Chan Lowe: Christmas wishes
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My best wishes for a happy holiday season to all readers of The Lowe Down!
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My best wishes for a happy holiday season to all readers of The Lowe Down!
Nothing throws a wet blanket over the holiday spirit like a former business associate turning state’s evidence and naming names to shorten his stint in the slammer.
You can hardly blame a guy, though, for missing the company of the buddies who helped him drink his champagne and smoke his cigars back in the fat days.
Could be time for a good, old-fashioned reunion.
Many happy returns, gang.POSTED IN: None
There were some who argued that the government should have imposed rationing of fuel, foods and consumer goods, as we did in World War II. Not because we needed to, but just to be a constant reminder that there was a war on.
It was somehow unseemly that people blithely gassed up their gargantuan SUVs while our troops were fighting in the oil fields. But the Bush administration felt that the best way to keep Americans from getting in the way of executing the strategy (whatever it was) was to keep the war below the radar. The American people, above all, should not suffer privation. Privation costs votes.
The immense financial cost was incurred off the books to be reckoned with at some future date, so Congress didn’t have to wrangle publicly over financing. The fighting and dying was done by a volunteer military and paid contractors, so the casualties only affected a relatively small slice of society. The bodies were brought home under a shroud of secrecy with the excuse that the families’ privacy needed to be respected.
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So now the last convoy of troops has trickled out of Iraq, nothing like the “Shock and Awe” opening act of this war. If the regime we’ve left behind fails, a few stalwarts will gnash their teeth and declare that Obama “lost” Iraq. The rest of us will just sigh in relief that it’s over.
You’d have to be one heck of a purist to turn down a thousand bucks from Uncle Sam in the form of a payroll tax cut extension just because it might swell the deficit a little. After all, the deficit is some abstract, imaginary thing like the monster that lives under your bed, while we’re talking real money, here. Free money. You can use it to buy food, a couple of iPads, or a mess of lotto tickets⎯which is the only retirement plan many Americans have left these days.
We taxpayers are a little weary of bending over backwards to bail out financial institutions and make sure their executives have a happy holiday, so it’s about time we got a piece of the action, paltry as it may be.
At least, this is the argument that’s giving pragmatic Republicans fits. It’s that stark. No amount of fiscally conservative dogma spouted by freshman tea party congressmen is going to convince the average voter that the GOP isn’t willing to bring the country to the brink of bankruptcy to protect the high-rollers while giving the middle class the high-hat.
Elections are won and lost over simple, easy-to-understand issues, and it doesn’t get any simpler than this. The same voter who worried two years ago that the country was being sold out by the foreign-born socialist pretender is going to be fighting mad when his paycheck suddenly shrivels, and he’s going to be looking for a scapegoat.
The only hope the Republicans have now is that the Democrats are historically so deft at blowing an advantage that they won’t pull their motley ranks into a coherent front with a concise message in time for the next election.
I wouldn’t want to bet my job on it, Congressman.POSTED IN: None
If you cup your hand to your ear, you can hear the harrumphing in the men’s grill down at the club. “Who does this Gingrich think he is? He isn’t playing by the rules! And whatever happened to St. Ron’s eleventh commandment, you know, ‘Never speak ill of another Republican?’ Can you believe he accused Mitt of earning his wealth by shutting down companies and laying off workers? That’s Communist talk. Clearly, Gingrich is only out for himself!
“Remember the last time he was in power? He almost ruined us. If, God forbid, the rabble takes over the primaries and he wins the nomination, not only would it guarantee a Democrat win, we could lose the House and the Senate filibuster as well. Then that upstart community organizer squatting in the White House would have free rein to steal our wealth and lavish it on the welfare queens.
“We never should have co-opted the tea party. The inmates have taken over the asylum. Boehner cracks his whip, and they laugh like it’s wet spaghetti! Whatever happened to wait-your-turn? Discipline? Top-down authority?”
There’s more harrumphing, and somebody orders another single-malt Scotch. “Our only hope,” they agree among themselves, “is that we managed to slip those state anti-voter fraud bills in under the radar. At least they’ll keep their rabble from voting.”
Rep. Allen West is certainly a man known for pulling no punches in speaking his mind (after all, it’s part of what got him elected), but you have to wonder what was in his breakfast C-rations the day he decided to compare the Democratic Party’s information dissemination operation to the work of Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda minister.
West’s Congressional District, Florida 22, has a great number of Jewish constituents, some of whom, no doubt, survived the Holocaust. To make it worse, roughly half of the voters in Dist. 22 are Democrats, so that West, with his usual martial efficiency, managed to offend several cohorts with the same statement.
It’s West’s right to feel that the Democratic Party disseminates inaccuracies, and even that the mainstream media is in cahoots with it in its mission to turn the American people into a bunch of weak-kneed, liberal pantywaists. The use of the Nazi comparison, though, was maladroit in light of the composition of West’s district. But I’m not in the business of giving advice to Congressmen.
Ultimately, what constitutes propaganda is in the eye of the beholder. Since we’re discussing Goebbels, he was once asked why, if the Nazi regime were such a perfect system, it needed a Ministry of Propaganda to polish its image before the rest of the world.
“Because,” Goebbels responded, “the Americans have Hollywood.”POSTED IN: None
It’s telling that several years ago, I drew a cartoon using the same trope of Nouri al-Maliki-as-hand-puppet, but back then the puppet-master was Uncle Sam. Maliki, at the end of Sam’s arm, had just poked him in the eye⎯it was about something he’d done in direct and public contravention of U.S. interests.
Like Hamid Karzai, his fellow stooge, Maliki felt it necessary once in a while to establish his bona fides as a home grown leader by sticking it to his patron. Appearing to be two-faced and ungrateful toward the superpower is the only way to command respect in that part of the world. Since we paymasters have nobody else to invest in, we’re forced to smile indulgently and suck it up.
Today’s cartoon features a new puppeteer, which is a sad comment on how much good this war did us. The American people are so sick of the whole thing that the only one left complaining that we’re “cutting and running” is Dick Cheney, a man who can’t even travel to Europe for fear of being arrested for war crimes.
Author’s note: In my humble opinion, President Ahmadinejad claims a plinth of honor alongside other luminaries like Yasser Arafat, Michele Bachmann and John Kerry in the Pantheon of God’s Gift to Editorial Cartoonists for having faces that practically draw themselves. Thank you, Mahmoud, for just being you.
No surgery is risk free, so if you want to roll the dice and gamble that your number won’t come up when you’re in for a face lift, boob job or liposuction, that’s your business. At least, with the Internet, it’s a lot easier to do the research to find out if you can minimize that risk by going to someone who knows what or he or she is doing.
Still, it’s a tragedy when somebody sacrifices his or her life for appearance’s sake. It says a lot about the rest of us in society, our tendency to judge people based on their looks and how important it is to be accepted by our peers.POSTED IN: None
First off, I’ll tell you what I always say to the checkout clerk when she sees my credit card and asks the inevitable question. “Yeah, I’m the owner’s nephew,” I respond. “You know about my family discount, right?”
She never believes me, either.
There’s a reality show on cable TV I haven’t seen, called “All-American Muslim,” which follows five Dearborn, Michigan, Muslim families around in the course of their daily lives. The theme, I understand, is that they are no more or less American than non-Muslim families. It’s a popular show, which is a good thing, because it gives the correct impression that being a Muslim has nothing to do with being un-American or subversive.
Evidently, a right-wing Christian group called the Florida Family Association (yet another reason for Floridians to be proud) feels there is something to fear in this, because it lulls unsuspecting Americans into dropping their guard against an insidious element lurking in their midst.
They lobbied Lowe’s, an advertiser, to stop sponsoring the program, calling it “Muslim propaganda.” Fearing a boycott, the corporation immediately pulled its ads, and now faces a sympathetic backlash from more open-minded citizens.
Notwithstanding that probably no reality show deserves sponsorship from anybody, and bearing in mind that we are surrounded every day and everywhere (especially at this time of year) by more Christian propaganda than we can swallow, Lowe’s act was ill considered. The company should remember that not everyone who works on his home is a member of a Christian hate group. In fact, there are probably a lot more non-members among its customer base than members.
Mitt Romney famously said, “Corporations are people, my friend.” Well, this Lowe is a person, too…and he’s taking all his business to Home Depot until the other one changes his tune.POSTED IN: None
There’s a reason why so-called “Gotcha” questions are important in campaigns. It speaks to the dual nature of the office of the president as head of state as well as head of government.
This person, whoever he or she may be, is expected not only to be leader of the free world⎯to possess an omniscient view of the shifting sands of global developments⎯ but to be “one of us,” sprung from the masses and chosen by us to point the way forward. So when a member of the media asks if a candidate for this high office knows the price of a gallon of milk or gas, it’s just as critical to constructing the framework we use for assessing a potential leader as a question about the U.S. trade imbalance with China. Smart pols now verse themselves on the prices of typical consumer goods in case the dreaded question should ever arise.
Those who were around for the presidency of George H.W. Bush remember with a cringe his sense of wonderment the first time he saw a grocery store scanner in action. It was an inadvertent slip, but it was damaging because it added to the already-popular narrative that Bush was out of touch with the American people.
Mitt Romney has tried everything to appear as though he were an average American. He’s lost the tie on occasion, he sometimes wears plaid shirts, he sports khaki Dockers. He even purposefully mis-arranged one cliff of his trademark Brylcreemed hair sculpture.
All it took was one ten-thousand-dollar bet, though, to reinforce his card-carrying membership in the hated one percent. You could almost see the wheels turning in his head: “I know, I’ll bet the S.O.B. ten bucks. No, let’s make it $10,000! That’ll really prove my point.”
That the relative amounts made so little difference to him is exactly his problem. It was a mere throwaway line, but it was a revealing window to his soul. He’ll have a devil of a time neutralizing its effects.
I like to think of South Florida as a social laboratory because there are so many of us who are transplants and transients that we’ve created a heterogeneity of culture, background and religion almost unknown in other communities.
Life is a little different here, as evidenced by our annual spats over whose religious symbols ought to be allowed to appear next to whose, or whether they ought to appear at all. The cities of Boca Raton and Weston, fed up with the contentiousness, have taken the radical step of eliminating them altogether, like mothers who ban crayons around the house because the kids can’t be trusted to use them responsibly.
One of my letter-writers recently signed off with, “Merry Christmas,” which may have been a sincere salutation or an in-your-face taunt. I don’t know, nor do I care. I took it at face value.
I don’t pretend to understand the mind of Jesus, but I would guess that He considered Himself a good Jew who happened to have some sound ideas to share with His fellow Jews. From what I know about Him, He did not intend for His adherents to use their faith as a cudgel to make others feel inferior because they hadn’t joined up.
Which brings us to the simple issue of civility. Being civil doesn’t mean that you are making concessions. It just means that you respect those unlike you and their beliefs. Saying “Happy Holidays” to someone is not diminishing your own faith. It’s just practicing the Golden Rule.
Remember that one?
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Thank you, Newt, for ensuring that Mitt Romney does not win the nomination in a cakewalk. He doesn’t deserve it.
Yesterday, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey⎯in his sad, yet trenchant endorsement comments⎯exhorted caucus-goers to vote for Romney because he was the only Republican who would not embarrass Americans in the Oval Office. This is not a good enough reason for him to coast into the finals. Besides, you know exactly who that blowhard was talking about, don’t you, Newt?
You alone have the intelligence, the experience, the savvy, the ego, the hauteur, and most important of all⎯the chutzpah, to buck the pooh-bahs of the party and create a living primary hell for the Pomaded One. Of all your past antics⎯and they have been legion⎯it will be your greatest gift to that same media you loathe.
And, should you win, we will scatter rose petals at your feet as you mount the debate stage to face Barack Obama, because from the media’s point of view, this will be the most spectacular bout since Muhammad Ali faced Sonny Liston.
Onward, Newt! May the wind always be at your back, and may it blow thousand-dollar bills into your capacious pockets.POSTED IN: None
Well, that was certainly a bust. In hindsight, it looks like our trillion bucks and thousands of casualties didn’t exactly produce the shining democratic example to other Middle Eastern regimes the neocons were hoping for.
Instead, we’re leaving behind a weak sectarian government that will be a puppet of the Iranians, the very bad guys Saddam was doing a fine job of containing before we took him out. Nice job.
Not that our troops let us down. They went in there and fought for their country, the way they wanted to and the way they were expected to. It was the civilian leadership that failed in its duty by squandering them in a pointless endeavor.
If you want to blame somebody for Iraq, blame Florida voters (and not for the reason you’d think). The late Lawton Chiles got tired of being a U.S. Senator from Florida and came back home to run for governor back in 1994. Had he not edged Jeb Bush out in that election, the smart son would have been the heir apparent to the presidency. Instead, W., as governor of Texas, was the only Bush left standing to anoint.
Jeb, whether or not you agree with his politics, would have been competent enough that Poppy Bush wouldn’t have felt compelled to attach training wheels to his boy’s administration in the form of Dick Cheney. Jeb probably wouldn’t have allowed Cheney and his paranoid fellow travelers anywhere near the White House, anyway.
Which is to say that we here in Florida had plenty of chances to screw things up, and we took advantage of every one of them.
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If you had any doubts that this primary season is unlike any we’ve ever seen, this latest development, “Presidential Candidate Apprentice,” should clinch it for you. There may be an upside: The crass conflation of civics and entertainment could engage more of the electorate.
The downside, of course, is that choosing the leader of this nation is a pretty serious matter. To relegate any part of the process to a self-inflated showman and attention-seeker is tantamount to admitting that that if America declines to the status of second-rate power, it will be because its people willingly abrogated their responsibility to govern themselves responsibly.
Should the Trumpapalooza turn out to be the circus everyone is predicting, then the craven candidates who slithered onto his stage, fearing retribution if they did not show, will be diminished by the event. The big beneficiary could be Jon Huntsman, who has refused to appear.
Before the White House and Obama reelection campaign staff get sore palms from doing high-fives, they might want to temper their jubilation with the thought of a Huntsman bump. His stalwart display of independence could cause embarrassed and disgusted voters to give him another look.
And Huntsman, as I’ve said before, is the one candidate who really has a chance of beating Obama. Those with the biggest sway in the Republican primaries simply haven’t awakened to it yet.
Assigning blame to the other side when things go badly and taking credit for good news, even when credit is not due, is the stuff of politics. Any party would and should do this; it’s what parties are for.
Things get tricky, of course, when your victory strategy of hanging responsibility for the nation’s ills on the president involves, in effect, rooting for hard times to continue until your side takes power. It can look a tad unpatriotic, in fact. The only thing to do when rare glad tidings are announced is to keep your mouth shut and hope that unhappier days lie just around the corner.
Potential voters who don’t follow daily political news cycles aren’t sophisticated enough to parse when it’s appropriate to apportion credit or blame to one side or the other. If it has been hammered into them for years that the President “owns” the economy, then they naturally award him the kudos when the numbers turn up.
In any case, Republicans shouldn’t despair. They have only lost today’s battle, not the war. As I pointed out in the above cartoon, these figures represent only a snapshot, and things could easily go south again by next month. If one thing is certain, it's that there is going to be plenty more misery to go around before, as a great politician once said, “it’s morning in America again.”POSTED IN: None
Values voters, despair no longer…the man you’ve been waiting for has been hiding in plain sight for years. Why settle for a serial philanderer or a stiff whose true convictions are suspect (if they even exist) just because Fox and Rush tell you that you must? Here’s a man who’s never cheated on his wife, is raising two beautiful daughters, is the paragon of everything you profess to hold dear, and is a Christian just like you to boot.
What do you have against a guy who would rather spend the people’s money trying to find you a job fixing the nation’s broken roads and bridges than use it to further fatten the wallets of the already well-fattened? Or who simply wants to provide decent health care to families like yours whose kids may have never seen a doctor unless they were dragged, in extremis, to the emergency room?
Scripture says St. Paul was traveling along the road to Damascus on a mission to persecute those unlike him when he fell to earth. When he got up, the scales dropped from his eyes and suddenly the truth was revealed to him.
So, what’s blocking your vision?
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