Thursday, October 04, 2012

An Uzi Walks into a Guitar Shop

Last night Jon Stewart had Senator Rand Paul on The Daily Show. Of course the interview was extended on the web. The segments are below, just the first was aired.

Here's a transcript from 3:38 in the second clip:

"We have 38 federal agencies that are armed. The fish and wild life have uzis and are going into gibson guitar with automatic weapons and shutting them down. We have people with automatic weapons raiding organic food stores to confiscate their raw milk."

So I've heard the bit about too many armed agencies recently but I don't' get it as an argument from the right. Don't they want everyone to be armed? And notice he shifted from Uzis to automatic weapons.

A year ago NPR explained, Why Gibson Guitar Was Raided By The Justice Department.

"Last week federal marshals raided the Gibson Guitar Corporation in Tennessee. It wasn't the first time. The government appears to be preparing to charge the famous builder of instruments with trafficking in illegally obtained wood. It's a rare collision of music and environmental regulation… 'We had a raid,' [Gibson Guitar CEO Henry Juszkiewicz ] said, 'with federal marshals that were armed, that came in, evacuated our factory, shut down production, sent our employees home and confiscated wood.' The raids at two Nashville facilities and one in Memphis recalled a similar raid in Nashville in November 2009, when agents seized a shipment of ebony from Madagascar. They were enforcing the Lacey Act, a century-old endangered species law that was amended in 2008 to include plants as well as animals. But Juszkiewicz says the government won't tell him exactly how — or if — his company has violated that law."

I'm not sure what weapons the federal marshals were carrying, but notice we're now talking about us federal marshals on a raid and not "fish and wild life with uzi's". I also see a bunch of conservative articles complaining about the raid and how dumb this law is and how no charges were brought. But it turns out there was something to it all. This is from this past August, almost a year after the raid. Gibson Guitar Logging Bust Demonstrates Lacey Act’s Effectiveness

"On August 6, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that it reached a criminal enforcement agreement with Gibson Guitar Corp., resolving two investigations into allegations that Gibson violated the Lacey Act by purchasing and importing illegally harvested wood materials into the United States from Madagascar and India. Because this is the first major set of investigations to be publicly resolved under the new amendments to the Lacey Act, the agreement will help set precedents important to the U.S. and the global wood products industry. The announcement puts to rest nearly three years of investigation and speculation, and it has significant implications for future implementation of the Lacey Act and forest legality regulations across the world."

"The Department of Justice and Gibson Guitar agreed on significant facts related to Gibson’s purchase of ebony from Madagascar and established penalties. The company must:

- Pay a penalty of $300,000.
- Further pay a community service payment of $50,000 to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to be used “to promote the conservation, identification and propagation of protected tree species used in the musical instrument industry and the forests where those species are found.”
- Implement a detailed compliance program designed to strengthen its compliance controls and procedures.
- Relinquish its civil claims to wood seized by the Government during the course of the criminal investigation, including Madagascar ebony valued at $261,844.

The government will not pursue criminal charges against Gibson or its employees in the two cases (Madagascar and India), provided that Gibson fully carries out its obligations under the agreement and commits no future violations.

Importantly, Gibson accepted responsibility for its actions. The company acknowledged that it did not act on prior knowledge that legal ebony was difficult or impossible to source from Madagascar, that the investigation into the harvest and export of these woods “served important environmental and law enforcement objectives,” and that its duties under the amended Lacey Act include “reasonable corroboration of the circumstances” of the harvest and export of musical instrument parts from foreign countries."

So here's the problem I see time and again on these interviews. To bolster some general claim the interviewee mentions specifics about a little known incident, the interviewer accepts them on face value and they turn out to be misleading or false and are never followed up. Meanwhile the interviewee came across well in the interview.

Basically the same thing happened in the presidential debates last night. I wish Ezra Klein would host one and would be allowed to correct the misleading statements on the fly.

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