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August 31, 2011

Reject Corner!!!


My editor, Antonio Fins, rejected the above cartoon in sketch form this morning. His rationale:

"The devil waiting for Dick Cheney to autograph a book? Yeah, ok. Ho-hum.

"I’m not a fan of Satan comparisons. I didn’t find this cartoon to be that clever or creative. Dick Cheney is great fodder for a cartoonist, and I don’t think this cartoon maximized that potential.

"It’s a subjective decision on my part. No doubt.

"So, in deciding whether I made the right call, here is what you need to consider. After I rejected the devil-in-line cartoon, Chan came up with a replacement – the one about the Bachmann cocktail. Admit it. The latter was a much, much better cartoon.

"So I think I made the right call.

"Because when I compare what I gave up vs. what we ended up with, the replacement was a better, more clever cartoon.

"I am a brilliant Decider."

My take: Personally, I thought the Cheney cartoon was on a par with the Bachmann cocktail number (linked above, as well as being the previous blog posting). Maybe Tony isn't a fan of Satan comparisons because, in this case, he didn't want to offend Satan.

Weigh in and let me know what you think.

POSTED IN: Dick Cheney (11), Rejects (5)

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Chan Lowe: Oil drilling in the Everglades?


Fortunately, we don’t have to worry too much about what Michele Bachmann has to say, because ultimately she will never be president.

Ever since Rick Perry entered the race, any chance she might have had to corral the potent combination of cultural and fiscal conservatives evaporated. This is partly because, when given the choice, those who might have voted for her probably feel subconsciously or even consciously that womenfolk belong in a support position while the man should lead. It gives Perry a huge edge, the kind of edge he will have when these same voters find all kinds of reasons not to vote for Mitt Romney other than that he’s a Mormon.

So when Michele Bachmann calls for drilling in the Everglades⎯ which, as some outside Florida may not know, is our source of drinking water besides being a national resource⎯we can, thankfully, ignore her. Of course, she qualified her statement with the amusing locution, “drilling responsibly.”

We’ve seen what “responsible” drilling can do to the Gulf of Mexico, thank you very much.

One would like to think that hot shots like Sen. Marco Rubio would see the prevention of Everglades oil drilling as a non-partisan given, but lately Florida Republicans in their misbegotten “drill, baby, drill” zeal can no longer be depended upon to safeguard the environment of their own state.

One matter for concern is that the more it gets brought up, the more acceptable the unthinkable becomes, especially to those non-Floridians who only worry about pump prices. So Ms. Bachmann didn’t do the Sunshine State any favors, even if she isn’t a serious contender.

POSTED IN: 2012 Campaign (85), Environment (46), Florida Issues (258), Local South Florida Issues (187), Michele Bachmann (11)

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August 30, 2011

Chan Lowe: The Michael Vick deal


You don’t have to know anything about sports (and I don’t) to be thoroughly disgusted by Former Dog Fighter Michael Vick’s $100 million six-year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles. There are so many repellent elements to it that it’s hard to know where to begin.

Because Vick can throw a ball and run better than anyone else, the Eagles are happy to reward him with a salary that leaves many of us in this anemic economy slack-jawed, even though he presents anything but a fine example for young people who, for better or worse, look to sports figures as role models.

I know a few classroom teachers who are better at what they do than many others, yet they are reduced to scrabbling for the paltry crumbs thrown their way by grudging governments. But, as we know, the money goes where the money is. When you want to get together for an evening of bonding at a sports bar, you and your buddies don’t crack open an algebra textbook.

Maybe the answer would be to boycott the watching of any Eagles games, and the buying of Eagles tickets, as a way of registering our dismay. Right. It would be easier to get fans to stop drinking beer and eating pretzels. And therein lies the problem: Morality, as I’ve written before, is for losers. The code is different for those who excel at professional sports, just as it is for the titans of Wall Street. The owners who made the unholy deal with Vick can be certain that his playing ability will attract fans, no matter what. There is no crime he could commit that would cause them to turn away in revulsion.

Which says a lot more about the fans than it does about Michael Vick, who’s just another ex-con trying to make an honest living.

Credit line: A tip of the hat to my colleague, Paul “Don’t Shoot The Messenger” Owers, who, as our crack housing writer, covers the most relentlessly depressing beat in journalism. He sauntered by my desk while I was drawing and made the suggestion that I include fantasy football, which has practically eclipsed the real thing in popularity. Once I had him explain to me what it was, I agreed.


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August 29, 2011

Chan Lowe: Michele Bachmann's joke


So, was Michele Bachmann serious when she claimed that the earthquake and Hurricane Irene were acts of God designed to get Congress’ attention about overspending, or was she making a joke?

The fact that there is even controversy about this says something about where many of us think Michele Bachmann’s reality compass is pointing. If it was intended “in jest,” as her campaign publicist now claims, I don’t recommend that Ms. Bachmann take her act to the Catskills just yet. In these situations, it’s best to keep quiet, but if you find that you must tell a joke making light of a catastrophe that has claimed dozens of lives, it had better be a real knee-slapper, which this one wasn’t. It showed remarkable insensitivity to those who lost loved ones.

For the sake of argument, however, let’s say that Rep. Bachmann really meant to say what she said. I think this is a valid exercise, because she also meant it when she said that the battles of Lexington and Concord took place in New Hampshire, and that members of Congress should be investigated for harboring anti-American sentiments. Claiming that God wreaked his vengeance upon the East Coast to convince Congress to hew to her fiscal philosophy is a breathtaking assumption that puts her in the same category with crazies like Rev. Pat Robertson.

Not only that, but claiming to know what motivates God’s actions borders on blasphemy, even in Ms. Bachmann’s book. Either way, as joke or sincere statement, the comment was indefensible.

To those who feel I am making too much of this, I would quote Ms. Bachmann’s own brush-away response when confronted with awkward questions like, “Do you think gays are an abomination?” That being, “I’m running for President of the United States of America.”

Exactly. This is not the kind of statement that should ever issue from a would-be American president’s mouth, even “in jest,” no matter how strongly her followers may agree with it. She’s way out of her league.


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August 26, 2011

Chan Lowe: The tea party and disaster relief


There’s nothing like a couple of natural cataclysms to prompt mere mortals to reexamine calcified mindsets. President Obama, who resolutely endured the slings and arrows of the political opposition to take his wretched little semi-vacation in Martha’s Vineyard, who played golf through a political upheaval in Libya, and whose putt was thrown off by the first major earthquake to hit the East Coast in almost a century, was finally driven off the island by a monster cyclone.

His people claim that he’s cutting his vacation short in order to better direct the hurricane response from Washington, but they’ve just spent the entire week telling us that the mobile White House is every bit as good as the real one for the purposes of governing. Which leads us to the real reason: The optics of not being in D.C. make him look dangerously like that photo of a detached W. staring out the window of Air Force One as he flew over New Orleans after Katrina. No way any president is going to allow himself to fall into that trap again.

Oh, and Martha’s Vineyard happens to be in the path of the storm. Given the choice, anybody would rather be in the White House War Room, deep underground.

Meanwhile, we have the prospect of tea partiers trying to explain to their constituents why it’s better for them to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps after their homes are washed away than to accept a handout from the hated federal government. Either that, or, as Rep. Eric Cantor prefers, swipe the same number of dollars from Medicare that would be dispensed in disaster aid in order to balance the books.

Yes, that ought to be a big hit with the de-homed. I’m guessing our tri-corned friends will get religion about the aid business in a hurry.

The fun part will be to listen to them as they sputter their rationalizations.


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August 25, 2011

Chan Lowe: Exit Steve Jobs


Stanford University has an internationally recognized engineering school, and I was fortunate enough to take a couple of its course offerings when I spent a year there on a journalism fellowship.

One of the overarching philosophies of its mechanical engineering department, and one that has always stuck with me, is that inventions of the human mind can not only improve the quality of one’s life through their functionality; they can also enrich it if they are so designed that they bring enjoyment to the user. The technical term “human interface” was bandied about a lot, and it was the focus of an innovative approach to product design that brought together graduate engineering students with those seeking a Master of Fine Arts degree from the art department.

The results were, predictably, sublime⎯resulting in patentable products that satisfied both functional and esthetic needs.

Much has been written about Steve Jobs’ ability to envision the way people would wish to interact with technology and to design products that fulfilled and shaped those wishes, but less has been said about his innate grasp of the role that elegance and beauty can play in the user experience⎯a role that elevates that “interface” to a higher, more emotionally satisfying level. When we think of iPods, iPhones, MacBooks, iPads, and the rest of Jobs’ creations, we focus on what they can do more than the simple pleasure that looking at them and using them can confer.

That they can accomplish both with such ease and fluency, and so blur the lines between the two that function and art become a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts, is a legacy anyone would be proud to leave behind as he exits the ever-shifting stage of innovation.


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August 24, 2011

Chan Lowe: Payroll tax hypocrites


In case you had any doubts about who pays the freight when it comes to congressional Republican tax policy, just sit back and enjoy the breathtaking hypocrisy as Republicans try to defend the indefensible.

The same tea partiers who practically brought this country to its knees a few weeks ago by refusing to make any kind of revenue increases a part of the deficit reduction mix seem to have gone into mass catatonia when it comes to defending an extension of the payroll tax deduction. As one of them put it, “Not all tax relief is created equal.” The same way not all paychecks are created equal, we’ll have to assume.

The payroll tax cut has put billions into the pockets of average Americans, who are more than happy to spend it on stuff in an economy that thrives on consumption. But the Republicans are willing to take that purchasing power away, while leaving loopholes in place from which only the wealthy can benefit (on the already disproven presumption that this helps create jobs).

Hold on a minute! Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform didn’t say anything about how some taxes are better than others when he made Republicans sign that “never raise taxes” pledge. He said all taxes were bad, whether they benefit the rich or the poor. Why are we suddenly splitting hairs here?

Even worse, why aren’t those who are getting stabbed in the back by their own zealots noticing?


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August 23, 2011

Chan Lowe: Gadhafi ousted


We’re all glad Moammar Gadhafi’s gone. The man was a ruthless despot who harbored terrorists and hanged his opponents in the public square as an example to would-be plotters. We hope he’ll be tracked down soon and brought to well-deserved justice.

Nevertheless, as he passes from the public stage, we must tip a hat to his sense of personal flair. Not since Fat Hermann strutted in his sky-blue field marshal’s outfit has there been a political leader who displayed a similar comic opera appreciation of military uniforms. And Gadhafi’s sartorial daring didn’t stop there. His collection of Bedouin robes and unique headgear treatments even outshone the capes and karakul lamb filling-station attendant caps of Afghan President Hamid Karzai. In one of his recent speeches, the be-turbaned strongman looked as though he were channeling the Gloria Swanson character in Sunset Boulevard.

Compared to Gadhafi, everyday butchers like the Castro brothers and Kim Jong Il look positively drab. Dictators around the world could all learn something from the eccentric colonel. If you’re going to keep your population oppressed, deprived and terrorized, at least leave ’em laughing.


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August 22, 2011

Chan Lowe: Preparing for Irene


You probably know people up north who, when you call or write to tell them you’re sweating out an impending hurricane, say something smug like, “Well, you chose to live there, didn’t you?” There’s an implicit schadenfreude in the statement, as if we Floridians made a Faustian deal to live in the sun and fun, hoping that we’d never have to pay the piper.

Meanwhile, our more sensible friends and relatives denied themselves and stayed put, enduring the northern winters but sleeping more easily in the summers, secure in the knowledge that they’d still have a roof over their heads come November.

It’s becoming harder and harder to maintain that righteous position these days. Thanks to (dare I say it?) climate change, there are some mighty odd weather events occurring to the north of us. Like record heat waves, unprecedented drought, and equally unprecedented flooding. If you look at the areas most affected by the recent cataclysms, they include the broad swath of territory that encompasses the drainage areas of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, anchored by Texas to the south.

Now, superimpose a political map over your disaster map, and you’ll see that these are all rosy red Republican-voting states. If we wanted to draw broad generalities (and we know this is unfair, but why should we care?), we might conclude that these states must be full of climate change-deniers, since one of the most solid and enduring planks of the Republican platform is that climate change is a fairy tale.

Which means that our northern friends have chosen to remain where they are because they refuse to accept the overwhelming evidence that the so-called “anomalies” they have been experiencing will eventually become commonplace.

Just like hurricanes. As a Floridian, don’t you feel better already?


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August 19, 2011

Chan Lowe: The Obama vacation ruckus


To be fair, the Democrats were just as hard on W. whenever he went off to Crawford to clear brush.

Wait a second. By this point in his term, he’d already taken three times as many vacation days as President Obama.

Well, okay. But the nation wasn’t in a crisis, the way it is now.

Wait a second. Under Bush, we sustained the worst attack on our soil since Pearl Harbor, and we started two separate wars that weren’t going too well.

Fine, but Bush wasn’t really running the country. Cheney, Rummy and the neocon cabal were. W. was just the front man. What difference did it make if he went on vacation?

Well, you’ve got us there.


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August 18, 2011

Chan Lowe: Number of So Fla gay households soars


North Florida and South Florida have no business being stitched together like some Frankenstein monster. We South Floridians squat at our end of our peninsula, many of us transplants from more progressive-leaning northern locales, with our own particular needs and cultural views that have little in common with our southern brethren to the north.

Worse, thanks to gerrymandered legislative districts, we’re subjected to the depredations of socially conservative hypocrites who spew their party line about freedom from government out of one side of their mouths while relegating gays to second-class status with the other, just because the Bible says so.

And if you really want to talk about hypocrisy, there’s the whole subject of women’s reproductive rights. A majority of people down here believes this is an area where government should butt out, the same way the goobers up north think we ought to keep our filthy hands off their precious firearms.

Rather than continue to hurl insults at each other, the answer is an amicable divorce, for the good of the children. We’ll allow gay marriage and unfettered access to women’s services, you can paint crosses on your water towers and pack your heat if it gives you more of a manly swagger. We will happily accept federal stimulus dollars that you turn down out of some warped, self-destructive impulse to stick it to Washington.

In exchange, we’ll give you Allen West, who looks like he’s getting ready to run for the U.S. Senate because his own district may not want him anymore. His philosophy will be more in tune with the mindset of the newly hatched State of North Florida, anyway. We’ll keep Debbie. Sure, she’s strident and sometimes irritating, but so are we, as you frequently tell us.

So, let’s break up. It’s a win-win all the way around.


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August 17, 2011

Chan Lowe: The UM athletic scandal


When I lived in Oklahoma in the 70’s and early 80’s, a University of Oklahoma football game was about the closest thing you get to an outdoor religious service without going to Bible camp.

Tickets for games were considered legal tender for all manner of favors and services rendered. Corporations handed them out as perks. Back then, at least, OU was best known for its football program. In fact, one of its presidents is reputed to have said, “My job is to build a university of which the football team can be proud.”

Like any priesthood, the players were treated with kid gloves and got special handling. There were tutors provided to help them pass their academic courses, the training table served all the best and most nutritious foods, and then there were the rumors, spread with a knowing wink.

Stories about boosters who might own a car dealership or a clothing store, for example. There was always a summer job available for members of the team, and wealthy friends were steered to these part-time salesmen to help fatten their retail numbers. Wads of cash might get stuffed in pockets during the test drive. It was just a way of, you know, helping out and showing one’s appreciation. Leastways, that’s the kind of story folks used to bandy about.

I figure that since big football factory college teams are really training camps for the NFL, the NCAA ought to just drop the fig leaf and allow them to be paid. Maybe not as much as the pros, but an amount hefty enough to compensate them properly for putting themselves at physical risk every Saturday for the entertainment of others. After all, were they to sustain a career-ending injury before they graduated, they’d miss out on the whole gravy train. Some schools even yank scholarships from players who can no longer produce.

At least, it would remove the subterfuge.

POSTED IN: Florida Issues (258), Local South Florida Issues (187), Sports (17)

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August 16, 2011

Chan Lowe: The Iraq mess


It’s ironic that a country we have been occupying for eight years and spent a trillion dollars propping up is still having violent convulsions, while the Egyptians held a largely non-violent uprising earlier this year and are more on the way toward a stable democracy than our client state. Not that their troubles are over, by any means, but they’re farther along.

This is assuming, of course, that establishing a democratic model in the Middle East was the primary reason we invaded Iraq. Actually, it was just one of the later reasons, after the original rationales, like WMD, fizzled out.

One of the latest fads to sweep Washington comes from the Democrats: the concept of a “war tax” on all Americans to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that the Bush administration obligingly put on the national credit card so that we wouldn’t feel the pain. Republicans claim this is a non-starter, and some accuse the Democrats (as they did years ago, when Rep. Charles Rangel suggested reinstituting the draft in order to spread the burden throughout the population) of intentionally trying to diminish support for the wars.

If asking Americans to finance a war of opportunity is likely to erode their support, then maybe it is a war that shouldn’t be fought, and never should have been. Maybe a tax is the best way to concentrate our thinking on what kind of a nation we have allowed ourselves to become.

Another issue is why Republicans feel that it is a sin to pass the costs of entitlement programs like Medicare and Medicaid on to future generations, while there is nothing wrong with asking them to pay for today’s wars. Could it be that entitlement programs are the product of progressive politics, while our Middle East involvements are virile, conservative enterprises more worthy of a great nation flexing its muscles?


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August 15, 2011

Chan Lowe: The hope and change president


Remember President Obama’s campaign promise that he was going to “change the way Washington works?” Unfortunately, he fulfilled it. Who’d have thought we’d be pining for the good old days back in 2008 when the parties in Congress couldn’t agree on anything, but at least one of them didn’t have a death wish?

One can probably lay the rise of the tea party at Barack Obama’s feet, not for anything he did or didn’t do, but for who he is. There’s nothing he can do about that, but there is something he can do to lead this country, which is to stop pussyfooting around trying to appease its adherents.

Instead, he can stand firm and push a sweeping, budget-busting, comprehensive public works program, whether he thinks he can get it past Republicans or not. If he can rally Americans behind him on this, he will prevail, because it makes sense that getting people back to work eventually reduces the deficit.

The Republican argument⎯that keeping “job creators’” tax rates low spurs investment, is an empty one. Just ask Obama’s newest unlikely ally, Warren Buffett, who knows something about making money. In an op-ed piece in today’s New York Times titled Stop Coddling the Super-Rich, he argues that higher income taxes do not and never have held back investors in their quest to make money. They simply invest more if the tax bite is larger. He says that all of his obscenely wealthy cronies agree with him that they need to be taxed at least as much as the middle-class people who work for them, if not more.

Which begs the question: If Buffett and his ilk feel so passionately that they are not being asked to give their fair share, then what masters do the Republicans and their tea party fellow-travelers serve? If they are arguing just for the sake of being obstructionist, won’t they collapse like a cheap lawn chair if somebody just stands up to them for once?

POSTED IN: Barack Obama (172), Economy (197)

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August 12, 2011

Chan Lowe: Why government is broken


My favorite reason for government gridlock isn’t the growth of politically-slanted cable TV networks and radio shows that brainwash their viewers and listeners. It’s the adoption of computer-assisted statistical analysis for the purposes of congressional apportionment.

There’s so much detailed data available on U.S. citizens that, to use a cliché, operatives from both national parties can “drill down” to the point where they can practically draw congressional district lines right through a family’s house if there happens to be a mother-in-law living in the back who votes for the other party.

All this is designed to protect the careers of members of congress rather than serve the rabble, of course, but it has the effect of permanently installing politicians who only have to answer to the core believers around whom the gerrymandered borders of their districts were drawn.

Back in antediluvian, pre-computer times, districts contained a broader spectrum of constituents, and a politician learned that only through compromise could he retain his seat. If you don’t believe this works, see how the great decorated tea party warrior himself, Rep. Allen West (who represents a district that could go either way in the next election), suddenly got religion at the last minute and voted to raise the debt ceiling.

Of course, this doesn’t affect the tea party suicide bombers who don’t care if they get reelected or not, but they will soon become extinct by definition. Folks like Rep. West are starting to get comfortable up there, and are determined not to go the way of the dinosaurs.

Let’s hear it for natural selection.

POSTED IN: 2012 Campaign (85), General Topics (188)

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August 11, 2011

Chan Lowe: Infamous Bachmann Newsweek cover


There are several sub-themes to the growing Newsweek/Bachmann controversy that bear exploring.

I’m speaking of the now-famous cover photo that portrays presidential candidate Michele Bachmann looking…well…fervent. Her supporters are claiming that the Newsweek editors are subtly trying to sabotage Ms. Bachmann’s campaign with the general public by portraying her as unhinged.

In addition, the National Organization for Women has rushed to her defense saying the photo is “sexist.” Evidently, sexism trumps Roe v. Wade in the pantheon of NOW priorities. It’s hard to see, however, how the photo is sexist. You want a sexist photo? Look at the cheesecake number Newsweek did a few months ago of Sarah Palin in hot pants.

The fact is that this is the way Michele Bachmann looks. To say she looks crazy is not an insult to women, but an insult to her, personally. And the only reason her defenders are so touchy about her looking a little “off” is that she already has a reputation for vocalizing whatever batty notion is bouncing around her mind. Far from choosing the worst photo they could find, the Newsweek staff may well have chosen the best. After all, they’re trying to sell magazines.

I’m partial to this last scenario, because if the so-called “left-wing mainstream media” really wanted to undermine the conservative cause, they would have touched up the photo to make Ms. Bachmann look as sane as possible in hopes it would help her win the Republican nomination.

We know the White House, as well as card-carrying members of the liberal conspiracy everywhere, are praying for such an eventuality. Why would they want to knock her off so soon when she still has a chance to kick Mitt Romney, the true moderate threat, off his pedestal?

Liberals may be subversive, anti-American weasels, but they’re not stupid.


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August 10, 2011

Chan Lowe: Art? public places II


The Broward County Commission’s recent green-lighting of what artsy types call an “outdoor installation” for the future courthouse’s breezeway just proves the adage, “When it’s everybody’s money, it’s free money.”

Many taxpayers are in favor of public art to enhance the environment when there are resources to spare, but a splurge on this scale at a time of severe budget constraints appears ever so slightly tone-deaf.

I chanced to view the project model in the short piece produced by our able county reporter/videographer, Brittany Wallman. As the holder of a degree in art history and a person who creates what some might call art every day, I feel I know a little about the subject.

I’m going to keep my esthetic impressions to myself, however, because my hat is off to any artist who can land a $610,000 commission sight unseen, without competition and without having to so much as scribble out a concept sketch. Rembrandt should have been so fortunate.

Is it good art? I would suggest that if a patron is willing to pony up that kind of money to pay for it, then it is good by definition, because it must have pleased somebody. A lot. You know what they say about it all being in the eye of the beholder.

So taxpayers, when the courthouse is finished, head over to the breezeway and behold your new acquisition. I really hope you like it, because if you don’t…well, you might want to have a discussion with those who bought it in your name.


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August 9, 2011

Chan Lowe: Rick Perry waits in the wings


Remember Fred Thompson? He was one of the conservatives’ great hopes, too. He had swagger. He also boasted impeccable credentials, having played a Manhattan district attorney on Law & Order for several years. As it turned out, once he was on the stump he didn’t have much gravitas. His bid lasted about 48 hours before fizzling out. Just the other night, I saw him selling reverse mortgages in a TV ad. Guess he has enough gravitas for that.

Now, I ain’t sayin’ Rick Perry is as much of a lightweight as ol’ Fred, but when someone poised to make the plunge is surrounded by that much buzz, it’s hard for any mere mortal to live up to the hype. Maybe Perry isn’t a mere mortal. Maybe he really is God’s candidate, just like he believes himself to be.

If that’s true, God might want to counsel him to shed some of his doubtful fellow travelers, like Pastor John Hagee, for example. Hagee has some interesting ideas, such as how Hitler was fulfilling His will by persecuting the Jews so they’d run off to claim the land of Israel for theirselves. Since we can’t have the Rapture without them being there on site, I reckon there’s a certain perverted logic that one might be able to discern there, if one were so inclined.

I’m sure Gov. Perry doesn’t agree with everything Pastor Hagee says, but there are probably a few misguided lefties out there who can’t wait to shackle him to some of Hagee’s more controversial revelations. In fact, they’re doing it already, and they’re gleefully following precise directions from the conservatives’ own playbook, written back in 2008 when they were busy wrapping the Rev. Wright around Candidate Obama.

I could be wrong. Gov. Perry could sweep the primaries and leave Michelle Bachmann behind in the dust of his hallelujah trail, angrily sticking pins in gay fetish dolls. All the same, he might want to investigate openings for term life insurance TV spokesmen, just in case.

POSTED IN: 2010 Campaign (44), Barack Obama (172), Michele Bachmann (11)

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August 8, 2011

Chan Lowe: America gets downgraded


Well, they did the unthinkable. Standard and Poor’s gave us the shaft. In the suspenseful lead-up to the final debt-ceiling bill, the more conservative Republicans in Congress were talking tough and allowing as how a downgrade, or even a default, didn’t matter all that much. It must matter to them after all, the way they’re now heaping blame for it on President Obama.

The talking heads are all over the board about this. Some say it’s a disaster that will mean billions more in hidden interest payments, not to mention a further drag on the economy. To hear the White House tell it, it’s a slap on the wrist from a shady outfit that shouldn’t be in the ratings business anyway after having given AAA ratings to all those mortgage instruments that turned out to be concocted of angel dust.

Like everything else, how you see it depends on your political point of view, because this country has reached the point where we can no longer behold the same thing and even agree on what it is we’re looking at, much less what to do about it.

And that’s the reason we got downgraded.


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August 5, 2011

Chan Lowe: Wall Street reacts


Wall Street has spoken, and it doesn’t like what Washington has wrought. There are other complicating factors, like deep problems with the economies of foreign countries, but Wall Street’s biggest beef, and that of the American public, is that we all understand we have a government of a few hundred people who don’t play well together. In fact, the issues they’re dealing with are far too important for playing or gamesmanship, but they seem to be the only ones who don’t understand that.

We can only hope that those who are not off on foreign “fact-finding tours”⎯doing field studies on the ground of, say, the Parisian or Venetian tourist economies⎯will be back in their home districts with their ears peeled. There, they might learn that over 70 percent of the nation feels that increased revenues, particularly on the part of those who pay so little, should have been a component of their unholy debt deal.

Forget the tea partiers. They’re beyond hope, and they won’t be listening anyway. Other Republicans⎯the ones who stand fast against closing tax loopholes out of fear they’ll face a primary challenge from the right⎯might be swayed if enough of their constituents provide them with some backbone in the form of vociferous feedback.

So let’s get busy and speak up during their town halls, the same way the tea party did last year. As for the ones on fact-finding tours, maybe they should just keep on touring. Forever.


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August 4, 2011

Chan Lowe: An unorthodox funding idea


We already know that the Republican Party isn’t interested in saving the economy. It’s really interested in exploiting the opportunity presented by a bad economy to push through a long-awaited and –cherished agenda. Otherwise, why would it fight tooth and nail to pass a deal that virtually guaranteed more jobs would be lost? Why would it agree to a so-called “trigger” mechanism that amounted to more cuts than it even achieved during the first round, without painful tax loophole closures? Please, please, don’t throw us in that briar patch!

A secondary benefit to throwing the economy a life-saving cement block is that it ensures the nation will still be struggling to come out of the morass by November 2012, paving the way for even a nonentity like Mitt Romney, should he be nominated, to attain the White House.

Of course, the jobless rate (which will be even higher by that time) then becomes a Republican problem. The same short memory span that causes so many Americans to believe that Obama is responsible for our anemic economy will do the same favor for the GOP. But, they’ll be too busy stripping regulations and gutting federal agencies to notice or care.

Once their good work is done, we’ll have a third-world government to match our third-world country.


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August 3, 2011

Chan Lowe: The congressional sausage-making process


One of the reasons that revenue increases were taken off the table in the recently passed debt reduction deal is that Republicans contended they were a job-killer. As Rep. Barney Frank said the other day, the contemplated increase would have amounted to $30 per $1,000 earned by those who make over $250,000 per year, including millionaires and billionaires.

It’s hard to believe that the “job creators” would change their hiring plans over that amount, but the Republicans would have you believe it, anyway.

Instead, Congress just passed a deal that, by slashing spending on government discretionary programs, is a true job-killer when what we need in the short term are more jobs and more people paying taxes rather than acting as a strain on social safety-net systems.

Finally, the Federal Aviation Administration has been left twisting in the wind without an appropriation, prevented from collecting taxes on air tickets (which many airlines are obligingly pocketing for themselves), because of a spat over unionization rules and some spiteful threats to close rural airports in Democratic leaders’ home states and districts. This also results in the idling of 70,000 construction workers during the height of the airport building season. The kindest thing Congress has done for us lately is to take off for a five-week vacation, during which it can do no further harm to the American people.

Clearly, Congress is overpaid. You can randomly run your finger through the phone book and find citizens who could screw things up just as badly as Congress has, and they would be happy to do it for half, or even a third, of the salary Congressional members pull down.

Or maybe we could outsource our lawmaking to the Chinese, since what’s coming out of the capitol is a junk product, anyway.


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Chan Lowe: Rick Scott's rehabilitation tour


Evidently, not all Democratic ideas are bad ones. Even notoriously indifferent Rick Scott has finally decided it's time to remedy his dismal popularity ratings, and has glommed onto an idea first executed very effectively by former Gov. Bob Graham. Good luck to him in his mingling with the groundlings.

More important today is this email exchange I had with a former reader, which I think gets to the core of what's really wrong with this nation:

Hi Chan,
I said so long to the SunSentinel last week. I'll still read it from time to
time when my neighbor lets me have her paper but I just had to stop
my subscription because I just couldn't take the constant left-
leaning garbage your editorial board is shoving down our throats.
It turns my stomach especially in light of an economy that provides
no jobs and a president and his party that are racking up such
tremendous debt that your great grandchildren won't be able to pay.

The drumbeat goes on, it's Bush's fault. We know that he spent recklessly
but that was over two and a half years ago. This egomaniac in the WH now
has made the situation so much worse. When is your board going to
tell it like it really is. Never I guess. You'll continue to pander to the
Debbie Blabbermouth crowd until our region turns bankrupt. I know
you couldn't care less about one subscription lost but as small as
that is, I felt I did something if only to keep my sanity.



Well, John, we do care. I'm sorry we lost you. These days, any loss is a tragedy on a small scale, because it means one less person who allows the point of view of others to enter his consciousness, when there are so many who simply reside in the echo chamber of like-minded people. I wish you had kept us on as part of a mix of your news sources, along with all of those whose points of view you agree with. It's never a bad idea to be aware of what your ideological adversaries are thinking; not only might you learn something now and then (as I often do from conservatives such as yourself), but you might also learn ways we could work together to change the country we all love for the better.

I hope you'll decide to return to us someday.

All the best,



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August 2, 2011

Chan Lowe: Wilton Manors disinvites Rep. West


Before you start with the comments, nobody can say that I haven’t been a consistent and long-time supporter, both in words and pictures, of equal rights for gays. This isn’t about that.

It isn’t even mainly about Allen West. We’re already familiar with him and his bigoted views. It’s about the people who would boycott businesses that belong to an organization that has invited West to speak at one of its functions. Whatever you may think of the man’s views about LGBT issues ⎯and they are not only repugnant but inexplicable coming from a man who has defended American freedoms with his own life⎯the answer is not to muzzle him.

He represents part of Wilton Manors in the U.S. Congress, and the fact that he holds that office, alone, should accord the holder a minimum of respect, even if he does not deserve it. If you don’t want to hear what he has to say, don’t go and listen to his speech.

Gays, of all people, know what it is like to be the victims of narrow-mindedness. Does it advance their cause, or themselves, to be narrow-minded in return? Wouldn’t it have a greater affect on Mr. West’s monolithic views were he to look out from the rostrum and see a crowd of happy, committed gay couples, some of whom were raising children in healthy family environments, who were upstanding, patriotic citizens just like him?

The effects might not be immediate, but the more he was exposed to it, the more he realized gays weren’t depraved or had little horns growing from their heads, the more it would gnaw away at his soul.

I’m not saying West will ever have a “road to Damascus” moment, but digging in this way has only set back the slow process of his moral education.


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August 1, 2011

Chan Lowe: The debt ceiling crisis II


As of this writing, it looks like the debt ceiling mess has finally been resolved, after a fashion. It’s great if you’re a tea partier. Unfortunately, most Americans are not tea partiers, so the majority did not rule in this case.

The Founding Fathers were fortunate enough to live during an enlightened period of intellectual development now dubbed “The Age of Reason.” Reason was revered as the most sublime characteristic of the human animal, the apotheosis of that which separated us from the beasts. “Je pense, donc je suis,” or “I think, therefore I am,” was the proud acknowledgement that man was capable of ordering his universe neatly and fairly according to a gift that all humans were born with, like opposable thumbs.

The U.S. Constitution was written, hashed out, compromised over, tweaked and re-tweaked, and finally ratified by people who believed in the rule of reason. Think of the beauty of the concept of separation of powers, for example. Could anyone have come up with a more ingenious way of curbing the natural tendencies of human nature?

The problem with systems of government based on reason is that they presuppose those involved will all be reasonable people. Where it breaks down is when a faction⎯too large to be ignored⎯is made up of those so criminally ignorant, simple-minded, self-absorbed and obsessed with an idea that they are perfectly willing to bring the system crashing down around their heads and everyone else’s to get their own way.

The delicately balanced system failed because our enlightened Founding Fathers were unable, in their wildest imaginings, to envision people who conducted their lives so devoid of rational thought processes.

Maybe the anti-Darwinists are only half-right. We’re actually devolving.


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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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