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Weekly Reader: The Winter Solstice edition

The Weekly Reader features links to articles of interest from this week as we celebrated winter solstice. Here’s hoping you find something that makes you laugh, think, or cry.*

Historian Lindsay Chervinsky writes in Governing magazine about The Strange History of the Office of the Vice President.

On Dec. 19, 1793, Vice President John Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail, “my Country has in its Wisdom contrived for me, the most insignificant Office that ever the Invention of Man contrived or his Imagination conceived.” Most vice presidents in American history have agreed with Adams’ assessment of the No. 2 office in the country. Despite being a heartbeat away from the presidency, the office of the vice president has often been relegated to obsolescence.

Dr. Chervinsky takes the reader through the changes that took place in the office, most in the latter half of the 20th century and now into the 21st. And since she mentioned the lack of attendance by VPs at Cabinet meetings, I dug a bit to find that Calvin Coolidge was the first to attend those meetings, during the Harding administration, but “He sat at the farthest end of the table from Harding, listening to what was said and saying almost nothing himself.” I guess he was always Silent Cal, even as VP.


People Are Taking the Wrong Lesson From Trump’s Failed Coup writes Elie Mystal in The Nation.

Trump tried to steal the election after being soundly defeated. He failed. Trump will be removed from office at noon on January 20, 2021, just as the Constitution requires. Mystal notes that “we won” but we may not understand what that means. It certainly does not mean, in Mystal’s analysis, that our institutions held firm.

(T)hat analysis appears overly sanguine. Trump failed to steal the election because he and his legal team are incompetent criminals, not because our democratic institutions defeated him. Saying that our democracy proved resilient against Republican attempts at subversion is like saying the fences at Jurassic Park proved resilient against raptors. Yes, technically Trump kept getting zapped on the electrified fence that is the federal judiciary. But his willingness to try—and the willingness of large swaths of the Republican Party to help him—shows that if the guardrails give way for even a moment, Republicans will break out and start eating the votes of Black people.


Writing in Just Security, Katherine Hawkins suggests that We Can’t “Look Forward” on the Trump Administration’s Abuses.

In an article that speaks to what we will need to do to make sure our guardrails are more secure, she begins by suggesting that the Biden administration ignore those who say we should look forward and not backward.

It would be a historic mistake for the Biden administration to listen to this advice. Impunity for the powerful—from the corporations and executives responsible for the financial crisis, to wealthy tax evaders, to prosecutors and police officers who grievously violate people’s rights—is part of what brought us to this point.

In her lengthy post, Hawkins outlines different ways to correct the mistakes of the past, including,

  • Criminal prosecution and professional accountability;
  • Civil litigation and restitution; and
  • Fact-finding, acknowledgment, and reform.

The truth may not be enough to free us from a repetition of all the terrible things that have happened in the past four years. But exposing it, and learning from it, is the only hope we have of doing better.


In celebration of Monday’s Winter Solstice, here’s Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie with Give Me That Old Time Religion.

We will pray with those old druids / They drink fermented fluids / Waltzing naked though the woo-ids / And it’s good enough for me.


Rob Walker in Marker Medium writes about The 15 Objects That Defined 2020.

In this piece, he tells the story of a year “through objects — commercial stuff, material things, designed goods, products and artifacts large and small.” Face masks are clearly at the top of his list, but see why he includes a bookcase (spoiler alert: how would we know that Dr. Fauci has a real love for Sicilian cooking?) and leaf blowers.


I love bananas, so I was thrilled to see 11 Side Effects of Eating Bananas Every Day by Rachel Linder in Eat This, Not That!

Bananas seem to be a wonder food. They can help you fall asleep faster and provide an energy boost (hopefully not at the same time). And let’s see…can I recall that other one that appealed to me? Oh yeah…

Bet you never realized that eating a banana could enhance your memory. Well, according to the BCC, it can. It’s the richness in B vitamins that give bananas the power to support memory function as well as protect the brain. Studies have found that students who eat bananas perform better on exams as well as learn more efficiently.

Time to get some bananas.

Enjoy.

More to come…

DJB

Image by Eva Lirot from Pixabay

*In the words of that great philosopher Jimmy Valvano, “If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.

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