Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

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Today marks the 15th anniversary of this website, Talking Points Memo, aka TPM. The first post on the site was posted on November 13th 2000. And the design was rather different. It looked like this.

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Yesterday one of my favorite Republican readers was ragging on me for saying that Ben Carson had suggested that the People's Liberation Army (the Chinese military) had joined the Russian military in fighting in Syria. He didn't say any such thing, my friend told me. In isolation, Carson's words may have been ambiguous, which is why I noted his comments in the way I did. But in the context of the question it was pretty clear that Carson was saying the Chinese military was in Syria, as the Russian military now is. This comes after a couple weeks of conspiracy theories percolating in far-right publications claiming that the Chinese are either already fighting in Syria alongside Russia or in process of sending troops to the region. Thankfully, Team Carson has saved me from whatever ambiguity there was or exposure I had. Carson campaign Svengali Armstrong Williams has now come forward to say that, yes, that is what Carson was talking about and that even if the foreign policy elite says this is nonsense, Carson has his own intelligence suggesting this is true. "From your perspective and what most people know, maybe that is inaccurate," Williams told MSNBC. "From our own intelligence and what Dr. Carson's been told by people who are on the ground who are involved in that region of the world, it has been told to him may times over and over, that the Chinese are there." Here's more.

As I've been reading up on Carson, there seems to be no limit on the number of rackets and wingnut fleecing schemes he's involved in. This appears to be just one on the list. As I wrote earlier, the campaign itself seems to have originated as a money-making scheme that evolved into a front-running campaign.

This debate is the logical outcome of the blow up after the CNBC debate. CNBC is a generally right leaning network on economic issues. But simply pressing the candidates to answer questions or noting when they're making demonstrably untrue claims made them liberal. So now we have a debate structured around letting candidates say absolutely anything - because scrutinizing candidates is liberal. This leads to having half the debate framed around how strong financial regulation leads the biggest banks to get bigger and bigger and how we need to put in place new policies to prevent banks from getting this big. And the best place to start is to repeal Dodd-Frank. As David said at one point tonight, it's impossible to find any way into this conversation because it's all theology and self-referencing assertions.

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10:25 PM: Nope. Contrary to what Ben Carson says, the Chinese military is not fighting in Syria.

10:47 PM: Impossible to know what to say about any of this.

10:50 PM: This is, well, revealing. After almost two hours of letting the candidates say virtually anything, Neil Cavuto is becoming an actual moderator and pressing points and demanding answers when it comes to letting a major national bank fail.

10:53 PM: Crowd rises up against Kasich for discriminating between the extremely wealthy and middle class people who might be wiped by a bank collapse.

No getting around it, this debate is just amazingly boring. I have to imagine it seems that way from a variety of political perspectives. True, debates aren't judged properly by entertainment factors. But 'boring' in this case is largely a matter of its not being engaging because nothing is actually happening. TPM Reader JB says this debate is like watching serial infomercials. I have to imagine that the audience for the next GOP debate will drop off dramatically. Engagement, tough questions, quite simply fighting generates new information. You learn things. This debate is painfully awful.

And here we go.

9:07 PM: Trump: "Taxes too high, wages too high. We're not going to be able to compete against the world."

9:13 PM: The moderators have definitely gotten the message from the post-CNBC debate freak out. All questions seem to be some form of, how do you propose to be conservatively awesome?

9:38 PM: The only thing I can think to say about this debate so far is that the most probing questions come from the guy Murdoch brought in to run The Wall Street Journal.

9:44 PM: I'm not sure I can think of any example in this debate where one of the moderators has challenged any factual claim any candidate has made. That was the message coming out of the last debate certainly. But it gives a surreal atmosphere to the debate since there's nothing actually being discussed, no effort on the part of the moderators to make the candidates address any of the questions.

9:55 PM: I'm curious what Rand Paul just said about where the money for Social Security and Medicare come from if you get rid of the payroll tax. It sounded like he was saying you could pay for Social Security out of the business side contribution to payroll tax?

10: 00 PM: It's worth noting that there's really no reputable economist who thinks you can have average growth rates of 4%.

10:04 PM: It's painful to see that we had to wait for Rand Paul to fact check something in this debate. Indeed, where do you get this money from?

10:06 PM: Finally, is a debate actually breaking out?

As we get ready to watch tonight's main debate, lets focus on this point. Over the last week or so Ben Carson has been revealed as at best a serial teller of tall tales and spouter nonsense and conspiracy theories. It hasn't affected his standing with his core supporters in the GOP base electorate. But there's little question these revelations are a big problem in the broader electorate that a presidential candidate has to compete in to actually win the White house. And yet I think there's a decent chance that neither the other candidates or the moderators will even touch the subject, all because of the 'media bias' feedback loop that's taken hold of the GOP nomination race since the last debate. Even touching the subject risks sparking a riot.

Meanwhile Lou Dobbs can't seem to decide which is better, the Republican candidates or the Fox Business News debate production.