Y2K & You (& Dave Hunt)*

Many have asked about my thoughts on Y2K. Despite requests from many BDM Letter and HotList subscribers, I had refrained from writing any articles on the Y2K issue. My reason for not writing anything was my concern for the misinterpretation of my remarks -- after all, I am not a computer expert. But then, those in Christendom who are pontificating on the issue are not computer experts either, and that hasn't stopped them from making outrageous statements that, in some cases, reveal their total ignorance of the issue. So what follows is something I put together in mid-January of 1999.

The most frustrating aspect of the Y2K advice being published by professing Christians is the total lack of factual information and reliance almost exclusively upon testimonials from the ill-informed or non-informed -- both from those who claim the world is coming to an end on 1/1/00, and from those who claim no disruptions whatsoever will occur.

Falling in the latter category is Dave Hunt, whose monthly newsletter, The Berean Call, has a subscriber list of more than 25,000, and who has sold millions of books. Therefore, his influence is so widespread that his misstatements need to be challenged.

In the January, 1999 issue of TBC, Hunt writes almost four columns of material pretending to be an expert in Y2K issues, and implying that Christians who plan on preparing for possible economic disruptions are ungodly at worst and stupid at best. (This from the man who endorsed the mystically-oriented book by Henry Blackaby, Experiencing God ! -- Hunt also is publishing a book due out in mid-February, Y2K - A Reasoned Response to Mass Hysteria.

Let's look at a few of the statements made by Hunt in his TBC article:

1) The article contains numerous statements from electric utility executives in Hunt's geographical area concerning their "plans" to be compliant and their finding nothing "of a critical nature" in their systems. From this, Hunt concludes, "These are typical of companies all over the world. The power grid is not going to go down. You will have power January 1, 2000. This problem has been grossly exaggerated."
But through my reading, I have come across official statements from the executives of various rural electric cooperatives, and even from a few large electric companies, that not only make no claim of Y2K compliancy, but claim to have not even heard of Y2K! (Outside the United States, the level of ignorance and inaction is even worse.) I don't mean to disappoint Dave Hunt, but these companies are also part of the national electric power grid.
2) Hunt believes state negligence laws effectively deter company executives from lying to the public about their Y2K readiness. According to Hunt, "to lie about their progress would only increase the damages and send the corporate officers to prison. They are not lying!"
Potential legal damages and threats of prison terms never deterred asbestos industry executives from lying. Nor were the manufacturers of silicon breast implants deterred. Moreover, with Y2K compliance issues, we are dealing more with top-level ignorance than with intentional deception. And what about the recent revelation that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission had falsified Y2K compliance reports within the nuclear electric industry? Why weren't they deterred from lying to the public?
3) Hunt trivializes the extent of the problem by claiming that a company called StepWise Solutions has a computer program "that zips through 'four million lines of code per hour. The resulting code compiles fully and cleanly and is ready for testing.'"
This claim seemed a little fishy to me, so I ran some numbers. As indicated below, the federal government originally had about three billion lines of computer code to check and repair. Using the StepWise Solutions software, ALL the federal government code could have been checked and corrected in a mere 750 hours -- only a little over a month if run 24 hours a day, seven days a week; or only 75 working days if run ten hours a day. So why has the Social Security Administration alone been working on the problem since 1991? And why has Citibank, the largest bank in the U.S., been working on its 400 million lines of code for over two years (at a cost of over $700 million thus far, with an estimated total cost of $925 million!), when they could have knocked it off in approximately 100 hours?! As criminal pathologist Dr. Henry Lee said in the O.J. trial, "Something wrong here."

Since Dave Hunt obviously doesn't see the flaw in his statement concerning StepWise's supposedly miracle software, should we not be skeptical of any statement of "fact" Hunt purports in his article?

4) Hunt claims that Y2K will be a non-issue because any company that is not compliant will be at a competitive disadvantage with those who are. Therefore, Hunt claims, companies "are not going to let anyone get a competitive advantage by lagging on Y2K!"
This statement is not rational. It's usually not a matter of "letting" a company get a competitive advantage. Companies are at competitive disadvantages all the time, because of technological change, administrative inefficiencies, outdated plant and equipment, poor workforce training, high labor costs, etc. A company can have all the incentive in the world to be Y2K compliant, but that would not necessarily make it possible to do so.

There are other statements in Hunt's article which I could take issue with, but enough is enough. Bottom line for Dave Hunt -- Don't Worry. Be Happy. Help prevent the panic. Don't prepare.

I hope Dave Hunt is right -- that we'll all sail into the year 2000 without a hitch. But my common sense and my research up to this point tell me there are going to be problems. The only question is how serious are the disruptions going to be? Here is a short list of things I think we all should be concerned about:

1) There is no documentation for most of the 40-year-old federal government computer programs -- i.e., no roadmap to find the "bad" code (Of course, with the StepWise Y2K miracle cure, Dave Hunt would probably say this won't be a problem);

2) Again barring StepWise's miracle cure, there are not enough programmers in the world to fix the problem, even if they had all the documentation available (i.e., the federal government alone has over three billion lines of computer code to check, line by line);

3) There is not enough computer capacity in the world to simultaneously test the "fix" -- without a full, live, side-by-side test of "fixed" code, expecting a smooth 1/1/00 transition will be little more than a throw of the dice. (To my knowledge, no company nor government agency has conducted a full, live, side-by-side test; those who claim to have tested, on further questioning, reveal that they have only "sample tested");

4) "Fixed" computer code is inherently inaccurate; Casper Jones, chief scientist at SPR/Artemis, Inc., says the current U.S. average for defect removal efficiency (removal of software bugs before release to customers) is 85 percent; yet anything less than 100 percent Y2K code "defect removal" could be disastrous;

5) Even if "most" could manage a fix, one interconnected world-system that is not Y2K compliant will crash all compliant systems (e.g., the international payments system);

6) The problem is not just a software problem. There are potentially millions of embedded chips in critical operations (e.g., the electric power grid and telephone switching equipment) that are not only NOT Y2K compliant, no one knows exactly where the date sensitive chips are "embedded," and if they did, there is not enough chip capacity in the world to manufacture replacements, nor is there the manpower to physically access and replace the non-compliant chips. (A non-compliant embedded chip cannot be "repaired," it must be replaced.) In fact, there could be as many as 25 million Y2K sensitive chips throughout the economy -- this very conservative estimate would be equal to only one-tenth of one percent of the total estimated number of the embedded chips manufactured from 1994 through 1998.

7) The Social Security Admin. has been working on their Y2K problem since 1991 (with over 200 programmers!) and are only 60% complete. At least they thought they were at 60% in late 1998 -- there is no way of knowing without a simultaneous test, which they admit, they will not be able to conduct. (Therefore, don't believe the Liar-in-Chief's [Clinton's] 12/28/98 statement that the SSA is now 100% compliant. Even though they added 500 additional programmers to do the job, they are still NOT compliant with the direct deposit software of the nation's 9,500 banks -- and since 78% of all SSA checks are direct deposited, there is obviously still a problem.)

8) The Federal Reserve system was non-compliant as of 10/98, but if they were compliant, there are other countries that don't even recognize there is a problem. Bottom line, the international payments system will in all likelihood collapse on 1/1/00. That could mean worldwide economic collapse. (Perhaps sooner even, as the financial markets start to realize the problem, and perhaps sooner when the fiscal year 2000 starts to roll around for state governments -- mid-1999.);

9) Almost every aspect of the economy is transportation-sensitive, from the food delivered to your local grocery store to the coal delivered to your electric utility. If the transportation system has Y2K problems, it matters little that your electric utility may have its computers Y2K compliant -- i.e., how do they get the coal to produce electricity if the railroads aren't operating? For those who think the transportation system will not be a problem, look up what happened when the Southern Pacific railroad merged with the Union Pacific in 1996 -- they still haven't located all the railcars that were mis-routed because the two company's computer systems were not compatible with each other. I remember the pictures on the national news programs at the time -- grain elevator operators standing by the rail tracks looking for the scheduled 50 railcars per day to take the farmer's corn to market, which was now sitting in the open because the elevators were full and no railcars had shown up for three weeks.

So what is the solution? -- Pray for God's peace and protection. This one is clearly out of the hands of men. But saying not to be concerned or not to prepare is foolish. So, here is what I am advising Christians to do to insure against the "short-term" effects of Y2K. -- Things to have in place by mid-1999, at the latest:
1) Have at least a 90-day supply of water and food in your home; food should include items that are palatable cold. (A 90-day supply of CANNED foods consisting of tuna, soups, and fruits would cost about $125 per person.) Also have on-hand a 90-day supply of your critical prescription drugs;

2) Purchase an outdoor grill with a 90-day supply of charcoal and lighter fluid, or a propane-fueled grill, or a propane-fueled camper-stove (for those who like their food warm);

3) If you don't have a wood-burning stove, purchase a kerosene heater or two and a 90-day supply of kerosene (in case the utilities are out);

4) Have on hand a 90-day supply of candles, fhashlight batteries, and matches;

5) Have enough U.S. currency on hand to meet spending requirements for six months. (This assumes there would be a place to spend money.);

6) Determine a good hiding place for cash and valuables; if the banks close in 2000, your safe deposit box will not be accessible.

Taking heed to the above precautions is merely good common sense, not fear-mongering. The cost of such a program is minimal, and could be life-saving in the short-run. If, however, failure of the world's computer-interrelated systems do render the economies of the world bankrupt, then long-run, it's all over anyway. But why risk short-term survival for the cost of a very inexpensive "insurance policy"?

Contrary to Dave Hunt's opinion, this plan is not hoarding; it is storing-up for a possible emergency. It is no different than the sensible precautions people take when living in hurricane-prone areas. I expect (more like "hope"; I really don't know what to expect) the consequences affecting survival to be short-term (30-90 days), but if you haven't prepared for this, a longer-term fix by the authorities will do you no good. To wit: no heat, no water, no electric power, no food, and no cash, will limit one's ability to survive to not much more than a week or two. Is it worth it, as Dave Hunt advises, to ignore the Y2K problem?

TRUST God, yes. But don't TEST God.

P.S. Don't worry about the government taking away your liberties in 2000 -- remember, if there is a problem, the government's computers will implode also. The U.S. could easily be without governmental authority beyond the most local level. [Not that you should derive any comfort from that -- a survey of 3,600 cities conducted by the International City/County Management Association in the spring of 1998 shows that 55 percent felt that they did not need to make any preparations.] Even so, the biggest threat to the individual family will be roving bands of thugs stealing and killing for food and valuables. I fear many in urban areas will be murdered long before they starve or freeze to death.

P.S.S. Here's a couple of good books on the subject:
1) Time Bomb 2000, Ed & Jennifer Yourdon, Prentice Hall PTR, 1998, 416 ppgs, $19.95;
2) The Millennial Bug: How to Survive the Coming Chaos, Michael S. Hyatt, Regnery Publishing, 1998, 286 ppgs, $24.95.
 

* This report is a re-working of an e-mail message sent to BDM's HotList subscribers on 1/13/99.

Biblical Discernment Ministries - 1/99