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Jewish World Review / July 17, 1998 / 22 Tamuz, 5758

Roger Simon

Roger Simon Why Bubba claims
Y2K is US' biggest problem

WASHINGTON -- It is either a problem that will cause planes to fall from the skies, water reservoirs to poison cities and stock markets around the globe to crash, or else it's the biggest case of hype since Comet Kohoutek.

The Year 2000 computer problem, often abbreviated as Y2K, may affect just about every computer in existence and may cause them to shut down or go haywire on or before Jan. 1, 2000, throwing the world into chaos.

Or else we all will muddle through just fine.

Currently, experts are split about 70-30 in favor of disaster. So the Clinton administration decided to play it safe this week and prepare for the worst.

The problem has come about because in order to save time and money in the past, computer programmers and corporate managers -- and who could be more responsible than those people? -- decided to abbreviate years by using two numbers instead of four. So 1990 became 90. This was not a problem until some genius realized that some day we would reach the year 2000 and that many computers would mistake 2000 for 1900 or simply refuse to function.

Having been accused by Republicans of ignoring a problem that is occurring on their watch, Bill Clinton and Al Gore announced Tuesday that Y2K was now the biggest problem they faced or at least the biggest one that does not involve an independent counsel.

Gore, speaking with Clinton at the National Academy of Sciences, began with a joke just to show people he was human and not a hologram.

Gore said he recalled a magazine article printed a few years ago that listed 31 signs that technology has taken over your life.

"If you know your e-mail address but not your Social Security number," Gore said. "If you rotate your screen saver more than your tires. If you have never sat through a movie without having at least one device on your body beep or buzz."

The audience chuckled, and Gore said, "My personal favorite was No. 23: 'If Al Gore strikes you as an intriguing fellow.'" The audience laughed uproariously and applauded. Then, Gore grew serious and tried to convince people that Y2K was even more important to him than global warming and saving the whales.

"I joined the Cabinet meeting when the president laid down the law and went to each Cabinet department and set in motion efforts to make sure that every Cabinet member understands that this (Y2K) is priority No. 1," Gore said.

The president spoke next and began by saying, "This is one of those days that I never thought would ever arrive -- where Al Gore has to listen to me give a speech about computers! Being president has its moments."

Everybody laughed again.

Then, the president said that the problem, also called the millennium bug, "could simply be a rash of annoyances, like being unable to use a credit card at the supermarket or the video store losing track of the tape you have already returned."

When this was met with more laughter, Clinton said, "I just wanted to remind you that I used to have a life and I know about things like that." He also said, however, that the problem could be far more grave and involve "electric power, phone service, air travel, major governmental service."

Clinton said that while the federal government was going through millions of lines of computer code -- sometimes employing retired programmers who are the only people who know how the old codes were written -- to correct the problem in vital areas, the rest of the world seemed not to be taking the problem as seriously.

Clinton said that while on some of his recent trips he brought up Y2K to other world leaders, "I found that we had become far more invested in this and involved in this than some other major nations."

Noting that America's economy was linked to the economies of other nations and that computer problems could cause markets to crash violently, Clinton announced a $12 million grant by the United States to the World Bank's Year 2000 fund for developing countries.

"The more we can do to help other countries meet this challenge in a timely fashion, the better off our own economy is going to be," Clinton said. He also said he would propose "Good Samaritan" legislation that would limit the legal liabilities of companies that try to work out Y2K problems together.

But how many problems will there be?

On Monday, Wall Street rehearsed what would happen when Year 2000 hits and found, to the surprise of many, that not much of anything happened.

Some 29 securities firms and 12 exchanges began a simulation of the problem and found that their computers handled the problem just fine.

The test is continuing, however, with critics saying problems are sure to crop up.

Asked why the president and vice president were suddenly engaging in a big Y2K announcement and how they respond to criticism by Republicans that they had not done enough, White House spokesman Mike McCurry said Tuesday, "The purpose of the former was to stem the criticism implied by the latter."


7/14/98: Close Amtrak --- PLEASE!
7/9/98: Flag burning is for nuts!
7/7/98: Forget about his legal defense fund, buy Bubba shirts!
7/1/98: Wall-nuts
6/26/98: Perks and the press
6/23/98: There's a good reason Bubba wants gun-control...
6/19/98: Why Clinton can get away with going to Tiananmen Square
6/16/98: Maybe Big Brother ain't so bad after all
6/11/98: He claimed responsibility for Rwanda, so why isn't Bubba stopping Serbian genocide?
6/9/98: The Internet president?
6/4/98: You can call me ‘slick;' and you can call me ‘sick;' but never call me ‘Dick' .... as in Nixon, that is
6/2/98: Being a 'talkin'-head' is hard work
5/29/98 Pay the pol, pick the policy
5/27/98 A 'loo' in London
5/21/98Buba is back from Europe ... but what did he accomplish?
5/18/98Roses for Buba
5/12/98: Just who is "Mr. Republican" these days?"
5/7/98:"Why Clinton keeeps "going and going and going""
5/1/98:"Bubba v. Tabacka"
4/29/98:"You may ask, but should they tell?"
4/24/98:"McCurry and the kids from the ‘hood "
4/23/98: "NOW" should change its name to "THEN"
4/20/98: Freedom to be a jerk?
4/14/98: Bill is Hef's kinda guy
4/7/98: South African memories --- and a paradise not yet found
3/24/98: Bill's 12-day safari
3/20/98: Peace for Ireland?
3/18/98: Flat tire? Spare me
3/13/98: Latrell Sprewell's genius
3/10/98: On truth and reality
3/5/98: No, I'm not harrassing Hillary
3/3/98: The Unforgettable Henny Youngman
2/26/98: Grow up, boys!
2/24/98: Go get 'em, Bill!
2/19/98: My 15 minutes
2/17/98: The manic-depressive presidency
2/12/98: Drip, Drip, Drip
2/10/98: Clinton tunes out the networks
2/5/98: The flight of the Beast: America's love-hate relationship with scandal
2/3/98: Speaking Clintonese
1/29/98: What the president has going for him
1/27/98: Judgment call: how Americans view President Clinton
1/22/98: Bimbo eruptions past and present
1/20/98: Feeding the beast: Paula Jones gets the full O.J.
1/15/98: Let's get it over with: it's time to deal with Saddam, already
1/13/98: Sonny Bono is dead, let the good times roll
1/8/98: Carribbean Cheesecake: First couple has cake, eats cake
1/6/98: PO'ed: a suspected druggie jumps through the employment hoops
1/1/98: Cures for that holiday hangover
12/30/97: Buy stuff now
12/25/97: Peace to all squirrelkind
12/23/97: Home for the Holidays: Where John Hinckley, never convicted, will not be
12/18/97: Bill's B-list Bacchanalia: Press and politicos get cozy, to a point
12/16/97: All dressed up... (White House flack Mike McCurry speculates on his next career)

©1998, Creators Syndicate, Inc.