Dear Bush Beat:Prompt replies appreciated . . .


. . . an ugly furor . . . calling people names

Stephen Galperin of New Hampshire writes:

Got a big laugh out of “Hearing Voices” (October 8). In my not so humble opinion, Bush has been hearing voices for years, with or without a radio.

Seriously though, if he was being coached during the first debate, he should fire the coach.

I enjoy Bush Beat and have become a regular reader.

Thank you for reading. As you probably know, Stephen, the Battle of Bush’s Bulge continues. Was George W. Bush wired during the debates? Has he been wired before? Intrepid reporter Dave Lindorff wrote another piece on it for Salon, and the White House’s denials seem ludicrous. Lindorff’s own website contains a hilarious recounting of his sparring with administration officials.

Personally, I think Bush is lucky to have such high-tech help. I hear voices, too, but they come in through my dental fillings. Peter Carlson of The Washington Post partially confirms this phenomenon near the end of his 2002 riff on the pleasure of pull quotes.

Joel Dobson writes, concerning the Bush-bulge controversy:

Am I the only one to tie these two pieces together? Obviously, Der Bushführer is getting comments directly from the Man himself—and I don’t mean Rove.

Thank you for reading. You know, Joel, I don’t think Bush listens to Europeans other than Tony Blair. I mean, during their first debate, John Kerry derided Bush’s “coalition,” and Bush replied:

My opponent says we didn’t have any allies in this war. What’s he say to Tony Blair? What’s he say to Alexander Kwasniewski of Poland?

As it turns out, Bush himself ought to say to Alexander Kwasniewski, “Hey, bub, where do you think you’re going?” Poland was already making plans to withdraw its troops from Iraq when Bush said that. Someone must have told Bush. Was he not listening?

Of course, there’s a reason Poland was such a “faithful” ally. Derrick Z. Jackson of The Boston Globe had it figured out back in February 2003, before we even invaded Iraq. Jackson’s analysis is re-posted here. Following is an excerpt:

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld recently criticized the “old Europe”‘ of France and Germany, which oppose a U.S. invasion of Iraq. One of the countries he smiles upon in his “new Europe” is Poland. One of the reasons is because the government and Lockheed bought Poland’s support. The White House will plunder the Treasury for a $3.8 billion, below-market-rate loan to help Poland buy 48 F-16s. According to The New York Times, that loan is more than all direct loans for military aid to the rest of the world combined for the last decade.

In addition, Lockheed offered $3 billion in “offsets” in the form of jobs in Poland to build engines for the fighter and parts for commercial U.S. aircraft and to help the nation modernize steel mills and its high-tech sector. The government has defended the deals by saying they need them to “build influence” in the region. Critics call it what it is: bribes and corporate welfare.

Jonah Rubin of the University of Chicago writes:

First off, love your column. By far one of the best sources of info-they-don’t-want-you-to-know on the ‘net.

However, I do wish you would refer to Palestinians as Palestinians, rather than as Arabs. We don’t call Germans “whites” when we are talking specifically about Germany, so why should we call Palestinians “Arabs” when talking specifically about Palestine?

More importantly, the conflict between Israeli Jews and Palestinians is separate, although not unrelated, from the conflict between Israel and various Arab states. When you refer to the struggle to liberate Palestine as part of the larger Arab-Israeli conflict, you play into the hands of those who like to lump Iraq, Al Qaeda, Palestine, and various other groups together as Muslim terrorism. Check out this piece in Haaretz on the findings of Israel´s leading think tank for more on this issue.

Palestinian resistance and terrorist movements in response to Israeli occupation are Palestinian and should be referred to as such, in the same way that Basque resistance and terrorism aren’t “white” terrorism.

Keep up the great work.

Thank you for reading, and for your kind words. I don’t buy all of your argument, Jonah, but you do have a good point. I sometimes think this is basically a turf war that religious nuts on both sides keep stirring to turn it into Jew vs. Arab. The article you referred me to was about the latest annual study from the Jaffee Center, The Middle East Strategic Balance 2003-2004. I found the story extremely frightening and depressing, especially this paragraph:

The deputy head of the [Jaffee] Center, Dr. Ephraim Kam, said that the United States seemed closer to the possible use of force to prevent Iran from completing its nuclear program. According to Kam, any Israeli military operation against Iran would require dialogue with the United States because U.S. forces are currently positioned between the two countries.

But that scary news is not the fault of Haaretz, which is an excellent news resource, especially for Americans, whose own newspapers don’t do a very good job covering the Israeli-Palestinian death dance. I’d also suggest New York City’s own Forward, which covers, from a different angle, the politics of the right-wing Israeli government and its pals in the U.S.

The Forward‘s political stance may not be my cup of borscht, but one of my ancestors wrote for it a century ago, and as a lexicographer, he faced some of the same problems I grapple with. For example, in trying to describe the Bush Error, I’m often at a loss for words, especially in capturing the president’s cronies, handlers, and factotums. Here’s an excerpt from a July 2001 Philologos column in the Forward that has proved helpful to me:

Is a jerk the same as a shmegegge? And where does “shmegegge” come from? This is what reader Ed Rheingold asks after some admirable research on his part turned up the following published English definitions of this Yiddish word: 1) An idiot 2) A contemptible person 3) A maladroit, untalented type 4) A sycophant, a shlepper 5) A galoot, a bird-brain 6) Baloney, malarkey.

On the whole, I would say that a shmegegge and a jerk are close relatives, the shmegegge being more hapless and the jerk more obnoxious, which perhaps gives the shmegegge, like the shnook, a greater claim on our affections. (Re “shnook,” the well-known lexicographer David Shulman has written in to correct my statement of March 16 that it represents a softening of “schmuck.” Not at all, Mr. Shulman says, citing the authority of the Oxford English Dictionary to observe that “shnook” comes from either Yiddish shnuk, “snout,” or German schnucke, “small sheep.”) The word “shmegegge” derives, according to Alexander Harkavy‘s Yiddish-English Dictionary, from megege, an “idler” or “dawdler,” prefixed by the contemptuous Yiddish “sh-,” as in “dawdler-shmawdler.” The source of the Yiddish word appears to be the Polish mitrga, meaning the same thing.