- The Washington Times - Friday, January 10, 2003

Now, the poets
The anti-war brigades in Europe have a new ally: the British poet laureate. To be fair, Andrew Motion is not against war against Saddam as such. He simply believes that there has to be irrefutable evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Saddam's Iraq before we take any action. A few hundred inspectors have to find definitive proof of stockpiles of nerve gas, botulism and so on before any war is permissible. A truly weak but at least vaguely defensible position. But then he goes further. It's conceivable that someone would hold this view while still acknowledging the good faith of the opposing argument: that the burden of proof lies on Saddam not the West and that, given his record, Saddam's inadequate declaration of WMDs is a good enough casus belli. But no. Motion a poet officially sanctioned by the Queen has to go the whole hog. Here's his little poem in full:
They read good books, and quote, but never learn
a language other than the scream of rocket-burn.
Our straighter talk is drowned but ironclad:
elections, money, empire, oil and Dad.
Huh? Well I guess he's aware that those who are pro-war can be educated, something that Susan Sontag and Joan Didion seem oblivious to. But elections? We just had them. Dad? Puhlease. Money? It's going to cost a small fortune. Empire? Well, leave it to a British poet laureate to defend that one.

Begala award nominee
"So now the U.S. Senate is going to be led by the cat world's answer to Dr. Mengele! A man who can do that is capable of any infamy. Can't you just picture this oily Tennessean cooing and clucking over the tabbies and tortoiseshells at the shelter, solemnly wagging his head as the shelter staff counseled him on proper cat procedures, then dragging the poor creatures into his lab and torturing them to death?" Alexander Cockburn on Bill Frist, at workingforchange.com.

Who's really biased?
The Website Lying in Ponds does an annual survey of who, among the major newspaper columnists, is the most reflexively, viscerally partisan. The New York Times' Paul Krugman's columns won first prize for the second year in a row. Here's the summary:
"After evaluating all 2,129 columns written by our 37 pundits in 2002, it's time to draw some conclusions. I've stressed all along that Lying in Ponds is attempting to make a distinction between ordinary party preference (there's nothing wrong with being opinionated or having a political ideology) and excessive partisanship ("blind, prejudiced, and unreasoning allegiance"). While it's obviously difficult to draw a definitive line, the top three pundits in the rankings clearly revealed excessive partisanship by the remarkable consistency of their extremely one-sided commentary throughout the year. The New York Times' Paul Krugman took the partisanship lead early and lapped the field. In a year in which Mr. Krugman generated lots of buzz and won an award, his 18:1 ratio of negative to positive Republican references and 99 columns without a single substantive deviation from the party line were unmatched in the Lying in Ponds portion of the punditocracy."
So much for an impartial economist. To be fair, the Wall Street Journal was cited as by far the most partisan in its op-ed pages. And The Washington Post was the most ideologically diverse.

Quote of the week
"I would never commit British troops to a war I thought was wrong or unnecessary. But the price of influence is that we do not leave the U.S. to face the tricky issues alone. By tricky, I mean the ones which people wish weren't there, don't want to deal with and, if I can put it a little pejoratively, know the US should confront, but want the luxury of criticizing them for it." British prime minister, Tony Blair, who is under enormous domestic pressure for supporting the war to disarm Saddam Hussein.

Blogging arrives
Great news from the American Dialect Society. The word "blog" was the group's second favorite coinage of 2002, beaten only by "weapons of mass destruction." "Blog" is a word derived from the term "web-log," meaning a daily or even hourly writing log on the Internet. Blogs perhaps reached their most influential moment in 2002, when they spearheaded the campaign to hold Trent Lott responsible for his comments at Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday party. "Blog" was also voted "most likely to succeed." I'll say.


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