Proof the Federal government is over staffed


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.

It isn't just Gibson that is sweating. Musicians who play vintage guitars and other instruments made of environmentally protected materials are worried the authorities may be coming for them next.

Why are they doing this to protect wood that someone else cut? How do they know it was not dead wood to begin with? I cut down dead trees all the time and use if for furniture or firewood. I am not much into imported woods, but I do not see anything wrong with the practice. One of the beauties of trees is what you can make from it and guitars are an art form in that regard. The feds seem to be making war against that art. If the owner of trees in Madagascar wants to cut them down and sell them, I am all for it. If he is not managing his forest responsibly shame on him, but not on someone in this country who bought wood through a distributor.

When cutting the federally budget, we should consider firing all those who were responsible for the guitar raids. They clearly have too much time on their hands and a poor sense of priorities. They could at least be rounding up illegals in this country rather than guitars and materials for making them.


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