The door-knocking for the 2000 census doesn't begin until next year, but the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies has already found a voice for its ambitious efforts to get African Americans counted.

He's Roderick Harrison, a demographer specializing in racial statistics who came to the think tank from the Census Bureau. His real job at the Joint Center is to develop a database of demographic data on black Americans. But Harrison has become the tank's go-to guy when a radio talk show wants to discuss blacks and the upcoming census.

There's a lot for him to say. "There is a segment of the population that has a very murky sense of what the census is," Harrison said. And that's too bad, he adds, because census tallies are used for everything from determining funding for local poverty programs to apportioning seats in Congress.

In recent counts, African Americans and other minorities have been shortchanged. An estimated 4.4 percent of blacks were missed by census enumerators in 1990, slightly more than in 1980.

"This miscounting is a tragic thing and we need to find a way to get rid of it," said Eddie Williams, the Joint Center's president. Minority community leaders must "persuade individuals of the direct importance of the census . . . how the census affects their lives and their livelihoods."

One way is to get more air-time for Harrison, who has appeared most recently on Washington's WPFW and on WLIB in New York. But the Joint Center isn't relying only on the radio--or Harrison--to spread the word: It's blanketing minority newspapers with press releases stressing the value of the census. It also maintains a Web page filled with census facts, figures and links to other pages (look for it at www.jointcenter.org/census.htm).

The effort is being funded by the Ford Foundation. In upcoming months, look for a new Joint Center survey exploring the views of African Americans toward the census.

WEB THOUGHTS: The Heritage Foundation recently launched its "No Excuses" Web site that highlights successes at low-income schools. You can find it at www.noexcuses.org . . . The Center for Policy Alternatives has a new Web site to provide "progressive" state legislators with policy information. It's at www.stateaction.org . . . The Cato Institute has just added a feature to its Web site--the Cato Daily Dispatch--that features libertarian-related news and events. New stories are posted daily. You can reach it through the main Cato web page at www.cato.org.

LONGHORN CHIC: It's a good year for conservative Texans. This week the State Policy Network, an eight-year-old network of free market and conservative state-based think tanks, will announce the hiring of Kerri Houston as executive director. Houston is a veteran of two right-leaning Texas-based tanks: the Institute for Policy Innovation and the National Center for Policy Analysis. With her hire, the network will move its base of operations from Fort Wayne, Ind.--home of its first executive director, Byron Lamm--to Dallas.

WEIRD AMERICA: In the last 20 years, the percentage of Americans who believe in faith healing has increased from 10 percent to 45 percent, writes Hudson Institute senior fellow Michael Fumento in the latest issue of American Outlook. During that same period, the percentage of Americans who believe in astrology has more than doubled, to 37 percent. "For all the talk these days about 'Generation X,' " Fumento notes, "we seem to be raising 'Generation X Files.' "

QUOTEMEISTERS OF THE NEW MILLENNIUM: Who, we wondered, will be the breakout thinkers--the Norms and Toms of the new millennium? To find out, we asked some tank types to nominate thinkers whom they predict we'll be hearing a lot from in the future.

One such is Frank Cilluffo, who is heavy into bad guys in his job as the deputy director of the Global Organized Crime Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. CSIS spokesman Mark Schoeff calls Cilluffo an expert in "terrorism in all its facets: chemical, biological, nuclear, cyber," as well as a reporter's dream--accessible and clever with a quote. Cilluffo refers to his beat as "drugs, thugs, and increasingly bugs [either computer or biological]," and waxes eloquent on "the dark side of globalization."

On Internet terrorism: "In cyberspace, in essence, we've created this global village without a police department. The ability to network has far outpaced our ability to protect networks," he recently told ABC News.

On the Clinton administration: "One of the biggest criticisms of this administration on terrorism is that it's been long on nouns, short on verbs," Cilluffo told Congressional Quarterly. "Bring some money to the table and start talking about implementation and execution and stop talking about what is a threat. We've heard that."

On being a quotemeister: "Some people say the soundbite is what bumper stickers are to philosophy," Cilluffo told us. "But because we put a premium on prescriptions, because we would like to advance an idea into something tangible, you need to be able to communicate."

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