Tag Archives: joe courter

From the publisher — Iguana hits 30: Origins and purpose

joe-WEBby joe courter

If you noticed on the upper right corner of the cover of this Iguana, this is “Vol. 30, Issue 1/2.” That means that this year will mark the 30th year that the Iguana has been publishing. (Okay, we did take time off between Jan. 2010 and March 2011.) The math tells you that 1986 marks when we started, and since then a lot has taken place. Like a good percentage of you readers were actually born, a fact which kinda boggles my mind.

1986, and that general time period, was a major time for events which are still playing out in major ways. It was in the Reagan era that a lot of banking and finance laws changed which allowed massive mergers and creative financial practices which set the wheels in motion for the financial crash of 2008. See the documentary “Inside Job” which lays this out really well.

Continue reading

From the publisher: On taking things for granted

joe-WEBby joe courter

There is only so much our brains can pay attention to as we go through our lives. We all develop habits; not only of what we feel we need to be thinking about, but how much we dwell on what we are thinking about. Our minds are active, but under-activity and over-activity can present problems. We all know the situation of over-thinking a situation, reading too much into a situation and actually, by adding needless complexity, making a mess of something that could have been simple and straight forward.

Under-activity of the mind is something we all do by necessity. We tune out what we don’t need or want to think about. This allows us to focus on what is important to us. So we take for granted many things. We trust maps (or our GPS) to be accurate. We trust other drivers to stay in their lanes. We trust our senses.

Continue reading

From the publisher: Go beyond old myths, false narratives

joe-WEBby joe courter

Last month in this spot, the Publisher’s Note dealt with the concept of history as stories which, through time and selection, become the accepted narrative of our ancestors and their activities. The impetus was the release of Seymour Hersh’s counter narrative about the U.S. raid that killed Osama Bin Laden, and also cited were the Armenian Genocide and Columbus as false narratives accepted as official history.

Well, the massacre in Charleston, S.C., opened up a whole other discussion about history and the conflicting feeling about accepted truth and actively correcting the record. The Civil War and the Confederate flag are now part of a raging debate across the country as to whether there needs to be an active correcting of the record and an inclusion of suppressed information to create a more accurate and complete picture of what went on 150 years ago and its ramifications to our lives today.

Continue reading

From the publisher: History, stories and change

joe-WEBby Joe Courter

According to my dictionary, history is “a branch of knowledge that records and explains past events.” Since obviously there is a whole lot going on all the time everywhere, some selectivity is involved in what make the cut. Similarly, within what gets recorded are different points of view of the same events. As time passes, the culture will adopt certain versions as the accepted history.

In 1991 and ’92, the historical narrative of Columbus being a heroic explorer became moderated when the legacy of enslavement and slaughter crept in. Just recently the suppressed history of the Armenian genocide came to the fore as the hundred year anniversary forced Turkey to face up to what took place (see the David Barsamian oral history on page 14 for more on this).

Continue reading

From the publisher: My Name is Joe, and I’m a News Junkie

by Joe courter

I will confess to being a news junkie. My drug of choice has particularly been National Public Radio, Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Diane Rehm, Fresh Air. The former two I go back decades with. The latter two not as long.

For the most part we got along great, but now, well, things are changing. Some of the change is me, but a lot is them. When we need depth, they’ve gone shallow. When things have gotten serious, they’ve gone frivolous. Maybe I am being too harsh, asking for too much, but dammit, they used to at least try. Now it is all “gee whiz, what will happen”… no history, no holding people and past administrations to account.

Continue reading

From the publisher — You can’t always get what you want: 2014

by joe courter

The clichéd expression about living in interesting times has been in my head recently. These times certainly are interesting, full of highs (some) and lows (a lot) as things have been playing out.

The horribly predictable election results followed the historical trends nationally, as the 6th-year election of a two-term President is usually pretty dismal for their Party, but this one sunk lower with the rather horrid lack of fight over principles such as preserving Social Security exhibited by the Democrats. The type of folks who can afford to run for office, the consultants they hire, and the media happy with the system that enriches them leaves us with depressing choices for the most part, especially higher office. However, our little blue dot of a county ran strong though, so yay for that, and Medical Marijuana showed strong support at nearly 58 percent statewide. Let’s see if there is courage in the legislature; so many people will benefit so much. I got to see something for the first time in late October, and that was a very visible International Space Station pass overhead with the evening sun lighting it up brighter than any star, traveling from NW to SE, at a pace not that different than what an airplane appears to fly, but in actuality going about 17,500 MPH!! Couple that with the landing of a European space probe name Philae on a comet (!) named 67P Churyumov-Gerasimenko, and you have just marveled at what humans can do. Both of these, for me, are real highs. But these same humans can also create some horrendous devices, practice barbaric acts on each other, and choose to deny or ignore science and empathy in favor of superstition, vengeance, and greed. When the space program sent craft to the moon decades ago, one of the bonuses was the pictures of our beautiful planet; browns, blues, white and greens, demarked not with artificial lines but rivers, mountains and coastlines. And now with the Cassini spacecraft, Earth can be seen as a dot of light as seen from beyond the rings of Saturn.

Continue reading

From the publisher: Practical Radicalism

joe-WEBby joe courter

I had that phrase come to mind this morning as I was walking back to my house with the morning newspaper. Not sure where it came from, other than, as I’d been pondering what I was going to write for this column over the last few days, I was looking for a synthesis to spring off from. With so many troubling things going on in the world, the day before I had come up with a list of things that could be addressed. The re-escalation of war in Iraq and Syria, the desperate horror of Ebola in Africa and the fears of its spread, climate issues both in actuality and in the anti-scientific resistance to its acceptance, our nation’s broken electoral system which is ruled by corporate money, the worsening struggles of working people to earn enough to live on and the crisis of the poor who can’t find work, the healthcare system designed to serve the insurance industry, etc., etc. It was paralyzing me.

Continue reading

Note from the Publisher: Self-Radicalization & Self-Pacification

joe-WEBby Joe Courter

Self-radicalization is a term that came to the fore after the Boston Marathon bombing; the big question of how these two young men could, on their own, come up with the rationalization to do such an awful act on their own. It is a concept that troubles people when they contemplate the wide range of information available on the Internet which can deviate from the accepted norms and narrative of our society and culture. And of course we can see examples of behavior based on a set of constructed principles that groups and individuals adopt and act upon. That is normal human behavior. There is always the chance that the normal human behavior of forming or adopting some paradigm to live by will, in some people, be taken to the extreme

From the adoption of strict dietary principles, the fanatical fixation on sports teams, complete devotion to one form of music over all others, or one religion over all others; it is also what we humans do. Very troubling here is where “American Exceptionalism” fits in; one nation over all others.

One of the quite-neglected skills that our U.S. culture lacks is critical thinking; it is not emphasized in schools, and our media, with its bi-polar form of discussion, make it seem over-simplified. There is that common narrative everyone accepts, and then we argue shading within that narrow paradigm. There is a hubris that develops and a closing of the mind to alternatives. Taken further, there is a hostility that can develop to those who do accept a different point of view. We can see no better example than the hostility to single-payer healthcare, a practice most of the world uses. It is, as Obama said, “off the table.”

Continue reading

November Elections Update

by joe courter

We’re two months from Election Day on Nov. 6 as this Iguana goes to print. We will have another edition out in early October, but now the campaigning has moved from the primaries to the main elections.

From our point of view, the primaries went well with one exception. There was one surprise in the District 21 race, and on this I must apologize. Both candidates in the race were good, and, without a lot of research, I went with the candidate who had more name recognition and money – Aaron Bosshardt – as the incumbent Republican Keith Perry was going to be hard to unseat.

Well, Andrew Morey (Bosshardt’s opponent) knocked on a lot of doors with a grassroots campaign and beat Bosshardt in the primary, and we couldn’t be happier.

We have subsequently found Morey to be an excellent candidate, and Bosshardt has rolled his campaign into Morey’s. This is a winnable race, and we encourage volunteers to help out.

Locally, we also hope people will jump in on the County races listed below with whatever support they can give. This is a pivotal election for both the Alachua County Commission and the Alachua County School Board, and these candidates will make a big difference in the coming years for our County.

The U.S. Congress District 3 had a surprise on the Republican side when the Tea Party’s Ted Yoho knocked out long time Congressman Cliff Stearns. Yoho will now face JR Gaillot, a Democrat who had no primary opponent. This is a pretty stacked conservative district, so it’ll be an uphill battle. It’ll be interesting if the talkative Yoho will agree to the rigorous debate schedule Gaillot is requesting.

Continue reading

Note from the Publisher

by joe courter

Okay, the primary elections are behind us, and come November the voting begins.

This election is pivotal on both the national and local levels. With the selection of Paul Ryan as Romney’s VP, this presidential race may be a referendum on how government should work in America; in the words of Ryan, individualism vs. collectivism.

This Ayn Rand inspired libertarian ideology has been bubbling, some might say festering, below the surface of American politics for decades. It opposed FDR’s New Deal from the get-go, and still seethes at the welfare system, and any thought of a national healthcare system. It hates regulation on business, be it banking, energy or commerce. It wants privatization of the public sector, from government programs like Social Security to drilling by corporations for oil and gas in our National Parks.

Its adherents have been very successful in using their money and connections to get their ideology into the mainstream, creating the Heritage Society and the Cato Institute and many other “think tanks,” which the docile corporate media has come to accept as the third voice in our political debate. It can generate huge campaign donations from the rich and corporations because its policies, if enacted, will save and make them even MORE money.

This is a wake-up call that brings to mind the old bumper sticker/button slogan, “If You’re Not Outraged, You’re Not Paying Attention.”

Continue reading

Weeding Through the B.S. – Note from the Publisher

by joe courter

Publishing a small news magazine in this age of information overload has its pluses and minuses. There is a lot to write about and report on, but sheesh, there sure is a lot to choose from. Do you write about things coming up, or things that have already happened? From an activist orientation, the Iguana wants to present information to inform and inspire, to try and convey that the struggle for a better world is long and slow, with bursts of hope that, when proved fleeting, should not be seen as defeat but as part of the process of change.

A good friend last week expressed to me that she wished the Iguana was bigger or came out more often, ’cause it is one media source she trusts. Well, as this publication is run both on volunteer time and on a shoestring budget, that is unlikely. So it is up to everyone, via libraries, selective use of the media, or their computer to get out and dig up meaningful stuff, and not settle for the mainstream BS that passes for news now.

Beyond that, there is also an ethic of solidarity, the common struggle. We see resistance to austerity measures around the world, a collective “NO!” to the demands of sacrifice that the rich and powerful impose on, very often, the ones with the least, but also on the compliant. Because they can. For now.

Continue reading

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.”

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 gainesvilleiguana.org for more information.

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!

Note from the Publisher – April 2012


This spot will be a regular column going forward, and as with last month, I will
first address subscription support. We need it. This paper is produced with
100% volunteer labor; all the money that comes in goes to its printing and

To those who pick it up for free, it is the subscribers and
advertisers who make that possible (please patronize and thank!!). Please
consider a donation and help offset that burden, even if you do not want it
mailed to you. Think of this as an eventless fundraiser… You make your
donation, but then you don’t have to go anywhere!

To our  loyal subscribers: if you got this in the mail and are due to renew,
you should find a stamped envelope to reply. If you can’t afford the $15
request, less is okay. If you can do more, great.

Here is the reality of our little operation. The printing of 4,500 copies is about $750.00. The mailing to you all is approximately $350. That is about $1,100 per issue, and we do it eight or nine times a year. Our core staff of Jessica, Beth,  Pierce and myself donate many hours. We all believe a tangible paper you can hold in your hands, put in your bathroom, hang on your fridge, whatever you do at home, or one you can pick up while ordering a meal, or read on the bus, or in a waiting room, has value that a purely electronic publication does not have. Let’s keep this going.

There are now, with the Internet, endless sources of information. Each month we try and present a range of interesting and useful articles. Mother Jones, Common Dreams and Democracy Now! are sampled this month, and issues of corporate power and systemic oppression come to light from different angles. There are also events and activities to plug into. And of course, the censored Doonesbury comics. We’ll be out again in mid-May for a May/June edition.  Talk to you then.