Gehry Memorial Delays & Expense: I said it last year in the HuffPo
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Gehry Memorial Delays & Expense: I said it last year in the HuffPo

Do you notice how it’s called the “Gehry” Memorial, not the “Eisenhower Memorial”?

That’s because this ugly, outrageously expensive, inappropriate memorial is a tribute to Frank Gehry’s ego, not to the revered former President and statesman. Ike is nowhere to be found in this ghastly monument to an aging architect’s vanity.

The New York Times is pronouncing on the Gehry Memorial, reporting that it’s being called a “five-star folly.”

I would like to point out that I wrote words to the same effect more than a year ago, in my Huffington Post piece about the memorial. I also wrote of the atrocious way Gehry treated my husband Sabin Howard.

Regarding the spiraling expense of the piece, I wrote:

Nor was the announcement written to give hard facts that allow people to know the truth. For example, what wasn’t said is how much Gehry’s design will cost: at least $142 million of taxpayer money, according to sources.

But the Times  quotes from a 58 page report stating that Gehry & Co. have pocketed over $10,000,000 for the memorial. What’s there to show for the sum of money? Where can I get a gig like that, where I can siphon off eight figures and produce almost nothing, or at most a few little macquettes? Nice work if you can get it!

I applaud Rep. Rob Bishop of Utah who has introduced a bill to appoint a new commission.

My latest HuffPo piece: How to Handle Email Harassment
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My latest HuffPo piece: How to Handle Email Harassment

I went through an ordeal, and I wanted to help other people who experience something similar. So I wrote this piece. It’s received a wonderful response, with many people contacting me to thank me or to comment on the usefulness of the information. Jayne Hitchcock herself, founder of, commented. How cool is that?

How to Handle Email Harassment, in the Crime vertical

My latest HuffPo piece


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Italy: Blocked by socialism, corruption, and a no-can-do attitude

Last year when we came to Italy, we went first to Venice and then to Florence and then to Rome.

We rented an apartment in Rome near the Vatican, and one evening went out for ice cream with our landlords. They had two bambini and we have one. In the course of the conversation, we discussed a large factory complex on an island outside of Venice that lies empty and unused. Marghera, I think it’s called.

“Some entrepreneur should come along and re-purpose the space,” I said. “Turn it into a nightclub or a mall or a skating rink.”

“That is not possible,” exclaimed our landlady, a lawyer, with total certainty.

“Sure it’s possible,” I shrugged. “Some bright person will come along and think of a way to re-use the space and make it productive. It doesn’t have to sit there and be empty. It could be an auction space, a market, or an art gallery. It could be anything.”

She insisted vigorously and with a rigid refusal to consider any other possibility that such a thing was not possible. The only possibility was that the factory would continue to lie fallow–forever.

She was a smart and educated woman, but I ended up looking at her and thinking that she was quite backwards. That’s my cultural bias, of course. In the US, some hotshot entrepreneur would come along and do something clever with the space and turn it into the next hot spot. If the first entrepreneur failed, the second would succeed. If the second didn’t, the fifth would.

The US–despite Obama’s best efforts to destroy the middle class and create a totalitarian state where every citizen’s most picayune communications are watched over by the NSA–is still all about reinvention. We still get second and third chances. Note to literary readers: we have long sense superseded Gatsby’s assumptions.

But in Italy, there is only one option: that the unused factory space, which was expensive to build, will remain empty and useless.

It’s an attitude that Sabin and I have encountered over and over again in our travels through Italy: “No can do.”

It’s not the fault of ordinary Italians. We meet people who work really hard. Over and over again, we hear the same thing: the bureaucracy in Italy is set up to thwart citizens, to deny fledging businesses any hope of success, and to create the conditions for business failure.

This year, our friend Paolo who owns rental apartments shared with us some of his woes. The government is constantly changing regulations, hoping to trip up rental businesses and thus fine them outrageously before shutting them down. This belligerence is in part sponsored by hotels, who don’t want tourists to have the option of renting apartments. But it is also the government trying to squeeze ever more taxes, fees, financial obligations, and huge fines out of a middle-class that is already wrung dry.

Other friends of ours here recounted how the government abruptly raised certain taxes from 20% to 22%, and consequently, over half of the small mom-and-pop shops went out of business. That 2% was everything for them. Businesses here have to pay for production, and they don’t get tax credits for it. Out of 1 euro, our friend said, he gets 40 euro cents, if he’s lucky. Sixty euro cents goes to the government, taxes, fees, tariffs, etc.

Plus, in Italy, the government can simply take funds out of a citizen’s bank account whenever it wants, like when it suddenly changes the rules on permits. A small business owner can go to the bank one morning and find there is substantially less than he or she expected–because of overnight changes.

Speaking of apartments, in Venice, there is a glut of unoccupied, closed up apartments. Families who have owned apartments forever have stopped offering vacation rentals because the government keeps changing the rules, and they don’t want to pay capricious and punitive fines. Owners are afraid to rent to students because they run the risk of the students destroying the property, and they’re even more afraid to rent to regular folks. If the renters stop paying, it’s almost impossible to evict them–especially if they have children.

So the smart thing to do is not to rent out apartments, but to board them up and let them be empty. And that is exactly what many Venetians do.

Our friends who run a small establishment won’t hire anyone to help them, because the laws governing labor are oppressively burdensome. So the husband and wife do everything themselves, and sometimes his mother pitches in.

Socialism destroys opportunities.

Then there is the corruption factor.

People still mention the Mafia. It’s a problem, more in the south than in the north, but people are aware that the Mafia influences the government and the passage of laws, that there is a criminal factor in the running of their country. In fact, in many places in the south, the Mafia is the government. What a shame.

One thing I always ask Italians, after everyone has had a little wine: “Perche Berlusconi?” I am thinking, How the hell could you have elected someone as mind-bogglingly corrupt, stupid, and bad for Italy as Berlusconi, and kept him in office for twenty years? If I am feeling particularly controversial, I mention the Bunga Bunga parties.

Over the last few years, many answers have erupted. Berlusconi owns much of the media is a favorite excuse. Someone from my Italian publisher told me that people voted for Berlusconi because they hoped that they, too, like him, would get away with corrupt behavior. “I am embarrassed about him,” one Italian woman, an educated professional, confessed the other day.

So here is a country with one of the great artistic, cultural, and historical patrimonies on Earth, and it is stuck in the mud and sinking. Italy is mired in failure, backward-thinking, socialism, and corruption. Che peccato.

BROKEN: Power is pornographic
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BROKEN: Power is pornographic

Among the myriad ways to categorize people is one I have developed over the course of my life. It has to do with the paradigm a person subscribes to. That is, is this person about power or is he or she about freedom?

I have found that people usually fall into one of those two camps. Not always, of course, and there’s flow back and forth. Even people who believe in freedom can race into a power struggle when they feel unsafe.

As a general thing, people who seek power are looking for power over other people. They tend to develop skills for manipulation, currying favor, seduction, and insinuation, especially the sly delivery of a put down or a compliment, the aim of either being to control the other person’s feelings and achieve a desired result.

Power-mongers’ diction will be full of phrases like “squash them like a bug,” “hold them in the palm of my hand,” “grind them to dust,” “kick their ass,” “beat them to a pulp,” etc. You get the idea. This soul-less paradigm sees people as either winners or losers; other people are objects to be used, objects who either gratify or thwart the power-monger.

People who source themselves in freedom take a different approach. They look for mutuality and reciprocity, for the “win-win” solution, for everyone to feel seen and validated. Their language sounds different, you can hear it immediately. There’s reference to inclusiveness and respect, respect for both self and other people. “We’re in this together” and “let’s resolve this.” Words tend to be courteous. Praise is given out of kindness or because it’s earned, but not to sway the other person into a desired behavior. Notice that “kindness” and “respect” are the operative modes.

I think it takes a lot of inner strength to choose to seek freedom. It takes faith, perhaps even a certain amount of enlightenment. I think it’s a choice each person has to make regularly, because in the flow of life, we regularly encounter challenges and tests. Who are we going to be? It’s the question we face every moment as we choose our paradigm, our Source.

I’m deep in the next draft of this WWII novel of mine, BROKEN. It’s brought up all these reflections because the second world war perfectly embodied issues of power and freedom. That is, the Nazis sought power over other people–over just about everyone. And they were perfectly willing to take away the freedom of anyone who disagreed with them, or anyone who bore the “stigma” of Nazi projections of inferiority: Jews, gays, Gypsies, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Poles, Socialists, Communists, etc.

The Nazis believed in an embedded hierarchy that their god had established. I have come to understand that the belief in an external, hierarchical, gendered god–and by gendered I mean patriarchal–is the origin of a great deal of evil in the world.

So here’s the next draft of the cover of BROKEN.

Power is pornographic

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Email Harassment and Criminal Behavior

A post about the horror of Email Harassment.

I guess sometimes I’m kind of a naive person. Sometimes I trust when I shouldn’t.

So I got involved with someone who is psychotic, and it took me several months to see it.

I took someone on to help them. There were warning signs along the way: occasionally this person was startlingly verbally abusive toward women. I mean, sometimes this person seemed to hate women with a rare, intense, and perplexing viciousness.

But the person didn’t act that way toward me, and always seemed to have an “excuse,” though now that I look back on it, is there ever a justification for brutally aggressive verbal abuse and profound misogyny?

This person can be incredibly charming on the telephone, working a kind of Grima Wormtongue thing. Still, many of this person’s relationships degenerated into ugliness, name-calling, and bitter enmity. But always there was an excuse, and it was never this person’s fault.

Then it was my turn to be on the receiving end.

I first grew aware of a serious issue when I discovered that this person had impersonated me online, signing my name and personal email to a gift without my foreknowledge or consent.

This was a wake up call that I heard. I pulled back. No one has the right to violate my privacy that way. No one has the right to impersonate me or to appropriate my email address. It is identity theft and it is wrong.

Then, just a few days ago, things erupted. I made a decision this person did not like. When I stood my ground, the person first was conciliatory, and then suddenly–the switch flipped. In the course of a few hours, Mr. Hyde emerged.

This person sent dozens and dozens of violent, offensive emails that included threats of bodily harm, like promising to fight me until “blood trips.” There were other vulgar, violent threats that I won’t post online. The emails were increasingly poorly spelled and they were filled with the foulest language imaginable. They included manic threats of various sorts. The diction was completely out-of-bounds, like something from a ghetto. I was called the “c” word fifty times or more, and even in the subject line of the emails.

One of the emails, demanding a large sum of money within 24 hours, was also sent to my husband.

In the course of this mad ranting, the person claimed to have phoned a longtime friend of mine, and he had given up some dirt on me. Of course my friend emailed today saying straight out that he had never spoken to this person and had never heard the name before my emails describing the person’s allegations.

Is it any surprise that this toxic person is a sociopathic liar?

Moreover, this person signed the name and legal credentials of an attorney admitted to the bar to one of the emails sent to me, for the purposes of threatening and intimidating me–without the attorney’s consent. I wonder how the attorney feels about that, given the responsibility of character and ethics that comes with a bar membership. So this person impersonates other people, too.

Obviously, this person has decompensated totally. Obviously this person needs psychiatric care.

In the meantime, I am left cleaning up a mess. There are people I must warn, because those people came up in conversation between me and the psychotic person–and I don’t know what the psychotic person will say or do. I don’t know if this unbalanced person will make contact, as a way to hurt me.

Several friends have urged me to file a restraining order, because the threats of physical harm were blatant and appallingly far over any possible line anyone could draw.  These threats were criminal.

This person also hurt a third party financially, an independent subcontractor who had completed work for this person, because I was the one who recommended the subcontractor. I feel terrible because someone I like and respect, who does first rate work, was hurt. The psychotic person stopped payment for work already completed, which is the same as writing a bad check: it is fraud.

The psychotic person also stopped payment on a check to me for a service that I provided. More fraud.

It’s shocking when harassment erupts this way. There are places to report it, and I have. There are steps to take, and I’m taking them.

In the meantime, it does leave me reeling, stunned at the depths of viciousness and sociopathy in the human soul.

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Wednesday it was announced that a federal commission charged with building a national monument honoring President Eisenhower voted unanimously to approve elderly architect Frank Gehry’s latest design for the monument.
I wrote, in part:

Notice, also, that this post is entitled, “The Problem with the Frank Gehry Memorial.” Because to examine the plans for the memorial is to see a monument to a prominent architect’s particular vision, not a memorial to a revered statesman, general, and President. While taste is personal and Americans love hubris, Gehry’s imposition of his personal style does seem to fly in the face of President Eisenhower’s modest origins, personal humility, and appeal to all sectors of society.

Gehry’s is not the only hubris in evidence regarding this “unanimous decision.” In reading the announcement, it is striking that Commission Chairman Rocco Siciliano speaks disparagingly of the Eisenhower family’s objections: “The family deserves to be heard, not obeyed,” he is alleged to have said.

It’s a rhetorical masterpiece to spin the family’s concerns as autocratic. But the rhetoric only thinly veils condescension, which reflects poorly on Siciliano in particular but also on the committee as a whole. For shame: surely this esteemed family deserves better than to be sneered at!

The Eisenhowers deserve better because their objections are thoughtful, persistent, echoed by many others, and valid. In fact, the Eisenhowers have courageously given voice to the concerns and objections of a great many people. But the announcement wasn’t written to express that fact.

It’s an ongoing shame that the Eisenhower family has been contemptuously dismissed by Siciliano and Gehry, those thick-as-thieves buddies from California; Eisenhower himself has been dismissed from this memorial. Not only that, but this ugly monument to folly is outrageously expensive, as well. See the report on the Eisenhower Memorial for the figures, which exceed $40,000,000.