Thursday, May 24, 2007

Poster Children

Kids talk about taking a year off between highschool and college—between university years-- Well, I’m having a gap year. I’m not young and not old. I’m not quite bitter but I’m having trouble getting optimism to leave my tongue. I’m suffering from motherhood but never actually get to give maternal advice; I don’t get or give any full-arm embraces; kids are too spiny. I’m working but don’t feel any calling. The treadmill thing.

I’m reading Elmer Gantry. I missed this one when I did Sinclair Lewis. Seemed a decent way to commemorate the death of Jerry Falwell. Elmer reminds me of my 17-year-old—the bullshit artist/jock. Lewis got the religion thing but good. And whatever they crucified him for, it takes a true believer to point out the holes in the argument. It takes a man with a pure heart to see the bullshit, because he’s secretly longing for purity and in this state of innocence and true believing, the bullshit stands out like false teeth under a black light. In fact, I always thought this was kind of the meaning of that Christ painting with the elephant shit that caused such a stink at the Brooklyn Museum (pun intended?). Anyway, they nailed Lewis for the truth, because the people in charge always underestimate the ability of the human mind to actually think, and assume they have to present a pretty landscape even when poisonous snakes are hiding in the trees. They think hiding the bullshit is a form of innocence. This is false innocence. Nothing worse.

That guy Braunstein was nailed today. I couldn’t believe anyone thought he’d get away with that crap under the umbrella of mental illness. It’s nearly as bad as those pederast priests hiding their fidgety hands under their cassocks. Okay, I sympathize with mental illness. I even might have wandered over and smelled the green grass on that side a few times. Not just some but most of my favorite people have done a stint in the psych ward. It’s like a degree for artists. For real artists, that is, not the bullshit kind, which includes fully half and maybe more of the guys whose auction-stats last week put them on the hedge fund map for at least this fiscal year. Another column.

I live near the park, and maybe 2 or 3 times a week there’s a Race-for-a-Cause….sometimes AIDS, sometimes MS, the John Doe organization….you name it… roadrunners everywhere, with numbers and T-shirts, many of whom haven’t a clue about the cause but just like the race scheme-- food and freebies at the end—their daily exercise, for a purpose. Young people mixing, meeting. Charity, socializing, workout: 3 birds, one check.

I also notice people rallying around their own little causes—their personalized disease. Celebrities, too--they pick their charities, dress up and look perfect. My cause of choice has been Breast Cancer, which maybe 10 years ago was not as trendy and politically correct as it is now. I went through a vicarious hell with a sister-in-spirit who had a devastating diagnosis, radical disfiguring and arm-crippling surgeries with drainage tubes hanging out, chemo ports painfully visible under the skin, weekly horrific chemo drips, bone marrow transplants… the torture of the damned. Before Estee Lauder built a spa…just the depressing office, with me trying to tell jokes while I held the bucket for her. Anyway, I lost this sister of mine, after a literal battle which rivals the horrors the Iraqi wounded must experience. Technical cause of death: a wasting rare excruciating complication from the immuno-suppressing drugs which ate away her skin and inner tissue. Agony. Not the fashion-ready version we get from Sheryl Crow who never looked better, with all due respect.

So for 10 years it’s been my pet cause. I’m not a rich donor but I try to do benefits, run races, perform and carefully make sure the women onstage aren’t flaunting their chests to the poor survivors and soldiers in the audience who are struggling with altered womanhood.

Recently my friend’s wife called me, to tell me she was panicked after a recent breast-lift surgery, that there was some unclear spot on her mammogram. So I went with her to a specialist—she had a tiny prick of novocaine, a biopsy…which showed, thankfully, benign tissue. One of the lucky ones. Flowers, much attention from her husband, much personal drama and weeping until she got the news. A relief-dinner at Vong—a necklace, like an offering of gratitude. And here’s the thing: it was as though she was disappointed! Like she could taste the sympathy, the martyr-thing, like after all these years of avoiding work and career, she could have walked right into: Cancer! So now, this girl, who besides whining and shopping and hanging out at Starbucks has little in her life, is suddenly the breast cancer poster-child. The tiny, totally benign biopsy, through her own personal version of the game of ‘telephone’, grew into a lumpectomy, a pre-cancerous condition, and then the ‘pre’ was sort of slurred over, and suddenly, she’s running races, running her mouth, maybe in front of women whose chests have been sliced and mangled and whose ribcages and armature will never feel the same. Not to mention the effects of the chemicals. Menopause is nothing compared to the hormonal whack of chemo; residual bad teeth, heart issues, anemia. For the ones that live. But here is this girl, hanging out in Gilda’s Club, talking on the help-line at SHARE, when the only diagnosis she’s had in 5 years is a cavity.

Recently Revlon had their annual race. The flagship one, 10 years ago, was my first. I ran for my poor wracked sister. I visited the Survivor’s tent as I’ve always done, to say hi to some of her old support team who were luckier. I promised her I’d always check in on them. One of them did an art piece this year, where breastless women had plaster casts done of their torso—some before and after, some during. Graphic and tough. In my friend’s honor, they send me the annual photo they take, these now 10-year survivors, after the Race, with their flowers and their special hats which Revlon makes each year as a kind of trophy/keepsake for these heroines. To remind. The growing and smiling rows of survivors past and present, on the one day you feel proud to be among this group, is an emotionally-packed souvenir. But this time I did a double take because there, unbelievably, in the very front, waving her flowers and wearing her 2007 survivor-hat, was my friend’s wife, like George Bush at a wounded veteran’s ceremony.

I guess there are worse lies, worse delusions. Like Braunstein maybe even believing he didn’t know what he was doing. Like OJ. Like the priests. Do I rat on her? Bad-rap her? Like Sinclair Lewis, they’ll crucify me for slandering the saints and martyrs. But for all of you true believers out there: don’t believe everything you see. Beware the poster children. Be skeptical. It may be the only true human religion.

Friday, May 18, 2007

The Emperor's New Art

I've been visiting the auction houses this week, checking out the Contemporary Art sales. People used to show up at these exhibitions because 1. they're free, and 2. they used to provide an opportunity for celebrity watching. I can remember the first time I went into Sotheby's and Christie's in London. The place was sort of funky. Bums were in there, warming up...looking. Art collecting was for a small group of informed and passionate afficionados who had some aesthetic and spiritual need to own visions of painters and sculptors, to see them every day in their own home, because they were uplifting and made them a better person. Eccentrics, some of them. For celebrities, the nouveau aristocracy, art gave them class. Art gave them something unique and rare. A sort of window onto something they aspire to.

Today, the Wall Street Journal tells us, art is a kind of essential commodity for the very rich. It is recommended as a portfolio component. Actually, the art market has become a gigantic hedge fund. And not just any hedge-fund. A personally 'loaded' one. Like old Gibson guitars, Warhol and Basquiat are symbols for the very rich 40-somethings of everything they kind of missed out on while they were grubbing through their MBA requirements. They are nostalgic for something that evaded them-- the bohemian, the funky underground thing. A very recent kind of nostalgia, because these people are not old yet. But they are tripping all over one another, like desperate housewives at a Filene's 4-hour sale, to outbid and grab the brass ring of a contemporary art masterpiece. And since they don't really have time to get an MA in art, they must rely on the professionals. The dealers. The advisors. The consultants. A newish breed like the conspicuously overdressed real-estate agents whose percentage of the ever-increasing selling price is reaching obscene proportions. And the auction house 'experts'? Like the Art Gallery owners, like the Museum Curators, they tip the scales, they convince us that even the hideously dressed Emperors of Art are in unprecedented finery, and that although these things are supposedly unique and priceless, everyone will be wanting one in six months. The return on their investment in nostalgia and culture will far exceed any hedge fund performance. They will guarantee this-- didn't you read the Wall Street Journal yesterday? Well, they will hold the market up, if need be.

If you hang around the pre-sale exhibitions, you will begin to see a certain similarity between the auction house employees and used car dealers. Of course they are dressed better, and you cannot actually test-drive the goods. You will ask them for a condition report, just to seem informed, and they will describe in detail the 'expert' opinion of their in-house 'describers', many of whom have actually had a few art history courses. They will give a thorough analysis of the 'health' of the canvas, deny the existence of any restoration, describe what it looks like under u-v light. will even offer to show it to you in the dark, lit up. I don't know about the average investment banker, but I can't even read my own mammograms, let alone decipher a black-light image of a Mark Rothko which, just two nights ago, was hammered down at 72.8 million dollars. Housepaint, this is. Housepaint which will deteriorate quicker than the finish on that used BMW. Not to mention the fact that the entire African continent could be fed and clothed for one year. Or the fact that these artists don't see a penny of their own auction price. But you can't hang charity in your loft and impress your colleagues and their wives and girlfriends. You can't sit on the boards of Museums which has become a rather sexy seat this year. And does it irk you that 99 percent of the artists in New York City do not get even one crumb of a piece of this art-money pie? They are starving. And most of them cannot even set foot in the city because it is far too expensive. You will see them wandering around at the pre-auction exhibitions, salivating at the estimates, fantasizing in their smelly grungy thrift-shop clothes, like bums sneaking guiltily in through the back door of a porn flick because they are so lonely.

A friend of mine bought some biotech stock last year. Like a million shares. The company is new, spends money on research, has a negative profit. Suddenly they get a bite on their research line...a big fish is on the hook. The stock doubles, triples--- 2 dollar shares are now 26 dollars. The guy sells his million shares. Suddenly has 24 million dollars. Where did this money come from? The company has no profit, no product yet-- in fact, the fish opens up its mouth and slips off the line. The stock is back at $2. But my friend has this 24 million. Tell me-- because I can't quite understand-- where did this money come from? From a company with no product, no money? Monopoly money. So what does he do? He goes straight to the auction house, skulks around, looking at Basquiats and Warhols which may or may not be real because hey...who's going to blow the whistle? These guys are dead. Why should the authentification committees refuse to authenticate when they stand to make fees and profits? And the auction houses? Twenty percent of the first whatever of hammer prices. That's just from the buyers. They take from the sellers, too. And then there are the storage charges, the insurance, the photo fees. Who do you think foots the bill for those glossy catalogues they give you if you're a fish on their line? You do-- the buyer. And you pay for the champagne cocktails, too. So what if it's fake? What's in it for them? They're not even liable, if they believe it's real. They can always find a grand-niece or an old girlfriend who will swear after a champagne lunch that she saw it in the day. Why not? I lived with my own father for 17 years and I couldn't swear to his signature. Or even his old, worn clothing. My own, after a point. Andy Warhol once signed a picture to me because he liked my band. He said-- I didn't do this, but I'll sign it. You think he cared? You think he'd mind seeing these poor schmucks spending 25 million dollars for a screenprint on canvas which they call a painting? Untouched by human hands. And certainly untouched by Warhol's hands. But hey, what's the diff? They're paying with Monopoly money anyway, for Monopoly art.

Maybe next year they'll sell to Donald Trump and he'll put a few hotels on their new art real-estate. And maybe he'll buy some art to hang on the walls of the hotels that he put up on the Warholian real-estate art the hedge fund guys bought and on and on like a Hall of Mirrors.
Ad Infinitum. Like the price of art.

To be continued.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

HAPPY MOTHAH'S DAY

A friend of mine needs to put his poor aging mother into an assisted living facility. It seems she’s spent her entire life caretaking—first it was her parents, then her inlaws--- kids, ailing husband. So now she’s shed her human burdens, it's finally time to kick up her heels, and hey, she’s 89 years old and can’t quite make it safely down the garden path on her own. The cruel irony of timing seems a bit like getting divorced from your jealous, smothering and non-supporting husband only to find he’s left you with a contagious and incurable STD.

And what exactly is ‘assisted’ living? The modern urban lifestyle of every single yuppie wife/mother in my building? They’ve got cooks, dogwalkers, babysitters, private yoga instructors, masseurs, piano tuners, window washers, caterers, decorators, art advisors, accountants, tutors, psychologists, nutritionists. I could go on. Hairdressers, stylists, makeup consultants. And if that’s not enough they’ve got magazine subscriptions. Oprah. One of them informed me in the elevator she has a Personal Assistant. For what? To write out the placecards for her pretentious dinner parties? To pick up her dry-cleaning? Program her Blackberry? Because she can’t seem to press the buttons in the elevator with her freshly-manicured nails. Wouldn’t it be nice, she sighed, if there was a ‘remote’?

I think I am afflicted with some kind of crippling disease. Or else I am a blue-collar control freak. Because I can’t remember getting a single grocery delivery in my life, including in my ninth month. I clean my own house. Maybe it’s not post-modern sterile like hers, but I’ve always had a certain discomfort factor sharing my sexual secrets with a woman who washes my sheets. And don’t think these housekeepers who clean up for Naomi and Paris don’t yap about their personal hygiene to their girlfriends. They do.

I’ve always felt uncomfortable passing the personal buck to some poor schmuck whose lot in life is one rung below my own poor-schmuck status. Plus I can do it myself. And I do. I nursed my own babies and changed every single diaper. I held screaming infants while I had dysentery or food poisoning because there was no one else there. I washed every load of laundry and cleaned every bathtub. I don’t even have a dishwasher. Okay. Maybe I have a martyr complex. Maybe I look ten years older than these new urban princesses whose most challenging manual chore is text-messaging.

I sound like my father who had to roll out the tennis courts and put up the net before he could play. I feel like whining ‘ Why, when I was a kid, we had to rotary-dial. We had to wait seconds for the number to engage. We had to pull vinyl disks out of 2 difficult sleeves and place them on a turntable-spindle with an arm and a needle. It took several moves. And we had to flip them over halfway in the middle. Then we listened. We actually listened to five consecutive tracks by the same artist.'

And maybe while I was lifting amplifiers and riding busses and hand-washing dishes, I was thinking about stuff. I was listening to something inside. Maybe. I feel different from these people. When I speak to them, they look at one another as though I am using a foreign language. They think I am crazy. Ready for assisted living. But not the kind their husbands provide for them. The kind my friend’s Mom will receive from the state after all those years of scrubbing floors and changing diapers and cooking for the sick and elderly.

My 17-year-old son went to his Junior Prom last night. It was an agonizing process; first clearing the academic roadblocks and detentions which were supposed to block his privileges. Then the on-again, off-again girlfriend thing, she holding the carrot like the manipulative bitch she is. Then the clothing decisions, the haircut, the shoes, the choice of belt, tie or no tie…sleepless nights, IM fighting with the girl, endless teenage agony. It was a party on a boat. $90 I could have used toward a root canal. Four weeks of groceries. At 9 PM the sky suddenly opened into a deluge. Everyone was soaked and soggy and freezing. They ended up drinking 40’s at some guy’s house downtown until 3 AM. My version, this is, because he rarely if ever speaks to me. One word. That facial shudder like even acknowledging my presence is hazardous to his health. Painful. Toxic. He actually came in exhausted and depressed. ‘It sucked’ was all I got out of him, for the $90. Mother’s Day today. For this one, I'll consider myself lucky if he simply avoids me. I'll make it easy and avoid him, too.

I don’t have the heart to tell him that a lot of life sucks. The more you look forward to something, the bigger the letdown. Sometimes. Then again, I ended up in some art gallery today and they just happened to offer me a glass of champagne with fresh strawberries and I ran into an old friend who bought me the best cup of coffee I’ve had in weeks. Even the weather was a gift. The city was sparkling and crisp and there is nothing like a New York spring Sunday. My guitar sounded great tonight even with the old strings. I worked out in my gym with women who don’t have kids, and I kind of felt sorry for them. It’s good to be a mother. Even if your kids ignore you. I’m old enough to know any prom will probably suck if you wait around for something great to happen. I didn’t get the Hallmark life. But hey, I can play music. And I can share a laugh when our local homeless guy wishes the assisted-living mothers from my building a Happy Mother’s Day, and once they are safely in their taxi, sends them off with a little hand-jive and a ‘See you Lateh Mothah-Fuckahs’.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Spring-scene

So the visiting Swedes decided it was time to take the Bob Dylan pilgrimage out of the city. Not as far as Hibbing, but to one of those American university campuses where he was awarded an honorary degree, or the key to a city…whatever. Where F. Scott Somebody and some other tourist-worthy iconic-types had left graffiti. I’m beginning to wonder whether this isn’t the version of American history they get in Scandinavia. Why not? My son’s 27 year-old English teacher actually taught a Springsteen song in a poetry class.
Don’t get me started.

Anyway, they rented a Volvo (I’m not making this up) and talked me into coming along. I haven’t breathed non-Manhattan air for about a year, and it’s the first real springlike day (I’m beginning to dislike the season, wondering how many baby-boomers (another detestable term) respond to a free-associative psychiatric diagnostic of “spring” with ‘steen’.

What I didn’t divulge to my happy blonde companions was that our destination was actually my alma mater. Yeah, not many rock musicians admit to actually having a college degree which if anything poses a major obstacle to survival in the music industry. So I’ve invested a fair number of years, despite my education, becoming a regular person. Like Bruce used to be. Yeah. Way back when he spoke with a New Jersey accent, not the pretentious southern drawl of today. And as far as I know, he didn’t have a college diploma—way back when he was singing about cars and sex and dirt and gas stations. Now he’s mingling with other pretentious rockstars who started out as English teachers. Another column.

Over the years I’ve managed to ignore reunion reminders, newsletters, invites for events, alumni get-togethers. And it’s not like I didn’t enjoy my time there. I loved it. Absolutely. I gave up music for the most part, and stuck my head in books. I watched films, synthesized hallucinogens in Chem Labs, read Philosophy, looked at art, sat late-nights in coffee houses with other poets and musicians, took drugs and worked out my brain. No one bugged me—no parents, no boss, no warring band members…just endless slow days of ruminating and listening, wrapping my mind around things I had scarcely tasted. And I was hungry.

Actually stepping on this old familiar soil was something I was unprepared for. Of course there is a ton of new architecture, development…it seemed every old building had grown wings, ells. But from the get-go, the flashbacks: here was where I threw up with Jane and Peter after my first margarita night. There’s where Paul W. gave me his ID bracelet, where I smoked a joint with Steve G. talking about the brilliance of Rodin, and then posed nude for his first 12-foot canvas. There’s where my cute dog bled to death after being stabbed by a town thug because some student pulled a coke-scam on him. And there’s where I smoked opium, freshman week, with a graduate student who was one of the smartest and most beautiful people I’d ever met. The dorm room where I did it for the first time because, Jesus, I hate to admit it, but I arrived at college a technical virgin.

I could almost smell the beery St. Patrick’s Day party in the firehouse…endless bashes in the basement of an abandoned frat-house on the corner… the Physics lab…the passion of a crush on a long-haired scientist which ended in Newtonian sex in his classroom. And here’s where I scared the shit out of myself on my 30th consecutive LSD trip and swore off drugs forever. Well, at least for a week. But most of all, everywhere I walk, I can almost taste smoking Winstons with that blonde boy who worked in the U-store, who wrote me a Neil-Young-worthy song about a bird. I slept with him in his car, in the chapel pews, in the laundry room, in a condemned Gothic building tower freezing our asses off, all one winter…on the beach at Asbury Park when Springsteen was still a person. Everywhere but in our rooms because I had a boyfriend and he had a girlfriend.

At graduation the blonde boy and I went stark naked under our robes. We had our final moments in the faculty gardens just before the ceremony. I was dripping sex when I went up to get my diploma.

The Swedes are following their little maps, dragging me around. I am trying to be an attentive tourist but I am having trouble speaking.

The Apollo-esque Grad student who turned me on to opium died around 1981 of what they then still called Gay Cancer. Somewhere I have some black and white photos of us
sitting back to back in a stonework arch. Or maybe those were stolen when the junkie robbed me on Sullivan Street. Can’t remember.

The blonde boy died of a wasting stomach cancer around 10 years ago. His sister called me when he was in a virtual coma. She said he’d spoken my name. She knew. What she didn’t know was the night before his wedding he drove 300 miles to New York to convince me to elope. We sat for hours in an East Village diner drinking hot chocolate, planning our future. As the sun came up he got back in the car and made it just in time for the wedding. I married my wild rockstar who was the domestic equivalent of a coyote.

While the Swedes covered every inch of the campus I sat on the steps of a dorm I’d lived in my last year--- a wild co-ed scene. My next-door neighbor had been a fast-talking southern charmer. I could remember the names of all the models and skinny little townie strays he picked up and brought inside. I turned my nose up at his fancy cars, his Caribbean forays, his playboy manner. In the end he taught me about exotic coffee, about wine, about jazz. We must have talked all night about 200 times. Every time I hear Coltrane I thank him silently. He died of cancer 3 months ago and I was too broke to fly south for his funeral. I salute him now—him and the blonde boy and all the others I shared a joint with, a glass, a bed…my heart.

We finally make it back to the city, after a few stops at roadside pubs. I am quiet. The Manhattan late-night congestion comforts me. My memories blend in with the trillion-billion bright light lives that passed through here. I am feeling a Titanic-sized weight on my chest, like I just stirred up and drank all the losses of my lifetime. I guess this is what it feels like to be an old person. The memories. Those of us that survive long enough to have them. The Swedes want to stop at Lakeside. More memories.

I swear to the Lutheran God if Springsteen is on the Jukebox I’ll smash something. Swedes like it when I talk this way.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Exposed

There is this dumb show on MTV where a girl interviews 2 applicants for a date. The two prospects are hooked up somehow to a sort of lie detector device which is headquartered in a van where the interviewer’s friend or sister is watching the responses and relaying the feedback via a tiny earpiece, so the girl can choose the one who lies less. Or the one who lies more, if that suits her. So what I want to know is, why couldn’t they use this setup for the George Tenet interview on 6o Minutes? How come MTV has access to this equipment which they reserve for verifying really crucial information like whether or not the guy wears women’s underwear or sits down to pee? How come we poor schmucks at home have to rely on official press releases and pre-edited network talkshows for our confusing information? Not even a laugh or applause track to tip us off on audience response.

I’d like to study a frame of Tenet’s face at precisely the second he was asked whether anyone had actually died under the terrorist interrogation program. As I remember, for a split second it looked exactly like my old dog's when I’d ask ‘Did you do this?’ pointing to my chewed up leather boot…just before he’d duck his head under the sofa and whimper. It looked like my teenage son’s when I come home two hours early and he’s stashing bottles under his bed, pushing a half-naked girl into the closet, and strutting into the living room like some kind of glassy-eyed welcoming committee, tripping over the furniture.

For that matter, how come we don’t get to use this technology on our presidential candidates as they debate? It seems to me it would save us a lot of trouble if we knew exactly what they were lying about and to what degree. We get a terrorism-alert reading every day, weather reports, polls for just about everything from American Idol reject-popularity to economic confidence. So why won’t they give us this? Because it would spoil the fun?

The amazing thing is, at the end of the MTV show, some of the girls actually choose the liar. There’s a fine line…some of the boys are just insecure and don’t know how to answer. Like if a girl asks a guy if he’d like to have two women in bed… an innocent boy might answer ‘Sure’ because he wants the girl to think he is adventurous even though he’s terrified by this, and it shows up as a major lie. He may be lying because he wants the girl to like him, and she may figure this out, and like it. Similarly, a presidential hopeful may claim his first priority is universal healthcare. And the lie detector would catch him, but that might gain him some Republican swing empathy. It’s a political toss-up.

At least the MTV show has a winner. Not necessarily the one who lies least or most. Usually the cute one. The one with the big boobs, when the contestants are girls. Even though they can’t pronounce superficial and don’t know who the vice president is.

So maybe America has actually already picked the president. Last time it was the one that lied. Or the one that was so stupid he couldn’t even tell whether he was lying or not. He probably did have a little earpiece in and was being prompted. Sometimes he even laughed at his own comments, as though he were hearing them for the first time. And he couldn’t finish little aphorisms he began: bad reception. Otherwise it doesn’t make sense that he would attempt words he didn’t even know. Because he couldn’t pronounce ‘nuclear’. Which, as I recall, was what this whole absurd war was all about in the first place.

So what’s up, America? Have we spent all of our judgment energy on American Idol? The actual voting percentage in our primaries is embarrassing. And the percentage of informed voters is even more embarrassing. The Bush people leaned on this for two elections. And it’s not as though we have to write-in our vote, we lazy Americans, because in that case, the shorter name would have an edge. And there are all kinds of historic precedents—like the tall guy always wins. Last election the winner didn’t even win.

Remember the MTV campaign to ‘rock the vote’? They might have done a better job with George Tenet than 60 Minutes. In fact, maybe they should hook all the candidates up to their little machine in the van. Truth or Dare. I just asked my son the name of that show—it’s called ‘Exposed’. How about exposing the candidates before they're elected? Miss Americas have to parade in front of national television in their bathing suits. Last year' s winner had to step down because of her less-than-role-model behaviour. How come we don't hold our elected officials to the standards of pageant-winners? These guys are criminals. Our president is sentencing our troops to senseless and sometimes excruciating death because of what? His false pride? Stupidity?

Lawyers have to pass the Bar exam before they can practice. Doctors are supposed to be board-certified. They have rigorous training and years of practice. Is there an exam that qualifies you to be president? Apparently not. Apparently the fact that you can't name or pronounce the capital cities of the world doesn't disqualify you. The fact that you have never served in the military doesn't prevent you from becoming Commander-in-Chief of one of the world's largest armies. So let's distract ourselves with the next political competition while this guy, unlike the unseated Miss America, gets another 20 months. TWENTY. A perfect Miss America gets 12. Personally, I am sick and tired of sending a percentage of my hard-earned gig money to keep our poor boys in a useless war, to make sure these Washington fatcats drive around in their BMWs and fill them up with plenty of gas and oil. Am I the only one who thinks it's weird that George Tenet collects a salary from a university which accepted a 20 million dollar contribution from a Saudi Prince? What does he teach in this class? Ethics?

Is anyone out there?