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Summary and Comments

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Category: 

Noncompliant_Chips

Date: 

1998-05-28 08:22:36

Subject: 

Y2K Czar Fakes the Math; Reporter Says It's OK

  Link:

http://www.govexec.com/dailyfed/0598/052198b1.htm

Comment: 

"How do we solve the big problems? We lie about their magnitude. Then we verbally solve them." This, at least, is John Koskinen's approach.

Here is a good example. The number of embedded chips is generally estimated to be 25 billion. Mr. Koskinen places it at 5 billion, which was approximately the number shipped in 1996. Then he says that only 2% of these may be noncompliant. This is a mere 10 million, he says. Problem: 2% of 5 billion chips is 100 million. Oh, well. What's an order of magnitude among friends? (Reporters dutifully write it down and report it as straight news -- straight-faced.)

Two percent of 25 billion chips is 500 million chips.

Then he goes on, as if there were no really big problem in identifying even 10 million bad chips and replacing them by hand, one at a time, as if compliant upgrades were in production, as if the new ones will fit the old motherboards.

Such is the government's solution (and everyone else's) to y2k.

What I really love is his prelude to this blatant lie:

"We're very anxious to make sure we give accurate information to people if there are going to be issues and areas of difficulties and complications. We need to be candid about that with people. If we're not, we'll lose our credibility. So if we say that Social Security checks are going to go out, they're actually going to go out. We're not just saying that to make people feel good."

Tell a lie, and you may get caught. Preface it with self-righteous ethical pronouncements, and the reporters will swallow it.

Clinton found a man after his own heart.

This is from GOVERNMENT EXECUTIVE (May 21).

Keep reading. Wait until you see the reporter's reply to me. . . .

* * * * * * * * *

The growth industry in this problem are embedded chips. When people first started thinking about it, they thought about it in terms of hardware and software applications. Only in the last year have people begun to understand the magnitude of the number of chips out there that may have difficulties. It's a small percentage of chips. We shipped, give or take a little, 5 billion chips in 1996. Nobody knows for sure, but the estimates are that of the billions of chips out there two to three percent have a date sensitivity. But you know, two percent of 5 billion is 10 million chips. They're all over the place. They're in manufacturing processes, oil refineries, waste treatment plants, power plants.

* * * * * * * * *

I wrote the following to the reporter on May 28:

Dear Mr. Friel:

When government flaks lie to reporters, as Koskinen did, they misuse naive, trusting people, or maybe cynical, distrusting people. But it's wrong to do it, and it's dumb to let them.

You were flummoxed, and really badly. You must stay awake when you take your notes. You must review them. Don't go to sleep at the word processor. To wit:

The growth industry in this problem are embedded chips. When people first started thinking about it, they thought about it in terms of hardware and software applications. Only in the last year have people begun to understand the magnitude of the number of chips out there that may have difficulties. It's a small percentage of chips. We shipped, give or take a little, 5 billion chips in 1996. Nobody knows for sure, but the estimates are that of the billions of chips out there two to three percent have a date sensitivity. But you know, two percent of 5 billion is 10 million chips. They're all over the place. They're in manufacturing processes, oil refineries, waste treatment plants, power plants.

Mr. Friel, 2% of 5 billion chips is 100 million chips. Check the math.

Next, the 5 million figure is for 1996. The total number of chips is widely estimated at 25 billion. Two percent of 25 billion is 500 million chips. These must be identified as noncompliant, replaced by hand with compliant nrew models (that rarely exist), and tested.

Mr. Friel, Koskinen made you look like an idiot for reporting his obvious fakery as straight news. Don't let these guys make you look this bad. They're out to mislead you, so that you will mislead the public. And it works.

* * * * * * * *

This is Mr. Friel's reply:

Mr. North,

The letter you sent me seems a bit overdramatic.

I'm aware that 2 percent of 5 billion is 100 million, but Koskinen said 10 million. I like to quote people accurately. I'm also aware that there are many more than 5 billion embedded chips in the marketplace.

The article was a Q and A with Mr. Koskinen. What you see are all quotes from him. I doubt Koskinen was attempting to deviously fool me into thinking there were fewer embedded chips out there than there are, I think he was just giving an example of the scope of the problem off the top of his head.

So his math is off. That's no reason, sir, to go over the deep end on conspiracy theories.

Brian Friel

* * * * * * * *

If you think journalism has fallen on hard times, you agree with me

Link: 

http://www.govexec.com/dailyfed/0598/052198b1.htm

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