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October 31, 2011

Chan Lowe: The Cain harassment controversy

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I’m back in the saddle again, to quote another sometime Oklahoman. Unlike Gene Autry, however, I have no towns named after me in the Sooner State, and I don’t suspect that’s about to change, Hall of Fame or no Hall of Fame.

This latest Herman Cain brouhaha could end up telling us as much about ourselves as it does about him. I am glad that Mr. Cain is vehemently denying the charges against him, because it will give the story legs.

Those of us who are old enough to remember can’t help but hearken back twenty years to the infamous Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill hearings, wherein a harassed woman had her reputation trashed by a Senate panel instead of achieving her goal of disqualifying a candidate for a position on the highest bench in the land.

The difference today is that there is more than one accuser, and that there are reports that both were paid hush money by the organization Mr. Cain headed. More important is that the crime of sexual harassment, which in the past had been dismissed—like drunk driving⎯with a wink and a nod, has finally been stigmatized. No longer is the accuser’s reputation automatically on trial, and no longer must she prove herself to be purer than Caesar’s wife, before her allegations will be considered. Many companies now have formal protocols that are immediately launched the moment a harassment accusation is made.

If nothing else, the arc of this story⎯however it is resolved⎯will serve to reveal to us how far we’ve come on this issue since 1991.


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October 29, 2011

Chan Lowe: A singular honor

museum-ext.gifOne of the things I was doing last week while I was away from the blog was getting inducted into the Oklahoma Cartoonists Hall of Fame, an august assemblage including such luminaries as Chester Gould of Dick Tracy fame and the incomparable editorial cartoonist Bill Mauldin. My fellow inductee was the late Doug Marlette, most recently of the Tulsa World, whose work I have always respected. Good company to be in, if you ask me.

The Oklahoma Cartoonists Collection, of which the Hall of Fame is an adjunct, comprises a dedicated corner of the Toy and Action Figure Museum in Pauls Valley, OK--a town that not only lacks an apostrophe, but also any detectable valley. This does not detract in any way from the good people who live there.

The induction ceremony coincided with the annual birthday party for the museum, and celebrants were urged to attend in costume (for example, see Wilma Flintstone and not-so-famous Mexican wrestler El Burrito Loco, at right). Wilma-and-Burrito-Loco.gif

Among other attendees were The Riddler, Darth Vader, Zorro, Pebbles, Bam-Bam, the Phantom of the Opera, a generic pirate, and other personalities I did not recognize. As I remarked during my acceptance speech, I felt as though I had parachuted into the bar scene from Star Wars.

Many of those present congratulated me not just for my contribution to Oklahoma cartooning (my eligibility was based on my nine years working for Oklahoma newspapers back in the ’70s and ’80s), but also for actually showing up in the flesh to receive the award, since the vast majority of my fellow hall of famers have a disturbing tendency to be deceased.

I was struck anew by the typically Oklahoman friendliness and warmth that suffused the gathering, and felt like a wayward son who had been welcomed home after practically three decades of wandering in the wilderness. There were some very nice words inscribed on the plaque commemorating my induction. The most meaningful to me was the phrase, “…and for bringing honor to Oklahoma.”

I am humbled.



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October 28, 2011

Chan Lowe: The Iraq mess

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While I’m away from the blog, I thought I’d run some cartoons from five years ago. It’s always surprising and instructive to see what was dominating our interest in those days, and how little some issues change.

Remember the old days, when it was considered unpatriotic to doubt the president?

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October 27, 2011

Chan Lowe: The House page scandal

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While I’m away from the blog, I thought I’d run some cartoons from five years ago. It’s always surprising and instructive to see what was dominating our interest in those days, and how little some issues change.

Remember the Mark Foley page scandal?

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October 26, 2011

Chan Lowe: Fidel falls ill

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While I’m away from the blog, I thought I’d run some cartoons from five years ago. It’s always surprising and instructive to see what was dominating our interest in those days, and how little some issues change.

Here, Fidel Castro falls seriously ill (for the first time).

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October 25, 2011

Chan Lowe: Immigration

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While I’m away from the blog, I thought I’d run some cartoons from five years ago. It’s always surprising and instructive to see what was dominating our interest in those days, and how little some issues change.

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October 24, 2011

Chan Lowe: Rising sea levels

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While I’m away from the blog, I thought I’d run some cartoons from five years ago. It’s always surprising and instructive to see what was dominating our interest in those days, and how little some issues change.

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October 20, 2011

Chan Lowe: The Social Security increase

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You’d think that the Democrats, with their ear for the concerns of the common people, would be the marketing experts when it came to packaging the products of government. Not so.

It is the Republicans who have traditionally won the name game, jumping in to re-label a program or tax with a catchy moniker that, by its very utterance, imparts spin in the desired direction. I’m thinking of the “Death Tax,” which, even though it imposes a levy on estates that certainly can afford it, sounds unfair and even immoral on its face. “Obamacare” was brilliant, because it forever welded a program to an individual hated by the base. The Democrats made a double mistake here, first by giving the legislation the dry, bureaucratese title of “Affordable Health Care Act,” and second by not claiming “Obamacare” for themselves, and celebrating it as a triumph.

So it is with the term “entitlement program” which has now acquired universal acceptance as a generic for Social Security and other programs. “Entitlement” connotes a freeloader who arrogantly assumes that something is owed to him by others. There’s a greedy, hubristic tinge to it. In fact, if somebody had thought to name it an “Obligation,” it would have more accurately reflected the reality that the eventual recipient spent his or her entire life paying into an account in hopes the money would be there when it was needed.

When something has been labeled an “entitlement,” it becomes a burden placed upon good people by the selfish. Therefore, it’s easier to trim it, shortchange it, or gut it. When it’s an “obligation,” it’s sacred.

We’ve been fighting over that semantic quirk ever since the 1930s.


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October 19, 2011

Chan Lowe: Cuban offshore drilling

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It’s exquisite in politics when a fiercely held principle collides with the reality on the ground. Then, we can sit back and enjoy watching the pols squirm.

Such is the case with the news that Cuba is preparing to drill for oil in its own waters. The problem is that, thanks to the Gulf Stream, Cuba’s waters become our waters pretty quickly. And if the Cubans perform the very tricky and high-tech task of offshore drilling with the usual skill and diligence displayed in attacking other projects, we can be fairly certain that, at some point, refugees won’t be the only thing washing up on our shores.

Thanks to an anachronistic embargo that remains in place because the Cuban exile lobby is so powerful in Washington, and because Florida is a swing state, there is no mechanism for us to cooperate with our neighbors to the south, aid them with our expertise, and implement contingency plans should the worst occur.

Since we can’t stop the Cubans from doing what they want in their own back yard, it might behoove us to see a way around our self-imposed restrictions. This may raise a howl in Little Havana and parts of New Jersey, but imagine the screaming when the tar balls start hitting the pristine sands of South Beach. Who will get blamed? The same members of Congress who, out of fear that the Cuban government might benefit from American dollars, strive mightily to keep the embargo in place.

They might want to remember that not all beachgoers in Florida are Cuban-Americans, and Democratic challengers will be delighted to remind everyone who was at fault should there be⎯ God forbid⎯a future disaster. Americans, being self-centered as they are, will have a hard time sympathizing with the cause of Cuban freedom if they know it’s responsible for ruining their weekends.

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October 18, 2011

Chan Lowe: Herman Cain's immigration solution

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Now Herman Cain is saying that his applause line about putting up an electrified fence across the border was a joke, and that America needs to get a sense of humor. It may well be that Cain’s highly selective audience of Republican primary voters found the idea of setting a fatal trap for potential illegal aliens a real knee-slapper, but in this age of cell phone videos and social media, a remark made to an amen corner is also a remark made to the world…just ask President George “Macaca” Allen.

Last night I watched the Spanish-language news cut-in while indulging my telenovela habit, and they led with the item about Cain’s “muro encargado electrico.” Way to lose the entire Hispanic vote in ten seconds, Mr. $9.99. It appears your brand of humor doesn’t translate well.

If Cain is serious, he might want to consider this: A credible contender for the presidency needs to learn how to be mealy-mouthed. If you say anything with too sharp a contour, you’re bound to offend somebody. Mitt Romney has done such a good job of mastering the art of empty utterances that he can simultaneously be all things to all people while being nothing to anybody. This may be perceived as a weakness right now in the pre-primary season, but after all the extremist foot soldiers finally fall away, it will be his greatest strength come the fall of 2012.

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October 17, 2011

Chan Lowe: Dr. King and the Republican agenda

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I do not pretend to be well versed in the oratory and written work of The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., but I wouldn’t be surprised if somewhere in his legacy he mentioned the importance of vigilance.

The victories he helped his fellow Americans to achieve were hard-fought. Lives were lost, including his own. Those holding power were not prepared to relinquish it; it had to be wrested from them.

Now, fifty years after the great battles of the mid-20th Century and the Voting Rights Act, we are in danger of backsliding on the progress Dr. King and his adherents made, as Republican legislatures across the land seek to restrict access to the polls by those who, historically, have been known to vote Democratic. The requirement that voters have photo IDs is an onerous one designed to suppress voting by those who don’t have drivers’ licenses (many of them residents of inner cities). Here in Florida, the ban on early voting the Sunday before election day was specifically directed at African Americans who traditionally go to the polls after church.

It’s a sad law of human nature that those who have been forced to give up their mastery over others will always seek to reinstate it. Rather than adopt policies that will attract the support of all Americans, those who want to “take America back” seek ways to make sure that those who would not benefit⎯and who would, in fact, be harmed by their agenda⎯are not allowed to exercise their legal right to register their disapproval.

For some, it has never been the American Way to try to secure the greatest good for the greatest number of people. Rather, it has been to grab what you can for yourself and leave others to struggle on their own. Dr. King’s vision was so broad that he transcended race and ethnicity, dreaming of an America where all people prospered according to their abilities. For his sacrifice and that of others not to be in vain, it is important to remember that the struggle never really ends.

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

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October 14, 2011

Chan Lowe: Cain's 9-9-9 scam

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The Republican Right appears to have an endless, mystifying capacity to blindly vote against its own interests. Herman Cain, the millionaire businessman (and don’t you forget it), is riding at the top of the primary polls right now not because the plan he espouses is best for America, but because he has managed to wrap his oligarchic scam in a Twinkie package irresistible to the base.

The 9-9-9 plan, deceptive in its simplicity, is a smoke-and-mirrors concoction designed to shift more of the tax burden onto the middle class and poor without tipping them off. The economic pinheads have peeked behind the curtain, and are busy poking holes in the scheme. When it comes to politics, however, simple sells, especially if it can fit easily on a bumper sticker.

It’s all just low comedy anyway, because nothing like this would ever get through Congress in a Cain Administration, were there ever to be one. Too many oxen would get gored.

At least Cain is entertaining, which is more than one can say for the eventual nominee, and we all know who he's going to be.

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October 13, 2011

Chan Lowe: Allen West, star fundraiser

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My colleague, political writer Tony Man, has a story in today’s paper about how freshman Congressman Allen West raised a whopping $1.9 million in the last three months, ranking him as one of the top national fundraisers. He now has a total of $4.1 million in his reelection kitty, swamping his two Democratic challengers.

I would guess that only a small fraction of West’s war chest was generated in the district he represents, Florida 22 (I would say “home district,” but by now must of us know that would be a misnomer). Rep. West has done an excellent job of burnishing a national profile as one of the tea party’s most valiant foot soldiers, and as such he enjoys a broad financial base.

One has to wonder, at a practical level, how much advantage this mountainous sum will accord him. After all, just about everyone in his district knows who he is, and he is such a polarizing figure that his constituents have probably made up their minds about whether or not they’re going to vote for him without even knowing who is challenger is going to be.

As an employee of a media organization, I hope that West will decide to play it safe and use his stash to buy plenty of self-aggrandizing ads in my newspaper and elsewhere. It might be a wise move, anyway, because even with all that money, his reelection is not a sure thing. Dist. 22 is one of the few truly split congressional districts left in this country.

I suggest that Rep. West would have a better chance of being a shoo-in if he were to abandon his reelection plans and run for Bill Nelson’s U.S. Senate seat. Florida as a whole is more Republican than West’s district.

But nobody from the West camp is asking me, and for good reason. I’m just looking forward to the first time he tells challenger Lois Frankel "You're no lady" in a debate. He'd better bring along his corner man.

To follow Chan Lowe on Twitter, click here.

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October 12, 2011

Chan Lowe: Rick Perry's fading lone star

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I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Rick Perry is toast. This really isn’t that risky a position, and here’s why:
Both Perry and Mitt Romney have big war chests, but ever since Golden Boy And Possible Vice-Presidential Candidate Chris Christie endorsed Romney, the establishment Republicans have been falling into line.

The logic was clear all along. Presidential elections⎯because there is no way that only two contestants can make three hundred million people happy⎯have always been about holding your nose and voting for the person whose face on the TV is least likely to make you toss your Hamburger Helper for the next four years.

Perry has a dedicated and feverish following, but it’s small in proportion to the noise it makes. There’s no way he’ll appeal to moderates, who tend to look askance at any person who truly believes the world was formed six thousand years ago, and that mankind lived, Flintstone-like, alongside the dinosaurs. Leader of the country? No way.

Romney is universally detested by his party, but his very flip-floppiness, currently being condemned, will be his strength in the general election. Nobody trusts him as a conservative, so what’s to prevent him from flip-flopping leftward once nominated, thus attracting the all-important middle? Republican money people know he’s a chameleon, and being pragmatists, they know only a chameleon can win. If they get on his bandwagon now, they’ll own him early. As Don Corleone used to say, this is business, not personal.

The nutty right will hold their noses and vote for the wishy-washy quasi-Christian apostate because the alternative⎯four more years with the Muslim⎯is even more horrifying. Moderates don’t hate Obama, but would vote for him out of fear were Perry the standard-bearer.

That’s my take, anyway. Correct me if I’m wrong.

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October 10, 2011

Chan Lowe: ID theft on the rise

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Years ago, when I first heard the term, “identity theft,” it had a kind of science fiction ring to it, like a Robert A. Heinlein novel where faceless shape-shifters steal the souls of the unsuspecting and go about the earth performing heinous acts in their name.

When you think about it, that’s exactly what it is, and the crime couldn’t have been committed just twenty years ago, because our vital stats weren’t spread all over the Internet for anybody with basic knowledge to decrypt and misuse on a whim.

Like virtually everything else you can possibly think of that is criminal or deleterious to society in some way, identity theft is on the rise here in South Florida. One law enforcement officer said that we are the “cradle” of new scams and crimes.

And you thought all we could boast were half-empty condo high-rises and oversized exotic reptiles. North Carolina has its Research Triangle, California its Silicon Valley, and South Florida…

Kinda makes your chest swell with pride, doesn’t it?

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October 7, 2011

Chan Lowe: GOP congresswoman goes rogue

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With each passing day, gay bashing as a political issue is becoming more and more of a loser. It used to be that the mere raising of the specter of gay equality was enough to coax a flood of cash from conservative wallets, but as more and more families discover they have one⎯or several⎯gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender members, the “stigma” continues to fade.

The only surprise is that American social attitudes have come so far so fast on the issue. Ultimately, gay rights will no longer be considered suitable for discussion in the political arena, in the same way we would never discuss equal rights for diabetics, or for redheads. It is a mark of national shame that gay equality was politicized in the first place.

When those whom we would normally call “conservative,” like Dick Cheney, come out in favor of equal rights for gays, the divide between “social” and “libertarian” conservative becomes even more stark. One only need listen to the verbal contortions of Michele Bachmann to realize how impossible it is to square the idea of freedom from government intrusion with a blanket ban on marriage for a large proportion of our population (unless one truly believes America ought to be a Christian theocracy).

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen has personal family reasons for breaking with conservative orthodoxy on the subject of LGBT equality. The "why" doesn’t matter; the important thing is that for her, common sense has trumped ideology, and we can hope that her courageous act may be the beginning of a torrent of defections.

My guess is she will not lose her seat over this, nor should she.

Author's note: Since I can't print this upside-down, I'm placing it at the end: In case you read the cartoon and were left saying, "Double-barreled surnames? WHUH?" I was talking about Debbie Wasserman Schultz.


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October 6, 2011

Chan Lowe: Sarah Palin goes for the greenbacks

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Nobody is more dismayed about this turn of events than I am. Along with the rest of my colleagues in the editorial cartooning business, I was fervently hoping⎯no, praying⎯that Ms. Palin would conclude that the only way to save America from its socialistic death spiral was for her to offer herself up in patriotic service to the nation and constitution she holds so dear.

Little did I realize that Ms. Palin’s brand of demonstrating her allegiance is of the more mundane kind, that being the amassing of as many images of Benjamin Franklin and other famous dead presidents as she can.

To her credit, she did apologize to her perfervid cadre of followers for not running. I’m still waiting, however, for her apology to me. If my suspicions are correct, I’m stuck having to draw Republican Candidate⎯and possibly future President⎯Willard M. Romney for the next five, maybe even nine, years.

I hope you enjoy your speaking fees, Fox News paychecks, book royalties, clothing line licensing residuals, exercise video receipts and whatever other business enterprises you choose to cultivate, Sarah. You certainly ruined my day, you betcha.

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October 5, 2011

Chan Lowe: The Wall Street occupiers

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Yes, the demonstrations make for colorful video and a refreshing news break from dreary unemployment figures, Washington gridlock and Republicans’ garment-rending over their presidential candidate field. While our hearts are with the occupiers, we all know they aren’t going to achieve anything meaningful (see my meditation on The Man from a few days ago).

The deck was patiently being stacked during the fat years, when we were all too busy trading our ballooning home equity for flat-screen TVs, new cars and cruises to notice. The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision was the final nail in the coffin for the have-nots. No matter how much money labor unions or public interest groups can raise in an attempt to influence the political process, the super-rich, who always manage to get super-richer no matter what the economy, will be able to spend more.

Money talks. It’s the American way, so suck it up. As for the demonstrators, oligarchies throughout history have known that when the proletariat or the peasantry gets restless, bringing in the goons to suppress them just inflames the situation. It’s best to let them scream and wave their clubs and pitchforks for a while (as long as they don’t destroy property) until they tire themselves out.

Eventually, their emotions spent, they return to their rude hovels and resume their miserable lives. Meanwhile, their brethren predictably vote against their own best financial interests while the power elite distracts them with shiny baubles like gay- and immigrant-bashing and horror stories about the creeping invasion of Sharia Law and the devious Muslim in the White House whose number-one goal is to strip them of their guns.

My, this all sounds depressing, doesn’t it? Maybe I’m just out of sorts because I missed my Dancing With The Stars opium fix this week.


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October 4, 2011

Chan Lowe: Chris Christie bows out

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I don’t blame Chris Christie. The white-hot media scrutiny was just beginning to crank up, and it wasn’t going to be pretty. In the end, he still gets to misuse a state helicopter to fly to his son’s sporting events, and that’s almost as good as having Air Force One without the attendant hassles.

It looks like this is the best the Republicans are going to do, so they might as well start getting that lovin’ feeling. How frustrating it must be to have your opponent in the White House with a 42 percent approval rating, the economy in the toilet, and all you can scrape up are these two characters.

An African-American colleague saw this cartoon in progress and said, “I’m still holding out for Herman Cain. I just want to be able to say, ‘I lived to see an all-black presidential campaign.’” We remarked that the South would probably secede from the Union all over again in that event.

“They’d let us have Atlanta,” my colleague allowed.

POSTED IN: 2012 Campaign (85), Barack Obama (172), Mitt Romney (17), Rick Perry (7)

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October 3, 2011

Chan Lowe: Debit card user fees

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You think you can beat The Man? Nobody beats The Man. The federal government thought it could. Yessir, it tried to give the economy a boost by slapping a limit on “swipe fees”⎯what banks could charge businesses for transactions made with debit cards.

But The Man doesn’t put up with that kind of sass. He was going to make up that profit somehow, because it’s his right. He came back with blood in his eye and socked the consumer with a monthly user fee for the privilege of spending his own money. So much for good intentions.

It’s like the old days, when we used to pull into gas stations to buy gas, and right there next to a pump was an air hose for filling our tires. That’s right, it was air, and it was FREE, just like air had always been since the dawn of time. Then The Man starting charging a quarter for something that used to be a God-given right. At first, there was a big brouhaha. “Gas Stations Start Charging For Air!” the headlines trumpeted.

After a while, the outrage wore off, and we got used to the idea of paying for air. That’s when The Man started charging a buck for it.

You’ll get used to the new fee, too. The Man is counting on it. Eventually, you won’t think twice about paying five bucks a month to use your debit card to spend your own money. Ultimately, you won’t think twice about paying five bucks for every transaction.

Here’s a tip: The Man owns everything, including the Internet. Wait until you start paying two cents for every tweet, or a nickel for every time you post a photo of your dog puking on Facebook. Now that he’s gotten you addicted to free social media, The Man’ll be able to charge whatever he wants.

You can never beat The Man, so fuggedaboudit.

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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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