The Lowe Down | Political cartoonist Chan Lowe's take on current issues and the news of the day | Sun Sentinel blogs

The Lowe Down


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November 30, 2009

Obama makes the pitch for the Afghan war

plan.gifRemember that much-maligned line first uttered by Condi Rice when the Bushies were bamboozling congress and the American people into war in Iraq: "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud?"

It turned out--as we now know to our everlasting regret--that Saddam had no WMD, and her cute turn of phrase, while mighty scary, was empty at its core.

This time, though, it's for real. It's now Barack Obama's unenviable job to convince an incredulous public that the old Domino Theory is still valid. If Afghanistan falls to the Taliban and al-Qaida is allowed to thrive there, the infection will spread even deeper into an already rickety Pakistan, and possibly overwhelm its government.

Normally, we'd just allow the warlords and nut jobs in that part of the world to cancel each other out, but we're talking upwards of 80 nuclear weapons here, any one of which in the wrong hands could mean disaster.

Obama's speech will have to be short, sweet and to the point: no "nation-building," no "nurturing democracy," no subtlety. If he's going to sell this thing, we have to come away thinking, "Either we commit, or someday we're all going up in a ball of flame."

Americans aren't good with abstract concepts (think, "deficit spending"). They do, however, understand matters of life and death.

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November 27, 2009

Pied pipers of the GOP

cliff.gifIt's reminiscent of the bad old days of the House Un-American Activities Committee, the John Birch Society and the blacklist of the 1950's.

Now the Republican Party will require potential 2010 candidates to fill out an "ideological purity" form, in which they must correctly score on at least eight out of ten answers on topics such as abortion, gay marriage and taxes, if they are to qualify for national party campaign funds.

Of course, the party has a right to do this--but is it politically sound reasoning? As the GOP circles the wagons more and more tightly around its conservative core, it may develop into an effective force for anointing candidates to win primaries, but in the general election, it will be relinquishing the vast swath of moderate turf--turf most Americans feel comfortable occupying--to the Democrats.

In recent times, the Democratic Party has been more of a "big tent," embracing members from across the idealogical spectrum, including moderate conservatives who, fifty years ago, would have fallen into the "Rockefeller Republican" camp.

Since retaining or augmenting majorities in both houses of Congress is the name of the game, one has to wonder if the GOP has some kind of death wish. Maybe it simply has no credible leaders at the moment, except for the bloviators who make a living by being extremist.


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November 26, 2009

Anatomy of the scam

rothtrailer.gifIf you're going to run a major-league swindle, nothing sucks 'em in like personal example.

The first thing the scammer does with his ill-gotten gains is to surround himself with the trappings of wealth. Human nature being what it is, his willing marks will look at his lifestyle and want very badly for it to be theirs as well.

It is this wanting that lowers the internal barriers, erodes better judgment, and that causes otherwise sensible people to behave like slobbering morons. Until they see the cars, the mansions, the yachts--it's all an abstraction.

If the marks already have a lot of loot, then the lifestyle ornamentation is important to show one is a member of the club. Rich people don't get richer by investing in working stiffs--they do it by investing with other rich people.

Dangle the toys in front of them. Once the hook has been set, all that's left to do is reel 'em in.


POSTED IN: Economy (197), Local South Florida Issues (187)

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November 25, 2009

Chan Lowe: Giving thanks in tough times

thanksgiving.gif

Happy Thanksgiving!

POSTED IN: General Topics (188)

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November 24, 2009

Chan Lowe: Obama and the empathy thing

empathy.gifBarack Obama needs to learn there is more to governing than staying cool and bringing his calculator mind to bear on the weighty problems of state.

Where is that legendary charisma we saw during the campaign? The dewy-eyed youths willing to follow him to the gates of Hell, or even to Washington, D.C.? His followers are turning away in disgust, not just because he isn't following through with his more liberal promises, but because he isn't stroking them enough.

Remember that stupid poll about who you'd rather have a beer with? There's something to it, because an aloof professorial type may be able to tell you what's best for you, but only a drinking buddy can actually talk you into doing what you have to in order to achieve it.

Barack needs to connect. I don't have any specific suggestions on how to do it--he's the president, after all. He's the one who's supposed to know.

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November 23, 2009

Chan Lowe: The terror trials II

khaled.gifIf Khaled Sheikh Mohammed and the rest of those guys are so single-minded in their hatred of our country that they want to fall into the trap, then let them.

They can't wait for their opportunity to rant on the world stage...their words faithfully broadcast by Al Jazeera and other sympathetic outlets to all corners of the globe.

Those who have already been radicalized won't be changed at all, while other, cooler heads will notice that the alleged perps are shouting into a microphone provided by their accuser. What other nation would be confident enough in the rightness of its defining spirit to allow those who attacked it to speak their piece in a fair hearing?

It's certainly a lot more than these cowards would ever afford anyone who was in their captivity. Too risky. Might mess up the pageantry.

And a full trial that follows a legal code, and rules of evidence? With defense attorneys provided to the defendants? Are these Americans crazy?

Yes, like a fox.

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Reject corner!!!

rejectx.gifWe haven't had a candidate for the rejects pile for quite some time, either because my work has been so superlative that no fault could be found in it, or because as a cartoonist, I failed to push the envelope far enough to go over the edge with my editor.

Judging by some reader comments, it certainly wasn't the former.

Anyway, the one you see here was spiked for several reasons: my editor felt that it was too risque for starters, but also allowed that he "didn't think it was that funny. Almost, dare I say it, obvious." Normally he'll stretch the taste envelope if the cartoon has enough merit. Evidently, this one did not.

Not every cartoon needs to be funny. They can be poignant, trenchant and serious, as long as they make a point. This cartoon makes a point, but it isn't a deep one, so its success does rely more on humor.

Maybe it's a certain pride of authorship, but I thought it was funny, particularly in the South Florida context. So did several of my colleagues.

What do you think? Was my editor right?

POSTED IN: Rejects (5)

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November 20, 2009

Afghan corruption

karzai.gifWhen it comes to corroding people's faith in their leadership, nothing is more effective than rampant corruption.

Since our ostensible goal in Afghanistan is to establish a stable, peaceful government, it makes sense that stamping out corruption would be in our best interests. When it's so pervasive, though, where does one even begin?

There are fabulous amounts of money washing around in a place that has only known poverty for centuries. It's not that the Afghans are any more corrupt than anyone else. If the opportunity exists, and there's no oversight to speak of, any typical person will take whatever he can.

Singapore, I read somewhere, has one of the cleanest governments in the world. As I recall, it's because the prime minister, who is in effect a dictator, decreed that the penalty for corruption by a government official is death.

Singapore also has closed-circuit cameras to catch people spitting in elevators, as well as sirens and flashers on vehicles that activate if their drivers exceed the speed limit, so one can go overboard in maintaining public order.

Probably the best--and only--way to cure the problem of government corruption in Afghanistan is for us to pack up our loot and go home. In a matter of weeks, there wouldn't be any government left to corrupt.

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November 19, 2009

The terror trials

terrorcourt.gifThe hypocrisy is delicious.

The same conservatives who passionately promote the sacredness of the constitution--and appointing judges to the federal bench who would interpret it strictly--are now in favor of suspending it out of fear that our constitutional guarantees are nothing but Swiss cheese through which terrorist vermin might escape justice.

You can't have it both ways. Either it is the noblest document ever written, or its freedoms should only be applied to lesser crimes in which the outcome isn't so serious. It saddens me that its vocal supporters have so little faith in its effectiveness.

As for the argument that terrorists make war on America, and therefore have no right to be tried under our system of presuming innocence until proven guilty: I don't recall anybody saying that Timothy McVeigh should be denied a trial by jury. He made war on America the same as these guys--just ask the loved ones of those unlucky enough to be in the Murrah Federal Building that day.

By the way, he was convicted and executed under our supposedly flawed system that bends over backwards to give the accused the benefit of the doubt...so chill. This is about us and who we are as a nation, not about them. If we try them fairly and openly for all the world to see, then the terrorists have lost.

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November 18, 2009

Chan Lowe "encore" cartoon VIII

Chan-eight.gif

While I’m away from the blog, I’m posting some cartoons drawn at this same time of year back in 2005.

I think you’ll agree that some of the subjects will bring back old, dormant memories, while others could have been drawn for today’s paper.

I remember that the news was still buzzing with the Kansas Intelligent Design vote, and I was looking for a way to make the issue relevant to South Floridians.

POSTED IN: Cartoons from 2005 (8)

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November 17, 2009

Chan Lowe "encore" cartoon VII

Chan-seven.gif

While I’m away from the blog, I’m posting some cartoons drawn at this same time of year back in 2005.

I think you’ll agree that some of the subjects will bring back old, dormant memories, while others could have been drawn for today’s paper.

As you can see, some things never change.

POSTED IN: Cartoons from 2005 (8)

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November 16, 2009

Chan Lowe "encore" cartoon VI

Chan-six.gif

While I’m away from the blog, I’m posting some cartoons drawn at this same time of year back in 2005.

I think you’ll agree that some of the subjects will bring back old, dormant memories, while others could have been drawn for today’s paper.

This cartoon is one of my personal favorites.

POSTED IN: Cartoons from 2005 (8)

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November 13, 2009

Chan Lowe "encore" cartoon V

Chan-five.gif

While I’m away from the blog, I’m posting some cartoons drawn at this same time of year back in 2005.

I think you’ll agree that some of the subjects will bring back old, dormant memories, while others could have been drawn for today’s paper.

This business of accusing Americans who disagreed with the Bush war policy as unpatriotic displayed the administration at its worst.

POSTED IN: Cartoons from 2005 (8)

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November 12, 2009

Chan Lowe "encore" cartoon IV

Chan-four.gif

While I’m away from the blog, I’m posting some cartoons drawn at this same time of year back in 2005.

I think you’ll agree that some of the subjects will bring back old, dormant memories, while others could have been drawn for today’s paper.

POSTED IN: Cartoons from 2005 (8)

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November 11, 2009

Chan Lowe "encore" cartoon III

Chan-three.gif

While I’m away from the blog, I’m posting some cartoons drawn at this same time of year back in 2005.

I think you’ll agree that some of the subjects will bring back old, dormant memories, while others could have been drawn for today’s paper.

I drew this right after the Kansas Board of Education voted that "Intelligent Design," which many see as a Trojan horse for getting God into biology classes, would be required in the curriculum of Kansas schools.

POSTED IN: Cartoons from 2005 (8)

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November 10, 2009

Chan Lowe "encore" cartoon II

Chan-two.gif

While I’m away from the blog, I’m posting some cartoons drawn at this same time of year back in 2005.

I think you’ll agree that some of the subjects will bring back old, dormant memories, while others could have been drawn for today’s paper.

I drew this cartoon right after the news broke that the CIA was secretly holding prisoners overseas so that interrogators could circumvent the constitution.

POSTED IN: Cartoons from 2005 (8)

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November 9, 2009

Chan Lowe "encore" cartoon

Chan-one.gif

While I’m away from the blog, I’m posting some cartoons drawn at this same time of year back in 2005.

I think you’ll agree that some of the subjects will bring back old, dormant memories, while others could have been drawn for today’s paper.

I drew this shortly after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans.

POSTED IN: Cartoons from 2005 (8)

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November 6, 2009

Gov. Charlie's shine starts to tarnish

roth.gifOf all the office walls in all the world, Gov. Charlie's fifteen chummy photos have to show up on Scott Rothstein's.

Even our notoriously Teflon-coated governor may have a hard time slithering out of this one, although one of my editorial board colleagues insists that there is virtually nothing that will keep him out of the U.S. Senate seat currently being warmed for him.

Still, the double-talking will be fun to watch. While Charlie is probably too dim to be that crooked--and just got burned like everybody else who allegedly fell under Rothstein's spell--photos like these (and this cartoon is based on a real one--Charlie's birthday party) are a potent reinforcement of the kind of simplistic connections that resonate with the average voter.

Let's sit back with our popcorn and watch what Marco Rubio makes of all this.

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November 5, 2009

Chan Lowe: No presidential slack

vaccine.gifOne thing Mr. Obama has learned about being president is that nobody ever cuts you an inch of slack.

When he went to Denmark to argue Chicago's case for the Olympics, he was criticized for using up all that aviation fuel and coming home empty-handed. Had he not gone, he would have been accused of not doing all he could to help out a great American city.

Another example: Now the gay rights movement is upset at him for not going up to Maine and making the pitch against repeal of that state's gay marriage law. They feel that it's just one more in a long string of Obama disappointments related to their cause.

They might want to remember that Obama always said he was against gay marriage. He prefers civil unions with all the rights pertaining thereto, to use the dry legalistic phrase. Gays have plenty to be disgruntled about--it looks like "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is still in place despite his assurances to the contrary--but Obama's silence on gay marriage should come as no surprise.

With so many other irons in the fire, Obama has had to perform some painful triage in order to get his top priorities accomplished. It's hard, understandably, for interest groups to accept that their top priorities may not be his. Maybe this is one of the reasons presidents serve four-year terms, to force a restless public to be patient.

If Obama still hasn't delivered by 2012, then those with a grievance have a remedy. I wish them the best of luck with the Republican To Be Named Later. So does Barack Obama, which is probably why he made the political calculation he did. It's cruel, but that's politics.

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November 4, 2009

Chan Lowe: World's fastest land creatures

rothstein.gifPoliticians’ never-ending grovel for campaign funds can be a treacherous business.

You never know when those bucks might suddenly turn radioactive, and give you a nasty burn on the butt. One of the more interesting--yet unsurprising--aspects of the Scott Rothstein affair is how liberally he salted all sides of the political spectrum.

Since pols sell themselves relatively cheaply, it’s money well spent to simply stuff some in every available pocket. It’s win-win for the donor, and any losses are but a miniscule cost of doing business.

Now the voters are treated to protestations from our all-too-accommodating public servants that he’s so unfamiliar they wouldn’t be able to pick him out of a one-man police lineup, and that they’d return every cent he ever gave them if they just knew who the legitimate recipient might be.

With friends like those, he would have been better off staying in Casablanca.

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November 3, 2009

The Age of Ponzi

ponzi.gifTo quote Sonny Corleone out of context, "It's time to go to the mattresses!"

As in: to stuff one's money in, since it doesn't seem like you can trust anybody to invest it for you without ripping you off. Evidently, there are financial investment scams going on all the time, but as long as the economy is strong, the scammers can keep attracting new investors to pay off the old ones.

One wag-- I think it was Warren Buffett--said, "It's when the tide is going out that you find out who isn't wearing a bathing suit."

As someone whose idea of a wise investment is buying a used car that is less than ten years old, I have to admit to some schadenfreude when I hear of wealthy players who are lured into a scheme with promises of impossible returns in a short period of time. "Invest four million today, and in a year, it'll be worth FIVE! Absolutely no risk! A sure bet!"

Maybe it's just that some of us don't have a lot of loose change to go risking it on a venture, no matter how ironclad the guarantees. We're too busy spending it on things like food and electricity. So when somebody takes a massive hit at the hands of a crook, we say that maybe it's some karmic force's way of leveling the playing field when it has gotten too far out of whack.

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November 2, 2009

Chinese drywall to take out?

drywall.gifEven for Florida, where shoddy workmanship is the hallmark of excellence, this is egregious.

You move into your beautiful new tract home and discover that the walls make you and your kids sick, tarnish your jewelry, and probably most important of all, screw up the air conditioner.

You go to the developer who sold you this elephant, and he's oh so sorry, but to gut the house would cost him $100,000 or more, and to fix all the homes he's built would put him out of business.

You hear that Obama will be talking to the Chinese next month about making good on their cheesy product, but you realize that he isn't going to get anywhere with them because for manufacturers to back up their goods, they have to actually care about their reputation for quality. They know as well as you do that you only buy their junk because it's cheap.

The feds say maybe they'll free up some HUD money to compensate, but you have to be poor to qualify. A nice Catch-22, because no poor person could have afforded your house.

The insurance people say it's a manufacturing defect, not an act of God, so not only isn't it covered, they're going to cancel your sorry a-- for even asking about it.

Your only recourse is my nifty little kit, shown here. Get your neighbors to buy one too, and make it a block party. Kids'll love it, and it's great for building neighborhood cohesion.

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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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