How Low Can You Go?


Five mistakes in a single sentence must be some kind of record
for America's greatest newspaper. On August 17, in an article
about the new White House roles of Sidney Blumenthal and Paul
Begala ("Clinton Looks for Inspiration From the Left"),
the New York Times quoted the New Republic as saying
about Blumenthal, "A beat is just an assignment but a slut
is who you've become maybe."

The next day the Times admitted the following:

  1. The statement had not appeared in the New Republic.
  2. The statement was not a reference to Blumenthal.
  3. The source of the statement was, in fact, Blumenthal himself.
  4. The statement comes from a work of fiction written by Blumenthal—it
    is a line in a play, spoken by a reporter bemoaning his own career.
  5. The word "slut" was actually "slot."

What does the Times say when it has twisted a man's own
words into an insult supposedly directed at him? It says there
was an "editing error." No apology necessary.

As if this weren't bad enough, the same day the Times made
these mistakes it also carried a story about the Drudge Report,
a gossip sheet on the Internet, written by Matthew Drudge. The
focus of the story was Drudge's admission that he published a
totally fabricated charge against a new White House employee other
than Sidney Blumenthal. The charge, according to Drudge, came
from "top GOP operatives." "I think I've been had,"
Drudge said to the Washington Post—yet another in the great
tradition of aggressors who portray themselves as victims.

Thus does the rising drudge abide by a simple credo: Malice toward
all, charity for none—except for himself.

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You remember the great virtue of the flat tax. It was supposed
to simplify the federal tax system, make compliance easier, and
prevent Congress from creating loopholes that could be manipulated
by the powerful.

Now along comes the tax legislation of 1997, approved by many
of the same conservatives in Congress who have called for the
flat tax. The 1997 legislation, however, makes the federal income
tax much more complicated, increases paperwork requirements for
taxpayers, and creates lots of loopholes that the powerful can

The single biggest giveaway is the reduction of the tax rate on
capital gains. Back in 1986, Congress cut tax rates across the
board but created a single rate for capital gains and ordinary
income. The result was indeed a flatter tax system, less susceptible
to elaborate tax avoidance schemes. In contrast, the 1997 tax
legislation goes in the opposite direction and restores many of
the old incentives for tax manipulation.

And yet, in a triumph of political inconsistency, the 1997 tax
legislation becomes one more argument in favor of the flat tax.
By making the internal revenue code even more complicated, the
new law shows how necessary the flat tax is! Like sex offenders
who voluntarily plead for castration, flat taxers in Congress
can call for radical surgery to stop them from ever again voting
for similar legislation. Take away our power to make loopholes,
say the great loophole-makers of 1997. But, in the meantime, re-elect
us because of the loopholes we created specially for you.

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