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The Lowe Down


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November 30, 2011

Chan Lowe: Kiss the Hermanator goodbye

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I’m going to miss the Hermanator. There’s no question he was the most entertaining figure in the race. The machine-gun accusations about his inappropriate sexual behavior and marital infidelity would have sunk a more moderate candidate far sooner, but fortunately he was the darling of ultra-right family-values types, and they tend to gloss over those foibles when it’s one of their own.

Of course, it’s hard to blame an affair of 13 years’ duration on the liberal media conspiracy, so it looks like this, not the back-of-the-limo couch rugby sessions, is what will finally bring our dauntless warrior down.

Mr. Cain, who may have invented his candidacy as a gimmick to spur book sales, either didn’t intend to become anything more than an asterisk in the race, or he possesses such an overarching ego that he assumed he could bully his way past the inevitable scrutiny into his past that a front-runner always attracts. Whichever alternative you choose makes him supremely unsuited to serve as the leader of the Free World, and we aren’t even talking about the women.

Now we are stuck with Mitt and Newt. If you believe that, with few exceptions, only the dullest, most wishy-washy candidates can appeal to a broad enough swath of voters to get nominated, then you will agree that Newt’s future is limited.

Remember what happened to Howard Dean? He was going strong until “The Scream.” The Scream wasn’t a negative, in my opinion. It demonstrated some rare passion. It became the accepted wisdom, however, to condemn it. I think that’s because the Democratic Party establishment⎯with which Dean was at odds ⎯had the fix in with the media. Dean simply didn’t fit the plan. Note that they ultimately went with John Kerry, not exactly the kind of person you’d want to spend more than 30 seconds with at a cocktail party.

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November 29, 2011

Chan Lowe: Patching it up with Pakistan

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The part of the world into which we decided to stick our noses operates on a pretty simple principle: Money talks, tribalism rocks. Since we don’t belong to any of their tribes, the best thing we can do is wave a gallery of our own “tribal leaders,” lovingly engraved on our currency, under their noses.

The difference between a tribe and an “investment in loyalty” is that when you mess with a member of somebody else’s tribe, it can start a vendetta that lasts for generations. With the latter, the fealty only endures as long as money keeps coming, so the idea is to collect as much of it as you can before the benefactors throw up their hands, declare victory and eventually pull out, as they always do.

While Pakistan’s leaders have a certain respect for Americans such as Ulysses S. Grant, Benjamin Franklin, Grover Cleveland and Salmon P. Chase (who?), particularly when they arrive in multiples, the love doesn’t run very deep. And when Pakistani soldiers with families and loved ones get rubbed out by the same folks who have been sending over the shipping containers full of “investments,” the rank and file start asking uncomfortable questions. Since the power structure is none too stable over there, it’s going to take some fancy diplomacy plus a lot more grease get things back to their previous dysfunctional status.

In other words, Hillary is going to have her hands full, in more ways than one.

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Chan Lowe: Osama in heaven

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While I'm away from the blog, here is a cartoon from ten years ago that still has relevance.

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November 28, 2011

The more things change...

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While I'm away from the blog, here is a cartoon from exactly ten years ago. I could have drawn it yesterday.

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November 25, 2011

Black Friday redux

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While I'm away from the blog, here's a post from last year that is even more appropriate today:

I have a friend who spends the whole day Thursday exhausting herself making a complex Thanksgiving dinner for her family, then gets up in the middle of the night and rushes to the mall just so she can be there to start shopping when it opens before dawn on Black Friday.

I asked her why she did this, and she couldn’t give me a lucid answer. “I’ve always done it,” she said. “It’s a tradition.”

Why couldn’t she just wait until the weekend, I asked. Because then, it wouldn’t be Black Friday, she said.

Maybe it’s just one of inexplicable, gut things⎯like eating barbecue on the Fourth of July or complaining about religious symbols in public places around the holidays⎯ that we do to reaffirm our American-ness.

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November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

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A Happy Thanksgiving to all the readers of the Lowe Down!

While I'm away from the blog, here is a cartoon from 2001 that still resonates today.

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November 23, 2011

Chan Lowe: Enough debates, already.

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My favorite part of the nominating process, regardless of the party, is when a victor emerges and the vanquished challengers fall into line, solemnly swearing that this is the most upstanding statesperson they have ever encountered in their lives. They vow to support his or her candidacy with every ounce of their political being until final victory in the general election is achieved.

Just a day earlier, they were doing their best to eviscerate this fine example of humanity in equally sincere terms. But, that’s politics in our American system. If nothing else, it should tell us that no pol ever truly means what he says, and that he only says what is expedient. Nevertheless, we allow ourselves to be wooed anew, falling for the spiel like a would-be bride who has been repeatedly left at the altar, yet yearns to give romance one last shot.

Somehow, I get the feeling that the other contestants in this endless round of Republican debates are going to have a tougher time lining up behind Mitt Romney and extolling his virtues once he wins the nomination. Some may actually hold their silence rather than go through the contortions necessary to utter those pronouncements, their detestation of the man is so profound.

One can only hope.

POSTED IN: Newt Gingrich (11)

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November 22, 2011

Chan Lowe: Anybody but Mitt

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It’s probably a smart move that Mitt Romney has revamped his Iowa strategy. Originally, he was going to let the crazies have Iowa and make his big move in New Hampshire.

The problem is that for the short period between the Iowa caucuses and the (presumably more rational) New Hampshire primary, he will have ceded all the media turf to whichever anti-Mitt happens to have captured lightning in a bottle for that particular moment, watering down his brand as the Inevitable One.

Contrary to popular belief, other people vote in the Iowa Republican caucuses (it turns out the plural is not “cauci” because it’s a Native American word, not a Latin one) besides Christian conservatives, so even a so-called heretic like Romney has a chance there if he devotes enough resources to the project.

The most important thing about winning the first two events is that they would effectively lock up the nomination for him, and he could then stop pandering to the right and start sounding saner sooner.

Since he’s already comfortable with changing his positions on the most defining of political topics, Romney should have no problem deep-sixing some of his more radical utterances and looking more like the squishily liberal governor of Massachusetts he once was.

Romney’s high-priced staffers, however, are fully aware that the Obama campaign is lovingly saving every second of footage showcasing their boy denying science, or saying that corporations are people too, or whatever, which is why limiting the period of time he’s stuck out on that limb is so critical. But he can counter with even earlier footage showing him saying just the opposite. This eclipses John Kerry’s fancy footwork back in 2004: “I was for it before I was against it, and against it before I was for it again.”


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November 21, 2011

Chan Lowe: The NASCAR diss of the First Lady

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It was an unlovely moment. A quintessentially American one, too, since as a nation we love to voice our true feelings lustily.

I’m sure there were many fans in the NASCAR stands who were embarrassed when their brethren booed the nation’s First Lady, and who were ashamed on their behalf for not having enough respect to at least keep their mouths shut if they didn’t approve of the way the woman’s husband is running the country. After all, she came all the way down to help the families of veterans in need.

It really isn’t about respect for the First Lady, though. It’s that many Americans (some of whom attend NASCAR races, and some who do not) feel that she is a usurper to her position, as her husband is to his office. They don’t actually see the Obamas as President and First Lady, because to them they are squatters in the White House. Their very existence sullies the institutions they represent. It’s the same attitude that allows a member of the U.S. Congress to feel perfectly comfortable shouting “You lie!” during the State of the Union speech.

Ironically, if you really want to talk about usurpation, let’s go back to the way the Supreme Court suddenly shut down the recount in the 2000 election, guaranteeing George W. Bush’s victory. His legitimacy to hold office was far more in doubt than Barack Obama’s is today. Yet, I don’t recall Laura Bush being booed by crowds when she appeared in public, even by those who felt the election had been stolen.

Of course, for some benighted Americans, George and Laura comfortably fit the stereotype of a couple that at least ought to be living in the residential quarters, rather than cleaning them. I suspect that’s really what’s at the heart of yesterday’s cringeworthy NASCAR spectacle.

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November 18, 2011

Chan Lowe: Herman Cain and the Secret Service

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The story in the paper simply said that Herman Cain was the first Republican candidate to be given a protective Secret Service detail. We’re all left to wonder why, since he’s dropping in the polls. Could it be…? Nah. As conservatives will be quick to tell you, there are no racists in their ranks. Since the Democrats would swoon at a Cain nomination, it does leave one scratching one’s head as to who would bother to eliminate him by force.

The one who really ought to be embarrassed is Mitt Romney, who, after ceaselessly running for president all these years, still can’t manage to amass the gravitas to be threatened by anyone.

Someday, Mitt, you too may rate protection.

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November 17, 2011

Chan Lowe: Guns and states' rights

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As we all know, logic doesn’t figure in this issue. States rights don’t matter worth squat when we’re talking about bedrock issues like guns and abortion.

Even though this bill doesn’t stand a chance in the Senate, the zealots had better be careful where they step once they start selectively stompin’ on sacred federalism. The same way folks in, say, California wouldn’t want the decisions of Florida’s NRA-bought-and-paid-for legislature to determine who can and can’t pack heat in their state, the God-fearing citizens of Texas wouldn’t want them soft-touch red-diaper types in Massachusetts and New York determining who’s allowed to dwell in connubial bliss in their little piece of heaven, enjoying all the rights and appurtenances deriving therefrom.

What’s sauce for the goose, as the saying goes, can end up splattered all over your face.

POSTED IN: Culture Wars (199)

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November 16, 2011

Chan Lowe: The curse of the "no new taxes" pledge

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Sometimes you have to wonder if, down deep in their craven hearts, Republican members of Congress don’t regret having made that Faustian pact with Grover Norquist and his no-new-taxes pledge. Here they sit in their cushy jobs, big fish in their hometown ponds, and they uncomfortably find themselves in crisis mode, charged with the mission of saving the country for future generations with their hands tied behind their backs.

Their rational side must know that the only solution to our fiscal death-spiral involves a mix of cuts and new revenue, but they run smack up against that old survival instinct. If they choose to do the statesmanlike thing, it follows that they’ll self-destruct with their constituents.

Ironically, it’s that same instinct that put them in this fix. It isn’t as if Grover Norquist is holding the country hostage because he usurped power. It was willingly handed over to him when Congressional districts were intentionally gerrymandered to guarantee that they would remain in a particular party’s hands in perpetuity. As a result, a local party primary has, all too often, turned into the de facto general election vote.

A Republican who might summon the guts to throw the pledge back in Norquist’s face and say, “I’ve decided to fulfill my oath of office, rather than kowtow to doctrinaire radicals,” will surely be defeated in the next primary, since we all know that only rabid ideologues bother to vote in primaries (moderates, by definition, aren’t that involved in the process). The sad thing is that these extremists comprise, by far, the minority of voters in this country.

In other words, Grover Norquist’s power over the functioning of our democracy derives from members of Congress loving their jobs more than the country they serve. You can hardly blame them. Have you seen those salaries, privileges and benefits? They would lay low the stoutest of ethical principles…a bit like kryptonite.

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November 15, 2011

Chan Lowe: Cain's foreign policy

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Even though Herman Cain is in the midst of his final meltdown as flavor of the month, I had to get in this last lick (sorry) before he completely dropped out of sight to join Michele Bachmann in well-deserved obscurity.

Yesterday’s performance with the editorial board of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel was so spectacularly inept, particularly for a person who tries to present himself as the potential leader of the free world, that it couldn’t be allowed to pass without notice.

All I can conclude is that the conservatives really, really hate Mitt Romney—so much so that they have embraced a succession of candidates that resembles nothing if not the stream of characters that emerges, miraculously, from the tiny car at the circus. Let’s hope it’s just to send a message and that they aren’t really serious. Are we in for calliopes at the inaugural ball?


As for Romney—should he lose, he would probably find a comfortable niche in the Obama cabinet as another token Republican, like Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. Or maybe an ambassador. Yes, there’s a fine cut to his jib that would impress the furriners. I could imagine him presenting his credentials to the foreign secretary of Latvia, Liberia, or even Looziana.

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November 14, 2011

Chan Lowe: More "personhood"

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There’s only so much you can write about the hypocrisy of conservatives who want government to stay out of our lives unless it’s to impose restrictions on a woman’s right to an abortion, or to prevent gays from getting married, so let’s give that up for now.

Instead, let’s focus on how the rights of the unborn seem to outweigh those of the born. Once a nine-month-old “person” has been brought into this world, he or she, if unfortunate enough to have been born poor, is likely to avail him- or herself of government programs. Neo-natal programs, food stamps, child-care allowances—unfortunately, they all represent that repugnant redistribution of wealth conservatives love to rail about.

Now, if conservatives really cared that much about the sanctity of life, they would prioritize and expand these programs, and do so with smiles on their faces, because they ease the painful decision so many women must confront as they determine whether they will carry their child to term. If a woman of little means knew that the bundle of joy she was carrying was less likely to become a crippling financial burden in a world where most of the chips were already stacked against her, she might be more likely to “choose life,” as they love to say on the license plates.

In a world where the State had a vested interest in ensuring that a child has the best of care at the beginning of its life (as it does in, say, Scandinavia), Roe v. Wade would diminish in significance, because more women would exercise their freedom of choice to give birth.

But that makes too much sense. Besides, “more government programs for the poor” is⎯let’s face it⎯a real loser when it comes to conservative fundraising.

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November 11, 2011

Chan Lowe: The Penn State scandal

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It isn’t all that surprising that an athletic program like Penn State’s, which prided itself on its pristine record of “victory with honor” should experience such a profound fall from grace.

When a record of any kind is created, it becomes an institution in itself, a sacrosanct entity to be revered. It develops its own imperative, which is that it must be safeguarded at all costs. In this case, the comparison that has been made with the priestly abuses in the Catholic Church is an apt one: The preservation of the institution and its image becomes even more important than the furtherance of its original purpose. In the case of the Church, that purpose is to save souls. In the case of a college football program, it’s to win games and, second, to build character in young men.

Ironically, had Penn State’s program had a checkered history similar to those of many scandal-plagued football factories, the coach’s original heinous act might have been reported the first time it was witnessed, since there would have been no institutional record of purity to protect with a cover-up.

In a perfect world, the same virtuous qualities that contributed to Penn State’s enviable stain-free record would have prompted the witness to report the crime immediately, regardless of consequences. Instead, a university’s hollow reputation was deemed more important than the fate of the subsequent victims.

It is said that the greatest sin is that of pride. Maybe that’s because it can so easily derail our conscience.

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November 10, 2011

Chan Lowe: Cain's and Perry's memory problem

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You have to be a little tetched in the head to even want to be president in the first place. Either that, or have an ego the size of Wyoming. Maybe that kind of self-confidence and hubris is inherited; it originates as some minute kink in a man’s double-helix that matches up with a mutant carbon molecule in a woman’s and⎯voila!⎯a person is created who can actually imagine himself not only with his finger on the nuclear button that will end the world, but who even believes he knows when and when not to press it.

When you think of it that way, the characters who have presented themselves as the great Republican hope for 2012 create an even deeper appreciation of the political truth that Candidate Obama has always been blessed in his opponents.

On another matter, a shout out the students and faculty of Pinecrest School in Fort Lauderdale, who received me so graciously yesterday when I delivered a lecture to them about my work. I hope I inspired at least one of them to pursue a career in cartooning. If so, he or she won’t regret it.

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November 9, 2011

Chan Lowe: It's beginning to feel a lot like iPads...

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What’s more American at this time of year than heading over to the big box store to pick up an armload of electronics for your loved ones? Think of it as holiday altruism, using our dollars to give a hand up to our little brothers on the other side of the Pacific Rim.

You don’t have to feel guilty about it, because there aren’t really any small consumer electronics jobs left in this country. That “giant sucking sound” that Ross Perot talked about a few years ago has faded away, since there ain’t nuthin’ left to suck.

Now, what you could feel guilty about is not going cold-turkey with your addiction to little beepy things that will be obsolete anyway in a few months, and not patriotically funneling your funds to stuff that's still made in the good old U.S. of A., instead. There are a lot of artisans who make mighty clever things out of wood in places like Vermont. Toys, useful objects, you name it. You could get the man of the house a Wisconsin-made pair of OshKosh b'Gosh overalls (Oops, scratch that--outsourced to Honduras). Or a Caterpillar rig to bulldoze the domicile down before the bank takes it over. The possibilities are endless.

Or, if you want to keep it right in the 'hood, you could give a local kid some money to come and mow your yard or shovel your snow once in a while, if you can get his hands off his iPhone long enough. Of course, he’ll just use the extra money to buy an iPad anyway, since his crummy parents went and gave him a handmade back scratcher from Vermont for Christmas.


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November 8, 2011

Chan Lowe: "Personhood"

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One of the advantages⎯or, maybe, curses⎯of getting older is that wisdom enables you to better appreciate where people with opinions at odds with your own are coming from.

You still may not agree with them, but your respect for their point of view grows as you realize that the world is a much more complex place than you ever imagined. Maybe this is why older folks are so much angrier than the young about our politicians’ inability to compromise with each other and find a path forward that is best for the country.

I am in sympathy with the ultimate goal of the right-to-life movement, which is to eliminate abortions. Who isn’t? Nobody is pro-death. Every abortion represents a failure and a tragedy. What is still somewhat puzzling is that in their zeal, pro-lifers are willing to go to any lengths, including oppressive government intrusion into the lives of individuals, to achieve their aspirations.

In many cases, these are the same people who want government to keep its hands off their firearms, and to stop preventing kids from praying in school.

Maybe they feel that this life-or-death issue is such a moral imperative that libertarian ideals ought to be thrown to the winds (listen to any schizophrenic speech that includes the subjects of liberty and Roe v. Wade by Michele Bachmann). And many of these pro-lifers are the same people who cheered from the audience when Gov. Rick Perry was described as the killingest governor in Texas history (I was wrong. Some people are pro-death).

The inconsistency leaves me scratching my head…but as I said earlier, I’ve developed a broader concept of where people are coming from.

And even though it still doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, I’m beginning to get it.

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November 4, 2011

Chan Lowe: Because he Cain

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Back at the turn of the century, I was sitting at a dinner table with a group of distinguished journalists. The Monica Lewinsky scandal was still a fresh topic of discussion, and I was struck by the way some in the group blindly minimized the significance of Clinton’s misdeeds.

Several of my companions felt that the country had overreacted to the President’s peccadilloes. “After all, it was consensual,” one said. “It certainly didn’t rise to the level of impeachment.”

I reminded my colleague that whether or not one agreed that Clinton’s behavior in the Oval Office merited disapproval, he was impeached not for doing whatever-it-was (remember, according to the Semanticist-in-Chief, it wasn’t “sexual relations”), but for lying before a grand jury.

“Yeah, well, I still think they made too much of it,” she replied. She also allowed as how she had met Clinton at a gathering once, and that he had an uncanny ability to make every woman feel like she was the only one in the room.

I relate this story because it demonstrates, I think, that people view and judge behavior selectively depending upon whether they have an emotional connection with the main actor. They don’t choose to condone it, they actually process it through a different set of filters, so that it ultimately needs no condoning. Hence, defenders of Herman Cain would rather blame the “liberal media” than hold him accountable for his acts, which would cast doubt on everything else about him, including his truthfulness and suitability to be President.

We have a legal system that strives for “equal protection under the law.” The core of it—the precedent-based code, jury trials, adversarial justice⎯is designed to offset mankind’s natural tendency to order the world based on his own emotions. One can see why it’s needed: Bias is as natural as breathing, regardless of one’s political bent.

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November 3, 2011

Chan Lowe: School prayer...again.

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If there ever were an argument for fairly drawn state legislative districts, this is it.

Florida’s overwhelmingly Republican legislature is planning to revisit the hoary school prayer issue. It isn’t because our elected public servants care that much about religion. This is for back-home consumption. If the United States Supreme Court would allow them, they’d pass a law making the New Testament a required course for the FCATs without batting an eye.

It’s win-win, as far as they’re concerned. They can self-righteously pontificate about the importance of religion and prayer in a child’s upbringing, conveniently ignoring that children have plenty of places outside of school to develop their spiritual identities… like church, for example (I didn’t say “temples,” or “mosques,” because we all know that isn’t the brand of spirituality they’re talking about). Cynical? Shux, cain't even spell the word. Jus' lookin' out for our kids, that's all.

They can then count on equally vehement opposing speeches out of their counterparts from districts in southeastern Florida, most of whom are Democrats and some of whom (gasp!) don’t even accept Jesus Christ as their lord and savior.

They aren’t Christian, they’re against school prayer, and chances are they’re gonna vote to reelect that Muslim in the White House. At least, that’s how it’ll be characterized when the home folks are whupped up to turn out and vote in November of 2012.

It might be just enough to tip a swing state like Florida, especially when you combine it with all our new anti-voter fraud laws.

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November 2, 2011

Chan Lowe: The Greek debacle

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A couple of points to bear in mind about Greece’s economic crisis:

First⎯as long ago as 1938, when British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain declared that Czechoslovakia was “a far away country about which we know very little,” the world discovered to its everlasting regret that all nations great and small are interconnected.

Just because we may not count a Greek-American among our acquaintances, or were bored in school when we were taught about Homer’s use of meter, doesn’t mean that the Greeks’ refusal to accept austerity measures won’t impinge on our economy and affect the pace at which U.S. jobs are restored. The world economy is so complex and sensitive an organism that even minor events can have cascading consequences, and the Greek crisis is no minor event.

Second⎯it would be a mistake look down on our Hellenic friends for their profligacy. The Greeks are now being forced to come to grips with a problem that America has yet to truly confront: They have lived beyond their means for too long, and must now make painful decisions. In their case, the kneecappers come in the form of the French and the Germans who demand that they drastically cut back services, raise taxes, work harder for less money, and generally prostrate themselves as the price for restoring their credit and remaining in the Eurozone.

Our Congress enjoys no such incentive. It bends to the will of the people, and the people currently have no will except to protect what’s theirs at all costs. Our so-called “supercommittee”⎯tasked with putting America on a responsible path⎯is content to posture and propose unworkable partisan non-solutions.

It’s sad to say, but what the U.S. needs right now is what the Greeks are currently enduring: Chancellor Angela Merkel with boots and a whip, marching in to kick some Teutonic butt.

POSTED IN: Economy (197), International (86)

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November 1, 2011

Chan Lowe: The Kardashian divorce

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So this is what it’s all about. This is what the supporters of the Defense of Marriage Act have been so passionately protecting: The right of Kim Kardashian to make a multi-million-dollar TV spectacle out of a supposedly sacred act, then void it at her whim seventy-two days later.

Meanwhile, George Takei⎯better known as Mr. Sulu on the original Star Trek series⎯was on the tube last night. He came out many years ago, before coming out was even cool. Last night, he shared that he and his partner had been married in all but name for twenty-four years. Yet, in his state, he is not legally allowed to sanctify that bond in the same ceremony so spectacularly and ostentatiously sullied by Ms. Kardashian.

Since the whole question of “protecting” the institution of marriage appears to turn on religious grounds, it would make a diverting thought experiment to consider whether Jesus might have bothered to perform His miracle of changing water into wine at Cana had He known (and He surely would have) that the newlyweds only intended to stick it out for two-and-a-half months.

On the other hand, had the celebrants been groom and groom, with the full intention of committing the balance of their lives to one another, would He have turned his back on their love?

Since He never addressed the issue of same-sex marriage, I guess we’ll never know. We do know what He said about love, though, and while my Scripture’s a little rusty, I don’t remember any qualifiers.

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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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