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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February 26, 2010

Death of the Hummer

dino.gifMaybe this should be another entry in the "Future Generations Will Curse Us" category.

"What on earth could they have been thinking," travelers will muse in 2050 as they set sail on their wind-powered tricycles, "to burn precious gasoline at the rate of one gallon per ten miles, in order to power a multi-tonned metal monster down to the dry cleaner's and back?"

Their disgust will be tempered by incredulity: "Did you know that back then, besides trying to look cool by riding high and proud in bogus military-style vehicles, people used to surgically implant bags full of plastic in their chests in order to make themselves more attractive? How primitive!"

POSTED IN: Environment (46)

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February 25, 2010

Health care profit motive

profit.gifWhy is the public option such a political third rail, even to President Obama?

What part of “option” don’t people understand? If it were going to be mandatory, they’d call it the “public requirement.”

If you want to fall for the scare tactic of a bureaucrat getting between you and your doctor, then fine…don’t opt for it.

Let a profit-seeking insurance adjuster make your life-and-death medical decisions for you. Since that’s pretty much the way things are now, you can stick with what’s comfortable.

Anybody who thinks that the Great American Profit Motive and the equitable, compassionate dispensation of health care share the same code of ethics either has his head wedged in a bedpan or enjoys his own Cadillac health plan and doesn’t care about anyone else.

Not that there’s anything wrong with the Great American Profit Motive. It’s great for making stuff, floating some if not all boats, and keeping congressional campaigns solvent--but I wouldn’t want to rely on it as the only bulwark standing between me and my headstone.

POSTED IN: Medical (50)

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February 24, 2010

Dalai Lama's visit

dalai.gifThe Dalai Lama must be hopelessly naïve to come down here peddling that stuff about the family of man, how each of us is one with the world, and how we should be compassionate to our neighbors.

Wake up, Pal. This is South Florida, the land of scam or be scammed. Darwinian Interstates. Cut in line or you’ll miss the signal or, worse, the early bird special. Litter as you please. When in doubt, sue. If possible, live in excess, and--even better--destroy the environment in the process. Treat others as you would have them treat you, which is to take no prisoners. Share and share alike, but me first.

No, he isn’t naïve—he’s nuts. Either that, or he knows exactly what he’s doing, and why we so desperately needed his visit.

POSTED IN: Local South Florida Issues (187), Religion (28)

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February 23, 2010

Chan Lowe: Health care summit

summit.gifIt's a testament to how trust and cooperation have deteriorated in Washington that when President Obama first called a televised bipartisan health care summit, the Republicans immediately branded it a "trap."

Since then, some GOP members of congress have grudgingly agreed to attend, presuming--rightly--that it would play better in Peoria if they at least looked like they were trying to accomplish the people's business.

After all, with everyone's health care premiums continuing to rise at multiples of the inflation rate, even the Republicans' core business constituency is squawking.

If you deconstruct Republican logic, the only thing they would have to fear from revealing the elements of their health care reform plan to America is that it might be something Americans won't like. Otherwise, why not jump at this opportunity to stand their plan up against the Democrats' in a bully televised forum?

Either that, or they simply don't have one.


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February 22, 2010

Guns in the national parks

parks.gifThe Founding Fathers, writing in an age when single-shot muskets were all the rage, may not have known to what lengths their precious Second Amendment was destined to be stretched.

There has been a spate of legislation recently that enshrines the red-blooded American's right to bear an arm just about anywhere. As to whether it's wise to do so, the Founding Fathers sagely kept their own counsel.

One of the core arguments used by gun advocates is that when guns are regulated, only outlaws will carry guns. If everyone packs heat, then everyone is protected thanks to a kind of mutual assured destruction doctrine.

To take this to its logical conclusion, then, let's say (just as an example) that a female professor in Alabama goes berserk and starts shooting up her class. One of her students, thanks to permissive gun laws, is packing a rod and starts to shoot back. Another student walking down the hall hears the commotion, looks through the classroom door to witness a pitched gun battle underway between teacher and student, and draws his own cannon.

Who do you think he's going to shoot at first before asking questions later?


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February 19, 2010

Tiger Woods' mea culpa

tigre.gifWhile the ritual of public self-humiliation, penance, expiation and redemption is as old as man--and follows its own strict set of rules--one never tires of the modern American riff on an old classic.

The script for Tiger Woods' speech could have come from any of a number of recent televised shamefests, from Bill Clinton's to Eliot Spitzer's to Mark Sanford's. It is a liturgy that has been hammered out over time by a series of PR flacks and "reputation management specialists."

The televised appearance harks back to the rending of one's clothes and the self-flagellation with whip or chains of olden times. Next there is the period of penance and self-abnegation (In this case, Tiger shook up the sequence a little). In America, that means checking into an exclusive clinic for treatment of an addiction (fill in the blank here), which consists of rigidly doing without whatever it was you did too much of that got you into trouble in the first place.

Finally, there is redemption and rehabilitation. This last phase is, of course, the whole reason for the entire pageant. Back in the Middle Ages, the notion of product endorsement hadn't been conceived, unless you want to count divine apparitions. The big fear then was that if you didn't go through the whole song and dance, you might spend eternity in hell.

In the age of sponsors, the consequences of a celebrity's fall from grace are much more immediate--which is to say you can suffer a serious financial hit in this life, not to mention whatever might befall you in the next one.

So, to quote George Burns: "Sincerity is everything. If you can fake that, you've got it made."


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February 18, 2010

Chan Lowe: Our crushing debt

debt.gifFuture generations will curse us.

Since the government supposedly represents the people who vote it in, we will be blamed for perpetually returning sycophants to office who play sweet music for our ears, and who obediently refuse to do anything responsible that might cause us pain.

If you are from a reliably Republican district, you will hear that your taxes will never be raised for any reason. If you are from a liberal Democratic one, your representative will make sure that entitlement programs--and any other government largess that might tickle your fancy--will remain well funded into eternity.

In theory, the Tea Party movement has the right idea: Throw out all the corrupt, amoral pols and start over with a clean slate. Here's how it will go in practice: Americans have a hard time seeing past their own personal interest. If you tell them they're going to have to pony up and tighten belts to balance some theoretical deficit that they see as an abstract, they'll dump you. That's for some other guy to do, not them.

Also, don't forget that one man's pork is another man's essential project. Even Sarah Palin happily accepted funds for the Bridge to Nowhere until it became a political liability for someone with national aspirations.

POSTED IN: Economy (197)

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February 17, 2010

Boca Raton synagogue vandalism

vandal.gifMaybe it was just some smart-aleck kids who got bored when the batteries in their cell phones ran down. Heck, they couldn't even spell "Heil" right.

This does not mitigate the fact that what they did was a hate crime, which is heinous by nature, regardless of its degree. More important, even, is what we as a community do about it when one is committed.

Civilization and order owe their continued existence to a complex web of mutual agreements, trust and the assumption that we will abide by a certain code in the way we act toward others. If violations of that code are allowed to go unaddressed, the edges of confidence in institutions begin to fray, and--humans being what they are--we are tempted to revert to the tribalism that is our natural state of self-protection.

The stigmatization of hate crimes is one of those places where self-interest and the interest of the whole of society find common cause. This is why organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League are equally vociferous in condemning acts of hatred against Muslim- and African-Americans as they are in condemning those against Jews.

Whenever intolerance toward anyone is tolerated, we all lose something as a community. This principle must be taught to those who don't comprehend it, over and over again.


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February 16, 2010

Chan Lowe: Congress is broken

allegiance.gifNothing better illustrates the dysfunction of our congress than yesterday's retirement announcement by U.S. Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana.

These are usually times for fulsome praise of one's service from both sides of the aisle. In Bayh's case, however, Republican National Committee Chairman Richard Steele said something snarky about how Bayh was just another Democrat wanting to run away from his party's record and was afraid of facing his constituents in the fall. This is now considered acceptable behavior.

My theory is that the Internet and cable news have made government so sensitive to reaction that no one holding office dares to stray from the purest of party lines, lest he or she suffer for it in the primaries. Look at John McCain, for example, who is feverishly repudiating many of the reforms he himself sponsored, because he faces a serious challenge on his right.

It used to be that members of congress could get together behind closed doors, hash things out, and vote for what they knew was best without being immediately branded apostates. But that was back when mail was slow and coverage sparse.

Now, craven pols are forced to do what's expedient, while pushing serious problems down the road. The problem is, we've reached the end of that road--something the American people know, but that their representatives are loath to acknowledge.


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February 15, 2010

Robert Wexler leaves us on the hook

wex2.gifFew would argue that former congressman Robert Wexler isn't a mensch, which is District 19 vernacular for a man of honor and integrity.

Whether or not you agreed with his politics, the self-described “Fire-Breathing Liberal” represented his district with uncompromising passion.

Halfway through his most recent term, Wexler jumped ship to take a better paying job with a Middle East-oriented think tank. He made no secret of why he was leaving. The man’s got kids to put through school—who could blame him?

We now learn that the primary and general election to replace Mr. Wexler will cost the taxpayers of Broward and Palm Beach Counties—which Dist. 19 straddles—some $1.7 million, at a time when local governments are already stretched to the limit. To compound the insult, county taxpayers who do not even live in Dist. 19 must also kick in to pay the tab for Mr. Wexler’s step up the financial ladder.

What started out as an understandable change in career is now beginning to look like an unconscionable act of selfishness.

Presumably, Mr. Wexler still has control over a sizable campaign kitty, which federal law allows him to do with as he pleases. Here’s a suggestion: Rather than keep it for himself, or use it to bolster the campaigns of like-minded pols, he should reimburse the two counties he represented for the cost of replacing him.

Why? Because it’s the right thing to do. It’s what a mensch would do.

POSTED IN: Local South Florida Issues (187)

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February 11, 2010

Valentine's Day

valentine.gifSurveys show that men worry more about Valentine's Day than any other holiday.

Will what you buy be enough of a tribute, or will they feel like you've dissed them? Will someone else get them a nicer gift, making you look like a piker? Have you come up with the right mix of roses, chocolates and jewels to properly manifest your ardor?

Here's a piece of advice for all you concerned hombres from Dr. Lowe-Down, your friendly online counselor in matters of love: Treat her like it's Valentine's Day 365 days out of the year, and you'll have no worries when February 14th rolls around.

Actually, that comes from Mrs. Lowe-Down. I'm just passing it along.

POSTED IN: General Topics (188)

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February 10, 2010

Washington, D.C. snowstorm

snow.gifThanks to the unprecendented snowfall, federal workers in Washington have been given three days off in a row, costing taxpayers an estimated $100 million per day in lost productivity.

It's a good thing Congress didn't decide (back in 1789, or whenever it was) to move the federal capital to Buffalo instead of Washington, because it would have been paralyzed for three or four months every winter.

Or maybe it was a tragic error. Imagine how much less damage Congress could do if it only met eight months out of the year.

In any case, a story in The New York Times reports that our government hasn't really "shut down" in the strictest sense of the phrase. It seems that "essential workers" are still manning the parapets.

If the federal bureaucracy can get by with a skeleton crew to accomplish its "essential" mission, you have to wonder what all the stay-at-homes normally do...hold coats? Make coffee? Run elevators? Polish name plates?

It's mind-boggling to think that as recently as the beginning of WWII, the entire Departments of the Army, Navy and State could still fit into one building.

POSTED IN: General Topics (188)

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February 9, 2010

Toyota recall hara-kiri

harakiri.gifIt's easy to look good when everything is humming along on an even keel.

Sooner or later, though, you're going to make an error...particularly if you're turning out millions of complex examples of your craftsmanship every year.

What is true of people is also true of corporations: It's how you own up to your mistakes that reveals your true character.

Toyota is new to this business of acknowledging its faults and making good on them--something American automakers have gotten accustomed to, if not exactly comfortable with.

Because they're newcomers, Toyota fell into the trap of trying to stonewall, rather than preserve customer goodwill by immediately taking responsibility. Now they've annoyed people and hurt the reputation of their brand.

POSTED IN: International (86)

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February 8, 2010

Chan Lowe: Sarah Palin's Tea Party speech

forces2.gifLost amid the weekend hoopla of the Super Bowl was Sarah Palin’s $100,000 speech to the Tea Party convention, which The Lowe-Down happened to watch in its entirety.

Assuming you missed it, she opened with a paean to the principles of the U.S. Constitution, yet later accused the Obama Administration of coddling the Christmas Day bomber by affording him his constitutional rights before enough information could be squeezed out of him. “We need a commander-in chief, not a professor of constitutional law,” she huffed.

She also sneeringly alluded to Obama as being someone who could read well from a TelePrompTer. Evidently, this is the mark of a phony, while writing crib notes (as Sarah did) on the palm of one’s hand is much more genuine and American.

But to fault Palin based on logic and consistency is to do the lady a disservice. She does not pretend to fall back on these rhetorical crutches, which are the contrivances of “elites” who would happily sell this great nation of ours out from under us if they could stop saluting the hammer and sickle long enough.

No, the coin of Palin’s realm is raw emotion, and those who paid $350 apiece to hear her speak got plenty of that, incoherent as the delivery may have been.

Ultimately, whether she plans to run for president or not isn’t really relevant, nor are her questionable qualifications to hold such an office. She only needs to know how to do one thing (and she does it quite well, thank you very much)--which is to endorse the backside of a check.

POSTED IN: Sarah Palin (40)

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February 5, 2010

Chan Lowe: Super Bowl party central

game.gifThere is no small amount of controversy here in the Super Bowl Host Area about whether the whole mess is worth it to our economy.

Some will argue that the lion’s share of the money ends up out of the area, at hotel and restaurant chain headquarters, for example.

Tourism boosters maintain that there is no substitute for the nonstop sunny skies and balmy weather that our northern friends will feast upon as they huddle in their Snuggies with three feet of snow outside.

Whatever. One segment that will certainly benefit, as we related in our news pages, is the strip club industry and…um…related adult-oriented businesses, not to mention some criminal enterprises that I won’t even go into.

In that regard, my original sketch for this cartoon showed just the pair of legs with no miniskirt or microphone. My editor felt we should broaden the comment to include all of the performing, partying and ancillary activities, so I cleaned it up a little.

Perceptive readers will be able to discern a few familiar faces among the merrymakers I have depicted.

POSTED IN: Local South Florida Issues (187)

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February 4, 2010

Chan Lowe: Health care reform...or not

waiting.gifThe lobbying armies of the status quo did a great job of scaring the hell out of people last year ("Are you going to let a bureaucrat get between you and your doctor?"), and the pro-health reform forces have been afraid of their own shadows ever since Scott Brown's victory.

That means the whole mess will either get shoved on a high shelf in hopes we'll forget about it and move on, or the Democrats will pass some window dressing so empty as to be effectively meaningless.

It will be years before anybody even dares to think of reforming the system again, maybe after health care claims one out of every two dollars spent in the economy, rather than the current one out of six. Meanwhile, the Europeans will continue enjoying better and cheaper health care than we have.

But eventually, in a desperate effort to remain globally competitive, American companies will begin to drop or severely curtail health care insurance for their employees, and many of us will discover to our dismay that coverage is not a God-given right of employment.

Only when the have-nots finally outnumber the I've-got-mine-so-screw-yous will congressional town-hall meetings begin calling for the head of anyone who doesn't promise to deliver on national health care, pronto.

Sadly, it will already be too late for a lot of people.

POSTED IN: Medical (50)

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February 3, 2010

Tea Party malcontents

amok.gifOne can easily understand why Washington gridlock has spawned a grassroots movement of angry citizens.

When neither party appears to be acting in the best interests of the country it represents, and resolutely refuses to work with the other for the betterment of the nation, our first reflex is to throw the whole mess out--baby, bathwater and all.

It might behoove some of us to remember that there are a few things big government provides that we probably wouldn't want to do without: Social Security, Medicare and child welfare are just a few examples.

Somebody does have to pay for these programs. Since we can't depend on each other to voluntarily pay our fair share of what we owe to keep the social fabric together, we empower government to tax us, the people, on our own behalf.

When that power is misused, we lose confidence in the whole system. Let's just remember that it isn't so much the structure or the size of government that enrages us, it's the way that structure is twisted and warped to serve the interests of a powerful few that leaves us feeling helpless.

POSTED IN: General Topics (188)

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February 2, 2010

Don't ask, don't tell

tell.gifIt has taken Barack Obama a long time from campaign promise to implementation on this one, and you have to wonder what he's still afraid of.

Today, Defense Secretary Bob Gates indicated that there will be a year of study before this woefully anachronistic policy can be sent to the oblivion it deserves.

We've had fifteen years to study it, so what's left to find out?

There are two clear arguments against delaying matters any further: First, if Obama is worried about political fallout from declaring the policy dead as of now (You're the Commander in Chief, for crying out loud--act like one), the so-called damage has already been done by simply declaring he will end it.

Second, if he's trying to ease the "traditionalists" (to use a kind word) into accepting gays in their midst, there's no better way to get them to work together than to just rip off the band-aid. Gradually introducing them to each other isn't going to make any difference. After all, the sky didn't fall when Truman integrated the services.

The biggest sea-change in our culture on this issue has occurred because so many families have a member who has "come out" within the last couple of decades. That's when people began to realize that gays are just human beings who happen to be gay.

POSTED IN: Culture Wars (199)

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February 1, 2010

The Honest Services no-brainer

honest.gifIn a court action sure to lift the hearts of crooked public servants everywhere, there is a Supreme Court challenge pending on the constitutionality of a law that has been a phenomenally useful tool for federal prosecutors.

"Theft of Honest Services" is a catchall statute that has been used to put several of our own local pols behind bars for corruption, and untold numbers nationwide.

The perps argue that it's too vague, that they never know when they're breaking the law.

It's pretty simple, folks, and you don't need a degree in civics to figure it out: If you're being offered money that you know wouldn't be offered if you weren't in public office, then it's probably illegal to take it. If something you're doing, like paying rent to yourself out of your own campaign funds, makes you ask the question, "I wonder if this is legal?", then it probably isn't.

Even if it is legal, the fact that you're wondering about it means it's probably unethical, and you shouldn't do it anyway. Legality should not be the threshold of permissibility.

Is it an undue burden to have to ask a prosecutor for an interpretation of the law every time you want to do a business deal? No, it isn't. It's an unwritten part of your job description. Nobody forced you to run for office.

POSTED IN: Local South Florida Issues (187)

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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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