What a painful debate to watch! Where is Dennis Kucinich when you need him? At least Kucinich dared to point out how off base the “moderators” were in some of the debates he was in.

I waited impatiently during the whole first half of the debate for Barack Obama to upbraid Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos for dwelling on trivial, gotcha aspects of the campaign instead of the substantive issues that beset us all as a nation.

Several of the first questions trampled over the already well-trod issue of Reverend Wright.

The low point here was when Stephanopoulos twice asked Obama, “Does Reverend Wright love America as much as you do?”

That’s journalism?

Then they asked a question about Hillary Clinton and the Bosnia sniper gaffe.

And then to a really inane one on why Barack Obama is not wearing an American flag pin!

When his turn came up next, Stephanopoulos got out the guilt-by-association brush and asked Obama about his connections with William Ayres, formerly of the Weather Underground.

It wasn’t until about 50 minutes into the debate that Gibson got around to asking a substantive question: about Iraq. (Hillary answered first, and strongly. Obama echoed her.)

Stephanopoulos followed it up with one on Iran, in which he tried to goad Obama into taking a belligerent stance. The question was, Should an attack by Iran on Israel be seen as an attack on the United States? (Obama took the bait, and essentially said yes. Clinton went even further, urging the U.S. to extend that umbrella to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the UAE. Both insisted, ala George Bush, that they would not let Iran get nuclear weapons or aid terrorists. Wait for Bush to quote them when he bombs Tehran.)

On economics, Gibson and Stephanopoulos have been making the big bucks for too long, since they seemed to think that anyone making less than $250,000 (the top 3 percent) was in the middle class.

Stephanapoulos couldn’t believe that Hillary Clinton would raise taxes on that top group during a recession. But the point of lowering taxes during a recession is to get people who otherwise aren’t spending (people with pent-up demand) to go out and spend. The top 3 percent are already spending, and they would be more likely to save and invest their tax breaks than spend it.

Gibson, for his part, gave the standard apology for lower capital gains taxes, repeating over and over again that when the rate was brought down to 15 percent, the government took in more tax revenues than when it was at 20 percent or 28 percent, and that 100,000 million people own stock and would face a tax increase if the rate went up again.

But the fallacy there is that, first of all, the people who stand to benefit the most from extending the capital gains cut are the very rich. “In 2009, 72 percent of the benefits of extending the tax cuts would flow to households with incomes above $200,000. Nearly half — 45.3 percent — would go to households with incomes of more than $1 million,” the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities notes. “Households with incomes below $50,000 would see an average tax cut of only $11 in 2009, while those making over $1 million would receive an average tax cut of $32,000.”

And as to the effect on total tax revenues, the decrease in capital gains coincided with, but did not cause, growth in the economy. And with that growth, people made more money in the market and paid more taxes on it, as another study by the Center demonstrates. The tax cut itself did not lead to higher tax revenues.

Because of their class bias and their obsession with the flotsam and jetsam of the campaign, Gibson and Stephanopoulos didn’t even bother to ask about the following crucial issues:

Global Warming (on a day Bush made a ridiculous speech on the subject);


China and the Olympics;



The role of Saudi Arabia sending terrorists to Iraq;

Israel/Palestine (on a day when 18 Palestinians were killed, some of them children, and 3 Israeli soldiers);

Pentagon Spending;

Torture (in a week where it was revealed that Cheney and Rice, et. al, supervised torture from the White House, with Bush's approval);

Health Care;

The foreclosure crisis;

The death penalty (on a day the Supreme Court issued a lamentable decision about it).

Snug and smug on their perch high in the media tree, Gibson and Stephanopoulos were the ones who appeared aloof and elitist and condescending.

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Forty years ago the UN General Assembly passed a resolution against "hostile environmental modification techniques...

The beauty and the tragedy of everyday life in a war zone.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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