While around these parts, we were consumed about what was happening to our basketball superstar and the latest manifestation of his immaturity, life continued on Planet Earth.

Is that a quaint notion? Am I being a prissy old you-know-what? Am I being picky that one of our two daily newspapers ran covers ad nauseam about the Iverson affair or that the 11 o’clock news on all three channels — those purveyors of breaking news — consisted of 12 minutes or so of coverage about a basketball player and his domestic dispute, four minutes of weather, two minutes of sports and 12 minutes of commercials? Should I being having a hissy fit because that public sounding board we call "talk radio" spent 24 hours a day "analyzing" the most minute details of immature love gone bad? Maybe I should be just as curious about whether A.I. had a gun in his pocket — or was he just glad to see those guys he confronted? Will this all be on the History Channel someday?

In case you might have missed it while we debated around the office water cooler the merits of the Iverson case (will he lose that Reebok contract or not?), the stock market plunged deeper than J-Lo’s neckline, each new day brought to light another corporate sham and the "peace process" continued to feature suicide bombings by the same Palestinians we think ought to have their own state next door to Israel, plus an ill-conceived response by the Israelis.

Obviously, none of this is very important because the media defended its obsession — and yes, your obsession — with Iverson because "nothing was happening" in the world of news. Hey, what do I know, maybe 20 years from now my grandchildren will be more affected by whether Iverson is a punk or a heroic rebel than whether there is all-out war in the Middle East or whether a good part of the Fortune 500 winds up playing its tennis in Allenwood during exercise break.

The stock market’s precipitous drop has destroyed much of the illusion of the 1990s that the working class has an equal share in the American dream. The fraudulent corporate criminals will survive very well, thank you — those of you who believe they will be doing hard time probably also think Iverson will go down the river. The rest of America, the people who built their own successful small businesses from the ground up and the hard-working 9-to-5 stiffs, are left to wonder what happened. Those nest eggs were plucked by the hawks, who now plead the Fifth.

The question is who can we trust to fix capitalism run amok? The president and his vice president? Forget whether either man profited from the same kind of schemes that now are shaking the corporate world? That’s not my charge. The real problem is Bush and Cheney don’t understand the problem because they’ve been in the forest too long to see the trees. Bush’s remedies for preventing corporate crime were mostly a rehash or a watering down of the regulations proposed by others. He doesn’t get it.

His SEC Chairman? He used to lobby for the foxes, now he’s supposed to watch the henhouse while the same foxes are feasting? The Democrats? Many of them have been feeding at the same trough as the Republicans they attack. Every American robbed of his or her dream is a potential vote for Ralph Nader next time around, and that’s not good news for either party or, in my opinion, for the rest of us.

Meanwhile, the Israelis have learned that responding to evil inevitably begets evil. The tragic consequences of Israel’s attempt to cut off the head of the Hamas dragon was a bad miscalculation by Ariel Sharon. The attack was poorly conceived and the resulting civilian casualties forced Bush to publicly criticize Israel at a time when the president had finally shed the illusion that Arafat could ever be a partner in the peace process. No longer can we labor under the delusion that there is still a peace process and that it’s only a few nutcases who are trying to derail the process by blowing themselves up. The suicide bombers are the honored martyrs for the Palestinians, not outcasts. The Palestininans don’t want peace; they are in love with the "glory" of death. But now Sharon, by his recent statements and actions, has managed to once again obscure who the bad guys are in the Middle East.

Tom Cardella can be heard every Sunday morning on the WYSP Ninetyforum on 94.1 FM.