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January 30, 2009

Wall Street bonuses


Just who do these people think they are, anyway? They get richly rewarded in the fat times; they get richly rewarded in the lean times.

Now the times are so lean that they need a bailout from taxpayers. And what is the first thing they do? They richly reward each other.

I have a theory about this. Take the podiatrist. Does a person go to medical school and then look at smelly feet all day to save the world one foot at a time, or because he wants to be the Albert Schweitzer of Podiatry and win the Nobel Prize for Bunion Research? No, he does it because it's a living. If he can do some good while he's making that living, then he can go home at night feeling like he's worth something.

Financial types, on the other hand, do not benefit from this spiritual remuneration. If your living is to make money, nothing more, nothing less, then the only sin is in not making as much of it as you possibly can. Who cares if somebody else gets screwed, or if the money comes from the taxpayers? It's green, and it pays the mortgage on that mcmansion in Greenwich, Conn.

This is where Obama has it all wrong, trying to shame Wall Street. They do not know shame. Shame is raking in less than the guy in the cubicle next to you. The only answer is to cut off the nutrition stream. Starve the beast. Regulate everything, and then double- and triple-check the regulations, because like cockroaches, the financial types will find a way to slip through the cracks.


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January 29, 2009

If the ad fits...


First off, I would like to thank Joseph, an observant reader, who pointed out that I mistakenly made Southwest Airlines the original subject of this cartoon. My apologies to Southwest, for it is, in fact, Spirit Airlines that I should have spotlighted. The correction has been duly made.

And, yes, Joseph, I do read my own newspaper, usually around 5:30 a.m., and at that hour I have been known to make more than a few mistakes.

Many of us in the newspaper business still think of what we do as a calling, not just a job. That having been said, nobody better understands the direct relationship between advertising and meaningful, rewarding employment better than we do.

We hear over and over that consumer spending is the backbone of the nation’s economy. The fact that consumers are now stashing their discretionary dollars under the mattress for a rainy day is one of the reasons why the recession is spiraling out of control.

But, when consumers are in a buying mood, advertising helps them make decisions about where to spend those dollars. It’s the circulatory system for that economic backbone, to extend the metaphor a little.

So when Spirit Airlines' flight attendants whine that it’s unprofessional to wear aprons with an ad for Bud Light on them, I say buck up. Instead of their grousing, they should join the rest of America in trusting their colds to Tylenol, in not squeezing the Charmin, in taking the thirty-six hour pill that’s ready when they are, and in choosing the adult diaper that has been proven in independent lab tests to be more absorbent.

Their jobs are probably the ones being saved by that ad.

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

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January 28, 2009

State Farm slams the barn door shut

Hurricanes are one of those facts of life we simply have to deal with. We can't "hate," or "despise" hurricanes, or "hold them in contempt." They have no free will. They're just products of the laws of thermodynamics.

Homeowners' insurance companies, however, are another matter. All that public relations pablum about being in good hands, about being good neighbors--it's just selling a feeling, because their product doesn't exist as a tangible item you can get your hands around.

We forget that they're not really here to be a public service. They're profit-driven, and they take our money, betting that we'll never have to make a claim. So for years, they took it gladly. Then, we had a few bad seasons. Now State Farm is pulling out, because the house is no longer guaranteed its traditional winnings at blackjack.

The company is more than happy, however, to stay behind to insure our automobiles, which continues to be a lucrative enterprise.

There's a word for that: boycott.


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January 27, 2009

The treasury embarrassment


A candidate for Treasury secretary who "forgot" to pay all his taxes? That's like saying Al "Carbon Footprint" Gore quietly pays a huge electric bill on his big fat house in Tenne--oh, wait a minute.

The cheeses were opining that Geithner's confirmation was "too big to fail." The country desperately needs his matchless talents to steer us safely through the economic maelstrom. Nobody else will do, not even Larry Summers, who's supposed to be the true economic brain in the Obama Administration.

Especially Larry Summers, because as president of Harvard, he said some intemperate things about women that essentially blew his chances out of the water as far as the liberal base is concerned. Evidently, he wasn't too big to fail.

Neither are you or I, for that matter. Try pulling a stunt like Geithner's and see how long the IRS will let you get away with it.


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January 26, 2009

The Guantanamo dilemma


It takes somebody who really knows what he's doing the better part of a minute to shoot and reload a musket. Longbows are faster, but they can still only launch one arrow at a time.

You have to wonder if the doctrine of habeas corpus, first developed in English Common Law and later enshrined in ours, would be as unconditional had bad guys in those days cared nothing for their own lives and could get their hands on weapons that were capable of annihilating large swaths of the population.

Much as we revere our rights, we live in a tricky new age. Would you want to be the one who stood on principle and sprang some nutball who later came back with a suitcase nuke and laid waste to one of our cities? All of our civil rights advocates would come down with a sudden case of laryngitis while everybody else screamed for your head.

There is one good thing about lawyers: if you pay a smart one enough, he'll figure out a legal path through any thorn bush. I understand they're hiring some pretty sharp ones right now in the Obama Justice Department.


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January 23, 2009

Gay adoption


I remember watching a young adult, barely of voting age, being interviewed on TV early in the primaries. The reporter asked him if the fact that Barack Obama was black would affect his decision, and he answered, "That's something only you older people think about." Talk about generational change.

It's the same with gay issues. Prejudice isn't an entity that can exist on its own. It's a parasite, and it dies host organism at a time.


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January 22, 2009

Some "victory."


Take any organization, founded for whatever reason, and pretty soon its first order of business becomes self-preservation.

Back in the Middle Ages, when the Catholic Church needed money, the Pope sold indulgences whereby wealthy mortals could assure their souls a shortcut past Purgatory and straight through the Pearly Gates.

When Jonas Salk discovered the polio vaccine, the March of Dimes reinvented itself as a crusader for pre- and neonatal care.

So now comes Hamas, whose popularity with Gazans is in decline because it is failing to deliver on all those mundane promises about lowering crime, keeping the lights on, and getting the garbage picked up. A dingy light bulb clicks on over some strategist's head, and he says, "I know, let's go shoot rockets at the Israelis! They'll retaliate in force, as they always do. We hide amongst our own people, they get mowed down, we fight back in their name, and even though we're sure to lose, we're heroes! We sweep the next elections!"

That's all well and good, except for the people who got mowed down. Nobody asked them.


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January 21, 2009

The pendulum swings back

One school of thought holds that the Obama Administration should investigate the violations of America's moral code that occurred under President Bush's watch: the torturing, the extraordinary renditions, Abu Ghraib, the whole Guantanamo charade. It would be like South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Punish those responsible (read here Cheney, Rummy, and lesser-known figures) so that those who might ponder these acts in the future would know that they couldn't get away with it. Also, prosecution would reaffirm to ourselves what we stand for as a nation.

Another school says let's move on, we have far more pressing problems to face down without getting mired in the sins of the past. Besides, it must have worked, because we didn't get hit again after 9/11.

President Obama, as is his wont, would like to split the difference: indulge in a little garbage-picking after we've addressed the immediate stuff. A pragmatic solution, although my gut says we should hold the malfeasance up to the light, and go wherever an investigation takes us. The national guilt we might feel for turning a blind eye to the dilution of our principles might inoculate us against falling prey to such apathy in the future.


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January 20, 2009

America's new face abroad


In his inauguration speech today, President Obama addressed the Islamic world directly, saying that those who were willing to work with us in building things, rather than destroying them, would receive the hand of friendship.

Here is one place where his heretofore burdensome middle name probably helps him. He has an enormous reservoir of political capital abroad as well as in this country. If he uses it more wisely than his predecessor, it could go a long way toward alleviating at least one of the many vexing problems that face us--that being our standing in the rest of the world.

I understand that one of Obama's first overseas trips will include Indonesia, the land where he spent a portion of his childhood. Can you imagine the reaction in the world's most populous Muslim nation when he makes a few remarks to them in their own language?

A far cry from a President who even had difficulty making a few remarks to the American people in their own language.


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January 19, 2009

The shifting sands of public opinion


Not to rain on President Obama's parade, but the American people (at least the current crop) do not weather hardship well. The difference between us and our forebears from the 1930's is that they never had it all that good to start with, so the Great Depression represented, for them, a more severe degree of personal restraint, not a quantum contraction of lifestyle as our current situation demands.

Our history of living high on the credit hog, those big fat cars and houses we really couldn't afford, the flat-screen TVs, the travel, the dining out, are all too vivid in our recent memory. We got used to the taste of prosperity, even if it was just a chimera. We want it back, pronto. A few more months of denial, and we're going to forget that the crash happened on George W. Bush's watch. All we'll think about is that Obama seems to be spinning his wheels at a furious pace, but we're no closer to moving back into our mcmansions.

That'll be right around when things start heating up for the off-year Congressional elections, and the Republicans will be more than happy to point out how little progress we will have made under an all-Democrat government.

How did it all begin? Heck, who will be able to remember that far back?


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January 16, 2009

The unplanned Hudson River cruise


The way television was obsessing on the rich video of a plane floating in the river last night, and kept doing so deep into prime-time, I half-expected them to stage an episode of Dancing With The Stars on the wing.

Even when there was nothing new to say, they stayed on it. This was way better than a low-speed car chase down a freeway.

We did learn one important thing during the course of the evening: the reason Michael Bloomberg decided not to run for president. His public speaking delivery makes a dial tone sound like a Shakespearean soliloquy.

True, it's a miracle that nobody died. You can't take anything away from that.


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January 15, 2009

The 2009 Hard Times Calendar is here!!!


Remember the South Florida Perpetual Calendar? This year's version, again totally conceived and executed by yours truly, reflects the realities of the new era, to wit: it's going to be a really rough year.

The Calendar runs in this Sunday's Sun Sentinel as a wraparound front and back cover of the Outlook section, so if you live in our circulation area and want the whole thing in (framable) poster form, be sure to buy a copy, and several more for your friends and relatives, while you're at it.

Meanwhile, since you're discriminating and astute enough to read this blog, you get an advance peek. Just scroll down the right side of the blog to the box that says, "Chan's Galleries," and click on the words, "Chan's 2009 Hard Times Calendar." We here at the Lowe-Down brought all of our technical expertise to bear on the problem, but unfortunately were not able to figure out how to mount a thumbnail illustration in there for you to click on.

I hope you enjoy it. We could all use a little levity.

POSTED IN: Hard Times Calendar (1)

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South Florida's other industry


It looks like the Federales are going to be with us for a long time, because the local watchdogs either dropped the ball or never picked it up in the first place.

I have a theory about why government corruption is so rampant and enduring down here. A lot of people, the ones with enough time on their hands to vote, move down and leave the grown kids up north. This means they have no stake in the future of the area.

All they want is to be left alone to enjoy their twilight years and be allowed to die in peace. As for government, as long as it maintains a relatively low tax rate and keeps the hooligans from kicking in the condo door or snatching one's purse in the parking lot, then it's done its job. If somebody wants to use his office to make a side living, that's his business. When election time comes, you vote for whom you've heard of.

Which is where campaign fund contributions come in.


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January 14, 2009

Obama the great unifier


One thing George W. Bush learned from Karl Rove is that all that high-minded stuff about brotherly love and the Great Melting Pot is dreck.

We're a nation of tribes, prejudices and special interests. If you can cobble together a big enough coalition of angry people by appealing to their basest hot-button phobias, you can get something done in this country, like passing tax cuts for the wealthiest five per cent of our population.

Now comes Barack Obama with an innovative concept: to be a true unifier (I refuse to use the Bushism "uniter"), why not tick everybody off by goring all the oxen at once? It's a little like the martyr who gathers all the spear points into his own body so that his army can break through the lines.

At least, in their mutual disappointment, the factions are talking to one another. This is a lot further than W. got in eight years, and Obama isn't even president yet.


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January 13, 2009

Robert Wexler loves us--he really does!


Rep. Robert Wexler, few would disagree, occupies one of the safest Congressional seats in America.

How safe? Back when it was not cool to do so, he was one of the few to defend former President Clinton during the impeachment hearings. No, he didn’t just defend him, he got out there, plastered his face all over the networks and VOCIFEROUSLY, UNAPOLOGETICALLY and INDEFATIGABLY defended him.

How safe? He called for the impeachment of President Bush just a few months before the Clown Prince was heading out the door anyway.

How safe? He was one of the very first major Florida pols to support Barack Obama in the primaries, a position that required a lot of fast-talking in the temples and synagogues of District 19. Yet his career did not suffer for it, because to his constituents, he’s a mensch.

Except for that quirky little thing about his being a full-time resident of Maryland (to which I have alluded in this cartoon and earlier ones), he’s far from being the worst of that batch of jokers in Washington.

Wexler could have walked in and written his own ticket with the Obama administration, but for some reason he has decided to hold onto his seat. I guess he cares about us—not enough that he would actually want to live among us, but enough not to deprive us of his representation.


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January 12, 2009

Votes you regret


When you give the gift of democracy to a people, the vote doesn't always turn out the way you had hoped.

Take the Palestinians (no Henny Youngman jokes, please), who freely and openly elected a government whose central platform plank was the destruction of the State of Israel. Their vote may have been out of desperation, despair or anger, but they made their bed, and the Israelis are now making sure they sleep in it.

It was Hamas, not average Gazan civilians, who fired the rockets into Israel, but the only way Gazans are going to be convinced to change their government is to show them that there is no future for them in supporting their current one.

If this keeps up, Hamas' support in Palestinian public opinion polls may sink even lower than George W. Bush's in American ones. In the regrets department, our two peoples have a great deal in common.


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January 9, 2009

Another domino falls


Former (as of yesterday) Palm Beach County Commissioner Mary McCarty is the latest of the rogues' gallery to do the perp walk in what is becoming the Federal Prosecutors' Full Employment Act.

That makes three snagged, so far, by the Theft of Honest Services statute that can be summed up thusly: "The way public business has always been conducted in South Florida."

Three out of seven. One more, and they'll have a quorum of the Palm Beach County Government in Exile.

You know that row of Commission mug shots that greets you at the airport in West Palm as you arrive from the concourse? Here's an idea: replace them with digital picture frames. It may cost a little extra up front, but in the long run we'll save money.

POSTED IN: Local South Florida Issues (187)

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January 8, 2009

Crimes against the unborn


You've probably heard the epithet "Tax-and-Spend Liberals" bandied about, particularly by conservatives who no longer have Communists hiding under their beds to demonize.

Whatever your political stripe, at least there's a certain integrity to taxing and spending, because the pain is being inflicted on the payer at the moment that the public "servant" is making the expenditure. He who spends can then be held accountable on election day.

There's a moral bankruptcy (if you'll pardon the expression) about borrowing and spending, because those who distributed the largess will have gotten the credit for whatever the money did, but be long gone by the time the bill comes due.

Since conservatives refuse to increase taxes on anybody, it appears that borrowing is going to be the only way out of our current predicament. It's curious that these same conservatives who worry so much about the rights of the unborn are not afraid to saddle them with crippling debt that they had nothing to do with.

Of course, the unborn don't vote.

POSTED IN: Economy (197)

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January 7, 2009

While Jeb's away...


Jeb Bush carries so much weight (I mean that figuratively) in this state that all political aspirations ground to a halt while he mulled a run to fill the vacancy, come 2010, of Mel Martinez' U.S. Senate seat.

A few weeks ago, when Martinez announced his retirement, I drew a cartoon questioning whether this, or even two years from now, was the best time for someone to be running for office while saddled with the surname Bush.

Jeb must have seen it, because he clearly took its message to heart. Anyway, now that he's gone, all of the little gremlins are coming out of the woodwork to stake a claim, creating a domino effect that can be felt all the way down to dog-catcher level.

POSTED IN: Florida Issues (258)

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January 6, 2009

The last cheap shot?


To paraphrase Richard Nixon, we won't have George W. Bush to kick around anymore.

As we enter the final two-week stretch of this long-running disaster, I realized that throwing tomatoes at W. after he's out would be like speaking ill of the dead, so I'd better take a final (maybe) nasty, small-minded poke at the man who has been the gift that kept on giving for editorial cartoonists.

While I was drawing the cartoon, however, I couldn't help but give a sympathetic tip of the hat to the pathetic picture of a sitting president who is so unpopular that he can't even land a book deal. While Sarah Palin(!) snagged a multi-million-dollar advance for her story, publishers delicately told our swashbuckling hero that he might want to wait a while (read: forever) before penning that memoir. Why would people want to pay good money to read about somebody they'd rather forget, especially in this economy?

Best to just disappear to the Dallas mansion, where his ever-shrinking cadre of hard-core supporters can arrange to have brush dumped in his backyard for him to clear.

POSTED IN: President Bush (36)

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January 5, 2009

Gaza madness


One can understand why the Arab world would see things from the Palestinian point of view, although innocent victims are innocent victims whether they belong to your own nation or someone else's.

What I don't understand are the negative feelings toward the Israeli incursion by nations that ought to know better. Do the French honestly think that they would act any differently if rockets were raining down daily on their beloved Arc de Triomphe, and flattening everyone in the vicinity?

The only thing the Israelis have done that the rest of us haven't is to retaliate surgically by going straight to the source of the threat and attempting to eliminate it with overwhelming force and an eye toward minimizing "collateral damage."

For some reason, they haven't been stupid enough to get bogged down in a multi-year, phenomenally expensive war with a nation that had nothing to do with the original problem.

POSTED IN: International (86)

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January 2, 2009

The last transition-Part V

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.

There was a short time when all things Clintonian, whether related to him or touched by him, were as good as money in the bank. Fortunately, Hillary is the only one who seems to have outlasted Warhol's famous fifteen minutes of fame.

POSTED IN: The Last Transition (5)

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January 1, 2009

The last transition-Part IV


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.

I liked this cartoon because it played on two different themes: Bubba's penchant for greasy fast food, and the fact that he first met Monica when she was delivering a pizza to the oval office.

POSTED IN: The Last Transition (5)

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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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