The Lowe Down

Category: Local South Florida Issues (188)

Chan Lowe: Miami Heat win NBA Championship


The arena bulged with screaming fans, many of whom had paid exorbitant sums to scalpers to witness the event.

Down in the $30,000 seats at courtside, well-known entertainment figures from the movie and recording industries languished, looking bleary-eyed after three straight nights of partying.

The band struck up, the crowd mouthed the lyrics to the National Anthem, and the festivities began. Over the loudspeaker system, a disembodied voice introduced the home team. The structure resounded with cheers and foot stomping as the spectators savored the announcement of each position.

“Middle-School Math Teacher!”

“High-School English Teacher!”

“Guidance Counselor!”

“School Librarian!”

“American History Teacher!”

One by one, the team members trotted out and stood before the crowd, beaming at the adulation. Then their former pupils arrived on the court: captains of industry, hedge fund chiefs, leaders of humanitarian organizations, even former Presidents of the United States. There were hundreds of them. They approached the team, and after shaking each of their hands in gratitude, they presented them with paychecks in the millions of dollars.

Confetti fell. All over the city, cars honked and people pounded on pots and pans. Behind the scenes, the teachers’ agents were already on their cellphones, negotiating new contract terms with school boards with the threat that they might take their talents elsewhere.

Meanwhile, way up in the nosebleed seats sat a group of folks who didn’t have the means to buy their own tickets, but had won a few ducats in a lottery.

All they knew how to do was run around and pass a ball back and forth, and toss it through a metal ring with a reasonable degree of accuracy. It was more of a calling than a living, and to perform it with consummate skill required a unique combination of talent, teamwork and a lifetime of devotion.

Unfortunately, society placed little value upon running around and throwing things through hoops, so they were forced to battle resistant government entities every year for the pittance they received.

They understood that this was the way things worked in a free-market society. Fortunately, they weren’t in it just for the money. It was also for the joy of knowing they were leaving a mark on future generations.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: Broward's Best Building


In this morning’s Sun Sentinel, my colleague Robert Nolin wrote of a “Best Building” contest sponsored by the American Institute of Architects, wherein signature buildings from each county in Florida would be voted on to comprise a “Best 100 in the state” list.

Palm Beach County, of course, is home to Marjorie Merriweather Post’s (now The Donald’s) Mar-A-Lago and Henry Flagler’s Breakers Hotel. Miami has the Freedom Tower and the Biltmore. For some unfathomable reason, Broward County is to be represented by the Fort Lauderdale Municipal Parking Garage. This is the building we will present to the world to compete against other great structures in the state.

I’m no architect, but I did concentrate on architectural history in college (Wow! I can’t believe I finally get to use this!). My personal choice to represent Broward County in all its riotous panoply would be the futuristic and fanciful cylindrical structure at the corner of Oakland Park Boulevard and Federal Highway (seen here, if I can overcome the technological impediments to posting it). Citibanc-Building.gif
Most locals know of it. Those who have been around for a while might agree that the renovation performed around 20 years ago catapulted it into the forefront of memorable buildings in the county. There’s a fabulous mosaic in front depicting South Florida nautical themes, and Jetsonian frou-frou festoons the top rim, which is enhanced at night by dramatic neon lighting.

Continue reading "Chan Lowe: Broward's Best Building" »

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: Obama, Lin and Clinton collide in Miami


I never thought I would be drawing Jeremy Lin. I’d heard his name bandied about, but since I don’t follow sports, I had to ask my editor who he was.

When the Sun Sentinel news desk found out that⎯by coincidence⎯an incumbent president, a former one, and more important, the sports flavor of the month would all be in Miami on the same day, it was decided that we would do a full court press (sorry, I couldn’t resist) to commemorate the serendipitous event.

My editor, Tony Fins, and I batted the subject around. He opined that Obama and Lin had something in common. They had both come out of nowhere and become instant media darlings.

It occurred to me that Clinton, too, fit into this category. He grew up poor in Arkansas, did well in school, ended up at an Ivy League college, and the rest is history. Lin is the son of Chinese immigrants, also got into an Ivy League school, and was not even mentioned the last time the Knicks played the Heat in Miami. Now, thanks to his recent accomplishments, everybody in the country (except, obviously, me) knows who he is. Barack Obama, the self-described “skinny kid with a funny name,” gained admission to Harvard, gave a memorable speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, and became America’s first African-American president an incredible four years later.

Continue reading "Chan Lowe: Obama, Lin and Clinton collide in Miami" »

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: Kristin Jacobs runs for Congress


When you look at government ethics, some see the law while others see the loopholes.

Take, for example, Broward Commissioner Kristin Jacobs’ recently announced effort to replace the fleeing Allen West as District 22’s congressperson. When my colleague Anthony Man asked whether she’s planning to accept campaign contributions from lobbyists who do business with Broward County, she makes no bones about it. Yes, she said. That’s what you do. It would be political suicide not to.

Now, this isn’t illegal, but it sure has a strong odor. “That’s what you do” is so woven into the fabric of the system that Ms. Jacobs feels no need to explain it, or even to wince at the question.

More significant was Ms. Jacobs’ answer to the question about whether she would resign her current post to run for Congress. Her answer? A firm “No.” When pressed, she said she wanted to preserve her options.

Two thoughts come to mind here: If you’re a county commissioner running for Congress, no lobbyist in his right mind is going to pony up the cash for your campaign unless you remain in office. That’s the only way you still have the juice to make the contribution pay off for the donor. It’s a tacit admission that money does, in fact, buy influence (we all knew that, but pols rarely own up to it publicly).

Second, Ms. Jacobs denied that holding onto her commission seat meant that she had doubts about winning the congressional race. Should she win, Gov. Scott will doubtless appoint a Republican commissioner to replace her.

That’s tantamount to reaching out to her Democratic constituents with one hand⎯asking them for their money and their votes⎯and giving them the finger with the other.

She’ll fit right in on Capitol Hill.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: Is it right to blame the cops?


The moral outrage over the Sun Sentinel’s multi-part expose about scofflaw cops and take-home perks is, in my opinion, misdirected.

Of course it’s offensive when those whom society entrusts with the sworn duty of protecting it abuse their authority. It’s particularly galling when they do so with impunity, due to an understanding of mutual protection between law enforcement personnel from different jurisdictions.

But they’re human. Give a human a little authority, and he develops a swagger. He would have to be a saint not to. There’s that gun. There’s the knowledge that they carry so much clout that the average citizen may wet his pants when he’s pulled over. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

The only thing that reminds law enforcement that they serve the people⎯and not the other way around⎯is effective oversight and the certainty of sure and swift punishment in the event they get the equation backwards.

It’s like when your dog has an “accident” in the house. It isn’t the animal’s fault; it’s bad pet stewardship on the part of the owner. If government officials⎯who employ law enforcement personnel in the name of the people who elected them⎯don’t keep the leash taut, cops will come to believe that their authority and that nice take-home perk were given them as divine right for simply being more worthy than the next guy.

If you don’t like what you’ve read in the series, throw out the elected bums you have now and replace them with ones who promise to do their jobs the way they’re supposed to.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: The polo magnate adopts his girlfriend


The mockery that wealthy polo magnate John Goodman has made of the institution of adoption has once again attracted world attention to South Florida, and as usual, for all the wrong reasons.

What makes his act even more of a travesty is that Mr. Goodman has cynically taken advantage of a legal process that, until just a couple of years ago, was barred in Florida to couples that happened to be gay. Yet, the same state that feared gay parents would somehow “infect” children, or worse, assumed that they were really pedophiles who only wanted children in order to satisfy their base urges, has breezily allowed a grown man to adopt his adult girlfriend in order to protect a portion of his fortune.

Continue reading "Chan Lowe: The polo magnate adopts his girlfriend" »

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: The perils of cruising


Personally, I don’t know why anybody would want to take a cruise, but maybe I should check with my newspaper’s advertising department to see how much coal the cruise industry shovels into the engine room before I go and make a sweeping statement like that.

Viral diseases, crimes of violence, theft, seasickness, weight gain, liver damage, possibly getting stuck at the dinner table for the entire journey with people who deny the theory of evolution…sounds like the kind of vacation from which lasting memories are made.

Be sure to send pictures.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: Allen West jumps districts


Well, at least we know what it’s all about, now. It isn’t about faithfully representing the people of Florida District 22, because he just coldly abandoned them.

It isn’t about never shying away from a challenge, which is what Congressman Allen West was crowing just a few weeks ago when the Florida Legislature redrew his district to include more Democratic voters.

It’s about putting his career in Congress first and foremost. It’s been about that ever since he first decided not to run in his own home district. Evidently, the war veteran found the self-described “Jewish mom from Plantation,” Debbie Wasserman Schultz, more fearsome, even, than Iraqi militants.

Continue reading "Chan Lowe: Allen West jumps districts" »

submit to reddit
add to delicious

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.

Continue reading "Chan Lowe: Burmese pythons take over the Everglades" »

submit to reddit
add to delicious

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.

Continue reading "Chan Lowe: Cuba prepares to drill, baby, drill" »

submit to reddit
add to delicious

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.

Continue reading "Chan Lowe: Allen West, vice-president?" »

submit to reddit
add to delicious

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?

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: The song of the Rothstein


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.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: Allen West steps in it again


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.

Continue reading "Chan Lowe: Allen West steps in it again" »

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: The annual fight over religious symbols


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.

Continue reading "Chan Lowe: The annual fight over religious symbols" »

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: School prayer...again.


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.

Continue reading "Chan Lowe: School prayer...again." »

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: The House page scandal


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?

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: Fidel falls ill


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).

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: Rising sea levels


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.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: The Social Security increase


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.

Continue reading "Chan Lowe: The Social Security increase" »

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: Cuban offshore drilling


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.

Continue reading "Chan Lowe: Cuban offshore drilling" »

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: Allen West, star fundraiser


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.

Continue reading "Chan Lowe: Allen West, star fundraiser" »

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: ID theft on the rise


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.

Continue reading "Chan Lowe: ID theft on the rise" »

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: GOP congresswoman goes rogue


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.

Continue reading "Chan Lowe: GOP congresswoman goes rogue" »

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: West/Wasserman Schultz flap, Round II


Verrrry classy. It’s not that Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz is a shrinking violet—as fellow South Florida Congressman Alcee Hastings put it, “Debbie can take care of herself”⎯but what Rep. Allen West is accomplishing with his schoolyard comments is the further poisoning of the already toxic atmosphere in Congress.

As the figureheads of what amounts to their own personal corporate pyramids, members of Congress can easily forget that it isn’t all about them. They have been sent to Washington to do the nation’s business, and smart-mouth lines like a fellow congressperson making him want to vomit not only diminish Mr. West, they erode what is left of the comity needed to get anything done for the country.

Continue reading "Chan Lowe: West/Wasserman Schultz flap, Round II" »

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: Bibi's stamp of approval


It’s in keeping with the bizarre way the 2012 elections are shaping up that the most important endorsement any candidate of either party has managed to land so far is from a foreigner.

Considering that President Obama cannot win reelection without Florida’s electoral votes, and that our recession-ravaged state could easily swing either way a year from now, anything that might get disillusioned Sunshine State Obama voters off their sofas and down to the polls could spell the difference between national victory and defeat.

This is purely anecdotal, but I talk to a lot of people down here in New York’s sixth borough, and their sentiments about the president’s handling of Israel⎯and the Middle East conflict in general⎯range from bewilderment to disappointment to anger to disgust. “He hasn’t even visited Israel as president yet. What’s he thinking?” one person said to me. Symbolism means a lot in this thorny corner of politics.

Continue reading "Chan Lowe: Bibi's stamp of approval" »

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: Beach renourishment "insanity"


As those who write letters to the editor are fond of telling us, Einstein’s definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

When Einstein took time off (if you’ll pardon the expression), he visited corridors of thought never previously navigated by the human mind, and if his vacation began running short, he simply slowed down the clocks (Nice trick if you know how to do it). His getaways probably didn’t involve pitching an umbrella, setting up his beach chair, cracking open the cooler and happily digging his feet in the sand.

Continue reading "Chan Lowe: Beach renourishment "insanity"" »

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: The growth of prescription "pharmacies"


Maybe the conservatives are right. Maybe big government is getting in the way of our recovery. Pill mills, after all, have been one of the few bright spots in Florida’s economy.

First, Governor Business-Friendly suddenly got religion and decided, after all, to allow a prescription database in order to cut down on abuse. That certainly put a crimp in business. Then they passed a law saying that a pill mill can’t both write a prescription and fill it. So now the state and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration are flooded with proxy applications to open drugstores that—let’s face it⎯aren’t concerned with peddling bunion pads and Preparation H.

And what do they do? They deny them! This is real employment, folks. Small business…the backbone of America! And, as we know, it’s a growth industry that appears to be recession-proof. It can’t be outsourced to India. It brings a steady stream of clientele from other states directly into our neighborhoods. These people have to eat and stay someplace. I heard of one operation right around the corner from Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale where clients actually had pizzas delivered to them while they waited in line.

Continue reading "Chan Lowe: The growth of prescription "pharmacies"" »

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: Rep. West considers leaving the Black Caucus


This development shouldn’t come as any surprise. The Congressional Black Caucus⎯all Democrats except for Rep. Allen West⎯comprises, for the most part, members of Congress who represent black constituencies and fight for black interests and aspirations.

Rep. West is a tea party-backed conservative who ran in a politically split district that is majority white. He happens to be an African American, and while he does not downplay his heritage, he tends to identify himself more by his ideology and military background than his race.

Continue reading "Chan Lowe: Rep. West considers leaving the Black Caucus" »

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: Oil drilling in the Everglades?


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

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

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

Continue reading "Chan Lowe: Oil drilling in the Everglades?" »

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: Preparing for Irene


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

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

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

Continue reading "Chan Lowe: Preparing for Irene" »

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: Number of So Fla gay households soars


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

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

Continue reading "Chan Lowe: Number of So Fla gay households soars" »

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: The UM athletic scandal


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

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

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

Continue reading "Chan Lowe: The UM athletic scandal" »

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: Art? public places II


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

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

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

Continue reading "Chan Lowe: Art? public places II" »

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: An unorthodox funding idea


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

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

Continue reading "Chan Lowe: An unorthodox funding idea" »

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: Wilton Manors disinvites Rep. West


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

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

Continue reading "Chan Lowe: Wilton Manors disinvites Rep. West" »

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: South Florida chases the gay honeymoon market

gayh.gif In many ways, South Florida is an outlier from the rest of the Sunshine State. Ideologically, somewhere between Palm Beach County and Orlando, time begins to slow, and then to stand still. If you continue farther north, the clock actually starts ticking backwards, as if Einstein himself were reaching out from the grave to apply the theory of relativity to Florida politics. By the time you reach Pensacola, where abortion doctors are considered target practice, you’ve traveled back to the era of the Scopes Trial.

This is the state whose Republican-dominated legislature passed a Defense of Marriage Act to enshrine discrimination in our law. The idea of those who sponsored it was that the institution of heterosexual marriage faced a threat to its moral underpinnings if gays were allowed to marry their own kind, or if the state were merely to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions. It is noteworthy that an amendment put forward by then-Rep. Lois Frankel (who hails from a South Florida county, of course), which would also deny recognition to any marriage whose parties had engaged in adulterous sex before marrying, was overwhelmingly defeated by the so-called moralists.

Continue reading "Chan Lowe: South Florida chases the gay honeymoon market" »

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: The West/Wasserman Schultz flap


From a political junkie’s standpoint, we here in South Florida are treated to a deliciously abrasive congressional combination⎯adjoining districts represented by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a proud liberal and chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, and Rep. Allen West, the tea party champion who has been touted as Republican Vice-Presidential material.

The other day, the antipathy the two harbor toward each other exploded on the floor of the House, when Ms. Wasserman Schultz expressed her incredulity that Mr. West, a congressman from this senior-rich area, would pursue with such alacrity the cutting of entitlement programs upon which so many of his elderly constituents depend.

Continue reading "Chan Lowe: The West/Wasserman Schultz flap" »

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: Art? public places


One of the advantages (or maybe it’s a disadvantage) of being a member of the same editorial board for 27 years is that you develop an institutional memory.

One memory I would have preferred to let slip away is from the 1980s, when the Broward County Commission first passed its Art in Public Places ordinance. In the name of beautifying our sometimes less-than-esthetically-pleasing metropolitan surroundings, it was decreed that a certain percentage (one or two percent⎯that I can’t remember) of the total cost of any new government construction⎯be it a building, park, sewage treatment plant, or whatever⎯must be reserved to buy public art to decorate the place.

I think some board was constituted under the aegis of the county that would pass judgment upon the artistic worth of the submissions, and make the purchases. Anyway, one of the county’s first acquisitions under the program was a work titled New River Rising, wherein the sculptor had skimmed detritus from the surface and banks of said river, the kind of stuff you look at from your vessel and go, “EWWWW!” He had arranged it in an abstract manner on a big piece of canvas, added some painterly flourishes, and presented it to the commission along with a bill for $60,000 (this was back when sixty grand in taxpayer money was still worth something).

Continue reading "Chan Lowe: Art? public places" »

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: The Miami Heat loss


If, like me, you don’t follow sports, then the recent crescendo surrounding the Miami Heat’s progress through the NBA finals is just part of the background noise of living in South Florida, like the wail of emergency vehicle sirens.

Some of my basketball-minded colleagues, however, have been expressing their despondency and⎯this being South Florida⎯their retributive anger toward their erstwhile heroes since last night’s fall from grace.

I think they have a right to be ticked off. Sports is a profession where excellence is rewarded not just handsomely, but obscenely when you think about the poverty that holds the rest of the world in its grip. It may be exceeded only by arms- or drug-dealing in terms of concentrating vast wealth into the hands of a few.

Continue reading "Chan Lowe: The Miami Heat loss" »

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: The mosque issue rears its head again


The U.S. Constitution, civics teachers like to say, is the defining document of who we are as a people. I would prefer to say that it’s the definition of the people we strive to be.

It’s when we tend to follow our natural herd instinct, rather than act like the inspired residents of the shining city on the hill, that we most need to refresh our memories as to the spirit behind our guiding charter. For the individual citizens of a nation to be truly free, the whole must be tolerant of, inclusive toward, and blind to differences between its parts. It’s right there in the establishment clause.

So if you’re the neighbor of a proposed mosque in West Boynton Beach, a mosque that is to be constructed on land that has been zoned specifically for a house of worship for years, it’s a little late to start complaining. You can’t suddenly decide that a mosque wasn’t what you had in mind, that you’d rather see a church or a temple next door to your development. The Constitution, basically, says, “Tough.”

Continue reading "Chan Lowe: The mosque issue rears its head again" »

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: The Broward Sheriff's Taj Mahal


My colleague, Broward County government reporter Brittany Wallman, wrote a compelling enterprise story about the sheriff’s office that proves the old axiom that there is no such thing as a boring beat in the hands of an imaginative reporter.

Back in 2007, when Ken Jenne was the sheriff of Broward County, he made convenient (and legal) use of a loosely defined government grant, determining that the best way to fight crime was to ensure that he had a palatial office from which to direct operations. I won’t go into the details⎯Brittany did an excellent job of that⎯but let’s just say that its opulence was commensurate with the deference an ego such as Jenne’s felt was its due.

I’ve been doing cartoons about Ken Jenne since way back in the mid-eighties, when he was a state senator in Tallahassee. At that time, he had enough power, so he believed, that he could compel the state to fund a complete university out of swampland in western Broward County, as a counterweight to all the institutions of higher learning that were concentrated up north. He failed, and I vaguely recall drawing a cartoon featuring an outhouse in the wetlands labeled, “Ken Jenne U.,” copies of which got waved around the legislature with much amusement.

Continue reading "Chan Lowe: The Broward Sheriff's Taj Mahal" »

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: The big insurance sellout

Permit me to digress briefly from the current national media obsession, which is to determine whether in fact that is a congressional member inside the infamous gray jockey shorts that some malefactor allegedly misTweeted in the name of Rep. Anthony Weiner.

Those of us back in the real world are worrying about more banal matters, like how the people of Florida were sold out by our governor and Republican super-majority legislature. Evidently, their idea of solving the state’s insurance problem is to make the prospect of doing business in this market so attractive and obscenely lucrative that nobody can resist it.

Charlie Crist, whatever you may think of him, tried at least to slow down the growth of premium hikes through regulation, but the downside of that was that companies decided they would rather take their ball and go home than face some risk without what they felt was the proper remuneration.

Continue reading "Chan Lowe: The big insurance sellout" »

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: Loud car stereos


As I creep toward geezerhood, I become increasingly annoyed at people who selfishly encroach on my space and peace of mind, specifically the slick young exhibitionists in muscle cars who feel the desperate need to share their musical tastes with me at intersections.

Actually, that isn’t true. I’ve always felt that way. For years, one of my fantasies has been to answer them back with an even more powerful stereo system, and blow them off their tires with some Mozart or⎯even more annoying⎯klezmer. It would be so satisfying to give them a sense of how their generosity plays with others. If their goal is to impress, it doesn’t work with me…nor does it on the young women who are their putative targets, I would imagine.

Continue reading "Chan Lowe: Loud car stereos" »

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: Loud car stereos


As I creep toward geezerhood, I become increasingly annoyed at people who selfishly encroach on my space and peace of mind, specifically the slick young exhibitionists in muscle cars who feel the desperate need to share their musical tastes with me at intersections.

Actually, that isn’t true. I’ve always felt that way. For years, one of my fantasies has been to answer them back with an even more powerful stereo system, and blow them off their tires with some Mozart or⎯even more annoying⎯klezmer. It would be so satisfying to give them a sense of how their generosity plays with others. If their goal is to impress, it doesn’t work…nor does it on the young women who are their putative targets, I would imagine.

Lest we accuse the Florida Appeals Court of being activist liberals on this constitutional question of free expression regarding the noise polluters, they based their decision on the fact that the state law arbitrarily excludes commercial and political noise. I guess this is what they call “equal protection under the law,” although it appears that motorists like me aren’t being very well protected under this interpretation.

My other fantasy is that James Madison, while he was sitting upstairs in the heat penning the Bill of Rights, would have been treated to one of those university football factory marching bands passing right beneath his window, blasting brass arrangements of Broadway show tunes. Then the First Amendment might have read, “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech under 90 decibels.”

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: Developers gone wild


“Concurrency.” It’s one of those awful bureaucratese words that cause the average citizen to instantly flip to Dancing With The Stars.

Which, of course, is what the pols are counting on. Loosely translated, it means that when developers create whole new communities out of swampland, they are required to build roads, schools, sewers and other infrastructure to service these communities as they go, by adding surcharges to individual units.

Well, they were required. Thanks to our Republican super-majority business-friendly legislature that just adjourned last week, we the taxpayers will now have to pick up the tab for those frills. The legislators also stripped the state of growth planning oversight, putting it back in the hands of local government, which is much easier for developers to control through judicious use of campaign contributions.

Continue reading "Chan Lowe: Developers gone wild" »

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: Congrats, Debbie!


Whatever your political stripe, you should be pleased to see a fighter like Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz rise to the top national position in a major political party. Back when she revealed that she had survived a bout with breast cancer, I wrote an appreciation of her many qualities as a politician and as a person.

South Floridians ought to be proud of our local girl, as well as gratified that our area continues to grow in importance on the national political map.

It would be fitting now for freshman Rep. Allen West, who is one of her constituents, to join in the chorus of congratulations for this most able public servant. It would be the right thing to do, and it would go a long way toward restoring that civility and workability in our government that the rest of us all crave.

Congratulations, Ms. Wasserman Schultz! May your reign be long and fruitful.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: Pill mills busted


Our society is not alone in according medical doctors enormous respect. Maybe it’s because we see them as the anointed among us to whom we turn, in faith, to perform miracles. We consider them miracles because they are shrouded in mystery and beyond the understanding of the rest of us.

Since doctors often deal with matters of life and death, we consider them a sort of priesthood, an earthly extension of the Hand of God. If they succeed or fail in curing us, maybe it’s because He meant them to. And, this being America, we can always sue if we don’t agree.

Certainly there are other degrees and training regimens that are as demanding as those necessary to become a doctor of medicine, but a maître d’ isn’t as likely to find an open table in a crowded restaurant for a theoretical physicist as he is for a Doctor So and So.

Continue reading "Chan Lowe: Pill mills busted" »

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: Red light cameras


I’m ambivalent about the whole red light camera issue.

For decades, I’ve watched Floridians blow through red lights seconds after they’ve changed, and I’ve developed a defensive mechanism of waiting for a second or two if I’m the first in line when mine goes green.

I have two theories about this. First, since most of us are from somewhere else, we don’t feel we belong to this community, so there is no sense of responsibility, and even more important, no accountability to our neighbors.

Continue reading "Chan Lowe: Red light cameras" »

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: Scott and the pill mills


Let this be a lesson to all you civic dilettantes out there. You know who you are…you’re the ones who don’t do your homework and then let yourselves be bamboozled by TV ads at the last minute, because you have no foundation of real knowledge about the candidates.

Rick Scott spent $72 million of his own money to, among other things, swamp us with his feel-good “Let’s get to work” ads. His opponent, Alex Sink, had to resort to more conventional methods of political fundraising, which wouldn’t have been a liability in any other year.

She was overwhelmed. She may not have been everyone’s cup of tea, but at least she had experience in state government. True to form, Floridians voted for the person they’d heard of, and Scott made sure through his phenomenal media buys that he was that person.

Continue reading "Chan Lowe: Scott and the pill mills" »

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: Staged accidents


It was a major blow to Florida state pride last week when Miami clocked in on Forbes’ list as only the second-most miserable city in America.

We’re used to being Number One in these things, so it was with a sense of vindication that we greeted the news from the National Insurance Crime Bureau that Florida leads the rest of the country in staged auto accidents.

We have long known that Florida is a storehouse (cesspool?) of entrepreneurial spirit, business acumen, and unbridled imagination. It isn’t for nothing that we have been dubbed the “Scam Capital of America.” If only this raw talent could be harnessed for the good of mankind.

Continue reading "Chan Lowe: Staged accidents" »

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: Grading parents


I’m not a parent, so I admit I’m not an expert in this matter, but I imagine the idea behind this bill is to help make everyone more aware that the education of a child is a cooperative effort between teachers and parents. The former are charged with formal instruction for several hours a day, while the latter need to provide the home environment that is critical to effective learning.

I’m sure the notion of teachers grading parents is well intentioned in theory, but we’ll see what happens when and if it’s put into practice. Will it be used constructively as an informational tool for parents, or merely create an animus between the two most important influences in a child’s education?

If enacted, will the process be misused by bad teachers to provide an excuse for their own ineptitude? Will children who find out their parents scored poorly use it as a reason to slack off? What criteria will teachers follow? How will they keep their own bias out of the assessment? Will there be allowances made for hardship as opposed to negligence?

Will parents try to game the system by flooding their kid’s classroom with supplies? Worse, will they become the dreaded “helicopter parents,” who hover over their child so closely that they actually impede a teacher’s ability to do his or her job effectively?

As with so much legislation, there can be unintended consequences when the rubber meets the road. If nothing else, this law⎯if enacted⎯should make for livelier PTA meetings.

Regarding that last sentence, see my discourse on the proposed open-carry law.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: Gunslinging condo commandos


Lost in the impassioned arguments about the Second Amendment and the right to defend oneself from government and each other is the question of what “open carry” might do to the already fragile fabric of society.

Let’s set aside the prospect of someone opening fire in a restaurant and forty would-be heroes suddenly responding with a hail of bullets, only guessing at who actually began the conflict.

Instead, let’s talk about what makes us civilized, and what makes America free. Guns don’t make us free, much as the NRA’s literature would have you believe it. What makes us free is the ability to govern ourselves, to make laws through a democratic process, and the mutual understanding that we will obey these laws once they are enacted.

Continue reading "Chan Lowe: Gunslinging condo commandos" »

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: Allen West packs heat!


In the wake of the Giffords shooting, freshman U.S. Rep. Allen West has indicated that he possesses a concealed weapons permit, and plans to avail himself of it if and when he deems it necessary.

I suspect Rep. West has been packing a piece for some time, only he’s telling us about it now for deterrent purposes.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who has the bizarre distinction of being Rep. West’s representative in Congress (thanks to the fact that he doesn’t live in his district), has said that she prefers relying on a robust law enforcement presence at her events for her protection and that of her constituents.

Neither one of them is right or wrong; the difference does, however, neatly exemplify the two representatives’ distinct views of the role of government.

In the first case, individual responsibility for one’s own welfare is the operating principle. In the second, government is expected to act as a popularly empowered umbrella entity for the collective protection and betterment of society.

To boil it down, Rep. West’s view of government is “in spite of,” while Rep. Wasserman Schultz’s is “because of.” One is apart from, one is a part of.

As I said, there’s no right way or wrong way to look at it. There are simply different ways. All we can do is work harder to understand and respect where others are coming from.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: Fallout from the 2010 census


New York loses two congressional seats after the census reapportionment, and Florida gains two. So it only makes sense that as the electorate moves south to sunnier climes, their politicians should follow. Pols like mild winters, too.

What if, for example, Rep. Anthony Weiner, who represents New York’s 9th district (spanning parts of eastern Queens and Brooklyn), were to lose his seat in the game of musical chairs? If I were an outspoken firebrand liberal like Weiner, I’d move here and run in the Democratic primary for Robert Wexler’s old district, Florida 19. It probably even contains more than a few of Weiner’s former constituents, so right there he’d enjoy an advantage. Ted Deutch, the current rep, sort of disappeared into the fog when he went up to Washington.

Or maybe Weiner could run for one of the two new districts yet to be carved out of the Sunshine State. An advantage would be that he commands seniority and national name recognition, giving his new constituency instant clout.

But all this is just a parlor game. Weiner probably isn’t going anywhere, and here in Florida, there’s an endless supply of homegrown mediocrity to choose from.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: "Twas the night before Christmas..."


This cartoon is pretty self-explanatory, so I won’t muddy it up with more commentary.

In an act of cross-pollination that would bring tears of joy to the eyes of the Sun Sentinel’s online editor, our award-winning business writer Paul Owers will be posting the above effort on the blog he co-authors, House Keys, as a Christmas gift to his long-suffering readers.

I say “long-suffering” not because of Paul’s writing, but because his job is to chronicle in exquisite detail the flounderings of the South Florida real estate market, which is one of the engines that drives our local economy. Well, it would be, if somebody hadn’t stolen the spark plugs.

If you wake up in the morning with a case of what Alan Greenspan once called “irrational exuberance,” one glance at Paul’s blog will immediately set you back in balance. I work about six feet away from Paul, and by the time he’s through doing the phone reporting for a story you want to slit your throat. Frankly, I don’t know how he manages to maintain his sunny demeanor in the face of such relentless bad tidings.

In any case, the black humor of this drawing, I feel, is a perfect fit. Since our readership probably doesn’t overlap much, we thought it might be a good idea to give each other’s blog a holiday plug.

And on that note, I’d like to wish my readers a better year in 2011. I think we all deserve it.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: The Great Cold Snap of December 2010


This story is a propos of nothing, but since today’s topic is Canadians, I’ll tell it anyway:

About twenty-five years ago, I was sitting in a bar in Toronto watching hockey (what else?) on TV when an older gent sat down on the stool next to me and ordered a Depth Charge, which (at least in this bar) appeared to be a shot glass of Canadian Club dropped into a mug full of Molson’s.

We started a conversation, and it came out that this guy was a survivor of the Dieppe Raid, which you’ve probably never heard of unless you’re a student of World War II history or happen to be a Canadian. In one day, over sixty percent of the assault force of predominantly Canadian troops in this operation were killed, wounded or captured. There are memorials all over Canada to the Dieppe Raid. In Windsor, Ontario, whose Essex Scottish Regiment suffered heavy losses, Dieppe Park with its beautifully tended flowerbeds lies in the shadow of Detroit across the river.

Our encounter took place during one of the many Quebec separatist eruptions, and I noticed that the old veteran spoke with a heavy French-Canadian accent.

“Are you French-Canadian?” I said.

“NON!” the man replied emphatically. “I am CANADIAN!”

It occurred to me that the Germans⎯not regarded as a nation of mediators⎯had managed to accomplish the near impossible, at least in this one individual case: the complete unification of Francophone and Anglophone Canada. In response to the Teutonic menace, the proud old vet, notwithstanding his heritage, had gone overseas to fight for King and country, no questions asked.

On that note, I bought my non-hyphenated Canadian friend another Depth Charge. It was the least I could do.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: 'Tis the season for religious strife


As sure as bullets fall from the sky at New Year’s, here in Florida Thanksgiving means the start of religious protest season.

Yes, the holidays tend to bring out the essence of who we are as a people…petty, vindictive, parochial and selfish. What can I say that hasn’t been said already?

Well, there’s this: the Florida Turnpike Enterprise has now banned holiday displays of any kind from its tollbooths (which until now have been provided at their own expense and initiative by the toll-takers, presumably to add a little joy to an otherwise distasteful operation for all parties) because some Christians complained that Halloween decorations were Satanic.

My favorite is today’s legalistic twist from the Catholic League out of New York (we Floridians are perfectly capable of stirring up our own teapot tempests without outside interference, thank you very much), which has weighed in with a complaint that the City of Boca Raton, by placing a menorah, a Christmas tree and a “Happy Holidays” sign alongside one another in a public building is practicing discrimination against Christians.

Continue reading "Chan Lowe: 'Tis the season for religious strife" »

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: Boca Raton's rogue otter


The national media must be as sick and tired as the rest of us of reporting the same old dreck about how deep an economic hole we're in, and how the election just brought us (Surprise!) more of the same intransigence in Washington.

Why else would the story of Boca Raton’s rogue otter become national news? Our newsroom was getting calls from as far away as Oregon, where otters (at least, the seagoing kind) are practically the state pet.

I asked our Palm Beach County bureau chief why he thought the otter story had such “legs.” He shrugged and said that readers love fuzzy little mammal stories, even if the mammal in question is rabid.

We have plenty of other rabid creatures here in South Florida, many of which can be seen commuting on our roads every day, but unless I’m mistaken, otters are something unusual.

Maybe this one arrived (the way other uninvited fauna do) in a cargo container from some far-flung locale.

And then got bitten by a motorist.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: So Fla's hottest car models


It’s simple: If you live in Alaska, you require a big fat all-wheel-drive truck equipped with snow tires and chains. In New York City, a smaller car is better for squeezing into those elusive parking spaces. In Southern California, you make sure there’s a roof rack for the surfboard. You adapt to your environment.

Need I say more?

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: Advice for Allen West


Congratulations to Allen West for clobbering incumbent Democrat Ron Klein in the Florida Dist. 22 Congressional race last week.

It already sounds like Col. West is going to hit establishment Washington like a sledgehammer, having made his first order of organizational business the appointment of a local conservative radio talk show host as his chief of staff.

Col. West might be wise to remember that while he is on his libertarian crusade to change the way Washington works, the people of his district are more concerned with bread-and-butter issues than with Taking Their Country Back.

Continue reading "Chan Lowe: Advice for Allen West" »

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: The Republican supermajority in the Florida Legislature


Years ago, one of Broward County’s weirder sights was a scrubby empty lot adjacent to a stretch of Old Dixie Highway in Oakland Park.

Low-rise rental units surrounded the parcel, and an auto-parts store sat across the street. Nobody would argue that this was a rural area; it was smack in the middle of a built-out city.

Cars driving past the property were treated to the sight of a single Holstein cow contentedly chewing her cud, day after day. It was explained to me that by stationing the lone bovine on the empty lot, the owner (who was waiting for a developer to buy the land) could claim that it qualified for agricultural zoning. As such⎯under the vagaries of Florida law⎯it was liable for only a tiny fraction of the taxes that would normally be due were it to be assessed for its intended purpose.

Continue reading "Chan Lowe: The Republican supermajority in the Florida Legislature" »

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: Delray seniors run amok!


This is one of those heartwarming stories that can only occur here in God's Waiting Room.

My colleague Maria Herrera reports that a senior citizens' current affairs discussion group meeting at the Delray Beach Public Library has become so noisy and fractious on a regular basis that it has finally been banned from the premises.

Civilized discussion, if one uses group members' behavior as a guide, includes telling one another to “shut up,” shouting things like “sit down, you old hag!” and lustily performing the South Florida Official Regional Hand Gesture. If this isn't colorful enough, bystanders can be treated to fisticuffs afterward in the parking lot.

True to form, the group reserves the lion's share of its ire for the spoilsport director of the library for shutting this superannuated Romper Room down. On this point, evidently, it has found unity.

My Scripture is a little rusty, but when Jesus said, “Again, I say to you, unless you turn and become like little children, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven,” this probably wasn't what He had in mind.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: The foreclosure debacle


No one should be surprised that mortgage lenders have displayed the same devil-may-care attitude toward checking their foreclosure paperwork that they did when they made the loans in the first place.

It isn’t as though they’ve gotten soul transplants over the last three years since the boom went sour.

If you find yourself gripped by anger and frustration over what these cowboys have done⎯and continue to do⎯to our country, it helps to think of them as cockroaches.

Cockroaches are perfectly evolved life forms. According to scientists, they can survive anything⎯including nuclear Armageddon. When you leave out food and turn off the lights, they head for it. When you turn the lights back on, they scatter so fast you can’t possibly destroy them all.

This is what they are programmed for. It is all they do. They cannot change, for if they did, they would no longer be cockroaches. If you could somehow inject a sense of ethics into them, they would become ensnared in moral dilemmas over their behavior and die of starvation.

For this reason, we cannot judge cockroaches by accepted codes of human conduct, because to do so would presuppose freedom of choice on their part.

Until Armageddon occurs, we will always be in uneasy coexistence with the pests. That being said, we are under no obligation to encourage them in their activities.

So if we forget, say, to snap the lid down tightly on the Tupperware, we have nobody to blame but ourselves when they start feasting on the family pot roast. They just can’t help it.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: Is The Donald running for president?


As a cartoonist, I heard the news that The Donald was considering a run for the presidency with alacrity. Politics have become all too ugly and cutthroat of late, and the introduction of some comic relief would be welcome. The nation desperately needs it

When I say “comic,” I’m not talking about the bad stand-up material of John Boehner’s, Sharron Angle’s, Rand Paul’s or Christine O’Donnell’s irresponsible statements, which are both oblivious and dangerous. I’m talking about a man who would view the undertaking with a sense of self-aware bemusement; as another hobby with prospects of success, like his Apprentice franchise. Above all, you know the man would have fun, and that he would do his best to bring the rest of us along for the ride.

You may remember that The Donald ran for president way back in 2000. His short-lived campaign was eclipsed by the Bush v. Gore post-electoral debacle, but I got at least one good cartoon out of him then, and fervently hoped that someday, our flamboyant Palm Beach resident would once again consider throwing his toupee into the ring.

Besides, even if it were only offered on pay-per-view, I would drop everything to watch one of those pre-primary group televised debates just to hear Trump turn to the former governor of Alaska and say, “Sarah, you’re fired!”

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: Wexler endorses Charlie Crist


Back when Robert Wexler represented my fellow Florida Congressional District 19 constituents in absentia, he was one of my favorite occasional targets.

I liked to give him some good-natured ribbing, portraying him as a reverse-carpetbagger who chose to reside in a cushy hurricane-free suburb in Maryland while paying lip service to the teeming and steaming condo communities back here in the hinterlands.

All that Robert (who used to list his in-laws’ place as his district home address until forced by embarrassing revelations to rent a Potemkin pad of his own) had to do was show up once a year before election day to press some flesh, while making sure that everybody’s government checks arrived on time.

I was sad to see him retire, sadder still when his mid-term retirement (to chase bigger bucks at a think tank) resulted in a special election to replace him that cost local taxpayers over a million dollars.

Fortunately for me, the holidays have arrived early this year. Robert has bestowed one last gift by briefly resurfacing in his old district to endorse famously former Republican Charlie Crist for the U.S. Senate.

The self-described Fire-Breathing Liberal has, for reasons of his own, chosen to shill for a man who, up until earlier this year, was quite the conservative.

You have to respect loyalty to old friends. It’s that kind of quality that makes Robert such a mensch.

I would guess that the Democratic candidate, Kendrick Meek, is using different words to describe him.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: The Everglades of the future


The Everglades are one of those things we value in the abstract, like the great whales. We go “tsk, tsk” when we hear about their impending extinction, but since we don’t really see them very often, saving them gets lost in the welter of more clamorous needs.

Besides, we tend to pay more attention to events like wildfires, which provide compelling TV visuals. The whales and the Everglades are dying slowly. This doesn't make for tremendously entertaining viewing.

If it weren’t for conservation groups, the ‘Glades wouldn’t have a constituency at all. Alligators, mosquitoes and snakes are not lovable creatures. The plant life is⎯let’s face it⎯nowhere near as majestic and stately as an old-growth forest.

The fact that we need the Everglades to guarantee South Florida’s supply of fresh water is lost on many people. “I thought that’s what Lake Okeechobee was for,” many say. They don’t realize that the ‘Glades act as an enormous filter to take out the crud we pump into them from upstream.

The average South Floridian isn’t really going to care about the Everglades until he turns on his tap--and instead of drinking water, he gets a foul smelling, yellow-greenish liquid he’s expected to consume and bathe in.

Wait a second. That’s happening already.

Oh, well...maybe there's a wildfire to watch on TV.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: Gay adoption ban crumbling


In light of recent events, it's time to bring out this cartoon again, which I originally drew for the Sun Sentinel's editorial page in February of 2004.

That may seem a long time ago, but Florida's unique law banning gay adoption (it's the only state that still has one) was adopted in 1977 by a legislature swayed by the arguments of the notoriously homophobic Anita Bryant, who at the time was a Florida resident.

That was another era, and it looks like one Florida judge after another has decided that it's time to move into the 21st Century, along with a growing preponderance of the American people. This week, it was a state appellate court in Miami. Next, it will probably be our state Supreme Court, which should have trashed this archaic statute years ago.

Call it judicial activism if you want. The attitudes about gays in this country are becoming so settled that the only activists left are the bigots. Even the State of Florida can't decide if it wants to appeal the decision. If you want any further evidence that this law is unjust on its face, consider that Florida does allow children to be raised by gay foster parents.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: Invasion of the bedbugs


Here in South Florida, we’re old hands at pestilence.

The Cuban Death’s-Head Cockroach, the Formosan Termite, the Indonesian White-Footed Ant, the Burmese Python, the Bahamian Curly-Tailed Lizard and the Ficus Whitefly are but a short list of the immigrants that have claimed asylum in our sheltering clime during the last few years.

We’ve all figured out a way to get along, and I’m sure we’ll do so with our latest scourge, the bedbug. Chances are, since the beast is impervious to chemicals, they’ll scrounge up another exotic creature that likes to dine on it, the way they did the Melaleuca Beetle, which was imported in turn to get rid of a foreign plant we brought in to drain the swamps so that we could build more developments.

Of course, whatever the crawly solution is, it will (as they all do) proliferate in our natural-predator-free environment and soon become a pest in its own right, requiring the importation of yet another remedy, and so on.

Are we beginning to detect a common denominator here? There’s one creature without whose presence none of these freak twists of nature might ever have occurred.

Too late for that, I suppose…although it’s the only pest I’ve heard of that, when left to its own devices, does a perfectly fine job of exterminating itself.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: Cuba lays off half a million workers


Welcome to the real world, Paisanos.

The appeal and the promise of the Communist Paradise was that everybody worked, no matter how menial or meaningless the job. Everybody got paid: Doctors, who spent years in training, made the same salaries as doormen. In the classless society, all citizens pulled the wagon together for the common welfare.

The only thing missing was incentive—a proportionate reward for initiative, creativity, and hard work. Oops…how do you account for laggards in Marxist theory, particularly when everyone is encouraged to lag?

The destitute central government may be laying off half a million Cubans, but fortunately it is rich in ideas. According to the AP, the newly unemployed can form cooperatives! Raise rabbits! Make bricks! Paint buildings! It’s a new model for a new century.

If you ask me, the only sure-fire Cuban business plan is a co-op that builds rafts equipped with compasses pointing toward Florida. Fortunately for the Cubans, the U.S. still considers them political, not economic, refugees⎯and we will welcome them with open arms to the Land of Opportunity, as we always have, no questions asked.

The Cuban government has said that salaries ought to be adjusted upward for those remaining employees who work hard and whose product is critical to the economy, although the current situation makes that unlikely. Those who lose their jobs will just have to sink or swim.

Sounds a lot like life here in the bastion of free enterprise these days. Our Cuban friends might want to think long and hard before taking that northbound cruise. There isn’t much of a market for rabbit meat up here.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: Fidel Castro admits failure


Maybe the old coot is trying to get square with his maker before he heads off to stir up rebellion in the next world.

In any case, it looks like the long-running joke was on all of us; the many U.S. Administrations that tried to topple him, the Soviet Union that found him to be a most unruly client, and above all the Cuban people, who suffered and died for fifty years in the name of what even he, Fidel, has now admitted was a failed experiment.

Thanks to El Lider, the human race came within a hair’s breadth of playing the final joke on itself during the Missile Crisis. Oh, how he begged Khrushchev to loose those babies on us. We owe our continued existence today to the fact that the old Russian warrior had the sense to think of his own grandchildren before acceding to his request.

The aged dictator has finally acknowledged what everyone has known for years, that the political and economic system he imposed was bankrupt at its core. It’s cold comfort to the relatives of the dead, but you have to hand it to him—he even managed to outlast his Soviet patrons.

Castro’s legacy to the star-crossed Cuban people is little more than laughter and tears. From now on, they have earned the right to bring forth both in abundance whenever they hear the words, “Viva la Revolucion.”

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: Using Hurricane Earl


It’s appropriate that the late Tip O’Neill, who coined the famous saying, “All politics is local,” hailed from Boston. At least, it may be appropriate by this weekend if Eastern Massachusetts, specifically Cape Cod, gets walloped by Hurricane Earl.

Those of us down here in the vulnerable states, who wonder from summer to summer if we’ll still have roofs on our houses by November, have been agitating for years for a national catastrophe fund⎯a federally-backed mechanism that would provide a stabilizing foundation for the insurance industry. This would translate in turn into stability in homeowner premiums.

But it’s hard to get low-risk states to go along with the idea. “Why should we pay more for you to live in a place that is known to be vulnerable?” they rightly ask.

I once read a study claiming that the lowest-risk state for any kind of natural calamity is Utah. But in order to benefit from this meteorological and geological peace of mind, you’d have to live in…Utah.

So the only way to overcome the naysayers is to outnumber them in Congress. You do this by taking advantage of any act of God that might come along. Let’s say the Northeast⎯not exactly a hurricane hot-spot⎯gets sideswiped by Earl...not enough to inflict serious damage or human injury, but to a degree that serves to raise the region’s consciousness.

The five states combined from New Jersey to Massachusetts marshal fifty-eight votes in Congress (Party affiliation is irrelevant. All politics is local, remember?). Get California, Oregon and Washington to go along by including earthquakes as one of the covered calamities. Add to that the combined votes of all the Gulf states, with Georgia and the Carolinas thrown in, and you’re talking some serious numbers.

Hey there, Salt Lake City property owners…can you spell “C-A-T F-U-N-D S-U-R-C-H-A-R-G-E?

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: Rick Scott calls on a higher power


What was this guy thinking? The biggest Republican party event of the season, five days before the primary, and not only doesn’t he bother to appear, he sends his mother instead?

It sounds like our dilettante billionaire has decided that running for governor of Florida is no longer a fun hobby, now that his numbers have dropped behind Bill McCollum’s in the latest polls.

Maybe he’s taken his bat and ball and moved on to some other indulgence, like buying a small Central American republic for a personal playground.

Assuming he goes on to lose the Republican nomination this Tuesday, one is left to wonder what benefits the $30 million he spent on his ego might have wrought, had it been given to charity.

All over Florida, there might have been Rick Scott pantries to feed the hungry, Rick Scott community programs to keep kids in school and off drugs, Rick Scott shelters for the homeless.

Instead, all that will linger of Rick Scott in Florida’s collective consciousness are some titters of laughter and a smattering of polite applause as we recall his poor mother standing there in his place and telling a disappointed crowd that her no-show son was once an Eagle Scout.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: Broward Commission passes ethics law


My esteemed colleague Brittany Wallman covers the Broward County Commission for the Sun Sentinel. Personally, I would rather have an eye extracted without anesthetic than have her beat, but she handles it with enthusiasm and professional panache.

She attended Tuesday’s marathon commission meeting wherein the commissioners approved an unprecedented ethics law governing their own behavior, and as I told her later, her lead paragraph read like the back cover of an airport bookstore bodice-ripper (a compliment).

Evidently, the whole topic of ethics causes our public servants to squeal like a sty full of—well, you get the picture. They mauled, tore at, and backstabbed each other until, exhausted, they fell back and voted the hated restrictions in.

When you think about it, the People have a lot of gall. If you’re a county commissioner, you spend your life going to boring functions, sucking up to people you wouldn’t even allow in your own home simply because they want to be your “friends,” and minding your own business steering contracts to your spouse, when⎯BING!⎯the People, of all people, throw a wrench in the cozy little arrangement. They suddenly want transparency, accountability.

Ingrates. Do they expect our commissioners to work around the clock for them, for no more than the lousy salary and benefits they get? Do they think just anybody could do this job? Do they know what it’s like to sit there and listen to Sue Gunzburger play Joan of Arc for hours on end?

And as if that weren’t enough, when the chips are down, they can’t even depend on each other to present a united front.

What happened to “honor among thieves?” Corruption just ain’t what it used to be.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: Early primary voting in Florida


Let the games begin.

Florida has never been blessed with Lincolnesque candidates for public office; in fact, by our standards, a politician’s term is considered successful if it doesn't end with a conviction.

It seems that the primary races of 2010 offer some particularly stellar examples of mediocrity, both on the part of candidates and voters.

One of the Republican candidates for governor, Rick Scott, has set about to buy the office with his own money. As if that weren’t enough, it appears that he made said millions while remaining ignorant of the fact that individuals within the health insurance company he headed were committing fraud. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for someone who seeks to be the chief executive of a large state.

On the Democratic side, another candidate with too much money on his hands, Jeff Greene, is attempting to purchase the U.S. Senate nomination. His conflicting accounts about a yacht vacation to Cuba read like a collection of Hemingway short stories. That both these gentlemen are front-runners thanks to their ad buys says as much about the electorate as it does about them.

At the local level, a Democratic acquaintance of mine lives in Florida House District 90, and faces a dilemma. “If Irv Slosberg doesn’t value my vote enough to try to bribe me with a corned-beef sandwich or a free schlepper bag this time around,” he said disdainfully, “then he doesn’t deserve it. At the same time, how can I cast my ballot for somebody whose campaign slogan is, ‘Send Klassy to Tallahassee?’”

Surely, a conundrum the Founding Fathers couldn’t possibly have envisioned.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: Palm Beach County commish charged with extortion


This story has become so repetitive that it’s hard to come up with something I haven’t said already.

At least, Palm Beach County Commissioner Jeff Koons got taken down for extortion, which is a refreshing change from the usual, clinical-sounding “theft of services” statute.

Extortion has a nice, sharp, kneecap-crushing ring to it. This time, the malefaction doesn’t involve money, just using one’s political clout to arrogantly push private citizens around.

Here’s my candidate for most satisfying local government job: If you’ve ever traveled through Palm Beach International Airport, you've been confronted as you leave the concourse by a carefully-tended row of framed portrait photos depicting the seven members of the Palm Beach County Commission.

I’ve traveled through this otherwise very attractive airport countless times, and it seems that every time I pass this rogues’ gallery, one of the pictures has either been changed, or it’s missing as we await the governor’s appointment of a replacement for a commish who has been forced to resign in shame.

I’m assuming that as I write this, the only thing that remains of Jeff Koon’s image on the concourse wall today is a rectangle of darker paint.

Anyway, I’d like to be the guy who’s in charge of shuffling the pictures of the county commissioners at the airport. In a way, he’s like the headsman at a Tudor-era execution, bringing a sense of public closure to an official act—a visible expression of the rule of law and the consequent restoration of order.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: Teacher pay raises


This isn’t about whether teachers are worth more than they get paid. Of course they are. A lot of people are underpaid for what they do.

It’s about realizing that when times are tough, everybody has to tighten his belt a little; we can’t go on demanding things as if we lived in a vacuum.

We would all love to give teachers a raise; Lord knows they deserve it. But to do so means that more revenue must be found—this isn’t the federal government where we can just appropriate where necessary and let the Chinese pick up the tab.

We find the money by hiking property taxes on everyone, including private-sector workers who haven’t seen a raise in a long time and who consider themselves lucky to still have jobs.

As homes are foreclosed upon, counties and school districts with basic overhead expenses find themselves forced to lean on the remaining property owners, including those who don’t have the benefit of unionized collective bargaining to put the squeeze on their employers.

In other words, for teachers to get more, other already-strapped workers must get by with less. Surely, no one should feel that entitled, no matter how worthy his calling.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: Dengue fever in Florida

dengue.gifWhen I draw cartoons about Florida, this is one of my favorite genres.

We depend on tourism as part of our three-legged economic stool (the other two being growth and red-light cameras), and yet calamities befall the Sunshine State out of proportion to its size compared to the rest of the country.

When there are hurricanes, we attract them. Of course, the slick has affected our shores. When pestilence arrives via containerized cargo, it always manages to take root and thrive in our hospitable clime. I could go on, but we all have our own stories.

Our hats should be off to those whose thankless job it is to take the reality of where we live and, as the unlovely expression goes, “put lipstick on the pig.”

submit to reddit
add to delicious

World Cup trumps LeBron news

spain.gifOK, this is the last LeBron cartoon I’ll do for a while. Give me a break-- it’s a local story.

And besides, that’s only two in a row. I recall doing five or six straight when the Presidentially defiled blue cocktail dress emerged into the public sphere.

As we celebrate here in Heatville, and betrayed Clevelanders burn LeBron jerseys in effigy, we ought to remember that our newest star hasn’t even scored a single point yet for his new team.

Meanwhile, the Spaniards pulled off a genuine sports feat yesterday. Never having made the finals of the World Cup before, they can now claim to be the best players in the world in soccer, a sport that every country except ours takes seriously.

Now, to Americans, this is tantamount to being the world champions of tiddlywinks when you’ve got sports like basketball and football to think about, but let us remember that there is a fine line between chauvinism and ignorance.

A fan for the losing team, the Netherlands, put the significance of soccer in its proper perspective during a radio interview, while revealing what long memories Europeans have.

“It would have been nice to win,” he said, philosophically, “but the really important thing is that we beat the Germans.”

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: LeBron James joins Heat

lebron.gifIf you’re one of those weirdos like me who doesn’t follow sports, then you just sit back with bemusement and watch everyone get orgasmic over LeBron James’ announcement that he’s joining the Heat’s roster.

My colleagues, in their rhapsodizing about a LeBron-enhanced future, tout the economic boon this will be for the region (this is the way fanatics always justify professional sports developments, like asking me to help pay for a stadium I will never go to).

To hear them toss around the term, “King James,” you’d think they were talking about the man who unified Great Britain and commissioned one of the greatest works ever written in the English language.

But that King James probably didn’t pull down anything like LeBron’s salary, either.

If nothing else, it gets us all talking about something besides the economy, housing foreclosures, Afghanistan and the slick.

And for that—you have my thanks, LeBron.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: Local government corruption

snatcher.gifTalk about an embarrassment of riches.

The biggest problem most commentators worry about is having enough interesting topics on which to opine. In this “Perp of the Week” atmosphere pervading the governing class in South Florida, the hardest part is coming up with a cartoon idea I haven’t already used.

It’s gotten to the point where, the moment we elect someone to public office, we might as well just take their fingerprints, do a DNA swab and snap a frontal and profile mug shot to save us trouble down the road.

In all fairness to those allegedly corrupt officeholders getting taken down of late, how were they supposed to know we were going to change the rules on them in the middle of their tenure?

Actually, that’s a mischaracterization. We didn’t change the rules, we simply began enforcing them. Some gratitude for all the work our officials have done for the benefit of themselves and the rest of us lo these many years.

If we keep treating our public servants like this, we’ll be sorry in the end. All that unappreciated talent and experience may just fly out the window, and then what’ll we be left with?

The honest ones. Clearly, they have no concept of what it means to serve.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: Three impossible dreams

prayerx.gifThree naïve, impossible dreams…and we could make at least two come true, if we only had the will.

As for the first, what is the point of public service unless you service yourself, your friends and your family in the process?

As evidenced by current attempts to gut the feeble ethics rules we are trying to establish locally, our officials still don’t get it, and never will get it until they’re standing in their cells with quizzical expressions, looking at their constituents from the wrong side of a set of bars.

To them, it isn’t corruption, it’s part of the job description, and if you go to the trouble of running for office, cultivating networks of supporters and developing a closed system of mutual back scratching, then you deserve to skim some of the cream off the top. It’s hard work, and the salary’s not all that great compared to a respectable job.

As for the second, as long as people keep moving to Florida because the taxes are low, our education system will go begging. You get what you pay for, and I assume that Iowa has a reputation for great public schools because its citizens make the education of their children a high enough priority that they’re willing to tax themselves. Contrary to what some Tea Partiers will tell you, it isn’t un-American to pay taxes.

In the long run, funding for education has been shown to be a good investment in terms of higher-income jobs for the community. Unfortunately, raising taxes for benefits that do not become immediately apparent doesn’t get local officials reelected around here. That’s partly our selfishness, and partly because so many of the bucks raised flow out through the sieve of corruption and waste without delivering any bang.

Why should we believe things are ever going to be different?

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: America's most hated man

tonyx.gifYou just knew, watching Tony Hayward bobbing and weaving and sliming around at his hearing, that he’d been coached the night before by a murder board of corporate image specialists and tort lawyers, each impersonating a congressman as he fired scattershot questions at him.

“Look contrite,” they admonished Mr. Hair Mousse. “Apologize all over the place that it happened. Take the arrows. Make the martyrdom of St. Sebastian look like a Sunday picnic, but whatever you do, DON’T ADMIT YOU DID ANYTHING WRONG!”

Any such disclosure, any slip into the matter of willful negligence, could mean billions in court. We won’t know anything until the investigations are finished, he said. Blame? Not his province, thank you very much. The matter should be put before an adjudicator.

It’s all a joke because we already know the answer. We’ve heard the testimony about the arguments over whether safety measures should have been taken, or whether the potential damage to BP’s profits was just too heavy to take the trouble.

What do you do with a person who feigns repentance when his heart and mind remain wrapped around the idea of safeguarding the bottom line above all else?

How about some condign punishment? Throw him in a cell lined with defective Chinese drywall, where he can spend the balance of his days inhaling the brimstone-laced fumes of a corporate irresponsibility that he had nothing to do with.

God knows BP’s victims have already been condemned to such a fate.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Obama's Oval Office speech

infamy.gifFirst, a word of thanks to all you readers who kept faith with the blog while the Lowe-Down was off in the lush, rain-kissed mountains of Western Massachusetts attending his college reunion.

To those who posted comments hoping to see their deathless prose online, my apologies. Even cartoonists have to take a break once in a while to rest the fingers.

As for President Obama’s speech last night, I found myself unsatisfied. Sure, we elected the guy partly because he was cool and unflappable under fire, but sometimes circumstances call for more than a reasonable, analytical approach. They call for a little kick-ass.

Some say we shouldn’t blame him, because there really isn’t much a president can do besides show up at the scene and look concerned.

They are wrong. Were the president an FDR-style leader⎯a man with a sense of theatricality who was not afraid to display his emotional side with a nation in need of an emoter-in-chief⎯he could harness the inchoate babble of public anger and⎯like a laser mirror⎯forge and amplify it into a monochromatic, coherent beam of pure political energy.

He could focus this beam ⎯ a beam so white-hot that no lobbyist could quench it, not even with a fire hose spewing campaign contributions⎯on an inert and fearful congress, making its seats sizzle to the point where members would jump out of them to pass a set of meaningful laws that would finally break our addiction to fossil fuels and get us on the road to sustainable, clean energy, Manhattan Project-style.

Oh, well.

Artist's note: Why no color today? I was evoking a speech given in 1941. Everything back then happened in black and white...just ask your grandparents.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: Tar balls on the Potomac?

tidal.gifThere may be a few folks still around who remember the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.

The science of soil conservation was in its infancy, folks didn’t know about contour plowing, and when the wind started to blow, it scoured the topsoil right off the prairie.

When I lived out there, I heard a story that senators and congressmen from the great Midwestern farm states pleaded in vain for relief from a government that wasn’t used to being the handout of last resort. Remember, even Social Security was just getting off the ground. Folks tended to look after themselves, locally.

Besides, people didn’t travel as much back then, and there was no TV. So the evidence was mostly anecdotal, and lacked immediacy.

It finally got so bad that a wall of dust several thousand feet high blew all the way east and was visible from Washington, D.C. One senator gathered his colleagues on the Capitol balcony and said (I paraphrase), “Gentlemen, what you see before you is the State of Oklahoma.”

Finally, they voted for some funding.

So it may take something like tar balls in the Tidal Basin before these folks finally wean themselves off big oil’s teat and actually pass some laws and regulations that benefit the country instead of their own careers. Nothing like soiling someone’s own back yard to focus his attention.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: Funnel in position

dunce.gif No doubt, Tony Hayward’s chums at his Mayfair gentleman’s club speak of him in warm terms. “Sterling bloke, wot? I remember when he wore the lampshade and throw rug at the annual Christmas party and pretended to be Attila the Hun. Simply ripping fellow!”

But clearly, down in the Gulf of Mexico, our boy is what you might call a fish out of oily water. His comments about wanting his life back, and about the slick being not so large if you consider the vastness of the Gulf, come off as tone-deaf if not callous.

The fact that they’re delivered in a tony British boarding-school accent doesn’t make them any easier to swallow, as Americans witness the despoliation of their coastline by a corporate Goliath that views our precious environment as a wealth generator and nothing more.

BP is desperately trying to hang onto the shreds of its reputation by deliberately under-reporting the bad news and organizing Potemkin cleanup squads for the TV cameras.

As one of its maladroit stabs at self-rehabilitation, the corporation might consider sacking its feckless CEO. Nothing would communicate more effectively to an exasperated public that BP really was sorry about what happened, and it might give a tiny measure of solace to those who never will get their lives back that at least one of the cheeses had to learn some compassion the hard way.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: Death by oil

kidding.gifWinston Churchill, who was known as a superb practitioner of the mother tongue, said the following in his inaugural speech as Prime Minister in 1940: “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat. We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many months of struggle and suffering.”

How well do you think a speech like this would go over in today’s America? Of course, the British didn’t need to be convinced that crunch time had arrived; the only thing that separated them from the Nazi war machine was 22 miles of English Channel, and they realized—too late⎯that they had squandered the previous 20 years in an idealistic fog when they should have been rearming.

Yet the threat that faces our country today is no less immediate or existential than that which faced England in 1940. It is a more insidious kind of threat, like the slick of oil that creeps across the surface of our pristine Gulf, enveloping all while we stand as observers, helpless to contain it.

We need a special kind of leadership, the kind that will--without fear of the effects on personal popularity--tell us what we must deny ourselves now so that we may continue to survive as a people.

Our self-indulgent energy consumption only stokes the dependency on oil that will kill us in the end—environmentally, economically, and strategically.

Sadly, leaders of Churchill’s caliber are all too rare, which is what makes them great. We could use one right now.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: The Arizona law in Florida?

cuban.gifThere’s talk here in the Sunshine State about adopting a “show-me-your-papers” law like they have in Arizona.

So far, the loudest voice is coming from a Republican candidate for governor who is trying to squeeze out front-runner Bill McCollum by playing to the conservative peanut gallery of likely primary voters.

It is doubtful that Florida will embrace the idea of such a law with the same passion as Arizonans…or even the rest of the country, as polls seem to show.

Unlike Arizona, much of Florida’s population (particularly South Florida’s) is no longer trying to hang onto the myth of a “real America,” one where Anglos rule by divine right and folks speak English without accents. By weight of sheer numbers, Latin immigrants to Florida—both legal and illegal—have forged a culture with the indigenous Anglos that redefines what “Americanness” is.

Of course, there are some Anglos, particularly recent arrivals, whose comfort levels are lower than those of us who have been here a while and learned to appreciate the richness of the stew rather than fear its spicy bite.

These folks will always lend a willing ear to opportunistic politicians who would twist xenophobic urges to their own purposes.

The fact is that we should be pressuring Congress to tighten our borders, rather than passing constitutionally doubtful laws that treat our neighbors as though they were subhumans.

Besides, as a lot of Florida politicians—even those from North Florida--know, Florida Hispanics, once motivated, can be a fearsome voting bloc. And they detest this law.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: The Great Drywall of China (II)

drywallx.gifI once went to dinner at a Chinese restaurant in Oakland, CA, with a woman who hailed from Shanghai. It was way, way off the tourist track.

The mirrored walls were covered with Chinese characters. “What’s that?” I asked.

“That’s the menu for Chinese customers,” she said. “The printed menu is for gwylos (foreign devils).”

My dinner partner then entered into a lengthy, animated conversation in Shanghai dialect with the restaurant's owner. Eventually, he bowed and left us. “I was negotiating the price of the meal with him,” she said. “I know his family in China.”

In a little while, a multi-course feast arrived, replete with foods of doubtful origin. “What is this stuff?” I said to my companion, as I poked at what looked like an endocrine gland with my chopstick.

“Don’t ask. If you like the way it tastes, eat it.”

The experience taught me something important about the way Chinese approach business transactions. There is an understanding that the burden is on the purchaser to make sure he is not being taken. Certainly, the concept of a third party--a governmental entity, for example--that exists to ensure the quality of the merchandise is alien to the intimacy and mutual trust of a one-on-one transaction.

In the Chinese view, if you bought it, it’s yours. If you’re not happy afterwards with your purchase, you should have taken greater care up front to familiarize yourself with the reliability and reputation of its provenance. There are no guarantees in life.

It isn’t dishonest; just culturally different. "Caveat emptor," as they say in Shanghai.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: Oil and the government

boot.gifThis is a Manhattan Project moment, as was 9/11. And we’re squandering it the same way we did then.

Had George Bush surrounded himself with advisers of broad vision and foresight, he could have molded the world into an interdependent, terror-proof network. He could have laid the foundation for a crash program leading to energy independence for America. Instead, he started a couple of wars.

Now a nation that is just beginning to grasp the true scope of the unfolding tragedy in the Gulf cries out for leadership, as it did in 2001.

Rather than provide it, the Obama Administration has gone into bunker mode, uttering empty platitudes and hollow ultimatums in an attempt to divert blame and responsibility in an election year.

We are awakening to the reality that our government is powerless to deal with the mess. A victim of its own lack of political will in not requiring that adequate safety provisions be put in place before drilling even began, it now reaps the whirlwind of its corrupt impotence.

We as a nation are forced to entrust the rescue and restoration of our environment to the very same soulless private sector whose cutting of corners resulted in its rape.

We are angry at the oil industry, the way a debtor is angry at his loan shark. We know that the oil companies are exacting what amounts to a national indemnity by providing us what we cannot do without. We are in their thrall, and we look to our leaders to extricate us.

But we don’t elect leaders anymore; we elect people who tell us what we want to hear. They reflect us, with all our weaknesses and addictions. If we can’t do anything ourselves to stop the madness, why should we expect them to?

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: Cleanup in the Gulf


There really isn’t much more to say, except that after more than two centuries, the British finally avenged Cornwallis’ defeat at Yorktown…with compound interest.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: The Key West non-story

motel.gifSuddenly, everybody’s an environment reporter.

I’m sure it has nothing to do with the fact that the first landfall for the Great Spill⎯other than Alabama and Louisiana, which are already covered by the media like beach tar⎯happens to be Key West.

If a tar ball had turned up on the shores of Duluth, MN, one has to wonder whether hordes of media would have materialized to interview it in the same way they descended upon the Conch Republic, showering the bars and restaurants on Duval Street with their per diems.

As it happens, the tar balls weren’t from the Gulf slick anyway, but that wasn’t enough to halt the stampede.

The Key West overkill is simply a manifestation of two cardinal rules of news coverage: First, if you see a pack of journalists gathering somewhere, you’d better join it or you might lose out on a story. Second, if there’s any possible way to justify a junket⎯particularly to a resort⎯then it’s the responsibility of any self-respecting reporter to make the case.

The real slick is due in Key West in about a week. No doubt there are a few courageous members of the fifth estate who are busy convincing their editors they need to remain on site--tough as that might be--and wait it out.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: The great slick cometh

flaslick.gifThis is beginning to look a lot like the Wall Street bailout all over again: the privatization of profit and the socialization of risk.

BP has been making a big sanctimonious stink about how it’s going to pay for the entire cleanup, as well it should.

But after that, the company is only liable for $75 million in compensation to mitigate the damage done to everyone from shrimp fishermen to mom-and-pop motels along the coast.

Considering all the tort lawyers who have swarmed the Gulf Coast to sign up clients, that $75 mil isn’t going to stretch very far. “Here’s your hundred bucks minus my commission, Ma’am. Have a good life.”

The U.S. Senate is talking about raising the cap for damages to $10 billion, but you know how that’s going to go. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska will put a personal hold on it and it won’t go anywhere. She doesn’t even have to make it one of those infamous “secret holds,” since there will be no downside for her back in her home state.

I love her reasoning: A cap that high will squeeze all the little people out of the offshore drilling business. Only the huge mega-corporations will be able to afford it. Right. “Hey, Duane! Let’s take that money you got for sellin’ the Fairlane and go sink us a billion-dollar rig out there in the gulf. We’ll get rich quick.”

So, absent making BP and related villains pony up, who will that leave to make us all whole again?

Us, of course.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: Cleaning up So Fla corruption


I'm amused by the anti-Obama types who cite the use of the word “czar” to describe administration appointees as proof that the President is a socialist of the Rooski persuasion (let’s forget for a moment that the Bolsheviks overthrew the czars, which makes the accusation spurious at several levels).

Of course, only the media and the rest of us--not the White House--use this word, and every administration since FDR’s has had the term applied to it, but we should never let facts get in the way of a good rant.

But I digress. Here in South Florida, changing the political culture and its cavalier view of ethics is like making a U-turn in an aircraft carrier. All the czars and czarinas in the world aren’t going to be able to accomplish a thing unless they have powerful backup: plenty of enforcement resources and laws with teeth.

This is a nice first step for Palm Beach County, but the lasting effectiveness of “reform” will depend on whether our civic leaders realize that strong enforcement is good for everybody, even them, and deserves nurturing for the long haul. It’s easy to lull ourselves into assuming the whole problem has been taken care of with Ms. Steckler's appointment. Quite the opposite: We've struck the match; now we need to hold her--and our politicians’--feet to the fire.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: The slick giveth

tort.gifIn a mega-disaster, where some see the ruination of their homeland, livelihood and culture, others see opportunity, particularly those who are perpetually on the alert for such things.

If you’re a tort lawyer, for example, a class action suit is the holy grail of your profession. Once you have aggregated your client base⎯a “dividend-multiplier” if you will⎯then for the same amount of legal work as you would perform in a single case, you are entitled to a wedge of thousands of little pies.

The goal is to be the first on the scene with the most aggressive team, so you can get your finger in as many of those pies as possible before somebody else tries to muscle his way in.

This case is literally oozing with potential: “BP” might as well stand for “Bulging Pockets.” As the oil seeps around the Florida peninsula and on up to the Tidal Basin in Washington, it could be the gift that keeps on giving long after the gusher has finally been capped.

So the slick taketh away, but it also giveth. If you want to think of it in purely financial terms, it has become its own dynamic ecosystem.

Of course, it takes a special kind of person to think of it in purely financial terms.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: Red light cameras

redlightx.gifFor a party that likes to scare the bejeezus out of people with horror stories about socialist government takeover of our lives, the Republicans are capable of some pretty Orwellian moves in their own right.

Just today, the Florida Senate passed a bill requiring that a woman who is about to get an abortion must receive an ultrasound first, and pay for it herself.

At least they threw in an exception for rape and incest (as long as she can prove it…I guess that means she has to get the relative or rapist to sign a notarized affidavit).

And let’s not forget the Terri Schiavo episode (perhaps one the GOP would prefer to bury for all time), which pushed government intrusion into private decision-making to breathtaking limits (What was that line they use? Oh, yeah-- “Do you want a bureaucrat getting between you and your doctor?”).

Now our Republican legislature, with alacrity, has passed a bill allowing red-light cameras at intersections. Motorists will be automatically ticketed for infractions. The ever-present eye in the sky.

Had Democrats proposed this idea, it would have been shouted down as Big Brotherism. Let’s bear in mind, however, that under the new law, the state receives a huge portion of the revenue from the tickets.

Suddenly it’s a safety issue. Well, let's make sure we're not too safe, or the whole thing will be a wasted investment.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: Sarah Palin's so-called endorsement

klein.gifSometimes, the better part of wisdom is to just shut up.

But, as we know, Sarah Palin has acquired many things in her brief trajectory through the political heavens, and the better part of wisdom is not one of them.

Earlier this week, she endorsed Allen West, a war veteran who is running to unseat Rep. Ron Klein in Dist. 22.

I'm sure there's nothing wrong with Mr. West, and probably plenty that's right with him, but if I were he I wouldn't be trumpeting that endorsement on my campaign bumper sticker, at least around that constituency.

For starters, that district runs mostly along the Atlantic shore in Broward and Palm Beach Counties, two of the most liberal in Florida. Second, the slight Republican majority isn't primarily made up of the mad-at-the-world, fire-breathing, gun-toting, chip-on-their-shoulder Republicans to whom Ms. Palin might appeal.

No, they're more the "Get off my beach! I own it up to the mean high tide line!" Republicans. Socially moderate. What we used to call "Rockefeller," or "Country Club" Republicans.

In other words, the whole district is probably alienated by shrillness in all its forms, whatever wing it may come from.

So, congratulations on that endorsement of yours, Mr. West. If you're lucky, the voters will forget about it by November.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: Championship panhandling

vet.gifI was just a little sad when the Sun Sentinel did an exposé on our intersection “vets,” those guys who dress up in camouflage and carry collection buckets emblazoned with the stars and stripes.

It was only a matter of time, I knew, before word of the scam would spread through the region, and virtually every motorist would know that little of the money they give to these guys actually ends up in the hands of our honored veterans.

In a jaded environment like ours, where you need an original shtick to stay afloat, the vet routine has been superb street theater.

I watched one of our intrepid roadside warriors march between the lanes of cars (calling out a cadence, “Hup, toop, thareep, four), execute a spit-and-polish left face, and proffer the bucket to a driver as though he were presenting his weapon for inspection. It would have made a drill instructor proud.

Rather than passing laws preventing this kind of thing, we should be encouraging it. Make our intersections Darwinian—let the best act survive. We cast our ballots by the amount of change we give them, and those that don’t measure up get voted off the island.

Then, we sell it up north as a tourist attraction.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: Air show crashes and burns

air.gifRegarding the impending demise of the Ft. Lauderdale Air Show and why it will be missed, here are a couple of thoughts on the mystical power of military symbols on display:

My first city editor, a crusty Oklahoman who bore a striking resemblance to Will Rogers, was an anti-aircraft gunner on a carrier in the Pacific during WWII.

He told me a story about how, thirty years after the war had ended, he drove up to Alaska on vacation and spied a Japanese merchant vessel taking on logs in Anchorage harbor. “When I saw that (expletive deleted) meatball on the flag he was flying,” he said through gritted teeth, “I grabbed my steering wheel so hard I almost ripped it clean off. All I could think of was, ‘Shoot!’” Old habits die hard.

Back in the eighties, I heard that one of our big nuclear-powered aircraft carriers had anchored off Ft. Lauderdale beach to allow the crew to enjoy the town’s manifest charms for a week or so (One of the vessel’s officers, on a visit to the paper, said his shore leave was “like being a blind dog in a meat market”).

I went down to see the ship from the beach—just to get a sense of its massiveness⎯and took up position on A1A next to an old guy who was intently scrutinizing the vessel through his binoculars. Eventually, he put them down, shaking his head slowly. I stood quietly, hoping he’d share a reminiscence of Midway, or maybe the Battle of the Coral Sea.

“I just wanted to pay a visit to my taxes,” he said, and turned away.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Pill mills

pain.gifThe scene is a beauty parlor. Two women of a certain age are seated next to each other under the dryers.

"My son the doctor," says the first, "has a decent surgical practice. He's a good provider for his family, but wishes he could make more. You know how it is with Medicare--they never reimburse enough, and the insurance companies always stick it to him. Whether he likes it or not, a lot of his work ends up being pro bono.

"Nevertheless, he still finds time once a year to travel to third world countries with Doctors Without Borders to repair cleft palates on underprivileged children."

The other puts down her magazine and smiles broadly. "My son the doctor," she replies, "finished med school, did his residency in pharmacology, and paid off his student loans in one year. He works in a pain clinic on a per-patient contract basis, and makes over a million per by providing pain relief to patients all over the country. In cash, I might add."

Both women must be so proud.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: Global warming hoax

Was it Voltaire or Descartes? I don’t remember…the Age of Enlightenment was centuries ago, and at the time I first heard about it, I was concentrating on the Cartesian curves of Mlle. Daphné, a young woman in my high school French class. Je désire, donc je suis.

Anyway, something one of those periwigged philosophers wrote actually managed to penetrate my teenage hormonal haze and take root.

“What if everything we’ve heard about God, creation, the purpose of Man, the soul, and divine salvation are all just a big joke (I paraphrase)? Even if that’s so, and we simply disappear into a void at the end, isn’t expressing a moral life of probity, humility and compassion for one’s fellow man the best way to live? Then, if we happen to find out when we die that it’s all for real, we are saved.”

If you extend this line of thinking, then maybe practicing good stewardship of our planet is worthy in its own right, even if climate change isn’t the result of man’s actions.

There’s no question that we pollute. Accessible, potable fresh water for millions of the world’s population is only a dream. In many places, people get diseases and die from the poor air quality.

Why not just pretend we’re to blame, and act accordingly, even if we can’t accept the fact? That way, there’s no chance of finding out we were wrong after it’s too late to do anything about it.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Dalai Lama's visit

dalai.gifThe Dalai Lama must be hopelessly naïve to come down here peddling that stuff about the family of man, how each of us is one with the world, and how we should be compassionate to our neighbors.

Wake up, Pal. This is South Florida, the land of scam or be scammed. Darwinian Interstates. Cut in line or you’ll miss the signal or, worse, the early bird special. Litter as you please. When in doubt, sue. If possible, live in excess, and--even better--destroy the environment in the process. Treat others as you would have them treat you, which is to take no prisoners. Share and share alike, but me first.

No, he isn’t naïve—he’s nuts. Either that, or he knows exactly what he’s doing, and why we so desperately needed his visit.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Guns in the national parks

parks.gifThe Founding Fathers, writing in an age when single-shot muskets were all the rage, may not have known to what lengths their precious Second Amendment was destined to be stretched.

There has been a spate of legislation recently that enshrines the red-blooded American's right to bear an arm just about anywhere. As to whether it's wise to do so, the Founding Fathers sagely kept their own counsel.

One of the core arguments used by gun advocates is that when guns are regulated, only outlaws will carry guns. If everyone packs heat, then everyone is protected thanks to a kind of mutual assured destruction doctrine.

To take this to its logical conclusion, then, let's say (just as an example) that a female professor in Alabama goes berserk and starts shooting up her class. One of her students, thanks to permissive gun laws, is packing a rod and starts to shoot back. Another student walking down the hall hears the commotion, looks through the classroom door to witness a pitched gun battle underway between teacher and student, and draws his own cannon.

Who do you think he's going to shoot at first before asking questions later?

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Boca Raton synagogue vandalism

vandal.gifMaybe it was just some smart-aleck kids who got bored when the batteries in their cell phones ran down. Heck, they couldn't even spell "Heil" right.

This does not mitigate the fact that what they did was a hate crime, which is heinous by nature, regardless of its degree. More important, even, is what we as a community do about it when one is committed.

Civilization and order owe their continued existence to a complex web of mutual agreements, trust and the assumption that we will abide by a certain code in the way we act toward others. If violations of that code are allowed to go unaddressed, the edges of confidence in institutions begin to fray, and--humans being what they are--we are tempted to revert to the tribalism that is our natural state of self-protection.

The stigmatization of hate crimes is one of those places where self-interest and the interest of the whole of society find common cause. This is why organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League are equally vociferous in condemning acts of hatred against Muslim- and African-Americans as they are in condemning those against Jews.

Whenever intolerance toward anyone is tolerated, we all lose something as a community. This principle must be taught to those who don't comprehend it, over and over again.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Robert Wexler leaves us on the hook

wex2.gifFew would argue that former congressman Robert Wexler isn't a mensch, which is District 19 vernacular for a man of honor and integrity.

Whether or not you agreed with his politics, the self-described “Fire-Breathing Liberal” represented his district with uncompromising passion.

Halfway through his most recent term, Wexler jumped ship to take a better paying job with a Middle East-oriented think tank. He made no secret of why he was leaving. The man’s got kids to put through school—who could blame him?

We now learn that the primary and general election to replace Mr. Wexler will cost the taxpayers of Broward and Palm Beach Counties—which Dist. 19 straddles—some $1.7 million, at a time when local governments are already stretched to the limit. To compound the insult, county taxpayers who do not even live in Dist. 19 must also kick in to pay the tab for Mr. Wexler’s step up the financial ladder.

What started out as an understandable change in career is now beginning to look like an unconscionable act of selfishness.

Presumably, Mr. Wexler still has control over a sizable campaign kitty, which federal law allows him to do with as he pleases. Here’s a suggestion: Rather than keep it for himself, or use it to bolster the campaigns of like-minded pols, he should reimburse the two counties he represented for the cost of replacing him.

Why? Because it’s the right thing to do. It’s what a mensch would do.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: Super Bowl party central

game.gifThere is no small amount of controversy here in the Super Bowl Host Area about whether the whole mess is worth it to our economy.

Some will argue that the lion’s share of the money ends up out of the area, at hotel and restaurant chain headquarters, for example.

Tourism boosters maintain that there is no substitute for the nonstop sunny skies and balmy weather that our northern friends will feast upon as they huddle in their Snuggies with three feet of snow outside.

Whatever. One segment that will certainly benefit, as we related in our news pages, is the strip club industry and…um…related adult-oriented businesses, not to mention some criminal enterprises that I won’t even go into.

In that regard, my original sketch for this cartoon showed just the pair of legs with no miniskirt or microphone. My editor felt we should broaden the comment to include all of the performing, partying and ancillary activities, so I cleaned it up a little.

Perceptive readers will be able to discern a few familiar faces among the merrymakers I have depicted.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

The Honest Services no-brainer

honest.gifIn a court action sure to lift the hearts of crooked public servants everywhere, there is a Supreme Court challenge pending on the constitutionality of a law that has been a phenomenally useful tool for federal prosecutors.

"Theft of Honest Services" is a catchall statute that has been used to put several of our own local pols behind bars for corruption, and untold numbers nationwide.

The perps argue that it's too vague, that they never know when they're breaking the law.

It's pretty simple, folks, and you don't need a degree in civics to figure it out: If you're being offered money that you know wouldn't be offered if you weren't in public office, then it's probably illegal to take it. If something you're doing, like paying rent to yourself out of your own campaign funds, makes you ask the question, "I wonder if this is legal?", then it probably isn't.

Even if it is legal, the fact that you're wondering about it means it's probably unethical, and you shouldn't do it anyway. Legality should not be the threshold of permissibility.

Is it an undue burden to have to ask a prosecutor for an interpretation of the law every time you want to do a business deal? No, it isn't. It's an unwritten part of your job description. Nobody forced you to run for office.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

The Ted Deutch juggernaut

tedx.gifNot that I'm trying to imply by this cartoon that Ted Deutch's candidacy is in trouble or anything, although it could be if Deutch were to allow hubris to get the better of him.

It's just that there's something unseemly in a democracy about assuming you have an election in the bag. It's so third-worldy.

Let's face it--District 19 isn't Massachusetts. The only way Deutch is going to lose is if an electromagnetic pulse arrives from outer space and disables all the voting machines in Century Village on election day. Or if he shows up at a campaign rally wearing a kaffiyeh.

Neither eventuality is likely.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Pythons in the Everglades

pythons.gifToday's immigrants are the next generation's founding fathers, and the first thing the next generation wants is no more immigrants.

It's probably as true of reptiles as it is of people.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Rothstein and the serpent

snake.gifWhenever I run into journalistic colleagues from other parts of the country, they tell me how lucky I am to work in South Florida.

It isn't the weather they're envious of; it's that so many juicy, off-the-wall stories come out of here, stories that practically write or comment on themselves. Even if a national story doesn't originate here, there's always a Florida connection (Madoff, for example), and the weirder the story, the stronger the connection.

What can anyone say to elaborate on a story about pet rock pythons from Burma and North Africa, released into the wild by fed-up owners, which are expected to mate into a breed of horrifying super-serpent with no known predators?

What can you say about Scott Rothstein that is more shocking, imaginative and bizarre than some of the ways he managed to spend other people's money?

All you can do as a journalist and commentator is celebrate their existence, and thank them for making South Florida a richer place to live.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

South Florida adapts to the cold

cold.gifMy biggest concern while drawing this cartoon was that the scam being depicted would actually be perpetrated before it could get into print.

As of this writing, I haven't heard any reports. Nevertheless, in the event would-be malefactors get any ideas from the cartoon, I will rest assured knowing that readers of the Sun Sentinel's editorial page and this blog have been forewarned.

"News you can use," as we like to say here at the paper.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: Blocking the sunshine

sunshine.gifKeeping a lid on our elected officials here in Florida is a little like the Global War On Terror: The bad guys are always coming up with clever new ways to get around the safeguards, and the forces of good are always playing catch-up.

The Florida Sunshine Law, which at the time it was enacted was considered one of the more progressive, good-government pieces of legislation in the country, is woefully out of step with new communications technology.

When the legislators wrote that law, they were thinking about preventing secret discussions over coffee down at the pancake house, or maybe in a back office, out of view. Nobody ever envisioned texting, or instant messaging, or whatever.

So if you're a public officeholder, and you want to check in with your lobbyist/handler but you'd prefer to keep it on the q.t., you text that person, because hey-- there's currently no law against it.

The "spirit of the law?" What is that, some kind of booze?

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: The Florida Ice Age

frigid.gifI have Canadian family members. A few years ago, they came down to visit when we were having a cold snap similar to the current one.

Being Canadians, they rhapsodized about the balmy weather and immediately went off to spend the entire day at the beach, while the rest of us shivered and ran the A.C. backwards.

They returned that evening, their skin that iridescent hue of lobster red that only Canadians can develop in the Florida sun. They spent the rest of their trip inside, not because of the cold, but because they were recovering from their burns.

It's all relative.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Rothstein cartoon: Media gone wild

cellblock.gifIt's only right that we ink pushers poke fun at ourselves once in a while.

Seriously, this is one of the biggest stories to hit South Florida since...Anna Nicole, at least. The recession has affected us all. News people are susceptible to the unrelentingly depressing news just like everyone else.

But ever since Scott Rothstein melted down, my friends over on the Metro Desk have had a glint in their eye, a glow in their cheeks, a spring in their step. Suddenly it's fun to be a journalist again.

We're gonna ride this wave all the way to the Mojave Desert. If you've already had enough of this story, then move on to something sexier--like health care, global warming or unemployment. I bet you'll come back.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Delray menorah misstep

menorah.gifWe've already dealt with the holiday greetings issue; a variant is the Religious Symbols in Public Spaces brouhaha.

Any of these controversies, which return with depressing regularity every year, could be resolved with a little openness of thought and consideration for one's neighbors, but unfortunately neither of these qualities characterizes life in our subtropical paradise. As one of my comment-posters put it the other day, "here in South Florida I'm just grateful to see social interaction that doesn't involve someone getting the finger."

One still has to be taken aback by the tone-deafness of the city of Delray Beach, which neglected to place a menorah alongside its "holiday tree" in Old School Square. The city manager even cited a legal argument that displaying a menorah would leave a loophole for fringe groups to demand that their symbols be included.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that a menorah, like a "holiday tree," is not a religious symbol, which renders that argument invalid. I think most reasonable people would agree that both are indeed religious symbols, but even so, who cares? Either put them all up, or don't display any of them.

The harm done to any group of citizens that has been left out of the mix is a far worse affront to the public than a city simply staying out of the religious display business altogether.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Rothstein side-benefits

quake.gifIt isn't enough that those who appear to be leading perfect, enviable lives are knocked off their pedestals.

Let's face it: the real satisfaction comes from watching them crash and burn because they did it to themselves, thanks to their own inherent moral weaknesses, as though they were characters in a Shakespearean morality play.

This is why we are so fascinated by the Tiger Woods story. He had it all, but it still wasn't enough. It sure would've been enough for you and me, right?

Scott Rothstein is equally fascinating... a whole empire built on chutzpah and quicksand. None of us would ever have done such a thing, so he's getting what he deserves, all right. Yessiree.

For those of us here in the cheap seats, we're finally getting our money's worth out of our taxes. The feds are going to draw this saga out for our continuing enjoyment. We get to gawk while all those champagne-swilling, caviar-slurping swells who went along for the ride finger each other like rats in a cage in their scramble to stay out of the slammer.

Why, we haven't had this much fun since Gov. Sanford did his last tango in Buenos Aires.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: Holidays, schmolidays

kwanz.gif’Tis the season to be overly sensitive.

Here in South Florida, where collections of cultures and creeds live in uncomfortable proximity, the holiday season is an annual endurance test fraught with politically-incorrect pitfalls.

Every December, various groups have major holidays that happen to fall close to one another.

In our zeal not to offend anyone by offering the wrong salutation, we have reverted to the default phrase, “Happy Holidays,” which in its insipidness displays not only insincerity, but also an implicit fear of our differences.

I live in a neighborhood that has a high proportion of Jewish residents. When one of my neighbors wishes me “Happy Hanukkah,” I accept it with the same cheer as I would “Merry Christmas.”

Why? Because I know it comes from the heart. It’s all about the giver offering something of value--goodwill--to the recipient. Who am I to quibble about the brand?

I suggest everyone wish each other the happy returns of the season in the manner that best suits the giver’s core identity. That way, your listener will know you’re serious.

There is a famous Sanskrit saying that goes something like this: “There is one Truth. Wise men call it by many names.” The key word here is “wise.” Those who--because of their own limitations--are unable to grasp that concept will decide that they’d rather be offended than honored.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Anatomy of the scam

rothtrailer.gifIf you're going to run a major-league swindle, nothing sucks 'em in like personal example.

The first thing the scammer does with his ill-gotten gains is to surround himself with the trappings of wealth. Human nature being what it is, his willing marks will look at his lifestyle and want very badly for it to be theirs as well.

It is this wanting that lowers the internal barriers, erodes better judgment, and that causes otherwise sensible people to behave like slobbering morons. Until they see the cars, the mansions, the yachts--it's all an abstraction.

If the marks already have a lot of loot, then the lifestyle ornamentation is important to show one is a member of the club. Rich people don't get richer by investing in working stiffs--they do it by investing with other rich people.

Dangle the toys in front of them. Once the hook has been set, all that's left to do is reel 'em in.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Gov. Charlie's shine starts to tarnish

roth.gifOf all the office walls in all the world, Gov. Charlie's fifteen chummy photos have to show up on Scott Rothstein's.

Even our notoriously Teflon-coated governor may have a hard time slithering out of this one, although one of my editorial board colleagues insists that there is virtually nothing that will keep him out of the U.S. Senate seat currently being warmed for him.

Still, the double-talking will be fun to watch. While Charlie is probably too dim to be that crooked--and just got burned like everybody else who allegedly fell under Rothstein's spell--photos like these (and this cartoon is based on a real one--Charlie's birthday party) are a potent reinforcement of the kind of simplistic connections that resonate with the average voter.

Let's sit back with our popcorn and watch what Marco Rubio makes of all this.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: World's fastest land creatures

rothstein.gifPoliticians’ never-ending grovel for campaign funds can be a treacherous business.

You never know when those bucks might suddenly turn radioactive, and give you a nasty burn on the butt. One of the more interesting--yet unsurprising--aspects of the Scott Rothstein affair is how liberally he salted all sides of the political spectrum.

Since pols sell themselves relatively cheaply, it’s money well spent to simply stuff some in every available pocket. It’s win-win for the donor, and any losses are but a miniscule cost of doing business.

Now the voters are treated to protestations from our all-too-accommodating public servants that he’s so unfamiliar they wouldn’t be able to pick him out of a one-man police lineup, and that they’d return every cent he ever gave them if they just knew who the legitimate recipient might be.

With friends like those, he would have been better off staying in Casablanca.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

The Age of Ponzi

ponzi.gifTo quote Sonny Corleone out of context, "It's time to go to the mattresses!"

As in: to stuff one's money in, since it doesn't seem like you can trust anybody to invest it for you without ripping you off. Evidently, there are financial investment scams going on all the time, but as long as the economy is strong, the scammers can keep attracting new investors to pay off the old ones.

One wag-- I think it was Warren Buffett--said, "It's when the tide is going out that you find out who isn't wearing a bathing suit."

As someone whose idea of a wise investment is buying a used car that is less than ten years old, I have to admit to some schadenfreude when I hear of wealthy players who are lured into a scheme with promises of impossible returns in a short period of time. "Invest four million today, and in a year, it'll be worth FIVE! Absolutely no risk! A sure bet!"

Maybe it's just that some of us don't have a lot of loose change to go risking it on a venture, no matter how ironclad the guarantees. We're too busy spending it on things like food and electricity. So when somebody takes a massive hit at the hands of a crook, we say that maybe it's some karmic force's way of leveling the playing field when it has gotten too far out of whack.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chinese drywall to take out?

drywall.gifEven for Florida, where shoddy workmanship is the hallmark of excellence, this is egregious.

You move into your beautiful new tract home and discover that the walls make you and your kids sick, tarnish your jewelry, and probably most important of all, screw up the air conditioner.

You go to the developer who sold you this elephant, and he's oh so sorry, but to gut the house would cost him $100,000 or more, and to fix all the homes he's built would put him out of business.

You hear that Obama will be talking to the Chinese next month about making good on their cheesy product, but you realize that he isn't going to get anywhere with them because for manufacturers to back up their goods, they have to actually care about their reputation for quality. They know as well as you do that you only buy their junk because it's cheap.

The feds say maybe they'll free up some HUD money to compensate, but you have to be poor to qualify. A nice Catch-22, because no poor person could have afforded your house.

The insurance people say it's a manufacturing defect, not an act of God, so not only isn't it covered, they're going to cancel your sorry a-- for even asking about it.

Your only recourse is my nifty little kit, shown here. Get your neighbors to buy one too, and make it a block party. Kids'll love it, and it's great for building neighborhood cohesion.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: Corruption's long tentacle


Ah, yes...if you have friends, you are a wealthy person indeed.

Until the Federal Corruption Task Force comes a-knockin' at your door, and you find out they've all turned into witnesses for the prosecution.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe: Ted Deutch gets the ultimate endorsement

deutch.gifIt's all over but the voting. For that matter, why don't we just install Ted Deutch as Robert Wexler's replacement by acclamation? It would save the taxpayers special election money when it could be better used elsewhere.

I have nothing against Ted Deutch. He's my state senator, and hasn't done anything embarrassing, so he'd probably represent me in Washington as well as Robert Wexler--maybe better, since he actually lives in the district.

The fact that Deutch has already been hand-picked by Wexler as his successor and endorsed by such local luminaries as Reps. Alcee Hastings, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and Ron Klein--who all say they look forward to working with him in congress--leaves me feeling a little like an illegal alien in my own district. I live there, but I have no say in my representation.

If I bother to vote, and I always do because I still naively believe in the power of voting, I may just vote for KoKo the Klown or whatever straw man (or woman) the Republicans draft to be their sacrificial lamb in the special election.

If enough people share my philosophy, it will keep Deutch looking over his shoulder knowing that his mandate wasn't unanimous. This is a healthy activity for any member of congress.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe cartoon: Local corruption

board.gifCorruption in South Florida is a lot like cosmetic surgery.

Look around here and there's no shortage of face-lifts. Many--to be charitable--are simply obvious. Some are horrendous, others are flat-out botched.

Ever visited New York City? There are probably as many face-lifts per capita up there as there are in South Florida, only you don't notice them as much because the quality of the work is so much better.

Up in the Big Apple, it's commonly understood that many of the plastic surgeons who aren't good enough to succeed there or in Southern California head to Florida, where there's plenty of demand but the standards are lower (this is not to impugn the good ones who have chosen to call our little Garden of Eden home).

Like cosmetic surgery, corruption is an art form. In New York, they practice corruption with subtlety and nuance. They create gossamer layers of obscurity that befuddle the most discerning law enforcement operatives. A public official who skillfully conceals his or her "understandings" can go years, even decades, without a whiff of suspicion.

Here in Florida, you scratch the surface and you find unsophisticated, easy-to-expose, ugly relationships, like spouses of public servants being retained by contractors doing business with the same public entities.

They're hanging out there in all their hideous glory, like the blonde whirling around in the supermarket aisle whose drumhead-taut countenance causes you to gasp in horror.

This kind of sloppy workmanship would never pass muster up north. But this is Florida, where--as they say--the standards are lower.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe cartoon: Robert Wexler steps off the carousel

rwex.gifIt sounds like South Florida’s favorite mensch, Congressman Robert Wexler, is going for the bucks.

One can hardly blame him—seven terms in congress is an eternity if your job consists mostly of espousing liberal causes that have little chance of being enacted into law, and making sure Social Security checks arrive on time back in the home district.

Why not head up a Middle East-oriented think tank, especially if the salary’s good? You may actually accomplish something real, and you can look at yourself in the mirror in the morning knowing you didn’t sell out to become a lobbyist.

Speaking professionally as a cartoonist, I would have to say that Robert Wexler has been good to me. The snafu over his so-called residency was fodder for a lot of commentary.

I also admire him for supporting Barack Obama’s candidacy in the face of huge opposition from his own constituents. This was back when Obama was still a Muslim and “had it in” for Israel. Wexler apparently knew better, and went like Jonah into the belly of the whale for him.

Whether or not you voted for or even like Obama, you have to respect that kind of political courage.

As one of Wexler’s constituents, I’ll miss him and his effervescent personality. Of course, I missed him when he was my congressman, too…so no harm, no foul.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe cartoon: New blood at the PSC


Maybe FPL has already done opposition research on these two new appointees with the ruthless efficiency of a KGB counterintelligence squad.

Any proclivities that can be exploited? Skeletons in their past? Kids of college age that got admitted to pricey Ivy League schools that might make them susceptible to a sweet job offer down the line?

Ah, don't listen to me...I'm just being paranoid--ZZZZZOTTTTT!!!!!
AAUUGH that hurt!!! How did they manage to plant those electrodes in my office chair??

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe cartoon: Corruption...we're shocked, shocked!

raking.gifIn Latin America, corruption is practically an art form.

Within certain limits of taste, it is not only tolerated, but an essential ingredient in making sure the wheels of bureaucracy run smoothly. Who likes standing in line for hours to get a driver's license when you can "know somebody" and get the whole thing taken care of without even showing up for a test?

In Mexico, they even have a word for it: la mordida--the bite.

My older Oklahoma friends lamented the repeal of the Volstead Act (prohibition), which didn't happen there until 1957.

Back in the good old days, they told me, your bootlegger (who always made sure the local sheriff got his taste), delivered your hooch right to your back door wrapped in corn husks, just like a milkman. After the repeal, a body had to galumph all the way down to the likker store to collect his medicine.

Anyway, I think that our friends to the south would marvel not that our public officials are on the take, but that they have control over such vast resources and are prostituting the public trust for such a relatively paltry sum.

Frankly, it's an embarrassment. I expect my elected officials to sell out for at least six figures. This is the big time, not some dusty pueblo.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe cartoon: Broward corruption sweep

newspapers.gifNaturally, the idea for this cartoon appealed to the career newspaperman in me.

It's not the stretch that you would think, either. How would the Feds have even known to stage multiple sting operations of local government figures if newspapers hadn't been watchdogging and digging up dirt about corruption, year after year?

The alleged criminals certainly weren't going to advertise it themselves, and everybody in our business knows that TV "news" operations wouldn't know what to report about if they didn't have a paper to read every morning (That's unfair. They learn about those bloody car accidents, fires and crimes from police and emergency scanners).

Anyway, nothing's more entertaining than a good perp walk. In school board member Beverly Gallagher's case, it was a perp "sprint," an act beautifully captured on our front page by photographer Mike Stocker in an image that will be forever seared into Broward political history.

A great day for the Feds, for better government, for the media, and even for voters, if they would just get engaged and stop automatically voting for the person they'd heard of.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe cartoon: An alternative energy source for FPL

turnstile.gifSo there you are, some paper-pushing dweebazoid sitting in your dank little office at the PSC in Tallahassee, playing tiddlywinks with your stapler.

All you can think about is that you've got just a couple of years left before you can retire on your miserable state pension and spend some quality time with your stamp collection before you shuffle off this mortal coil.

You notice on your agenda that there’s an appointment today with somebody from FPL.

In walks this tanned, slick Brioni-suit-wearing specimen who flops down in your spare chair as if he owned the place.

“I’ve been looking at these figures,” you say to him, shuffling spreadsheets and trying to look official. “Your numbers just don’t add up.”

Your visitor grins expansively. He could care less. “You know, Furbish,” he whispers. “I like your chutzpah. If you’d ever like to work someplace where they know how to show their appreciation for your kind of institutional knowledge, just lemme know.”

He slides a business card across the desk and leaves. You sit there for the rest of the day, staring at the card. And the next day, and the one after. You start tapping your fingers, thinking about that Mediterranean cruise you and the wife dreamed about when you were young, and the future was bursting with possibilities…

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe cartoon: Windstorm rate hike roulette

boardroom.gifWe've had a few pretty good years lately, knock on wood.

It would be understandable were the insurance companies to stick us with higher rates if we'd been battered repeatedly by hurricanes like we were back in 2005, but they've already hiked them several times since then even though the weather has been favorable.

They come at us now with some kind of gobbledygook about how the cost of reinsurance is up, thanks to worldwide catastrophes. They always have a reason.

Didn't they create those independent Florida subsidiaries (e.g. Allstate Floridian) so that they could soak us for big premiums, yet insulate the national company from huge losses in case the worst happened?

Why doesn't that "insulation" work both ways? Why should our premiums be affected by earthquakes in Japan, or a tsunami in Malaysia, if they're trying to treat the entire Florida market like some kind of isolated hothouse rose?

As usual, they always have the last word: If you don't like it, don't live here.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Chan Lowe cartoon: Dial 511 for frustration

511.gifOn occasion, my editors have seen fit to send me to Tallahassee to cover the sillier side of our legislature in graphic montage.

There is no end of inspiration up there. I remember a special session that then-Gov. Bob Martinez called twenty years ago to reform Florida's abortion laws.

Impassioned partisans arrived from all over the country to stage demonstrations and counter-demonstrations in the streets of our sleepy capital city. The pro-life crowd, in particular, came equipped with visual aids that I won't even go into.

Anyway, I discovered that one way to get a handle on the crazy-quilt character of our state is to sit in the gallery of the House of Representatives. It's a little like witnessing a meeting of the U.N. General Assembly.

Over in one corner, the Miami-Dade delegation is deliberating in Spanish. In another, the Broward and Palm Beach reps are still rehashing some football game from long ago between their old high schools back in Brooklyn. One can hear the broad diphthongs of the Midwest from the Orlando/Tampa/Sarasota corridor, and cutting through it all is the twang of good ol' boys from the Panhandle across to Jacksonville, thick and tough as the crust on a chicken-fried steak.

Bearing all this in mind, it's no wonder that a statewide voice-activated highway information system would be stymied trying to understand instructions from an average Floridian. Mainly because there is no such thing as an average Floridian. We're really a loose collection of accents and idioms.

That is, when we're speaking to each other.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Sen. Mini-Me


Sure it was a cynical move on Charlie's part, appointing his own political crony to a U.S. Senate seat because he's the only person he can trust not to want to keep it.

George Lemieux is a nice guy, but it would have been easier for us to swallow if he had at least some experience in elective office, particularly when there's somebody with former U.S. Rep. E. Clay Shaw's institutional knowledge sitting around with nothing better to do.

I drew a cartoon about this when Mel Martinez first abdicated. Little did I know that the governor would actually take my advice. Charlie, you always said the people of Florida came first! Say it ain't so, buddy!

Once Charlie gets elected next year, this could be the first time in history that a sitting U.S. Senator has a former senator as his chief of staff.

I may be wrong, but I understand that Sen. LeMieux will be eligible, after his year in office, for the gold-plated health care and pension plan that U.S. Senators have voted for themselves, so maybe he'd rather just retire on our dime than take a demotion. Besides, it would be confusing whenever somebody came into the office and said, "Senator," and they both answered, "Yes?"

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Florida tourism blues


When your state's economy is based on homebuilding at a time when people are defaulting on their mortgages, and tourism when nobody is going anywhere, then it's best to stick with your strengths.

And, as any marketer knows, product placement is everything.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

FPL...yes, again

When one is almost at a loss to say something new about FPL, the company obligingly goes and hands us a new issue on an electric chafing dish.

This time, it's trying to keep the salaries of its top execs a secret, claiming that releasing such proprietary info could harm its competitiveness.

How is it that a "regulated" monopoly suddenly needs to worry about being competitive? FPL has such a sweet deal that a pack of chimpanzees could run the place and still turn a tidy profit.

Maybe FPL worries that we peons--upon learning what these guys get paid--might rebel, hook our home exercycles up to little generators, and start conditioning our own !@#$% air.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Tropical depression

It's hard to get friends and relatives Up North to understand what it means to wonder, year after year, if you're still going to have a roof left by Thanksgiving.

They just don't feel the immediacy of it. Have you ever called someone after a hurricane hit to tell them you made it through OK, and they go, "What, you had a hurricane? Ohhh, yeahhh...I remember hearing something about it on the news?" To them, it might as well have been a typhoon in Malaysia.

An embittered member of Florida's congressional delegation--it may even have been my own congressman, Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Maryland (see how smart he is to opt out of living in his home district?)--once said that the only way we're ever going to get a national catastrophe fund is if a Category 3 hurricane goes right up the Connecticut River Valley.

I think he was wrong. It would have to hit the Hudson and the Potomac as well.

Anyway, it makes you think twice and three times about remodeling the bathroom when you could be showering with a garden hose by next month. No, our northerly neighbors will never be able to truly appreciate the thrill of going mano a mano with Mother Nature.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Swine flu drive thru

Parts of South Florida, particularly the Greater Boca Raton Metroplex, can be characterized as Beverly Hills Lite mixed with a generous dollop of Nassau County, Long Island.

This is why it came as no surprise when one of Boca's own institutions of higher learning, Florida Atlantic University, announced it was offering valet parking to students so they wouldn't have to traipse across the college parking lots in our punishing humidity and arrive in class with the frizzies. If you can look better by paying more, it's money well spent. That is the Boca Way, as well as the Hippocratic Oath for the plastic surgery industry.

It's also the South Florida way to do as much as you possibly can without leaving your car. If you must leave it, then make sure you minimize the number of steps you take to the greatest degree possible. This may even involve waiting for several minutes, burning fuel and blocking cars behind you, for that perfect spot to open up near the entrance to the fitness center--a place you are ostensibly going to in order to burn calories.

I say ostensibly, because we all know you're really going there to meet people, and you want to look your best when you arrive.

Any entrepreneur who can come up with a way to deliver a needed service to people as they wait in their car with the engine running is bound to succeed in South Florida.

Hence the business model I hereby offer up in my cartoon. I would love to see it become a reality.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Burmese pythons in the backyard

The presence in our local environment of creatures like the Formosan termite, the Bahamian curly-tailed lizard, the Africanized bee and the dreaded Cuban death's head roach is understandable, and probably unavoidable in today's free-trade world.

These uninvited guests arrived by way of shipping containers from far-off lands, or in the case of the bee, by an accidental release.

The problem of the lionfish and the Burmese python, however, can be traced to irresponsible idiots who keep these predators as interesting pets until they get too big or annoying to keep in the house.

What do you do if you're a typical Floridian who's gotten all the use out of something that he wants to, and is ready to move on? Dump it and forget it. That's what that big swamp back there, and that ocean out front, are for. You don't even think twice about letting it become somebody else's problem, because this is Florida. Other people don't worry about trashing the environment, so why should you? After all, it's pretty much trashed already.

When the place becomes so polluted and overrun with exotic, predatory wildlife that human existence becomes untenable, you can always just move to another state, the same way you moved in. Run a few red lights on your way out while you're at it. Weave in and out of traffic. Toss the packaging from your fast-food lunch on the highway.

Somebody else'll clean up the mess.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

The Hollywood cops fabrication


As I’ve said before, it sometimes helps to understand human behavior from a tribal perspective.

When the human animal finds himself in uncertain or stressful situations, his default behavior is to seek refuge with his own kind. The tribe can be an ethnic group, a college fraternity, one’s religious denomination, or even a profession (like law enforcement).

It’s “us” vs. “them,” a mindset reinforced by initiation rituals as well as mandatory loyalty to the group.

Our constitution is a framework of codes designed to protect society from this all-too-natural tendency, especially when it exhibits itself in the institutions of government.

We are a nation of laws, not of men, and the idea of fairness and equality under those laws is the animating ideal that binds us together. It’s why the president swears his fealty to the constitution, and not to the people of the United States.

It is an ideal—not a reality—because men are not perfect. But it is why we feel such a deep sense of wrong when abuses like the recent Hollywood police fabrication occur. The deliberate flouting of our common code is not just an offense to the motorist who was hit by the policeman, but to everyone.

The authority those law enforcement officers wield is conferred by the rest of us. They threw it in our faces in the name of protecting one of their own.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

FPL's obscene profits

Our relationship with the utility we all love to hate is like a dysfunctional marriage, wherein we want to separate from an abusive spouse, yet find ourselves enabling their bad behavior because life without them is unimaginable.

It doesn't matter how many times FPL is exposed in print, or how many cartoons people draw,
because the utility just doesn't care. We need them more than they need us.

In fact, they've stopped even making excuses. It used to be that they'd come up with some kind of gobbledygook about soaring fuel costs (even while fuel prices were dropping) that was so transparent it insulted our intelligence. But they at least took the trouble to put on the charade.

Now they release the news about a whopping seventy-seven per cent increase in profits, and we don't even get the benefit of the soft-shoe anymore.

We deserve some respect as patsies. We've sat in the dark too many times.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

It takes a village to tame Palm Beach County


Who do the Palm Beach County Commissioners think they're kidding? An inspector general?

I have to admit, the title sounds impressive, which is about as far as it goes. The first thing the special interests are going to do is huddle and ask, "What's his/her price?"

That's assuming the commission doesn't appoint some crony to the post.

Even if, say, the governor appointed someone independently, how long would it take before this person's operating budget got held hostage by the very people he was supposed to be investigating?

It's window dressing, pure and simple. If voters are fooled by it, they deserve what they get. Actually, they've gotten plenty of it already, and they deserve that, too.

It's time people got involved and stopped voting automatically, over and over, for someone they happen to have heard of.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Florida: Prescriptions R Us

We're going about this all wrong.

We all know that Florida is always at the top on the lists of the bad stuff, and at the bottom of the lists of desirable stuff. For once, we should celebrate--rather than bemoan--our strengths.

Tourism is one of the legs of our economic stool, isn't it? (The others are development and agriculture, I think, although you'd never know it from our tomatoes, which often taste like they were shipped from a Siberian sawmill). Here we have the one attraction that people will travel all the way down here for, even in a recession, and Gov. Crist goes and signs a law making it harder to get.

Is this the kind of thinking you want out of your governor, much less your next U.S. Senator? After all, if they can't get their prescriptions filled here, they'll just go and get them someplace else, like Mexico. So, no harm done in the end. Plus, it helps keep our international trade balance in line.

We should be offering packages to our honored visitors. "Stay two nights in a Florida hotel, and we'll throw in a bus tour of the top pill mills in Broward and Palm Beach Counties. Reserve within the next 30 minutes and we'll send you home with a pet Burmese python."

We can even have a slogan: "Florida. You'll love us from your first dose."

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Crackerbox development


I was talking with a tile guy one day (Word of advice: Don't ever hire a Brazilian
tile guy right before the World Cup Finals), and we were lamenting the fact that my typical South Florida tract home, thanks to shoddy construction, had no square corners. Nor were any of the walls plumb or the ceilings level--something I learned when I installed my own crown molding.

In fact, I was in the attic once and happened to look down into the interior of a wall below me. Buried down there was a time capsule of discarded cigarette packs, disposable lighters, sardine cans and other detritus left behind by the construction workers decades before.

Anyway, the tile guy told me he kept running into the same tradespeople at construction sites all the time, whether the house was relatively humble, like mine, or a waterfront McMansion. "The quality's all the same, " he said. "You may pay more for a bigger house on the water, but it'll fall down just as fast as yours."

That was heartwarming. And it helped explain why Parkland, which is adjacent to the land being transferred from Palm Beach to Broward County, and which is a relatively well-to-do community, should find itself one of the more high-profile victims of the Chinese drywall debacle. Let the buyer beware: no one is immune. One gets the impression that Florida developers would buy drywall from Borneo made of compressed bat guano if it came in cheaper than the Chinese stuff.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Madoff Sentencing

An armed robber goes into a convenience store to steal money out of the cash register. He pulls out a pistol and points it at the store clerk.

He has no intention of using it. He just wants to show the man he means business. The store clerk, upon seeing the weapon, involuntarily recoils. He slips on a puddle of Mountain Dew and his head hits the tile floor. He dies of a cerebral hemorrhage.

The robber is apprehended, and charged with something called "felony murder," which is to say that even though he never intended to take a life, he embarked on a series of activities that directly resulted in the death of the clerk.

How is Bernard Madoff any different than this guy, when his theft resulted in several suicides by people whose entire life savings had been wiped out?

He's lucky all he got was 150 years, and not the magic mojito I.V. As it is, I heard that he's not going to a country club prison. Thanks to the enormity of his crimes, he's rumored to be headed for medium security, with rapists, armed robbers, and other unsavory types who are also serving life sentences with no possibility of parole.

In other words, the system has no way of disciplining them if they should happen to visualize their own grandmother in the place of some little old lady who is now forced to survive on cat food, and decide to take appropriate action.

That's what it feels like not to know if you're going to make it through the next day, Mr. Madoff.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

FPL rate hike

I speak here as a disgruntled FPL customer ( Is there any other kind?). What ticks me, and probably others, off as much as the rate hike is the way they insult my intelligence with their lame corporate rationalizations.

FPL says that lower fuel charges and increases in efficiency will more than offset the new kilowatt-hour base rate increase, in fact lowering our total bills. If they're doing so well with all these economies, what do they need to raise our base rate for?

They say we pay less per kilowatt-hour than customers of other Florida utilities. Could this be because FPL is the biggest, and benefits from economies of scale? And, just because other utilities rip their customers off more than ours does, is that a valid reason to increase our rates?

It wouldn't be quite as bad if our service weren't so spotty. A storm doesn't have to be a hurricane to douse the power at my house. Probably true for yours, too.

On top of all that, they're picking a lousy time to do this. By further strangling homes and businesses in an already stumbling economy, they make it that much harder for their customers to claw their way back to prosperity someday. Less money for them, in the long run.

To put it kindly (and there's no reason that I should), this business tactic lacks foresight.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

The Stallworth wrist-slap

When a crime is committed, the people's interest in an ordered society is represented by the prosecution, which pursues its task (without passion or prejudice) within an accepted and respected framework of law.

Our reverence for the law and the assumption of its equal application (at least in theory) are part of the social contract that holds us together as a society. When that contract is violated, it's an affront to us all. That is, I think, what lies at the root of the anger at Donte Stallworth's punishment, or lack thereof.

We call the punishment of a crime the perpetrator's "debt to society" for a reason. It is not his or her "debt to the victim," because in theory, it is society and its code that have been wronged. This is what keeps our system from descending into "eye for an eye" justice. The legal system is there to protect us from ourselves, from each other, and from our natural revenge instinct. Without it, we'd all be killing each other off in vendettas.

The redress of personal grievances is settled lawfully in civil court. The fact that Donte Stallworth made a financial settlement with the family of his victim should have no bearing on his criminal sentence. We know this, if not because we are familiar with the law, then because we feel it in our guts as members of a collective group with a stake in preserving our code.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Education funding cuts

You get what you pay for, and we Floridians have always undertaxed ourselves compared to other states.

It's part of our ethos here in God's Waiting Room, and some would argue that low taxes are what have fueled an economy that has, until now, been based on immigration from other states and countries.

A lot of our retired residents escaped from such high-tax states as New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. They've put kids through the education system Up North, and they're through with that. I would be, too, if I'd had to pay that much.

They have some pretty fine public schools up there. I just visited an elementary school in New Jersey whose multi-media computer room was filled with the latest Apple computers, and the courtyard contained a $90,000 Zen garden for the children to relax in while they contemplated the meaning of life. One classroom door label said, "Mandarin Chinese."

Admittedly, this was a high-end residential community, but clearly the residents were willing to tax themselves to the hilt to give their kids the very best. Here in Florida, they'd just complain and try to hang on to what was theirs.

We could have a top-notch education system, regardless of whether we were in a boom or bust economy, if we had the will.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Castro channels the wrong Marx


You'll notice this entry is cross-filed under "Local South Florida Issues," because that's where it belongs.

The multi-decade dance between Castro's Cuba and successive U.S. administrations has transcended mere foreign policy; long ago, it became an emotionally-charged co-dependency fueled over the years by a volatile exile community capable of tilting national elections.

That we are now making a form of progress in relations with Cuba is due to a couple of developments: the hard-line old guard of the Miami exile community is gradually dying off, leaving more moderate, American-born heirs who think of themselves more as Americans of Cuban descent than Cuban-Americans, and the fact that Obama won Florida in 2008 without the Cuban-American vote, so he owes them nothing.

Both countries have benefited from this warped relationship. Fidel--and now Raul-- Castro needed the U.S. and its embargo to blame for inherent systemic failures in the Marxist Paradise, and U.S. conservatives liked having a Communist enemy just off our shores, not only to keep the base whipped up, but to ensure that mostly Republican Cuban-Americans showed up to vote in high proportion.

Well, it's time to move on, at least for the United States. The Organization of American States has, with qualifications, invited Cuba, finally, to join. The U.S., deciding it doesn't really matter that much anymore, dropped its objections.

Raul, not surprisingly, has spurned the invitation, proving that he needs us as an enemy more than we need him. The intractable problems of his country aren't going away soon, so he might as well keep shifting the blame.

Good luck with that, Amigo.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

BSO employees at the trough

It really isn't the fault of the Broward Sheriff's Office employees.

Putting the possibility of almost unlimited overtime without regulation in front of a bunch of public workers is like dropping off a load of cake and ice cream in a room full of unsupervised kindergartners. After the feeding frenzy is over, the only thing left besides the sticky mess is the grousing about who got to belly up first and grab more than their fair share.

Which is what I understand is going on now at the Sheriff's Office. But that's their problem.

Let's face it- when it's everybody's money, it's nobody's money. That's why we now have spectacles like out-of-control contractor expenses in Iraq and Afghanistan...multi-million-dollar mess halls nobody's ever going to use, for example.

There really is no way to get public officials in senior, supervisory positions to safeguard public funds as if they were their own. There's too much cronyism, too many mutually-beneficial relationships. The money's just...there, as if the Tooth Fairy dropped it off.

It's a twenty-dollar bill you find on the sidewalk. You can either pocket it, or run around town asking if anybody lost a twenty. What's the point? It's a victimless crime, after all...they've already lost the money.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Ex-Palm Beach Commish gets new federal digs

It's comforting to know that my home sprawl, Palm Beach County, is famous for more than Rush Limbaugh, Bernie Madoff and the Butterfly Ballot. We are also one of the capitals of government sleaze.

With three out of seven commissioners behind bars for corruption, we need only one more for a quorum.

Right before the latest, Mary McCarty, was sentenced yesterday to three-and-a-half years in the hoosegow, her lawyer argued that her stint should be reduced to a year and a day, on the grounds that the scope of her crimes did not approach that of her already-incarcerated colleagues, Warren Newell and Tony Masilotti.

This is like saying that while you indeed did the crime, you should get points for incompetence because you couldn't manage to self-deal as much as the next guy.

We all wish Mary well during her sojourn at Club Fed. She seems the type who will benefit from the period of introspection. Considering how things are going here on the "outside," her position is, in many ways, enviable. She gets three guaranteed squares a day, doesn't have to worry about losing the roof over her head, and enjoys steady employment making Federal license plates or whatever it is they produce in the big house.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Hurricane preparedness...or lack of it


The fact that many coastal residents are not prepared for a hurricane is no surprise.

Nobody is going to prepare for anything as long as the threat remains an abstraction. It's human nature. They will begin to prepare, however, when the news that a storm is approaching percolates its way through the ordinary stress and distractions of their daily lives.

This usually happens about forty-eight hours before the storm hits. All of a sudden, there are lines at Home Depot for (now scarce) plywood, and at the supermarkets for water, batteries and other staples that should have been bought months in advance. Incredibly, home improvement stores report that much of the plywood is returned after a storm fails to materialize, as if by surviving a near-miss, we have been inoculated against future catastrophes.

That kind of attitude can only be ascribed to blind superstition. This is what a lot of people must be taking solace in when they fail to perform simple preparatory tasks despite incessant government and media reminders.

It's too late now, but realize that I left ground bat wing and eye of newt out of the cartoon. Shoulda been better prepared.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Padre Alberto's religious conversion


If you have a problem and you can't resolve it, then the next best thing is to make it somebody else's problem.

This wisdom holds as true for Holy Mother Church as for anybody else. The bizarre case of the Roman Catholic priest who was caught on the beach acting, um, human, with a lady was a huge black eye.

To add insult to injury, Father Alberto Cutie began publicly questioning one of the most sacred tenets of the Church, the doctrine of priestly celibacy. While this entertaining little affair doesn't rise to the level of the child abuse scandal, he had to go. But how to disappear him without generating further embarrassment?

Enter the Episcopal Church, which, as a member of the Anglican Communion, traces its very roots to a dispute between King Henry VIII of England and Pope Clement VII. The latter refused to grant Henry an annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon when his head was turned by the comely Anne Boleyn, so Henry cut Rome out of the the English salvation business and became Protector of His Own Faith. Where better for Padre Alberto to hang his clerical collar?

In the end, everyone comes out ahead. It's a modern-day miracle.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Welcome, hurricane season


My editor knows something about economics. At least, he says he does.

He knows more than I do, which to me makes him an authority.

He likes to terrify us during editorial board meetings with little hypotheticals, like: "Suppose a massive hurricane hits, and you lose your roof. Sure, you have a windstorm policy, but because it's now so expensive, you opted for the highest possible deductible...say, $12,000. So you go to the bank for the twelve grand, and they say, 'We're not lending, especially to you, since the value of your home has dropped below the amount of your mortgage.' Now, multiply that by several hundred thousand cases, and you've got a real catastrophe."

Then he says that the only solution will be for the state to step in and start handing out money to people so that they can pay their deductibles. Since the state is required to balance its budget every year, that means all of us taxpayers will have to step in, including those who bought before the bubble and whose mortgages are not upside-down. A political nightmare.

Which is when we turn our eyes to our rich uncle in Washington for Federal relief. You know that old expression, "There are no atheists in foxholes?"

Try this one: "There are no Libertarians in roofless homes."

submit to reddit
add to delicious

The death of Tri-Rail?


We tried to give it a permanent source of funding with a $2 tax on rental cars.

Yes, Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties, the three serviced by Tri-Rail, were willing to tax themselves. Well, they were willing to tax tourists who came and rented cars, but it's a small point.

The Republican-dominated legislature, which had to approve the self-taxation, felt we needed to be rescued from our own folly, and refused to sign off on the plan. Why? The old anti-tax philosophy. What happened to government staying out of the people's business? I thought that was Republican philosophy, too.

Then Tri-Rail got caught up in some petty tit-for-tat ego battle between pols over a similar system in Central Florida. We don't get ours, then you won't get yours.

It's all very childish. Remember that as you creep down I-95 past those lovely abandoned stations.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

The Casey Anthony trial, coming to a venue near you

This blog is often Florida-centric, since as editorial cartoonist for a regional daily, I need to remain mindful of the interests of my print readership.

It is a happy moment when local news morphs into national. This happens not infrequently here in the Sixth Borough of Paradise--the Butterfly Ballot and Anna Nicole Smith are two subjects that immediately come to mind.

If Casey Anthony's lawyer's request for a change of venue is granted, the whole dog and pony show may move from Orlando into our backyard--along with the paparazzi, TV crews, international media, and the usual carnival train of hangers-on and scam artists that accompanies spectacles of this magnitude.

Paging Judge Seidlin.

The Anthony case holds no interest for me. Mrs. Lowe-Down, on the other hand, is addicted to the criminal porn shows, like Issues With Jane Velez Mitchell and the eponymous Nancy Grace, driving The Lowe-Down into his garage workshop for refuge.

At the beginning of each program (I hear this in the background, mind you), Nancy marches through a set-piece litany recapping the major events in the Anthony psychodrama. I remember one line in particular, "little Caylee's body, duct-taped and stuffed into a garbage bag, LIKE TRASH!" She could open a side business selling rosary beads for viewers to finger while they recite the liturgy along with her.

Anyway, who am I to complain? Tourism is tourism, and we'll take it anywhere we can find it. O Judge, in thy boundless wisdom which passeth all understanding, please grant Casey's petition...

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Red-light cameras


It's the Holy Grail for cash-strapped localities: cameras, supplied by a private company, that snag red-light runners. The company takes a cut, the city gets the money, and it's win-win for everybody.

Red-light runners are one resource that South Florida possesses in an abundant, inexhaustible supply. Tapping into them is like harnessing the power of the sun.

Besides, everybody hates them, so it's like taxing child abuse or something. There's no constituency of red-light runners that will organize to push back against being targeted.

Another advantage I see is that, this being Florida, the rear-end collision side-effect of drivers slamming on their brakes at the last moment will be more pronounced than in other states where these cameras are being tried. Take into account all the usual text-messaging, phone-yakking, ingesting of dangerous drugs, and doing make-up while driving that happens in every state, and add to it the slower reaction time of a tailgating senior who is trying to get through the light because, like everybody else in Florida, it's important to get wherever you're going ahead of all the other drivers, and you've provided a stimulus for one of our major industries: personal injury lawsuits.

It's the gift that keeps on giving.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Cuban exile group sees the light


It looks like Fidel Castro may have won simply by outlasting everybody else.

The Cuban American National Foundation, long the bulwark of the hard line against engagement with the Communist regime--a group so powerful that it hamstrung one administration after another and virtually dictated our Cuba policy for years--has now decided that maybe increasing our ties with the island is the best way to effect change.

It's true that the C.A.N.F.'s influence is on the wane (Obama took the swing state of Florida in spite of its support of McCain), and the younger Cuban-Americans, the next generation, neither share the fire in the belly nor the fear of being tarred as Castro sympathizers for following their own political path. Slowly and tentatively, U.S. official policy toward Cuba is becoming more flexible.

It has been said that Miami-Dade County is the only county in the U.S. to have its own foreign policy. That may still be so, but at least theirs is finally coming into line with the federal one.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

The Wheel of Ill Fortune

My Creationist friends aren't going to appreciate this, but Florida--South Florida in particular--is a Darwinian environment for people and dwellings.

It is a rare building indeed that does not fall victim to such local perils as windstorms, the Formosan termite, the Cuban Death's Head cockroach, tuberculosis-inducing mold, and a host of other natural nightmares.

As if that weren't enough, we have to face brimstone-laden panels of Chinese-made gypsum board, predatory lending institutions and additional man-made threats to home and hearth, like entire neighborhoods turning into ghost towns. Only the toughest humans and domiciles survive this brutal natural selection process.

Back to Creationism: Anyone who really believes in the doctrine of "Intelligent Design" should take a good look at how this region developed. It'll make a Big Bang theorist out of anybody.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

Robert Wexler, down in the trenches

Congressman for Life... It has a nice, third-world ring to it, doesn't it?

Well, that's my Congressman, Robert Wexler. I say that loosely, because he calls Maryland home, but he nominally represents my interests as a resident of his district.

I've had some fun with Rep. Wexler in the past, which he accepts with good humor. He can afford to be magnanimous, because nothing I or anyone else says is going to dent his chances of getting reelected as often as he wants.

Robert may rarely show his face around here, but his constituent services are second to none, so nothing short of a secret photo showing him cavorting on a yacht with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would ever cause his adoring public to have second thoughts about him.

This Chinese drywall thing, though, is one of those simmering little stories that can blow up in a legislator's face if he allows himself to get caught napping. It's unlikely there's much of a Chinese drywall problem among Mr. Wexler's neighbors up in Maryland, but there is one down here where people vote. Hence, the inspection tour.

So nice to have you back in the area, Congressman. Stay a spell and enjoy the holidays with us!

submit to reddit
add to delicious



It's time, once again, to get our minds off depressing issues like politics and the economy to discuss an unrelated local topic, to wit: the Boca Raton teacher who has been accused of allowing her cats to starve to death in her apartment while she was off working and spending time with her boyfriend and family.

We knew the subject would stir passions, which is why we made it the Daily Buzz on the Sun Sentinel's website. So far, it has been a smashing success.

I am owned by two cats, myself. I use this locution advisedly, because in a relationship with a cat, he or she is the master, and you are the dog. A cat displays allegiance to the last person who fed it, and that's about the extent of the bonding. I think it's precisely because cat loyalty is so transitory that we prize the critters so. Dogs love you even if you're a dirtbag. With them, love is cheap (I also have a dog).

This is why pet food manufacturers can extort cat lovers, pound for pound, for the most carefully prepared feline treats, while dog food can be bought in bulk at a price that more accurately reflects what it's worth. No kitty toy or gimmick designed to make their lives more comfortable is too expensive.

For the record, I think that what this woman is accused of doing is worthy of a felony charge. The least she could have done was leave the sliding door ajar so that they could get out and fend for themselves. She didn't.

On a personal note, this cartoon marks my 25th anniversary here on the Opinion Page of the Sun-Sentinel. Where did the time go? I think I'll celebrate the auspicious occasion with another Lowe-Down Cartoon Caption Contest, probably next week. Cool prizes and the thanks of a grateful nation lie in store for those with the guts to enter.

Stay tuned.

submit to reddit
add to delicious

The murder rate and the economy

Law enforcement types are really scratching their heads over this one. Normally, when the economy sags, there's an uptick in violent crimes and murders. In this recession, however, the year-over-year numbers are down, at least in Broward County, FL.

My theory is that we are confronted with the worst economy that those of us who still have the strength to lift an assault weapon have ever seen in our lifetimes. It's scary, and everyone's too busy out looking for work or trying to hang onto his job to indulge in flighty diversions like killing other people.

An alternative postulate: you know what they say about most murders being committed by someone the victim knew personally. Maybe that someone, at the moment of pulling the trigger, remembers that the bullet's recipient is the one who brings home a significant portion of the bacon. These days, a person with a steady job is somebody to be valued. Maybe it's in everyone's best interests to kiss and make up.

Just an idea. I'm willing to hear others.

submit to reddit