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The Lowe Down

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August 29, 2008

The last Democratic National Convention


While I'm away from the blog, I thought it would be instructive and amusing to take a sentimental look back at the last bunch of conventions. At this particular point in the process, Kerry had just marched onto the stage, saluted, and announced, "John Kerry reporting for duty!"

The term "swiftboating" was poised to enter the American political lexicon.

POSTED IN: Four years ago this month (4)

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August 27, 2008

Hillary's immortal words live on...


OK, politics had the day off yesterday. I'm back to bashing your favorite political icon.

Actually, this was a rare opportunity to hit both sides at once: first, Hillary for being so disloyal to her own party as to indicate she thought the Republican was more qualified than her Democratic opponent to be President. There's nothing wrong with ambition, but I think this was unprecedented in a primary campaign.

Second, John McCain for concentrating on the insults Hillary hurled months ago in the heat of a primary battle, when what the country desperately needs to know is how he plans to get us out of our mess.


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August 26, 2008

The decline and fall of junk TV


My editor, Tony Fins, questioned why I would draw a cartoon addressing Dancing With The Stars' new season lineup right in the middle of the Democratic National Convention. I responded that maybe our readers needed a day of relief in the middle of all the superheated politics. I know I did.

The other reason is that I heard people talking about it around the office. It's one of those silly little things that provide the glue that binds us together as a community, like Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction, or John Edwards' taste in floozies. It's part of the rhythm of the nation's day.

Besides, in an age when tuna cans are getting smaller and smaller, when a pound of coffee is now twelve ounces but sells for the same amount that a pound used to, what is the world coming to when our B-list celebrities are now D-listers? What happened to bang for the buck?

I fervently hope that an Obama or McCain Administration will make addressing this issue a priority.

POSTED IN: General Topics (188)

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August 25, 2008

Democratic Convention unity


From a journalistic perspective, you have to be grateful to Hillary and her most ardent followers for at least creating some news at what is otherwise a very predictable coronation ceremony. I hope they scream, wave signs, try to drown out the presumptive nominee, and make a general spectacle of themselves.

There will likely be no such antics at the Republican convention, plus they're trotting out Dick Cheney to keep the disgruntled conservatives fat, happy and in line.


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August 22, 2008

John McCain's housing problem


For those of you old enough to remember, this could turn out to be the $600 toilet seat of the 2008 election. Or not. Back in the 1980's, when waste and bloat were problems with military procurement (as if those problems ever went away), the American people had a hard time getting their arms around billions and trillions of dollars being spent on defense. Too abstract to compute.

Then a $600 contractor's invoice came to light for a bomber toilet seat, an everyday item that cost less than ten bucks at the time down at the local hardware store. Finally, Joe Taxpayer could visualize the waste. All hell broke loose in Congress as constituents began bombarding their representatives with phone calls and mail. John McCain's not being able to remember how many houses he owns could be another toilet seat moment, the tipping point when Americans grasp how out of touch he is with the rest of us. Or not. After all, it's probably a common problem for fat cat Republicans. Why single McCain out for ridicule? Shame on me.


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August 21, 2008

Hillary diehards


First, the idea floated by Hillary herself that her supporters need some kind of "catharsis" before they can be convinced to vote for the presumptive Democratic candidate is patronizing (matronizing?) on its face. It's exactly the kind of notion that feeds prejudices about why a woman would make a lousy president: that a female is more likely than a male to sacrifice common sense and reason to the altar of emotion, and God help us if her finger is on the button when she's having one of her...days.

It's surprising that a woman as smart as Hillary would buy into that line. Or, maybe it isn't so surprising if you believe that she's really out for Hillary and that the whole "Joan of Arc of the Women's Movement" trope is just her vehicle for getting where she wants to be.

For those "dead-enders" (to quote Donald Rumsfeld, which I try not to do too often), who would rather vote for John McCain or sit on their hands than settle for half a loaf, I have three words: "Supreme Court nominee."


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August 20, 2008

McCain's shame


You don't have to be a big Obama supporter to agree that McCain's current line casting doubt upon his opponent's patriotism is beneath the integrity of a war hero who served his country with distinction, and contrary to the "campaign of issues" he pledged to conduct what seems like eons ago.

There are two possible conclusions to draw here: the charitable one, which is that McCain is truly a man of honor and principle who listens to his advisers too much, which means he's a patsy. Or, that he's a charlatan who's sold his soul to fulfill his dream of becoming President.

So, this is what they call "experience."


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August 19, 2008

Just another day in Paradise


Rising taxes, insurance premiums and the higher cost of just about everything down here are causing more and more of us to question that big move from Up North.

Every once in a while, when we hunker down in our cracker boxes and try to push that storm tracking line on the TV away from us through sheer force of will, those Jersey winters don't seem so tough in retrospect. A little shoveling, big deal. The house was all paid for, for crying out loud. Why DID we move, Herbert?


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Allstate gets the lash


It's such a rare event when the good guys (meaning we consumers, as represented by state regulators) win a round, that it's worth a cartoon. In this case, Allstate has been caught using the hurricane threat to gouge customers, and had to pay a hefty fine (along with rebates), the cost of which cannot be passed along to the consumer. I'm sure they'll figure out a way to offload the penalty, regardless. After all, their marketing tells us they're good with their hands.

Speaking of the Good Hands, it's always fun to draw cartoons about insurance companies, because they employ feel-good images like hands, umbrellas, and good neighbors in an attempt to inject a little humanity into what is, at its heart, a rapacious industry selling us an abstract, intangible product. These images create perfect avenues for satire; I've used the hands before in many configurations. Annoyingly, there have been plenty of opportunities to do so.


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August 15, 2008

The Olympics and perfection


The Founding Fathers were pretty smart when they inserted the word "more" into the phrase, "in order to form a more perfect union," in the Constitution. They were recognizing that humans are fundamentally flawed, and that the best they could hope for was to keep improving the forms of government they devised.

The problem with a state-run operation like China's is that the State derives its authority from the assertion that it is inherently perfect, and therefore knows best. Hence, we see the Chinese doing things at the Olympics like substituting a girl with perfect teeth to lip-sync for the real performer, who will now grow up imagining herself to be forever unacceptable to society.

Gymnastics, apparently, favors the really young. So, what does the State do when there's a mandatory minimum age of 16 for contestants? They doctor their papers. This perfection thing is serious business. I was watching the poor Chinese girl who snagged only a bronze in the All-Around behind two Americans. You could read the shame all over her face, a shame that will be handed down in her family for generations. It's a good thing the Chinese won gold in the team competition, or they'd all be herding yaks in Gobi Desert Re-education Camp #14 by now.


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August 14, 2008

The Edwards scandal and Bill Clinton


This cartoon tries to combine two ongoing issue threads at the same time: the Edwards scandal in all of its blossoming glory, and Bill Clinton's petulant refusal to recognize that Barack Obama is qualified to be President, even though he repeated throughout the primaries that his wife was ready to take over from Day One.

In a quest for impact, I tried to boil the drawing down to its barest essential elements. All you need to "feel" Bill Clinton is those narrowed eyes, the light-bulb nose, and the authoritative (sometimes accusatory) finger pointed in your face. No point in cluttering it up with distractions like shoulders, shirt, background, or even a neck.


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August 13, 2008

Bush's Gift


If we needed some kind of a signal that President Bush considers himself in the home stretch, this is probably it. No longer concerned with his polling numbers, which are in the toilet, he has decided it's time to start distributing plums to his friends.

A recent Presidential directive that does not need the approval of Congress now allows his business-friendly regulatory agencies to approve projects (self-regulate!) without getting the necessary clearances from Fish and Wildlife and the EPA. Creatures whose survival stand in the way of progress have long been a bane of the plutocrats, and now we can satisfy ourselves with photos of what they used to look like. Since Vice-President Cheney prefers shooting his cronies to shooting quail, even he probably won't miss the wildlife anymore.


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August 12, 2008

The Crisis in Georgia


At first glance, this probably looks like another gag cartoon about how stupid George Bush is. It isn't. That line of humor and commentary was exhausted a long time ago. This cartoon is about the frustratingly powerless position we now find ourselves in when it comes to influencing world events.

Our President must honor the Chinese with his presence at their Olympics because they hold so much of our national debt that not to do so might offend our biggest bankers, regardless of their record on human rights.

And now, thanks to being overextended in Iraq and Afghanistan, we must look on helplessly and cluck, cluck while Russia swallows our staunchest ally in Eastern Europe. Remember when President Bush visited Georgia back in 2006 (you probably don't)? "You Georgians have chosen to stand up for democracy," he said to the cheering multitude (more or less), "and the people of the United States will stand with you."

Now the Georgians, as well as Bush, are learning that he misspoke himself ever so slightly. What he meant to say was, "We will stand by."


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August 11, 2008

The Edwards "mistake" goes local


It wasn't much of a surprise when the news came out that Rielle Hunter, the Ken Doll's paramour, was born in Ft. Lauderdale. If it's sleazy, there's got to be a South Florida connection. All we had to do was wait long enough, and we knew it would bubble to the surface like swamp gas.

As I'm suggesting in this cartoon, our area's tendency to be the festering sore whence spreadeth all infections should be celebrated rather than hidden. Our very seaminess should be thought of as an asset. The kind of people who are attracted to it spend money when they're not stealing it.


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August 7, 2008

Pump prices coming down


Nobody likes $4 gas, but you have to admit that, while we had it, it got us talking about a comprehensive energy policy like nothing ever has before. People actually drove more slowly, thought about those impulse trips in the car, and, yes, experienced a lot of hardship.

As the price continues to drop, so will the pressure on Congress to do something meaningful about the long-term question. Our elected leaders really didn't do much anyway, except rail about how we should either drill offshore, tap the petroleum reserve, or give people a rebate so they might buy more gas.

Our old habits are sure to return, until the next time we have a spike. My advice: Buy oil company shares, if you can afford them. They'll never let you down, at least not in our lifetimes.

POSTED IN: Economy (197), General Topics (188)

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August 6, 2008

The Olympics and Politics


To paraphrase the Roman poet Juvenal (I think): an anxious populace, having long ago abdicated its duty to govern itself, awaits only bread and circuses.

Why Juvenal? Because I'd rather paraphrase him than Paris Hilton or Britney Spears.
Actually, he's proof that societies have been practicing avoidance techniques for thousands of years. Let's face it-- McCain and Obama are a couple of downers who spend all their time telling us what a mess we're in, and how the other guy will make things even worse. Who wants to listen to that day in and day out?

Light the torch, nuke the popcorn, and let the games begin! There's plenty of time for self-government later.


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August 5, 2008

Democratic Convention 2008


Assuming (along with the conventional wisdom) that Barack Obama is not going to pick Hillary to be his running mate, then whomever he does pick should be pitied, for he/she will instantly be rendered as obscure a figure at the convention as Michael Dukakis.

There is no downside here for Bill and Hill: either they can set her up as Queen-I-Told-You-So in the event that Obama loses later on, or at the very least, they can rain on his parade in his moment of glory.

She worked hard for this moment, and by God, she's going to have it. To quote Ronald Reagan, "I paid for this microphone!"


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August 4, 2008

Offshore Drilling scam


It doesn't really surprise me that 60 percent of Americans believe that allowing offshore drilling is going to have some kind of immediate downward effect on gas prices, rather than a decade-and-a-half from now. Desperate people grasp at straws, because they WANT to believe so badly.

It's also no surprise that the politicians pushing offshore drilling the hardest are the ones from states farthest from any coastline. I can just imagine the folks jawbonin' about it down at the tire and supply store now: "Shux...who cares about Florida? I been to Disney World. They ain't even got a coastline there, so what are them folks bellyachin' about? And that there ANWR. Just a buncha caribou. Not like they're cattle or nuthin'. I got me a mighty thirsty VEE-hickle outside to fill, and if this lops a coupla cents off a gallon, I say bring on the slick! Leastways, we won't be buyin' it from the A-rabs."

It's almost too easy for the oil companies.



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August 1, 2008

Exxon's quarterly profits


Don't feel too sorry for Exxon's corporate relations person; their salary is probably higher than the President's. It is rather ironic, though, that quarterly earnings reports always mean cringe time at oil company headquarters (Of course, we groundlings can't hear the champagne corks popping in the corporate suites).

I don't understand why Exxon even needs public relations. They produce something we desperately need. What are we going to do, stop buying their gas because we're even MORE angry at them? If maintaining a favorable corporate image is designed to keep Congress at bay, then some well-placed re-election campaign contributions are surely more effective at maintaining governmental regulatory inertia than the money they spend on all those feel-good ads. You won't find me complaining, though. Nosiree, there's nothing more all-American, in my book, than spending money on media advertising.


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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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