Thursday, December 14, 2017

When Reds turn gray

Now there's a Jeffersonian moment of democracy for you. Cuba's Raul Castro has suddenly decided the time has come for election reform, which is a bit like Al Capone supporting the temperance movement.

It seems the Cuban president wants to establish term limits and age caps for officeholders. This is absurd, of course.

Cuba always has had term limits. They simply happen to be 54 years in office — and counting. By the Brothers Castro standard, these guys are just getting warmed up.

Raul also wants to set an age limit on those holding positions of power on the island nation. Considering the younger Castro is 81 and his brother Fidel is 86, there appears to be some … flexibility on this point.

In fact the Castro Axis of Depends has lasted so long, the two siblings have managed to make the old Soviet era of wheezing, dottering, addled leaders, who held onto their offices until the last drool, look like a bunch of precocious whippersnappers.

The duo of aging revolutionaries have proved to be so adept at cooking the ballot box, would anyone be surprised if they decided to spend their golden years in the Florida Legislature?

Perhaps Raul and Fidel finally figured out if it is okay for Pope Benedict XVI to break hundreds of years of Vatican tradition and step down for a younger prelate, say someone in their jaunty 70s, then maybe no harm will come for two card-carrying CARP (the Commie Association of Retired Potentates) brothers with a combined age of 167 to contemplate a post-tyrant life tending to their antique thumbscrew collections.

But you can only take this reform stuff so far. It seems the term limit cap won't go into effect until Raul completes his current five-year rule in 2018 at 86, and Fidel will be 91 (if you're keeping a tally), which will also mark the Castros' 59th anniversary of bungled governance, making Cuba the North Korea meets Freedonia of the tropics.

To be sure, it is probably not a bad idea for a leadership team with prostates the size of a beer keg to create some sort of succession path for the next generation who never knew Che Guevara's nickname, which was Stinky, by the way.

Raul came to the presidency after his brother fell ill and gave it to him, perhaps to make up for short-sheeting his bed when they were kids.

The younger Castro won unanimous re-election to the presidential mansion in a nail-biter of a vote by the Vichy-esque National Assembly, since he was running against Clint Eastwood's empty chair.

Still, you have to wonder when Fidel was in his crisp fatigue-wearing prime and Raul served as his brother's grape-peeler, what would have happened if someone had proposed letting the body politic participate in open presidential elections as well as imposing term and age limits on those running the government. Nothing very good — or healthy.

Just as Fidel turned over the presidency to his brother, Raul anointed his eventual successor, Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, a virtual toddler at 52, who was named vice president.

This sort of vote rigging spares us the frustrating effort of trying to figure out how Nate Silver's Electoral College handicapping system works.

Five years before Diaz-Canel takes over the sugarcane codes from Raul can be an eternity in Cuban politics. Much can happen.

After all, Diaz-Canel is only one of the Cuban government's five vice presidents. It's entirely likely the other four also hum "Hail to the Despot" and have their own designs for the top job.

It's always possible Diaz-Canel could contract the Kremlin "flu," for which there is no known cure beyond sharing quality time next to Vladimir Lenin.

He could accidentally fall down an elevator shaft, if there is one in working order in Havana.

Or maybe the president-in-waiting could do something that offends Fidel and Raul, like getting caught sending iPhone videos of himself doing a very bad Hugo Chavez impersonation and find his career sidetracked to the night watchman shift at the Guantanamo gate.

Or — by the time 2018 rolls around, a tanned and rested Fidel Castro could decide that he's not that close to checking out and reclaim his old job. Any doubts he would have the votes?

Imagine the snappy campaign slogan — "60 More Years — He's Not Dead Yet!"

Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

For once, it would be nice to see Sen. Marco Rubio stand up as the independent leader he aspires to become. For once, the Florida Republican should hold his position rather than bow to pragmatic politics. Rubio can stick with his threat Thursday to v...
Updated: 4 hours ago

Another voice: A shameful anniversary

Josephine "Joey" Gay should have celebrated her 12th birthday this week. She should have been surrounded by friends and family in a place festooned with purple, her favorite color.Chase Kowalski should have been working toward a Boy Scout merit badge...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Timing is everything, and Sen. Bill Nelson seized the right moment this week to call on his colleagues to pass legislation he filed earlier this year that would block the Trump administration from opening additional areas to offshore drilling. With t...
Published: 12/13/17

Another voice: Alabama picks an honorable man

THANK YOU, Alabama.In Tuesday’s special election, the state by a narrow margin chose to spare the nation the indignity of seating an accused child molester in the U.S. Senate. Though the stain of electing Republican Roy Moore would have sullied Alaba...
Published: 12/12/17
Updated: 12/13/17
Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

As congressional negotiators hammer out the details on an enormous, unnecessary tax cut, the potential negative impact on Tampa Bay and Florida is becoming clearer. The harmful consequences stretch far beyond adding more than $1.4 trillion to the fed...
Published: 12/12/17

Another voice: Privacy in the internet age

How much information about you is on your cellphone? Likely the most intimate details of your life: photographs, internet searches, text and email conversations with friends and colleagues. And though you might not know it, your phone is constantly c...
Published: 12/10/17
Updated: 12/11/17
Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Confronted with documentation of sanctioned brutality and sexual abuse in Florida’s juvenile detention centers, the reaction from Gov. Rick Scott’s administration was defensive and obtuse. So it’s welcome news that Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine...
Published: 12/08/17
Updated: 12/11/17

Editorial: U.S. House sides with NRA over state’s rights on concealed weapons permits

With the horror of the mass shootings at a Las Vegas country music concert and a small Texas church still fresh, the U.S. House finally has taken action on guns. But the bill it passed last week won’t make Americans safer from gun violence. It is an ...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

There is no satisfaction for anyone in the standoff over pay raises between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers. Most teachers across the nation already are underpaid, but this district simply cannot afford the raises teachers ex...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

With a buildout of $3 billion encompassing entire city blocks, it’s obvious that Jeff Vinik’s plans will change the look and feel of downtown Tampa. But the Tampa Bay Lightning owner unveiled a broader vision last week that reflects how far the impac...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17