Monday, 28 April 2014

Purpose: Only to Sow Confusion?


Peter Tompa was asked to substantiate his statements made on Ed Snible's blog concerning "Most European sellers [who allegedly] won't sign the required declarations as they don't have provenance information" allegedly required by CCPIA and he statement that the import process involves showing US Customs officers the imported items in old auction catalogues. Of course, since he appears to be making it up as he goes along, he cannot. Here we go again:
Mr. Barford, more evidenced (sic) you haven't the foggiest idea of what you are talking about. My statements about the auction catalogue requirement don't come from the CPIA, which is the problem [I know, I said so - PMB]. It comes from Customs practice for items designated under the CPIA. Customs takes the position it can ask for additional documentation beyond what is required by the CPIA. This has been verified by importers, other lawyers for importers and a former high ranking customs official. And you really don't listen or comprehend either.
This is yet another version of the "customs officer" story, you'd think since he seems to be placing so much importance on it, Mr Tompa would at least get his facts straight, so they do not vary each time he tells it, and provide some kind of supporting back story (like names, dates and what precisely the case discussed concerned). Certainly, if this was as Mr Tompa reports it, one wonders why the importer, unable to satisfy such extra-legal "requirements" by a US official and losing his property, was not immediately offered ACCG help to stage a court case which they'd have won (no mention of auction catalogues and other documentation in the CCPIA) and this verdict would have been a far more effective tool in "protecting collectors' rights" (the stated mission of the ACCG) than any conspiracy-theory-based Baltimore illegal Coin Import Stunt. That the ACCG did not go that way tells us perhaps more about the actual facts behind Mr Tompa's anecdote than the ACCG's willingness to fight for coiney rights. 

One wonders how much bluer in the face one would have to go to be able to explain the CCPIA to someone like Mr Tompa, who - despite being told a number of times that he really needs to check what it covers - persists like a scratched record coming out with the same old nonsense:
The CPIA requires less onerous options than restrictions to be tried first. I would think the PAS/Treasure Act would fit the bill for coins at least.
well, that is - not to put too fine a point on it - bollocks. Complete bollocks. The CCPIA does not, repeat does not, regulate provenance, nor "discoveries". It (as the name makes clear to anyone who can read it) implement the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property and nothing else.  Neither the Portable Antiquities Scheme, nor Treasure Act have anything at all to do with "the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property". These are two completely different laws to do two completely different things. I would have thought anyone could see that. It is therefore supremely ridiculous for anyone to even suggest that one could do the job of the other. Mr Tompa however not only apparently cannot understand that, but simply refuses to even try. Thinking is apparently not what he's paid by the antiquity dealers' associations to do. His performance in recent months leads us to the assumption that he must be paid only to spread confusion.

I think those of us who care for an open discussion of the truth about artefact hunting and collecting will be heartened by the fact that Tompa's virulent anti-Egyptian efforts on behalf of his dealer sponsors have only managed to get fifteen negative (and off-topic) comments sent  to the CPAC in the first week of public commenting - while in the Bulgarian case the comparable figure was 112. It would seem Mr Tompa's evident lapses of judgement and logic displayed in his nasty CPO blogging and elsewhere are a severe hindrance in his continued dealer-paid efforts to spread confusion among responsible artefact collectors. Good for them.

Vignette: Hogarth Marriage plate 5: From the author's collection.  

15 comments:

Cultural Property Observer said...

Mr. Barford, please see what Messrs. McAndrew and McCullough said at this public forum ( a transcrpript of their remarks is included): http://committeeforculturalpolicy.org/symposium-april-10-2014-reform-of-u-s-cultural-property-policy-accountability-transparency-and-legal-certainty/

You may want to reconsider things a bit. Again, my statements are based on the views of pracitioners and importers, i.e., people with real live practical experience importing cultural goods.

And again, PAS provides an alternative that should be considered as part of the mix as to whether a UNESCO State party is doing self-help and whether less onerous measures have been considered before import restrictions.

Paul Barford said...

Tell me, in lawyer classes, did you get top of the class for your essays and ability to properly cite references and sources, or bottom of the class? (In my class, you'd have got a fail for the lack of proper referencing, I am sure).

Right, the proper reference is: http://committeeforculturalpolicy.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/transcript2.pdf
and there is nothing there in anything said by either McAndrew or McCullough about an old man and auction catalogues. To which bit of these 38 pages of waffle are you pointing me?

There is a lot of talking, but nobody there is talking about preservation of the archaeological resource, it's all blinkered chat about the objects.

"You may want to reconsider things a bit
Convince me.

Your "pracitioners and importers" are my "Black Hat Guys" when they want to cut corners importing archaeological cultural goods. Believe me, it is highly unlikely that you are going to convince me with their arguments.

Despite what I wrote (did you read it?), you persist:
"And again, PAS provides an alternative [...] less onerous measures have been considered before import restrictions.
really? Look at the picture at the top of my post and consider whether I have already expressed my view on that crap of yours.

Have you really nothing better to do with your time and intellect and our time than repeat the same old nonsense after somebody has said why it is (and it IS) nonsense?

You are just being silly now. Answer this:
"The CCPIA does not, repeat does not, regulate provenance, nor "discoveries". It (as the name makes clear to anyone who can read it) implements the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property and nothing else. Neither the Portable Antiquities Scheme, nor Treasure Act have anything at all to do with "the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property". These are two completely different laws to do two completely different things. I would have thought anyone could see that. It is therefore supremely ridiculous for anyone to even suggest that one could do the job of the other".

Did you see that? "Supremely ridiculous". Did they teach ytou to defend supremely ridiculous ideas in lawyer school, or did they say if you carry on repeating some nonsense idea long enough, people with IQs of about 70 will believe you? But in your audience are people of IQs somewhat higher and I am sure they'd like to see some real answers.


Ed Snible said...

Paul, let's test the law as an engineer would. Perhaps you and I could send a low-value, totally licit antiquity, back and forth through the post, sans the unnecessary documentation?

If as you claim the CCPIA does not regulate licit antiquities, the odds are 0% that our postal volley will be interrupted.

If, as Peter claims, documentation is used to make the licit vs illicit determination, the volley will be interrupted.

We will clearly label the envelope as to its contents. We will volley 100 times.

How do you think such an experiment will end?

Paul Barford said...

Ed, the coin would be seized by Polish customs (how typical of the American to imagine there is only one country in the world). Poland is an early state party of the 1970 UNESCO Convention and its experience in the War means the matter of culture theft is treated very much more seriously than it seems to be the case in the US. I'd also run the risk of getting chucked out of at least one professional body.

In any case, what do you think I would consider a "totally licit antiquity" in this case?

Ed Snible said...

It must be very difficult collecting in Poland, and having to learn the antiquities laws of your current home and future home as well as the market countries.

What would *you* consider a totally licit antiquity? I have read your opinion on the Parthenon Marbles, AKA the Elgin Marbles, and am aware an 1801 Ottoman Empire export permit doesn't always confer legitimacy in your view.

For Egyptian portable antiquities I'd guess you would consider it licit if it left Egypt before the November 17, 1891 Ottoman decree. You would probably also consider it licit if it left Egypt with 20th century permits from the Cairo museum.

Paul Barford said...

Ed, if you decide to drive a car, or collect firearms, pressed flowers, exotic spiders, and a whole lot of other things (buying software too), you have to learn the laws on that. To do so, and do so properly, is surely the only responsible thing to do.

The Parthenon Marbles is not a good example, I do not accept the BM's argument, I do not believe from looking at the evidence that the items have in fact any kind of a legitimate "export licence". That however in this case is beside the point. A monument was fragmented out of greed, and the moral imperative on London is to rectify the effects of that vandalism.

I think the question of what is "licit" in Egyptian collecting is rather a difficult question. Is the face wrenched off a coffin (mummy case) "licit" just because it was wrenched off for the collectors' market a long time ago? What about the lopped off human foot in a california collection ("cool!" sic)? A tomb group split up and scattered without documentation? A Book of the Dead divided into panels which are then scattered through various ephemeral collections undocumented? A piece of cartonnage broken up to get papyrus fragments out which may sell for more than the cartonnage they come from? Some loose beads from all over the place strung up as a necklace and sold as "from Luxor"? A block from a relief of a temple or tomb, floating loose around the market with no documentation and leaving a hole in any future reconstruction of that monument? I think from a conservation point of view, these are all things that need debating in collecting. Do you see that debate in your own part of the collecting world? Or do you see people (and dealers) walking away from such questions? Just what, in a changed world, is a "licit" antiquity, when so much damage is going on?




return

Paul Barford said...

Up to now, and from the beginning of this blog, I have consistently published Peter Tompa's comments here in reply to my posts no matter what nonsense or nastiness I adjudged them to contain. This is now stopping.

At two in the afternoon today, Peter Tompa sent a comment to this post which I am not publishing, because it contains a threat intended to restrict the manner in which I discuss what one of the principal US lobbyists for the dugup antiquities trade is saying. He says that he "believes" that certain elements of my posts here "place me in a false light, which is an actionable tort here in the DC". While not agreeing in any way with his assessment, I have removed the ones he indicated.

But with this action, Mr Tompa joins a short list (of three people basically) who have forfeited through their past and irreformable behaviour the right to reply on this blog. (The other two are UK metal detectorists who also have blogs.)

Thank you Mr Tompa for all your previous comments.

Andy Baines said...

Thats a shame, you both know your stuff and some of the debate and comments made for interesting reading.

Paul Barford said...

Well, he's only doing it because he cannot actually substantiate the points I challenge, such as his utterly ridiculous claim (above) that the US CCPIA and UK Treasure Act do the same job, "one less onerously than the other". Complete nonsense and he knows it and he's running away from having to admit it.

Like Lawyer Silverman escaping through the window in the Hogarth print.


Paul Barford said...

Still, he still has Mr Howland's comments to maintain the high standards we all expect of the "Cultural Property Observer" blog these days and give those who sponsor his lobbying a real boost.

Andy Baines said...

It seems John Howlands comments are getting more and more erratic, its also the same comment worded differently every time, he adds no material to any of the debates and seems to just bring disrepute to any kind of educated conversation. He seems like an educated man but he only seems to use it for causing friction.

Paul Barford said...

Just right for Mr Tompa then.

Ed Snible said...

Why are you asking me about collecting human feet?!? I don't collect feet, nor do I know anyone who collects feet.

There is a lively debate in numismatics. I wrote an editorial on preserving provenance which was publish in the main collector and dealer magazine, the one started by Wayne Sayles. Afterwards I got encouragement. There were a few who thought I should keep quiet, but others in support. I wonder if it is blogs like yours that squelch discussion. Who wants to walk up in the morning and find themselves ridiculed for dodging question and fuzzy thinking on the front page here before drinking their morning coffee? I can take the heat but when other collectors start rethinking their own acquisition policies give them some time to ponder before pouncing.

As for personally learning the law, I applaud your efforts for learning the law. Yet you have reached a different conclusion than the legal experts at the British Museum. It is possible that you see things they don't but I feel that I would also interpret the text differently than the courts to, so I follow the what others are doing rather than trying to become a legal expert.

Paul Barford said...

This comment thread is going all over the place. It's supposed to be about lobbyists sowing confusion and dodging the issues, instead of discussing the issue properly.

Ed, I did not say you "collected feet", but some people have (look on this blog). You asked me what are licit antiquities, I say that the answer depends on a lot of factors, giving some examples from Egyptian collecting which is the topic de jour.

Let me remind people the MOU which Tompa wants you all to oppose is not just about coins, but will address a much wider range of artefact types eagerly sought by no-questions-asking collectors.

"There is a lively debate in numismatics.
No there is not, if there were, the ACCG nonsense would not last more than three weeks. The fact that ten years on people are still swallowing this crap, and regurgitating as their own shows there is next to zero reflection and thoughtful debate in the community as a whole. So "you" wrote "an" article? So? The result was...?

"I wonder if it is blogs like yours that squelch discussion"
This blog is about artefact hunting, collecting and the market, its not for artefact hunters, collectors or dealers. If there is to be legislative change we need to take discussion outside the circles of the interest groups. This is my attempt to start to do that. I'm not unhappy with the effects.

"Who wants to walk up in the morning and find themselves ridiculed for dodging question and fuzzy thinking ...?"
Probably nobody.. I am sure you'd all like to get on with doing your selfish thing and have nobody at all take any notice. The thing is though, I am not breaking into anyone's home and looking at what they've stashed under the bed or behind the sugar in the kitchen cupboard.I take things people themselves have posted on the Internet (can't get much more "public domain" than that) and I discuss them. That's what the Internet is for.

Now can we get back to "sowing confusion"?

Paul Barford said...

Ed says:
"As for personally learning the law, I applaud your efforts for learning the law".
I worked in the Ministry of Culture where a good knowledge of administrative and heritage law was imperative, one can get to like it.

"Yet you have reached a different conclusion than the legal experts at the British Museum"
Oh really? I'm not entirely clear what you are on about. Are you talking about the Treasure Act allegedly doing the same job as the CCPIA? I'd be very interested if you CAN provide a published statement by a BM lawyer to say Mr Tompa is right. Or are you suggesting that there is a published statement from a BM lawyer that the Parthenon Marbles have an "export licence" when I say they do not? DO please provide a reference.

 
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