Saturday, September 20, 2008

Some Thoughts on the Bailout

While I understand and appreciate that the consequences of not acting would be severe since our globalized economy is so interdependent on various sectors working together in unison, I foresee the bailout as being a divisive issue in the future that could cast America into a new era of class warfare and partisanship.

Thus far most of the rhetoric around the bailout has focused on saving big business. The administration is being very careful to parse this plan in terms of averting worldwide economic ruin. What we've yet to hear is what happens to the mortgages once the government assumes responsibility for them? Will the US government take a populist stance and offer debt forgiveness to those teetering on the brink of foreclosure? Will they retroactively grant some kind of relief to those who have already foreclosed? There has been no talk of what the government intends to do in the long term to get this debt back. Only the short term solution of issuing bonds likely to be sold to foreign investors to cover the debt has been proffered.

If the government indeed rescues these corporations and turns around and grants signficant deferrals or outright forgiveness, the debt will disappear into a black hole while taxpayers spend the next several decades increasing the coffers of foreign banks and governments. If only the investment giants are spared while homes continue to be foreclosed, then the citizenry will have incurred all of the punitive damages, in terms of both the tax burden and the loss of critical assets. And what will become of the seized assets? Will the government use its new position as the primary real estate magnate to regulate the speculative housing market? If so, for how long?

It remains uncertain whether the lenders or consumers will pay the higher price for their mistakes, but taxpayers are sure to shoulder the greatest burden. A burden that will likely lead to increased resentment of big business, government and one's less fortunate neighbor. The Foreclosed could easily become the neo-lepers of our society as the economy comes to a stall and no answers are in sight. Meanwhile hot button issues such as immigration and trade agreements will become fodder for pundits as there will overall be a lot less opportunity and space to go around.

The details of the bailout will crystallize in the coming weeks. It will be up to Congress to ask the difficult questions about debt forgiveness and bond issuance. Compromises will be made and someone will lose. That someone will be the taxpayers who can do nothing as the value of their homes diminish and they assume the debts of irresponsible borrowers and lenders. Debts that will be in the hands of nations to whom we will be beholden in our execution of foreign policy in the coming years. Meanwhile, the executive branch has benefited from yet another nearly unprecedented expansion of power in its eight year span.

Where one stood on the bailout will doubtless become the central issue of the 2012 Presidential Election, just as the war in Iraq defined the 2004 and 2008 elections.2008 will likely supplant 2001 as the seminal moment in twenty-first century American history, though few will fully understand why. It will be up to our great grandchildren to decide whether this was the dawn of our fall or the presently unforeseeable transitional period to a new era of fiscal and social responsibility.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Old graphic novel idea from 2008



The Pure Terrans.


The Pure Terrans are an environmental group that grew out of the latter day environmental movement circa 2101.  They believe in a Pure Earth where all external influences have been removed, particularly those emanating from celestial bodies.


As man began to move off-planet and fears rose about the safety of the home planet, a variety of cultural commentators arose decrying the adventurism that characterized the neo-space age.  


First among these were those in the defense sector who felt it foolish to concentrate so much of their budget toward extra-earth conflicts while leaving the planet essentially defenseless past the upper mesosphere.  Those hawks won out when the President resurrected plans for a long forgotten laser defense shield, pioneered during the dawn of nuclear power.  The shield was erected facing outward, meant to form a defensive array should earth ever need protection from inbound hostile alien warships.  These orbiting satellites are stationed two to a continent and maintained using taxes levied by the Tenth International.


Second came the adherents to the Babel Scripture.  Following man's ascent heavenward, an unforeseen  collectivization of religious leadership came about demanding a reconsideration of the invasion of what would inevitably be God's throne.  Those followers of the Babel Scripture (Babelites) carried these recommendations (originated by a consortium of clerics, imams, rabbis, priests and evangelical ministers) to the extreme and carried on a campaign of sabotage and terrorism to delay the construction of space-worthy fleets.  Most of their attacks targeted the ever-indispensable hyperspace drive manufacturers as common perception had it that the kingdom of heaven was at least a few hundred light-years away.  Babelite terrorist acts caused them to fall quickly out of overt favor with most religious leaders, but their funding continued to come from somewhere.  The Babelites were quickly consigned to an extremist sect, (albeit of all religions) and continued their defense of Heaven's shores (not to mention advocacy for man to remain earthbound lest various prophecies go unfulfilled).


Lastly came the Pure Terrans.  The Pure Terrans (PT) were an offshoot of the global conservative environmentalist movement.  The Conservative Environmentalists were comprised primarily of those slow to acknowledge global climate change.  In their own way, they have still refused to acknowledge it.  The polar collapse of 2101 was followed by much hand-wringing and woolgathering.  Several mega-corporations faced unprecedented losses due to unpredictable hurricane seasons and flooding.  Fortunately, long rumored orbiting American weather satellites sprung into action and restored some semblance of order within a month's time.  Thus were the Conservative Environmentalists formed.  The ideologues championed man's mastery over mother earth at last and reckoned for good or ill that the destinies of planet and humankind would be inseparable.  Discussions were held around preventing similar occurrences in the future.  The PT, a ramshackle group of corporate heads, crackpot scientists and indolent hawks subscribed to the theory that global warming was not the consequence of human intervention, but rather of a vengeful sun, maliciously berating its third child.  They demanded an immediate divorce from the influence of the (to them) capricious sun in favor of more controllable radiation sources, preferably man made.  Talk arose in their ranks of erecting a permanent shield made of some refractory polymer, but this idea was quickly rejected after the scope of work put completion estimates somewhere within a millennium.  In 2120, the first permanent colony was incorporated on Mars and communications revealed its clime to be far more predictable due to its biospheric nature.  Earthbound jealousies were exacerbated when the 2121 continent quake dislodged Shanghai from southern China and buried Vietnam.  PT members sprang into action demanding environmental mastery.  Planetist agitators in world government talked of cutting aid to the Martian colony in favor of resolving what at the time seemed to be the most urgent crisis.  It turned out not to matter as funding held no real meaning on the mostly socialist colony.  Decreased funding only meant fewer trips to and from Mars, which suited the colonists just fine.  So it was that the PT proposed the radical philosophy of Realignment.  Realignment was the theory that an earth dislodged from its present orbit, operating at a distance more in line with, say, Mars might prompt a correction to the planet's warming crisis.  Physicists labored at length to explain the absurdity of this, but as quickly as the idea could be refuted, the PT had a legion of men in lab coats at the ready to explain why modern physicists couldn't be trusted.  Smear ads comparatively mocking 20th century scientists who had decried folk hero Nikola Tesla's theories were common.  In the end, the PT garnered more sympathy than anyone would have suspected.  Babelites were quickly splintered into pro-Realignment and anti-Realignment factions.  PT members quickly worked to gain military influence as it was felt that the LDS was the only device capable of performing such a feat.  Also, the various militaries were justifiably thought to be the only entities capable of maintaining any kind of order following the initial planet shift.  The PT's numbers swelled across all social strata.


2134 saw the beginnings of a separatist movement on Mars that wanted to sever obligations with the obviously mad earthers.  The Martian Republic was founded in June of that year, much to the dismay of leaders back on Earth.  PT support tripled when they called for an embargo on Martian goods (since they were, after all, off-world products) and it wasn't long before even moderate Babelites were declaiming the Martians as The Adversary's Army.  Some more traditional church elements held that Mars was in fact the kingdom of Heaven and they had been deemed unworthy.  These robed monks became known as The Meek and they became the spiritual inspiration for doves who smelled a Mars/Earth war in the wind.


The discovery of a Martian sympathizer group in 2136 that served as the funding source for a Babelite sect who assassinated a prominent hyperspace physicist was the final straw.  In a deliberate act of war, the North and South American continents trained their LDS satellites on Mars.  While the lasers did not have range to reach the Republic, it was a clear message to the newly minted Martians:  Stay Away.


Space stations across the galaxy quickly declared allegiance to one side or the other.  Despite a great deal of earth-sympathy, the majority sided with Mars due to a closer feeling of kinship with their fellow off-world humans.  


And so we arrive in the present day, 2140, six years after the establishment of the Martian Republic.  Four years since the travel embargo between Mars and Earth.  In that time, small skirmishes have broken out on the fringes of the galaxy between space stations loyal to one side or the other, but other than the occasional espionage, there has been little direct contact.  The PT, sensing impending environmental catastrophe has risen to political prominence.  The vast majority of Babelites have gone into hiding due to a military crackdown in response to a need for more warships to aid allied space stations.  

Holding the fragile peace together on earth is the League of Nation-States.  Its current secretary-general, Joao Alberto Vieira is the brother of the Brazilian leader of The Meek.


PAGE 1

Page 1/Panel 1:  In the Bronx.  161st St.  The new Wall Street.  Yankee Stadium still stands proudly as does the courthouse.  In addition, a few new buildings are standing and a couple skyscrapers line the Concourse.  The first panel is an establishing shot of the 161st St Wall Street strip.  In the distance, hovering over the stadium is the wall that holds back the waters lapping onto the shores of the Bronx from the submerged Manhattan Island.  The humidity is merciless at this time of year, summer, overcast.

1 Caption:  THE DAYS ARE LONGER THAN THEY USED TO BE.

1/2:  Zoom in from the establishing shot, street level, focused on a man in his late 30s, early 40s, suit and tie, briefcase and a special parasol designed to screen him from UV rays.  He makes his way through the throng of like-minded, like-dressed well-to-do up and comers that now populate the Bronx.  El barrio is a forgotten memory replaced by snake oil salesmen and gentrifiers.  

2 Cap:  TIME WAS A DAY'S WORK WAS SEVEN HOURS PLUS A LUNCH, BUT NOW TWELVE, ELEVEN IF YOU'RE LUCKY AND LUNCH?  GUARANA AND A SUGAR CUBE IF YOU'VE GOT IT.

1/3:  Cut to a diseased looking wretch shivering in the foreground, a castoff from Manhattan Island.  He’s wearing rags, but barely discernible beneath the rags is a doorman’s uniform, ripped and faded, missing every other button.  The wretch gnaws merrily on what could be a rat.  In the background is our parasol carrying narrator, sneering as he walks past the unfortunate.  

3 Cap:  LESS IF YOU DON’T.

1/4:  Our fearless broker pauses at a newsstand, buying a copy of The Wall Street Journal.  I’m picking the Journal as the paper du jour for 2 reasons.  1) Because Wall Street is now the center of the NYC Universe and 2) Because News Corp. owner Rupert Murdoch just purchased it and as a result I can see it easily devolving from it’s standard bearing status as a market analysis newspaper to a tabloid rag in much the same way old Rupert maneuvered the NY Post into fitting said category.  The same blather that fills the airwaves in the form of Fox News will by 2100 become the voice of the Wall Street Journal.  ANYWAY, the broker picks up a copy from the loquacious newsvendor.  The headline is barely visible as the paper is partially folded, but it says the following:

REDS SEE RED
Mars Governeur calls tax hike ‘an outrage’

The Americans, in their charming little way, have christened the Martian colonists “REDS” seeing as how they’re on a red planet and all.  I like the idea of the epithet once used to sling hatred at communist sympathizers now being hurled at neo-colonists.  

5 Newsvendor:  REDS DON’T WANNA PAY NO MORE.  SAYS THEY MIGHT SECEDE!  THEN WHAT?

6 Broker:  DON’T KNOW.  MAYBE THEY’LL BECOME THE 52ND STATE.

1/5:  Close up on the newspaper from the Broker’s POV as he continues to chat with the off-panel newsvendor.  In this shot we see the full headline.  We only saw the first 6 letters or so in the last panel.

7 Newsvendor (off):  HA!  YEAH, WE WISH!  WELL, YOU’RE THE FELLA WITH THE CRYSTAL BALL.  WHAT ARE FOLKS BUYIN’?

8 Broker (off):  EVERYTHING BUT AMERICAN FRIEND.  

PAGE 2

2/1:

__________________________________________________________________________

PAGE 1

Page 1/Panel 1:  Interior Day.  We're in a tight side shot, zoomed very close on a finger pointed angrily at another man's face.  Both faces are out of the shot, but you can see their chins.  The fellow getting pointed at has his chin tucked inward, his neck erect.  The pointer's chin juts outward in a deliberate act of hostility.  The pointer is an inch or two shorter than the fellow he's pointing at.  Behind them is a wall of stock tickers and television monitors.  They're both dressed in rumpled looking, yet stylish suits.

1 Caption:  THERE'S NOTHING PURER THAN THE FIGHT.

1/2:  Same place, but zoomed out.  We're looking at a nice establishing shot of the nouveau stock exchange, located now in the former courthouse on 161st St. and the Concourse.  We're inside its halls, watching frantic traders shout into phones and bid for stock.  It's a wilder day than usual.  Barely visible in the background on the monitors that line the room is news of “The Martian Discovery.”  In the center of the melee is a much more private one that we caught a glimpse of in panel 1.  The two fellows from panel 1 are arguing fiercely, but in this shot, they're small, almost lost amidst the chaos.  A blip in the room.

2 Cap:  SAUNTER ACROSS THE PLAINS OF ALL OUR STRUGGLES, ALL OUR HIGH-MINDED IDEALS...

1/3: Zoom now to the feet of our two arguers.  Beneath their feet is a sea of crumpled papers and stock slips.  Mingled in among the refuse are flash drives and shattered cel phones/PDAs

3 Cap:  AND BENEATH YOU'LL FIND THE RUBBLE OF CIVILIZATIONS LEVELED BY IGNOBLE  COMBAT.

1/4:  Cut over to the Television monitors.  Make sure they're all either projected images or flatscreens as the the stereotypical bubble shaped TV sets seem a little out of place in the twenty-second century.  On the screen is a serious faced anchor relaying the news that a miraculous new substance has been discovered on Mars that will revolutionize the global economy.  Drifting across the bottom of the screen it says MARTIAN DEVELOPMENT STOCKS ON THE RISE.  In the upper left corner of the screen beside the anchor it says BREAKING NEWS:  MAJOR MARTIAN DISCOVERY

4 Cap:  LIFE AND DEATH IS THE ONLY STRUGGLE THAT MATTERS.  DIFFERENCES POLITIC AND MORAL ARE ILLUSIONS WE CAST SO THAT THE WEAK MIGHT HAVE A REASON TO SEE THE SUNRISE.

1/5:  Back to our combatants from Panel 1.  The taller one shoves the shorter one.  We still don't see their faces, but we see their bodies.  A small crowd encircles them, but all of their backs are turned, staring at the off panel monitors.

5 Cap:  AND WHAT SPORT MIMICS MORE CLEARLY THAT URGENT STRUGGLE BESIDE THE FIGHT?  

6 Cap:  WHAT ACTIVITY, SHORT OF SQUALID COUPLING, IS MORE INTIMATE AND MORE HONEST?

PAGE 2

2/1: SPLASH!!!  A full page shot of the shorter fellow, now fully visible socking the taller gent in the jaw.  The crowd surrounding them still has their backs to the pair, but a couple of them are glancing over their shoulders in annoyance.  The shorter one is raging, his eyes and teeth clenched.  The taller one is being walloped out of the shot.  

1 Cap:  THERE IS NONE.

PAGE 3

3/1:  We're staying with the shorter fellow, Joseph, who is now seated moping outside the courthouse turned stock exchange.  His collar is open and he's no longer wearing a tie.  The sun blares down on him and he's sweating lightly.

1 Mari (off panel):  HEY.

3/2:  We meet Mari, Joseph's girlfriend of sorts.  She's a stubby, though not unattractive Dominican girl who works as a cashier at (what else?!) a bodega near the part of the Wall that lines the western border of the Bronx.  Interestingly, in this brave new world, bodegas are the only source to obtain fresh produce and confections.  Supermarket chains and their intricate distribution mechanisms are untenable in this day and age.  Bodegas, conversely have no mass distribution and are solely responsible for procuring their own merchandise.  It's an every man for himself business, but those few with the best hook-ups to reliable farms and dry goods warehouses are able to prosper.  Anyway, getting back to the panel at hand.  Side view.  Mari is carrying a bag of groceries and standing about two steps down from Joseph.  She looks suspicious.  Joseph is looking up at her, uncomfortable about how to break the news that he's suddenly jobless and barred from the stock exchange.

2 Joseph:  OH, HEY.  HEY, I DIDN'T SEE YOU COME UP.

3 Mari: I KNOW.  YOU LOOK LIKE YOU FUCKED UP.  WHAT'D YOU FUCK UP?  DIGAME.

3/3:  Still a side view.  Joseph stands up and looks down at Mari.  He's remorseful.  Mari is looking surprised.

4 Joseph:  I GOT INTO IT WITH SOME PRO-TERRAN ON THE FLOOR.  HE SHOT DOWN SIX OF MY TRADES WITH HIS BULLSHIT, SO I JUST...I DON'T KNOW.  I LOST IT.

5 Mari:  CONIO, YOU DIDN'T GET YOURSELF KICKED, DID YOU?

3/4:  Joseph is walking down the steps with his head down and his hands in his pockets as Mari shouts heavenward, rolling her eyes.

6 Joseph:  WELL...

7 Mari:  FUCK!  

8 Mari:  WE'RE THREE MONTHS!  THREE MONTHS AWAY FROM BEING ABLE TO FINALLY AFFORD A PLACE IN THE BRONX AND YOU SHIT ON IT OVER SOME PENDEJO!

3/5:  Mari shoves the bag of groceries into Joseph’s chest as his hands come out of his pockets.

8 Joseph:  I’M SORRY, I—

9 Mari:  FUCKIN' RIGHT YOU'RE SORRY.  I'LL SEE YOU AT HOME.

10 Joseph:  WHERE YOU GOING?

11 Mari:  TO GET DRUNK, WHERE ELSE?

3/6: Joseph stands holding the bag of groceries as Mari walks off in the background.

12 Cap:  THE FIGHT WAS NOT MEANT TO BE WAGED WITH WORDS.

PAGE 4

4/1:  Cut to The River.  Some time has past.  The evening mist settles across what used to be Manhattan, but is now simply the East and Hudson Rivers merged into The Manhattan River.  A lone barge sails across the waters toward lower Manhattan carrying approximately twenty passengers.

No Words.

4/2:  We zoom in to see our noble protagonist, Joseph, leaning on the railing looking morose and pathetic.  At his feet is the bag of groceries.

1 Cap:  IT'S AMAZING TO THINK OF WHAT THE RIVER USED TO BE.  

2 Cap:  BRILLIANT THOROUGHFARES, GLISTENING MONUMENTS, NOW SHADOWS UNDER COLD WATER.

4/3:  We cut to a wide shot of downtown Manhattan as the barge approaches.  Let this take up the remainder of the page.  This is our first glimpse of downtown.  Everything is, of course, submerged beneath a high and rolling ocean that has overtaken even The River.  Skyscrapers jut from the waters, surrounded by floating docks.  The barge is approaching the waterway at approximately 42nd Street on the East Side.  

3 From the Barge:  LAND HO!!!

4 Cap:  WHO CAN SAY IF EVERY LAKE DOESN'T CROWN ITS OWN ATLANTIS?

PAGE 5

5/1:  Side view of Joseph as he stands next to the rail of the barge.  A gentleman dressed all in black has approached him and is standing beside him.  Joseph is half turned as the man speaks to him.  The man is clean, almost spartan looking.  His hair is closely trimmed.  He wears dark sunglasses.  He is a missionary.

1 Missionary:  IT IS SAID THAT THE MARKETS PROVIDE A WINDOW INTO THE FUTURE.

2 Joseph:  WHUH--

3 Missionary:  A CRYSTAL BALL ALMOST, MURKY AT TIMES, BUT PEER CAREFULLY ENOUGH...

5/2:  Two shot of Joseph and the Missionary, speaking.  Joseph is uncomfortable.  The Missionary is placid, dour.

4 Joseph:  EXCUSE ME, HAVE WE, UH, HAVE WE MET?

5 Missionary:  WHEN YOU SCOUR THE TICKERS AND MONITORS, WHAT DO YOU SEE OF TOMORROW JOSEPH?

5/3:  Joseph is looking a little panicked now that this strange fellow knows his name.  The Missionary remains stoic, but is fully facing Joseph now.

6 Joseph:  WAIT A MINUTE, HOW DO YOU--

7 Missionary:  IS THERE PROMISE FOR THIS EARTH OR HAS JUDGEMENT COME AND GONE?

5/4:  The Missionary has extended a hand to clasp Joseph firmly about the shoulder.  Joseph is looking sick, bewildered.  

8 Missionary:  SOME WOULD SAY THIS WORLD HAS HAD ITS SEASON AND NOW THAT SEASON IS ENDED.  THEY WOULD FORFEIT THIS LIFE IN FAVOR OF ANOTHER.

9 Missionary:  DO YOUR FORECASTS TELL YOU THIS IS WISE JOSEPH?

5/5:  Close on Joseph and the Missionary, looking each other squarely.  Joseph is nervous and scared.  The Missionary is reassuring.

10 Joseph:  I...WHO ARE YOU?

11 Missionary:  BLESSED ARE THE MEEK, JOSEPH.  FOR WE SHALL INHERIT THE EARTH.

TO BE CONTINUED...








PAGE 6

6/1:  We have a wide establishing shot of a traffic filled street. (The Grand Concourse) In the center sits a taxicab.

Cap:  I'VE ALWAYS FELT THERE WAS A SUBTLE “FUCK YOU” HIDDEN IN THE HONK OF A HORN.

Cap:  ALMOST AS IF THE MANUFACTURER PROGRAMMED IT IN AND WARPED IT, BUT IF YOU LISTEN CAREFULLY, IT'S THERE.

6/2:  Side view of the cab, the driver sullenly sitting waiting for the cars to start moving.  

Cap:  IT'S PROBABLY THE MOST COMMON CONVERSATION I HAVE EVERY DAY.

___________________________________________________________________________


PAGE 1

Page 1/Panel 1:  For this page, we're going to go with a series of 4 page wide shots.  This first shot should be a glimpse of submerged Manhattan, most likely around the financial district.  The Statue of Liberty is vaguely visible somewhere in the shot as are the tops of several skyscrapers.  

1 Caption:  SEATS OF POWER COME AND GO.

1/2:  For shot two, we're essentially zooming out to a view of the North American continent from above.  This would be an upper atmospheric view where we'd see most of the United States.  We're not looking down from space though, so don't give us too much.  Note that this will be a mostly topographical view and that we'll see a lot of land masses.  They should be altered from the traditional view.  Lakes and rivers are a little wider in some areas.  The coast is a bit narrower.  The ground is a bet more desertified.

2 Cap:  NO ONE KNOWS WHERE THE NEXT BYZANTIUM WILL BE, ONLY THAT WHEN THE SHIFT COMES, BAGS MUST BE HASTILY PACKED AND AFFAIRS PUT IN ORDER.

1/3:  Continuing our zoom outward, now we're looking at the whole of planet earth, albeit from a slight distance.

3 Cap:  FOREIGN QUICKLY BECOMES HOME.  IRRELEVANCE TURNS TO INEVITABILITY.

1/4:  Now we're shifting our perspective, so we're looking up at the stars.  We're on the ground, looking up past buildings.  One bright object seems to shine a little brighter than the others.  The object is earth.  This shot is taken from Mars.  In this POV shot we see a finger pointing at the brighter celestial body.

4 Cap:  AND GIVEN TIME, FEW REMEMBER WHERE THEY CAME FROM OR WHAT LIFE USED TO BE LIKE IN THE OLD PLACE.  

PAGE 2

2/1:  Swing the camera around to a downward angle shot of a teenage boy lying on the red sands of Mars, his hands folded behind his head.  Beside him, sitting up, is a girl, approximately the same age pointing up at the off panel stars.  She stares ominously at the beyond.  The boy is smirking slightly.  This panel should take up a full two-thirds of the page.

1 Cap:  THIS IS CALLED CIVILIZATION.

(C) Diami Virgilio, 2008