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October 31, 2008

An ebbing tide sinks all boats

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Not since 9/11 have Americans felt so connected and vulnerable as they do in this economic meltdown. Like smacking a mule with a two-by-four, it has really gotten our attention.

With the exception of a few hedge-fund types who probably immediately invested in gold to hoard their ill-gotten gains, the rest of us don't know if we'll ever retire, much less manage to feed ourselves. We really are all in this together. Remember when Congress stood on the steps of the Capitol seven years ago to sing, "God Bless America?" I suggest the rump parliament do the same when it reconvenes after election day.

Artistic note: As a cartoonist, I deal in visual shorthand. While sketching the character on the left, I realized that one of the most enduring stereotypes is that of the goateed, pince nez-wearing, tweedy psychoanalyst, probably based on the Sigmund Freud prototype. A hundred years from now, cartoonists will be still characterizing them as nineteenth-century bourgeois Viennese.

It's like the universally-held misconception of librarians: invariably ancient, eccentric types who fasten their hair up with chopsticks. This is unfair. I knew one in Oklahoma who used a couple of forks.

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October 30, 2008

The campaign's final days...thank God

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My colleagues on the Editorial Board and I remember clearly last spring, when John McCain sat before us in a small room and declared, with a straight face, that he would run a clean and honorable campaign, one worthy of the American people.

This must have been before the Rovian pod people took posession of his brain, although one could argue that his campaign has, in fact, been worthy of the American people. We'll see after Tuesday.

Assuming, for the sake of argument, that he loses, he'll have to go back to the Senate. His own party will shun him for blowing the race with his craven choice of Palin--plus they always detested him, anyway. The Democrats will despise him for the name-calling, the robocalls, the whisper campaigns, and the gutter politics. That leaves only Joe Lieberman to eat Senate bean soup with, which is like sharing lunch with that droning U.S. History teacher in high school who taught by staying one textbook chapter ahead of the class.

Technical note: Normally, I draw using brushes, old-fashioned steel pen points and India ink. Today, I thought I'd try doing the whole thing with a ball-point pen, because of the detail. Plus, the adolescent in me thought it would be cool to draw a trebuchet.

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October 29, 2008

Governor Crist gets shabby treatment

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If you're like most Floridians, your opinion of Gov. Charlie runs somewhere between vanilla and French vanilla. He's a reasonably inoffensive, likable gent. Not exactly a barn-burner, but as a person, he's quite charming.

Compared to Sarah Palin, however, he looks positively Lincolnesque. Just try to put yourself in his shoes after he used his considerable prestige in our contentious state to pull John McCain's chestnuts out of the fire during the primary, when everyone had given his candidacy up for dead. This is the thanks he gets? Princess Needless Markup who played hooky during junior high civics class?

You can bet that if Charlie had been the VP pick, he'd have been able to tell Katie Couric what the Vice-President's statutory role is, and he wouldn't be dragging down the public discourse by calling his opponent a socialist, terrorist, Marxist teacher of sex ed to kindergartners.

That's probably why McCain didn't give him the job. Buck up, Governor. You're too good for it.

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October 28, 2008

What happens AFTER the election?

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Whenever the White House changes hands, there's this charming little ritual that occurs during the interregnum, usually a couple of weeks after the election.

The lame-duck incumbent invites the President-elect to lunch, presumably to show him where the Clinton Memorial Bathroom is off the Oval Office, to tell him that we do in fact have space aliens in the deep-freeze at some air force base in New Mexico, and to whisper in his ear that all those piles of ingots deposited at Fort Knox are really spray-painted blocks of wood.

Whatever goes on during this private conversation, the new kid always comes out a couple of hours later looking about ten years older. Happens every time. So add that stuff to what we already KNOW the new President will have to face, and you begin to question the sanity of anyone who is fighting so hard to land that dead-end job. Surely it isn't for the fancy plane, or knowing you can exterminate mankind in retaliation if somebody cuts your motorcade off on the Interstate.

Maybe it's having your own theme song. I could get into having the Marine Band strike up "Hail to the Chief" every time I strolled into the newsroom.

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October 27, 2008

For such a choice, I waited three hours in line?!!?

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Normally, I don't like to rely on so many words in cartoons, but I couldn't think of a more effective way to make the point about negative campaigning... without resorting to cliches (like avalanches of mud pouring out of the TV set).

Why not list, in simplistic terms, the way each side has tried to frame its opponent in our minds? When you lay it out this way, we really see how absurd this type of campaigning is when we're staring a possible depression in the face.

POSTED IN: 2008 Presidential Campaign (79), Barack Obama (172), John McCain (32), Sarah Palin (40)

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October 24, 2008

Alan Greenspan: "Oops."

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Alan Greenspan says he may have been somewhat wrong all along about financial institutions' self-interest ensuring that they would never do anything as reckless as giving out loans to people that couldn't be repaid. He says maybe a little regulation might not have been such a bad idea after all. He is "shocked, shocked."

This is like St. Matthew coming down and saying, "You know that Gospel I wrote a while back? Never mind. My ideology was flawed."

The only thing more stomach-turning than following our 401(K)s down the drain is the spectacle of congressmen and senators, who a few short years ago were lining up to lick Greenspan's Guccis, now falling all over each other to get a few seconds in the spotlight to scold him. "Election's in a week and a half. Make sure you show my good side while I look stern and condemnatory."

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October 23, 2008

Sarah Palin's $150K political trousseau

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Just when things are starting to settle in for the final grind to the finish line, somebody comes forth bearing a luscious little tidbit on a silver platter.

Evidently, the McCain campaign went through some bookkeeping legerdemain to make the $150,000 it spent on Sarah Palin's wardrobe legal (you see, the Feds take a dim view toward the purchasing of personal items with campaign funds). As if that weren't enough, her shopping assistant is the same guy who dreamed up the robocall campaign. It says something about what the McCain people think of Palin's judgment that they can't even trust her to choose her own wardrobe properly.

What, were they afraid she'd just take the hundred and fifty grand and go straight to Frederick's of Hollywood? That's a lot of bustiers.

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October 22, 2008

Early voting blues

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One of my colleagues voted early yesterday, and she spoke afterward of how moved she was that so many people were willing to stand in line out in the sun for so long to make sure that their vote was counted.

This election, especially the circumstances surrounding it, may have finally gotten people to understand how much government--and who is leading it-- can affect their everyday lives. The economic crisis hits home in a way nothing else can. It isn't abstract, it isn't something that only the chattering classes yak about on Sunday morning talk shows. Never have the choices been so stark, or the outcome of greater consequence.

Hence, the connection I made in the cartoon between voting and the economy. Go stand in line to vote. It's a lot better for your health than standing in line for fast food.

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October 21, 2008

The curse of robocalls

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The nation has been pretty evenly divided between the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates for several election cycles, and the winner has been determined by the unaffiliated sliver in the middle. This is the group that is now being fought over with all the ads and robocalls.

The leader of the free world may be determined by people who are still so up in the air about their decision that they are actually susceptible to this stuff. It's almost as scary as someone who believes we are entering the biblical end of times being a heartbeat away from having her finger on the nuclear button.

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October 20, 2008

Tim Mahoney just keeps on runnin'

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It's true that I drew a cartoon about Representative Tim Mahoney of the scandal-plagued Florida 16th Congressional District just last week, but this gift of a local/national story keeps on giving. Since the story first broke, Mahoney has admitted to multiple affairs, and blubbered his way through a press conference wherein the morality candidate of two years ago begged for forgiveness from his constituents.

The amazing thing is, he hasn't quit his campaign for reelection, thereby assuring that a lot of angry voters, who may not be in a such a forgiving mood after their second representative in a row showed himself to be morally challenged, will turn out to vote against him. This is certain to hurt his own party's (Democratic) presidential ticket in a very important swing state next month.

Considering his reckless behavior to date, why should we be surprised?

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October 17, 2008

Political slurs examined

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Have you ever finished a project, and been so proud of it that you can't wait to show it to your friends, because you know it'll confirm to them, unequivocally, that you really are the genius your mother told you you were when you presented her with that first crayon drawing of a flower?

That was the case with this cartoon. It's also the curse of the cartoonist, who always gets the cartoon because he's the one who dreamed it up in the first place.

Imagine my dismay when I ran it past my distinguished colleagues, Antonio Fins and Nicole Brochu, and the sketch was greeted with no more than a yawn and a scratch of the head. Tony told me to go ahead and run it if I wanted to; it was my call. Maybe I wasn't as brilliant as I thought, after all.

Conversely, there are times when, pushing deadline, I pull an idea out of a dark place that, to me, is the most moronic, simplistic excuse for a cartoon--and for some reason, it hits everybody's funny bone.

If any of the readers of this blog care to weigh in on the topic, I'd be interested in hearing what you think. SPOILER ALERT!!! DON'T READ PAST THIS PARAGRAPH IF YOU DON'T WANT TO SEE THE EXPLANATION OF THIS CARTOON!!! I feel I owe it to you, though.

The point is that it is as absurd to question Barack Obama's patriotism because his middle name is Hussein, as to believe that John McCain is a closet Australian because his middle name is Sydney. Neither man had his choice of names. Sydney, by the way, is a large city in Australia. Which is a foreign country.

Okay, it's a stretch.

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October 16, 2008

America meets Joe the Plumber

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Meet America's newest celebrity. I'm sure you'll be seeing him on Larry King and Katie Couric. Maybe the ladies of The View can get him to unclog the john in the dressing room. Never did Andy Warhol's dictum about fifteen minutes of fame ring more true.

I think Obama and McCain fully entered a bizarre parallel universe when they began addressing Joe directly, as a stand-in for the American people. Pick up the phone, I say. Don't waste my time with Joe's tax woes. He makes a lot more money than most of us do. Of course, Joe--being a plumber--would have started the meter running from the moment he answered the phone, so maybe McCain was just trying to save his campaign money by talking to him through the TV networks.

For those of us old enough to remember, I envision a sitcom involving Joe, his mother, Josephine the Lady Plumber, and his grandmother, Rosie the Riveter, who all share the same huge mcmansion. They sit around the proverbial kitchen table, scheming a way to hornswoggle the government into bailing out their toxic mortgage by rescheduling it at the house's new, depressed value.

With special guest appearances by U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson as Mr. Clean and Sarah Palin as Betty Crocker. It's a green-light project for sure.

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October 15, 2008

The inmates are running the asylum

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This economic meltdown is child's play compared to what's in store for us now. The Feds, not exactly known for their crackerjack efficiency, will now own a piece of America's largest banks. Does this mean they'll be run with the same well-oiled precision as the U.S. Postal Service, another partially-owned subsidiary?

POSTED IN: Economy (197)

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October 14, 2008

Mahoney's cheatin' heart

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In the midst of a national presidential campaign, let us pause briefly to turn to more parochial issues. This being Florida, they tend to morph into national ones, anyway.

There must be something in the water up there in Florida's Sixteenth Congressional District. The man who replaced serial online congressional page groomer Mark Foley, and who managed to turn a Republican district Democratic, now appears to be caught in his own web of deceit.

Tim Mahoney gave a news conference today in which he hewed to the strict guidelines of what has now become an American political ritual, the fallen public figure accompanied by his stricken spouse (Why is it that they always have to humiliate their wives a second time by forcing them to endure the probing lenses of the media while they deliver their mea culpas? It seems so barbaric).

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Europeans don't care about this stuff. Why bother to go to all the trouble to become a politician, they reason, if you don't partake of the goodies? If you don't like a cheating spouse, then don't marry a pol.

Politics aren't nearly as interesting over there.

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October 13, 2008

Presidential debate

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Crisis over. With the Dow surging an unprecedented 938 points today, we can, with our characteristically short national attention span, move on to the next topic.

That means, our candidates can once again spar over ephemera like lipstick on pigs or who went to a cocktail party at whose house or who flew on whose private plane way back when.

I propose (considering how stilted and boring the debates have been so far), that rather than listening to those two stiffs yak at each other about their past associations, we draft the actual principals to get up on stage and do battle as surrogates. Ayres can even wear a Che Guevara t-shirt if he wants to.

If this idea grabs high ratings, we could schedule as a bonus for the American people--who have had to endure so much for so long--a debate between the Rev. Wright and Sarah Palin's witch-hunting pastor from Wasilla. They could sell it on Pay-Per-View, foreign objects from outside the ring allowed.

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October 10, 2008

Financial meltdown

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Inspiration for cartoons comes from all places and at all times. I'm sure some of my detractors have their own notions of where I pull my ideas from.

This one was the direct result of a conversation I had with a newsroom colleague. We had both decided to place the quarterly notices from our 401K's, which had arrived earlier in the week, in the File and Forget Drawer. It was best, we agreed, to take them out and examine them later, when things had begun to look a little better.

Like, twenty or thirty years from now.

POSTED IN: Economy (197)

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October 9, 2008

Sarah Palin the pit bull

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You don't have to be in the tank for one candidate or the other to be repulsed by what John McCain's vice-presidential running mate, Sarah Palin, has been doing on the stump lately.

According to news reports, she has incited her adoring crowds into yelling terms like "traitor," "terrorist," and "kill him" when she utters the name of her opponent at the top of the ticket, Barack Obama.

Nobody is against tough campaigning, but I think many would agree that this kind of rabble-rousing is beyond the pale. It is an attempt to awaken the ugliest side of the American character, and once one gets over the spine chills at the idea of what this kind of rhetoric could unleash in the body politic, one is overcome with sadness that a man as honorable as John McCain, who has given so much to his country, has stooped this low in his single-minded quest for the brass ring.

For, surely, it is John McCain who allows Sarah Palin to continue in this vein. His advisers may have seduced him with the siren song, "You can either be principled, or you can win," but had he not chosen to look the other way while she did his dirty work for him, it would surely not happen. He probably figures there is plenty of time to regain his integrity after he's elected, but we've now seen what he's capable of.

I liked the John McCain of 2000, along with many of my compatriots. I heard one wag on TV say, "Back in 2000, John McCain said there was a special place in hell for those Bush campaign operatives who smeared him. It seems that place is now in the McCain campaign, because they're all working for him."

Yes, it's all very sad.


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October 8, 2008

Gas prices drop

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It takes an economic crisis for gas to become more affordable...just when we're less likely to be able to afford it.

It's virtually impossible to get ahead. The deck is stacked. The best plan remains the lottery, because at least when you buy a ticket, you have a ghost of a chance.

POSTED IN: Economy (197)

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October 7, 2008

Obama and the financial crisis

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Let's face it: the Wall Street meltdown has been good for the Democrats and the Obama campaign. His poll numbers suddenly surged as the numbers in our 401K's diminished.

I doubt Obama has any better idea how to fix the problem than McCain, but campaigns have little to do with truth and everything to do with perception. The fact that the Illinois senator cautiously stood back while Sen. Can-do McCain charged into the fray like a runaway rhino now makes him look like a wise elder statesman.

You can't help but think that, way down in their guts, die-hard Dems are praying that we teeter on the edge of the Apocalypse until November 5, when the clouds miraculously part and the future once again beckons under a President-elect Obama.

And not a day sooner--we know that the American electorate has the attention span of a flea. They might get seduced by another come-hither wink from Sarah Palin.

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October 6, 2008

O. J. Simpson conviction

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Let us briefly digress from politics and the economic meltdown to address one of life's sad sideshows, the conviction of O. J. Simpson on multiple counts of armed robbery and kidnapping.

Remember thirteen years ago, when the country stood still as the verdict on O. J.'s innocence came down? Americans heard new terms, like "jury nullification," and we learned the degree to which one's race, background and experiences can actually influence the way we see and absorb facts. Maybe it was just white Americans who didn't know this already, but at any rate there was an orgy of national self-examination in the wake of the verdict.

Now comes O. J. into our consciousness once again, convicted of lesser crimes with hardly a burp this time. They say there were even empty seats in the courtroom.

One of my colleagues, who happens to be African-American, just shrugged and said, "Well, they finally got him." Not much else to say, really. O. J. is yesterday's news.

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October 3, 2008

Gay marriage

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It reminds one of the life cycle of the cicada. Every four years, the gay marriage issue rears up and threatens the very existence of our republic. A furious burst of political activity ensues, characterized by a flurry of would-be laws being placed on state ballots nationwide for consideration by a vote of the people.

Some succeed, others don't. The real purpose is to turn out "The Base," which will, while they are angrily wearing a hole with their pencil into the optical scan ballot at the place that would ratify the anti-gay question, vote for the Republican candidate before they go back to sleep, politically speaking.

We should take one moment to think about not just how cynical, but how patronizing of "The Base" this strategy is. It assumes that there is a large portion of the electorate that will not even bother to turn out to vote in a presidential election unless there is a sweetener involved.

For the rest of us, the question would seem almost quaint and irrelevant, under current circumstances, if it didn't have such a potentially disastrous effect on people.

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October 2, 2008

Wall Street bailout redux

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The real story about getting this thing through Congress is about packaging it for digestion by the American electorate. It isn't "ground-up snouts and tails," it's "cold-cuts."

One can only marvel at the political tone-deafness of Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, who first stuck the label "bailout" on the plan. Tack on the modifier, "Wall Street," and it immediately set up a populist "us vs. them" mentality that had Congresspersons heading for the tall grass.

Nobody likes the "rescue," but the stock market gyrations that followed its original failure showed us that this is no time to play cute.

I almost didn't go with this cartoon because I thought the "lipstick on a pig" analogy was getting shopworn. It seems to be the metaphorical currency of the moment, however, so I decided to go with the flow, as long as I could use it to say something meaningful.

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October 1, 2008

Everglades restoration

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We briefly digress to deal with financial disasters of lesser import: projects such as Everglades Restoration that only cost taxpayers a few billion dollars, rather than several hundred billion.

Evidently, after eight years, not a single project is finished. Who cares, right? Maybe you've taken Alligator Alley to Naples. Not much to see. Kinda ugly, really. Some scrubby trees. A bird.

If you think the value of your house is in the tank now, wait until our drinking water starts to run out because the 'Glades got so polluted that it can't filter what goes into the aquifer.

Perrier, anyone?

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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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