lying in ponds
The absurdity of partisanship
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About Lying in Ponds

Lying in Ponds is an attempt to encourage vigorous, independent commentary in the American punditocracy by quantifying and analyzing partisanship. Lying in Ponds tries to draw a fundamental distinction between ordinary party preference and excessive partisanship. The presence of an excessive partisan bias transforms journalism into advertising, too distorted and unreliable to be useful in any serious political debate. Political parties are a healthy, essential part of American democracy; excessive partisanship is not. The methods used here are an attempt to quantify only partisanship, and are not intended as a more general guide to the quality of a columnist. There are other important traits such as accuracy, relevance, fairness, civility and style, but Lying in Ponds makes no attempt to measure them.

Lying in Ponds currently tracks the Democratic and Republican biases of a selection of regular political columnists from various sources, including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal's OpinionJournal, and the Washington Post.


partisan
a firm adherent to a party, faction, cause, or person; especially: one exhibiting blind, prejudiced, and unreasoning allegiance

The title is an allusion to a line from the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail. King Arthur had been explaining to "Dennis" and another peasant that he is their king because the Lady of the Lake presented him with the sword Excalibur. Dennis, who lives in an "anarcho-syndicalist commune", doesn't buy that explanation (text from from a Monty Python fan web site):

DENNIS:
       Listen. Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no
       basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power
       derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical
       aquatic ceremony. 
ARTHUR:
       Be quiet!
DENNIS:
       Well, but you can't expect to wield supreme executive power
       just 'cause some watery tart threw a sword at you! 
ARTHUR:
       Shut up!
DENNIS:
       I mean, if I went 'round saying I was an emperor just because
       some moistened bint had lobbed a scimitar at me, they'd put me
       away! 
ARTHUR:
       Shut up, will you? Shut up!
DENNIS:
       Ah, now we see the violence inherent in the system.
ARTHUR:
       Shut up!
DENNIS:
       Oh! Come and see the violence inherent in the system! Help!
       Help! I'm being repressed! 

Like the divine right of kings or primogeniture, partisanship is no basis for a system of government. With apologies to Dave Barry , I think that "Farcical Aquatic Ceremony" would be a great name for a rock band.

Lying in Ponds is the creation of Ken Waight, a research meteorologist who lives in Cary, North Carolina with his wonderful wife and three awesome children. His cheerful (although frequently asleep-on-the-job) assistant is Silas "The One-Eyed Wonder Dog". The Waight household, while mercifully low in partisanship, never suffers from a lack of absurdity.

Since Lying in Ponds, makes a big deal of undisclosed biases, it's only fair to set a good example. Ken Waight first registered to vote in the early 1980's as a Republican. Since then he has lived in several states, registering as either a Republican or an independent. For the last seven years, he's been registered in North Carolina as "Unaffiliated" (independent) and has been an election official in his home precinct, something he sees as a way to be involved in a non-partisan way.

Neither Ken nor his wife have ever worked for any candidates or campaigns, or have made any political contributions. None of his known relatives are politicians, and his college roommates have thus far resisted the urge to run for president. His encounters with national politicians have been very limited: he once waved at Jimmy Carter's motorcade at an Air Force base in Germany, once shook hands with Senator Al Simpson at a University of Wyoming football game, once took a couple of shaky pictures of Mike Dukakis at an Alabama campaign stop, once heard Governor Bill Clinton make some remarks during a July 4th program at a church in North Little Rock, once watched Al Gore's motorcade go by on the campus of North Carolina State University, and once walked right past Sonny Bono on a sidewalk outside the Capitol building.