Monday, October 31, 2022

I have seen the future of pig faming...

Apparently, this is what the future of pig farming looks like in China:

This 26-storey concrete block is a pig farm in the city of Ezhou in Hubei province in Central China. The owners proudly claim, "This is the tallest and largest pig farm in the world, where the breeze is cool in the summer and the air is warm in winter." Sounds nice, eh?

Boy, am I glad I'm vegetarian (and that I don't live in China).

Saturday, October 29, 2022

COVID Quote of the week

When asked whether he thought it might be time to reintroduce controversial measures like masking mandates, an Alberta hospital doctor replied:

"They're only controversial if you don't believe in science."

Priceless.

All-time low voter turnout in Toronto elections

I voted in Toronto's municipal election earlier this week, but I was in a small minority. Apparently, only 29% of eligible Torontonians voted, the lowest turnout since amalgamation in 1982, and substantially lower than the previous three elections (41%, 55% and 51% respectively).

Other cities in Ontario had even lower turnouts, including Kitchener (20%), Mississauga (21%), London (25%) and Brantford (27%).

Interviews I have heard with people who did not vote range from a feeling of powerlessness to overcome the name recognition of long-time incumbents (term limits, anyone?), to the difficulty of voting (it's really not difficult to vote, there are many options available, although Toronto should probably facilitate online voting, which is popular in many other jurisdictions), to a lack of information about who is standing and what their platforms are (there are websites, fliers, live candidate meetings - what more do people want?), to one guy who claimed he was so happy with the status quo that he saw no reason to vote (er, missing the point).

I know it is kind of hard to get too excited about municipal elections, especially when many of the mayors and councillors are so bland and unexciting. But, people, make an effort! Toronto, like many other cities, is observably falling to pieces, and still you can't be bothered to vote?

13 million Americans believe violence is justified to make Trump President

Something I heard on television last night sounded very improbable, so I went to the source, and guess what, it turns out to be true.

The Chicago Project on Security and Threats, a well-regarded think tank based at the University of Chicago, estimates, based on their demographic-matched surveys, that some 13 million Americans (about 5% of the adult population) agree that "the use of force is justified to restore Donald Trump to the Presidency". And that is NOW, and it is a lot less than the 26 million Americans (about 10%) would have agreed with that eye-popping statement a year ago.

Note that this is not just people who believe that Donald Trump was cheated out of the Presidency in 2020, but people who believe that January 6th-style violence is justified in order to rectify it. Now. Nearly two years after the election. You can see why I found it improbable. What a country!

UPDATE

And, if you are still not convinced that political violence from the far right is a real prospect, look no further than yesterday's attack by a hammer-wielding neanderthal on Nancy Pelosi (or at least, in her absence, on her 82-year old husband).

And, unfortunately, violence, or at least the threat thereof, is not all on the alt-right side. Some Republican politicians and candidates have also received threat of violence and death (unless these were spoof "false flag" events, which wouldn't entirely surprise me), so it is hard for the Democrats to claim sole occupancy of the moral high ground.

Friday, October 28, 2022

Why are working class Americans turning to the Republicans?

Yesterday, I watched a rather depressing Economist briefing on the upcoming US mid-term elections, which merely repeated the conventional wisdom that the Democrat majority in Congress is doomed, and the right-wing Trump-loving candidates of the Republican party are in the ascendency. 

No-one seriously questioned that the Republicans would regain control of the House of Representatives and probably the Senate, hence my depression. But no-one had a particularly cogent explanation for why. The conventional wisdom was again trotted out, that non-college educated white people, once the preserve of the Democratic Party, are increasingly flocking to the Republican Party, and, perhaps even more inexplicable, non-college educated Latinos (and that is the vast majority of them) are following, despite the vitriol spouted by many Trumpian Republicans against immigration, and their often racist tendencies.

But why should this be? The best analysis I can find is this article in The Atlantic, which suggests that poorly-educated people, and Latinos in particular, are inherently socially conservative by nature, and that they may be perceiving Democrats' preoccupation with issues like abortion, LGBTQ right, climate change, defunding the police, etc, as overshadowing their traditional concern for the working poor, the fight against inflation, etc, issues that rend to resonate more strongly with them.

What is interesting in the article is that, on many of those "fringe issues", Latinos actually agree more closely with Democratic values than Republican ones according to polls and studies, suggesting that they are perhaps not as innately conservative as may have been thought. And yet, for reasons unknown, they are still lapping up the Republican Coolaid.

All of which leaves me just as confused (and depressed) about this apparent swing in American politics. Maybe I will be pleasantly surprised by the mid-term election results but, if all these pollsters and pundits are right, the USA is headed back into a Trumpian Dark Age.

Musk-era Twitter - welcome to the hellscape

Elon Musk finally put his money where his errant mouth is and completed his $44 billion acquisition of Twitter. Well, what's a man to do with a $220 billion fortune? In his inimitable touchy-feely management style, he immediately fired most of the company's senior execs, and there is speculation that he intends to fire up to 75% of the current staff. Well, there will be no more of all that namby-pamby monitoring and moderation of posts, will there? Anything goes now, right?

While Musk buddies like Donald Trump, Kanye West and Marjorie Taylor-Green may be raising a half-hearted cheer (not to mention a whole host of unsavoury QAnon conspiracists, neo-Nazis and COVID deniers), an awful lot of people see this as the beginning of the end for the micro-blogging site. Musk's "free-speech absolutism", and his avowed desire for a "common digital town square" may turn out to be a toxic space where most people just don't want to be. That, at least, is my hope.

There is a contingent of hard-core users out there that see this as the time to sabotage Twitter, with the goal of bringing the Musk-owned vehicle down and making it irrelevant, rather like Tumblr after Yahoo acquired it in 2013. There is a split between those that just want to abandon the site completely, and those that want to stay and make it all but unusable, and to tank its value.

It's hard to know what such people might be able to do that a bunch of ultra-right wing racists and homophobes might not already be ramping up to as we speak. Musk has already sent a placatory open letter to jittery advertisers, vowing that Twitter will not become a "free-for-all hellscape" under his watch. But I have a suspicion that Elon Musk's idea of a "hellscape" may be miles away from other people's, and many advertisers are already jumping ship.

Well, Mr. Musk, I wish you the worst of luck, and look forward to reading about the resulting "hellscape". Although I won't be reading about it on Twitter.

Thursday, October 27, 2022

North Sentinel Island is completely untouched by modernity

North Sentinel Island is a green speck in the Bay of Bengal, some 1,200 km from India, and 500 km from Myanmar. It is one of the 184 islands in the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago, governed by India, and one of the 30 or so inhabited islands in that chain. But it is the one that has resisted most strongly any attempts to make contact or impose "civilization". 

North Sentinel Island (Wikipedia)
North Sentinel Island (Wikipedia)

North Sentinel Island is inhabited by anywhere from 50 to 500 indigenous people (no-one really knows how many), who speak their own language, known unsurprisingly as Sentinelese. They live a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, spear-fishing from dug-out canoes and living in rudimentary huts, essentially unchanged since Neolithic times, and they wear no clothes.

The Andaman and Nicobar Islands have been known to European traders since the 1770s but, unlike some of the other Andaman Islands, they have always met any attempt at trade, missionary work or anthropological research with a volley of arrows. Even fishermen accidentally stranded on the island have met with an untimely death, as did an American missionary who visited the island in 2018 (despite a well-publicized ban on visits to the island for any purpose, which has been in force since 1996).

The island currently enjoys a "hands-off, eyes-off" status internationally, so that it is protected from the four Ts: travel, tours, transport and trade.

Doug Ford can't hide behind parliamentary privilege this time

Ontario Premier Doug Ford and his former Solicitor-General Sylvia Jones are still refusing to testify at the commission examining the federal government's use of the Emergencies Act to break up the truckers' convention (the so-called "Freedom Convoy") this last February.

After initially repeatedly claiming that he hasn't been asked, Ford eventually admitted that, oh yes, he had been asked, at which point he changed tack. Now, he's claiming parliamentary privilege, a legal remedy designed to ensure that politicians are not constantly being called in to testify in court, supposedly so that they can get on with the business of day-to-day governing. It is not, however, designed to allow politicians to evade responsibility and avoid public questioning on potentially embarrassing policies and decisions. 

Ford is presumably going to be sitting in court pursuant to his claim of parliamentary immunity anyway, so he may as well be sitting at the commission for a few hours answering questions about why he was missing in action during the Freedom Convoy. It wouldn't have been anything to do with his sneaking admiration for a group of rebels taking on the Liberal government, would it?

When Doug Ford finally deigned to answer one of the many questions on the subject in parliamentary Question Time, he merely read a pre-prepared speech: "This is a federal inquiry into the federal government's use of the federal Emergencies Act. From day one, for Ontario, this was a policing matter, not a political matter." All this with a supercilious and painstaking emphasis on the "federal" and "policing", as though to say, "Can't the opposition understand this?" 

But, as so often, Dougie is missing the point, either deliberately or through ignorance. The commission has specifically asked for HIM to testify, on the grounds that the two lowly functionality he did provide to the commission were just not privy to many of the decisions that were made. Whether Ford himself thinks he should have been called or not is neither here nor there. 

It may be a federal inquiry, but Ford can still throw light on events over which the province had some responsibility, including why the province declined to participate in no less than three meetings with the federal government and the City of Ottawa, why the province did not invoke its own Emergencies Act, and whether or not there were political considerations in the province's response to the Windsor border blockade versus the protests in Ottawa.

The inevitable conclusion to be drawn is that Ford and/or Jones have something important, or at least embarrassing, to hide in all this, something worse than all the negative attention his refusal to answer the commission's summons is creating. But that's not a reason to invoke parliamentary privilege. Justin Trudeau and Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson managed to find the time, Ford should do so too.

UPDATE

Well, it turns out Doug Ford CAN in fact hide behind parliamentary privilege. A Federal Court judge ruled that, although Ford and Jones had important relevant evidence to contribute to the Emergencies Act inquiry, and could have done the right thing by volunteering to be cross-examined, they could technically invoke parliamentary privilege in order to avoid it. Doesn't make it smell any better, though.

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Twice as many Canadians are non-religious as 20 years ago

The latest figures from StatsCan's National Household Survey (2021) suggest that 34.6% of Canadians have no religious affiliation, drastically up from 16.5% twenty years earlier. That's not the same as saying that over a third of Canadians are atheist, but it's the next best thing, and an indication that many people are finding organized religion a turn-off these days, so I'll take it as a win.

In particular, those identifying as Christian are showing much lower numbers, at 53.3% compared to 77.1% in 2001. This marked trend mirrors the trends south of the border, even if you might not know it because of all the noise that the highly religious minority makes.

The Great British use of the passive tense

The thing that has jumped out to me most during the rash of interviews accompanying Liz Truss' resignation and Rishi Sunak's coronation (sorry, "acclamation") is the excessive Conservative use of the passive tense, most often in the phrase "mistakes were made".

In that great trainwreck of a BBC interview with Liz Truss, she mentioned two or three times that "mistakes have been made" (more often than she mentioned that "I made mistakes"), and her replacement Rishi Sunak did the same in his acceptance speech.

Of course, this is standard speech-writing stuff, designed to deflect blame and to avoid admissions of guilt: mistakes were made and I just happened to be standing there at the time, so you can't really blame me for them. But it does nevertheless come over as entirely pusillanimous and abject, sorry-but-not-sorry.

I guess these people still have careers to continue in the short term, however poorly history will judge them, so maybe you can't blame them. Doesn't make it any more right, though.

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Rishi Sunak: Britain's third Prime Minister in 7 weeks

And 5th Tory party leader in 6 years, even though he actually only came second in the latest vote, installed by "acclamation" without a single vote being cast by the public, Tory or otherwise.

Good luck with that.

How do higher interest rates help inflation?

It has long been an article of faith among central banks that inflation should ideally be around 2% (1-3%) a year. Not too low, not too high: just right. And it has been, more or less, for many years now, to the extent that we have almost forgotten, in our collective memory, the high inflation days of the 1970s.

Until recently, stimulus spending and quantitative easing in the aftermath of the economic devastation of the pandemic - and nobody really believes that that was wrong, despite the blistering of Pierre Poilievre - as well as other perfect storm ingredients like the war in Ukraine, has resulted in inflation of around 7% (closer to 11% in the case of food items, which is what many people seem to focus on). Too much demand chasing too little supply, as economists might tell you.

It is also an article of faith that the only way to fix high inflation is to increase interest rates. That might not be the most obvious response to us non-economists, but the idea is that higher interest rates encourage savings and discourage borrowing (and therefore spending). Then, in response to that, companies are supposed to increase their prices more slowly, or even lower prices, in order to encourage those savers to spend money and increase demand. This is therefore supposed to lead to lower inflation.

So, it's one of those convoluted economic theories, where x is supposed to lead to y, and y is supposed to lead to z, at least in the ideal world of perfect information and rational consumers where macroeconomists live. In practice, a lot can go astray along the way of the tortuous theoretical path, but we don't really have any good alternatives, so the Bank of Canada, and most other central banks around the world, has been pursuing just this path, with a series of "supersized" interest rate hikes of 0.5% - 9.75%, in one of the fastest rate-hike cycles on record. The expectation is that another such hike is in perspective later this week.

The problem is that quickly increasing interest rates can also lead a country into recession, if economic growth slows too sharply. So, you'd think that central banks would be very cautious with their supersized rate increases, especially given that the whole complicated process, described above, takes time to yield results (up to a year). It is a complex dance to negotiate the twin evils of inflation and recession. So, the banks should be sure to evaluate any small increments of progess - known as "data dependence" in the trade - so as not to over-compensate with their interest rate hikes. 

That's the part I'm not sure is being observed. The inflation rate in Canada has already slowed from 8.1% to 6.9% in the last few months. That might not sound like much of a fall, but estimates of annualized inflation over the last three months are actually closer to 2.5%.

I get the impression that the BoC is just following along with a pre-prepared and predetermined plan, without stopping to re-evaluate and re-assess along the way. And that way recession lies.

UPDATE

It turns out that the Bank of Canada (BoC) increased the base interest rate by 0.5%, not the widely expected 0.75%, taking it to a 14-year high of 3.75%. This has fuelled some speculation that rises may be flattening out and the tide may be turning - the beginning of the end, so to speak - although BoC was at pains to warn that further rises will be forthcoming in the future.

Canada has, nevertheless, been the most hawkish among major trading countries in its use of monetary policy. It has raised interest rates by 3.5% this year, which will probably be matched by the USA next week, but this compares with just 1.25% in Europe and Switzerland, 1.75 is Scandinavia, 2% in the UK, 2.5% in2 Australia, and 0% in Japan. As a result, Canada's currency has seen the least losses against the US dollar of any of these countries' currencies.

Whether this slight curtailment of interest rate rises will be enough to avert a recession (probably a modest one) is doubtful, however. We are probably past the point of no return.

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Europe's Russian sanctions regime is not as watertight as you it seems

An interesting article in the New York Times points out some of the glaring inconsistencies in the supposedly unanimous consensus of Europe's sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

While the political rhetoric stresses the across-the-board concurrence of Europe's sanctions regime, with the possible high-profile exception of Germany's gas imports, it's clear that behind the scenes some other placatory deals have been struck, some of them quite important chinks in the supposedly hermetic armour of European sanctions.

For example, Russian diamonds have been given a completely free pass. The $2.4 billion a year lucrative trade in Russian rough diamonds, almost all of which goes into the port of Antwerp, Belgium continues completely unharmed, even though Belgium insists that it has not officially requested, or insisted on, an exception for the diamond trade from the list of Russian sanctions. How, then, has such an important (and non-essential) item been allowed to remain unsanctioned? Blood diamonds, indeed.

Uranium for civil nuclear power production is another such inexplicable omission. Hungary, Slovakia, Finland and especially France rely entirely on Russian uranium for their nuclear programs, work around $200 million a year according to Greenpeace. How has that managed to persist, and why is no-one talking about it?

And then there is the very specific case Greek-owned tankers transporting Russian oil to all sorts of non-European destinations. Oil itself has been sanctioned, but Greece, which apparently transports over half of Russia's oil for some historical reason, is facilitating one of Moscow's most important revenue streams. Greece has somehow managed to specifically negotiate this hole in Europe's defences, although there is also a behind-the-scenes, unspoken, implicit agreement that Russia needs to continue trading oil in other to avert a complete meltdown in the global oil market, which is, you know, sacrosanct.

What kind of a message does all this send? How do the long-suffering citizens of Middle Europe feel amid the shortages and the price increases when they see some countries and some industries pursuing business as usual? How does Ukraine feel? (Well, Mr. Zelenskyy has been pretty forthright about how he feels on many of these specific issues.) I guess this stuff is being talked about in the European Parliament, but why am I only finding out about it now?

Monday, October 17, 2022

Today's most overused word: "community"

Have you noticed how the word "community" has become the single most overused word in recent years (well, with the possible exception of "like"). 

I have heard it used twice, even three times, in a single sentence. In news bulletins, politician speeches, even just everyday private conversations, "community" seems to win out over traditional, everyday words like "neighbourhood", "town", "region", "district", "suburb", hell even "neck of the wood".

I guess it's something to do with making it sound more touchy-feely, maybe? More inclusive? Who knows?

But please, there are synonyms out there. Use them sometimes.

Drones become the weapon of choice in Russia-Ukraine conflict

I have often wondered why drones are not used more extensively in warfare. Whenever I see someone playing with a recreational drone on the beach, I shudder slightly, and I find even the whine of them slightly sinister. I think that is partly because I am imagining the horrors they could perpetrate in a conflict situation. 

Well, the current Russia-Ukraine conflict has changed all that, and drones are being used extensively by both sides, particularly by Russia. Russia is being beaten handily by Ukraine in most aspects of the war, so they are resorting more and more to drone warfare. It recently sent wave after wave of drone attacks to Kyiv and various other Ukrainian cities far from the front lines of the war, for maximum civilian deaths and disruption.

Most of the Russian drones are Iranian-made Shahed-136 kamikaze drones (which the Russians also call Geranium-2, because it sounds nicer). They look like tiny planes with a wingspan of about 2.5m, and they are designed to loiter over a target until instructed to attack. Their explosive payload detonates on impact, destroying the drone in the process. They are small and fly relatively low and fast, making them hard to pick uo on radar. They are also relatively cheap at about $20,000 each. 

Russia also has some smaller, more basic, home-grown Orlan-10 drones, which carry a camera and small bombs. It is unknown just how many of each remain in their arsenal.

Ukraine too has been using drones, to limited effect, principally the Turkish-made Bayraktar BT2. These are the size of small planes, have an on-board camera and can be armed with laser-guided missiles. However, they are expensive (about $2 million each!), and Ukraine probably only had 50 or so at the start of the war, so they need to be used sparingly. Ukraine also has much less ammunition at its disposal than Russia. Because these drones are large and relatively slow-moving, Russia has been very effectively shooting them down, especially with its Stupor rifles, which shoot electromagnetic pulses, and online scrambling systems like Aeroscope.

Both sides are also making use of small, cheap, commercial drones, like the DJI Mavik, which has a very limited range of about 30km, but which can be useful for reconnaissance purposes, although they can also be fitted with small bombs. They have the advantage of being pretty cheap, at around $1,700.

So, there is a whole science fiction-style drone war going on out there, although I am still a little surprised that even more of the war is not being conducted using them. For instance, why does Ukraine have less than 50 big, slow drones, that cost $2 million each, and that get shot down relatively easily anyway? Is that not something the West could easily rectify?

Saturday, October 15, 2022

Musk won't continue to fund Starlink internet service for Ukraine

Hard to know how to react to Elon Musk's recent warning that he can't continue funding his Starlink satellite broadband internet service for Ukraine

Starlink has indeed been vital in Ukraine's fight against the Russian invasion, helping it to reboot its infrastructure after Russian missile strikes, for example. The service Musk has been providing to Ukraine free of charge, almost since the start of the war, apparently costs about US$20 a month - in terminals, ground stations and replenishing satellites - and Musk estimates he has sucked up about $80 million in charges already.

That's a lot of money. But then, Elon Musk is the richest man in the world, worth an estimated $255 billion. He makes about $11 million EVERY DAY, and recently offered to buy up Twitter for $44 billion, apparently on a whim (or at least as a vanity project). So, really, $20 million (or $100 million, or more) is pretty much pocket change for him.

Musk has suggested that the US Pentagon should be picking up the bill for his Starlink services to Ukraine, which is maybe reasonable. But what people will take issue with is the way he says that he "cannot" fund the existing system indefinitely. "Cannot" or "will not"? Or just "should not". As usual Musk's communication skills have let him down.

UPDATE

In typical Musk form, the very next day he announced that SpaceX will continue to fund Starlink internet terminals for the Ukrainian government after all: "the hell with it ... we'll  just keep funding Uklraine gov't for free". Could ya do it with any more bad grace, Elon?

Friday, October 14, 2022

Life imprisonment not considered justice for Parkland victims' relatives

Nikolas Cruz, the troubled individual who shot and killed 17 people at a school in Parkland, Florida in 2018, has been handed a sentence of life imprisonment with no chance of parole.

You'd think this was an acceptable outcome to the trial, and that the grieving relatives would have some sort of closure after such a horrific incident.

However, to a person, or at least to those whose reactions have been reported in the press, those relative are absolutely incensed that Cruz did not get the death penalty, which the state of Florida still allows. Apparently, the jury did want to condemn the shooter to death, but Florida's legal system requires a unanimous verdict on at least one count, but they were forced to admit to mitigating factors that were not outweighed by other aggravating factors, and so they were not able to specify death, just the lesser penalty of life imprisonment without parole. (Apparently, just three of the twelve jurors voted against the death penalty, mainly because they believed that Cruz was mentally ill, but that was enough to kibosh the unanimous vote.)

Obviously, I've never been on that position, but I find it interesting that so many of the victims' relatives did not feel that this amounted to justice for them. The fact that the shooter would be locked up for the rest of his life, unable to participate in the world and unable to perpetrate any more crimes, did not even register with them. Nothing else but death would do. 

I don't know how common this kind of "eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth" attitude is in the wider public, or whether it is different in states and countries that do not allow a death penalty (about two-thirds of the world's countries, and not quite half of US states). It brings into question the whole problem of what constitutes justice for a crime.

Saturday, October 01, 2022

No, EVs are NOT now as expensive to run than ICE cars

You read a lot of stuff from bloggers, or bad news reporters who think they have found a scoop, about how electric vehicles (EVs) are now just about as expensive to run as gas cars, if not more so. The latest such claim appeared in the Globe and Mails Report on Business this weekend.

The article specifically quotes research by British roadside assistance and insurance company RAC, which says that the research shows that charging costs in Britain have increased hugely in recent months (true), and that "the cost of driving one kilometres on battery or gasoline power is almost identical (false, see below).

What the RAC research actually shows, if you can be bothered to seek out the source and not blindly believe hacks with axes to grind, is that the recent huge increases in energy prices (and a fall in gas/petrol prices there) has indeed narrowed the gap. But the devil, as always, is in the details. The RAC's figures show that, if an EV driver exclusively uses commercial fast changers on public roads, they will now pay as much as 18p a mile, due to the recent (temporary?) huge increases in electricity and therefore charger costs. This is almost as much as the 19c price of petrol/gas per mile for someone driving a reasonably efficient gas car (rated at 40mpg).

It does also mention that, if the EV driver charges from home (and over 80% of EV charging is done from home), the cost would only be 9p per mile, even after the price increases. Also, this is all based on UK data, and the UK has a notoriously expensive power grid, certainly compared to North America, which the recent changes have only exacerbated.

This is, then, a far cry from the claim that EVs are now as expensive to run, as well as more expensive to buy, than gas cars. And if you also take into account the large savings on service and maintenance costs for an EV, the comparison is not even close.

"Justinflation" phrase flagged as agaist parliamentary rules, but Tories use it anyway

If you always thought that parliamentary politics and debate was a mite puerile, then the quality of the recent discussion in the Canadian federal politics is going to do nothing to dispel that belief. 

All the heckling, guffawing, cries of outrage, cheap shots, ad hominen attacks, and name-calling still continues, just as it does in many another parliament (just have a listen to recordings of the British parliament, for example). But a very specific example of made-in-Canada puerility has taken hold in Conservative circles and is proving hard to police.

Pierre Poilievre (well, it would be him, wouldn't it?) coined what he clearly considers a very clever phrase some time ago, when he called inflation in Canada "Justinflation", suggesting that the inflation we are currently experiencing here was manufactured personally by Justin Trudeau. This is despite the fact that the whole world is experiencing inflation, many countries much worse than in Canada, the fact that such across-the-board economic phenomena cannot possibly be attributable to one individual, however powerful and influential, and the fact that nothing Mr. Poilievre might have done, or have been able to do, would have avoided it. But nobody ever said that party politics was logical or even sensible, did they?

Of course, other Conservative politicians quickly jumped on Poilievre's bandwagon, and started using the "Justinflation" phrase ad nauseam. Tory MP Garnett Genuis (no, that's not Genius) managed to work in "Justinflation" three times in a single speech, so powerful and effective does he consider it.

Problem is, there are some very specific rules in Parliament that the first names of MPs should never be used, and that they should be referred to by each other's official titles (those are just the rules of the game: if you don't like them, don't go into politics). So, House Speaker Anthony Rota has cautioned MPs more than once not to use the phrase, as it contravenes the House rules  - you can imagine the booing and cat-calling that accompanied THAT ruling - lest they be found in contempt of the House.

Nothing daunted, the Conservatives have managed to use it over 100 times since last November. The rest of the Conservative caucus love it and can be seen sniggering approvingly. They seem to think that this kind of petty schoolyard name-calling is effective political discourse. But who do they think it is being effective against? The Liberal Party? The general public (insofar as it is reported in the media)? I really don't know. I think they just do it for their own rather pathetic idea of fun.