In a letter from U.S. SENATOR BARBARA BOXER to presidential scholars she asks about the ramifications of recent admissions:

On December 16, along with the rest of America, I learned that President Bush authorized the National Security Agency to spy on Americans without getting a warrant from a judge. President Bush underscored his support for this action in his press conference today.

On Sunday, December 18, former White House Counsel John Dean and I participated in a public discussion that covered many issues, including this surveillance. Mr. Dean, who was President Nixon's counsel at the time of Watergate, said that President Bush is "the first President to admit to an impeachable offense." Today, Mr. Dean confirmed his statement.

I'm glad to see a person of principle stand up for what is right and good. But reality check! Republicans control both houses of congress and the Supreme Court.

I hope the scholars who Talmudically parse the constitutional law point out that there is no way that W will be impeached, no matter what he does, has done, or will do.


Kosher Hanukkah Bush

A friend reports from the White House:

The season has officially started early here, since the White House had its celebration last night, Tuesday, December 6. It really was quite an event, with the kitchen being kashered for the first time for an ALL kosher affair. (Last year there was kosher and non kosher food available). Laura Bush wanted it all kosher, she even supervised the Chabad supervisors! She had a tasting with three kosher caterers and selected one from Philladephia, (hard to believe one caterer told her to come to NJ to taste). There was lots of food... fishes, meat, stuffed cabbage, latkes, salad and suffganiot in the large dessert displays, with large dreydels, etc.
The official picture:

Mrs. Laura Bush is joined by Rabbi Binyomin Taub, Rabbi Hillel Baron and Rabbi Mendy Minkowitz as they stand with staff Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2005, during the kosherizing of the White House kitchen. The kitchen was koshered for the annual White House Hanukkah Reception, which took place this evening. White House photo by Shealah Craighead


Goliath's name found at Israeli dig

Goliath's name found at Israeli dig in Gath.

A shard of pottery unearthed in a decade-old dig in southern Israel carried an inscription in early Semitic style spelling "Alwat and "Wlt", likely Philistine renderings of the name Goliath...

[Aren] Maeir, head of the archaeology department at Bar-Ilan University near Tel Aviv, told Reuters his excavators found the shard, possibly part of a bowl, about two metres underground at Tell es-Shafi.

The mound where the dig took place is widely believed to be the site of the ancient city of Gath, which the Bible calls Goliath's hometown.
The dig is described here.

The Jersalem Post has a photo of the shard.

Looks authentic to me.

CNN.com - Robertson warns Pennsylvania voters of God's wrath - Nov 10, 2005

Pat Robertson warns Pennsylvania voters of God's wrath: "In voting on Tuesday, eight Dover, Pennsylvania, school board members up for re-election lost their seats after trying to introduce a statement on 'intelligent design' to high school biology students."

Here we go again. These eight fine public servants were voted out.

Now Pat says that the Lord may punish the town. OOH how terrible. What a simplistic fundamentalist theology.

But wait. Isn't this just about the Deuteronomic view of history? Isn't it a prime theme of rabbinic theology. Sin leads to punishment, destruction, suffering, death. Doesn't that make the randomness of world events vanish? Specific sin to specific punishment.

Yes. Yes. And yes. So what is the fuss? I'm just surprised Pat did not specify the exact punishment.


Haaretz - Court won't let Temple Mount group lay cornerstone of Third Temple

Haaretz - reports...
The High Court of Justice on Sunday rejected a request by the Temple Mount Faithful to place what the organization said was the cornerstone of the Third Temple next to the Western Wall, Israel Radio reported.
The chief rabbinate declared the Temple Mount off limits to Jews from day one after the reunification of Jerusalem. This was a courageous and incisive political and religious decision. They reiterated their ruling this year.

When Ariel Sharon went up on the Temple Mount in 2000 he had a goal -- to provoke a reaction and to exploit that situation to become PM of the State -- and he achieved his goal.

These TMF lunatics want to poke the Arab tiger in the eye and they cannot help but know that this could bring about a Jihad against the State of Israel. And their goal? I don't think these guys have any earthly reason to engage in this activity.

They are dangerous meshugganahs of the first rank.


Qatar bankrolls $6 million stadium for Arab Israelis

The Daily Star (Lebanon) reports: Qatar is giving $6 million to build a stadium in Israel for a popular Arab soccer team in a further sign of warming relations between the Gulf Arab political maverick and the Jewish state. 'Qatar has donated $6 million to build a modern soccer stadium in Sakhnin,' an Arab town in northern Israel, Ahmad al-Tibi told AFP...

Tibi said he would be "knocking at the doors of Arab capitals to urge them to show concern for the needs of the 1948-Arabs, like Qatar has done." He said the Arab community in Israel needs help to carry out health, infrastructure and cultural projects.

"Why do the world's Jews fall over each other to help the Jews in Israel while we don't ask for support from our Arab brethren?" he asked.


MK against Yom Kippur Ad Campaign

Shas Disgruntled...


Shas Party Chairman Eliyahu Yishai criticized MK Avraham Poraz's demand to put an end to the public funding of the campaign encouraging people to pray on Yom Kippur.

"Poraz wishes to eradicate everything that pertains to Judaism and tradition," he said.

"His war against all things that are traditional in character reveals his apparent ambition to become and anti-Jewish censor," Yishai said... more



Billy Graham, Your Confirmation Number is�

Reservation Angel: This is the Heaven Inn Hotel. How can I help you today?

Billy: Hello. This is Billy Graham. I�m calling to confirm my reservation.

RA: Do you have a confirmation number or a date of arrival.

Billy: Cmon now. I�ve been calling in daily for nearly sixty years. Don�t you go askin me for a number now.

RA: Sorry sir. I�m a new outsourced reservation angel. I am not actually in Heaven. I�m in Hyderabad.

Billy: Lord, help me now. All I know is, I expect to be there soon and, I for sure will be seeing Jesus.

"And all, I don't mean all the Jews, but a lot of the Jews are great friends of mine. They swarm around me and are friendly to me. Because they know I am friendly to Israel and so forth. They don't know how I really feel about what they're doing to this country. And I have no power and no way to handle them."
Angel: Sir, all our rooms in the Constantine Wing have at least a partial Jesus-view.

Billy: No, no. I�m expecting to be really near Him. I�m the world�s leading evangelical preacher.

Angel: Sir, I can upgrade you, but only if you have a Holy Roller Club number.

Billy: Again with the numbers. No numbers. This is the Reverend Billy Graham!

Angel: I�ll see if I can put you on the Eschatology Level near the Salvation Suite with express redemption service and our complimentary wine and wafers buffet.

Billy: Listen, I don�t think you hear me. Do we have a bad connection? Damn cell phone. No wafers, no wafers.

Angel: Reverend, are you interested in our all-inclusive-package? It offers unlimited fish and loaves and golf lessons from Bobby Jones.

Billy: Yes, yes, now we are getting somewhere. Get me inscribed for that.

Angel: I can hold this reservation until your real expiration date.

Billy: Okay, okay. Now give me directions to the hotel from the Pearly Gates.

Angel: Surely. May I recommend that you take our complimentary Heaven Inn shuttle. Just pick up the courtesy phone at Pearly Gate number one. We will send our hybrid-limo to get you. Or you can take the mono-theism rail to our front door.

Billy: I�ll get back to you then to firm this up after I check one alternative. Y�see I get all these messages from my friends, the deceased former presidents and politicians, saying that there�s another eternal location that�s got really hot package deals.

"The Jews control the media"

BG: This stranglehold has got to be broken or the country's going down the drain.
RN: You believe that?
BG: Yes, sir.
RN: Oh, boy. So do I. I can't ever say that, but I believe it.
BG: No, but if you get elected a second time, then we might be able to do something.


Good Luck Graduates: Here is Your Recall Notice

Graduates. The good news is that we�d like to bring you congratulations upon receiving your hard-earned degrees. You have fulfilled your academic requirements, yada, yada, and a career and life full of challenges awaits you, yada, yada.

But now the bad news. We cannot congratulate you just yet. We teachers and professors must inform you that the education which we have bestowed upon you was fashioned from defective parts. Accordingly, all liberal arts students who graduated between 1970 and this year are hereby recalled for instructional repairs.

We have sent you out of the halls of the academy all too often proud and optimistic in the achievements of civilization. We have boasted to you of the great breakthroughs of the humanities and social sciences. We have touted to you, as it they were hot stocks, the fruits of political activism that brought about greater equality, civil rights, affirmative action and a host of liberal achievements. We told you that this constituted tangible progress in the development of the community of humans.

All of this was false and misleading. We explained that wars, totalitarianism, the Holocaust and the like were �dark chapters� of world history. We asked you to empathize, to mourn, but not to take heed.

We were deficient in our teaching. We taught you that all humans in essence celebrate life and its progress and promises. We lied to you.

Now we must call all of you back for retooling. The defective educational parts that we implanted in you in our factories of learning must be replaced. The reason for this recall is obvious. In 2001 we saw barbaric suicidal terrorist attacks on our heartland. As we watched 3000 innocents die, we relived the all of holocausts and wars of our bloody century and of all the sufferings and tortures inflicted by one human tribe upon another in all the millennia of human existence.

In the past years we watched waves of homicide-suicide bombers and a misguided war bring needless death to the cradle of three religions and the birthplace of our western culture. We therefore awoke from the delusion that anything lasting had been achieved in the �evolution of civilization� over the last 3000 years.

So we recall you to replace the pride and optimism we implanted in your impressionable minds with the correct and proper parts of your liberal arts education. After the recall you will be equipped properly with permanent parts of suspicion and pessimism.

Our replacement messages to you will emphasize to you all that if you turn your backs for a minute, bloodthirsty killers will overwhelm you. If you blink, reactionaries will strip you of civil rights and equality. If you lack suspicion, greedy persons will rob you of your tangible investments and retirement dreams.

We apologize for any inconvenience we have caused you, our students. We assure you that after your recall and retraining you will be in possession of correct knowledge about the pervasive evils of human nature. We will outfit you with better tools for everlasting vigilance to protect whatever small gains you and your communities can ever make to hold back the unrelenting march of terror, retrograde conservatism and insatiable greed.

Only after your recall and retooling will we then wish you in all sincerity, �Good luck graduates in your commencement of facing life�s true and dark challenges.�


Being Concordanced Tzvee

Last week I was mesmerized by the statistical features on Amazon for my book on Yerushalmi Berakhot. Well this week the plot thickens.

Amazon now gives us this neat concordance [an alphabetized list of the most frequently occurring words in a book, excluding common words such as "of" and "it."] of the 100 most frequently used words in my book. The size mapping makes it cool:
The font size of a word is proportional to the number of times it occurs in the book. Hover your mouse over a word to see how many times it occurs, or click on a word to see a list of book excerpts containing that word.
More frequent words appear larger; less frequent appear smaller. The clickable concordance looks like this.

abba, accord, another, art, bar, basis, berakhot, between, blessed, blessing, bread, came, case, chapter, come, commandments, concerning, day, does, eat, eating, eighteen, even, first, follows, food, go, god, good, hands, himself, hiyya, house, israel, joshua, judah, king, law, let, light, lord, may, meal, mishnah, must, name, need, new, night, obligation, people, person, place, practice, pray, prayer, ps, rab, rabbis, recitation, recite, recited, reciting, refers, regarding, rule, sabbath, said, samuel, says, scripture, second, see, shall, shema, should, simeon, study, take, taught, teaching, tefillin, thou, three, time, torah, two, unit, universe, upon, verse, view, water, wine, words, written, yerushalmi, yohanan, yose, zeira
Wow. And wait, there's more. The TEXT STATS tell us important information about this book such as how many words per dollar you get if you buy it, what are it's readability and complexity quotients and other fun statistics. It turns out that the book is readable and not that complex considering it's a translation of a tractate of the Talmud. What a relief.

And now we can reveal the solution to the mystery of why Amazon produced those SIPs, the statistically improbable phrases that I wrote about last week. They are using the SIPs to automatically generate a list of related books -- with the same SIPs -- that you may want to buy.

This feature helps you find books on similar topics to the book that you are currently viewing. We determine whether two books discuss similar topics by looking at the Statistically Improbable Phrases, or "SIPs," that occur in both books. The more SIPs the two books share, the more closely related they are.

No human being at Amazon read my book. But their computer came up with a pretty good list of related books just by using the SIPs.