Archive for December, 2016

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2016 Word of the Year

December 31, 2016

‘Surreal’ is our 2016 Word of the Year

Surreal is Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year because it was looked up significantly more frequently by users in 2016 than it was in previous years, and because there were multiple occasions on which this word was the one clearly driving people to their dictionary.

There are essentially two kinds of high-volume lookups that we track: perennial words that are looked up day-in and day-out, and words that spike because of news events, politics, pop culture, or sports. By analyzing these spikes, we can get a sense as to what significant events sent people to the dictionary, and sometimes, what people think about those events.

Surreal had three major spikes in interest that were higher in volume and were sustained for longer periods of time than in past years. In March, the word was used in coverage of the Brussels terror attacks. Then, in July, we saw the word spike again: it was used in descriptions of the coup attempt in Turkey and in coverage of the terrorist attack in Nice. Finally, we saw the largest spike in lookups for surreal following the U.S. election in November. […]

Ain’t it the truth?


And in a similar vein.

Dave Barry’s Year in Review: 2016 — What the …?

In the future, Americans — assuming there are any left — will look back at 2016 and remark: “What the HELL?”

They will have a point. Over the past few decades, we here at the Year in Review have reviewed some pretty disturbing years. For example, there was 2000, when the outcome of a presidential election was decided by a tiny group of deeply confused Florida residents who had apparently attempted to vote by chewing on their ballots.

Then there was 2003, when a person named “Paris Hilton” suddenly became a major international superstar, despite possessing a level of discernible talent so low as to make the Kardashians look like the Jackson 5.

There was 2006, when the vice president of the United States — who claimed he was attempting to bring down a suspected quail — shot a 78-year-old man in the face, only to be exonerated after an investigation revealed that the victim was an attorney.

And — perhaps most inexplicable of all — there was 2007, when millions of people voluntarily installed Windows Vista.

Yes, we’ve seen some weird years. But we’ve never seen one as weird as 2016. This was the Al Yankovic of years. If years were movies, 2016 would be “Plan 9 from Outer Space.” If years were relatives, 2016 would be the uncle who shows up at your Thanksgiving dinner wearing his underpants on the outside. […]


Sigh…

As @JackieJackielg says, "I solemnly vow to speak of Trump with the same respect and decency he has shown others."

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Recommended reading

December 31, 2016

Daniel Bier, writing at Learn Liberty, has compiled a list of books he recommends.

I’ve removed his summaries for each of the books, so you may want to RTWT. It’s brief.

13 books every well-rounded libertarian should read

There are books that every libertarian should read and books every libertarian has read, but those circles don’t perfectly overlap. Here are 13 diverse book recommendations for well-rounded thinkers.

Economic Sophisms – Frederic Bastiat […]

Basic Economics + Applied Economics – Thomas Sowell […]

Beyond Politics: The Roots of Government Failure – Randy Simmons […]

The Problem of Political Authority – Michael Huemer […]

The Myth of the Rational Voter – Bryan Caplan […]

The Theory of Moral Sentiments – Adam Smith […]

The God of the Machine – Isabel Paterson […]

No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority – Lysander Spooner […]

Radicals for Capitalism – Brian Doherty […]

Democracy in America – Alexis de Tocqueville […]

The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress – Robert Heinlein […]

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn […]

I’ve read about half of these. I give the list +1 for One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, for The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, and for anything written by Thomas Sowell, who once said, "It takes considerable knowledge just to realize the extent of your own ignorance." I’ll allow that Twain himself couldn’t have put that one any better.

But I give the list -1 for Paterson’s The God of the Machine. What an incredibly odd read that is. I found Paterson’s use of pseudo-technical terms to describe economic relationships both tedious and distracting. So I’d say read one of Russell Roberts’ books instead.

The older books on this list (Bastiat’s, Smith’s, and Spooner’s) are available for little or nothing to Kindle readers.

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Feliz Año Nuevo, Venezuela

December 28, 2016

I wish I could say this news was a surprise. But I can’t and I doubt many others can either.

Venezuela military trafficking food as people go hungry

Puerto Cabello, Venezuela — When hunger drew tens of thousands of Venezuelans to the streets last summer in protest, President Nicolas Maduro turned to the military to manage the country’s diminished food supply, putting generals in charge of everything from butter to rice.

But instead of fighting hunger, the military is making money from it, an Associated Press investigation shows. That’s what grocer Jose Campos found when he ran out of pantry staples this year. In the middle of the night, he would travel to an illegal market run by the military to buy corn flour — at 100 times the government-set price.

“The military would be watching over whole bags of money,” Campos said. “They always had what I needed.”

With much of the oil country on the verge of starvation and malnourished children dying in pediatric wards, food trafficking has become big business in Venezuela. And the military is at the heart of the graft, according to documents and interviews with more than 60 officials, company owners and workers, including five former generals.

As a result, food is not reaching those who most need it. […]

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The beams in our eyes

December 26, 2016

Saying “The Russians hacked the election” is really lame in my view. It’s the kind of statement intended to get a knee-jerk reaction from the implication that Russians hacked the voting process. I don’t know of any reputable claims of that happening and I don’t believe it did.

Since the Democrats don’t disavow the content of their hacked e-mails, their claim that they were injured by the release of those messages basically shows that they were hoist by their own petard. "Oops… we didn’t want that to go public."

FWIW, the Wall Street Journal reports that Russian hackers tried to get into the Republicans’ systems too.

So John Podesta was hacked. The election was not.

Or see this tweet for an even pithier (and more amusing) summary.

Personally, I thought that Jonathon Gruber’s comments about how the PPACA was passed would be enough to keep anyone from voting for Secretary Clinton.


But all that said, a separate and more important point is that the U.S. isn’t blameless in this regard. This article from the Independent Institute’s The Beacon recounts ways the U.S. has interfered in the elections or governments of other countries.

Russia’s Election Hacks Are Child’s Play

The FBI and CIA are in agreement that Russia in some way interfered in the U.S. election. What is known so far is that Russian hackers were able to access the emails of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta. Hackers also breached the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

According to sources, the Russian government sought to hinder the Clinton campaign and work to assist Trump in winning the presidency. […]

People seem floored by these revelations. How could Russia interfere in the workings of the U.S. political process? How dare they try to manipulate the outcome of a presidential election?!

I’m reminded of a Biblical passage.

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own?

Those barking loudly over Russia’s involvement with the U.S. political process would do well to take a look at the history of U.S. foreign policy. The U.S. government has a long history, some two hundred years long, of interfering in the politics of other countries—and we’re not just talking emails. […]

1898—In the aftermath of the Spanish-American war, the U.S. government invaded the Philippines, reneging on a deal with Philippine rebels to help the nation win independence and overthrowing the country’s new government.

1903—The U.S. government helped Panama secede from Colombia. […]

1953—The U.S. government launched operations to overthrow the government in Guatemala. […]

1958-1960—CIA engineered at least three coups in Laos.

1966—Kwame Nkrumah was the Prime Minister of Ghana when the country gained independence from the British. The U.S. government was not fond of his socialist, anti-imperialist views. As such, the U.S. government, via the CIA, worked to oust him in a coup in 1966.

(Note: the above is woefully incomplete. For a couple more list of U.S. efforts to interfere in other countries’ governance, see here and here.) […]

And this article doesn’t mention either the U.S. involvement in the Iranian coup of 1953 (which succeeded) or the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 (which failed).


Update 1/1/17::

A little humor about the DNC hacking from IowaHawk, who was on a roll last Friday (the 30th).

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Merry Christmas 2016

December 25, 2016

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Hey, white guys

December 20, 2016

Here’s an interesting video from MTV, who evidently still don’t understand the backlash against political correctness involved in the recent election. (Robby Soave has another good column about that, btw.)

Update: Looks like the tweet has been deleted. Luckily, the video’s on YouTube.

This struck me as surprisingly tone-deaf and patronizing. But others had more amusing reactions.

Jonah Goldberg tweeted.

And Nick Gillespie wrote at Reason:

We’ve gone beyond virtue-signaling to toxic brew of all-you-people-need-to-shut-up-and-listen-to-why-you’re-the-problem ranting.

[…] This is a remarkable document not so much because of the individual “resolutions” but of the source — one of those nefarious multinational corporations that specifically tries to sell fake coolness and hipness to youngsters that progressives are always railing about — and the tin-ear quality of its overall effect.

Whole swaths of corporate America — especially in the entertainment industry — seem utterly convinced that their audiences are irredeemably stupid, racist, homophobic, and beneath contempt. All this, despite massive strides toward equality under the law and growing comfort with all sorts of ethnic, racial, sexual, and lifestyle diversity. […]

The MTV vid goes beyond mere virtue-signaling into uncharted territory of contempt and spite that works to undermine all feelings of common cause that might actually make for an even more-open and tolerant United States. In this, it rivals the sort of remonstrations emanating from the pages of another hugely powerful corporate entity, The New York Times.

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Heh (4)

December 20, 2016

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