It’s an old geek conceit that their latest infatuation is genius for ‘the dude who rocks da eyballs to the skull, man he has a *plan*!’ All those seemingly disjointed false starts the last 9 episodes? Critics stop harshing! It’s in the plan, man. And if you disagree, shut up, you are a troll and hater.
We’ve all been there. Or stumbled across almost identical threads or flames.
It’s not wholly irrational. Tolkein had one. Books aside, the Kiwis delivered in spades for the screen. Several legendary Japanese manga do the plan/story arc well, too. It’s clear today LOST never did. But people – especially Americans — invested too much to cop to years of self abuse for naught. In science fiction terms, the late Babylon 5 truly did have a 5 year arc written out before the first episode filmed. And Joss Whedon created what must surely rank as some of the most sublime television — genre or not — ever achieved with achingly poignant (and funny) arcs each season for Buffy The Vampire Slayer.
Which brings us to Obama and his apprentice, Tim Geithner. They threaten to drag us all down the hype-saturated Battlestar Galactica (BSG) cul de sac. BSG as you may know currently clogs bandwidth everywhere as its gasps to its final episode expiration. BSG is an almost perfect mirror for our times of catastrophe, beers with Sean Hannity and bong hitting hypocrisy.
Why is BSG like Geithner’s ‘plan’? First, it’s unoriginal, too. The story and characters borrow from a super cheesy 1970s actioner with Lorne Greene. Did the Stiftung tell you we sat next to the real Commander Adama at the Reagan Inaugural? We kept prodding him to lower the blast shields but he just kept blinking (this was many champagnes into things – but more another time).
Second, BSG is a fitting Obama and Geithner template given its provenance. BSG’s head honchos have pedigrees from that most lamentable Star Trek fiasco, Deep Space (Sit & Spin) 9. BSG naturally suffers an ignoble birth twice over. (Btw, as some of you may know, Paramount famously stole the entire concept of DS9 after sitting through the Babylon 5 productions’ pitch meeting, turning them down, and pouring all the purloined ideas into their PC drenched, lethargic abomination. To make peace, Gene Roddenbury’s wife agreed to star on a later Babylon 5 episode — a lesson in geek shuttle diplomacy. This dishonesty makes BSG trebly appropo for Geithner today).
Obama and Geithner come to their bank rescue pitch in much the same way. Locked in by predecessors, using some ‘borrowed ideas’, they essentially dressed up the old Paulson er, battlestar with lipstick. But this time with a plan ! BSG honcho Moore, deludedly thinks his genius at ad hoc recycling puts him on par with Joss Whedon or other modern myth makers (he naturally scratched Tim Kring/Heroes from the to-do list). Moore claimed from his very first episode that the Cylons had a plan behind their genocidal nuclear Pearl Harbor on mankind. To the unwashed used to fare like King of Queens, BSG seemed to deliver the goods.
So, too, with Geither. How soon do you suppose he also starts making speeches flanked by massive gold flaked signs proclaiming ‘Plan For Solvency’? There must be plenty of supplies left over in OEOB somewhere.
Even the so-self-consciously-hip-we’re-just-plain-folks at Salon drool over BSG. Why? We don’t know. It’s so mediocre. But to cut them some slack, well, it is dystopian – a better world view outside of Japan and Blade Runner is hard to find. So it looks cool. But as far as acting, sloppy characterization, lack of plausibility, and zero- none -3 dimensionality (all of the characters are flat self parodies of their season one appearances) the show is a painful joke. And Salon swoons for all things Obama and his ‘plan.’
Take heed Obama and Geithner. Now, even the dimmest BSG fan realizes all along there has been no plan. Moore et al. were pulling out characters and story arc like monkeys from their posteriors. Crucial, vital items cutting to the show’s very raison d’etre from episode one made up on the fly this final year. Wounded geeks howling in betrayal are not for the squeamish. It seems politicos are no different.
Yet we pity geek pain. Moore et al. have been winging BSG; Heroes is an embarrassment ($4 million an ep?); Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles is so illogical, disjointed and feckless *within each episode* the Stiftung’s Aibo is chafing to go and just waste that Connor punk to end the misery. They face a wasteland.
It’s amazing Obama and Geithner don’t realize a serialized story with no plan is a train wreck. No clue. In the end, no real audience. Take this as an unkind studio note on your pilot script: get a script doctor. Or it’s no go. Why?
To mix geek references, Padawan Geithner tried to serve his Master’s bidding yesterday. But his Jedi mind tricks are weak. Did you notice the vague hand movement in front of him as he droned ‘All will be well, we will unveil our plan soon’? Fah. My dear Padawan, you can mind trick all of the American lemmings all of the time, but pundits, foreign creditors, foreign observers, ‘the Street’, and Hutts on the Hill are immune. He and his Master wish us to believe that like a multi year genre serial, all the little plots and twists we see ahead immediately will all make sense *when the story is revealed* at the end. Except the joke is on Geithner; we know he is creating BSG while Obama seems to seek higher fare.
A script doctor would counsel that there are two distinct story lines for Geithner to establish now, at the pilot episode. He must choose. One is that we are essentially in a panic. Fundamentally sound assets are temporarily underwater or without valuation. Thus King Henry claimed he would buy up ‘toxic assets’, banks like the house in Poltergeist would be made ‘clean’ and King Henry would sell off the purchased at a profit. An elevator pitch at MGM – except the studio would want Clooney as Paulson, James Wood at AIG and Roseanne Barr in a foreclosed home surrounded by cubic zirconium.
The other story is that many if not most of the affected financial institutions are fundamentally and irretrievably insolvent. The IMF puts the insolvency rate at circa $1.4 trillion. Nouriel Roubini pegs it around $3.6 trillion. These institutions can not be made clean by buying toxic debt because there is no there, there. The elevator pitch here is Will Smith in I am Legend without the annoying woman and child; he makes it out to Darien, CT with some bearer bonds.
The Stiftung like others subscribes to this later view. Obama and Geithner (and the Hill, media and Wall Street) are all hoping for Geitner’s BSG script — the current geek heartburn is they haven’t seen enough ‘spoilers’ to know what the plan is not realizing there isn’t one. There is no arc, no plan for this BSG tact. Guarantees and buying some toxic assets here and there and $350 billion Son of TARP will give us George Romero Living Dead Banks for at least a Lost Decade if not more. That, dear reader, is no plan. It is, however, Ron Moore BSG classic. Yet who would claim 4 years hence this was meant to be?
We have an involvency crisis, not a panic or business cycle. We need a new script. We are looking at either nationalization for recapitalization or massive debt for equity swaps on a level far above being contemplated now. Obama and Geithner would be advised to shoot the wounded. Let the bad banks die. Start with new good banks, with new management, with new ethos untainted by the ruinous gluttony of the bubbles.
We are actually serious when we suggest that should an existing tainted bank want recapitalization or a swap, it must relocate executive offices to an economic recovery zone. Youngstown, Ohio. Michigan. The Katrina inland wasteland. Pick another.
Technologically there is no reason for anyone to be on Wall Street anymore (banks and Cravath and others fled a while ago). There’s no reason for them to be in the City, either. We don’t have re-education farms yet in America. But requiring bankers on the federal dole to live among the hoi ploi and see reality is a small price to pay for their Walter Mitty daydreams that they still matter.
That’s a script, a plan and a ComicCon panel that will rock. And no one plausibly can scream ‘Curse you Timothy Geithner, you raped my childhood !!!’ Although he may get a couple of Michael Bay’s
‘I hope you die for destroying my sole joy in life, Transformers ‘Dude! You own my eyeballs!’ And Obama? He won’t have to be worried about being cancelled after 4 short seasons.