By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
So many computers, he writes, "will go down -- and stay down -- for a long enough period to create a sinister economic scenario. The kind of scenario that makes for ugly reading, but beautiful profits." He dedicates the book to his readers in hopes that "they might profit from the computer date-change problem rather than simply help pay for it."
Overzealous rhetoric aside, what the book does best is convey the boggling degree to which the Y2K-susceptible machines that now govern our daily lives on all levels, micro to macro, are intimately interconnected -- co-dependent, you might say. If one critical system crashes, the ripple effect can have broad consequences in the rest of the world.
As a textbook example of this, Stewart singles out the Detroit auto industry, which relies on an extremely complex chain of technologies and outside vendors to supply the parts necessary to build a car. Not only are the Detroit Big Three not going to fix their own Y2K bugs, he writes, neither are many of their parts suppliers, many of whom are foreign companies. And don't get Stewart started on the sorry state of foreign compliance.
Then there's the issue of transportation: Many automated activities in the world economy no longer have manual systems in place to handle the work should the computers fail. "The railroads are the scariest of all," he says, referring to the fact that piloting people and freight in the United States now relies on complicated computer-controlled grid-route switches, as the railroads have all dismantled their old manual switching systems.
"We don't have any switching yards!" says Stewart after lighting up another in an endless series of Marlboros. "We don't have any switchmen! It's a computerized activity. Without the computers nothing happens. Even if all the nations were Y2K compliant and if Detroit got all the parts, from all the nations," he shouts, "could they actually get the trains to get the cars to the West Coast, to sell the product? And with businesses going sour in a thousand similar ways . . . do you think there are going to be people with money to even buy these cars? Get real!"
NOT SURPRISINGLY, STEWART ADVISES HIS READERS to dump their blue-chip stocks -- ASAP. He predicts that as Wall Street and the public begin to understand the sheer scope of the Y2K problem, the stock market will begin to plunge, well before January 1.
And after the big plunge hits, in the early months of 2000, Stewart believes we'll be looking down the double-aught barrels of full-fledged economic depression. Which is why he's putting his home up for sale this April -- so he can buy it back at fire-sale prices next year, "When cash is king."
He also plans to unload his five vintage sports cars, stock a storage unit with bottled water and hunker down on his yacht until the millennial clouds clear.
"I'm going to go bargain hunting post Y2K!" he says. "That's the whole name of the game, to get liquid, to get really relaxed, to go have some fun. Wait for it to fall out of bed. Because whatever you buy in the Year 2000, you're buying at the bottom."