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Knaur 08-30-2011 06:54 PM

The Gibson Guitar Saga Gets Steadily Curiouser

The Gibson Guitar Saga Gets Steadily Curiouser

These days, you can’t keep up with all the news. There is just too much going on. So inevitably, there are interesting stories that you have to catch up with when you can, like a moving train. The Justice Department’s raid on four Gibson guitar factories is in that category. The raid took place last Wednesday; this Memphis Daily News story, published this morning, is a good place to start:
Around 8:45 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 24, agents executed four search warrants on Gibson facilities in the two cities [Nashville and Memphis]. They seized several pallets of wood, electronic files and guitars.
But Gibson’s CEO says his company has not been told what it did wrong and that he assumes the allegation is that some of the wood being used to manufacture the company’s guitars is illegal.
“Everything is sealed. They won’t tell us anything,” Juszkiewicz said, never raising his voice but pulling no punches in his defense of the storied guitar maker.
He valued the equipment and raw materials seized from Gibson at almost $1 million. At one point, the chief executive said he’s letting the U.S. Justice Department know he’s telling his employees to keep making the instruments. …
“We feel totally abused,” he continued. “We believe the arrogance of federal power is impacting me personally, our company personally and the employees here in Tennessee, and it’s just plain wrong.”
The company stated it assumes the raid stems from an alleged violation of the U.S. Lacey Act, legislation that requires anyone coming into the U.S. to declare with unambiguous specificity the nature of materials being brought into the country.
According to Gibson: “The U.S. Lacey Act does not directly address conservation issues but is about obeying all laws of the countries from which wood products are procured. This law reads that you are guilty if you did not observe a law even though you had no knowledge of that law in a foreign country. The U.S. Lacey Act is only applicable when a foreign law has been violated.”
For more, listen to this interview of Henry Juszkiewicz by Dana Loesch:
Mr. Juszkiewicz says that the government of the country where the rosewood comes from certified it for export, and Gibson jumps through rather elaborate hoops before it buys the wood after it is imported to the U.S. The Lacey Act, which puts American importers of exotic woods at risk, is discussed here. One of the ironies, as you might expect, is that America is a trivial importer of rosewood from Madagascar and India. Ninety-five percent of it goes to China, where it is used to make luxury items like $800,000 beds. So putting Gibson out of business isn’t going to do a whole lot for the forests of Madagascar.
It has come out that Juszkiewicz is a Republican donor, while the CEO of one of his principal competitors, C.F. Martin & Company, is a Democratic donor. Martin reportedly uses the same wood, but DOJ hasn’t raided them, leading to speculation that the Obama administration is sending a warning to Republican businessmen that they had better not oppose his re-election, lest they face criminal investigations. Normally such speculation would not be credible, but Eric Holder has politicized the Department of Justice to a point where such questions must be taken seriously.
http://2-www-accel-pss.googleusercon...33-300x300.jpgOh, one more thing: if Gibson has violated the Lacey Act, so, perhaps, has Michelle Obama, who gave French First Lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy a Gibson Hummingbird acoustic guitar with a rosewood fret. Maybe, when the time comes, she can share a cell with Mr. Juszkiewicz.
If nothing else, this incident illustrates the misguided priorities of the Obama administration. Harassing American businesses on frivolous grounds is not exactly what our economy needs at the moment. But the anti-business Obama administration just can’t help itself.

Knaur 08-30-2011 06:56 PM

US govt tunes out legendary guitar firm over ‘illegal’ wood from India

US govt tunes out legendary guitar firm over ‘illegal’ wood from India

Chidanand Rajghatta, TNN Aug 27, 2011, 05.07am IST

WASHINGTON: George Harrison played 'While my guitar gently weeps' on the instrument manufactured by them. Eric Clapton sang his paean to Layla and laid down Sally on their storied equipment. Jimi Hendrix generated Midnight Lightning and Jerry Garcia took a long strange trip — all on legendary Gibson guitars.
But contemporary musicians, especially guitarists, are fretting that they will soon be playing a different tune. Uncle Sam says it has the wood on Gibson, the legendary American guitar maker whose instruments were used by the above musicians and whose products are considered the last word in the west's most popular instrument.
So where does India fit into this story? The US government says Gibson has been illegally importing tropical hardwoods such as ebony, rosewood, and mahogany, used in making guitars, from India, in violation of American laws that bar import of endangered plants and woods. Not true, says Gibson, arguing that its imports are legal and New Delhi itself has not made an issue of it.

In a tempestuous development for the world of musical instruments and performers, US federal agents earlier this week raised Gibson facilities in Nashville and Memphis, seizing wood imported from India and sending workers home. Officials believe Gibson is in violation of the Lacey Act, a conservation law relating to endangered plant and wildlife that goes back to 1900, although it has been amended several times.
The US crackdown, invoking a complex and controversial law, has instrument makers fuming and musicians fretting.
"(The government) has suggested that the use of wood from India that is not finished by Indian workers is illegal, not because of US law, but because it is the justice department's interpretation of a law in India," Henry Juszkiewicz, Gibson's CEO said.
If the same wood from the same tree was finished by Indian workers, the material would be legal, he said. (Gibson executives maintained the wood the government seized is from a Forest Stewardship Council certified supplier and is FSC controlled, meaning the wood complies with standards of the Forest Stewardship Council, which is an industry-recognized and independent, not-forprofit organization established to promote responsible management of the world's forests. FSC controlled wood standards require, among other things, that the wood not be illegally harvested and not be harvested in violation of traditional and civil rights.)

scelli 08-30-2011 07:07 PM

Actually, it was Eric Clapton playing a Les Paul model Gibson guitar on the Beatles' White Album tune While My Guitar Gently Weeps. George Harrison only played acoustic guitar on that particular track...although don't know if his instrument was a Gibson or not. :biggrin:

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