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Sign? What sign? The Bush administration continues to be hammered for the "Mission Accomplished" sign it posted (and now says it didn't) on the USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, signifying the end of major combat in Iraq. Clearly, the Iraq war is far from over, and the Bushies are now claiming that they never said it was in the first place. (Whoops!) So they've decided to blame the sailors on the boat for over-enthusiasm, and, you know, Americans love it when people blame our troops for things. At the time, pundits said the image of President Bush decked out in flight gear would be all over political advertisements in 2004. They were right; it's just that those will be Democratic ads. Hey, buy those Bush Flight Suit Dolls while they're hot!




End of days. It has come to this: The state of California has called for Arnold Schwarzenegger to come home and save them. After firestorms that have claimed 2,600 homes, 20 lives and a middling Monday Night Football game, the governor-elect cut short his visit to Washington, D.C. on Thursday to feel the pain of his constituents. Schwarzenegger, who is about to take office as governor of California for cripes sake, was meeting with federal government officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney, to secure funding to deal with the disaster. The fires have surprised Schwarzenegger and his staff; they weren't expecting Biblical retribution at least until after his inauguration.

Dean Dong, the Gephardt is dead. Remember when Howard Dean was just a grumpy lefty governor of a hippie state? Look out now. With the news that the Service Employees International Union-the largest union in the AFL/CIO-are planning on endorsing Dean, the path appears to be even more clear for Dean to win the Democratic nomination. Gen. Wesley Clark, expected to surge into the lead simply by joining the race, has fallen face-first, and Sen. John Kerry's expected fundraising advantages have been disappointing. With the unions lining up for Dean-and not for, as expected, traditional union stoolie Rep. Dick Gephardt, who is now pretty much toast-Dean not only has a firm grasp of frontrunner status, but his momentum doesn't seem to have slowed a bit. Still a possibility, though: A last-minute cannonball from Sen. Hillary Clinton, whose attack on President Bush's war record Wednesday fired up more rumors that she's gonna hop in the race, despite repeated (and repeated, and repeated) denials that she will. We're still wondering why former Illinois Sen. Carol Moseley Braun isn't gaining more traction; you can volunteer here. The White House door no longer says Men Only! (The bathrooms, however, are still separate.)




With the Chinese negotiating, what could possibly go wrong? Hey, it's China and North Korea in a six-way! That sounds fun! Kim Jong-il, the leader/dictator/president/master-of-all-that-he-surveys/girl-with-the-most-cake of North Korea, on Thursday accepted China's invitation to discuss even further North Korea's odd tendency to want to blow up the world. The "six-way" (read: orgy) talks, which have yet to be scheduled, will also include Russia, Japan, South Korea and the United States, along with a jar of mayonnaise and three declawed ferrets. Here's how The Black Table imagines the six-way orgy being organized:

South Korea: The meek hairless boy covered in olive oil and wearing a leotard. South Korea doesn't want any trouble, wants not to be hurt by anyone and, frankly, just wants this whole thing overwith.

Russia: Gets first crack at South Korea. Then, when finished, has to guard the door to make sure no cops catch on. Is also in charge of smacking around France if it tries to sneak in. Oh, and Russia buys the booze.

Doesn't actually take part in the festivities, but does give everyone massages and makes sure everybody takes their shoes off before entering.

Keeps fighting the U.S. for alpha male status before relenting and just slipping everybody MSG-laced roofies. Insists on wearing the dragon costume and snarling, even when there's no one in the room.

United States:
The big hairy dude who demands to be pleasured, but nevertheless a bit of a prude who insists on turning all the lights off. Has difficulty performing and ends up spending the night masturbating in the corner. Does pay for the hotel room and everybody's cab fare home, though.

North Korea:
Everyone has to keep reminding North Korea that it has to wear a condom.




Assuming, of course, nothing else explodes. For the first time, like, ever, the Bush administration can point to positive economic news. The Gross Domestic Product -- not what you'll find in Liza Minelli's sheets by morning -- rose 7.2 percent in the third quarter, which, if you don't know or don't care, is a good thing. Consumer spending grew at the fastest pace since the first quarter of 1988. Most analysts don't think the fourth quarter will be as great as the third quarter, but what matters is that the fine citizens of this country no longer believe our economy is completely going over the cliff. That is, until someone attacks us, when we'll crawl right back in our holes and hold our blankies and wallets tight again.



When he's 61 … Paul McCartney is having babies. The has-been ex-Beatle's wife Heather Mills gave birth by Caesarean section to Beatrice Milly McCartney on Tuesday). It's the first child for Mills, 35, and the fourth for Paul. (Hopefully this one will turn out better than Lennon's useless kids.) The family now has a baby, a Beatle and an anti-land mine specialist, bringing a grand total of five legs.



Will Leitch is the managing editor of The Black Table. Aileen Gallagher, author of three children's books, is finishing her fourth -- about muckraking.