By on August 26, 2011

The music world is going nuts over the Federal Government’s second major raid of Gibson Guitars in just two years. Agents stopped production at Gibson’s facilities and confiscated massive quantities of wood, unfinished guitars, and finished products. This article covers the basics, including Gibson owner Henry Juszkiewicz’s decision to defy the federal government and continue shipping finished guitars to retailers after the raid.

Why would the government use armed agents to attack one of the few major manufacturers of anything remaining in the United States? The political motivations for such an action are outside the scope of this article, but the justification for the action is the Lacey Act, which regulates the importation of plants, animals, and products thereof into the United States. The Lacey Act effectively permits wooden musical instruments to be seized indefinitely, without compensation, and places the burden of proof on the owner, not the government. Do you own an $11,000 2011 Gibson Eric Clapton Edition Les Paul? Want to take it to Canada and back? You’d better be prepared to document the source of all materials to the government’s satisfaction upon your return, or you could lose it indefinitely. If you thinking documenting that is tough, what if you’re ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons returning from an overseas tour with your real 1959 sunburst Les Paul, for which you’ve already turned down at least one $5,000,000 offer? Good luck documenting the wood from a fifty-two-year-old guitar.

Very few TTAC readers travel with guitars, particularly across the country’s borders, so I don’t expect this to worry you personally. If, on the other hand, you want to drive across the Canadian or Mexican border in your own car — or even a rental — consider this: The same law that allows the Feds to raid American manufacturers and seize the possessions of Americans without compensation applies to cars, too.

Check out some sources: here and here. Simply possessing the timber product can make you a felon, regardless of whether or not you were involved in the harvesting, were the original importer, or had received any information regarding the source of the timber product. Here’s an example. Let’s say you are driving a Bentley Flying Spur with a rosewood interior. Importation of Brazilian rosewood is a felony under the Lacey Act. Do you know where the rosewood in your Spur came from? Can you prove it? In Gibson’s case, it was Indian rosewood that supposedly caused the bust; although the importation of Indian rosewood is legal, it has to be finished and prepared to certain standards in India. If raw Indian rosewood is sent to Bentley for finishing into dashboards — and make no mistake, that is how it is done — it may not break any British laws, but it breaks an American one, and you are now a convicted felon for visiting the Canadian side of Niagara Falls and coming back.

I took both of my Phaetons to Canada and back several times. My 2005 had chestnut wood which supposedly came from America, but my 2006 had eucalyptus. I have no idea whether that eucalyptus was harvested legally. What if my car had been seized at the border? How would I have been able to prove that the wood was legitimately harvested according to the rules of whatever country it came from?

The sheer number of wood-interior automobiles (leather, too, is covered under the Lacey Act, as is any animal-or-plant-derived seating, such as wool or cotton) crossing the border every day means that the likelihood of such a seizure is small. Is it small enough to risk losing your car just because a border agent doesn’t like your reason for being in Canada? Think that’s far-fetched? Ask the woman doing two years in federal prison for accepting lobsters in clear plastic bags how far-fetched it is.

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86 Comments on “Cross The Border, Lose Your Bentley; The Lacey Act Applies To Automobiles, Too...”


  • avatar
    michal1980

    read this story earlier today. very frigtening. I dont play as much as I did, or as much as I really would like to. But my gibson robot (ya ya, I wanted a real american made guitar, and it was clearanced) les paul, has a Mahogany body, maple top, and ebony fretboard. How the hell do I prove where any of this came from?

    If i would travel with a guitar it would be my start yamaha pac 112. But I belive its of the age where it might have a rosewood fretboard. So much for that.

    Goverment really needs better things to worry about

    • 0 avatar
      VanillaDude

      The difference between enforcing this law, and enforcing other border issues is that in enforcing this law – no one shoot at you. The people being persecuted are law abiders, not law breakers. The people being fined and jailed are not criminals. Instead this law makes them criminals.

      It is easier to jail citizens who respect law than it is to jail citizens that disrespect law. Athough the big problems we have in our society are not fighting real criminals, the failure in fighting the real criminals has simply amped up the government’s need to jail someone. It just so happens to be you, not the pervert, the delinquent, the murder, the drug dealer or the rapist.

      As government continues to criminalize the law abiding, the law abiding need to retake control over this government by voting out the morons.

  • avatar
    amca

    This is part of the on-going trend of the Feds criminalizing EVERYTHING. I don’t recall the exact numbers, but the number of crimes on the books have skyrocketed in recent years.

    It’s an inevitable part of a highly regulated state such as the US has evolved into. Gonna have lots of rules? Yeah, the downside is that you’ve gotta bust a lot of people, too.

    And they wonder why the Tea Party and it’s don’t-tread-on-me attitude is thriving? Wake up America, you’re government is turning against you.

    • 0 avatar

      Not everyone can get a real job. Isn’t Federal law enforcement wonderful?

      It would be a LOT easier if you stopped importation of illegal goods at the source but that would make too much sense, delay everyones precious cargo, and require actual security at airports, train stations, and shipping ports.

      Besides, who wants a customs job if you don’t ever get the chance to shoot somebody.

  • avatar
    Aroy13

    So now anyone who possesses anything made of certain woods is a criminal. I wonder if that includes the gun stocks on the firearms the CIA sold to the drug dealers in Mexico.

  • avatar
    jplew138

    Just another example of America turning into just another fascist police state, if you ask me.

  • avatar
    Zoom

    Wow. Quite the stretch equating a guitar manufacturer, who imported questionable materials, to owners of Flying Spurs and Phaetons.

    Since 2009, when the Gibson issue started, has any guitar owner actually had their guitar confiscated under the law as you describe?

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      Are you suggesting that Henry Juszkiewicz didn’t own the guitars that were seized? Who did then? The guitars belonged to someone. They were seized. Ergo, guitar owners had their guitars seized.

      • 0 avatar
        Zoom

        Huh? Henry Juszkiewicz is the manufacturer. Seizing the manufacturers property at the factory is not the same as an individual losing his/her personal Gibson (or Flying Spur) crossing the border, which is what Jack is hypothesizing. Even if someone special ordered and paid for a guitar (or Flying Spur), it’s not theirs until it’s delivered.

      • 0 avatar
        photog02

        @Zoom: Property is property. It is either respected by the people and government or, as seems to be in this case, it isn’t.

      • 0 avatar
        Jack Baruth

        Henry is one of the company’s owners. He isn’t a board member or an appointee. He owns those guitars as surely as the Subway franchise owner down the street owns his smock and hat.

        I have a very, very small company that makes lower control arm braces. If I made them out of wood, instead of aluminum, I could theoretically have my computer, office equipment, and other items seized. The only difference is the scale. m

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        He owns those guitars as surely as the Subway franchise owner down the street owns his smock and hat.

        The odds of that being true are about zero.

        The guitars are most likely the property of Gibson Guitar Corp., a Delaware corporation, or of one of its subsidiaries.

        The CEO of the company may or may not own stock in the corporation. But the assets of the company, including the inventory, belong to the company. The company is a separate entity from the individuals (and the CEO had better hope that it is, so that he can avoid personal liability for any claims against the company.)

        Claiming that Gibson’s CEO owns the inventory is about as accurate as stating that Dan Akerson owns the Malibus that are rolling down the assembly line. Which is to say, he doesn’t.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      I will quibble with you on that. Akerson is a paid employee of GM. Henry J purchased Gibson with a partner using some venture capital.

      http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/analysis-and-features/henry-juszkiewicz-gibson-from-requiem-to-mass-profits-434878.html

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        Henry J purchased Gibson with a partner using some venture capital.

        That doesn’t matter. The corporation is a separate entity from the individuals and/or entities who own it.

        Those guitars don’t belong to him personally. They belong to the company, which is a separate entity with its own existence and status. Your point is inaccurate.

    • 0 avatar
      Jason Porter

      Rewind to 2008. http://www.fretboardjournal.com/features/magazine/guitar-lover%E2%80%99s-guide-cites-conservation-treaty

  • avatar
    Birddog

    I’m not in any way a Government basher.. But..
    “The Lacey Act effectively permits wooden musical instruments to be seized indefinitely, without compensation, and places the burden of proof on the owner, not the government.”
    That is the perfect example of how out of whack our leader’s priorities are and a beautiful example of waste in action..

    Now if you’ll excuse me I have a Sunburst I need to liberate from my dad’s hobby room…

  • avatar
    bluetick

    Interesting info in a WSJ article earlier today:

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111904787404576530520471223268.html

    • 0 avatar
      bluetick

      Almost entirely? Did you read the whole article?

    • 0 avatar
      bluetick

      Maybe you missed the part about the piano importer? It didn’t seem like the Gibson PR folks made that part up, but what do I know?

      I tend to err on the side of liberty anyhow so perhaps I am a bit hyper-sensitive to this issue – not to mention they have shut down a manufacturing plant within 6 miles of my house. This whole Lacey Act is a tremendous unconstitutional abuse of federal authority. It’s none of the US government’s business where the wood in an individual’s fret board or dashboard was harvested.

    • 0 avatar

      It smells (at best) like a journalist doing some quick, highly selective cherry picking to throw a story together. I doubt we’re getting the full story behind the piano importer, and it’s just a single other case. Here’s the DOJ’s release for that case:

      http://www.justice.gov/usao/gan/press/2011/03-09-11.html

      In practical terms, for customs to have any hope of monitoring the vast amount of goods imported properly completed paperwork is essential. They can’t just let items through whenever the businessman in question says “I don’t know what it is” or “Gee, I have no idea how THAT got in there” or “I found the paperwork too confusing or too difficult, so I decided to conceal the goods instead.” The piano importer did receive a fairly small fine, and likely decided it would be cheaper to pay it than to pay lawyers.

      Behind all of this there’s an honest intent to keep endangered forests and wildlife from being harvested to extinction. It’s not easy, and if you start letting people off whenever they claim they had no idea or couldn’t be expected to check then you’ve opened up a huge, easily exploitable loophole.

      The constitution clearly gives the U.S. government rights over international trade and international treaties, both of which apply here.

      • 0 avatar
        bluetick

        I really wasn’t expect a WSJ reporter to provide me with a dissertation on current enforcement of the Lacey Act as applied to piano importers.

        It’s really none of the US government’s concern to monitor forests and wildlife from being harvested to extinction. Furthermore, I just too a quick glance at the enumerated powers in the Constitution and I am coming up empty on the U. S . Fish & Wildlife Service.

        If you don’t like the source of Gibson’s fretboards, buy yourself a Taylor.

        • 0 avatar
          d002

          Wrong.

          The Lacey Act complies with the UN convention WRITTEN in USA and signed by TTAC hero George Bush Jnr..

          The UN convention is empowered by the US Constitution via the Act, the same power that enables USA to enforce its demands on Europe and most of the world (via various strategic treaties, such as NATO).

          Sorry if this interferes with your ignorant world view.

          • 0 avatar
            logankf

            I wasnt aware that the US Constitution held any sway in European countries, or the UN.

            I certainly am ignorant.

      • 0 avatar
        Robert.Walter

        I’m with Michael here.

        I, however, can’t resist the opening of “wool or cotton”? Makes me wonder: If first they strip you of your wool and cotton, and then they grab your wood, depending on how it goes down, such treatment at the hands of the government could be a very pleasurable experience!

        As for bluetick above: Your comment misses the concept of a constitution, which rather than trying to small-mindedly define every point (after all, that is what law, statutes, rulings and regulations are for), instead defines broad concepts and then apportions them among the several arms of government. Only on some very key issues did the framers get down into specific details (mostly to do with the arms of government themselves, or basic rights and liberties.) A key idea, in the constitution, that your comment conveniently overooks is how the things allowed/prohibited to the states/fed works. The other thing is that you’ve confused FLS with ICE and DOJ (who are performing these actions)

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          As for bluetick above: Your comment misses the concept of a constitution

          The comments posted in the threads here usually do. Misinterpreting the Constitution is a passionate hobby for many.

          And as I’ve pointed out elsewhere, the enumerated powers claim that is so popular out here on the interwebs was tossed out the window by the Supreme Court about 200 years ago. One may as well argue that blacks are 60% human based upon Article 1, Section 2, as arguing both claims in a court would be equally ridiculous.

          • 0 avatar

            If you’re going to bring up the 3/5 compromise at least give the entire story and say that it was the North’s way of reducing the southern states’ political power. The 3/5 compromise, as odious as you want to make it out to be actually hastened the end of slavery. There clearly was sentiment among some of the framers that the importation of any more slaves should be banned because Article 1 Sec. 9 says that such a ban could not take place for 20 years. That sentiment must have grown because by Jan 1, 1808, the transatlantic slave trade was outlawed.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            If you’re going to bring up the 3/5 compromise at least give the entire story…

            Unbelievable. You are so filled with your Foxesque pre-ordained narrative and so possessed by the compulsion to spew it out that you can’t even comprehend the point being argued.

            I’d explain it to you, but (a) I already have and (b) you wouldn’t understand it if I did. Misinterpretation is what makes you who you are, and I’m sure that you have no intentions whatsoever of doing anything to fix it.

          • 0 avatar

            You’re rude and you’ve gone beyond the bounds of decent conversation many times with your thoughtless bumper sticker slogans and baseless personal accusations that I lie. Rather than sully what is usually the best automotive comment section on the web by responding in kind, I’ll simply refer you to what Bela Lugosi, played by Martin Landau in the movie Ed Wood, said about Boris Karloff. In this movie, you play Boris.

            It was suggested to me that you wouldn’t get the reference, so here’s the link.

            http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0109707/quotes

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            You’re rude and you’ve gone beyond the bounds of decent conversation many times with your thoughtless bumper sticker slogans and baseless personal accusations that I lie.

            I’ve come to accept that you probably aren’t lying. It’s worse — you really don’t understand much of what you read.

            Your problem is that you spend far too much trying to interpret and uncovering hidden agendas about what others says, and not even time actually understanding what is said. As a result, your comments reflect your efforts to craft an argument, even if that argument has absolutely nothing to do with what was said.

            With you, we have a series of garbled misunderstandings, mixed with a dose of conspiracy theory. Read more carefully, and try harder to understand a point prior to, or instead of, trying to rebut it.

          • 0 avatar

            Thanks for telling Ed and Bertel, who decide that my stuff is worth publishing, and those of the B&B who say that some of my articles are examples of why they visit this site, that they’re morons because they can’t tell that I’m a moron.

            Let’s consider your position for a second. You say that I don’t understand what I read, essentially that I’m stupid. Fine, I know a number of people smarter than I am and I certainly do stupid stuff sometimes. Nobody’s perfect. However, you frequently read this site which is edited by people that you apparently think have poor judgment when it comes to editorial decisions, specifically publishing the works of one Ronald Schreiber, whom you think is incapable of understanding things.

            Why do you visit TTAC if you think that the editors are stupid? Not all the editors are necessarily fans of mine, but Ed and Bertel publish my stuff, Jack and Murilee work with me on Cars In Depth, Steve Lang has given me permission to publish his work, and Michael lives in Detroit as I do and asked me to write up a little tour guide for guests of his that will be coming to down for his daughter’s Bat Mitzvah. I don’t have much contact with Sajeev, but he’s been cordial to me. So apparently you like reading a site where just about everyone on the masthead disagrees with your opinion of me.

            Your problem is that you spend far too much trying to interpret and uncovering hidden agendas about what others says, and not even time actually understanding what is said. As a result, your comments reflect your efforts to craft an argument, even if that argument has absolutely nothing to do with what was said.

            Thanks for demonstration so vividly the psychological phenomenon known as projection.

            Distilled, your comment essentially means that you are unhappy when people disagree with you. If only I would understand what you’re saying I would see things your way. Your way, apparently isn’t an agenda, just logic and correctness.

      • 0 avatar
        photog02

        I agree with you that there is most likely an honest intent behind the law, but then you say that it is just a single case keep in mind that our legal system evolves based on single cases.

      • 0 avatar
        Dynamic88

        +1 on what Michael Karesh said

      • 0 avatar
        ihatetrees

        The Fender case boils down to a case of whom do you trust more when it comes to the “reasonableness” of the “source paperwork”: A private sector company making high end guitars or Civil Servants who have to justify their (most likely pathetic and self-loathing) existence.

        Offense WAS intended. My sympathies are clear…

      • 0 avatar

        Michael, this case has nothing to do with endangered forests. It hinges on the interpretation by American federal law enforcement agencies of foreign countries’ laws. As Jack points out in the post, it’s about where the wood is finished. The Feds say Indian law says that the wood must be finished in India. That’s not what the Indians say.

  • avatar
    MarcKyle64

    Big Brother IS Watching You

  • avatar
    MrWhopee

    So much for importing that Russian SUV with whale-penis interior…

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    So, has even one Bentley been seized under the Lacy Act?

    BTW, the Lacy Act has been around since 1900. It’s been amended several times.

    After an article like this, I begin to wonder why I come here.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      The 2008 amendment is at issue here.

      No Bentleys have been seized under the Lacey Act. However, the law is plainly written in such a fashion as to give the Government the power to seize them indefinitely. That’s not speculation, or panic-mongering, or anything. It’s the law, correctly interpreted in multiple places by qualified people.

      If I point a loaded pistol at your head but reserve the right to pull the trigger later, you should still have concerns.

      I would be sorry if you left TTAC. Your comments are always welcome. Feel free to contact me directly with concerns.

      • 0 avatar
        mikedt

        Crossing the border with anything has become a game of chance since 9/11. Laptops, thumb drives, cell phones are just a few of the many IT based items the government can confiscate without cause, indefinitely and without any need to compensate the owner. This isn’t a Dem vs Rep problem this is the insatiable need for power that any and all governments (Fed/state/local) attempt to acquire. Eminent domain has been used to take property form those that haven’t been utilizing it well enough. i.e. take from the middle class and give it to a corporation, and the war on drugs has generated untold numbers of stories about asset forfeitures that fund local police departments.

        Unfortunately a good 50% of the country, in any given case, thinks that if you’re doing nothing wrong you have nothing to fear so they’re all for this.

      • 0 avatar
        Dynamic88

        Jack, I made my statements on TTAC, so I think further discussion should be here as well.

        My only concern is that I don’t think you’ve accurately stated what might happen to an individual crossing back into the US with a car containing a protected species of wood.

        Now, before I go further, I could be wrong. I’m not a lawyer, but then, neither are you, to my knowledge.

        When you state that the law is plainly written I have to stop you right there. It doesn’t matter how “plain” it appears to you or I. The law is incredibly complex. For example, the focus of the law is the trade of protected species of wood. It’s not “plain” that driving your Bentley across the boarder and back is “trade”. It’s not plain that driving your Bentley back and forth across the border is “importing” within the meaning of the act. It is “transportation”, but I doubt customs is going to confiscate anyone’s car over concern where the wood on the dashboard came from. (If your trunk is filled with pieces of Rosewood that’s another matter).

        Presumably the rare species of wood was imported legally into the UK for Bentley to use in manufacturing the car. Presumably the Bentley was legally imported into the US by Rolls/Bentley USA, and legally sold to a dealer, from whom you or I purchased the car. IOWs, the car has already been cleared by customs.

        I don’t think there is a one in Gazzillion chance that one’s car will be confiscated because the owner lacks documentation as to where the wood on the dash came from.

        Overwhelmingly the focus of the act is on importers of wood, not retail customers of goods containing wood.

        There have been instruments seized, but this is mostly under CITES (1973) and that law provides exemptions if you can prove your instrument was made prior to the ban on Wood, Ivory, etc., going into effect.

      • 0 avatar
        Jack Baruth

        The WSJ article quotes an attorney, and I provided a link to an Environmental Investigation Agency presentation that specifically names automobiles. That’s not conclusive, but it’s not imaginary, either.

        Nobody has yet found an attorney who says that there is nothing about which we should worry.

        What about pre-1973 cars, such as a Mercedes 600 with wood interior? How confident would you be that CITES didn’t apply if you’d just spent fifty grand to restore one?

      • 0 avatar
        Dynamic88

        Jack,

        I’m going to bow out of the conversation at this point. I see little value in two non-lawyers “discussing” hypothetical legal situations when neither really has the background for it.

        If my first post was too personal and impolite, I’m sorry. I actually enjoy much of your writing. It’s just that some days I wish I could come to TTAC and read about cars.

        Yes, I know, sooner or later cars intersect with all other aspects of life. But this blog is at it’s best when it’s really narrowly focused on cars.

      • 0 avatar
        bunkie

        Dynamic88 has a very valid point. I’m married to an attorney. If I had a dollar for every time she has told me that she was not qualified to judge a given legal situation without extensive research or reaching out to someone with extensive experience, I might be able to buy a Custom Shop Les Paul.

        Sure, any law can be abused. But I would say you’re more likely to be shot by some cop who oversteps his authority than to have your car confiscated because of the wood on the dashboard.

        Finally, I’m spending a month on London for work this fall and I am seriously considering taking my Gibson Sheryl Crow with me.

    • 0 avatar
      european

      Dynamic88 stated: “After an article like this, I begin to wonder why I come here.”

      Mr Dynamic this site is well know to be the b1tching vent for the sites contributors. Here we have (concealed in a fake concern about VW phaetons & bentleys) monkey boy JB’s actually worry that some nice TSP officer will confiscate the indian rosewood stick he so enjoys having up his a.s.s. I guess that explains monkey boy JB’s love for rosey ford festivas. enuff said.

      • 0 avatar
        Jack Baruth

        Congratulations on getting around the word filter. Remind me to make it extra tough on your mother the next time I’m in Amsterdam’s retired-prostitutes district.

    • 0 avatar
      Hockey Bum

      Actually this raises an interesting point. Is the law being applied evenly or only selectively? Is the selective prosecution for a “forbidden” purpose?

      “A selective prosecution claim is not a defense on the merits to the criminal charge itself, but an independent assertion that the prosecutor has brought the charge for reasons forbidden by the Constitution.” U.S. v Armstrong.

      Of course winning such a case is difficult.

      • 0 avatar

        Gibson’s competitors, Martin Guitars, which has made political contributions to the party currently in power in Washington, has never been raided. Administration spokesmen has said this raid originated in a regional office, not DC, but it still looks fishy.

        Gibson, btw, was the subject of an earlier raid, that resulted in no prosecution but the company is still suing to get the government to return the wood that they seized then.

        I wonder how the founding fathers would feel about an armed raid on a carpentry shop.

        What’s particularly problematic with the Lacey Act is that it gives American law enforcement the power to determine if foreign laws have been broken even though in the case of Gibson, India insists that the rosewood and ebony that the company imports is compliant with Indian law.

      • 0 avatar

        That’s it, Ronnie. I’m reporting you to the Rebbe.

      • 0 avatar
        Boff

        What a ridiculous statement.

        Gibson and Martin are not competitors.

      • 0 avatar

        I’m not sure why you say that Gibson and Martin don’t compete. You do know that Gibson sells a line of fine acoustic guitars, don’t you? They seem to be priced very close to what Martin charges for their acoustic guitars. Also, Gibson sells acoustic electrics, so does Martin. I don’t know how you can say that they don’t compete. I’m not going to use words like ridiculous so I’ll simply say that you are 100% wrong. How do those companies not compete?

        Sure, a ’58 Les Paul is different from a Martin D-28, they’re both guitars,though, made of foreign woods in many cases. Gibson and Martin are both guitar makers and since most guitarists that I know have both acoustic and electric guitars, it stands to reason that some consumers sometimes have to decide between even one of Gibson’s electric instruments and one of Martin’s acoustic products. While I don’t play guitar, I am a fan of the instrument and players and know the difference between a Martin D-28 and a Gibson Les Paul and the difference between a Gibson Explorer and a Guitar Lab Explorer (just trying to impress Jack). Both companies use the species of Indian wood that is in question.

      • 0 avatar
        Boff

        Actually, I was trying to slyly lampoon your ridiculous suggestion of a political basis for the Gibson raids. You have really bought the sad “Obama brings Chicago mob/political rules to Washington” meme, haven’t you?

        Still, although Gibson’s and Martin’s product lines intersect slightly (mainly in the dreadnought range), they would not be close enough competitors for the Martin operatives to call for a hit on Gibson’s operations.

      • 0 avatar

        Actually, I was trying to slyly lampoon your ridiculous suggestion of a political basis for the Gibson raids. You have really bought the sad “Obama brings Chicago mob/political rules to Washington” meme, haven’t you?

        You make a declarative statement, that’s 100% wrong BTW, and you then try to weasel out by claiming it was only a joke, a sly lampoon.

        Hmmm. Sly and lampoon implies humor. I’m not sure where the humor or satire is in “not competitors”.

        Frankly I think this has way more to do with the regulatory mindset than Obama’s Chicago background. Though in the last three years groups that are friendly to the administrations, like the UAW, or certain “green” companies, for example, have gotten favored treatment. It will be interesting to find out what provoked the raid on Gibson and why other guitar companies that use Indian woods have not been targeted.

        But that’s business as usual with the government in general and the feds in particular. There’s almost as much of this nonsense and cronyism when Republicans are in power, though it’s clear that Obama’s administration have signaled to anyone with regulatory power that the brakes are off.

        Regulators love to regulate. Have you ever met anyone with authority that did anything to diminish their authority over you? Are people in government somehow angels, unlike the rest of us with selfish interests ?

        But go ahead and play with your little toy soldiers strawmen.

        Look, those of us who write for the site take our slings and arrows that come with the territory of shooting our mouths off. I’m a big boy and have thick skin, it’s frustrating but I suppose it’s a good idea that we writers are not allowed to respond in a like manner to some of the truly insulting and disrespectful things that some readers say. It’s bad business to fight with the readers. Considering that nobody has to pay for the content of this site, though, it’s rather presumptuous and pretentious to get insulting about a post on a car blog.

        I’m not a political operative. I’m here for the money, not to push a political agenda. We’re whores, not politicians. A politician takes your money. At least a whore leaves you with a smile on your face. Hopefully what we write makes people smile. The site’s traffic stats don’t tell us how many smile and how many frown, but they do tell us that lots of people, millions in fact, think our writing is worth reading.

        I love cars but this is also a job that I try to do seriously within the parameters of efficiently using my time to get paid. No different than the embroidery I sell. I try to find interesting things about cars, the car biz and car culture that readers will find unusual, interesting, informative and hopefully entertaining. My primary objective is selling Ed and Bertel that a particular story idea will generate readership and hits, not defeating President Obama in 2012.

        I have my differences with Psar, but for the most part he debates like a gentleman. Others should follow his example.

      • 0 avatar
        Boff

        Wow…cue the violins. Or should i be grateful you didn’t let me have it with both barrels?

        “Gibson’s competitors, Martin Guitars, which has made political contributions to the party currently in power in Washington, has never been raided. Administration spokesmen has said this raid originated in a regional office, not DC, but it still looks fishy.”

        If ever a post was worth lampooning, this was it. No, not because of the idea that Gibson and Martin are competitors, but because of the implication that Martin’s political contributions bought them cover from Lacey Act enforcement.

        For the record, if you DID stick to cars, I think the site would be the better for it.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        Administration spokesmen has said this raid originated in a regional office, not DC, but it still looks fishy.

        Sure, I could see how a fringe extremist with a propensity for jumping to conclusions could believe that.

        Or you could do a bit of homework on topic, based upon records from the last several election cycles:

        -The CEO of Taylor has donated to a Republican. No raids.
        -The CEO of Fender doesn’t appear to have donated to anyone. No raids.
        -Meanwhile, the CEO of Gibson donated to one Republican, once. The company has made several donations to the Consumer Electronics PAC, which hands out money pretty evenly to both sides.

        So ironically, Gibson has donated more to the Democrats than have these other companies. The only thing that’s fishy here is your propensity for regurgitating what you’ve been told to think.

  • avatar
    eldard

    Good thing I live in a country with a perpetually cash-strapped government. You can pay your way out of almost anything!

  • avatar
    mallthus

    Great example of unintended consequences and that we have both too many laws and too many stupid people in both politics and government.

    This is no example of a fascist police state though…it’s an example of little people trying to be big people, using a law’s lack of clarity as an excuse to grandstand.

    To those who see a conspiracy in every story involving laws or the government, remember that, if you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

    • 0 avatar

      The fascism I recall started with little people trying to be big people. Eventually, they succeeded – for a while.

      I must say that China shows more respect for personal property than the average American police department or government agency.

      A License to Steal: The Forfeiture of Property is an old book from 1996. It got worse.

      • 0 avatar
        Kevin Jaeger

        Indeed. America has experienced an uncontrolled growth in departments, agencies and other regulatory bodies that all seem to have acquired their own SWAT teams.

        I don’t know what this poor fellow did to get himself in the cross-hairs of the Fish and Wildlife Service, but he is now experiencing the Federal version of “contempt of cop”. Any regular citizen knows he can be charged with quite literally anything if he disses a cop.

        For reasons known only to the Service itself, they’ve decided to make an example of Gibson Guitars. I feel sorry for the guy.

        And no, your Bentley isn’t likely to be seized. But that is exactly the type of thing the Border Service may do if they simply decide you’ve annoyed them.

      • 0 avatar
        ihatetrees

        Another excellent book on wacked Federal enforcement: “Three Felonies a Day” by Harvey Silverglate.

  • avatar
    Lokki

    For those who have forgotten or who are too youg to know, this is the same kind of overreaching madness we went through under the post-Nixon scandal Democrat-dominated congresses of the 70′s.

    Your car wouldn’t start if your seat belt wasn’t buckled. No hot water in public building and half the light bulbs removed. 85 mph speedometers. Forced conversion to the metric system over 5 years. 5 mph bumpers (which increased repair costs). Mandatory conversion of public buses for the handicapped and refusing cities offers of chauffered vehicles for every handicapped person in each city as less expensive. The list goes on and on.

    The government knows what’s good for you. So give them your money and shut up.

    • 0 avatar
      mikedt

      I kind of wish the forced conversion to the metric system had worked.

    • 0 avatar
      Lokki

      I await your apology. You may disagree with my ideas but you should not stoop (or in your case ascend from the gutter) to mqke personal attacks.
      Admins? Acceptable conduct?

      The government should not be involved in everything.

    • 0 avatar
      logankf

      You really said “Shut your whore mouth” ?

      Thats not very nice.

      Seatbelt laws were just one of the first ways that the government told us that it knew what’s best for us.

    • 0 avatar
      ihatetrees

      @MarcKyle64:

      So the ONLY way to get the results you describe was to force businesses and local governments to change. Generous tax credits and grants would never have worked.

      Mandates ignore costs. The results of which are shuttered small, urban businesses at the expense of vast suburban ones. And I won’t even mention the ADA’s Trial Lawyer kickback scheme.

      ADA did improve access. But it often did so in a thuggish, corrupt manner.

  • avatar
    zerofoo

    I’ve said this for years: All laws should have a sunset date. This would force congress to reexamine and rerauthorize important laws and allow bad or irrelevant laws to expire on their own.

    This would also have the side effect of reducing the total number of laws, as congress would be pretty busy reviewing expiring laws. This could help “rate limit” the creation of new laws.

    What is our rule of law going to look like in 100 years if we continue to create laws at our current rate?

  • avatar

    Conclusion: America

  • avatar
    kincaid

    This is a huge deal to those who live in places that have been attacked by foreign plants and animals. In southern Michigan where I live virtually all of our ash trees have been killed by larva from China brought in throught shipping crates. Now the asian carp threaten the sport fishing in the Great Lakes. These threats don’t seem like much if you live in places like Nevada or Arizona where nothing grows, but in the fertile, mild climate of the Midwest and Northeast, these invaders cost billions of dollars per year in fighting their spread and mitigating their damage. This is very much a necessary and legitimate role for the government who guard our borders from lots more than bombers.

    • 0 avatar
      Toad

      So now we are protected from Guitar beetles. Yea! When Gibson moves their manufacturing to China in a couple of years how many people will be fuming about greedy business people shuttering factories and wondering why it happened.

      You would think that somebody who lives in southern Michigan and has lived through the devastation bad governance can produce would be more skeptical of government agencies effectively shutting down a factory.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I’m impressed. Jack writes what amounts to tasty political flamebait for both sides of the spectrum and hardly anyone bites.

    I’m rather proud of TTAC.

    On the othder hand, it was on Friday night and the usual suspects might have just had better things to do.

    • 0 avatar
      mazder3

      You know psar, methinks the usual suspects aren’t the usual suspects anymore. I may be wrong but its been awfully quiet ’round these parts lately. One got auf’d, another got waaaaay off topic in a comment and then used the f-bomb multiple times. Somehow it got past the spam filter. It has since been deleted. The other probably found a hot piece of tail.

    • 0 avatar
      Boff

      You spoke too soon. Ronnie bit and bit hard.

      • 0 avatar

        The Lacey Act has been around for over a century. How it’s enforced is a different question. Gibson’s problems began with this administration. Martin uses similar woods and hasn’t been raided or, as far as we know, inspected.

        And I don’t necessarily see this in a Democrat or Republican schema. Government has grown under both parties (Nixon started the EPA) is stifling business growth in so many ways.

        I’m reminded of something the EPA administrator who effectively killed inventor Victor Wouk’s hybrid car in the early 1970s said. He said that the EPA was young, it was their first chance to regulate and regulate they would do.

  • avatar
    montgomery burns

    “Think that’s far-fetched? Ask the woman doing two years in federal prison for accepting lobsters in clear plastic bags how far-fetched it is.”

    This is wrong. Defendants were convicted because all lobster tails were to be inspected and processed in Honduras. (By the way we’re talking major shipment not just a few) The plastic bags were merely a tip off that they had not been inspected and processed in Honduras, a violation of Honduran law. Additionally most of the lobster tails were undersized and some were female, also a violation. So the plastic bags really had little to do with it.

    Sorry to get off topic but this is in the article.

    • 0 avatar
      Toad

      Actually, no.

      “To make matters worse, the Honduran law governing such shipments was not valid at the time of Huang’s arrest—a fact that the Honduran government pointed out to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. Nonetheless, the federal court found Huang guilty in March 2003 and imposed a two-year prison sentence.”

      -Three Felonies a Day. http://www.threefelonies.com/Youtoo/tabid/86/Default.aspx

      • 0 avatar

        I wouldn’t trust a thing you see on the threefelonies site. It’s full of willful distortions and hypotheticals. Much additional, more reliable information about the Huang case here:

        http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2000/November/647enrd.htm

        http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories/s529.htm

        http://www.publicaffairs.noaa.gov/releases2004/mar04/noaa04-r119.html

      • 0 avatar
        montgomery burns

        Actually yes.

        Read the ruling for yourself. There is lengthy discussion about wether the Honduran law was valid or not. The court found that it was at the time of the crime. Nevertheless it wasn’t about lobster tails that were in plastic or boxed.

        http://law.justia.com/cases/federal/appellate-courts/F3/331/1228/510898/

    • 0 avatar
      Toad

      If the Honduran government went through the trouble to say their law was not applicable, I would default to their expertise.

      Unfortunate to see that there are always apologists for governmental overreach, even to the point of enforcing non-applicable laws from other countries.

      • 0 avatar
        eldard

        Unfortunate to see that there are always apologists for governmental overreach

        Most likely these folks want their gov’t to hand everything to them even if the state can’t afford it. No worries, though. Once their beloved nanny state becomes insolvent they’ll soon have a rude awakening. They are soooo gonna get it in the arse. Rejoice!!!

  • avatar
    chuckrs

    Generally speaking, any government big enough to give you everything you want is more than big enough to take away everything you have. Speaking of the US specifically, whether you believe the Constitution is of any consequence today, remember the good fellas of the government are just as likely to be malicious, or venal and corrupt, as the population at large. There is nothing more ennobling about entering government service than in doing any other job. One of the aims of the Constitution’s framers was to protect us from government. I can live with that principal.

    “He has erected a Multitude of New Offices, and sent hither Swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.” aannnd we’re well on the way back to that situation.

  • avatar

    Ok, guys. I’m being forced to be the bad cop again, as much as I hate it.

    We are down one reader for “shut your [prostitute] mouth.”

    Please maintain a modicum of civil discourse.

  • avatar
    Szyznyk

    All this political stuff aside, I can feel pretty smug about the imitation wood in my Grand Marquis.

  • avatar

    Unfortunate that they would attack a US manuf. business. -How silly and counterproductive.

    Wasn’t there something in the news, oh 1x or 2x about needing Jobs, Jobs, Jobs? [irregardless of Steve] -Somebody should refer this case to Barry.

    Besides, Result: [already rapacious] Gibson Prices Only Go Higher. Yay!

    @Jack, if your dash was Chestnut, it didn’t come from the US. Chestnut as a species has been dead here for awhile. The substitute is Ash.

  • avatar

    This is very funny.

    http://iowahawk.typepad.com/iowahawk/2011/08/new-scandal-at-doj-as-illegal-guitars-end-up-in-hands-of-mexican-drug-lords.html

    Usually these guys are armed with Mexican Strats and Squires, Epiphones, small caliber stuff like that,” said Pedro Ochoa, 36, an eye witness to the sonic melee. “This time they were packing the heavy firepower.”

    “I’ve been working the border for over 25 years and have never seen a weapons cachet like this,” said Patrol Supervisor Mike Foreman. “A ’53 Goldtop, a ’59 Black Beauty, Flying V’s, a whole armory of SGs. Enough for an entire guitarmy. It’s a wonder there weren’t any total shreddings.”

    David Burge is a huge gearhead, hot rod and land speed enthusiast, and he’s also a very very funny political satirist.

    Come to think of it, since the DOJ’s Fast and Furious operation was named after a car movie, you could do a satire with American cars ending up in the hands of Mexican drug gangs – though I suspect that reality isn’t to far from fiction and that plenty of Mexican gangs are using American (and other) SUVs, probably armored.

  • avatar
    bunkie

    In addition to my Gibby acoustic, I own a Martin D-15 so, based on my personal experience, they don’t compete as both companies got my dollars for their products.

  • avatar
    pervak

    There are four things that strike me here:

    1. The law is written so broadly as to bring uncertainty into the issue of one’s own property. The law should be clear so that it is easily understood. This is not.

    2. There is no mens rea here — your property is seized even if you did not intend to break the law or even know that there was a law to break.

    3. We are enforcing foreign laws here, as interpreted by U.S. government officials. This means that laws written for whatever reasons by non-democratic and non-rule-of-law regimes (think Russia, Zimbabwe, Burma, most of Africa, and on and on) are enforced on Americans residing in America.

    4. Lastly, it does not appear from the Gibson case that the issue is importing rare or prohibited wood. It is not illegal to export the wood here (thus, Indians are allowed to chop down the trees). But, the U.S. government is alleging that it is illegal to important “unfinished” wood. Therefore, what the U.S. government is enforcing is not a law aimed at protecting the environment, but rather at protecting Indian carpentry jobs (which ties back to point 3).


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