Gibson CEO Henry Juszkiewicz to meet with federal officials next week, and Fish & Wildlife will brief the House Energy and Commerce Committee in Congress. Look for more hysterical press conferences from House Republicans to follow as they exploit this story further to roll back environmental protections.
Love this part:
Meanwhile, the raid has created uncertainty in the music, furniture and timber industries, which routinely import exotic hardwoods.
In the case of musicians, some say they fear the U.S. government may decide to confiscate instruments made long ago from woods now considered endangered when musicians travel or their gear is shipped abroad.
“People are very confused,” said George Gruhn, a Nashville-based luthier, or guitar craftsman, whose global business entails shipping vintage guitars, some of which are made from woods that their owners might not be able to properly identify as the law now requires.
Yes, that’s because the Republicans and Gibson have done a masterful job of spinning this story for the express purpose of ginning up hysteria and creating confusion. The media has done little to dispel this confusion, either. Well done! Fish & Wildlife officials have already said they do not go after unknowing end consumers but rather “knowing actors transacting in larger volumes of product.”
Naturally, The Tennessean didn’t bother to ask Fish & Wildlife officials any general questions which may allay peoples’ fears, covering their ass with the “they declined to comment on an ongoing investigation” disclaimer.
And as for that “job creator” nonsense, via comments it appears Gibson has made all of its Epiphone guitars at a factory in Qingdao, China since 2002. Someone might want to ask Marsha Blackburn about that.
I knew I had written about this before, but it took me forever to find it! Before you shed any tears for guitar makers, please read my 2009 post, “Gently Weeping For That Guitar.”
A rule of thumb in modern politics is if a Republican claims a Democrat is doing X horrible thing, you can guaran-damn-tee it that said Republican is doing it too.
For example, I give you Tennessee’s own Rep. Marsha Blackburn, coming to the defense of the Gibson Guitar company and claiming it’s politics, not violation of the law, which has prompted several raids on the Gibson Guitar factories in Tennessee. The issue is whether Gibson is violating the Lacey Act, which bars importation of endangered species products.
“When the President last night said that he wanted more products around the world stamped ‘Made in America’, I said — what about Gibson Guitar? Having armed federal agents raid an iconic American company is no way to inspire economic certainty and spur job creation. Instead, we need to cut back some of the out-of-control regulations and hold the Obama Administration accountable for selectively enforcing rules that are hindering job growth and killing small businesses. We want some answers.”
Oh you silly little woman. So because a company is “iconic” that automatically makes it immune to the law? Hey, Dow Chemical is an “iconic” American company, why don’t we let them release some toxic gas near your home. Let’s see how you enjoy their iconic effluent, honey.
The House Energy & Commerce Committee is even more strident. First, there’s the headline:
Gibson Guitar had been Importing the Wood in Question for At Least 17 Years – Indian Trade Officials Have No Problems with the Exports
Seventeen years! And the Indians have no problem with it, so why should anyone else? Isn’t that how we do things in America? You know, base our laws on how they do things in India?
Clearly the Obama Administration is out to get Gibson Guitars just … well, because why exactly? No one has said why Gibson is being picked on here, but Gibson CEO Henry Juszkiewicz is sure he’s the victim of arbitrary law enforcement. He says:
“It seems to me they are gunning for us. They are just looking for us to make a mistake or do something wrong.”
Hmm, yeah, that’s kinda the point of enforcement, isn’t it? No one ever explains why the big, mean Democrats would be “gunning” for Juszkiewicz and Gibson Guitars, though. To hear the Republicans tell it, everything was going along just fine until big, mean Obama came along and decided to selectively enforce the Lacey Act for some unknown reason.
There’s a little problem with this scenario, though. For one thing, no one ever mentions that Gibson’s Nashville factory was raided way back in November 2009.
Someone remind me, who was president back then? Thinking … thinking … (Brain fart… I was responding to internet reports that the Bush Administration also raided Gibson but the earliest raid I can document is November 2009.)
That kind of puts the lie to that whole, "we've been doing this for 17 years and no one ever had a problem with it before" thing.
And I don't recall Marsha Blackburn holding press conferences and claiming President Bush was being unfair and arbitrary in his administration's enforcement of the Lacey Act then, do you?
But also, if anyone wants to know why Gibson's problems didn't crop up until 2009, it's simple: the Lacey Act was amended in May 2008 to include wood products (and Blackburn and pretty much every other House Republican voted against it). So it doesn’t matter what they did 17 years ago, or even five years ago. If they were importing endangered wood products, that would have been illegal after May 2008.
Blackburn and the other House Republicans know the Obama Administration isn’t being capricious and arbitrary in its Lacey Act enforcement. They just don’t like the law. They think free market fairies are supposed to protect rare stands of wood and they’re using a dishonest argument in trying to dupe the media and the American public into agreeing with them. In short, they’re playing politics. Shocker.
I’m not out to get Gibson Guitars, I’m sure they make a fine product and they support a lot of great music programs. But if they’re making their guitars out of illegal wood products then they need to stop. As should any company violating the Lacey Act. And that is the point of having a Fish & Wildlife Service: to make sure companies are not violating these laws. So Henry Juszkiewicz can call for the whaaambulance all he wants, I’m not feeling sorry for him. Sorry, dude. Maybe you need to attend one of the C.F. Martin company’s wood summits?
Of course, Republicans like Blackburn never mention these things. They paint a picture of an out of control government agency picking on the poor, little “job creator.” This story is just tailor-made for the GOP’s whole “environmental laws are killing jobs” mantra. Of course it’s not true, the idea that we have to choose between prosperity and poison is some crazy idea cooked up at a Koch Industries company picnic, but the Republicans are masters at exploiting disasters like high unemployment for their own political gain.
You know who’s playing politics here? Republicans like Marsha Blackburn. It’s all over every press release and news conference. Let’s look again at the House Energy & Commerce Committee’s statement, dripping with sarcasm and political spin. I really like this part:
The leaders also questioned the Obama Administration’s treatment of a leading job creator, writing, “The policies of this Administration should actively support American companies that create jobs at home. The Gibson Guitar Company appears to have done just that. The Financial Times, in reporting on the raids, noted: ‘In recent years, Gibson has hired 600 new workers as the US economy struggled to add jobs.’ While we respect your right to defend the signature legislative accomplishment of President McKinley, we are not so sure this was the proper instance in which to exercise that right.”
Oohh, that’s some world-class snark there, isn’t it? Someone remind me … McKinley belonged to which political party? It wouldn’t be the Republican Party, would it? So are today’s modern Republicans saying we can ignore any law passed by previous Republican Administrations as long as enough time has passed?
As an aside, don’tcha y’all just love how Republicans have suddenly discovered the words “job creator”? They’re attaching it to everything now, like fairy dust. It’s their Frank Luntz-approved justification for everything. Democrats need to learn how to do this. For example: you know who’s a job creator? ACORN. And Planned Parenthood. And, for that matter, the U.S. forest products industry, where one can buy wood to make things like, I dunno, guitars maybe?
Does it create more jobs here in the U.S. for guitar manufacturers to make their product from illegally-sourced foreign-grown wood from endangered trees, or from sustainably grown domestic wood? Now that’s an interesting question. But I digress.
I’m really disgusted with the air of superiority I’m reading on blogs about this. Sarcastic posts like: “Ohh get those criminals at Gibson, stop them before they strike again!” You know what? Fuck you. If you haven’t taken the time to educate yourself about the illegal trade in endangered species and how poaching destroys the planet’s rarest treasures, then I suggest you take a look at this picture. If anyone is selling you the idea that acts of violence like this are the price of American jobs, they’re lying. The destruction of rare tropical forests is no less a form of slaughter — more so, because thousands of acres of forest are destroyed to reach the rare trees used in making musical instruments and furniture (for more, read “Green Guitars” here.)
I’m trying to remember when the House leadership rallied to the defense of one American company in such a way. I can’t. Of course, Gibson looks like the poor innocent victim here, until you pull away the curtain on this political theater and get to the facts. Gibson’s Juszkiewicz is a notorious character in Nashville; right now he’s the Republicans’ darling because his situation is useful to them. That won’t last long, however. Republicans will move on to their next shiny-sparkly piece of political theater, and Juszkiewicz will be left out in the cold.
Let me add: so far the media’s handling of this story has been piss-poor. There’s been little effort to get the other side of the story, or even put out the basic facts. This is par for the course, but it needs to stop. Do your damn jobs, people.
And musicians, quit ringing the alarm bells. No one is coming for your guitars:
Guitarists now worry that every time they cross a state border with their instrument, they will have to carry sheaves of documents proving that every part of it was legally sourced. Edward Grace, the deputy chief of the FWS’s office of law enforcement, says this fear is misplaced: “As a matter of longstanding practice,” he says, “investigators focus not on unknowing end consumers but on knowing actors transacting in larger volumes of product.”
Musicians have been hosting fundraisers and benefit concerts to protect the rainforest. Don’t pretend you don’t understand what’s at stake here.