Belltown blight

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A sad shock on the walk from work to the bus stop this evening when I saw that development had claimed a group of scraggly fruit trees on the edge of Belltown.

The trees bordered the large lot that sits between 5th and 6th avenues and Battery and Bell streets. It was a paid parking lot for most the time I’ve walked past, but the lot closed a few months back. A pile of rusty steel girders on the lot’s northwest edge hinted that development had halted with the recession; now the banks must have come through with the dough for construction.

Anyway, the trees — bitter cherry, or perhaps some species of plum — had not been cared for in years, so they looked rough on the outside. But they were healthy, and had the most spectacular flowers this spring. For a few weeks they brightened my mornings and evenings.

I’m glad I snapped a few photos of their last blooms.

There are two remaining trees on the Battery Street side of the lot, but I can’t imagine they’ll be left alone. But I hope they get a reprieve.

UPDATE, Wednesday a.m.: The last two trees were gone by the time I walked by on my way to work this morning…

Colin Powell talks sense on gay marriage … and more

I don’t agree with everything he says, but this interview is worth the watch. It certainly changed my views about Powell a bit …

On whether he plans to endorse President Obama again this year:

I’m just a private citizen. I’m under no obligation to make an endorsement just because I’m on a book tour. So, as I have always said in every election, I like to watch the candidates, but not only the candidates, I want to see what policies they’re liable to implement, what the platform’s going to be. I want to see what the whole ticket’s going to look like. So I will wike my time as a citizen to decide what I’m going to do and who I’m going to vote for.

On what he hoped Obama would do in office:

I wish he had closed Guantanamo. Once he asked congress if he could close Guantanamo, they jus tstopped it because they had to provide funding. I think he could have done it without going to congress. … Guantanamo has been a problem for us for all these years. …

Frankly, I would have like to see the unemployment rate go down much more. I think it has to go down much more by the electio nor he may be in difficulty … he has to focus on the economy and get the jobless rate down because that’s what the American people expect.

On Romney’s comments a few months ago about Russia being America’s top rival:

I think he needs to think through these issues a little more thoroughly before he makes statements like that. I know Mr. Romney. I’ve known him for many, many years, and I think he’s a very excellent individual. I’m sure he means the best for America.

On whether Romney’s religion will affect the election, given Mormonism’s historical treatment of blacks:

No, I don’t think so. The man stands on his own. he is a man of faith. His faith is somewhere different than the faith of other Americans, but I don’t see why his Mormonism should be in the least bit a problem for him.

The fact of the matter is, I know Mitt very well. I know what his views are with respect to African Americans, other minorities, and I think he is a person who believes in diversity and there is no discrimination in his body, in his soul.

On gay marriage:

In my view, right now, it’s a state issue. And different parts of the country have very, very different views. But my own personal view is that, after thinking about it a great deal and watching the progress we have made over the years — I know so many gay and lesbian friends who have committed relationships, who have children and who have been together for 40 and 50 years — and I don’t know why the legal basis of that relationship should not be consummated with a marriage.

It has nothing to do with religion. If a church or some other group or some denomination chooses not to provide a sacrament for that or solemnize it in a religious ceremony, that’s their choice. But to deny that opportunity for a legal relationship with two people under the laws of the state or the laws of the country, I think is no longer appropriate and gay marriage should be accepted.

Now, each state is going to have to work their way through this, and I think if you come back a generation from now, you will find that this has moved greatly and that most states will have adopted it. If you look at the attitudes of the American people, increasingly, the numbers are moving in the direction of acceptance of gay marriage.

It won’t be close

Electoral-map-052412

The polls and pundits say the Obama-Romney race will be close — another 2004 or 2000, with the presidency won by a few points in a few key states.

I’m not so sure. I think this election will look like a landslide in the Electoral College count.  And right now, I think Romney wins.

Why?

It’s almost June, and there’s just not a lot of great economic news for Obama. Pretty soon, it will be too late for any summer or early fall economic growth to change people’s impressions that the current administration fumbled the ball on jobs.

The mood of the country seems pretty bleak. There’s enough hatred for Obama on the right to get lots of people out to the polls, and not a lot of enthusiasm on the left for fighting for a second Obama term.

That’s just my subjective feeling. The friends I’ve talked presidential elections with over the past 15 years will write this off as my usual pessimistic view of the Democrats.

And they might be right.

I’ll update this map whenever I take a notion to. And as with this one, my picks are purely intuitive, based on nothing more than that. It’s how I pick teams for my March Madness bracket (fwiw, I won the pool in 2011 and have come in 2nd or 3rd three or four times).

(Map courtesy 270towin.com)

Go Cats!

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary

________________________________________________________________

For Immediate Release???????????????????????????????? ????????????????????????????May 4, 2012

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REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT

HONORING THE 2012 NCAA MEN???S BASKETBALL CHAMPION??

KENTUCKY WILDCATS

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East Room

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5:03 P.M. EDT

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???????? THE PRESIDENT:?? Thank you!?? (Applause.)?? Thank you very much.?? Everybody, have a seat.?? Have a seat.?? Welcome to the White House, and congratulations to the Kentucky Wildcats on your 8th national championship.?? (Applause.)?? Eighth national champ — that???s not bad.?? (Laughter.)?? That???s not bad.?? Although, this is the first in 14 years.

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Now, this was the fourth year that I filled out my bracket on ESPN.?? And what I???ve learned is that if I make the right picks, I look like a genius.?? But if things go the other way, then a team like Kentucky gets to come to my house and remind me, in person, that I was wrong. ??(Laughter.)?? So it is a double-edged sword.

??

Of course, I knew Kentucky was good.?? I had them in the championship game.?? But in the end, I thought, they got all these freshmen.?? These guys are too young.?? (Laughter.)?? And keep in mind, at this time last year, three of the Wildcats??? five starters were still in high school.?? Michael Kidd-Gilchrist couldn???t even vote yet.?? (Laughter.)

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But let???s face it, sometimes talent trumps experience.?? And sometimes, a bunch of young players, even if they???re used to being big fishes in their ponds, even if they???ve never played together before, they can buy into a system, they understand the concept of team, and they do something special right away.?? And that???s exactly what happened in Kentucky.

??

Of course, a lot of credit for that goes to their outstanding coach, Coach Calipari.?? (Applause.)?? My understanding is, when he recruited these players, Coach started off by asking them some simple questions:?? Do you want to win a national title??? The answer was yes, apparently.?? (Laughter.)?? Can you do it by yourself??? The answer was no.?? He took a roster with six former All-Americans and got them to do something even more impressive, and that was share the ball.?? So you had six players average double figures in points this year; nobody averaged more than nine shots a game.?? If you didn???t play defense, you didn???t play.??

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And as a result, the Wildcats started winning.?? At one point, they won 24 straight.?? They spent the final eight weeks of the season ranked number one.?? They cruised through the tournament, trailed for less than 10 minutes total, before beating Kansas in front of 70,000 fans at the Super Dome.?? (Applause.)?? So that???s a pretty good run.

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Most importantly, though, they did it as a team.?? And nobody, I think, was a better example of that than Anthony Davis, who — everybody kept on remarking on it.?? Nobody has ever seen somebody who didn???t have a lot of field goals and yet still controlled the game.?? Still ended up being the most valuable player — racked up sixteen rebounds, six blocks, three steals.?? That doesn???t count all the intimidation factor — (laughter) — that the other team had to go through.?? Of course, that???s what happens when you grow eight inches between your sophomore and senior years of high school.?? In fact, he has grown an inch since he got to the White House.?? (Laughter.)?? His pants are already like this.?? (Laughter.)?? Just got a new suit.?? (Laughter.)??

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When Anthony needed help, Doron Lamb stepped up, dropping 22 points in the biggest game of his career.?? (Applause.)?? First off the bench, Darius Miller, who became — (applause) — the first player in Kentucky history to be named Mr. Basketball, win a state championship in high school and win a national title with the Wildcats.?? (Applause.)?? I???m pretty sure Coach Cal is right that if Darius decides to run for governor he???ll do all right in Kentucky.?? (Laughter.)?? I also want to congratulate Darius and Eloy Vargas for getting their diplomas on Sunday.?? That???s worth a big round of applause.?? (Applause.)??

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And I want to congratulate them for doing their share of community service in the Lexington community — from packing backpacks full of food for kids who don???t have enough, to raising money for tornado victims.??

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So these guys do it all.?? Everybody???s got to take a good look now, because a whole bunch of these guys are going on to the NBA.?? Who knows, one of them might end up here in Washington.?? We???ll take him.?? (Applause.)

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Coach Cal is back on the recruiting trail, and if the next group of Wildcats is anything like this one, then I might see them again sometime soon.

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So congratulations again to all the fans, to all the faculty, to all the — everybody who helps to make Kentucky such an outstanding university.?? Most of all, congratulations to the team and to coach Calipari.?? (Applause.)

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???????? COACH CALIPARI:?? Thank you very much.?? Mr. President, on behalf of the Big Blue Nation, the Commonwealth of Kentucky, we are honored and humbled to be here.?? This team
, when they won that championship on that court in New Orleans, they were jumping up and down not saying, ???We did it!?? We won!????? They were saying, ???We???re going to the White House!?? We???re going to the White House!????? (Laughter.)?? Because they wanted to meet you.

??

???????? As a member of our team, I???d like our seniors, Darius Miller, to give you his #1 jersey that he wore for four years.?? Eloy Vargas has a ball that the team has signed, and the young

— (laughter and applause.)?? There???s the #1 jersey.

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???????? THE PRESIDENT:?? That's a good-looking jersey right there.?? (Applause.)

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???????? COACH CALIPARI:?? And the young guy from your home city of Chicago —

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???????? THE PRESIDENT:?? Chicago!?? (Laughter.)??

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???????? COACH CALIPARI:?? — would like to present you with the 2012 National Championship ring, and it might say, it is the first.?? (Applause.)??

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???????? THE PRESIDENT:?? Thank you.?? Look at that.?? Well, this is some nice gear.?? (Laughter.)?? I have to say, by the way, after the game, I called the coach and the team, and I mentioned to Anthony that I had actually been to his school, a small charter school in Chicago, when I was still a senator.?? And I had spoken to the kids there, and he told me, yes, I was there.?? (Laughter.)?? But I didn't recognize him.?? He looked a little different apparently four years ago, so what a wonderful set of gifts.?? I appreciate that.??

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???????????????????????????????????????????????????????? ???????????????????????????????????? END?????????????????????????????? ???????? ?????????????????? 5:10 P.M. EDT

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Crimson White House!

Subject: Remarks by the President Honoring the 2011 NCAA Football Champion University of Alabama Crimson Tide

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THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release???? ?????????????????????????????????????????????? April 19, 2012

??

REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT

HONORING THE 2011 NCAA FOOTBALL CHAMPION

UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE

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South Lawn

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2:27 P.M. EDT

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THE PRESIDENT:?? Well, good afternoon, everybody.?? Have a seat.?? Have a seat.?? It is my pleasure to welcome the Alabama Crimson Tide back to the White House — (applause) — and congratulate them on winning their 14th National Championship — their second in three years.?? Roll Tide.?? (Applause.)

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I told Coach he's making this a habit.?? (Laughter.)?? I???m also happy to see the best team in D.C. high school football in the house.?? (Applause.)?? Congratulations to the other Crimson Tide — Dunbar High School — on their city championship.?? (Applause.)?? Might have some recruits out here, Coach.

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Now, we've got a lot of proud ???Bama fans here today.?? It is good to see Mayor Maddox of Tuscaloosa again.?? Mayor Bell of Birmingham is here, as well as members of Congress, including several Alabama alums.?? I also want to recognize Alabama Director of Athletics Mal Moore and Interim University President Dr. Judy Bonner for their support of the best team in college football.?? (Applause.)

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Now, obviously this is a team that knows something about adversity.?? It was one year ago next week that an F4 tornado carved a path right through the town of Tuscaloosa.?? I traveled down there two days later to see the devastation with the Mayor and the Governor.?? And I???ve got to tell you, I???d never seen anything like it.

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And I remember something the Mayor said that day.?? He said that when something like that happens, folks tend to forget all their petty differences.?? Things like politics, religion, race???? -??? when we???re confronted with a tragedy of such magnitude, all that just fades away.?? We???re reminded that all we have is each other.?? And if you need proof of that, just look how the Auburn community stepped up during that time of need.

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The storm took the lives of 248 people, including six students.?? And it touched this team personally.?? Long snapper Carson Tinker???s girlfriend lost her life in the storm.?? And a few weeks later, there was fresh grief — for Aaron Douglas, an offensive lineman who passed away.?? So this became a team in every sense of the word.?? They remembered Aaron and those lost in the storm not just with their hearts, but on their helmets — with a houndstooth ribbon and the number 77.

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And then they took to the field.?? They steamrolled opponent after opponent.?? They racked up an 8-0 record going into the rivalry game against LSU.?? Folks called it the "Game of the Century."?? The top two teams in the country — #1 versus #2; primetime national television.?? And it delivered.?? It was a defensive slugfest that wouldn???t be settled until overtime.?? In the end, one team had to lose.?? And ???Bama gave up its only loss of the season.

??

Fortunately, they got a rematch.?? In the National Championship game, the Tide not only beat the Tigers; they shut them out — the first in BCS championship game history.?? (Applause.)?? LSU earned just five first downs, crossed the midfield line only once, and were held to less than 100 yards.??

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And it wasn???t just the defense that played lights out.?? Kicker Jeremy Shelley nailed a bowl-record five field goals.?? Heisman Trophy finalist Trent Richardson rushed for the only touchdown of the game in his usual fashion — like a boulder rolling downhill.?? Offensive lineman Barrett Jones summed it up pretty well when he said, "We felt like we were capable of dominating, and we did that."??

??

So this team didn???t just shatter records.?? I hear the championship trophy also took a bit of a spill — (laughter) — earlier this week.??

??

So this was a fun season to watch, but it was also a deeply meaningful season for the Tide.?? And what???s even more impressive is that these young men showed that success isn???t about the individual — it???s about the ability to work as a team.?? That???s why senior linebacker Courtney Upshaw handed his defensive MVP award to his teammates, saying the whole defense deserved it.

??

That???s why Coach became the first to win three BCS national championships, but he gave credit to his players??? hard work and persistence.?? They played as a team because of what they had endured as a team.?? And so each victory was about more than getting to the title game — it was about the lives of these players and coaches that they???d carried with them and what they meant to each other.??

??

Each of them found different ways to honor these memories.?? Coach Saban started a program called ???13 for 30??? that aims to rebuild 13 houses for families who lost theirs in the tornado.?? Strength coach Scott Cochran pitched in with players almost every Saturday helping families recover and rebuild.?? Courtney Upshaw raised $20,000 in relief funds for the impacted families.?? And Barrett Jones lugged a chainsaw around Tuscaloosa to remove tornado debris from homes and yards.?? So the Tide showed us what it takes to win as a team, but they also showed what it means to be a part of a larger community:?? to look out for one another,?? to help.?? And that makes them pretty special.

??

So I just want to say to all these outstanding men and all the staff, Coach and the entire Crimson Tide community, congratulations on an extraordinary season, and best of luck next season.?? Who knows, I may see you again.

??

Thank you.?? (Applause.)

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

COACH SABAN:?? On behalf of the entire Crimson Tide Nation, we would like to make Mr. President Obama here a part of our team, for not only the suppo
rt and opportunity that he???s given our team to be here today and to congratulate and honor them, but also the support that you offered and your leadership offered our community in a very difficult time last year with the tragedy of our tornado.

??

It takes a lot of teamwork.?? It takes a lot of hard work.?? It takes a lot of perseverance, certainly a lot of positive energy and attitude to be successful, and a lot of people with a lot of discipline and responsibility to be accountable to do what they're supposed to do — probably some of the things that our country tries to do, as well.

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???????? And we just want our President to be a part of our team, and would like to present you — Barrett Jones will present you a game jersey.

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???????? THE PRESIDENT:?? Now, that's a nice-looking jersey right there.?? (Laughter and applause.)

??

???????? COACH SABAN:?? From the 2011 national champs.?? (Applause.)?? We would also like to give you a helmet over here.?? We certainly don't want to be responsible for any head injuries that the President might have.?? (Laughter.)

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???????? THE PRESIDENT:?? I was mentioning yesterday, I???m probably going to need a helmet between now and November.?? What do you think, Shelby??? (Laughter.)?? Huh??? All right.

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???????? COACH SABAN:?? Well, good.?? Well, we really —

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???????? THE PRESIDENT:?? Thank you so much.

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???????? COACH SABAN:?? We really appreciate the opportunity, and thank you for your time to honor our team.?? Thank you very much.

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???????? THE PRESIDENT:?? Coach, I appreciate you.??

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?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? ?????????????????????????? END?????????????????? ?????????????????? ?????????????????? 2:35 P.M. EDT

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The White House ?? 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW ?? Washington DC 20500 ?? 202-456-1111

Political poll that I just got

I got an automated telephone poll tonight, conducted by National Opinion Surveys for an unnamed client.

Here are the questions I got:

1) Do I think the economy today is improving, about the same or getting worse?

2) Approve or disapprove of Barack Obama's performance in office?

3) Who will you vote for this fall: Obama, Romney or don't know?

4) Who will you vote for in the Senate race this fall: Cantwell, Baumgartner, or don't know?

5) Who will you vote for in the governor's race this fall: Inslee, McKenna, or don't know?

6) Who will you vote for in your local House race: Democrat, Republican, or don't know? (Generic party ID, not candidate names).

7) Who will you vote for in your local state House race: Democrat, Republican, or don't know? (Generic party ID, not candidate names).

Demographics next:

8) What is your age?

9) What is your sex?

10) What is your party ID: Democrat, Republican or independent?

11) Do you have a 4-year degree?

12) Do you have an advanced degree?

13) Are you of Hispanic descent?

14) What is your race?

15) Are you a current or retired union member?

16) Is anyone else in the household a current or retired union member?

17) How would you describe your political views: liberal, moderate or conservative?