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White House Insecurity

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Omar Gonzalez isn’t the first White House intruder, but he is the most armed.  Authorities say about 800 rounds of ammunition was found in his car.  Fortunately, the Obamas were not at home.


Less than 24 hours later, another man, Kevin Carr, was arrested for driving through a White House gate and refusing to leave.


Aren’t Secret Service Agents supposed to guard the White House and particularly, the Obamas with their lives?  How, then, was Gonzalez able to scale the fence, run across the lawn and head toward the presidential residence, all the while carrying a knife?  It is as embarrassing as it is disturbing. 


To their credit, agents ordered the man to stop.  But he should not have been allowed to get that close.  The incident, which occurred Sept. 19, has put the Secret Service under scrutiny.  What went wrong, and what is being done to make sure potentially violent criminals stay far away from the First Family?


Officials initially said the fact that Gonzalez appeared to be unarmed may have been a factor in why agents at the scene didn't shoot him on the spot or sic their dogs on him.  


"Unfortunately, they are failing to do their job," said Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah. "These are good men and women, but the Secret Service leadership has a lot of questions to answer."


Last year, a woman rammed her car into a security checkpoint.  A man was arrested for following the president’s motorcade through the gates.  In August, a toddler managed to slip through the slats of the iron gates surrounding the perimeter.  Agents joked they would wait until the child learned to talk before questioning him. 


So far, Director Julia Pierson has increased surveillance and the number of patrol officers and is investigating the incident. 






United Nations Security Council members on Wednesday unanimously approved a resolution to address the growing threat of terrorism..


Speaking to the Council, President Barack Obama thanked the Council for its support, but urged them to translate their words into action.


"Resolutions alone will not be enough, promises on paper cannot keep us safe, lofty rhetoric and good intentions will not stop a single terrorist attack," Obama said.


Facing what is the most serious military threat to his presidency, Obama urged US allies, notably the UK, Germany and France to step up their efforts in the fight.  Videos of recent public executions of Western civilians by Islamic terrorists in the Middle East have sent shock waves around the world and created a heightened demand for military action.


“In the nearly 70 years of the United Nations, this is only the sixth time that the Security Council has met at a level like this.  We convene such sessions to address the most urgent threats to peace and security.  And I called this meeting because we must come together -- as nations and an international community -- to confront the real and growing threat of foreign terrorist fighters.”


ISIS has videotaped the executions of 2 American journalists, James Foley and Steven Sotloff.  A video of Sunni Jihadist beheading British aid worker David Haines was uploaded on Sept. 13. 


“Today (Sept. 24), the people of the world have been horrified by another brutal murder, of Herve Gourdel, by terrorists in Algeria.  President Hollande, we stand with you and the French people not only as you grieve this terrible loss, but as you show resolve against terror and in defense of liberty,” Obama said.


A militant group in the Philippines, Abu Sayyaf, has announced that it is holding two German citizens and has threatened to kill them if Germany does not back out of the intervention in Syria, according to the New York Times.


Obama has criticized for admitting he did not yet have a strategy for attacking ISIS.  When he announced on Sept. 10 that the U.S. would launch air strikes, he was criticized for saying too much.  There is a growing division within U.S. military intelligence agencies over whether the use of military aircraft is enough.   


Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates says that President Obama will have to send in U.S. troops to fight the Islamic militant group:


"The reality is, they're not gonna be able to be successful against ISIS strictly from the air, or strictly depending on the Iraqi forces, or the Peshmerga, or the Sunni tribes acting on their own," Gates said.


ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has challenged Obama to a street fight with troops on the ground. 


U.S. intelligence agencies estimate that more than 15,000 foreign fighters from more than 80 nations have traveled to Syria in recent years.  Many have joined terrorist organizations such as al Qaeda’s affiliate, the Nusrah Front, and ISIL, which now threatens people across Syria and Iraq, Obama said.


The main conflict zones include Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya, Syria and Iraq.


Fast Talkers

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Mayor James Butts dropped a major bombshell during Tuesday night’s city council meeting.  From now on, public remarks made at the end of the meeting will be limited to one minute.


Groans were heard from the audience and two men walked out. The mayor was called everything but a child of God, even compared to Hitler and Mussolini.


“This is a new low for the city.  It’s a veiled attempt to silence the people,” Gil Mathieu said. 


“I am sure you have your reasons, but I’ll let you speak for yourself.  You’re men.  Other (city council) meetings give you cards so you can fill them out to make sure you have something to say. You’re not just having your own bully pulpit,” said long time resident Ray Davis. 


“You can say whatever you want but we talk too much,” Butts said to his critics.  “The public has 4 minutes now.  They have 3 minutes before and 1 minute after.  Let’s be big people and be concise.”  In regard to references of him acting like Hitler, the mayor responded:  “To say that, you don’t really know what the Jews suffered.”


Inglewood Recreation and Parks Commissioner Willie Agee joked that he didn’t know what he would do with his extra time.


Other than the change in public comments, audience members commented on various aspects of the Hollywood Park project.  There is some resistance to the massive mixed-use project being built in Inglewood. 


“Hollywood Park has been a consummate partner.  They could have bankrupted their LLC, like a lot of other companies did, when the recession hit. But they hung in there. As a result, they have built a quality project that is going to employ thousands of people,” Butts said.


“Before they even came to us, they spent about 3 years talking to the community.  It’s amazing the time they’ve put in, so no one is giving them anything,” Councilman Eloy Morales said.


Council members agreed to accept a $245,000 grant to improve traffic safety; awarded $582,267 to a contractor for a storm drain improvement project; up to $1,337,452 for an extended architectural and engineering design contract related to residential sound insulation; and a second RSI engineering and design agreement for $569,495.


The council also approved two ordinances—one related to the Hollywood Park Specific Plan guidelines, and another to expand zoning boundaries related to the relocation of Hollywood Park Casino and surrounding areas.   


City Clerk Yvonne Horton reminded everyone that October 20th is the last day to register to vote in the Nov. 4th General Election.  You need to register if you have moved, changed your name or turned 18 since the last election. The City Clerk’s Office will hold a registration drive during the District 2 Picnic this Sunday, Sept. 28th at North Park.  


City Treasurer Wanda Brown is flying high from another successful community financial workshop.  The well attended workshop covered a number of topics of interest to residents at all stages of life—banking, credit, insurance, reverse mortgages, saving for retirement, and more. 


Homeowners, Brown said, should be aware that “a new wave of foreclosures is coming.   Loan modifications are beginning to adjust and will continue for the next 4 to 5 years”


Butts introduced an initiative to lower the income threshold for seniors to receive discounts and tax refunds from public utilities.  “We had seniors (whose) cost of living made them ineligible.  Now you can make more money and still qualify,” Butts said.


“We wanted to make sure people who really need this program will qualify,” Morales added.


Speaking of money, two residents had this to say:


 “I am voting for this man,” said Ethel Austin, pointing to Butts, “because he kept us alive. You all (council) kept us above water.”


 “You took a different path.  It was painful. You annoyed people, but we have not gone into bankruptcy and I thank you for that,” Davis said.


Councilman George Dotson responded to an inquiry about the now closed Warren Lane School and trees being removed to make way for the Hollywood Park project.  “They are working on the school right now.  A lot of the trees in Hollywood Park are being saved.”  Dotson reminded the public to mark their calendars for his District 1 Document Shredding event, this Saturday, September 27th, from 9am to noon at the Police Community Center, Beat 3, 2901 W. Manchester Ave.


Councilman Ralph Franklin said more about the new public comment rule:  “As the chair, he (mayor) has the ability to grant people more time.  We ask that you address the matter that you would want addressed versus the issue of the timeline.  Also our offices are open if you want to speak more about the matters.”


Mike Benbow commented on the great time he had at the concert featuring Frankie Beverly and Maze and Patti Labelle at the Fabulous Forum.  “That music was all about love.”  He thanked the council (by way of working out a deal to bring back the Forum under new ownership) for bringing the concert to Inglewood. 


Butts commented on the concert goers, who were solidly middle-aged: “There was not a lot of standing and there was not a lot of marijuana smoking.”




With the exception of some old-souled young artists like Alicia Keys, finding grown folks music is pretty much limited to old CDs and old school radio stations. They just don’t make a lot of good soul music anymore.


So it was a real treat Sunday night when the Forum held a concert with Frankie Beverly and Maze, Patti Labelle and Reuben Studdard.  Not a teeny bopper in sight.


Studdard, who won “American Idol” back in 2003, was probably the youngest person in the room.  But even he has that old-school vibe, expressed through a medley of Luther Vandross and Earth, Wind and Fire covers.


Labelle has still got it.  Her voice still sends chills down my spine every she sings “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”  And she still loves to kick her shoes off.  A pair of heels went flying off the stage during one of her songs.  Luckily, she had a pair of back-ups.


Now 70 years young, she told the crowd, “Ms. Patti is back!”  But I say she never left. 


Maze was A-MAZING!  Each song brought back memories of what the 40-and-older set loves so much—love itself.  Songs like “Happy Feelings” and “Golden Time of Day” are a welcome antithesis to the gun toting, woman demeaning, drug, sex and money worshipping anthems by some young artists today.    


Grown folks lyrics are generally easy to follow, which makes for a lot of sing-alongs. At one point, Maze turned his mic on the audience and listened while we sang.   Most stayed seated, but by the time Maze finished the show with their anthem, “Joy & Pain,” followed by “Before I Let Go,” everyone who could stand was up on their feet.


Mayor James Butts presented Beverly with a proclamation from the City of Inglewood, declaring Sept. 21, 2014 as “Frankie Beverly and Maze Day.”  He took the opportunity to remind Beverly and the audience that the Fabulous Forum is located in his city.


“One of your guys said this was the L.A. Forum.  The Forum is in Inglewood, California…That’s Inglewood with a capital ‘I’.”  


Butts told Beverly that Inglewood had been waiting to see him for a long time:  “(Los Angeles) Councilman Bernard Parks is here and he never comes to Inglewood. He never goes south of Slauson.”


“He’s funny,” Beverly said.


Have Voters Lost Their Passion?

Thursday, September 18, 2014


Four million voters in Scotland are expected to go to the polls on September 18 to decide whether to forge independence from the rest of the United Kingdom.  Scotland has been part of the UK for more than 300 years.


It is the only ballot decision Scottish voters will have to make.  Those on the “Yes” side want to be free of English—i.e. Tory Party—control.  The Scottish have fared worse economically among UK citizens because they are more reliant on public assistance.  London officials have made several public spending cuts to balance the Treasury’s finances.  To summarize what is happening in Scotland, think of the political left-wing separating itself from the U.S. 


 The latest polls place the “No” vote at a slight advantage, at 52%.  However, that could quickly change.  Both sides are pushing for a win after several months of campaigning, but the race is still too close to call.


 Women, who make up more than half of voters, dominate the pool of the undecided.  Most voters over the age of 65 are on the “No” side, fearing a separation would break up their families.


 Turnout may reach as high as 90%, based on recent projections, a significant increase compared to recent UK elections.  This historic election has drawn global interest and the voting age has been changed to include citizens as young as 16.  Voter registration is at an all-time high.  It’s just that important! 


 It leads me to ask, “What would be important enough to solicit a similar turnout out in Inglewood?”    Congresswoman Maxine Waters expressed her desire at Mayor Butts’ Town Hall meeting to have Inglewood lead the way in voter turnout.  The question is, how do we get there?


 Who would have to run?  What would have to be on the ballot?


 Voter apathy is an unfortunate side effect of free nations.  Just as citizens have the right to vote, they also have the right not to vote.  People take their freedoms for granted.  In countries ruled by dictators, voter turnout is (not surprisingly) high.  After all, who is going to buck the current when a break with the status quo could end in a public execution?


 It is fear—not allegiance—that decides the winners in dictatorships.


 In Scotland’s case, tempers have been high, with reports of citizens destroying literature of their opponents and getting into yelling matches.  Of course people debate all the time in Inglewood—especially at council meetings.  But somehow all that passion doesn’t quite play out at the polls. 


 Last year, voter turnout in Inglewood’s councilmanic election was a low 15%.  L.A. saw a similar low turnout in their mayoral election, with 23% percent casting votes.  L.A. City Council President Herb Wesson said he’s even looking into incentives, which include paying people to vote.


 What would it take to get Inglewood fired up enough to break records at the polls?  It’s a question I don’t have the answers to, but I am enjoying the process of democracy unfolding in Scotland.


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