Theft of a violin – Updated

On Monday night in Milwaukee a violin was stolen.  OK.  So why are you blogging about this, you maybe wondering.  Because the violin stolen was not just any violin.  The New York Times reports

It should have been one of those nights musicians live for. Frank Almond, the concertmaster of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra for nearly two decades, had just closed a chamber concert in his own “Frankly Music” series with Messiaen’s hushed, eerily intense “Quartet for the End of Time.” Mr. Almond drew the graceful, ringing high notes of the finale from his prized 1715 Stradivarius violin, producing a tone so intensely focused that the audience in the Wisconsin Lutheran College’s 388-seat auditorium sat in awed silence for 20 seconds before applauding.

But the glow of the moment evaporated quickly, once Mr. Almond, 49, stepped into the college art center’s parking lot at 10:20 p.m. Monday, his violin carefully swaddled against the subzero temperatures and minus-25-degree wind chill. And as he neared his car, a figure stepped up to him and shot him with a stun gun.

It happened in a matter of seconds: Mr. Almond dropped the violin, the attacker scooped it up and jumped into a late 1980s or early ’90s maroon or burgundy minivan, where an accomplice was waiting to speed away. Edward A. Flynn, the Milwaukee police chief, said late Thursday afternoon that Mr. Almond had described the thieves as a man and a woman. Chief Flynn has given the value of the violin as “the high seven figures.” The police said earlier that the violin’s empty case had been found several miles from the hall.

Stradivarius violin

Stradivarius violin

We read all the time about musicians and their favored instruments.  They are always transporting them around in cabs, on subways, on trains and planes.  I once saw the cellist, Yo Yo Ma, with his cello on Boston’s Red Line.  Probably the same cello he has left at least once in a cab.  My husband told me when I mentioned I was going to blog about Mr. Almond, that he once left his trumpet on the Orange Line.  Luckily someone had turned it into the MBTA lost and found.  Mr.  Almond can certainly get another high quality violin, but probably not another Strad.

What is shocking about the incident is that it was not stolen from a dressing room left unlocked or lost on some public conveyance, but that he was attacked just as if someone was going to steal his watch or wallet or ring and that it was clearly planned.

A spokeswoman for the orchestra confirmed that the instrument was insured, but said that because of the investigation, she could not provide details about the amount, or what restrictions, if any, applied to the use of the instrument. Given its prominence — high-resolution photographs of Strads are plentiful — it would be virtually impossible to sell the instrument on the open market.

“We’re not engaging in the pretense that this is just any other crime,” Chief Flynn said on Thursday. “This is an extraordinary art theft. It is just as extraordinary as if some master criminal crept into the Milwaukee Art Museum and stole several of its most valuable pieces. It’s an inordinately rare violin of unquestioned provenance, made 300 years ago and worth a lot of money. So obviously we are treating this like much more than just another mugging.”

Like the paintings stolen and never recovered from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum which also can’t be sold.  If they are still around, some wealthy person somewhere is enjoying them or they are lying abandoned in a basement or attic.  I hope it is the former.

…Antonio Stradivari was, by common agreement among violin fanciers, the master builder of violins, a creator of instruments with a sound that subsequent makers have been at a loss to reproduce. Fewer than 650 of Stradivari’s violins survive, and Mr. Almond’s — which was given to him on “permanent loan” by an anonymous patron in 2008 — is regarded as a particularly fine example.

Called the Lipinski Strad, after an early owner, the instrument was built in 1715, when Stradivari was in his prime. The first known owner was the composer and virtuoso violinist Giuseppe Tartini, who flourished in the early 18th century and whose “Devil’s Trill” Sonata remains one of the Baroque repertory’s great showpieces. Karol Lipinski, a Polish player who was friendly with Paganini, Liszt and Schumann, owned it in the early 19th century. It made its way to Milwaukee in 1962, in the possession of Evi Liivak, an Estonian violinist, who died in 1996. Then it dropped out of sight until the current owner offered it to Mr. Almond.

A stolen instrument is very difficult to recover.  According to the FBI, 11 violins (including 6 Strads) have been stolen since 1985; only 3 are known to have been recovered.

…In one recent case, a 1696 Stradivarius was stolen in November 2010 from Min-Jin Kym, a young South Korean violinist who was living in London, while she and a friend ate lunch at Euston Station. The violin was found in July 2013.

A more famous case was the 1713 Strad (called the Gibson) owned by the early 20th-century violinist Bronislaw Huberman. It was stolen from Huberman twice: once from a hotel room in Vienna, in 1916, and then in 1936 from his dressing room at Carnegie Hall while he was onstage playing another instrument. The violin was recovered only in 1985 (Huberman died in 1947) when a jazz violinist who had been playing it in smoky clubs all those years made a deathbed confession. It is currently owned by the violinist Joshua Bell.

We hope that the Milwaukee Strad ends up in the hands of someone who will play it and they will have listeners who will enjoy the music.

UPDATE:

The Strad recovered.

The Strad recovered.

It is reported this morning that the violin has been recovered.  The New York Times reports

A Stradivarius violin stolen last month from the concertmaster of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra has been recovered seemingly unharmed, the authorities in Milwaukee announced on Thursday.

The rare instrument, which dates from 1715 and has been valued at $5 million, was recovered Wednesday night, after the police searched a residence in Milwaukee, led there by one of three suspects recently arrested in the case, Edward A. Flynn, the Milwaukee chief of police, said at a news conference. Officers found the violin in a suitcase in an attic. Chief Flynn described the home as owned by a friend of a suspect, but said that person was believed to have had no knowledge of what he had been asked to store.

And arrests were made.

On Wednesday, the Milwaukee police announced they had arrested two men and a woman this week in connection with the theft. On Thursday, officials identified two of the suspects as Universal Knowledge Allah, 36, a local barber who is being accused of providing the stun gun used against Mr. Almond; and Salah Ibin Jones, 41, whom the police described as their primary suspect. The third suspect, a 32-year-old woman, was not identified but is believed to have been driving the getaway vehicle.

The police have confirmed reports that Mr. Jones was previously convicted of possessing a stolen sculpture four years after it disappeared from a Milwaukee art gallery nearly two decades ago.

“This individual has done fairly high-end art theft in the past, and the last time his plan was to keep it in a safe place for a number of years and then bring it out of hiding and do something with it,” Chief Flynn said. “So theoretically it’s plausible that might have been his plan here: to keep it off the market and out of sight for a number of years.”

Stefan Hersh, a violin expert who appraised the instrument in 2012, said he had been contacted by the F.B.I. and went to Milwaukee on Thursday to authenticate the instrument. Seeing no damage, he performed a piece by Bach on the 300-year-old Stradivarius, a private concert for the police.

I’m sure we will hear more about how the violin was found in the attic, but at least it is safe and wasn’t there long enough to be damaged.  How could they have thought that wood would survive the heat and cold there and still have value many years from now?  But luckily that didn’t happen and it will be played again.

Photograph of a Stradivarius:  Michael Darnton

Photograph of recovered violin:  Darren Hauck/Reuters

Pete Seeger at the Lincoln Memorial

I was going to write about Pete Seeger’s death, but then I realized I had already written this back in 2009.

FortLeft

The concert at the Lincoln Memorial was a wonderful start to the festivities.  My favorites were Garth Brooks (who knew he could do gospel?) and Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen leading everyone in Woody Guthrie’s This Land is My Land

I grew up with Pete Seeger both with the Weavers and as a solo.  He used to come and perform at the annual Bucks County PA Peace Fair and I recall selling him Italian Ice at least once.  John Pareles wrote in his review of the concert in the New York Times

Its penultimate song had the 89-year-old folk singer Pete Seeger, who survived being blacklisted during the McCarthy era, leading a singalong on a full-length version of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land,” with one of his admirers, Mr. Springsteen, by his side.

And Joanna Weiss  in the Boston Globe

But the penultimate act seemed…

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About traffic studies

Unless you’ve been in a coma or cave or maybe sequestered somewhere you’ve heard about the traffic problems on the George Washington Bridge last September.  Everyone is investigating:  A joint special committee of the New Jersey legislature, the United States Attorney for New Jersey, at least two Congressional Committees and a great many news investigative reporters.  But until subpoenas come due in a week or so and people have a chance to digest all the material that will be submitted, including listening to cell phone conversations and searching for text messages and email, there is likely to be no new information.  So in case you are suffering from bridgegate withdrawal, here is some information on traffic studies.

Trust Calvin Trillin to be on the case.  First, his poem as published in the Nation.

Fort Lee Jam   

Chris Christie insists he knew nothing at all
Re jams at the bridge lanes. Well, maybe.
But, now, those commuters are smiling. They say,
“So who’s in a bigger jam, baby?”

traffic study

And then we have his imaginary consultant’s report from the traffic study published in the New York Times Sunday Review.

FINAL REPORT OF A TRAFFIC STUDY CONDUCTED AT THE FORT LEE, N.J., APPROACH TO THE GEORGE WASHINGTON BRIDGE, SEPT. 9-12, 2013

Object of the study. The study was designed to ascertain the effect on traffic if two out of three tollbooths at the Fort Lee, N.J., approach to the George Washington Bridge were closed.

Study designer. The traffic study was designed by Duane C. Milledge, Ph.D. Dr. Milledge was most recently the designer of a traffic study submitted to the agency that operates the two bridges that cross the Missouri River near downtown Kansas City, Mo. The design for that study calls for furnishing commuters on one bridge with $20 bills and instructions to say to the toll taker, “Sorry, it’s the smallest I’ve got,” collecting no tolls on the other bridge, and observing the result. Dr. Milledge is a member of the American Association of Traffic Engineers, a contributor to Queue Quarterly, and a Republican precinct captain in Summit, N.J.

Hypotheses. The principal hypothesis of the study was that the tollbooth closings might ease traffic flow onto the bridge, due to fewer cars from Fort Lee being able to gain bridge access.

Additional benefits that might accrue if the two tollbooths were closed permanently. It was posited that the space occupied by the two tollbooths in question might more efficaciously serve the revenue-flow needs of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey through a use other than collecting tolls — for instance, concessioning them out as a Shake Shack or a retail outlet for selling such souvenirs as George Washington Bridge coffee mugs, Springsteen memorabilia and CDs of Don Imus drive-time radio shows from the ’80s.

¶ Methodology. The methodology of the study was to shut down two out of three tollbooths and see what happened.

Interaction of researchers and commuters. The research team had no problem collecting data from individual drivers waiting to go through the one open lane, since their cars were virtually stationary. There were only 14 instances of violence directed at the survey takers, almost all of which consisted of commuters throwing coffee from travel mugs or paper cups. Fortunately, no researcher was scalded, since the drivers had been waiting so long that their coffee was cold.

…Corporal Sicola [research assistant]  found that 58 percent of the motorists in line shouted some imprecation, ranging from the sort often heard in the stress of a rush-hour subway or an overcrowded emergency room (e.g., “You people should burn in hell” or “You can take your study and stick it where the sun don’t shine”) to rare curses, presumably ethnic in origin (e.g., “May streetcars grow on the back of your throat”).

As we all know the lane closures were ended on Day 4, so a follow-up study is recommended.

Now, here is advice from Dr. Gridlock of the Washington Post on how to do an actual traffic study.

For close to three millennia— from the days of the Romans until the interstates were built — conducting a traffic study was simple, dreary work: send somebody out with a clip board to count ox carts or stage coaches or automobiles.

Did this create traffic jams on the Appian Way or Oregon Trail? Probably not.

Like everybody else who drives, Christie knows about traffic cameras. New Jersey has almost as many of them as it does cranberries,  and they outnumber the pigeons on the suddenly-controversial approaches to the George Washington Bridge.

Back in the days before he acquired a chauffeur Christie had to listen to the same radio traffic reports as the plebeians. As an observant fellow, he’s bound to have noticed that in the past decade they’ve gotten much more sophisticated.

Those cameras have helped, but a major advance has been because a company called Inrix and a few competitors take the heartbeat of traffic and supply local radio and TV stations with what they report. Inrix has a world-wide network of transponders installed in most trucks and what are called “fleet vehicles” — rental cars and delivery vans.

Those transponders provide real-time information, so your cheerful traffic reporter can tell you exactly how much traffic to expect — or where the major tie ups are — on, for example, the George Washington Bridge.

And then you can take the data collected and do some computer modeling.  Bill Baroni who was the one who tried to explain the fake alleged traffic study would have had some really nice charts to show them.  You don’t need poor Corporal Sicola!

Illustration by Peter Arkle for the New York Times

Reading series mysteries

The last few months have not been kind to my ability to blog.  Between wrist tendonitis and cataract surgery on both eyes, I haven’t been able to do much on the computer.  But now my wrist is settling down and my eyes are staring to clear.  I had intended to start back slowly but I seem to have posted quite a bit this past week.

During my absence from the computer, I have been able to read.  My big accomplishment:  reading the entire Thomas and Charlotte Pitt series by Anne Perry.  I had read a number of them before but realized that I had skipped most of the ones in the middle.  There are 26.  Thomas Pitt begins as a detective with what became the Metropolitan Police in late 19th century London.  He is the son of a gamekeeper who was educated with the master’s son – a key to his rise.  Charlotte is the middle daughter of an upper class, but not aristocratic family.  Their marriage is gradually accepted by her family. (I have to say that I never quite understood why she never had even a small dowry, but I may have missed the explanation.)  Her sister, Emily,  marries up to the aristocracy and then when her husband dies, a man who gets elected to Parliament.  Emily’s great aunt from her first marriage plays a major role in most of the books.  I’m sure you have guessed by now that these are mystery novels. The genius of Anne Perry is her ability to capture the time while often centering her stories around issues that are still current like rape and political corruption.

Having finished up with Thomas and Charlotte Pitt, I began thinking of the other series I’ve followed over the years beginning with the Nero Wolfe books by Rex Stout and Dorothy Sayers’ Peter Wimsey series and moving on to the Margaret Maron’s Deborah Knott, Victoria Thompson’s Sarah Brandt and, of course, J.D. Robb and the “in death” books.  What happens to me is that the characters become familiar friends.  One gets involved in their lives and is sad when they go away because the author dies or simply, like Sayers, decides not to write any more.  One watches children grow up and wonders how the relationship between Deborah and her stepson, Cal will evolve.  Will Eve Dallas ever have children?  How will Sarah’s relationship with Malloy impact his mother?  And people follow different writers and characters.  But some series get read primarily for the mystery.   I read all of P.D. James, but not necessarily because I wanted to know what would happen next to Adam Dalgliesh although his development has been fun to follow and it is   interesting that James has written the best follow-up to Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice”: “Death Comes to Pemberly”,

So the question becomes whether or not to read anything by an author, authorized or not, who picks up the series.  I’ve never read any of the “new” Nero Wolfe’s or the continuation of Robert Parker’s Spencer series, but I have read all three of Jill Patton Walsh’s Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane add-on’s.  I had just finished writing that sentence and stopped to think more about where this was going when Margaret Maron herself posted on Facebook.

I think that several no-longer-with-us writers have had their series continued by others with decent success — Sherlock Holmes and  Jill Paton Walsh’s entries in Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey saga come to mind. But rather than write more Peter-Harriet stories, I really wish that she or someone competent would use the Wimsey sons. If you recall, there were 3 of them.  Surely at least one of them inherited his parents’ detecting bug?
What series would you love to see done if you could be sure they’d be done well?
I don’t know if anyone else could do what Margaret Maron does, but if she suddenly stopped writing, I would want to see more of Deborah Knott and her family.
In the meanwhile I’ve ordered the new J.D. Robb and am looking forward to the spring and summer with a new Anne Perry as well as a new Peter Wimsey by Jill Patton Walsh.

The perpetual war on women

I’m baffled.  When a political party loses a large, important demographic in an election, I would think that they would change tactics so the same thing doesn’t happen again.  I’m not saying they necessarily need to give up a favored policy position but certainly they could maybe talk about something different.  They could follow the example of Pope Francis.  The Pope is certainly not going to change the Catholic Church position on abortion or ordination of women, but he doesn’t want those kind of issues to be the focus of Church teaching. I refer, of course, to the Republican Party.

I think that all of them need to go back and take Biology 101 again because starting with Todd Akin, they really don’t know how the reproductive system works.  The latest is from Mike Huckabee.  The Nation has provided the full quote via Yahoo! News.

Here are Huckabee’s comments in full, provided by Yahoo! News’s Chris Moody:

I think it’s time for Republicans to no longer accept listening to Democrats talk about a war on women. Because the fact is, the Republicans don’t have a war on women. They have a war for women. For them to be empowered; to be something other than victims of their gender. Women I know are outraged that Democrats think that women are nothing more than helpless and hopeless creatures whose only goal in life is to have a government provide for them birth control medication. Women I know are smart, educated, intelligent, capable of doing anything anyone else can do. Our party stands for the recognition of the equality of women and the capacity of women. That’s not a war on them, it’s a war for them. And if the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it, let’s take that discussion all across America because women are far more than Democrats have made them to be. And women across America have to stand up and say, Enough of that nonsense.

Maybe he should stick to playing the guitar.

Maybe he should stick to playing the guitar.

While his remarks are somewhat muddy and unclear I think the gist is that the Democrats are paternalistic.  Sorry, Mike, but I think that it is the Republicans who are paternalistic.  They assume that women don’t understand about birth control, abortion, and their own bodies.  Otherwise, why would they need to have a doctor do a vaginal ultrasound and explain to them about fetal development.  But I think that Gail Collins had the best response.

Say what? Basically, Huckabee seems to be telling us that the Republican Party will not insult women by suggesting the federal government should require health insurance policies to include birth control pills in the prescription drug coverage.

He appears confident that women will find that an attractive proposition.

Huckabee was at a meeting of the Republican National Committee that was supposed to be pondering ways to close the gender gap. Instead, he laid bare a fact that the party has always tried desperately to hide — that its anti-abortion agenda is also frequently anti-contraception.

Back in 2011, Mississippi voted down a referendum that would define life as beginning at conception.  One reason it failed was because women came to understand that passage might outlaw certain kinds of contraception.  Women, as Collins points out, believe that the right to control their own reproductive schedules was long since established.  Most women find the idea that this might not be so beyond imagination.

Once upon a time, Republicans took the lead when it came to helping women get access to birth control. Now, the whole party is hostage to an anti-abortion movement that harbors a wide-ranging contempt for sex outside of marriage, combined with a strong streak of opposition to any form of artificial birth control, even for married couples.

“What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right?” Rush Limbaugh said of Sandra Fluke, the law student who was lobbying for inclusion of contraceptives in health care plans. However garbled his language, Huckabee’s control-their-libido harks back to the same mind-set.

This is a super political strategy. Let’s target all the voters who waited until they were married and then practiced the rhythm method.

The Republican party continues to be tone deaf when it comes to women’s health.

And there was no backtracking after the “Uncle Sugar” speech. In fact, Huckabee sent an email to his supporters replaying his remarks. Then he asked for a donation.

Photograph from Wikipedia.

Nadal and Federer, Borg and McEnroe

In June 2009, I wrote a post about Rafael Nadal as a role model for young athletes.  It began

I’ve just come back from visiting my mother a 90 year old tennis fanantic.  I picked up last week’s New York Times Magazine and there, on the cover, is Rafael Nadal, the curremt number one in men’s tennis and as well as the current heartthrob for women.  I look at Nadal and Federer as Borg and McEnroe:  Borg was the pin-up but they could both play tennis.

Yesterday I watched the semifinal of the Australian Open between Nadal and Federer and was reminded again of all those great Borg/McEnroe matches.   Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe last played each other in 2011 at a charity event.  The New York Times reported

They were like oil and water during their heyday three decades ago, but John McEnroe, the brassy New Yorker, and Bjorn Borg, the cool Swede, are the best of friends now. Such good friends that Borg agreed to fly to New York to play McEnroe on Thursday in a charity match on Randalls Island.

Bjorn Borg, at left, and John McEnroe at a charity match on Randall's Island in New York.  July 2011

Bjorn Borg, at left, and John McEnroe at a charity match on Randall’s Island in New York. July 2011

True to form, McEnroe won many of his points at the net, while Borg favored backhand slices and a strong serve. McEnroe, who had played a doubles match before taking on Borg, was in character, slamming his racket against a baseboard and holding his hands on his hips after losing several points.

But when their match ended in front a crowd that included the former Mayor David N. Dinkins, they hugged at center court. The result, they said, was less important than their friendship and their efforts to promote tennis.

Borg and McEnroe, of course, are best known for their epic 18-16 tie-breaker in the fourth set of the final match at Wimbledon in 1980, which Borg eventually won. McEnroe won the next year, ending Borg’s five-year championship run at the event. By 1983, Borg retired; McEnroe followed him a few years later.

But for those few years, they played great tennis and provided a contrast in styles that came to characterize their generation. Borg, the quiet gentleman, was a link to the game’s more patrician roots, which were fading. McEnroe, an argumentative finger-pointer, typified a new era when athletes were more openly blunt and out for money.

According to the ATP, Borg and McEnroe played 14 times and 7-7.

This is where Nadal and Federer are a bit different.  After yesterday, they had played 33 times; Nadal had won 23.  The Guardian reported

Rafael Nadal will have to beat Swiss players back to back to win his second Australian Open on Sunday, and may have a slightly tougher time of it against Stanislas Wawrinka than he did in a curiously uneven semi-final against Roger Federer on Friday.

The world No1 took two hours and 23 minutes to win 7-6, 6-3, 6-3 – his 23rd victory over the Swiss, in 33 matches, moving him to within a win of drawing alongside Pete Sampras on 14 slam titles – and three behind Federer. Sampras was in the audience at the Rod Laver Arena, the first time he saw them play each other live.

“I never thought about 13 grand slams, or 14 either,” Nadal said. “I need to keep playing great to win this title. Stan’s serve is huge, and he is hitting the ball very hard. I will try to play the same as I did tonight. When I play with Roger, it’s a very special feeling. We play a lot of times for important things in our career. He’s a really great champion, and it’s an honour to play him. We played some tough rallies in the first set, he was playing some very aggressive tennis. I think tonight I played my best tennis of the tournament. After missing last year, it is very emotional for me to be back on this court.”

Rafael Nadal, left, shaking Roger Federer's hand after their match. The Nadal-Federer rivalry ranks among the most compelling and the most lopsided in tennis history.

Rafael Nadal, left, shaking Roger Federer’s hand after their match. The Nadal-Federer rivalry ranks among the most compelling and the most lopsided in tennis history.

The first set, won by Nadal in a tie breaker, was classic.  Both men were asked why Nadal wins so often.  The New York Times summarizes

Nadal would be content with never answering another question about his ability to turn any version of Federer — the invincible Federer, the injured, the best, the greatest — into just another guy. But he took one Friday anyway. His answer was a roundabout route to “it is what it is.”

“The real thing is I played a lot of times against him,” Nadal said. “And a lot of times I played great against him.”

And Federer

It was more difficult for Federer to explain why he struggled so with Nadal. He tried. To play Nadal, he said, was different from playing Djokovic or Murray. To beat Nadal, Federer could not play the way he wanted. He needed to be more aggressive, to hit at sharper angles, to take more risks.

His explanation was more fact than excuse. Nadal makes Federer play like someone else.

“I enjoy playing against him,” Federer said, a comment that all but begged for a lie-detector test.

Pete Sampras watched them live for the first time.

…Earlier in the day, Sampras gave a long, thoughtful, conflicted answer about the greatest-of-all-time debate.

Some decades, he said, seemed to have one player who stood above the rest. There was Rod Laver. There was Sampras, although of himself he said only, “I certainly had my moments.” Now, there is Federer and Nadal, greatness squared, and while Federer is 32 and Nadal is 27, their respective careers have overlapped for years — and much of their primes have, too.

“Let’s just appreciate what we’re watching,” Sampras said. “These are two of the greatest players of all time, playing in the same decade. It’s one for the ages.”

That it is, an era-defining rivalry, must-watch TV, every time the two of them take to the court. Even if one of them, the left-handed baseline bully, the Spaniard who answers to Rafa, now seems to win most every match that matters.

And my mother would have enjoyed every minute of yesterday’s match.

Photograph of Borg and McEnroe:  Barton Silverman/The New York Times

Photograph of Nadal and Federer:  Andrew Brownbill/Associated Press

Beware gifts from friends

As long time readers of this blog probably know, I worked for many years in Virginia state government and I grew up in Virginia politics.  OK, so the Virginia laws on accepting gifts may be a little murky, but every state employee I’ve ever known understands that one cannot accept anything of any value from anyone with whom one does business.  The constituent who sends Christmas candy, for example, to thank you for providing some information.  That candy can be accepted if shared with the office.  You can’t take it home.  Plus you should consult the assistant attorney general assigned to your office so there is a record.

A former governor and former state attorney general should know this.  Bob McDonnell likely did and decided he was above the law.  He isn’t.  At least he isn’t above indictment.  The Washington Post published a list of the most interesting of the counts.  Here are some of them.  It begins with shopping.

April 11-13, 2011: The dress and a seat next to the governor

Maureen McDonnell called Star Scientific chief executive Jonnie R. Williams Sr. on April 11 and asked him to take her on a shopping trip to New York to buy a dress by designer Oscar de la Renta. The first lady explained that she was attending a political event at the Union League Club in New York two days later and promised to get Williams seated next to McDonnell (R). On the shopping trip, Williams accompanied the first lady to numerous designer stores and spent $10,999 at Oscar de la Renta, more than $5,500 at Louis Vuitton and roughly $2,604 at Bergdorf Goodman for dresses and accessories that McDonnell said she needed for her daughter’s wedding and for her own anniversary party. Williams was seated next to the governor at the Union League Club event.

May 9-June 1, 2011: Receiving checks from Williams and promoting his company

A member of the governor’s staff indicated May 9 that the staff was considering plans to have McDonnell visit a Star Scientific promotional event on June 1 in Florida. “[T]he person inviting the Governor is a good friend so I would like to be as responsive as possible,” the staff member wrote. A staff member told the company that the McDonnells’ daughter’s wedding, the same week as the corporate event, would make the trip impossible.

“I’m so sorry this won’t work out! What else can we do to fix this?” the staff member wrote.

On May 17, Maureen McDonnell scheduled herself to attend the promotional event.

On May 23, Williams had his office assistant write two checks, for $50,000 and for $15,000 as a wedding gift, and delivered them in person to the governor’s mansion.

On June 1, Maureen McDonnell attended the company’s promotional event in Sarasota, Fla., which was also attended by numerous Star Scientific investors, and announced that she was offering the governor’s mansion for the official product launch of Anatabloc.

August 2011: The Rolex, free golf and a product launch

On Aug. 1, Maureen McDonnell met privately with Williams before the state health official’s briefing to discuss ways that the state could research Star Scientific’s Anatabloc product. The first lady asked about the Rolex watch that Williams was wearing and mentioned that she wanted to get one for her husband, but Williams expressed surprise that the governor would want to wear a luxury item, given his role as a public official. The first lady responded that she wanted Williams to buy her one to give to the governor. Soon afterward, he did buy the watch and called the first lady to ask what she wanted engraved on the Rolex. She replied: “71st Governor of Virginia.” The same day, the governor’s wife entered an electronic calendar event for herself to attend an Aug. 30 luncheon with Virginia state researchers.

On Aug. 12, Maureen McDonnell’s chief of staff arranged for the governor to attend the Aug. 30 luncheon.

On Aug. 30, the governor and his wife played host at a luncheon at the governor’s mansion for the launch of Anatabloc. Williams helped craft the guest list, which included some of the same University of Virginia and Virginia Commonwealth University research scientists whom Star Scientific was trying to persuade to conduct clinical trials of Anatabloc. The first lady and Williams placed Anatabloc samples at each table setting.

January-February 2012: Big loans to the McDonnells and a push for state research:

In late January, the governor’s brother-in-law e-mailed him to say that “the guy who is helping us” had contacted him about where to send the first check he planned to provide for MoBo, a real estate holding company that McDonnell owned with his sister.

On Feb. 9, the first lady e-mailed her husband and copied his senior policy adviser under the subject heading: “FW: Anatabine clinical studies – UVA, VCU, JHU.” In her message, she wrote: “Here’s the info from JW. He has calls in to VCU & UVA & no one will return his calls.”

The next day, she asked her husband’s policy adviser to please call Williams that same day and “get him to fill u in on where this is at. Gov wants to know why nothing has developed w studies after [JW] gave $200,000

Thanks, -mm.”

The McDonnells

Jeff Schapiro wrote in his column in the Richmond Times-Dispatch

In the indictment Tuesday, a picture emerges of McDonnell as a politician who rationalizes his behavior. This is a man who apparently told himself that — because Williams had become an intimate and because gifts from friends do not have to be disclosed under state law — he could conceal from the public beneficence that it would almost certainly deem indefensible.

And it was behind that screen, the indictment argues, that an elaborate scheme unfolded — one in which the government of Virginia, following enthusiastic assurances by Maureen McDonnell to Williams, pledged to support his money-losing company.

Was it the Governor’s wife who was the real driving force behind all of this?  Did they have financial problems all along?  Did they see election to Governor as a signal they needed to live the life of the rich?  Will Governor Bob “Ultrasound” McDonnell end up in federal prison?  I guess we will find out.

Photograph:  Bob Brown, Richmond Times Dispatch

The state rep and domestic violence

He was convicted of two counts of domestic violence resulting from a date – or a hook-up – gone very wrong.  State Representative Carlos Henriquez was sentenced to 2 and a half years and has to serve 6 months.  This happened on January 15 and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.  Much of the debate centers around his sentence since in Massachusetts most first time offenders are told to stay away from the victim and go to a batterer’s program.  Henriquez is planning to appeal.  The Boston Globe reported

State Representative Carlos Henriquez will spend six months in prison after a jury convicted him Wednesday of holding down a woman and punching her in the chest after she refused to have sex with him.

Jurors convicted Henriquez of some of the acts of violence he was accused of, but acquitted him of others.  The lawmaker was found guilty of two counts of assault and battery, but he was acquitted of a charge that he had struck the victim in her face. Jurors also found Henriquez not guilty of witness intimidation and larceny.

Dressed in a dark suit and tie, Henriquez was without expression as Cambridge District Court Judge Michele Hogan said she was sending him to prison in part because of the serious nature of his crime and because of his refusal to accept responsibility for his actions.

“When a woman tells you she doesn’t want to have sex, that means she does not want to have sex,” Hogan said. “You don’t hit her. You don’t punch her. . . . I’m very concerned that you’re not remorseful.”

State Representative Carlos Henriquez of Dorchester looked toward the jury Wednesday.

State Representative Carlos Henriquez of Dorchester looked toward the jury Wednesday.

I have to interject here that I worked for Carlos’ mother, Sandi, for a number of years and he occasionally stopped by the office.  She is now a high-ranking official at HUD.  His late father was a community activist and very involved in the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative not too far from where we live.  Carlos had a promising career ahead of him but something happened.  The incident for which he was convicted occurred not too long after his father’s death and with his mother mostly in Washington, perhaps he felt adrift.  The family always appeared to be close and he lived in an apartment connected to the family house. But this does not excuse what happened.

A few days after his conviction, Farah Stockman wrote a compelling piece published in the Globe opinion section.

You know your political career is on the rocks when the evidence that is produced in your assault trial is a fake fingernail. Bright pink.

What’s the jury going to think when they see that fingernail, found in the Zipcar you drove when you picked up the 23-year-old college student who accuses you of hitting her after she refused to have sex?

Are those jurors thinking: “A Zipcar! What an ecologically conscious elected official?” Probably not.

You know your reputation as an up-and-coming politician is bound to suffer when the most compelling evidence in your favor is a series of racy messages between you and said college student, sent from your VoteforCarlos e-mail. Katherine Gonsalves picks you out of the crowd at a community meeting, and asks to interview you for a class paper. Days later, she’s asking: “Are you still coming out to play tonight?” You’re a 35-year-old man. You’re Carlos Henriquez, representing the 5th Suffolk district. You’re the son of a well-known political family. A man whose endorsements are sought in mayoral campaigns. But you answer: “For Sure. I hope you are ready.” And you spell it F-O-S-H-O. Then you misspell her name in your phone.

Five months later, she’s begging you to come over. “Babe, I miss you,” she texts. You’re too busy, making the kind of neighborhood appearances that got you elected. Late into the night, she’s still trying to get you to pick her up. She describes partying with her sister and her sister’s friends, drinking. Your response: Send the address if you want to have sex.

Monica Lewinsky, anyone?  Anthony Weiner?  Elliot Spitzer?  Or even worse, Chandra Levy who ended up dead in Rock Creek Park.  Even though someone else was convicted of her murder, suspicion ruined the a California Congressman, Gary Condit with whom she had been having an affair.  Sex and politics are a lethal combination.  Elected officials seem never to learn and in the Henriquez case, there is not only political ruin but jail time.

More from Stockman

You pick her up. You both climb into the backseat of the car. What happens next defines both of you, maybe for the rest of your lives. She tells you she can’t go home with you as she had planned because her mother caught her sneaking out of the house. You complain that she dragged you all the way over here. You argue. She pulls out a cell phone and tells you she’s recording you. Do you struggle over the phone? Steal the SIM card? Do you backhand her, punch her, and choke her — and then climb into the driver’s seat and drive into Boston, without ever giving her a chance to get out of the car?

Or did everything happen differently? We don’t know your side of the story because you never take the stand. All we know is that your defense itself is unflattering: Your lawyer says you only wanted sex, but Gonsalves wanted more, and went “Fatal Attraction’’ when she didn’t get it.

I heard the evidence at the trial and I’m still not sure exactly what happened in the car that night. Justice, at its best, is an approximation. In the end, the jury — five women and three men — had an easier time picturing Carlos Henriquez beating a young woman than that young woman making it up, bruises and all.

Carlos Henriquez is clearly guilty: if not of assault, then of really poor judgment. In court, Gonsalves looked miserable in the witness box. Henriquez looked miserable at the defense table. Once, she stole an awkward glance at him. I felt sorry for them both.

So why sentence him to jail time?  On the surface, the only difference between Henriquez and other men who are convicted of domestic violence and get sent to a batterer’s program is that he is an elected official.  Unfortunately for him, the incident comes on the heels of the Jared Remy case.  Jared Remy was in court for beating up his girlfriend and mother of his child the most recent in a series of incidence with increasing violence.  He was released and, the next day, she was dead.  I think the trial is this summer.  The DA has said that releasing him was an error.

My question is this:  why have men been let off the hook so easily in the first place?  If I am right and the Remy case served as a wake-up call to the criminal justice system, the sentence of Henriquez to jail time was fallout.  When other men are also given jail time, we will know that things are finally changing for the better.

And a final word to Carlos:  Please resign.

Photograph:  Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe

Robert Livingston: forgotten man of the Revolution

A couple of days ago, I read a story in the New York Times about the discovery of a draft of a letter written in July 1775 to the British people from the American revolutionaries that was a last ditch effort at reconciliation.  While the name Robert Livingston rang a faint bell, I did not remember learning anything about a letter back to England.

According to the Times story

It was lying in a drawer in the attic, a 12-page document that was not just forgotten but misfiled. Somehow it had made its way into a folder with colonial-era doctor’s bills that someone in the 1970s decreed was worthless and should be thrown away.

Luckily, no one did. For when Emilie Gruchow opened the folder last summer and separated it from the doctor’s bills, she recognized it as a one-of-a-kind document.

Ms. Gruchow, an archivist at the Morris-Jumel Mansion, was an intern at the museum in Upper Manhattan when she made her discovery. The mansion served as George Washington’s headquarters during the Revolutionary War. She realized the document was the draft of an urgent plea for reconciliation from the Continental Congress. It was addressed to the people of Britain, not King George III and his government, and began by mentioning “the tender ties which bind us to each other” and “the glorious achievements of our common ancestors.”

The letter, which Ms. Gruchow found last summer, was written in 1775 by the New York jurist Robert R. Livingston.

The letter, which Ms. Gruchow found last summer, was written in 1775 by the New York jurist Robert R. Livingston.

A little searching led me to Yale University’s Avalon Project and the discovery that there had been two letters:  one to the King and one to the “FRIENDS, COUNTRYMEN, AND BRETHREN!”.  Both were from the Continental Congress.  The letter to the King does not list all of the colonists grievances, but mentions them more generally.

We shall decline the ungrateful task of describing the irksome variety of artifices, practiced by many of your Majesty’s Ministers, the delusive presences, fruitless terrors, and unavailing severities, that have, from time to time, been dealt out by them, in their attempts to execute this impolitic plan, or of traceing, thro’a series of years past, the progress of the unhappy differences between Great Britain and these colonies, which have flowed from this fatal source.

The open letter to the British people is a precursor to the Declaration of Independence with a list of grievances.  For example this mention of Boston

We could wish to go no further, and, not to wound the Ear of Humanity, leave untold those rigorous Acts of Oppression, which are daily exercised in the Town of Boston, did we not hope, that by disclaiming their Deeds and punishing the Perpetrators, you would shortly vindicate the Honour of the British Name, and re-establish the violated Laws of Justice.

That once populous, nourishing and commercial Town is now garrisoned by an Army sent not to protect, but to enslave its Inhabitants. The civil (government is overturned, and a military Despotism erected upon its Ruins. Without Law, without Right, Powers are assumed unknown to the Constitution. Private Property is unjustly invaded. The Inhabitants, daily subjected to the Licentiousness of the Soldiery, are forbid to remove in Defiance of their natural Rights, in Violation of the most solemn Compacts. Or if, after long and wearisome Solicitation, a Pass is procured, their Edects are detained, and even those who are most favoured, have no Alternative but Poverty or Slavery. The Distress of many thousand People, wantonly deprived of the Necessaries of Life, is a Subject, on which we would not wish to enlarge.

Became

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

and

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

as well as

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

Robert Livingston

Robert Livingston

Which brings us to Mr. Livingston.  According to the Times

Until Ms. Gruchow found it, only the final, printed version from July 1775 had been known to exist. She consulted with Michael D. Hattem, a teaching fellow and research assistant on The Papers of Benjamin Franklin at Yale. He analyzed the handwriting on the yellowed pages of the manuscript and did textual analysis that led to an unexpected conclusion: The document was written by Robert R. Livingston, a prominent New York jurist who had been on the fence about whether to support independence for the colonies.

The following year, Congress tapped Livingston to draft the Declaration of Independence along with Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and Roger Sherman.

Curiously, Mr. Livingston (1746-1813) did not actually sign the Declaration because he was recalled to New York before he could do so.  I’ve searched, but could find no reason for his recall.  He did go on to administer the oath of office to George Washington and, under the Jefferson administration, to help negotiate the Louisiana Purchase.  And now we know that it is his list in a letter to the British people which likely inspired the list in the Declaration of Independence.

Photograph of Document: Suzanne DeChillo/The New York Times