I rant about conservative idiocy a lot, but the bottom line is, I expect stupidity from them, because frankly, if they were smarter, they would be liberals.
But when ostensibly smart liberals make stupid comparisons and analogies, I get righteously pissed. Frank Rich has a way of inspiring this in me like no other liberal, and I will admit up front that I am not nearly as enamored of him as many of my fellow travelers are and I happen to think he was better suited to his previous gig as a theater critic than he is as a political commentator. For a supposedly smart guy, he sure writes some idiotic, if not downright stupefying, things, and while getting paid handsomely to do so, to boot. That is most certainly the case with his column that dismisses the “fiscal cliff” fiasco by analogizing it with the much-ado-about-nothing Y2K non-crisis of 13 years ago.
The breathless and phony countdown to the fiscal cliff – What if they can’t agree? What if we fall off? Can America possibly survive? – is media hype, a desperate effort to drum up a drama to keep viewers and readers tuned in now that the election is over. It’s a Road Runner cartoon, Beltway-edition. And it’s going to end with a whimper like the similarly apocalyptic, now long-forgotten Y2K scare of the turn of the millennium.
Talk about blowing it! It is obvious that Rich wasn’t in a field that relied on much technology in 1998-99 — back when those of us who were in tech-heavy fields saw a lot of 60-hour weeks because we were busting our asses to prevent the impending apocalypse that we avoided by dealing with it, not by pretending it didn’t exist.
In case you have forgotten the hoopla about Y2K, back in the nascent days of computerization, memory was at a premium and it took twice as much to make the year a four digit field as it did a two digit field. No one thought about the next century, and even if they did, they didn’t imagine that the software they were writing on punch-cards in the 60s and 70s would still be in use when the year 2000 dawned.
Do you know why Y2K wasn’t a disaster? Because we didn’t wait until Thanksgiving of 1999 to get started fixing the problem. Instead we spent two years working our asses off to make sure all of our equipment was Y2K compliant. It wasn’t a disaster because we didn’t wait until the last minute like the congressional morons have.
I was a fairly new supervisor back then, and a “Super User” for the Health Information System (HIS) in the hospital where I worked. There were department troubleshooters then there were a few of us who were hospitalwide and we got special t-shirts issued to us that identified us as such on sight. We went piece-by-piece and made the equipment compliant, and identified it as such with a neon-orange sticker that said “Y2K COMPLIANT” in big, bold letters.
Hundreds of thousands of programmers — many lured back from retirement by pleading and large paychecks because the old software they wrote years before was still in use and younger programmers didn’t know the first thing about FORTRAN or COBOL or PASCAL, or anything else before C++ — trained people like me and worked many long hours and on 12/31 everyone on the IT team was on the premises and on the clock so patients could be minimally impacted if we missed anything.
Y2K can only be referred to now as “much ado about nothing” because we did our fucking jobs in 98-99 to make sure that was the case. But it does (righteously!) piss me off to no end when people who don’t know what the hell they are talking about pooh-pooh the hard work, skill and dedication we put into making sure it was a non-event, because if we hadn’t, it would have been a big damned deal.