Category Archives: May-June 2012

History and the People Who Make It: Norman Markel

transcript edited by pierce butler

This is the eighth in a continuing series of transcript excerpts from the collection of the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program at the University of Florida.

Former United Faculty of Florida leader Dr. Norman Markel was interviewed by UF emeritus history professor Robert Zieger [Z] on April 20, 2009.

I was born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1929. My father drove a laundry truck, for 35 years. He was involved in organizing the Teamsters Union in Detroit. The other thing that was important in my upbringing was being raised in what was more or less a Jewish ghetto in Detroit. I remember meetings in our house with the kitchen door closed and cigar smoke coming out from under the door.

I went to public school. I had one semester in Wayne [State U] when I graduated and then I went off to be an organizer for the Zionist Youth Movement.
I organized from 1948 to 1949. I was sent to welding school in Cleveland, Ohio.

We bought a surplus army jeep with a welding machine, and we took that to Israel. All the time I was in Israel, two years, I was a welder. And when I came back [I] lucked out in that there were plenty of jobs. We are talking about 1952 now, and I started to work at Budd Wheel in Detroit, welding.

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RIP Beastie Boy

by joe courter

Artists in our corporate media culture usually keep in their place and don’t step out of line at award shows. There have been notable exceptions such as Barbara Trent and Michael Moore at the Oscars.

Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys was another, and thanks to Democracy Now! on May 7, on the occasion of his death at 47 from cancer, his 1998 statement at the Video Music Awards was reprised.

Here’s the transcript from the VMAs; rather prophetic stuff criticizing the climate of racism toward Muslims and Arabs, and the Clinton administration’s then-recent bombings of Sudan and Afghanistan.

Adam Yauch: “It’s kind of a rare opportunity that one gets to speak to this many people at once, so if you guys will forgive me, I just wanted to speak my mind on a couple things. And I think it was a real mistake that the U.S. chose to fire missiles into the Middle East. I think that was a huge mistake, and I think that it’s very important that the United States start to look towards nonviolent means of resolving conflicts, because if we [applause] — hold on, hold on, give me one second here — because if we — those bombings that took place in the Middle East were thought of as a retaliation by the terrorists. And if we thought of what we did as retaliation, certainly we’re going to find more retaliation from people in the Middle East, from terrorists specifically, I should say, because most Middle Eastern people are not terrorists. And I think that’s another thing that America really needs to think about, is our racism, racism that comes from the United States towards Muslim people and towards Arabic people. And that’s something that has to stop, and the United States has to start respecting people from the Middle East in order to find a solution to the problem that’s been building up over many years. So, I thank everyone for your patience and letting me speak my mind on that.”

Dear Mr. Econ… What happened to the American Dream?

What happened to the American Dream of a college education and home ownership?

– Anonymous Iguana Reader

Dear Reader,

Another great question from one of our readers. There is no one reason why the American Dream of a college education or home ownership is beyond the grasp of middle class U.S. citizens. Instead, a number of factors combined to push most Americans out of the marketplace for these two elements of the ideal middle class life style. In general these factors are the drastic decrease of primary sector jobs that were filled by the middle class, new jobs that not only require major pay cuts, but benefit cuts as well, wage erosion due to prices rising faster than wages, and discrimination in wages.

However, each issue has its own unique and specific additional factors.

Since the 1970s, the amount of income earned by a middle class family, and what that income can purchase has decreased like no other time in U.S. history with the exception of the Great Depression. From 1970 to 2010, the median household income in the U.S. went from about $43,800 to $49,500 in constant dollars, an increase of just over 13 percent (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics).

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If You Don’t Know, You Don’t Care – Note from the Publisher

by joe courter

I’m an admitted media junkie and probably wouldn’t be in the position of writing this if I wasn’t. But for me it goes beyond just trying to keep myself informed; I strongly believe in giving other people the tools to be more informed, too.

Back in 1977, UF Anthropology professor Dr. MJ Hardman drafted me into writing the monthly meeting announcement for the Humanist Society of Gainesville. That grew into a newsletter of sorts and was then rolled into the founding of this publication in 1986.

The early ‘90s saw the initial meetings that led to the founding of the Civic Media Center in 1993, and I was there, too, serving as its first coordinator, and still today am heavily involved as an active volunteer and Board member.

I jotted a quote from a speaker I heard on NPR last month on a piece of scrap paper I keep handy in my vehicle, which I found a couple days ago. I did not note who said it, as I was driving at the time, but I thought it captured something very basic to me and my efforts with both the Iguana and the CMC (two separate entities that share me, I remind you all). It was just seven words but it captured the heart of my motivation: “If you don’t know, you can’t care.”

We live in an information revolution of astounding proportions, and the responsibility is on each of us to pick from that vast menu the stuff we choose to put in our heads, the stuff that will shape our worldview and our interactions with the world. We still only have a limited amount of time to take in what we do, and the temptation to choose, shall we say, empty calories is great. Our mainstream culture spews a frightening array of crap at us that we internalize, as a number of surveys amply demonstrate.

This severely affects our role as informed citizens in the process of our participatory democracy. Especially now, with our political process so corrupted by corporate power, more and more people are looking to escape the bad news, and get sucked into all kinds of readily proffered distractions.

Folksinger Roy Zimmerman has a new song out which really resonated with me (find him on YouTube). Called “Hope, Struggle and Change,” in its very clever Roy way, it addresses how in 2008 we left out that middle word which is at the heart of how the process of making the world a better place happens. We need to know our history, recognize our rights and responsibilities as citizens, and do our bit.

The powers-that-be are happy to have us distracted, to not pay attention or know what’s going on, because there are a lot of us, and if we all started to care, they might not be able to just roll us over.

P.S. – Subscriptions or donations are necessary for the Iguana to continue; please show your support if you possibly can. We all really appreciate your support. Mail checks payable to the Iguana to P.O. Box 14712,
Gainesville, Fla., 32604, or visit the “About” page on our website at for more information.

Students Speak Out Against Proposed Budget Cuts to CISE at UF

Photo by Amanda Adams

In late April, the University of Florida administration proposed drastic budget cuts – $36.5 million total – to the Computer and Information Science and Engineering department (CISE), causing a wave of resistance (like the study-in in the photograph above) that brought the issue into the national spotlight. Students, faculty and others opposed to the budget cuts, which come from the Florida Legislature and are non-negotiable, called on UF to spend part of its $67 million available in reserves to solve the budget cut problem; as of press time, UF President Bernie Machen said the administration would consider using the reserves.

Elections Matter!


Dr. Martin L. King Jr. said in his “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution,” “One of the great liabilities of life is that all too many people find themselves living amid a great period of social change and yet they fail to develop the new attitudes, the new mental responses that the new situation demands. They end up sleeping through a revolution.”

Suppressing voter turnout is but the mirror image to ballot box stuffing, same effect. Unfairly drawn districts, negative advertising powered by huge corporate donations, an election campaign process that keeps many great potential public servants from running,  a news media focused on the shallow and sensational, and a right-wing talk radio industry all work to increase cynicism. These are forces that put us to sleep. People died to get the right to vote, and now we have a majority of voters sitting on their hands come election day. It is not a healthy situation.

Has Obama been a disappointment? Heck yeah. But do we give the steering wheel back to the ones who drove us into the ditch last time? Hell no! Three words: The Supreme Court. This is not a time to stay home to “send a message,” we did that in 2010; it wasn’t that the Rs came out big, it was the Ds who stayed home. I’ll take a disappointment over a disaster.

But there are other reasons to vote, and that is the power of the vote locally needs to be ready to counter the attempted Republican takeover of the Alachua County Commission. The voting in the primaries takes place August 14.

The Iguana strongly endorses Byerly, Hutchinson and Chestnut for the County Commission, and Wheeler for the District 20 State House seat, who faces a tough Primary race. You can find links to the candidates’ info through the Supervisor of Elections website.

If you’ve got the time or resources, plug in in any way you can; there are a lot of really good folks in this town who participate in the electoral campaign process regularly. And if you are a student, or a temporary resident, there’s been talk of suppressing your vote by some in the Republican legislature. You are representing the future waves of students, get registered and vote!

Selling the Fourth Estate to the Highest Bidder


It seemed odd that, at the time of the holiday season announcement, no one around here knew much about the obscure Daytona Beach firm, Halifax Media Holdings, LLC, that purchased the Gainesville Sun and 15 other papers (including the Sarasota Herald-Tribune and the Lakeland Ledger) from the New York Times.

The face, power and money behind the Halifax Media Group is arch conservative Arkansas billionaire, Warren Stephens, who, along with his brother and other family members, is believed to be worth up to $5 billion. And, as is the case with many “humble beginnings to extreme riches” stories in two generations, the family’s path to great wealth is littered with questionable actions, close calls and hardball politics.

A recent example: when Halifax bought these newspapers for $143 million, employees were given a “noncompete” agreement to sign, stating they could not work for other media companies within the following two years that were in a city with a another Halifax owned business. Yet, Halifax retained the right to fire them. Employees who didn’t sign were told they would lose their jobs. (Halifax dropped this requirement after the Poynter Institute and others questioned the legal and ethical ramifications.)

Another example: In Tampa, about 30 of former New York Times Regional Media Group employees were laid off, and given a severance only if they wouldn’t talk to the media about package details and would not make “disparaging” remarks about the company.

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Memorial Mile: More Than Just a Number — May 26-28

Memorial Mile

Photo by Mary Bahr, 2011.

“6,402 Americans dead in Iraq and Afghanistan,” reads a headline. But few of us reading the news have any concept of what that number actually means. It is an arbitrary figure that is supposed to inform us but really jut misleads us.

6,402 seems pretty low compared to the number of American deaths in past wars like Vietnam, Korea and World War II. It’d be easy to discount those deaths if your understanding never went beyond the facts and figures.

This is why Gainesville Veterans for Peace will be displaying more than 6,400 tombstones from dawn on May 26 through dusk on Memorial Day to remember those who have died in the wars in Afghanistan since 2001 and in Iraq since 2003.

Memorial Mile will line the street along Eighth Avenue just east of 34th Street, where the Solar System Walk is located. This is the sixth year VFP has set up the display, and it is the fourth time that the tombstones will have to line both the north and south sides of Eighth Avenue due to the increased number of deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The visual impact of the tombstones conveys the reality of these numbers.
Last year Memorial Mile was made up of more than 6,000 tombstones.  This year more than 400 will be added, each one representing an American service member whose life was lost.

Each tombstone will include the soldier’s name, date of death, age, branch of service, rank and hometown.  They will be arranged by date of death.
Soldiers with local ties will have American flags placed on their tombstones so that they may be located more easily.  Veterans for Peace will have a list available on site at an information table to direct the public to specific tombstones.  Last year, people came to the Memorial Mile to place flowers and other expressions of love at the tombstones.

Parking will be available at nearby West Side Park.

May/June 2012 Iguana Calendar

Want to know what’s going on in Gainesville this month? Check out the Iguana’s May/June 2012 Calendar. Print it out and put it in your wallet, on your refrigerator, or pass it on to a friend.

Have an event you’d like to see on the Iguana Community Calendar? Email it to us at

May/June 2012 Gainesville Iguana

Can’t get into town for the print Iguana? Or did you make it to the box a little late this month?

Well, don’t worry! We have the whole May/June 2012 issue here for your perusal.