Bob McDonnell’s war on woman

23.08.2014
Maureen McDonnell and Jonnie Williams

Maureen and Jonnie in happier days

The DMV (DC, Maryland and Virginia) is alive with the sounds of scandal as the corruption trial of former VA Governor Robert McDonnell plays on in Richmond. Every day, another shocker–from fraudulent bank statements to designer frocks; it is—for Democrats at least—a celebration of schadenfreude. This is, you may remember, the man who during the gubernatorial campaign positioned himself and his family as exemplars of Christian piety and values (the number of crosses displayed on witness cleavages is stunning) and later supported draconian regulations to shut down abortion clinics (all in the name of women’s health, of course) and required that women undergoing the procedure submit to vaginal ultrasounds(!). Now the couple is facing decades of prison time if convicted of, as the Washington Post blandly puts it, “illegally accepting gifts, luxury vacations and large loans from Jonnie R. Williams Sr., a wealthy Richmond area businessman who sought special treatment from state government.”

For me, whether or not he’s found guilty is beside the point (although I hope he is). What’s so striking is the creativity of his legal team, which is basing its entire case on the histrionics of his wife (an unelected official). Apparently, Maureen was a piece of work, a modern day Lady Macbeth with a taste for extravagant accessories and a “crush” on Mr. Williams (who, by the way, was given his immunity for his testimony). Their marriage, it is suggested, was so frayed that the governor could not possibly have conspired with her in illegal activities. Wow, so much for spousal privilege! If they weren’t estranged before the trial, they certainly will be after.

It’s easy to mock Maureen McDonnell, a bottle-blond, former Redskins cheerleader with a face that launched a thousand quips. But I wonder if the strategy might backfire. The denigration of this woman amounts to domestic abuse and shaming (it is her husband’s legal strategy, after all) and may indeed prejudice the jury in her favor, whatever she might have done. And what about Mrs. Jonnie Williams? How must she feel hearing that the governor’s wife was sweet on her husband? Does he usually attempt to seduce his victims or was this a one-time-only event?

Following the money is one thing, but making this woman pay is quite another. Maureen McDonnell may deserve a conviction, but not the gleeful, cynical bullying.

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Under Armour takes a great leap forward

09.08.2014

Under Armour, whose uniforms for the US speed skaters allegedly fell short at the Sochi Olympics, has more than redeemed itself with IwillwhatIwant, a new campaign aimed at women. Like many other lifestyle brands, the athletic-wear designer is jumping on the girls’ and women’s empowerment bandwagon to celebrate those “who live on their own terms” and, oh, by the way, are examples of physical beauty and inner strength.

The first chapter in the “womanifesto” stars Misty Copeland, an American Ballet Theatre soloist (and the only African American to rise to that position) in a spot that tells her story of “adversity and grace” while highlighting her serious musculature and exceptional “ballon” (lift). And, in a very of-the-moment move, the campaign will also partner with the health app MapMyFitness to link women the world over in a digital community of fitness and support.

For their next act, perhaps Under Armour “will” agitate for what I and countless women really “want”—freedom, equality, autonomy, respect.

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If music be the food of love, play “Begin Again”

26.07.2014

We all have a story inside us and in John Carney’s case it is accompanied by a soundtrack, an ode to the city in which the action takes place. With “Begin Again,” the director of “Once” now turns his attention to New York City where a burnt-out record producer (played by Mark Ruffalo) and a principled but somewhat pouty songwriter (Keira Knightly) improbably connect and make beautiful (OK, passable) music together.

There’s the “will-they-won’t-they” romance, the domestic complications (on both sides) and one really stand-out performance (James Corden as the unsung hero-catalyst). But mostly it’s a love song to the transformative power of the creative process. The best part of the film, for me anyway, is seeing the music come to life—from the mind’s ear to the cityscape soundstages, performed improvisationally and sometimes on the run.

No recording session has ever gone this smoothly; the right talent is rarely so easy to find and deus ex machina financing is not something that appears every day. But that’s part of the film’s gentle charm. It’s a romantic fantasy where collaboration and creativity come together to give art-for-art’s-sake a starring role.

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