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June 30, 2011

Chan Lowe: Rick Scott, American hero

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Without even trying, Florida Gov. Rick Scott could turn out to be a national hero.

That’s right, after a mere seven months in office, he’s become so unpopular in the Sunshine State that he’s now a liability to his party. The Republican hierarchy is worried that, thanks to his abuses, Floridians in November of 2012 will fail to pull the lever for the Republican nominee at all, or worse, vote for Obama in retaliation.

There is no strategy for a Republican to win the required number of electoral votes next year without taking Florida. In effect, Scott may singlehandedly save feckless Obama-hating Americans from accidentally electing the likes of a Bachmann or a Palin.

Whatever you may think of Barack Obama⎯that he doesn’t belong in the White House because he’s a minority, or he’s a socialist, or he’s foreign-born or whatever⎯at least he’s reasonably competent. You may blame him for not getting us out of the economic slump by now, but nobody really knows for sure whether the mess he was handed wasn’t so horrendous that even John Maynard Keynes himself couldn’t have righted the ship in two and a half years. That isn’t a great deal of time, considering it took eight years to get us into it.

Do you want Michele Bachmann, who wants Democrats in Congress investigated for their un-American views, who doesn’t know the Battle of Lexington was fought in Massachusetts, who preaches federal fiscal restraint while collecting subsidies for her farm, to have her hands on the levers of the economy? Or Sarah Palin, who would probably sell DVDs of The Undefeated out of a kiosk off the West Wing?

Since half of the nation is unable to see through its fog of hatred for the president, maybe we should rejoice that there are Rick Scotts around to save us from ourselves. Great men have always miraculously appeared when our country most needed them…and that, you might say, it what makes America so exceptional.


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June 29, 2011

Chan Lowe: Obama threads the needle on gay marriage

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Talk about being in an awkward position. Here’s President Obama, trying to smooth over a group of gay activists in Manhattan, and instead of being greeted like a hero, he’s forced to endure jeers and catcalls for not giving them the Full Monty on same-sex marriage. Hours later, New York legalizes it, leaving him eating dust and playing social catch-up to Dick Cheney, of all people.

This is one of those times when heading the great Democratic coalition can be...challenging, to say the least. Let’s not forget that⎯unlike Republicans⎯the Democrats are a loose alliance of interest groups that have banded together to push their own agendas by agreeing to help others with theirs, much like a nationwide Amish barn-raising.

So you have a President who can walk the walk right up to the bitter edge, proclaiming that gays should have the same rights as everyone else, but he can’t actually bring himself to say the words, “marriage equality.” Why? Because the moment he does, it’s possible that a segment of the alliance that isn’t so high-minded about gay rights, and that voted for him the last time for other reasons, just may decide to stay home on election day. Thanks to our lousy economy, he needs those votes even more than he did in 2008, when his race and inexperience were the only things going against him.

Down deep, we know (or fear, depending on your point of view) that he’s already there on same-sex marriage. He sure looks foolish, though, standing there and biting his lip. In fact, he looks craven. It’s just one of those political realities you have to face in the good ol’ U.S. of A.

Consider the alternative: He says what he’s really dying to say, loses the 2012 election, and President Bachmann pushes legislation to round up all the gays and send them to re-education camp to be “loved” by the righteous back into the Lord’s warm embrace.

So be patient. The activists will get what they want… right after the polls close on November 6, 2012.


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June 28, 2011

Chan Lowe: New York's legalization of same-sex marriage

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I have a problem with Michele Bachmann.

The problem I have isn’t with her socially conservative views, which I disagree with but do not denigrate, since they are legitimately held⎯nor is it with her recurring symptoms of foot-in-mouth disease, which provide comic relief more than anything else.

No, what I worry about is having as a potential president a person who is apparently capable of believing⎯simultaneously and passionately⎯in two opposing principles of government without seeing the illogic of her position(s).

She trumpets the inherent goodness of states’ rights, and has devoted herself, at least in her stump speech, to the goal of shrinking the federal government’s role in freedom-loving Americans’ lives to the fullest extent possible.

That sounds fine so far as it goes, until she is asked about New York’s recent legalization of same-sex marriage. Yes, Ms. Bachmann says, every state has a right to pass its own laws. But, as president, she would work as hard as she could to pass an amendment to the U.S. Constitution recognizing marriage as a contract exclusively between a man and a woman.


That last part sounds to me a lot like federal overreach into our personal lives, and an infringement upon the rights of states to determine their own political and social character.

I don’t think Michele Bachmann concerns herself with people who notice this inconsistency, because they aren’t likely to vote for her in the first place. More interesting is that her target audience obviously isn’t disturbed by it in the slightest. All it cares about is that she hits the hot buttons: states’ rights, the gay threat to American values, right to life, the required teaching of creationism in science class.

That’s to name but a few. I’m sure we’ll be hearing much, much more from her, even if half of what she says can’t exist alongside the other half.

POSTED IN: 2012 Campaign (85), Culture Wars (199), Michele Bachmann (11)

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June 27, 2011

Chan Lowe: Fair Districts and fact

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I’ll bet the words “redistricting” and “reapportionment” make your eyes glaze over. The legislators in Tallahassee are betting on that, too.

Every ten years, each state must redesign its congressional and state legislative district maps to reflect changes in census data. It’s one of the reasons the Founding Fathers required that a census be taken in the U.S. Constitution.

It seems simple, but it isn’t. Recent Supreme Court decisions have found that special exceptions must be made to ensure that certain districts are drawn to guarantee minority representation. Then there’s the fact that the party in power generally controls redistricting, and their top priority is to preserve that power in perpetuity, as well as to protect incumbents.

An added wrinkle, this time around, is that Floridians voted for something called “Fair Districts,” which, while making representation theoretically more even-handed, is diametrically opposed to the countervailing forces described above.

Why should you care? Because right now, we have a legislature wherein the Democratic caucus in both houses is so miniscule, it has been relegated to an ineffectual joke. Republican legislators, along with a GOP governor and Cabinet, can run roughshod over the state, force-feeding it their agenda if they so choose (and they have so chosen). You’d never know from this that Florida is a majority Democratic state, would you?

The legislature is sitting on a multi-million-dollar slush fund to fight legal battles that seek to pick Fair Districts apart in the courts, out of sight, where the average Floridian doesn’t care or have time to involve himself.

So start paying attention, for crying out loud. They’re stealing your state out from under your nose.

POSTED IN: 2012 Campaign (85), Florida Issues (258)

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June 24, 2011

Chan Lowe: Debt ceiling paralysis

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“When each side starts to care more about reducing our country’s debt than about advancing its own political agenda, we’ll finally make some progress.”

I don’t remember who said it, but it applies equally to both parties in congress. It’s all about fear…of the electorate. Not much about the daily give and take on Capitol Hill manages to percolate down to the proletariat, but we have just seen what happens when somebody threatens one of America’s great socialist programs, Medicare. Since that little stumble has now tarred the Republicans, Dems are delightedly standing back, washing their hands, and letting them hang themselves. For the moment, entitlements have become untouchable.

On the other side, Republicans owe much of their legitimacy to holding the anti-tax line. They doggedly hew to the long-discredited Laffer Curve, which posits that removing the fetters of taxation stimulates greater economic activity, thereby creating more revenue. We’re still waiting for that one to pan out in field trials.


Even though most Americans would be happy with a mix of spending cuts and tax increases (particularly on the wealthy), Republicans are stuck in Park because their primary voters in the base do not agree with most Americans.

It would be a tragedy if, thanks to this debt ceiling dance, the full faith and credit of the United States were undermined just because a few hundred spineless members of congress prefer to put their own immediate employment concerns above the long-term economic health of the nation they purport to serve.

What we need right now is some real statesmanship. Unfortunately, we didn’t elect statesmen, only politicians.

And for that, we have only ourselves to blame.

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June 23, 2011

Chan Lowe: Anti-Afghanistan war sentiment

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Don’t you remember way back, like four or five years ago, when to talk about winding down a war was condemned as “cutting and running?” When to even question the president’s thinking on the matter of our various foreign military involvements was labeled as unpatriotic, that it was undermining our brave troops who were out there in harm’s way?

Well, today’s Republicans are betting you don’t remember, either. Now that we have a Democratic president running things, it’s all right to question motives like getting involved in a war overseas just to topple a dictator. And now that Afghanistan has lost its luster, we can simply label it “Obama’s War,” and agitate to withdraw the troops without fear that we’re undermining their morale in the process. That’s the wonderful thing about short memories.

But if you’re subversive enough to actually remember the old days, maybe you’ll recall that Republicans always took us to war for righteous reasons, like weapons of mass destruction, yellowcake, and “He tried to kill my daddy. You know, the same daddy that didn’t finish the job the last time, so I’m gonna prove I’m a better president than he was.”

Well, if you can’t come up with any righteous reasons, at least you can take solace in the fact that back then we could afford to pay for our wars. We just took them off the books. It was that simple, and it was the patriotic thing to do.

We waved our hands, and “PFFT!” the debt was pushed off for another day. Easy payment plan. It would never come back to haunt us. At least, not during a Republican administration.

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June 21, 2011

A pre-written letter to Gov. Rick Scott

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I can attest that the part about the dog is true.

In the opinion page business, we call this “astroturf,” which is shorthand for “artificial grass-roots campaign.” Some group or another publishes a suggested letter to the editor on its website, then urges supporters to download it, sign their names and send it in.

Scott’s self-aggrandizing endeavor takes technology one step further. I went to his site, and in the address field of the fawning letter in question, it had somehow known to pre-choose “Sun Sentinel” for me. No downloading was necessary. All I had to do was fill in my name and email, click “send,” and it would become one more snowflake in the presumed blizzard of encomia overwhelming my editor’s inbox.

It’s ironic that the man who haughtily refused to grant editorial board interviews during his campaign now finds it necessary to round up support, however contrived, in the state’s media. Maybe it has something to do with his stellar twenty-nine percent approval rating.

“Pathetic” is a word that comes to mind for this clumsy, transparent effort. If Governor Scott really wants the people to love him, he might try resigning. After all, it did wonders for Sarah Palin.


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June 20, 2011

Chan Lowe: The Wal-Mart decision

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The Supreme Court is one of those institutions we groundlings don’t think about much until they hand down a decision that might actually affect our lives, or those of people we know.

In a perfect world, we envision the justices as a group of pure intellectuals who have risen to the pinnacle of their discipline⎯that being the understanding, interpretation and application of a body of settled precedent and legal code.

Once they make it through the arduous confirmation process, justices get to hold office for life, which by design is supposed to elevate them above the fickle windstorms of profane politics. They base their deliberations on pure legal arguments, and working in a serene vacuum, they hand down decisions that we implement at street level.

Maybe this is as it should be. In order for us to have respect for the law of the land, we must be reasonably assured that it will be applied impartially.

Of course, justices are human, and they bring the conscious and unconscious prejudices of life experience into every decision they make, as we all do.

So, when justices are confronted with a case that, say, results in so concentrating political power in the hands of a moneyed few that the future integrity of our political system and stability of our social order hang in the balance, we might well wonder whether they allow their human sides to consider that their abstruse reasonings can have harmful long-term consequences.

I guess that’s one question that won’t keep us awake at night anymore, since the court went ahead last year and found for the plaintiff in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Democracy is doomed. Next case.

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June 17, 2011

Chan Lowe: Republican anti-voter fraud laws

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There must be some centrally located underground room where Republican governors and pols from Republican-majority state legislatures met to lay out a coordinated national strategy. Otherwise, why would so many states simultaneously try to pass anti-immigrant laws, union-busting laws⎯and most egregious of all⎯voter suppression laws?

Republican chief executives and supermajorities have willfully misinterpreted the economic “mandate” they were given last November and instead are using it to cram through cherished agenda items that they were never elected to promote.

If you really want to know the difference between a liberal and a conservative, it is glaringly apparent in this so-called anti-voter fraud legislation that is being foisted upon us in so many states, including my own.

A liberal follows an inner voice that compels him to be conscious of, feel responsible for, and protect the rights of all of his neighbors, regardless of color, creed, sexual orientation, or any other differences⎯including political philosophy. It was liberals in the ACLU who supported the right of neo-Nazis to march in Skokie, Il., much as they were repulsed by the marchers’ message.

A conservative, on the other hand, is so convinced of the righteousness of his ideology that, in his mind, any means to promote it are justified by the ends. Who tends to vote Democrat? College kids, poor people who move a lot, and minorities. So let’s just write some specific laws that make it more difficult for them to vote. We’ll use fraud as a pretext, even though there isn’t any to speak of. Most voters are too uninformed to know they’re being bamboozled.

Besides, the people we’re disenfranchising aren’t really good Americans anyway…at least, not like we are. And nobody else will care.

So, no harm done.

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June 16, 2011

Chan Lowe: Mourning the passing of Weinergate

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Well, it’s finally over. Think of the anguish, embarrassment and damage to his party, himself and his family Anthony Weiner could have avoided had he just taken a page from fellow New Yorker Shirtless Chris Lee’s playbook and resigned within minutes of the first photo going public.

But then, not nearly so many newspapers would have been sold, nor so many minds distracted from the painful realities we must face as a nation.

It’s true that militant liberals lost a strident (if not always effective) voice, but there are, I’m sure, other equally impassioned lefties to be found in Weiner’s district who are ready to replace him, and who are probably willing to keep their proclivities in check.

As for Mr. Weiner’s prospects, he has served at least five years in Congress, so he qualifies for a hefty federal pension that is more than the salary many people earn in a year.

Since he originally considered moving to South Florida to begin his congressional career⎯but, according to Salon.com, was talked out of it by his patron, Sen. Chuck Schumer⎯he can revisit that dream once the Sunshine State picks up yet another seat after the next census in ten years. We are much more forgiving of our politicians down here, or at least more willing to blindly vote for someone we’ve heard of.

In the meantime, Weiner can join another fallen angel, former governor Eliot Spitzer, as Tweedledee on Spitzer’s TV show, In the Arena.

See? The future doesn’t look so bad, after all. What a shame Weiner didn’t embrace it sooner.

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June 15, 2011

Chan Lowe: Mitt Romney, the Wild One

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I wouldn’t want to be in Mitt Romney’s shoes right now. The punditocracy is pushing the conventional wisdom that, despite having an empty account in the personality bank, all Romney needs to do is trumpet his business experience and sit tight while the economy continues to tank. No amount of Obamic charisma and charm will be able to save a president who can’t deliver the goods. In frustration, we will even turn to a stiff like Romney to save us. At least, that’s the theory.

Neither the chatterers nor Romney appear to have thought this thing through. Since he’s offering little or nothing in the way of specific solutions to our economic problems, what remains is a strategy that consists of betting on the president to fail. Unfortunately, if Obama fails it means the country has failed as well. This puts Romney in the uncomfortable position of cheering for higher (or at least, sustained) unemployment and deepening misery.


His campaign and legitimacy evaporate with our recovery, so if the jobless figures start to fall, he will be the last to join in the celebration. It reminds me of an ancient time, five or so years ago, when Americans still remembered we were fighting a war in Iraq. Since it was a major campaign issue, we were treated to Republicans accusing Democrats of wishing the war to go badly for their own partisan advancement.

Romney, from what I can tell, is a decent guy. I’m sure that, as a patriotic American, he wants things to improve for his country. For Romney the candidate, it isn’t quite so simple.

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June 14, 2011

Chan Lowe: Look out, Sarah Palin

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Those who would lump Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann together as the Genuine Article and Mini-Me are not just being unfair to Ms. Bachmann, they’re fooling themselves. Yes, both women are outspoken and conservative, and draw support from the same constituencies, but Ms. Bachmann’s performance last night at the Republican debate demonstrated that she is no Sarah Palin, and I mean that in a good way.

If you knew about Ms. Bachmann beforehand, and you’ve heard some of her more memorable lines (my favorite being the time she called for a media investigation of her colleagues in the House to ferret out those who harbor un-American thoughts), you’d know that she marches to her own drummer, to put it diplomatically.

Like so many people who are just a little, um, off, she can do an astounding job of impersonating a sane woman when called upon, as she did last night. She was well prepared with set-piece answers, spoke easily on her feet, and she had that requisite fire the pundits are always looking for.

Sarah Palin, on the other hand, is so uninformed that she is unaware of the depths of her own ignorance. This isn’t to say that she doesn’t have street smarts, but if you deconstruct her standard drivel about freedom, liberty and the constitution, what you get are the parrotings of an incurious mind that has never bothered to plumb the meaning of its utterances. There is also a whiff of insincerity there, like a mother-spoon feeding her baby pablum while knowing full well she’d never eat such dreck herself.

Bachmann appears to have done her homework, is not afraid to do the heavy grunt work required of a serious campaign, and has the advantage of completely believing everything she says. She’s obviously a quick study. Once she figures out which state the American Revolution actually began in, Mitt Romney and the rest of those stiffs had better look out.

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June 13, 2011

Chan Lowe: The Miami Heat loss

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If, like me, you don’t follow sports, then the recent crescendo surrounding the Miami Heat’s progress through the NBA finals is just part of the background noise of living in South Florida, like the wail of emergency vehicle sirens.

Some of my basketball-minded colleagues, however, have been expressing their despondency and⎯this being South Florida⎯their retributive anger toward their erstwhile heroes since last night’s fall from grace.

I think they have a right to be ticked off. Sports is a profession where excellence is rewarded not just handsomely, but obscenely when you think about the poverty that holds the rest of the world in its grip. It may be exceeded only by arms- or drug-dealing in terms of concentrating vast wealth into the hands of a few.

With that kind of payday, you’d expect somebody with a $100 million contract to either deliver, or at least pay some of it back to his fans if he failed.

It makes sense to me, at least. But when it comes to professional sports, my colleagues don’t listen to me…and as I said up front, I try not to listen to them.

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June 10, 2011

Reject Corner!!!...Not

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Just when I think I've seen everything in 27 years of dealing with editors at this paper, I am freshly astounded.

In response to the story about Alabama's newly-enacted anti-illegal immigrant law, which is even more draconian than Arizona's, I submitted the above cartoon as a sketch to my opinion page editor, Antonio Fins. Tony responded by saying, "It seems flat. What about something having to do with a New Yorker and his accent?" Naturally, I bridled at this, since it wasn't my idea. Working at cross-purposes with my initial response was that I respect Tony as a second set of eyes (this is what editors are for). I always understand my work because I'm the one who thought it up. If it doesn't hit home with him, it could mean that it is, in fact, less than effective.

I sent him an explanation, which was that Alabamans are known for having one of the highest obesity rates in the nation, and I wanted to turn the tables on them so that our readers could better understand how visual profiling, as a technique, is bigoted and hurtful.

Simultaneously, I began warming to Tony's New York idea, since it was lighter and our transplanted readers might appreciate it more. I did a riff on it and sent in the sketch below, saying that I preferred it to the earlier one:

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Meanwhile, Tony had bought my explanation of the first cartoon, and decided he liked it more than the version based on his own suggestion. We then entered into a kind of editorial Twilight Zone, in which my editor began selling me on my own idea. "It's a fresh, creative take on the subject," he said.

He won the argument. I'm sure we will never speak of this again.

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June 9, 2011

Chan Lowe: Weiner, with a twist

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This morning I was mulling over cartoon ideas about the Weiner scandal⎯for example, Dominique Strauss-Kahn commenting with Gallic haughtiness on how we amateurish Americans can’t even figure out how to have a decent sex scandal that includes real sex. Then I realized that this material should be left to the late-night comics. Besides, I’d already stepped in that puddle earlier in the week.

Maybe it was time to say something meaningful, to put a spin on the sordid affair that made readers think a little about their priorities. Actually, this is as much about the media’s priorities. There is the entertaining side of the media, characterized by the New York tabloids. This news is fun to read, and you have to admit that the double-entendre headlines about Rep. Weiner are a daily guilty pleasure.


Then there is the other side of the media, composed of wonks who slog away in the trenches, who use their professional expertise to analyze government programs and their effects, who dissect policies and trends and put up those dreary charts and graphs. They do stories about bond issues and school board overpayments. It’s the stuff we should know about in order to be good citizens. Unfortunately, it doesn’t move product. The tabloid popcorn does.

So you might say that both types of journalism are necessary in order to maintain an informed electorate, and therefore a thriving democracy. We just have to remember⎯media and consumers alike⎯to keep it all in proper balance.

Good luck with that.

POSTED IN: General Topics (188), Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (52)

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June 8, 2011

Green Eyeshade

The Lowe Down has been named one of three finalists for the Green Eyeshade Award in the "best blog" category. The Green Eyeshades are awarded by the Society of Professional Journalists, and recognize work in all media from 11 southeastern states. Winners in each category will be announced on June 24 in Atlanta.

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Chan Lowe: The mosque issue rears its head again

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The U.S. Constitution, civics teachers like to say, is the defining document of who we are as a people. I would prefer to say that it’s the definition of the people we strive to be.

It’s when we tend to follow our natural herd instinct, rather than act like the inspired residents of the shining city on the hill, that we most need to refresh our memories as to the spirit behind our guiding charter. For the individual citizens of a nation to be truly free, the whole must be tolerant of, inclusive toward, and blind to differences between its parts. It’s right there in the establishment clause.

So if you’re the neighbor of a proposed mosque in West Boynton Beach, a mosque that is to be constructed on land that has been zoned specifically for a house of worship for years, it’s a little late to start complaining. You can’t suddenly decide that a mosque wasn’t what you had in mind, that you’d rather see a church or a temple next door to your development. The Constitution, basically, says, “Tough.”

The Founding Fathers never said it would be easy to be an exceptional nation. If it were, everybody would be exceptional. What makes us special is that we’re willing to subordinate our basest prejudices to the rule of law. Sometimes that notion sticks in our craw.

The harder it sticks, though, the more our chests can swell with pride that we’re acting like true-blue Americans, in the deepest sense of the word. In the end, it’s much more meaningful⎯and exceptional⎯than just standing around and waving the flag. Any nation can do that.

POSTED IN: Culture Wars (199), Local South Florida Issues (187), Religion (28)

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June 7, 2011

Chan Lowe: Weinergate

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One of my respected opinion section colleagues thinks this cartoon is “sophomoric.” She’s right, but being sophomoric has never stopped me before, as many of my detractors will no doubt agree.

Actually, I find this cheap, facile approach the perfect way to address the comic-opera developments that have been unfolding over the past week. What seems like centuries ago, Rep. Chris Lee, after his bare-chested Craigslist tour de farce, resigned his seat in New York’s 26th district so quickly that the commentariat barely had time to let out a snicker before we began concentrating on who might win the special election to replace him.


It turns out that Shirtless Chris is beginning to look like the class act of congress. Not only was his transgression mild when compared to Rep. Anthony Weiner’s strip twitter-tease, he had the grace to clear out when his leadership indicated that his continued presence in their midst had become a liability for the rest of them.

At this writing, Mr. Weiner, who compounded his sins with a phenomenally maladroit cover-up attempt, remains defiant. I would be very surprised if he is still in office by the end of the week. There’s an election to win next year, and Democrats will have a tough enough battle without being hounded by accusations of maintaining a double standard if they allow him to stay. Even his patron, Senator Schumer, has washed his hands of him. Nancy Pelosi has called for an ethics investigation, which, in my mind, is tantamount to saying his career sleeps with the fishes.

It’s a shame…Rep. Weiner was entertaining. Way too entertaining, as it turns out.


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June 6, 2011

Chan Lowe: The Broward Sheriff's Taj Mahal

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My colleague, Broward County government reporter Brittany Wallman, wrote a compelling enterprise story about the sheriff’s office that proves the old axiom that there is no such thing as a boring beat in the hands of an imaginative reporter.

Back in 2007, when Ken Jenne was the sheriff of Broward County, he made convenient (and legal) use of a loosely defined government grant, determining that the best way to fight crime was to ensure that he had a palatial office from which to direct operations. I won’t go into the details⎯Brittany did an excellent job of that⎯but let’s just say that its opulence was commensurate with the deference an ego such as Jenne’s felt was its due.

I’ve been doing cartoons about Ken Jenne since way back in the mid-eighties, when he was a state senator in Tallahassee. At that time, he had enough power, so he believed, that he could compel the state to fund a complete university out of swampland in western Broward County, as a counterweight to all the institutions of higher learning that were concentrated up north. He failed, and I vaguely recall drawing a cartoon featuring an outhouse in the wetlands labeled, “Ken Jenne U.,” copies of which got waved around the legislature with much amusement.

Mr. Jenne served time in prison for public corruption, and one might conclude that his hubris allowed him to forget, over the span of his political career, that his boss was the people, not the other way around. This could well be true, but like most of us, Jenne is a complex, sometimes mystifying character.

As the noose tightened around him with the corruption charges, the Sun Sentinel tried for quite a while to entice him to come in for an editorial board meeting, to explain himself. He finally did, and when the meeting broke up, I slipped out of the room amid the hubbub to go back to work. About a minute later, a breathless Jenne finally caught up with me in the warren of our offices. He’d chased me down to thank me for my cartoons and for listening to him at the meeting, something I neither expected nor deserved. No one has ever done that before or since.

As I said, complex and mystifying.


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June 3, 2011

Chan Lowe: The new government food guidelines

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Here’s where, if I were a Tea Partier, I’d be in a pickle…as in, “hold the pickle.” Once again, the nanny state⎯in the form of the USDA⎯is attempting to tell us what to eat, the same way the Surgeon General way back in the 1960s started telling us not to smoke.

Fatty foods and tobacco are both perfectly legal products, and we ought to be free to indulge in them as we wish. Give me liberty and give me death, to coin a phrase.

At the same time, if we actually followed the “dictates” of our overreaching government and practiced self-restraint, we would be a healthier nation. We’d be more productive per worker, and more wealth would be produced--a free-marketer's dream.


If we didn’t persist in treating our temples of the soul like the Port Authority bus terminal, we wouldn’t be having arguments about how much Medicare costs the nation. Its expense would be reasonable and supportable in comparison to the overall budget. Even private health care insurance wouldn’t be the burden it now is, because all manner of diseases that stem from poor lifestyle choices would be reduced in frequency.

So, as a small-government, fiscally responsible, tricorned hat-wearing conservative, do you ignore Big Brother or follow his advice?

Here’s a hole in my argument that might help you out of your dilemma: Healthier people live longer, which means they’re able to sponge more off the rest of us in the form of Social Security, another program that needs to be abolished.

So…party on, Fellow Patriots.

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June 2, 2011

Chan Lowe: The big insurance sellout

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Permit me to digress briefly from the current national media obsession, which is to determine whether in fact that is a congressional member inside the infamous gray jockey shorts that some malefactor allegedly misTweeted in the name of Rep. Anthony Weiner.

Those of us back in the real world are worrying about more banal matters, like how the people of Florida were sold out by our governor and Republican super-majority legislature. Evidently, their idea of solving the state’s insurance problem is to make the prospect of doing business in this market so attractive and obscenely lucrative that nobody can resist it.

Charlie Crist, whatever you may think of him, tried at least to slow down the growth of premium hikes through regulation, but the downside of that was that companies decided they would rather take their ball and go home than face some risk without what they felt was the proper remuneration.

Maybe, in light of recent events, it’s time once again to push a national catastrophe fund in Washington. We might get some cooperation this go-round from states like Oklahoma, Missouri, and even Massachusetts and Maine. Even if you just restricted it to windstorm coverage, yesterday’s events in Springfield should underscore the fact that severe wind damage can occur where it’s least expected as well as in places that are used to it.

Some may balk philosophically at the idea of a government-administered windstorm rider program. I have this gut feeling, though, that even diehard libertarians who live in river bottom land and on the seashore buy national flood insurance. They do so because it’s affordable and effective… something private insurers don’t understand, especially the first part.

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June 1, 2011

Chan Lowe: Cellphone cancer scare

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It’s one of the tragic axioms of life that everything we enjoy is bad for us. Ancient peoples, for whom the line between the spiritual and the secular was so fuzzy as to be virtually nonexistent, tried to explain it through narrative and mythology (Sodom, Gomorrah, the Sirens).

Today, scientists and experts seem to delight in exposing one popular food after another as deleterious to our health, as though we were all characters in a sick morality play, forced to trade momentary bliss on the tongue for withdrawals from the finite bank account of our lifespans.

Even if you’re a nature freak, and get your jollies by grokking your oneness with the Life Force, there’s a chance you could get distracted and fall off a cliff. If you’re a marathon runner, sooner or later you’ll need a knee or hip replacement. It’s like gambling in Vegas…the house always wins.

Now the scientific types at the World Health Organization tell us we could get brain cancer from using cellphones. The jury’s still out, though⎯it’s going to take a lot more research. Meanwhile, they’ll content themselves by making us squirm and feel vaguely guilty whenever we call home for the grocery list.

I heard somewhere that spending too much time staring into a microscope can make you go blind. I’m not sure about this, but I don’t intend to find out the hard way.

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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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