Jail Guitar Doors: The Feds Raid The Gibson Factory

If you're looking for a fitting symbol for the heavy hand of government in the age of progressive politics, you can't do better than the US Dept. of Fish & Wildlife's raid of the Gibson guitar factory.

Federal agents swooped in on Gibson Guitar Wednesday, raiding factories and offices in Memphis and Nashville, seizing several pallets of wood, electronic files and guitars. The Feds are keeping mum, but in a statement yesterday Gibson's chairman and CEO, Henry Juszkiewicz, defended his company's manufacturing policies, accusing the Justice Department of bullying the company. "The wood the government seized Wednesday is from a Forest Stewardship Council certified supplier," he said, suggesting the Feds are using the aggressive enforcement of overly broad laws to make the company cry uncle.

It isn't the first time that agents of the Fish and Wildlife Service have come knocking at the storied maker of such iconic instruments as the Les Paul electric guitar, the J-160E acoustic-electric John Lennon played, and essential jazz-boxes such as Charlie Christian's ES-150. In 2009 the Feds seized several guitars and pallets of wood from a Gibson factory, and both sides have been wrangling over the goods in a case with the delightful name "United States of America v. Ebony Wood in Various Forms."

The question in the first raid seemed to be whether Gibson had been buying illegally harvested hardwoods from protected forests, such as the Madagascar ebony that makes for such lovely fretboards. And if Gibson did knowingly import illegally harvested ebony from Madagascar, that wouldn't be a negligible offense. Peter Lowry, ebony and rosewood expert at the Missouri Botanical Garden, calls the Madagascar wood trade the "equivalent of Africa's blood diamonds." But with the new raid, the government seems to be questioning whether some wood sourced from India met every regulatory jot and tittle.

The gag is that the feds aren't enforcing US law - well, technically they are - what they are doing is enforcing a US law requiring the feds to enforce Indian and Madagascan law about importing certain types of protected wood species. But, those countries don't seem to be enforcing their own laws, but are exporting the wood. And you have to love the idea of Madagascar's "blood wood." I like to follow the news from Madagascar (check my "Madagascar" tag), and I have never heard of this concept.

We heard a lot about the dark night of fascism descending on the US during the Bush years. But, I'll tell you this: you would never have a raid like this under a Republican administration. US Greens idled hundreds of highly skilled workers, gave a venerable US manufacturer reason to consider moving overseas, and did so even though Gibson has already gone out of its way to make sure it is complying with America's onerous envvironmental regulations, which we are assured don't affect the economy at all (oh, heavens No!) and certainly don't cause the loss of the sort of skilled manufacturing jobs that liberals claim to to be so concerned about.

Oh, and Gibson CEO Henry Jusckiewicz apparently donates to conservative causes and operates out of a right to work state. There are a lot of US based guitar shops, but only this one (and non-union Peavey) have been targeted by the feds. Imagine that.

Also, musicians are worried that their guitars will be seized by customs inspectors if they can't prove they were manufactured with the correct wood. That's life under our cool, progressive president.

Gibson Guitars, and the musicians who use its products, are not criminals. But they are being treated as such and are threatened with more; all in the name of a bogus environmental ideology that restricts freedom in increasingly absurd ways.

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