Saturday, 11 August 2012

Republican Hopeful Picks Ryan, One of the Infamous "Wisconsin Twelve"

Coiney lobbyist Peter Tompa in Washington is apparently ecstatic to learn that the controversial Mormon who hopes to "Lead the free world" has picked Congressman Paul Ryan as his choice for Vice-President ('Romney Picks Ancient Coin Collector Supporter as VP Choice', August 11, 2012). He says "Congressman Ryan's office took the lead on a letter to the State Department that expressed concerns about the Italian MOU". Well, he did a good deal more than that. According to the ACCG ("ACCG has "Friends" in Congress") on May 19th 2006:
Congressman Paul Ryan accepted the ACCG Friend of Numismatics award at the 2006 Wisconsin GOP Convention in Appleton, Wisconsin [...]. Congressman Ryan supported the Wisconsin Resolution and constantly monitored the status of HR-915 which was introduced in the House Ways and Means Committee, of which Congressman Ryan is a member. The advice and counsel of his staff were of great assistance to the ACCG.
Jim McGarigle (left) presents the ACCG Friend of Numismatics award to Congressman Paul Ryan at the 2006 Wisconsin State GOP Convention (Photo ACCG).
To remind folk what this is about, here's an old text of mine about the Wisconsin Scandal - "Badger State collectors want loot" (Tuesday, 29 July 2008). This was about the passing in May 2006, by the the Wisconsin Republican Party of a “Collectors Rights Resolution” intended to block moves by countries whose archaeological and cultural resources are being stripped to feed the US collectors’ market to protect their cultural assets. Full text here.
This affirmation of a group of citizens of the US of their “right” to spit in the face of the international community is of course treated by the US collectors’ and dealers’ lobby as a great “victory”. [...]  Shame on those who passed such a scandalous resolution showing such a woeful grasp on the issues involved and so little regard for the protection of the cultural heritage. Heaven help the cultural heritage of Wisconsin state if the individuals who passed this resolution should ever gain power over it.

The ACCG through its representative Jim McGarigle apparently arranged this with Republican politicians Congressmen Mark Green, Tom Petri and Paul Ryan. For their efforts these three gentlemen received the ACCG “Friend of Numismatics award” in 2006.

Congressmen Mark Green, Tom Petri and Paul Ryan also opposed, apparently on behalf of coin collectors, HR-915 which, if successful, would have imposed import restrictions on various ancient coins of Afghan origin. Coin collectors however are happy that this never became law and they are free to purchase the many choice coins apparently from this “crossroads of civilization” which now relatively frequently appear on the US markets after the American invasion. I wrote about this Thursday, 10 June 2010 ("Who's stealing Afghan cultural treasures?)":
Let us remember the names of the politicians who blocked the legislation that was intended to stop US antiquity dealers profiting from the US invasion of Afghanistan [...]  Mark Green, Tom Petri, Paul Ryan  
I discussed the You Tube video "Who's stealing Afghan cultural treasures - RT 100313". I asked:
Who is out there at night digging, and more importantly who is behind the organization of the transport of this material out of the country and into the stockrooms of western dealers? If the latter are not doing a deal with those associated with the military, with what groups are they doing business with? Maybe Mark Green, Tom Petri and Paul Ryan would like to tell us from whom their new "Friends" get this material from? 
In subsequent years, tunday, 7 November 2010, this blog carried a text called "Twelve Wisconsin Philistines in Congress". This was about a letter on US Congress letterhead dated Sept 27th 2010, addressed to Secretary of State Clinton.
Paul Ryan is one of the twelve signatories and seems to have taken a lead in the preparation of this scandalous text. It should be noted that (despite what the Washington Lobbyoblogger says), the letter addresses three topics, the China and Cyprus MOUs (probably not mentioned now because its going nowhere) as well as the renewal of the Italian one. The letter also shows an ignorance of the law, asking the Department of State to review something which is in the purview of the CPAC. [You can find the full text in the blog post linked to above should the ACCG try to hide Ryan's involvement by deleting their own text.] The Department of State refused to be drawn by the ACCG bait and simply filed it.

I urge those intending to vote for the 'Romneyan' partnership to consider what, and why Paul Ryan put his name to, and in what way that upholds the "nation's values" of the US - a phrase used in the letter. Please read the bit of the text linked to above where I discuss this. It seems to me Ryan's intent was to undermine:
the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Cultural Property between and within the territories of the various States Party, and not "furthering US national interest in promoting cultural access and trade" (whether or not making money from such trade is or is not "central to our nation's values"). Certainly the intent of the Convention is the trade in illegally exported cultural property should not become "central" to the national values of any of the States party. It seems to me that in their haste to prove themselves Friends of Numismatics by reducing the scope of the implementation of the 1970 Convention, the Wisconsin Twelve [have] lost sight of some of those key national values.
[...] The illicit import and transfer of cultural property involves stealing. Is theft from others a key national value of the Wisconsin 12's United States?
The illicit import and transfer of cultural property involves dishonourable trade practices, lies on the customs declaration forms, is dishonesty and dishonour now a key American value?
The illicit import and transfer of cultural property taken from other countries is a deep disregard and disrespect for the rights of the citizens of the countries from which they are illegally removed, since when was disregard and disrespect for others a key US national value? [...]
What message is the United States Congress giving out to the rest of the world here?

As I said at the time: "Take a good look everybody at how the US democratic process works, apparently all you have to do is give out a few wall plaques made on the cheap in Turkey to a few congressmen and it seems from this letter that you can get twelve of them in your pocket. Nice". Who is this Paul Ryan that will sign something like this because a few old men in ill-fitting suits ask him to? Who, I suspect was not adequately appraised of what it was he was signing and why (and if he was should be ashamed of himself too). Who'd not thought through the wider international consequences of his parochial views and the action they led to?

On Thursday, 13 January 2011 ("Response to the Wisconsin Twelve: "Not even "for" Secretary Clinton", I discuss the answer the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs gave to the Wisconsin Twelve. In the face of Congressional philistinism, the State Department expressed its commitment to helping cut down the illicit trade of artefacts. The question is whether Paul Ryan, if elected to power will share and support such a commitment.

The USA is very conscious of the need to retain its position as a leader in the modern world, and that involves how it projects itself to the rest of us. Mitt Romney has already shown a notable ineptness in handling foreign public opinion, winning the nickname Mitt the Twit within hours of setting foot in England and coming out with what was taken as insults. He fared not much better in Israel, and in Poland it was his staff that let the side down (swearing by the grave of the Unknown Soldier). Choosing as a VP a man who has consistently shown that, just to win a few more votes, he is willing to trample all over international measures to protect cultural property is sending out a massive spit-in-your-eye signal to the rest of the world about what we can expect from Conservative America in coming years.

But I suppose the 64-million dollar question is who gives a tinkers about any of that in provincial USA? Is culture in fact very high at all on these people's agenda? Little things like human rights  (Guantanamo, drone assassinations, CIA prisons in other countries, the death penalty, racial prejudice, torture and all the rest) and playing fair with other people's cultural property are likely to take back seat over there in Disneyland to gay marriages, jobs and access to medical treatment.

UPDATE: In case ashamed Republicans delete the text of the 'Collectors Rights Resolution', I give it in a subsequent post here

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