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The Lowe Down

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October 30, 2009

Chan Lowe: Obama and the Afghan whirlpool

afghani.gifThis is one of those times when you wonder why anybody would want to be president, much less spend years of his or her life running for the job.

I remember the 2000 campaign, and drawing a cartoon commenting on how Al Gore had been preparing all his life to be president. He would probably not take a loss well.

Bush, on the other hand, looked like somebody who'd been drafted because his brother was defeated when running for governor of his state, which happened to be the case. After losing, he would probably shrug and say, "I tried, Daddy!" and happily go back to running his baseball team.

To him, being President was all about the cool plane and getting to wear that nifty windbreaker with the presidential seal on the chest. The rest--sadly--is history.

There is no upside to the Afghan war. We won't know when we've won, but we may well know if we've lost. Like Vietnam, it could go on and on, ensnared in the tentacles of geo- and domestic politics.

Not something you'd want to be commander-in-chief for in your worst nightmares.


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October 29, 2009

Chan Lowe: Corruption's long tentacle


Ah, yes...if you have friends, you are a wealthy person indeed.

Until the Federal Corruption Task Force comes a-knockin' at your door, and you find out they've all turned into witnesses for the prosecution.


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October 28, 2009

Chan Lowe: White-knuckle flying

captain.gifI had a friend who was an emergency room doctor. Along with the horrifying stories, he told me of the jokes--many of them extremely disrespectful of those placed in their care--that the staff shared in order to maintain their sanity in the face of such carnage and weirdness.

They kept a running list on the wall of bizarre objects that had been found inside patients.

The point is that no matter how critical or dangerous one’s job may be, it eventually becomes routine over time, and it is a constant battle to keep from dropping one’s vigil.

Astronauts are trained and re-trained so that no matter what may occur, they reflexively follow procedure. Of course, they gear up for one big spaceflight at a time, so their alert systems are dialed up to the max. If you’re an airline pilot, or a heart surgeon going in to crack just another chest, it can get monotonous. Distraction is the tempting demon lurking in the wings.

When we fly, we pay to put our lives in the hands of other human beings, and in return assume a certain amount of professionalism from them. It’s an article of faith, which is why this story about the breaching of that faith so quickly dominated the national consciousness.

Maybe these guys would respond in a clinch with the same heroism as Capt. Sullenberger did over the Hudson when both his engines failed—that is, if they didn’t fly into a mountain first. But we’ll never know. Yanking their licenses was the least the feds could do.


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October 27, 2009

Chan Lowe: selling the public option

option.gifIt's all very clear-cut, really.

Since it seems that we are to be eternally cursed with health insurance companies, polls show that most Americans like the idea of a public option--a non-profit health insurer administered by the government--to act as real competition to keep their prices in line.

After all, since insurance companies are exempt from antitrust laws, and some have a virtual monopoly on their business in many states, they shouldn't have it both ways, should they?

Critics complain that the public option is a Trojan horse that will eventually usher in the dreaded single-payer government health plan, and be the death of private insurers. I'm not sure where the threat lies here: it's like saying that introducing penicillin will mean the death of venereal disease.

Anyway, it should please states-rights conservatives that the Democratic leadership is offering a state opt-out as a sweetener. This way, blue states can have their public option, and red states can--on principle--reject its subversive, godless, socialistic philosophical underpinnings if they want to.

Of course, if the red-staters begin to notice that the blue-staters' premiums are falling precipitously, there may be a reapportionment of legislators in the next statewide elections. Money always talks, and...well, you know the rest of the expression.


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October 26, 2009

Chan Lowe: Ted Deutch gets the ultimate endorsement

deutch.gifIt's all over but the voting. For that matter, why don't we just install Ted Deutch as Robert Wexler's replacement by acclamation? It would save the taxpayers special election money when it could be better used elsewhere.

I have nothing against Ted Deutch. He's my state senator, and hasn't done anything embarrassing, so he'd probably represent me in Washington as well as Robert Wexler--maybe better, since he actually lives in the district.

The fact that Deutch has already been hand-picked by Wexler as his successor and endorsed by such local luminaries as Reps. Alcee Hastings, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and Ron Klein--who all say they look forward to working with him in congress--leaves me feeling a little like an illegal alien in my own district. I live there, but I have no say in my representation.

If I bother to vote, and I always do because I still naively believe in the power of voting, I may just vote for KoKo the Klown or whatever straw man (or woman) the Republicans draft to be their sacrificial lamb in the special election.

If enough people share my philosophy, it will keep Deutch looking over his shoulder knowing that his mandate wasn't unanimous. This is a healthy activity for any member of congress.


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October 23, 2009

Chan Lowe: NASA on the ropes

NASA.gifI was a kid when President Kennedy gave his stirring speech declaring we would go to the Moon within the decade.

My friends and I could recite the names of the Mercury Seven astronauts off the tops of our heads. As Tom Wolfe observed in his book, The Right Stuff, they were like the single combat warriors of old--the very best our side could put forward to vanquish the foe. Their suits even looked like modern armor.

We were out to prove that the American Way of Life could produce better technology and finer young men than the godless Rooskies and their evil system.

Even though our great success in the spacefaring field was born out of warlike competition, there is something to be said that both sides decided duke it out in a peaceful endeavor. The first rockets those intrepid astronauts rode to the heavens were just modified ICBMs, an updated version of beating swords into plowshares. At least we weren't using them to kill each other.

I recently took a tour of Cape Canaveral. The tour touted the space shuttle program, but the focus was on the Saturn moon rocket, which last flew in missions over 30 years ago. I wanted to see the original pad that launched the Redstone rockets carrying the Mercury astronauts aloft in the 1960s, but they didn't even include it on the tour. Evidently, there is nothing to see now but cracked concrete and weeds.

Most people just don't care anymore, someone told me.


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October 22, 2009

Chan Lowe: Tone-deafness on Wall Street

toll.gif"Tone deaf" doesn't begin to describe it.

The Masters of the Universe screwed up so badly in their pursuit of lucre that they had to be rescued by the very groundlings they so despise. And what's the first thing they do with other people's money? The same thing they've always done--reward themselves for just being who and where they are.

They like to say that they create wealth. This is the great justification for being the middlemen who siphon off their cut for passing money along the pipeline.

Real wealth is created by the factory workers who claw minerals from the earth, who smelt steel, who build things, and who deliver them to market. Without their sweat, there is no surplus to manipulate.

The financial people say that they should be rewarded for taking risks. You know what risk is? Risk is getting laid off and gambling that your kids won't get catastrophically ill or hurt during the time you're not covered by health insurance you can no longer afford.

Sure, investment is a risky business. But when investors lose something, it's symbolic. Chances are they can still go home to a hot meal in their lovely home in Greenwich. They haven't lost their livelihood, or their health. Their children don't go hungry. They've taken a hit, that's all. Tomorrow they'll recoup.

But having the courage to take that risk is worth tens, maybe hundreds of millions. Why is this? Just ask them.

POSTED IN: Economy (197)

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October 21, 2009

Chan Lowe cartoon: Karzai brings in the heavy artillery


Katherine Harris is surely one of the top five gifts to editorial cartoonists in the last ten years, two of the others being Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin.

Any excuse I can come up with to bring this one-of-a-kind individual out of mothballs makes for a red-letter work day. Katherine, I miss you so...

'Nuff said.


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October 20, 2009

Chan Lowe cartoon: Local corruption

board.gifCorruption in South Florida is a lot like cosmetic surgery.

Look around here and there's no shortage of face-lifts. Many--to be charitable--are simply obvious. Some are horrendous, others are flat-out botched.

Ever visited New York City? There are probably as many face-lifts per capita up there as there are in South Florida, only you don't notice them as much because the quality of the work is so much better.

Up in the Big Apple, it's commonly understood that many of the plastic surgeons who aren't good enough to succeed there or in Southern California head to Florida, where there's plenty of demand but the standards are lower (this is not to impugn the good ones who have chosen to call our little Garden of Eden home).

Like cosmetic surgery, corruption is an art form. In New York, they practice corruption with subtlety and nuance. They create gossamer layers of obscurity that befuddle the most discerning law enforcement operatives. A public official who skillfully conceals his or her "understandings" can go years, even decades, without a whiff of suspicion.

Here in Florida, you scratch the surface and you find unsophisticated, easy-to-expose, ugly relationships, like spouses of public servants being retained by contractors doing business with the same public entities.

They're hanging out there in all their hideous glory, like the blonde whirling around in the supermarket aisle whose drumhead-taut countenance causes you to gasp in horror.

This kind of sloppy workmanship would never pass muster up north. But this is Florida, where--as they say--the standards are lower.


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October 19, 2009

Chan Lowe cartoon: Child exploitation

exploit.gifWhile we're all tut-tutting about what a lowlife slimeball Richard Heene is for allegedly concocting a hoax involving his six-year-old son ("Falcon"'s as though he'd been planning this thing from the kid's birth) in order to enrich himself, let's remember the circumstances that even made the scheme possible.

"Reality" shows succeed or fail based upon whether they are able to adequately satisfy our inner voyeur.

We watch Jon & Kate, Wife Swap and Supernanny because (a) our lives are so dull that we hungrily substitute someone else's experiences for our own, and/or (b) it makes us feel superior to watch people whose lives are relatively out of control when ours are not.

Or maybe it's (c) something else. I'm sure an irate fan of the genre will enlighten me.

Anyway, there's money to be made if you can just come up with the right gimmick. You have to admit Heene was on to something, if only it hadn't fallen apart when the !@#$%^ kid broke from the script and admitted the whole thing was being done for the show.

Since fame and infamy are equally valid currency in the bank of public interest these days, the Heene family is not necessarily out of the money. The important thing is that we all know who they are now, and we find them fascinating. Ironically, the uncovering of the hoax might even give them clout to demand a bigger piece of the action.

For all we know, the kid was coached to admit the "truth." A hoax within a hoax. Bra-VO!


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October 16, 2009

Chan Lowe cartoon: Barack and Balloon Boy

balloon.gifMy guess is that the Limbaughs, Hannitys, Coulters and their fellow travelers in the entertainment biz are secretly hoping that despite their most ardent efforts, Barack Obama gets reelected to a second term.

Let's say, just for yuks, that the Mayan calendar is wrong and we don't all go up in a plume of fire in 2012.

Sarah Palin--through an electoral fluke (most likely another mechanical error in Florida)--succeeds Obama. Frankly (and I think I speak for those from all political spectra here), round-the-clock cheer leading is a lot less interesting than juicy, red-meat attack rhetoric.

When things start to go bad and the public realizes that she can't even figure out how to find her way down to the shooting range in the White House basement, a bored and cynical base will stop tuning in to the frantic yelping of ultra-conservative lapdogs locked in perpetual denial.

Let's remember: the talk show hosts aren't in it for the power, but the money. It would be delicious indeed to listen to Rush having to modify his spiel in order to attract a more moderate audience. Those Town of Palm Beach property taxes are, I hear, almost confiscatory.


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October 15, 2009

Chan Lowe cartoon: Not such a gay old time

promises.gifThe Obama administration has made it abundantly clear that it's a whole lot easier to make rash promises as a candidate than it is to actually run a country.

When George W. Bush uttered the pathetic, plaintive statement in a 2004 campaign debate that
"It's HAAAARD!" being president, you could almost see his arms flailing.

Balancing the competing priorities of America's constituencies, especially if they number among one's supporters, has to be among the tougher tasks of any chief executive.

Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender groups, having campaigned their hearts out to get Barack Obama elected, are rightfully miffed that their man has relegated their issues to the back burner. Democrats seem to do this with the GLBT crowd, the same way Republicans pay lip service to social conservatives when they need to get elected.

From Obama's viewpoint, he's using every ounce of his capital to get health care reform passed, and while he is surely sympathetic to gays, he feels he would so squander his clout if he took a side foray into that minefield that in the end, he'd get nothing accomplished. Remember what happened to Bill Clinton and Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

Sure it makes political sense from a coldly analytical perspective, but cold analysis wasn't what Obama was delivering in those roof-raising speeches about "This Is Our Time!"

And, as every cynical White House has said since the dawn of the republic when the base feels dissed: "Where else are they gonna go?"


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October 14, 2009

Chan Lowe cartoon: Robert Wexler steps off the carousel

rwex.gifIt sounds like South Florida’s favorite mensch, Congressman Robert Wexler, is going for the bucks.

One can hardly blame him—seven terms in congress is an eternity if your job consists mostly of espousing liberal causes that have little chance of being enacted into law, and making sure Social Security checks arrive on time back in the home district.

Why not head up a Middle East-oriented think tank, especially if the salary’s good? You may actually accomplish something real, and you can look at yourself in the mirror in the morning knowing you didn’t sell out to become a lobbyist.

Speaking professionally as a cartoonist, I would have to say that Robert Wexler has been good to me. The snafu over his so-called residency was fodder for a lot of commentary.

I also admire him for supporting Barack Obama’s candidacy in the face of huge opposition from his own constituents. This was back when Obama was still a Muslim and “had it in” for Israel. Wexler apparently knew better, and went like Jonah into the belly of the whale for him.

Whether or not you voted for or even like Obama, you have to respect that kind of political courage.

As one of Wexler’s constituents, I’ll miss him and his effervescent personality. Of course, I missed him when he was my congressman, too…so no harm, no foul.


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Chan Lowe T-Shirt on The Daily Show

One of the radicals being interviewed in this video clip from The Daily Show's coverage of the Washington D.C. gay rights march last weekend kindly sent me this link.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Queer and Loathing in D.C. - Radical Gay Agenda
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorRon Paul Interview

You may recognize the cartoon on his T-shirt (about the third or fourth scene into the video), which appeared in the Sun Sentinel and in this blog last April. Because of its advocacy of giving homosexuals equal treatment in the armed forces, this cartoon has gotten a huge amount of play around the Web.

The wearer of the T-shirt tells me that it received many compliments during the march. My thanks to him for the link.


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October 13, 2009

Chan Lowe cartoon: B.O.'s big haul

Just a week or two ago, the Obama haters were crowing that Chicago's elimination as a summer Olympics site amounted to a personal loss of prestige for the president, when in fact the decision had very little--if anything--to do with him.

Had he not gone to Copenhagen, the same carpers would have attacked him for not doing all he could to bring the Olympics to the U.S.

How can you blame the International Olympic Committee? Given the choice, wouldn't you rather loll on Copacabana Beach in the shadows of Sugar Loaf than on the steamy shores of Lake Michigan beneath the hulking pile of the Sears Tower?

Anyway, that's old news. Last week, he won the Nobel Peace Prize--again an event he had little to do with--and they say he didn't deserve the accolade. So, which is it?

From the tepid response out of the White House, the prize was viewed as something of a mixed blessing for a president who is already perceived (and perception in politics is reality, as they say) as being all mouth and no follow-through.

Those crazy Europeans. Don't they remember that one of the reasons Sen. Kerry lost the election in 2004 was that he looked "too French?" They should keep their pompous little prizes to themselves, thank you very much.


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October 9, 2009

Chan Lowe "encore" cartoon


This is another cartoon from October of 2005. Again, it is amazing how issues never really change. They just keep going around in cycles.


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October 8, 2009

Chan Lowe "encore" cartoon


While I'm away from the blog, here's another cartoon from five years ago.

As you can see, some things never change. If Benjamin Franklin were to utter his famous aphorism about death and taxes today, he'd be sure to include our favorite utility on the list.


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October 7, 2009

Chan Lowe "encore" cartoon

one.gifWhile I'm away from the blog for a few days, I am providing you entertainment (or further irritation), in the form of a few cartoons chosen from this time of year in 2004.

As you may recall, we were on the eve of the reelection of George W. Bush to a second term. Depending on your feelings about him, one of his strongest character traits was his resoluteness. Less charitable analysts would view it as mulish stubbornness.


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October 6, 2009

Chan Lowe cartoon: "Hot" shots

swine2.gifIt's all a secret plot, like fluoridation of our drinking water.

Now that the long-awaited swine flu vaccinations are finally being distributed, why am I not at the front of the line? Why should I and my family have to wait while some other, lesser mortal gets inoculated ahead of me?

First responders, shmirst responders. What about those willing to pay extra? What's more American than getting preferential treatment for greasing a few palms?

It's the long arm of paternalistic government again, telling us who can get medical care and who can't. It's Obamanistic socialism. I hear the feds paid for the vaccine. I have half a mind to refuse it, just because the serum might be a Communistic scheme to infect us all with an insane desire to sit down during the Pledge of Allegiance or something.

What's wrong with good old-fashioned free-enterprise-produced vaccine? Fine, so it might cost ten times as much. That would keep the hoi polloi out of it. I could get my shot sooner, which is exactly the way it should be.

POSTED IN: Medical (50)

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October 5, 2009

Chan Lowe cartoon: Pink slip blues

HR.gifMaybe that’s why they call economics the dismal science.

The folks who know everything—the ones with all the degree letters after their names—put on their little propeller hats, inspect their goat entrails, and pronounce that we are, happily, on our way out of the woods.

Meanwhile, there’s something called “employment lag,” which means that the people down in the trenches—who have done nothing but work hard all their lives—find themselves still falling victim to arcane forces beyond their control.

Their productivity and quality are just as high as they’ve always been, but they’re told that for some reason, they and their skill sets are no longer needed.

If the recession is “technically” over, who’s seeing the benefits of the upswing? They say the financial sector’s doing well, and everybody’s back to getting obscene bonuses for whatever it is they do, thanks to bailouts and subsidies.

So if you feel you're entitled to some “trickle-down,” walk beneath a Wall Street skyscraper. And make sure to bring your umbrella.


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October 2, 2009

Chan Lowe cartoon: New blood at the PSC


Maybe FPL has already done opposition research on these two new appointees with the ruthless efficiency of a KGB counterintelligence squad.

Any proclivities that can be exploited? Skeletons in their past? Kids of college age that got admitted to pricey Ivy League schools that might make them susceptible to a sweet job offer down the line?

Ah, don't listen to me...I'm just being paranoid--ZZZZZOTTTTT!!!!!
AAUUGH that hurt!!! How did they manage to plant those electrodes in my office chair??

POSTED IN: Florida Issues (258), Local South Florida Issues (187)

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October 1, 2009

Chan Lowe cartoon: Texting and driving

texting2.gifI have a friend who takes a Darwinian view of people who do dangerous things.

For example, whenever she reads of some hothead on a crotch-rocket who has had a one-vehicle collision with a tree--or a wall--she says, "Natural selection. Not meant to reproduce."

One could put texting while driving in the same category, and just dismiss it as another one of those harmful behaviors--like eating fast-food burgers and fries--that Americans love to defend as their God-given right, except for the fact that the compulsive texter may be entering the same intersection at the same time you are from the other direction.

Then, things get personal. Moreover, there's the insurance argument: Why should those of us who don't even know how to send a text message (and I'm proud to say I'm one of them) subsidize the multi-taskers who place everyone's lives in jeopardy to stay connected?

I read that devices are being sold in Utah (where TWD is now illegal) to disable cell phone signals in the car to prevent the driver from texting and calling while the engine is running. I can see why parents would want one of these things for their teenage kids, but apparently a lot of drivers install them for their own use, because they just can't keep themselves from doing it, even though they know it's dangerous.

Sounds familiar. Mothers Against Texting Drivers, where are you?


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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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