ComPost Live with Alexandra Petri

Mar 26, 2013

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Ask not for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for whom.

Howdy all! Let's roll!

If Bill Gates wants to create the New Generation condom, I first would suggest he not call it the Next Generation condom. The Next Generation is what the condom is supposed to prevent. Also, what happens if a Next Generation condom doesn't work? Does one shut it down and turn it back on?

Yeah, I agree! It sends the wrong message, somehow.

You can call tech support, but invariably they just ask if it's plugged in, then sigh and inquire you have any teenagers in the house they can talk to.

Last night, ABC News, which I know is an affiliate of the Washington Post, reported that tickets for seats for the gay marriage debate at the Supreme Court were selling for up to $3,000 apiece. How can this be? How can it be legal for the SC to sell seats?

You know, I'm not sure. I would assume the Supreme Court wouldn't do anything flagrantly illegal, although I suppose they could rule it was legal later using Jurisprudence. In general you can walk into an oral argument for free. I think, if I'm reading the stories correctly, it's not that they're paying $3000 -- or $6000 -- so much as that's what we're estimating the value of the time they've spent in the sleet and snow waiting for a general admission seat must be.

Is it true that users of Gates' condoms would experience too many Blue Screens of Pregnancy?

There's the Blue Screen joke I was looking for yesterday! +90 for you!

get together and come up with the best item they can possibly think of to write about and then pay someone to do it? Because prosecuting a groundhog for not predicting the correct timing of spring seems a little too convinient to me. Especially with the whole death penalty thing going on. On the other hand, if you want to sue him in civil court, I think that misrepresenting the start of spring weather might be a tort. Or a torte. But you will need a private attorney to bring the action, not the local prosecutor. Or perhaps a baker. I'm still thinking about it.

Mm, torte.

Well, given the headlines, you could argue that actually the whole world is currently run by a gaggle of humor writers drunk with power.

Did you see the official response is that Punxsatawny Phil correctly made his predictions but that his predictions have been misinterpreted? I am serious. Even a groundhog has spin. When he stated that will be an early spring, it all depends upon your definition of "an".

I was in favor of letting him live until he released that spin! No more. He must be made an example.

I don't think the Supremes are selling tickets -- at least not yet. I heard a report on NPR this morning about people paying up to $30/hr for others to hold their place in line for today's oral argument. Given that the line supposedly began forming on Thursday, we'd be pretty close to 100 hours as of 10:00 a.m. today, which is possibly where the $3,000 came from.

That makes sense!

I think, much like with Congressional hearings, you can pay some schlub to wait for hours (days!) in line holding your spot. So perhaps line holders are selling their services for $3,000? If so I'm giving up my law degree to become a high paid line holder.

Well, if the previous poster is right, that's just $30 an hour, and you have to hang out with the WBC. But sure, go for it?

Don't forget the $1,000 per ticket "convenience fee."


Actually, speaking of expensive inconvenience, did you see the money TurboTax has been pouring into its lobbying efforts to forestall return-free filing?

Actually, if you wanted to be legal about it, you'd sue the guys in top hats who parade the groundhog around. Phil himself doesn't do anything - he neither makes any representation nor induces anyone to do anything. It's his handlers who are at fault for any misrepresentations, negligent or otherwise.

Right. He's just sitting there wondering at these large beings in strange hats and why they're asking him for guidance. But then again suing them would get pretty serious, pretty quickly.

For $3000, I want a rainbow light show on the white columns of the Supreme Court.

I'm sure that can be arranged! If the Kennedy Center can do it...

Owls are smart. They live to be 50 years old. They are wise in the ways of the world. They are creatures of the night, like the slow loris and the blogger. They say "Who!" They never say, "Whom! Whom!" Wait, I need a question.. . .Owls are smart, are not they?

Ever since I've been wading into the slough of grammar sticklerdom, I live in constant fear of solecisms, and based on their word choice, these owls seem to be animated by the same thing. If you never say "whom," you can't use it incorrectly! Of course you can also misuse "who." I guess all their friends are in the nominative.

I've often thought that not even the Republicans would filibuster Diana Ross if she were appointed to the Supreme Court.

How can you?

I suppose one could stage a very respectful talk-singing filibuster that consisted entirely of Supremes covers, but even then...

If I have to pay a lot of money to see the Supreme Court, I just bet the t-shirts and souvenirs are also expensive.

And I'm sure someone has been assiduously making novelty shirts that say something like I STOOD OUTSIDE THE SUPREME COURT FOR FIVE DAYS AND ALL I GOT WAS THIS LOUSY ORAL ARGUMENT ON MARRIAGE EQUALITY.

I am sorry, but ABC needed to make that a little clearer last night. People were paying people to stand in line or took time off work. That makes more sense. That brings me to another point. Given that we have had several high-stakes issues before the SC lately, what do you think about finally allowing cameras in the courtroom? Shouldn't taxpayers everywhere be allowed to watch the hearings as we do with Congress on C-SPAN?

I am so in favor of courtroom cameras. The hearings are actually fun and entertaining, especially when you contrast them with, say, Casey Anthony. They're both important and impressive, and I think more of the majesty of the court would be preserved by letting us witness them than by cloistering them away where the only sound bites that scuttle out are "And then Justice Thomas made a slightly confusing joke about Harvard, breaking his multi-year silence."

It is so easy to use "who" and "whom" correctly! People are just lazy. Use the he/him method to decide which word is correct. if you can use "he" = who If you can use "him" = whom So, knowing this, saying "You hate who?" would be "You hate he" whereas if you said "you hate whom?" would correctly be "you hate him". Easypeasy

Ah, but then you get into the hot water of subordinate clauses. I think "I will give it to whoever runs the Supreme Court line-waiting operation" is correct, but the handy "replace-with-he/him" falls through there.

You can tell the chatter that giving up a law career to stand in line for Supreme Court and Congressional hearings would be a demotion. Most of the attendees aren't news orgs, they're law firms and lobbyists who send their paralegals to go stand in line and grab a seat so that the partners can then stroll in 15 minutes before the hearing starts, gladhand their way through the crowd, then summarily dismiss you like the peon that you are. Not that I'm bitter about my first job in DC or anything....

No, no, of course not.

And for the rest of us, there's the audio, which should be released around 1, and which everyone is anticipating as eagerly as they didn't anticipate "John Carter."

I think that I might pay someone to stand in line for me to get the Easter candy on sale Monday.

This may be heresy, but why is the Easter candy so coveted? Peeps seem like the result of plastic surgery on a marshmallow gone hideously awry, the chocolate rabbits intimidate me, and jelly beans are so Reagan era. Now if only there were some candy bacon...

You'd need to hire Barry White or the Rev. Al Green to soulfully talk over the background music. Now that's a filibuster of which I'd approve!


... you and your friend are outside the SC building and have a difference of opinion followed by a spirited exchange of views, can you truthfully say that you have argued in front of the Supreme Court?


Don't see why not. Possibly if you timed it right you could bump into one of the justices and add to the story that you were 'cross questioned by Justice Ginsburg,' omitting the fact that the cross question was 'Don't you see I'm WALKING here?'

Giant facsimiles of the justices could substitute for the racing presidents at Nationals Park. Scalia would lose because he would stop to hector the others on Abner Doubleday originalism.

Again, I would watch this!

And after they put Taft in the racing lineup, it's only a matter of time! I hope he keeps snidely alluding to his Court tenure, or at the very least has repeated Bull-Moose-related showdowns with TR.

That marriage-related oral arguments were a Supreme Court level issue...

I've gotten approximately 23 versions of this joke in the chat so far, sidenote.

No! It is still easy! him + he = whoever him + him = whomever examples - "Give it to whoever you like" would be "give it to him, he wants it" "we will give it to whomever we like" would be "give it to him, we like him" So, again, just lazy. . .

I think you mean "give it to whoever wants it" in the first example, right? Apologies if I'm misreading!

Owls are actually quite stupid. Their eyes are so big that they don't leave much room for their brains. If we were owls, our eyes would be the size of oranges and weigh 5 pounds each! If you're looking for smart birds, go the way of the crow/raven.

That is a frighteningly vivid image.

But then again, it's not the size of your brain, it's how useful your brain is for making oral arguments.

Because it is candy. Even jelly beans and peeps. Besides, it is officially licensed. If I buy myself candy on March 26 I'm being indulgent. If I eat candy on March 31, even if I have to buy it for myself, I am honoring Jesus of Nazareth and the glorious tradition of Christianity, even if I am not Christian. (Although I think Peeps aren't kosher. Literally.)


That would be just like Peeps.

But Weingarten's chat never works for me. I can not ask questions nor see his responses. But yours always works.

Hmm. Have you tried being purer in heart?

Marked for life. He proved bad grammar makes great writing and the newspaper's proved him write ever since.

Later, Will Rogers took up the baton of grammatically imprecise writing, and... yes, the rule was still correct. 

Line-work is love. The luck held. Three turns of the wheel made me twenty pounds richer. One good turn deserves another. Wheel in the sky keeps turning.

And on this note, I'm going to scuttle away in a moment! Possibly if I clear out all the people complaining about the comparative invisibility of Gene's chat will have better luck? (This is not, I realize, a conjecture based in any fact whatsoever.)

When I grew up in central NY, we never held much faith in the groundhog. Six more weeks from Feb 2 WAS an early spring.... we were all just hoping we could open the pool sometime before 4th of July....

Really, it's all in your perspective.

I thought that the topics for humorous articles were set by the Supreme Pontiff of Humor, Dave Barry. Since he hasn't won the presidency, which would be a step down, anyway.

He's been Supreme Pontiff of Humor ("Joke Pope") for as long as I can remember. It was an onerous selection process, consisting of locking a group of Humor Cardinals in the Sistine Chapel and seeing who was first to comment that the smoke made it look like the building was farting.

Punxsutawney's prognosticator will be executed by crucifixion on Gobbler's Knob. On the third day he will rise from the dead, put on fake bunny ears and then leave eggs for children to find. His successor on Earth will be St. Peter Rabbit, according to the Book of Beatrix.

Later differences on the true nature of Farmer McGregor will lead to schisms and medieval stewings, but for the moment we give thanks for the miacle and the excuse to show up in tremendous hats.

Rules for the government of the operating department stop train wrecks. The marriage was a train wreck. She married an investor instead of an operator. Don't do that again, for my own good for anyone's good. Take care of yourself.

Have a great week!

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In This Chat
Alexandra Petri
Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost, a lighter take on the news and issues of the day, and she contributes to the Post editorial page. Her work has appeared in venues such as The Huffington Post, The Week,,, Collegehumor, and The Harvard Crimson. She has appeared on Jeopardy!, Showbiz Tonight and Canadian radio, and she has performed at Boston's Comedy Studio and Comedy Connection. She would love to be on your TV show, radio show, Daily Show, HBO special, or to be an honored guest (or regular guest) at your Bar Mitzvah. She is the author of two books (unpublished, but contact her!), two screenplays, three plays, one musical, and one memoir (Ernest Hemingway's A Moveable Feast.)
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