Alternative Radio (www.alternativeradio.org) has a discount for their MP3 programs: normally $5 each, you can buy 20 for $50 (which equates to half price). Use the code 20for50 at checkout, and download some of the most forward-thinking talks you’ll ever hear, by some of the world’s most innovative and intelligent thinkers.
In particular, they have several separate talks by Vandana Shiva, Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, and others. I made selections based on my interests and Michael’s, but there truly is something for everyone there.
In addition, Alternative Radio is not affiliated with NPR. It gets its funding solely from public support – through donations or the purchase of transcripts, CDs, tapes, books, and MP3s. So, unlike NPR (which is funded by companies such as Archer Daniels Midland and Monsanto), AR has no corporate interests influencing their programing. So please, buy some MP3s! Not only do you get excellent programing, but you also support a valuable resource.
Here’s what I’ve got (so if there are some you want to have a copy of, let me know and we’ll work something out):
Nena Baker – The Body Toxic (2008)
More than 4 decades ago Rachel Carson, in “Silent Spring,” first warned that man-made chemicals were taking a deadly toll on birds and wildlife. Now we are recognizing that chemicals are effecting human sexual development and reproduction and can cause central nervous system diseases, cancer, and liver disease. Everyone is carrying a dizzying array of chemical contaminants, the by-products of industry that contribute to a host of health problems in ways just now being understood. These toxic substances, unknown to previous generations, accumulate in our fat, bones, blood, and organs as a consequence of womb-to-tomb exposure. Almost everything we encounter from soap to soup cans and computers to clothing contributes to a chemical load unique to each of us. Scientists refer to it as “chemical body burden.” Chemical companies would rather consumers never knew about the potential dangers their products pose.
Benjamin Barber – Runaway Capitalism (2007)
Our great leaders tell us what we already know, The economy is “sour.” But no worries. At the end of the day all will be well. Just keep on shoppin.’ Capitalism is the only game in town. Growth for growth’s sake, without any attention paid to its consequences, is producing what one Canadian writer calls “The Cancer Stage of Capitalism.” And like a cancer it will keep metastasizing until it kills its host. The economic system is predicated on constant expansion and growth. The gospel of consumerism is an unsustainable paradigm. What is required is a radical rethinking of basic assumptions. Yet virtually no politician is willing to speak the hard truth to citizens. They are tinkerers at best, suggesting cosmetic changes such as buying a hybrid car and recycling paper and glass. Other than that it’s business as usual.
Chip Berlet – Mobilizing Resentment (2003)
The rise of right-wing populism is not an overnight success story. It didn’t happen because millions of people suddenly started listening to Rush Limbaugh. And the current widespread influence of right-wing groups is not unique to this period in American history. The roots are deep and the historical trends point the way to where we are today: rightwing values have a firm grip on many mainstream political and cultural institutions. The strategies used by right-wing leaders to achieve this success are worth examining by any grassroots organizer.
Chip Berlet – Apocalypse Now: Christian Fundamentalism (2006)
Fundamentalist preachers and doctrines have for long been part of the American landscape. In recent years, starting with Billy Graham, they have moved prominently into the political arena with bromides and nostrums on domestic and foreign policy. Take Pastor John Hagee, a Texas-based evangelical. He broadcasts on radio and TV and has reportedly millions of listeners and viewers. His flock buys his many books in large numbers. He offers this sagacious advice on the Middle East to his followers: “The United States must join Israel in a preemptive military strike against Iran to fulfill God’s plans for both Israel and the West, a biblically prophesized end-time confrontation with Iran, which will lead to Rapture, Tribulation and the Second Coming of Christ.”
Praful Bidwai – India: A Million Mutinies (2008)
India: A land of enchantment. A favorite destination spot for Westerners who visit palaces in Rajasthan and attend spiritual retreats in the Himalayan foothills. Prior to the global meltdown, India’s growth rates ranked among the highest in the world. Glitzy malls and office towers dotted the landscape. Billionaire Bollywood moguls were cutting deals with Hollywood. Launching moon missions, it was being hyped as the next superpower. There’s that India but there are also other Indias. Income gaps between rich and poor escalated. The number of children suffering from malnutrition in India is nearly double that of Sub-Saharan Africa. Economically-distressed farmers are committing suicide in huge numbers. A plethora of Special Economic Zones, sometimes called, Special Exploitation Zones, have mushroomed. The upshot? A large area of the country is up in arms, literally, in resistance to unjust government policies and predatory corporations.
Lester Brown – Planetary Tipping Points (2009)
Author and critic Susan Sontag once wrote, “A permanent modern scenario: apocalypse looms, and it doesn’t occur . Apocalypse has become an event that is happening, and not happening. It may be that some of the most feared events, like those involving the irreparable ruin of the environment, have already happened. But we don’t know it yet, because the standards have changed. Or because we do not have the right indexes for measuring the catastrophe. Or simply because this is a catastrophe in slow motion.” Sontag added, “That even an apocalypse can be made to seem part of the ordinary horizon of expectation constitutes an unparalleled violence that is being done to our sense of reality, to our humanity.” It seems now we are watching the catastrophe in slow motion. We’ve got front row seats to our planet in gradual decline.
Noam Chomsky – Wars, Bailouts, & Elections (2008)
In the economic meltdown the term “in history” is routine. E.g., the biggest bailout in history, the largest bank failure in history, the greatest corporate collapse in history, and the stock market’s worst week in history. There are more in histories on the horizon because the fundamental issue is not being addressed. The so-called free market is not free. Washington has forever been intervening on behalf of corporations. Sometimes with direct cash but more often through the tax code. And don’t forget all those lucrative government contracts secured by lobbyists. Can anyone see the dots much less connect them? The political class votes for Wall Street while invoking the name of Main Street. Instead of buying toxic assets with taxpayer money why not give the money directly, at no or low-interest, to homeowners who are in danger of foreclosure?
Noam Chomsky – Iraq: The Forever War (2008)
Imperial powers have historically cooked up great reasons to sell their wars to their people. The standard litany for aggression is self-defense, freedom, liberty and democracy. The attack on Iraq was not a mistake. It was a crime. And criminals should be brought to justice. But we don’t have anyone in the political system that can utter those words. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said, “Impeachment is off the table.” And the media? Surely the watchdog of democracy won’t shy away from the truth. They’ll tell the American people the hard facts. Sorry. The press corps is more like a press corpse. The crime of the war on Iraq and its now estimated, by Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, three trillion dollar cost will hasten the demise of the United States as a world power. Will anyone be held accountable?
Ward Churchill – Fascism, The FBI, & Native Americans (1995)
Few people realize that Hitler’s genocidal policies in Europe were influenced by the U.S.’ treatment of Native Americans. An essential component of genocide is to denigrate and dehumanize the target group. Indians were defined by their conquerors as “sub-human beasts of burden.” Germany has accepted its responsibility. In North America, by contrast, no such admission has occurred. The denial of history, with few exceptions, continues. Interview.
Bruce Cockburn – Lovers in a Dangerous Time (2004)
A dangerous time indeed. We are plagued by a surge of government and corporate corruption, human rights abuses, massive natural disasters, environmental destruction and seemingly endless war. In these dangerous times, how can we channel our anger, pain and confusion into something productive? How will we remain strong? Music and art have always fueled the fires of resistance and change. Great art can unite us with a common vision. It can also allow us to escape for a moment, take a break and just enjoy the world we live in, however harsh it may be.
Jeff Cohen – The Myth of the Liberal Media (2001)
One of the central tenets of contemporary political discourse is that the media are liberal. Well-paid pundits from wealthy conservative foundations and think tanks produce a steady drumbeat alleging liberal bias. What’s curious about this view is there’s virtually no evidence to support it. The media are owned by a few large corporations. They sell audiences to other large corporations who advertise. That’s the institutional structure. Thus, the real question is, Are the media free, within their corporate framework, to allow expression of opinion outside of received wisdom?
Ronnie Cummins – Organic Food (2000)
The U.S. government claims that the food supply in this country is the safest in the world, though antibiotic-resistant bacteria in food animals and chemical residues on produce might lead some to conclude otherwise. But let’s consider genetically altered food. This technology has gone on the consumer market largely untested. Independent studies have shown an array of potentially devastating outcomes, yet the FDA has not required further testing. Every industrialized nation in the world has banned or restricted the use of genetically altered foods, but not the U.S., where there aren’t even labeling requirements. Why?
Mark Danner – Torture: Stripping Bare the Body (2009)
A former president of Haiti, once observed that political violence “strips bare the social body” allowing us “to place the stethoscope and track the real life beneath the skin.” This stripping bare produces a “moment of nudity” that presents an opportunity to place the stethoscope against the naked skin and listen to the reality beneath. The U.S. wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere have involved torture and human rights violations replete with black sites, secret prisons, extraordinary rendition, that is, kidnapping and in some instances custodial deaths all accompanied by the now infamous waterboarding, stress positions, extreme temperatures, dogs, beatings, threats and loud and incessant music. “The CIA used an alternative set of procedures,” proclaimed Bush. What? Enhanced interrogation techniques. What? Can anyone say torture? Geneva Conventions? Obama does not want to hold those responsible for crimes accountable. Why not?
Susan Douglas – Media Representation of Women (1999)
Images of women are produced in Madison Avenue advertising agencies and then refracted through the prism of media. Feel-good lines like, “You’ve come a long way baby,” and “Never underestimate the power of a woman,” mask the mixed messages which heighten feelings of inadequacy and undermine self-esteem. Young girls are particularly vulnerable and are specifically targetted. Impossible standards of beauty are constructed. You can have a career and all that, but unless you are thin as a supermodel with perfect skin, hair, eyes and thighs, you just haven’t made it. Media stereotypes abound from the unfulfilled professional, to the nurturing mother, to the scheming vixen. In recent years, feminists are breaking down conventional representations of women.
Susan Faludi – The Terror Dream (2007)
9/11 was a double hijacking. First the actual event, and then the political hijacking engineered by an assortment of neocons, theocons, chicken hawks and born-again imperialists. Within weeks Afghanistan was attacked and occupied and plans were underway to invade Iraq, even though that country had nothing to do with 9/11. America, muscular and robust, fights wars and threatens others with military action. And something was happening on the home front as well. There was a revival of so-called traditional values and gender roles. Men defend and protect and women stay home and raise kids. It was like old times. Masculinity was back. And feminism was put in its place: on its back and in the kitchen. Political theater kicked in with pseudo-macho presidents swaggering on aircraft carrier flight decks to fables about Jessica Lynch. Fairy tales replaced reality.
John Bellamy Foster – Economy, Ecology, & Empire (2009)
George Orwell once observed, “To see what is in front of your nose needs a constant struggle.” Certainly when it comes to the interrelated crises in the economy, the environment and imperialism that seems to hold true. The obvious eludes most citizens. The media divert people’s attention or simply fail to provide crucial information. And the political system? Senator Dick Durbin said, “Banks are the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. And they frankly own the place.” Our representatives are wined, dined and funded by the powerful hence legislation is crafted to serve their interests. Foreclosures, bankruptcies, and joblessness are at levels not seen since the Great Depression while money flows into endless wars and occupations. We are playing roulette with the future of our planet. Resources are being depleted at an unsustainable rate. Global warming. All things are connected.
Thomas Frank – Conservatism: Making Government Fail (2009)
Ronald Reagan led the rhetorical charge against government. It was the Reagan Revolution. Remember his 1981 inaugural address when he said, “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” Reagan ushered in the era of free market ideology, unfettered and unregulated capitalism, tax cuts for the wealthy, supply side economics and trickle down theories, The ideas of Milton Friedman and Alan Greenspan were ascendant. Their pronouncements were greeted with reverence and awe. Look around today and witness the carnage: unemployment, debt, bankruptcies, foreclosures and a hollowed out manufacturing base. Historically, conservatives use government as a convenient punching bag and rail against its unbridled evils. But when it comes to corporate subsidies and bailouts for the rich and powerful they quickly transform themselves and feed at the government trough with great appetite. The hypocrisy is impressive.
Arun Gandhi – Gandhian Civil Disobedience & Nonviolence (2006)
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi is an epic figure of the 20th century. He was dubbed “Mahatma,” great soul, by another remarkable Indian, Rabindranath Tagore. Gandhi led a unique struggle to free India from Britsih colonial rule. He decided to resist the British with, what he called, “satyagraha,” or truth force. It was based on the principles of nonviolence and the tactics of civil disobedience. Gandhi’s successful defiance of the British inspired and influenced liberation movements all over the world including Martin Luther King, Jr and the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S. Einstein said of Gandhi, “Generations to come, it may be, will scarce believe that such a one as this walked upon this earth.”
Richard Heinberg – Endless Consumption: The Party’s Over (2008)
The global financial crisis may mark the demise of the salad days of mindless shopping on multiple credit cards. The squeeze and contraction could have a positive effect. It can be seen as an opportunity for a genuine change in consumption patterns as well as recovering the concept of sacred earth, once so prevalent among Native Americans and other indigenous peoples. For too long the dominant view has seen the earth as a commodity to be exploited and to make money from. Resources, such as fresh water, are depleting at a rate that can’t be replenished, others, like oil are simply ending. How to move forward? The old paradigm of profligacy and culture of waste is simply not sustainable. We need radical new thinking and innovation. There is still time but sand is running out of the hourglass.
David Korten – From Empire to Earth Community (2006)
From the beginning of the United States the prevailing ethic was not to accommodate but to dominate. Indians were called “merciless savages” in the Declaration of Independence. They would be wiped out in great numbers and their culture destroyed. Nature was seen as wild and warranted conquest. Patterns of overconsumption and environmental degradation continue today. The U.S. has a huge war-making capacity which is linked to its rapacious appetite for resources inconveniently located in other countries. With less than 5% of world’s population, the U.S. uses about 30% of the planet’s resources. That equation is a prescription for conflict and disaster. Will we turn from empire to earth community and secure a sane and stable future or will we destroy our host like a cancer metastasizing?
Michael Pollan – The Cornification of Food (2006)
The elephant inside our food system and even beyond is corn. Its presence is pervasive and dominant. It is an integral part of industrialized agriculture and the industrialized food chain. Processed food relies heavily on corn. Take a look at any wrapper or can and see for yourself. Cows fatten up on corn. It contributes to obesity in humans. And growing it? Not so good. It consumes prodigious amounts of fossil fuel energy. And corn turns out to be a major reason why farmers in Mexico go broke and migrate to the U.S. Under NAFTA, American taxpayer subsidized corn is dumped in Mexico at below market prices. Mexican farmers can’t compete. More than two million of them have been thrown off the land.
Michael Pollan – In Defense of Food (2009)
The Time magazine cover story, The Real Cost of Cheap Food, says, “Horror stories about the food industry have long been with us ever since 1906 when Upton Sinclair’s landmark novel The Jungle exposed how America produces its meat. In the century that followed, things got much better, and in some ways much worse. Big agricultural can now produce unlimited quantities of meats and grains at remarkably cheap prices. But it does so at a high cost to the environment, animals and humans. Those hidden prices are the creeping erosion of our farmland, cages for chickens so packed that the birds can’t even raise their wings and the scary rise of antibiotic resistant bacteria among farm animals. Add to the price tag the acceleration of global warming. Our energy intensive food system uses 19% of U.S. fossil fuels, more than any other sector in the economy. Since Americans are heeding such warnings and working to transform the way the country eats.”
Eric Schlosser – Reefer Madness (2004)
Marijuana is a multi-billion dollar piece of this underground economy. Public support is growing for relaxing or eliminating the penalties against adults who smoke pot. But the Bush administration continues to push severe punishment and strict definition of marijuana as a dangerous illegal drug. Another thriving part of the underground economy in the US is the exploitation of undocumented immigrants for cheap labor. Huge agribusinesses depend on it and so do many individuals who want to save a few bucks on gardening or housekeeping.
Eric Schlosser – Fast Food Nation (2004)
Here’s the short answer to why fast food is so successful: it’s quick, cheap and tasty. Plus, you never have to leave your car. But like the reeking dumpster behind a brightly lit McDonald’s, there’s a nasty side to fast food success. It’s quick because of an assembly line kitchen that relies on low-paid, unskilled workers. It’s cheap thanks to subsidized agribusiness giants that control massive factory farms. It’s tasty because fast food is loaded with three things humans crave: sugar, salt and fatÉplus plenty of preservatives, dyes, antibiotics and growth hormones. And the drive-thru window is emblematic of the car culture and the sprawling development of American cities.
Vandana Shiva – Shakti: Feminine Power for Change (2009)
In Sanskrit it means “female creative power.” In Hindu cosmology Shakti is the divine force, manifesting to destroy demonic forces and restore balance. Humanity is facing unprecedented threats, a veritable perfect storm of dangers from climate change to water and food shortages. One-sixth of the world’s population is hungry. A quarter of all grains now grown in the U.S. end up as biofuel for cars thus adversely affecting global food supplies. While the military-industrial complex attracts some attention, the industrial agri-foods complex gets virtually none. Corporate decisions, motivated by profits, drive not just the production of food but its distribution. In this equation, the poor are left out. Maybe we all need some Shakti.
Kurt Vonnegut – In Conversation (2003)
While attending university in the mid 70s, I probably spent more time reading the novels of Kurt Vonnegut than my college texts. He was my hero, and has become a cultural icon. His observation of the destructiveness and dehumanization of the 20th century, distilled by his rich imagination and quirky view of events and their time frames, make for delightful reading and listening experiences. His irreverence is palpable, as is his disdain for Bush and the current administration. Asked by a journalist for an idea for a really scary reality TV show, Vonnegut responded, “C Students From Yale, it would stand your hair on end.” In his book Hocus Pocus, published in 1990, he wrote, “Just because some of us can read and write and do a little math, that doesn’t mean we deserve to conquer the Universe.”
Howard Zinn – Against Discouragement (2009)
It wasn’t that long ago when the United States labeled the African National Congress as a terrorist organization. Its leader, Nelson Mandela languished for years in prison. Then because of massive grassroots movement and international support through boycott and divestment, Mandela is released and South Africa frees itself from its apartheid regime. Throughout history people have overcome tremendous odds to advance the cause of justice. Take the civil rights movement. What were African Americans up against? The entire apparatus of power from the courthouse to the statehouse was controlled by segregationists. And the federal government? Asleep at the wheel. Nevertheless, blacks organized and fought back against tremendous odds. The key to the struggle was collective action. There’s an African proverb that captures that spirit, “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”