"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Monday, November 28, 2005

Anti-American Crime Within Lady Liberty's Shadow

Thousands of tourists each day travel to Battery Park in lower Manhattan to buy ferry tickets for the Statue of Liberty. Many are imbued with patriotic fervor recognizing Lady Liberty as the symbol of American exceptionalism. Some consider it a site to behold, an entry way to the nation. Others buy their ferry tickets because the statue is on the itinerary.

When these folks enter the park they are flanked by dozens of hawkers, most are Senegalese selling knock-off Prada and Louis Vuitton pocketbooks; others are selling faux Rolex watches. They wait for the tourist buses on the north side of the park in plain view of the police. What they are selling is clearly illegal; moreover, many are illegal immigrants. Yet this practice has been going on for years uninterrupted by the authorities.

Yet that is not the worst of it. Unbeknownst to most of the peddlers and all of the consumers is that the revenue from this ostensibly illicit, but seemingly innocent trade, ends up in the hands of terrorist organizations.

The National Security Agency has been tracking this practice for some time well aware of the pernicious dimensions of this Battery Park commerce.

When I asked the Park Rangers if they were aware of what is going on they looked at me quizzically as if I were besotted. The local police contend that since the periphery of the park is federal land, they do not have jurisdiction over park matters. It turns out of course, that this isn’t entirely correct since the park itself is managed by the New York City Parks Department.

It is ironic that those coming to see the symbol of American liberty should be providing funds for organizations that want to destroy that liberty. Since the sales go on unabated, how is the consumer to know?

This is all happening several blocks from the World Trade Center site. In fact, the damaged dome that stood between the towers now stands as a permanent memorial for those who lost their lives on 9/11.

But the outpouring of patriotic sentiment after 9/11 which has encouraged many Americans to visit the perpetual flame in Battery Park, has been converted into a venal anti-American funding source. It is certainly horrible that a presumptive ally of the United States like Saudi Arabia is providing funds for al Qaeda, but it is an order of magnitude worse when patriotic Americans are being gulled into supporting terrorism at the very moment they wish to express national loyalty.

What can be done? First, it is imperative that police look into this matter instead of passing the buck. Second, this issue deserves publicity; these peddlers with knock-off products can be found in many other locations in New York and even on the streets of Rome, Paris and London. Third, fines can easily drive this trade out of business.

Surely some women may lament their inability to buy a fake Prada bag for $50, but they won’t sleep soundly if they know that money is being used to kill Americans and other innocent victims around the globe.

I should hastily note that most of the peddlers do not know what they are involved in. They are simply out to make a buck. In some sense, they are like the “mules” recruited to bring cocaine into the United States in pouches hidden in their stomach lining.

However, innocent or na├»ve they may be, their activity isn’t innocent. It is a threat to our very existence and it goes on as if it were a sale day at Macys. The police avert their gaze; the Park Rangers do not understand the issue and the consumers want a bargain.

This daily activity goes on within the shadow of Lady Liberty. No wonder I’ve noticed, when gazing at her impressive frame, that she has a tear rolling down her cheek.

17 comments:

Tlaloc said...

this might be an opportune time to open a discussion about intellectual property rights and whether they are justified.

For instance why exactly should it be illegal for a manufacturer to make a bag that looks very similar to a prada bag and charge substantially less? Isn't that the market in action? If prada can't make their bags for less (which of course they can) then they deserve to be weeded out of the market place by the invisible hand, right?

So the issue is that prada owns the very idea of a bag shaped a certain way, right?

Matt Huisman said...

I don't think handbags is the issue you're looking for Tlaloc...you can make a knock-off Prada bag as long as you don't misrepresent the source. Prada owns the brand name, and you can harm that asset (the name) by issuing counterfeits.

Tlaloc said...

Well I'm certainly hoping the topic doesn't end with hand bags.

I'm not sure you are right though as the very few imposter bags I've seen never had the name of the company they were copying on them and yet I believe were illegal because they infringed upon the patent of the copied company.

Matt Huisman said...

You may be right about the Prada bag...though I think outsiders can create things that are fairly similar. But whether Prada bags meet the criteria or not, your question was why do we grant intellectual property rights to designers?

I believe the purpose is to provide incentives for developers to create by protecting their interest in the finished product by granting them a sort of limited monopoly. The theory is that without that protection, society loses out on would-be creations because some projects will not be pursued due to a high initial investment of time/money.

But you already know this, so what's your issue?

Kathy Hutchins said...

I visited New York for the first time a few weeks ago, and the Brooklyn friends with whom we were staying took us on exactly the outing Dr. London recounts -- we got off the subway at Wall Street, walked past the World Trade Center site, down through Battery Park, and got on the ferry to Ellis Island. And just as he says, when we exited the ferry we had to run the gantlet of East Africans with their obviously bootlegged DVDs spread out on blankets, chanting, "Fi' dollah! Fi' dollah!" John and I made a joke out of it, and have on more than one occasion since then offered each other some ludicrous item in exchange for fi' dollah. I had no idea there was anything other than the usual absolute disregard for IP niceties going on, and certainly not that the receipts were funding terrorism.

There was a similar situation in Minneapolis, where we were living in 2001. A number of African and Middle Eastern convenience stores on the West Bank that supplied money wire tranfers overseas were raided for skimming off some of the money for al Qaeda. None of the customers, or their neighbors, had an inkling of what was going on. It seems that commerce is so globalized and asset transfer so digitized these days that almost anything could be used as a source of funds for illegal activity.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Oooops, he's been trolling on the Intellectual Property riff here for awhile, Mr. Huisman, and you took the bait.

IP has zero to do with Dr. London's post; it's an attempt to pervert our contributor's thought into another agenda.

---SPOILER ALERT---

The discussion ends up with (ta-da!) anarchy, as most all discussions do with this particular gentleman.

Crypto-anarchy, to be precise, where intellectual property does not exist. Another tax by the able and industrious on the mentally lazy and the physically lazier.

Please don't feed the vermin, Matt, as it just makes them hang around our stall in the marketplace of ideas while paying no rent, rendering them unable to make their own way, reduced to abusing the kindness of strangers.

Sorry to put it that way, but it's cruel to be kind. Unfortunately, he believes we are all stupider than he is. But that is not possible.

connie deady said...

How do we know this money goes to support terrorist organizations?

If we have reasonable belief that it does, then where is the Homeland Security?

The Classic Liberal Anonymous said...

How do we know this money goes to support terrorist organizations?

If we have reasonable belief that it does, then where is the Homeland Security?


Good questions. Perhaps these fish are too small to fry ...

Matt Huisman said...

Oooops, he's been trolling on the Intellectual Property riff here for awhile, Mr. Huisman, and you took the bait.

Well, for the time being, I'm willingly along for the ride. I think Tlaloc provides for some useful discussion around here - certainly when things get slow - but I understand your concern about him abusing the space. My dad used to show up here on occaision, but left, in part, because he tired of the posting demands required from responding to Tlaloc.

Right now, I'm still at the point where I don't mind going back and forth with Tlaloc - and I hope I can 'pay my rent' around here by helping to take some of the burden of responding to him off the hosts. That way we can all enjoy the free discussion without having to resort to excommunication to preserve order.

The house here still seems to be in order, I don't think we've trashed the place...but I am a guest, and if you feel I'm promoting mischief please let me know.

Tlaloc said...

"Oooops, he's been trolling on the Intellectual Property riff here for awhile, Mr. Huisman, and you took the bait."

I wasn't aware that openly asking to discuss a topic is "trolling a riff." I kind of got the impression that the Reform Club was, you know, a place to discuss things.



"IP has zero to do with Dr. London's post; it's an attempt to pervert our contributor's thought into another agenda."

I kind of think it is related. Why else would the bags in question be illicit? I assume that was because of a violation of a patent or copyright. Is there some other reason I'm not aware of.



"The discussion ends up with (ta-da!) anarchy, as most all discussions do with this particular gentleman."

Naturally if we discuss things long enough we tend to get down to more and mopre fundamental reasoning, which in my case is anarchism. I'm not trying to direct the conversation there, but yeah it might get there on it's own. I fail to see how that's exactly a bad thing.



"Sorry to put it that way, but it's cruel to be kind. Unfortunately, he believes we are all stupider than he is. But that is not possible."

This is petty even for you Tom. You don't like conversing with me, and that's fine. By all means don't bother.

Tlaloc said...

"Well, for the time being, I'm willingly along for the ride. I think Tlaloc provides for some useful discussion around here "

Why thank you.


"but I understand your concern about him abusing the space."

Since the space is 100% free I don't see how it can be an abuse unless I was spamming, posting porn or advertisements, or perhaps posting something illegal (say death threats). Since I certainly have not done any of those the charge of "abuse" seems, well, silly.



"My dad used to show up here on occaision, but left, in part, because he tired of the posting demands required from responding to Tlaloc."

Good gracious, why? Nobody has to respond to me. I can and do try to respond to posts directed at me, but that in no way obligates someone to respond to my response if they don't have time. It's not like I parade around going "nyaa, nyaa, you didn't respond so I win!"

Matt Huisman said...

Since I certainly have not done any of those the charge of "abuse" seems, well, silly.

I don't have a problem with you Tlaloc, that's TVD's issue - though I think I understand his point of view.

As far as my dad was concerned, he didn't have a problem with you either. He just decided that he didn't want to get sucked into trading blog posts all day. You have a style that leads to exponential post response length that some people don't want to bother with. Again, not your problem - but it can become a problem for the hosts if they aren't able to attract and retain the viewers/posters they're targeting.

As far as I'm concerned, I enjoy the wit and humor that you (and James) provide - I enjoy the chance to reexamine what/why I believe what I do and to see if I have any power of persuasion. But I also hope to be a good guest and respect wishes of the hosts to keep this from turning into just another site of internet chaos.

Tlaloc said...

"I don't have a problem with you Tlaloc, that's TVD's issue - though I think I understand his point of view."

I figured I just wanted to clear up my position on the matter. I have no interest in abusing the Reform Club. I have come here because it sold itself as a place to discuss ideas and I could be assured of running into people with different perceptionand values and hence keep myself from mentally stagnating by never getting any challenges to my point of view. Just FYI.


"As far as my dad was concerned, he didn't have a problem with you either. He just decided that he didn't want to get sucked into trading blog posts all day."

Well I guess in a way I'm sort of flattered. Apparently I'm intriguing or infuriating enough that he can't be on the same forum without replying to me. Anyway I'm glad he wasn't seriously bothered by my views. Say "hi" for me :)

Matt Huisman said...

I don't think it had much to do with you being intriguing or infuriating - you just happened to be the loudest voice on the other side of most arguements. There are plenty of places to read good articles on the web - the point of TRC is to add to that good conversation. But once you discover that the primary alternative viewpoint is going to be made from the fantasy island of anarchy, you don't need an excuse for leaving.

Tlaloc said...

"But once you discover that the primary alternative viewpoint is going to be made from the fantasy island of anarchy, you don't need an excuse for leaving."

Oh, see we were having such a nice civil discussion and then you had to go and ruin it.

Matt Huisman said...

Just having a little fun...the way things were going, I was afraid I was going to have to give you a hug.

Tlaloc said...

It's alright, trust me being an anarchist requires a pretty thick skin.