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The Thrill is Gone For Federal Law Enforcement Officials

by Mike Keeler

On August 24th, heavily armed agents from the Justice Department conducted a coordinated raid on four warehouses and corporate offices in Nashville and Memphis.  They broke through doors, ripped open crates and boxes, and rifled through company files.  And when the left, they took a million dollars worth of suspicious material with them.  The contraband?  Exotic hardwoods like ebony and rosewood.  And lots and lots of guitars.

The Feds just busted the Gibson guitar company, whose instruments are played by music legends like B.B. King, Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton.  Not because drugs were being trafficked inside, or because forgeries were brought in from abroad, or because they were made by illegal immigrants.  In fact, Gibson hadn’t really broken any U.S. law.   What Gibson had allegedly done is import endangered hardwoods in violation of the laws of India, the country of origin.

Criticism erupted almost immediately. The business community complained about the end of free-enterprise.  Tea Partiers screamed about government over-reach.  And they were joined by normally tree-hugging musicians, who defended Gibson’s need for these hardwoods to create the classic Gibson sound.

And then things got really kooky, when columnists across the south alleged that the raid was politically motivated.  Gibson – whose CEO Henry Juszkiewicz is a supporter of Republican candidates and issues – has been raided twice, while its main competitor Martin Guitar – whose CEO Chris Martin IV is a Democratic supporter – has not been raided, though both companies get their hardwoods from similar sources.

As a result of the criticism – surprise!- a bi-partisan committee was set up in Washington to look into the raid.  (Yeah, that’ll resolve things.) And shortly after that Gibson met with the Feds to plead their case to get their gear back. No word yet on the final results.

Meanwhile, somewhere, someone’s busy banging out the first post-modern, right-wing protest song.  What’s it gonna be?  “G-Men Grabbed My Gibson”? “Elliot Ness and the Indefensibles”?  “Tin Soldiers in Tennessee”?

No matter how you play it, America’s got a bad case of the Partisan Blues.

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