Jim Lord: Y2K: Last Hurrah, Final Thoughts

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Y2K: Last Hurrah, Final Thoughts

by Jim Lord

March 9, 2000

It would be fine with me if I never had to write about Y2K againand unless some festering, bubbling pocket of Y2K calamity erupts unexpectedly, this will be my final article on the subject. I know many others who want to wrap up and move on as well.

Im sure Senator Bennett is in this group. He concluded his Y2K Committee (on February 29) and published its final report (Adobe Acrobat Reader required). Its worth a read. One statement in the report says,

(T)he full extent of Y2K problems will probably never be known. There is no incentive for corporations or countries to publicly report problems.

True, frustrating andperhapseven a little sad. After all the blather, the name calling, the moaning and gnashing of teeth, the mega-bucks, the hard word and the strife, it is probable well never really understand the true extent and impact of the most expensive, most discussed, (and certainly most interesting) technical problem in history.

I put four years of my life into Y2Ktwo years of that full-time. Wrote a book and over a hundred articles. Gave 175 speeches. Was on 250 or so radio talk shows. Paid my dues and took some lumps. Walked away from a solid career and reinvented myself as a writer. It was a fascinating. challenging, even exhilarating experiencebut Id like to move on. There are plenty of other fish in need of frying. Before doing that, however, there are a couple of things Id like to put to restmainly in response to a number of e-mail and discussion forum questions.

What About the Navy Utility Survey?

The survey was real and it said what I claimed. The government admitted as much but discounted its importance by claiming the survey represented a worst possible case scenario. Specifically, they said if they had no information about a utility, they gave it a worst possible assessment. This assertion is patently false as indicated by their own documentation. The DOD guidance document, titled the Commanders Y2K Preparedness Handbook, says,

Should all research leave you with little or no reliable information from which to assess the probability of failure, a medium probability rating may be appropriate.

This is a smoking gun document. In no way does it instruct military commanders to assume a worst possible case. (Incidentally, this information was presented publicly to the Associated Press and the Washington Post, but they ignored it.)

I hope some graduate student researcher decides to pursue this issue some dayI think theres a grand story there. There is ample evidence that the government lied about the survey and its meaning. If thats the case, how did the survey miss the mark so badly?

Further documentation obtained at the last minute by Y2KNewsWire (via the Freedom of Information Act) throws light on this issue. These documents reveal that the Navy Department did not conduct a meaningful utility assessment in the first place. All they did was send out a bunch of letters asking the utilities about their Y2K status. In most cases, responses were simply accepted at face value without any serious follow up. There is no evidence that crack teams of technical experts conducted detailed technical surveys to root out the status of these critical utilities.

I spent 24 years in the Navy. During those years I saw a lot of administrative drills conducted just to get check marks in the right boxes. In the military some things are done because they have value but sometimes you just go through the motions in a half-hearted attempt to throw something together for those idiots in Washington. The Navy Utility Survey was a classic admin drill. In retrospect it looked imposing, but it was useless as any valid measurement of the Y2K status of the nations utilities. Why did the government lie about the report after it was made public? They had to in order to keep the lid on Y2K and protect the banking systemalways their top priority. Besides, it's in their natureafter all, their lips did move. What About Mr. CEO?

Hes the gent from a major Y2K remediation company who said, If we escape Y2K by only losing power in 4060 percent of the country for two to three weeks, it will be a home run. He was scheduled for a live, nation-wide radio interview but backed out at the last minute. Mr. CEO is real, and he did say the things I claimedin fact, I talked to him again for an hour or more several weeks after the rollover. He was immensely relieved but still cautious. He told me its clear we wont have a 9 but it was too early to claim Y2K is a 1." He felt the chance of a 6 or 7 still exists.

Complex embedded systems used to monitor and control large industrial systems such as utilities use many kinds of date functionality. Some functions are real time, but others are performed daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, semi-annually or even annually. None of these systems has yet exercised any function greater than monthly. Before making any final judgments about Y2K, it is necessary to use the software in the real world. Thats the only way to complete the testing process.

Mr. CEO indicated there are still Y2K problems occurring in utility companies but they are being handling without major incidentso far. He also said that one major Asian country (revealing the identity would endanger a source) lost 50 percent or more of its electrical power during the rollover. How close this country came to a cascading total collapse is uncertain. The incident was not made public by their (or our) government for unknown reasons. I have good reason to believe it involved national security. I do know the identity of the country, and I agree that keeping the information under wraps was necessary.

As an aside, Mr. CEOs company has been flooded with messages from clients expressing intense gratitude for the work they did and for the positive results of their efforts.

But Didn't You Make a Fortune Scaring People?

This was a constant drumbeat against everyone who, in any way, tried to sell Y2K oriented productsbooks, newsletters, storage food, survival supplies, etc. The underlying sentiment is, of course, if youre making money youve got to be a lying, cheating scumbag.

First of all, I gave up a secure, $80,000 a year career in the defense industry to do Y2K full-time. In return, for the past two years, I've been able to pay myself the princely sum of $3,000 a month. All the rest went back into my newsletter business. Then there are those huge speaking fees, of course. In three and a half years there were six altogetherthe largest was $2,500. I'll be able to retire on that for certain.

The other 170 speeches were to community or church groupsat no charge.

Finally, theres my newsletter. We scratched and scraped and kept it going for two and half wonderful years. It no longer exists as a separate entity, but I was able to join forces with Don McAlvany, publisher of the McAlvany Intelligence Advisor, for which I now write a monthly column. I highly recommend this newsletter and am proud to be a part of its twenty-year success story.

Consider this: I used my own name throughout the Y2K drama knowing full well I could be completely wrong but willing nonetheless to lay all my cards out on the table for all to see. I took on a high level of personal financial risk because I believed in what I was doing. After nearly four years of 100-hour weeks, I would be happy to trade bankbooks with any of those brave-hearted critics.

Did I make a profit on Y2K? You betcha! I made hundreds of wonderful friends Ill never forget. I learned I can write to a deadline and be effective doing so. I found out I was able to write a book. (I have a series of six more in process.) I discovered Im a pretty effective public speaker and that I enjoy standing up in front of a crowd. I learned how to think on my feet (and take criticism) in publica thrill when you can get away with it. Plus, you have to realize I am decidedly an old dog. Learning these tricks at my advanced age not only defies logic, it completely confounds my family.

I became involved in Y2K out of concern for my family. I went public with my efforts because I thought I could help others. I certainly tried to make some money. It sure seemed fair considering the effort I expended. My Y2K concerns may have been unwarranted but I remain convinced my actions and my recommendations were sound. The emails and letters Ive received since the rollover support this contention ten to one. (Thanks folks!) I guess the bottom line is that even knowing what I know today, I dont think I would do things much differently.

And what about all those who prepared for Y2K needlessly? Were they fooled? Were they foolish? I think not. Indeed, history may show they were the wisest of all.

Good Luck !

Jim Lord http://www.michaelhyatt.com/editorials/lord/final.htm

-- Carl Jenkins (Somewherepress@aol.com), March 10, 2000

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