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It's a bit brutal to watch so many of Ben Carson's self-glorifying stories from his biography turn out to be either wildly exaggerated, completely bogus or as in the case of this Yale exam story, as Catherine Thompson explains here, so utterly byzantine and convoluted as to defy categorization. Adding to the surreal situation is what I noted last week which is that Carson's operation looks very much like a direct mail fundraising scam gone wrong - or actually horribly right. When I was researching this last week, I was struck that not only did Carson's campaign seem like a fundraising scam but that his campaign had attracted a slew of nominally 'pro-Carson' SuperPacs trying to grab some of the tons of money off the Carson phenomenon, run a few nominal ads and pocket the rest as costs. Now one of the many 'pro-Carson' SuperPacs is out asking patients to come forward to say good things about him.

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More Problems

The Wall Street Journal just published a story with several more problems in Ben Carson's biography. They range from stories which simply cannot be confirmed (doesn't mean they're false) to ones that appear more or less definitively not to have happened (i.e. made up), based on contemporary evidence, and some in between. Here's the Journal's piece.

Losing It

Ben Carson's defenders rallied late this afternoon, focusing in on whether Carson "fabricated" a story about his admission to West Point or simply told a story that was demonstrably false numerous times over several decades. But Carson seemed to dig himself deeper in an angry exchange with reporters this evening. This snippet from the conservative Washington Examiner, captures the moment ...

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Chauncey Carson(er)

A lot of conservatives are now deciding that Carson is innocent of fabricating an admission to West Point. But the basis of his exoneration is apparently that Carson is so totally ignorant of how tuition, the service academies and apparently just life in general work that he may have claimed something that is demonstrably false but not known it. Erick Erickson first wrote a post saying the Carson was toast. But he then struck that post and replaced it with another basically exonerating him. To be fair to Erickson, unlike some others, he's not exactly exonerating Carson but saying that he has "more wiggle room on this story than the Politico suggested."

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Ignorance and Arrogance

It's one of those things you learn when you first get a feel for politics: the things that count, that get stuck in people's minds and affect real outcomes are not necessarily or even often the most important ones. They're ones that resonate with basic, familiar or humorous parts of our common experience - like pyramids. I doubt very many people remember that Ben Carson also said that he believed that Satan encouraged Charles Darwin to write The Origin of Species, a claim that is at least as nuts as the pyramids comment and frankly, quite a bit more evil. But pyramids is different, even though it's completely irrelevant to basically anything. Everybody knows about the pyramids. We know what they look like. We know pharaohs are buried in them. The very shape is elegantly simple and memorable. People wear pyramid hats sometimes to be funny. And most people know that they are basically solid stone. And you don't need to be a genius to know that of all the places you might try to store grain, inside a rock would be one of the most challenging.

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Why Does a Highly Educated, Intelligent Man Seem So Ignorant So Often?

TPM Reader AS has a provocative, some might think it even offensive, look at Ben Carson's striking level of ignorance about so many things. Though, I don't agree with all of it, I found it quite insightful ...

Good job on the Dr. Ben Carson / Egyptian pyramids nonsense. There's another aspect: what his apparent lack of general knowledge says, pro or con, about his fitness to be President.

I happen to be the daughter of an archaeologist, and I 100% agree with your commenter who said it is so infuriating to see someone pontificate about the field in total ignorance, but I have a different point to make.

"General knowledge"--basic awareness of the mix of facts and empirical discoveries that undergird modern society-- tends to correlate strongly not merely with one's own level of formal education, but with that of the people in one's formative circle--mainly, family--when growing up. Carson's level of formal education is high: Yale undergrad, U. Mich M.D.

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Climate Change Live Chat with Jennifer Morgan, Thursday Nov. 12th Noon ET

Jennifer Morgan, Global Director of the Climate Program at the World Resources Institute, will host a live chat in the Hive (sub req) next week. Jennifer has a long history of environmental activism, including stints at the Worldwide Fund for Nature and Third Generation Environmentalism. Her focus is on negotiating international climate agreements and the global response to the threat of climate change.

She'll stop by at 12 PM Eastern on Thursday November 12th for a spirited discussion on all things related to climate change and the environment. Please drop your questions here at or before 12 PM on 11/12!

Who Runs This Campaign? Really

I'm going to ask this again. Who runs Ben Carson's campaign? And is it a campaign or a direct mail scam that improbably had its "candidate" turn into the national frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination. Ben Carson now says that even he questions the wisdom of creating a Ben Carson rap ad to target African-American voters.

Here's what Carson's Communications Director Doug Watts said about the rap strategy: We are "Reaching [young black voters] on a level they appreciate and follow and see if we can attract their consciousness about the election. They need to get involved and express their voice through their vote.” We are "reaching out and talking to them in a language that they prefer and in a language that, and in a cultural format that they appreciate."

Our Big Series On Inequality

As all of you know, the topic of growing wealth and income inequality in America has moved to the center of American politics over the last handful of years - not just among Democrats but even Republicans, though the suggested solutions are quite different from each party. So we decided to put together a major series on the topic: an introduction plus four longform articles, written from a variety of angles and areas of expertise. I mentioned earlier this week that TPM is about to celebrate its 15th anniversary online. And that has put me in the mind of my life-muse Bob Dylan's line that "he who is not busy being born is busy dying," which I interpret as the need to constantly reinvent, experiment and never settle into the comfort of the deathly hand of the past. So this is something entirely new for us and something I'm very excited about. We were able to get AFSCME to sponsor the series which gave us the funds to really do it right, to find the best writers, put everything together in a polished way and really go deep without the standard need - which is eternal in publishing, especially if you're independent - to sweat whether the investment pays off in page views and clicks.

So today, we're publishing the first of five pieces in the series, which is an introduction from me on the hows and whys of why we're doing this, what questions we're trying to answer and introductions of who we've got writing the pieces and what each piece in the series is about. The first full length piece debuts Monday. Here's my introductory essay. I'm eager to hear what you think and I hope you enjoy the series.