Kim Strassel: “Stringing Up Gibson Guitar”

by Walter Olson on November 26, 2011

Kim Strassel has a must-read piece at the Wall Street Journal exposing the politics of the Lacey Act’s extension to importation of plant products, by no means fueled just by inflexible environmentalist sentiment: crucially, wood-products industry and union forces recognized that the law could serve as a way to eliminate competition from imports.

Trees are ubiquitous, are transformed into thousands of byproducts, and pass through dozens of countries. Whereas even a small U.S. importer would know not to import a tiger skin, tracking a sliver of wood (now transformed into a toy, or an umbrella) through this maze of countries and manufacturing laws back to the tree it came from, would be impossible.

Furniture maker Ikea noted that even if it could comply with the change, the “administrative costs and record-keeping requirements” would cause furniture prices to “skyrocket.” The wood chips that go into its particleboard alone could require tracking back and reporting on more than 100 different tree species.

Which is exactly what the Lacey expanders wanted.

The WSJ also recently interviewed Gibson Guitar CEO Henry Juszkiewicz [related, Reuters; earlier] while Pat Nolan points out how the feds’ raid on the facility points up many evils of unbridled prosecution power [NRO] Musicians and others held a “We stand with Gibson” rally and concert [Mark Perry, rally pics] As for press coverage, Andrew Revkin at the NYT notes that outrage over the raid is energizing those horrid “anti-regulatory campaigners” ["DotEarth"] while an op-ed contributor at the paper explains that (not to sound like those same awful campaigners!) the operation of the Lacey Act does indeed menace innocent artisans who make musical instruments [Kathryn Marie Dudley] Tim Cavanaugh finds the L.A.Times strumming a derivative ideological tune, while Radley Balko notes, in a police-restraint-for-me-but-not-for-thee vein, that a reporter arrested at Occupy Nashville had mocked concern over the gun-toting Gibson raid. More: ABA Journal.

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11.28.11 at 1:07 pm

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1 Smart Dude 11.27.11 at 2:39 am

The Gibson Case is a close to a Kafka horror tale of injustice and persecution as you can find.

What, is Pelosi and the rest of the Obama Regime shorting Gibson stock or buying up shares of Gibson’s competitors?

2 Jthim Collins 11.27.11 at 11:22 am

No. Gibson made the mistake of donating to Republicans.

Anybody here remember that Microsoft’s problems started after Bill Gates told the DNC that he wasn’t going to give them a donation?

3 Hugo S. Cunningham 11.28.11 at 10:48 am

Supporters of the prosecution claim that Gibson originally got in the crosshairs by trying to buy wood from Madagascar, notoriously corrupt and unable to manage forests. Did Obama’s people target Gibson because they contributed to Republicans, or did Gibson contribute to Republicans for the same reason that Jimmy Hoffa’s Teamsters did in 1960, because they already anticipated trouble from Democrats?

I don’t understand from the commentary on either side whether Gibson’s Indian offence was purely technical, or whether, legal or not, there was something harmful about the way the wood in question was harvested and/or sold. Is there a respected Indian expert on forestry who can be called to testify?

I agree with the moderate bloggers that there should be protection for musicians and minor artisans, especially for wood acquired before the law change in 2008.

4 Jim Collins 11.28.11 at 12:05 pm

The government of India has stated that the wood purchased by Gibson did not violate any of its laws.

5 MF 11.30.11 at 11:31 pm

Pure, out-and-out political thuggery. Absolutely no other way to call it.

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