Ben Carson’s bizarre beliefs and litany of lies show his contempt for the rest of us. But there’s lots of cool news too. (More)

“It couldn’t be confirmed”

Ben Carson is having a bad week, and the Wall Street Journal has piled on. That story is paywalled but Addicting Info’s Oliver Willis has a summary and quote:

Carson told the conservative paper – whose editorial department was the first to encourage him to run for President – that in 1968, on the day after Martin Luther King Jr. was killed, he protected white students from attacks from angry black students.

It is a dramatic account of courage and kindness, and it couldn’t be confirmed in interviews with a half-dozen of Mr. Carson’s classmates and his high school physics teacher. The students all remembered the riot. None recalled hearing about white students hiding in the biology lab, and Mr. Carson couldn’t remember any names of those he sheltered.

“It may have happened, but I didn’t see it myself or hear about it,” said Gregory Vartanian, a white classmate of Mr. Carson’s who served in the ROTC with Mr. Carson and is now a retired U.S. Marshal.

But wait, there’s more:

The Journal also uncovered another story from Carson that doesn’t pass the smell test. In his autobiography, Gifted Hands, Carson claimed that a Yale psychology professor told his class – Perceptions 101 – that their final exam papers had burned up and they had to retake the examination. Carson wrote that everyone but him walked out of the class, and then he was told the story was a hoax in order to find and award “the most honest student in the class.” Carson then claimed a photo of him was taken by a photographer from the Yale Daily News.

The anecdote may have been completely made up:

No photo identifying Mr. Carson as a student ever ran, according to the Yale Daily News archives, and no stories from that era mention a class called Perceptions 301. Yale Librarian Claryn Spies said Friday there was no psychology course by that name or class number during any of Mr. Carson’s years at Yale.

“Don’t lie”

This week reporters found that several events Carson’s autobiography are exaggerations or outright fabrications. And predictably, his response was to attack the media:

On Friday night, in a combative news conference in Florida in which he showed rare flashes of anger, Mr. Carson gave no ground and challenged the news media on its ethics and balance. In a mocking tone, he said reporters had not investigated President Obama, as a candidate in 2008, so intensely.

“Don’t lie,” Mr. Carson said, cutting off a reporter asking a question about West Point.

He predicted that the scrutiny would be a boon to his campaign, saying voters “understand that this is a witch hunt.”

“My prediction is that all of you guys trying to pile on is actually going to help me,” he said.

“The issue here is less ignorance than arrogance”

Lots of people pad their résumés and puff up their accomplishments. But Carson has taken it to another level, crafting a superhero story with himself in the starring role. Add to that his mathematically impossible tax plan, his bizarre conspiracy theories, and his other wacky beliefs – and his outrage when reporters challenge him – and Talking Points Memo’s Josh Marshall sees a man who grossly overestimates himself:

One of the things that stood out to me about the pyramid debacle was “secular progressives” are welcome to ridicule his theory about the pyramids. But Carson really has no ‘theory’. He says that the ancient Egyptians stored grain inside solid rock. That makes no sense. Let’s try this again, how much of anything can you store inside a rock? It’s not a theory. It’s just coming up with an idea when you don’t know even the basic facts of what you’re talking about. I have to imagine this is rooted, at some level, in a life of being extremely knowledgeable and one of the best practitioners in a highly specialized field of knowledge and extrapolating out from that that he is equally expert in any other field of knowledge.

Again, the issue here is less ignorance than arrogance, something which, paradoxically, many of Carson’s supporters believe is a bad trait he lacks.

Their styles are differ but both Carson and Donald Trump drip contempt. Anything they say or believe is true, no matter how absurd, and anyone who challenges them meets angry, mocking derision. That can be comical or even charming in a guy at the end of the bar. But the guy at the end of the bar doesn’t have nuclear launch codes. Just sayin’.


“The political centre of gravity has in effect swung from right to centre in under a decade”

In hopeful news, Republicans hold a structural edge in our electoral system, but The Guardian’s Stan Greenberg argues that won’t be enough to save them:

This Republican race to the political bottom is happening because America’s conservatives are losing the culture wars. The US is now beyond the electoral tipping point, driven by a new progressive majority in the electorate: racial minorities (black and Hispanic) plus single women, millennials (born between 1982 and 2000) and secular voters together formed 51% of the electorate in 2012; and will reach a politically critical 63% next year.

And each of these groups is giving Clinton, or whoever emerges as the Democratic candidate for the 2016 White House race, at least a two-to-one advantage over a Republican party whose brand has been badly tarnished.
Not only are baby boomers now outnumbered by millennials – but also the groups could not be more different: 66% of boomers are married, 72% are white and their income is $13,904 above the national median; over 40% of millennials are racial minorities, 60% are single and three-quarters believe America’s diversity of race, ethnicity and language makes the country stronger.

All this social disruption has taken place at remarkable speed: the political centre of gravity has in effect swung from right to centre in under a decade. When Barack Obama first ran for the White House in 2008, 46% of Americans described themselves as conservative, but that has fallen to 37% now. In some national polls, the number of American liberals equals the number of conservatives. Gallup marked 2015 as the year when cultural attitudes reached a significant benchmark: when 60-70% of the country said gay and lesbian relations, having a baby outside marriage or sex between unmarried women and men were all “morally acceptable”.

The shift marked by these polls reflects the new American majority and explains why next year’s election will prove shattering and divisive for the Republican party, even if it retains its strongholds in the House of Representatives and states.

Greenberg’s piece is worth reading in full …

“Perhaps the snideness and name-calling is a last desperate resort”

… as is Jessica Valenti’s piece on how conservatives keep digging themselves into a deeper hole with single women:

First of all, if you are going to call women “Beyoncé voters”, perhaps it’s best not to wield the term as an insult. She’s a bad example of “dependent” women, considering the superstar makes twice as much money as her husband. And as Alyssa Rosenberg at the Washington Post points out, if Beyoncé’s music and writing are any indication, a “Beyoncé voter” would actually be quite the bad-ass, valuing marriage and blogging about income inequality: “for a demographic inspired by Knowles-Carter, girls run the world, and getting their votes will require Democrats and Republicans alike to acknowledge that.”

But I wouldn’t expect any better gender analysis from a Fox employee who recently snuck into a National Organization for Women conference and got kicked out after asking questions like this: Have you ever been wounded in the war on women? What are you gals trying to accomplish?

Perhaps the snideness and name-calling is a last desperate resort from conservatives who still haven’t figured out that “women” aren’t a monolith to be labeled and “figured out”; women are half the electorate. It certainly seems Republicans haven’t learned their lesson from the last presidential election, when a now-mocked “war on women” narrative ensured the largest gender gap in history – a win brought home by women of color and unmarried women. Now, single ladies, who make up a quarter of eligible voting Americans, could single-handedly hold the Senate for Democrats in 2014.

Read it and smile, but don’t take it for granted. We still have to work.


“They call into question whether religion is vital for moral development”

And also at The Guardian, this surprising new study:

Children from religious families are less kind and more punitive than those from non-religious households, according to a new study.

Academics from seven universities across the world studied Christian, Muslim and non-religious children to test the relationship between religion and morality.

They found that religious belief is a negative influence on children’s altruism.

“Overall, our findings … contradict the commonsense and popular assumption that children from religious households are more altruistic and kind towards others,” said the authors of The Negative Association Between Religiousness and Children’s Altruism Across the World, published this week in Current Biology.

“More generally, they call into question whether religion is vital for moral development, supporting the idea that secularisation of moral discourse will not reduce human kindness – in fact, it will do just the opposite.”

But of course your religious kids are better than that:

At the same time, the report said that religious parents were more likely than others to consider their children to be “more empathetic and more sensitive to the plight of others.”

Maybe the religious parents live in Lake Woebegone….


Photo Credit: Richard Ellis (Getty Images)


Good day and good nuts