THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 637, September 18, 2011
"Due process gets in the way of kidnapping
and torturing their perceived enemies"
Attribute to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise
Here's a little puzzle for you to solve, employing, as the great detective Nero Wolfe used to say, your intelligence guided by your experience.
On a wall in my living room, hangs a Gibson J-50, a large-bodied acoustic guitar, commonly referred to as a "dreadnought", of a kind often associated with bluegrass and folk music. It's an excellent instrument, deep-voiced and full-throated. I bought it from a friend for use in solo performances and as a band leader. It was the best guitar I could afford at the time. I wrote more songs on it than I can recollect, and it was my constant musical companion for almost forty years.
Hanging on a wall in my bedroom (because, between all the other guitars, banjos, and mandolins, there's no space left in the living room) is the guitar I always really wanted, a Martin HD-35 my wife surprised me with a few years ago. It's actually several grades above the D-18 my girlfriend had in high school that I admired and never thought I had a chance of owning. (Martin's D-28 is considered the bluegrass industry standard.) It's everything a guitar can be, maybe more.
Other big-bodied six-stringed guitars exist, and I have had a few of them, but Martin and Gibson, both manufactured for the most part in the United States, the former since 1833 in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, and the latter since 1890, until recently in Kalamazoo, Michigan (now in Nashville, Tennessee), are basically the Ford and Chevy of acoustic guitars.
To the average non-musician, the products of these companies must look and sound pretty much the same. Yet I can pick one up blindfoldedbelieve me, I'm far from alone in thisand before I ever touch the strings, be absolutely certain exactly which one of the two I'm holding.
One more pertinent piece of information; maybe you'll think it's two. One of these companies employs a unionized work force and makes monetary contributions to the Democratic Party. The other company does not.
My question for you is: which of these two fine old companies do you imagine has been harassed for two years and recently raided by armed thugs, working for what is arguably the most corrupt political regime in American history? Hint: it isn't the unionized Democratic contributor.
Interestingly, the agency responsible for this travesty declines to tell Gibson exactly what they did wrong. "We have been implicated in wrongdoing," a Gibson spokesman is quoted by NPR.org, "but we haven't been charged with anything". Production has been shut down, workers sent home, and millions of dollars in exotic wood have been stolen. The words "trafficking in illegally obtained wood" are thrown around.
It's surmised that the alleged violation involves a century-old piece of legislation called the Lacey Act, first written to prevent the importation of various potentially dangerous animal species. This has since been expanded to include plants that government expertsthe same kind who think global warming is realhave decided are endangered.
The government complains that Gibson hasn't given them any "proof of legality", demonstrating that the good old fascist standby, "Your papers, citizen!" can be applied to corporations as well as it can to individuals, and to this administration you're guilty until proven innocent.
To make things even more insane, the government of Madagascarwhich is at the center of this federal farceused to have laws more or less forbidding the exportation of some of their exotic woods. That government was overthrown in a revolution, and the newer regime is prepared to do business. However the United Nations types don't like the current Madagascar government (it probably lets the kiddies eat French fries), childishly refuse to acknowledge its existence, and maintain idiotically that the laws banning wood export are still valid.
It is those laws, apparently, that the feds are enforcing. I don't recall asking them to do that, enforce the laws of another country, do you?
The likely truth is that this hasn't anything to do with breaking any law, or using a politically incorrect kind of wood to manufacture guitars. C.F. Martin and many others use the same kinds of wood. And even if they didn't (see Article I, Section VIII), absolutely nothing in the Constitution gives government the legal power to be the wood police.
I was extremely disappointed to read that Christian Martinit's a family business, still being run by individuals of that surnameapparently approves of what's been done to Gibson in the phony baloney name of environmentalism. I like my HD-35 and have been proud to own it, but now, whenever I look at it, or pick it up, I won't be able to help thinking about those through history who have collaborated with fascism.
On the other hand, I've always advised individuals that they deserve the best tools they can get, without regard to who made them. For self-defense, the AK-47 leaves almost every other weapon in its classsport utility carbinesin the dust, I wish I had a good one myself, and it's made by the most brutal and evil governments on Earth.
But I digress.
This Gibson Guitars tree-hugging thuggery situation amounts to nothing more, plain and simple, than good, old-fashioned Chicago-style shakedown.
And there is this: back during the Dustbowl days and afterward, Woody Guthrie had the words "This machine kills fascists" painted on his guitar. The motto was resurrected during the folk music revival of the 1960s, and played some small part in helping to end what wasat the timethe most irrational war that America had ever involved itself in. I would never paint anything on my guitar, myself, but, with scum like Lyndon Johnson and Hubert Humphrey in mind, the genuine calfskin head of my banjo bore the notation "This machine kills liberals".
Back then, it seemed like it was the Left who owned the intellectual culture (I think it was Joan Baez who said, "There are no right-wing folk songs", and she was absolutely correct). They had all the goodor at least impressivescholarship. They also told the funniest jokes, because they had an optimistic sense that they were hanging ten on an unstoppable wave of the future. They had Tom Lehrer, Phil Ochs, Edwin Starr, and Country Joe and the Fish. As a libertarianand therefore among the politically homelessI could only stand on the sidelines (okay, I did help a little bit) and watch as they deposed an evil President.
Smart tyrants have long realized that the pen is, indeed, mightier than the sword. That's why censorship is invariably the handmaiden of tyranny. And since the Vietnam War, they understand that a guitar can be mightier than any bayoneted blunderbuss. For the most part, the music hasn't come back, yet, into the general freedom movement, but when it doesand I guarantee that it willif there's going to be any unofficial guitar of the Tea Parties, it will be the choice of refined rednecks everywhere, the non-union, Republican-leaning Gibson dreadnought.
The left have long since lost any sense of humor they had. They're brittle now, with the humiliating failures of socialism. They've been caught in one lie after another on almost every subject, items like redistributive economics, victim disarmament, and especially where it comes to global warming in particular and environmentalism in general. They're fighting on the side of evil, and they know it. They probably know that this time, all of the songs and jokes are going to be about them.
Republicans had damn well better rush to Gibson's aid. They don't have all that many supporters among the arts. In the coming political bloodbath we call the 2012 election, they're going to need every last bit of help in this category that they can recruit. As I've observed time and again, you can't win a culture war if you ain't got any culture.
I have appended to this article a list of major guitar makers in America and their contact information. (I've tossed in a couple of foreign ones, as well as a banjo company.) I urge you very strongly to write to them. Ask them to stand by Gibson, instead acting like a despicable "useful idiot" as Chris Martin gives every appearance of being.
Before you do anything, though, contact Gibson and let them know they're not alone. Their contact information is listed first, with a section of their website where they defend themselves. You might try writing to your favorite musical performers, too, and see where they stand.
The Gibson Guitar Corp.
Deering Banjo Company
Fender Musical Instruments Corporation
Karl Hofner GmbH & Co. KG
C. F. Martin & Company
Paul Reed Smith Guitars
Rickenbacker International Corporation
Yamaha Corporation of America
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