NEW YORK TIMES: "Overkilling Y2K" : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

January 4, 2000


Overkilling Y2K

The Clinton administration's achievement in guiding the nation through the perils of Y2K is a little like Mayor Rudy Giuliani's accomplishment in bringing down New York City's crime rate. It's very nice, but it would look even better if other people hadn't managed to do the same thing with less hysteria.

Our first challenge in the new millennium is deciding how to respond to the remarkable ease of the transition. Everybody worried that all those zeroes would cause computer crashes around the world. Nuclear power plants might explode, missiles might launch themselves, water and electricity shut down. There hasn't been so much disaster preparedness since the bomb shelter era. Now a lot of people are sitting around with two years' supply of peanut butter on hand and Sears is charging a premium to take back those generators.

Nobody, of course, wanted a Russian nuclear reactor to implode just so Americans could feel the $100 billion we spent on Y2K compliance was worth it. But as the year 2000 moved across one dateline after another, our officials must have started yearning for something to go wrong someplace. Even in the United States, effort didn't seem to matter. The ants and the grasshoppers both had their computers humming on Monday morning. The Social Security Administration, the Y2K readiness star, reported no problems. But neither did the Justice Department, which got a D on every Congressional report card.

"We don't know that they don't have a problem," insisted Representative Stephen Horn, the head of the House Subcommittee on Government Management, Information and Technology. "This was only the first day of business and a lot of people weren't there because they take a four-day weekend."

This thinking -- call it Y2K YTK -- is a widespread explanation for the uneventful turn of the millennium. Just wait until next week. Or next month. Soon they'll be saying that the computers have bought into the classicists' theory, and are postponing the crash until Jan. 1, 2001.

Another extremely popular theory among the experts is that nothing happened because we stopped it. "I think all of us view it as a great victory that we can sit here and talk about 'Was the money well spent,' " said John Koskinen, head of the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion. Edward Yardeni, a famous Wall Street alarmist, suggested that "alarm bells ringing over the past few years" persuaded the world to get its Y2K act together.

Which brings to mind a very old joke:

Why are you beating your head against the wall?

To scare away the elephants.

There are no elephants around here.

See! It works.

Personally, I'm all in favor of erring on the side of caution, even when I'm worried about being played for a sucker. This is basically the same feeling I get when a mechanic announces that the car is in desperate need of new ball joints.

We know the Y2K threat was not fiction because things did happen. A guy in upstate New York got billed $91,250 for a late video because the store's computer thought he'd kept the movie out for 100 years, and employees at another store had to fill out their rental slips by hand when the computers crashed. If business executives had not been so diligent, heaven knows how many other video rental crises we might have experienced.

In Sweden, Skandiabank reported that several hundred clients had been unable to check their bank accounts on the Internet over the weekend. Our Government Services Administration reported that a frozen security system left all the doors open on an unoccupied building in Omaha. Bartenders in Greece had trouble getting their cash registers to work.

Jack Gribben, a spokesman for the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion, said the problems that had popped up involved either "systems that weren't fixed" or "systems that were fixed, which the organization tested and thought was compliant, but which nonetheless had a problem."

"We expected that," he added.


-- John Whitley (, January 04, 2000


Personally, I would like to see an honest audit of all those zillions of dollars our government "SUPPOSIDLY" spent. Of course it would not be honest when big money is on the table it never is. I personally feel that most of that wealth that was supposidly spent, safely salted away in secret accounts all over the world, never to be seen again. Otherwise how did those other nations of the world have such a good standing as ours without hardly any outlay at all. The money on these shores was not used in that fashion, I will never believe that because I know the ways of those who worship wealth. You say that is not possible, if you believe that, I have a lot of landscape under water out in the atlantic that may interest you. We in this nation are both bought and sold by the Capitalists. I firmly believe that this Y2K thing, though real to some extent was seen as a great ploy to seperate great amounts of wealth from our treasuries, from our blood and sweat. Wealth and politics go hand in hand, that is why great wealth buys our government, He who has the greatest becomes congressmen and president. Or rather I shoud say, he who is able to seperate many from their wealth for the purpose of running for office become our governing body.

-- Notforlong (, January 05, 2000.

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