Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Good things from Bad things









As of now,  the FPOTUS is spending 4 days a week in a small courtroom flanked by his attorneys.  Occassionally, he goes to sleep.  Ever day he's in court, he finishes with a statement from the courtroom hallway often repeating his many misstatements about almost everything.

Meanwhile, all of Washington sans the FPOTUS gathered at the Hilton for the annual toney Correspondents Dinner. This from the Hollywood Reporter:

Before the event began, hundreds of protesters had gathered outside the Hilton in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington to confront attendees and encourage journalists to boycott the event. The demonstrators shouted about the deaths of journalists in Gaza as they covered the ongoing conflict there and held banners while chanting “Free, free Palestine.” Biden was also reportedly confronted by a smaller group of protesters calling for a ceasefire on Israel’s deadly ground campaign in Gaza. 

Later in the evening, Biden took to the podium where he fired off a relentless series of gags that went after headliner Jost (addressing the SNL writer’s wife, Scarlett Johansson: “Clearly, you’re the funny one in the family”); his presumed opponent Donald Trump in this year’s presidential race (“My vice president actually endorses me…”); and even acknowledged the hot-button issue of his age, which as the first octogenarian presidential candidate is a central issue for voters (“Yes, I’m a grown man running against a six-year-old”).

Colin Jost followed with some pretty good jokes that for some reason didn't really land.  (The best ones were about his wife)

Yet in the end, Jost turned it around with simple sentimentality and by offering a sincere moment directly to the U.S. president. Bringing up his late firefighter grandfather, who died this past year, Jost told Biden that he reminds him of the man who had voted for the president in 2020. 

My grandpa voted for decency, and decency is why we’re all here tonight. 

Decency is how we’re able to be here tonight,” Jost said. 

He also made a quip about how this decent man is not beating his serial lying, court appearing, hate mongering, word mangling, supreme court corrupted, narcissistic opponent like the Globetrotters would dominate the Washington Generals. 

How could the race be anywhere close to tied?

Here is Simon Rosenberg's take:

As I reviewed last night, here’s my basic take on the 2024 election right now: 

Joe Biden is a good President. The country is better off. We have a very strong case for re-election.

The Democratic Party is strong, unified, raising tons of money and winning elections all across the country.

And what do they have? They have Trump, the ugliest political thing any of us has ever seen, leading a party far more a raging dumpster fire than a well- oiled political machine.

In 538’s national Presidential polling average Biden has gained 1.7 pts against Trump in recent weeks, and the general election head to head is essentially tied. 

We’ve also seen a 3.5 pt gain for Democrats in recent months in 538’s Congressional Generic (which party will you support for Congress), and Dems now have a slight lead though it too is essentially tied. 

A majority of the national polls this week have the Biden tied or ahead, with 3 - Marist, Ipsos and FAU showing small Biden leads. It’s a close, competitive election with Dems gaining some ground in recent weeks.

We’ve seen this dynamic - Republicans repeatedly struggling - show up in 2024 now too. We saw it in the Tom Keen January special election in Orlando; in the Suozzi win in February; in Alabama a few weeks ago; in NY-26 Tuesday; and most importantly we’ve seen it again and again in Trump’s Presidential primary performances, where he has repeatedly underperformed public polling and Haley repeatedly performed far better than anyone expected, even after she dropped out of the race. Remember in 2024 Trump has been repeatedly *underperforming* public polling. 

I also think we’ve seen this dynamic in the recent Marist polling that breaks out likely voters from registered voters, something few polls are doing right now. In this week’s Marist poll Biden leads 50-48 (+2) with registered voters, but 52-47 (+5) with “definite” or likely voters. 

So why is the race so tight Is it Crime?

A new USA Today story on crime rates in America interviewed crime data expert Jeff Asher: 

As early data showed murders declining nationwide last year, Asher was careful about overstating things. But as the big decline continued, he wrote in December that he had “seen enough” and was ready to declare that the U.S. was experiencing a major drop in killings.

“Murder plummeted in the United States in 2023, likely at one of the fastest rates of decline ever recorded,” Asher wrote online.

The decrease in murders is "potentially historically large," Asher told USA TODAY, and it's not just killings that are declining. Preliminary 2023 FBI data “paint the picture" of a big decrease in overall crime, he wrote.

Biden governs and leads, on hard things, big things, on the things that matter to all of us.

Is the race tight because of the Economy?

Our economy is the best in the world.  Just look at this graph

The US Grows As % Of Global GDP - The remarkable American economy continues to be as the FT called it the other day, “the envy of the world.” Note that as our share of global GDP has grown in recent years, China’s has declined. 









Is the race tight because of the border? 

Rs are doing all they can to make political hay out of this global phenomenon that will only get worse and worse as climate change continues to wreck havoc around the world and the United States continues to be a refuge from that chaos.

Is the race tight because of Gaza?

Biden and Democrats have closed the gap  during the last few months, but College unrest could make taking a clear lead this summer more problematic.

Last night at dinner, I talked about how bad things sometimes arise from good things and good things can arise from bad things.

Let's hope and work this election to be the latter.

And that Decency prevails over Lunacy

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Sunday, March 31, 2024

The Bible Salesman



It's Easter and as usual, those who wish to lead this nation and the world have offered their wisdom and inspiration to those who they wish to gain their support and confidence. This from Newsweek:


The former POTUS went on to call out his prosecutors by name, mentioning Department of Justice (DOJ) special counsel Jack Smith, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis and Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. He blasted each prosecutor and slammed Biden, describing the president as "CROOKED." The former president concluded the post by again wishing: "HAPPY EASTER EVERYONE!"

In contrast, Biden posted Sunday: “Jill and I send our warmest wishes to Christians around the world celebrating Easter Sunday. Easter reminds us of the power of hope and the promise of Christ’s Resurrection.”

Biden’s message ended: “From our family to yours, happy Easter and may God bless you.”

If you read the Bible, you may be familiar with these verses:

Proverbs 12:19 “Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment.” 
Proverbs 12:22 “The Lord detests lying lips, but He delights in men who are truthful.” 
Proverbs 19:9 “A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who pours out lies will perish.”
Despite the former POTUS seemingly being able to shoot someone on 5th Avenue and go unpunished, Polls show that he may be in trouble if he is convicted of a felony:

The poll, from Bloomberg and Morning Consult, found that 53 percent of voters in key swing states would refuse to vote for Trump if he were convicted of a criminal offense. A slightly higher share, 55 percent, say they would reach that conclusion if he were sentenced to prison.

If those figures are accurate, they could easily decide the election, given how close Trump’s two elections in 2016 and 2020 have been.

But wait a minute, there are convictions. His fake university, his charity, his real estate company, and he himself have all been judged for illegal behavior. Here's a reminder:

Feb 6, 2018

A federal court approved a $25 million settlement on Tuesday with students who said they were duped by Donald Trump and his now-defunct Trump University, which promised to teach them the "secrets of success" in the real estate industry.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco finalized the settlement after it was first approved by a judge last March following an appeal by Sherri Simpson, a Florida woman who said she spent roughly $19,000 on Trump University workshops. 

Dec 10, 2019

President Trump has paid $2 million to eight charities as part of a settlement in which the president admitted he misused funds raised by the Donald J. Trump Foundation to promote his presidential bid and pay off business debts, the New York State attorney general said on Tuesday.

The foundation’s giving patterns and management came under scrutiny during Mr. Trump’s run for office, and last year the New York attorney general filed a lawsuit accusing the president and his family of using the foundation as an extension of their businesses and the campaign.

The payments were part of a settlement announced last month that capped a drawn-out legal battle. In the end, the president admitted in court documents that he had used the foundation to settle legal obligations of his businesses and even to purchase a portrait of himself.

May 9th, 2023

When E. Jean Carroll and Donald Trump went to trial last spring over her sexual assault allegations, a nine-person civil jury found that Trump sexually abused her but that she failed to prove he raped her.

The former president made hay of that distinction when he sued Carroll in June, alleging Carroll defamed him by saying she was raped in a media interview after the verdict.

The counterattack was quickly shot down.

Federal Judge Lewis Kaplan ruled in August that the jury verdict showed Carroll's rape allegation was "substantially true" and dismissed the counterclaim.

February 8th, 2024 

A federal judge formally ordered Donald Trump to pay $83.3 million to E. Jean Carroll, endorsing the jury’s verdict from the defamation trial last month.  This will be the second judgment Carroll has won against Trump. Last year a jury awarded her $5 million in damages after finding Trump liable for sexual abuse and defamation for denying Carroll’s rape allegation, saying she wasn’t his type, and suggesting she made up the story to sell copies of a book.

Feb 16th, 2024

A New York judge on Friday handed Donald J. Trump a crushing defeat in his civil fraud case, finding the former president liable for conspiring to manipulate his net worth and ordering him to pay a penalty of nearly $355 million plus interest that could wipe out his entire stockpile of cash. In his appeal, the bond was reduced to 175 million and an extra week was granted. 

April 15th, 2024

NEW YORK (AP) — The first of Donald Trump’s four criminal trials will begin April 15, a Manhattan judge ruled Monday after tearing into the former president’s lawyers for what he said were unfounded claims that the hush-money case had been tainted by prosecutorial misconduct.

Judge Juan M. Merchan scoffed at the defense’s calls to delay the case longer or throw it out entirely because of a last-minute document dump that had bumped the first-ever trial of a former president from its scheduled Monday start. Trump vowed to appeal the ruling.

Jury selection will begin in 2 weeks.

So there have been convictions and there will be more.

I've been reading a book called Strongmen by Ruth Ben-GhiatIn Strongmen, she lays bare the blueprint these leaders have followed over the past 100 years, and empowers us to recognize, resist, and prevent their disastrous rule in the future.

For ours is the age of authoritarian rulers: self-proclaimed saviors of the nation who evade accountability while robbing their people of truth, treasure, and the protections of democracy. They promise law and order, then legitimize lawbreaking by financial, sexual, and other predators.

They use masculinity as a symbol of strength and a political weapon. Taking what you want, and getting away with it, becomes proof of male authority. They use propaganda, corruption, and violence to stay in power.

They also use religion.  

Mussolini granted the Catholic Church statehood 

for their support of his evil fascist regime. 

And they sell Bibles.

With their lying lips.


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Thursday, February 29, 2024














Respect is the Hub has been writing about Respectism in this blog for 18 years.  And many of his posts are among the most popular.  Here is his compilation of his works and of this key constituent for human success:


We All Live in 3 Miles of Breathable Air (Nine Essays)

Our Present Circumstances


Tools of Respect

 Creating the Mutually Respectful Society: 5 Hypotheses

Epilogue and Prologue: Seeing Respect 

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Thursday, January 25, 2024

Mary Elaine McMaster









Mary Elaine McMaster 1936-2023







A week before Christmas Eve, my partner and her six brothers and sisters lost their mother to the other side. Mary Carlson Sprute McMaster passed in the early morning hours of Sunday, December 17th.  It was a beautiful passing that I described here.

Mary or Mamo as she was called by those who loved her was quite a formidable force.  Having been a nurse for most of her working life, and a supervisory charge nurse for much of that, Mary knew how to manage her patients, and a lot of other things: her money, her personal affairs, her husbands, her kids, and their kids. As for "mother in laws", she was my favorite, and I've had a few.

Mamo was a huge sports fan.  Back when the Spurs were worth watching, she would text me and remind to watch the game.  One night, she had lost her internet connection, so I put an IPAD in front of our TV and she watched the game on facetime with us from 75 miles away.  She yelled and behaved as if she was in AT&T stadium in San Antonio.  She loved the Boise State Broncos and went to many of their games as she lived in Boise in summer and fall, and returned to San Antonio in winter and spring.

Mary traveled and made the most of her almost 88 years until the very end.  From Broadway plays to grandchildren playing in the Nutcracker, she was there.  She loved Esther's Follies here in Austin and we had a ticket for her for that Friday after that fateful Thanksgiving day when she finally fell quiet on that holiday morning.

When we made our trip to Idaho to see the totality eclipse there on the Payette River, she simply said "WOW" when the day went dark.  And she wowed and wowed until the dark once again became day.

Here is the obituary written by her first child Dana, (and my partner) along with input from her siblings:

Mary Elaine Carlson Sprute McMaster, 87, of San Antonio, Texas, completed her journey peacefully on December 17, 2023 surrounded by her loving family. She was born in Osburn, Idaho, June 8, 1936 to Russell and Laura Pearce Carlson. Mary was a beloved mother, grandmother, great grandmother, sister, and aunt and was loved and respected for her kindness, wisdom, humor, enthusiasm and a sense of adventure she embraced in all aspects of her life. She was lovingly called Mamo by her children and grandchildren, a nickname she embraced with gusto and a vanity plate on her Mini Cooper.

Mary was a graduate of Wallace High School, Wallace, Idaho and St. Patrick's School of Nursing in Missoula, Montana. She dedicated her life to caring for others as a nurse, always bringing comfort and compassion to those in need.  Mary worked for many years as a general surgery head nurse at St. Alphonsus Hospital in Boise, Idaho and mentored many young nursing graduates early in their career.  She was respected as a teacher and mentor who never asked anyone to do something she was not willing to do herself and had lifelong friendships form from these relationships.  Mary retired from the Methodist Hospital in San Antonio, Texas in 1999 after serving many years as a nursing house supervisor.  

Mary's love of dancing brought joy to her throughout her life.   She met her first true love (and soon to be husband) while on holiday break from nursing school when a handsome redhead in a camel coat walked into the local establishment, brushed snow out of his hair and stepped into her life.    

Gerald “Jerry” Sprute and Mary married in 1957 and spent many years dazzling friends and family with their playful, skilled dancing style.  Their passion for dance was contagious and they inspired others to join them on the dance floor.  Dancing has always been an important part of her life which she shared with her first husband and their seven children.   Throughout her life, one beloved family activity included going out to dance together for any celebration or to just sing and dance at home in the kitchen, living room or wherever we were inspired.   Jerry passed away after a short illness in 2000.  

Mary met John Browning McMaster, Jr. while ballroom dancing in San Antonio, Texas; John was a kind and gentle man who she married in 1994.  Their mutual love of dancing was shared through many years together dancing for pleasure and included participating in many dance competitions throughout the U.S.   John preceded her in death in 2012. 

Mary was an avid sports fan and loved to cheer on her children in their endeavors in baseball, skiing, football, gymnastics and wrestling.   Favorite memories of Mom as a fan include her pounding the mat with her fist as she cheered on her son during a wrestling tournament or beating another child to the end-zone when he was running in a touchdown.  She loved cheering on the Boise State University Broncos and was also a devoted San Antonio Spurs fan.  Mary will be deeply missed by her family and friends and her memory will forever be cherished by all who had the privilege of knowing and loving her.

Mary is survived by her loving children Dana Sprute, Gerald Gregory Sprute, Stephen Thomas Sprute, Christopher Jon Sprute, Jeffrey Carlson Sprute, Michael George Sprute, and Andrea Sprute Dickerson, brother John “Jackie” Barton, sixteen grandchildren, a great grandson and a large extended family, including many adoring nieces and nephews.   She was preceded in death by her daughter, Stana Sprute, husband, John Browning McMaster, Jr., former husband, Gerald Joseph Sprute, parents, Russell Carlson and Laura Barton, her sisters Edna Thornton and Peggy McGee, and her brother Russell "Buddy" Carlson.

A Celebration of Life gathering is planned for family and friends for August 2024 in northern Idaho.  In lieu of flowers, the family kindly requests that donations be made to the National Emphysema Foundation or the American Lung Association; contributions made in her honor will make a meaningful impact for those living with lung disease.

May Mary Elaine McMaster's soul rest in eternal peace, and may her memory be a blessing to all who knew her.  

She is forever in our hearts.

Mary in deed passed that morning with courage and heart.

And she leaves a legacy of the same.

She will be missed.

But she will mostly be long remembered.

Safe Crossing Mary.



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Sunday, December 31, 2023

The Valley of the Sun


We  didn't spend the New Year this year in the mountains of Catorce, or in DF, or in Vegas, or on Times Square, or in London or Paris. This year we were in the Valley of the Sun. And it was delightful.  The weather was just about perfect and our accommodations were the best.  For some reason, my little family decided months ago not to get too far away this year and instead bring in the New Year with my cousin and his family of three boys, two wives, and 2 grandchildren in his large sprawling old adobe home in the center of Phoenix.

We stayed in his large guest house below his personal office. And it was a fortunate thing that we didn't make big plans this year, for there was a powerful event just over the horizon.

Beginning on Thanksgiving Day, where we were planning for 14 family members, the dark shadow of uncertainty fell on us all as my partner's  87 year old mother had a medical emergency in the back bedroom. 

As usual, the Fire Department beat EMS to our tree covered home on Austin's Shoal Creek.  In fact, two firetrucks, two EMS vehicles, and two police vehicles arrived.  And remarkably, they managed to get a pulse, get her breathing though intubation, and rush her to the emergency room just 2 miles away. I stayed at home while my partner and her brother followed the ambulance.

Within a few hours, we received news that she was alive, stabilized, and in intensive care. That evening we had a somber but loving thanksgiving dinner almost as if nothing had changed.  Over the days that followed, Mamo was able to come off the respirator, and begin to recover from the event on Thanksgiving Day.  For almost three weeks, she had good days and bad days and often spoke with clarity on the good days.  But she was needing more and more help breathing from the non invasive respirator.

By the 15th of December, it was decided to move her to Christopher House. There she spent her  last days with all of her 7 children and their partners, 5 of her grand children, and Uncle Herb from Seattle. He was the younger brother of Jerry, her beloved first husband. Always a sports fan, Mary watched her Boise State Broncos play UCLA as she enjoyed her last supper with those she loved.  They sang songs and Uncle Herb sang the Lord's Prayer. Mary even managed to sing for a moment.

Early on the 17th, she breathed her last breath with her oldest daughter, her third son, and his daughter right there with her.  It was a passing of love and beauty.

With Mary's passing, we tried to get Christmas going.  We strung the house lights, and we got our Christmas tree up.  But the lights would not work and it was too late to buy more.  We finished the tree with the only box of lights we could find from our local CVS.  But the tree wasn't just dim, it was somber.

And that was as it should be.

We spent Christmas with good friends at the Four Seasons.  Cousin Lisa flew in from Seattle. We got the new rug installed in the Breezeway. We lit the fireplaces on both sides of our inside/outside house living space.  It was good weather, but it was somber.

Two days after Christmas day, we made our way to the Valley of the Sun.

There we played pickle ball on the flashy Phoenix Country Club courts. We played croquet on my cousins super flat yard with golf course quality grass. But for culture, I had insisted that we go up the mountain to see Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West.

The excursion was well worth the time invested.  Wright's desert laboratory is now a world heritage site. It had been 30 years since I had visited it in my forties.  During that time, I was building my City of the Future model called Argonon and I was reviewing the city plans of many of our great architects.

But I didn't really get Taliesin West, even though I had used his low ceilings running into a fireplace design in a recent renovation and I was pleased with the result. This time, Taliesin was different.  It's modern design at almost 100 years old is striking. And remember, this was his winter home, in Summer he returned to Taliesin in Wisconsin.

Looking from the South West corner of the site, you can see the double 345 KVA lines the power company put right in front of his magnificent view. It was these lines that prompted the 90 year old Wright to tell the city council that if they did this, he would move from Phoenix.  His partner Olgivanna followed up telling them they were not about to move.

When Frank passed in 1959, he had just seen his last creation come to life.  The Guggenheim Museum had just opened.

But the passing of Frank Lloyd Wright and of Mary McMaster is not the story.

The story is the legacy they left us.

As we all live in the Valley of the Sun.

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Thursday, November 30, 2023

The Hero's Journey










A longtime friend of mine posted a piece that touched me recently.  It's a different view of the Hero. In narratology and comparative mythology, the hero's journey, or the monomyth, is the common template of stories that involve a hero who goes on an adventure, is victorious in a decisive crisis, and comes home changed or transformed.

Earlier figures had proposed similar concepts, including psychoanalyst Otto Rank and amateur anthropologist Lord Raglan.[1] Eventually, hero myth pattern studies were popularized by Joseph Campbell, who was influenced by Carl Jung's analytical psychology. Campbell used the monomyth to analyze and compare religions. In his famous book The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949), he describes the narrative pattern as follows:

A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.

Possibly because I think of myself as a hero, and because of a recent event in which two colleagues managed to conduct a coup d etat on a project that I founded, funded, and managed for six years, these words reached out like they might not have before.

"People constantly throw around the term 'Hero’s Journey' without having any idea what it really means. Everyone from CEOs to wellness-influencers thinks the Hero’s Journey means facing your fears, slaying a dragon, and gaining 25k followers on Instagram. 
But that’s not the real hero’s journey.
In the real hero’s journey, the dragon slays YOU
Much to your surprise, you couldn’t make that marriage work. Much to your surprise, you turned forty with no kids, no house, and no prospects. Much to your surprise, the world didn’t want the gifts you proudly offered it.
If you are foolish, this is where you will abort the journey and start another, and another, abusing your heart over and over for the brief illusion of winning
But if you are wise, you will let yourself be shattered, and return to the village, humbled, but with a newfound sense that you don’t have to identify with the part of you that needs to win, needs to be recognized, needs to know. 
This is where your transcendent life begins.
So embrace humility in everything. Life isn’t out to get you, nor are your struggles your fault. 
Every defeat is just an angel, tugging at your sleeve, telling you that you don’t have to keep banging your head against the wall. 
Leave that striver there, trapped in his lonely ambitions. Just walk away, and life in its vastness will embrace you. "   - Paul Weinfield
The friend who posted this was closely involved in our days at Armadillo and Space City Video.  So thank you Paula Helene and wow, you would have so loved our most recent Hero with a Thousand Faces adventure to Vegas to see U2 at the Sphere
 The Sphere is exactly what it is cracked up to be.
It is an entirely new form of entertainment venue.
I'm waiting for a politician to get a hold of it.
And it can't be the orange menace


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