Sunday 10 April 2011

CPAC Resignation: "a bias against the American people, against American business, and against the rule of law.”

Glennbeckian accusations of the Obama administration having "a bias against the American people, against American business, and against the rule of law” are said to be behind Robert Korver's resignation from the CPAC (other resignations discussed here). Korver was right to resign if he cannot see a way to be an adviser on cultural property in general if after seven years of trying he finds he cannot function as a member of the committee without seeing above his own narrower interests as a coiney. Coin collecting circles are suggesting that his resignation means that the CPAC recommended not treating coins as portable antiquities to be covered by the MOU - but (it is alleged) the State Department added them anyway.

Whether or not that is true remains to be seen, though I would have questions about a committee of "experts" that does not consider ancient dugup coins as archaeological artefacts. I suggest immediately sending the remaining ten members of the Committee on a presidential fact-finding mission to one of the "source countries" for dugup coins in Europe (probably the London offices of the Portable Antiquities Scheme would be enough) to ask experts there whether ancient coins are archaeological artefacts. Members of the Committee may be surprised by the answer, which will help them in further deliberations.

According to the Coiney tabloid, it was the US State Department, not the CPAC, that considers that:
"Coins, a significant and inseparable part of the archaeological record, are especially valuable to the understanding of the history of Italy. The unauthorized search for coins in Italy is exacerbated by metal detecting, an activity that is destructive to fragile archaeological deposits”.
Korver, apparently disagrees with that, so he'd have had something else to talk to with the PAS about if he'd asked. But perhaps he subscribes to the ACCG view which is that ancient coins are somehow supplied to the market by coin elves and do not come from the searching of archaeological sites for collectables.

Coin World News goes on at length about the CPAC and what Korver almost-says about it in the letter that appears to have been leaked to them. Most of it is the same old repetitive claptrap that we see these days from the other US coin dealers about the CCPIA and the State Department, so we can give that a miss. At the end, however, the article rather revealingly gives Korver's view of the future of the CPAC:
He closed the letter urging President Obama to appoint an independent agency to investigate the minutes and processes of CPAC to verify compliance with CPIA; to request the resignation of all current CPAC members, “thus preventing further embarrassment to your administration”; to issue an executive order suspending enforcement of MOUs with Cyprus and Italy, because of ethical failures; and finally, to move a newly constituted CPAC to the Department of Commerce.
Why would Korver want all other CPAC members to tender their resignation? I assume that the Committee contains members who do care about fulfilling the task of the CPAC (which is advising the President on the implementation of the obligations of the US incumbent on being a state party of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property). Why does Korver think they should resign? The aim of the CPAC is not furthering commerce in illegally exported cultural property taken from any countries, and in particular those that have specifically asked the US to do something to help stop it. That is not in America's interests, neither is it in the interests of the Obama administration to preside over the wholesale looting of the world's archaeological record to serve the interests of a small group of shopkeepers who want to profit from currently lax US legislation.

If Mr Korver thinks the purpose of the CPAC on which he sat for seven years was to serve those in the US engaged in no-questions-asked (at best two-minute due diligence) commerce in antiquities, I think most people who are concerned about the preservation of the archaeological heritage would agree with me in thinking that the Committee is best off without him and that President Bush should never have appointed him.

Vignette: The photos of US coineys frequently show them to be rather large gentlemen with chubby faces and ill-fitting suits (Robert Korver almost as he appears in Coin World).

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