Bruce Webster's initial response to the Senate report : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Here's Bruce Webster's first thoughts on the Senate report. Note that the report made him more, not less, pessimistic.

-- Drew Parkhill/CBN News (, March 03, 1999


Thank you Drew.

"-- The report, while doing an outstanding job of summarizing the committee's research and findings in the sectors covered, makes little attempt to integrate those findings into an overall picture, nor does it address the individual or collective impact of the Y2K problems for those sectors on the national economy. This is probably the single greatest weakness, though it may be a deliberate choice; when you go through all 160+ pages and sum up all the many areas of "grave concern", the result is darker than you might think from the executive summary alone. " Bruce Webster

I am having a data overload, I can't keep up with this site, I haven't finished reading the entire senate report, and have only skimmed Bruce's comments, but from what I've glimpsed on everything, Bruce is right.

I need to organize my readings...first finish the report, then read comments later.

-- Chris (, March 03, 1999.

This is terrific. Thanks for posting this, Drew.

And of course, thanks Bruce for taking the time to do this...

-- pshannon (, March 03, 1999.


Thanks for the Bruce Webster report. After mulling over what Webster has written, I must say that I have a few bones to pick with his analysis. Especially his "eleven scenario levels". In particular the following 2. I'll state my reasons under each.

Level 5 15% 35% The 1982 Recession, Revisited

...I live in Texas, in the midst of some of the largest oil fields and reserves in the world, where walking out your back door and seeing oil pumped daily was a feature of our landscape in 1982. This area suffered the economic effects of the "1982" depressed oil prices more than anywhere else in the US. Oil & cattle made up the majority of our economy. I don't see how Webster's description of "The 1982 Recession, Revisited" can even be compared, and here's why

1) Oil and gas were plentiful and there was no rationing anywhere in the US or the world. 2) The economy suffered, mostly locally, but transportation and energy/electrical services continued unmolested. 3) This was purely a political/economical problem and only affected one segment of the infrastructure, ie, not water, food or any of the basic necessities. 4) Last but not least, livelihoods were jeopardized, but no one's life was.

Level 6 10% 20% Make That The 1972 Recession

....All of my objections that I stated regarding Webster's Level 5 scenario pertain to his Level 6 as well, with one exception. We had long gas lines and some gas rationing in certain areas for a short period of time. I'd like to point out one other blaring difference of "The 1972 Recession" and today's possible repercussions from Y2k. The oil embargo of 1972 did not have any real baring on the day to day operations of any other industry except perhaps economically.

The Y2k problem is not one industry having a problem and affecting all the rest to one degree or another as in 1972 & 1982. It is EVERY industry having a problem and affecting every other industry and its ability to operate and produce.

Webster states that one of the top ten Y2K myths that 'planes will fall out of the sky' and that he'd "love to see this phrase eliminated from all future Y2K reporting". I couldn't agree more, but I feel the same way about the comparison of the 1972 & 1982 recessions with Y2k. This "apples & oranges" analogy makes no more sense than "planes falling out of the sky" and needs to die its natural death and be laid to rest once and for all.

-- Cary Mc from Tx (, March 03, 1999.

I watched Senators Bennett and Dodd (along with Marcoccio and Webster) last evening on the PBS "Newshour," and then spent last night and this morning reading the entire Senate report. Webster is right: the report itself is dark; in fact, I'd say it is very dark, at least from an economic perspective. The bland generalizations and PR spin ("Y2K ain't so bad, at least not here in the U.S. of A.") now coming from Bennett and Dodd, and from the media generally, are simply not supported by the data in the Senate's own report. The Senators lack the courage of their own findings, in other words. I urge everybody to carefully read the full report in detail. Also note the huge gaps in it: on many crucial issues, the Senators simply don't know what is going on. And as Webster points out, there is little serious effort to synthesize what they DO know (which, as noted above, is generally grim). Finally, there are some boneheaded errors, as, for instance, when the Senators state in the Exec. Summary or Intro. that, according to NERC, 50% of power companies have finished Y2K repairs of mission-critical systems. The latest (Jan. 11th) NERC report says no such thing. NERC found that, on average, power companies have completed 42% of such repairs, though there is wide variation among individual companies. Very few power companies have finished, according to NERC. According to analysis by Bonnie Camp and Rick Cowles of the raw data used for the NERC report, almost a third of power companies have completed less than 30% of their essential repairs. And don't forget that many power companies are relying on type testing and vendor statements for assessing at least some of their embedded systems--a "methodology" that the Senators admit may prove unreliable.

One terrible irony: the Senate report criticizes NERC for publishing reports whose optimistic summaries are not supported by the actual data in the body of those reports. In their interview last night on the "Newshour," Bennett and Dodd were guilty of exactly the same dishonesty.

-- Don Florence (, March 03, 1999.

Did anyone else notice the telling moment of the post-briefing when Dodd was asked how Japan was fairing and he said, "Let me ask one of my aides. - How is Japan?" "Fair-to-medium." "Thanks. - Fair-to- medium."

C'mon - Dodd can't give an assessment of how Japan is doing? I wonder how deeply the senators truly know their own report. No wonder the disconnect...

-- Brett (, March 03, 1999.

Japan is currently experiencing major recession (read depression) without Y2K factors, and they're doing "fair-to-medium"???

I think that's the scariest thing I've heard in a looong time!

-- Tricia the Canuck (, March 03, 1999.

I had to move the Bruce Webster analysis url. The new one is:


Hope this doesn't inconvenience anyone.

-- Drew Parkhill/CBN News (, March 03, 1999.

My reaction to the Senate report mirror Mr Webster's.Admissions of problems were frank and significant but there was no integration of the findings.There were hints of problems in our global economy with markets possibly disappearing and suppliers not delivering but the only meta-analysis I heard was on PBS when Sen Bennett said we would not see economic consequences until late in the first quarter or even the 2nd quarter of 2000. The big question of Y2K is what will the disruptions bring to the world econmically and geo-politically.The Senate report admits we will have problems and the rest of the world greater problems but then ignores the ramifications of their own findings by focusing on the US as if it were not part of a shrinking global village.Perhaps the scenarios were too scary to contemplate but it is high time for leadership to begin planning for the crises ahead.

-- Dennis Chornomaz (, March 03, 1999.

I thought one thing Sen. Dodd said on the Newshour interview was extremely interesting. (I'm paraphrasing from memory here):

He said (looking over at Bennett) "I have to be very careful in what I say about this, so as not to cause a panic."

I think this is the driving force behind all the public announcements we're getting. You don't have to be "careful in what you say" when you're telling everything you know. Ergo, these people aren't telling everything they know. The government is running scared. And that's sort of scary in itself.

-- Tom Carey (, March 03, 1999.

Tom, you said:

"I thought one thing Sen. Dodd said on the Newshour interview was extremely interesting. (I'm paraphrasing from memory here):

He said (looking over at Bennett) 'I have to be very careful in what I say about this, so as not to cause a panic.'

This astute observation of yours fits in very snugly with the CNN reporter I saw who said advice on stocking a small amount of food and water had been deleted from the final report because it was "too alarmist." I would LOVE to know who in that closed-door session decides what is and is not alarmist. Obviously it's not the members of the Y2k Committee, otherwise the advice wouldnt have been included in the first place.

In the absence of evidence to the contrary, I'm almost certain that Bennett, Dodd, et al., have been ordered not to say the least little thing that might let people know how serious the situation really is. To their credit, the committee members have done am ingenious job of wording the report so that the information IS there if you look for it. Privately, they must feel terribly frustrated and angry--and worried.

-- Old Git (, March 04, 1999.

drew, you may want to contrast bruce's views with those of peter de jager's article "doomsday avoided" dated march 1, which i found on his site. to be fair to peter, his article was written prior to the senate's report becoming public.

-- jocelyne slough (, March 04, 1999.

Thought I might add a little factual tidbit regarding the Japanese.

No one knows how the Japanese are doing. And no one is going to know how the Japanese are doing, until the year changes. Unless you're Japanese. Why? It's just due to the nature of that culture.

It doesn't matter who you are, how much of an expert you are on Japan, how many years you lived there, or what; if you aren't Japanese, you just aren't going to get the whole story on what's going on in Japan. Period. Just that simple. It's the nature of their culture.

It doesn't surprise me one iota that we really don't know what they're doing; they aren't going to tell 'outsiders' the whole story. And that term, 'outsiders', includes anyone who is not ethnically Japanese. That's not a racist statement, that's just the way it is.

It very well may be that the Japanese are just choosing not to tell us what their status is, because they feel it is none of our business. Entirely plausible. My family has dealt with them in a business sense since the 1920's. My uncle once had a party/reception for the Japanese ambassador to the U.S. at his house here in town. We know them, and their ways, quite well. Very polite, very civil, but very secretive, when it comes to truly sensitive matters.

A hushed attitude is quite common; so it's not wise to rush to judgment about what the Japanese are doing, or not doing, with regards to Y2k.

-- Chicken Little (, March 05, 1999.

Chicken Little,

The GartnerGroup forecasts that in Japan as well as Germany, 50% of companies will experience a mission-critical system failure. That compares with a mission-critical system failure rate of 15% in the U.S.

Senator Dodd knows this. tml

"Y2K vs. the World"

-- Kevin (, March 05, 1999.

And since when is the Gartner Group ethnically Japanese? Didn't quite get Chicken Little's post did you Kevin?

-- Smile Once In A While Dammit (, March 05, 1999.

Chicken, Smile -

Recommended: Japan Perspective

Please review current articles. The author drops in here from time to time, but we can certainly discuss his "take" on Japan and Y2K without requiring his presence. Your commentary on his analysis welcomed.

Smile -

"Pessimist by policy, optimist by temperament -- it is possible to be both. How? By never taking any unnecessary chance and by minimising risks you can't avoid. This permits you to play out the game happily, untroubled by the certainty of the outcome."

-- Robert A. Heinlein

-- Mac (, March 05, 1999.

Sorry, meant to make that URL a hotlink...

Japan Perspective

-- Mac (, March 05, 1999.


I understood Chicken Little's post. I just don't believe the GartnerGroup analysis, to use Chicken Little's words, a "rush to judgement".

In fact, this hushed attitude may be why awareness of Y2K began so late in Japan. I also recommend PNG's "Japan Perspective" site.

-- Kevin (, March 05, 1999.

PNG is not Japanese, he has admitted this himself. Not matter how long he has lived there (6 years is what I have heard) he is still "gaijin", foreigner. He also strikes me as the typical foreigner in their country "Oh I've studied your culture, I'm "one" of you and I understand you perfectly" this is a very common trend with people who study the Japanese and I have never figured that one out. The Japanese are one of the most layered cultures on the face of the planet, in no way shape or form can you apply Westeren style thinking to anything they do. PNG, no matter how long he has lived there, is still a Westerner, and from what I have read of his stuff, he still thinks like one.

But as we all know, the only way to think is like someone from the USA, anyone who does things different than us is wrong and doomed etc etc etc

-- Smile Once In A While Dammit (, March 05, 1999.

Smile -

And that's the extent of your commentary on his analysis? PNG is gaijin and can never fathom the inscrutable Asian mind? Japan is unknowable and will not tell anyone the truth, so all we can do is wait? Fascinating.

From a risk management standpoint, the above certainly would not in any way cause me to prepare less. According to you, a major trading partner must be seen as completely untrustworthy regarding absolutely critical status information. They cannot and will not tell the truth to gaijin. Plan accordingly.

P.S. My apologies to any and all readers of Japanese descent who may take offense here. I mean none, and am simply attempting to understand Smile's argument (such as it is).

-- Mac (, March 05, 1999.


The "hushed attitude" Chicken Little referred to has implications in more than one way. It also means that Japanese companies and vendors might be reluctant to admit their Y2K problems to other Japanese companies and vendors.

I think PNG understands this "hushed attitude." See this article on PNG's site:

"Trouble (Japanese Style)"

-- Kevin (, March 05, 1999.

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