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: Florida environment needs more Roger Stewarts


    In his time as a civil servant, Roger Stewart's business card may well have indicated his official position as the director of Hillsborough County's Environmental Protection Commission. In reality, he was actually the community's professional (and quite effective, too) pain-in-the-tuches.

    At the time of his death a few days ago at 89, Stewart had been out of the public eye since his retirement as the head of the EPC 14 years ago. That is a great shame, especially today with Florida led by a governor who has never met a growth management law he didn't want to pave over....

  2. Ruth: Duke Energy gives nod to solar, so why can't Gov. Rick Scott?


    You might remember the scene a few days ago when Florida Gov. Rick Scott grudgingly relented and sat down with a group of scientists for a briefing on the effects of climate change, mankind's role in the looming environmental crisis and what might be done to help the state avoid being turned into a giant flume ride in the not-too-distant future.

    A pained Scott looked like a teenager, albeit bald, being sent to detention hall. He sat for 30 minutes listening to the experts before exiting the room without asking a meaningful question. Fearful of losing the Luddite vote, Scott has assiduously run away from all things remotely linked to science — because no good politically comes from spending time with people who know what they are talking about....

  3. Ruth: Government on a need-to-know basis


    Surely there must be an underling, an apparatchik, perhaps a factotum or two within the Get Smart labyrinth of Rick Scott's inner sanctum who could gently remind him he is the governor of Florida and not the high commissar of SMERSH.

    At the rate the Scott politburo is operating in secret, the state motto ought to be: "The Kumquat Barks at Midnight."

    It should have been a tipoff early on that Scott's reign would look like the Skull and Bones society meets The Da Vinci Code when the governor proudly announced he intended his administration to be an unprecedented "transparent window into how state government works."...

  4. Ruth: Parents pay any price, bear any burden


    There are some facts and figures in life we probably don't really need to know: like when we're going to die, or how long the brother-in-law intends to stay at the house, or perhaps the final tally for the remodeled bathroom that began as a sink installation and wound up resembling one of Saddam Hussein's palace loos.

    Now comes a recent U.S. Agriculture Department report titled, "Expenditures on Children and Families," which notes that by the time Muffin or Skippy turns 18, the average middle-class family will have spent (sit down for this) $230,610 raising the little dickens....

    $230,610 to raise Skippy?
That sounds awfully low.
  5. Ruth: Appalling 'joke' merited stronger response


    On the off-chance they might have missed this minor detail over at the city of St. Petersburg's Stormwater, Pavement and Traffic Operations Department: We are currently residing in the year 2014, not 1861.

    That might come as some small relief to city employee Donald Pittman, who had the experience last year of thinking he might have been caught up in a Jim Crow time warp.

    In October, Pittman, who is black, was at work patching up a street on the city's west side when he felt something on his back, which appeared to be the letters KKK spray-painted on his work vest by — and no, I am not making this up — his supervisor, John Paquette, who is white....

  6. Ruth: Visions of sugar dance in legislators' heads


    It's merely an idea, but perhaps the oath of office for our state's elected panhandlers should be rewritten to read: "I do solemnly swear that I will support, protect and defend the sugar industry interests of the state of Florida; that I am duly compromised to hold office under the legalized bribes of various vested interests in this state, and I will well and faithfully perform the duties of a compliant shill and will to the best of my abilities follow the hunting laws of the great state of Texas for which I am about to board an airplane for an all-expense-paid trip by agricultural lobbyists to butcher unsuspecting critters, so help me (a lot!) the Republican Party of Florida."...

    Florida House Speaker-designate Steve Crisafulli, left, and Speaker Will Weatherford were guests at King Ranch in Texas.
  7. Ruth: The Hillary Doctrine (w/video)


    A few months ago, the New York Times published a massive graphic depicting the overlapping circles of advisers, minions, apparatchiks, confidants, gofers, supernumeraries, pals, cronies, gray eminences, fundraisers, public relations flacks, consultants and enablers who have signed up in the fawning service of Hillary Clinton's presumptive 2016 presidential campaign.

    The schematic was the equivalent of a political Rube Goldberg machine. And, as it turned out, about as effective, too....

  8. Ruth: An atheist visits, and all hell does not break loose


    It might be a good idea for the dedicated public servants presiding over the People's Republic of Pinellas Park to take note that after a pre-meeting prayer that wasn't really a prayer delivered by an unabashed atheist before the governing body of Largovania, not a single resident, or elected official, was turned into a pillar of salt.

    It was billed as a "historic" moment a few days ago when Joe Reinhardt, an avowed atheist, stepped to the lectern before the Largo City Commission to offer some words of guidance and inspiration before the pols started ruminating about zoning issues, code enforcement matters, budget questions and all the other mundane, eye-glazing topics undertaken by municipal governments everywhere. ...

  9. Ruth: Tallahassee: Breeding ground for corruption


    Smart as these folks are, you don't need to be highfalutin political science scholars like Filipe Campante and Quoc-Anh Do to expect that the more isolated a state capital is from the public, the greater likelihood its public officials will be more ethically compromised than a reunion of James Bond villains.

    That's why, translated from the Seminole tongue, Tallahassee means: "You have the right to remain silent."...

  10. Ruth: Florida's first lady answers with a glare


    Here's a tidbit about Florida first lady Ann Scott you might not know. She has a glare that could reduce Vladimir Putin to a whimpering puppy.

    Mrs. Scott was in Tampa last week to make a campaign stop at the Center For Women, a fine organization that does very good work providing a wide range of programs in assisting women with job counseling as well as substance and domestic abuse issues....

  11. Brady leaves heroic legacy in fierce gun control battle


    Sometimes our heroes come from the most unlikely sources.

    Until March 30, 1981, James Brady was more well known as the rumpled, balding, paunchy, funny, avuncular, self-effacing press secretary to President Ronald Reagan.

    But over the course of two seconds — the time it took for John Hinckley to fire six rounds intended for the president from a cheap, $29 .22-caliber pistol purchased from a pawnshop — Brady became a genuine American hero and one of the early founding fathers of the nation's gun control movement....

    James S. Brady speaks to the media in 1981 in Washington. Brady died Monday.
  12. Ruth: Obama, Congress and executive orders


    From all the Old Yeller mouth-foaming in the U.S. House of Representatives one might have concluded the nation was being led by a fiendish Ernst Stavro Blofeld stroking his cat while plotting to turn the land over to al-Qaida, the Medellin cartel and the most evil criminal enterprise of them all (cue The Internationale) — the United Nations.

    In a debate that was a mix of a Jimmy Swaggart revival and a John Birch Society rally, with a healthy dose of scripted tea party talking points, the House voted along party lines to sue President Barack Obama because … well, just because....

  13. Ruth: Florida politicians all hail King Sugar


    This could have been very messy. Since the famed King Ranch in Texas is known as a très chichi hunting preserve, it's a wonder the freeloading Florida politicians schlepping through the woods weren't mistaken for fat, juicy wild hogs as they tore up the landscape in the search for six-figure campaign truffles.

    How do you tell the difference between a political pig at the trough and a wild boar? The Tallahassee swine species requires a lobbyist leash....

  14. Ruth: Aunt Mary meets Greek gods


    When you are taking a dead woman into a foreign country, you might expect a certain amount of scrutiny at the border. But then again, this was Greece, where a tourist is a tourist regardless of the pulse rate. And so we breezed through customs at the Thessaloniki airport with less curiosity over the contents of our luggage than if it contained a bootlegged copy of Yanni's greatest hits.

    We had come to this northern port city to fulfill a promise made by the Bombshell of the Balkans to her late aunt, who died at 100 some months ago, to spread her cremated ashes over Mount Olympus, which Hellenic mythology holds is the home of the Greek gods. Now it is also Aunt Mary's final resting place....

    Courtesy Olympus National Park
  15. Ruth: Fuss and feathers over ethics


    You would probably be forgiven if you mistook the race for governor for something akin to an Our Gang comedy, with a couple of little boys fussing and fuming in a competition to paint the other as more ethically compromised than the cast of Reservoir Dogs.

    For my selfish scribbling interests, one can only hope.

    Still, the 2014 gubernatorial campaign has been somewhat of a disappointment when it comes to salacious scandal, nefarious wrongdoing and Shakespeare-quality duplicity. Considering the money involved, Republican Gov. Rick Scott and his likely Democratic challenger, former Gov. Charlie Crist, should be capable of committing a better quality of sin to outrage the other side....