Open Thread March 11, 2010

Open Thread

I’m recovering from speaking at Beloit College last night (it was awesome), so consider this an open thread!

Discuss what you will.

Need a topic?

What the %&$*# is happening on Lost? I’m obsessed with the show and yet I’m still so damn confused about everything.

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  • Alec

    That last episode made me feel bad for Ben. 🙁

    I don’t know if Jacob had something to do with the dynamite stick not blowing up or if that was just a coincidence… I tend to think the latter.

    I wonder why Charles Widmore is back.

    Is Kate evil now?!

  • Mel

    Agreeing with Alec on Ben. Poor guy. Is anyone else getting sick of Shepherd? Just me?

  • nankay

    And most importantly, where the heck are Rose and Bernard????

  • Unfortunately, I never saw the first episode of “Lost,” so the couple of later episodes I watched were utterly incomprehensivle to me.
    It looks kind of interesting, but would someone be kind enough to give me a quick summary of who those people are, how they got there, and why they can’t leave?
    I’d like to become a fan of the show, but I’m too lazy to rent the videos of the opening episode.

  • The many many characters are resolving into distinct factions: the lot who are now at the beach, as well as a straggler or two still in the jungle are aligned under the Light (i.e. the faction formerly headed by Jacob) while a couple more have been turned to the Dark under the Man in Black (in Locke’s form) along with one PC hostage. Meanwhile, Widmore is making one final advance on the Island. It’s gearing up for a final showdown (which we know is final because it’s the last season and for no other reason).

    That’s what the %&$*# is happening on Lost.

  • Alec

    @ littlejohn

    Oh, dear. Trying to give a quick summary of Lost would be like trying to unicycle up the Eiffel Tower while cooking a steak dinner.

    Oh yeah, what happened to that new commenting system?

  • Bud

    I gave up on Lost as soon as I saw the “flash forwards.” Guh.

  • You know how in the first seasons they had ‘flashbacks’ and then in the later seasons they did ‘flash-forwards’ – well I read an interview with the cast somewhere that these latest ‘flashes’ are ‘flash-sideways’ – sort of a parallel view of things- which wasn’t obvious at all to me, and if I hadn’t read that interview I’d be even more confused than I am now, which is pretty damn confused.

    @mel- yeah, I’m with you. I’ve been sick of Shepard for awhile now.

  • Lost, Shmost. Soap opera writ obscure, and not worth enduring the marginal acting.

    Aside from “House, M.D.” (occasionally), television is such a wasteland these days.

  • Sunioc

    @littlejohn, it doesn’t make any more sense if you’ve seen the first couple episodes, I’m afraid. The whole point of the show is that it keeps piling on more questions and never gives any answers. About halfway through the 4th season I gave up, and decided I’d just watch the rest when the series was over. It’s too confusing otherwise.

  • Thegoodman

    2nd that Givsgoodemail

    House, M.D. is one of the best shows ever.
    The Office is also a guaranteed laugh.

  • Alexrkr7

    What exactly are you confused about? Right now there are parallel worlds going on. One where the plane crashes again and one where it never happened because none of it ever happened (notice how the parallel Ben left the island when he was young). How it will come back together I don’t know.

    @Givesgoodemail what’s the point of commenting in a thread specifically about ‘Lost’ that people who watch ‘Lost’ are enjoying drivel? Go back to reading your precious books! *rolls eyes*

  • Darwin’s Dagger

    Some people think the Flash Sideways are the outcome of the resolution of some final conflict on the Island between the Jacobites and the UnLockeans. That we are seeing the characters live the life they finally will deserve. Who knows? The timelines may merge because maybe Jacob really intended for the new timeline to be created by the Losties so that he could recruit his replacement out of an alternate reality. I’m guessing that would be David Shepherd, Jack’s son from the alternate reality, because in the bible David, a shepherd, was chosen by God to be King.

  • ATL-Apostate

    When it comes to Lost, I am, you know, so lost. I totally don’t get it.

    House and The Office, however, are easy to follow and funny as hell.

  • Tobias

    Just a Beloit college student popping in to say that your talk was excellent. The spiritual life director criticized you for being unfair to Christians, but when I talked to some friends afterward they all agreed that you had given a very positive portrayal.

    One question: Do you know anything about the different reactions to religion by ex-theists (particularly Christians) rather than atheists who were raised without a religion? I’m curious because as a queer ex-theist I am constantly being reminded of the abuses that Christian perpetuate on people like me, and it becomes very difficult for me to even be in the same room as a Christian. Do you know any studies that have been done on the differences?

    Thank you for coming to speak with us!

  • I rather suspect, Dagger, that the Flashsideways timeline is the result of Jughead’s detonation at the end of last season. Just as Faraday suspected, it did cause the events of the original timeline to not happen, but the catch was that it didn’t send them back to the altered timeline — after all, how could it? The Jughead event split the timeline in the 70s, and those present traveled forwards along their original timeline to meet their contemporaries in 2007, while the characters continued on their lives unmolested by the Swan anomaly in the altered timeline.

  • @Alexrkr7: “@Givesgoodemail what’s the point of commenting in a thread specifically about ‘Lost’ that people who watch ‘Lost’ are enjoying drivel?”

    Gee, I could swear that Hemant labeled this post “Open Thread”. That indicates open discussions.

    I love complex storylines, as long as the acting’s good and the story isn’t just complex for complex’s sake. The original The Prisoner was superb; the AMC remake was grotesquely bad despite McKellen’s work.

    @Thegoodman–I can’t abide “The Office”, but then I’ve been accused of being a humorless s-o-b.

  • Richard Wade

    “Lost” lost me near the end of the first season, when I finally decided that the writers don’t have any overall storyline to follow. I think they’re just making it up as they go along, sitting around a table smoking pot saying, “Hey how about we have one guy go into the jungle and find this weird thing? Yeah, cool.”
    They’re as lost as their characters.

  • Television…I’ve heard of it.

  • I am so sick of Lost. I wouldn’t watch it if it weren’t the last season. I think it jumped the shark way back in Season 3. The characters are ridiculous in how they go along with just about anything without asking a single important question, especially last season. C’mon, they lived with the Dharma Initiative for three years and NEVER thought to ask a SINGLE QUESTION about how it got there and what it’s purpose really was? Get real! When they did ask questions, they were totally lame. It made the characters completely unbelievable. And now it’s just weird for the sake of being weird. 🙂

  • Alexius

    On a non-Lost subject: Glad to see that apparently you made it back in one piece, especially if the roads were as bad south of Beloit as they were north of it. It was a great talk, and thank you for making the drive out for it.

    Say, you mentioned something about blogs or books concerning the experiences of young atheists, and I’m starting to think that those would actually make really good resources. Where could I find those, again? Or if anyone else knows, as well; I’m looking for accounts of being either a closeted or outed atheist in high school, or thereabouts.

  • Alexrkr7

    @Givesgoodemail you’re so very right, you’re totally allowed to be a d*#k. And I’m totally allowed to call you on it. I love open discussions.

    @Laura, I thought we knew why they were there, to study the island and it’s unusual properties. Did I miss something?

  • Revyloution

    Im with you Richard Wade. There was never enough there to catch my attention.

    How about a subject change. Someone tell my why my position on immigration is wrong.

    I think we should have an additional tax form, a supplement to the normal W-4. Call it the WI-4. Anyone who cannot provide proof of citizenship would fill out a WI-4. The tax rate for those using the WI-4 would be tied to the nations unemployment rate. As unemployment in the US goes up, the tax rate increases. This would provide revenue for unemployment benefits, as well as placing a disincentive to people seeking to immigrate here for work. Conversely, when the demand for labor is high, and there are not enough workers, we could lower the rate to encourage workers from other countries.

    Second, I would place an additional tax on wire transfers between countries (we already tax them). The tax rate would be tied to the number of expatriates using services in the US. For example, if a Ukrainian lived here without being a citizen or naturalized alien, and he uses public health services, then the cost of that health care would be taxed on all wire transfers to his nation of origin. (Countries in Europe already do this)

    I think my plan recognizes that we need immigrant labor, but we cannot just have an open border. Putting economic pressures instead of punitive ones would be much more effective, as well as generating additional revenue streams.

  • tomath

    This is a very complex work of fiction that I judge on only four points: (1) how likeable the characters are, (2) are the events that take place interesting even if unlikely or far from real live?, (3) Am I strongly curious to find out what happens next?, and (4) Does it force-feed the idea of good vs. evil as if we should believe in it? My assessment gives high points to (1) thru (3) but, with this last season, it looks like the G vs. E theme has been the objective all along and I find that disappointing. I’ll watch this show till the end but I hope it all turns out to be a fabulous dream of some new and unexpected character (a child, for example?) waking up in awe of what his/her brain has just created.

  • tomath

    I meant to say G vs. E as supernatural forces or characters.

  • TXatheist

    I heard back from the Gazette article author who appeared to think atheism is on the decline………
    TXatheist aka Mark:

    Thanks for sending this link. That is wonderful to see, and thank you for your organization’s hard work and devotion to the poor. I know a majority of atheists spend their time doing good in the world, rather than picking fights with people of other beliefs. Unfortunately, so many of the high-profile athiest organizations are in the business of confrontation. I’m sure they represent a minority of atheists, just as the high-profile Christian hypocrite televangelists represent a minoirty of Christians, the murderous terrorists represent a tiny minority of Muslims. I will look for an opportunity in coming weeks to point out some of the good works done in the name of atheism. Thanks again for sending this along.

    Wayne Laugesen

    editorial page editor

    The Gazette

    From: M S []
    Sent: Thursday, March 11, 2010 4:21 AM
    To: Wayne Laugesen
    Cc: Joy Harper; Joel Millman;; Jeff Thomas
    Subject: Texas atheists

    There was no email for Wayne on the website so I am sure one of you can make sure he gets this.
    Here is another group of atheists in Texas just north of San Antonio who have been doing something for 6 months, every month.
    Mark Johnson
    co-founder AHH

  • Darwin’s Dagger

    I hope it all turns out to be a fabulous dream of some new and unexpected character (a child, for example?) waking up in awe of what his/her brain has just created.

    They already did that show. It was called St. Elsewhere.

  • I watched one episode of Lost during the second season and got completely lost (har har har). The question that I have is this: Is it too late for me to go through, watch everything, and get really into it? Is it really that good? This isn’t a sarcastic or skeptical question, by the way.

  • mike

    Has anyone seen what’s going on in VA? I can’t make sense of it. First the Gov. of VA, Bob Mcdonnell stripped discrimination protections from gays. Then the VA Attorney General implemented the Gov’s action throughout state institutions. Now this… Reference:

    So is the VA Gov. recanting his discrimination policy or what? He speaks as if he is swinging into action to protect the gays, but he started the problem in the first place.

    What does this removing and then reinstating of discrimination protections result in? A net loss or a net gain?

    Why did the VA Gov. go through all this hassle?

    Why is VA so f(*^ing weird?

  • I watched Lost “religiously” for the first two seasons, then kind of lost interest after they killed off too many of the characters I was kind-of vested in. I haven’t watched it at all for the last two seasons.

  • Has anyone seen what’s going on in VA

    My take on it is that it is a disagreement within the VA Republican party on how public their anti-gay discrimination should be. The Attorney General wants to make it public and get the colleges and such to remove any claims of not discriminating from their marketing literature. The governor (who may have higher office aspirations) wants to play it more moderate and perhaps let the colleges keep their anti-discrimination language even though he wouldn’t support any extra laws protecting gays. They both want the same end-game, just the governor is more sly about it. The Attorney General is more “in your face” about it.

  • Revyloution

    TXatheist, he’s going to have trouble reporting on charities that work in the name of atheism. Most atheists don’t do their work ‘for atheism’. They do it because its the right thing.

    Richard Branson, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet have three things in common. They are incredibly charitable, they are amazingly wealthy, and they don’t believe in any gods. You won’t find one of the charities they donate to that works in the name of godlessness. Atheists are charitable just because it’s the right thing to do.


    No takers on my immigration reform idea?

  • chegarty — It’s not too late! But you have to start at the beginning and watch them all sequentially. I think it’s an awesome show and I think it’s heading toward a decent conclusion. But part of the fun is theorizing about what’s going on. You’d miss out on some of that!

    Tobias — I’d say most of the atheist commenters/bloggers on this site and others are people who left religion — not “second generation atheists.”

  • TXatheist

    Revy, yes, for years now there are constant reports of what the churches are doing for the homeless so we decided to do the atheist giveaways and include the atheist label. As far as immigration…I’ll bite. In all seriousness one of the big problems is the workers don’t pay income taxes, only sales tax on purchases, and are usually paid in cash because the employer saves money on cheap labor and not having to pay uncle sam unemployment insurance for that employee or fica, or SS. I agree with your tax on wires but hope for a exemption for military personnel. Now, I’m going to ask a serious question…why do we “need” immigrant labor? If it’s for cheaper goods I disagree because I think we should unionize labor to provide a standard living wage by region, benefits and rights.

  • Alexkr, yes, but details, I want details! When they do answer something, it’s usually a half answer that doesn’t fully satisfy. How did they get there? What were the looking for EXACTLY? Who discovered it? What was Ben’s role in all of it? What all does he know that he isn’t sharing and after everything they’ve been through, why don’t they ASK HIM? Bits and pieces, we have, without fully satisfying answers. Kind of like the Bible . . . 😉

  • Revyloution

    TX, Im an employer, and employ immigrants and natives. During the boom times, I couldn’t get enough warm bodies to fill the positions, so I started hiring people who I knew were probably here illegally. I didn’t know for sure, because they all provided the correct documentation for work in the US. Were they forged? Perhaps, but I don’t think its my job as an employer to be an immigration cop.

    You said most immigrants don’t pay taxes? Where did you hear that? The statistics I read say that most use someone else’s Social Security number. All my employees pay taxes, always have always will. Most employers I know aren’t looking for the cheapest labor, they are looking for the guy who will show up and do the job. I don’t discriminate pay by the color of skin.

    Many immigrants work for large meat packing plants or large agricultural plants. Those employers do not want to get caught paying wages without taxes, so they just accept the false ID’s and those people pay taxes. They get bit on it too, since they aren’t eligible for returns.

    Bottom line, we have 21 million people who are in the US working. Total unemployment in the US is currently 12.5M. So if we got rid of all the illegal labor in the US, we would be dreadfully short handed for awhile.

  • Thanks for braving the fog to speak at Beloit College last night, Hemant.

    I really enjoyed your stories of internet fame/flame and the intersection of theism and non-theism. Your comments about politics and atheism hit home so hard I gasped (like I’d been holding my breath).

    Not sure what the magic answer is except time, patience and perseverance.

    Hard to believe it’s 2010 and we still debate evolution, and consider ghost stories and afterlife hunts serious news.

  • Jim

    Revyloution: You’re ideas are interesting. I’m definitely in support of working with II’s instead of the prickish tendency that Americans have of ‘kicking them out’ or in any way treating them as lesser human beings. A person’s nation of origin doesn’t make them any more or less a human being born on this planet owned by all.

  • TXatheist

    I respectfully disagree, just pay more and you’ll get more applicants. I heard that from the guy who hires illegals to do the actually mowing for his mowing business while he sits in the truck and reads. I think we are both glad to hear skin color doesn’t equal a higher or lower wage. Meat packing in states like texas have been downgraded to the cheapest labor available and horrible conditions for the cows.
    Bottom line, employers who can’t pay enough to provide union benefits and wages are not wanted in the US. There is no shortage of workers, just a shortage of employers willing to pay a standard living wage.

  • Revyloution

    TX, I think I showed good solid evidence that we have a labor shortage without the current group of immigrants. We have only 12.5 million (only, I cant believe I wrote that) and over 21 million immigrants. If they all left, we would have a serious labor shortage.

    During the boom times, my labor costs shot up faster than the housing prices. If I have to pay more for labor, work longer hours and make less money, what am I doing it all for? I’d be better off just looking for a regular job.

    As for the lawn care guy, Ive seen idiots like him in my industry. Those guys do ok when the economy is good, but are the first to fail during any down time. I agree that there is quite a bit of abuse of immigrants, that’s what I like about my system. They would be working legally, and have the benefits of laws to protect them. As it stands now, immigrants who are working under false documents are pressured to not file work injury claims and other abuses. The US needs to recognize the huge population of people working here and give them some sort of legal status.

    The real problem is the US demand for lots of cheep food and goods. Americans aren’t willing to pay the real costs of things. If we can get the populace of the US more quality conscious, instead of price conscious it would go a long way to improving working conditions for all of us.

  • Jeff Purser

    House? I have a love/hate relationship with that damn show.

    I love the cast, hate the scripts.

    The first season, plots were based on very real and very scary diagnostic puzzles.

    Now, House and his crew are just friggin’ incompetent for approximately 37-38 minutes of the 40-41 minute story arc (I watch it with commercials edited out) and then VOILA! some great insight or accident or unrelated comment leads Dr House to the correct answer. Meanwhile, the patient has been poked, prodded, carved up and/or poisoned – and has had his/her hospital bill run to astronomical heights.

    I’ve also had a real problem with the overall way the show has dealt with Dr House’s vicodin/chronic pain issue but that’s an issue for another day.

  • TXatheist

    After hearing you’d have to work longer hours and make less money this sounds good to me…”I’d be better off just looking for a regular job.”

    And I think we’d be better off as a country if we didn’t infer it’s ok that more than 37 M Americans are unemployed or underemployed and receiving less than a standard living wage or taken a paycut from a previous job. It reminds me of Michael Moore interviewing Nike CEO, Phil Knight, where Knight says Americans won’t make shoes and Michael Moore says they will for a standard living wage. Nike shoes were going for $50-100 bucks but the problem is paying management more than 200k a year, not the US factory worker making the shoe in Detroit $15 an hour.

    You put in a higher bid cause the home builders need homes built. That’s why I like my way because you would have to settle for less and pay regular employees a standard living wage by region with benefits and companies that don’t will go away. The US needs to heavily fine and imprison for a 5 year period per offense employers/owners that are caught using illegals. I agree there is a problem but my view is that we overpay bosses and underpay workers to get cheap goods/services.

  • Revyloution

    Specifically what is your way of raising wages in the US, just a higher minimum wage?

    Comparing the owners of small companies to people like Knight is a bit of a misnomer. Most small business owners make just a little bit more than their employees. I make about 15% more than my foreman, and he makes about 10% more than the crew. And when I say ‘about 15%’ I mean that sometimes they make more than I do. Sometimes I don’t get a check at all. Sometimes I make a killing. I’m take on all the risk of my business, where my employees get a paycheck every two weeks.

    If I just raised the wages of my employees, then I would make less than my foreman. If I raised my prices 10%, I wouldn’t get any jobs. Thats capitalism.

    I think it would be far better to ensure basic needs like housing, health care, and a social safety net by taxing the wealthy with a progressive tax system like we had from 1940 to 1960.

    You suggest using punitive measures for hiring illegal immigrants. Have you thought about the logistics of a police force looking for 21 million people in 50 states? Also, would you punish employers who hire employees with false identification? At what point does an employer become an immigration police officer? This issue isn’t as black and white as most people want to paint it.

  • Laura

    I have a lot of unanswered questions.

    Who is David’s mother?
    Are alterna-Jin and alterna-Sun unmarried?
    Why doesn’t alterna-Ben wait to blackmail Reynolds after Alex gets into Yale? Isn’t he supposed to be smart?
    Why is alterna-Rousseau working two jobs? If she isn’t a scientist, how did she meet Alex’s father?
    Why did Kate follow Claire and Sayid?
    What the hell is Widmore (or, as I call him, Caleb Nichol) up to?
    Why is Kate’s name on the dial but not in the cave?
    Why did the mirror show Jack’s childhood home, and not the place where Jacob touched him (the hospital hallway)?
    If nothing can blow up that will cause Richard to die, how did Jughead detonate?

    (ps – I’m calling Widmore “Caleb Nichol,” but I’m calling Alex “Thirteen.”)

  • TXatheist

    Yes, higher pay by state/region for adults over 18. It’s the same thing in generality because it’s also a misnomer to think a construction owner and a international business CEO are equal with regards to business strategies. And your skill set is really that much different than a foreman? Not 15% more so I don’t find the need to pay you more. You get to appreciate workers by paying them for their labor every two weeks.
    “If I just raised the wages of my employees, then I would make less than my foreman. If I raised my prices 10%, I wouldn’t get any jobs. That’s capitalism.” Again, you would get a regular job as you noted, that’s capitalism, and could be a foreman or regular worker and still make the same as now almost. Home companies understand this and that’s why they don’t hire teams of workers but let people bid, because it’s a race to the bottom in what they have to pay and they avoid any responsibility of insuring workers are legal. I completely agree with you that we need to bring back the tax rates of yesteryear.
    I certainly wouldn’t expect INS/Border patrol to get 21 M in a week but don’t forget Minute Men would have a new goal especially if we had a very small financial reward that the business owner paid in his court fee/fines. One warning to the owner and then either close down or go to jail. At the point the boss hires the worker he becomes a citizen of the US and takes very cautious steps to make sure he doesn’t go to jail for trying to find cheap/illegal labor. I agree it’s not black or white but being accountable for your US workers and their livelihood is important.
    Revy, we are not going to see eye to eye on this and I request we agree to disagree.

  • Revyloution

    Sounds good TX, Good talk. Im glad to understand where you’re coming from.

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