Free Markets, Free People

Daily Archives: September 21, 2011


Mexican officials learned of “Gunwalker” from news reports

How about setting up an operation that allows illegal guns to be “walked” into another sovereign nation – a friendly nation — and see them tied to hundreds of murders.  If you were that friendly nation, and had to find out about this violation of your sovereignty via the news media, would you be happy?

Of course not.  And neither is Mexico.  The entire “Gunwalker” fiasco was done without consulting Mexico a single time. Marisela Morales, Mexico’s Attorney General, is understandably unhappy about that.

Marisela Morales, Mexico’s attorney general and a longtime favorite of American law enforcement agents in Mexico, told The Times that she first learned about Fast and Furious from news reports. And to this day, she said, U.S. officials have not briefed her on the operation gone awry, nor have they apologized.

"At no time did we know or were we made aware that there might have been arms trafficking permitted," Morales, Mexico’s highest-ranking law enforcement official, said in a recent interview. "In no way would we have allowed it, because it is an attack on the safety of Mexicans."

Morales said she did not want to draw conclusions before the outcome of U.S. investigations, but that deliberately letting weapons "walk" into Mexico — with the intention of tracing the guns to drug cartels — would represent a "betrayal" of a country enduring a drug war that has killed more than 40,000 people. U.S. agents lost track of hundreds of weapons under the program.

How could they apologize, Ms. Morales – according to them, none of the top guys knew this was even going on (/sarc).

But the point is clear – this is either the most inept operation ever conceived and executed, or there’s some other ulterior motive to be assigned.  Or perhaps both.  Things like this unwillingness to notify Mexico or bring them in on the operation tend to have one consider that there might have been an alternate agenda, even if one isn’t inclined to be very open to conspiracy theories.

Anyway, back to Mexico:

Atty. Gen. Morales said it was not until January that the Mexican government was told of the existence of an undercover program that turned out to be Fast and Furious. At the time, Morales said, Mexico was not provided details.

U.S. officials gave their Mexican counterparts access to information involving a group of 20 suspects arrested in Arizona. These arrests would lead to the only indictment to emerge from Fast and Furious.

"It was then that we learned of that case, of the arms trafficking," Morales told The Times. "They haven’t admitted to us that there might have been permitted trafficking. Until now, they continue denying it to us."

Mexico is the beneficiary of the Obama open hand approach to foreign policy – a slap in the face.  And that famous transparency is evident as well.

Shoe on the other foot time.  How do you suppose we would react if Mexico did the same sort of thing to us?  Any inkling of what would be going on now if they were letting guns walk into the US and then finding them at murder scenes?

Yeah, no arrogance to be found here.

In June, Canino, the ATF attache, was finally allowed to say something to Atty. Gen. Morales about the weapons used by Mario Gonzalez’s captors, thought to be members of the powerful Sinaloa cartel.

"I wanted her to find out from me, because she is an ally of the U.S. government," he testified.

Canino later told congressional investigators that Morales was shocked.

"Hijole!" he recalled her saying, an expression that roughly means, "Oh no!"

Canino testified that Fast and Furious guns showed up at nearly 200 crime scenes.

Mexican Congressman Humberto Benitez Trevino, who heads the justice committee in the Chamber of Deputies, said the number of people killed or wounded by the weapons had probably doubled to 300 since March, when he said confidential information held by Mexican security authorities put the figure at 150. The higher number, he said, was his own estimate.

A former attorney general, Benitez labeled the operation a "failure," but said it did not spell a collapse of the two nations’ shared fight against organized crime groups.

"It was a bad business that got out of hand," he said in an interview.

Many Mexican politicians responded angrily when the existence of the program became known in March, with several saying it amounted to a breach of Mexican sovereignty. But much of that anger has subsided, possibly in the interest of not aggravating the bilateral relationship. For Mexico, the U.S. gun problem goes far beyond the Fast and Furious program. Of weapons used in crimes and traced, more than 75% come from the U.S.

"Yes, it was bad and wrong, and you have to ask yourself, what were they thinking?" a senior official in Calderon’s administration said, referring to Fast and Furious. "But, given the river of weapons that flows into Mexico from the U.S., do a few more make a big difference?"

Still, Mexican leaders are under pressure to answer questions from their citizens, with very little to go on.

"The evidence is over there [north of the border]," Morales said. "I can’t put a pistol to their heads and say, ‘Now give it to me or else.’ I can’t."

You have to love the pistol analogy, given the circumstances, don’t you?

The official reason for not notifying Mexico that the US had decided to violate its sovereignty with this operation was ostensibly fear of corruption and that the details of the operation would be leaked to the drug cartels.   OK, understood, but still it doesn’t excuse what we wouldn’t tolerate if the tables were turned.   You either have a cooperative working relationship with law enforcement officials in Mexico (including all the attendant risks that entails) or you don’t.  You can’t selectively choose when and when not to share information if you expect to maintain a reciprocal and meaningful relationship.

This operation has obviously done more than put guns at the scene of 200 Mexican crime scenes.  It has damaged relations with a close and friendly neighboring state. 

Brilliant.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Economic statistics for 21 Sep 11

Today’s economic statistical releases:

The market was shocked into stupefaction at an Existing Home Sales release that was stronger than expected. Sales rose by 7.7% to an annual rate of 5.03 million. On a year-over-year basis, sales were up 18.6 %.

The Mortgage Bankers Association reports that purchase applications fell –4.7%, while re-fi apps rose by 2.2%, resulting in a composite index up by 0.6%.

~
Dale Franks
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Is everyone feeling miserable?

The “Misery Index” was invented by economist Arthur Koon, an adviser to President Lyndon Johnson in the 1960′s.  It’s a fairly simple formula really.  Inflation plus the unemployment rate equals the misery index.  Of course since it was first published, we’ve changed the way we compute unemployment so when you see that number today, you have to remember it is lower because of that change.

But still, relatively speaking, it is a good indicator of our economic condition.  Today, the misery index stands at 12.87.  For the past 4 presidents, the index has ranged from a low of 6.05 under Bill Clinton to the high you see today.  Interestingly one term president George H.W. Bush had high index numbers during his presidency (low 10.9, high 11.10).  And we know how that turned out.

Barack Obama’s numbers are the highest of the 4. 

I noticed that some pundits are trying to compare Obama’s approval ratings at this point in his presidency to those of Ronald Reagan.  The misery index gives you an idea of why that won’t fly.

Obama’s index numbers started at 8.92 in 2009.  Reagan had an index of 17.97 his first year in office.  But the second year numbers tell the tale.  In his second year (1982) the index dropped by 2 plus points to 15.87.  And the third year numbers are actually a tick lower than Obama’s at 12.82.  But notice the trend.  It’s down.  Markedly down.

Obama’s is going the other way – from 8.92 to 12.87.  So while you can certainly say they had similar numbers, what you can’t draw from those numbers is the probability of similar results when election time rolls around.  One was trending markedly down and the other is doing the same on the up side.   The only thing that has saved Obama from a much higher misery index is the fact that inflation has been successfully dampened by the Fed to this point.  If that ever breaks loose, we may see an Carter era Misery Index.

Here’s another comparison that isn’t favorable for the incumbent.  The new poverty index numbers are in and they’re not good.  A sample:

Americans below the poverty line in 2010: 46.2 million

Official U.S. poverty rate in 2007, before the recession: 12.5 percent

Poverty rate in 2009: 14.3 percent

Poverty rate in 2010: 15.1 percent

Last time the poverty level was this high: 1993

Another index trending upward that isn’t good news for an incumbent.

So when you see the left trying to put a brave face on the numbers and making comparisons, all you need to remember to understand they’re simply whistling past the graveyard is that at the same point in each presidency, Reagan’s numbers were getting a lot better while Obama’s continue to get a lot worse.  If you’re going to make a comparison to a recent President, Jimmy Carter or even George H.W. Bush are better comparisons – not Ronald Reagan. 

And the key to remember about Bush and Carter is this salient description – “one term president”.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

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