   crime wave with text

Sinusoidal Fit: y=a+b*cos(cx+d)
a = 7.62438987706E+000
b = 6.34962282277E+000
c = 7.21400634869E-002
d = -4.93995933452E+001
x= the current year
y=total number of crimes committed that year

Standard Error: 0.6140835
Correlation Coefficient: 0.9924624
r2 is 0.98498167

“coefficient of determination (r2) Definition: A statistical method that explains how much of the variability of a factor can be caused or explained by its relationship to another factor.  Coefficient of determination is used in trend analysis. It is computed as a value between 0 (0 percent) and 1 (100 percent).”  www.businessdictionary.com 

“The Coefficient of Determination, also known as R Squared, is interpreted as the goodness of fit of a regression. The higher the coefficient of determination, the better the variance that the dependent variable is explained by the independent variable.  The coefficient of determination is the overall measure of the usefulness of a regression. For example, you are looking at an ANOVA table, and you see that your R2 is given at 0.95. This means that the variation in the regression is 95% explained by the independent variable.” – www.coefficientofdetermination.com

 Posted by at 10:21 pm
Nov 142013

A couple of years ago I was doing research for a school paper about the U.S. census.  This research involved reading a lot of reports of government oversight agencies, such as the Government Accountability Office and the Inspector General of the Department of Commerce, and more.  Although it had nothing to do with the topic of my paper, I eventually concluded that the Census Bureau is corrupt, and the 2010 census was conducted in bad faith.  That is, though I’m sure 99% of the people working at the Census Bureau only wanted to conduct a proper census, the people in charge – the people making the decisions – had no interest in that.  They were using their positions to make themselves rich.

Today I’m going focus on one relatively small project that the Census Bureau undertook in 2009.  It cost about 1.75 billion dollars.  With your help, I think I can prove it was, for lack of a better word, a scam.  A project designed solely to take money from the public.

Some background on Address Canvassing

The census wasn’t always done by mail.  They used to send census workers out to interview people in person.  In 1970 the Census Bureau started sending forms out in the mail, in order to save money by not having to hire and train all those workers to walk down every street, interviewing people.  Seems reasonable.  One day, somebody at the Census Bureau apparently decided that the Post Office could not be relied on to come up with a list of all the mailing addresses in the country.  So the Census Bureau does the only logical thing: it sends census workers walking down every street, knocking on every door, interviewing people, asking them if the number printed on their door or mailbox is their address, and if not, what is their address?  Do they get mail at their address?  And do they know of any other addresses?

What were they thinking?

Needless to say, this defeats the purpose of using the mail.  If you have to send the workers out interviewing everybody anyway you might as well take the census at that time, rather than send out a form in the mail later.  It’s a bit like walking to a guy’s house to get his address just so you can walk back home and send him a letter asking him where he lives.  When they did it in 2000, it was a last resort.  They weren't going to do it this time.  Then, without explanation, the bureau decided to do 100% address canvassing anyway.  The oversight agencies kept asking the bureau to provide justification for this decision, to do a cost benefit analysis and consider alternatives, but the bureau refused to do so..

For some reason, the Census Bureau insisted on doing Address Canvassing despite the apparent stupidity of it, despite not having done a cost-benefit analysis, not having considered alternatives, not having any evidence that it was beneficial, and despite the objections of the oversight agencies.

Or, at least they said they were going to do it.

Did they verify addresses or not?

I know they did some address canvassing because I saw people complaining about it on youtube.  But it didn’t happen at my house.  It didn’t happen in my neighborhood.  I don’t think they did it for real at all, I think they just, sort of, pretended to do it.  The Census Bureau hired and trained thousands of people and them gave them no work to do.  I read reports written by temporary workers who did get work, claiming there was “no regard to quality” and that they were pressured into not doing the work.  Many census workers said similar things.  “It was like they knew they would not be using what we had done,” said one of them.  The inspector general’s office confirmed this was happening, noted the widespread nature of the problem, and asked the Census Bureau to look into it, which the bureau refused to do.

Despite the widespread skipping of procedures, Address Canvassing came in 25% over-budget., for a total of $444 million.  When you include the cost of the $1.3 billion handheld computers (or “HHCs” in Census-speak) that were not used for anything other than Address Canvassing, Address Canvassing cost the public roughly $1.75 billion.  There’s no way of knowing what that money was actually spent on, because the Census Bureau’s financial records are always un-auditable.  The sole function of the Census Bureau is to collect and store information, and yet decade after decade it remains incapable of maintaining its own financial records.

I don’t think verifying addresses was the real purpose behind Address Canvassing.   I think it was included in the budget for the sole purpose of embezzling as much of it as possible.   I think they did as little address canvassing as they could get away with without making it obvious to everybody that they weren’t really doing it at all.  Sadly, this is what I think of the entire 2010 census budget.  I will lay out the evidence in upcoming posts; it all comes from Inspector General reports and the like.  But there’s a lot more at stake here than just money.  The people responsible for Address Canvassing are responsible for distributing political power throughout the United States, a process which is, for all intents and purposes, unregulated.  I think the reports of the oversight agencies make it clear that the Census Bureau does everything from falsify its financial records to manipulate census results.  I also think it’s clear that nobody reads the reports of the oversight agencies.  The bureau’s 14.7 billion dollar cost estimate was cartoonish.  The 2010 census was a farce.  The corruption is written into the law.  I’ll show you.  But first answer this question:

Have you had your address canvassed?

I’ll bet the average person reading this does has some memory of getting the census form in the mail a couple of years ago, but has no memory of anybody from the Census Bureau showing up at their front door.  Address canvassing happened four years ago, but, if it happened at your house I’m sure you would remember it.  The census worker would not have asked you questions about you, he would have asked you questions about the building.  He would have taken the GPS coordinates of your front door would have tried to ask you questions about the building, such as “is the posted address used for mail,” and “are there additional living quarters in the building?”  Did it happen at your house?   Please only answer if you live in a house, and not an apartment building.  I don’t think address canvassing was supposed to include knocking on the doors of each apartment in every apartment building.  That would have been silly.

Address Canvassing
Did anybody from the Census Bureau knock on your door in 2009 as part of its Address Canvassing project?
  • - 19.2% ( 5 votes )
  • - 80.8% ( 21 votes )

Here is a video I made which goes into the Census Bureau’s financial shenanigans in more detail.  It is not specifically about address canvassing.

“The chief innovation the bureau planned for 1970 was the mail census. It would involve a major new departure in procedures. Heartened by tests done in 1960, officials planned to count the majority of the population with a mail census. Since most Americans lived in metropolitan areas with standard postal addresses, the bureau hoped to use commercial mailing lists to reach these households. This innovation would eliminate the expensive and logistically complex process  of hiring, training, and dispatching local enumerators to count the approximately 60 percent of the population that resided in metropolitan areas.”

“Who counts? The politics of Census-taking in Contemporary America” Russell Sage Foundation Publications (September 1999) Margo J. Anderson (Author) Stephen E. Fienberg (Author) page 35-36

“Next month, the Bureau is scheduled to conduct address canvassing for remaining census blocks when about 140,000 temporary employees will walk every known street in the country trying to update and verify the Bureau’s address list and maps for the country.”

From GAO-09-408T, 2010 Census: Little Time Remains to Address Operational Challenges, (last visited May 14, 2010)

“According to the Census address canvassing manual, when listers encounter a structure in the field, they must determine if that structure contains a living quarters. If so, the lister should knock on the door if feasible. If someone is home and answers the door, the lister should interview the resident. If the house number is posted, the lister should ask if additional living quarters exist in the building. If the house number is not posted, the lister should also ask about the address of the building, whether that address is used for mailing, and if there are additional living quarters in the building.  The lister uses this information to determine if the structure is a single residence, contains separate housing units, or is a group quarters such as a nursing home, college residence hall, group home, or shelter. The lister also determines whether addresses should be added to or deleted from the address list.”

Census 2010: Observations and Address Listers’ Reports Provide Serious Indications That Important Address Canvassing Procedures Are Not Being Followed, U.S. Department of Commerce, Office of Inspector General, Flash Report, May 2009, pages 1-2

“In our second interim report, the panel commented (National Research Council, 2003a:66): ‘We assume that the Bureau hopes to avoid a complete block canvass prior to the 2010 census, given the cost of that operation and that it was treated as a last resort in 2000.’ Our supposition was that the Census Bureau would pursue targeted block canvassing—identifying selected geographic areas with sufficiently fast growth or other characteristics to warrant a thorough precensus address list check”

Reengineering the 2010 Census: Risks and Challenges, http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=10959&page=87 (last visited Jan. 4, 2011).

“Continuously maintaining the master address file to permit targeted address canvassing was a cornerstone of Census’s original re-engineered design”

“Valuable Learning Opportunities Were Missed in the 2006 Test of Address Canvassing.”  final Report of the Department of Commerce, Office of Inspector General, March 2006 http://www.docstoc.com/docs/156000650/Download-Report—Office-of-Inspector-General—Department-of

“Then, with little explanation, the bureau abandoned this aspect of the design, and reverted to 100 percent address canvassing” –

“Valuable Learning Opportunities Were Missed in the 2006 Test of Address Canvassing.”  final Report of the Department of Commerce, Office of Inspector General, March 2006, page v. http://www.docstoc.com/docs/156000650/Download-Report—Office-of-Inspector-General—Department-of

“We believe it rash to commit to such an expensive operation as full block canvassing absent both a compelling base in empirical evidence and a determination that targeted canvasses in specific (e.g., fast-growth suburban) areas are infeasible. ”

Reengineering the 2010 Census: Risks and Challenges, 2004. http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=10959&page=98 (last visited Dec. 4, 2010).

“Since Census has not provided any evidence that 100 percent address canvassing produces an address list that is more accurate than one that could be produced with an alternative methodology, we question whether the additional expense of 100 percent address canvassing is justified. The bureau’s challenge—if not obligation—is to identify the most cost effective approach to obtaining an address list of requisite quality to support the 2010 decennial goals for accuracy of census coverage, cost containment, and operational risk.”

“Valuable Learning Opportunities Were Missed in the 2006 Test of Address Canvassing.”  final Report of the Department of Commerce, Office of Inspector General, March 2006, page v. http://www.docstoc.com/docs/156000650/Download-Report—Office-of-Inspector-General—Department-of

“The bureau strongly disagreed with our recommendation to perform an analysis of the costs and benefits of 100 percent address canvassing and consider whether alternative, less costly strategies for developing the address list for the 2010 decennial are feasible.”

“Valuable Learning Opportunities Were Missed in the 2006 Test of Address Canvassing.”  final Report of the Department of Commerce, Office of Inspector General, March 2006, page v. http://www.docstoc.com/docs/156000650/Download-Report—Office-of-Inspector-General—Department-of

“The Census Bureau spent a great deal of money on training for the amount of  work it received. For example, over 10,000 employees earned over $300 apiece  for attending training but performed no work for Census; an additional 5,000  employees received the same money for attending training and worked only a  single day—or less.”

from Testimony  of  Judith J. Gordon  Associate Deputy Inspector General U.S. Department of Commerce Information Policy, Census, and National Archives Subcommittee of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee House of Representatives, Thursday, March 25, 2010

I found reports written by census workers all over the internet.  One important source was a website called mytwocensus.com.

“We were told that if we couldn’t gain access to a building after two visits we had to accept what was in the HHC [handheld computer] as correct. Many of us were tempted to falsify work and accept what was in the HHC as correct…When the address canvassing operation finished up it was alleged that some of the crew leaders and field operations supervisors told their listers since there was no regard to quality that they could skip making contact even going as far as not conducting field work and enter the units at home. There is no way that listers who were reassigned work magically gained access to buildings people couldn’t access for weeks unless they accepted what was in the HHC as true. The crew leaders and field supervisors who finished first were rewarded with additional work. Those who finished last were sometimes ‘written up’ as unproductive and the office terminated their employment.” – (emphasis added) from http://www.mytwocensus.com/2009/10/05/feature-real-stories-from-the-census-bureau/

These comments are from census workers who sent comments to Michelle Malkin’s website.

“I also participated in the address canvassing last summer.  After one week we were past the halfway point and then the problems began.  First we were told to slow down.  Next we began having a one hour ‘progress’ meeting each day.  We were told to take at least five minutes per house.  I could have drawn the map by hand faster.  The last tactic was to start layoffs.” – from http://michellemalkin.com/2010/03/31/another-census-worker-speaks/

“A common theme from the Census workers who’ve written in is the directive from their managers to slow down, stall, waste time, and stretch out their work unnecessarily.  From reader X: I have indirectly been told to not work too fast, that each operation is budgeted to last until a certain date and that there is no reason to move faster and end before the scheduled time… Its like it is deliberately setup and complicated in process so that it forces you to work slower…This is the first job where I am encouraged to be slow and inefficient. From reader M.G.:My wife and two close friends were between jobs at the time and all got hired as enumerators. Their job was supposed to last for 8 weeks and after the first week all of them were told they had to slow down. They did and ended up wasting lots of time, but even so, their 8 week job only lasted 4 weeks.  It was really amazing to hear the stories of inefficiency, waste and horrible planning/management. The team leaders were not “leaders” and wouldn’t have been given management positions if they were in the private sector. The whole thing was one scary joke.- from http://michellemalkin.com/2010/04/02/todays-unemployment-figures-and-more-census-workers-true-confessions/

“Last summer I participated in the ‘address canvassing’ (AC) project. What this entailed was walking around a neighborhood, literally door to door, with a little hand held computer….In an average suburban neighborhood where the houses are somewhat close to each other, it was no problem to do about 35-40 addresses per hour once you learned how to quickly enter data into the computer. The census said that I should be doing about 12-15 per hour. My direct bosses told me that I should NOT be doing 35-40 because it was making them and other people look bad. ” – from http://michellemalkin.com/2010/03/30/e-mail-of-the-day-confessions-of-a-census-worker/

Another site with a lot of comments from census workers was the blog of the director of the Census Bureau, at http://directorsblog.blogs.census.gov/.  The site has been re-organized, and I can no longer find the comments on the site, but I took some screenshots at the time.they knew

“In several cases we observed listers skipping the procedure for knocking on doors. In at least one case a crew leader ignored portions of the verbatim training and instead instructed listers to omit this procedure. We received several additional reports from listers who were specifically told by their crew leader to omit this procedure…Some listers we observed completely skipped roads…”

Census 2010: Observations and Address Listers’ Reports Provide Serious Indications That Important Address Canvassing Procedures Are Not Being Followed, U.S. Department of Commerce, Office of Inspector General, Flash Report, May 2009

“Although our observations were not conducted on a statistically drawn sample and therefore cannot be considered representative of the entire operation, the widespread nature of the problem is noteworthy.”

Census 2010: Observations and Address Listers’ Reports Provide Serious Indications That Important Address Canvassing Procedures Are Not Being Followed, U.S. Department of Commerce, Office of Inspector General, Flash Report, May 2009

Recommendations To promote an accurate address list and contain costs, Census should do the following: 1. Since the Census Bureau has completed initial listing operations in many areas, conduct an analysis of assignment areas where listing operations were completed materially ahead of schedule to determine whether early completion of production may indicate areas where procedures were not followed. These areas should receive special attention using additional quality control checks in ongoing and upcoming address canvassing quality control operations.”

Census 2010: Observations and Address Listers’ Reports Provide Serious Indications That Important Address Canvassing Procedures Are Not Being Followed, U.S. Department of Commerce, Office of Inspector General, Flash Report, May 2009

“Census disagreed with this recommendation, stating it is not feasible given that there were multiple reasons for an area being completed ahead of schedule.”

Census 2010: Observations and Address Listers’ Reports Provide Serious Indications That Important Address Canvassing Procedures Are Not Being Followed, U.S. Department of Commerce, Office of Inspector General, Flash Report, May 2009

“The preliminary figure on the actual cost of address canvassing is $88 million higher than the original estimate of $356 million, an overrun of 25 percent.” 2010 Census: Efforts to Build an Accurate Address List Are Making Progress, but Face Software and Other Challenges. Government Accountability Office, Oct 21, 2009

“The contract was originally going to cost about $600 million for over 500,000 hand-held computers. Under the new contract, Harris will produce only 150,000 computers, less than half the number called for under the original contract, yet the amount will skyrocket to $1.3 billion. The result is that the taxpayer is now paying twice as much for fewer than half the number of computers..”  Representative William Lacy Clay, 2010 CENSUS: PROGRESS ON THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE FIELD DATA COLLECTION AUTOMATION PROGRAM AND THE DECENNIAL RESPONSE INTEGRATION SYSTEM

The $1.3 billion Harris HHC

The $1.3 billion Harris HHC

“Okay, for the benefit of everyone, there were small hand-held devices that had the capability of recording the addresses and doing a few edit checks on the entries of the addresses, as well as taking GPS coordinates. Those were used successfully in this thing we call address canvassing, the effort in the summer to list all these addresses… Looking forward, there are no plans to use those hand-held devices in any further operation of the 2010 Census. The reason for that is, the same judgment that led to their use for address canvassing led to the rejection of their use for more complicated operations where we’d actually be using them to talk to residents and filling out the questionnaire.”

2010 Census Operational Briefing Transcript National Press Club December 14, 2009


This is from a 1994 GAO report entitled “Bureau of the Census: Management Issues Require Prompt Attention”

“The Bureau has a history of financial management problems.  Before the 1980 Decennial Census, we reported that (1) the Bureau’s budgets in some instances were based on inaccurate or inadequate data and (2) its accounting records did not accurately reflect the planning costs for the Census….Our review of the Bureau’s preparation for and the execution of the 1990 Decennial Census again revealed inadequacies in the Bureau’s accounting system that made it difficult to determine the actual cost of decennial census activities.   In 1987, the Inspector General of the Department of Commerce warned of weaknesses in the Bureau’s accounting system…In February, 1994, the Inspector General issued another report that noted major deficiencies in the Bureau’s internal controls that precluded the Bureau from producing financial reports that were auditable.”


This is from a 2001 GAO report entitled “2000 Census: Analysis of Fiscal Year 2000 Budget and Internal Control Weaknesses at the U.S. Census Bureau”:

“The bureau had significant internal control weaknesses for fiscal year 2000 that resulted in an inability to develop and report complete, accurate, and timely information for management decision-making….Financial reporting issues included (1) the inability to produce accurate and timely financial statements and other financial management reports needed for oversight and day-to-day management, (2) the lack of timely and complete reconciliations needed to validate the balances of key accounts, and (3) unsupported an inaccurate reported balances for accounts payable and undelivered orders…These findings were in large part due to serious weaknesses in the bureau’s financial management systems.  The bureau has experienced persistent financial management systems problems for many years and has candidly acknowledged the material nonconformance of its financial systems…  In our view, the bureau’s financial management systems did not substantially comply with the requirements of FFMIA [the Federal Managers’ Financial Integrity Act of 1982]”


In 2010, the failure of one of the Census Bureau’s management systems (called “PBOCS”) prevented the inspector general from verifying any of the Census Bureau’s spending figures:

“According to Census’s weekly updates, as of April 5, U/L production  was 100 percent complete, with $105 million (79 percent) of its $133.6 million budget spent.  However, as a result of PBOCS’ problems, we could not independently verify these figures.

According to Census, as of April 12, the U/E operation had completed  42 percent of its assignment areas for production and 4 percent for quality control, and has expended $33 million of its $124 million budget (26 percent). Again, however, as a result of  PBOCS’ problems, we could not independently verify these figures.

According to Census’s  status report, as of April 12 it had enumerated 46,300 transitory locations (96 percent) and expended $12.5 million (68 percent) of its $18.4 million budget amount for [the ETL] operation. As a  result of PBOCS’ problems, we could not independently verify these figures.

According to  Census, as of April 12 it had spent $45 million of the $87 million (52 percent) budgeted for the GQE operation. Again, PBOCS’ problems prevented us from independently verifying these  figures.”

2010 Census: Quarterly Report to Congress, May 2010, U.S. Department of Commerce, Office of Inspector General

“…they were instructed to collect a map spot at or near the main entrance of a structure—usually the front door…” Census 2010: Observations and Address Listers’ Reports Provide Serious Indications That Important Address Canvassing Procedures Are Not Being Followed, U.S. Department of Commerce, Office of Inspector General, Flash Report, May 2009

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