Gordon and Moody: Working Toward Recovery

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At the end of the panel discussion hosted on 11/23/1999 by Paula Gordon at George Washington Univeristy (aired on C-SPAN2), Paula and Jim Moody, former US Representative from Wisconsin, got into a very interesting exchange regarding steps that might be taken to speed recovery efforts.

Paula sees the urgency to proceed with all due haste and recommends that resources be dedicated by our government for dealing with the most likely disasters. It was my perception that Mr. Moody basically agrees with the urgency expressed by Prof. Gordon - though I should be clear to state that he did not explicitly say so.

But Moody also clearly sees the economic and political realities face efforts to prevent a disaster before it happens. Moody reasonably argues that huge resources cannot be pre-positioned because, while both agree a major disaster will occur somewhere in the world, the chances of something happening in any one specific location are relatively small.

Earlier in the program, Paula had acknowledged that specific failures and timelines were simply unpredictable. Paula did suggest though, that while it might not be feasible to do all things for all contingencies, high risk scenarios could be indentified and at least some resources brought to bear. The example she used was prepositioning potassium iodide/potassium iodate in the areas around nuclear facilities. (Whether you agree with this specific example is irrelevant - it is really the general concept that both were speaking to.) It was also suggested by one of the questioners that expertise in various fields could be contacted ahead of time and be put 'on call' (my words, not his) so that access to these individuals would be quick if needed.

Moody's response was essentially that you have to be extremely careful so as not to be in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong resources.

I believe both Moody and Gordon see the same Y2K 'elephant', but like the fabled blind men, they see the elephant from different perspectives. Clearly, to me at least, both Prof. Gordon and Mr. Moody make very valid points and both perceptions of the Y2K 'elephant' should be taken into account if the contingency you are planning for includes serious disruptions in infrastructure.

Paula sees the stakes. Moody sees the probabilities. Both are right.

If I'm recalling correctly, Moody is currently judging Y2K severity at a level 6 (Strong recession; local social disruptions; many bankruptcies) to a level 7 (Political crises; regional supply/infrastructure problems, disruptions). Paula comes in at 9.5 (see Paula's white paper (part 1) at http://www.gwu.edu/~y2k/keypeople/gordon/DefiningY2K.html for more details on this scale).

But should Y2K turn out to be anything close to what either Moody or Gordon have described, our ability to respond will surely be tested.

To Mr. Moody, I would like to ask: Given your assesment of the severity of Y2K as well as the economic and political realities you see, what suggestions do you have for minimizing impact and responding to emergencies in possibly widely separated areas over the next 12 months? What efforts might truly be useful and which ones would survive the political gaunlet?

I would also be curious to here what the rest of you think could reasonably be done at this late date to make recovery more efficient? What sorts of expertise may be needed? How do you organize and prepare such resources in advance while minimizing the concerns voiced by Mr. Moody?

-- Arnie Rimmer (Arnie_Rimmer@usa.net), November 25, 1999


Arnie Rimmer,

Amidst the conversation on this board, much blunted by the daily railing against the daily rhetoric, it seems that your post is one that demonstrates a fine facility with the subtle.

Although I cannot offer any answers to your questions. (Like many here, I'm basically agnostic about my y2k agnosticism) However I offer a quote from Jacques Riviere, for whatever it's worth:

"Essentially and primarily, intelligence is the faculty for distinquishing, for recognizing difference as difference, the faculty for perceiving two ideas, two objects where those who are not endowed perceive only one; its first movement is discrimination, analysis. If we do not allow it to accomplish this freely, calmly, by itself, so to speak, all the rest of its operation is vitiated. By wanting intelligence to achieve synthesis before anything else, we make it abondon its true function, which is to come as close to truth as possible. To think of it as being the 'genius for synthesis' is a sure sign that one wants to make it execute sleight-of-hand tricks, that one is a constructor, a reformer, a politician (one has every right to be), but not an impartial thinker, a true defender of intelligence."

I've always appreciated that. Your post brought this quote to mind for me.

-- (resignedNOmore@this.point), November 25, 1999.


Does it appear to you there is a certain disconnect with Dr. Gordon with respect to her anticipation of severity? What I'm getting at is, if she's at 9.5 and doesn't have a death wish, why hang around doing panel discussions? Maybe she's already got the farm stocked and can be there in an day.....or not. Or maybe her relatives have prepped for her expected arrival. If that's the case, she's prudent to ignore any discussion of her plans.

Any thoughts?

-- Charles R. (chuck_roast@trans.net), November 25, 1999.

It's a little late to be fussing with political gauntlets. Politicians are passe, irrelevant. Missed the boat bigtime.

Paula is blazing a historical trail. Documentation, recordings, videos, archives. THEY WERE WARNED.

Can you say "expert witness?"

Not that we think courts will be in session for a very very long time ...

-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (allaha@earthlink.net), November 25, 1999.

Good Post, Arnie Rimmer. I always read what you have to say.

My take on the CSPAN coverage, and I do not wish to disparage Dr. Gordon's efforts to awaken the nearby politicos as well as the rest of us is this:

From a purely practical standpoint, we are not going to get the ocean liner (global allocation of $$ and resources) to take a proactive right turn and reallocate time, resources, and dollars beyond what has been spent. Maybe 470+ days ago we had a shot, to paraphrase Cory Hamasaki, now we do not. Opinions, beliefs and actions, are pretty much

Her desire to get the resources in place to respond quickly and perhaps proactively is laudable, but just not practical or saleable. Neither the public nor the private sector works that way unless they have been hit in the face with a huge messy event such as a war or other sort of global impact disaster.

The information exchanged on the panel was good, the marketing of the discussion may have caused it to lose some points on the credibility scale. There were almost no participants in the audience and that probably did not lead channel surfing viewers to stay and observe unless they were already converted stakeholders. Hindsight is always 20/20. Had it been me, I would have offered dinner and packed the place.

Former Representative Moody's viewpoint is a better sale whether the forum agrees with his points or not.

Just my opinion, FWIW

-- Nancy (wellsnl@hotmail.com), November 25, 1999.

oops, typing, editing and drinking coffee. Please insert the word "polarized" in the 3rd paragraph...

-- Nancy (wellsnl@hotmail.com), November 25, 1999.

Having seen the conference, I think Mr. Moody's concern was with the sheer cost that such an effort would entail. Indeed, if you are expecting a lot of multiple problems around a certain time frame, at some point you may simply run out of offical experts and the cash to pay them, not to mention the difficulties of communicaton and transport during a time of general chaos.

I think a solution to this problem may be to ask for volunteers on the local level. There are people who have experience in different fields ( I knew a master electrician who use to be a medic, a psychologist who use to be an electronics tech ) who could be of great value during a crisis. Just because someone is local doesn't mean that they don't know what they are doing.

-- Stanley Lucas (StanleyLucas@WebTv.net), November 25, 1999.

Thanks for all the thoughtful comments on the November 23 panel at GW University on National and Global Y2K Initiatives.

Arnie Rimmer:

A couple of points of clarification.

My impact scale rating is a provisional one. It is not a fixed 9.5. It is between a 5 and a 9.5. My comments on this provisional rating er are on my GW website at http://www.gwu.edu/~y2k/keypeople/gordon. Click on "Comments, Essays, and Op-Ed Pieces". I include an excerpt from those November comments here. (These comments can also be found at Russ Kelly's website at http://www.russkelly.com.)

"Impact rating for November: My provisional rating remains between a 5 and 9.5.

Some comments on this rating:

My initial comments regarding this rating are similar to my comments for October. I have made a few changes in some key paragraphs, and add notes on a variety of evolving concerns and activities.

The higher level 9.5 rating could apply if the Federal government continues on its present course failing to acknowledge that we are in a crisis and failing to take all the proactive measures that could still be taken before the rollover to help minimize the impacts that can be expected.

My lower level rating of a 5 on the impact scale would apply if the Federal government were to do everything that could be done in the days remaining to minimize the impacts of the Y2K and embedded systems crisis here and abroad before the rollover. The Federal government might even be able to avert runs on banks if the President and others exercised extraordinary leadership. A level of trust and faith on the part of the American people would need to be cultivated in order for this to occur. The Administration would need to demonstrate through its actions that it had had a change of heart and now recognized that we are in a crisis situation.

Government actions would need to be along the lines described in Parts 3 and 5 of my White Paper at http://www.gwu.edu/~y2k/keypeople/gordon. Actions would involve establishment of a crisis-oriented, proactive Office in the Executive Office of the President that would have several hundred full time employees who have responsibility for taking action and facilitating action PRIOR to the rollover and continuing as long as need be after that. The Information Coordination Center (ICC), which has been established under the President's Council, does not have such a mission. Instead the ICC focuses on gathering information and doing assessments that will help guide actions that will need to be taken AFTER the rollover. The ICC as presently configured does not focus on taking actions before the rollover. Conceivably the ICC could be reconfigured to encompass both pre- and post- rollover concerns. It would also need to be reoriented to along proactive, crisis-oriented lines.)"

(End of excerpted quoted material)

I address two alternative scenarios to the present "status quo" scenario in Part 5 of my White Paper. This will also describe how the impacts could be lower than a 9.5.

Regarding Mr. Moody's remarks at the very end of the panel that provoked such a lively exchange: he amicably explained to me after the panel ended that he had intended them to have that effect.


Regarding the sparse number of people in the audience. Several reasons for this. I did not find out until the very last minute that the Foundation grant that I was counting on not going to be coming through. That meant no advertising budget. So I relied on press releases and some mailing lists and listservs.

Thanks to the good work of the GW Public Affairs office, a German television network was present along with C-SPAN. I was very pleased to have this media coverage. C-SPAN had broadcast one of the monthly evening forums that we have been sponsoring at the Washington Post in December of last year. (The Washington Post Company has been serving as the host for these evening programs.) That particular video has been replayed many times since then, both last year and this year. (An excerpt is available for viewing on my realvideo website at http://www.y2kapproaches.com/real/pgordon.htm. It should be noted that this realvideo website is provided as a public service.)

Equally important, C-SPAN tapes are available for purchase through their 800 number and their website. In addition, the realvideo version is temporarily available for viewing in the C-SPAN archives at their website.

Viewed in this manner, the panel reached and will reach an audience of thousands. I could not be more pleased with the coverage that the program is getting.

You are quite right about serving people dinner. But that would have meant some rather large expenditures. Also, if registration fees are charged to cover such costs, then the University would charge the sponsoring organization a substantial space rental fee.

Another reason for the low turn out was that there was also another session being held concurrently on Family and Community Preparedness, also a part of the Y2K conference series. While this program did not have large numbers in attendance either, cancelling the program would have increased the audience size for the National and Global Initiatives Panel. It was not cancelled, largely because of the interest of the people who had come to hear that panel.

-- Paula Gordon (pgordon@erols.com), November 25, 1999.


Thank you for your clarifying comments, especially with respect to your personal assesment of severity. I expect that the government's current approach to Y2K will continue until such time as it is no longer tenable.

If you could pass this thread along to Mr. Moody, I would greatly appreciate hearing from him on what things he believes can be done. What specifics actions could be taken at this point in time that would be both helpful and feasible in the current climate? I understand and agree with his position regarding the dangers of large unnecessary expenditures. On the other hand, it seems to me that some things could still be done.

Please pass along my thanks to all the participants of the 11/23 conference.

-- Arnie (Arnie_Rimmer@usa.net), November 25, 1999.

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