Truth is stranger than fiction. Sometimes the truth is so batshit crazy that folks have trouble believing it. I’ll occasionally encounter something that is utterly verifiably true but it’s so counter to logic and reason that I subconsciously erect a brick wall of disbelief. This is unwise. The truth should be known, recorded, and accepted as such. This is how we adapt and learn.
Therefore I’m starting a list of seemingly unbelievable things that have actually happened…just so I can clear the air.
Let’s start with something that happened on August 25th, 2011.
On August 25th 2011, the Federal Government executed an armed raid on a guitar factory in Tennessee…over wood.
Here are the details:
- Gibson, a major guitar manufacturer, is famous for Les Paul guitars.
- Gibson’s facility, a musical instrument factory in Tennessee, suffered an armed raid. Presumably a phone call would have sufficed? I’m not sure why the Government elected to perform an armed raid over a dispute that’s pretty esoteric. It’s not like they were raiding a crack house.
- The alleged offense is using wood that was processed in Madagascar by non-Madagascar workers. Not because the wood is endangered, stolen, or radioactive. This is not about environmental concerns, crime, or taxes. The only issue is the nationality of the people that processed the wood before shipping it to Tennessee. Madagascar deems the wood legal. Gibson claims to have ample documentation to prove the legality of the wood. Personally I’m wondering why our Government is apparently enforcing the labor rules of other nations on American soil?
- This is the second armed raid on Gibson! This is where I needed a numbered list to set the time line:
- The first armed raid was in 2009. In that raid the government seized materials from Gibson. No charges were filed from that raid. Ironically it’s hard to defend yourself against accusations if none were made! The materials were not returned.
- Gibson claims to have all the paperwork it needs and is willing to supply it. When they didn’t get their materials back they brought suit on the Government. The legal term would be “give our stuff back”.
- This raid, in 2011, is being used as the reason to “stay” (stop) the 2009 court case from continuing. Yes, rather that either losing or winning a case, the Government did a second raid and used that as the reason why the first one couldn’t be resolved.
Now back to the simple bullet points:
- Gibson has not been charged with anything. Ever!
- The Government has not returned the materials it seized (in either raid).
- This is all related to the nationality of people who cut wood blanks in Madagascar.
“The government in the past hasn’t been abusive… …we were allowed to succeed if you will. And that’s proved really cool. This is the first time that we are facing the Federal bureaucracy and sort of silliness. You know? The situation we’re facing is that we have not been accused of anything, they have not, there’s no cause of action, Uh you know… we have gone to court, not the Government, to get our goods back and the government in one of the aspects of this case the Government is now saying that they do not want to complete this court case. They have made a motion before the judge to stay the case on the pretext that the case is interfering with their investigation somehow. So that we can’t even get our day in court, which is you know, somewhat ironic.”
Chairman and CEO Henry Juszkiewicz
Since this is my blog and therefore my soapbox I’d like to add a few points of my own:
- In America, it is never, ever OK to draw weapons in a dispute over the labor practices of Madigascar carpenters!
- If a Government organization seizes stuff, it must either bring charges or return the stuff immediately. Anything else is theft, immoral, and an assault on society. I don’t care if you’re dealing with a crack house or a guitar company. Stealing is theft. Having a badge does not make it right.
- This is the chilling one: the Government has employees who were willing to suit up with guns and bullet proof vests to raid a guitar factory in Tennessee. Go ahead…name something they wouldn’t do.
Lest you think I’m a crazy blogger (which might be true) making shit up (which isn’t) I’m linking directly to Gibson sources. If there’s a “Government source” I’m not aware of it.
And don’t forget that the US Government then told them that they should move to Madagascar.
Actually this doesn’t surprise me at all. I’ve come to believe that the incentives folks operate under are absolutely unlike incentives that would foster a reasonable world. Thus people do things which seem batshit insane from a common sense view. Given their perverse incentives, they’ve acted logically.
From a regulator’s point of view, if all commerce stopped then they would have achieved perfect enforcement of regulations. What do they care if Tennessee loses a factory? What do they care if they drive whole industries into the ground? The only industry they work for is the regulation “industry”.
I see the same thing in play with IT departments in large organizations. They tend to overmanage and straitjacket workers. This makes their job easy and if the employees can’t get anything done…it doesn’t make much difference to their bottom line.
Yes, I admit that taken to the extremes both examples have repercussions that override initial incentives; an economy in the tank and companies going under. But isn’t that what we’re seeing in real life all around us?
What do you expect from a justice department that dropped a voter intimidation case that they already won or a President that fired an Inspector General for investigating one of his friends.
I heard about the Gibson affair on the news. All the bitching about the Republican administrations in the past by the Democrats and then they pull this shit. Maybe the Gibson people were religious nuts with guns (see Ruby Ridge, see Pilgrims)
This is really annoying on a personal level, as an expat casual luthier. If Gibson, with their army of lawyers, is gettin grief from the .gov, what chance do I have if I want to bring back one of my bass guitars? It’s not like I can get the proper, according to hoyle documentation on that rejected kwila stair tread and floorboard I used to build an instrument.
And, to make matters more fun, you know all the illegal logging that CITES and the Lacey act are supposed to be stopping? Most of the wood cutters just shrug and sell it to China.
What really steams me is that our legal system seems (long before this) to have abandoned what seems to me to be a basic principle; If you won’t bring charges, you can’t keep what you seized. Along with; If you won’t bring charges you can’t charge perjury if someone says they are innocent of the charges you won’t bring (the Martha Stewart edition).
I blame the Drug War, combined with the “Gee, we KNOW this guy is guilty, but he got off. Let’s write a law that would have prevented that” effect. Both make for ostentatiously bad Law.
Excellent observations, except that once you start making them, you can’t stop–because they’re everywhere. Voltaire put it this way: “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” Dang, but that guy nailed it, didn’t he?
For musicians, it’s even worse. Even if the instrument does get made and sold, and they decide not to come after the subsequent owner, they just might come after him because of what he plays. Consider this from a year and a half ago, in Spain. That’s not jazz, call the cops!
Calling the cops because listening to contemporary music is “psychologically inadvisable”…oh man that’s hilarious! (On a side note I was psychologically scarred by Debbie Gibson and I didn’t get my day in court! All I got was a damn paycheck.)
LESSONS LEARNED, PEOPLE: This will happen again and again, and we will see those weapons used, and people going to jail or killed, not just stolen from.
Look at who was involved politically and monetarily and we can figure out WHY this is happening, but it won’t keep it from happening again.