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JISHOU, HUNAN — Like a moth to a flame, I can’t resist reading about the latest Sarah Palin escapade. The Attention-Monger with a Short Attention Span™ has put her cross-country bus tour on hold and canceled a well publicized trip to Sudan.

For jury duty.

** [UPDATE: In case you’re worried, she hasn’t been told to report yet, according to the Alaska Dispatch.] **

The only way anybody gets any news from the Palin camp is through her Facebook page. Her bus tour itinerary is kept more secret than a presidential motorcade’s timetable. So after the bus tour abruptly stopped, the media immediately began to wonder if she had quit the tour in midstream. Not that she’s ever quit anything in midstream before …

Palin then ran to the ramparts and shot off one of her folksy Facebook updates.

Imagine our surprise when reading media reports today that the “One Nation Tour” has been cancelled. Why didn’t anyone tell me? Oh, wait, that’s because it hasn’t been cancelled. (Good ol’ media… you never cease to amaze!)

As I said myself at the end of the east coast leg of the tour, the summer is long, and I’m looking forward to hitting the open road again. The coming weeks are tight because civic duty calls (like most everyone else, even former governors get called up for jury duty) and I look forward to doing my part just like every other Alaskan.

I wouldn’t think it to be such a slow news day that, what with numerous wars and serious economic woes concerning Americans, a bus is driving news stories today. The next leg of the tour continues when the time comes. In the meantime, no one should jump to conclusions – certainly not the media with their long track record of getting things wrong or just making things up.

Sigh. Sarah, you made your bed, now lie in it.

Her whole game plan for the bus tour (a so-called family vacation in a rolling advertisement tour bus with a Fox News reporter in tow) has been to tease the media. They don’t know her itinerary, so when the bus moves (at quite a clip, from some reports) the reporters and photogs give chase. When the bus is idle and the occupants missing, who ya gonna call? Not Palin, for sure, because she doesn’t talk to the media (except for Fox News).

With no official explanation, a news organization has to report something. So, some outlets jumped to the conclusion that Palin might have called the tour off, perhaps because she tired of it, or saw a shiny object somewhere.

Of course, the only bad publicity is no publicity, so Palin let the media stew for a while before issuing her aw-shucks Facebook missive castigating them for not being able to divine her impeccable rationale. At the same time, she pulled out her now-timeworn complaint that the media are out to get her. “Poor me! I stopped the bus tour because I saw something shiny, and I didn’t tell anyone, and now the media are saying I’m quitting the tour, but I’m not, and it’s so unfair. Nobody understands me. Boo hoo hoo! They’re such poopyheads. I hate them!”

[Note to the reading disabled: The sentences in quote marks in the previous paragraphs are not actual quotes by Sarah Palin. She to my knowledge has never uttered those words in anyone’s presence, much less mine. I am taking poetic license, as a writer. If you think I have made her sound immature and idiotic, too bad. She’s a public figure. Get over it.]

[Note to the puzzled about the previous note: Earlier this month, two writers at Politico imagined what was going through Palin’s head (aside from the wind) and put a surmise in quotation marks. Palin Loyalists jumped on Politico faster than hungry wolves on a crippled deer, forcing Politico to change the punctuation to show it was not a real Palin quote and issue a retraction.]

Now, about that jury duty excuse. It’s admirable that she wants to fulfill her civic duty, but does she really have to put her life on hold? It seems just maybe she does.

I was basing my initial skepticism on my own experience. I’ve been on the voter registration rolls of one state or another since I was 18 (that’s when Nixon was in office, btw). Not once was I called up for jury duty, until I left the country. Two years ago, Jefferson County, Kentucky, summoned me to jury duty, but I asked to be excused, per my legal rights, as returning to the US for jury duty was an undue burden. I was also a registered voter in Indiana, so even by that measure I would have been disqualified, I think.

There are different laws in each state regarding jury duty, so I went to the source: Alaska’s jury duty FAQ.

First of all, anyone who has received money from Alaska’s socialist revenue-sharing fund is on the list of potential jurors.

Potential jurors are selected randomly by a computer from the list of all adults (18 years of age and older) who apply for the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend.

Must she respond? You betcha.

The summons to jury service is an official court summons. If you do not respond, you could be held in contempt of court.

Now, that would be a headline: “Palin skips jury duty, found in contempt of court.” Talk about real bad publicity.

Can she postpone her service? Yes, if jury duty would cause hardship.

If jury service at the time for which you are summoned will cause hardship, you may request deferral of service to another time within the next ten months. If you need to seek a deferral, you should do so as soon as possible. Do not wait until the time you are to appear. To reschedule your jury service, follow the instructions for question #12 on the Jury Questionnaire. If you have already sent in your questionnaire, call the jury clerk as soon as possible for instructions.

You can also be excused for up to a year if you are a judicial officer, in poor health, or a teacher in an underperforming school. Alaskans over 70 or those with severe disabilities can ask to be permanently excused.

So, if Palin really wanted to put her media circus road show ahead of jury duty, she could have, if she were able to convince the court that halting her tour would have caused hardship. That would truly be a lame excuse, because the One Nation Tour, despite all its trappings, is officially not part of an official campaign to seek the Republic presidential nomination. The Palins prefer to call it a “family vacation,” and calling off a vacation is hardly a hardship.

Besides, the media would have a field day if word got out that Palin was purposely evading jury duty to barrel around the lower 48 in her cushy tour bus.

How long will she have to put the tour in hiatus? Since she’s a rural resident of Alaska, she might be on a call for up to a year, having to call in periodically to see if her number is up.

In other courts, your term of service is either 30 days, 90 days or 1 year depending on the population of the area. In these courts, you may have to call in several days each month, and you may be selected to serve on more than one trial. The most days you might actually have to be present in court is 30 per year. However, you must complete any trial for which you are selected to serve as a juror regardless of how long the trial lasts.

This is all assuming she’s been called for service in a state court trial. For a federal jury (and she’s not sayin’ if it is), the rules are different. Bascially, though, she’d still have to serve under the federal hardship rules.

Unlike a famous sitcom with a troubled drug-addled lead actor, the One Nation Tour can’t run without Palin as the Superstar. We’ll just have to wait with bated breath for the next episode.

The jury call also seems to have scotched Palin’s visit to Sudan for its July 9 independence celebration. She had made plans to accompany evangelist Franklin Graham and her pet puppydog reporter, Greta Von Susteren, to the war-ravaged African nation to boost her international expertise. Or something.

Per her aforementioned Media Avoidance and Control Syndrome, we are only left to guess why she called off the Sudan trip. From the Washington Post:

A Palin spokesman, Tim Crawford, declined to comment on any of her travel plans, whether to Sudan or across the United States.

Teasing us, as usual.

Anyway, Graham plans to continue his visit. Von Susteren called hers off. No Palin means no story for good old Greta. I mean, have you ever seen Paris Hilton’s dog without Paris Hilton?

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