You’ve got the wrong guy!

DMZ · July 14, 2005 at 8:31 pm · Filed Under General baseball has a fluffy article about the Dept o’ Homeland Security busting up vendors hawking counterfeit merchandise (and “forged or illegally scalped tickets”).

So here’s what cracked me up:

“Our focus is not the individual vendor,” Moskowitz said. “It’s the criminal organizations behind the vendors. Those organizations are driven by greed, and anyone driven primarily by greed is dangerous to the public.”

Like Major League Baseball? Isn’t being driven primarily by greed the whole problem with capitalism in general (“I have a moral obligation to sell crack to schoolchildren if it’s legal in order to maximize shareholder value.”)

Not to mention, as Moskowitz put it, “The same methods used to bring counterfeit goods into this country can be used to bring in weapons, drugs or people.”

Wait, wait… so these methods they’re using to bring counterfeit goods into the country, along with weapons, drugs, and people… you’re going after the counterfeit goods? Could you please go after the other three? Because that’s what scares the crap out of me. Nobody’s going to blow up the Columbia Center with a fake Raul Ibanez jersey.

Now, I wouldn’t mind so much if they were busting all these vendors, tossing them in interrogation rooms and working their way up the system to close off those methods. But they’re not. If you read the rest of the story, they confiscate a lot of stuff but only make two arrests (though they “plan to question many vendors privately” which, uh, they could have done if they’d gone ahead and arrested them).

So what’s more… well:

That logic helps explain why customs agents earn full cooperation from men like David Vansingel and Owen McGuigan, two Michigan state troopers pulled from their regular duties investigating violent crime to help the All-Star Game joint security task force in a variety of ways — an assignment that included catching bootleggers. The only problem the troopers encountered in the days leading up to the game was that customs agents’ work had been so effective, it left them little to do.

So Homeland Security pulled state troopers from their regular duties investigating violent crimes, and they ended up having “little to do” (the story goes on to describe them circling around for hours doing nothing).

Wow. I’m sure all those muggers, rapists, killers, and scumbags were happy for that holiday.

Sort of distrubing was the description of the raids: representatives of MLB would step in, and determine whether the merchandise was legit. Now even if you agree that the vendors were probably all guilty guilty guilty, that’s still unsettling: a representative of a private company was, on the spot, deciding whether the vendor would then be arrested or, at least, pressured by a bunch of feds into signing a form and forfeiting their merchandise.

That’s a little scary.

So how much did this great collobaration between business and government cost?

In the days leading up to the All-Star Game, working alongside city and state police and the U.S. Treasury Department, agents utilized more than 120 surveillance cameras that ringed the ballpark, NOAA satellite reconnaissance from the heavens above, as well as seven Coast Guard helicopters and another from the Michigan state police to seize almost 700 bootleg shirts
and 500 caps, along with several hundred fake or illegally scalped tickets.

“Almost” 700 bootleg shirts. 500 caps.

Figure $50 a shirt, $25 a hat… that’s still not worth it. Why do MLB’s trademarks deserve such overwhelming protection, rather than, say, the fans?


31 Responses to “You’ve got the wrong guy!”

  1. JPMouton on July 14th, 2005 8:46 pm

    Well, if you think about it, ticket scalpers and jersey bootleggers are probably a tad easier to catch than arms dealers. So by using a minimal of man power(the customs agents are just doing the jobs they are paid to, they look for anything suspicious/illegal, so really it’s just a couple of cops) the Dept. of Homeland Security gets a nice little writeup on a medium that a ton of people can find. It’s basically just a good PR move, though I agree it’s useless in a real world sense.

  2. DMZ on July 14th, 2005 9:10 pm

    Minimum amount of manpower? Eight helicopters alone could have been used to run drug interdiction or, if nothing else, help patrol the porous Mexican border where everyone seems to think terrorists are more likely to cross.

    Empty action makes me angry.

  3. Mark on July 14th, 2005 9:39 pm

    Follow the money baby! Nothing is as it seems. Nice article, ties in nicely with baseball and also with other concerns and loves of mine….like my country, and where it is heading. U.S.S. Mariner may be a skeptical ship but you generally sail in the right direction, I’ll stay aboard as long as there are still Mariner’s fishing in the sea, or in Arlington, and Los Anaheim of California, or wait, just where they play baseball I guess, whatever the indentity crisis ridden Angels decide to call their city. I call it the Rally Monkey Jungle of Overratedness, but who am I? The Mariners are a good team, and the American people are good, but how’s about the people in charge? And by the way, sometime’s I spam, but it’s usually with eggs.

  4. JPMouton on July 14th, 2005 9:55 pm

    Hmm…I skipped the part entirely skipped the part where we used satelites and helicopters…even dumber than I orignally thought. At first I was just thinking they were getting cheap press, now I KNOW they think we are idiots.

  5. Gunga on July 14th, 2005 10:14 pm

    Derek… in re #3, please tell me you have a plan to deal with this. Things could get really difficult around here if this keeps up.

    The superheros aren’t the only ones riding the little yellow bus if you get my drift, and I think you do.

  6. eponymous coward on July 14th, 2005 10:25 pm

    “Programming today is a race between software engineers striving to build bigger and better idiot-proof programs, and the Universe trying to produce bigger and better idiots. So far, the Universe is winning.” -Rich Cook

  7. Scraps on July 14th, 2005 11:33 pm

    What the hell is “Homeland Security” doing dealing with this kind of thing, anyway? Do they not have enough to do?

  8. Jon Wells on July 15th, 2005 2:36 am

    This issue has more to do with MLB’s greed and their ability to get the Feds (and others in power) to comply with them than anything else.

    Rather than make a special edition of The Grand Salami for the 2001 All-Star Game, I legally obtained a supply of the official All-Star programs (the $10 collector editions) and had my vendors selling them outside the Fanfest (this was a few days before the All-Star Game). MLB freaked, had cops shutting us down claiming that we were selling a counterfeit program even though it was the same exact program and had been obtained legally. MLB’s head of security, Kevin Hallinen, was right there two feet from me insisting that what were selling was counterfeit.

    We were shut down for hours until the chief of police of Seattle showed up and agreed that we had a right to sell the programs (I was forced to prodcue a receipt from my wholesaler which MLB scrutinized). Ten minutes later MLB paid a visit to the wholesaler and demanded that he get the programs back from us or they’d make it impossible for him to continue selling licensed MLB merchandise in his stores…

    MLB will do anything, legal or illegal, to stop outsiders from making a buck off “their game”.

  9. tvwxman on July 15th, 2005 3:37 am

    Wow. Never knew it was that hard to bust the illegal merchandise sales. Perhaps it will be a new CSI spinoff.

    Of course, here in Atlanta, we’ve got about 20 or 30 different vendors set up in tents on the sidewalks selling fake merchandise. And cops are standing right next to them, directing traffic. And there are always at least 40-50 kiosks around the Underground area selling fake stuff right out in the open. Not really that hard, although considering the quality leadership of the Atlanta/Fulton County police, it very well may be too difficult.

  10. Jordan on July 15th, 2005 9:19 am

    The problem is not that these institutions are driven by greed. And no, this is not what is wrong with capitalism (in the pure, non-coercive sense) in general either.

    The problem is the government (or “private” institutions such as MLB, in partnership with the government) using coercion as a means to restrict capitalism and violate consumer choice for their own gain.

  11. Nick on July 15th, 2005 10:30 am

    MAn, my one sanctuary wher eI can get away from political mumbo jumbo and you have to screw that up. What a shame you have to go on this tangent. Not only do I mostly disagree with you, I find your arguements worn out and boring.

    That’s enough about that. Please get back to sports and start a new site called USS politics or something if you want to go there.

  12. DMZ on July 15th, 2005 10:33 am

    Sooooooo don’t read it then. It’s not like I sprung a surprise political message on the end.

  13. Happy Capitalist on July 15th, 2005 10:48 am

    are you a commie, DMZ?

  14. Jeff on July 15th, 2005 10:57 am

    This post is not a tangent. This is about Major League Baseball policy. It’s no different from when we’ve discussed the Safeco Field stadium deal, the economics of Ichiro! or ticket and beer prices.

    This post is not an indication of shifting the blog toward politics. Derek’s actively steered commenters away from political debates in the past.

    This post is really good. And if arguing against misuse of resources makes you some kind of communist, then lots of us are red as a baboon’s hindquarters.

  15. Happy Capitalist on July 15th, 2005 11:09 am

    My argument is about “the problem with Capitalism is…” not the fact that homeland security has no real business going after scalpers when there are terrorists roaming around. I think we all can agree on that. Now back to baseball.

  16. Basebliman on July 15th, 2005 11:29 am

    why do I have the feeling that this thread will be closed soon?

  17. Mark on July 15th, 2005 11:30 am

    “The problem is the government (or “private” institutions such as MLB, in partnership with the government) using coercion as a means to restrict capitalism and violate consumer choice for their own gain.”

    Very interesting point. Capitalism is by defintion “The economic system in which the means of production and distribution are privately owned and operated for profit.”-Websters.

    So what should we worry about, the private institutions or the partnerships they make? Does profit get interfered with by these partnerships therefore degrade the meaning of the word capitalism???

    Gunga, did you get beat up by a retard or something in school? relax buddy

  18. Rusty on July 15th, 2005 11:37 am

    Oops… I thought I might have wandered onto the DailyKos. Hehe. Good post DMZ.

  19. Brian Rust on July 15th, 2005 11:42 am

    1. Remember, the customs department is one of the government’s oldest. It has a whole plateful of duties, which didn’t just go away when it moved under Homeland Security, and it shouldn’t.

    2. As much as we like to think of baseball as a public institution in which we all have a stake, articles like this one remind us it’s just another big business, like the oil industry or the auto industry or the pharmaceutical industry.

  20. Rusty on July 15th, 2005 11:47 am

    This is not a tangent. I actually appreciate a topic that isn’t right in the center of our core (hot hands, WFB, etc.) but are still within the domain of baseball.

  21. Christopher Michael on July 15th, 2005 11:57 am

    Everyone who skipped over post #8 go back and read it…

  22. rcc on July 15th, 2005 12:02 pm

    DMZ, I appreciate this thread, and the resulting discussion. I would rather the Homeland Security Dept. check the docks near Safeco Field, or the railyard near Safeco Field… seems to me that these areas deserve more scrutiny then the vendors selling knock off merchandise. Inserting a “political shot” into a sports blog is or should be an American tradition.

  23. urbanshocker on July 15th, 2005 1:00 pm

    That DMZ wants to see less federal money (tax dollars) wasted on this nonsense is hardly being a “communist”. It is something the Republicans USED to be against- big, wasteful government spending.

  24. r.j. on July 15th, 2005 1:16 pm

    DMZ is right, though. Living in D.C., I see an inordinate amount of time and money spent on trying to bust counterfeiters and drug addicts (not dealers), while the drug traffickers run free. It’s not a big suprise that we saw two modern slavery cases within the Metro D.C. area in the past couple of months.

  25. Evan on July 15th, 2005 1:39 pm

    Clearly all the terrorists and immigrants will enter the US from Mexico, a fortified border, while the only people crossing the wide open Canadian border are trying to sell you stuff.

    Does no one down there realise how easy it is to get into Canada? Hell, the Danish stole our island, and we didn’t even notice.

  26. Erik on July 15th, 2005 1:53 pm

    One big problem with Homeland Security $ is that it is spread evenly through all 50 states. So states like nebraska, monatana ect get the same amount as bigger tarkets like NY, MD, Cali. A state like Michigan has gotta find a way to spend the money on sumthin’. But coming from an administration that has the reverse midas touch, this is par for the course.

  27. Mark on July 15th, 2005 2:03 pm

    Hhhhahahahahahahahhaah, good one Evan! This is a refreshing comment area. Just knowing people care about the country is great. The big pictures are more important than the smaller ones. Change is inevitable. Also in response to #6 Einstein says “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the the universe.” You can’t protect the un protectable, but you can protect things that are more probable. Sorry I don’t speak english, I’m retarded, I can’t help it. I come and go. I like it here. # 8 is a very enlightening post, I love it! Good man! I have a few issues!

  28. Itea on July 15th, 2005 2:16 pm

    #11 – I’ve disagreed with DMZ more than just about anyone else who comments here. That said, the idea that he “shouldn’t” post about a particular subject is ridiculous. It’s his blog; he can do what he wants. If you disagree with it, it might be more constructive to explain your differences than to say “go back to baseball”.

    #26 – Well, Michigan has more than 2% of the US’s population, and it’s a border state. SO it’s more likely to be one of the underfunded states, not an overfunded one. THough a case could be made that probably 99% of the money should be spent for NY, CA, and DC as far as likely targets go.

    #13 – Presumably you are asking in jest, but the mere fact that such questions have relevance (even if it’s humor) reflects the depressing truth that to so many people, there is no gradation between agreeing completely with all government actions taken in the name of security, and being a communist.

  29. paul on July 15th, 2005 2:24 pm

    Sorry I don’t speak english, I’m retarded, I can’t help it.

    As the cousin of a profoundly retarded woman who can, in fact, speak English, I can’t decide which part of this is more offensive.

  30. Mark on July 15th, 2005 4:39 pm

    IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII AMMMM RETARDED, you should be offended. Sorry for all offense ensueing.

  31. Paul on July 19th, 2005 8:02 am

    Mark, for the future, replace ‘retarded’ with ‘stupid’ and everyone’s happy.