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Daniel Ruth, Times Columnist

Daniel Ruth

Daniel Ruth has been scribbling away for four decades as a reporter, film critic, television critic and columnist for the Tampa Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Tampa Bay Times. He also has worked as a radio talk show host as well as an adjunct professor for the University of South Florida, the University of Tampa and Columbia College in Chicago. Daniel is a Peter Lisagor Award recipient for his columns in Chicago and has been honored by the Pinellas County Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union with the Irene Miller Vigilance In Journalism Award.

Email: druth@tampabay.com

  1. Ruth: Cuba, America reach across 90 miles


    It was not the warmest welcome. Arriving at Jose Marti International Airport in Havana back in 1978, the first thing I noticed were all the then-Soviet-era warplanes on the tarmac. The grim soldiers with guns in the customs area were hardly a lot of laughs.

    Then on the bus to the hotel were the multitude of billboards featuring virulent anti-American sentiments foisting Cuba's woes off on the United States. Not enough food? Blame the Yankees. No gasoline? America is the one you want. Painful hangnail? Washington's fault....

    Taxi drivers wait for fares next to their classic American cars in Havana last week. How does one end almost 54 years of hostility toward a next-door neighbor? That’s about to become clear as the Obama administration and the communist government of Raul Castro move to normalize more than a half-century of bitter animosity between the United States and Cuba.
  2. Vinik's grand vision is one we should believe in


    Eventually, if this really does happen, the Viniksiana Purchase will be a simply wonderful, game-changing moment in Tampa history — "if," of course, being the operative term here.

    There is considerable room for cautious optimism. And why not? Days ago, Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik presented a sweeping in-the-works $1.1 billion vision to transform some 40 acres in downtown Tampa that could result in 3 million square feet of waterfront development, $35 million in additional tax revenues into the city's coffers, thousands of jobs and a recasting of Tampa's image and standing....

  3. Ruth: Sensible minds will prevail for Tampa Bay Rays stadium pact



    To: Brian Auld, President of the Tampa Bay Rays.

    Subject: Making Nice-Nice

    Dear Mr. Auld,

    You seem like a very pleasant young man, who has worked hard over the years toiling away in various executive positions with the ol' ball club.

    When you rose to the exalted post of el presidente of the Rays in October, you very diplomatically noted your gratitude in being "mentored" by Matt Silverman, whom you succeeded in your new job. Smart move....

  4. Ruth: Gathering around the teetering tree


    Not to get all Fiddler on the Roof's Tevye on everybody, but one of the things I love most about Christmastime is honoring all the deeply ingrained family traditions of the season.

    First is the annual argument over the Christmas tree itself. Do we get a real one, or finally succumb and go the phony route? The Bombshell of the Balkans has been humoring me for years by patiently going along with the yearly schlep to the tree lot, where we have the obligatory debate over which shrubbery to adorn the living room....

  5. Ruth: Jeb Bush plays the grown-up card (w/video)


    Nothing shakes up the political landscape more than the exciting arrival of a new, bold, spirited, youthful fresh face. And then there is Jeb Bush, 61, the Eddie Haskell of the Republican Party. Why that's a lovely dress you're wearing, Mrs. Koch.

    For a while there the former governor of Florida was flirting with being tagged as the GOP's version of an overly cautious, indecisive Democrat — Mario Cuomo 2.0 — as he mulled and ruminated and pondered and cogitated on whether he should run for president. Decisions, decisions. But this was about as big a mystery as wondering if the Christmas season will pass without an airing of It's A Wonderful Life....

  6. St. Petersburg Pier's inverted pyramid a designer's dilemma


    And the Lens died for this?

    Few civic debates have been as filled with frantic Sturm und Drang hand-wringing as what to do with the Pier, the city's answer to a rusting Yugo sitting on blocks in the front yard.

    It's not too late for Mayor Rick Kriseman to hide the cost of some Semtex in the city budget to put the the Pier out of its misery. Boom! Problem solved. But we digress.

    There was a time not long ago when the suggested replacement for the Pier appeared to be on track, if only then-Mayor Bill Foster more aggressively pushed for the innovative Lens design to go forward. But Foster folded faster than Monty Python's Brave, Brave Sir Robin after a bunch of community swells got their ascots in a wad and financed a referendum to kill the project....

  7. Ruth: Propaganda film will dull, not shape, students' minds


    Using convicted felon Dinesh D'Souza's ham-handed video America: Imagine A World Without Her, to force Florida public school students to watch a warped view of the nation's history would be like requiring children to sit through a screening of Saw (1 through 7) as a biology primer on proper dissection techniques.

    But that's the mission of two state legislators, Sen. Alan Hays, R-Triumph of the Shill, and Rep. Neil Combee, R-Birth of a Fabrication, who have filed legislation that would subject students to a 100-minute pile of steaming right-wing propaganda posing as faux patriotic show-and-tell....

  8. Ruth: In Congress, it takes one twit to know one


    It's probably worthwhile to think of these moments as Washington's version of The Jerry Springer Show, where some hapless oaf goes on national television to be exposed as a dolt.

    In this case it was Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Jonathan Gruber, who earned a Ph.D in mea culpas during his appearance before the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Larry and Curly didn't get slapped around by Moe with anywhere near the vigor directed at Gruber, a health care economist who served as a consultant to the Obama administration during the drafting of the Affordable Care Act....

  9. Daniel Ruth: Neighborhood associations encouraged to make positive changes


    You hear that tired old saw all the time about how you can't fight city hall, or the little guy doesn't stand a chance against powerful, entrenched interests. But that is complete balderdash, unless of course John Q. Citizen simply likes getting trampled upon.

    If you want to know where the seeds of grass roots civic activism take their most basic root, you need to look no further than the idea of strong, vibrant — and vocal — neighborhood associations. This is really where the proverbial rubber meets the political road....

  10. Ruth: It's news to some, but Florida really is in the South


    If you were following the professional punditry in recent days, you might have come away with the impression that Florida has somehow been transformed into a suburb of Vermont.

    In the wake of Louisiana Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu's defeat for re-election last Saturday, a bizarre narrative evolved that asserted her departure now meant there was not a single statewide Democratic officeholder to be found anywhere within the Deep South....

  11. Ruth: O Holy Nightmare


    Deck the halls with boughs of … Beelzebub?

    Once again, it is time for the annual pie fight over religious displays in public spaces. Christmas wouldn't be Christmas if there wasn't a Nativity creche set up in the midst of that cradle of spirituality, the Capitol rotunda in Tallahassee.

    Or think of it this way. For the better part of 11 months, there are probably more sins, lapses of ethics, payoffs and duplicitous backstabbing in the Capitol than in Game of Thrones. And then in December, Florida's feedbag of power is supposed to be transformed into an ecumenical haven honoring the Yuletide spirit....

  12. Ruth: 'Stand your ground' flaw makes mockery of law

    Human Interest

    Those stout-hearted pillars of law and order in Tallahassee saw absolutely no reason during the last legislative session to substantively amend the state's "stand your ground" law, which essentially makes it open season on everyone. The law pretty well affords cover for Floridians to shoot one another whenever the mood strikes, with precious little concern they will be charged with a crime.

    That brings us to St. Petersburg businessman, entrepreneur and venture capitalist Byron Jackson, who has been charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of one of his clients, Stewart Duane Barker, when the two men differed over the price of a piece of merchandise....

  13. Ruth: New Beginnings' 'work therapy' costs needy more than a paycheck


    If you are a annoyed about paying the equivalent of a year's worth of out-of-state college tuition for a lousy beer at a Tampa Bay Bucs, Rays and/or Lightning game, consider for a moment that the poor (literally) soul who might have poured your suds left work that day without so much as a farthing in their pocket to show for their labors.

    Or consider if Charles Dickens were alive today, Bleak House might well have been centered in Tampa and retitled New Beginnings, a tale of woe, indentured servitude and phantom educational degrees....

  14. Ruth: McCollum asserts he is certainly no lobbyist


    By his reckoning, former Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum is purer than the driven snow, a virtual Bambi of probity, the virtuous Thomas More of Tallahassee. It's any wonder when McCollum walks into a room that Gregorian chants don't flow from the heavens.

    The former attorney general was taken aback over any remote suggestion he had used his former perch of power to schmooze his successor, Pam Bondi, and cook up some sweet deals for his clients....

    A representative of lawyer Bill McCollum said he has received no special favors from his successor, Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi.
  15. Ruth: Penny-pinching, not light rail, killed Greenlight Pinellas


    Whew! That's a relief. For a while it appeared the fine citizens of the county had rejected this month's Greenlight Pinellas referendum because voters would have rather eaten a plate of cold, withered green peas than agree to an expanded transportation system that included a light rail component.

    As it turned out, that rationale was all wrong.

    Instead, according to recent post-election survey conducted by the Tampa Bay Partnership, Greenlight Pinellas crashed and burned simply because it called for a 1-cent sales tax increase. As the survey noted, Greenlight Pinellas was dead on arrival even if rail had not been a part of the ballot measure....