Saturday, December 26, 2020

Diary

My life, which is generally dull to begin with, has been extremely dull due to the pandemic, so I haven't felt inclined to make a "Diary" post. Of course, I'm still thinking about Donald Trump and the circumstances that permitted him to become president. Actually, it is not a great surprise, because, as I've been saying, the democracy-plus-capitalism formula is dangerous and hasn't been working for decades. For at least fifty years, wealthy people have been controlling who gets elected to Congress and, to a lesser extent, the presidency. Now, media companies such as Fox News are directly influencing voters even in non-election years, and they have paved the way for completely unqualified, incompetent and corrupt political candidates such as Donald Trump; the emphasis has changed from placing people in Congress who will protect corporate interests and keep taxes low to directly increasing corporate profits by drawing more viewers to programs. The only thing that is surprising about Donald Trump's presidency is how uncritical the public has been and the extent of its tolerance of his behavior, even as it results in a high unemployment rate and thousands of preventable deaths. To be sure, the pandemic is not entirely Trump's fault, but the fact is that he made a bad call on it at the beginning and never changed course. Even today he is obstructing congressional action and playing golf, yet he still has millions of enthusiastic supporters. Public stupidity in an age of ubiquitous media propaganda remains a threat to civilization.

Fortunately, I live in a state where Trump is unpopular, and I've been thinking that this fact may be related to the fact that Vermont has the lowest rate of COVID-19 cases of any state. The governor, Phil Scott, who happens to be a Republican, has done a very good job, but it probably helps that most of the residents are sensible enough to ignore Trump's rhetoric. Vermont may have done the best because it's less industrialized than other states, and the level of complaints about a lack of jobs is much lower here than elsewhere, making it more difficult for political opportunists to gain traction. Trump never established credibility here, so fewer people were susceptible to his propaganda. Another advantage that Vermont has may be that the population has a higher percentage of introverts than other states. Since introverts don't need to socialize as much as extroverts, they are less avoidant of isolation and therefore less likely to be exposed to COVID-19. In fact, this thought led me to the idea that introversion may be an evolutionary adaptation that allowed our ancestors to avoid infections in the pandemics that have occurred over the centuries. I think that introversion is inherited, and that eventually the genes for it may be identified.

For an update on William, he is now fully acclimated to his cat door in the basement. This had stopped his damage to the porch screens while chasing mice and allows us to sleep without the interruption of his pawing at the bedroom door in the middle of the night. On the downside, most of the animal carcasses are now appearing on the basement floor instead of on the porch. Sometimes the prey escapes in the basement, but the mice and voles usually run right into a trap, and I release them outside during the day. William is a very picky eater, and he never eats the voles, so I often find an intact dead vole on the basement floor in the morning. He definitely likes mice, but is messy about how he eats them, so I still have mouse parts to clean up from the basement floor in the morning. Often there are mouse organs on the mat at the foot of the basement stairs. I have been thinking about what Jared Diamond said about cats killing songbirds. In William's case, because he is nocturnal, he hardly ever catches birds. I don't know exactly how many rodents he catches a year, but it is probably in the 500-to-1000 range. I wonder whether animal rights activists are as defensive of rodent rights as of songbird rights: they're probably guilty of speciesism. The basement is unheated, and gets down to about 48 degrees during the winter, so sometimes William prefers to be upstairs. During the day in the winter he usually sleeps upstairs near the fire.

The stargazing conditions were poor once again during 2020, and I spent less time on it than most years. My main hobby became investing again, and this was my best year since 2009. I think these circumstances – with millions of people suffering while a few people become wealthier and live in comfort – are yet another example of the failure of human self-governance. So far, the pandemic has had little effect on us or any family members, which includes both coasts. With any luck, vaccines will be more widely available soon. I have mixed feelings about the Republican family of my Democratic friend who lives in Missouri. I got a Trumpish treatment from them when I visited there in 2019, and, though I don't wish them ill, if they were to contract the coronavirus I wouldn't be surprised or sad.

We're getting off to another global warming winter. We've already had two significant snows that have completely melted. Fortunately, global warming causes erratic weather patterns, so we will probably still have frigid winters, but less often.

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