How Lost Should Have Ended

Breaking Bad wasn’t the greatest ending of all time, but it was the best ending of any show in the long serial format now prevalent on TV. Part of why this is is that it knew what it was about, knew what it looked like it was about, reconciled those, and when the story was done it ended.

Here’s how Lost should have worked out:

The Island is a probably alien or unexplained natural phenomenon that exists in a kind of timespace bubble. Ancient civilizations discovered it and, of course, didn’t know anything about it and treated it as some kind of supernatural entity all its own in part because it cured disease and provided some people with exceedingly long life.

In modern times, like the Atlantis myth, people began to discover mythological references to this place and a few scientists in particular began to think the place might be real. There are miniature wormholes that permit entry that are somehow arranged by the energy there, and it can be modulated. The scientists found a way in and began to bring their utopian modernism and technology to the place, much to the dislike of the anti-modern inhabitants. The only thing they don’t manage is to allow a population to perpetuate itself there, which would completely pervert the place in the eyes of its ancient guardians. They finally elect Ben to kill and remove the Dharma people.

After the bomb goes off, the original primeval timespace regulation becomes flawed and the hatch is used to keep it regulated, but any time it isn’t reset, new wormholes open and the disturbance is detectable from the outside. The best the ancients could do was a wheel that was very imprecise and rough and moved the islands wormhole gates about the earth; the dharma scientists were able to be a little more precise before the bomb went off. After that, it took everything they could do just to regulate the anomalies.

Lost is a largely Western Buddhist story about how the passengers are reincarnated on the island with a chance to annul some of their negative karma from the past through solidarity with the group. It should not have been the case that they were considered dead or on their way to another life. The “reincarnation” should have been metaphorical, not literal, just as it was at the beginning of the show when no one thought they were in a syncretistic purgatory.

The ending when the characters receive sufficient enlightenment to link with their former lives, Buddha-style, only to have them end up in heaven’s antechamber was a mistake. Their moments of enlightenment should have allowed them to leave the island. The injudicious mixture of metaphor and reality is what screwed up this aspect of the ending.

The Walt story should have played out as we expected with Walt and John replacing Jacob and the Man In Black, the yin/yang of the island. John, who failed a Dalai-Lama-like identification procedure with the compass, should have been compared with a scene where Walt succeeds and becomes the new guardian.

Taking an Eastern yin/yang balance and having it resolved by a Messianic good prevails over evil story is as big of a mixing problem as mixing the cycle of reincarnation with the finality of the Western afterworld.

If Lost was supposed to be a show set in the philosophical world of the Tao and Buddha, I’m not sure Jack as Jesus fits in. His self-sacrifice to destroy the man in black with the dog lying down next to him to sew together the opening scene with the closing one disconnected both scenes from the entire story.  The ending should have been John and Walt restoring balance and hiding the island from everyone for a very long time until something else tries to disturb it (a spinoff?)

Removing Walt and not having him be part of the ending was a big problem.

Now after having all of that clear (and making it clear should have been done)—everyone should have had their ending according to their karma and then been restored to the world, alive (or dead if that was appropriate).

My Negotiating List

Have you seen the House GOP’s demand list?

If I was Harry Reid, this is what I would do. I would say, here’s my list of demands that must be passed or Wall Street gets it. Then, when Wall Street cries uncle, we mint the platinum coin anyway:

The US government will default on its bond payments and use the coins to pay the military and beneficiaries, unless:

* A carbon tax is included that will offset the external costs of all emissions, forever.
* The Supreme Court is expanded to 13 justices and whose nominations cannot be filibustered
* In fact, no more filibuster, period, on any senate executive business (nominations)
* The Voting Rights Act is reenacted to include all 50 states in the provisions recently struck down by the Supreme Court
* A public option is included on all PPACA exchange, funded by a surtax on those making over $500,000. Any surplus in the program is returned as tax refunds to those making less than $500,000.
* Student loan interest is reduced to zero for everyone.
* All dividends are taxed at the same rates as other income
* The House must allow a vote on any item where a petition is brought by 1/3 of its members, not a majority.
* The debt ceiling law is forever revoked. The budget is the budget.
* All future budgets are automatically renewed if not amended. No more shutdowns.
* Puerto Rico is granted statehood.
* $1T in funding for education over the next 10 years.
* LGBT protections added to Title VII
* $10.00 minimum wage, adjusted automatically for inflation.
* Immigration reform with a 5 year path to citizenship is enacted without border patrol pork
* Comprehensive firearm legislation including a large buy-back program.

NCAA

There is a well-precedented system used all around the world that could easily fix the NCAA’s college football playoff quandary: promotion and relegation.

In division I, last time I checked, there are something like 125 teams.  Break these teams down into true regional divisions except at the very top. Put the top 24 teams in four conferences that play each team in the conference twice in the season. The top four teams playoff for the championship, the bottom three get relegated to the top regional division and the top regional champions playoff for those three spots the next year.

This is the best feature of soccer that just doesn’t exist in American sports at all. The worst feature of soccer—no drafts—exists in the NCAA already.

Owners of major league teams would never allow this because they think they would lose too much money if their team got relegated. But in reality, at least in soccer, it’s actually easier to be profitable outside the top division, but that has to do with the cost of player transfers, something else that doesn’t exist that way in the US.

The threat of relegation, combined with a draft system (which exists nowhere that I’m aware of) would surely address some of these ills. Whether it would also create the monster that is the international soccer transfer system or something else I cannot say.

It's not a novel.

You have to pretty much go to an Ivy League school and cover politics for a long time to be a writer at The New Republic, right? (Maybe that’s the problem.) So it’s not that we’re dealing with idiots, but then you see something like this:

It showed [Obama] had clearly learned something from the recent “red line” fiasco in Syria.

I’ve heard this over and over. In what sense was Syria a fiasco? If by “fiasco” you mean failing to exercise his Nietzschean will to power then I guess. If you mean “fiasco” getting a bad result, I can only say: then how come the result is better than anyone even thought was possible a few weeks ago?

The right was sure we would be weak. The left was sure we would just bomb them. In the end both were made to looking like shrieking Cassandras—and it’s a fiasco? A fiasco is when you say someone crossed a red line, invade that country, and then it turns out then didn’t cross that line. A fiasco is not when you use the threat of force to get something diplomatically good.

These inside baseball guys think they know a blunder when they see it but they really have no idea even when the evidence is staring them in the face. It’s also why Bush got away with so much. The writers could write him like a character in a novel that we would like, like all of the sociopaths in our favorite shows.

Wake the fuck up. This is real.

Fail

Listen, no matter how much the VSPs warn us the government shutdown and debt ceiling are still very abstract things for most folks and the brinksmanship over them both has now been regularized.

For anyone not locked in the right-wing noise machine, they know that all of this crying wold over obamacare is just that. Calling anything a job-killer after Wall Street nuked the economy is just ironic. Also, Republicans who usually understand the “I got mine” mentality quite well seem to fail to get it in this case. If people who have jobs get to keep them and get good health benefits they aren’t going to care about a few saps getting cut down to 25 hours—not that that is going to happen in anything other than spite cases.

The Republicans tried everything on this. Stalling until Ted Kennedy died. Mitt Romney, the Supreme Court. They failed. It’s going to be the law, it’s going to work well enough and they know it. Why stake all of their credibility on this when they know in their heart of hearts it will work?

I think this shows that Obamacare was probably the best we could have gotten politically. Those on the left that shamed Obama for “not even trying” to get single payer should see that perhaps even the maximum of what was politically possible was exceeded, depending on how you view the Supreme Court decision’s ex ante likelihood.

I think this whole thing will die with a whimper.

Anti-strike arguments were not just anti-strike

There are those like John McCain who want to blow up everything, everywhere, all the time. And while McCain seems reliable in that regard, he certainly can’t lead his party on this or much of anything, so in the end, he’s just another senator who goes on Sunday talk shows all the time.

This site has been talking about Syria for a long, long time. Since the beginning, I’ve never really said I had a solution. Everyone who has been an expert for the last two weeks has been repeatedly sounding a few key themes:

  • Intervention will make it worse
  • There’s no evidence anything will happen
  • We aren’t the world’s policeman
  • This is just like Iraq

But these arguments are mostly not just against using military force, they are against caring at all. They are sounding the isolationist note that is always part of the American music, which is now a “good old days” fantasy pure and simple. The idea that any kind of intervention will only make things worse involves the same measure of foresight that is denied to people who say it will when neither side can ever be sure.

The argument that there’s no evidence, which showed up on lefty and righty sites at the same time, is simply false. Doctors Without Borders, Human Rights Watch, and if you’re not into do-gooder NGOs, the French and US governments all believe there is evidence. Did Doctors Without Borders say there were nukes in Iraq? I don’t think so. Evidence alone is not proof, and what constitutes “proof” varies between people.

What’s interesting and well documented is that government-sponsored atrocities seem to require more than the normal measure of proof. To this day, there seems to be a “some say” aspect to the Armenian genocide. It wasn’t really until the US Army marched into Germany that people started to accept the reports coming from refugees about the death camps. It wasn’t until after the fact that people like Noam Chomsky, supposedly a champion of human rights, stopped dismissing the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge as fantasies reported at “third or fourth hand.”

All of these arguments were present in the days when the press was first reporting about Cambodia, Rwanda, Yugoslavia, and, yes, when Saddam gassed the Kurds. They are also eerily similar to the denial, evidence manipulation, and basic nonchalance ascribed to the humanitarian crisis in Iraq after our invasion of the place.

In the end, despite the press narrative, I think we’re going to look back and just see the results (if they stand): Syria gives up its chemical weapons, the US didn’t fire a shot, and the Syrians can get back to their civil war which, according to both right and left, no one can do anything about.

That sounds like pretty effective foreign policy to me. Yet, somehow, this is all the same as Iraq where the threat of force was really just a promise and no amount of evidence that there as no WMD in Iraq was ever going to stop Bush’s vendetta war fueled by America’s bloodlust at the time.

The left should take solace in the fact that the polls showed people against the military use, that they were skeptical of it. That wasn’t the case 11 years ago. Have we learned? Not enough, but some things.