Local rag runs this letter to the editor

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The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, which seemed to be treating Y2K seriously with its story about the Wisconsin National Guard mobilizing and the threat to the power industry, ran the following letter to the editor (sorry, it is not available on-line):

So "experts" are testifying to an Assembly committee that power failures, water system shutdowns and deaths are likely to occur as a result of the Year 2000 problem. This is yet another example of alarmist rhetoric from those who proclaim "the sky is falling, the sky is falling."

Wisconsin Power & Light is a private, for-profit enterprise that has plenty of time to identify and mitigate its Y2K weaknesses. The beauty of our economic system is that ingenuity and foresight are rewarded in the marketplace. Don't fall for scare stories told by those who naively repeat unfounded rumors.

In the Oct. 7 article about a recent Assembly hearing, attorney Mari Nahn is quoted saying everything from pacemakers to coffee makers could fail.

These are among several urban myths that have been widely reported but thoroughly disproved. No one with a pacemaker has anything to worry about. All the pacemaker manufacturers...report Y2K compliance.

I find it amusing that some are suggesting that we mobilize the National Guard on Dec. 31, 1999.

I hope our Legislature has more faith in the ingenuity, common sense and resourcefulness of Wisconsin residents. And I hope the Journal-Sentinel staff digs a little deeper before repeating Y2K rumors in the paper.

[end of letter]

As I've mentioned, I have written numerous letters to the editor. None have been printed. I give up. I refuse to waste any more of my time or energy writing to them. If anyone else cares to write a letter to the editor, they can be reached at jsedit@onwis.com.

-- Steve Hartsman (hartsman@ticon.net), October 12, 1998


By the way, the letter was written by Alderman Dean Knudson of Hudson, Wisconsin.

The rather large headline to the letter was "Don't fall for myths, rumors about Y2K".

-- Steve Hartsman (hartsman@ticon.net), October 12, 1998.

Well, I'm sure there will be some locals who keep a copy of that article and perhaps at the appropriate time after the sky has fallen, they can round up the alderman and the editor and have a public flogging, that is unless the sky already fell 'on top' of these 2 buffoons.

We who aren't convinced that the sky won't fall must be ever vigilent for those who choose to be ostriches, and to be ardently vocal against those that take an active roll in convincing others to be complacent.

-- bingoti (bingoti@yahoo.com), October 12, 1998.

Speaking as a journalist who has dealt with many an editor, let me offer up a few possible reasons he ran this:

1)As a counterpoint to the recent articles he has run on the National Guard

2)It is a representation of a volume of letters he received

3)He does not like this Alderman and wanted to embaress him publically

4)He felt like it

There is NO science to which letters to the editor get published. Trust me on that one. I of course can not speak for this paper's editors, but these are just a few of the possible reasons he ran it.


-- Rick Tansun (ricktansun@hotmail.com), October 12, 1998.

Since daily newspapers rely on advertising for revenue, they will rarely take a radical editorial stance. Even when they buck the "establishment" it's because they have plenty of popular backing. They stay right in the middle of the road, because that's where the money is.

-- Mike (gartner@execpc.com), October 12, 1998.

I'm giving it another shot. I fired off another letter to the editor:

The letter to the editor from Ald. Dean Knudson ("Don't fall for myths, rumors about Y2K") illustrates how polarizing Y2K is, and how ill-informed most people are about the impact of the "millennium bug". True, pacemakers and most home appliances will not be affected. Is this evidence that Y2K is nothing to worry about? Hardly. If Y2K is not a threat to electric and water utilities, would the National Guard be mobilizing? The threat is very real. For anyone interested in a crash course on Y2K and the electric power industry, I refer you to the following Internet address: http://www.garynorth.com/y2k/results_.cfm/Power_Grid. The alderman implies that money and ingenuity will "solve" this problem. The problem, however, is time. There is not enough time to fix all of the bad code, and government and industry concede this point. Instead of trying to completely exterminate the "bug", the focus now is only on "mission-critical" systems. More than one-third of the federal governments mission-critical systems will not be fixed in time, according to Congressman Stephen Horn, Chairman of the House Government Management, Information and Technology Subcommittee. The implications of this are indeed ominous. While I understand the importance of presenting conflicting viewpoints, it is Alderman Knudson who needs to be enlightened. I have spent thousands of hours researching this issue. Anyone who is informed about the complexity and scope of the problem agrees that the global network will not be fixed in time, with potentially disastrous results. If the general public chooses to believe Mr. Knudson, and ignores the potential impact of Y2K without doing independent research, then they will be unprepared for what may be the largest disaster in our lifetime. Shame on the Journal-Sentinel for not doing its homework, and for printing such a "happy-face" letter. I have prepared a Powerpoint presentation on Y2K. Once again, I attach it. Pay attention to all of the quotes, and who the speakers are. You will discover that it is those who are most involved and aware who are sounding the alarm the loudest. Unfortunately, for the most part, it is falling on deaf ears.

[end of letter]

Of course, I don't expect it to get published. However, to give up now doesn't seem to be the proper course. If I reach only one reporter, that may be enough.

I urge everyone to do the same. Perhaps we can have a thread composed of nothing but letters to editors/utilities. That way, those of us who don't have the time or writing ability (or, in my case, media- friendliness) can start a "grass roots" media onslaught. Any thoughts?

-- Steve Hartsman (hartsman@ticon.net), October 13, 1998.

According to Yahoo!, Dean Knudson's e-mail address is: dknudson@pressenter.com

-- Scott Johnson (scojo@yahoo.com), October 13, 1998.

Thanks Scott. I sent the good Alderman a copy of the above letter, along with my Powerpoint presentation.

-- Steve Hartsman (hartsman@ticon.net), October 14, 1998.

Lots of luck with the mke journal. In response to the talented coverage of personalities as opposed to issues I too at one time wrote them. No response. Eventually I got so disgusted I dropped my subscription.

Good luck jh

-- John Hebert (jhebert@co.waukesha.wi.us), October 14, 1998.

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