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This better not turn out like Osama bin Laden. "Coalition" troops got closer to Baghdad this week and could engage in some dreaded "urban combat." However, American Central Command suggests that there is little resistance from the dreaded elite Republican Guard. (The Black Table is waiting for the war to end mostly so people will stop saying "elite Republican guard.") No one has any idea whether or not Saddam Hussein is alive, but the Bush administration is propagating the mystery as psychological warfare. Tapes of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and White House spokesman Ari Fleischer openly speculating Saddam's whereabouts have been translated into Arabic. The Black Table openly speculates if Rumsfeld sounds less like a boorish jerk (and Fleischer a tweedy dork) in Arabic.

Finally, material for the war's first TV movie surfaced when 19-year-old Pfc. Jessica Lynch was rescued from the hospital where she was being held prisoner. An Iraqi tipped off American forces as to her whereabouts and the Marine Corps, Navy Seals and Army Rangers all worked on the rescue. Pfc. Lynch is the first POW to be rescued since World War II. Book deals, an Oprah appearance and a Lifetime movie are only a matter of time.




Throw the prison doors open. Thirteen residents of Texas town Tulia who were arrested four years ago in an oft-criticized drug bust might soon be free. The Tulia drug bust resulted in 46 arrests of mostly black residents -- and convictions of 38 -- based on the testimony of one undercover police officer, Tom Coleman. The court found that Coleman was "simply not a credible witness," and a judge recommended that all convictions associated with the case be vacated or tossed. The bust was a farce from the start, critics charge. Tulia is a town of 5,000 people, not quite a breeding ground for nearly 50 "major" drug dealers, as the police claimed. During the bust, the cops didn't even find any drugs or large amounts of cash, and Coleman's co-workers claimed during recent hearings that he was a liar, but defense attorneys were unaware of this information during the trials. Coleman testified that he made no audio or video recordings during the sting and only sometimes wrote notes on his leg. Remember how reliable that was in Memento?

Lord, how the money rolls in. Sen. John Edwards, the Clinton wannabe of North Carolina, says he raised $7.4 million in the first quarter of 2003. That's more money than the Black Table will ever see in its sorry life … collected in a paltry three months. What were you doing three months ago? Not raising $7 million, that's for sure. To compare, the Bush campaign raised $7.6 million during the same quarter in 1999, and Gore's coffers grew by $8.9 million.




Bet Elian wishes he'd thought of this. A Havana ferry and a Cuban airliner were hijacked this week and ordered to head toward the United States. The U.S. Coast Guard often picks up Cuban refugees at sea, but the standard rule is if you make it to the shore … welcome to America. The plane was hijacked Tuesday by a man who threatened to explode a grenade if he were not taken to the U.S. Though the plane landed in Havana, and Cuban officials tried to negotiate with the hijacker, the plane refueled and took off for Key West. Wilson Gonzalez, the alleged hijacker, got off the plane in Key West wearing a red windbreaker with "America" embroidered on the back. In all, 24 passengers landed safely in Key West.




Have you driven a bargain lately? As the economy continues to meander, American car companies responded this week by slashing prices and financing rates for new cars. GM is offering interest-free financing for the next five years on new Buicks, Caddies, Chevys, Olds, Pontiacs, GMCs, Saabs and Saturns. Most models also come with a $3,000 cash rebate. Not to be outdone, Ford is touting interest-free loans on several cars, also for the next five years. Certain Mustang coupes and Ranger pickups come with a $5-a-day lease car. So skip the value meal and get the ride. Chrysler matched its competitors with the 0 percent financing deal for five years and cash rebates as high as $4,500. This is nice and all, but don't expect it to change the fact that the best selling cars in America are still Hondas and Toyotas.




When you care enough to send the very breast. While the Red Cross is suggesting packages to troops contain sun block and beef jerky, DirectLine Media Group has another necessity in mind: porn. The company will send up to 500 tapes or DVDs "free" to troops, plus exorbitant shipping costs. Today's GI Joe can enjoy DirectLine's top titles, among them "Anal Rookies Love It Deep in the Ass" and "Oriental Amateurs." The Web site offers "Free XXX Videos & DVDs for military personnel, past and present, as our way of saying Thank You!" Seattle Weekly calculated that 500 DVDs (enough to keep any platoon busy off the battlefield) will cost Uncle Sam nearly $3,000.

Don't doubt the scrimshaw. New Zealand fishermen reeled in a squid nearly 20 feet long recently and turned it over to squid expert Steve O'Shea. Dr. O'Shea says the specimen, caught while attacking an Antarctic toothfish, is an immature female. Describing the animal as "a gelatinous blob with seriously evil arms on it," Dr. Shea suggested it be known as a "colossal squid" to differentiate from the merely "giant squid," which are supposedly smaller and nicer.


Aileen Gallagher, author of three children's books, writes Weekly Rundown every Friday.