"Pick up a newspaper anywhere in the United States, and you will be addressed by insistent strangers known generically as columnists," Karl Meyer writes in the introduction to Oxford University Press's Pundits, Poets, and Wits: an Omnibus of American Newspaper Columns. Who are these busybodies, and what have we done to deserve this? How did it happen? We have one Herbert Bayard Swope to thank for the delights of the modern opinion piece, Karl Meyer explains in Pundits, Poets and Wits. In 1921, as editor of the New York Evening World, Swope wondered why the page facing the house editorials had become a dumping ground for "book reviews, society boilerplate, and obituaries." "It occurred to me," Swope wrote, "that nothing is more interesting than opinions"—everybody has one, after all—so he "devised a method of cleaning off the page opposite the editorial, which became the most important in America… thereon I decided to print opinions, ignoring facts." Some people make New Year's resolutions; Gene Healy prefers New Year's recriminations. For five years running, he's made an annual tradition of looking back in rancor at the worst opeds produced during the 12 months previous.