Opinion Columns & Blogs

Census brings out the loons

Minnesota: Land of 10,000 loons. That’s my nomination for a bumper sticker to best describe the state in which I was conceived (only to be born at Camp Roberts).

It isn’t enough that boa-wearing show wrestler Jesse Ventura was elected governor, or that Saturday Night Live sketch writer and comedian Al Franken was elected to the Senate.

No, the folks of the Upper Midwest must continue to suffer through the embarrassing conspiracy theories of Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann — truly a loon barking at the moon.

I make note of this in light of the upcoming 2010 Census, which apropos in Bachmann’s case, begins April 1.

You see, Bachmann is on record — stridently so — saying she believes Census information will be used to lay the groundwork for internment camps a la Nazi Germany. In her warped little world, the information gleaned would be used against “undesirables,” presumably those who think (or don’t bother to think at all) like Bachmann.

Unfortunately, her fear-filled folly isn’t the only one floating around.

For example, some anti-tax activists such as Neal Boortz, political commentator and syndicated talk show host, say the information will be used to take your property away. This all seems oddly rational when you consider that other conspiracy clowns think the use of GPS systems by Census takers will lead to drone missile attacks on “undesirables.”

A variation on that theme, as put forth by The American Daily Review, is that the GPS will be used by United Nations troops to round up people after President Obama lets foreigners run the country.

But why have U.N. troops involved at all when another conspiracy theory suggested by right-wing pundit Michelle Malkin sees the Census data being used to weaken border controls (which is kind of oxymoronic in itself). With a flood of illegal immigrants coming in, the left will have a permanent ruling majority.

OK, we have a lot of fear in our culture at the moment. We’ve left a dreadful decade fraught with fright, but the above scenarios aren’t the warnings of Cassandras as much as they are the crowings of cuckoos.

Want something tangible to worry about that’s Census-related? Try identity theft. Getting personal information from people is the grist of the con man’s game.

So here’s a primer on how to protect yourself from these predatory vermin:

• Census workers will have a badge, a Census Bureau bag and confidentiality notice. Ask to see all three.



• They are there to verify address information. Do NOT give them your Social Security number, credit card numbers or any banking information. Census takers aren’t interested in that stuff. Con artists are.



• A Census worker may ask for a salary range; however, you do NOT have to answer anything at all about your financial situation.



• Finally, Census workers may phone, mail or visit your home, but they don’t e-mail. Do NOT open attachments or links supposedly from the Census Bureau.



Census-related identity theft is a possibility; a drone-directed stay in an internment camp is simply loony.

Clarification

A quote in last week’s column on Tog and Henrietta Tognazzini’s 70th anniversary was credited to Dan Krieger from his Jan. 24, 1987 “Times Past” column. The quote: “It is hard for me to call Tognazzini by his first name, Wilmar. He was one of my seventh-grade teachers way back in 1946, and I find myself wanting to say, ‘Mr. Tognazzini.’”

The author was actually Bill Cattaneo Jr. — one of the best living historians of San Luis Obispo — who was sitting in for Krieger as a guest columnist.

Bill Morem can be reached at bmorem@thetribunenews.com or 781-7852.

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