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The Lowe Down

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January 31, 2012

Chan Lowe: Burmese pythons take over the Everglades


The recent story about how pythons have taken over the Everglades⎯and are eating everything in sight⎯prompts us to re-examine the precarious balance between man and beast in this humid swamp we South Floridians call home.

When you think about it, everything was doing fine down here until homo sapiens came along in search of mild winter weather. For a short while, hot summers drove him off until he invented air conditioning, which allowed him to become a permanent fixture amid the other subtropical fauna.

With Man came hobbies and interests. His love of reproducing microcosms of the oceans within his dwelling inspired him to import exotic species such as lionfish to populate his aquaria. When he tired of them eating up the rest of his piscine investments, he tossed them into the nearest canal. Now lionfish, which have no local predators, have become a menace to our waters, decimating the indigenous species.

A desire for more land upon which to build crackerbox developments caused Man to import the melaleuca from Australia to drain the swamps. Again, lacking predators, this tree grew out of control until a special beetle that enjoyed feasting upon it had to be imported.

Likewise, Man’s hankering for products from afar brought unwanted hitchhikers to our shores, like the Formosan termite and the white-footed ant.

Now we speak of the Burmese python, which was imported willy-nilly by commercial interests to satisfy herpetophiles’ desire to share their domiciles with slimy, slithery things. Of course, they soon got too big for the condo, and⎯well, you know the rest of the story.

It makes you wonder which species are the pests.


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January 30, 2012

Chan Lowe: The Florida Primary is upon us


While the Florida Republican primary is a spectator sport for many of us here in the Sunshine State, there’s a sense that we all may be witnessing history in the making.

If Mitt Romney clinches it, which, as of this writing, it looks like he will, it could represent the high water mark for tea party influence in the GOP. Yes, he won it dirty by outspending Newt Gingrich five-to-one, but winning by stuffing obscene amounts of money into the system has an honorable history here.

Romney’s victory will be a triumph of blandness, and a late-in-the-game spasm of muscle flexing by what is left of the Republican establishment⎯a group of old bulls that still has trouble accepting that their dalliance with the tea party was a Faustian pact.

It’s a shame that Newt could not have taken Florida; a big prize from such a diverse electorate could have accorded him the credibility to slingshot to the nomination. In the end, the nation would have benefited from a clear-cut matchup between the creed of the social/fiscal conservatives and the forces of progressivism. In the general election, we could have hashed out which philosophy we as a people wished to be our guiding star and defining principle for the next few years.

Instead, we will get tapioca pudding out of the pragmatic, timid wing of the Republican Party. The presidential election will be a “clash” between two moderates who agree on more than they disagree. It will devolve into a meaningless slugfest based on personality, and the hackneyed old “who would you rather have a beer with?” poll. It will bore us to death.

We’ll miss you, Newt. We’ll miss your overarching ego, your shoot-from-the-lip inanities, and your half-baked intellectualism. Most of all, we’ll miss your passion.


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January 26, 2012

Chan Lowe: The rescue mission we'd like to see


Libertarians and far-right crazies notwithstanding, it looks like there are a few things the federal government can accomplish better than the individual states. The exploits of Seal Team Six are so praiseworthy that the Walt Disney Co. even attempted, unsuccessfully, to trademark the name for future commercial exploitation, and what higher American honor is there than that?

If only the Navy Seals’ heroism, self-sacrifice, efficiency, improvisational skills and sense of teamwork could be transmogrified from the battlefield to the political arena. This country would run like a Swiss watch, and moreover, be the envy of the world.

But Democracy is sloppy, and it’s meant to be. It’s how the Founding Fathers designed our system. They didn’t, however, count on virtually unlimited special-interest money clogging the gears of that system, nor could they have envisioned a disengaged and willfully ignorant electorate that has become tragically susceptible to misleading advertising and demagoguery.

Polls show our respect for Congress hovering at somewhere around 12 percent. Yet, at least 50 percent of Americans are happy with their own member of Congress. We cannot blame the institution for obediently bowing to our national will⎯or lack of it.


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January 25, 2012

Chan Lowe: Newt's unlikely bedfellows


There is a rich history of political parties trying to influence the opposition’s winnowing process, in order to ensure that the least viable candidate is ultimately presented as the nominee.

No one should be surprised that the Democrats are running negative ads about Mitt Romney in hopes of aiding Newt Gingrich’s candidacy. Even with all his obvious shortcomings, Romney is the wannabe most likely to attract the all-important center that determines electoral outcomes (now that Jon Huntsman is out of the race). A Gingrich nomination would make the general election Obama’s to lose, and if Gingrich came up short in the primaries, at least the Dems will have gotten a head start taking Romney apart.

What is quizzical is how readily Republican primary voters seem to be falling all over themselves to play into this strategy. Is the prospect of a first-class debate butt-kicking of the foreign-born pretender really that irresistible?

And let’s not forget, while it may be child’s play for Newt to make mincemeat out of the wooden, maladroit Romney, a Harvard-trained law professor just might, in the words of Muhammad Ali, “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.”

Throughout his life, Newt has believed that he has never met his intellectual match. Let’s hope that, with the help of his temporary allies, he prevails in his quest for the nomination. Conservatives aren’t the only ones who would lick their chops at the prospect of an Obama/Gingrich debate.


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January 24, 2012

Chan Lowe: The Romney/Gingrich smackdown


So what did happen to all the heavy hitters? How did the Republican race get populated by all these pygmies? If Barack Obama is as reviled as the GOP contends, he should be easy to depose, right?

Yet, truly credible candidates like Jeb Bush have decided to sit this race out. Maybe Jeb sees something the rabble can’t, because it’s blinded by rage. It can’t all be about his last name, even though his feckless brother is the one responsible for running two wars on the credit card and giving the wealthy a tax cut that further bankrupted us. Some Republicans who yearn for the good old days, when a president actually looked like a president ought to, might think there was poetic justice in a sibling swooping in to clean up his brother’s mess.

Of course, the rest of the Bush-weary public might not agree.

Maybe the serious candidates are waiting for the ultra-conservative wave to crest and then exhaust itself on the rocks. Only after the crazies have had their catharsis can the political vessel be steered off the shoals and back into the main channel.

Good pols like Jeb have ultra-sensitive antennae, and my guess is that they have concluded that Obama has too good a chance of winning this one, regardless of the economy. Best to keep their powder dry and run when the recession’s over. The advantage to that is that once everybody is earning an income again, they’ll get their minds off income inequality, and we can go back to business as usual.


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January 23, 2012

Chan Lowe: Prepare for the Florida Republican Primary


The problem with Florida is that it comprises a pastiche of viewpoints and backgrounds from all across the country, reflecting its transplant makeup. It has no indigenous political character of its own, so it needs to follow someone else’s cue. Florida usually validates the front runner in a race, because as I’ve said before, Floridians are so lackadaisical that they tend to vote for the person they’ve heard of (Exhibit A: Governor Rick Scott, who bought the airwaves before his election. Now you can’t find anybody who’ll admit to having supported him).

An exception to this rule is Rudolph Giuliani, who came down here when he was running for president, expecting to corral Florida and its rich trove of delegates because there were so many transplants from the New York area, and he figured they’d know who he was. Ultimately, that turned out to be his Achilles’ heel. They certainly did know who he was.

So Mitt Romney’s strategy rested on three-for-three victories in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. The Inevitability Express would then steam into Florida and pick up the votes of those who had resigned themselves to running a cardboard cutout figure in the general election.

Now he is one-for-three, and he is about to discover that the trademark lack of commitment on the part of Florida voters of all stripes makes his support about a millimeter deep. They will, for lack of a better reason, back a winner. It’s too bad Romney won New Hampshire and lost South Carolina, rather than the reverse. The average Floridian’s political memory has an span of about forty-five seconds, so he will remember Newt Gingrich as a winner and Romney as a loser.

Should Gingrich snag the brass ring, the real winner of the Florida Republican Primary will be Barack Obama, but we’ll keep that to ourselves.


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January 20, 2012

Chan Lowe: Cuba prepares to drill, baby, drill


Basically, all I did in this cartoon was to illustrate the news story. That’s how absurd it is.

We have a Chinese oil rig⎯and we know how dependable Chinese products are, like drywall and baby formula⎯being put in the hands of a country that has no experience whatsoever drilling for oil.

Thanks to the vagaries of geography and U.S. law, it looks like the Cubans will be able to plant their rig only 45 miles from Florida’s coast, while American-supervised platforms must be located at least twice as far from our shores. Last year’s BP blowout occurred under the umbrella of government supervision (such as it is), so imagine what kind of oversight will be maintained by a country whose main interest is to develop a source of hard currency, regardless of the consequences.

If there’s a silver lining to all this, it’s that Cuba is starting from scratch, unlike the United States. There’s no revolving door between the oil industry and regulators the way there is in this country, because there’s no industry and no regulation. Cold comfort.

Tar ball beach tennis, anyone?


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January 19, 2012

Chan Lowe: The Iowa miscount


He who lives by the stats, must also die by the stats. Mitt Romney was crowing after the New Hampshire primary that he had “made history,” which is to say that no Republican candidate had snagged both Iowa and New Hampshire since Abraham Lincoln or somebody. All this because he had won the Iowa caucuses by eight votes. Evidently, it is hard to do this because only a political contortionist can tie himself in enough knots to appeal to both the God-fearing agrarians of Iowa and the flinty pragmatists of the Granite State.

Romney was trafficking on his presumed universal appeal, derived from both “victories,” to bolster the illusion of inevitability that appears to be his only selling point. He was going to win New Hampshire anyway, but now he goes into South Carolina having really only come in second in Iowa. And it was not a “statistical tie,” which was the gloss Romney tried to put on it. He lost by four times as many votes as the number upon which he based his so-called triumph.

Even before the news, his lead was eroding to a revenge-crazed Newt Gingrich. Now that Perry has slunk back off to service his venal little circle of Texas political back-scratchers, all that’s left is for Newt to crack deals with Attorney General Rick Santorum and Treasury Secretary Ron Paul to fold their tents, and South Carolina could be his for the taking.


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January 18, 2012

Chan Lowe: Mitt Romney's tax returns


One can only assume that Mitt Romney is stalling on the release of his tax returns until he is the official nominee of the Republican Party, because by then it will be too late to trade him in when the nation finds out that he’s been getting a pretty easy ride. Americans are used to rich guys running for president. They don’t even mind so much that their income keeps pouring in over the transom while they just sit there on their bankbooks.

What ticks people off, though, is a skewed, preferential system that enables the idle rich to skate off with a much lower tax rate than those who actually have to get out of bed every day to earn a living. That’s a tough one to justify, even to ultra-conservatives. As Newt Gingrich said, “Why don’t we all pay a 15 percent tax rate?” Yeah, why don’t we?

What possible justification could there be for this inequity? Is it that wealthy investors need to be encouraged to invest through lower tax rates? Funny, they still managed to invest during the Eisenhower administration when the tax rate on the wealthy was around sixty percent. And why does the middle class pay a higher rate? By implication, wage earners must be society’s parasites. They should be penalized for working and producing things.

So it’s no surprise that Romney is treating his tax returns as if they’re radioactive. They are. If people were thinking straight, his 1040s alone would bury him. But he still has a few things working for him that will cloud Americans’ judgment: Many people hate Obama so much they don’t care if Romney is nothing more than a carbuncle on the butt cheek of working America. Also, there’s abortion, gay marriage, evolution, global warming, prayer in the schools, and a host of other distractions that will get their minds off the obvious, which is that they’re being bamboozled all over again.


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January 17, 2012

Chan Lowe: The Italian shipwreck


I went on a cruise once. What intrigued me the most was that the various service occupations on board appeared to be organized by nationality. The stewards were all British, the bartenders were Filipino, and the deckhands were Indonesian.

The dining room was segregated in an even subtler way. To those with incurious minds, it looked like the place was staffed entirely by Italians. Upon closer inspection and study, however, the perceptive cruise guest discovered that the table waiters and busboys were Sicilian, while the headwaiters and the maître d’ were Northern Italians.

Why is this important? They may have all been Italians, but they didn’t speak the same language as their mother tongue. The Sicilians spoke their rich dialect, while the folks from up around Turin and the Alps had theirs, and the dialects were mutually incomprehensible. They were reduced to communicating in textbook Italian, which they had learned in school as practically a foreign language.

The two factions did not work well together, which may have been due to regional chauvinism. Our waiter occasionally made a disrespectful gesture involving his fingers and the underside of his chin toward his superior when he thought he wasn’t looking.

I describe all this because, in an emergency, this polyglot band of service workers is suddenly expected to act as caretakers of the passengers’ safety. Each is supposedly trained to hand out lifejackets, man a lifeboat, herd people here and there, or whatever.

If they don’t get along, and moreover can’t even speak one another’s language, one can see why lives might be needlessly lost due to “human error,” to put it diplomatically.


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January 16, 2012

Chan Lowe: Allen West, vice-president?


God bless Allen West. For someone who’s supposed to be a politician, his utterances can be most impolitic. Maybe the rough edges are a source of his appeal.

While his “Joseph Goebbels would be proud of the Democrat Party” comments were still reverberating through South Florida and beyond, West fell for a set-up that any solon worth his salt could have batted aside with ease. What if Romney tapped him to be his running mate, he was asked. This is the kind of question that custom dictates should be deflected with extreme modesty, no matter how much the responder may hunger for the job. A simple, “What, are you out of your mind?” or, “I won’t even entertain that question, it’s so far out of the realm of possibility,” is the standard riposte.

But instead, Col. West got all soldierly, and said something clunky and revealing about how he wouldn’t turn his back if his country asked him to step up. Which means he’s been thinking about it.

Here’s a man who stands a good chance of not even being able to hang onto his own congressional seat actually entertaining the fantasy that a Romney/West ticket would help the human answering machine get elected.

You have to give West points for chutzpah, a word many in his district know, along with who Joseph Goebbels was. And there’s no question that the debate between him and Joe Biden would be an instant classic. Let’s start a write-in campaign.


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January 13, 2012

Chan Lowe: Romney under Republican attack


It appears that the Republican primary comedy warm-up act is finally drawing to a close, and the party is reverting to its usual modus operandi, to wit: The nomination is going to the man who ran the last time and lost. Unlike Democrats, who send their fallen warriors off into the wilderness to be forgotten (see Dukakis, Michael), Republicans believe in crowning he who waits his turn, and awarding him a second or third chance.

Some disgruntled also-rans, however, have failed to get the message. A couple of them, Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich, have gone so far as to accuse the Heir Apparent of being too ruthless a businessman, as if there were something unseemly about that in the eyes of anybody but a liberal, or a communist (a redundancy to this crowd).

While Perry has retired his “vulture capitalist” line (probably the cleverest thing he or his speechwriters came up with in his entire campaign), and Newt has drawn in his claws after a slap from GOP pooh-bahs, it tells you that the Occupy movement was not all for naught. At the time, we scratched our heads about what the occupiers really stood for, but now we know. It was all about raising the nation’s consciousness to the inequities of opportunity, in a land where we’re all supposed to have an equal shot (at least, in our commonly-held mythology).

Evidently, this message even resonates among rank-and-file Republicans, or Newt and Rick wouldn’t have attacked Mitt for being nothing more than a sterling example of what the party purportedly extols.

There’s a term for this: thought crime. The GOP will not tolerate it, under any circumstances. The comedy act, while enormously entertaining for a while, is about to get the hook.


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January 12, 2012

Chan Lowe: Rosie O'Donnell and the shark


This was a local story, so it was hard to resist. You don’t have to be a tree-hugging environmentalist to be repulsed by the photo of Rosie O’Donnell and her smiling children standing proudly beside the bloody carcass of a magnificent specimen of an endangered species. Killing a shark for sport isn’t the best example to be setting for the kids.

Couldn’t she just have taken them to the FPL power plant outlet pool to see the manatees?


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January 11, 2012

Chan Lowe: Redistricting smoke and mirrors


Everything was neatly in place. After the census, there would be redistricting for congressional and state legislative offices. The Republicans in Tallahassee had a total lock on the process. It would be business as usual, protecting incumbents, perpetuating a power structure that did not represent the political demographics of the citizenry, and all would be well for another ten years. The whole subject of redistricting is a yawner, anyway, since people are only worried about jobs and schools. Most folks couldn’t name their representative or senator if you held a knife to their throats.

Then some miserable do-gooder came up with a “Fair Districts” amendment, designed to get rid of gerrymandering and put the drawing of district boundaries back in the hands of the people. It’s anathema. What’s a self-respecting Tallahassee pol supposed to do? Figure out a way to slither around it, of course.

Hold some bogus meetings around the state. Pretend you’re listening. Say nothing. Make no commitments. Show no maps that give them license to complain. Quietly challenge the whole thing in court. Then go back to Tally Town, shut the doors, work it all out, and hope that in the meantime the unwashed have forgotten all about that pesky amendment thing they voted for.

What kind of democracy is it, anyway, when you allow the masses to run the place?


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January 10, 2012

Chan Lowe: The Pope slams gay marriage


With all due respect, the Pope’s recent pronouncement that same-sex marriage undermines the future of humanity only tells us that His Holiness spends too much time cooped up in Castel Gandolfo.

When you tick off the biggest problems the world faces, you realize that the issues that really undermine the future of humanity⎯like climate change, hunger, poverty and the pollution of our resources--are the result of overpopulation. The Catholic Church, thanks to its stance on birth control, is doing everything it can to exacerbate this problem. You’d think that gay couples, which tend with some exceptions to adopt children when they want to start a family, would be something the Church might welcome as alleviating in some small way the sufferings of the flock.

Secondly, if the family is at the core of civilization’s stability, as the pope asserts in his argument, then he should come and visit a gay family or two. He would be surprised at how much love (yes, the kind Jesus himself extolled) and mutual respect is present in such a union. At least as much as in a heterosexual one, and probably more than most. One could argue that it still takes a greater commitment on the part of the participants in a gay marriage to slog through the residue of societal disapproval as preserved and perpetuated by the abovementioned Pontiff.

Thirdly, and again with all due respect, maybe somebody who has never tried marriage, and in fact doesn’t even deem the institution worthy for his own employees to indulge in, shouldn’t be loosing rampaging Papal Bulls on something he knows little about.

Maybe the Pope should do us all a favor and stick to his main line of work, which is the saving of souls. That job alone is more than enough to keep anyone busy for a lifetime.


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January 9, 2012

Chan Lowe: The Mitt steamroller


That giant sigh you hear is from right wing true believers who are just cottoning onto the fact that no matter how passionate they are, no matter how loudly they scream, the great, woolly political machine is going to deny them their hopes and dreams.

They wanted, just once, to feel good about whom they were voting for. No more compromises (that awful, Communistic word). They didn’t even care if their man or woman won the general election. They just wanted to settle down in front of the flat screen next October, break out the pork rinds, and watch their champion kick that skinny holier-than-thou foreigner’s butt all over the debate set.

So what if the Pretender stays in the White House, they say. At least he’d be a good target. Hating him viscerally has been, and would continue to be, a cleansing, cathartic experience. Romney? He’s like a bag of oatmeal. Bland, boring, and you get no joy from punching it. The scary thing about him, of course, is that he manages to pander to so many people that he might actually win, and then we could be stuck with that telephone answering machine voice of his for eight years.

Maybe the answer is a third-party candidacy. Smash-Mouth Newt with Rick Santorum as his purifying running mate. That would make the establishment sit up, all right. A three-way debate where our boy could slap Obama and Romney around until their eyes reel. We’ll have some melted Velveeta drizzled on those pork rinds, thank you very much.


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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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