Obamacare lives: Supreme Court nixes Trump administration and GOP-led states challenge to Affordable Care Act

The Affordable Care Act has survived another Republican challenge. By a vote of 7-2 the high court nixed the major challenge brought by former President Trump and Republican state attorneys general. The law has now survived three challegnces but thetuling doesn’t mean this centerpiece of the Obama administraiton and hotbutton issue for Republicans won’t be challenged again. For the foreseeable future millions will retain their affordable healthcare.

The Los Angeles Times:

The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld Obamacare for the third time and rejected a sweeping challenge backed by former President Trump and Republican state attorneys.
The 7-2 majority found that the state of Texas and other plaintiffs lacked the legal standing to sue.

The decision preserves health insurance subsidies for more than 20 million Americans and protections for tens of millions more whose preexisting medical conditions could otherwise prevent them from obtaining coverage.

The ruling stands as a final thumbs-down verdict against Trump’s promise that he would “repeal and replace” the 2010 Affordable Care Act sponsored by President Obama. Trump never devised a plan to replace the law, and both the Republican-controlled Senate and the high court with a solidly conservative majority rejected his legislative and legal bids to repeal it.

Two Trump appointees — Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett — joined Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and the three liberals in dismissing the Texas suit. Justice Clarence Thomas concurred. Justices Neil M. Gorsuch, also a Trump appointee, and Samuel A. Alito Jr. dissented.

Justice Stephen G. Breyer, writing for the court, said neither the state of Texas nor the two men who joined the suit suffered a “concrete, particularized injury” that gave them standing to sue. Since Congress had reduced the penalty for not having insurance to zero, they could not claim they were being forced by the government to buy insurance they did not want, he said.

Texas Atty. Gen. Ken Paxton filed a suit in 2018 contending the entire law should be struck down because lawmakers had reduced the tax penalty to zero for those who did not buy health insurance. He argued that the mandate to buy insurance stood as a pillar that upheld the structure of the whole measure.

The headline on Dan McLaughlin’s post on Hot Air points to a political reality: “Barrett proves Dems’ ObamaCare doomsaying wrong”.

The Washiongton Post:

The decision meant the attempt to derail President Barack Obama’s landmark domestic achievement met the fate of past legal challenges, in 2012 and 2015.

The key issue this time was whether a 2017 decision by Congress to remove the penalty for not buying health insurance — the so-called individual mandate — meant that the law was unconstitutional and should be wiped from the books.

That would end popular provisions such as keeping young adults on their parents’ insurance policies, and ensuring coverage for those with preexisting medical conditions.

But the court said the states did not have the legal standing to bring the challenge.

Past coverage: Supreme Court appears ready to uphold Affordable Care Act over latest challenge from Trump, GOP

….The red-state challenge came to the Supreme Court at an inopportune time — endangering the health-care coverage of more than 20 million Americans during the country’s gravest health crisis in a century.

Even congressional Republicans who have targeted Obamacare in the past distanced themselves from the suit brought by the Republican state attorneys general and joined by the previous administration.

The case posed three questions: Do the challengers have legal standing to bring the challenge? Did changes made by Congress in 2017 render unconstitutional the ACA’s requirement for individuals to buy insurance? And if so, can the rest of the law be separated out, or must it fall in its entirety?

Photo 102821483 / Affordable Care Act © Zimmytws | Dreamstime.com

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Taller people are more likely to oppose the equal distribution of wealth in their country

New research published in Evolution and Human Behavior suggests that a person’s height can influence their stance on sociopolitical issues. Across 20 countries, taller people were less likely to support wealth redistribution than shorter people, and this was especially true if they had a greater income. The study’s author Thomas Richardson was motivated by a compilation of research findings suggesting that formidable men tend to show less support for equality and income redistribution. Psychologists and social scientists have used evolutionary theories to try to explain this seemingly arbitrar…

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REPUBLICAN BACKFLIPS (Cartoon, Column and Video)


by Clay Jones

Bear with me because I’m about to write a little about gymnastics, and I don’t know anything about gymnastics. I probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between a backflip and a Yurchenko double pike. But then again, it seems USA Gymnastics may not know the difference either.

Simone Biles is the greatest gymnast in the history of gymnastics. In fact, in the world of gymnastics at the age of 24, she’s old. But that doesn’t seem to matter to Simone because nobody can do what she does.

Last month at the U.S. Classic, Simone Biles performed a move that had never been attempted before by a female gymnast at a competition…and she crushed it. The Yurchenko double pike is a difficult, and dangerous move, that nobody else is probably even training to perform. As The New York Times describes it, to execute it (this is where I cut and paste), a gymnast first must launch herself into a roundoff back handspring onto the vaulting table, and then propel herself high enough to give herself time to flip twice in a pike position (body folded, legs straight) before landing on her feet.

Did you understand any of that? I did. It means it’s hard. I think I pulled a hammy just watching her do it. At this point, she’s competing against herself. After she did the move, the crowed went wild and the judges…eh. They gave her a score of 6.6, which is a provisional similar to scores for her other moves. They didn’t give her any points for the difficulty of the move. In the past, they’ve given low scores to other moves Biles can do that no one else can. Why? Because no one else can.

They’re giving low scores to Biles for these amazing moves to discourage them from ever being done. Basically, Simone Biles is being punished for being too good. Do you remember when they did the same thing to Michael Phelps when he was competing, basically against himself as well, because like Simone, he’s the GOAT of his sport.

You don’t remember Phelps being punished because he wasn’t. Well, he was once for smoking pot which really should have been an added boost to his competition. If anything, the Olympic committee should have made Phelps smoke more pot just to give the other swimmers an advantage. Michael Phelps wasn’t just better because he worked harder, but because he has genetical differences that make him better. He’s tall with arms too long for his body, legs too short, and his feet and hands are basically flippers. In fact, Flipper probably couldn’t beat Phelps…even after Phelps smoked a bowl and consumed two bags of Doritos.

In Simone’s case, they changed the rules for a black person.

If all of Michael Jordan’s competition looked like Larry Byrd, they probably would have changed the rules for him too, probably to something like having to dribble while flying through the air or some shit.

Now, will this be taught in the future (not the air-dribbling crap)? Not if Republicans have their way. Republicans in several states are banning the teaching of Critical Race Theory, or as they put it, anything that teaches this nation may be a racist country. Yesterday, President Joe Biden signed a bill making Juneteenth the 11th federal holiday, and the first since Martin Luther King Day was created back in 1986. On the bill’s way to the president’s desk, 14 Republicans in the House voted against it.

The reasons these 14 Republicans have given are incredibly stupid. Some say they were in favor of the holiday but didn’t like it being referred to as “independence day.” Uh, because it’s not your independence day? Republicans, July 4, 1776, was NOT a day of independence for all Americans. Didn’t they teach you that?

Juneteenth celebrates the events of June 19, 1865, when Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger informed enslaved African Americans in Galveston, Texas, the Civil War had ended and they were free. In case you’re a Republican, he told them they were no longer prisoners with jobs. For many black Americans, this is their independence day. This is their July 4. But, because you think it doesn’t affect you then it shouldn’t be recognized? Should we bury it along with the Tulsa Massacre?

Congressman Andy Biggs from Arizona voted against the holiday and said, “They weaponize this bill like they weaponize everything else.” He must think it’s like a face mask to wear during a pandemic.

Tennessee’s Scott DesJarlais voted against it because, “it is fiscally irresponsible to continue to create new paid holidays for federal workers while the majority of hard-working private-sector employees get left to pay the bill.” Does he even know what he’s talking about?

Paul Gosar, another idiot from Arizona, said, “Juneteenth is more debunked Critical Race Theory in action.” How is Juneteenth debunked? Does he know what he’s talking about?

Ronny Jackson….wait. Did you forget about this guy? I did. Yeah, Trump’s former physician who told us Trump only weighed 243 pounds and also lied about his height, is unfortunately a congressman now. He said he voted against the bill because he doesn’t support more paid time off for federal workers. Dr. Ronny represents a district in Texas, the same state that gave us Ted Cruz and Louie Gohmert.

Thomas Massie, a goober from Kentucky, said, “Naming this day ‘National Independence Day’ would create confusion and push Americans to pick one of those two days as their independence day based on their racial identity.” You mean, some Americans may not want to identify with the independence day that did not give their ancestors independence? Somebody get ahold of Representative Massie, grab both sides of his face, put your face within two inches of his, good god don’t kiss him, and repeat the last sentence.

At this point, I’m surprised Marjorie Taylor Greene didn’t vote against it because calling it “Independence day” will only distract us from the accomplishment of Jeff Goldblum and Bill Pullman repelling the 1995 alien invasion.

Here’s the thing about that: Americans are not forced to choose their independence day based on their race. That choice was made for them hundreds of years ago…and it was made by white people. You would know that if you took a real history course.

What Republicans don’t like about black history in America is that it’s American history. You can’t have American history without the contributions made by black Americans. And you don’t have it without the tragedy inflicted upon black Americans. Republicans don’t want it taught and they don’t want to acknowledge it.

Congressman Tom McClintock, who voted against the bill said, “I don’t believe it’s healthy to reach into the dead past, revive its most malevolent conflicts and reintroduce them into our age.” Ignorance isn’t healthy either, Congressman. Neither is stupidity and racism.

Matt Rosendale, who is, unfortunately for Montana, that state’s only congressperson, said, “This isn’t an effort to commemorate emancipation, it’s very clearly tied to the larger hard-left agenda to enshrine the racial history of this country as the prime aspect of our national story.” Hey, he gets it, or at least part of it.

YES! It is an agenda to enshrine the racial history of this country as an important aspect of our national story. Thanks for saying the quiet part out loud…and that you have a problem with black history, you stupid racist idiot.

Funny thing: None of these representatives has a problem with Christmas being a federal holiday even though it’s discriminatory on religion, gives federal workers another day off, and is based totally on myths. I mean, we don’t even know what day Jesus was actually born or if he was even Jesus. He could have been a guy who just preached a lot. At least with Juneteenth, we know what day that happened. Christmas may even be unconstitutional, but good luck to the politician who campaigns on that one. If you think they’re giving Ilhan Omar a hard time now, wait until you see what happens to the poor schmoe who promotes de-federalizing Christmas.

Christmas as a federal holiday is forcing non-Christians to acknowledge Christmas, which most probably don’t mind (just don’t make me eat ham or listen to Hall and Oates’ “Jingle Bell Rock” and we’re good). Now, Republicans are afraid Juneteenth will force white people to acknowledge black history while all along, they’ve been shoving white history down everyone’s throats. These same fuckers probably believe the battle of the Alamo was about a bunch of freedom-loving (slave-owning) Texans being persecuted by Mexico. By the way, John Wayne was a HUGE racist. Look into it.

If we ever successfully remove these racists, whether judging gymnastics, legislating history, or voting against black history in the United States Congress with excuses like it’s “weaponized” or “unhealthy,” that day will be our independence day. It’ll be the day we’re liberated from troglodyte knuckle-dragging cave-dwelling Cheesecake Factory-loving Fox News-watching racist jerks who all probably just rolled off their moms.

And that should be a federal holiday.

Watch me draw:

Visit Clay Jones’ website claytoonz.com and email him at clayjonz@gmail.com

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Biden, Putin handshake kicks off Geneva summit

Geneva (AFP) – Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin kicked off their summit Wednesday with a handshake outside the Geneva villa where the two presidents plan to confront each other over the worst US-Russia tensions in years. Following an introduction by their host, Swiss President Guy Parmelin, Biden extended his arm for his first handshake with Putin since taking office in January. “It’s always better to meet face to face,” Biden said as the two men sat down with their top diplomats, kicking off the summit, where ghosts of the Cold War hovered over modern-day US concerns about Russian cyberattacks an…

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IN THE WAR ON AMERICAN DEMOCRACY, JOURNALISTS CAN’T BE NEUTRAL

On a podcast the other day, national political reporter Thomas Edsall analyzed the mounting threat of Republican authoritarianism and posed a great question:

“Trump and the Republican party have created a real dilemma for the media… A party of sedition is trying to (enact) rules that even when it loses, it wins… We have a different animal in the ballgame now. One side is dominated by a party that is willing to accept lies, that is delusional… a party that is on the verge of becoming something unseen in America, beyond the point of no return…When you have a party that is moving in this extreme fashion, how do we in the media describe it?”

Easy answer: Describe reality.

The old days of both sides false-balance journalism, the old days of writing “on the one hand, on the other hand,” the old days when both parties honored democracy by accepting the election results – those days are over. When one party openly declares that it no longer believes in democracy, when indeed it is working non-stop to destroy it, journalists can no longer take refuge in “neutrality.”

Richard Tofel, founder of the investigative journalism website ProPublica, wrote recently that neutrality is an “attractive value” only “if you view public life as an endless series of fights between two sides distinguishable most importantly by the primary colors of their uniforms.” But all too often – and especially now – neutrality is merely “an appropriate pose for the uninformed.”

Any journalist who’s remotely informed about what’s going on in 2021 should be compelled to point it out in plain language. If arsonists are torching a house, and it’s burning in front of your eyes, you report it and identify the arsonists. It’s not enough to say “Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell hopes to win the chamber in 2022.” It’s factually accurate to simply say, “Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, after voting to exonerate a president who inspired an anti-democratic coup attempt, hopes to win the chamber in 2022 and strengthen Republican vote-suppression efforts in 2024.”

In a national civic emergency, the mainstream media needs to be pro-democracy and pro-truth. That is not “bias.” That is patriotism.

The problem, however, is that too many journalists (especially the older, more seasoned ones) are stuck in the old paradigm. Jay Rosen, a media critic at New York University, said it well last week: The press is still too invested in “the game – ‘who are the winners and losers, who’s ahead, what’s the strategy?’ You can keep doing that right up until the point when democracy disintegrates.”

I agree. So does Tom Edsall: “In times of big change, reporters have a harder time finding ways to describe it and to deal with it. Reporters are usually fixed in a language that they’ve (long) been using to describe political competition.” Nevertheless, “you have to look at the truth…The press has been reluctant to look at the truth adequately… That is what the press is supposed to do. I’m personally against mincing words,” whereas, at too many mainstream outlets, “the pressure is to mince words.”

Granted, the word authoritarian upsets a lot of people. But what more empirical evidence do we need that the GOP wants to turn America into Turkey, Hungary, or worse? In plain sight, its state-level lawmakers are working to sabotage future free elections – ensuring that Republican state legislatures have the power to invalidate Democratic wins, installing local election officials who can refuse to certify Democratic wins, enacting a string of new voter suppression laws that are designed to protect their white minorities.

Meanwhile, the GOP’s national leaders remain in thrall to the loser who thinks the 2020 election was stolen, and they continue to pretend that the insurrectionist coup attempt was a mirage. As Edsall says, “stuffing things down the memory hole is precisely what authoritarianism does.” If we journalists don’t point that out, we’re not doing our jobs.

James Madison, who championed the Bill of Rights, warned more than two centuries ago that a free country starved of accurate knowledge “is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy; or perhaps both.”

Both indeed. The clock is ticking.


Copyright 2021 Dick Polman, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. Dick Polman, a veteran national political columnist based in Philadelphia and a Writer in Residence at the University of Pennsylvania, writes at DickPolman.net. Email him at dickpolman7@gmail.com

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Why do cats knead with their paws?

A behavior from kittenhood persists in many adult cats.
Byron Chin/flickr, CC BY-NC-SA

Julia Albright, University of Tennessee

Curious Kids is a series for children of all ages. If you have a question you’d like an expert to answer, send it to curiouskidsus@theconversation.com.


Why do cats like to pat their paws on a soft blanket? – Anonymous


Do you ever see your cat shifting his front paws back and forth just before settling down for a nap? Have you heard some cat lovers talk about their feline friends “making biscuits” or “kneading dough”?

Scientists who study cat behavior call this distinctive paw action “kneading” and believe it to be a sign of a relaxed cat. My own cats knead before taking a nap near me. While they are kneading, they purr – one of them gets so relaxed, he sometimes drools. Kneading usually occurs near a favorite person.

As a veterinarian, I think it’s important to recognize the little moments your cat is telling you she’s happy to be near you.

Kneading in kittens

If you’re ever around newborn kittens, you will see kneading pretty quickly after birth. A kitten kneads on his mother’s abdomen as a way of telling her he is hungry and ready for her milk.

Kneading and purring.

At the same time, the kitten usually purrs, which is a sound created by rapid vibrations of certain throat muscles. Purring is a signal for attention.

Using these two behaviors, kittens are asking their moms, also known as queens, to remain still so they can continue suckling. Young kittens usually fall asleep while suckling.

Kittens stop drinking their mother’s milk by about two months of age. So why do cats continue to knead as adults?

Ready to relax

Kneading seems to be more common in some cats than others. If your cat doesn’t knead, it could mean he is a little stressed – or it could just be that your cat doesn’t display relaxation or affection in that manner.

But many cats do continue kneading into adulthood. It’s pretty safe to assume a cat who is kneading is feeling calm, content and ready to settle down, just like a kitten settling in to suckle and sleep.

A cat stretches out its front paws, showing its claws and individual toes.
Cats can mark areas with scent glands in their feet.
vizland/iStock via Getty Images Plus

You may already know that when your cat bunts, or butts his head and rubs his cheek, head and body against your leg or an object near you, he is putting his scent in these locations. Cats also have scent glands between their toes, prompting some people to suggest that cats are also putting a familiar, comforting scent on their sleeping area when they knead.

Don’t bother to look for these glands on your own cat. They are not easily visible.

Subtle signals

Kneading may also be a form of communication between cats and their people.

If you’ve been around dogs, you know most are quite obvious in letting humans know they want something or like someone. For thousands of years, people have purposely bred dogs to be fun companions, as well as to have useful behaviors such as herding, tracking or guarding.

Cats and people have also lived together for thousands of years – and humans have appreciated their amazing natural mousing skills. Only recently have people tried to breed cats, but mostly for their appearance, not for specific behaviors.

The result is that cats are a little more subtle than dogs in their ways of telling a person, “I like you.” Kneading is one of those clues.


Hello, curious kids! Do you have a question you’d like an expert to answer? Ask an adult to send your question to CuriousKidsUS@theconversation.com. Please tell us your name, age and the city where you live.

And since curiosity has no age limit – adults, let us know what you’re wondering, too. We won’t be able to answer every question, but we will do our best.The Conversation

Julia Albright, Associate Professor of Veterinary Medicine, University of Tennessee

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Why everyone should celebrate Juneteenth, the new federal holiday

by Donald H. Harrison

I was delighted to learn that Congress, by an overwhelming vote, has decided that Juneteenth should be a federal holiday. President Joe Biden subsequently signed the Juneteenth bill into law.

Marking the June 19, 1865 date when U.S. Army Major General Gordon Granger abolished slavery in Galveston, Texas, Juneteenth is a holiday that should be celebrated by White people of conscience as well as by Black descendants of slaves, and by everyone else in the multi-racial, multi-ethnic union we call the United States.

Why should everyone celebrate this singular holiday? Because it marks an important moment in our social evolution as a country, a date when the United States advanced toward the goals set out in the Preamble of its Constitution: “to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.”

Furthermore, by celebrating Juneteenth we who are White, Latinos, Asians, and Native Americans say to our Black fellow citizens that you are not alone in your continuing struggle for racial equality and equity; we are here and we are with you.

Because Juneteenth is a brand new holiday, and only two days away, many people, including this writer, may not yet know what the best way is to celebrate it. Probably traditions that will develop over the next several years will guide us and our descendants.

President Joe Biden on Thursday signed a bill making Juneteenth a federal holiday.

It is interesting that news of the Juneteenth holiday came at the same time that Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas, at a news conference well attended by members of the Texas Legislature, announced a campaign to build as much of a wall as possible along his state’s 1,200-mile border with Mexico, continuing former President Donald Trump’s project in reaction to its cancellation by President Biden.

From Texas, it seems, we have contrasting examples of the humanitarianism of Juneteenth and the xenophobia of border walls and anti-immigration rhetoric.

It’s also interesting that at the same time Abbott was doing what he could to discourage immigration (and encourage nativists to vote for him in any subsequent election), U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland was liberalizing policies concerning the granting of asylum to immigrants who have good reason to fear for their lives.

In a reversal of the policy under President Trump, Garland said people who flee to the United States because they are attempting to escape domestic abuse or gang violence should be permitted to make their cases for asylum before immigration courts – and not simply turned away from our borders.

More and more, we are seeing that there is an ideological battle in our country between those forces favoring inclusion and those merchants of fear who resist any efforts to realize fully the goals set forth in our Constitution’s preamble.

It would be easy for us to recognize the villains and the heroes if people consistently were on one side or the other. But such is not the case. Whereas the Texas state government has become increasingly anti-immigrant, and anti-asylum seeker, the majority of its representatives and senators in Congress favored the adoption of the Juneteenth holiday.

This reflects, I think, the confusion people feel over what national policies are right and which are wrong. Which of these policies are moral and which immoral?

Those of us who believe all of our fellow human beings are entitled to be treated with dignity must step up during this debate over the future direction of our nation and declare ourselves in favor of the biblical mandate to “welcome the stranger.”

Donald H. Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World. He may be contacted via donald.harrison@sdjewishworld.com. This article is reprinted from San Diego Jewish World which, along with The Moderate Voice, is a member of the San Diego Online News Association.

Photo 219346436 © Simon Lehmann | Dreamstime.com

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Senate Democrats ‘encouraged’ on voting rights bill, McConnell opposed

By Richard Cowan WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. Senate Democrats scrambled to unite around a sweeping election reform bill they hope to begin debating next week, in the face of Republican opposition and moves by several states to pass laws placing new restrictions on voting. Several Democrats expressed optimism over a compromise plan proposed by moderate Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, details of which were released on Wednesday. “I am encouraged by these recent developments,” Senator Raphael Warnock of Georgia told reporters. Georgia is one of a half-dozen U.S. states that passed tough new contro…

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Biden had the edge but won no concessions from Putin in Geneva.

President Joe Biden used his heightened prestige won among Western allies recently to underscore his clear red lines for Vladimir Putin but did not get any significant foreign policy concessions from the Russian President. However, both made gains that could help them in their domestic politics.

After their June 16 meeting in Geneva, both said it was constructive but neither voiced confidence in it as a steppingstone capable of overturning the current low point in US-Russia relations or building new stability and predictability during the Biden presidency.

Using a soccer metaphor from the current EURO 2020 championship, the edge went to Biden because he was in the Russian half for much longer but he could not break through to score a goal.

The talks lasted less than four hours although a slot of up to five hours had been set aside. But the one-on-one session went to two hours, which is unusually long for such meetings. It is not yet known whether the two Presidents made commitments during the personal session that might put their countries on a path to rapprochement in coming months.

There were two wins. US and Russian ambassadors will return to Moscow and Washington in the next few days and a preliminary talks will begin soon at expert level on strategic nuclear weapons reductions.

Essentially, that means a gradual return to normal diplomacy following deep damage to relations after Russia annexed Crimea and launched a civil war in east Ukraine in 2014. Although neither Biden nor Putin said so, this could indicate that Biden may lean towards letting Putin off the hook for Crimea in return for compromise over east Ukraine, to focus more fully on US competition with China.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky seems to fear this because he declared last week that he will not accept any compromise involving his country made by Biden and Putin without his participation.

Putin pointedly told journalists after the Biden meeting that Ukraine has not met the terms of the Minsk-2 accords brokered by Germany and France in 2015. This is technically true but the fact is that the hastily drafted accords would make it difficult for the Ukraine government in Kyiv to control all its national territory.

Minks-2 has run into trouble because it would create nearly independent statelets heavily influenced by Moscow in the eastern Donbas region. That would make it almost impossible for Ukraine to bind with the European Union or become a member of NATO, the Western military alliance.

Biden has no solution to these divisions between Kyiv and Moscow because the situation is not just a border dispute with Russia or a simmering civil war inside Ukraine between Russian-speaking areas and the rest of Ukraine. It is a vital matter that has torn the fabric of the post-World War II order in Europe. But Biden is alone because Germany and France have offered no positive ideas, nor has Britain.

At the same time, it is seen as an existential issue in Moscow regardless of any new sanctions that the US and EU might impose following their newfound unity erasing the tumultuous years of Donald Trump.

This impasse has profound implications for power balances bordering the EU and for US leadership in the vast Eurasian region that stretches from Ukraine to China. That is also the region where both Russia and China are cooperating to reduce if not oust US influence.

The stakes will be higher especially after Biden’s troop withdrawal from Afghanistan and the modus vivendi he is seeking with Iran. Washington’s relationship with Turkey and Ankara’s loyalty to NATO also fall within this frame as does potentially troublesome Russian and Turkish military presence in Syria.

With an eye to the performance of Democrats in the 2022 elections, Biden could tell his domestic audience that he has done everything he set out to do in Geneva. That includes fixing redlines for Putin and demonstrating resolve to inflict pain on Russia (short of war) while opening pathways for cooperation on cyber security, ransomware and strategic nuclear security. Putin knows clearly now that the Trump era is over and there will be consequences for interference in America’s democracy, politics and business.

In turn, Putin can tell his people that he sat as an equal at the table with Biden who rules over an economy 12 times that of Russia and has access to far more allies and military power. He can assert that he stood up to combined US and European power represented by Biden, who met with G7 partners, NATO and EU leaders before coming to Geneva.

He can say that he, too, told Biden of his redlines which are that Washington should stay out of Russia’s internal affairs and its backyards in Europe and Eurasia. These are the keys to stable and predictable relations with Russia.

The backdrop to this posturing is that Putin’s regime could collapse if he does everything that Biden wants, including de-escalating cyber and ransomware attacks, releasing political prisoners and allowing opposition protests, restoring freedom of expression, giving the Donbas back to Ukraine and letting go of the harsh dictatorship in Belarus.

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It wasn’t just politics that led to Netanyahu’s ouster – it was fear of his demagoguery

Benjamin Netanyahu sits in the Knesset before parliament voted June 13, 2021, in Jerusalem to approve the new government that doesn’t include him,
Amir Levy/Getty Images

Dov Waxman, University of California, Los Angeles

There is something Shakespearean about Benjamin Netanyahu’s downfall.

As in a scene from “Julius Caesar,” who was assassinated by Roman senators, Netanyahu was deposed by his former underlings, the leaders of the three right-wing parties that have joined the new government – Naftali Bennett, Avigdor Lieberman and Gideon Sa’ar, all of whom once worked for Netanyahu.

If two of these men had remained loyal to Netanyahu, as they had been for years, then he would still be in power today.

Instead, Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, has finally been dethroned. “King Bibi,” as his devoted supporters hail him, ruled Israel for a total of 15 years, including a short stint in the 1990s. He returned to power in 2009, and for the past 12 years he dominated Israeli politics and came to personify Israel in the eyes of the world.

But while personal grudges and political rivalries largely due to Netanyahu’s preening personality have no doubt played a key role in his ouster, they do not fully account for the unyielding opposition he has engendered.

It is not simply a result of individual grievances and political ambitions that Netanyahu can no longer appease or politically buy off his rivals. Nor is it just because they no longer believe any of his promises. As a scholar of Israeli politics, I think that it is also, even primarily, because Netanyahu has come to be seen as a danger to Israeli democracy itself, just as former President Donald Trump was in the United States.

Thousands of people dancing in a public square in Tel Aviv, Israel.
Thousands of people take part in spontaneous celebrations in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, Israel, after the Knesset voted on June 13, 2021, to oust longtime Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Guy Prives/Getty Images

Becoming a demagogue

In recent years, particularly since he was indicted on corruption charges in several cases involving bribery, fraud and breach of trust, Netanyahu has become increasingly autocratic.

During a period when democracies around the world have been challenged by “authoritarian populists” such as Trump, Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdo?an, India’s Narendra Modi, Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro and Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, Netanyahu has eagerly joined this global club of illiberal strongmen and publicly embraced these controversial leaders.

Domestically, he adopted many of their tactics, trying to undermine the independence of the judiciary, neuter regulators, control or muzzle the media and use the power of patronage to reward loyalists and punish critics.

Netanyahu has also frequently employed populist rhetoric, railing against the supposedly leftist elite, the “deep state” and the “fake news” media, all of whom he has alleged are conspiring against him.

He has portrayed himself as the victim of sinister, shadowy and powerful groups who are the enemies of the “people.” In classic populist fashion, Netanyahu has claimed that only he represents the “people,” specifically, Israeli Jews, since Arab citizens of Israel are cast as dangerous Others. He demonizes his political opponents as threats to the nation, even traitors.

By deftly manipulating the fears and prejudices of the Israeli public, Netanyahu became, essentially, a demagogue.

Personal becomes political

The purpose of Netanyahu’s assault on the pillars of Israeli democracy was simple: for him to remain in power and stay out of jail.

To achieve this, he was willing to delegitimize not only his political opponents, but also state institutions like the Supreme Court, the attorney general’s office and the police.

In a desperate attempt to evade his corruption trial for bribery and fraud and a possible lengthy prison sentence, Netanyahu sought to gain immunity from prosecution as a sitting prime minister while denying he was doing so.

Benjamin Netanyahu stands in front of a large photo showing him and U.S. President Donald Trump.
Netanyahu, here at a 2020 campaign rally, made much of his relationship with U.S. President Donald Trump – emulating much of his authoritarian rhetoric.
Amir Levy/Getty Images

His stubborn refusal to resign, even after his criminal trial began – the first time a sitting Israeli prime minister was in the dock – appeared to be driven by his desire to use his position as prime minister to gain legal immunity or at least intimidate the lawyers and judges he might face, and convince the public that he was being persecuted.

It wasn’t only his political survival and personal freedom, however, that motivated Netanyahu. He seems to sincerely believe that Israel will be endangered without his leadership. His long tenure in power apparently convinced him that only he can steer the ship of state, especially given the treacherous waters it must navigate.

“Try to damage as little as possible of the magnificent economy we are handing over to you, so that we can fix it as fast as possible when we return,” he said as power was handed over to the coalition.

Like other longtime leaders, Netanyahu came to equate his own personal and political interests with those of Israel. What was good for him was good for Israel; what harmed him, harmed Israel. Netanyahu also convinced his supporters of this equation, just as many of his critics became convinced that the opposite was true.

Thus, Netanyahu managed to divide Israelis into two antagonistic camps: pro-Netanyahu versus anti-Netanyahu. This division replaced the traditional left-right ideological divide that had dominated Israeli politics for decades – and which is why the new government spans the ideological spectrum.

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Surviving without Netanyahu

It is premature to write Netanyahu’s political obituary – he remains the leader of Likud, by far the largest party in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament. He has vowed to bring down the newly installed “change government” and swiftly return to power.

He could well accomplish this task given his Machiavellian political skills and the inherent fragility of Israel’s new governing coalition, which is composed of no fewer than eight different parties ranging across the political spectrum. Since it depends on a razor-thin parliamentary majority of 61 of the 120 Knesset seats, the government will be extremely vulnerable to Netanyahu’s relentless efforts to topple it.

But however short-lived Israel’s fledgling government turns out to be, its mere formation is not only something of a political miracle – bringing together religious and secular ultranationalist right-wingers, liberal centrists, secular leftists and Arab Islamists – but also a stunning repudiation of Netanyahu.

Ultimately, the rule of law and democratic process in Israel have survived Netanyahu’s attacks. A peaceful transition of power has occurred, despite angry protests and violent threats against some of the members of the incoming government.

The mere fact that Israel has a new prime minister will now demonstrate to many Israelis that the country can survive without Netanyahu’s leadership. Even if the new government accomplishes very little, this alone will be an important achievement.

By rejecting Netanyahu’s demagoguery, Prime Minister Bennett can also begin to heal some of the divisiveness that Netanyahu stoked and exploited, even if his government continues many of Netanyahu’s policies, as seems likely. This, if nothing else, will be the “change” it promises.The Conversation

Dov Waxman, Director of the UCLA Y&S Nazarian Center for Israel Studies and The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation Chair in Israel Studies, University of California, Los Angeles

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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