Columns

Israeli leader’s ouster remains long overdue

February 16 ,2024

It is time for Israel’s Prime Minis-ter Benjamin Netanyahu to resign or be removed from office.
:  
By Berl Falbaum

It is time for Israel’s Prime Minis-ter Benjamin Netanyahu to resign or be removed from office.

Why? If for no other reason that he apparently never heard of the fable about the turtle and the scorpion. To explain:

On a shore, a scorpion implores a turtle to let him sit on its shell as the turtle swims across the river.  When the turtle expresses concern about the scorpion poisoning him with a deadly sting, the deadly predator promises he will not harm the turtle.

The turtle agrees but halfway across the river, the scorpion stings the turtle which slowly, in agony, begins to die.

“Why did you do this?” asks the turtle. “It isn’t logical. Now we both die because you can’t swim.”

“It has nothing to do with logic,” replies the scorpion. “This is what I do. It is in my character.”

Netanyahu made a deal relating to Hamas -- the scorpion -- which led to the deadly sting, a war from which neither side will come out a winner, no matter how it ends.

Specifically, Netanyahu and his government, secretly approved -- although it was widely discussed -- millions of dollars in payments to Hamas from Qatar, money which was supposed to be used for government services but not for building 300-400 miles of tunnels for warfare.  

According to public reports summarized in The New York Times (Netanyahu denies them), he said that it was important to keep Hamas strong as a counterweight to the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. Such a strategy, the prime minister believed, would ease the pressure on him to negotiate a Palestinian state.

Dmitry Shumsky, a columnist for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, wrote that Netanyahu pursued a policy of “diplomatic paralysis” to avoid negotiations with the Palestinians over a two-state solution which is opposed by the right.

Shumsky said that Netanyahu’s mistaken strategy turned Hamas from “a minor terrorist group into an efficient, lethal army with bloodthirsty killers who mercilessly slaughtered innocent Israeli civilians.”

Yuval Diskin, former head of Israel’s Shin Bet security service, told the daily newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth in 2013 -- in 2013 -- that “if we look at it over the years, one of the main people contributing to Hamas’s strengthening has been Bibi Netanyahu, since his first term as prime minister.”

So, as might have been predicted, Hamas, the scorpion, inflicted its deadly sting October 7 because that is what it does in order to live up to its charter’s credo:  Destroy Israel. It is in its character. Now, Netanyahu, who supported the payments to Hamas from Qatar, in a leaked recording, labeled Qatar “problematic,” further straining relationships.

If that were not enough to get rid of Netanyahu consider how he is alienating Israel’s closest ally -- the United States.  

He responds to each call for moderation in the war by President Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken with hostility and angry, non-compromising language and behavior.

Even if he disagrees, he might do so with more diplomacy and respect for a U.S. president who has shown commendable patience in the face of Netanyahu’s petulance.

The prime minister displayed the same disrespect for President Barack Obama when, in 2015, he bypassed the president and gave a speech before Congress in which he disagreed with Obama’s policy pertaining to a nuclear Iran.

Despite Netanyahu’s insults -- and they are insults -- Biden had maintained his overall support of Israel in the war, but that cannot last forever. The pressure on Biden to be more “balanced” continues to grow and it would not be surprising for the president to change course and increase his criticism of Israel and do so on the world diplomatic stage.

Netanyahu has hinted that Israel does not need the U.S. to defend itself and he is wrong on that has well. The loss of sharing important intelligence and the financial aid Israel receives from the U.S. are vital blood lines.
Netanyahu might also consider that, presently, Israel does not have many friends in the world.

Finally, for this column, on why Netanyahu needs to resign or be ousted, are his efforts to weaken Israel’s Supreme Court.  

His controversial judicial reform proposal brought tens of thousands of protestors to the streets in Israel every week.  

The proposed law would give the Knesset (Parliament) the power to overturn Supreme Court decisions which critics charge undermines Israel’s democracy and separation of powers doctrine which, while Israel has no constitution, operates similarly to ours.  

(In January, the Supreme Court ruled against the proposed new law, writing, the change would have caused “severe and unprecedented harm to the core characteristics of Israel as a democratic state.” It is not clear how Netanyahu plans to proceed.)

Many believed that Netanyahu proposed judicial reform to protect himself from conviction of corruption charges for allegedly taking gifts from beneficiaries in exchange for favorable treatment from his government. (He denies the charges.)

The firestorm over judicial reform may also have caused Netanyahu’s government to take its “eye off the ball” and not recognize how Hamas was planning for war. Israel’s military and intelligence agencies had collected evidence of Hamas’s plans for the October 7 attack. Some of Hamas’s training was conducted just a few hundred yards from the Gaza-Israeli border.

But no one acted on it. As a result, Hamas was able to sharpen its stinger and Netanyahu failed badly in protecting the state from the scorpion’s deadly venom.

Not only did Netanyahu trust an inherently untrustworthy predator, but he failed to develop an antidote. Thus, he needs to leave office -- one way or another.

The way to defeat him, regrettably, is at his own game

January 05 ,2024

Those opposing Donald Trump for the presidency -- Democrat and Republican alike -- have relied on various strategies to try to defeat him, but nothing has worked. :  

Berl Falbaum
Veteran Political Journalist/Author

Those opposing Donald Trump for the presidency -- Democrat and Republican alike -- have relied on various strategies to try to defeat him, but nothing has worked.

They have ignored him. They have offered mild criticism. They have even embraced him. Democrats have cited his vulgarity, immorality, 91 felony charges, conviction for sexual assault in a civil case, and so much more.

The result: Trump only climbed in the polls.

It should be clear by now (it should have been months ago) that they need to adopt an entirely new innovative strategy.

After much thought, I came up with the answer: They have to outdo him on his despicable behavior. Given Trump supporters’ acceptance and admiration of Trump, candidates have to show them that they could -- and would -- do worse. The principle is simple:

Give voters what they want.

Out with the old political thinking; in with the new which dictates proving they are no goody-two-shoes. They need to insist they don’t have an honest bone in their bodies and anyone who accuses them of being virtuous and a person who keeps their word is spreading ugly political rumors.

These candidates need to make the case that Trump is a Boy Scout compared to the loathsome and contemptible behavior they would display if elected.

And time is running out for Republicans in the primaries with the Iowa caucuses scheduled for January 15 followed by the New Hampshire primary January 23.

For instance, while Trump lied at least 30,000 times during his presidency, they would promise to double that figure. Nothing will be too trivial to lie about.  

“If you want a liar, you can’t do any better than me,” they would protest. “I’m the best around and I’m not lying -- this time.”

That should be good for a point or two in the polls.

Trump was impeached twice; his opponents would shoot for at least four impeachments and convictions in the Senate.

Trump is facing 91 felony charges in four separate indictments. They need to call that out for what it is: Child’s play.

Trump’s opponents would work to double that number. Plus, they would promise guilty verdicts. Add three points in the polls.

Trump has been found guilty of sexual assault. Trump’s challengers would point out that the verdict came in a civil suit. They would seek a conviction in a criminal proceeding which threatens jail time.  

They would also brag that they grabbed women by their genitalia whenever and wherever the opportunity presented itself, and they did that more often than Trump. This would be a biggie and probably put them ahead in the polls by double digits. (I am not sure how Nikki Haley would handle this issue).

The former president uses ugly language to characterize political opponents and adversaries around the world. His opponents need to upgrade their vocabulary -- I mean downgrade -- to make Trump look like a Mr. Nice Guy.

“I will be as sleazy as possible, I promise,” they would exclaim as supporters go wild. “Thank you, thank you. I will not let you down.  

“After I am through, Trump fans will regret having supported him.  Compared to my venality, he was virtuous. Deceit, dishonesty and double-dealing will be an inseparable part of our administration. We will not compromise on these principles. Never!

“‘Deceit, Dishonesty and Double-Dealing for a Brighter Future’ will be our campaign slogan -- DDD.

“In addition, I not only believe Trump won the 2020 election, but he won in 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012 as well. I know the media will tell you he wasn’t even a candidate. But that’s part of the fringe left-wing media conspiracy. That proves I am worse than Trump; even he did not make that claim.

“I am in the process of hiring my staff and am culling prisons for the best talent. Forget about Michael Cohen, Steve Bannon, Rudy Giuliani, Michael Flynn and all the others. They were all amateurs.

“I am already considering cabinet members like someone from the Gambino family as attorney general. Makes sense to me. Who knows more about criminal law?

“For secretary of the treasury I am thinking about the crypto king, Sam Bankman-Fried, the guy who headed FTX, made billions but is now in prison. I would pardon him. My kind of guy.

“I also want to find a good position for Stormy Daniels. And I use the word ‘position’ advisedly.

“Every member of my staff and cabinet will be subject to criminal charges by the time we are done.  I will have hundreds of pardons printed the day we walk into the White House. All I will have to do is fill in the names.”

Then there is the issue of financing The Wall. Trump’s opponents can point out that the former president was never successful in getting Mexico to pay for it.

“I will tell you here today,” an opponent would say, “if I am elected, I will get Liechtenstein to pay for it. If it refuses, woe to the Liechtensteiners.

“Finally, I will incite insurrections for elections we lose anywhere in the country.”

Given the Trump voters’ moral compass, such a political strategy, if carried out properly, cannot help but produce victory.

As I write this, I can’t help but visualize the reaction to these promises on the campaign trail.

Supporters of Trump will leave him in a heart beat using an all too familiar refrain often cited by the former president: “We never heard of him.”
 

ADR Spotlight: What the best lawyers and mediators do with an unsuccessful mediation

January 05 ,2024

Most disputes will settle as a result of mediation when all parties voluntarily participate in good faith, share the same objective of settlement, consider different points of view with an open mind, and are willing to compromise after considering the alternative :  

By Paul Monicatti

Most disputes will settle as a result of mediation when all parties voluntarily participate in good faith, share the same objective of settlement, consider different points of view with an open mind, and are willing to compromise after considering the alternatives. Touted success rates range from 75% to 80% collectively for all disputes of every type, with some fluctuation depending on the particular type of dispute. Thus, many mediation participants enter into mediation with high expectations. Obviously, though, 20% to 25% of them will be disappointed.

Before the finger-pointing starts, and after searching for creative non-monetary options to satisfy previously hidden interests and then attempting various techniques to overcome impasse, all to no avail, there are several ways to salvage an up-to-that-point unsuccessful negotiation. Top mediators persist in exploring all available settlement options so the case doesn’t end up in court. You can capitalize on that tenacious character trait for your clients’ benefit. The ten steps  below can be discussed between counsel and the mediator before or after leaving an unresolved mediation that eventually could lead to a later settlement:

Tell the mediator the reasons why you think the dispute didn’t settle while something else could be done about it with everyone still present.

Ask for a mediator’s proposal of a suggested monetary solution, which may be a specific sum or a bracket for the parties to consider and may include rationale or a principled basis for the suggested figure.

Identify key factual, liability, causation, and damage settlement obstacles which might be removed by additional information or focused pretrial discovery.

Contemplate use of mutually acceptable independent expert(s) to opine on key disputed issues where the parties’ own experts conflict.

Identify the controlling legal obstacles impeding settlement that might be resolved by subsequent pretrial motion practice, such as motions to compel unproduced discovery, motions in limine on admissibility of contested evidence, or dispositive motions to partially or totally eliminate liability or damages, yet realizing that savvy trial judges could take any of these motions under advisement after briefing and oral argument thus leaving uncertainty to motivate further settlement negotiation.

Draft a partial settlement agreement signed by the parties specifying which issues have been resolved and which ones remain open.

Agree to recess and reconvene for another mediation session after sufficient time for: rest, reflection, reconsideration, and any necessary extension of a court-ordered deadline for completion of the mediation; further research, investigation, or focused discovery; review and analysis of any new information learned during the current mediation,  and consideration of whether other key player(s) should be added as a participant in the subsequent mediation session

Explore the use of other ADR methods, such as:

Case Evaluation. The dispute is submitted to a party-selected (instead of court-selected as in Michigan) panel composed of one neutral alone or with two other partisan evaluators known and respected by the parties for an advisory monetary award following written and oral summations by counsel. This option is especially useful where damage value disparity is wide and liability issues are relatively narrow or essentially uncontested; even if that doesn’t settle the case, it may stimulate further settlement discussion.

Expert Hearing. The mediator or a different neutral presides over a hearing designed to narrow the liability, causation, and damage issues disputed by the parties’ experts.
The disputed and undisputed issues are summarized before the hearing so that the experts focus only on the contested issues and the reasons for their disagreement. The experts meet together with the neutral, counsel, and their decision-making clients for them to answer questions by anyone including the other expert(s). Following the hearing, the neutral will resume mediation in an effort to bridge the discrepancies between the parties.

Minitrial. Typically used in business disputes involving larger amounts in controversy, this approach usually involves two phases. During the first phase a neutral advisor or mediator and party decision-makers hear the strengths and weaknesses of each other’s case from their attorneys who usually make more elaborate presentations of key evidence, including brief testimony, if necessary, to emphasize the point, unlike in mediation. During the second phase, the decision-makers then meet with or without the neutral, and often without their attorneys, to negotiate or mediate a resolution of their differences.

Summary Jury Trial. This method involves an abbreviated presentation of key evidence in a more formal courtroom setting to a jury composed of local jurors who then render either an advisory or binding verdict. Attorneys present their evidence by way of oral argument, selective exhibits, and an occasional witness, usually under strict time constraints. After the jury deliberates and renders its verdict, the parties have the opportunity to question them. The SJT’s objective is to give parties who are sharply divided over the merits of their respective positions a prediction of how a real jury might perceive their arguments and theories at a later actual trial to motivate them to reach a settlement. It has been successful in environmental, mass tort, and substantial contract cases.   

Arbitration. Arbitration is a binding process in which contracting or disputing parties choose a neutral arbitrator or a panel of three arbitrators to hear their dispute and to render a final and binding award. The process is similar to, but less formal than, court litigation because in arbitration the parties may craft their own procedures and determine whether any formal rules of evidence will apply. In contrast to court litigation, arbitration is typically characterized by no or limited pretrial discovery, minimal motion practice, relaxed rules of evidence and procedure, a decision in which there may be no detailed opinion or findings of fact and conclusions of law, and a very restricted ability to overturn the result except in limited circumstances. Therefore, arbitration proceedings are designed to be faster and less formal, with more finality, than court cases where trial results may be appealed and possibly overturned.

If all else fails and a trial in court or binding arbitration seems necessary to end the parties’ dispute, mediation still could lead to: a high-low arrangement (whereby the parties mutually agree to a stipulated minimum and maximum monetary result); bifurcation of trial (e.g., separation of liability and damages into different stages); stipulated facts, liability, damages, exhibits, or applicable law; and any other ways to simplify trial or arbitration.

When leaving an unsuccessful mediation, don’t lose your composure and burn any bridges by accusations of bad faith, wasting time, or other typical clichés. It’s best to remain civil and professional if possible, keeping the lines of communication open because if the parties stop talking, then settlement progress necessarily stops too. Ongoing communication also may lead to voluntary information exchange and cooperative discovery, if not settlement.

Keep in mind that the life of any dispute is in a constant state of flux due to ongoing investigation and discovery, newly discovered evidence, subsequent trial court rulings, new appellate and statutory law as well as changes in the parties’ interests, influences, finances, needs, concerns, and goals. Each significant change provides an opportunity to revisit settlement. Also consider giving mediation another try after changing the format, attorneys, client representatives, mediator, or anything else about the personalities and attitudes of those involved in the process. Mediation is flexible and can be adapted for a custom-tailored fit to suit the circumstances of a particular dispute and the people it affects.

Paul F. Monicatti is affiliated with Professional Resolution Experts of Michigan, LLC. He’s been an arbitrator since 1983 and a mediator since 1986 in all areas of the law except family law and criminal law. He’s earned the highest ratings possible from Martindale-Hubbell, Best Lawyers in America, Super Lawyer, Leading Lawyers, U.S. News and World Report, Crain’s Detroit Business, and the international Who’s Who Legal: Mediation.  A Michigan Lawyers Weekly 2019 Leader in the Law, he’s been named Best Lawyers’ 2024 Troy Area Lawyer of the Year for Arbitration, 2019 Troy Area Lawyer of the Year for Mediation, 2018 Troy Area Lawyer of the Year for Arbitration, and 2011 Detroit Area Lawyer of the Year for ADR. He’s served as a court-appointed mediator, settlement master, arbitrator, facilitator, case evaluator, receiver, expert witness, umpire, and referee. He authored the chapter on Mediation, Arbitration and Other Dispute Resolution Methods in addition to co-authoring the chapter on Settlement, Negotiation, and Alternative Dispute Resolution for ICLE’s Michigan Civil Procedure.  He has taught ADR Advocacy Skills in negotiation, mediation, and arbitration at Western Michigan University Cooley Law School. He is a co-founder of ADRoit Dispute Resolution, Strongbridge Negotiation Strategists, and the International Academy of Mediators.

Distortions, bias add fuel to Mideast war

December 22 ,2023

I’ll start with a confession that I frequently get angry, even infuriated, by the incompetence, bias, amateurism, and shallow thinking in the media, despite being part of the profession for many decades. :  

By Berl Falbaum

I’ll start with a confession that I frequently get angry, even infuriated, by the incompetence, bias, amateurism, and shallow thinking in the media, despite being part of the profession for many decades.

However, I have never been shocked, that is, until now. And even “shocked” is too mild a word for my reaction to a couple of sentences in a column by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof.

Here are the sentences that blew my cynicism to bits (that won’t last long) and I type them with trembling fingers:

Israel has given “…its Palestinian citizens more rights than most Arab nations give their citizens. Israel’s courts, media freedom and civil society are models for the region, and there is something of a double standard: Critics pounce on Israeli abuses while often ignoring prolonged brutality against Muslims from Yemen to Syria, Western Sahara to Xinjiang.”

Wow!  I could not find a stronger synonym for “wow” and this appeared in the New York Times which has had a hard time printing one favorable word about Israel since its founding in 1948.

As author Jerold S. Auerbach pointed out in his 2019 book, “Print to Fit: The New York Times, Zionism and Israel:” Apprehensive lest the loyalty of American Jews to the United States be undermined by the existence of a Jewish state, [it] adopted an anti-Zionist critique that remained embedded in its editorials, on the Opinion page and in its news coverage.

I hope Kristof can keep his job.

Now, I have read zillions of stories and heard just as many from the broadcast media how Israel abuses Palestinians citizens. But I have never -- and I use “never” advisedly -- encountered one story anywhere that says Arab countries treat them worse, or how the 22 Arab countries have treated Jews, most of whom immigrated to Israel, fled because of persecution, or were exiled. Jews totaled 866,000 in the Arab world in 1945; they number fewer than 10,000 today.

As to Israel’s attitude toward Palestinians, two all too frequent words come to mind: “apartheid” and “genocide.”

So, let’s use Kristof’s observation to flesh out some gross distortions as they pertain to Israel. Is there discrimination and oppression in some quarters against Palestinians? Absolutely. Are there policies that need to be changed and/or eliminated? Absolutely. Must settlers in the West Bank be stopped from attacking neighboring Arabs? Absolutely. Does Netanyahu and his far-right cabinet need to temper their rhetoric and policies? 
Absolutely.

A short comparison to the U.S.: Does racism exist in the U.S.? Sure, but that does not  make it a racist country.

In this “apartheid” state, overall Palestinians have been integrated into Israel’s society. They work alongside of Israelis, attend universities, work in hospitals and, in early 2022, a Muslim man was appointed to the Supreme Court.

The political party, United Arab List, has representation in the Knesset (Parliament). Furthermore, there has been continual representation of Arabs in the Knesset since 1949, a year after Israel’s founding.
Former President Jimmy Carter gave much credence to the apartheid charge with his book, “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.”

When Carter was challenged, in an NPR interview, on his accusation, he replied that, in the book, he explains fully how he used the word but could not do so in the title. Perhaps he should have changed the title.

The following is extremely timely: A poll conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute after the Hamas massacre, found an increased sense of solidarity with Israel among its Arab citizenry -- indeed, the highest since the Institute began such a survey 20 years ago. When asked if they felt a part of the country, 70 percent of Arab respondents replied “yes” compared to 48 percent in June.

Aya Najame, a 20-year-old living in Haifa, told CNN -- yes, that CNN -- that “We live together here, Arab people and Jewish people. We work together, we go to the same places.

“Haifa is the most comfortable place. As soon as you leave Haifa you start feeling more uncomfortable, it’s (a) little hard to describe it, it’s just an uncomfortable feeling.”

Ashraf Ashkar, a 35-year-old Arab Israeli, said he has friends who serve in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and friends who were in areas Hamas attacked. “I speak to them all the time, I have a friend, an Arab, who joined the reserves last week,” Ashkar said, adding that Israel is his home.

I know these kinds of quotes are anecdotal but, to Kristof’s point, Israeli Arabs are ingrained in the country’s society.

Which brings us to the charge of “genocide” generally defined as annihilation, murder, massacre of a particular religion, race, or ethnic group.

Do the following numbers reflect genocide?

With a population of roughly 2 million, Arabs are the largest ethnic minority in Israel, comprising about 21 percent of Israel’s population. In 1948, when Israel declared its independence and after being attacked by five Arab nations, the Arab population stood at 156,000. That’s a growth of about 1.8 million. Genocide?

Further, some demographic experts predict that at present birthrates Jews may become a minority and that is why many support a two-state solution with one primarily a Jewish state. Genocide?

I wish that Kristof would have expanded his point to include the issues of apartheid, genocide, and other dubious charges and outright lies leveled against Israel.

As I wrote above: Israel should not be immune from criticism. I have leveled my own in many columns.

But distortions, bias, exaggeration, or ignorance are not synonyms for criticism. I wish reporters covering Israel would learn the difference.
 

There were no winners in the most recent GOP debate

October 13 ,2023

As soon as the second Republican presidential debate ended, as any enterprising political columnist would do, I pondered the question: Who won? :  

By Berl Falbaum

As soon as the second Republican presidential debate ended, as any enterprising political columnist would do, I pondered the question: Who won?

I had listened intently and took notes because I knew that for several days, the “expert analysts” would debate the question and I did not want to be left out in the cold.

Thus, I am sharing some of my findings exclusively here with readers.

--I was impressed by North Dakota Governor Douglas Burgum, specifically for how silently and patiently he stood before getting a question from the three moderators who finally realized that North Dakota was part of the U.S. In the debate’s two hours, Burgum spoke for all of 7 minutes and 35 seconds (according to official timekeepers) but Burgum suppressed the instinct to complain on the air how costly it was for him to participate.

--I am not sure I liked former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s attempt at humor. Criticizing Donald Trump for not participating in the debate, Christie said the former president soon would be known as Donald “Duck.” Christie appeared very pleased with himself, chuckling confidently when he finished.

Now, I happen to believe we need some humor in our humorless politics but that line just didn’t do it for me. Maybe Christie should hire a writer from SNL.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis also criticized Trump for skipping the debate but he did not mention Donald Duck, probably because of his feud with the Disney empire.

--I did like the spunk of former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley. When South Carolina Senator Tim Scott attacked her for outrageous spending, she urged him, to “Bring it, Tim.”

I had this vision of her facing Russian President Vladimir Putin, looking him straight in the eye and challenging him with, “Vlady, bring it on. And remember, I am not Donald Trump.”

--Scott also accused her of spending more than $50,000 on curtains for her office when she was ambassador to the U.N. She informed Scott that the curtains were bought by the Democratic Obama administration, to which Scott asked, “Did you send them back?”

Sadly, to my dismay, the debate moderators did not pursue the issue by asking about the return policy for the curtains.

(Worth noting:  When she was governor, Haley appointed Scott to a vacant Senate seat. Obviously, she was unaware that he considered her curtains too expensive.)

I think by this point readers will conclude that I did not think much of the debate.  Indeed, when you have seven candidates participating (10 in 2016), such debates are a total waste of time.

One-on-one debates are an entirely different matter. Properly handled by moderators, they can provide insights into the respective candidates and their policies.

There was not a word on Ukraine -- yes, that Ukraine -- the climate crisis, the deficit, the auto strike, COVID, and so many other issues which were not considered as serious as the curtains.

In such a debate setting, issues can’t be developed; candidates shout at and over each other trying to get air time; moderators generally lose control; and we are left with what can only be described as meaningless “noise, babble.”
Lack of control, let to an uncontrolled time allocation:

DeSantis spoke almost 5 minutes more than Burgum at 12 minutes and 27 seconds; Businessman Vivek Ramaswamy was next at 11 minutes and 53 seconds; then came Scott at 10 minutes and 42 seconds; Christie at 10 minutes and 32 seconds; former vice president, Mike Pence, at 9 minutes and 35 seconds and Haley, at 9 minutes and 5 seconds.

We should also note that some moderators seem more interested in their questions, hoping to impress the audience, than in pursuing vital domestic and foreign policy issues.

Given the format, it is impossible to make a major difference, particularly when Trump is leading the seven candidates by an average of roughly 40 percentage points.

The candidates realize the futility of trying to have a serious discussion and work principally to levy a one-liner that will get them the headlines the next day.

The ultimate goal: Control the media coverage for a couple of days and perhaps gain a point or two in the polls.

Christie tried it with Donald Duck. Pence took his shot by saying that Joe Biden should not be on the UAW picket line but in the unemployment line.

Some of the others made attempts at a headline-grabbing statement but were so ineffective, I did not bother to write them down.

So, as a public service, the GOP might cancel all upcoming debates during the primary season. (Another debate is scheduled for November.)

I know that Burgum would welcome such a cancellation. The next one is scheduled to take place in Miami and it will cost him a lot more traveling from North Dakota than it did for the last one which was on the West Coast in the Reagan Library in California.

Counselor's Corner: Happiness Now

September 29 ,2023

Happiness is not what happens to me. Happiness, a feeling of peace, a feeling of love and a feeling of personal contentment and meaning in this present moment is the result of how I embrace  and experience what happens to me in each moment of life :  

By Fred Cavaiani

Happiness is not what happens to me. Happiness, a feeling of peace, a feeling of love and a feeling of personal contentment and meaning in this present moment is the result of how I embrace  and experience what happens to me in each moment of life.  I cannot control what happens to me in each moment of life. But I can control of how  I discover joy and peace in each moment.

I must gently experience this present moment. When I do this, I am challenged to discover what life is really all about.  

Each of us knows that we will eventually die.  That may take a number of years or it could be just around the corner.  I think that HAPPINESS NOW is experienced when I focus on the present moment and discover the presence of the Divine in each moment. This doesn’t depend  upon what religion I might practice.  It  depends up how gently I let myself experience life in each moment.

It  becomes easy to rush through life and think  that the next moment will bring us happiness.  Life is only in this moment and in the acceptance and experience of this moment something very profound happens. I slow down and go deeper within myself.  In  this journey deeper into myself I begin  to discover something very profound –God.  This experience can only happen when I am not rushing  through life or believing happiness comes in the next moment.  We will all experience pain, love and joy. Sometimes this may all happen in  the present moment.  HAPPINESS NOW  is the result of the embrace of each present moment.  It  slows our whole system down and allows us to realize what life is all about:  an experience of God.  Faith in something deeper can take hold of me when I allow the depth of this moment to be experienced.This moment can be very painful. It can be very joyful.  It can be happy. It can be sad. But there is a Divine Element in each moment of life which is always coming to us no matter the joy or pain we might be feeling. This Divine Element calms us and helps us understand the meaning of life.

Life becomes meaningful in the slow and gentle embrace of the Now.  This embrace becomes an openness  to discovering HAPPINESS NOW because I am not fighting anything. I am just experiencing the present moment which is where the Divine is coming toward me.  

Life is quite simple. We complicate life when we rush to the next moment and avoid what is happening in this moment.

Have  you ever watched a loved one suffer?  It is painful.  But in the embrace of this pain, a profound sense of love is experienced and an appreciation and gratitude for this person in  your life becomes deep and meaningful.  The strength to bring more love to this loved person gets deeper and compassion and love becomes deep so this person experiences  your compassion and love. What first was difficult to see and embrace in watching this suffering of  your loved one, now becomes a journey into pouring more love into this loved one.  It creates a connection and bond that brings the presence of God closer to both of  you.  

Suffering and pain can never be avoided in life.  When I try to avoid the pain I have to experience, I block myself from love and I block myself from experiencing God and bringing more love to others.  HAPPINESS NOW  is always the embrace of the NOW in my life.  And  this embrace of the NOW becomes the door opening into a profound experience of God.

HAPPINESS NOW results from being caring, loving and receptive in the present moment of life. When this happens, I will feel the importance of slowing down. I will realize the importance of being more loving. I will discover that God is always with me in this present moment and all of life is to enter a more profound relationship with God by slowing down and being more loving to everyone in each moment of life.  Life is a journey into LOVE  which becomes a journey into GOD.  And this journey will last forever with peace and joy.