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August 31, 2010

Chan Lowe: Using Hurricane Earl


It’s appropriate that the late Tip O’Neill, who coined the famous saying, “All politics is local,” hailed from Boston. At least, it may be appropriate by this weekend if Eastern Massachusetts, specifically Cape Cod, gets walloped by Hurricane Earl.

Those of us down here in the vulnerable states, who wonder from summer to summer if we’ll still have roofs on our houses by November, have been agitating for years for a national catastrophe fund⎯a federally-backed mechanism that would provide a stabilizing foundation for the insurance industry. This would translate in turn into stability in homeowner premiums.

But it’s hard to get low-risk states to go along with the idea. “Why should we pay more for you to live in a place that is known to be vulnerable?” they rightly ask.

I once read a study claiming that the lowest-risk state for any kind of natural calamity is Utah. But in order to benefit from this meteorological and geological peace of mind, you’d have to live in…Utah.

So the only way to overcome the naysayers is to outnumber them in Congress. You do this by taking advantage of any act of God that might come along. Let’s say the Northeast⎯not exactly a hurricane hot-spot⎯gets sideswiped by Earl...not enough to inflict serious damage or human injury, but to a degree that serves to raise the region’s consciousness.

The five states combined from New Jersey to Massachusetts marshal fifty-eight votes in Congress (Party affiliation is irrelevant. All politics is local, remember?). Get California, Oregon and Washington to go along by including earthquakes as one of the covered calamities. Add to that the combined votes of all the Gulf states, with Georgia and the Carolinas thrown in, and you’re talking some serious numbers.

Hey there, Salt Lake City property owners…can you spell “C-A-T F-U-N-D S-U-R-C-H-A-R-G-E?


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August 30, 2010

Chan Lowe: Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin speak


There has been some delirious chatter in the wake of Glenn Beck’s March to Reclaim America’s Honor about a “dream” ticket involving him and the nation’s favorite Mama Bear.

Professionally speaking, I’m all for it. I don’t care who’s at the top of the ticket. What a gift such a candidacy would be for any cartoonist.

Unfortunately, it will never happen, for several reasons: first, the one I’ve alluded to in this cartoon, which is that there isn’t room on the same bumper sticker for these two enormous egos.

Let’s hallucinate for a moment and imagine that a Palin/Beck or Beck/Palin combo actually won in the 2012 election. I can visualize a scuffle on the inaugural dais while they try to rip the Bible out of each other’s hands to be sworn in as the chief, each citing constitutional chapter and verse in support of his or her own position.

But it will never get that far. Remember that when a president or a vice-president gives a speech somewhere, they’re expected to do so for free. No fees…public speaking is included as part of the job description. I doubt either of them would be willing to take the pay cut.

Besides, it’s a lot easier to take shots from the peanut gallery than to actually be responsible for doing something. Ms. Palin proved this by resigning from a job that demanded too much in the way of accountability for her actions.

Finally, let’s not forget other sizeable egos waiting in the wings. Newt “Do As I Say, Not As I Do” Gingrich is prepared to assume the office he has always felt was due a man of his gargantuan intellect, and then there’s one who makes Glenn Beck look like a finely-tuned scientific balance scale by comparison.

Michele Bachmann for President. Talk about “I have a dream.”

…That’s mine.


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August 27, 2010

Chan Lowe: Leaving Iraq


So much for Colin Powell’s Pottery Barn Principle about Iraq: “If you break it, you own it.”

Just because Powell got snookered by the Cheney-Rummy tag team into being a shill for the bankrupt WMD argument doesn’t mean that everything he ever said ought to be disbelieved.

Sadly, even though he’s right on the Pottery Barn thing, it looks like we are leaving the place broken and only partially pasted back together with bubble gum and masking tape, ready to fall apart again at the slightest jarring.

What’s even sadder is that we don’t care anymore. We don’t care after spending a trillion dollars, sacrificing thousands of our best young people, maiming thousands more, and leaving even more thousands with psychological damage. And we can’t even begin to fathom what our altruistic act of political liberation has done to the Iraqi people.

Geopolitically speaking, we’ve removed the only counterbalance the West and the Arab world had to keep Iran in check. Saddam may have been a bad man, but he was doing some pretty effective work in that department. We’re enjoying the fruits of removing him from power now.

Knowing what we know now, was it all worth it? As a nation, we shy away from that question, because the answer might be too painful, and could throw doubt on our core belief in the myth of American exceptionalism; that we are a force for good in the world.

At this point, we just want to wash our hands of the whole mess. The Iraqis can keep the pottery shards, courtesy of Uncle Sam.


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August 26, 2010

Chan Lowe: Glenn Beck reclaims America


What does the Glenn Beck rally to reclaim America have in common with the mosque in Lower Manhattan?

Even if you’re willing to give Mr. Beck the benefit of the doubt (and I’m not) that he really, truly, honest to God didn’t know that August 28th happened to be the anniversary of the March On Washington and one of the greatest speeches ever delivered in American history, it would still be appropriate to use his own argument on him.

Yes, he has every right to schedule his rally on the anniversary date and in the same venue as the “I Have A Dream” speech of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., and to invite Sarah Palin⎯who may not even know who Dr. King was--to speak as well.

His right is guaranteed by the same First Amendment that prevents government from interfering with religious groups’ right to build a house of worship wherever they want to.

Neither the date⎯August 28th, nor the place⎯the Lincoln Memorial, is sanctified by law. That combination of date and place, however, is revered and “hallowed,” to use a word that has been slung around a lot lately.

So, just because Mr. Beck can hold his rally in that place and at that time doesn’t mean it is the right thing to do, particularly if it is no more than a thinly disguised attempt to stoke hatred between groups of Americans and to aggrandize his ego.

And then, there's the possibility that he is doing it on purpose just to stick it to somebody, in which case I wouldn’t want to come anywhere near the bad karma he is surely amassing for himself.


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August 25, 2010

Chan Lowe: Rick Scott wins GOP nomination for governor


Boy, did I get this one wrong. It’s true Bill McCollum is no live wire, but I had faith, albeit misplaced, in Florida’s Republican voters not to be so completely bamboozled by the blizzard of Scott ads.

The irony is that McCollum probably had a better chance of winning in the general election in November against Alex Sink. Well, whatever we end up with, we’ll certainly deserve it.

As a journalist, I’m delighted that Rick Scott has advanced to the finals. It adds an element of unpredictability and spice to an otherwise dreary contest. Plus, he’s very easy to draw.

As a person who has to live in this state, however, I’m less sanguine. I’m reminded of the suspension of good judgment Minnesotans displayed when they voted in former professional wrestler Jesse “The Body” Ventura (who bears a passing resemblance to Mr. Scott, I might add) as their governor. His very newness and brashness captured the electorate’s imagination. The Body left office with decidedly mixed reviews.

Electing Scott as governor of Florida will be like taking a teenager to get his learner’s permit, then handing him the keys to a semi packed with nuclear waste material.

Considering the fiscal straits the state finds itself in, the guy who really should have won Tuesday’s primary was the virtually unknown third candidate, a gentleman by the name of Mike McCallister, who spent a grand total of $8,000 to garner ten percent of the vote. Contrast this with Scott, who shelled out $50 million of his own money to snag only forty-three percent, and it’s easy to see who knows how to get the most bang for the buck.

At the very least, Scott would do well to make McCallister his chief financial adviser in the event he actually gains office.

POSTED IN: 2010 Campaign (44), Florida Issues (258)

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August 24, 2010

Chan Lowe: The Obama Muslim hoax


Those of us who have heard the story are reminded of the famous Halloween hoax of 1938, when Orson Welles’ Mercury Theatre of the Air broadcast a production of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds. The radio play, disguised as a series of perfervid news reports, was so realistic that many Americans, actually believing they were under attack from extraterrestrials, packed up what they could and attempted to escape. Wells made a disclaimer at the beginning and the end, but many chose not to hear it.

This just proves, once again, that people will swallow anything if they’re scared enough. The year 1938 was a time of uncertainty and fear, just like 2010. The Great Depression had been grinding on for almost a decade, and as if that weren’t enough, Hitler looked poised to take over the world—at least all there was of it on the other side of the Atlantic.

Just substitute radical Islam (to a lot of ignorant people, the term is a redundancy) for the Nazis, and you have a vile-smelling brew of deception simmering on the current stove of state.

It does not help that there are opportunists out there willing to stoke the fires of hatred for their own immediate gain, whether it’s to win an election in a couple of months or to attract more listeners and viewers to their radio and TV shows.

What they are doing by taking advantage of the fears of those who don’t know any better is tearing holes in this nation’s fabric that will take a long time to mend, certainly longer than the span of our lifetimes.

All of us—liberals, progressives, moderates, and conservatives—rallied behind President Bush after 9/11. There were aspects to the man many of us didn’t like, but he was our leader, and we were smart enough and scared enough to know that we needed one, for better or worse.

We need one just as desperately now. Why is it so hard for some of us to accept the man who was duly elected by a majority of the people?


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August 20, 2010

Chan Lowe: Rick Scott calls on a higher power


What was this guy thinking? The biggest Republican party event of the season, five days before the primary, and not only doesn’t he bother to appear, he sends his mother instead?

It sounds like our dilettante billionaire has decided that running for governor of Florida is no longer a fun hobby, now that his numbers have dropped behind Bill McCollum’s in the latest polls.

Maybe he’s taken his bat and ball and moved on to some other indulgence, like buying a small Central American republic for a personal playground.

Assuming he goes on to lose the Republican nomination this Tuesday, one is left to wonder what benefits the $30 million he spent on his ego might have wrought, had it been given to charity.

All over Florida, there might have been Rick Scott pantries to feed the hungry, Rick Scott community programs to keep kids in school and off drugs, Rick Scott shelters for the homeless.

Instead, all that will linger of Rick Scott in Florida’s collective consciousness are some titters of laughter and a smattering of polite applause as we recall his poor mother standing there in his place and telling a disappointed crowd that her no-show son was once an Eagle Scout.


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August 19, 2010

Chan Lowe: U.S. combat troops leave Iraq


It’s a nightmare: a nation divided; a populace unable to move past its ethnic and sectarian differences; a central government paralyzed and powerless to lead a country; demagogues stirring up unrest…at least we Americans have a tradition of respect for the rule of law to fall back on when we find ourselves on the ropes like this.

Imagine what it’s like for the Iraqis…it has been said that they are such a fractious people that only a strong man along the lines of a Saddam Hussein could rule them, using fear as his enforcer.

Since Iraqi culture and thought have not been steeped in the nurturing humanistic broth of the European Enlightenment, any attempt to superimpose a framework of democratic government upon that country is like casting seeds on barren ground, so they say.

Moreover, their sense of tribal and sectarian identity is more deeply rooted than their concept of being a citizen of an Iraqi nation; consequently a central constitutional government will never gain legitimacy in the public mind.

Maybe what they’ll finally come up with is a uniquely Mesopotamian amalgam of government by the people and government by dictator, benevolent or otherwise.

Whatever. We’re outta there. What a tragedy that we had to go in at all.


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August 18, 2010

Chan Lowe: A dangerous strategy for Republicans


According to the latest news stories, Republican Party strategists are beginning to caution their candidates not to pile on the mosque issue, and Muslims in general, too heavily. It could backfire.

Grover Norquist, a member of the GOP brain trust, happens to be married to a Muslim, and he is one of those urging restraint. In fact, he says Muslim-bashing is a loser in the long run, and he’s right. To know a member of a group personally is to humanize that group.

This is one of the theories as to why Americans have become more accepting of gays, and why each year it’s a heavier lift to get people riled up against them as a campaign issue. As gays have come out into the mainstream, more and more people realize they have one in their family, one whom they love and who hasn’t sprouted horns. Why shouldn’t they have equal rights?

One thing Americans don’t like is watching somebody get bullied, just because of who they are. It might give some people a thrill at first, but after a while the revulsion sets in.

The Republican Party, while it may gain a temporary advantage for the coming election, runs a risk of crossing that fine line and starting to look like it’s simply beating up on people who don’t happen to be white, straight and Christian.

A suggestion: Dump the crazies and go back to being the Republican Party you used to be, decades ago: socially moderate, fiscally conservative. It’s probably too late for that, but if you really want to capture the all-important American Independent Middle, it’s more of a winner than the line you’re pushing right now.

Better for the country, too.


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August 17, 2010

Chan Lowe: America's anti-Muslim bias


For a nation made up of immigrants and their descendents, America has a shameful record of scapegoating whole groups of its citizens and residents when the going gets tough and fear reigns throughout the land.

American Muslims ought to be saddened, but not surprised, that they are the latest group to be singled out and tarred with a broad brush. Thanks to a handful of extremist nut jobs who happened to call themselves Muslims, the majority of the nation (according to the latest polls) takes umbrage at law-abiding Muslims building a house of worship where they have every constitutional right to do so.

Mosques around the country have been firebombed and defaced with Nazi graffiti in the years since 9/11. A church here in Florida is hosting a "Quran burning" on the anniversary of the tragedy. Even the Anti-Defamation League, in an uncharacteristic move, has ignored its own “slippery slope” philosophy and weighed in against the near-Ground-Zero mosque, so intense are the emotions.

Proof that we reserve special treatment for those “not like us” exists within the span of many Americans’ lifetimes. Japanese-Americans, whether foreign- or American-born, were herded into internment camps during World War II for fear that they might act as a fifth-column if left to roam free.

Also in World War II, the conspicuous valor of the 442nd Infantry Regimental Combat Team, composed of Japanese-Americans who swore a loyalty oath to the United States, made them the most decorated unit in American history. Even so, they fought in Europe—not being trusted to pull the trigger against their “own kind” in the Pacific.

Meanwhile, a German-American named Eisenhower (an Anglicized spelling of a word meaning, “iron mine worker”), was promoted to Supreme Commander of Allied forces in Europe.

No loyalty worries there. Wonder why?


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August 16, 2010

Chan Lowe: Rick Scott, stonewaller


It would be charitable to write Rick Scott’s clumsiness in handling the media off to his inexperience as a candidate, but as I indicated in a previous posting, when you’re running for an office as lofty as state governor, there’s no room for amateurishness.

Here’s a guy who’s trading on his acumen as a businessman, the candidate with the purported savvy to pull Florida out of its financial morass. Naturally, one would think that this opens a legitimate line of questioning by the media regarding a rather glaring issue in his past, which is that the company he headed, Columbia HCA, had to pay a fine of $1.7 billion for defrauding the Medicare system.

The fine was paid after he left the company, but he did receive hundreds of millions in stock options with which he is now financing his campaign for governor.

Now there’s a brouhaha over a deposition he gave regarding a chain of walk-in clinics he co-founded, which he will not deign to discuss. Not only that, but he’s become downright rude to reporters who even allude to it.

Even though we Floridians are dumb enough to allow a lot of personally financed campaign ads to put the virtually unknown Scott within a hair’s breadth of the governor’s mansion at this stage, we wouldn't be blamed for wondering why he’s being so secretive.

Could it be that the revelations in the deposition are so devastating that they might deep-six his campaign if they became public? Was it decided that it would be less injurious to his run for office if he simply stonewalled and rode out the inevitable backlash?

Or is he just being snooty and asserting his so-called right to privacy?

When you seek to work for the people, that’s a good way to get turned down for the job.


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August 13, 2010

Chan Lowe: Tea Party kiss of death?


While there’s a certain romance, a Mr.-Smith-Goes-To-Washington quality, about some of the characters running under the Tea Party banner, they have a lot to learn about the…um…political skills necessary for victory.

I’m thinking, for example, of Rand Paul, the Tea Party-backed candidate for U.S. Senator from Kentucky. While his off-the-cuff comments about how a restaurant ought to be free to refuse service to blacks at its lunch counter might appeal to some of the more troglodytic Republican Primary voters, it’s going to be a tough sell in the general election in November, when more reasonable citizens of all parties might wish to send him back to the planet Xykron where he came from.

By “skills,” I mean the ability to segue seamlessly from one point of view to another, to turn on a dime without leaving listeners experiencing whiplash.

I’m talking about the fine art of not answering a tough question from an interviewer. You’ve seen it: they might try to trip the candidate up by quoting something he said earlier, and ask him to square it with what he’s spouting now. The average viewer says, “He’s never going to be able to explain that!”

But the seasoned pol, with perfect pitch, pretends as if he’s addressing the question while artfully changing the subject so smoothly that by the end of the explanation, you can’t even remember what he was originally asked. That’s political skill.

It has nothing to do with governing, and everything to do with getting elected. This is the big leagues, not some farm club.


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August 12, 2010

Chan Lowe: The rogue flight attendant


Why has the story of the flight attendant grabbed the public’s consciousness in a way we haven’t seen since…the White House party crasher story?

There are several reasons, in my opinion. First, he fulfilled a fantasy that we’ve all had, which is to stick it to the Man (in this case, an abusive customer) when the rules always tell us we can’t, on pain of losing our jobs.

He threw that concern to the wind, breaking the company rules of protocol in the process, which we all admire. Second, he did it with consummate panache. Not only did he cuss out the customer on the loudspeaker⎯then make a getaway worthy of Batman⎯he thought to grab a couple of beers on the way out. What a class act!

He deserves to land on his feet, not to mention get his fifteen minutes of fame, which, as we know, all Americans crave more than life itself.

A reality show for him would be the icing on the cake. Anything to get “Bachelor Pad” off the air.

POSTED IN: General Topics (188)

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August 11, 2010

Chan Lowe: Broward Commission passes ethics law


My esteemed colleague Brittany Wallman covers the Broward County Commission for the Sun Sentinel. Personally, I would rather have an eye extracted without anesthetic than have her beat, but she handles it with enthusiasm and professional panache.

She attended Tuesday’s marathon commission meeting wherein the commissioners approved an unprecedented ethics law governing their own behavior, and as I told her later, her lead paragraph read like the back cover of an airport bookstore bodice-ripper (a compliment).

Evidently, the whole topic of ethics causes our public servants to squeal like a sty full of—well, you get the picture. They mauled, tore at, and backstabbed each other until, exhausted, they fell back and voted the hated restrictions in.

When you think about it, the People have a lot of gall. If you’re a county commissioner, you spend your life going to boring functions, sucking up to people you wouldn’t even allow in your own home simply because they want to be your “friends,” and minding your own business steering contracts to your spouse, when⎯BING!⎯the People, of all people, throw a wrench in the cozy little arrangement. They suddenly want transparency, accountability.

Ingrates. Do they expect our commissioners to work around the clock for them, for no more than the lousy salary and benefits they get? Do they think just anybody could do this job? Do they know what it’s like to sit there and listen to Sue Gunzburger play Joan of Arc for hours on end?

And as if that weren’t enough, when the chips are down, they can’t even depend on each other to present a united front.

What happened to “honor among thieves?” Corruption just ain’t what it used to be.

POSTED IN: Local South Florida Issues (187)

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August 10, 2010

Chan Lowe: Early primary voting in Florida


Let the games begin.

Florida has never been blessed with Lincolnesque candidates for public office; in fact, by our standards, a politician’s term is considered successful if it doesn't end with a conviction.

It seems that the primary races of 2010 offer some particularly stellar examples of mediocrity, both on the part of candidates and voters.

One of the Republican candidates for governor, Rick Scott, has set about to buy the office with his own money. As if that weren’t enough, it appears that he made said millions while remaining ignorant of the fact that individuals within the health insurance company he headed were committing fraud. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for someone who seeks to be the chief executive of a large state.

On the Democratic side, another candidate with too much money on his hands, Jeff Greene, is attempting to purchase the U.S. Senate nomination. His conflicting accounts about a yacht vacation to Cuba read like a collection of Hemingway short stories. That both these gentlemen are front-runners thanks to their ad buys says as much about the electorate as it does about them.

At the local level, a Democratic acquaintance of mine lives in Florida House District 90, and faces a dilemma. “If Irv Slosberg doesn’t value my vote enough to try to bribe me with a corned-beef sandwich or a free schlepper bag this time around,” he said disdainfully, “then he doesn’t deserve it. At the same time, how can I cast my ballot for somebody whose campaign slogan is, ‘Send Klassy to Tallahassee?’”

Surely, a conundrum the Founding Fathers couldn’t possibly have envisioned.


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August 9, 2010

Chan Lowe: Changing the Fourteenth Amendment


So is the U.S. Constitution a living document, written and designed to be flexible enough to be interpreted through the prism of the times—thereby remaining current⎯or is it a strict set of iron rules that we must use to psychoanalyze the minds of the Founding Fathers and divine their intent; a screed frozen in the mindset of the Eighteenth Century?

The tension between these views will persist for as long as the republic lasts, and is at the core of philosophical fights over Supreme Court Justice nominations.

Anyway, it’s easy to be a strict constructionist as long as you agree with the particular fragment under discussion. This Fourteenth Amendment battle is a case in point. It’s part of the Constitution. There’s a process to change it, but once you start fiddling with one thing, what’s to keep people from messin’ with the rest?

I can see it now: Since the Founding Fathers had flintlock muskets in mind at the time they wrote the Second Amendment, maybe it should only cover the right to bear a single-shot rifle that you painstakingly load from the muzzle, and that won’t work when it’s raining. No automatic weapons of any kind. Or, conversely, if you should manage to get your hands on a tactical nuclear weapon, who's to say you can't bear it if you want to?

Freedom of religion? Maybe the government should only be allowed to butt in and restrict it if we’re talking about building a Muslim mosque somewhere. In fact, a lot of people last week already thought that’s what it meant.

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Not if you’re gay and want to get married. Besides, that isn’t even in the Constitution, although many Americans don’t know that.

I could go on and on.


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August 6, 2010

Chan Lowe: The Kagan confirmation


The National Rifle Association told senators that they were going to "score" the confirmation vote on Elena Kagan, which is to say that it would be factored into the gun-rights "grade" they give each legislator.

Those who did not show proper fealty would be retaliated against at the polls by single-issue NRA members who march in lockstep to orders issued from Washington headquarters, not to mention all the campaign funding that would be choked off.

That may happen, but evidently the strong-arm tactic didn't work. Every Democratic senator from states where this might matter, with the exception of the reliable Ben Nelson of Nebraska (a DINO, or Democrat In Name Only), voted to confirm her anyway.

It would be intemperate and unrealistic to infer from this that the NRA is losing its clout. I think the Democratic senators made the clear-eyed calculation that most NRA members were going to vote Republican in November anyway, and that they had a lot more votes to lose among Democrats if they voted against her.

It is also not to be inferred that they won't scurry like scared rabbits the next time an NRA vote of consequence comes up.

POSTED IN: Barack Obama (172), Culture Wars (199), General Topics (188)

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Chan Lowe: Spirit's carry-on luggage charge


The most offensive thing about Spirit Airlines’ charge for overhead carry-on luggage is that now, the house always wins.

At first, the company spiel sounds plausible; keep base fares low by charging for virtually everything that doesn’t directly affect getting you there. The airline is banking on the fact that while the flying public may be alienated at first, we’ll eventually become inured to the concept, just as we have to the myriad other indignities they’ve forced us to endure over the years.

It’s easy to rationalize the checked-baggage charge; after all, it costs money to process that luggage and then lose it for you. But carry-ons are just that. Maybe it costs a little extra fuel for the airline to hoist it aloft, but certainly not the amount they’re charging. You must either check or carry on, unless you want to wear multiple layers of clothing with toiletries stuffed in the pockets.

Spirit is also not discounting the rumor that, once the technology is in place to make human interaction a luxury item, they will soon charge you to talk to an employee at the airline,

Think about that for a moment: Isn’t having to pay to speak to an employee really just the same as phone sex?

Except that there’s no payoff.


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August 5, 2010

Chan Lowe: The California gay marriage ruling


There are so many dramatic aspects to Wednesday's federal court ruling overturning California’s ban on gay marriage.

My favorite is that David Boies and Ted Olson, liberal and conservative superstar attorneys, respectively, were adversaries in one of the most consequential legal battles of our time: Bush v. Gore in 2000.

To argue their ultimately victorious case against the ban, they banded together as two Americans whose primary concern was the civil rights and equal protection under the law of their countrymen and –women. The right of gays and lesbians to marry, both assert, is not and should not be a Democratic vs. Republican issue, or a liberal vs. conservative issue.

My other favorite is that in ruling in favor of the plaintiffs, Judge Vaughn R. Walker noted that our rights under the Constitution ought not to be subject to votes of the people, which might take them away. This is why they are called “rights,” and why they reside under the purview of the judicial system, not the caprices of society.

He also said that California (and by extension, the rest of the country) had no beneficial interest in banning same-sex marriage, according to findings of fact. Just because the concept may be repugnant to some on moral or religious grounds is not enough to deny a group of Americans the same rights that others have.

Let us remember that not so long ago, the idea of blacks marrying whites was repugnant to some on moral and religious grounds. People live and die. Society progresses. Perceptions ultimately change.

Human rights do not.


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August 4, 2010

Chan Lowe: Palm Beach County commish charged with extortion


This story has become so repetitive that it’s hard to come up with something I haven’t said already.

At least, Palm Beach County Commissioner Jeff Koons got taken down for extortion, which is a refreshing change from the usual, clinical-sounding “theft of services” statute.

Extortion has a nice, sharp, kneecap-crushing ring to it. This time, the malefaction doesn’t involve money, just using one’s political clout to arrogantly push private citizens around.

Here’s my candidate for most satisfying local government job: If you’ve ever traveled through Palm Beach International Airport, you've been confronted as you leave the concourse by a carefully-tended row of framed portrait photos depicting the seven members of the Palm Beach County Commission.

I’ve traveled through this otherwise very attractive airport countless times, and it seems that every time I pass this rogues’ gallery, one of the pictures has either been changed, or it’s missing as we await the governor’s appointment of a replacement for a commish who has been forced to resign in shame.

I’m assuming that as I write this, the only thing that remains of Jeff Koon’s image on the concourse wall today is a rectangle of darker paint.

Anyway, I’d like to be the guy who’s in charge of shuffling the pictures of the county commissioners at the airport. In a way, he’s like the headsman at a Tudor-era execution, bringing a sense of public closure to an official act—a visible expression of the rule of law and the consequent restoration of order.

POSTED IN: Local South Florida Issues (187)

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August 3, 2010

Chan Lowe: The mosque at Ground Zero


This is such a sensitive topic, with honest feelings on all sides, that it’s easy to appreciate everyone’s point of view.

If we are ever going to move past the controversy (now legally, if not emotionally, resolved for the time being) over the mosque located near Ground Zero, we will have to cut through the blinding fog of hurt, anger and fear engendered by the 9/11 attack.

First, it will take a leap of clear thinking on the part of some of us, but we should not confuse the religion of Islam with the motivations of the 9/11 terrorists. To hold all Muslims responsible for the attack on the twin towers is no different from holding all Roman Catholics responsible for the terrorist acts of the Irish Republican Army in Ulster.

Second, those who will build this mosque are Americans. As Americans, they feel the hurt and anger just as deeply as the rest of us. There is an argument that American Muslims, in addition, feel a sense of betrayal that a belief system they cherish was perverted and used as an excuse for an inexcusable act of violence. We must not forget that there were innocent Muslim victims, as well, in the towers when they were hit.

Maybe it’s best to approach this as a test of our will as a people. We can never prevent all terrorist attacks, but we can prevent a terrorist victory by exercising our own strength of character. Let the mosque be built, and let us embrace it. By doing so, we will show the world that we refuse to give up the principles of freedom upon which this nation was based, even in the face of direct attack.

Other peoples will take notice, and the terrorists, while having achieved a tactical objective nine years ago, will have lost the war.


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August 2, 2010

Chan Lowe: New audio texting application


More and more with technology, we are finding examples of sophisticated solutions to problems we have yet to invent.

This particular application appears to be a small step backward for mankind, in more ways than just the apparent one. It seems that while we are developing new methods for communicating between ourselves, we are showing little or no improvement in understanding each other.

Social media, texting and email are in the process of eliminating the rich textures from the thoughts and ideas that comprise our common intellectual currency.

In the same way that possession of limited vocabulary has been shown to limit the scope of thinking, so would this new coarseness in the art of communicating limit not only individual thought, but hinder the transmission and sharing of collective wisdom that is the glue of a community.

Since texting, e-mailing, and their less-than-subtle protocols are becoming the norm, we can probably look forward to more simplistic thinking, less tolerance for other points of view, and a loss of the ability to interpret the riches of our experience in shades of gray as people stop talking to one another and simply read each other’s Tweets.

But that’s just the geezer in me talking. As one of my younger colleagues would probably text in response, “U R so full of it.”


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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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