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Eco-zealous feds target Gibson guitars, antique piano sellers; Updated: Gibson explains, exposes DOJ overreach

By Michelle Malkin  •  August 26, 2011 10:28 AM

Scroll for updates…

The real endangered species?

I’ve seen a lot of enviro-nitwittery over the years, but this takes the cake.

US Fish and Wildlife officials have raided the famous Gibson Guitars. And the instrument-maker isn’t alone. Antique piano dealers are also in the crosshairs. Why? Because rare, beautiful instruments made of ecologically incorrect materials must be sacrificed at the green altar. Talk about hitting a sour note.

Eric Felten at the WSJ reports:

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.

Where are the waiver-dispensers when you need them? How about some relief for these American employers and small businessmen, President Obama?


Someone needs to rewrite that “United breaks guitars” song and update it to “Obama raids guitars:”


Update: The ObamaFail blog has transcribed an interview with Gibson Guitar’s CEO Henry Juszkiewicz exposing DOJ overreach and mis-enforcement of other countries’ laws… Make sure you click through to listen to the entire interview.

As the ObamaFail blog explains:

The core issue is Gibson’s purchase of wood for use in guitar fingerboards. The wood is not raw, nor is it finished. Juszkiewicz explains that the wood is purchased from Madagascar when it is “two-thirds of the way” finished. Once purchased, the wood is brought to America, where it is finished by American workers. According to the Obama administration, purchasing unfinished wood is a violation of Madagascarian law…

But as Juszkiewicz said:

“So the government’s contention is that because American workers are working on that and finishing it, that it is not a finished product and, therefore, initially Madagascar law – and now I guess they’re contending Indian law – says you can’t remove unfinished product from the market. So in other words, if a person in Madagascar had completed the work on that blank, it would be legal. But the fact that American workers are finishing the work in the United States, makes it illegal, as far as their concerned.”

“The government’s position is, that is the law of the land in Madagascar and they are saying that is the law of the land in India. That is not the case. The fact is, we have affidavits from numerous government officials – and this court case, specifically now, is forMadagascar wood. We have affidavits from virtually every govt official saying that it is legal, that their definition of what is legal is a fingerboard blank and its been exported within every certification that is necessary. So they have the arrogance to interpret Madagascar law differently than the people of Madagascar.”

So the jackboots in the Obama administration are wrongly enforcing other countries’ laws and preventing American workers from doing their work here.

Typical DOJ: Ignore American laws. Foolishly enforce foreign ones at American companies’ expense.
Just wow.

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