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This war's on us. President Bush addressed the nation Sunday night, saying he was going to ask Congress for an additional $87 billion for the "war on terror." What he didn't mention was that 75 percent of the money would go to Iraq, where there are no WMDs and most definitely no exit plan. All that and a bulging deficit and ineffective tax cuts? Thanks, Mr. Bush. While the president spoke brashly, the Pentagon barely mumbled the news on Tuesday that it extended tours of the Army National Guard and military reserve troops to one full year on the ground in Iraq. This one-year period does not count the months spent in predeployment and demobilization. The Black Table echoes the sentiments of these reservists: "One weekend a month, my ass."

Lest we forget about that other guy... Osama bin Laden sent a videotape of himself to Arabic news channel Al-Jazeera, where it was played on the eve of the second anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. Bin Laden instructed Iraqi insurgents to "bury" American troops in Iraq. There's that Iraq/Sept. 11 connection you were looking for, Mr. Bush.




This seems to rhyme with "police state." President Bush asked Congress to expand the weak, impotent USA Patriot law by allowing law enforcement officials to issue subpoenas without going to a grand jury. (A subpoena is a court order compelling someone or something -- like a document -- to appear in court.) Bush also wants to hold more suspects without bail and seek the death penalty in more cases. Two years ago, a shell-shocked Congress passed the act in a flummoxed few weeks. Now, just as legislators are realizing what they hath wrought, the president is asking for more, more, more. Attorney General John Ashcroft finished touting the Patriot law in a nationwide tour this week. Ashcroft claimed America is "winning the war on terrorism," thanks to the Patriot Act. Mr. Ashcroft is so convinced of the law's righteousness that he spoke in front of invitation-only audiences on his tours and refused to speak to print media outlets. Preaching to the converted is such a valuable use of Attorney General Ashcroft's time.

Long time coming. The Catholic Archdiocese of Boston settled with more than 500 sexual abuse victims this week, agreeing to pay out $85 million and continue to foot therapy bills. Most plaintiffs will get between $80,000 and $300,000. If the settlement is approved, the archdiocese will have paid out $110 million to settle claims of abuse by clergy. Similar settlements (though for less money) have already been reached in the diocese of Louisville, Ky., and Manchester, N.H. Boston Archbishop Sean O'Malley is credited with pushing the settlement negotiations. O'Malley was installed on July 30, taking over for Cardinal Bernard Law, who resigned amid accusations of covering up sex crimes. The archdiocese said it would pay the settlement by mortgaging churches and other parish buildings, not by skimming off the collection plate. This is an important step forward for the Church, but The Black Table has a hunch that the priest jokes won't let up for a while.




Maybe he'll have more luck. The Palestinian Authority has a new prime minister named Ahmed Qureia. The former prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas resigned last Saturday, blaming insufficient support from the United States, power struggles with Yasir Arafat and an Israel that wasn't helping much, either. On Wednesday, Arafat nominated Qureia for the post. Qureia was an early initiator of the Middle East peace process, which began in Oslo in 1993. There has been little peaceful about the past decade, however. Qureia pleaded with Israeli leaders to ease retaliation for two Palestinian suicide bombings this week. The Black Table Eight Ball shows "outlook not so good" on this one.




What a guy! New York Stock Exchange Chairman Richard Grasso gave up $48 million in compensation on Tuesday. This sounds pretty swell until you realize that Grasso already raked in nearly $140 million this year. Grasso was named chairman of the exchange in 1995. Last month, the exchange extended his contract until 2007 and gave Grasso the contents of his savings account ($40 million), retirement benefits ($51.6 million) and extra bonuses ($47.9 million). To compare, The Black Table has a little over a grand in its savings account and maybe $2,000 in its 401(k). To make it even worse, Grasso only gave up the extra $48 million because people were so steamed about the original $140 million. All this for a guy who chairs what is essentially a regulatory agency. The NYSE is not a for-profit company. It doesn't sell anything. You can't invest in it. To compare, Allen Greenspan, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, made $171,900 in 2002. Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman William Donaldson raked in $142,500. And Wall Street wonders why people loathe it so much.




But you downloaded crap! Briana LaHara, a 12-year-old Manhattan girl sued by the Recording Industry Association of America for file sharing, settled Tuesday for $2,000. LaHara's computer contained such gems as Paula Abdul's "Opposites Attract," the theme to "Full House," and the kindergarten classic, "If You're Happy and You Know It…"



Aileen Gallagher, author of three children's books, (and another one, about muckraking, on the way!) writes Weekly Rundown every Friday.