Dec 07 2012

Weekly Digest – 12/07/12

Our weekly edition is a nationally syndicated one-hour digest of the best of our daily coverage.

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This week on Uprising:

* What Medicare and Social Security Face in the “Fiscal Cliff” Talks
* Florida Case of Murdered Black Teen, Jordan Davis, Has Echoes of Trayvon Martin
* A Report from Bradley Manning’s Trial
* Stand Up Comic W. Kamau Bell On Politics, His One Man Comedy Show, And His TV Gig

* * *

What Medicare and Social Security Face in the “Fiscal Cliff” Talks

Republican House Majority Leader John Boehner announced to the press on Friday that there had been no progress on the so-called fiscal cliff talks with President Obama. Both major parties have dug in their heels with Democrats holding staunch on tax hikes for the rich, with Republicans refusing to give in.

However, in recent days, there is some indication that Republican resolve may be crumbling. Boehner removed four conservative members of various budget-related committees in a move that many are speculating is may signal a potential shift.

Most observers agree that any deal that is reached, is likely to come in the last possible hours before the deadline. Meanwhile, the New York Times’ Paul Krugman describes the “fiscal cliff” as more of an “austerity bomb.” Former Labor Secretary under Clinton, Robert Reich suggests that the President ought to let the deadline pass and then address individual problematic tax hikes at a later date. Dave Johnson at the Campaign for America’s Future has surmised that the hysteria surrounding the negotiations is beginning to follow Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine script – a scare tactic used to push forward controversial policy.

The unfolding political theater has led to what many are calling a “game of chicken” between Republicans and Democrats, with both sides allowing for only minor policy changes.

The President’s plan, according to the Wall Street Journal, includes $1.6 trillion in tax revenues, $50 billion in stimulus, a one year hold on defense and domestic program cuts and $400 billion in savings from Medicare and other social safety net programs.

GUEST: Mattea Kramer, senior research analyst at the National Priorities Project and lead author of the new book “A People’s Guide to the Federal Budget.”

Florida Case of Murdered Black Teen, Jordan Davis, Has Echoes of Trayvon Martin

Seventeen year old African American student Jordan Russell Davis was gunned down two weeks ago as he sat in a car outside a convenience store in Jacksonville Florida listening to music with his friends. The shooter, Michael Dunn a 45 year-old gun collector and software engineer, fired at least eight shots into the car after admonishing the teenagers about the volume of their music.

Dunn fled the scene after the assault and police found no weapons in the car or in the surrounding area. Jordan Davis’ father, Ron Davis stated, “They were just kids…They have never been in trouble. The kids had no weapon; they had no drugs in the car.”

Dunn who claimed to have felt threatened when one of the car’s occupants brandished a shot gun is using the Stand Your Ground law in his defense. This same defense was used to justify the slaying of 17 year old Trayvon Martin who was also killed in Florida this past February. The Trayvon Martin shooting provoked national outrage over the laws.

Jordan Davis’ case is once again putting a spotlight on the controversial ‘Stand Your Ground Laws’ which are on the books in twenty states. The law was originally crafted by the National Rifle Association or NRA and introduced to the American Legislative Exchange Council or ALEC who pushed it as a “model bill.” The Florida version of the law passed in 2005. While the legislation provides no clear definition of what constitutes a threat, it allows people to use deadly force if they feel threatened regardless of whether they can safely leave the scene.

Florida Governor Rick Scott instituted a six month task force to assess the Stand Your Ground Law after the Trayvon Martin Case. The task force, comprised partially of people who had originally drafted the law, did not institute any substantial reforms despite data which has clearly shown substantial impact on racial minorities.

GUEST: Mychal Denzel Smith, writer and social commentator whose work on race, social justice, politics, feminism, and black male identity has appeared online for the Guardian, The Nation, Al Jazeera English, The Atlantic, The Root, and other publications.

Click here to read Mychal Denzel Smith’s Guardian article about Jordan Davis.

A Report from Bradley Manning’s Trial

Bradley Manning’s “unlawful pretrial punishment” hearing continued this past week, following six days of testimonies including from Manning himself a week before.

Focusing on Manning’s time in the Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia, the lengthy testimonies have pushed the official trial’s start date to March 2013 with six additional pretrial hearings scheduled over the next two weeks. During these pre-trial hearings the government needs to prove that there was a “legitimate government objective” to justify Manning’s designation as a maximum custody detainee.

According to military legal analysts, Manning’s defense has “a very low threshold” to prove how the young soldier was mistreated during his days of pretrial punishment in Quantico – Manning’s lawyers are requesting a 10-1 credit for each day spent in confinement.

Most of the days of Manning’s incarceration were spent on “suicide watch, a high security designation that the government claimed was for Manning’s own good. A trove of 600 emails has revealed that military psychiatrists disagreed with the assessment but their recommendations were ignored by the officers in charge.

Furthermore, the accounts heard thus far indicate that the intense security around Manning may have been ordered from high-level commanding officers. According to Kevin Gosztola, reporting for FireDogLake.com, Lieutenant General George Flynn, the Quantico field base commander, rarely saw the weekly reports of Manning’s treatment and instead concerned himself with staying ahead of the “disinformation campaign” in the media.

GUEST: Kevin Gosztola, a reporter for FireDogLake.com, covering the trial of Bradley Manning, and co-author of “Truth & Consequences: The U.S. vs. Bradley Manning”

Stand Up Comic W. Kamau Bell On Politics, His One Man Comedy Show, And His TV Gig

Stand up comedian turned TV host W. Kamau Bell is on a national tour with his latest one-man show The Kamau Mau Uprising. Bell started his career in the San Francisco Bay area, and has gained national recognition for his new half hour show, executive produced by Chris Rock called Totally Biased on FX, which was just renewed for a second season.

Kamau Bell’s earlier acclaimed work was a one man comedy show called The W. Kamau Bell Curve: Ending Racism in About an Hour. He has made a documentary called ‘Laughter Against the Machine,’ released two comedy albums, co-hosts a pod-cast called The Field Negro Guide to Arts & Culture, and blogs at the San Francisco Weekly under the title, “Kamau’s Komedy Korner.” W. Kamau Bell also serves on the Board of Directors of the Applied Research Center, the racial justice think tank that publishes Colorlines.com.

Kamau Bell was noted by Comedy Central as the first person to tell the very first joke about Barack Obama all the way back in 2005, noting how his name alone would be too tough for voters to swallow.

Inspired by the incendiary style of Bill Hicks, Bell pulls no punches in his punch lines about race relations interweaving his own experiences with social and political commentary on his weekly show and his stand up act.

Margaret Cho has said, “W. Kamau Bell is the most important guy doing comedy right now. He’s got the most astute, hilarious and completely righteous material going and he’s going to be a legend in his own lifetime like Richard Pryor and Lenny Bruce. Think Bill Hicks but slightly taller.”

Kamau Bell now joins me in studio.

GUEST: W. Kamau Bell, host of Totally Biased on the FX Channel, whose one man standup comedy show is called The Kamau Mau Uprising

Click here to watch W. Kamau Bell’s show on FX.

Sonali’s Subversive Thought for the Day:

“Common sense and a sense of humor are the same thing, moving at different speeds. A sense of humor is just common sense, dancing.” — William James

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