Six for Thursday

Edge of the Hippodrome, with the mosque in the background, Caserea - April 2016

Edge of the Hippodrome, with the mosque in the background, Caesarea – April 2016

Because tonight is yomtov, I am unable to give the regular set of links on Friday. Here’s six for Thursday by way of compensation.


And a bonus, especially suitable for the chag and the times we live in:

From freedom to enslavement

Chag Sameach! Shabbat Shalom!


Five For Friday

Azrieli Center, Tel Aviv - February 2010

Azrieli Center, Tel Aviv – February 2010

I have spent most of this week trying not to think about Pesach. I failed. Every year, the festival looms like an ominous threat, because it’s always hard work (especially for Susan) and the change in diet is challenging on many levels. But, as someone reminded me earlier in the week, it’s good to be alive and able to complain. This observation is somewhat heightened by last night’s news of the death of Rabbi Daniel Beller, the rabbi of Shivtei Yisrael in Ra’anana, a thoroughly nice man, well respected, loved, and sure to be missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, and we hope they will be spared sorrow for many, many years to come.

After that, the sad truth is that life goes on, with every moment as precious as ever, no matter how we fill it. And so it is that I offer the regular weekly selection of links. I cannot promise you will find answers to the philosophical challenges of our time, or the meaning of life and death. But there are occasions when other less weighty topics are the best medicine for the challenges we all face.

Shabbat Shalom!

Chag Sameach!


Replacing lawyers?

Globes has some financial news about an Israeli startup that caught my eye:

Israeli online contract review platform LawGeex announced today $2.5 million in funding from Lool Ventures and LionBird and angel investors Eilon Tirosh and Rami Lipman. The startup has also launched its online contract review solution free of charge for consumers. Using machine learning, the Israeli startup sets out to “out-lawyer” the lawyers.

And how do you “out-lawyer” lawyers, according to the report?

LawGeex allows consumers to upload any type of contract to its platform and receive, within 24 hours, an in-depth report of what’s good, bad and even missing from their contract. Currently reviewing over 20 types of contracts, the free solution begins with employment agreements, with more contract types to be offered for free in the near future.

Here’s more by way of context:

LawGeex cofounder and CEO Noory Bechor said, “The driving force behind LawGeex is the belief that no one should sign a contract that they don’t fully understand. An astounding 33% of Americans need a lawyer every year but do not hire one, either because they can’t afford to or did not know where to turn. This ultimately leads to one-sided negotiations and unfair results. LawGeex has already earned the trust of thousands of users while ensuring quality and transparency, leveling the playing field when it comes to contract negotiations. Our machine learning platform has already reviewed over tens of thousands of contracts, many of which are employment contracts from some of the world’s largest tech companies such as Apple, Google, and Facebook. We make sure all employees get a fair deal.”

An interesting concept. So, you get a contract, and you give it to LawGeex to review. LawGeex tells you what is wrong with the contract.

(I have assumed the system is somehow able to tailor its advice taking into account jurisdictional issues. For example, just sticking to employment contracts, there are differences between USA and UK law about what is required, what is the normal standard, and what is legal and illegal.)

That’s very helpful. But what then? How do you fix the contract? It doesn’t appear if LawGeex is going to give you the contract wording required to address whatever issues arise. And, knowing what needs to be added to a contract, and actually adding it – making sure all the angles are covered – is no trivial task. To do it properly, you need to have some experience or training. You know, like being a lawyer…

I’m poking fun at the concept while recognizing that they do not promote it as a complete legal solution. But that’s not exactly an up front message. So, I question how useful LawGeex might be without proper legal skills to back it up. I have not seen anything to suggest LawGeex will provide the missing text, nor am I aware of any technological solution. For sure, there are online contract providers, but they are all offering templates, and not individually tailored contract revision advice. For that, at least for now, you need a human being. (A bit of a stretch when it comes to some members of my former profession, I know, but let’s live with it for now.)

It will be interesting to see how LawGeex does. Perhaps it will be a fit for someone else active in this field. But for now, I’m skeptical it will be successful, long term.

The Globes report is available, here.


Lou Reed and the Wise Child

With Pesach on its way, here’s some alternative reading about one of the themes of the chag. It’s from a 2014 essay by Steven Lee Beeber, on the Fathom site:

When I was writing my book about the Jewish origins of punk, The Heebie-Jeebies at CBGB’s, I referred to Lou Reed as both the Alter Kocker (old fart) Indie Rocker and the Zayde (grandfather) of the movement. I still believe these titles fit the man, but in the wake of his recent death, I have come to see that he is deserving of a third. Like the figure in the Passover Seder that he played annually in public, Reed was the Wise Child. Unlike his brothers, the Wicked Child, the Simple Child, and the One Unable to Ask, he saw both the tragedy and triumph of Jewish history.

It wasn’t always that way.

Read it all, here.  Lou Reed’s Jewish strand is the subject of this 2013 post of mine.


Earthquake about to hit Tel Aviv

Not a real one, of course. But this has the potential to be devastating:

Bicyclists to be fined for riding on Tel Aviv sidewalks

Cyclists will be fined up to NIS 1,000 for more severe violations starting May 1.

The Tel Aviv municipality today [17 April 2016] announced that starting on May 1, Israel Police will begin enforcing the law banning bicycle riding on sidewalks.

Tel Aviv is swarming with bikes – electric and standard. And while there is some bike path infrastructure, most bikes are ridden on the pavement. Unfortunately, many bikes – especially electric bikes – are ridden in a manner that is dangerous to pedestrians, as well as the riders. It is a plague. This action is long overdue.

As Globes’ report continues:

Before enforcement begins, the Tel Aviv municipality, the police, and the National Road Safety Authority will conduct a major public relations campaign, to begin this Sunday. The campaign will include billboards, a video clip, and green graffiti on sidewalks. During campaigns, explanations will be given by policemen, municipal inspector, and stewards, who will distribute information sheets about proper riding and enforcement measures to bicycle riders and pedestrians.

When enforcement begins after the Passover holiday, policemen will begin enforcing the law against riders of bicycles and electric bicycles riding on sidewalks instead of on marked bicycle paths. Enforcement measures will also be taken against severe violations, for which the fine will vary from NIS 100 to NIS 1,000, including going through a red light, riding in the wrong direction, using a mobile phone while riding, and disturbing pedestrians in crosswalks.

Punitive measures will include fines, taking the air out of bicycle tires, and confiscation of batteries (for children under 16 illegally riding electric bicycles).

I just wish they would do the same in Ra’anana. The plague of electric bikes is terrible. And Pesach seems like a good time to sort out a plague!


Parking Masterclass Returns

It’s a while since we have had one of these. This one is a real beauty:

"Should I stay, or should I go now?"

“Should I stay, or should I go now?”

The picture was taken in HaMlachah Street in Ra’anana, behind the Ra’ananim shopping mall. This selfish bastard was parked right on top of a pedestrian (zebra) crossing. If you look, you can see the partly faded white bands on the road. There was space in front and behind, so there was zero need to block the crossing. OK, admittedly tagged red and white to signify ‘no parking,’ but that illegal parking would have been preferable to me and other pedestrians.

In his world, pedestrians don’t matter.

Since most Israeli pedestrian casualties occur at crossings, this behavior was not only selfish, it was downright dangerous, and inexcusable. Continuing proof that we badly need some good old fashioned traffic wardens here.


Past postings catch up with Zimmerman

By way of follow up to For Blumenthal read Zimmerman, see this: Sanders suspends Jewish outreach director who blasted Israel, Netanyahu.

Although one can never tell if this is a political move to limit damage, rather than the right move because it is the right thing to do, let’s be optimistic: somebody has talked some sense into Bernie Sanders.



Five for Friday

Hobart building, San Francisco - May 2009

Hobart building, San Francisco – May 2009

They should give the Friday before Pesach a special name. Something like The Calm Before The Storm Friday, because that’s for sure what it feels like. Pesach doesn’t just happen – there is a lot of work involved – and that work is lined up, ready to dominate next week. I am always impressed by how Susan manages it, and manages it so well.

In the meantime, we are going to try and forget everything else, and just enjoy this Shabbat. As my regular routine, that means I must offer up the usual links. Here they are:

Shabbat Shalom!


For Blumenthal read Zimmerman?

Hillary Clinton has a close relation with Sid and Max Blumenthal, taking advice from them about Israel that could have been penned by the enemy outfit Haaretz. Bernie Sanders, competing for the Democrat nomination, has Simone Zimmerman, his newly appointed Jewish outreach coordinator. She seems to be cut from the same cloth as the Blumenthals, as the Jerusalem Post notes:

“We’re paying attention to what’s happening in Israel — and we are angry,” Zimmerman said in a column on her fellow millennials in Israel’s daily Haaretz in February.

“The hypocrisy of expecting feel-good social justice projects to offset millennials’ deep outrage at the grave injustices committed by the Jewish state is almost too much to bear,” wrote Zimmerman, who is in her mid-20s. “No public relations trick can save Israel’s image. The problem isn’t with the hasbara [public relations]. The problem is nearly 50 years of occupation. The problem is rampant racism in Israeli society. The problem is attacks on human rights defenders by extremists and by the state. The problem is a Jewish establishment that ignores or justifies all of this.”

Maybe I am reading too much into it, but I found this significant:

Zimmerman declined JTA’s requests to be interviewed for this story.

She writes for Haaretz, but won’t be interviewed by a JTA journalist?

The article is here.

In short, she has bought in to the Palestinian narrative. Everything is Israel’s fault, and never mind what Israelis think, she knows better.  She is no friend of Israel. Her appointment adds further context to Sanders’ recent statements about Israel, and the friction therefrom.

I’m now not sure if it is appropriate to hope for a Trump win (unlikely) or mourn the fact that maybe Obama will turn out not to have been the worst president in modern times, so far as dealing with Israel is concerned. It looks like either of the Democrat hopefuls could be worse. There may be dark days ahead.