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December 31, 2008

The last transition-Part III

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While The Lowe-Down is taking a few use-it-or-lose-it staycation days to lay down flooring, we thought readers might want to revisit the last time there was a presidential transition, which was January of 2001.

We hope it will dredge up all those unhappy memories you'd almost managed to repress.

Didn't we all know, deep down in our guts, that we hadn't seen the last of The Big Dog?

POSTED IN: The Last Transition (5)

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December 30, 2008

The last transition-Part II

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While The Lowe-Down is taking a few use-it-or-lose-it staycation days to lay down flooring, we thought readers might want to revisit the last time there was a presidential transition, which was January of 2001.

We hope it will dredge up all those unhappy memories you'd almost managed to repress.

Remember the cigar?

As if that weren't bad enough, it was a Havana, which is contraband in this country. I remember traveling to the Canadian border town of Windsor at the time. There was a large sign up in a tobacconist's window: "Yes! We have Monica's cigar!"

POSTED IN: The Last Transition (5)

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December 29, 2008

The last transition-Part I

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While The Lowe-Down is taking a few use-it-or-lose-it staycation days to lay down flooring, we thought readers might want to revisit the last time there was a presidential transition, which was January of 2001.

We hope it will dredge up all those unhappy memories you'd almost managed to repress.

Here, we take a fond look back at the events that emblazoned Palm Beach County on the political map for all time:

POSTED IN: The Last Transition (5)

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December 26, 2008

The big squeeze

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Look out.

I don't just mean for state budget trimming, which is going to be brutish and nasty, but I'm talking about tax increases to balance the budget.

Now, when Republicans--like those who dominate our legislature--get together to increase revenue, they go through a little linguistic minuet. They never, ever raise taxes. What they do is, they put a "fee" on the most basic of life's necessities. A "breathing fee." A "walking fee." A "birth certificate fee."

Because a "fee" is user-based, it isn't a "tax," which is considered regressive for business.

Existing fees, of course, are ripe for raising (we've already discussed the exotic dancer licensing fee).

So, let's rewrite Ben Franklin's old adage for modern times: "The only certainties in life are death and fees."

POSTED IN: Florida Issues (258)

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December 25, 2008

Enough

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Face it, you blew it. Now--just go away, please. Don't try to put frosting on a failed presidency.

POSTED IN: President Bush (36)

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December 24, 2008

Payback time

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The staff here at The Lowe-Down want to wish you a Merry Christmas, and as a sign of our sincerity we are offering you a politics-free cartoon today.

Yes, this time of year is payback for having to endure nine months of summer, so why not share it with the less fortunate--specifically, our snowbound friends and relatives Up North?

Rub it in, real good. Heck, even if you don't celebrate Christmas, go ahead and make that call. Nobody can blame you for connecting with family.

Let's face it, they do the same thing to us during fall foliage.

POSTED IN: Florida Issues (258), General Topics (188)

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December 23, 2008

Reduction in force at the North Pole

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Nine years ago, back at the turn of the century, I did a cartoon montage for the op-ed page looking forward into the future. One of the drawings was of a typical 21st-Century ultra-couch potato, an inert organism with an electrode implanted in his brain. Through the implant, he was fed all the virtual experiences of a full, rewarding life as we knew it at the end of 1999.

Technology is moving even faster than anyone could have predicted. As we tighten our belts, "virtual" reality, which is cheap, is becoming more and more the norm. Look at all the fantasy computer games, the online dating services, Facebook and Myspace, which substitute for physical interaction.

My question is, at what point is "virtual" so commonplace that it becomes "actual" to those who have grown up never having experienced the things of which "virtual" is only an artful facsimile?

What happens to those genuine experiences safeguarded only by the old-timers and their failing memories? They become arid wisps, consigned to the history books and back copies of the newspapers. And nobody reads books and newspapers anymore.

POSTED IN: Economy (197)

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December 22, 2008

Joy to the world, 'cause I got mine.

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Were you really naive enough, back when Treasury Secretary Paulson first made his pitch for the bank bailouts, to believe that this wasn't going to happen?

As soon as he said the 700 billion absolutely had to be appropriated posthaste or the republic would fail, the scheme had disaster written all over it. Not only are the banks paying their executives the compensation they think they deserve, they're paying dividends to their shareholders, and they're not even telling us exactly what they're doing, because nobody is there to tell them they have to.

The idea was for the financial institutions to sluice the money out to us in loans to get the economy moving, not to feather their own nests, but somebody forgot to include oversight into the legislation. Now, the only unlikely hero at the gates protecting us from a Visigothic sacking is a comical character who resembles a garden gnome, Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts. He's fighting a valiant rear-guard action, trying to shame the banks into doing the right thing by exposing their shenanigans to the public.

This also is destined to fail, because shame is not a word in their vocabulary. Who ends up with the bucks is the only credo they respect.

POSTED IN: Economy (197)

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December 19, 2008

Joyride to nowhere

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It's easy to scream about tolerance when you're the one on the outside being excluded. Now that the left thinks they've won the brass ring, they want the whole ride to themselves.

Listen to what one group said (I paraphrase): "Obama's choice of the Rev. Rick Warren means that he doesn't believe gays and lesbians have a place at the table."

Exactly wrong. What it means is that everybody, for a change, has a place at the table. You're never going to heal the divisions in this country by keeping any of the stakeholders out. And the stakeholders are all of us.

Grow up, for crying out loud. Getting even isn't getting ahead.

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December 18, 2008

The wages of sin

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The last refuge of a state politician who is facing the ugly choice between balancing the budget (required by the Florida constitution) and making cuts that are sure to anger his constituents is to raise the tax on vice.

Also known as the "sin tax," this is just about the only tax God-fearing Republicans can ever be persuaded to go along with. Cigarettes and booze fall into this category. If they could figure out a way to do it, so would illicit drugs.

Palm Beach County, to get even more local, is raising the fee on licenses for exotic dancers to help balance its books. Licenses? Does one really need to pass an exam for this? Who are the examiners? Do they get paid for their many hours of work? What are their qualifications for holding a position so critical to public safety?

Is one required to carry the license on his or her person while performing the licensed act? If so, where?

POSTED IN: Florida Issues (258)

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December 17, 2008

Obama will steal your toys

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First, he was a Muslim. Then, just a plain old garden-variety Pal of Terrorists. He wanted to teach kindergartners how to have sex. Next, there were lawsuits saying the authorities in Hawaii LIED and are part of a cover-up to obscure his true furrin origins.

Now, worst of all, he's going to take away our God-given right to own guns.

One of the things I find most fascinating about the paranoids is the sheer fecundity of their imaginations. I heard some folks, during the campaign, complain that if Obama won the presidency, they were going to move to Canada.

Why don't they hurry up and move, already, or are they afraid of living in a country where everybody has health insurance?

And let's not even discuss Canadian gun ownership laws.

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December 16, 2008

The Madoff Ripoff

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It would be easy for us working stiffs to indulge in a little schadenfreude over this Madoff investment Ponzi scheme uproar. The rich, trying to get even richer, ended up hoist on their own petard of greed.

Unfortunately, there were quite a few charities that placed their money and trust in the hands of this criminal as well, so a lot of innocent "little" people are being hurt.

Since Madoff's fifty-billion-dollar crime was white collar, he'll probably end up doing a few years at the Allenwood Federal Country Club, if he does any time at all. Meanwhile, a small-time crook who rolls a Seven-Eleven with a pistol will probably do twenty years or more, even though his crime affects far fewer people far less drastically. But that's the way the system works.

Meanwhile, where were the Feds while all this was happening? According to recent stories, they were probably sitting around with their thumbs up their derivatives, giving each other inside stock tips instead of doing due diligence.

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December 15, 2008

The sole of a free people

forrmonnblogg.gif And we thought the French were an ungrateful bunch.

It's a fitting coda to the utter pointlessness of Bush's invasion of Iraq. Even the people we liberated at the cost of so much human life and treasure are literally hurling their very worst insults at our president as he tries to run his final "victory" lap.

Bush laughed off the incident in his simple-minded way, but it really is tragic that our massive undertaking has come to this. Is there any positive outcome, anything at all, that we can point to? We got rid of Saddam. Great--Iran is taking advantage of the power vacuum, as are the various domestic Iraqi sects and factions he managed to keep in some kind of restless order.

At the very least, we were hoping to leave behind a pro-American client state in the middle of a hostile region.

Instead, the locals are hailing the shoe-thrower as a national hero.
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December 12, 2008

Rummy: Master of the Universe

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Here is a story that will leave you thanking your lucky stars that you are blessed to live in a functioning democracy:

I have a friend who lives in Santa Fe, NM. A lot of high-profile people either live there full time or play there part time, folks like Valerie Plame and her husband, former Ambassador Joe Wilson (whom my friend calls "Flake and the Cupcake"). It's a wealthy, yet quiet environment where people who value their privacy are generally left alone.

My friend was walking along Acequia Madre, a street in Santa Fe's tony East Side, about two weeks after Donald Rumsfeld, arguably the most powerful man in the world while he was in office, had been deposed as Secretary of Defense. If you remember, the pressure became so great on President Bush from all sides of the political spectrum that he finally caved and threw Rummy off the fantail.

Anyway, imagine my friend's surprise to see the former Alpha Male of Washington in well-worn jeans, ambling along the street with his dog, smoking his pipe and carrying a pooper scooper.

Eventually, the dog did his business, the erstwhile commander of the most fearsome military force on the planet scooped up the mess, and strolled off back to his home.

Think this could ever happen anywhere else?

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December 11, 2008

The decline and fall of the airlines

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The old-timers allow as how, back in the day, folks would dress up in their Sunday-best duds to go up in aeroplanes.

Why, shucks...they used to gussy up to go on the train, or to the doctor's, even. Those were the days when people showed respect.

But flying really was something special. Pilots were like gods with Apollo's wings attached to their shiny brogans. They say the first stewardesses, (yep, that's what they called 'em back then--none of this mealy-mouthed "flight attendant" claptrap) were required to be registered nurses.

They served real food, too. Not just peanuts and crackers, but gourmet stuff, and they gave you little printed menus with names on 'em you couldn't even pronounce.

Course, in those days before deregulation and all, a plane ticket would set you back about six months' pay. But that didn't matter, 'cuz back then the dime-store science fiction magazines were telling us that by 2008, we'd all be traveling effortlessly by tele-transporter to points across the globe.

With no surcharges for blankets and pillows.

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December 10, 2008

Illinois--Land o' slinkin'

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No wonder the McCain campaign, in its final death throes, tried to slime Obama as "a Chicago politician" when all else failed to stick.

The term is a venerated one in American politics, but Blagojevich (we've all had to take lessons in Serbo-Croatian pronunciation over the last forty-eight hours--you should have heard my Cuban-born editor butcher it yesterday) does elevate corruption to a new, brazen level.

Imagine treating a U.S. Senate seat as a commodity. I suppose if you grew up within sight and smell of the Chicago stockyards, it's possible to view just about everything in this world as a commodity.

POSTED IN: General Topics (188)

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December 9, 2008

"I do, and I'm going to Disney World!"

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As I've said before, it's fun, once in a while, to be able to combine two unrelated topics in a cartoon.

In this case, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist's summertime European romp to the tune of $400,000-plus has blown up in the same week as his planned nuptials, so why not conflate the two?

They really aren't all that unrelated after all, because we hear that the People's Governor included his comely fiancee among his trade mission camp followers, not unlike Caesar sweeping through Gaul on a military campaign.

For Charlie's reputation, this isn't exactly the equivalent of crossing the Rubicon,er, the Suwanee--but at least we can enjoy the ruckus for a few days until it all blows over.

POSTED IN: Florida Issues (258)

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December 8, 2008

Broward Commission Romper Room

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Why do our esteemed commissioners, caretakers of the public trust and all that, get so exercised over childish matters, like who got a commemorative plaque and who gets to sit where?

It could be that the problems we elected them to deal with are so intractable. You can't just snap your fingers and watch contributions from developers come streaming in when there aren't any houses being built. When the economy's lousy, you feel ineffective.

Instead, you tussle over the small stuff, like making sure your mug is closest to the camera so that all eight people who watch commission meetings on county public service TV get treated to your good side.

And a plaque! As my old editor used to say, "Sounds like just the thing to hang on a wall."

POSTED IN: Local South Florida Issues (187)

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December 5, 2008

The Obama prank that wasn't

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You can hardly blame Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, one of Miami's three anti-Castro amigos (along with the rabid Diaz-Balart brothers), for imagining herself to be yet another victim of a telephone prank.

After all, local Miami stations are past masters of the art form, having famously fooled Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez into thinking his pal Fidel Castro was on the horn, and then reversing the prank on Fidel, himself.

We all know about the French Canadian "President Sarkozy" who called Sarah Palin a couple of months ago.

It is no wonder, therefore, that Ileana hung up on President-elect Barack Obama when he called to congratulate her on her election victory and tell her how much he was looking forward to working together on common goals. Just to make sure she had dug her hole deep enough, she then slammed the receiver down on his future chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, who had called to tell her that the Barack outreach was una llamada verdadera.

When the whole mess was finally ironed out, everybody had a good laugh, sort of. But Ileana is no fool, and in her embarrassment, she knows full well that Obama managed to carry Florida without the help of what is left of the anti-Castro Miami Cuban exile community. Which means that he's free to pursue any policy on Cuba that he chooses to, without fear of backlash from her or her constituents.

Not exactly the best way to play your hand with the new administration, particularly when you come to the table without so much as a pair of deuces.

As for the Miami radio pranksters, this must be the sweetest victory of all. They didn't even have to pick up the phone.

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December 4, 2008

Jeb Who?

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I don't think "Bush Fatigue" even begins to describe it. Maybe "Bush Capitulation."

It was George W. Bush vs. the republic, and we lost. But that's another story. My guess is that this Bush is counting on the fact that by the time he runs for Mel Martinez' seat in 2010, the American public, with its notoriously pigeon-sized memory, will have forgotten that most of its ills occurred during his brother's watch.

By then, we'll be blaming Barack Obama, either for causing our problems or for not fixing them quickly enough. There will be enough voters looking back with nostalgia at the Bush years to put old Jeb over the top.

Until then, it's just "Jeb."

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December 3, 2008

Deck the halls with signs of discord

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Remember the fat years, when we could afford to sit back and get voluntarily offended that our own religious symbol was omitted from some public gathering place, or that one representing a creed we didn't like was included along with ours?

That's a luxury for people who aren't worried about their livelihoods, or whether they'll ever get to retire, or whether their kids will ever get to go to college. It all seems so trivial now.

It's a shame, because the annual mall protests were one of the things that gave South Florida its pizzazz. Is it possible that this recession will forge us into one big, disgusting cesspool of brotherly love?

Naah. We're stronger than that.

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December 2, 2008

Red-light cameras

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What happens when Floridians' notorious independent streak (just check out our gun laws) bumps up against localities' bright idea to raise revenue in tough times by paying commercial outfits to install traffic cameras and collect fines automatically?

Toss in a dollop of our legendary road rage, and Big Brother comes down with a case of lead poisoning.

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December 1, 2008

Holiday stampede of bargains!

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Our national motto, "E Pluribus Unum," isn't just a bunch of Latin. It embodies what we stand for as a nation: "Out of many, one."

"One," as in, "me," as in, "me first." Let's face it--it's our rugged individualism that made this country what many of its citizens call "the greatest civilization on Earth."

Rugged individualism, for a lot of people, is interchangeable with the term "social Darwinism," which means that the strongest survive, while the weak perish.

So if you are feckless enough to find yourself between a ravening crowd of shoppers and a store full of Black Friday bargains, be prepared not only to get trampled, but to have your body treated like a speed bump.

When asked to clear out of the store because somebody had died, the shoppers protested, saying they had been waiting all night to be first.

Fairness. Another principle that makes us a great nation.

POSTED IN: Economy (197)

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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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