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Gibson Guitar raid penalizes American company for foreign forestry practices

Commentary by Kay B. Day

The SG Standard, said Gibson, is the best-selling Gibson of all time.[Photo from Gibson website.]The Gibson brand needs no introduction to anyone who’s ever played a guitar, and the factory in Nashville is a valuable employer providing jobs to approximately 2,800 Americans. But armed with an expansion of the Lacey Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service raided the plant on Tuesday.

At stake: “wood procurement,” said a statement from Gibson. The Tennessean (Nashville) theorized about the raid’s link to exotic hardwoods: “But some exotic hardwoods traditionally used in making premium guitars, such as rosewood from the rain forests of Madagascar and Brazil, have been banned from commercial trade because of environmental concerns under a recently revised federal law.”

In 2008 Congress expanded the Lacey Act. Here’s an example of the depth of that expansion. According to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture 'Facts about the Amended Lacey Act,' “As of May 22, 2008, if a tree is illegally harvested, made into wood products, and then exported to the United States, anyone who imported, exported, transported, sold, received, acquired, or purchased the wood products made from that illegal timber, who knew or should have known that the wood was illegal, may be prosecuted for violation of the Lacey Act.”

Few would dispute the value of wise forestry practices. But few would agree the language is sound in the provision cited. The very phrase “who knew or SHOULD have known…” permits subjectivity in the application of federal law. In addition the law as applied in the Gibson raid appears to target American companies rather than the source of the product or the wholesale distributor of the product.

If the wood did come from Madagascar, rare woods may be important in the ecological scheme, but we must point out that firewood is the primary source of fuel and a driving factor in deforestation in this country. We must as an aside point out that many developing countries—another example is Somalia—are clueless when it comes to the concept of clean air. They’re trying to feed and shelter people by any means necessary. If that means burning charcoal and filling the air with soot, Somalis could care less.

Gibson has long been viewed as a responsible corporate partner, and in the past even the rabid self-appointed eco-cops at the Natural Resources Defense Council had called the company a “good and upstanding organization.”

Here’s another example of the inanity of fattening the Lacey Act: “Illegal plants and plant products may also be seized and forfeited whether or not the person from whom they are seized knew of the illegal nature of the product.”

Who do you think will bear the economic burden of other countries’ practices? Who will bear the burden of proof? Who will pay the fine? Whose jobs will be endangered at a time when the federal government seems hellbent on completely destroying the U.S. economic sector? Puts a whole new spin on redistribution of American wealth.

Gibson said on the corporate website it is “fully cooperating” with the feds.

Since the United States succumbed to single party rule by the Democrat Party, thousands of jobs have been lost and the economy has yet to recover. Ironically at a time when the underclass is desperate for jobs, The Washington Times reported a fall in worksite arrests of illegals, “Criminal arrests, administrative arrests, indictments and convictions of illegal immigrants at work sites all fell by more than 50 percent from fiscal 2008 to fiscal 2009.”

Coincidentally, in Jacksonville (Fla.), authorities discovered more than 25 percent of workers on the county courthouse construction project had filed false identification documents.

That our government will devote law enforcement resources to target a responsible American employer over a matter he could have had little control over yet disregard national security is an indication of a complete inability to prioritize resources.

That a law impacting American manufacturers would be written in such obscure language is a testament to the lack of intellectual ability and the complete absence of common sense in those leading our current U.S. Congress.

Meanwhile, hang on those antiquated Gibsons. Their value will surely rise.

[H/T to Red State for giving this story legs.]


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September 27, 2010 | Unregistered Commentertwotone

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