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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March 31, 2010

Chan Lowe: Sarah Palin's so-called endorsement

klein.gifSometimes, the better part of wisdom is to just shut up.

But, as we know, Sarah Palin has acquired many things in her brief trajectory through the political heavens, and the better part of wisdom is not one of them.

Earlier this week, she endorsed Allen West, a war veteran who is running to unseat Rep. Ron Klein in Dist. 22.

I'm sure there's nothing wrong with Mr. West, and probably plenty that's right with him, but if I were he I wouldn't be trumpeting that endorsement on my campaign bumper sticker, at least around that constituency.

For starters, that district runs mostly along the Atlantic shore in Broward and Palm Beach Counties, two of the most liberal in Florida. Second, the slight Republican majority isn't primarily made up of the mad-at-the-world, fire-breathing, gun-toting, chip-on-their-shoulder Republicans to whom Ms. Palin might appeal.

No, they're more the "Get off my beach! I own it up to the mean high tide line!" Republicans. Socially moderate. What we used to call "Rockefeller," or "Country Club" Republicans.

In other words, the whole district is probably alienated by shrillness in all its forms, whatever wing it may come from.

So, congratulations on that endorsement of yours, Mr. West. If you're lucky, the voters will forget about it by November.


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March 30, 2010

Chan Lowe: Republican Debauchery

kinkyx.gifMany decades ago, when I was growing up in LA, the West Hollywood area was already developing a reputation for being gay-friendly, and that was before being openly gay was even cool.

Subsequently, West Hollywood incorporated itself, and⎯unless I’m mistaken⎯became the first town in the country to boast an openly gay majority on its city council.

Which is why I’m all the more shocked... shocked… that the Republican National Committee or anyone associated with it would come within miles of this Sodom on the West Coast, not to mention seek out entertainment at a nightclub(!) known for its montages of depravity. To make matters even worse, I’ll bet the performers were Democrats.

Hubba, hubba. Maybe this is why they call themselves the Grand Old Party.

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March 29, 2010

Chan Lowe: Church abuse scandal

benedict.gifSince the doctrine of Christian forgiveness and absolution is grounded in the concept of self-examination, open acknowledgement of one’s sins through confession, and repentance, one would think that the Church⎯of all places⎯would appreciate the value of unburdening itself of the effects of its transgressions by exposing them to the light of day.

But that flies directly in the face of another Church priority, which is self-preservation, a corollary being maintaining an image of infallibility. Ironically, it is this monolithic attitude that results in the self-infliction of far more damage from the steady drip of new revelations.

Whatever you think of the institution, as long as it resides in the custodianship of mortal men, it will reflect their mortal shortcomings, which appear to be legion.

When Jesus said to Peter, “Upon this rock I will build my church,” it’s a safe bet to assume He wasn’t talking about stonewalling.

POSTED IN: General Topics (188), International (86), Religion (28)

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March 25, 2010

Chan Lowe: Congressional death threats

patriotx.gifWhen a conflagration erupts, who is most to blame—the person who brings the can of gasoline, or the one who hands him the match?

There has always been a restive undercurrent in this country, the rugged individualists who feel that any government encroachment into their lives is too much.

What is different now is that cynical, self-serving politicians are stoking the fears and anger of these people and inciting them to perform acts of violence against an imagined threat.

You want to talk takeover? How about the Supreme Court case of Bush v. Gore in 2000, when the justices⎯in a five-to-four vote⎯arbitrarily decided to stop the vote counting and declare George W. Bush the winner?

Maybe my memory is faulty, but I don’t recall anyone making death threats against Chief Justice Rehnquist at the time. I would say that that act was far more injurious to our individual liberties than the health care reform vote.

The malcontents should just suck it up and wait until November to vote the scoundrels out. That’s what real democracy is about. It isn’t about “taking back” your country by force or intimidation if you don’t like the way Congress is voting.

As for the inciters, they may be sorry someday that they ever unleashed this angry animal. It could turn around and bite them right in their craven behinds.

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March 24, 2010

Slashing Florida teachers' pensions

teach.gifWhen a professional basketball player wraps up a stellar career, he often walks away with millions. If he has been particularly outstanding, his number is retired and his jersey is hung from the rafters of his home arena. As time passes, his exploits may be recalled, with decreasing frequency, at sports bars.

When a stellar teacher retires, he or she--if lucky--can look forward to the promise of a reasonable pension. His legacy is not a retired number, but a flicker of inspiration carried in the hearts and minds of the students he touched.

When those students grow old and take stock of what they have done with their lives, they may credit that dedicated professional who set them on the path that enabled them to exploit their individual potential to its fullest.

Both the basketball player and the teacher chose their line of work out of love for their profession. There is nothing wrong with rewarding the basketball player for providing us with high-quality--albeit transitory--entertainment. He performed his role with excellence.

There is something wrong, however, with so undervaluing the profession of those to whom we entrust the nurturing of our children's intellects that they must struggle for decent pay and a respectable retirement.

Yes, we are in desperate economic straits, but surely we owe our teachers more than that.

POSTED IN: Economy (197), Florida Issues (258)

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March 23, 2010

Chan Lowe: China vs. Google

googles.gifThe Opium Wars, the Boxer Rebellion, the Long March, the Cultural Revolution, Tiananmen Square…they’re small dumplings compared to the bloodbath that now looms on the Middle Kingdom’s horizon.

Does the Chinese government really want to take on Google?

You’d think the oldest civilization on Earth would have developed a more finely-tuned survival instinct by now. The worldwide spread of Google’s infotentacles enables its CEO to strangle the economies of entire nations by simply blocking searches of, to, and from them, should he so desire.

The sheer numbers of China’s population, long feared by other nations as a self-renewing source of manpower in the event of war, would become its Achilles’ heel as teeming masses bumped blindly into one another, unable to search terms, peruse photos of scantily-clad movie stars, or perform other basic Internet functions.

And they would seek a scapegoat. Who better to blame than the government that deprived them of their supreme navigation tool in a spasm of self-protective pique? Civil unrest would be a euphemistic term for the resulting carnage.

Talk about a clash of Titans. Let’s grab the popcorn, sit back, and watch Great Wall of Cards come tumbling down.

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March 22, 2010

Chan Lowe: Health care reform passes

sonny.gifThe reason that health care reform has inflamed so many passions on all sides is that it goes to the very core of what each American believes his relationship to his government should be.

Because we are a nation founded on principles, not ethnicity, it is a stand-in⎯for better or worse⎯for what “being an American” means to many people.

This has been a conflict of fundamental world-views. If, through your prism, you view the providing of health care as primarily an economic issue, then you embrace the argument that if the nation can’t pay for it, we shouldn’t have it (A more rugged variant is “Why should I pay for someone else’s?”).

If, however, you believe that health care is a citizen’s right, and that it is the moral obligation of government (as an expression of the people who empower it), to provide it to every American, the same as it does their national defense⎯then you accept that as an imperative, and find a way to pay for it.

If you adhere to the latter view, you prioritize. Maybe depriving the rich of some extra lucre is the way to go. They won’t miss their next meal, and it might save someone whose child has a catastrophic illness from missing theirs. Un-American? Depends on your point of view.

Or maybe you want to pay for it some other way. Fight fewer pointless wars, perhaps. Whatever. If you truly believe, you’ll find a way.

There is no right or wrong way of looking at the role⎯or the reach⎯of government. Deciding what it will be is the function of elections.

POSTED IN: Barack Obama (172), Medical (50)

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March 19, 2010

Chan Lowe: The great pill heist

robin.gifWhile we should never⎯no, never⎯condone theft, there is an inherent paradox about the daring medication heist at the Connecticut warehouse last week.

If the robbers who stole an estimated semi-trailer load of brand-name pharmaceuticals manage to fence the goods at a sharp discount, making them possibly more affordable to the masses on the black market, then they will be doing good by doing evil.

The stories say that the estimated “street value” (what a lovely term for a legitimate product) to the company is approximately $75 million.

Let’s hope that isn’t what they report to their insurance company, because the true replacement value of the stolen property is probably a fraction of that.

Which leads us to the question of why pharmaceuticals have become so expensive, pound for pound, that they have turned into a hot target for cat burglars. Yeah, yeah…we know all about the staggering R&D costs, the lengthy government trials. That still doesn’t explain why the same stuff is so much cheaper in Canada and elsewhere.

Do they charge us so much because they can? Because Congress doesn’t have the Viagra to stand up to big pharma?

And why can’t we import from Canada? Oh, that’s right⎯it’s too risky. The stuff might be tainted.

Poor Canadians.

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March 18, 2010

Chan Lowe: Tiger's Resurrection

rapture.gifThe use of religious symbolism in this cartoon is, of course, facetious--but I used it advisedly.

Tiger Woods, as I mentioned before, has been following the classic American redemption cycle for shamed celebrities. The only surprising thing is how quickly his rehabilitation has moved on through the pipeline.

Wasn't it only last Thanksgiving that Tiger's wife collapsed the whole carefully-constructed house of cards with a golf club? His "reputation specialists," must know something we don't yet realize, which is that the American attention span has become so short that a few mere months are enough to cleanse us of our repulsion and prepare us anew to mindlessly purchase whatever the man endorses.

When you compare his days in the wilderness to the years that medieval souls were condemned to Purgatory for far lesser sins, Tiger has gotten off with a wrist-slap.

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March 17, 2010

Chan Lowe: Championship panhandling

vet.gifI was just a little sad when the Sun Sentinel did an exposé on our intersection “vets,” those guys who dress up in camouflage and carry collection buckets emblazoned with the stars and stripes.

It was only a matter of time, I knew, before word of the scam would spread through the region, and virtually every motorist would know that little of the money they give to these guys actually ends up in the hands of our honored veterans.

In a jaded environment like ours, where you need an original shtick to stay afloat, the vet routine has been superb street theater.

I watched one of our intrepid roadside warriors march between the lanes of cars (calling out a cadence, “Hup, toop, thareep, four), execute a spit-and-polish left face, and proffer the bucket to a driver as though he were presenting his weapon for inspection. It would have made a drill instructor proud.

Rather than passing laws preventing this kind of thing, we should be encouraging it. Make our intersections Darwinian—let the best act survive. We cast our ballots by the amount of change we give them, and those that don’t measure up get voted off the island.

Then, we sell it up north as a tourist attraction.

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March 16, 2010

Chan Lowe: Joe Biden's humiliation

biden.gifNobody knows how to play the rough-and-tumble game of parliamentary politics better than the Israelis, and it looks like Prime Minister Netanyahu, in a rare slip, found himself outmaneuvered.

I think we should believe Bibi when he says he was blindsided by the announcement of a new settlement, which just happened to fall during Vice President Biden’s trip.

Maybe the conservatives wanted to let everyone know they weren’t going to let their big brother ally push them around when it came to when and where they performed their urban renewal.

They certainly proved their point. Now, in an area of the world where antennae are ultra-sensitive to who’s got the power, America looks like a big, sloppy dog being wagged by his tail. Bibi has to choose between angering us further and assuaging a demanding faction upon which the survival of his government depends.

Nobody, of course, imagines that our long-term alliance will ever suffer for it. In the meantime, we can sit back and watch the Kabuki theater as Hillary and Bibi act oh, so shocked about the awkward turn of events.

You can bet your blintzes Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will be watching, too.

POSTED IN: International (86), Middle East (28)

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March 15, 2010

Chan Lowe: The new driver's license rules

driversx.gifMaybe this is what the tea partiers mean when they sound the trumpets about government overreaching.

It makes some sense, given our current national security environment, that a one-time-only requirement to produce hard-to-find documents in order to prove one's identity would be necessary to satisfy the federally-mandated "Real ID" law.

This supposedly makes it harder for terrorists to obtain a state driver's license, which, for better or worse, functions as a national ID card in a country where custom and tradition render that concept abhorrent.

Bureaucracy, though, is by definition an unthinking blob whose primary raison d'etre is to perpetuate itself and grow larger. Bureaucracy is devoid of imagination and elasticity, otherwise why would it demand that a woman who had been widowed for 35 years produce her marriage license to establish why she changed her name? Yes, this actually happened to the mother-in-law of one of my colleagues.

Are a little balance, a touch of humanity, and some common sense too much to ask of our public "servants"?


POSTED IN: Florida Issues (258)

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March 12, 2010

Chan Lowe: The Great Recession

genome.gifIn addition to the more apparent consequences of high unemployment, the Great Recession has resulted in a tragic waste of human talent.

Embedded in the arid statistics and monthly up-and-down jobs figures lie real stories of people who have spent a lifetime acquiring priceless experience, training and wisdom in their fields and whose intellectual wealth is now lost to the rest of us.

They are forced to settle, underutilized, for whatever they can find to feed themselves and their families. And those are the lucky ones.

Meanwhile, the financial cowboys who galloped off into the unregulated Wild West of exotic financial instruments and whose greed engendered the whole mess haven’t missed a meal or an hour of sleep.

In fact, the their first brazen order of business (as our forever-scarred nation painfully recovers) has been to award themselves bonuses for their achievements⎯flaunting their conviction that the word “conscience” resides only in the vocabulary of so-called lesser beings.

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March 11, 2010

Chan Lowe: Merit pay for teachers

merit.gifSurely there is some kind of compromise between paying teachers based solely on seniority and level of training, and a pay scale predicated purely on the achievement of their students.

The first position (which is consistent with union philosophy) completely leaves out the possibility that there may be better teachers and worse teachers, regardless of how much time they have put in.

The second, which is to tie raises and job security to how students score on the FCAT, rewards or penalizes teachers based on what is in effect a lottery. If a teacher is fortunate enough to be given a class drawn from a relatively well-off population, where families are involved in their children's learning and have the time to encourage them with their studies and other intellectual pursuits, then it follows that these kids will be better test-takers.

Unfortunately, both positions are politically charged, and neither is completely fair, either to the students or the professionals who instruct them.

And then there's the whole matter of whether teaching to a test makes any sense in the first place.

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March 10, 2010

Chan Lowe: Survivor...Washington edition

seniority.gifOut in the boonies, anti-incumbent fever has reached a dangerous pitch.

Who'd a thunk that Texas Governor Rick Perry could turn the tables on Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in the Republican gubernatorial primary by condemning her for bringing home too much federal bacon?

In the aftermath of her ignominious defeat, Sen. Hutchison was left shaking her head like a stunned longhorn. She never imagined, she allowed, that her being an effective advocate for her state would be used against her.

But it was, because the great unwashed hate Washington so much that even its pork is tainted, at least in the minds of people who vote in Republican primaries.

Like cockroaches and viruses, members of Congress are nothing if not adaptable. It will be entertaining to witness the contortions they go through to portray themselves as the embodiment of the current zeitgeist, or whatever it might be by November.

Some of them, in desperation, may pull a Lieberman and run as independents when they fail to win their own party's nod for the nomination. It's about survival, after all, and this season it's every man for himself.

POSTED IN: General Topics (188)

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March 9, 2010

Chan Lowe: Air show crashes and burns

air.gifRegarding the impending demise of the Ft. Lauderdale Air Show and why it will be missed, here are a couple of thoughts on the mystical power of military symbols on display:

My first city editor, a crusty Oklahoman who bore a striking resemblance to Will Rogers, was an anti-aircraft gunner on a carrier in the Pacific during WWII.

He told me a story about how, thirty years after the war had ended, he drove up to Alaska on vacation and spied a Japanese merchant vessel taking on logs in Anchorage harbor. “When I saw that (expletive deleted) meatball on the flag he was flying,” he said through gritted teeth, “I grabbed my steering wheel so hard I almost ripped it clean off. All I could think of was, ‘Shoot!’” Old habits die hard.

Back in the eighties, I heard that one of our big nuclear-powered aircraft carriers had anchored off Ft. Lauderdale beach to allow the crew to enjoy the town’s manifest charms for a week or so (One of the vessel’s officers, on a visit to the paper, said his shore leave was “like being a blind dog in a meat market”).

I went down to see the ship from the beach—just to get a sense of its massiveness⎯and took up position on A1A next to an old guy who was intently scrutinizing the vessel through his binoculars. Eventually, he put them down, shaking his head slowly. I stood quietly, hoping he’d share a reminiscence of Midway, or maybe the Battle of the Coral Sea.

“I just wanted to pay a visit to my taxes,” he said, and turned away.

POSTED IN: Local South Florida Issues (187)

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March 8, 2010

Open carry meets caffeine

barista.gifMaybe what Jefferson should have said was, “Occasionally the tree of Liberty must be watered with the iced latte of Patriots and Tyrants.”

Starbuck’s does seem an odd place to be exercising one’s inalienable right to openly tote a pistola into a public place, as some activists are doing in states where this is allowed.

Why Starbuck’s? Is the company associated with those hippy-dippy tree-hugging Northwest collectivists, just because the little insulation bands around its cups are made out of recycled paper? Maybe they use fluoridated water in their brew.

And why has open-carry suddenly become so chic? My guess is that strapping on a gun is a concrete way to resist that cottony, bloblike government encroachment that many people feel, but can’t quite get their trigger finger around.

Certain folks sense the incremental attacks on their liberty more acutely than others, the way some feel great pain from a pinprick while others hardly miss a step.

I don't have a beef with the government, but as long as I don’t get between the sharpshooters and the barista when they decide they’ve been shortchanged, I say let them safeguard my liberties if they want to.

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March 5, 2010

Pill mills

pain.gifThe scene is a beauty parlor. Two women of a certain age are seated next to each other under the dryers.

"My son the doctor," says the first, "has a decent surgical practice. He's a good provider for his family, but wishes he could make more. You know how it is with Medicare--they never reimburse enough, and the insurance companies always stick it to him. Whether he likes it or not, a lot of his work ends up being pro bono.

"Nevertheless, he still finds time once a year to travel to third world countries with Doctors Without Borders to repair cleft palates on underprivileged children."

The other puts down her magazine and smiles broadly. "My son the doctor," she replies, "finished med school, did his residency in pharmacology, and paid off his student loans in one year. He works in a pain clinic on a per-patient contract basis, and makes over a million per by providing pain relief to patients all over the country. In cash, I might add."

Both women must be so proud.


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March 4, 2010

Chan Lowe: Dr. O prescribes heath care reform

waah.gifThe rest of the industrialized world scratches its head in wonderment as the greatest economic power on earth--the shining city on the hill--squabbles over something they've all taken for granted for generations.

Why are we so far behind even our Canadian cousins when it comes to health care? It's our uniquely American way of viewing the solution to societal needs through the prism of the free enterprise system.

From the days that the Declaration of Independence was written and before, government has been viewed as something individuals need to be protected from, while other countries see it as the collectivization of individual needs under one paternalistic umbrella.

Both approaches have their pros and cons. Unfortunately, looking after the medical health of all citizens, including the underprivileged, is not one of free enterprise's strong suits.

Obama is trying to get Congress to go out on a limb with this one, and Congress is never comfortable treading where its immediate self-interest does not lie. One thing the Republicans are right about: If health care reform does pass, it'll be with us for good, because no member of any party will be willing to take back something the have-nots have begun to enjoy for the very first time.

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March 3, 2010

Chan Lowe: Postal service: Next window, please

usps.gifFor Americans, the Postal Service is a little like Congress: While we despise the institution as a whole, we tend to have a better relationship with our local representative.

Postal customers nurture a romanticized, Norman Rockwellian view of the intrepid mail carrier (I guess mine is intrepid. If I happen to be around the mailbox when she gurgles by in her Jeep, she's always yakking away on her cellphone, so I can't be certain).

It is probably this view that has allowed the Postal Service to survive as a top-heavy, money-hemorrhaging bureaucracy for as long as it has. For generations, six-day-a-week mail delivery brought us holiday greetings, good and bad news, government checks, bills, catalogs--in short, it was the home front's primary contact point with the outside world.

Technology's merciless march spares no antiquated institution, and it's time to start trimming this one. Five-day-a-week delivery? Why not three...Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays?

Sure, at first it might tug a little at your heartstrings, but I ask you: Do you still miss the milkman?

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March 2, 2010

Chan Lowe: Global warming hoax

mar03chancolor.gif
Was it Voltaire or Descartes? I don’t remember…the Age of Enlightenment was centuries ago, and at the time I first heard about it, I was concentrating on the Cartesian curves of Mlle. Daphné, a young woman in my high school French class. Je désire, donc je suis.

Anyway, something one of those periwigged philosophers wrote actually managed to penetrate my teenage hormonal haze and take root.

“What if everything we’ve heard about God, creation, the purpose of Man, the soul, and divine salvation are all just a big joke (I paraphrase)? Even if that’s so, and we simply disappear into a void at the end, isn’t expressing a moral life of probity, humility and compassion for one’s fellow man the best way to live? Then, if we happen to find out when we die that it’s all for real, we are saved.”

If you extend this line of thinking, then maybe practicing good stewardship of our planet is worthy in its own right, even if climate change isn’t the result of man’s actions.

There’s no question that we pollute. Accessible, potable fresh water for millions of the world’s population is only a dream. In many places, people get diseases and die from the poor air quality.

Why not just pretend we’re to blame, and act accordingly, even if we can’t accept the fact? That way, there’s no chance of finding out we were wrong after it’s too late to do anything about it.

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March 1, 2010

Chan Lowe: Florida Legislature saddles up

prayer.gifThis isn't what our local pols bargained for when they ran for the legislature.

When they first dreamed of lunging for the brass ring, they imagined themselves dispensing state-funded goodies back in the home district, making lots of new friends with expensive shoes, getting wined and dined on someone else's dime, and being part of an elite club of movers and shakers.

This year, they're having to slink back to the state capital wearing rubber Halloween masks. Thanks to ethics rules, there's no more hobnobbing with the Gucci Gulch crowd at Clyde's (unless you pay for your own drinks, and that's no fun), no more fancy free dinners (goodbye, "Tallahassee Tummy,") and there won't be any county senior centers or swimming pool complexes back home named after them either, no sir.

There won't be any thanks for a job well done, because the better they do their job, the more complaints they're going to get from the local folks.

The session promises to be a joyless and punishing test of nerves and stamina. When it's all over, some of those pols will stumble out beaten and broken, others may emerge as statesmen.

We'll see, 60 days from now.

POSTED IN: Florida Issues (258)

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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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