Saturday, November 30, 2013

Book Reviews-Havana Nocturne, Locke and Key Vol 1-3

Havana Nocturne
by T.J. English
This is not just another mob story though the mob's dominance and loss of Cuba is the book's primary subject matter. Havana Nocturne tells the amazing story of how lowlife hoodlums attained virtual partnership with a foreign nation's corrupt leadership. It also summarizes how Cuban repression brought on the revolution. With an irony that was lost on the gangsters, the American political establishment and its gambling savvy organized crime counterparts made the wrong bet by presuming that revolution would not come. When revolution arrived the American mobsters were thoroughly unprepared for it. Attempts to buy off or assassinate Fidel Castro started almost immediately and continued for the next five decades. It truly galled some mobsters that having routinely dealt with corrupt and venal Cuban politicians for years they ran across a man that was initially anyway, filled with the fervor of the believer and thus immune to the normal blandishments of money and power. Havana's primary Mob leader during the pre-Revolution days was Meyer Lansky. Lanksy had a curious place in Mobdom. 

Because Lanksy was effectively the Mob's treasurer and one of the sharper gangsters around both intellectually and financially he maintained a first among equal status in the mob. His role as closest contact to Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista and good friend to Lucky Luciano cemented this standing. In later days though, Lanksy wasn't able to call upon the large numbers of musclemen that the Italian Families could summon. 
By the late forties and early fifties there weren't as many Jewish youngsters entering organized crime as before. So Lansky relied less on underworld muscle (which brought heat and attention anyway) and more on political, legal and financial connections, upperworld muscle and the age old method of setting enemies against each other. The best example of this last method occurred in 1956-57 when Albert Anastasia, boss of an Italian-American Brooklyn Crime Family (and someone who had personally murdered or ordered more murders than any other boss) started making ominous noises about being shut out of the Havana casino/hotel racket. To keep the peace Lansky and his partners arranged for Anastasia to get a small piece of the pie. When that wasn't enough and Anastasia, nicknamed "The Lord High Executioner", continued to squawk, Lanksy gave a nod to a plot by Anastasia rival Vito Genovese to have Anastasia murdered for entirely different reasons. That Lanksy and the openly anti-Semitic Genovese hated each other did not prevent the pragmatic Lansky from doing what was necessary to protect his Cuban business. After Anastasia's death, Lanksy endorsed a successful plan to set up Genovese for drug dealing. Lanksy got away with this flip-flopping because for years he was the guarantor of Cuban profits. With the possible exception of sometime partner, sometime rival Santo Trafficante, no other organized crime boss was as deeply connected to Cuba as Lansky.

The book gives a broad overview of what Cuba meant to American tourists and gamblers, whether it was the relative innocent wishes to gamble or see a nightclub show or the sordid desires for prostitution of all kinds (interracial, underage, homosexual), narcotics, or other more outre wants. People like Senator JFK and Frank Sinatra allegedly had orgies with Cuban strippers and prostitutes. In something that became a pattern, Sinatra hung out and partied with various gangsters from across the US. Cuban music, dance and style became an integral part of American culture in several different ways. Famous actresses and strippers rubbed shoulders in Havana. Havana was a paradise for Americans with money. Havana Nocture is based in part on interviews with former drivers, lovers or bodyguards for some of the big names mentioned as well as some other primary sources. Batista's increasing repression of his own people meant nothing to Lansky or his brethren. Batista was well paid by them and had a small slice of their profits. By the late fifties Lanksy and company were convinced that (a) no revolution would be successful, (b) that they could buy off the leaders if it did succeed or (c) that failing that the US would invade and put the "right" people back in charge. It was a great shock to them all and especially Lansky when none of this happened. Lansky had gone all in on Cuba and never quite recovered financially from the loss.

If you like a ground's up view of history combined with a droll analysis of some larger scale events you may enjoy this book. Although Cuba did not inspire the first partnership of organized crime interests and elements of the United States government, the attempt to retake Cuba solidified that alliance and may have led to other dirty deeds across the world. Lansky alone offered one million dollars for Castro's murder and he was hardly the only mob figure so inclined.

Locke and Key (Volumes 1-3)
Written by Joe Hill
Art by Gabriel Rodriguez
There are some writers or other creative or successful people, who, being related to other famous people in the same field, decide to use a different name for their own work, not because they dislike their relatives, but because they want the world to accept or reject their work on its own merits. Joe Hill is such a man, being the son of two writers. He's dedicated this work to his mother. His mother is Tabitha King, a Maine novelist, and you certainly know his father. FWIW, Joe Hill is his actual name. It's just that he's not using his surname professionally. Having read this work, I'm really looking forward to reading his new novel NOS4A2, sometime in the near future, hopefully in the next few months.

Locke and Key is a graphic novel so obviously it's pretty quick reading. But if you think that means it's simple reading, guess again. Like the best work in this genre the art and the story feed off each other and intertwine to the point that you can't imagine one without the other. My brother is the comic book/graphic novel enthusiast, not me, so it's not surprising that I'm just now discovering this. Still, better late than never I guess.

Locke and Key mixes together everyday horror with a supernatural threat that becomes immediately evident to the reader though obviously not to the characters. Is there a loved one in your life who's now deceased? And before that person left let's say that you and them weren't on the best of terms for reasons that now seem silly. So there's nothing left but regret for the rest of your life whenever you think of them. That's a quiet horror right there. This graphic novel examines that. Locke and Key also shows that kids can still see things that adults have forgotten or become willingly blind to seeing.

In California, a mostly happy family is torn apart when tragedy strikes. A sociopathic high school student named Sam Lessner and his friend Al Grubb perform a home invasion on the vacation cottage of Rendell Locke and his wife Nina. The Lockes' children Tyler, Kinsey and Bode are away from the home but on the property when this happens. Sam murders Rendell Locke while Al rapes Nina Locke. When the children hear the shot they run to the home but then have to hide from Sam who intends to kill them all. As Bode and his older sister Kinsey hide, the husky Tyler is able to disarm and beat down Sam while Nina brains Al with an axe, killing him. After the funeral Nina moves the family cross-country to the Lovecraft Massachusetts Locke ancestral home, really more mansion, known as the Keyhouse. Unfortunately their trials have just begun. 

Tyler blames himself for his father's murder. Kinsey and Bode have trouble adapting to their new surroundings. Nina's previously quiescent drinking problem has returned in spades. And Sam is not dead, only in juvie. He intends to get out. And he may have help. There's something locked in the Keyhouse, something which has plans that don't mean well for any of the Lockes. There are also keys of great power in the home which Tyler, Kinsey and Bode will be able to use to defend themselves. This was as I mentioned, very quick reading but fun. You won't be able to put the books down because you want to see what happens next.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Dance-Off at Pistons Game

Apropos of nothing it's good to be alive and sometimes the best way to express that joy is to have a dance-off. 11 year old Pistons fan Antwain Alexander and Palace usher Shannon Sailes certainly haven't forgotten that little piece of wisdom.

Antwain Alexander, an 11-year-old Pistons fan, had one goal when he attended last week's Detroit game against the New York Knicks.
"He had been trying to get that dance cam to be on him throughout the whole entire game," his father, Pastor Alexander, told ABC News.
The cameraman finally gave Antwain his moment and then, unaware that he was making history, cut from Antwain to Shannon Sailes, 46, an arena usher famous for dancing in the aisles during games. "He was, like, doing his moves and everything, and then they went back to me and I stood up and I said, 'Come on!'" Antwain told ABC News.

"It was time for me to step up," Sailes told ABC News. And step up, he did. The pair's dance-off has gone viral, and while no one has officially declared a winner, both competitors remained magnanimous towards their rival. 
Fox 2 News Headlines

Monday, November 25, 2013

Iran Sanctions Deal: Good for US or not?

First off just to state the obvious. No one can see the future. One can make informed guesses about it and presume that most states will act in what they perceive to be in their best interest but that's about it. So whether the new proposed deal concerning Iran's nuclear energy program is good in the long term or not I can't say. I believe that both Iran and the US worked out a win-win situation in which both sides talked tough for domestic constituencies but really didn't offer a whole lot that was new. To the extent that Iran "won", it maintained its right as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to continue uranium enrichment. This was a red line for the Iranians.They weren't going to formally give up rights to which they were entitled by international law. And for a lot of rather obvious reasons the US didn't want to talk too much about fidelity to international law. 
Some of the agreement highlights include

  • Iran will continue to enrich uranium, but at less than 5%.
  • Higher enriched uranium will be eliminated and/or converted to non-weapons grade uses.
  • The agreement is an interim one which lasts for six months.
  • The Iranian heavy water research facility at Arak will not be activated. This wasn't supposed to happen until 2016 anyway and was behind schedule.
  • Iran will receive sanctions relief of roughly $7 billion, about half or more of which is frozen Iranian assets.

The US congress can still torpedo this deal, at least as far as the United States is concerned while Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu has been scathing in his denunciation of the deal. In a rather obvious temper tantrum and diplomatic slap in the face to the United States, Israel announced yet more settlements in the occupied West Bank. Israel would like the sanctions on Iran to remain in place and be increased. It also demands removal of Iranian nuclear technology, infrastructure and know-how in toto. This last is implausible of course unless you intend to kill or lobotomize a number of Iranian scientists/physicists and engineers. The Israeli Prime Minister may be more popular in the US Congress than President Obama is right now. He has shown a previous willingness or even eagerness to leverage bi-partisan support for Israel's interests, or rather what the right-wing Netanyahu perceives as Israel's interests. It is here rather important to point out that Israel, which does have nuclear weapons and thus a nuclear weapon program is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, while Iran which according to the US intelligence released, does not have a nuclear weapons program, is a signatory. What happens next depends on the Congress as well as diplomats in the US and in Israel.  
“I spoke last night with President [Barack] Obama. We agreed that in the coming days an Israeli team led by the national security adviser, Yossi Cohen, will go out to discuss with the United States the permanent accord with Iran,” Netanyahu told members of his Likud party.
I think it would be counterproductive for people concerned about Israel's security or Sunni vs. Shia rivalry to go to the mat over this deal. This deal doesn't change very much, doesn't last very long and certainly is not something which should lead to anyone attacking anyone else. It's not 1939 and this is not "peace in our time". It's critical to remember that Iran engaged in a long fruitless war with Iraq that more or less ended in stalemate. That would be the same Iraq that the US wiped the floor with. Israel and the US will continue to maintain conventional and nuclear weapons supremacy over Iran. This agreement is not major. It is just the equivalent of picking up the phone and talking to someone you don't like. Netanyahu has stated that Israel is not bound by any agreement. True. Israel is free to attack Iran any time it likes and place its soldiers in harm's way.  Saudi Arabia or any of the other Gulf States voicing concern can also spend their own blood and treasure if they want to.

HBO Boardwalk Empire Season 4 Finale-Farewell Daddy Blues

It's something of a conceit to talk about themes for an entire season of a show but for Season Four of HBO's Boardwalk Empire, trust seemed to come up over and over again. No one could trust anyone. And unlike Season Three when many of the series most prominent characters, especially those that are based on actual historical people, escaped consequence for some of their dastardly deeds, this season saw both the good and bad suffer. Misplaced trust cost some characters quite dearly, including but not limited to fan favorite and black gangster/businessman Chalky White (Michael Kenneth Williams), the stone cold war veteran killer with a heart of gold Richard Harrow (Jack Huston), Chicago syndicate Boss Johnny Torrio (Greg Antonacci) and incestuous murderous prostitute drug addict Gillian Darmody (Gretchen Mol).

It was a sign of the show's insights into human nature that in Season Four it managed to make Gillian Darmody a somewhat sympathetic character. This is after all someone who seduced her own son, manipulated him into a criminal war he could not win, murdered someone else in order to collect on her son's pensions and insurance, was needlessly cruel and humiliating to Richard, pimped young girls, and despite being wholly unfit and whacked out on smack was trying to maintain custody of her grandson, who she no doubt would have "initiated" into manhood once she thought him old enough. That is all part of who Gillian is. She is not a morally clean person. But in case we forgot the show reminded us subtly and directly that Gillian Darmody is a sum of her mostly bad past experiences. Years ago the show's lead protagonist Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi), a then sheriff, acting on orders from a since deceased political patron and boss, picked the barely post pubescent Gillian out of a crowd and delivered her to that man who shortly after raped her, producing a son. This is not something which Nucky has ever seemed to feel any noticeable regret for having done. Perhaps distaste, but certainly not guilt. It's not discussed as much because Nucky is the protagonist but he's not a good guy in any real way. 

So in a very real way Gillian never had a family or protector. This explains why she held so tightly, too tightly on to her son Jimmy, who was of course later murdered by Nucky. It also explains, why having been too early introduced to the idea that men and authority figures could not be trusted and that her only value lay between her legs Gillian was extremely vulnerable to the idea that a man of power could be trusted and valued her for more than the obvious. She hid this well but ultimately it was her downfall. You could if you chose almost feel sorry for her. She fell in love with a businessman (Ron Livingston) who she thought would be her salvation. He helped her kick heroin and seemed to be in love with her for more than her sexual skills. However in a moment when she thought she was supporting him emotionally, she confessed to her murder of a young man. And that's when he revealed he was a Pinkerton detective. This was a pretty powerful scene.

At the conclusion of Season 3, through a series of sharp moves, including some assistance from his allies Chalky White and Eli Thompson (Shea Wigham), his brother, and a fortuitous alliance with the Italian dominated element of Chicago organized crime, Nucky was able to defeat New York backed incursions into his Atlantic City domains. This cost him his marriage to Margaret Thompson (Kelly MacDonald) but Nucky wasn't too worried about it. Since I find Margaret neither attractive nor interesting I was very happy that this season saw her role quite limited. Nucky reduced his open political role and decided to move more in the shadows, relying on Chalky and Eli to handle things more. 

For want of a horse a kingdom was lost.  This season, many of the problems that plague Nucky and cost Chalky and Eli dearly are brought about through two seemingly innocuous events. Chalky's right hand man Dunn Purnsley (Erik Harvey) is seduced by a married white woman. Dunn is game for what was referred to as "jelly" (you'll see that reference in a lot of blues or jazz songs from the twenties and the thirties) but is somewhat taken aback to find that he is just a cog in a racist sex game being played between the woman and her husband, who intends to watch while pleasuring himself (and hurling racial insults) as his wife and Dunn copulate. Dunn can't abide by this and murders the man. The woman flees but is picked up by black NY gangster Dr. Narcisse (Jeffery Wright), an interpretation of real life hoodlum Casper Holstein. Dr. Narcisse was also in business with the murdered man. He threatened both Chalky and Nucky with exposure unless he's given a piece of Chalky's club. Another aside, it's often been the case that real life nationalist, revolutionary or reform organizations across the world are infiltrated or captured by gangsters, who mouth support for the "cause" even as they rip off and kill their own people. Narcisse is no different. A Marcus Garvey acolyte, he speaks of uplifting black people throughout the diaspora. He has disdain for black people he sees as uncultured, particularly if they are darker skinned. That doesn't stop him from selling alcohol or drugs to them though, via appropriate cut-outs. He and Chalky hate each other almost immediately. The series finale was suitably tragic in that regard.

Eli's college student son Will, in order to forestall a romantic rival and bully, poisoned the other student's drink. Unfortunately the bully died and Will called his uncle Nucky to fix the situation which Nucky did by framing Will's roommate. This however got to the attention of the nascent FBI, which in the person of one agent Knox forced Eli to start informing on his brother's organization. 
Meanwhile in Chicago, Torrio is not super happy about his underling Al Capone's (Stephen Graham) rising popularity/infamy and increasing number of independent actions. We see this through the eyes of former Prohibition Agent Nelson Van Alden (Michael Shannon) who strangely enough seems to work for both the Torrio-Capone group and the North Side O'Bannion group. When O'Bannion is murdered by Capone hired hitters, payback comes in an extended attack on the Torrio-Capone headquarters, right after Torrio has left the building. Then Torrio himself is shot multiple times outside of his home. He survives and turns everything over to Capone. IRL the murder attempt on Torrio was blamed on the North Siders but some people, Lucky Luciano among them, thought that Capone was behind it. The show broadly hints that Torrio orchestrated the attack on Capone and that Capone retaliated. We'll never know. 
Chalky, who murdered his treacherous employee Dunn, when Dunn switched sides to Narcisse, made an attempt on Narcisse's life which failed. This was as much personal as business as Chalky was sleeping with Narcisse's girlfriend/protege. This led to Chalky's fleeing town with said girlfriend though he needed to be there for his daughter's (unknown to him cancelled) wedding. Narcisse took over Chalky's interests and even made inroads into Nucky's political power, convincing the Nucky backed mayor to order Chalky's murder by policemen, something which also failed. Obviously Chalky thought that Nucky okayed this. Fleeing to a mentor's (Louis Gossett Jr's.) home, Chalky was reminded to never ever trust any white person. As this chiding came from a man who was either a former slave or born immediately after slavery it had a very sobering impact on Chalky. Agent Knox has convinced Eli to get Nucky to implicate himself in a meeting with bosses from New York, Chicago and Florida. Unfortunately for Knox and Eli, Nucky has seen through the clumsy attempt at incrimination and refuses to show up. As this is the second time that Eli has betrayed him he briefly considers killing his brother or so we are led to believe, but declines. However the trust is broken for good. But Eli says he was forced to do what he did for his family. When Nucky says that Eli should have come to him, Eli points out that Will is not Nucky's son and that Eli has a family. Nucky doesn't. Eli deeply resents Nucky's interference, well meaning or not, in his family affairs. Returning home, Eli finds a fuming Agent Knox, who intends to arrest him and his son. A battle royale ensues in which Eli removes the federal agent from the planet.

Earlier in the season we saw Richard try to both return home and make a living as a hired assassin. He couldn't do either. The numerous murders he's done, the killing he's seen in the war, his horrific wound and general post traumatic stress made it difficult to relate to his sister. And believe it or not, Richard doesn't like killing. He's lost the stones for it, perhaps in part because he's regained his humanity via his fiancee and later wife Julia (Wrenn Schmidt) and their son, Gillian's grandson. Julia loves Richard, despite his fears, his verbal tics, and his ruined face.  Nevertheless at presumably Nucky's and Chalky's urging Richard takes one last shoot Narcisse in the head. They trust his deadly skills. As a sniper who has literally lost count of the men he's put down, this should be an easy job for Richard. Would that it were. Narcisse has kidnapped Chalky's daughter in order to demand the whereabouts of his girlfriend. A shaky hand on Richard's part and a last second movement by Chalky's daughter lead to tragedy. And Richard does not get back to see Julia. Quietly powerful stuff. I was REALLY impressed with both Williams and Huston this season.  Buscemi had somewhat less to do as he's mostly reactive, not proactive this year. This finale is something you'll think about for a while. The decisions we make about what we do and who we trust have repercussions that can last for years. Chalky's wife never wanted her children to visit their father's club.


Saturday, November 23, 2013

Movie Reviews-Man of Steel

Man of Steel
directed by Zack Snyder
This was a reboot. The movie became a little cold in its latter half and flirted with video game like, albeit impressive special effects during interminable knock down drag out battles. You can gleefully throw away any accurate understanding of chemistry, biology and physics, though the film did make a game stab at explaining Superman's godlike powers. Godlike is the key to understanding Superman's appeal as he is seemingly unbound by the laws of thermodynamics and conservation of momentum. The more you think about this the sillier it becomes so you should just go with the flow and not investigate the illogical or impossible.

The Superman story has several quite deliberate allusions to Moses, Jesus and even older chosen ones. Perhaps 2000 years from now humans will worship Superman as a god. What is it about humans that makes us seemingly want to tell the same Hero's Journey over and over again. A boy, perhaps a prince, is sent away or stolen from his family and grows up among strangers. He may or may not be aware of his singular nature and true destiny. Eventually he has to do battle with his own dark side or the people who killed his family or even save the world. This theme runs through stories as diverse as A Song of Ice and Fire (multiple examples), Jack Sawyer in Stephen King's and Peter Straub's The Talisman, Thomas Mallory's King Arthur, the Malian epic Sundiata, Susan Cooper's The Grey King and many more across times and cultures. 

Because Superman can't be defeated by anything on earth there's not much excitement showing him capturing run of the mill bad guys or anything like that. Besides that's hardly the stuff of epic drama. Man of Steel weaves a story that shows Kal-El/Superman/Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) as a man and previous boy who not only will need to do battle with enemies from his past but with his own doubts and fears about who he is and what his place in the world will be. 
I think most people know the basic story. The planet Krypton faces imminent destruction. This is explained by overexploitation of the planet's resources and an old sun. Again, details don't much matter. What does matter is that a leading scientist/engineer Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and his wife Lara (Ayelet Zurer), having failed to convince the ruling council to stop the activities which caused core destabilization or to evacuate the planet, send their baby son (the first Kryptonian in years to be conceived and born the old fashioned way) on a journey to Earth. Again the closest star to Earth, Alpha Centauri, is 4.2 light years away. If something were traveling at the speed of our space shuttle it would take almost 200,000 years to get from Earth to Alpha Centauri. And presumably Krypton is further away. So Superman wouldn't be a baby when he arrived. I shouldn't think about details but you cannae change the laws of physics, cap'n!!!

The ruthless and quietly maniacal General Zod (Michael Shannon in a meaty role) decides that the time is right to launch a coup. He's also very angry that Jor-El gave his son something that Zod doesn't think was Jor-El's to give. Zod is not really a bad guy. Or rather he is a bad guy to the same extent that any imperialist or real estate developer is. His sole concern is the well being of the race. The Kryptonian race, that is. He, like most other Kryptonians, has been genetically engineered. Zod has the same concern for other sentient beings as you do for the birds who used to live in the forest which previously existed where your home or apartment is now. When he can't convince Jor-El to support his coup he murders him. But the tide turns against old Zod (shades of Satan's rebellion?) and he and his most trusted followers (dark angels?) are locked away in a pocket black hole. Krypton blows up.

Years later Superman is a wandering, albeit suspiciously good looking and cut, transient worker who seeks to use his abilities to do good, as anonymously as possible. This is explained in flashbacks showing him interacting with his Kansan adoptive parents Jonathan and Martha Kent (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane) who impart a very strong sense of morality and duty within young Clark Kent while urging him to beware of showing off his exponentially growing abilities.
Clark Kent hears about a US military expedition to investigate a possible alien spaceship in the Arctic. From where it's found in the ice, this ship is over 18,000 years old. That tricky time thing again. Using his abilities Clark Kent is able to get inside the ship and activate something which isn't quite a hologram or a ghost. It's his biological father who explains who he is and where he's from. Clark is seen and followed in the ship by investigative reporter Lois Lane (Amy Adams). Of course later hardly anyone believes her story and even those who are open to it like her editor Perry White (Laurence Fishburne) decline to print it.

However the entire world is going to find out that aliens do exist and they're p***** off. When Krypton exploded, the technology which created the pocket black hole was also destroyed. Zod and his followers were freed. Through a series of unfortunate events they were able to collect and/or jerry rig a number of Kryptonian ships and weaponry that was either floating in the debris or left abandoned on other outposts. And they know where Kal-El is. They want what he has. They don't care who or how many people they have to kill to get it.
I didn't think that Cavill and Adams had the greatest chemistry together but romantic chemistry is not why people watch movies like this. The special effects were superb but as mentioned start to dominate the film, and not in a good way, towards the end. There are some nods to questions around the government's surveillance powers as well as the old question of "who guards the guards"? If Superman were to go bad there is literally nothing on earth that could stop him. It's ironic that the only limit on Superman is his morality while the Nietzchean Superman was Superman precisely because he was unbound by moral concerns. All in all this was a fun movie.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Why ObamaCare Won't Work As Designed

The PPACA (ObamaCare) launch, has been an unmitigated disaster. The infamous website does not currently work anything close to specifications. Anyone who initially worked on its design, coding, management, testing or quality assurance should be embarrassed to list that on their resume. Some places will fire you because your boss didn't like your looks. In other organizations you literally have to fall asleep at your desk frequently before management reluctantly asks you to leave. Time will tell which model the President prefers but right now it looks closer to the second than the first. The President's claim that he was out of the loop on website issues stretches credulity. Now we find out that he was indeed briefed on problemsWhatever. I believe that eventually the website will work well enough for most to obtain insurance and/or subsidies. By eventually I mean I don't know when. An administration official recently admitted that 30-40% of the backend development that supports the malfunctioning website has also not been completed, including the sections which handle the accounting and delivery of payments and subsidies. The government and contractors haven't coded or tested that functionality yet. The hits just keep coming. I already knew that there are some incompetent people in government and IT consulting firms. What I only suspected before but has increasingly become obvious is that ObamaCare will not work as designed. Let me tell you why.

Because people across the political spectrum tend to jettison critical thinking and become blindly partisan on this issue, let me say upfront that though I oppose the individual mandate, I want every American citizen who needs health care to be able to get it. The pre-ObamaCare insurance and health care system didn't work well for many people. I have no problem paying higher income taxes to cover the uninsured. I am not now nor have I ever been a member of the Tea Party. I do feel a certain sadness and frustration that a law which funnels millions of people into the caring arms of insurance companies and even has provisions for insurance company bailouts has in a weird world become the liberal call to the barricades. This attack dog mentality by some progressives towards anyone that would question ObamaCare confuses me, especially when President Obama is telling CEO's that he doesn't see a lot of policy differences between Republicans and Democrats and that their battles are mostly around rhetoric. His words, not mine, folks. ObamaCare "fixes" the issue for a minority by making things worse for everyone else. It does this because the law's authors placed an extremely high premium on "equality" while placing a low value on "freedom". The law also hides command and control values in free market drag. 

Let's examine this.
Insurance is based on expected value. All insurance works this way, whether it's auto insurance, home insurance, life insurance, or health insurance. Both you and the insurance provider are making bets about the possibility of uncertain future events and/or catastrophes. If you "win" the bet and something bad happens well then you get a payout. If the provider "wins" the bet and nothing happens then they keep the premiums you've paid. Obviously the provider has an incentive to define a payable event in the most limited way possible while the purchaser's interests lie in the opposite direction. There is room for government regulation around this. No insurer wants to pay out more than they have to. And no one who thought they had medical insurance wants to stagger into the hospital only to discover that the fine print in their policy excludes payouts on any day ending in "y".

If you believe I like working hard every day/Just step on my shoes and take my pay 
-"Just Got Paid" ZZ Top

But ObamaCare changes health insurance into something closer to a social insurance/entitlement program. It forces health care plans to offer items that not everyone wants or needs. It limits the insurer's ability to price actuarially based on 
  • gender: women use more health care than men and live longer than men do 
  • age: as we get older we get sicker and use more health care
  • pre-existing conditions: someone who already has medical issues will use more health care than someone who doesn't 
The law's architects consider this "fair". Some claim that anyone who disagrees supports "discrimination". These requirements mean that not only will costs rise for most people but that also that there will be cost shifting. Younger people, men, and healthy people of both genders will on average be paying more for insurance than they were before ObamaCare. There's no such thing as a free lunch. That's worth repeating. If you require insurers to cover more conditions and more people the additional cost will need to be paid by someone.
Those required to pay more for insurance may not think this is good, especially when they were repeatedly told that they could keep their health plan and doctor. From either political reasons or hubris, President Obama and the law's designers were silent about additional costs. The mass policy cancellations and the sticker shock of higher premiums and deductibles for new ObamaCare compliant policies finally made the law real to many Americans. They didn't like what they saw. And they said so.

See the blind man on the street /Looking for something free
See the kind man ask his friends/Hey, what's in it for me?
-"Dog eat Dog" AC/DC

This is when the friendly face of ObamaCare morphs into something a little nastier. People opposed to paying hundreds extra per month for coverage they'll never use are derided by the law's supporters as Fox news watchers or drooling morons who can't comprehend their great deal. Suddenly all their previous plans are "substandard" or they're just selfish greedy people. Right. ObamaCare's fatal flaw is that it requires people to make economic decisions which are not in their best interest. People generally act in their own interest. And if I am a single man, or a woman who doesn't want, already had or can't have children, the purchase of maternity and pediatric coverage makes no sense for me. If I abstain from drink and drugs I don't need a policy which includes substance abuse coverage. And if I am a natural foods/alternative medicine enthusiast I will probably not be thrilled about paying for policies with prescription drug coverage. The government can tax these people and give their money to other folks. That would be honest. But telling people to enter a marketplace and purchase coverage they don't need so that other people can pay less is an economically illiterate idea. So far the numbers bear this out. New Medicaid enrollment is far outstripping private enrollment. If I couldn't afford or didn't want insurance before PPACA why would I buy a more expensive policy after the launch?  The President has also been stretching the concept of separation of powers as he and executive branch shot callers constantly delay enforcement of or provide waivers from this or that element of ObamaCare as another bad outcome becomes visible. I'm wondering if the President will postpone some ObamaCare requirements until 2020. Seriously. The law isn't supposed to be based on Presidential caprice. Congress needs to fix or delay the law. The President's forced and grudging declaration that people can really keep their, in his view, "substandard" cancelled policies for another year, provided the insurance companies and state commissioners agree, was a nakedly political move, which could cause exchange premiums to skyrocket even further. The policy cancellations are a feature of ObamaCare, not a bug.

If ObamaCare were a good deal then insurance companies could offer PPACA compliant policies alongside their previous policies without any government arm twisting to eliminate the older policies. Consumers could make their own choices. But that can't happen because not enough people would purchase the new policies. That tells me everything I need to know about the PPACA. Sooner, rather than later, it will implode from its internal contradictions. We needed to prevent the most outrageous insurance company abuses, expand Medicaid, raise taxes to create subsidized risk pools for those with pre-existing conditions. Instead we have the PPACA. The fact that many Republicans are rabid, racist and insane doesn't change the fact that the PPACA isn't working now and won't work as designed. And that's on the Democrats.

Money It's a crime/Share it fairly 
But don't take a slice of my pie
-"Money" Pink Floyd

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Harry Reid Invokes Nuclear Option: No Filibuster for you!!!

As Vito Corleone realized, sometimes you have to deal with people who simply aren't reasonable. When such people persist in their foolishness, even after you have swallowed insult after insult, turned every cheek you have, and steadfastly tried to point out to them the error of their ways by using unimpeachable logic, further discussion is useless. You just have to call in Clemenza and Luca and let them do what they do. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid finally came to a similar realization today when he oversaw a Senate alteration of the filibuster rules, due to what was widely seen as irrational Republican intransigence concerning Presidential nominations for judges or even high ranking executive positions. There is of course the chance that Republicans will return the favor if they ever regain the majority in the Senate but the Democrats could not continue to accept such behavior.

I'm not a huge Obama or Democratic Party fan (look out for upcoming post on that) but there are times and situations in which you have to, figuratively speaking, hit your opponent right in his mouth. And this was one of those times in my view. The Republicans suffer under the delusion that they can stop the President's entire agenda and/or prevent him from making his preferred appointments. As Tywin Lannister might have mused, it was time to show the Republicans a sharp lesson. Although there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth, the Republicans have a simple way to stop nominations they don't like. Win the Senate back and win the Presidency in 2016. Until then they need to learn that like him or not, President Obama remains the President and will make nominations as he sees fit. Republicans are quite free to vote against his nominations and tell everyone what bad choices they are. But since they lack the votes, they can't stop the nominations. It was also hard to avoid noticing that many of the stalled Presidential nominations were of racial minorities and white women-people who have been previously prevented from reaching judicial and executive positions of serious authority. This change ultimately might be a good thing for the Republicans as it will FORCE them to recognize that they are a minority party in the Senate and have lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections. If they can address those issues they can retake the Senate. Until then though, they will have to dance to the tune that Senator Reid calls.  

WASHINGTON -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) pulled the trigger Thursday, deploying a parliamentary procedure dubbed the "nuclear option" to change Senate rules to pass most executive and judicial nominees by a simple majority vote.
The Senate voted 52 to 48 for the move, with just three Democrats declining to go along with the rarely used maneuver.
From now until the Senate passes a new rule, executive branch nominees and judges nominated for all courts except the Supreme Court will be able to pass off the floor and take their seats on the bench with the approval of a simple majority of senators. They will no longer have to jump the traditional hurdle of 60 votes, which has increasingly proven a barrier to confirmation during the Obama administration.
Reid opened debate in the morning by saying that it has become "so, so very obvious" that the Senate is broken and in need of rules reform. He rolled through a series of statistics intended to demonstrate that the level of obstruction under President Barack Obama outpaced any historical precedent.
Half the nominees filibustered in the history of the United States were blocked by Republicans during the Obama administration; of 23 district court nominees filibustered in U.S. history, 20 were Obama's nominees; and even judges that have broad bipartisan support have had to wait nearly 100 days longer, on average, than President George W. Bush's nominees.

Free Speech, Free Association, Photography and Gay Rights

Black people had to battle for more than one hundred years after the end of slavery for among other things, to have the right to sit down in a restaurant owned by whites and order a meal. This segregation was most zealously enforced in the South but was not uncommon in the North as well. Via a series of court decisions, new laws, and public activism, legalized business segregation was defeated though not before its supporters put up massive, oft violent, racist resistance. Now any black person can legally go spend his or her hard earned money with people who despise them but are eager to take their green. This last has never made sense to me. Why would you want to give money to people who don't like you? What are you proving by attempting to purchase goods or services from someone who has made it crystal clear that they don't want your business? The black struggle for civil rights provided the template in part for several other more expansive visions of rights for various other groups. It's important to limit the ability of the state or even of private actors to discriminate. We can't have a fair and open society without such limitations. 

However, there are other rights that are just as important. Or are they? You have a right not to be discriminated against in purchasing a home. But there is no law that prevents your new neighbors from seeing you move in and putting their home up for sale the very next day. You have a right to date or marry whoever you want. But that doesn't mean that a person who doesn't like your kind can be forced to date or marry you. You have a right to seek employment as an actor/actress. But if a film producer is making a historical drama about Dessalines and you happen to look like Brad Pitt, that doesn't mean the producer is wrong for rejecting you. Of course Hollywood probably would make a movie with Pitt playing Dessalines but I think you get my point.

These questions came to mind upon reading the NYT story about a New Mexico photographer who declined to document the commitment ceremony of a lesbian couple. Unsurprisingly the lesbian couple sued and has so far won in court. The photographer has appealed to the Supreme Court.
WASHINGTON — A New Mexico law forbids businesses open to the public to discriminate against gay people. Elaine Huguenin, a photographer, says she has no problem with that — so long as it does not force her to say something she does not believe.
In asking the Supreme Court to hear her challenge to the law, Ms. Huguenin said that she would “gladly serve gays and lesbians — by, for example, providing them with portrait photography,” but that she did not want to tell the stories of same-sex weddings. To make her celebrate something her religion tells her is wrong, she said, would hijack her right to free speech.
So she turned down a request from a lesbian couple, Vanessa Willock and Misti Collinsworth, to document their commitment ceremony. The women, who hired another photographer, filed a discrimination complaint against Ms. Huguenin’s studio, Elane Photography. So far, the studio has lost in the courts.
“This was a straightforward case of discrimination in the public marketplace,” Mr. Wolff said. “No court has ever held that the First Amendment gives businesses a license to sell goods and services to the general public but then reject customers based on race or religion or sexual orientation, in violation of state law.”
The New Mexico Supreme Court agreed, saying Ms. Huguenin’s “services can be regulated, even though those services include artistic and creative work.” Laws banning discrimination, the court said, apply to “creative or expressive professions.”
Jordan W. Lorence, a lawyer at the Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents Elane Photography, said Ms. Huguenin should be able to decline assignments at odds with her beliefs in a way that, say, motels and hardware stores may not. “There are some professions that are inherently expressive — an ad agency, website designer or even a tattoo artist,” he said.
“A tattoo artist should not be forced to put a swastika on an Aryan Nation guy,” Mr. Lorence said. “The government could not force someone to put a bumper sticker on their car that says, ‘I support same-sex marriage’ or ‘I support interracial marriage.’ ”
As the state laws are currently written it would appear that Huguenin would not have much recourse. Once you open for business you must do business with anyone and everyone.
Generally speaking you can only refuse service to someone for reasons that aren't discriminatory. You can refuse to rent a home to a gay couple because their credit is jacked up or because their references didn't check out but not simply because you think being gay is sinful. I am sure that The Janitor or Old Guru can quote chapter and verse on the legal arguments on both sides. It's what they do. 

But my interest is not just in the law as it is but in the broader questions I hinted at in my first paragraph as well as the points raised by Jordan Lorence. If you were going to get married or in this case committed wouldn't you want the person documenting that day to be at worst neutral about the event? Would you really want the person charged with giving you photography and video that you could cherish for years to be someone who thought the whole enterprise was completely morally bankrupt? Is wedding videography art or is it a business? Is there any equivalence between a person who doesn't support gay marriage/civil ceremonies being forced to document such an event and say a Jewish tattoo artist being forced to give someone a Neo-Nazi white supremacist sleeve tattoo? Could a black photographer be required to document the next Aryan Nations rally? Does the fact that the couple asked Huegenin and her husband to help them celebrate their event cut any ice with you? Should Huegenin just have lied and claimed she was booked already? Does Huguenin have any recourse here? More importantly, should she? If she wins her case is it just a slippery slope back to "separate but equal"?


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Man Gives Ex-Wife The Finger...Literally

Wow what a busy week. I hope to have something more substantive posted tomorrow or before week's end but for now this will need to suffice. We talked before about revenge porn being outlawed in California and how often more mature people eschew revenge. Revenge can often backfire on you and/or reveal your ugly petty private insecurities for the whole world to see. That's usually not a good thing. Of course when most of us are hurt we want to hurt back. That's just part (an ugly part?) of human nature. And by taking revenge or as some would call it, seeking justice or providing retribution, we aren't just seeking to hurt those who we believe harmed us, but provide a future warning to other people that should they mistreat us, we intend to do the same exact thing to them. Under this way of thinking revenge, petty though it may be, can have a significant deterrent effect on would be bad actors and thereby make the world a better, safer, nicer place for everyone. If you know you won't get away with your crap on someone then maybe you won't try your crap on someone else. Don't start nothing, won't be nothing. We have outlawed pistols at dawn. And it's also no longer legal to buy yourself a shotgun as long as you are tall and blow that no good so-n-so dead against the wall. So what's a man who's mad and who wants revenge and whose patience is at an end supposed to do?

Well recently a local pimp strip club owner and businessman named Alan Markovitz, who buys, sells and owns various gentleman's clubs in and around Detroit and Philadelphia, and is going to have his own reality TV show, decided that the opportunity to take revenge on his ex-wife and her new lover was just too good to pass up. No he didn't beat her, post numerous pictures across the internet of her in her birthday suit, boast publicly of her intimacy skills or punch her new man in his face. Nope. That's for people who don't have money. Markovitz has money. Markovitz was so angry that his ex-wife Lea Tuohy cheated on him with someone that he knew that he bought a suburban lakefront house next door to the new couple and erected a $7000 statue of a middle finger pointing directly at the couple. Helpfully, the finger lights up at night. How sweet.


Markovitz recently moved into a lakefront home in Orchard Lake, and he spent $7,000 on the digital objet d'art. It's made of a bronze-like material.
He says he's angry at the man who lives next door because that man, Markovitz says, had an affair with the woman who was Markovitz's wife. She is now his ex-wife. And she lives next door.   
"I'm so over her," Markovitz said Friday evening. "This is about him. This is about him not being a man."
If Markovitz is so angry, why did he move next door to the man and his ex-wife? He claims it was a coincidence that a realtor showed him the house. But after that, "karma" took over. Markovitz said people have told him to let it go, but he can't do it, he said. It's about principle. The statue was unveiled about a week ago in front of a group partying in the yard.

So what do you think? 

What would you do if you were the cheater? Or the cheated upon?

Should this be legal?

Do you think this is pathetic or well deserved?

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Music Reviews-Bill Withers, Luther Allison

Bill Withers
Bill Withers is a West Virginia born musician who is generally placed in the R&B/Soul category. For him though that framework is probably a little limiting. He's a singer/songwriter/pianist/guitarist who has a mastery of and familiarity with a lot of different genres. All the same though he also has an extremely distinctive voice and songwriting style that is pretty much immediately recognizable. Much like some musicians such as John Legend or Ben Harper who would come after him and perhaps were influenced by him(?), Withers wrote seemingly intensely personal, often melancholy soul ruminations which were occasionally balanced by more ruefully upbeat songs that veered into more danceable directions. Withers has a smooth and mellow baritone voice but can also sometimes reach into a tenor's range. He is one smooth dude.

Withers provided another example of how blues morphed into soul and R&B in the late sixties and early seventies. Many of his songs had a blues feeling even if they only very rarely followed typical blues lyrical or musical conventions. Withers has said that he found that the usual blues lyrics either bored him or that other people could sing them more convincingly than he could. He always wanted to write his own music anyway. 

Withers' first albums were produced by the Memphis soul musician Booker T. of Booker T. and the MG's. The sessions included musicians such as the Stephen Stills, The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band as well as Booker T and company. Withers had zero interest in dancing around the stage, having the traditional female backup singers or the then ubiquitous horn section. This was relatively unusual for a black "soul" musician. But Withers' music has a strength and vibrancy which didn't require what Withers saw as unnecessary frivolities. When he first started out there was a lot of space in Withers' arrangements. Instrumentation was relatively spare. Withers is a self-taught musician who honed his craft during his stint in the Navy (he joined at age seventeen) and upon his return to civilian life. He did not start to gain fame in the music world until his early thirties. He didn't quit his day job until well after he was established as a musician. Withers evidently had and has little use for (white) experts on the blues who wished to categorize his music or claim he wasn't playing "black enough". In a documentary he responded thusly:
"You gonna tell me the history of the blues? I am the goddam blues. Look at me. Shit. I’m from West Virginia, I’m the first man in my family not to work in the coal mines, my mother scrubbed floors on her knees for a living, and you’re going to tell me about the goddam blues because you read some book written by John Hammond? Kiss my ass."
OK then. =)
I think everyone knows his songs "Lean on Me" or "Ain't No Sunshine". Great works. I love the chilling antiwar anthem "I can't write left-handed." "Who is he..." captures a man's (justified?) paranoia about what his wife has been doing behind his back. "I'm Her Daddy" describes the pain of a father separated from his daughter. I like the Isaac Hayes' cover of "Use Me" better than I do Withers' original. "Just the Two of Us" is probably as close as Withers ever got to adult contemporary pop. It's a good song.  The relatively vituperative (for Withers) "You" and the hopeful "Can We Pretend" both came out on an album released when Withers' marriage with actress Denise Nicholas was breaking up. The self-described extremely private Withers has always resisted and resented simplistic autobiographical readings of his songs. He's pointed out that just because he wrote a song about suicide ("Better off Dead") doesn't mean that he ever considered it. 

In Wither's telling, "You" at least was about an amalgam of people he had known as well as a metaphor of a person's rise to fame and fortune. He denied it was about his marriage saying that a) he was not a fast enough writer to include hints about his marital strife on the then current album "+ justments"  and b) a private person like himself would not put out personal information for the public to sift through. True enough. All the same, "Can We Pretend" was largely written by Nicholas, who has confirmed that it was, from her perspective, in part about their marriage. "Lovely Day" features Withers holding vocal notes for almost 20 seconds while "Harlem/Cold Baloney/Shake Em Down" is a combination of Withers' music and the traditional blues "Shake em on down".

I enjoy singing along with his music on long commutes. If you are only familiar with Withers' more popular works you should pick up some of his early seventies work and give it a listen. The music is deceptively simple stuff that will make you feel better and make you think at the same time. I really like his voice. If you are hip to such singer-songwriters as Dylan, James Taylor, Richard and Linda Thompson, Stevie Wonder, Jon Lucien, Carole King etc. you ought to be aware of Withers' work

It's all over now (duet with Bobby Womack)  You  I'm Her Daddy
Stories   Hope She'll Be Happier   World Keeps Going Around  
Ain't No Sunshine Harlem/Cold Baloney/Shake Em Down (Live at Carnegie Hall)
Who is he and what is he to you  Use Me I can't write left handed  
Lean on Me Lean on Me(Live at Carnegie Hall)  Just the Two of Us 
Better off Dead(Live)  Grandma's Hands  She's Lonely 
The Same Love That Made me Laugh  Can We Pretend Lovely Day

Luther Allison
There is a blues song called "Right Place, Wrong Time" that was written by bluesman Otis Rush and was later a hit for Dr. John. Unfortunately that title applies to the lives and career success of a lot of Black American musicians and Luther Allison was no different. He was born in 1939 and was likely part of the last generation of black bluesmen to see blues as a natural organic outlet for their creativity. He was from Arkansas. Having moved to Chicago with his family in his early teens Allison was tearing it up as a precocious bandleader in the mid to late fifties. He was respected enough by his peers to open for them on occasion or sit in with them in clubs. Famously, blues giant Freddie King turned over a few of his gigs to Luther Allison. Howling Wolf once invited him to sit in. And Wolf didn't extend that invitation to many people.
Despite this respect on the streets Allison wasn't able to get a record deal under his own name until 1969's "Love Me Mama". The release was well received within the declining blues market but what really gave Allison a chance at the big time was his appearance at the late sixties and early seventies Ann Arbor Blues Festivals. Allison was building a sound which was updated electric blues rock with nods towards the funk and soul scenes of the time. He had a quite modern hard edged guitar tone, one which wasn't too different from contemporaries like Duane Allman or Eric Clapton. His version of "Little Red Rooster" for example would not have sounded out of place on seventies era hard rock radio stations. Allison obtained a three record deal at Motown, where I believe he was the only upfront blues artist signed. At Motown, Allison was able to explore a number of options besides straight ahead blues but unfortunately Motown seemingly had little idea how to market him. I think those albums are lost gems but apparently at the time they were released people didn't see it that way. After his record deal with Motown expired Allison bounced around a few other labels. He played the declining black blues circuit in America but wasn't exactly making big bucks.

Fed up with this Allison packed up and moved to France. His music, especially the traditional blues songs, were much more popular in Europe in general and France in particular. He stayed in France for most of his remaining life. In 1994 he recorded a comeback album and moved back to the United States. But not three years after this he discovered he had inoperable lung cancer and passed away. So it goes, I guess. If you like blues I think you will like Luther Allison's music. I would suggest his earlier work before his voice darkened and cracked and he switched to screaming over singing (imo). YMMV. Check out the slide-funk of "Now You Got It"  or his cover of Willie Nelson's "Night Life" for a typical example of his Motown period. I think his version of "Last Night" is a song I would suggest to anyone who wants to know what blues is about. If you don't feel something while listening to that either blues is not for you or you're just dead, which to me is about the same thing. Luther's son Bernard has picked up where his late father left off. He's produced a body of work worth investigating in its own right.

Night Life Last Night
Raggedy and Dirty  Luther's Blues  Don't Start Me Talking  Now You Got It
Bad News Is Coming (Live at Ann Arbor Blues Festival)   Gambler's Blues
Bad Love  K.T  Backtrack Little Red Rooster  Cherry Red Wine
Bad News is Coming (with Bernard Allison)

Friday, November 15, 2013

Renisha McBride News: UPDATE Charges made in case

UPDATE: Suspect charged with second degree murder and other charges. Read more after the jump.

On most days I don't like just putting up a news article with minimal analysis but this happens to be one of the days when my boss actually expects me to work. The nerve of that guy never ceases to amaze me. You'd actually think he pays me or something.  And because much like the President I am facing a November 30 deadline on some critical tasks, there must be less blogging and more programming/project managing on my part. So it goes. All the same though I did want to quickly draw your attention to this article below which has some new information about the Renisha McBride situation. The takeaway is that (1) the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office has still not issued an arrest warrant for Ms. McBride's killer and  (2) Ms. McBride was shot in the face, but apparently not from point-blank range. This would to me, seem to be another indication that the young woman was not a threat. There is something wrong in our society where the default is to consider ANY black person a threat. There have been different statements about whether there was an accidental discharge of the shotgun or whether, if charged, the suspect intends to claim self-defense.

FWIW, the Wayne County Prosecutor is a black woman, Kym Worthy, who may have first come to local and perhaps national prominence some years prior when she was the lead prosecuting attorney in the trial of Walter Budzyn and Larry Nevers, two Caucasian cops who beat the black motorist Malice Green to death.  It is unusual that the alleged suspect has not been arrested as of yet so we'll have to see how everything turns out. Wayne County, which if there is a trial is where the trial would be unless it's moved, is about 40% black. Juries tend to have lower black representation than that.
Dearborn Heights, which is where the shooting took place, is a Detroit suburb which is overwhelmingly white.

It was shortly before 1 a.m. Nov. 2 and Renisha McBride was involved in an accident with a parked vehicle in Detroit. More than two hours later and six blocks away, she was shot in the face by a man who told police he thought someone was breaking into his Dearborn Heights home. The 54-year-old homeowner, according to police, said his 12-gauge shotgun discharged accidentally. What happened during the hours between the accident and McBride’s death on the front porch of a home in the 16800 block of West Outer Drive remains a mystery. New details surfaced in the controversial case Monday, raising more questions about the 19-year-old’s death.

The Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office is waiting for several items relating to the investigation from the Dearborn Heights Police Department at this time,” the statement from spokeswoman Maria Miller said. Meanwhile, civil rights leaders have called for a thorough investigation of the case. McBride’s death was ruled a homicide by the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office, which released her autopsy report Monday. According to the report, McBride was shot in the face, not the back of the head as her family initially had said. “There was an entrance shotgun wound to the face, with no evidence of close-range discharge of a firearm noted on the skin surrounding this wound,” according to the report.



Theodore Wafer was arraigned Friday afternoon in connection with the shooting death of 19-year-old Renisha McBride. Wafer, 54, is charged with second degree murder, manslaughter and possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony in the Nov. 2 shooting McBride. He must pay 10 percent of a $250,000 bond to be freed from jail. Authorities say McBride, of Detroit, drove into a parked car in the city around 1 a.m. After her death, tests determined her blood alcohol level was nearly three times the legal limit for drivers in Michigan, a toxicology report said.

Witnesses said she left on foot, bloodied and disoriented, Worthy said. She ended up on Wafer's porch in neighboring Dearborn Heights at least a couple hours later that morning.

Wafer told investigators that he thought McBride was breaking into his home, and that the shotgun accidentally discharged when he investigated, police said.

After 911 was called at 4:42 a.m., McBride was found dead with large shotgun wound to her face, Worthy said.