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No more Palin 

Reconsidering my focus

A funny thing happened on my way to writing this column. I decided not to rail against the nomination of GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin anymore.

I have been ranting and raving about her selection for the past two weeks and I am tired. Perhaps I had never fully recovered from Sen. Obama selecting a vice presidential candidate who won just 9,000 votes in the primary -- and choosing him over Sen. Hillary Clinton. After Sen. Joe Biden came Palin, and while I am not comparing their political records -- because there is no comparison -- the options that the Democrats and Republicans chose were puzzling to say the least. Biden at least has some qualifications, while Palin appears to have little to none. So to continue to chop away at her candidacy in this column would be way too easy and would add nothing of value to the world -- mine or yours.

What is interesting about America's fascination with Palin is that, while the world was watching her, few were watching the world. Not to worry, I am not going to join in on the conspiracy theory that the timing of her nomination coincided with the bailout of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. Purely coincidental, I'm sure, but while the government was bailing out yet another major corporation, America was fixated on the pistol-packing supermom.

Did we fall for the okey doke? It sure feels like it. What did we miss? The oil brokers in the oil industry are buck wild, I mean ass out. Cocaine, "treasure hunts," payoffs, wild sex parties -- you name it, they do it. Why is this important? Because they are literally trading tricks as a means of making business deals. The two-year, $5.3 million investigation by the U.S. Department of the Interior's inspector general found workers at the Minerals Management Service's royalty collection office in Denver partying, having sex, using drugs and accepting gifts and ski trips and golf outings from energy company representatives with whom they did government business. There was so much "business" occurring, that the women were known as the "MMS Chicks."

If that isn't enough, the director of the royalty program had a consulting job on the side for a company that paid him $30,000 for marketing its services to various oil and gas companies, the report stated. This throws a wrench in the plans of Republicans who are calling for a greater need to expand offshore drilling, while it bolsters the Democrats' claim that private interests are influencing this call to action. Nonetheless, this gives the Democrats the juice that they need to raise taxes on big oil.

Speaking of oil, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez expelled the U.S. ambassador to Venezuela. The United States has officially pissed off Chavez, who believes that he has uncovered a plot by the United States government, aka the "Empire," to remove him from power. Thus he has "recalled" his own ambassador from Washington and expelled the U.S. ambassador from Venezuela. Chavez told a crowd of supporters, "He has 72 hours, from this moment [Sept. 11, 2008], the Yankee ambassador in Caracas, to leave Venezuela." Now, that's gangsta. Why is this important? Chavez owns 6 percent of Citgo, which gave low-cost home heating oil to Americans in the northeast last year. With that kind of influence, he could use it to hurt us as he has used it to help in the past. Not to worry, he says that we'll get another ambassador when there is a new government in place, i.e. the "empire" falls. Last week, diplomatic relations with one of the largest oil producing countries in the world completely collapsed.

Which brings us to Hurricane Ike, which has wreaked havoc on the Gulf Coast and on gas prices. The U.S. death toll topped 28, and millions are without power in several states, including Arkansas, Ohio and Kentucky, due to high winds and rain.

A car bomb in Baghdad killed 32 people, and even Kanye West got arrested for fighting with the paparazzi.

I digress, but the point is that as the world is turning, we were standing still, stuck on stupid, pun intended.

Clearly, there is a fine line between what is news and what is newsworthy -- these are basic tenets that we study in journalism. Perhaps there should be a similar idea that states that there is a fine line between spending time and time well spent, particularly as it relates to the news. As I try to rediscover my pre-convention self, I hope to recover my ability to choose my obsessions more clearly.

Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D. is an assistant professor of communications and media studies at Goucher College and editorial director for RushmoreDrive.com.

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