Liddy says: Have a nice Y2K day

Conference: The talk-radio host shows no fear at a local meeting on computer woes that might stem from the millennial changeover

Year 2000

July 31, 1999|By Mark Ribbing | Mark Ribbing,SUN STAFF

"Mellow" is not the first word most people would use to describe G. Gordon Liddy. This, after all, is an ex-FBI agent who plotted to kill columnist Jack Anderson, went to prison for his role in the Watergate break-in and wrote of testing his toughness by holding his hand over a flame. These days, he is the host of a nationally syndicated, right-as-red-meat show on talk radio.

And one might have expected Liddy to be an especially long way from serenity yesterday during his visit to Baltimore. He was in town to broadcast his show from a conference devoted to the Year 2000 computer problem, a techno-glitch that has prompted fear of imminent social and economic unrest.

Yet here he was, sitting in a back room amid the plush concourses of PSINet Stadium, taking a break from his show (among the topics discussed this day: a "good fight" Liddy had in prison over a hairbrush, a brawl that he said landed both him and his foe in the hospital), looking quite relaxed in a tan suit, blue shirt and yellow tie.

To put it simply, Liddy could hardly care less about the Y2K bug; he was in town only to do a promotional favor for WJFK-AM, a sponsor of the conference and the local broadcaster of his show.

"I don't think it's going to be anything like as disruptive as most people have been led to believe it will be," Liddy said of Y2K, his dark eyes and mustache standing out starkly from his sunned, completely bald head.

This no-worries attitude was widely, though not unanimously, echoed at the "Y2K Day," a public forum on the Year 2000 issue.

Most of the state government and business officials at the event said that while minor errors might result from computers' mistaking the year 2000 for the year 1900, large-scale failures -- at least in this country -- are unlikely.

"There's enough ambiguity to cause some mess, but it's nothing worth losing our head over," said H. William Vroman of the University of Baltimore Information Systems Research Center.

Vroman, who is advising the state government on Y2K issues, said one of his biggest concerns is the relative lack of readiness abroad for the coming of 2000.

"Russia's a basket case, and Asia's in financial meltdown. Their focus is in other places," he said. "Even in Europe, the focus is on the Euro."

While Y2K trouble in other countries could pose difficulties for Americans, area public-works officials said they anticipate few problems with water, electrical, mass-transit and other services.

S. Dale Thompson of the city's Department of Public Works said area residents should take the same precautions for Y2K that they would for inclement weather. Thompson said, "We don't want citizens to panic, but we want them to understand that they should make the same preparations they should make for the winter in general," such as having extra blankets and fresh water on hand.

A panel of financial-industry representatives said savings accounts and equity investments will remain safe during the changeover.

They said that while it would be wise to draw cash from the bank before the last day of the year, a major stockpiling of greenbacks is unneeded, and a large withdrawal Dec. 31 might capture the attention of thieves and con artists watching for people to have especially large amounts of money on hand that day.

People attending the conference had mixed feelings about the threat posed by Y2K.

"I think in general we take care of everything in the U.S. in one way or another," said Joseph Knoedler, a 64-year-old financial-services businessman from Perry Hall.

But Knoedler added that he had recently experienced a Y2K problem at home. When, out of curiosity, he set the date on his VCR past Jan. 1, 2000, four question marks showed up where the date should have been.

"It was only a year and a half or 2 years old," Knoedler said of his not-quite-ready machine.

Pub Date: 7/31/99

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