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Why you can't count on the U.S. Census Bureau

It's not exactly about television, but...

Japanesecensus Like most bureaucrats, Robert Groves, the director of the U.S. Census Bureau, has cultivated a poker face that works pretty well when he's fending off irksome questions from congressmen about why he spent $2.5 million on a TV ad during the Super Bowl or $3 million training employees who were fired before they worked a single day.

But through careful observation of Groves' body language, it's possible for trained observers to interpret his words. When he scratches his right ear, for instance, he's telling the truth. When he cups his chin in his hand or rests a finger on his left cheek, he's telling the truth.

And when he waves a census form in his hand and says, `Your answers are confidential, the Census Bureau cannot give out information that identifies you or your household,'' he's lying.

Maybe ``lying'' is too harsh a characterization. Maybe we should regard his promise of confidentiality as simply a Reader's Digest version of the full truth, which would be: ``The Census Bureau won't give out information that identifies you or your household unless some other branch of the government wants it so they can burn your home, lock you up in an internment camp, or put you under warrantless surveillance as part of a racial-profiling exercise.'' Read my full op-ed piece in Tuesday's Miami Herald.

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