Bill Dale: Numbers Schmumbers : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread


Subject: Bill Dale on Numbers Schmumbers - "If you're local, you may be sunk"
Date: Thursday, April 01, 1999 11:20 PM


Bill Dale responds to our being distracted from the important stuff that isn't going to work...

Here's the problem with those questions, the problem with this whole aspect of this thing. Everyone's being insane about it. Everyone's all wrapped up in the button, button, who's got the button, "They're lying, come on, what are the REAL numbers and percentages you liars, liars, liars!!!" game, and wasting their time.

Numbers schmumbers. What do they mean? This is all so stupid I can hardly stand it anymore. Doesn't anyone get it? What good would it do anyone if they had the exact, accurate, totally honest and real, real, real number of "mission critical systems," and what percentage of them were "compliant" or about to explode?

That doesn't tell anyone anything, yet everyone's busting their brains going around and around the bush about it.

Here. Let's just make up a number and a percentage and pretend this is the absolute accurate truth. Let's pretent the Department of Agriculture has 721 mission critical systems and 598 of them are really and truly compliant - tested and working. That's 83% (I think).

Okay. There we go. We know that now, and it's been certified and verified by ITAA and the Pope.

Now what?

What does that tell us about the future?


Here are the questions no one's even close to asking, and that they'll never get an answer to. And this is just the "top" layer.

Which systems are not compliant, what do they do, and what will happen if they're not fixed?

If somebody could get the answers to those questions then somebody might be able to get a clue as to what might be the actual real world impact of whatever systems won't be working.

"Oh. I see. That's the system that tracks setaside acres and which farmers have credits coming. Okay. That would mean that a farmer participating in the setaside program is probably going to find that aspect of things screwed up, is that right? So he or she should maybe talk to whoever they have to talk to so they can sort of plan on that, right? Okay. Thanks."

But I guess that'd make too much sense or something. Apparently, it's more important to just about everyone under the y2k sun that, by God, we get the accurate count on those mission critical systems and their overall remediation rates, and that those responsible for feeding us the misinfo be made to admit it right now!

Or how 'bout this one, seeing's how we DID actually seem to get some kind of numbers that meant something last week. What was it? 9% of the water systems in America are projected to not be working? 30 million people are maybe in thirsty and sewage-laden trouble?

Now. That's better. But tell me. What's wrong with THAT picture?

That's right. It's too big. Are you one of those 30 million? Is your community one of the ones that made the report say that?

Who knows?

Not many.

Why not?

Who knows? (See panic speculation below.)

Is it because "no one knows?" I don't think so. How could those numbers been derived without someone knowing which communities have the soon to be faulty systems?

So there's a report released that says 9 or so percent of the water systems in America won't work and 30,000,000 people may not have water, but nobody seems to notice they neglected to say anything about WHICH 30,000,000 people. I mean. If you lived wherever it is that may not have water 9 months from now, wouldn't you rather know that than how many of your country's or community's mission critical systems are compliant? Obviously, the mission critical systems out at the water plant would be part of the non-compliant percentage, but as long as everyone's all hung up on the numbers only, who's going to find out about a little thing like that?

I'm constantly amazed at the amount of energy that's spent trying to get some kind of fix on the big numbers picture. It wouldn't be so weird if it would mean something concrete when they were arrived at, but unfortunately, it doesn't. (It's like the fortune being spent to try to figure out how old the universe "really" is. Is it 8 billion or 12 billion years old. Let's pretend it turns out to be 11. Okay. Now what? It's always explained away as having something to do with figuring out "where we came from" or something along those lines. I'm pretty sure if anyone ever figures that one out it won't have a lot to do with how old the universe is or isn't. But anyway...)

Another one just like this is the very slick, "Local disruptions only" thing that's been sliding right by all the questions askers lately too. In January that became the "party line." It was there again yesterday in that FCC report. "We are guardedly optimistic about the major communications systems, but we are not nearly as confident about smaller, local companies."

And who knows? It could be true. AT&T, US West, MCI, etc., may indeed be getting there, and there may be a national dial tone. But there could be "local disruptions" in phone service. In a way that's logical, makes sense, could actually be about the way it is. But again: Without knowing WHICH smaller local companies make the FCC say that, what good does that information do anyone?

For example: AT&T could be your long distance provider, but your local carrier is New Tech Communications which is Bob LeBoine and his cousin Earl who decided to get into the phone biz when they broke up AT&T. But while AT&T's been busy spending 86 billion to ferret out faulty packet switchers, fix code, and replace boxes, Bob and Earl have been saving and making money by driving around from lunch to lunch talking about how they think the y2k thing's a buncha hype put out by computer consultants who want to get rich.

So (pretending for a moment that what the FCC is saying is true), you don't have a dial tone or access to AT&T January 1 because Bob and Earl dropped the ball a couple years ago. But you didn't know that because Bob and Earl's lawyer told them what to say when you called to check. And because Earl told the newpaper reporter who called to check the same thing, and he or she didn't know any better, and because you don't get on the Internet and read notes like these, you don't know you're supposed to make a "personal contingency plan" which means getting a cheap phone that doesn't need electricity to work, and calling US West (or some other local carrier), to ask a few questions and maybe switch your service over to them.

So even though "all disturbances" actually did turn out to be "localized," you get stuck without a phone (and maybe a few other things), because you didn't have a clue local meant you because when was the last time anything anyone in Washington said had anything to do with the place *you* live. It's always meant someplace else.

"Several local areas were hit by tornadoes last night."


"The bombing raids were localized and amazingly accurate."


Okay. More than enough out of me for tonite. Except this. I have no idea if "they" know they're doing it or not, but if you wanted to keep people distracted you could hardly find a more effective way of doing it than getting everyone to try to figure out which of all these huge numbers and percentages is "accurate," or "What's going on here, anyway!?" I have no idea if it's conscious or just working out that way. All I know is anytime you write to anyone who could tell you *which* systems might not get fixed and what that might mean - anytime you contact anyone who could tell you *which* water systems or communities are likely to suffer local disturbances - you don't get any replies at all (not even boilerplate).

I suspect it's related to the panic factor. That's a tough issue that has a whole lot to do with that powerful little thing called "Fear of Death." Nothing like having 30 million people trying to call you up to ask about stuff like that. I believe the average citizen is out of the loop, and is mostly going to remain so until whatever's going to get sprung gets sprung (if anything's going to be). At the same time, I'm sure some heavy duty phone conversations and a few personal visits to "the authorities" are happening behind the scenes in those places where those lives are at risk. No doubt some kind of emergency/contingency plans are being made.

But that's a whole 'nother story, and it's way past my supper time.

Until next time,

_ _ _ _ _ _ _
To which Robert Theobald adds:

I just had a dreadful thought. We were told by the people who planned Kosovo that they understood the system and that their actions would make things better. And, of course, they have made things far worse.

Is this a mirror against which to measure Y2K? Is it possible that all the people who are telling us that things will be fine are really unable to look at the realities which exist because they are not part of our mind set?

If wishful thinking can triumph over reality in Kosovo, why not in Y2K land?

Blessings and Peace, Robert [/snip] ~C~

-- Critt Jarvis (, April 02, 1999


Glad to see you posted this Critt, otherwise I would have.

All Y2K special effects are local!

We just dont know where and neither do they. Except theyve GOT to have some clues not being shared with the rest of us. (Darned twits!)

Wonder if Koskinen, et. al., ever will say something detailed? Or is the national contingency plan to just let Y2K happen ... without localized storm warnings!


-- Diane J. Squire (, April 02, 1999.

A second part to the numbers game which makes the exercise ever more absurd is _not that the numbers of critical systems keeps changing.

It _is that many of the so called non-critical systems affect each of us personally. Yet nary a peep regarding those systems and the myriads of interfaces - from anyone. (check out the State of Calif huge non-crit list).

btw, Jim Lord's piece re 30M w/o water did include a list of cities. Shall we interpret that as a clue, or an exercise in adding populations up to 30M?

Diane and Bill - what makes you sure that anyone knows what is going on? What difference does it make if "they" do know?

Meditate upon logistics for watering 30M people, dispersed across several cities. Same for waste disposal. Same for food, fuel, transportation, etc.

People want to know "the numbers" because they are afraid of dying. People _want_ to think that "they", out there, know more than we do about crit systems, because the implication is that disaster can be planned for (because they are all local?) - ie. it is just another "I'm afraid of dying" teddy bear.

When I see some long term concerted effort toward large scale meaningful disaster planning, I will believe that those who are "in charge" are doing their job. When I see & read of many utility groups, water companies, waste disposal groups, hospitals & health groups, transportation groups, petrochemical groups, big banks, corporations, insurance companies, the big churches, state and fed govts, etc. begin to address the potential of y2k disaster with adequate budgets, adequate logistics, adequate acquisitions of materials, adequate storage, and adequate public notifications - then and only then will I finally relax of off my "10". Until then, I see a whole lot of people nearly frightened to death holding onto their fave Teddy Bear, not doing JACK SH!T.

I heard personally the head of Calif's OES stand before the Y2k committee and tell us that there are only 4(!) emergency communications vans for the whole state. I heard him say that as of then there had been no, NO, substantive interaction with the petrochemical, chemical, or nuclear industry. There was at that time, NO information at OES on all local Fire & Police depts y2k status - since then we have found out it is spotty. CHP radios were assumed to be OK because 4 cars had been checked. He told told the committee that they plan for a 72 hour emergency because anything longer than that has too many variables to plan for.

It is APRIL people, do you really think that extra $20M earmarked for emergency Calif y2k work will spread very far with a 35M population? Do you really still think that substantive, effective in the breech, Emergency Planning has a chance? Sit down and work up a fast and dirty regional plan for Emergency Response - just the basics - food, water, shelter, logistics, public notification, budget.

Ain't relying upon nobody but myself & those around me. I assume that y2k will kill me & those I like & love. I'm doing everything I can to prevent that from happening.

Y2k better be a bump in the road, because that is all that is being planned for.

Those electrical remediators better have the systems and grids usable! Elsewise we is toast.

Listen! There is that insane laughter from the "Dark Side of the Moon" again!

-- Mitchell Barnes (, April 02, 1999.

You have only one rule to remember when you hear that government is going to "fix" something or has thought out the possible consequences of its actions: "Anything government touches turns to shit."

-- A (, April 02, 1999.

After reading the forum posts for some time I have found the frustration level rising in people who keep waiting for "them" to come forward and be honest about the level of problems to be seek on 1/1/2000. I believe that this is based on the readers desire to find out the "numbers" so that they can make informed decisions about personal preparations. A good goal indeed. The problem is that our economy is an interconnected network and the downline consequencys of any one failure is totally unknown. Let's imagine for a moment that one CEO comes forth and admits the very worst about their company, be it water, power, gas, phones, food, transportation, ect. Great, now we know the truth about a single company. Can we now estimate how that single failure may affect us? No. This single failure will have ripple effects in other companies. Some big and some small. Perhaps the total failure of the admitted problem company may not affect you at all initially, but the failure may affect another company or industry days, weeks or months later that WILL affect you. The truth is, and will remain, that NOBODY KNOWS the total answer to the question "How will Y2K failures affect ME personally?" Stop waiting for confessions from insiders, confessions from the government, accurate numbers from any one industry or insights to your needs personally. They are not forthcoming. At this point no one can even accurately predict which area of the country will be affected, much less specific industries or specific people. I suggest that you prepare for a period of time that satisfies your personal comfort level of dealing with an unknown, yet real problem. If you overprepare in some way, count yourself fortunate. There will be plenty of others who will need the help. Steve F.

-- Steve F. (smfdoc no spam, April 02, 1999.

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