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July 31, 2008

The FPL green energy scam


So a fat-cat company preys on the good will of customers, pleading with them to voluntarily pony up so that it can develop clean, renewable sources of energy. Instead of building windmills or whatever, it spends most of the cash on public relations.

One hopes there is a special kind of hell waiting for these con artists...preferably one that involves electrodes.

POSTED IN: Florida Issues (258)

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July 30, 2008

Robert Wexler's residency problems, Part II


This has been fun. Robert Wexler, God bless him, is just such a fat target. As one of my colleagues said, "All people wanted was to hear him say, ' Sorry, I screwed up.'" But, an ego like Wexler's doesn't suffer fools. It has been far more fun watching him squirm around, trying out all manner of hollow rationalizations, before finally bending to the inevitable.

I would be surprised if it cost him his seat; people forget this kind of thing pretty quickly. Meanwhile, some poor would-be speculator who bought a condo in U.S. House District 19 right before the housing bubble burst just managed to find a "tenant." Good for them.

POSTED IN: Local South Florida Issues (187)

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July 29, 2008

2008 Beijing Olympics and air pollution


The last athlete left standing wins the gold. Since we won't be able to make out through the haze who's on the podium, it's time to bone up on our national anthems.

Knowing the Chinese entrepreneurial spirit, chances are somebody in Shanghai will see this blog post and start producing these things by the hundreds of thousands.


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July 28, 2008

Obama returns from overseas


It's called "The Trudeau Effect," for those old enough to remember. It's named after the late Canadian prime minister, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, a hip and charismatic figure whose popularity increased in direct proportion with the square of his distance from Ottawa. In other words, the rest of the world loved him, while Canadians used a variety of epithets (and in the case of French Canadians--gestures) to describe him. Not that Obama has reached this extreme yet, but you can bet he eventually will if he becomes President.

So our Golden Boy has returned from abroad, and his feet must now, once again, touch the ground. No more soaring visions, no more paeans to the Unity of Man. He's gotta talk about national defense, pump prices, foreclosures, job outsourcing, education money, and all the other humdrum stuff that average Americans base their voting decisions upon. If you don't get mud on your boots, you can't reach for the stars.


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July 24, 2008

Guantanamo Tribunals


We probably won't look back on this post-9/11 period as one of our finest moments as the shining city on the hill. As some people are fond of saying, "The Constitution isn't a suicide pact."

OK, that's true. Let's be honest, then: rather than hold trials with joke rules that stack the deck, let's just hold no trials at all. Here's the rationale: "We're holding the prisoners until the War on Terror is over. Which is never." At least, it goes along with the argument that it's too dangerous to let these people loose without soiling our bedrock document in the process.


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July 23, 2008

Robert Wexler's residency problems


Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Delray Beach, spearhead of the Clinton anti-impeachment defense and the Bush impeachment drive, has been too clever by half. It turns out that Maryland has an extra Congressman in its delegation, Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Potomac.

We'll see how this all shakes out. He'd practically have to become a card-carrying member of Hezbollah to get thrown out of office, his constituents love him so. Anybody with the chutzpah to be an early, ardent, and unflinching backer of Barack Obama's candidacy in a South Florida Congressional district must be feeling pretty smug about his chances for re-election.

POSTED IN: Florida Issues (258)

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July 22, 2008

Barack Obama's World Tour


You have to feel for the McCain campaign. He visits a marketplace in Baghdad, and the only thing that gets mentioned is that he had to wear body armor and walk with a protective cover of helicopter gunships. Or, that he can't tell Shia from Sunni and has to be reminded of the difference by Joe Lieberman.

Obama, on the other hand, takes a little trip abroad and the media types start acting like teenyboppers at a rock concert who can't wait to throw their underwear onto the stage. No, it ain't fair, but unfortunately war heroes, while worthy of our respect, don't make for sexy TV ratings.

Our better angels tell us the media are supposed to be a public trust, but in the end, only the BBC can afford to be boring, because it's government subsidized. Obama, God bless him, moves car insurance, Boniva, retirement plans, erectile dysfunction meds, Activia, Touch of Gray, and all the other essential components of American life that undergird the First Amendment. McCain, unfortunately, only reminds people that they need them.


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July 21, 2008

Iraq war time horizon


It turns out this President is a lot more adroit with the English language than we thought. A timetable, as it turns out, was a "prescription for surrender." A time horizon, on the other hand, is something we can live with, particularly when a Democratic candidate seems to be gaining traction with a public tired of the war.

Not that it matters that much what he says anymore.


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July 18, 2008

Jesse Jackson


Looking over my archives a while back, I realized I've been drawing Jesse Jackson for over thirty years. Like all of us, he's changed over time, and he has matured along with the civil rights movement he nurtured. My first drawing of him was as a young militant with an Afro, fist thrust in the air. Now, he has mellowed, and become one of the living monuments--some would say dinosaurs--of the struggle.

Again, like all of us, Jesse is a man with an abundance of flaws. But there is no denying that the ascent of a politician like Barack Obama (who was a small boy when Jesse was in the trenches) could not have been possible without the sharp elbows of men like Jackson who went before him, who never backed down when the odds seemed insurmountable. Whatever you think of Jesse Jackson or his methods, Obama's modern candidacy rests on the shoulders of people like him.

Now, it is Jackson's responsibility to himself, to his movement, and to his legacy to accept the gratitude and respect of those he has helped, and to pass the torch to the next generation with grace. It's just another challenge for a man who has faced many of them in a long and distinguished public life. I think he can handle it.


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July 17, 2008

State Farm homeowner's rate hike


It could be that we actually hate insurance companies more than utilities. At least FPL delivers a useful product. The problem with insurance is that it isn't tangible. They're supposed to be peddling "peace of mind," but the trauma hits with a double whammy: first, the hurricane itself, second, trying to force these people to part with the loot they've been taking from us for years.

Like a good neighbor, they're there to present their annual statement, or your cancellation notice. I wonder what an insurance executive's concept of hell might be? This gives me an idea for a new Design Your Own Cartoon contest.


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July 16, 2008

Bush, the bubble, and the economy


Listening to the President giving his happy talk speech about the economy the other night first amazed, and then depressed me. It reminded me of his press conference a couple of months ago, when a reporter asked him about four dollar gas. "Four dollar gas?" he retorted, testily. "Where'd you hear that?"

It also reminded me of his father, who was taken through a grocery store as President, and saw his first price scanner. "Wow. I've never seen one of those before. Isn't that something!" Or President Reagan, who, upon entering a McDonald's, said: "How do you order?" (Postscript to this post: I've just been informed that the price scanner story is apocryphal, and has been repeatedly debunked. It is, nevertheless, part of public lore. My question: If you're going to make up a false rumor about somebody, why something so tame? Doesn't begin to compare to blue cocktail dresses in the Oval Office).

I guess it's the President's job to be a cheerleader, even when it clearly makes him look as if he's completely out of touch. What if he'd told us the truth? The stock market would have tanked. Maybe he should have just left well enough alone. Then, at least, we wouldn't be worrying that the country was another Exxon Valdez heading for the rocks with a drunken captain at the tiller. Actually, our situation is worse. The Exxon Valdez was full of oil.


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July 15, 2008

Reject corner!!!!


This submission, while well-intentioned, didn't see the light of day. I'll let my editor, Tony Fins, explain--while I think his point is valid, I do take slight umbrage at the first sentence, specifically, "even Chan," which implies I'm an insensitive monolith. Only my wife can talk to me that way. Herewith:

The problem on this one was so obvious I can't believe even Chan didn't see it. Though not Chan's intention, it suggests that all Muslims are whackos. We all should know that's not the case -- and we have enough problems already with people that can't make that distinction without extending, through misinterpretation, the stereotype.
The cartoon would have worked if Chan had drawn an unassuming profiling victim who looked as unassuming as the way he drew Terry Nichols. That would have been an effective cartoon.

Tony's right that I wouldn't want to suggest Muslims are whackos. In fact, as I implied by using Terry Nichols as my example, there are more than enough Christian whackos to go around. I did intend to make the point, though, that the profiling law was bound to be misused, and that it was precisely Muslims and others of Arabic descent who were most likely to suffer the consequences of its abuse (people who are afraid act in less-than-responsible ways). The guy in the cartoon is startled by having the spotlight thrown on him, not nuts. To draw a generic, unassuming victim would have eviscerated the point of the cartoon, in my opinion.

I will concede, however, that it's an editor's job to make the call on whether a cartoon is likely to be misinterpreted.


POSTED IN: Rejects (5)

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Jim Naugle and the gay community


As you can probably tell, I had some fun with this one.

The Broward gay community owes Jim Naugle a great debt, in my opinion, because without him they would not be the coherent political force they are today. At least, it would have taken them a little longer. They could not have invented a more effective foil.

Mayor Naugle, over the years, has been a rich source of material for me, and I am grateful to him also. I will be sorry to see him leave office. Godspeed, Your Honor.

POSTED IN: Local South Florida Issues (187)

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July 14, 2008

The Quicksands of Satire


Below is a column I wrote that will run on the Opinion Page of the Sun-Sentinel on Wednesday, July 16:

In keeping with the superheated rhetoric of the campaign season, an enormous brouhaha has erupted over the latest cover of the New Yorker magazine, which depicts a turbaned Barack Obama in the Oval Office fist-bumping his wife Michelle. Her hair is coiffed in an Afro, and she is toting an AK-47. There is an ornately framed portrait of Osama bin Laden on the wall, and an American flag is burning in the fireplace. The cartoon has been described as inflammatory, and has been condemned by both the Obama and McCain campaigns as insulting and in poor taste.

Satire as a rhetorical device has been around since the ancient Greeks. Probably before that, even, when some Neanderthal stand-up comedian mimicked the effeminate spear-throwing style of his tribal chieftain and got bonked on the head with a club. Speaking as an editorial cartoonist, I have learned, painfully, that there are two kinds of people in this world: those who understand satire, and those who don’t. It would be easy to take the elitist route, and say that an understanding of satire comes as the result of education, but I remember that there were plenty of people in college who relentlessly took things they saw and heard at face value. They were a minority, to be sure, but I think the inability to read the intent of a message as being the opposite of what they are being presented with is a genetic thing. It should not be looked down upon any more than the inability to distinguish colors. You either have the gene, or you don’t.

I suspect that the Obama campaign understood the satire the way it was intended, as a device to showcase exactly how absurd are the many accusations being made about Barack Obama’s (and his wife’s) general suitability to be the President and First Lady. They are running a campaign, however, and they know that when the “satirically challenged” vote, their vote is worth just as much as those who “got” the cartoon. Hence, the show of huffiness. As for the McCain campaign, they’re just making some cheap points, pretending to be great humanitarians while knowing full well that the cartoon reinforces the subliminal and enduring message that opponents of Obama’s candidacy have been so effectively spreading.

As satire, I thought it was a good cartoon. It could have been drawn better, but that’s just a matter of personal taste. Whether it should have run at all is a more nuanced matter. If I were an editor of the New Yorker, I would be fully aware that my readership is a self-selecting group that would more than likely not only understand the satire of the cartoon, but get a hoot out of it. Being familiar with the editorial and visual content of the New Yorker, I am guessing that those who lack the satire gene are unlikely to spend their money on the magazine, so no harm done except when the cover is displayed in public, or becomes the property of the blogosphere and cable TV, as it now has.

From an editor’s point of view, the cover has pleased the magazine’s readership, become controversial, and as a result, sold more magazines—which is the goal of publishing a magazine. From the point of view of a concerned citizen who is interested in making sure the best man for our country is elected President, regardless of who he might be, anything that gets the less-capable person elected for the wrong reasons is to be avoided.

POSTED IN: 2008 Presidential Campaign (79), Barack Obama (172)

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Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bailout


Several years ago, I drew a cartoon that depicted a politician explaining the difference between "tax and spend," and "borrow and spend," to a small child. "Borrowing," he says, "is taxing somebody who isn't old enough to vote."

A lot of people seem to think that if it comes from the Federal Government, it's free money. "Heck, they'll just print some more!" They don't understand the correlation between the federal budget and a household budget, and why should they? This stuff is too abstruse for most people to understand, which is why Congress has gotten away with it for so long.

It's like pork barrel spending, also known as "bringing home the bacon." Say you go to the store and buy a barrel of pork (let's pretend it's still sold that way). On the way out, your Congressman waylays you and takes the barrel. You go home, the doorbell rings, and the Congressman proudly presents you with the pork barrel, as if he'd slaughtered the pig himself. After he leaves, you open it up, and find some of the pork inside is missing. Call it a processing fee.

POSTED IN: Economy (197)

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July 11, 2008

Top Secret plans for invasion of Iran


That we are even discussing this scenario as a real possibility is a testament to Congress' abrogation of its Constitutional role in declaring war, and the President's eagerness to act like the very king the Founding Fathers feared.

Remember the good old days, like 1941, when FDR had to go and make an impassioned case for war before Congress would even go along? And that was after Pearl Harbor, when they actually DID something to us.

I'd love to be a fly on the wall to hear what G.H.W. Bush has to say about how his feckless boy has taken the old man's carefully constructed web of international alliances and understandings, and just blowed 'em all up real good, like a prankster flushing a cherry bomb down the boy's room toilet. Oh, well...that's the next guy's problem.


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July 10, 2008

Design your own cartoon contest winner

Ladies and Gentlemen...the envelope please!

Yes, we have a winner in the Official Lowe-Down Design Your Own Cartoon Contest. The challenge: to come up with the most imaginative secondary use for America's favorite gas-guzzling behemoth, the Hummer. Back in May, I drew a cartoon containing four of my own ideas, and we used this as a springboard to launch your imaginations into flight.


After scores of entries came in, a panel of experts consisting of Opinion Page Editor Tony Fins, Senior Editorial Writer Gary Stein, and yours truly, whittled the submissions down to three finalists. Three hundred of you voted, and the winner is:


As promised, I turned his winning idea into an editorial cartoon, which you now see depicted at right.

Bob was kind enough to send his photo, which I have included below. Hopefully, the next time you see him he will be wearing his new Official Lowe-Down Blog t-shirt.


Bob Prokopczyk of Weston, winner of the
first Official Lowe-Down Design Your Own
Cartoon Contest.

Stay tuned for future contests!

POSTED IN: Design Your Own Cartoon Contest (2)

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Iguana dreams


From the Bahamian curly-tailed lizard to the Formosan termite to the Cuban death's head cockroach to the Burmese python to the Central American iguana, we're all immigrants here in Florida--just trying to get along.

POSTED IN: Florida Issues (258)

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July 9, 2008

Anheuser-Busch they're stealing our beer!


I actually called the Dutch Embassy in Washington to find out how to say this.
It occurred to me that the bartender could have been speaking French, since French and Dutch are both official languages in Belgium, but somehow Dutch seemed to make the point better.

First, I tried the Belgian Embassy, but I didn't get anywhere with them (as the French would say, "Whoever does?"). So I called the Dutch, and at first the guy answering the phone thought I was yanking his meerschaum ( "You're a WHAT?"). We don't do translations, he said. After some begging, he finally spelled it out for me, military style... "Delta, echo, zulu," etc.

I owe them one, if they ever need somebody to stand with his finger in the dike.

POSTED IN: General Topics (188)

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July 8, 2008

Barack Obama tacks way to the right


The thing that makes Barack Obama such a brilliant politician is that he managed to fool so many people for so long into believing that he was more than just a brilliant politician.

You have to give Hillary credit--at least she made it clear that she was a cynical, pragmatic pol ready to do anything, including extolling the virtues of her would-be Republican opponent over those of her rival, to get nominated. So, yeah, now that he's got the liberal base eating crumbs out of his hand, Barack's heading for the Dark Side. It makes excellent political sense. Only--which Barack Obama is going to sit in the Oval Office, if elected? Does he really believe all that stuff he's been shoveling about a new kind of politics?

A note on this cartoon: some people saw the Bush eyebrows and ears, signifying Obama's transformation, and some didn't. One of my colleagues said, "Nobody can get into your (weird) world. Maybe ten people will catch that, and they'll all be other cartoonists."


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July 7, 2008

Gas Prices and Campaign '08


Those two guys can yak all they want about Kyoto, NAFTA, Iraq, immigration, capital gains, health care insurance, and whether or not there is intelligent life on Mars.

In the end, if gas is pushing five bucks a gallon by November, the one who lies to us the most convincingly that he's got the answer to bringing that price down is going to be the winner.


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July 3, 2008

Profiling and national security


Okay, this cartoon is about as subtle as a brick. Anytime you invoke the memory of Joseph McCarthy, you will appear heavy-handed. But old Joe lacked subtlety, too, and look how effective he was.

Sometimes, the situation calls for directness, especially if you feel we're poised on the edge of a slippery slope.

Judging from the email I get, McCarthy still has a lot of admirers out there, or he would if they knew who he was. The nation's moved on, though. There are no longer any Communists hiding under the bed. Now, we call 'em Liberals. Those who do remember Sen. McCarthy fondly will take the cartoon at face value, so no harm, no foul.


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July 2, 2008

FPL shocks us again


I have developed this recurring character of the imperious monarch that, in my opinion, captures how we unwashed ratepayers feel about the utility.

It's interesting that while we all have to tighten our belts because of rising prices--cutting here, cutting there to make ends meet--FPL never has to do any belt-tightening. It just goes back to the trough when the raw materials get more expensive, its lawyers do a little boo-hooing in Tallahassee, and the dance is over until the music starts again the next time.


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The spiraling economy


Starbuck was the first mate on the Pequod, wasn't he? As I recall from high school literature class, or maybe the Cliff Notes version of Moby Dick, the whaler sank in the end. Maybe the founders of the coffee chain will rue the day they asked for all that bad karma.

We'll never see that time again when an eight-ounce coffee drink cost more than a gallon of gas.


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July 1, 2008

Barack Obama and patriotism


You know what that Obama fella's problem is? His message is too subtle, too nuanced. He's talking to an electorate that cares whether or not he wears a little enameled pin on his lapel, and he's trying to explain why they should get all misty-eyed over ten little chunks of dry eighteenth-century prose on a piece of parchment. Except for the second one, it's pretty hard stuff to get a lump in your throat over.

Wouldn't you, as a red-blooded American, rather see a platoon of cheerleaders in cowboy boots and fringe marching across the field carrying the red, white and blue? I know I would.


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About the author
Chan LoweCHAN LOWE has been the Sun Sentinel’s first and only editorial cartoonist for the past twenty-six years. Before that, he worked as cartoonist and writer for the Oklahoma City Times and the Shawnee (OK) News-Star.

Chan went to school in New York City, Los Angeles, and the U.K., and graduated from Williams College in 1975 with a degree in Art History. He also spent a year at Stanford University as a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow.

His work has won numerous awards, including the Green Eyeshade Award and the National Press Foundation Berryman Award. He has also been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His cartoons have won multiple first-place awards in all of the Florida state journalism contests, and The Lowe-Down blog, which he began in 2008, has won writing awards from the Florida Press Club and the Society of Professional Journalists.
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