As Gibson lowers lips to kiss hoof, Uncle, in show of grace, lifts it

These instruments are made by Gibson Guitars in Nashville, a private company that recently opened a plant in Memphis. (

By David Tulis

I snapped up the CD edition of Gulliver’s Travels after my 9-year-old had enjoyed it and have been howling at the satire so acidly penned by Jonathan Swift, whose look at 18th century Englishmen and the entirety of a miserable human race are enjoyed mostly by children and English departments — with few others between.

Swift is constantly putting Gulliver his narrator into fantastic situations and giving the reader to ridicule him, though the intrepid traveler views himself as brave, humble, truthful and honest about his own faults. The greatest race in his travelogue is the Houyhnhnms, noble horses whose virtues we are led to extol as against the execrable character of the yahoos, uncouth human beings with whom they share their island.

As Gulliver is being deported, we have a priceless scene:

I was forced to wait above an hour for the tide; and then observing the wind very fortunately bearing toward the island to which I intended to steer my course, I took a second leave of my master: but as I was going to prostrate myself to kiss his hoof, he did me the honour to raise it gently to my mouth. I am not ignorant how much I have been censured for mentioning this last particular. Detractors are pleased to think it improbable, that so illustrious a person should descend to give so great a mark of distinction to a creature so inferior as I.  (Part 4, chapter 10)

The raising of the master’s foot as a sign of favor is a picture of the benevolent treatment July 26 in a settlement between federal prosecutors and a beleaguered Tennessee business, Gibson Guitar Corp.

The closing chapter of a military-style raid and criminal prosecution against the Nashville-based family business is an example of the condescension extended to the proles by the enforcers of the federal executive and legislative departments in the District of Columbia.

“In light of Gibson’s acknowledgement of its conduct, its duties under the Lacey Act and its promised cooperation and remedial actions,” the Department of Justice says in a statement, “the government will decline charging Gibson criminally in connection with Gibson’s order, purchase or importation of ebony from Madagascar and ebony and rosewood from India, provided that Gibson fully carries out its obligations under the agreement, and commits no future violations of law, including Lacey Act violations.”

Caring human beings’ handy with search warrants

Gibson CEO Henry Juszkiewicz says the government used violence to settle a misunderstanding under what the U.S. admits is a murky legal setting.

“We feel that Gibson was inappropriately targeted, and a matter that could have been addressed with a simple contact by a caring human being representing the government,” Mr. Juszkiewicz says.

“Instead, the government used violent and hostile means with the full force of the U.S. government and several armed law enforcement agencies costing the taxpayer millions of dollars and putting a job-creating U.S. manufacturer at risk and at a competitive disadvantage. This shows the increasing trend on the part of the government to criminalize rules and regulations and treat U.S. businesses in the same way drug dealers are treated. This is wrong and it is unfair. I am committed to working hard to correct the inequity that the law allows and ensure there is fairness, due process, and the law is used for its intended purpose of stopping bad guys and stopping the very real deforestation of our planet.”

The company’s press statement is accompanied by a “criminal enforcement agreement” in which company fought to show “that it was inappropriate to criminalize this matter” over importation of banned wood from overseas.

Knowing that the American lapdog press holds government handouts as objective news, Mr. Juszkiewicz provides in his press release a feisty Q and A in which he gives a mix of tough answers and demurrers suitable to his humiliation.

“Q: Wasn’t the government’s conduct here, with its armed raid on your headquarters and manufacturing facilities, so outrageous and overreaching as to deserve further congressional investigation, just calling a spade a spade?

“A: I don’t retreat from any of my prior commentary, but I am gratified that this resolution puts the matter behind us. We are a forward-looking company hoping to move our business ahead in an environmentally forward-thinking way.”

Leg lifted, but it’s still a hoof

For the next 1½ years Gibson’s private owners and managers accept an open-ended claim against themselves and agree to serve the government in any Lacey Act investigation:

➤ The company agrees to become an agent, investigator, reporter and prosecutor, of itself as needed, promising to “bring to the government’s attention all criminal conduct by, or criminal investigations of, Gibson or any of its senior managerial employees, that comes to the attention of Gibson or its senior management, as well as any administrative proceeding or civil action brought by any governmental authority that alleges fraud or criminal violations by or against Gibson.”

➤ The company agrees to “cooperate fully” with the government and its agents in any Lacey Act cases of the sort imposed against Gibson. Gibson agrees to “[provide] logistical and technical support for any meeting, interview, grand jury proceeding, or any trial or other court proceeding concerning the Lacey Act.”

➤ Gibson forfeits F$261,000 in wood seized by the feds, agrees to pay F$300,000 as a “monetary penalty,” and, in a show of good faith, to make a “community service payment” to a pressure group, National Fish and Wildlife Federation. Stiffly, the agreement denies a tax deduction for the charitable giving and declares Gibson “shall not advertise this community service payment except as being a condition for resolving this matter.”

➤ The criminal investigation was prompted by Gibson’s dealings with Hamburg, Germany, middleman company Theodor Nagel Gmbh and Madagascar farmers after an investigation by an environmentalist group. The feds acknowledge “that certain questions and inconsistencies now exist regarding the tariff classification of ebony and rosewood fingerboard blanks pursuant to the Indian government’s foreign trade policy.” Seeing that Indian law is unclear or subject to legislative action, the forbearing U.S. “will not undertake enforcement actions related to Gibson’s future orders, purchases, or imports of ebony and rosewood fingerboard blanks from India, unless and until the government of India provides specific clarification that ebony and rosewood fingerboard blanks are expressly prohibited *** .” Gibson had complained it was being menaced with U.S. prosecution under an Indian law that didn’t hold its actions criminal.

Gibson is faulted mostly for not supervising its supplier’s methods so that he might be in compliance with the U.S. law that seeks to protect certain types of forests around the world. “Before ordering or accepting delivery of the fingerboards,” according to a 16-point “statement of facts” dictated by U.S. attorney Jerry E. Martin, “Gibson should have taken a more active role and exercised additional diligence with respect to documentation of legal forestry practices in the areas of Madagascar from which those shipments from its wood supplier may have originated.”

A free people in the dock; fear gets stranglehold

The concessions over India suggest prosecutors realized they would have had trouble before even a pliable federal jury in prosecuting a criminal case on that point. So they grandly cede the point to Gibson.

The document makes clear the company is expected to act as a federal agent among foreign suppliers for the sake of saving designated rare trees in foreign climes in which the federal congress has taken a proprietary interest. Mr. Juszkiewicz, advised by pricey Washington lawyers, was coerced into the agreement under threat of criminal trial, ruinous fines and jail time. So much for the mutuality in the findings of fact.

So total and erratic has U.S. statutory and administrative law become that an average person might theoretically be shown to have committed three felonies a day. The feds have coerced scores agreements over the years against innocent people, wearing down and destroying many. We’ll see how in a coming post that reviews an important 2011 book.


“Gibson acknowledges wood violations,” Chattanooga Times Free Press, Aug. 7, 2012

Gibson press release and criminal enforcement agreement

Government statement