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 28, 2011

Chan Lowe: House Muslim hearings

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There are two kinds of “American Way.” The one we prefer to dwell upon is the one based on idealistic principles like fairness, equality, and opportunity. The Bill of Rights embodies this kind of American Way. It’s the kind that prompts a tightening of the throat when we hear God Bless America being sung.

The other is the characterization we all too often tend to slide into as a nation: vindictive, xenophobic, paranoid, isolationist, racist, willfully ignorant.

While our better sides define our nationhood by a concept and not by race, ethnicity, religion or culture, our worse sides find that we need an “other” to demonize in order to achieve that warm “e pluribus unum” feeling. There was a time when the “other” was black, and we repressed him. Or he was an Indian, and we massacred him. Or he was a Communist, and we ruined him professionally and personally. Now, our most convenient goat has become the American Muslim.

Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, with his hearings on the so-called radicalization of American Muslims, is poised to follow in the footsteps of Sen. Joseph McCarthy⎯whose tactics against suspected Communists were so ruthless they earned him an “ism” after his name. Congressman King ought to be ashamed, but that would be to credit him with an awareness of his actions in the context of the darker side of our history that he surely does not possess.

King, sadly, has fallen prey to the other “American Way.” It’s easy and tempting for the rest of us to do the same. Let us hope, for all our sakes, that the better angels of our nature haven’t abandoned us.

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February 25, 2011

Chan Lowe: Army psy-ops mind games

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When Rolling Stone broke the story about a U.S. Army general in Afghanistan deploying his psychological warfare specialists to brainwash visiting members of congress, there was a good deal of reference made on TV news shows to The Manchurian Candidate.

Anyone old enough to remember when the Chinese were our sworn enemies rather than our bankers recalls the general creepiness we all felt about the secretive Middle Kingdom. When the novel and movie came out that suggested the Chinese practiced mind control, it struck a paranoid nerve.

Whether or not the Army really tried to persuade pols like Sens. Carl Levin and John McCain to send in more troops (as if the latter needed persuading), any revulsion and outrage we feel is due to the fact that they may have been subjected to nefarious head games as part of the process.


In fact, just about all of our politicians are in thrall to outside parties whose interests often do not coincide with those of the American people; for us, the difference appears to lie in the methodology of the manipulation.

As long as there is money involved in “owning” a member of congress, it’s a legitimate transaction. The congressman or senator is free to exercise his or her free will in accepting the money and screwing the public. Evidently, the people are not surprised or offended by this. Rather than outrage, they greet the news with a shrug.

This is the only logical conclusion one can come to, because otherwise these members of congress wouldn’t keep getting reelected.

But when money isn’t part of the equation, as in the Army case, it gives us the willies. It suggests that our elected representatives are blindly responding to someone’s Pavlovian bell.

I know there’s a difference between the two methods in terms of effect. I just can’t figure out what it is.

POSTED IN: John McCain (32), Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (52)

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February 24, 2011

Chan Lowe: Pill mills busted

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Our society is not alone in according medical doctors enormous respect. Maybe it’s because we see them as the anointed among us to whom we turn, in faith, to perform miracles. We consider them miracles because they are shrouded in mystery and beyond the understanding of the rest of us.

Since doctors often deal with matters of life and death, we consider them a sort of priesthood, an earthly extension of the Hand of God. If they succeed or fail in curing us, maybe it’s because He meant them to. And, this being America, we can always sue if we don’t agree.

Certainly there are other degrees and training regimens that are as demanding as those necessary to become a doctor of medicine, but a maître d’ isn’t as likely to find an open table in a crowded restaurant for a theoretical physicist as he is for a Doctor So and So.


Slots in medical schools are not unlimited. A would-be doctor devotes several years of his (or her) life and a great deal of treasure to his training, with the understanding that upon its completion, he will go forth and benefit society with his skills. In return, he can be assured that those skills will provide him with a living.

So when we witness a medical doctor misusing this quasi-sacred trust to peddle opiates to addicts and out-of-state drug dealers for cash on the barrelhead, it offends us the way the pedophile priest scandal offended us. It’s a debasement of our faith that there are those among us who, through their service, are supposed to lift us all.

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February 23, 2011

Chan Lowe: Wisconsin's labor pains

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At first, I was sympathetic to the standard line about the Wisconsin public employee unions, the one the Republican Party has been peddling.

It’s the time-worn narrative that resonates with us private-sector taxpayers, who like to visualize outfits like AFSCME as a litter of oblivious piglets blissfully nursing at the public teat while the rest of us disorganized drones tighten our belts.

But then, I began hearing that the Wisconsin unions had searched their souls, and had done what other public- and private-sector unions have in hard times past, which is to give up some of their sweet benefits for the greater public good. They’re taxpayers too, after all.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker made the compelling case that his state was broke and couldn’t afford the union worker benefits any more. He won that round, and should have left it there. Flush with victory, he couldn’t resist “jumping the shark,” so to speak. With his overwhelmingly Republican legislature behind him, he went on to attempt to inflict lasting damage on the unions by stripping them of their collective bargaining rights.

Without this tool, a union is little more than a social club. It was collective bargaining that brought America the 40-hour work week (introduced to the world, I believe, by Bismarck’s Prussia). It brought us the weekend. It ended the travesty of child labor.

Maybe what Gov. Walker is trying to do will make him a hero in the Republican Party. Maybe, in 2012 or 2016, he’ll run for president. Maybe his crusade will successfully spread to the other Rust Belt states and beyond. Maybe the soul of the Democratic Party⎯the impassioned, nuts-and-bolts base⎯will be eviscerated for all time, as his colleagues hope.

It’s a cruel irony that ground zero for what is potentially the greatest rollback in labor rights in modern times is Wisconsin, the home of Sen. Robert La Follette, Jr., where the progressive movement all began.

Even if he doesn’t go on to greater glory, Governor Walker has most certainly reserved for himself a pedestal in the Cheesehead Hall of Fame.

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February 22, 2011

Chan Lowe: Arab revolt

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Back in the glory days of the British Empire, the mother country was frequently accused of playing fast and loose with troops from the dominions. In WWI, for example, there was a perception Down Under that the cream of Aussie youth had been thrown into the meat grinder against the Turks at Gallipoli while tea-sipping British officers and regulars remained in the rear, thus avoiding the carnage. In the British mind, a British soldier’s life was somehow worth more, and should be conserved at the expense of others. At least, that was the perception.

It’s like that with the U. S. and the regimes we have historically propped up in the Middle East. Democracy is a beautiful thing. It begets prosperity and the freedom to pursue life’s enriching pleasures. But what’s good enough for our exceptional Shining City On The Hill isn’t good enough for the inhabitants of the oil-rich states of the Middle East.

No, the goal there is preserving stability, so that the Shining City’s engine room can be assured prompt and secure delivery of its fossil-fuel lifeblood. Here at home, we congratulate ourselves for promoting the idea of democracy around the world, but tell that to all the oppressed of Latin America whose caudillos we supported because they created a favorable environment for American businesses (and profited richly as a result).

Is it any wonder that there is a robust strain of anti-Americanism among many of the rebels who are, for the first time, flexing their muscle across the Arab world? To them, we are hypocrites who were complicit in perpetuating their misery.

Now that the house of cards we helped build is collapsing, we find ourselves scurrying to be on the right side of history. After all, keeping that oil flowing is our first priority, and we’ll have to cozy up to whoever ultimately wins the power struggle.

Conservatives love to bash President Obama for “apologizing for America,” which he has never done. He has indicated that we are not perfect, and are going to try to be more considerate and compassionate, less imperial. That is not apologizing.

Which isn’t to say a little self-examination of what we do versus who we perceive ourselves to be wouldn’t hurt, regardless of our political leanings.

POSTED IN: Barack Obama (172), John McCain (32), Middle East (28)

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February 21, 2011

Chan Lowe: Red light cameras

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I’m ambivalent about the whole red light camera issue.

For decades, I’ve watched Floridians blow through red lights seconds after they’ve changed, and I’ve developed a defensive mechanism of waiting for a second or two if I’m the first in line when mine goes green.

I have two theories about this. First, since most of us are from somewhere else, we don’t feel we belong to this community, so there is no sense of responsibility, and even more important, no accountability to our neighbors.


Second, which is related to the first, the red light-runner has an inflated impression of the importance of his own life compared to those who happen to be traveling at a ninety-degree angle to him at the moment. Make way, I’m in a BMW, and I’m late for my nail appointment.

So I felt a certain self-righteous smugness when I first heard of the red light camera idea. Those motorists whom I sat impotently cursing would finally get theirs.

But here’s where the ambivalence comes in: We all recoil from the Orwellian idea of a surveillance eye in the sky tracking our every move. We should at least get stopped by a human being in a hidden squad car. We ought to have a fighting chance. It’s the American way.

So when a story comes out that scofflaws have lawyered up and successfully fought these tickets, my first instinct is to cheer that they’ve not only beaten the system, they’ve stymied the very local governments that were expecting a guaranteed windfall from the devices. Yeah, up theirs!

But those governments aren’t really “them.” They’re us, and we’re the taxpayers getting taken to the cleaners. We’re going to have to make up the difference because some elected fool bought the story that cameras meant free money.

Now I don’t know what to think anymore. Maybe I’ll walk.


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February 18, 2011

Chan Lowe: Breast feeding with Michelle, Michele and Sarah

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Nothing gets the right wing more lathered up than Michelle Obama, Wife of the Great Pretender, opening her mouth to render an opinion--even if it’s about something as innocuous and well-meaning as encouraging mothers to breast feed.

Michele Bachmann was first to screech off the mark, skillfully framing the issue as an attack on the IRS for declaring that breast pumps were medical devices for the purposes of tax deductions and medical flex accounts. Another overreach by the Nanny State, she said. This, of course, conveniently overlooks the fact that Tea Partiers are supposed to be against taxes of any kind, so technically, the decision ought to have pleased her.

Sarah Palin, realizing that her gun was being jumped (and only a fool would jump Mama Grizzly’s gun), immediately chimed in with a maladroit comment about regular milk being too expensive, intimating that the Obamas were in some way to blame for this. Babies don’t drink cow’s milk as a rule, but let’s allow her some artistic license on that one.

In the ever-lengthening record both ladies are accruing for ill-thought-out and malevolent utterances, this little episode is a particularly inglorious entry. In fact, it’s painful to witness two mature adults demean themselves so.

Fortunately for them, they’re oblivious. The rest of us aren’t so lucky.

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February 17, 2011

Chan Lowe: Tea Partiers revolt!

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Suddenly, people like House Speaker John Boehner are learning the hard way that the Tea Party-backed wing of his caucus not only means to stay true to its rhetoric, it doesn't feel it owes the old paternalistic party apparatus any fealty. The Republican side of the house is starting to look more like the Democrats: a coalition of pressure groups obsessed with different core issues that pull together now and then to scratch each other’s backs when it suits them. More often than not, they bicker amongst themselves.

Just yesterday, a group of Tea Party fiscal conservatives allied with Democrats to finally chuck a redundant, gold-plated jet engine that even the Pentagon says is a waste, but that has survived for years because the manufacturers spread the work around to as many districts as possible. The engine is assembled in Boehner’s home district, for crying out loud.

What kind of Speaker can’t even protect federal pork in his own district? Actually, the very question itself is so last-year. It reflects an archaic, old-politics viewpoint, one that prevailed before the seeds of the whirlwind Mr. Boehner is now reaping were sown.

Boehner's only hope is that, over time, Washington culture will work its evil charms on his irksome band of zealots before they bring the whole carefully-designed traditional structure crashing down around his ears.

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February 16, 2011

Chan Lowe: Scott derails hi-speed train

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Are you sorry you voted for Rick Scott yet?

What was he thinking? More important, what were you thinking? Here was a man with a completely unproven record…well, at least, in government. Unfortunately, his record in the private sector says a lot of things about him that should have caused you to pull up short before connecting that arrow on the ballot.

He’s decided to allow the running sore of pill mills to continue infecting our state (because they’re a tourist draw, I suppose), and now Mr. Seven-Hundred-Thousand-Jobs-In-Seven-Years has disdained $2.4 billion in federal gift money on the tragically incorrect premise that it will cost Florida taxpayers more than that in matching funds.

And that’s just in one week. This guy is worse than incompetent…he’s malevolent. I thought Scott was all for helping private enterprise create jobs. A consortium of business groups is ready to match the federal money with private investment, and they’re contractually bound to make up any overages out of their own pockets. Where is the risk to the taxpayers?

Sen. Bill Nelson, upon hearing the news of the refusal, tweeted that had Scott been governor during the Eisenhower Administration, Florida wouldn’t have an Interstate highway system today.

You should hear the screeching out of the local legislators, government officials and members of congress from Central Florida affected by this boneheaded (hmmm…so apt) decision. And they’re all Republicans.

I have a feeling this is just the opening chapter for our new, untested and unfathomable governor. It’s all your fault, Scott voters. But buck up…this isn’t the end of the line for you. If you would like to ride on your magnificent, state-of-the-art high-speed rail system someday, I recommend the scenery between Los Angeles and San Francisco.


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February 15, 2011

Chan Lowe: The Obama budget

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When I was in college, I took one of those “Physics for Poets” classes designed for art majors and other people who couldn’t count without using their fingers and toes, and who needed to fulfill a science requirement in order to graduate. Oceanography was an alternative, but it was already sold out.

Our professor opened his first lecture by saying, “This is how light travels.” He then scrawled out a ludicrously complex equation on the blackboard containing arcane symbols, superscripts, and for all we knew, Jane Fonda’s measurements. He whirled around to face slack jaws and a few signs of outright panic. “Okay,” he nodded sagely. “No more numbers in this course.”

Applause.

The president’s budget is like that, in that the language its writers use is numerical, but nobody really looks at the numbers. Instead, they absorb what the numbers represent. The budget is a metaphor, a statement of beliefs, a starting point, a shot across the bow, a blueprint, a dream, a set of priorities, a political weapon, an acknowledgement of reality.

It is not meant to be taken literally, for no one expects it to be enacted in anything resembling its current form.

This particular budget is an admission of fear, because it does not address the looming issue of entitlement reform. The president did nibble around the edges of a few programs that are important to him, however, like community development grants, to signal to the Republicans he’s ready to sit down and horse trade.

But he’s waiting for them to make the first move on entitlements. Why is that such a dangerous issue? Because for all the screaming by the right that we need to cut the deficit, everybody knows that once abstract policy gets down to specifics, every program has a constituency. Yes, even Tea Partiers look forward to cashing social security checks, or are thinking about putting Grandma in a nursing home. Woe to the pol who first suggests taking any of that away.

After you, Alphonse.

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February 14, 2011

Chan Lowe: Scott and the pill mills

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Let this be a lesson to all you civic dilettantes out there. You know who you are…you’re the ones who don’t do your homework and then let yourselves be bamboozled by TV ads at the last minute, because you have no foundation of real knowledge about the candidates.

Rick Scott spent $72 million of his own money to, among other things, swamp us with his feel-good “Let’s get to work” ads. His opponent, Alex Sink, had to resort to more conventional methods of political fundraising, which wouldn’t have been a liability in any other year.

She was overwhelmed. She may not have been everyone’s cup of tea, but at least she had experience in state government. True to form, Floridians voted for the person they’d heard of, and Scott made sure through his phenomenal media buys that he was that person.

Even with all that, Sink only lost by a one per cent margin. It may turn out to be a fateful one per cent, as our new governor has shown a remarkable political tone-deafness about how to address the demands of his office.

The title of “Governor” in front of one’s name does not make one a leader. Leading derives from being transparent with those being led, gathering consensus, and building faith and trust among one’s fellow citizens that the path one is taking is considered, and the best for all.

Leading does not consist of making arbitrary, unilateral decisions about matters of state policy, leaving one’s own attorney general and other law enforcement officers out on an embarrassing limb, and then compounding the blunder by imperiously refusing to explain one’s rationale.

Putting the kibosh on the state prescription database is an incomprehensible and destructive decision. Let us hope it is not the first of many. Four years is a long time, and things are tough enough for Florida as it is.

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February 11, 2011

Chan Lowe: Mubarak steps down

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I was just doing the ink on this cartoon when the news broke that Mubarak was stepping down. Fortunately I had chosen an angle that would be relevant no matter what happened over there.

It’s a problem we in the old-fashioned news biz have had ever since this cascade of events began. The narrative was moving so quickly that anything we drew or wrote might be hopelessly out of date by the time it reached readers’ driveways.

Ironically, this very morning my editorial page editor finally decided that he could no longer put off writing something about the Egyptian developments; our silence was doing our readers a disservice. Within five minutes of his finishing, the Mubarak government fell, necessitating a rewrite.

Say what you will about the crowds, the army, Obama, and everyone else in this narrative…the Egyptian people owe an enormous debt of gratitude to the Sun Sentinel’s editorial page for plunging in and producing an editorial that was ready for the trash before the keyboard was cool.

On a final note, we ought to congratulate the Egyptians, who have forever changed our attitudes about the humanity, the generosity, and the courage of their nation. They have shown the American people, in their unquenchable yearning for freedom, that we have much in common with them.

Now we enter into a period of uncertainty and flux, maybe even (God forbid) chaos. Now, the nail biting begins.

Post script: Fans of the Second Amendment, a well-armed citizenry, etc., might want to take note that the Egyptians managed to overturn their repressive government without using a single firearm.

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February 10, 2011

Chan Lowe: The Confession App

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When my grandmother hit her mid-nineties, it became too much of a hardship for her to hoof it the three blocks to the Polish church every Sunday. Instead, the priest came to her house once a month with his little bag to hear her confession and administer the Holy Eucharist.

There in her living room, beneath the hand-tinted photograph of the man she knew as Jan Pawel II⎯who occupied the second position in her pantheon of heroes just beneath Liberace⎯she made her confession in Polish, presumably because God would think she was trying to fudge it if she did it in her limited English.

It didn’t take long. She once said to me, “I old lady, ninety-six years old. What’s left to confess?”

Still, she did it regularly. It was important to her, and I’ve never seen a lady more at peace with her life and her maker than Nana.

It was with skepticism, therefore, that I read the story about the new iPhone “Confession App.” Since we now rely on technology for just about everything else, it seemed only a matter of time before we employed our smart phones to manage the data stream between us remote users and the Great Mainframe Designer in the sky.

Certain members of the clergy have endorsed the app, albeit cautiously, indicating that if it helps put young people in better touch with their spiritual identities, then it has some redeeming value. They stress that it is really a way to aid self-examination and introspection.

In a world full of secular distractions, this may be a clever form of spiritual jiujitsu, using the very power of technology to cut through the clutter it helps to create.

Or maybe it’s just silly, which is what I confess I thought when I first heard of it.

Like any of man’s artifices, its value lies in how intelligently it is used.

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February 9, 2011

Chan Lowe: Staged accidents

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It was a major blow to Florida state pride last week when Miami clocked in on Forbes’ list as only the second-most miserable city in America.

We’re used to being Number One in these things, so it was with a sense of vindication that we greeted the news from the National Insurance Crime Bureau that Florida leads the rest of the country in staged auto accidents.

We have long known that Florida is a storehouse (cesspool?) of entrepreneurial spirit, business acumen, and unbridled imagination. It isn’t for nothing that we have been dubbed the “Scam Capital of America.” If only this raw talent could be harnessed for the good of mankind.

Faking auto accident injuries is one thing, but a scam of even more breathtaking proportions is growing in the wings. I’m told that there is an increase in fraudulent sinkhole claims on homeowner insurance policies here in the Sunshine State.

I stand in awe. Anybody who can fake a sinkhole under his house ought to be working on President Obama’s infrastructure-building initiative. It’s a Sputnik moment.

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February 8, 2011

Chan Lowe: Egypt and the Tea Party

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To me, insistence on a punctilious, “authentic” interpretation of any document from another era is the safe haven of the small and fearful thinker.

We rightly esteem the legacy of enlightened reasoning and principles embodied by the U.S. Constitution, and the thinking that led to its writing ought to be revered and heeded as the philosophical bedrock upon which our way of life is built, but the act of divining the “original intent” of the authors from a 21st Century perspective is a form of freewheeling interpretation in itself.

Ought we modern readers to attempt to climb inside the heads of a group of men who never heard the sound of an internal combustion engine, who never conceived of machinery that could keep people artificially alive for months or even years, or who could translate “web” and “site” into Latin and Greek, but would be clueless as to the meaning of the two English words when combined?

I say “group of men” advisedly, for these same gentlemen, blinkered by custom, didn’t think enough of women to grant them voting rights in the document they crafted (or received intact from Above, depending on your point of view).

The framers’ inclusion of a mechanism for ratifying amendments tells us that they knew that their charter, while pretty good, wasn’t perfect. Future generations, in their wisdom, were given license to tinker with and improve upon the original, and to keep it relevant to the needs and challenges of their times.

In other words, the Founding Fathers were humble and visionary enough to pass down to us what amounted to an admonition that their groundbreaking work ought not to be preserved in amber. They trusted that in its elasticity lay its vitality.

Small and fearful thinkers, they were not.


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February 7, 2011

Chan Lowe: Gov. Scott's budget

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The release of the state budget is normally pretty dry stuff… little more than bedtime reading for Tallahassee reporters and policy wonks.

Since Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature are all cost-cutting Republicans anyway, we would expect the newly minted governor’s proposed spending plan to glide through the corridors of the state capitol easier than a lobbyist in a new pair of Guccis, right?

Wrong. We must remember that for Scott, this gig is more or less a very expensive hobby, and he may not care whether he gets reelected in four years, having grown weary by that time.

The rest of our public servants do care, and they know that Scott’s draconian cuts aren’t going to go over well with the voting public, who will surely blame them when education and children’s services, for example, begin to shrivel on the vine.

In this environment, tax cuts for big businesses, which Scott also wants, are a non-starter. All that Republican dogma about stimulating growth through lower taxes may look rosy in the long view, but we need to balance the budget right now, not five or ten years from now.

Scott is reminiscent of former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who came into office talking tough, but who was eventually humbled by a recalcitrant legislature and by the sheer magnitude of his state’s problems (Calling them “girly men” didn’t help any). He slunk out with head bowed, leaving a gargantuan mess behind for a grayer and wiser Governor Moonbeam, of all people, to clean up.

Scott, the quintessential outsider, is fond of saying he doesn’t owe anybody anything. Standard-issue politicians like our legislators, who may harbor dreams of higher office someday, read this freewheeling attitude as reckless and potentially dangerous to their careers.

This bronc, they’re probably saying quietly among themselves, has gotta be busted.

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February 4, 2011

Chan Lowe: Teacher merit pay

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The concept of teacher merit pay appeals to our Republican legislature and governor because it makes sense at a surface level, is a neat, simplistic solution easily comprehended by the public, and has the added benefit of weakening the hated teachers’ unions, which are part of the power base of the Democratic Party.

From the teachers’ point of view, there is no allowance made for students’ sheer stupidity, bad luck of the draw in one’s class roster, or working in schools whose families find it more difficult to spare the time to get involved in their children's learning.

It is true that unions are formed in order to collectively assure that workers receive compensation in line with the work they perform. Without unions, each worker must negotiate alone, and historically, that has led to exploitation.


While unions have done much to better the condition of the working class throughout history, a downside is that they become safe havens for underperformers whom the system would otherwise shed for ineptitude. In the case of education, this is not only wasteful, it shortchanges the students.

There is no easy solution to this problem. Merit pay is a blunt instrument, and will probably not lead to any improvement where it matters, with the students. It will, however, lead to a more dispirited and resentful workforce, which could well end up harming them.

We need a more nuanced, intelligent, multifaceted approach. Unfortunately, that isn’t politically expedient.

POSTED IN: Economy (197), Florida Issues (258), Rick Scott (16)

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February 3, 2011

Chan Lowe: Obamacare headed for the Supreme Court

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It looks like the Affordable Care Act is headed to the Supreme Court, thanks to a rash of conflicting lower court opinions.

Court kremlinologists in the media and legal communities, basing their prognostications on the previous records of the nine justices (you get a gold star if you can name all nine without cheating, and no…Judge Judy is not one of them), have already decided that “Obamacare” will be decided by a vote of 5-4, with the battlefield being the heart and mind of the Swing Justice, Anthony Kennedy (far left in this group portrait).

Why they say they know this is because the case turns on how you view the reach of government in individual lives, and at what point you feel that reach becomes an overreach. The much-reviled “individual mandate,” which is at the core of the battle, is either within the purview of the Interstate Commerce Clause of the Constitution, or it’s an unjust intrusion, imposing a penalty on people for not doing something.

We pretty much know how all the justices feel about government reach, except for Kennedy, who appears to be either wishy-washy or remarkably unfettered by ideology, depending on whether you agree with his vote on a case you care about.

On another court-related issue, when gay marriage finally works its way up to the Supremes, the social conservatives had better be careful what they wish for. The same libertarian beliefs that may impel Justices Alito, Scalia, Thomas and Roberts to deep-six Obamacare might just cause them to decide that government has no business telling individuals whom they can choose to share their lives with.

Maybe I'm dreaming, but a unanimous decision seems within the realm of possibility.


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February 2, 2011

Chan Lowe: Scott targets state pensions

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Much as it pains me to agree with Gov. Rick Scott on anything, I have to admit that his idea to require workers on the state pension system to contribute five per cent of their salaries toward their retirement packages makes sense, particularly in this time of financial tribulation.

Frankly, it came as a surprise that, up until now, they have had to make absolutely no personal contribution. Those who set up the system, in their wisdom, left that burden to the taxpayers.

To those of us who work in the private sector, particularly in the age of the 401(K), the idea of the personal contribution is as much of a given as the medical insurance co-pay. It’s pointless to complain, because that’s the way it is and there’s nothing we can do about it.

There is nothing select about state employees that should elevate them above those whom they serve. Yes, the unions scream that it amounts to a pay cut, but the rest of us have always deducted that payment from our salaries, so it’s only an affront if you aren’t used to it. In addition, state employees ought to have to identify with the rest of us, and realize that state money isn’t “free” money. It’s our money (theirs too), and needs to be husbanded.

Somehow, I don’t think this new levy is going to cause state employees to quit their jobs in outrage. There’s never been a problem filling a state job when it opens up, five per cent or no five per cent.

And we won’t even go into that cumulative sick leave policy.

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February 1, 2011

Chan Lowe: Michele Bachmann's America

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Now, if George Santayana had been a real American instead of some foreign born, Harvard-educated elitist pinhead, his famous quotation would have read more like this: “Those who cannot remember the past can simply make it up as they go along.”

To say that Michele Bachmann doesn’t care when she is caught fudging a variety of issues is to not give her enough credit. Like Sarah Palin, she is actually proud to be exposed, for it makes her the butt of snarky attacks from elites, and victimization is an essential component of her equation. It reinforces her bond with her followers.

In an earlier posting, I indicated that Bachmann was eclipsing Palin as the darling of the Right. It isn’t just because we are growing weary of Sarah and her tweets and Faceburps; it’s also that Bachmann takes her fierce, willful ignorance one step further.

Unlike Palin, who can be dull and tedious, Bachmann has a vivid imagination. Not content with the yawning breadth of her lack of knowledge, she fills in the blanks on the fly, elevating the Founding Fathers from the status of mere mortals to pristine deities, and the Constitution from a trench-fought compromise to the Revealed Word of God, handed down intact. Her vision of Exceptional America is without blemish, lacking a grasp of the conflict out of which a great nation finally and painfully emerged.

Her pronouncements would be laughable except that they encourage and condone an overly simplistic approach to the untidy business of running a country. In Bachmann’s fantasyland, all things are possible because there are no shades of gray. Controversy is reduced to pointing out who is a patriotic American (those who agree with Bachmann and her followers), and who isn’t. It’s easy and satisfying, like instant mashed potatoes.

When so many of us are afraid, and the path out of our current predicament appears murky at best, simplistic thinking can be addictive.

Addictive enough to secure the presidential candidacy of the Republican Party for Michele Bachmann in 2012?

Time will tell, Fellow Patriots.

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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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