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Bad news from home

You’ve probably read the news that the Gibson factories in Nashville and Memphis were raided today by armed federal agents of the, errrrr…Fish and Wildlife Service?

Yup. The Lacey Act is a law so old, William McKinley signed it. It was intended to prevent trapping endangered animals for sale across state lines. You know, in 1900, when endangered animals were endangered-endangered and not just pretend endangered because there aren’t very many of them in Oklahoma while there were still tons in Texas.

Anyhow, the law was recently beefed up to require that all materials be painstakingly and accurately described coming into the country, and here’s where the mischief comes in.

Now, the trade in materials like poached ivory and Madagascar ebony is an evil trade…and evil trades often launder themselves through the East. So in theory — in theory — I don’t object to some additional scrutiny of incoming raw materials. But in practice…give a bureaucrat a gun and a regulation to enforce, and he’ll be looking for somebody to wave them at.

Henry Juszkiewicz, Gibson’s CEO, claims the issue this time is wood from India that would be legal if finished in India, but the US government says violates some Indian law the Indians certainly aren’t complaining about if finished in the US (watch his press conference here). Gibson is still litigating a similar government raid from three years ago, so it’s hard not to see this as harassment (Juszkiewicz is a notoriously difficult man; perhaps he stepped on a sacred toe).

But it’s broader than Gibson. Regulators aren’t making an exception for vintage instruments. Bring a guitar into the country, and you have to declare the origin of every bit of wood, bone, ivory, pearl or abalone, and the feds don’t give a shit if it was built by a cowboy when Victoria was a lass. Get it wrong, and they’ll take the instrument, fine you and maybe even put you in jail.

The Journal article describes the state of musicians and instrument dealers as “anxious” about the law. And that’s about right…there haven’t been many incidents yet and nobody knows how it’ll play out. But if you’re thinking to yourself, “naw, the government couldn’t possibly be this retarded,” then you, sir, are a banana.

I can tell you for certain, anxiety about the potential retardedness of the US government is already impacting the movement of vintage instruments between the UK and the US. AKA depressing trade.

Oh, and check out the little snark at the end of the Journal article about selfish musicians being reluctant to switch over to plastics. If you are a lover of fine instruments, that will make you want to whip out your slappin’ hand.

Have a good weekend, folks. Today’s post was going to be a delightful story of The Chicken That Insisted On Sleeping in the Kitchen, but the damn fool bird didn’t do it tonight and I don’t have a picture.

Thanks to Alice for the kick in the butt: SCOAMF merchandise.


Comment from Mark Matis
Time: August 26, 2011, 8:46 pm

You could always scoop her up, plop her in the kitchen, and convince her to go to sleep…

And I would once again note that this Gibson episode, like so many OTHER episodes, is done NOT by bureaucrats, but by our fine friends in “Law Enforcement”. The stench is overwhelming.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: August 26, 2011, 9:09 pm

Well, I suspect the new laws have to do with greenie activists newly appointed into government (possibly under Bush) pushing the boundaries. But, yeah, we have WAY too many armed agencies itching to enforce…something. Anything.

Comment from Nina from GCP
Time: August 26, 2011, 9:33 pm

Things like this are what make me small-l libertarianish.

And I look forward to the next chicken post. 🙂

Comment from Argentium G. Tiger
Time: August 26, 2011, 11:12 pm

Yup, I can believe it.

I’ve curtailed my own trips to the States from Canada lately. I used to enjoy fairly regular Saturday cross-border shopping trips, but lately I just don’t want to bother with the black icky “wrong” feeling that I get, every time I have to deal with any representative of any level of their governments.

You just never know when something perfectly normal and formerly lawful that you do, or have on your person or in your vehicle is suddenly going to be a point of legal contention.

“Sir, why do you have this can of WD-40 in your glovebox?”

‘It’s an old car, when the hinges start squeaking, I spray a little on them.’

“Do you know it’s illegal to transport pressurized canisters of chemicals across the border without EPA form eleventy-seventy filled out and filed 72 hours in advance?”

( No, not a real regulation or law, but seriously this is the kind of industrial grade, tyrannical horse-shit I’m coming to expect from U.S. Bureaucrats, and I want absolutely nothing to do with any of it. )

My money spends just fine here at home.

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: August 26, 2011, 11:23 pm

AGT – pace Nina from GCP (whose daughter suffered disgraceful treatment at the hands of the UK’s border goons) I know quite a few UK businessmen who now avoid going to the US to do business because of the ‘little Hitler’ attitude of US immigration/customs etc

Since when did any of us elect politicians to inhibit trade? And why are they asleep when government employees behave this way?

Comment from Sven in Colorado
Time: August 26, 2011, 11:37 pm

That does it…..I am calling Rodger (The Real King of France), and have him spool up the Barn Army B-52. Which by the way is sequestered in a SOOPER SECRET SITE somewhere in rural Maryland.

There has been a plan in the works for nearly 5 years to turn that 30 square miles of dyslexic, dyspeptic, dysfunctional and delusional madness on the Potomac (otherwise known as our once great nation’s capitol city), into a radioactive pit.

I know…it makes about as much sense as jailing musicians for importing musical instruments that might have some goram endangered wood or animal inlaid on them.

Its insane. ^^^^I second what Argentium said^^^^ (only, I live in the US. I buy all I can with cash and stash the rest, which ain’t much.) I fly under the radar whenever possible. The less the Fed’s Keystone Kops and their Pink Unicorn riding, Skittle shittin’ current occupant of the White House and his cadre of sycophant, window licking, media hounds know about me…..the better!

Comment from Sven in Colorado
Time: August 26, 2011, 11:49 pm

Uncle B,

There is a “Chicken Little” mentality, fueled by post 9-11 paranoia within the US media, and the insane belief that if Congress passes enough laws, raises enough taxes and regulates enough commerce…..that all of these nasty bad people will go away, or leave us along.

And yes, they (Most of Washington)truly believe that the great unwashed hordes of us who live in the flyover hinterlands, are not capable of turning up the hot water heater or changing a light bulb without OSHA, the EPA, or some other bloated bureaucratic regulatory agency having its two cents printed and verified by some pseudo-scientific program. Its all about exercising power over others.

It is said that power corrupts, but actually it’s more true that power attracts the corruptible. The sane are usually attracted by other things than power. – David Brin

Comment from Andrea Harris
Time: August 26, 2011, 11:56 pm

Jesus. I hated my piano lessons and in general have all the musical talent of a block of cement, but even I know that a guitar made of plastic will sound nowhere near as good as one made of wood. Unless they can come up with a synthetic that has the same sort of effects on sound as wood does, no one is going to ask Yo-Yo Ma to switch to a polyester cello.

(Argh. Edited to say that I screwed up my url in the url field. I didn’t leave it blank intentionally.)

Comment from Mark Matis
Time: August 27, 2011, 12:11 am

I would note that it is NOT just FedPig who show the viler side of humanity. Local “Law Enforcement” is quite capable of that as well. In Wisconsin, in Nevada, in Texas, in Georgia, in California, in Michigan, in Florida…

There ARE NO “good cops”. The ones that CLAIM to be merely look the other way as their Brothers in Blue do their thing. The activities of the TSA constitute sexual assault and statutory rape in EVERY jurisdiction in this country. Yet NOT ONE “Law Enforcement” officer will even BOTHER to make an arrest. I honestly do thank God every time he sends another of them to rot in hell where they belong.

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: August 27, 2011, 12:30 am

Sven – it’s remarkable (or perhaps not) how similar our situations are. The quasi-legislative stranglehold grows tighter by the day here, mostly under the guise of “‘elf and safety” as we call it.

I sometimes wonder just how our liberal masters would be behaving, had coal gas been discovered last year.

You want to do what with coal and pipe what into where ?!

Comment from EZnSF
Time: August 27, 2011, 1:43 am

Bureaucrats (and politicians) look for ways to justify their existence, and the lower they are on the food-chain, the more ridiculous the laws and consequences.

In my narcissistic city, there is a law concerning how much food and what kind of water bowl you need for your dog.
Last year they were considering a ban on the sale of all household pets with the exception of fish.

No happy meals
No fireplaces during winter
No smoking at the beach, on the course, at the park, or within twenty feet of a doorway. (yet the majority of the populace has no problem inhaling diesel bus fumes at commute hour)
EVERYONE is required to recycle. Even office tenants. We now have THREE different trashcans in our office of 15 people. And I am no longer allowed to throw plastic spoons into the pale in my cubical. But styrofoam is not a problem because, IT’S ILLEGAL in my city.
No plastic bags at chain stores.
No firearms in advertisements.
City workers are not allowed to travel to Arizona.
The yellow pages are BANNED!

And we are considering the following:

Banning circumcisions.
Banning sale of all soft drinks on city property.
Ban on discrimination against ex-cons.
And those goldfish? Yeah, that’s back for debate with the city supervisors.

This is just the short ‘fuck with your daily existence’ crap. Want to start a business or build a house? Yah, good luck.


Comment from EZnSF
Time: August 27, 2011, 2:11 am

Slightly off topic, but related, and my new hero.
Yes, it’s beer night at my place.

And he’s an Englishman.


Comment from Can’t hark my cry
Time: August 27, 2011, 2:31 am

“I say, not God himself can make man’s best
Without best men to help him.

‘Tis God gives skill,
But not without men’s hands: he could not make
Antonio Stradivari’s violins
Without Antonio.”

from “God Needs Antonio” by George Eliot

(geez, and I always thought it was Browning. This blog is so educational!)

Unfortunately, the god-blown all too often have a difficult time dealing with restrictions created by other than the gods. . .And they don’t always know how to shuck and jive, so they get nailed when straight-up businessmen wouldn’t.

Comment from Argentium G. Tiger
Time: August 27, 2011, 4:06 am

Uncle B: “And why are they asleep when government employees behave this way?”

Because it’s not them feeling the pain. When they finally do, it’s going to be ugly.

Comment from Gromulin
Time: August 27, 2011, 4:51 am

I’ve got a new theory: Regulatory retardation is about to collide with common sense to the extent that they will have to re-define Tourette’s syndrome. People like me will spend so many of our waking hours spouting profanity in public that the current definition of Tourette’s will be meaningless.

Comment from MIke C.
Time: August 27, 2011, 7:17 am

Hide your good instruments and buy more ammo.

Comment from MIke C.
Time: August 27, 2011, 7:22 am

Note that the illustration is a solid-body guitar and almost certainly mostly maple. The nut is probably bone of some sort, and I’m betting the fingerboard is rosewood, not ebony. Maybe the other bits and bobs are made of some “endangered” metal?

Comment from Oceania’s Cat
Time: August 27, 2011, 8:14 am

We tried to ship samples of living biological materials to a research group in the USA. Your pencil pushers found them, impounded them, and let forth a blitzkrieg of paperwork.

As my conversation with your many levels of important minions went to shark infested custard, I asked to speak to the gentlemans superior officer – as this would never happen in Nazi Germany! There was an uncomfortable pause, and a firm yelling down the phone demanding the persons name and executive in charge appeared to get things moving ….
Your countrymen are being well trained to Respect and be Submissive to superior Authority. Well Done!

Heil Oceania~!

Comment from Oceania\’s Cat
Time: August 27, 2011, 8:57 am

Hey – when are we going to have the SWeasel Poster of the Year Awards?

Comment from Oceania
Time: August 27, 2011, 9:10 am

OMG!!! Unseen footage!

The young Osama bin Laden playing soccer as second back against New Zealands ‘All Whites’ in Saudi Arabia!!
Symbolically, Wynton Ruffer scores at 9 minutes and 11 seconds in!

The footage is further in … watch out for the brown Cheeky Darkies!


Comment from S. Weasel
Time: August 27, 2011, 12:07 pm

Mike, Mike, Mike…that is a Les Paul. It’s a maple front on a mahogany body. Rosewood, mahogany…definitely on the watch list for origins. Also pearl inlay. Don’t ask me why. I heard a rumor one of the big guitar makers won’t offer pearl on their base models any more because of restrictions on materials.

I’m kind of conflating two problems here. There’s the Lacey Act, and there’s CITES — the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. CITES is an old treaty, too, but it’s also been ramped up of late.

Comment from Deborah
Time: August 27, 2011, 2:09 pm

Iowahawk. Last time I read Iowahawk, I pulled a muscle in my abdomen and couldn’t pick up my laptop for weeks.

My all-time favorite Iowahawk: This used to be all Ikea.


Comment from Joan of Argghh!
Time: August 27, 2011, 2:49 pm

Not everything is stupid. Some things are intentional:

From NiceDeb’s blog:

“Commenter Tom W. had some ideas at Gateway Pundit:

Gibson is the only guitar company targeted by the Obama DOJ under the
Lacey Act.

Tennessee is a right-to-work state.

Fender, Taylor, Rickenbacker, Danelectro, Carvin, MusicMan, and ESP
are in California;
Spector is in New York;
Martin is in Pennsylvania;
Guild, Ovation, and Hamer are in Connecticut;
Alvarez is in Missouri;
B.C. Rich is in Kentucky;
Heritage is in Michigan;
Washburn is in Illinois.

All are forced-union states.

Peavey is another guitar and electronics company, located in the
right-to-work state of Mississippi.

Since 2009, Peavey has been the target of multiple lawsuits filed by
a competitor, MUSIC Group, which alleges that Peavy products fail to
meet federal safety and emissions standards.”

Comment from Joan of Argghh!
Time: August 27, 2011, 2:50 pm

Rules and regulations are for one’s enemies, and never for the national good.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: August 27, 2011, 5:26 pm

The coating on Remo banjo heads is now thinner, and Fenders aren’t finished in nitrocellulose lacquer. Thanks, you green bastards in California.

Very interesting observation, Joan. I hadn’t thought of the right-to-work aspect.

Comment from Christopher Taylor
Time: August 27, 2011, 8:49 pm

What you need is a shop with a Gibson labeled “fascists kill this machine.”

Comment from Nina’s Nina
Time: August 27, 2011, 11:52 pm

heh… I’ve heard that our customs agents were nasty pigs and wow… that’s crazy.

And yes, I did receive really bad treatment at the hands of the UK border agents. A year later and I still hate the mere idea of London, I am terrified about going back through customs to go to school (I refuse to be a “victim” though I’m sure there’s money for it somewhere). My brother keeps assuring me that with a Visa I shouldn’t have any problems.

heh. we shall see.

Comment from jwm
Time: August 28, 2011, 12:42 am

Doug Ross has some interesting observations as well. It seems that Gibson’s CEO has been a contributor to the dread Republican Party as well. Interestingly enough, Martin Guitars (whose CEO contributed to Obama) uses the same woods with impunity.

All time most corrupt administration of all time.


Comment from Uncle Al
Time: August 28, 2011, 5:59 am

I feel as though there’s a ping-pong ball bouncing around chaotically in my head. Is this what’s called cognitive dissonance?

Why am I experiencing this? The bouncing ball thoughts go like so:

Anarchy is more-or-less the absence of laws and govt.

We mere mundanes are expected to obey the laws passed by govt so clearly we don’t experience anarchy.

But the govt is not following its own laws: it seems to do as it pleases.

But you don’t have anarchy – by definition – if you have a govt.

But in this sense we have a two-class society: mundanes and govt.

But we mundanes aren’t experiencing anarchy as we are forced (usually) to obey the govt.

But the govt is an anarchic institution because there’s no rule of law within the govt.

But…but…but…WTF?!? The govt gets to enjoy anarchy but the rest of us don’t. Arrrgh!

Comment from Oceania
Time: August 28, 2011, 9:25 am

Your government appears to enjoy it in Libya …

Comment from JuliaM
Time: August 28, 2011, 4:54 pm

They raided a guitar factory looking for endangered wood?

Are we sure the ‘Daily Mash’ is really satire?

Comment from MIke C.
Time: August 29, 2011, 8:28 am

Uncle Al,

Well, at least in the US, our overlords seemed to have missed the lecture on that entire “monopoly of force” thing. Oops. So now they’re faced with the prospect of having to attempt to shove the shit back up into the goose, to use a crude analogy.

Film at 11…

Comment from Bob Mulroy
Time: August 29, 2011, 3:34 pm

Martin make ten models that use the same rosewood that Gibson was raided for. They’ve never been investigated.

Martin is also a big contributor to Dems.

Comment from Christopher Taylor
Time: August 29, 2011, 5:10 pm


Its not the best shop on earth but thankfully Woodie’s scrawl on his guitar was pretty amateurish, too.

Comment from Ric Locke
Time: August 29, 2011, 5:44 pm

Bob M: You are suffering from the same misconception as Julia.

They raided somebody who doesn’t support the Dear Leader. Wood is what we call in English “pretext”.


Comment from Bob Mulroy
Time: August 29, 2011, 6:19 pm


I’m rather certain that was my point.

Comment from Rich Rostrom
Time: August 31, 2011, 1:03 am

Uncle Badger: … the ‘little Hitler’ attitude of US immigration/customs etc…

Ever heard of Tristan Jones? A mad Welshman who probably logged more miles under single-hand sail than anyone else, ever, and was in and out of ports all over the world. In his book The Incredible Voyage (about setting the world altitude record for sailing – I did say he was mad), he remarked that it was no coincidence that Hitler’s father was a customs official.

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