Wednesday, 15 February 2017
Wednesday, 25 January 2017
There's a Chief Rabbi, a Prime Minister and a President in a cell together....
What sounds like the beginning of a joke, is painfully close to Israel's reality.
Ex-Chief Rabbi Rabbi Yona Metzger will be imprisoned for three and a half years for corruption, having pocketed millions of shekels in illicit funds during his tenure as Chief Rabbi.
He may have the distinction of 'sitting' with ex-Prime Minister Olmert, and he narrowly missing hob-nobbing with ex-President Moshe Katzav (who has been recently released after serving time for rape).
With at least four investigations against Prime Minister Netanyau, perhaps something will stick and Bibi might join these celebs.
Before the current batch of Very Important Prisoners, Shas Minister Aryeh Deri did his time, and Ariel Sharon's son Omri also; Prime Minister Sharon Minister may well have been imprisoned with Omri also, had it not been for Gush Katif and then his vegetative state following a stroke.
Israel seems unique among Western democracies for the amount of leading politicians who cross into criminality and get caught & punished. Perhaps only Italy is close behind.
Perhaps being criminally inclined is a helpful factor to progress in Israeli politics - or the operating itself environment is intrinsically corrupt, and so corrupts many of those who enter it.
This is aside from the awful chilul Hashem/desecration of God's name, from such a prestigious Rabbi going behind bars.
Monday, 23 January 2017
The Bibi-Noni scandal appears to have shone a spotlight upon a murky world of politics plus journalism.
A series of tapes, now in the hands of the police, reveal that Prime Minister Netanyahu held secret meetings with Arnon "Noni" Mozes, owner of Yediot Acharonot - a devotedly anti-Bibi newspaper.
Various deals were being discussed between Bibi and Noni, with a view to reducing the criticism of Netanyahu by Yediot, in return for Netanyahu taking measures to reduce Israel Hayom's circulation.
Israel Hayom is a free, Bibi aligned newspaper, founded and funded by Sheldon Adelson, which had undercut the tabloid market where Yediot had previously dominated.
The quid pro quo appears to have been that Yediot would lower the volume on anti-Bibi journalism, in return for Bibi cutting Israel Hayom's circulation.
Indeed, a bill was presented to the Knesset in 2014, nicknamed the "Israel Hayom Law", which effectively illegalized free mass-circulation newspapers, and practically speaking solely targeted Israel Hayom
Netanyau has so far argued that "they will find nothing, because there is nothing". Netanyahu himself made the recordings (a la Nixon?) and claims this was to protect himself from blackmail.
However, the most telling fact in Netanyahu's favour, is that Netanyahu voted against the Israel Hayom Law, and perhaps even called elections in order to defeat it.
In other words, there was no deal, because Netanyahu never delivered.
Whether the level of corruption was criminal, or whether this was actually corrupt at all (after all, wheeling & dealing is the essence of politics), is dubious so far.
On the other hand, that the newspaper tycoon Noni Mozes was apparently willing to change editorial policy in order to make financial gain, severely compromises the idea of an independent press and freedom of expression.
A pack of Israeli journalists have been quick to smell Netanyahu's blood, in spite of Netanyahu's insistence that people shouldn't party just yet on his political demise, as the case is vacuous.
However, there appears to have been no public call by journalists, of any stripe or colour, to investigate and evaluate the level of collusion between journalism, business and politics, jeopardizing the impartiality and freedom of the press.
Time, methinks, for some "cheshbon nefesh" (holding account) by the journalist community.
Sunday, 22 January 2017
Saturday, 31 December 2016
Along with millions of my countrymen, I have been appalled at Obama and Kerry's 11th hour abandonment of Israel, the US's loyal and stalwart democratic ally in the Middle East.
Seeking spiritual meaning in these macro-events, I recall the experience of living in Israel during the first Gulf War (1990-91).
Thirty-nine Scud Missiles were fired from Iraq into Israel during that war. With each rocket, the warning sirens blared and we Israelis ran for our 'sealed-rooms', put on our gas masks, and prayed.
According to reports, either 39 or 38 Scud Missiles hit Israel, with a total casualty toll of two deaths (one reportedly a heart attack), one severely wounded, ten seriously wounded and around 230 people lightly wounded.
According to reports, there was an additional Scud Alarm sounded in Israel at the end of the Gulf War, but that missile never hit Israel. Instead, that single Scud missile was fired at Saudi Arabia and hit a US barraks in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, killing 28 U.S. soldiers.
In a research paper published in Nature in 1993, examining the impact of the Scuds fired at Israel, and comparing the casualties with other conflicts involving ballistic missiles attacks on urban targets (London in the 2nd World War, and Tehran in the Iran/Iraq War), the authors conclude that the expected causalties from Scud Missiles would have been around 5 deaths per missile, with a total of between 150-200 fatalities.
The researches concluded, among other factors:
Coincidence. Substantial statistical fluctuations are expected in attacks involving only a small number of inaccurate ballistic missiles with small damage radii. Since only about ten warheads detonated in Israeli cities, luck must have played a crucial role in determining the overall casualty rate. Indeed, there is considerable anecdotal evidence that good fortune played an important role in reducing casualties in Israel. Of the warheads that detonated in Israeli cities, one hit the only empty lot in a densely populated neighborhood; two others hit a factory and a partially constructed shopping mall during the night. Several other Scuds landed near unoccupied buildings: an underground bomb shelter, a municipal center, and a school. Even when Scuds severely damaged occupied buildings, casualties were remarkably low: a missile that landed in an alleyway between several apartment buildings and caused one building to collapse killed only one person, and an attack that destroyed a two-storey house and severely damaged several others also killed only one person; two people reportedly survived only because they disobeyed government instructions and went to their basement bomb shelter.
At the time, a rabbi in Israel (I forget who) told a fascinating 'moshal' (illustrative story).
There was a king who wanted his son, the prince and future monarch, to understand the severity of sentencing subjects to be lashed.
The king therefore ordered his Chief Executioner to flog the prince with 39 lashes (the highest permissible number). This was in order to give the prince a sharp painful personal lesson about administering this punishment.
The Chief Executioner had a dilemma.
He was required to fulfil the King's instructions, of course, but he was also mindul that the prince would one day be the monarch, and his boss.
The executioner therefore took up his whip and lightly touched the prince's back 39 times. No blood, and no pain.
The king stood up angrily, and told the executioner to pass him the whip. The king then hit his son, the prince, with one mighty blow with the whip. The prince screamed, the whip spilled blood.
The King's message was delivered.
The rabbi who told the moshal said that the nimshal (meaning) of the story is that the thirty nine lashes which were light taps, were the thirty-nine scuds which hit Israel. The king's 'real' last lash, was the Scud which hit the US Barraks. The King, as is common in such stories, is God.
In other words, we Israelis needed to appreciate that we were protected (perhaps underservedly) by God from all the 39 Scud attacks by Iraq, each one of which could have been as devestating as the one attack in Saudi Arabia.
Our prayers had been answered, and God had been merciful.
And so we come to Obama and Kerry.
For eight years, Obama and Kerry have held power in the USA, and their anti-Israeli activities were limited and caused little damage. Indeed, US Aid continued to be awarded to Israel, and Israel was consistently protected by the US Veto, from the wolves pack, which is the UN. Although the administration attempted to broker "peace" between the Israelis and Palestinians, this was quietly abandonned as it became clear that there was no deal to be done.
Israel came out of the eight years, reasonably unscathed.
Now that Obama is a "lame duck", in his last days in office, in the process of handing the Government over to Donald Trump... Oabam's administration is launching the equivalent of the 40th Scud of the Gulf War, the 40th lash from the King.
Obama's power to turn the world against Israel, has been done with a flick of his wrist, an Abstain vote, instead of a Veto. Delivering a bloody thrashing, instead of a light tap.
We fear that Obama has more vicious diplomatic attacks planned against Israel, in Paris and perhaps again at the UN.
Regardless, the overall spiritual message is that we can now better appreciate God's blessing over Israel, who has protected us from exactly the same awesome powers which are in Obama's hands, and causing us so much damage in the past days, for the past eight years.
Sunday, 18 December 2016
If you, like me, are from the era of Kodak Instamatic, Polaroid, and (for the more sophisticated), Single Lens Reflex, then you probably share my awe for the power of 'simple' phone cameras, and the wizardry now offered by photo processing aps.
Over the past year I have been discovering the amazing power of my (then new) Samsung Galaxy S5 phone camera.
The quality of simple 'snaps', can be astounding, and the behind the camera operations, functions and options are also (with a little practice) impressive.
But the ultimate photographic experience is combining the sophisticated little camera on the phone, with a range of (usually free) photo processing aps.
Perhaps the most popular photo ap is Instagram, used by over 500 million people, which offers photo editing, a range of beautifying filters and a social media combo - allowing you to publicise your great photos to people/friends who may be appreciative of you and your work.
You are warmly invited to "follow" my Instagram page: https://www.instagram.com/davidmorrisisrael/
I also use PicsArt. If Instagram makes a good picture more beautiful, then PicsArt turns a good photo into art. Easy photo editing, prepares your photo for transformation with an array of creative filters and effects.
As I understand the theory of 'filters', as used by artistic photo aps, consider a famous artist, say Picasso. During his cubist period, Picasso didn't simply draw out random shapes and colours. He saw an object and changed it in a consistent and creative fashion to produce his end result, a cubist painting of that object. Picasso applied a process, even rigorously.
This artistic process can be recreated in software algorithms, to give a computer generated Picasso-like effect to your 'regular' photos. Or any other real or imaginary artist's creative processes.
The photo processing ap Prisma excels in their artistic filters, or processing algorithms. As a user, you can flip through the various filters and chose which effect you find most satisfactory for your specific photo. The range of output images from any given photo is astounding.
The down side, is you have little control over the filter output - basically you can strengthen or weaken the effect, but not much else.
Here are some examples of my photos using Prisma:
If you are looking for more control over the facets of your photo processing, then I recommend Snapseed. Snapseed's tools set and filters can create dramatic and beautiful images, while you remain in control.
For lighter fun, I recommend PIP Camera, which offers (regular) tools and some fun and impress-your-friends effects and filters. (I understand if you pay, you can remove the PIP watermark).
I must also mention Google's "Photos", which is part of the google suite and is integrated with Google My Drive.
As well as storing all your photos (free up to a point, after which you may have to buy Google Drive memory space), you can also edit them and use filters.
But for me the most astounding feature is the image recognition. For example, it will recognise specific people and animals, or objects, and group them for you.
So it recognises that I am in certain photos. I can label me as "David". I then select a picture of my wife Julie, and label a photo of her "Julie". Not only will it recognise (to a reasonable accuracy) all the photos with "David" or "Julie" in them, but also "David + Julie" to find any photos where we both feature.
"Photos" will also group your photos by date or theme, and even create collages and short video sequences using related photos.
Here's a "Photos" automatically created collage of my daughter and her family which caught my eye:
There are many more aps and tools for processing your photos, and publicising & distributing them.
Other well known products, which I haven't explored yet, include Pixler, Camera360, Flickr and the iconic Photoshop.
I advise you to use your cellphone camera regularly, select the better snaps, and experiment with any of the photo procesing and editing aps.
When all said and done, a good photo is indeed worth a thousand words!
Sunday, 13 November 2016
If you ask 10,000 people who they are going to vote for, and 6000 say Blue, and 4000 say Red, then within a very small margin of error, you can predict that out of a million voters, around 600,000 will vote Blue, and 400,000 will vote Red.
Donald Trump's unexpected victory is the fourth time we have recently seen the pollsters and political commentators get it absolutely wrong.
The Brexit shock, the British National Elections Tory trouncing of Labour, and Netanyahu's victory in the last Israeli election, were similarly against every poll prediction and the pontifications of every credible political commentator.
What is apparently at stake is not just the credibility of polls, or of political commentators, but the very basis of statistics. If political polls are worthless, then perhaps their mathematical basis is also bunk?
Or, as Churchill would have it - "there's lies, damned lies, and statistics".
However, these same statistical theories used by the pollsters are also the basis of medical testing, economics, quality control and life insurance. Our 21st Century life is, without exaggeration, based on the scientific truth of statistics.
In this context, I propose that the pollsters should consider the Quantum Zeno effect. Also known as the Turing paradox.
At the quantum level, there is a phenomena in which an unstable particle, if observed continuously, will never decay One can "freeze" the evolution of the system by measuring it frequently enough in its known initial state." (Wikipedia).
In other words, the mere observation of the unstable particle changes its behaviour.
I suggest that there is a similar effect, the Quantum Zeno effect of polls and commentators.
In the example I gave above, of 60% say they will vote Blue, and 40% say they will vote Red, there needs to be research done into the effect of that prediction on people's behaviour.
How would you vote, if I were to tell you 60% have said they will vote Blue, and 40% said they will vote Red?
I am willing to bet that people will NOT respond in exactly the same ratio of 60:40.
Rather, human nature will come into play and some people will go with the majority (if so many people say their voting Red, then I'm going with them too) while others will favour the underdog (I naturally cheer on David, not Goliath).
This, I suggest, is what has been going on in these three important national votes.
Beyond the regular statistics which apply to quality control of Coke bottles, and life insurance premiums, when you're measuring human behaviour and there is a feedback-loop (you tell them loudly about how other people have responded), additional factors come into play.
In other words, what the polls & pundits publicly predict actually influences the election outcome itself.
That's the unchartered fourth dimension of these polling statistics and predictions.
I vote for the Quantum Zeno effect of polls.
Sunday, 30 October 2016
UNESCO's outrageous revisionist proclamations, denying the historical link between Jews and Temple Mount, cries out for an appropriate response.
Israeli Governments since 1967 have claimed Israel's rights to sovereignty on the Mount, but have then consistently refused to implement these same rights. Indeed, the current regulations forbidding Jewish prayer or ceremony on the Temple Mount, and the hostile & suspicious reception dealt out to Jewish visitors by the Israeli security forces, play directly into the hands of UNESCO and other re-writers of history.
If we the Jews do not exhibit and implement our deepest bonds to Temple Mount, why should the gentiles care any more for this connection than we do?
Instead of actively discouraging Jews from going up to Temple Mount, the Israeli Government should be encouraging, educating, promoting, and protecting a massive Jewish presence there.
Today, only a few thousand highly committed Jews venture onto the Mount each year.
However, if the top of the Mount were to be visited by Jews the same way the (less sacred) Western Wall is, with a million or more Jewish visitors each year, UNESCO's absurd declaration becomes entirely irrelevant.