The Tennessee-based manufacturing company, Gibson Guitar, is one of the most well-known and reputable makers of musical instruments in the world. Gibson is known throughout the music industry as the maker of perhaps the best guitar on the planet. Singers and musicians in every imaginable musical genre rely on Gibson for quality, reliability, and a professional look and sound that very few are able to match.
However, there is another fact about Gibson that has placed the company in a state of disfavor with the current power elites in Washington.
As with many other major southern companies, Gibson is non-union. And in the current climate created by Obama, Holder, and others within the Executive Branch of government, non-union companies are viewed as the enemy. States that are ‘right-to-work’ are targeted.
On August 25, federal agents swooped into the Gibson Guitar factories in Memphis and Nashville like Nazi storm-troopers on a mission. The nature of the raid would lead an onlooker to think that the company had murdered hundreds and hid the bodies.
But the agents who poured into the factories, combing through every piece of ‘evidence,’ leaving no stone unturned, were not looking for dead bodies or illegal drug stashes. They were looking for ‘proof’ that Gibson had used wood from ‘protected forests’–not in the U.S. but in other countries around the world.
Guitars were seized as evidence. Pallets of wood were confiscated. Computers containing electronic files were taken, all under the assumption that something in those files would indicate that Gibson had used ‘protected wood from overseas’ in the making of its guitars.
And which agency among Obama’s storm-trooper operation descended on Gibson in such a fashion? The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
I kid you not.
The Enviro-Gestapo of the Fish and Wildlife Service believes that Gibson may have imported wood from protected forests, such as Madagascar ebony, in order to manufacture its stunningly beautiful guitar frets. Fish and Wildlife agents have harassed Gibson once before concerning its wood, resulting in an ongoing court case “United States of America v. Ebony Wood in Various Forms.”
But the raid last week was not about that particular case. This time the Fish and Wildlife Service stormed in to make sure Gibson had dotted every ‘i’ and crossed every ‘t’ in its contracts with a certified supplier of wood in India. And why would the Feds suspect that the company had not done so?
That is precisely the point. They didn’t. And this led Gibson’s President and CEO to go public in defending his company:
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.
However, the clincher in this story is contained in the statements of major high-profile musicians who own vintage guitars made by Gibson. The musicians fear that the Feds may be coming after them next.
If you are a musician who travels internationally, for example, and you own a guitar that contains wood made of Brazilian rosewood, you are subject to being charged as a criminal if you attempt to take the instrument over a border. Brazilian rosewood is now forbidden, and unless you have complete documentation–containing absolutely no errors–proving the age of the instrument, then you are subject to criminal prosecution and fines.
Due to a confusing intersection of U.S. and international laws, musicians and instrument manufacturing companies are increasingly under the gun. It is not enough to know that your guitar is made primarily from spruce and maple. You have to know about the fret. And if there is one single portion of that fret that may have come from ‘forbidden wood,’ then you may find yourself in the position of piano manufacturer Pascal Vieillard of Atlanta:
Consider the recent experience of Pascal Vieillard, whose Atlanta-area company, A-440 Pianos, imported several antique Bösendorfers. Mr. Vieillard asked officials at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species how to fill out the correct paperwork—which simply encouraged them to alert U.S. Customs to give his shipment added scrutiny.
There was never any question that the instruments were old enough to have grandfathered ivory keys. But Mr. Vieillard didn’t have his paperwork straight when two-dozen federal agents came calling.
Facing criminal charges that might have put him in prison for years, Mr. Vieillard pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of violating the Lacey Act, and was handed a $17,500 fine and three years probation.
The Leftwing extremist environmental movement is responsible for many of these asinine laws. But the manner in which they are now being enforced and used as a source of harassment is entirely Obama’s doing through Eric Holder’s Justice Department.
Three key issues come into play in this fiasco. First, the Obama Administration has a history of harassing non-union companies and even unionized companies that move their operations to right-to-work states. Second, Gibson’s closest competitor, Martin Guitars, is operated by a major Democrat-supporter and uses wood from the same sources as Gibson. But Martin has never been harassed. And third, why is Eric Holder citing a law in a foreign nation with regard to a U.S. company that adheres to U.S. laws?
Perhaps the country needs to take a brand new look at how thoroughly we have given away our sovereignty and the authority of the U.S. Constitution to ‘international law’ and the United Nations.
And once again, the Chicago-styled thuggery of Eric Holder, Barack Obama, and this entire Administration is on full display.
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