Q&A w/ John Koskinen - please read

greenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Hi -- take a look at the Q&A with John Koskinen I did last week...somewhat revealing...

Scott Johnson

-- Scott Johnson (scojo@yahoo.com), April 21, 1999



-- Roberta Blackard (roblackard@juno.com), April 21, 1999.

He sure has something for everybody, doesn't he? Whatever you want to hear is what he will tell you. And would somebody tell me how many "locals" it takes to make a region or a nation? The fact that he has no conception of how cold it can get in Jan in Nevada, makes me feel the guy really doesn't have a clue to reality. He has a lot of information (wish we were privy to it) but he hasn't the ability to put it together. A visionary, he ain't!!

Damn...and I thought I had enuff rice and beans!!

-- Taz (Tassie @aol.com), April 21, 1999.

Scott, thank you. This is most honest and open I've ever seen JK.

Anticipating the summer awareness campaign and at what point he begins Y2K conversation with the "local" communities.

-- Lisa (lisa@work.now), April 21, 1999.

The only thing revealing about this interview is that Koskinen is still clueless and/or spinning lies. To say that cities only need three days of supplies while some rural areas "might" need two weeks, is, was, and always will be, unfounded, overly optimistic BS.

-- a (a@a.a), April 21, 1999.

A- without getting into what I think about Koskinen and his approach -- which I can't do, for obvious reasons -- this is the first time I've seen him even remotely acknowledge that more than three days of prep might be necessary anywhere. Also: even spin and such is revealing if it's in response to the right questions. Read between the lines.


-- Scott Johnson (scojo@yahoo.com), April 21, 1999.

Scott: yes I agree. But those of us in the know have seen this pattern before, even from Kosky. Divulge a little, deny a little. Bennett is the master of this, almost a like a congressional Flint. The only difference I see is that as we near the cliff, they are becoming a little more alarmist. And the water in the pot gets imperceptibly warmer.

Take a look at the Milne threads I just posted. The IMF is now doing the same thing in regards to the economic picture.

-- a (a@a.a), April 21, 1999.


"To see what is in front of one's nose requires a constant struggle."
George Orwell, 1946

I plan to use that in a column soon... :)


-- Scott Johnson (scojo@yahoo.com), April 21, 1999.

One of the K-man's self-fulfilling prophecies is that the free market can't make up the difference of increased demand for supplies like canned foods, etc. (Do you recall his statement at the press wingdig that there weren't enough canned beans for every family to grab one off the shelf each week?) Now he says he wants everyone to sit tight until the end of the summer before deciding to take action to stock up. If so, he is my current nomination of the most likely catalyst for public panic later this year. (Besides, I already KNOW my community isn't going to tell me anything useful or not!)

-- Brooks (brooksbie@hotmail.com), April 21, 1999.

Brooks - second the nomination, and suggest that the prize be a pair of tap shoes.


-- Arlin H. Adams (ahadams@ix.netcom.com), April 21, 1999.

Smoke screen CYA.

1) 'Who knows .. but I'm confident ..'

2) 'Its everyone else (local, international) who has a potential problem..' (see #1)

3) 'All the national systems will be OK..' (see #1)

4) 'We see no 'evidence' that things will not work ..' (See #1, see #8)

5) 'People need information ..' (see #1)

6) '..unwarranted preparations..' (see #1)

7) 'Everyone has to look at their own situation and decide what is right for them to do..' (See #1)

8)'..so no one can blame us for not telling them what we knew..'

He's a smoke screen machine fer sure.

-- David (C.D@I.N), April 21, 1999.

John Koskinens remarks ...

... I think a lot of local failure will add up. I think, in fact, thats our risk. ... The question is how many? If there are only a manageable number, the states will handle them, the localities and so on, and its no problem. No one of them will be catastrophic, but if you start to get forty or fifty in each state, and 2500 across the country, then youve got an interesting problem on your hands. ...

Id certainly like to know HOW the federal government plans on responding to such an interesting problem, Scott.

... Theres no way we can, in every community, tell them what they need to know. So people have pushed on us and said we should have a broader emergency proposal. We should tell everyone to buy two weeks worth of food. And the problem with that is, we dont have evidence that indicates the whole country has to have a two-week supply of dried food. But in some communities, two weeks may be the right response if you cant get confidence that your local service providers are going to be appropriately done. And the community may say, we need to, in fact, now start provisioning things, And I think thats the way to get the right response. ...

Dried food??? Who ever said anything about dried food? Two weeks worth of grocery store bought food would suffice for a two-week prep!

And by implication he says it is the community that needs to decide to start provisioning things, if they feel local problems are warranted? So, does that mean, also by implication, NOT the individuals? So the right response is for people to do nothing and let their communities handle it?

Maybe Im reading too much, between-the-lines.


Thanks, Scott.

Theres a lot packed in to your Q & A. Dont you wish sometimes, as an interviewer, that you could cast a truth spell over them and get the real story?


-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), April 21, 1999.

"Theres a lot packed in to your Q & A. Dont you wish sometimes, as an interviewer, that you could cast a truth spell over them and get the real story?"

Diane, if you can put that spell in a can, get to the Patent Office STAT... :) scott

-- Scott Johnson (scojo@yahoo.com), April 21, 1999.

Chuckles, Scott.


-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), April 21, 1999.

"I hear people saying, "Oh, Koskinen's overly optimistic." I keep saying, no, I think there's going to be local problems, and we have international risks, and we have people who aren't paying attention who are going to create problems. They're just not going to create problems for the whole country; they're going to create problems for the people who rely on them. So as we get the good news out about the government and big issues, my concern -- and I'm probably going to start to sound like a Jeremiah soon [laughs] -- my concern is that we don't go immediately into complacency. Just because we think we've solved a lot of problems doesn't mean we don't have a lot more work to do."

So the same question has to be repeated: When we will we "know" absolutely exactly what areas need "two weeks" and which need "none" (or two days - take your pick)?

He doesn't know - that's okay, neither do we - but his choice to tell evrybody nationally to wait until the "end of the summer" and then "if the local people" still don't know, then start preparing for "two weeks" of (stated) food and (implied) no water, no electricity, no heat.

Doesn't he realize that at the end of the summer - the "local people" (local utilities) will be reluctant to flip-flop bak from their current spin "everything is okay" - becasue that's what Washington has been saying, and besides - who will want to say (at the end of the summer) "Oh - we're sorry. The rest of the country was able to remediate itself, but we failed. Ooops." Won't happen. The ones actually knowing they will not be ready are going to be the ones "hiding" in the vast news releases of everybody else "we're ready, we're ready, we're ready."

He could help here: Pretend he really will know at the end of the summer wha tregions could be unready "locally" - if he publicized that fact, and if he was right about which regions, and if the number of "threatened regions" were small enough, and if the threatened regions did not affect other adjacent regions, then he could could start publicizing "regional preparations.

But he won't - because that would embaress local utiltilies and governments. And local and state government failures he doesn't mention at all.

Look it is hard enough to publicize something as vital and on-going as the Red Cross blood banks to the nation at large. He doesn't want "panicking and withdrawing all their money" - that has been the single consistent thing that Washington has said - they've never swayed from that message - ever.

So he should begin recommending two weeks of "canned goods" and 2 gallons of water per person per day. Maybe 50% of the people will actually do that much. !0% will never do anything at all. The remainder will do a little.

THEN he can say - and get 150.00 in cash - that would put the "limit" on cash that he fears - but aknowledge that some cash is going to be needed for a "little while".

But, in the meantime, with no other message except "fear of withdrawing all your cash" - the administration vacillates, and the public senses that vacillation - and grows more fearful.

-- Robert A. Cook, PE (Kennesaw, GA) (cook.r@csaatl.com), April 21, 1999.


Interesting article Thanks!

Below is a portion of the PDF file below and it is saying that that
"regulated facilities must also compile a risk management plan" and then make it public by the summer. I would like to know if this includes any other "risky facilities" such as nukes ect. Are we going to see a full monty from industry. The problem is that with out it folks are still in the dark even in the summer with industry leaders not giving the full stories.

 The quote below is in part from Koskinen. This I feel is important. And all legal entities that provide the public with important and dangerous goods should be required to go the full Monty and have all documents public by June. If not let the communities involved get the lawyers after them.

It is not going to be helping if he is saying one thing and the local entities are backpeddling like mad providing little usefull information

And another thing is that the politicians should not dispense prep advice and leave that to the entities like FEMA. Two weeks food. Three weeks Cash. That is what FEMA says and that should be the official line.

Technology Problems and Industrial Chemical Safety

 http://www.csb.gov/ y2k/y2k01.pdf

Finally, regulated facilities must also
compile a risk management plan (RMPlan) which consists of a
description of the facilitys RMProgram (i.e., the hazard
assessment, the prevention program, and the emergency response
program). The regulation also requires that the RMPlan be
submitted to the EPA no later than June 21, 1999. EPA plans to
make the RMPlan available to the public.


Another important consideration is that the RMPlans will be
available in June 1999 when the general awareness about Y2K
will be significantly elevated. It is quite likely that these two
issues will be linked for facilities regulated through the
RMProgram. Facilities should therefore expect public queries
regarding their Y2K readiness.
<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<& lt;<<<<<<

-- Brian (imager@ampsc.com), April 21, 1999.

Koskinen is of course not a politician but represents them.

-- Brian (imager@ampsc.com), April 21, 1999.

Koskinen has put his training as corporate lawyer and PR flak to good use here.

Re local areas at risk: some months ago he singled out rural areas in the North and West as being particularly vulnerable to localized Y2K problems.

The most asinine remark in the entire interview (and there are many candidates) is his comment that if "only" 10% of Americans withdraw all of their money from the bank it won't really be a problem. I know this man hasn't done his homework on important technical issues related to Y2K (I'm still waiting for him to discuss intelligently, say, integrated end-to-end systems tests, residual errors, etc.), but you would think he'd know the Federal Reserve data on bank cash reserves.

Does Koskinen ever do anything other than parrot the reports (self-appraisals) of the agencies whose Y2K work he supposedly "oversees"?

And is anyone ever going to ask him hard questions about what is being done with those roughly 66,000 "noncritical" federal computer systems--because I notice that Honest John never brings the subject up himself. I've no doubt that some work is being done on some of those systems, but hey, I'd like some hard numbers, and maybe even a little documentation, if it ain't too much to ask. Granted, all we'll probably get again are agency self-appraisals, served up with a smile by Koskinen, but it's better than nothing.

It is interesting that he says he may become a "Jeremiah" in the future. Brimstone warnings and lectures from John Koskinen? "Repent, O ye foolish Pollyannas, and buy those bags of rice and beans!" If true, he should sell tickets to that performance.

-- Don Florence (dflorence@zianet.com), April 21, 1999.

No, Koskinen's a lawyer, formerly with the OMB Office of Management and Budget.

And now he's the President's point person on Y2K, supposedly (and likely actually) whipping up an industry-wide fix-it frenzy (good) while simultaneously downplaying the truth and consequences of local, national and international potential Y2K repercussions.

It's his job. And he's trying to do it. Fine.

But, perhaps, the job description needs a rewrite. I sometimes wonder if he thinks of the children? Clearly, he doesn't think much of preparing individual families.

Truly Sad.


-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), April 21, 1999.

And before that he was a corporate lawyer, "crisis manager," and PR flak. I know his resume, thank you. And he has admitted that his ability to "force" any govt. agency to do anything is nonexistent. Even his "monitoring" efforts have been woefully inadequate, though that's not entirely his fault. Remember, his original staff consisted of two assistants and two interns (presumably not of the Monica variety). And Bill "Y2K is a big, big problem" Clinton waited quite a few months to appoint Koskinen in the first place. Nineteen, to be exact, from the date of Sen. Moynihan's urgent warning letter to the actual establishment of the Conversion Council. Of course, Sally Katzman (sp.?) did vague interim duty. She then followed the Vietnam policy: she declared victory and got out. Koskinen has declared victory and stayed in. I give him credit for persistence.

I will apologize for having jumped to one conclusion. Koskinen might not have had the biblical Jeremiah in mind. Perhaps he meant instead the Three Dog Night "Jeremiah." As in "Jeremiah was a bullfrog" (emphasis on the first syllable). Joy to the world, all the boys and girls.

-- Don Florence (dflorence@zianet.com), April 21, 1999.

Thanks to all who commented... I'll continue to post links to articles and interviews. When I do, please feel free to offer comments or suggested future questions.


-- Scott Johnson (scojo@yahoo.com), April 21, 1999.

Scott, it was a good attempt on your part to nail jello to a wall. The man is obviously a shill, albeit a nice one.

IMHO there is a strategy they are using to anesthetize the audience: contradictory information. They tell good and bad news but only in vague terms which can not be built on. Lazy people sit there stupified when they hear this stuff. They are moved to inaction, indecision and stupor. There are ALOT of people who fit that profile and who are being paralyzed.

In the back of their minds they are uneasy about what they are hearing. Maybe they are saying to themsleves that they will wait to see if anything more substantive comes out before they decide to get off of the couch and do anything. But they listean and sit and listean and sit. The more they do that the worse the inertia becomes. It would seem that this is INTENDED by those in government and industry who wish to keep people inactive.


How to break the spell? Would you want to do that (and be hounded as a public enemy before your time)? It seems to me the only people who are working to prep now are those who are now worth your time in a serious way. All the sitters will NEVER awake until they totally panic. Any attempts to awaken them before their time will be treated with intense venom. Must pick one's battles.

-- David (C.D@I.N), April 21, 1999.

"How to break the spell? Would you want to do that (and be hounded as a public enemy before your time)? It seems to me the only people who are working to prep now are those who are now worth your time in a serious way. All the sitters will NEVER awake until they totally panic. Any attempts to awaken them before their time will be treated with intense venom. Must pick one's battles."

With all due respect (and thanks for your nice comments), I think that this is exactly where the "battle," if that is the word, lies. I am not commenting on my opinion about the veracity of what Koskinen says (or doesn't say). But I do feel that those who exercise authority *have* to be challenged on their statements. The most important part of republican government is a concept called accountability. Stories about people who are preparing is not the main part of my job; at least, I don't see it that way.

I see my job as making an honest and thorough effort to get at the truth about a massive, potentially catastrophic issue. I am trying to do that by probing and searching to the best of my ability, and getting my staff to do the same. That's not to say whether we are doing a good job or not; but that's the goal.

No matter what you or I think of John Koskinen, he is the public point person on this issue for the most powerful country in the world. We will keep chasing him and others in a position to impact how this unprecedented event plays out.


-- Scott Johnson (scojo@yahoo.com), April 21, 1999.


In a purely republican democracy where everyone is involved and there is a dispersion of power, yes. Our situation, IMHO, is floating closer and closer to what looks like a 'banana republic'. There are elites who control the processes (and this is so only because most people have abdicated their responsibilities). I applaud your efforts. Please do not get discouraged if it seems that things aren't changing due to your efforts (and the efforts of like minded people).

Our culture is in a turpid period. Do what you can. It seems to me that your efforts will not really catch hold until the culture gets a good, hard slap across the face. Then they will listean more readily. I just hope we do not swing into an overreaction.

Thanks for your response.

-- David (C.D@I.N), April 22, 1999.

Scott and Diane,

My two cents on a casting a "truth spell."

Ride next to interview victim on a long, long, plane trip. Make certain interview victim is travelling sans colleagues.

Sabotage all but one bathroom in advance (insuring a toilet backup and an out of order sign), thus limiting escape attempts.

Convince interview victim that red wine is healthy. Pick up the tab.

Keep asking the tough questions over and over. Tape everything.


-- FM (vidprof@aol.com), April 22, 1999.

David- agreed on most of what you said. But I question whether things haven't always been this way. Accountability is usually defined in retrospect... questions have to be asked to create a standard for that accountability. Does that make sense?


-- Scott Johnson (scojo@yahoo.com), April 22, 1999.

More or less. I think there are times in our history (ebb and flow) when there is more or less public participation in the political process. Yes, questions do at least set a point of reflection. Isn't that a teaching method (interogative method?)? IMO accountability/responsibility ARE, regardless of whether we acknowledge them or not. There really is a reality out there seperate from what we subjectively wish to deal with. When we go against that grain then we get an object lesson in reality. Now, whether we ever learn anything by it is another story. It always goes better for us all if we socially accept and deal with that before it deals with us.

Thank you for putting forth the effort to ask the questions and to report on those 'craziest peoples' that the good professor always pointed out. ("Humans is the craziest peoples.")

-- David (C.D@I.N), April 23, 1999.

Wow...now we're getting into solipsism and other stuff that's way too heady for a Friday morning... :) Enjoyed this exchange... I'll keep asking the questions, you keep asking me about them. "Who watches the watchmen?"


-- Scott Johnson (scojo@yahoo.com), April 23, 1999.

Good suggestions FM,

Just try not to book that flight on Dec. 31st! ;-)

Scott, keep "digging." There are so few doing it. We appreciate your efforts.

BTW, I think Koskinen is a very "powerful" point person on the Y2K issue, behind-the-scenes. The public "jello" stance IS disconcerting, but well-planned, I think.


-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), April 23, 1999.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ