Paul Greenberg

It's normally the most news-fallow week of the year, the one between Christmas and New Year's. Consider it the best of Christmas gifts. Along with Congress' not being in session. No doubt its members are enjoying their time away, but surely not as much as the country is.

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Everybody can use a break this time of year, but there's only so much cheer a body can take. And this week -- call it National Bicarbonate of Soda Week -- gives us all a chance to pause between festivities and regroup. Silence and solitude are seldom so welcome, or refreshing. As a friend said on looking over all the upcoming events on her calendar: "There's too much going on." Her comment comes back every time I pick up the morning paper.

This week's news vacuum tends to be filled by commentators who may have nothing much to say but still have a deadline to meet. I understand. That blank computer screen can stare you down like a cobra. I'm old enough to remember when it was a blank sheet of typewriter paper. Technology changes; slow news weeks don't. Like show business, commentary must go on, even when there's little news to comment on.

The seasonal rhythm of the news is echoed in the rhythm of the newspaper business or, as a friend of mine used to call it, the newspaper dodge. Heck, it beats working.

Most weeks are hectic, filled to overflowing with the latest vanity-of-vanities that demands attention for all of 30 seconds. If that long. But with nothing much happening, what's a subject-starved commentator to do?

Why, turn out a year-end, of course, looking back over 2009. There's a riskier and therefore more engaging approach to take at year's end: Make a few predictions about the year to come, confident that by next December 31st, no one will remember the ones that didn't pan out. As for the ones that prove prescient, the commentator can relied on to remind us. (Those of us in the columnizing trade have never been overly burdened by a sense of modesty.)

Drew Pearson, who was even better known than Glenn Beck in his Trumanesque times, used to end his radio program by making his Predictions of Things to Come! ("79 percent accurate!" Or was it 84 percent? Memory grows furtive. Whatever it was, the factoid was impressive to adolescent minds of all ages.) I can't remember a single one of Swami Pearson's predictions now, but, always ahead of the game, he had written a column even before the results of the presidential election of 1948 were in. It was about who would be in Thomas E. Dewey's cabinet.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.