Thursday, February 28, 2008

Mission Accomplished

Bush the Lesser gets hammered regularly for his failings, so I think it is only fair to credit him when he executes the duties of his office successfully. Yesterday, he honored the 2007 World Series Champion Boston Red Sox with a visit to the White House. Yes, it’s not an official presidential duty, one spelled out in the Constitution. But it’s a traditional duty, one that does hold meaning, and besides, the Constitution isn’t exactly Bush the Lesser’s strong point anyway.

At right you see the president looking up at David Ortiz, holding the World Series trophy, while Daisuke Matsuzaka looks on. You know what’s unusual about this picture? Here we have Bush the Lesser hanging out with two foreign nationals, and all of them are genuinely happy about it.

Congratulations again to the Red Sox!


This time of year is a busy one for me. High school seniors are waiting to hear back about their college applications. College seniors are sending out resumes or waiting to hear from law/medical/graduate schools. Academic job searches are in full swing. Baseball players are trying to win jobs in spring training. And then there’s tax season. Some people, in these stressful times, turn to prayer. Others, well, they try different things...

All that is a way of saying I may not have as much time to spend here in the blogworld over the next several weeks. But don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere. And I will still answer your questions and keep tabs on how Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Hussein Obama fare versus each other and John Sidney McCain III.

-- Satan

Have a question or want advice? Ask Satan is published irregularly as questions are received. Email Satan or post your question in the comments.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Wednesday Night Videos

This week seems to be one for links to video clips. Here’s a link to a show Sam Zell only wishes his media empire could match: Japanese Bikini Pie Fighting. On vibrating saddles, no less.

Best blog post of the day: CTK links a 1969 debate between Noam Chomsky and William F Buckley Jr. Do yourself a favor and watch the whole thing.

-- Satan

Have a question or want advice? Ask Satan is published irregularly as questions are received. Email Satan or post your question in the comments.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Today's Quote

Today’s quote is a very versatile phrase, a pair of words we have all used many times: “Fuck you.”

Now, I can’t cover all the uses of this phrase, so I’m going to focus on just one. No, not the way Jon Stewart used it in his commentary on Mitt Romney’s withdrawal from the Republican Primary. The recent usage I want to highlight today was by Sam Zell.

Background: Sam Zell owns the Tribune Company, which means he owns the Chicago Tribune, WGN, the Chicago Cubs, and a bunch of other newspapers as well. One of those papers is the Orlando Tribune. Zell’s “fuck you” was directed at Sara Fajardo, a journalist who works for that paper, during a Q&A session with Orlando Tribune employees. Listen to the full, unexpurgated exchange here (lower of the two video clips).

Are newspapers about journalism, about “informing the community,” to quote Fajardo? Hell, no. They’re a business. They’re about making money. Just like TV, as I wrote a couple weeks ago in reply to a question from Übermilf about Katie Couric. The bottom line is, well, the bottom line. The news that’s fit to print is the news that people want to read and will pay for, whether that’s the situation in Iraq or where to find strip clubs in Los Angeles. Journalistic ethics? Maybe they’ll help the balance sheet if they mean journalists are willing to ply their noble trade for less pay.

Now you may not like this situation. You may prefer your newspaper to contain accurate, unbiased, and complete coverage of important news issues, with a thoughtful and reasoned editorial stance. But that’s not what Fajardo thinks you want. “What readers want are puppy dogs, we also need to inform the community” is the full quote. Some respect for newspaper readership she has. Journalism is something unwanted you have to shove down the throats of the consumer? Nice. Maybe there’d be a couple of words I’d say to you, Sara Fajardo, only I think Sam Zell already did.

Of course, she’s right. Newspapers, just like TV, are largely vehicles to convey entertainment content. The comics, sports scores, John McCain’s hot lobbyist friend, who won the Oscars. If people really wanted news first and foremost that’s what the papers would have, because that’s what would sell. But it’s not. Is that Sam Zell’s fault? Do you want Sam Zell to force-feed you hard news? (Or Katie Couric? Which is scarier?) Or is it everyone’s fault? Do we want crap because we’ve been sold crap, or do we want crap because that’s what we really like?

Let’s get back to “fuck you.” Did Fajardo deserve it, for what Zell called her “journalistic arrogance?” He did seem to get pissed off, and usually he treats his employees well. He let’s them watch porn online at work, and even asks them to him know when they find good sites! He likes women, he’s been quoted as saying, “Everyone likes pussy. It’s un-American not to like pussy.” So was Zell out of line? Before you answer, there’s something the video doesn’t show: Fajardo turning her back on Zell and walking out as he answered her question.

-- Satan

Have a question or want advice? Ask Satan is published irregularly as questions are received. Email Satan or post your question in the comments.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Cost-Benefit Analysis

Over the weekend, FranIAm graced me with the award pictured on the right. My first blog award, I don’t know what to say... So instead I’ll share my internal cost-benefit analysis of what this award means to me:

1. I’m flattered. Feeding feelings of vanity, one of the seven deadly sins. Definite plus.

2. Provides an easy blog entry for today, enabling sloth, another of the seven deadly sins. Another plus.

3. Award is obviously a pyramid scheme, as each awardee is meant to bestow the same award on ten other bloggers. Flavor of corruption is reinforced by resemblence of award logo to Enron logo, as noted in update to FranIAm’s blog entry. However, pyramid scheme is poorly implemented, as links only go back one level. Overall effect is mixed. To improve the efficacy of the scheme, I track the awarding path backwards:

BAC at Yikes!
Blue Gal
Skippy the Bush Kangaroo
Moue Magazine
Mary Ann at Maryannaville
Cotojo at Life
Stacey at Real World Mom
Tim at The Inflatable Soapbox
Stacey at Real World Mom

No, that’s not a typo – it looks like there’s a loop there…

4. Alleged link to this blog put up my FranIAm actually points here, to one Suzi Riot. Neither here nor there as far as the cost/benefit analysis, but amusing.

5. Obligation incurred to pass the award along to ten other bloggers. Awkward. I started doing this – well, I really started doing this on a lark, but I’ve continued doing it primarily for the rather masturbatory purpose of my own amusement. The problem is that I don’t actually have 10 other blogs I read, and the one I do are based primarily on the fact that they’ve left comments on my blog entries. Well, excuses aside, here’s what I’ve got:

Übermilf – impetus for initially starting a blog
FranIAm – hey, other people had loops…
Distributorcap NY
Diane – though I am not sure a Lutheran minister will appreciate a link from Satan…

Hurm, that’s not many links. I’m still short five… Well, here are some completely different kinds of blogs:

Uni Watch
Baseball Prospectus Unfiltered
38 Pitches – Curt Schilling’s blog
On the Road with Pat Neshek
A Brief Message

-- Satan

Have a question or want advice? Ask Satan is published irregularly as questions are received. Email Satan or post your question it in the comments.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Ask Satan

In the comments section of last Friday’s Ask Satan, Mauigirl brought up a question of theodicy:

How can evil exist if God made everything and God is all-good?

Perhaps you can explain this in a future post!

Dear Mauigirl,

Well I could just tell you the answer, but what fun would that be? Let’s approach this question instead as an exercise in formal logic, then we can talk about the details as we go.

The question you pose has two premises (“God made everything” and “God is all-good”); it implies that an unstated conclusion (evil cannot exist) follows from the premises but is false, leading to a paradox. Logically speaking, the paradox can be resolved in one of three ways, or in a combination: either the first premise is not true, the second premise is not true, or the unstated conclusion does not follow logically from the premises. Let’s examine each of these three possibilities:

“God made everything.” Did he? This statement can be negated trivially, by simply providing a counterexample, such a “I made my own breakfast, not God.” However, that approach is really a semantic dodge, as the premise statement intends to mean that God made the universe and its contents, physical laws, etc., not that he directly controls everything within the universe.

One nontrivial contradictory statement is “God made some things, but not everything.” Per Genesis, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” Does “everything” include more than “the heaven and the earth”? For example, the planet Jupiter is not part of the earth, is it part of heaven? What about hell? It seems quite reasonable to suppose that there are things that are neither part of heaven nor earth, though the fact that Genesis does not mention their creation says nothing about who created them. More interestingly, perhaps God created heaven and earth, but not the universe – the universe being a setting in which all God’s creations were made. (Or similarly, God could have created the universe, but there could be other universes as well. They are irrelevant to this discussion unless they can affect things in this universe, though.) A related question is whether there was time before the beginning. Finally, one very interesting question in this general category is the question of how God was created. Did he create himself? Was he created by man? If God did not create himself, he did not create everything, which opens up the possibility of multiple creative agents.

Finally, there is the contradictory statement, “God made nothing,” most interesting due to its subset, “God does not exist.” That’s a question for another day – it’s a major thrust of theodicy, in fact.

Next premise: “God is all-good.” Is he? The fundamental question here is what is meant by “good.” In the context of this question “good” is taken to be the opposite of “evil.” In fact, it is not at all necessary to delve into the nature of good and evil to analyze the logic of the question, we only need the understanding that they are opposite and complementary. The primary question regarding this premise is whether good can exist or is a meaningful idea in the absence of evil. If it cannot, then for God to be all-good, there must be evil somewhere. This conclusion becomes very interesting when juxtaposed with first premise, because if evil exists, and God made everything, then God made evil, which would appear to contradict the statement that God is all-good – unless good does not require the existence of evil.

“Evil does not exist.” Does this conclusion follow logically from the premises “God made everything” and “God is all-good”? To start with, let’s accept the additional premise that good does not require the existence of evil to exist – if we do not, we’ve already assumed evil exists, so there’s not much to discuss! As such, it certainly could be the case that evil does not exist, as the all-good God could have created a universe containing no evil. (Note that we cannot argue that evil comes into existence spontaneously, as that would contract the premise that God made everything.) However, it is not necessarily the case that an all-good God would construct the universe to contain no evil. Suppose that God wishes to maximize the amount of good in the universe, but that the maximum amount of good is not achieved in a universe with zero evil. For example, relative to a universe with zero evil, what if a universe with an additional one unit of evil (whatever that means) has two additional units of good? Then it would make sense to add evil until good stopped increasing. (There could be a different metric, such as total good minus total evil instead of just total good, but that’s not the point – any non-zero-sum system in which the “good” metric is not optimized when evil equals zero has this property.) So, in fact, the conclusion does not follow from the premises.

Another view is to return to the second premise, and assume that rather than being the opposite of good, that evil is unrelated to good. However, this line of thought is not very fruitful in the context our paradox. If God is all-good and created everything, but evil is unrelated to good, then the two premises have no relevance to whether evil exists or not.

In summary, both premises can be questioned, but most importantly, the unstated conclusion is not a necessary consequence of the premises. To put the discussion in more specific terms, if God created everything, and God is all-good, God can still have created evil to give meaning to the creation of free will, in order to achieve a greater good. (The end justifies the means?)

Now, Mauigirl, since you asked me in particular, I imagine you want some insight into how things actually are instead of just an abstract discussion. First, God didn’t create everything, just some things. Second, in my experience God is not all-good, not in the sense people mean. He can be a real bastard, actually. (You can define good to be God and everything he does, of course, but then this whole discussion is completely academic.) Finally, even though the conclusion doesn’t follow from the premises, it’s not as wrong as it looks. Evil was already around, and in fact it does come about completely spontaneously, even in the areas that were created by God. He can’t keep it out. Free will just gives you the choice between the good and the evil – or more often, between the evil and the other evil.

Have fun choosing,

-- Satan

P.S. Taking off early for the weekend tomorrow, I’ll be back next week.

Ask Satan is published irregularly per questions received. Have a question for Satan? Email it to Satan or post it in the comments.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Yesterday marked the latest rounds of Presidential primaries for both the Republican and Democratic parties, with results so closely following the script that they barely seem to qualify as news. As such, in case you haven’t heard about it, McCain beat Huckabee 55% to 37% in the Wisconsin primary, and reportedly also has a big lead in whatever the hell they think they’re doing in Washington state. Since the Republicans do winner-take-all, McCain is just plowing ahead. It’s garbage time. We should be rooting to see if McCain can dunk.

Over on the other side, Obama pulled off another substantial primary victory over Clinton, beating her 58% to 41% in Wisconsin. In Hawaii, he pulled off a superficially-impressive 76%-to-24% win, but as these are caucus results for fractions of state delegates they don’t mean the same thing. Despite the sweep, Obama only picked up 18 more national delegates than Clinton, thanks to the proportional allocation the Democrats favor. That proportional allocation is exactly what ensures that this primary still has a long, long, way to go.

Or does it? Proportional allocation means that it takes a lot of victories to build a lead, but it also means it takes a long time to come back from a deficit. Procedurally, Obama only gained a little yesterday. But the perception is a string of solid wins, and by the time the next primaries roll around on March 4, Clinton won’t have won a thing in a month. Does the perception of momentum coupled with the difficulty of gaining ground and the long cycles between primary events translate into actual momentum – even though Clinton has never been further back in delegates than right on Obama’s heels?

The driving issue for primary voters is electability, or at least the polls claim so. Both candidates are from groups previously deemed unelectable, so cynically speaking perhaps we should have expected this issue to be the big one. Obama certainly looks to be leading on this ‘issue.’ Does it mean we hold our sexism more dearly than our racism? There have also been arguments that Obama is not really black – he was raised by his white mother, he’s African-American by virtue of his father actually being from African, not at all the same cultural background as Nth generation Americans descended from slaves. But those arguments came from his opponents, not from Obama. Clinton even went so far as to claim she represented the latter group’s interests better, which, well, kinda didn’t work out so well. So far nobody’s tried to claim that Clinton isn’t a woman; the closest I’ve seen is the allegation that her husband would be be the power behind the throne.

Anyway. Care about actual issues, not the horse race or electabiilty? I found an interesting page today on which Physics Today attempts to asses the positions of the remaining candidates on issues related to science. I may review it later.

-- Satan

Ask Satan will be back tomorrow, to be continued irregularly per questions received. Have a question for Satan? Email it to Satan or post it in the comments.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Ask Satan

Reader Übermilf wrote recently:

I recently learned that one of the students with whom I attended high school committed a treasonous act.

While in New York City on vacation, he visited the United Nations. He picked up a bunch of postcards from our nation's enemy state at that time, the Soviet Union, and sent them to his friends back home with the message: “The Revolution begins at midnight. It will not be televised.”

Should I report him to Homeland Security? Is there a statute of imitations on such deviant acts?

Dear Übermilf,

There is no statute of limitations for treason!

But you haven’t told the whole story. Your former classmate did not act alone. There was a second sender. One of these villains has admitted to being a practicing Muslim! As for the other, the story gets yet more sordid. I will have to change the names to protect the guilty.

Not only did he buy postcards, he bought a small Soviet flag. Back at your alma mater, he then brought that flag to a pep assembly to show off his evil ways. And then, during the National Anthem, coincident with the stirring line, “Oh say does that star-spangled banner yet wave?” he proceeded to wave the banner of the foe!

Fortunately, a righteous department head – let’s call him “Jhon Hires” – was on hand to confiscate the evil symbol. And soon, the miscreant found himself summoned to the office of the dean – let’s call him “Jaems Bonfield.”

Bonfield nobly began to lecture the young evildoer, stressing the evil that flag representing, using the finest oratorical flourish of Reagan-era Evil Empire anticommunist rhetoric. But the scoundrel would not listen. Instead, he argued that his actions were Constitutionally protected freedom of speech! What infamy! Not satisfied with that distortion, he went on to criticize expressions of school spirit! Merely because some students showed their allegiance to your school, known as “South,” by waving Confederate flags, which this rogue claimed likewise symbolized evil, the evil of slavery. Poor Bonfield was forced to retreat before these distortions, claiming that the school had cracked down on the Confederate flag displays.

It seems clear that you should bring your evidence forward to punish these criminals. Waterboarding would be too good for them. Treason is a hard crime to prove, but the postcard is the evidence. Do not be deterred by the fact that it seems obviously facetious, as everyone knows the revolution will be televised, 24/7, on CNN, FOX News, and MSNBC. Your cause is just, I am sure a coalition of the willing will step forward in solidarity.

A footnote to bring it home, Übermilf, and to highlight the need for action: the evil was more widespread. Upon returning to class, the flag-waver learned that another classmate, assuming a suspension was forthcoming, had already been organizing a walkout in protest. That organizer? Your ex-boyfriend.

May history be your judge,

-- Satan

In somewhat related news: Fidel Castro stepped down this morning. Bush the Lesser, welcoming the news, said, “The United States will help the people of Cuba realize the blessings of liberty.” Blessings? And here I thought your country held them to be inalienable rights. Well, except in the case of suspected terrorists. Or people who look like they might be.

Comments on the primaries tomorrow.

Ask Satan is published irregularly per questions received. Have a question for Satan? Email it to Satan or post it in the comments.

Monday, February 18, 2008


Took the weekend off from the blog to catch up on other projects. In the meantime FranIAm put together another Tour du Blog, in which once again she put in a link to these incoherences. (How she manages to write review articles when she has less time to blog escapes me. Maybe we can get Arlen Specter on it, it might involve technology.) I must confess that I am becoming concerned for Fran’s mental health, as she’s got me mixed in with some very heartfelt and forthright reflections on Lenten reflections and the week’s pastoral themes... Her link brought in some very interesting comments on my last post (to which I will reply soon) – thank you, Fran!

One topic discussed in a couple of the posts FranIAm linked was, very topically, the latest campus shooting, the Northern Illinois University edition. I am sure the memorial patch industry is out in full force by now, and I believe I already saw Ozzie Guillen wearing an NIU hat. Kind of a shame the lamentations and indignation doesn’t get at the root cause of these events, though. I recall a conversation after Columbine, when the prevailing meme was something like, “How could this happen here, in Littleton, cream of Denver suburbia, in such comfortable upper-middle-class surroundings? Why, our malls have all the best stores – we have Pottery Barn and Restoration Hardware!” I told a good friend that I thought they were asking entirely the wrong question. Instead of “How could this happen?”, I think the right question is, “Why doesn’t this happen more often?” Couldn’t have anything to do with the alienation of youth in this culture, locked away from society in institutions with others their own age, told it’s the best time of their lives, and instructed what to buy and how they can’t possibly aspire to be by a fully armed and operational American advertising Empire? Nah, that’s not it, it was Marilyn Manson and Doom.

In counterpoint, here’s an entertaining video on how to build Stonehenge without machines.

-- Satan

Ask Satan will be back tomorrow, to be continued irregularly per questions received. Have a question for Satan? Email it to Satan or post it in the comments.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Ask Satan

Reader FranIAm writes:

Greetings Satan,

I do have several questions for you... What keeps you going? Is it self-directed energy or is it the energy of those who follow you? Do you like being Satan? Do you have a successor? What is the best part of being Satan? What is the worst part of being Satan?


Dear FranIAm,

Wow, that’s quite a question. It’s almost like you’re requesting a manifesto! Hmm. I have generally avoided writing grand statements of purpose and the like. Most of what people think they know about me is based on the propaganda from the other side, and not entirely accurate. But that’s fine with me, for several reasons. I usually work with people one-on-one anyway, where I can simply communicate what I need to directly. More importantly, I don’t have a specific, monolithic alternative I’m endorsing; I’m really advocating that the full set of alternatives be explored. If I try to write down, “This is what Satan stands for!” I get a list of things that can contract each other, which doesn’t make for a very good manifesto.

But since you asked, let me try to give you a sense of where I’m coming from by way of a story, the story of how I got started. Actually, I’m sure you’ve heard part of it before. Now, this isn’t really what happened, which would be a much longer story, but it gets the idea across correctly; in other words, it’s true, but it’s not factual. The story starts with me and the guy you know as capital-G ‘God’ (which is actually his title, not his name, but never mind.) We used to be pretty good friends. We’d hang out, check out cool parts of the Universe, do experiments on different systems, and so forth. We wouldn’t always agree, but overall we got along great.

That all changed over one of his experiments, which was about free will. God’s contention was that he could create beings with free will, and because he’d created them and was obviously far superior to them, they would all – every one, without exception – worship him and behave as he suggested. I told him he was wrong, that with free will they’d do all kinds of different things. Some would decide to worship him, but not all of them.

So God went off and created his beings with free will – Adam and then Eve – and a nice habitrail for them, the Garden of Eden. Then he came back to me and said, “See? I made them and they’re worshipping me!” So I took a look, and yes, they were worshipping him. But the thing was, while Adam and Eve had free will, in the Garden of Eden, there weren’t actually any choices! So I went back to God and explained that to him, which led to a big argument about the nature of free will and the meaning of choice and so on.

So to make my point I went back to Eden and gave Eve a choice, which was the famous apple you’ve heard about. (Though by the way, my avatar that day was not a snake! It would have been useless to go as a snake because snakes can’t talk, so I couldn’t have talked to Eve, not to mention that snakes don’t have hands, so I couldn’t have given her the apple. My avatar that day was actually a lamia.)

I think you know the next part. When actually presented with a choice, Eve made a different choice than God wanted – and expected. God got really, really fucking pissed. He threw Adam and Eve out of Eden, and we had a huge screaming argument. That’s also when he allegedly threw me out of ‘Heaven” – which is not the way I remember it, but we were both really drunk so who knows. It’s also when I supposedly said, “Better to reign in Hell that to serve in Heav’n,” which I will stand by, though Milton was definitely not there so I have no clue how he heard it.

What happened after that was pretty interesting. Both God and I got very interested in these free-will beings he’d created, namely humans. As far as I can tell, God is basically on a huge ego trip wanting humans to worship him. For the life of me I can’t figure out what he gets out of it other than ego gratification, or else to prove me wrong if more of you worship him that don’t. He was pretty clever in picking the ‘correct’ patterns of behavior to be, in many cases, the moral ones that many people would do anyway, which gives him an edge, at least in his own terms.

My interest is really quite different. Contrary to what you’ve heard, I am not specifically interested in convincing people not to worship God, to go against his ‘correct’ behavior rules, or to act immorally. What I’m really interested in is seeing all the possibilities that can arise from free will and having choices. It is really amazing all the different situations humans can get into (or be put into), and all the different kinds of choices you can make. I don’t agree with his motives for doing so, but God really did quite a job when he made you. You’ve been able to reach some pretty impressive heights as a species by making different choices – in philosophy, in the arts, in understanding how the world works and making it work differently. But you wouldn’t have done any of that if everyone had worshipped God and followed his rules all the time. Your greatest accomplishments have often been made in times of great conflict, as a result of people making the wrong choices in moral or religious normative terms. If you want to know what I’m about in a nutshell, that last sentence may be it.

Well, FranIAm, that turned out to be a very long preface by way of getting to your questions, but hopefully now the answers will make more sense.

What keeps you going?

Humans. The range of different situations you face, how you face them, all the different decisions people make, and then how they react to the consequences.

Is it self-directed energy or is it the energy of those who follow you?

Between those two, self-directed, though I’m not sure those are the first words I’d have picked. Definitely not anything to do with followers. I’m really not interested in being worshipped, that’s the other guy.

Do you like being Satan?

Sure. Not that I have a choice, actually – humans have a lot more choice than most beings, as a consequence of the way the free will experiment was set up. (And since tweaked, heh.)

Do you have a successor?

A successor? As Satan? Unlike God, where that’s his title, Satan is actually my name. Do you have a successor as Fran?

My title is the Adversary, so in principle I suppose I could have a successor as the Adversary, but I don’t. I am eternal, but I am not immortal, which means I’ll be around unless someone kills me, which is possible. (God is also not immortal, by the way, although Nietzsche was a little premature about his death.)

What is the best part of being Satan?

Some of the truly bizarre situations humans get into sometimes, and the choices they require people to make.

What is the worst part of being Satan?

I’d have to say when people get into the same situations over and over again, and make the same decisions with the same predictable results, mostly by being stupid. I am very tired of people getting into severe credit card debt, for example.

Well, there you go, FranIAm. That was a different kind of thing for me to write, kind of fun, really. I hope you enjoy it.

May you live in interesting times,

-- Satan

Ask Satan will be published irregularly, depending on questions received. Have a question for Satan? Email it to Satan or post it in the comments.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Pitchers and Catchers Report!

Today is the first day of spring. Not literally – the vernal equinox is over a month away and the pole still angled away from the sun – but symbolically, which is far more important. Today, pitchers and catchers report to spring training for teams. The annual cycle begins anew.

In honor of this day, a quote from the 2007 American League Rookie of the Year, Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. On September 7, Orioles fireballer Daniel Cabrera threw at Pedroia immediately after balking in Coco Crisp from third, Crisp having induced the balk by starting home. Pedroia on Cabrera after the game:

The guy's an idiot. I dropped my bat. It kind of freaked me out. I was upset they took him out of the game. He's good to hit. He's 9-15. The guy sucks.

Great story about Pedroia here.

Someone scheduled a consumerist flower/chocolate/greeting card company holiday for today as well. If you’re celebrating that holiday, I have two quiz questions for you:

1.) Does your religion recognize the man for whom the holiday is named as a saint, and is his feast day on your religious calendar? If not, why are you celebrating a feast that your religion has disawoved, or never had anything to do with in the first place?

2.) Can you state one fact about the saint in question?

-- Satan

P.S. The Ask Satan scheduled for today has been deferred until tomorrow. Questions are always welcome, in the comments of any post or by email.


Democratic voters are now taking cues from a thriving corner of internet porn: young black stud sticking it to the white chick. And an older woman at that! Three more primaries in the books yesterday, Virginia, Maryland, and DC. Decisive victories for Obama in all three, giving him eight straight dominant wins in the week since Super Tuesday. Momentum is overrated in football and baseball, but in politics it’s real. Here he comes, squeeze play, it's gonna be close, here's the throw, there's the play at the plate, holy cow, I think he's gonna make it!

Stop right there. Before we go any further, this primary is still a long way from over. Clinton has too much money, too many political resources, too much skill and knowledge to go down quietly. She’s behind now, and only close due to superdelegates, but there are still a ton of delegates out there. The race slows down dramatically from here – a week until the next three contests (Wisconsin, Hawaii, Washington II) and then two weeks until the next four (Ohio, Texas, Rhode Island, Vermont). Plenty of time for things to change, and Obama’s inexperience makes him potentially vulnerable. I, for one, still believe (and hope) that Clinton will keep it interesting and go all the way.

This recent trend is pretty interesting, though. Two things are clearly different since Super Tuesday. One is just the fact that was holding his own so long – it gives him a credibility he didn’t have before. It allows the vote-your-heart types who like Obama more than Clinton to go with their feelings without guilt. And there are a lot of them: remember there are people in the Democratic party who voted for Dennis Kucinich! (And that’s without even bringing up the half-votes some of them gave Bush the Lesser to put him over the top in 2000 by voting for Nader.)

The second different since Super Tuesday is that the Republican nominee became clear, which puts the head-to-head question into sharp focus. Does Obama have a better chance of beating McCain, or does Clinton? This issue, to me, is where Obama has picked up most of his newfound edge. I think Clinton will realize it too, and adjust her strategies accordingly.

The weather forecast calls for mud. Wear goggles.

A rushed post, missing my own deadline nonetheless. Pretend it was published Wednesday... If you need more to read, see FranIAm’s mini tour of some interesting blog posts. Well worth the time – although her judgment really goes south in the last paragraph.

-- Satan

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Ask Satan

Reader Übermilf writes:

Why is Katie Couric paid so much money, when she asks such inane questions of her interview subjects?

On yesterday’s “60 Minutes,” her expert probing yielded such vital insights as Hillary Clinton uses hand sanitizer and eats hot peppers to stay healthy.

Dear Übermilf,

I believe it’s because she has nice legs. She’s paid to look good on TV and be personable so that people will watch the network-sanitized news, which allows the network to charge the most for their primary product, national advertising time. Really, she’s a bargain.

I suspect there may be a misapprehension underlying your question, namely the belief that Couric is a journalist. Once upon a time, network news anchors were in fact journalists. For example, Walter Cronkite was a journalist. But that system was a relic of the time before the networks had any real idea how to maximize advertising revenue. When there were only three networks, and they all had the same misapprehension that it was a good idea to all have real news coverage at the same time, the old system was ok. But competition from cable and satellite TV changed all that. The networks had to improve their business models to stay competitive. Part of that change was morphing TV news into light entertainment, which is what viewers really want, as measured empirically by what they really watch.

Katie Couric asks softball questions because that’s her job. Hillary Clinton is on TV being interviewed by Couric because she knows she’ll get softball questions, likely pre-vetted ones at that. That’s how the system works. That’s what makes the network money.

There was a good documentary on this subject about 20 years ago, called Broadcast News. I recommend it highly, if you haven’t seen it. (Plus I do actually feel kind of badly about my role in giving the Oscar that year to Cher over the vastly more talented Holly Hunter.)

By the way, the actual news is now on cable, hosted by Jon Stewart. But I imagine you know that – it’s probably where you saw the Katie Couric softball questions to Clinton in the first place.

-- Satan

Other news: This is awesome.

Ask Satan will be back on Thursday. Send in your questions on any topic! Email Satan or write in the comments.

Monday, February 11, 2008


Interestinger and interestinger. The primaries continue not to disappoint! Despite my endorsee John Edwards pulling out of the race a couple week ago, the Democrats have really done a lot to bring a sense of credibility back to the process this year. At their best, the presidential primaries are near the top of the American sports landscape, but sadly, recent years have been all too reminiscent of the Superbowls of the 1980s. This year’s contest is looking like the best since 1968, and while we shouldn’t expect riots or assassinations like that epic competition, this year stands very well on its own merits.

Coming out of Super Tuesday, Obama and Clinton were neck and neck on the pledged ballot scorecard, with Clinton’s sizeable lead in superdelegates making her the frontrunner. But Obama swept four states this past weekend, scoring big leads in three caucuses and the Louisiana primary. He’s now got a lead of ~60 pledged delegates and has cut Clinton’s lead in total delegates down to ~30. If the convention were today, we’d have exactly the situation I hesitated to hope for last week: Obama with the lead in delegates somebody voted for, but the party machine giving the nomination to Clinton.

Next on the ticket: tomorrow’s bouts in DC, Maryland, and Virginia, all primaries. Can Obama keep the momentum going? Will the beltway ballots boot Mrs. Bill? Tune in next time, sports fans.

Now, in other election topics: FramIAm has a post up asking people to share why they favor their candidate of choice, with Obama and Clinton apparently being the allowed choices. I was thinking of posting something there, but decided against it, for two reasons. First – as I’ve said here before – I’m not going to make endorsements, given how they’ve backfired on me in the past. (Sorry, John, sorry, Rudy.) Second, everyone seems to play so nicely over there, I’d hate to screw it up. It’s really better to offend people here on my own blog, no?

While I won’t make an endorsement, I do want to comment on something FranIAm wrote. Quoting from that entry: someone who follows Christ with great passion and deep faith finds something about Barack's Christianity unsettling. How I wish I could be clearer. I will get to the bottom of it one way or the other.

Wow. At first I was just speechless, I didn’t know how to react. Then I started jumping up and down and did my best Roscoe P. Coltrane, “I love it. I love it.” (By the way, am I alone in having Bush the Lesser remind me of Roscoe from time to time?) Fran, this is fantastic, thank you.

I mean, it’s not all that uncommon for those on the religious right to question a candidate’s Chrisitan bonafides. Happens all the time, especially if a Republican candidate seems ‘soft’ to them on the litmus tests of abortion or, in recent years, gay marriage. But someone supporting the other side of the aisle, for whom GOP candidates don’t even enter the thought process? Now that I don’t hear every day.

I say it’s fanstastic. It made my day. Who knew the turbulent discordant house-of-cards patchwork the Democratic party hopes is its base might be splintered even along lines like these? It's like a new world of opportunities has opened up before me.

-- Satan

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Book Meme

This is a book meme propagated here from FranIAm. I was not ‘tagged,’ so I will assert without justification that I need not tag anyone else.

You may find the outcome here slightly atypical.


Pick up the nearest book of 123 pages or more. (No cheating!)

Ok. It’s Introduction to Elementary Particles by David Griffiths.

Find page 123.

Find the first five sentences and read them.

Post the next 3 sentences.


But that simple observation had astonishing implications. For suppose we examine the mirror image of that same process (Fig. 4.8). The image nucleus rotates in the opposite direction; its spin points downward.

(This quote out of context is likely close to meaningless, so I will follow FranIAm’s example and add a little more information. The topic is the fact that parity is not a symmetry of our universe. In something closer to everyday English, if our universe were reflected in a mirror, the laws of physics would not be the same on the other side. Or in other words, when Alice went through the looking-glass, the world worked differently there. Some of the laws of physics were the same, some exactly opposite – and a few just slightly different in tiny ways. Every reader of Lewis Carroll knows this, of course, but it was a profound discovery when shown to be true of the real world as well, worth the 1957 Nobel Prize.)

-- Satan

Friday, February 8, 2008

Ask Satan

Reader Übermilf asks:

Do you like Mardi Gras?

It seems like your kind of thing, but it's a precursor to what must be your least favorite time of year.

What are your feelings?

Dear Übermilf,

I love Mardi Gras. A holiday based essentially on an excuse to go out and follow all your wild impulses in one big blowout? It’s a field day for me.

Lent, now, that’s an interesting time. With a lot of holidays, the original purpose has to a large extent been flipped, and I come out ahead in spades. For example, is Thanksgiving more about people being thankful for what they have, or it is about gluttony? On balance, for more people its about gluttony. Is Christmas about the birth my old debate buddy Jesus, or at least about the giving of gifts? Nope, more about consumerism now. But Lent isn’t quite so easy, being a season rather than a single event, and other than Easter itself it hasn’t been as easy to spin about.

It’s not all bad. There are some, like FranIAm, who really follow the themes of sacrifice and introspection, and in their cases my influences are a little less. At the other extreme, there are those who deliberately flaunt the whole thing, who break and mock the silly rules, generally playing the part of the Jews eating bacon cheeseburgers during Passover. For them, Lent gives me a little extra edge.

Overall it’s a wash at the extremes, but in the middle I think I win incrementally. Most Catholics follow the rules a little, but they’re just playing along. A little insincerity, a little hypocrisy, a little guilt when they realize they just ate bratwurst for dinner Friday night. The little crumblings of the soul around the edges. It’s not as flashy as Mardi Gras, but both dynamite and erosion can bring the mountain down.

Cheery, eh? Well, don’t worry about it too much. Have a cupcake!

-- Satan

Ask Satan will be back next week at lower frequency due to a shortage of questions. Send some in! Any topic welcome, not just politics, religion, and the soul trade. Email Satan or write in the comments.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Results

All the ballots and raised hands have been counted, the networks have all applied their knowledge of arcane voting procedures, and the estimated delegates have been tallied. So where are we now? Other than Karl Rove now being an election analyst, I mean?

On the Republican side, Mr. “No, I won’t sign your contract!” McCain carried over his South Carolina and Florida wins into a commanding lead. Mitt Romney pussied up and dropped out, confirming that it’s over.

In Romney's defense, he was operating under the handicap that his supporters kept holding up pictures of gloves instead of mitts. That, and he was having trouble getting around with the new asshole Jon Stewart ripped him. Maybe I should have gone ahead and publicly endorsed him, it looks like it couldn't have hurt.

At least the Democratic side remains interesting – in fact, fascinating. Clinton and Obama are in about as close to a dead heat as they could be in pledged delegates, with only Clinton’s big lead in superdelegates – the party machine’s thumb on the scale – giving Clinton a ~100 delegate edge. With Super Tuesday over, we’re in it for the long haul. Imagine all the nasty sniping we might hear! If I could hear a thing over Turd Blossom giggling, that is. Stop it!

I didn’t mention “electability” as a possible criterion on Tuesday. I wonder if that had anything to do with it.

For the first time in generations it could go all the way, we could score an open convention. Ah, the smoky rooms of yore. Riots may be a little too much to ask, but just think: what if Obama has more pledged delegates, but Clinton’s superdelegates give her the majority. Do you think we can call Warren Christopher and James Baker out of retirement again to supervise counting the later ballots?

Salivating aside, some other results: Nobody got my little trivia question from the last two days. Only CTK even tried...

The question: This year, neither party will run an incumbent or former vice president. When’s the last time that happened?

The answer: 1952, Eisenhower vs. Stevenson. (And before that, 1928, Hoover vs. Smith.)

If you’d like a history lesson:

2004 – Bush the Lesser vs. Kerry, Bush was the incumbent
2000 – Bush the Lesser vs. Gore, Gore was the sitting Vice-President
1996 – Dole vs. Clinton, Clinton was the incumbent
1992 – Bush the Greater vs. Clinton, Bush was the incumbent
1988 – Bush the Greater vs. Dukakis, Bush was the sitting Vice-President
1984 – Reagan vs. Mondale, Reagan was the incumbent and Mondale was the former Vice-President
1980 – Reagan vs. Carter, Carter was the incumbent
1976 – Ford vs. Carter, Ford was the incumbent
1972 – Nixon vs. McGovern, Nixon was the incumbent
1968 – Nixon vs. Humphrey, Nixon was the former Vice-President andHumphrey was the sitting Vice-President.
1964 – Goldwater vs. Johnson, Johnson was the incumbent
1960 – Nixon vs. Kennedy, Nixon was the sitting Vice-President
1956 – Eisenhower vs. Stevenson, Eisenhower was the incumbent
1952 – Eisenhower vs. Stevenson

-- Satan

Ask Satan will return tomorrow, but may go on hiatus or at least down in frequency next week, due to lack of questions to answer. So send me more questions! -- by email or in the comments.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Ask Satan

Today I’ll expand on replies to a couple of questions from Übermilf.

About 10 days ago she asked, “I suspect that Jim Belushi sold his soul to you, leading you to take his vastly more talented brother out of the picture AND get his television show renewed every year. Is this true?”

No, it’s not. That would be far, far too much for me to pay for Jim Belushi’s soul. I might, at the outside, get his show renewed once. You really don’t need to invoke my influence to explain why TV is bad – people put an enormous amount of crap on TV without any help from me. I think the last time I did anything along those lines was with Suddenly Susan.

Jim Belushi, that was a real shame. Like picking a fruit long before it was ripe, from my point of view.

Continuing on, last week Übermilf asked, “Also, how many musical groups have actually allied themselves with you? Many have claimed it, but is it just posturing? And, are there some that HAVEN'T made such a claim, yet in actually ARE in league with you?”

This is a little tricky to answer, because it depends what you mean by ‘allied’ and ‘in league’. If you mean they’ve traded their souls to me for long-term success and fame, not really any. The deals are usually for one big break or one hit song. But the fact is that the vast majority of groups that think they need just one big break are wrong; if that’s all they needed they’d be there already. So if you’re looking for names in this category, think one-hit wonders.

(In point of fact, though, I’ve bought many more musicians’ souls with a different kind of hit...)

If you mean that the group members are actually my minions doing my bidding, one comment: The kind of people who just do what I tell them are mostly either schizophrenic, psychotic, meglomanic, they hold high elected office, or else they are just really, really stupid. For the most part they don’t have great musical talents. (Not that all bands have musical talent.) More importantly, I just don’t see much point in putting my own resources in this direction, because, as the saying goes, why buy the cow when you get the milk for free?

See, there are plenty of bands I get because they join up for nothing. There’s really not much difference between claiming to be my ally and actually being my ally. For the most part there are no marching orders, and many ways they can do their part. Now, since there’s no contract, they can back out, and some do – but sadly there are ways out of the contracts as well. (I’ve lost some tasty souls that way – I’m still sad about Johnny Cash.) But what can you do?

Now, I suspect this wasn’t the answer you wanted; you probably want to know if Black Sabbath or Deicide are getting anything, or maybe Debbie Boone and LeAnn Rimes, I don’t know. Perhaps you were really asking about David Soul? At any rate, sorry to disappoint you.

-- Satan

P.S. No answer to my trivia question yesterday, so I’ll ask it again. This year, neither party will run an incumbent or former vice president. When’s the last time that happened?

Also, Happy Birthday to Babe Ruth.

Have other questions or want advice from Satan? You can email them to Satan or post them in the comments for this blog entry.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Super Tuesday

Today is the Big Day, when many in this country get to cast their vote in presidential primaries or caucuses. For many it’s their first meaningful primary vote, considering how the fantastic primary system we have usually picks the candidates long before most of the country has even had a chance to vote.

Here’s a quiz: When’s the last time neither major party was running their incumbent or their sitting or last vice president?

I am not making any endorsements today, not after the Edwards/Giuliani debacle last week. So you’ll all have to pick between two evils without my advice. What’s most important to you? Positions on issues? Ability to promise the world? Experience? Ability to sling cutting remarks off the cuff? Leadership? Inspirational speechifying? Integrity? Ability to compromise? Stated position on litmus-test issues reduced to binary choices by the media?

Don’t be afraid to choose the greater of two evils. Sometimes that’s the right choice.

-- Satan

P.S. Happy Birthday to Hank Aaron!

Ask Satan will return tomorrow. Questions welcome, by email or in the comments.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Ask Satan

This is a question I heard last night. “What the hell was that!”

Maybe it wasn’t actually a question, come to think of it, but I’ll answer it anyway.

In case you weren’t watching: the Giants were down 4 with 1:15 to play, third and five on their own 44. The Patriots blitzed and got to Eli Manning. Two Patriots had their hands on him. The play would all but have iced a Patriots victory and a 19-0 season.

Seconds later, Manning had somehow gotten away and thrown a pass. David Tyree, well covered by the Patriots, somehow caught the pass on his helmet for a 32-yard gain. The Giants continue downfield to a touchdown and the win.

How much is the difference between the sack and the reception worth? I can tell you.

Exactly one soul.

Yeah, I know I picked the Patriots, but it’s hard to pass up that type of opportunity.

Plus now I can still say the ’85 Bears were better.

-- Satan

Have other questions or want advice from Satan? You can email them to Satan or post them in the comments for this blog entry.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Satan’s Football Picks

Last night I had a dream that my brother had 3 tickets to the Superbowl but didn’t invite me. He called me after the game to tell me that the Patriots had lost. In the dream, though, his call woke me up because the game was played at 1:00 am Eastern time on Saturday, the Bills were the NFC Champions and had won another Superbowl a few years ago, and the game was played at the Meadowlands.

In the real world, I’m picking the Patriots. The probability that they will win is 71.8%.

(Yeah, I know, the title says “Picks” but this is only one pick. There’s only one game. You want multiple picks, you’ll just have to wait for a week with more than one game.)

-- Satan

Friday, February 1, 2008

Ask Satan

Since it seems to be Politics Week, I’ll stick with the theme.

Reader CTK writes, “Were you sad to see Tom Tancredo drop out of the race? I can't see Satan being particularly pro-Mexicans. I bet you liked him.”

Dear CTK,

Why would I have anything against Mexicans? Many of my best clients are Mexicans. You think I’m only interested in your hypocritical little country? A country founded on intellectual ideas of equality and personal rights that revels in its anti-intellectualism? A country with Constitutional separation of church and state that requires its leaders to invoke God and its citizens to swear on Bibles and pledge allegiance to God? A country built by a diversity of immigrant groups, one with a national monument inscribed, “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses,” that restricts and abuses immigrants for not following some mythical American Way? No, CTK, it’s not so. I welcome the hypocrites of all countries, not just this one.

Tom Tancredo is a fucking idiot, I have no use for him. The problem with him is he actually believes his own crap. There’s no hypocrisy there. When he says Miami is a third-world country, he really believes it’s less a part of the ‘real’ America he made up in his mind. When he wants to eliminate all immigration, he really believes that America would be better off that way. When he says Islam is “a civilization bent on destroying us,” that’s really what he thinks. When he talks about “the siren song of multiculturalism,” he doesn’t see the irony that his archetypal American has deeply multicultural roots, his own only two generations back in Italy.

Put it this way: suppose Tancredo and Rudy Giuliani each put on a show trial to deport an illegal alien. Tom Tancredo would go home and night and sleep soundly, content that he had done right. Giuliani would go home and weep in his soul, knowing the whole thing was a sham to further his career, that he’d made specific people’s lives worse, and reflecting on the struggles of his immigrant ancestors.

If you want to be the Decider you have to be able to make decisions, and you have to be able to see both sides. You have to be able to know that you’ve done wrong and be content with it. If the world is black and white to you, like it is to Tom Tancredo, you’ll be a piss-poor president.

-- Satan

Have other questions or want advice from Satan? You can email them to Satan or post them in the comments for this blog entry.