Michael Parenti: Rulers of the Planet

This triple dose of "off the cuff” radical thinker Michael Parenti does as much to show the compromises of the lecture format as much as showcase the subject’s ideas, though those ideas are pressing enough to make you forgive a certain amount of redundancy. The double-disc offers three of Parenti’s speaking engagements: disc one contains video of "Against Empire,” in which he takes aim at the imperialist logic that drives American foreign policy, and the bonus talk of "How I Became an Activist for Social Justice,” in which he relates the "synthetic” means by which he and others built their radical identities. The former is a basic primer in ideas that most of the target audience probably already knows: the empire is constantly calling itself peaceful while waging war, pretends that its mission was thrust upon it while actively pursuing it and that its ultimate motive is not people but profit. If it’s not exactly news, it’s still a bracing and well-organised return to the well, and Parenti does his best to keep things witty and well paced. The bonus is slightly less orthodox; it’s an exploration of the various events (from a youth in Great Depression Harlem to batterings at the hands of Vietnam-era cops) that inched him from indifference to the radical left. Though it loses focus by the end, it’s an interesting lesson in how people use events to define their lives and their politics. Alas, the second disc features the audio-only "Democracy vs. U.S. World Domination,” which rehashes much from the other two speeches — the need to stay general in these talks ultimately means doubling back to basics is inevitable. Still, it’s sure to whet your appetite for the speaker’s presumably more in-depth print works. (Alternative Tentacles)