If I Stay There Will Be Trouble

Today is budget deputation day. 220 of the taxpayers Rob Ford has respect for got themselves on to the agenda to provide their input on the city's budget.

It is also five days after Rob Ford got a stay of the court order booting him from office, since he would suffer irreparable harm if he were not mayor pending the appeal everyone knows he will lose.

He acknowledged the stay of decision by noting that he had a lot of work left to do getting the city's finances in order.

Today is also the first day of his vacation.


Debt Ceiling the Deal

So the buzz is that the GOP is going to cave on the "fiscal cliff" Bush top marginal rate cut extension and extract revenge on a Debt Ceiling hostage crisis. Incidentally, the last Debt Ceiling hostage crisis was the event that precipitated the "fiscal cliff" scenario with the automatic sequestered cuts &c. blah blah blah. Anyways, just wanted to muse a bit on the whole "Debt Ceiling" thing.

Deficit spending is unsustainable - government finances are bankrupt - you can't just borrow your way out of things. You know what? None of that is actually true. It was in 2010 that Treasury bills started selling at negative yield. Meaning that at auction, people are willing to accept treasury bills at a rate lower than inflation. And have been continuously doing so for two years now. In other words, the market thinks the US government needs to go further in debt, and is willing to "pay" for it. That last $15 billion auction, Treasury is getting paid by the market almost a hundred million dollars to borrow money.

This was my usual response to people who made the argument about not being able to borrow. Market conditions right now are such that people are willing to accept negative yields for government debt. It's the market that is telling government to borrow money.

Turns out the situation is even more extreme that I had thought. Those TIPS treasury bills are ten-year bonds, so investors are getting ten years of "stability" out of their investment. That when the bonds mature, they can be certain (with the full faith and credit of the US government) that they'll get their money back. Short-term bonds sell at lower rates. How low? Around 0.1% BUT that number is fake - artificially inflated because Treasury hasn't yet implemented a system for bidders to put in negative absolute rates, something they saw a need for at the beginning of this year.

Meaning, we're no longer talking about negative yields relative to inflation - we are talking about moving to a situation where the US is straight up getting paid to borrow. Lenders are telling the US government that they'd like to give them a hundred bucks today if they can get paid back ninety five bucks four weeks from now. So when the responsible fiscal conservatives tell you that raising the debt ceiling is a bad thing - it's roughyly the equivalent of not picking a twenty up off the floor because you've decided that you've already used up your allotment of bending over.


Mandatory Minimum Musings

So the latest talking point in the Rob Ford fiasco is about how Ford was a victim of minimum mandatory sentencing - that even a "minor infraction" of the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act forces him out of office. Described by the judge as a "blunt tool" as he tried his best to make the punishment for the offence as small as possible. Teh Left is contrasting this with the federal Conservatives omnibus crime mega-bill to the Criminal Code implementing a bunch of mandatory minimum sentences. So it's lol - Ford a victim of Conservative agenda of mandatory minimums - lol.

First, we're talking about totally different things. Ron Ford's penalty is that he loses his job - one that the contract ends in two years anyways. Not the same as mandatory minimum jail sentence. Second - the job is Mayor of LEAFS SUCK. One of those positions of authority with a lot of public trust. The kind of position where it's kinda reasonable for society to expect higher standards of behaviour. There's all sorts of folks complaining about the law - but as John Lorinc has pointed out, the penalty is the same in many other provinces. And no surprise - the basic concept is "you are not allowed to use your public office for personal pecuniary gain". That's sound. It's one of those things that help us Canoodlians maintain what we refer to as "good government".

Lastly, and I touched on this yesterday, Holy Fucking Shit. Rob Ford was granted maximum leniency and that was not viewed as enough. Which is total fucking bullshit. Let's consider for a moment what factors affect whether leniency should be applied:

1. First offence. Well it is true that this is the first time Rob Ford was dragged into court for this specific law, it is not the first time his actions have run afoul code of conduct violations. In fact the actual ruling itself originates from the multiple times Ford has spken to and voted on matters directly regarding his own financial affairs.
2. Admission of guilt, contrition, acceptance that the convicted had done something wrong. Ha ha ha.
3. Mental state of the accused. Okay, Ford is obviously mentally deficient, but this factor actually refers acting out of character due to stress or extraordinary circumstances. Again, not true in this case. In Ford's deposition a couple months ago, he said he had no regrets and would not have done anything differently.
4. Impact on other parties - i.e. if there are others that are dependent on the convicted. You might think that this applies since folks expect the Mayor of LEAFS SUCK to actually do stuff for the city. Except that recently, he's not been doing much of this either. We've basically been without a mayor since the beginning of September (and arguably a lot longer ago than that).
5. On the opposite end of the spectrum is denying leniency as a means of deterring others. Issuing a harsh penalty to prevent similar crimes from happening in the future. Public officials acting in conflict of interest - seems to me to be one of those types of crimes that you want "deterent-ified".

Rob Ford has done nothing to earn leniency. The only argument for it is about the severity of the crime - voting on a $3,150 repayment. But even this argument falls apart. $3,150 isn't the total amount he raised for his personal charity using city letterhead - it's the amount he raised directly from registered lobbyists and a corporation that has contracts with the city using city letterhead. It's not about $3,150, it's about the sum total of funds being addressed by those lobbyists and the contracts with that corporate donor.

Edit: Oh BTW, the accepted wisdom that the punishment was too harsh? Punditland la-la nonsense. Polling in the days after the decision shows that most LEAFS SUCKians agree with the ruling. Forum Research found 58% agreed with the decision and this Angus Reid pdf shows that 69% support the decision to remove the mayor from office. The Globe and Mails poll I talked about yesterday had 71% saying that the punishment was appropriate.

Update: Stay of decision has been granted until appeal has been heard.


Why Can't We Have a Better Media: LEAFS SUCK Edition

Interesting Times in LEAFS SUCK. There's a lot of backstory - but basically what has happened is that our Mayor was found to have broken the Municipal Conflict of Interest Law which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of being booted from office. That ruling goes into effect on Monday unless Rob gets a stay of the ruling pending his appeal. The decision on whether the stay will be granted (and it most likely will since the motion is unopposed) comes out todaytomorrow.

But the general consensus is that Rob is going to lose the appeal. The judge who found him guilty was staggeringly sympathetic to Rob Ford, bending over backwards and actually amending his ruling in order to minimize the penalty he was going to administer. Note that while the actual amount of cash in question is small, Rob Ford violated the act blatantly and repeatedly despite multiple warnings. He was given several opportunities to avoid the trial, all of which he turned down. He has admitted no guilt and still believes he did nothing wrong. In short, he has done exactly nothing to earn leniency.

I'll probably get back to that when the appeal goes before the courts - but the main point is that just about everyone is expecting Rob to get his stay until the appeal, lose the appeal, and then Council will call a by-election. What's contentious is whether Rob can win. We're at least half a year out from the earliest possible election date, probably more, so there's definitely all sorts of possible outcomes at this point - but a realistic view of things would recognize that some of them are very unlikely. Okay, now that we got all of that out of the way, let's finally get to our featured Incredibly Stupid Shitbags.
A poll on the Globe’s website shows little middle ground. Of the more than 2,600 respondents, most were divided into two camps: those who agreed with Mr. Ford’s ejection from office and said his effect as mayor had been negative, and those who thought the penalty too harsh and approved of his time in office.

An Angus Reid poll released Friday, meanwhile, suggested three out of five people who voted for the mayor in 2010 would back him again in a by-election.

“A lot of people are surprised that he’s held the support that he has. It surprises me at times how resilient it is,” said Nick Kouvalis, the strategist who engineered Mr. Ford’s 2010 victory.

He contends the mayor’s supporters simply don’t care as much about the gaffes and miscues as they do about his policies.

We'll get back to the first poll later - the second poll shows that 40% of the people who voted for him two years ago have Buyer's Remorse. The mendacious assholes that pooped out this piece of garbage are trying to imply that Ford has 60% support, when in actuality he only has 60% support FROM ROB FORD VOTERS. That's not quite the same thing. Anyways, I've snipped out the bit where the "authors" of this fantastic piece of journalism go on to interview a bunch of Ford supporters and make no attempt to get any other opinions or views. Here's their closer:
Welcome to Ford Nation, where Toronto could be living for the foreseeable future.

Okay, back to that wonderful first poll - conducted by the same newspaper that these idiots work for. Here it is. It certainly does show some serious polarization, with opinions mostly clustered in the two corners. Remember this is the poll the "authors" are using to justify their belief in a lasting Ford run LEAFS SUCK. So what does the poll actually say?

Ford's Penalty (kicked out of office) too harsh - 21%
Ford's Penalty appropriate - 71%

Ford had a positive impact - 19%
Ford had a negative impact - 70%

Yup, those totally look like numbers guaranteeing a Ford Nation dynasty for sure.