Reflections on last night’s ‘debate’

I watched the first presidential ‘debate’ last night between Joe Biden and Donald Trump with the idea of taking notes for an analytic blog post but within the first few minutes I gave up because what was happening was, to put it mildly, an utter disgrace. It was not a debate. It was a display of childish, petulant, rude behavior by a man-child that happens to be the president of the United States.

From the beginning Trump had an angry, choleric look, florid, scowling, and pouting, constantly interrupting and talking over Joe Biden and the moderator Chris Wallace. (Don’t they put make up on people so that they do not look so red?) Wallace was reduced to pleading with Trump to follow the rules that his team had agreed to and let the other person speak but it was no use. Trump simply raged on. Wallace has been criticized for losing control of the debate but it is not clear what he could have done other than simply get up and walk off, since Trump was so out of control. And I really mean out of control. Trump did not look like someone who was carrying out a pre-planned strategy of interrupting to throw Biden off balance. It was the other way around. Not only did Biden not get rattled, he would laugh at Trump and call him a clown and a racist and that seemed to enrage Trump even more. Trump looked like a man who is angry and thinks he is going to lose the election because he is being treated unfairly by everyone, including people in his own administration, and just let all his grievances pour out. It was a litany of the applause lines that he gives the audience at his rallies and on twitter but in the context of the debate they just seemed like random rants that had no connective tissue.
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Clue to matter domination in universe may lie in CP violation detected in neutrinos

A recent news report suggests that time–reversal violation may have been observed in neutrino reactions. (You can read the paper on which the report is based here.) Why is this important? Because it may shed light on a long-standing puzzle and that is why it is that in the universe we inhabit, matter is vastly more abundant than anti-matter.

Why is this a puzzle? Because when matter is created out of pure energy, it seems to be always the case that the amount of matter and anti-matter are identical. So in the Big Bang when energy was transformed into all the matter and anti-matter now in the universe, there should have been equal numbers of both. But since we now see so little anti-matter, it has been argued that this is because of the violation of what is known as ‘time-reversal symmetry’, that causes anti-matter to decay at a different (and faster) rate than matter, leading to its current depleted quantities. [UPDATE: See a correction to this in the comments.]
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Joe Biden wins big in South Carolina

With about 3% of the votes counted, Joe Biden has been projected to win the South Carolina primary. Given that the result was called almost immediately after the polls closed, it looks like he will have a big margin of victory over the currently second Bernie Sanders.

Currently Biden has about 50%, Sanders 19%, Tom Steyer 12%, Pete Buttigieg 8%, Elizabeth Warren 6%, and Amy Klobuchar 4%. Michael Bloomberg was not on the ballot here, staking everything on the 16 contests to be held in three days time on Super Tuesday.

These numbers will change as more votes come in but usually not by more than a few percentage points.

The large margin of victory will undoubtedly give a boost to the flagging Biden campaign going in to Super Tuesday and revive the hopes of the Democratic party establishment that he can stop the rise of Sanders. It will be bad news to those who were hoping to pick up the centrist mantle from him if he should falter.

What to expect in the Democratic debate tonight

The next Democratic debate will take place tonight in Charleston, South Carolina which holds its primary on Saturday. This will also be the last debate before the Super Tuesday primaries next Tuesday, March 3 and so will be the final chance for candidates to make their case to a national audience before those votes are cast. There will be seven people on the stage tonight: Joe Biden, Michael Bloomberg, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, Tom Steyer, and Elizabeth Warren.

Steyer is the new addition from the last debate which means that we will have two billionaires on the stage touting their glorious billionairosity that makes them supremely qualified to take on Trump and become president. After all, phony billionaire and failed businessman Donald Trump became president, so wouldn’t either of them be better positioned to take on Trump than people who are not insanely wealthy? The sad thing is that some people actually buy that argument.
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Does religious identification change as people get older?

Kevin Drum reproduces a chart from the Wall Street Journal that shows the results of a survey in which the percentage of people in the US who identify as Christians decreases as you go to younger age cohorts, while the number who are unaffiliated increases.

He concludes that Christianity is dying out in 21st century America as it finally catches up with Europe that saw a major drop with identification with Christianity in the last century. But such claims can be challenged by the assertion that as the young people of today get older, they will become more religious, so that there will be no long term changes.

So what we need is to compare this chart with a similar chart made decades ago to see if there is an actual drop across all age groups. Maybe the Wall Street Journal article has this information but it is behind a paywall and I cannot access it.

Trump impeached

A few minutes ago, Donald Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives, becoming only the third president to be impeached in the history of the US.

On the first article that dealt with abuse of power, the vote was 230-197. A few minutes later the second article that dealt with obstruction of justice, passed by a vote of 229-198. For both votes, one person voted ‘present’. (There are 233 Democrats, 197 Republicans, one Independent, and four seats vacant. This means that three votes are unaccounted four in the final tally.)

Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard was the one who voted ‘present’ for both articles and has explained her reasoning in a tweet.


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Anti-social behavior

These two Pearls Before Swine cartoon strips caught my attention because they were slightly more extreme representations of me.

I too do not find large parties very congenial and sometimes end up wishing I could find a good book instead.

While I am not as bad as Rat, it is the case that I can find social interactions, even with people I really like, exhausting. The difference is that after a couple of hours, I tend to fade out somewhat and seek to leave, rather than becoming hostile.

Book review: Moneyland (2019)

The subtitle of this book by investigative journalist Oliver Bullough pretty much says it all: The inside story of the crooks and kleptocrats who rule the world. If you recall, my review of the film The Laundromat (2019) dealt with how the firm Mossack Fonseca specialized in creating shell companies for people to hide their ill-gotten gains from their victims and governments. This book lays bare how the corrupt system works, providing multiple detailed examples from all over the world.
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