The Watershed Significance of the IEEE Letter to Congress : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

The Watershed Significance of the IEEE Letter to Congress

(This post refers to the previously posted thread, "IEEE liabilities issue causes Pollyanna Radio Silence -- a,a@a.a, 1999-06-23". Make sure to click on the link that gets you to the report in full, dated June 9th. There is a version posted which does NOT list the IEEE committee members who wrote the letter.)

I've only recently come back to the Internet (too busy with y2k preps in the interim.) Hunted down Ed Y's site again to see what the action was like (a LOT bigger than a year ago.) Also saw a whole different set of major players (including the very vocal Pollys.) Some of them have gained my respect because they 1) know how to write the English language, 2) know how to remain civil in the face of atrocious flames by certain Doomers, 3) and in certain passages of their posts even seem reasonable in their positions and interpretation of news items that come in, such as this one.

So before I read the letter itself I read through the various Polly responses to the IEEE letter. Decker seemed reasonable in his assertion that it was written by lawyers. Flint didn't say that or imply that. Maria did NOT jump on and flame the IEEE.

Then I read the letter itself. Now it's worthwhile to say here, that as a physician of 30 years duty tour, who went thru the harrowing experience of being sued in 1973 for $5M (=million) for doing a good job on a lady and LOSING the case --- I think I can say with justice that I CAN RECOGNIZE LAWYER TALK FROM 5000 MILES AWAY. (And I didn't really 'retire' from practice in 1987 -- I mostly QUIT IN ANGER in large part because of what was happening to our profession, as our reaction to the lawyers' press progressively deflected our focus from our primary objective: the patient's welfare.

Now to the IEEE professionals themselves. I've had a 50-year romance with the members of that group, starting in the late '40s when my dad sent me down to the IEEE reading room at the NY Public Library, to do some extensive research related to a medical patent he was working on. Then in the 1970s when I pursued a degree in E.E./C.S. (only did 2 years of it, but studied enough IEEE periodicals to further enhance my respect for their level of technical excellence, but also their STRAIGHTFORWARDNESS AND INTELLECTUAL HONESTY. They are, as is typical of engineers in general, very uncomfortable with hyperbole and dissimulation.

Then I read the IEEE letter. And I learned two things, the first of probably minor significance, the second of major impact:

I. Decker is not reading the same document we are folks. For someone of his intelligence to come up with the 'lawyers writing it' interpretation is bewildering beyond belief. Sadly, Decker's agenda hobbles his intelligence in forecasting Y2K's severity. Cross him off my list.

II. But much more important is that I have probably ended a search that started mid-March, when I first learned weeks before the April 1st "spike date" (fiscal rollover for Japan, Canada, and New York State) that it would NOT signal the beginning of The Big Unravelment of Chaos and Panic being predicted for a good year now by me and others much closer to the actual remediation effort. And, of course, when 4/1/99 arrived earthshaking revelations did NOT show up on the nitetimeTV radar screen.

That really disturbed me. Why? Because I had achieved "certainty" back in November '97 (after intensely following the threads of the csy2k newsgroup for several hours a day for a week straight,) that Y2K in fact would bring The Big One. How did that 'certainty' serve me? Well, when you are certain an event will happen you DAMN WELL PREPARE FOR IT, BABY! The incredible focus it gave me got me through a lot of personal changes in my life (left a marriage of 25 years, moved out of WY to TN, and out of TN to AL,) and through a lot of y2k preparations (built 2 Y2K homesteads, and working on a new one now in AL.)

Then from mid-March on I slipped back into the 'Well, I'm not CERTAIN y2k will be that bad.' What did that do to my prep level? Slacked off, that's what. Got sucked into reading the majority of threads on this forum. (Man what a time-killing addiction that is. Say, fellow Doomers, I can understand why the Pollys have so much time -- they aren't planning on any, or hardly any, preps. But YOU guys/gals -- where do you find the time to write and STILL lay in your stock of firewood, non-hybrid seeds, traditional prescription meds, alternate medicine modalities, communications gear, wood stove assembly, solar panel arrays and support electronics, 12vDC water pumps, rainwater collection systems, solar water distillation apparatus, solar food dehydrators, TWO years of food for EACH member of your family & friends, develop your gardening skills, build up your inventory of non-electric hand tools, build your LED reading lights. ---------------- Or did I misunderstand you? Oh, I see, you ARE prepared: "Yeah, it might last as long as TWO weeks, God forbid!)

I kept looking for that ONE post, that one report describing bad times a-coming, from people whose judgment would be impeccable, THAT WAS NOT WRITTEN ANONYMOUSLY!!!!!!!!!!!!! God, I've been seaching for that one. Came across quite a few I WISHED I could have believed in. But the documentable source (so we could evaluate the reporter of the news) never surfaced.

Well, I KNOW what kind of boys and girls make up the IEEE. They're not the type who spin. They feel uncomfortable in the presence of Glibness. And the report they wrote is a masterpiece of succinctness, logic, level-headedness, combined with genuine emotion, and a wisdom that is rare as hen's teeth in the America of the late 1990s. If the IEEE committee members don't have a good grasp on the technical problem, including the crucial 'interrelated system components' aspect, then NO ONE ELSE IN THE WORLD DOES OR WILL EVER HAVE.

Me too on the Sayonara bit, folks -- I'm back to Certainty!

----- Bill

-- William J. Schenker, MD (, June 23, 1999


"Yo," Dr. Schenker.

Is your email address real?

Mine is.

I suspect too, there is some depth here.

I'm in the process of going away. Please email me if you can.

If you'd like to know more about me, reference one of my last responses to a posted thread on this forum at:



-- FM (, June 23, 1999.


You bet my email is real. And I've been reading your stuff with great admirations. Ya Woll -- vee vill have tings to tawk about, stimmt!


-- William J. Schenker, MD (, June 23, 1999.

Danke Schoen (sp)!

I was also a medical reporter in a previous incarnation.


-- FM (, June 23, 1999.

Doc Schenker,

Thank you so much for your insight. When I read the IEEE letter I was struck by the straightforward, balanced insight as well.

I move back and forth in how I view the future possibilities. However, upon reading this letter to the Senate by the IEEE I knew my take on the situation was closer to the truth than any of the so called and often self-professed (obsessed?) "pollys."

I immediately e-mail the document to as many people as I could, especially my friends and family who are engineers and computer specialists and scientists. This demonstrates the degree of respect I have for the IEEE.

I would rather be wrong about the way I see Y2k impacting the near future. I would rather eat crow and live my life a little wiser. I don't want nor do I have a desire to be right about any view I hold regarding this situation. My worst fear is that much of what I see as inevitable truly will be inevitable. I have no problem in being wrong about this.

But, in life I've learned to respect failure. In life I've learned to expect failure. In fact, I view it as absolutely essential if learning is to be done and society/technology is to advance.

So, I'm now standing right with you, I'm back to Certainty too.

Mike ========================================================

-- Michael Taylor (, June 23, 1999.

(1) My e-mail address is real.

(2) IEEE has long been a realiable organization for data. (IMHO)

(3) This letter does not in the slightest reduce my impression of the impact of Y2K.

(4) The letter serves a real purpose in trying to make some rational arguments on a debate that needs them. Thank you IEEE!

-- Mad Monk (, June 24, 1999.

**Well, Doc,**

I've been following Y2K for nearly 3 years now, and have yet to find that one "impeccable" report that you are looking for. I don't think either of us will ever find it.

As to how I find the time...well...I've been at it a long time and am prepared to ride out a year of rough times. I'm still working on stocking up for an even longer ride.

Too bad you left Wyoming...that would have made 2 of us!


-- Don (, June 24, 1999.

Both the IEEE and Dr. Schenker are absolutely correct on all counts.

Does anyone want to make book on whether: (a) pressure will be brought to bear on the IEEE to "explain" that they really didn't mean what they said, (b) the IEEE will "cave" or not, or (c) the PTB will in some form or fashion attempt to publicy downplay the significance of that letter?

-- Hardliner (, June 24, 1999.

I must concur with you guys. My favorite part of the original post was the response at the end that simply said, "Oh boy."

They can't "cave". They left no room for parsing (sp?) of words. I have put this one into my file for trying to convince GI's.

-- Dave (, June 24, 1999.


Thanks for your comments. When I read the IEEE letter, I had to take the evening off.

A family member used to belong to that organization... they're solid... as you say.


-- Diane J. Squire (, June 24, 1999.

I have an agenda? With all due respect, Doc, I think the attorney radar comments are funny, but inaccurate. If the IEEE thinks we are headed for the big meltdown, why sweat the legal eagles? Won't we be busy scratching a living from the dirt? This is a lobbying letter, Doc, an appeal for regulatory relief from our rapacious legal system. But I understand, the portholes in the bunker make for a narrow field of vision.


-- Mr. Decker (, June 24, 1999.

Mr. Decker, you are in error.

Dennis Olson, IEEE member #40361316

-- Dennis (, June 24, 1999.


-- Jack (, June 24, 1999.


No preasure will be brought to bear on the IEEE. The letter will simply not be reported. If it doesn't happen on TV, it didn't happen at all for 50% of Americans. And another 49%, not seeing anyone talking about the letter, will assume they are alone in thinking that it's something to be alarmed about.

Mr Decker

The IEEE letter doesn't say we will be "scratching in the dirt". However, in a scenario such as the one that that Yourdon fellow predicted, litigation would tax resources that should be used to fix the problem. The depression would get deeper and longer. (And BTW, bunkers have "loop holes" not port holes).

Doctor Schenker

Although Mr. Decker is almost certainly wrong in his assesment of the letter, his grasp of economics makes him a valueble contributor to this news group (IMHO) and not a person who's arguments should be discarded lightly. We are all wrong sometimes.

Just so you have a refernce for my point of view on Y2K, I'm thinking 1 in 60 chance the lights go out, even money we slip in to a depression, 1 in 40 it's a bump in the road. I am preparing for the lights going out anyway because if I'm wrong about that, I'm REALLY wrong.

Keep your minds and...

-- eyes_open (, June 24, 1999.

Can no one here put 2 and 2 together? The IEEE letter was written for Congress, it is by definition a political document. On one side of the issue are lawyers and consumer advocates, and on the other side are high tech companies. IEEE is made up of electrical and electronics engineers, who get their paychecks from ... you guessed it, high tech companies. Who did you think they were going to side with? They know the source from whence all their blessings flow.

-- cd (, June 24, 1999.


I've been putting off expressing my opinion on the IEEE letter, but since I've now seen Mr. Decker's opinion kicked around twice, I thought I'd put in my coupla pennies. I'm a lawyer, and I did not think it was written by a lawyer, for two reasons:

1) The letter was not written artfully, it was written sincerely (though, I suppose, one could argue it was "artfully sincere" -- argggh, now I'm arguing with myself). Plus, and I'm guilty of this all-too-often, attorneys tend to be a bit more verbose. I would wager a committee chair along with other members wrote this up and attorneys reviewed it, but I did not see this strictly as a lobbying effort.

2) The letter gave too much information. As I'm fond of saying, we are in the business of gathering information, not offering it. They did not have to paint the picture as quite so bleak to make their point. I, too, was surprised to see this level of pessimism in a public document, and I reread it to confirm that the IEEE was really being as openly truthful as it seemed.

Hardliner, sadly, unless this is on CNN, the vast majority of Americans will not ever hear of it.

Bill, I'm sorry to hear about your loss in court. Professionally, I'm sure we both know many idiots, but we also both know what it is to be mistaken for one of the scumbags who cause so many of society's problems. I don't usually give a "professional" view because of the lawyer-bashing that runs rampant in this forum.


-- jhollander (, June 24, 1999.


I hereby rescind my blanket condemnation of all "Esquires," even female ones -- and I thank you for an excellently written and reasoned post.

I'm reminded of something I learned while earning my Real Estate license in Utah svl years ago (another hat I wore for a mercifully short while): "Never let a lawyer in on any real estate deal -- they are not dealmakers, they are dealbreakers."

Tnx again, Jeannie,


-- William J. Schenker, MD (, June 24, 1999.

Eeeeek, makes me wonder what you meant by "even female ones." I accept your rescindation (?). We have a new animal around here (FL) that's far more lethal than the lawyers in real estate -- the builders. With uniform contracts and most of the "dirt lawyers" on retainer, the buyer has no wiggle room. I know that from experience, and not being a real estate lawyer in the purchasing of a home is kind of like being a pathologist when you need a podiatrist.

Just as I hope we don't see more GI-bashing as the millenium waxes and wanes, I hope we don't see more lawyer-bashing. I believe lawsuits do get the general public's attention (fascination with Alley McBeal or something), and one of the best weapons in my arsenal for getting people to "GI" is to list the lawsuits that have been filed re y2k. If I can make another lawyer/doctor parallel, it's easy to say they're all crooks/quacks, but sooner or later we all need one.


-- jhollander (, June 24, 1999.

On one hand I want the truth, but on the other. I can't handle it.


-- Thomas G, Hale (, June 25, 1999.


You're right.


You're right.


-- William J. Schenker, MD (, June 25, 1999.

Dear Doc, (and all other thoughtful contributants to this fascinating thread).

I too have read and reread the IEEE letter, and also many other elements of the IEEE website. The content of the letter is indeed a worthy, valid and persuasive view of the Y2K issue, and a thought- provoking forecast of its potential implications.

I have waited until now to post my opinion on the letter, so as to allow plenty of time for reflection and consideration. I hope that comes across in this post.

DISCLAIMER. :) Although I'm sure that many people on this forum (who have ever read a posting of mine) would consider me to be a "polly", maybe even a "troll", I have repeatedly stated that I am realistic about the seriousness of the Y2K problem, and very much pro-preparation to the degree pertinent to each individual's capability and perceived need.


However, the above notwithstanding, I find myself drawn to one particular passage from the letter; one which I think is key to an understanding of exactly "what" people should be preparing for. The IEEE position does seem to me to be generally pessimistic, but even that nomenclature is in no way specific enough to be used as a basis for assessing the type, or nature of preparations which may be neccessary.

The passage in question, I believe, gives an insight into the true position of the IEEE (experts, no question about it) regarding their forecast (which is undoubtedly as valid as, or possibly more valid than, anyone elses), of the state of the world post 010100, and therefore, indirectly, " of the nature of the preparations which may be most appropriate" .

The passage in question is this one . .

"Y2K IS A LONG TERM, NOT SHORT TERM, PROBLEM. Irrespective of the notion of Y2K being about time, a point in time, or the fixation on the rollover event at midnight December 31, 1999, or even the name Year 2000 itself, Y2K computer problems will be causing computer system malfunctions and failures for years into the next decade. Y2K is much more about the dates that can span the century boundary represented in data that must be processed by software than it is about any calendar time or clock issues. Because of the vast amounts of these, the complex intertwining among them and our less than complete understanding of the whole, it will take years for the infrastructure to "calm down" after Y2K impacts themselves AND the impacts of the sometimes frantic and misguided changes we have made to it. The current prevention phase is only the beginning."

Now what this paragraph seems (to me) to be saying is . . "Y2K will NOT realistically cause "the end of the world". What it will cause is individual, unpredictable, potentially severe disruptions to the normal working structures of the world market economy, stretched out over a period of months or years."

Yes its a pessimistic outlook. No I do not interpret it as meaning the breakdown of the fabric of society, the rise of the new world order and martial law, or the end of the world. The paragraph is absolutely underpinned by the assumption that the current infrastructure, although sporadically harmed by the problem, will persist, and eventually "calm down".

A period of hard times for sure, but nothing in this document suggests to me that it would be prudent or appropriate to "bug out" to a cabin in the woods and stock up on ammunition. This is of course an analysis based on my local and personal situation. It does not follow that everyone on the planet can or should respond in exactly the same way.

In closing, I would repeat that despite possible assumptions to the contrary, I do not advocate non-preparation, nor do I believe that the world will wake up to a new millennium which is totally unchanged from the world we know today. We may all have to get used to the idea of adapting ourselves to local changes, and the nature of those changes will be different for us all. I do remain convinced that the more extreme views which are often aired on this forum, warning of doom and disaster and "Mad Max" scenarios have always been, and always will be an over-reaction to this problem, and as such have little or no relevance to the debate. (Although I would of course defend the rights of those who wish to espouse them to do so).

I hope that in some way this contributes to the debate.

Kind Regards


-- W0lv3r1n3 (, June 25, 1999.


Bravo! Spoken like a true gentleman. Which is another way of saying, you speak with fine wisdom. And this coming from someone who is an 11+ on a scale of 0 to 10.

THIS is the kind of dialog which advances ALL our thinking, both "Pollys" and "Doomers" alike.


-- William J. Schenker, MD (, June 25, 1999.

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