To celebrate the Grinch version of Christmas, here's my 2016 list of stuff I've gotten tired of over the past year. I'm not suggesting that nobody should use any of these memes in the future. Go ahead! Who cares whether I'm annoyed? Nor are they the the worst cliches or most overused examples in the world. They're just things I've grown weary of. They are in no particular order. Enjoy!

  1. Side-eye tweets about "takes." This is mostly annoying coming from people who all write takes themselves. Stop the self-hatred! Some people are makers (i.e. reporters) and some people are takers. You should revel in your role in the journalistic ecosystem.
     
  2. The madman theory. Yes, yes, we all know that Richard Nixon tried to make Russia and China think he was a madman who needed to be treated with kid gloves. This strategy lasted, what? A year? And it didn't work. We've also heard it "explained" a thousand times by analogy to two cars speeding toward each other on a one-lane road, and one guy throws away his steering wheel. We get it.
     
  3. Correlation is not causation. If you're a serious researcher making a serious point about a serious study, you're fine. However, this usage is vanishingly rare. Most often it's tossed off by someone who thinks it's a brilliant riposte to anyone who demonstrates a correlation. Knock it off. It's not nearly as smart as you think it is.
     
  4. Container shipping revolutionized world trade. This is a true fact. I know it's true because people keep writing articles about it, as if it's some kind of revelation. Maybe it was 20 years ago. Today, not so much.
     
  5. Van Halen's brown M&Ms. If you don't know what this is, Google it. As for the rest of you, please find some other example to make whatever point you're trying to make.
     
  6. _____ is wealthier than the bottom 50 percent of the world. Look, the wealth of the bottom 50 percent of the world is zero. Everything is wealthier than the bottom 50 percent of the world. Headlines that use this format are nowhere near as amazeballs as many people appear to think they are.
     
  7. Ironic criticism of the White House Correspondents' Dinner from people who go to it. I know: you think this shows that you're a regular joe who's in on the joke. It doesn't. It just shows that you're afraid of people thinking you're part of the DC press corps.
     
  8. ____'s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad ____. This is not the most overused cliche in the world, but it might be the laziest. You don't even have to think of some kind of clever construction. You just fill in the blanks and call it a day. Let's all give it a rest.
     
  9. Bloggers who complain about the press covering Donald Trump's tweets even though they obsess over them too. These guys are the worst.

Oh man:

Sam Brownback, the Kansas governor whose tax cuts brought him political turmoil, recurring budget holes and sparse evidence of economic success, has a message for President-elect Donald Trump: Do what I did.

....“My critics, which are many, they only want to look at the budget,” Mr. Brownback said in an interview. “They won’t look with any depth or detail at the impact on small-business growth or private-sector job growth. That’s the target, that’s what we’re after.”

....Mr. Brownback said a number of states face budget problems and said Kansas has “never had more private-sector jobs.”

It's technically true that Kansas has "never had more private-sector jobs." What that really means, however, is that despite five years of population growth and economic expansion under Sam Brownback, Kansas has only barely passed its previous peak from 2008—while the rest of the country passed that mark long ago. The chart on the right shows total Kansas private-sector employment vs. US private-sector employment starting in January 2011, when Brownback took office. His tax-cutting policies didn't work from the start, and the longer he's stayed in office the worse they've done. Kansas is the poster child for the failure of betting on tax cuts for the rich to supercharge the economy.

If you want a more sophisticated analysis that takes into account all the excuses people will toss at you (drought, airplane manufacturing, etc. etc.), check out Menzie Chinn. His latest is here, and you can search Econbrowser for all the gory details you want. Spoiler alert: None of them change the picture on the right.

The front page of my morning LA Times happened to feature the headlines on the right. The headline on women reminds me of this Slate piece about how a lot of women who voted for Trump are now worried that he might defund Planned Parenthood. And of course, there's yesterday's news about all the business titans who are suddenly concerned that Trump might raise tariffs. Even on the right, it seems like everybody's worried or alarmed or concerned these days.

We've seen dozens and dozens of headlines like this over the past few weeks. An awful lot of Trump backers seem sort of shocked by what's going on. I mean, he wasn't serious about all that stuff on the campaign trail, was he?

Who knows? But it looks to me like America has finally adopted a constitutional monarchy. The nice thing about this arrangement is that you have one person, the king or queen, who handles all the ribbon cuttings and so forth, and another person, the prime minister, who can then focus almost entirely on actual governing. In our case, Donald Trump is the new king of America, tweeting out nonsense, going on victory tours, and hobnobbing with famous people at Mar-a-Lago.

And then we have our new prime minister, Mike Pence. Freed from the demands of public appearances, he spends all his time behind closed doors running the country. He wants to kill Planned Parenthood. He wants to privatize the VA. He wants to immiserate millions of people on Obamacare.

Maybe Trump wants some of this stuff too. There's no telling, really. He mostly seems to be the guy tasked with distracting everyone while Pence fills the cabinet and chats with Paul Ryan about how to run the country. Among other things, this probably means that the business community doesn't need to worry. Pence and Ryan will talk Trump out of the wall and the tariffs and the replacement for Obamacare. If he starts to balk, they'll get Jared Kushner to whisper soothingly in his ear and then turn on the TV.

Welcome to the Mike Pence administration.

In his annual press conference, Vladimir Putin took a victory lap:

“Democrats are losing on every front and looking for people to blame everywhere,” Putin said in answer to a Russian TV host, one of 1,400 journalists accredited to the marathon session. “They need to learn to lose with dignity.”

....“Trump understood the mood of the people and kept going until the end, when nobody believed in him,” Putin said, adding with a grin. “Except for you and me.”

Putin has repeatedly denied involvement despite the accusations coming from the White House, and the Kremlin has repeatedly questioned the evidence for the U.S. claims. On Friday he borrowed from Trump’s dismissal of the accusations, remarking “maybe it was someone lying on the couch who did it.”

“And it's not important who did the hacking, it's important that the information that was revealed was true, that is important,” Putin said, referring to the emails that showed that party leaders had favored Hillary Clinton.

That last line is almost word-for-word what Republican apologists say. Putin is basically admitting that Russia was behind the hacks and then smirking about it. He must be having a good old time these days. I wonder how Republicans are going to feel about this when Putin decides it's time to get rid of Trump and help the other side?

The Washington Post reports that 2016 "had the lowest rate of population growth of any year since the Great Depression." The US population, it turns out, grew by slightly less than 0.7 percent compared to 2015. There's some good news and bad news about this. First the bad news: the working-age population is growing even more slowly than that. Here it is for the 21st century:

Our working-age population continues to grow, but only at a rate of about 0.5 percent per year. But here's the good news: at least we're not Russia. Their working-age population started declining half a decade ago and is now "growing" at the rate of -0.8 percent per year:

And then there's Japan. Their working-age population is also declining, but it didn't even start the 21st century in positive territory. Currently their working-age population is growing at the rate of -1.2 percent per year:

The working-age population in the US isn't growing very fast, but it's growing faster than almost any other developed country.

More brilliance from Donald Trump:

There is nothing that military buffs love more than nerding out about the F-18 vs. the F-35. The F-18 is cheaper! The F-35 is stealthier! The F-18 makes tighter turns! The F-35 is a one-seater! The F-18 is better in a dogfight! The F-35 has better avionics! The F-18 can be fitted with external fuel tanks for longer range! Denmark says the F-35 was a clear winner in its flight tests! Canada says it wants the F-18! This is the kind of argument that Trump fans adore.

But on a substantive level, Trump's tweet is junior high school stuff. Boeing has been building new variants of the F-18 ever since it was introduced. They've already demonstrated upgraded Block III Super Hornets designed (they claim) to perform most of the missions envisioned for the F-35. In other words, they don't need to "price-out" a "comparable" F-18. They've already done it, and everyone in the military is well aware of what Boeing has to offer. Besides, the F-18 will never be as stealthy as the F-35 and it will never have the same avionics, so there's no way to ever make it truly comparable anyway.

As near as I can tell, once the F-35 is fully tested, the software constraints are tuned, and its pilots get enough flight hours behind them, the F-35 will be indisputably superior to the F-18 at nearly the same per-unit cost as the latest and greatest Super Hornet. Considering that the F-18 is forty years old, it sure ought to be. The program as a whole may have been an epic disaster, but now that it's done the F-35 is going to be America's primary multirole fighter for the next few decades. There's no going back.

So what's up? Is Trump just trying to make nice with Boeing after dissing the cost of the new Air Force Ones? Does he think this is a clever tactic to scare Lockheed Martin into offering the F-35 at a lower price? Did some admiral get his attention and gripe about the F-35 being a single-engine airframe? Is he just blowing hot air? As usual, no one knows.

Like everyone, I'm often snarky about Donald Trump's social media addiction, but I have to admit it works wonders. Today's two tiny tidbits about Israel and our nuclear arsenal produced these top-of-the-site headlines from the New York Times (left) and the Washington Post (right):

Trump's press strategy since the election has had two parts. Part one: refuse to talk to the press, so they're starved for news. Part two: dribble out tiny, often ambiguous tweets once or twice a day on subjects of his choosing. This guarantees that he gets precisely the headlines he wants.

If he announced these things at a press conference, he'd have to take questions, and there's no telling where that would lead. If he gave a speech, the press would highlight whichever parts it felt like. But by tweeting, he leaves reporters no choice. It's the only presidential news they've got, and it's on one specific subject, so that's what they have to write about.

Pretty smart, isn't it?

I've been so fixated on Donald Trump's mesmerizing Twitter performances that it's escaped my attention that he also has a well-maintained Facebook page.1 As near as I can tell, it's used for three things. First, when 140 characters won't do and he needs someone to write an in-depth 65-word essay for him:

Second, when he wants to add some grade-school artwork to a grade-school tweet:

And third, when he wants to make a poster, suitable for scrapbooking, out of one of his quotes:

The quotes are great. I expect a Trump 2017 calendar made up of these pearls. Putin has one, after all. Plus a calendar offers tons of opportunities for keeping his message front and center. January 25: "68th anniversary of first Emmy Awards. Celebrity Apprentice should have gotten one!" February 2: "Groundhog Day! Yes, I'm still president." March 23: "Obamacare is 7 years old. I'll repeal it!" April 1: "Sexual Assault Awareness Month starts today!" April 15: "We're the most highly taxed nation in the world. Sad!" May 5: "Time for a taco bowl!" June 14: "It's my birthday!"

July 28: "It's been a year since Khizr Khan insulted me. He still hasn't apologized." August 13: "Berlin wall created. Walls work!" September 17: "Electoral College is 230 years old today. Hooray!" October 19: "Everybody says I demolished Hillary in the third debate a year ago!" November 8: "First anniversary of biggest landslide victory in presidential history!" December 3: "International Day of Persons With Disabilities!" December 31: "Last day for all the rest of you to make charitable donations!"

This has so many possibilities. Trump should be all over it.

1Also Instagram and, at least once, a famous Snapchat filter. But he's not on Pinterest, Tumblr, or Flickr. Time to branch out, Donald.

Uber decided to put a few of its self-driving cars on the road in San Francisco without bothering to tell anyone, so yesterday the California DMV revoked the registration of its cars. During the week they were tootling around the city, however, people reported that Uber's cars were running red lights and making right turns incorrectly. Atrios comments:

People always say "oh, well, if it works 98% of the time and then every now and then the cars needs the driver to step in then that's good enough." No, that isn't good enough. There isn't time for me to switch from taking a nap or texting my pals to taking over when a bike lane appears suddenly, unless I'm paying 100% attention. And no one is going to pay 100% attention in a "self-driving car" because what's the point.

Who says that? I've never heard anything remotely like this from anyone with more than a Twitter egg understanding of autonomous vehicles. The goal is, and always has been, a car that's 100 percent self-driving. Personally, I envision something the size of a tiny room with a couple of La-Z-Boy recliners suitable for reading, twittering, watching Buffy reruns, or taking a nap.

We're not there yet, of course, and no one claims otherwise. But the fact that we're not there yet doesn't mean we'll never get there. Griping about the fact that current iterations of autonomous vehicles aren't perfect doesn't seem very productive.

Personally, I'm hoping to live long enough to ride in a fully autonomous car and prove Atrios wrong. I think it's gonna be a close call.

From Phillip Blando, a spokesman for the Trump transition team, on news that Obamacare enrollments are running well ahead of last year:

The enrollment numbers announced today show just how important health care coverage is to millions of Americans. The Trump administration will work closely with Congress, governors, patients, doctors and other stakeholders to fix the Affordable Care Act’s well-documented flaws and provide consumers with stable and predictable health plan choices.

Um, what? Is Blando unschooled in how Republicans are supposed to talk about Obamacare? Is he just lying to us (always a possibility with a Trump spokesman)? Will this be followed by a hasty "clarification"? Or is Trump really thinking that maybe he wants to keep Obamacare as the base of a reformed Trumpcare?

Meh. I suppose it's just random words stuck together into a sentence-like structure. Trying to guess what it really means is probably about as fruitful as trying to decipher Soviet-era May Day photographs.