Letters

Too Rosy a View of the Millennium Bug?

Regarding the editorial on the millennium computer bug, "The Y2K Stimulus" (May 11): Your Year 2000 optimism is, regrettably, built upon sand.

You mention the US rush toward the Manhattan Project and the moon landing. But the factors that led to success in both projects have little bearing on the Y2K problem, whose solution is limited by the inherent incompressibility of software projects.

No, it is not the apocalypse - missiles will not launch, nor planes crash, and your VCR, TV, and car will work just fine. But it is foolhardy to underestimate in what poor shape most government and corporate Y2K repair efforts are, how much further behind Europe and Asia are, and what the likely economic consequences will be.

The media buzz and national effort are probably about 12 months too late to avert that impact altogether, and far too many companies are just getting started. I fear that many agencies and corporations are bungee jumping with too long a rope, but won't realize that until close to the moment of impact.

Bruce F. Webster

Washington

Chair, Washington D.C. Year 2000 Group

The Y2K bug is a problem of scope and complexity, not difficulty. Both the moon project and the Manhattan Project were technically very difficult but very narrowly circumscribed problems, with a single "solution point." Neither involved solving a problem that required the "fixing" of many billions - yes, the operative phrase is many, many billions! - of problem points, many of which are interconnected in a way that can crash vital systems. Financial, communications, transportation, and utility systems are all at risk.

The potential cascading effects of sequential failures and the difficulty of providing quick patches to temporarily fix the problems (patches that may again cause their own problems) create a scenario that will - not could - have devastating consequences.

Recall the chaotic effects of the UPS strike, the most recent blizzard, hurricane, earthquake, or power grid failure you may have experienced, and you have just the smallest inkling of what the failure to correct 1 percent (that is, without exaggeration, many millions of "bugs") would cause.

I admire your optimism, but fear that I cannot share it.

Walter Jablonski

Hopewell Junction, N.Y.

How Clinton's problems stack up

The essay "The Makings of Scandal: Civic vs. Personal Virtues" (April 27) by the ACLU's Ira Glasser expresses the usual moral relativism that liberals use to excuse the character-challenged occupant of the White House. Arguing that we should turn a blind eye to the problems of Bill Clinton because some Republican once committed an indiscretion does not add up.

In the case of Mr. Clinton, we are not talking about one or two slip-ups, but a widening wake of flotsam involving former business and law partners, terminations of travel-office workers to make way for political cronies, tarnished Cabinet appointees, illegally procured FBI files, women who are brave enough to reveal less than honorable contacts with Clinton, support of a surgical procedure to kill babies nearing birth, renting out the Lincoln bedroom, allowing a campaign contributor to sell advanced missile guidance systems to the Chinese, and attacks against deep-pocket industries, such as the pharmaceuticals and now tobacco, in an attempt to centralize more money and power in Washington.

As for the oft-used argument that the American economy is fine so voters should not worry about what is going on at the White House, that is a lame excuse.

Benjamin Sperlin

Indianapolis

We welcome your letters and opinion articles. Because of the volume of mail, only a selection can be published, and we can neither acknowledge nor return unpublished submissions. All submissions are subject to editing. Letters must include your address and telephone number. Mail letters to "Readers Write," and opinion articles to Opinion Page, One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, or fax to 617-450-2317, or e-mail to oped@csps.com

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