The greatest danger is panic: #1 on the Millennium Madness chart : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Below is the text for an article going in the first edition of the Oklahoma City Catholic Worker (making its debut in October). Comments and critique is invited!

Robert Waldrop +++++++++++++++++++++++++

!!!!MILLENNIUM MADNESS!!!! There's a lot of nonsense going around these days about Y2K.

Number one on Top Ten Millennium Madness list is: "the greatest danger is people panicking". Huh? Say what? The greatest danger from Y2k is that all the broken technology and software hasn't been found and fixed. That Y2k is a danger to our technology cannot be doubted: upwards of a trillion dollars is being spent, many Y2k failures have already occurred. The power industry itself admits that serious disturbances in parts of the North American electrical distribution grid could bring down the entire system, even if your local utility is totally Y2k ready.

This media fixation on "panicky people" distracts attention from larger questions of political and corporate accountability for the stupid business decisions that brought this situation upon us. (The church lady would say, "How conveeeeenient.") It wasn't the average man in the street who designed the technology so that it would go haywire in the year 2000. It was the smart guys in the back rooms and the rich guys in the board rooms who did this and thus incurred a trillion dollar repair bill. Now they want us to believe that storing water will somehow bring on the Apocalypse. Please, Lord, give us a break! It has been a real hard century, we do not need this whiny "it's not our fault" nonsense at this late date.

Let's look at one area: groceries. The food processing and grocery corporations have testified before Congress that large numbers of people buying extra groceries are a threat to their industries! They are reported to be applying pressure behind the scenes on the media to play down Y2k risks to the food system. They buy a lot of advertising, and it's probably not a coincidence that there has been little discussion in the media about potential problems in the food processing and distribution industries. My question is: why should capitalists be worried about people buying more of their products?

Maybe they are worried that they have made bad decisions about the allocation of their production capabilities. Perhaps they are concerned that because of these bad decisions, demand will swamp their carefully coordinated "just in time" processing and inventory systems. What happens then? If there is a demand, and existing suppliers can't keep up, then new suppliers will go into business to supply the needs of the marketplace. That's how markets work. Lions and tigers and bears, oh my, if Cargill can't keep up, that's tough for them and their six stockholders.

Urban consumers could link up directly with rural producers and skip the transnational corporations entirely. The farmer would make more money, and the consumer would get a better and healthier deal. Oops! We can't have people ignoring these important corporations that give lots of money to politicians and the media, can we? So we get a full court press to discourage people from buying extra groceries and thus we refrain from stimulating the farm economy during a year in which farmers are going broke everywhere. Go figure -- and follow the dollars while you do so. Agriculture is a key industry in this state -- our mantra ought to be BUY MORE GROCERIES DIRECTLY FROM FARMERS -- but the Daily Oklahoman and our local television news departments keep on preaching that transnational corporation party line. Follow the dollar: farmers don't buy much advertising, corporations do.

But wait, there's more. When I hear people disparaging the idea of storing one or two months' supply of food, I immediately know that this person has never been poor, and doesn't care much about helping poor people better their circumstances.

The less economic security a family has, the more important it is that they keep some of their savings in food. Typically, the grocery list is the one flexible item in a poor family's budget. If there is an emergency  somebody gets sick, a utility bill is higher than normal, a job is lost  the only place they have to go for extra cash is the grocery money. If the family has managed to put aside some food  say 1 to 2 months  then they can raid their grocery budget and still put dinner on the table. If they have no food stored, they are out of luck and out of food. Please remember that there are millions of poor people who do not receive food stamps, this is not theoretical, this is life in these United States. But who cares about this? Certainly not these corporate officers and politicians preaching against frugality and prudence and family food security.

Regarding these smart guys who are so sure that people  not broken technology  are the problem, if truth be told, this is not the first time we have heard this. Here's what the great Catholic writer, G.K. Chesterton, had to say about such people: "It is easy enough to say the cultured man should be the crowd's guide, philosopher and friend. Unfortunately, he has nearly always been a misguiding guide, a false friend and a very shallow philosopher. And the actual catastrophes we have suffered,.have not in historical fact been due to the prosaic practical people who are supposed to know nothing, but almost invariably to the highly theoretical people who knew that they knew everything. The world may learn by its mistakes; but they are mostly the mistakes of the learned." RMW

Got printable flyers for distribution during y2k disruptions?

-- robert waldrop (, September 29, 1999


Unfortunately the Feds INactions have guaranteed Panic.

* Market Crash / Bank Runs by 12/99 at the latest.

* Major Oil problems by 1/00.

-- Dan G (, September 29, 1999.

Hmmmmm. Government inaction guarantees panic, you say? Let's see here.

According to Cory Hamasaki, Infomagic, and Gary North, panic was going to ensue (as well as a lot of other events which never came to pass) a LONG time before now.

Get a clue, dude. As of right now, you don't have one.

-- Chicken Little (, September 29, 1999.

Line me up with the pollies on this one. "Public panic" concerns me more than the technological problems. Of course, public complacency is a big part of the problem too. It doesn't need to be one or the other.

If there'd be no panic, then banks wouldn't have runs even if there are some technical difficulties; and the stock markets wouldn't crash even if many companies failed.

So far there is no sign of panic. When/if there is, I don't expect the "highly theoretical people" to have less panic than the prosaic practical people".

IMO, poorly informed that it is, the technical problems will result merely in a depression. Anything worse than that probably will be the result of how people react to those problems.

-- Gus (, September 29, 1999.

I think it is a decent article and can potentially do some good in terms of getting people to prepare. Good luck!

Here is an op-ed that ran in some black newspapers across the country a month or so ago:

"When are they going to come and help us?"

by Stan Faryna

"When are they going to come and help us? When we are all dead?" cried Zeyfettin Kus, who stood in front of a collapsed apartment in Izmit, Turkey where three neighbors had been buried The estimated death toll of the 7.4 quake that hit western Turkey is at 40,000. Hundreds of thousands are homeless and not receiving proper medical attention, drinking water, food, and shelter. As corpses rot under the rubble and sewage flows in the streets, health officials are increasingly concerned about outbreaks of contagious diseases such as typhoid fever, cholera, and dysentery. In America, some wonder if this tragedy will be revisited soon when the Year 2000 technology problem strikes on January 1, 2000-this time in every city around the world.

John Koskinen, Chairman of the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion, warns that some countries may be hard hit by the Y2K technology problem which will cause failures in computers and embedded chips. The impact of computer and embedded chip failures potentially threatens simultaneous and multiple disruptions in services including financial services, power, water, sewage, telecommunications, health care, public safety, and distribution of food and other goods. Koskinen has dismissed concerns that the Y2K technology problem will effect the infrastructure in the U.S. He has asked the mainstream media to downplay news of Y2K failures and concerns about a lack of preparedness in the U.S. in order not to panic Americans.

Panic, it is argued, would have so significant an impact on our economy, it could be worse than whatever may happen due to technology failures. Bank runs, for example, would close down banks across the country. Whether or not Americans panic, the Y2K technology problem will have significant impact on Americans and the world. Edward Yardeni, Chief Economist of Deutsche Bank Securities, has predicted a 70% chance of a worldwide recession. He also warns that a 1930's type of depression is not out of the question. Despite Koskinen's confidence that the U.S. will have no big problems, Y2K failures have been reported by both independent publishers and regional newspapers.

Among the independent and regional new stories: a state welfare agency issued almost $1 million in March food stamp benefits to unqualified residents, raw sewage overflowed into a Los Angeles city park (Washington Post), telephone service was lost in Canada (The Ottawa Citizen), process control failure occurred at the Peach Bottom Nuclear Power Plant in Pennsylvania, and the closing of Supervalu Inc., a $17 billion company that operates 4,600 supermarkets (due in part to the costs of Y2K remediation). This is just the tip of the iceberg. More disturbing than these news stories, however, are reports that the self-reported status of companies and government agencies as being Y2K ready are misleading. Last month, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), responsible for reducing loss of life, property, and critical infrastructure in the U.S., accused and confirmed that the National Electric Reliability Council (NERC) had lied to FEMA about the readiness of power companies across the country.

Recently, Jim Lord, a Y2K activist, released a secret Navy report on the Internet that detailed potential wide-spread failures in electricity, natural gas, water treatment, and sanitation in hundreds of cities where naval and marine bases are located. Koskinen personally explained that the document was authentic, but he denied that this report was secret and insisted that this was outdated information. The document was dated June 1999. An anonymous naval officer, however, was surprised by the report's findings. As far as he was concerned, the utilities had reported that they were all Y2K Ready prior to June 1999. Wonders the anonymous officer: Was Jim Lord set up to defuse his efforts in emphasizing personal preparedness or is something being kept from naval officers outside of Washington, D.C.?

Will America be ready for Y2K? Will we fare better than victims of the Turkish quake when Y2K failures hit? It depends on who we are listening to and how much we can personally prepare for potential power outages, water shut-offs, food shortages, bank closings, etc. Unfortunately. There is not much time left. But if we heed the warnings of Paul Reveres like Ed Yourdon, programmer and author of "Timebomb 2000" and the "Y2K Home Preparation Guide," we can take responsibility for our own lives and safety.

We can prepare for the reasonable worst. If, however, we listen to the mainstream media and believe that the reasonable worst can't happen to us, we may find ourselves repeating questions now on the lips of the Turkish survivors, "When are they going to help us? When we are all dead?"

-- Stan Faryna (, September 29, 1999.


You got it dead on. "It wasn't the average man in the street who designed the technology so that it would go haywire in the year 2000. It was the smart guys in the back rooms and the rich guys in the board rooms who did this and thus incurred a trillion dollar repair bill."

Human "panic" is a survival mechanism. If "they" hadn't delayed addressing the seriousness of fixing and preparing for the problem untill it was too late, panic wouldn't be necessary. Look at the people who had prepared for Y2K and got hit by Hurricane Floyd. They DIDN'T panic. Why is the government spinning this for the business interests of Safeway, Del Monte, and General Mills? If food doesn't get into local storage before December, there is going to be starvation in North America (will be elsewhere anyway).

Go back and visit his URL from an earlier post.

-- ng (, September 29, 1999.

On the other hand, I haven't really seen signs of "panic" yet on this forum. Worry, yes. Fretting, prophesying, planning, obsession, OK, but out and out panic? That will be at the end of the year, when the DGIs start to ask themselves whether "there is something to this after all". I agree a mob in panic is a dangerous thing. And that it was stupid for Kosky and TPTB to say "shop the last 2 weeks of the year". People on this forum accused of "panicking" will not be shopping at the end of December. They will be laying low and keeping quiet.

Am I worried? Yes. Am I preparing? Yes. Am I panicked? No. It won't be ME rioting at the Safeway loading dock on January 3. Let the DGIs do it.

-- Margaret J (, September 29, 1999.

"'We keep this civilization narcotized, for otherwise it could not endure itself. That is why its sleep must not be disturbed...' " Symington tells Tichy.

" 'The year is 2098...with 69 billion inhabitants legally registered and approximately another 26 billion in hiding. The average annual temperature has fallen four degrees. In fifteen or twenty years there will be glaciers here. We have no way of averting or halting their advance -- we can only keep them secret.' "

"'I always thought there would be ice in hell,'..." Tichy responds. "'And so you paint the gates with pretty pictures?'"

This quotation from the novel, The Futurological Congress, (1971) by Stanislaw Lem. Symington is the dictator explaining to Tichy, the outsider from an earlier age, how things work on his planet.

--She in the sheet, upon the hilltop,

-- Donna (, September 29, 1999.

Panic can be blamed on the pollies and procrastinators. The doomers have been prepared for some time now and are finishing up the loose ends. We haven't stripped the shelves, we have purchased everything that we need and there's more to buy if we choose to do so. I will blame the pollies for the panic and destruction.

I had a telephone conversation with my niece last night and we got on the subject of Y2K. She and my other niece who has two children are quietly preparing but they have very little money to do so. It was a good thing that we got on the subject of Y2K because they have been filling empty milk jugs with water! I explained to her the dangers of this and whether she believes me or not, I hope she pours the water out and discards the jugs. I believe there are a lot of people out there that are preparing but not going about it the safest way. No doubt there will be people getting sick due to a lack of common sense. Whose fault is that?

-- bardou (, September 29, 1999.

Robert, This article, more so than your other work -- which I have read and enjoyed and passed on to others -- tends toward a blame orientation.

"It wasn't the average man in the street who designed the technology so that it would go haywire in the year 2000. It was the smart guys in the back rooms and the rich guys in the board rooms who did this and thus incurred a trillion dollar repair bill. Now they want us to believe that storing water will somehow bring on the Apocalypse. Please, Lord, give us a break! It has been a real hard century, we do not need this whiny "it's not our fault" nonsense at this late date. "

This bothers me a bit. I don't think you can expect any one group of people (certainly not the isolated CEOs) to have such an inclusive overview that they could have forstalled the current developments. This is the culmination of thirty/forty years of great adventure and development in the typical uncontrolled American creative style.

The programmers did what they were told and followed the standards set by those for whom the work was being done (usually military/or related to military in the beginning). Then it was everyone following the standard. No one had evil intent. . . no not even the big guys in the boardrooms.

I suppose I am as opposed to blaming the rich for this situation, as I am opposed to blaming the poor for their condition. This does not need to be a blame game and it won't solve anything to turn it in that direction. Technology was a new toy and everyone (and I do mean everyone) was having fun with it's development or enjoying the fruits of its development.

Think in these terms (which may be closer to home base for you). What if I were to say those guys in the 'back room', those rich guys in the church, are to blame for the devastating over-population we are experiencing that may indeed cost the lives of billions in the next ten years...all because of their short-sightedness in declaring a certain zero-birth control policy. So, will anything change if we blame them and hang them in a public lynching? And does anyone really believe they intended to create the bad situation, or were they merely clinging to their original staunch position?

I do believe we should all be concerned and responsible to whatever degree we are capable for those who share our planet who have less than we. I do not believe we should feel guilty for having more. There will always be those who have less and those who have more. Guilt and blame are negative sum games.

-- Shelia (, September 29, 1999.

*Catholic Worker*??

Wasn't that a Red kind of movement in the Forties that was suppressed by Rome?? My, my! How we only *thought* we had beaten Communism!

-- K. Stevens (kstevens@ It's ALL going away in, September 29, 1999.

"Am I worried? Yes. Am I preparing? Yes. Am I panicked? No. It won't be ME rioting at the Safeway loading dock on January 3. Let the DGIs do it."

Yep, I shop there as food. Worth noting is that Safeway is selling my favorite Staggs Chilli now 12 cans for $ price I've ever seen (had 120+ cans, bought 36 more the past couple days, getting 24 more when I go to town ends Oct. 10th). They also have DelMonte canned fruits at the same price. Take advantage of this (if you get there before me). Best of it.......DCK

-- Don Kulha (, September 29, 1999.


Thanks much for your cautionary words, and I will revisit the text before going to press. My goal is not so much blame as it is accountability. It's kind of a blunt instrument, though. I'm sure I'm also reacting to the "people who panic are the greatest danger" line, which is the number one response i get these days when I talk to people about y2k.

While you are probably right about it being beyond possibility to affix "blame" for originating the y2k problem back in the 60s and 70s, I remain concerned about the accountability of the "rich and powerful" for their responses to this issue. When I hear corporate executives discouraging people from buying extra groceries, well, as is obvious from my test, my blood pressure goes up. It is selfish, dangerous rhetoric they are using, and perhaps what I am groping for here as a way to answer it -- because I do think it is necessary to develop a cogent and effective answer for the public conversation.

Regarding rich and poor, I don't begrudge anybody anything they honestly earned (or even honestly inherited). But in these United States, the net worth of the top five percent of households is greater than that of the other 95%, and there are many structures that work to increase the gap between rich and poor by making the rich richer and the poor poorer. People who have more should be accountable for this, at least in terms of their own personal participation in and benefit from these 'structures of sin', and what effort they may be making to challenge and redeem those structures. And also what their position is on the common good and solidarity, that is, do they see themselves as part of a community which includes everybody, including the poor -- or do they see the poor as easy pickings for exploitation?

I also do not believe that the rich and the poor are morally equivalent in terms of their responsibilities for the current situation. I do like the Chesterton quote, it could be considered a variation on "from those who have received much, there is much required." Or the concept that the higher the office, the greater and more strict should be the accountability. If a poor person becomes a thug and commits crimes, there are victims, but generally not on the scale of somebody like e.g. the president, who can fire a billion dollars worth of cruise missiles and carry on policies the kill the children of third world countries by the thousands every month. Better to have ten thousand of the poor criminals than one of the latter.

Regarding over population, well, of the world's six billion people, less than 1.5 billion of them are Christians, and specifically, less than 1 billion of them are Catholic, and certainly, all 1 billion do not go to Mass with much regularity or pay much attention to the bishops. But population issues have already spawned threads with hundreds of messages in them and I have enough threads to keep track of without opening that can of worms. But touche anyway, I'll see what I can do to be more precise as to who should be hauled to the court of public opinion.

-- robert waldrop (, September 29, 1999.

Regarding the Catholic Worker movement, Dorothy Day had been a radical leftist before her conversion to Roman Catholicism, but the political ideology of the CW movement is not Marxist. Dorothy described it as "personalist" and "distributist", which would be more in the direction of Chesterton, credit unions, microenterprise, agrarianism than bolshevism. It is rooted in the social justice teachings of the Catholic Church, which consist both of truths we glean from Holy Scripture and from a series of encyclicals and statements by councils beginning in 1891 with Rerum Novarum published by Leo XIII.

The movement is still going, there are some 130 plus CW houses in the US and a few foreign countries. The original CW newspaper in NYC is still publishing, and there are several other such newspapers. There is no central hierarchy of the movement, each house is autonomous, and we all generally make up our "program" as we go along. The commonalities are: (a) living and working in solidarity with the poor, (b) practicing the "works of mercy" (one of these days we may get good at it), and (c) working for justice.

Cardinal O'Connor has recently begun the process of canonization of Dorothy Day.

Access to Catholic Social Justice Teachings

-- robert waldrop (, September 29, 1999.

Hey, Chicken Little pops out of the woodwork again with more of his brilliance. Hey, birdbrain, panic almost by definition, occurs at the last moment, when there is no time left for rational thinking. Barring any Y2K-caused disasters between now and December, the panic will commence in mid-December and hit its peak from December 26th through December 31st. After 01-01-00, the REAL panic starts.

-- Chicken Little's a BIRDBRAIN (, September 30, 1999.

"Regarding over population, well, of the world's six billion people, less than 1.5 billion of them are Christians, and specifically, less than 1 billion of them are Catholic, and certainly, all 1 billion do not go to Mass with much regularity or pay much attention to the bishops."

Yes, I believe ya...I was just using the population thing as a possibly touchy issue (with which I was sure you would be more familiar with the statistics and facts than I would) as a parallel to the idea of placing blame on the shoulders of programmers or CEOs for something that has evolved over several generations of programmers and CEOs within an equally devolving and depersonalizing corporate structure which has no face, no soul, and is itself part of the problem.

Yes, someone, somewhere has to take responsibility and be accountable -- not for the origination of the problem; but for the solution and the current adjustments to the reality of the problem. Even this is not simple. Who is it that has a clear picture of what the reality is? Any deviation in any of the 360 degrees in which one could waver could bring further, possibly greater, problems.

I agree much could have and should have been done two years ago to prepare people for possible problems. For this lack of leadership and the perverted forms of negative leadership we have seen, there are real faces with real accountability attached to them.

I also agree with your assessment of the imbalances of the current structures which compile wealth in the hands of one percent of the population of the world. There's some serious redress that needs to be accounted for....but I'm not holding my breath.

As for your high blood pressure...breath! we can only do what we can do when we can do it. Eat when it's time to eat; sleep when it's time to sleep; and don't forget to wash your bowl. My peace I give to you, let your peace arise, Shelia

-- Shelia (, September 30, 1999.

Sheila, Re: "placing blame on the shoulders of programmers or CEOs for something that has evolved over several generations of programmers and CEOs"

As someone who has worked on this mess for 8 years, I place the blame firmly on the shoulders of CEOs, CFOs and CIOs who having heard of the problem and in some cases validated they had it years ago, to the dispair of the senior technical staff, have been unwilling to fund correcting it til late last year. We had PLENTY of time to fix it.

-- ng (, September 30, 1999.

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