In the fourth edition of the political column FULL STOP progressive NYC based TV host and journalist Jim Morrison gives useful tips on preparing for the dark season, takes a trip to Iran and commemorates the pink slime. 

How do you prepare for winter? 

I try to ride my bike a lot more knowing it will soon get too cold…I’m baby about being cold. I can’t stand it. This year I have bunch to do around the house. I’m renovating the first floor of my place and need to get it done before it’s seriously cold out. I also have to replant a few trees in the yard into new planter boxes, which I have yet to build. I mostly start thinking immediately about how I can take the cheapest trips possible to the warmest places possible. Vieques Puerto Rico is one of my favorites. You’d think the way I talked I lived in Minnesota or Berlin or something. New York winters are pretty tame…and I grew up around here.

What’s Israel’s problem with Iran?

More like what’s Netanyahu’s problem with Iran. Plenty of Israelis are calling for a more sensible, less bellicose approach. I think it’s quite similar to the dynamic that’s always  been used in reverse by Arab, and Iranian, dictators: the use of the evil deeds an policies (whether real, part-real, exaggerated, or completely false) of the other as a distraction for the oppression you’re inflicting at home. That dynamic works both ways. Iran is an easy distraction, an easy boogeyman to distract a domestic Israeli constituency from a bankrupt policy at home.

Remaining in the Middle East – Syria suddenly turned from one of the most liberal (as much as it get liberal there) countries to a huge wildfire.  

First of all Mitt Romney literally said that Syria was Iran’s only ally and Iran’s “route to the sea.” Has this guy bothered to even look at the most basic of maps? There’s been a lot of talk about the Syrian revolution becoming more radicalized or more Islamist-influenced. And I think this is often brought up in the larger context….bogus context…of fears of Islam and it’s influence on the Arab Spring in general. It’s a dangerous and nasty theme. One I think employed to distract people from thinking or learning about the reality of the last 50 or so years where the west, us, were instrumental in installing all the dictators and their security states. The rise and influence of radical Islamic organizations occurred as blowback to this, both from their oppression by these states and their thereby achieving even more popularity and by the fact that these movements often represented the only alternatives people had, as the west, the democracies were backing the most un-democratic regimes in the name of anti-soviet cold war strategy. And the Soviets weren’t free from blame either…e.g. Syria. Of course Russia has retained its client and is Assad’s principal backer.

What’s happening in the Arab world is amazing and long-overdue. I’m no fan of religion. In fact I think radical Islam and radical Christianity and radical Judaism (and on and on and on) are all pretty much the most dangerous forces on this planet. So I have no love for any radical religious groups, and I’d rather not see my country help ANY of them at home or abroad. But I’m also for self-determination. And people electing their leaders legitimately…Islamic brotherhood or secular socialist…is a good thing.  And the constant ringing of Islamist alarm bells at the sight of any Arab movements or uprisings is as much racist (if I may use that term that broadly) as it is plain wrong. The Assad government was one of the most secular in the Arab world, but that alone doesn’t nor should it give it a free pass. There are no easy answers. I don’t think America belongs on the ground in yet another middle eastern country. But at what point can the world no longer sit by and watch Assad annihilate people fighting for freedom. Where would America be without the French?

Do you think people still remember the pink slime scandal?

You probably already know I don’t eat meat. Even I did there’s no way I’d eat ground beef. How many cows are in one hamburger? Seriously? Not to mention the crap that’s in it that’s not even meat. Sadly when it comes to meat, people have super short memories.

Have you registered to vote? Do you have friends who can’t because of the new regulations? 

Of course. I’m registered to vote in New York. Yeah, it’s as safe an Obama/Democratic state as there is, but it’s still really important. Many of these new regulations have been suspended or struck down in the last few weeks…like the scary voter ID laws in Pennsylvania. I don’t actually know anyone that is affected…but that maybe says more about the world I live in, because it doesn’t mean people aren’t affected. I just did a whole episode on voter suppression by the Republican party. It’s real. And even though much of it has been struck down, I fear a lot of damage has been done in terms of mis-information and intimidation.

Would the debate really change anyone’s opinion or is it just a great way to sell TV time? 

Big Bird. Binders. Bayonets.  I think they do matter. Certainly the first one gave Mitt Romney real momentum. Of course that momentum was cynically bought with lies and pretending to stand for things he never has and is on record as such. Hopefully not enough. It’s good to see the candidates and their ideas clash. And, there are actually no commercials during these debates, so no money is made by the broadcasters during the time. Notwithstanding that, it’s a shame, a crime really, that more candidates are not included in the debates. Maybe we could have at least one debate with the top 4 or 5….the libertarian candidate, the green party candidate. Let Americans see these alternatives. What are we afraid of?

I was struck by something at the second debate, which I attended and reported on. Adjacent to the media area and “spin alley” was this huge outdoor tent called the Anheuser Busch Hospitality Tent. It was filled with fancy catered food and several bars serving up Anheuser’s newest “small batch” cleverly labeled craft beers…..ALL FREE. Clearly they were trying to put their product in the hand of the hundreds of A-list media and politicians at the event. It was pretty gross…especially after my producer pointed out that ALL the table cloths were red. Republican red.

Who’s getting better? 

President Obama has gotten better. From the first debate to the last. Everybody knows he blew the first one. To me he seemed more frustrated at even having to deal with Romney on stage…like arguing with someone who isn’t even speaking the same language as you are. You just cant even begin to have a meaningful exchange so you just give up and check out. Of course we’ve all felt that way at some point, but we deserve better, more from the guy running to be the President of the United States. And we got it, thankfully in the last two debates. In the second, he threw Romney’s lies and pretend policy changes right back in his face. It was like he heard all the criticism and decided to show up. In the third he showed Romney to be uninformed and clearly ungrasping of foreign policy issues. Sadly there really isn’t all that much difference between them on foreign policy. Iran, Israel, the drone strikes, Afghanistan. We are ALL better served..Americans and the rest of the world….by real debates on these issues. We need to here more than the same basic position. The conflict of ideas and differing policy options yields better policy in the long run and I wasn’t seeing enough of that. To be sure, the differences are stark, especially on foreign policy. And while I certainly would like to see more third party participation and success in American politics, I’d be lying if I said there was no difference between what these two would do, especially on civil rights issues. So I’m glad Obama showed up, and got better.

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