Books, documentaries, films, TED Talks, audio clips, short videos


George Orwell

Written in 1948, 1984 was George Orwell’s chilling prophecy about the future. And while 1984 has come and gone, his dystopian vision of a government that will do anything to control the narrative is timelier than ever…

The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.”Written in 1948, 1984 was George Orwell’s chilling prophecy about the future. And while 1984 has come and gone, his dystopian vision of a government that will do anything to control the narrative is timelier than ever…

The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.

Al Franken, Giant of the Senate
– Al Franken

In this excellent, insightful memoir, comedian turned senator Franken recalls his unlikely path to public service. He was raised in a middle-class family in a Minneapolis suburb, tried to launch his comedy career while still an undergraduate at Harvard University, and found success when he landed a gig in 1975 as one of the original script writers on Saturday Night Live. He and his colleagues, some of them fueled by alcohol and drugs, indulged in late-night writing sessions that made the show’s sketches part of the cultural lexicon. The heart of this memoir is Franken’s decision to move back to Minnesota from New York City to run for the U.S. Senate against the Republican incumbent, Norm Coleman. Franken’s decision seemed rather quixotic at first, and the 2008 campaign was notable for GOP denunciations of Franken’s satirical writings as well as his wife’s public disclosure of her struggles with alcoholism. Coleman initially won by 725 votes, which triggered an automatic recount that gave Franken the victory by 312 votes. Due to repeated legal challenges from Coleman, however, Franken wasn’t seated until July 2009. Not surprisingly, Franken is quite a raconteur, and he tells the story of his remarkable life and times with a sense of humor that is always irreverent and often self-deprecating. One thing is no joke, however: he’s very serious about his job representing the people of Minnesota.

liberalListen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People?
– Thomas Frank

This is a scathing look at the failures of liberal politics, a book that helps explain the shocking outcome of the 2016 presidential election

It is a widespread belief among liberals that if only Democrats can continue to dominate national elections, if only those awful Republicans are beaten into submission, the country will be on the right course.

But this is to fundamentally misunderstand the modern Democratic Party. Drawing on years of research and first-hand reporting, Frank points out that the Democrats have done little to advance traditional liberal goals: expanding opportunity, fighting for social justice, and ensuring that workers get a fair deal. Indeed, they have scarcely dented the free-market consensus at all. This is not for lack of opportunity: Democrats have occupied the White House for sixteen of the last twenty-four years, and yet the decline of the middle class has only accelerated. Wall Street gets its bailouts, wages keep falling, and the free-trade deals keep coming.

On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century
Timothy Snyder

The Founding Fathers tried to protect us from the threat they knew, the tyranny that overcame ancient democracy. Today, our political order faces new threats, not unlike the totalitarianism of the twentieth century. We are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism.  Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience.

The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation
Drew Weston

The Political Brain is a groundbreaking investigation into the role of emotion in determining the political life of the nation. For two decades Drew Westen, professor of psychology and psychiatry at Emory University, has explored a theory of the mind that differs substantially from the more “dispassionate” notions held by most cognitive psychologists, political scientists, and economists—and Democratic campaign strategists. The idea of the mind as a cool calculator that makes decisions by weighing the evidence bears no relation to how the brain actually works. When political candidates assume voters dispassionately make decisions based on “the issues,” they lose. That’s why only one Democrat has been re-elected to the presidency since Franklin Roosevelt—and only one Republican has failed in that quest.

Requiem for the American Dream: The 10 Principles of Concentration of Wealth & Power
Noam Chomsky

In his first major book on the subject of income inequality, Noam Chomsky skewers the fundamental tenets of neoliberalism and casts a clear, cold, patient eye on the economic facts of life. What are the ten principles of concentration of wealth and power at work in America today? They’re simple enough: reduce democracy, shape ideology, redesign the economy, shift the burden onto the poor and middle classes, attack the solidarity of the people, let special interests run the regulators, engineer election results, use fear and the power of the state to keep the rabble in line, manufacture consent, marginalize the population. In Requiem for the American Dream, Chomsky devotes a chapter to each of these ten principles, and adds readings from some of the core texts that have influenced his thinking to bolster his argument.



1The One Percent
– Jamie Johnson

Available on YouTube

This 80-minute documentary focuses on the growing “wealth gap” in America, as seen through the eyes of filmmaker Jamie Johnson, a 27-year-old heir to the Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical fortune. Johnson, who cut his film teeth at NYU and made the Emmy®-nominated 2003 HBO documentary Born Rich, here sets his sights on exploring the political, moral and emotional rationale that enables a tiny percentage of Americans – the one percent – to control nearly half the wealth of the entire United States. The film Includes interviews with Nicole Buffett, Bill Gates Sr., Adnan Khashoggi, Milton Friedman, Robert Reich, Ralph Nader and other luminaries.



oronIron Jawed Angels
Ron Olson
2:03 Hours
Available on YouTube

Katja von Garnier’s sexy, exuberant tour de force tells the amazing story of fierce young suffragettes fighting for a Constitutional amendment guaranteeing women the right to vote. Headlining the stellar cast are Hilary Swank as brainy, charismatic Alice Paul, and Frances O’Connor as smart, cheeky Alice Burns – real-life women who mobilized a defiant vanguard that gave Congress a run for its money.


TED Talks

laughWhy we laugh
Sophie Scott
261,687 views; 17 minutes

Did you know that you’re 13 times more likely to laugh if you’re with somebody else than if you’re alone? Cognitive neuroscientist Sophie Scott shares this and other surprising facts about laughter in this fast-paced, action-packed and, yes, hilarious dash through the science of the topic.

under Underwater astonishments
– David Gallo
1,124,562 views; 6:01 minutes

David Gallo shows jaw-dropping footage of amazing sea creatures, including a color-shifting cuttlefish, a perfectly camouflaged octopus, and a Times Square’s worth of neon light displays from fish who live in the blackest depths of the ocean.

inspire  How great leaders inspire action
Simon Sinek
5,909,133 views; 18.34 minutes

Simon Sinek presents a simple but powerful model for how leaders inspire action, starting with a golden circle and the question “Why?” His examples include Apple, Martin Luther King, and the Wright brothers — and as a counterpoint Tivo, which (until a recent court victory that tripled its stock price) appeared to be struggling.

commonPolitical common ground in a polarized United States
– Gretchen Carlson, David Brooks
323,639 views; 47:33 minutes

How can we bridge the gap between left and right to have a wiser, more connected political conversation? Journalist Gretchen Carlson and op-ed columnist David Brooks share insights on the tensions at the heart of American politics today — and where we can find common ground. Followed by a rousing performance of “America the Beautiful” by Vy Higginsen’s Gospel Choir of Harlem.

magicA performance of “Mathemagic”
– Arthur Benjamin
8,173,384 views; 15:10 minutes

In a lively show, mathemagician Arthur Benjamin races a team of calculators to figure out 3-digit squares, solves another massive mental equation and guesses a few birthdays. How does he do it? He’ll tell you.


Short Videos

pbsPBS and NPR are ready to fight
1:54 minutes

President Trump is proposing to end all federal funding for public broadcasting. Now a budget battle is beginning, and brands like PBS and NPR say they are ready to fight — again.

If Congress supports Trump’s proposal, it would cause “the collapse of the public media system itself and the end of this essential national service,” Corporation for Public Broadcasting CEO Patricia Harrison said in a statement Thursday morning.

She emphasized that noncommercial stations offer educational shows for kids, historical documentaries, newscasts, and emergency alerts.

The federal government provides about $450 million to the corporation, known as the CPB, each year. The CPB, in turn, distributes grants to local TV and radio stations and producers of news and entertainment programming.

Some Republican politicians have been trying to strip all funding from the CPB since the 1970s. But they have never succeeded.

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