Saturday 10 December 2011

Clowns Need to Check the Law

Dealer Dave has excelled himself, with one of the longest deranged comments on the doings of the preservationists in a long time, cross posted in several places. Mind you, most of it is, as is usual, cut and pasted from my blog with a bit of the traditional lowbrow vindictive coiney sniping and anti-gubn'mint rabble rousing (this time with a nautical theme) thrown in. I must have touched a nerve with the post about the first of the coiney comments on the Cyprus MOU renewal. As a result of the usual misdirection introduced by this particular blogging "Professional Numismatist", a number of matters of fact need to be straightened out:

I) Dealer Dave, counting on the fact that they are too lazy to check for themselves, tries to convince his coiney readers that Paul Barford:
does not understand the 1983 CCPIA, which essentially anticipated that nearly all MOUs would NOT be renewed and would instead be allowed to lapse unless very convincing evidence could be shown, to the effect that the proposed continuation of what was presumed to be a temporary emergency justifying extraordinary measures would be justified. Congress did not ever intend that MOUs should automatically be renewed unless some extraordinary situation intervened.
[There is no question here of "automatic" renewal of course, this whole discussion is taking place because the process of the renewal of the Cyprus MOU is being referred to the CPAC].

But did the US Congress never intend renewals as Welsh asserts? The one-click approach to finding out the ACTUAL WORDING of the Act (as Public Law 97-446; or as 19 U.S.C. 2601 et seq. I'll use the latter, but the wording of the other is the same, note that Welsh cites no such references) pretty quickly reveals :
2606 (e) Extension of agreements
The President may extend any agreement that enters into force with respect to the United States for additional periods of not more than five years each if the President determines that --
(1) the factors referred to in subsection (a)(1) of this section which justified the entering into of the agreement still pertain, and
(2) no cause for suspension under subsection (d) of this section exists.
That's actually completely the opposite of what Welsh asserts. How is it possible that a coin dealer in the US apparently gets so muddled about the wording of the main law which has any effect on what he does?

Most other nations when they became state party to the Convention did so with the intent of applying its measures permanently (or until they denounce the Convention as per its Articles 23 and 24). As far as I am aware [and I am sure Peter Tompa can provide the other examples if they exist] only the USA considers that it is something they can chose to abide by only when THEY please, and most of which they can choose to ignore except for temporary occasions when they might (perhaps), if you ask them nicely, and convince them that they really should, consider applying a few of the principles to their international trade in artefacts for a while before they stop.


II) Dealer Dave reckons that I am unaware that:
the title of the 1970 UNESCO Convention does not really describe what it is about,
yes, I would indeed be surprised about that, because the title and the contents are quite clearly by the same hand(s) and the title describe the contents of the Convention. According to Dealer Dave the "actual" purpose of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property:
"is very clearly to control "looting" in all its forms, from stripping a nation of ethnological and historical artifacts that have never been buried, to smuggling antiquities that might once have been buried.
No it is not. Just look at it, read it. It is about the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, in other words, smuggling. The reference to "looting" (actually "pillage") comes from the US legislation supposedly "implementing" it which refers to the single article (9 of 26) which mentions archaeological looting as PART of the problem of illicit trade. Again we see an attempt by the US to impose its own values on the rest of the world.

It is Mr Welsh who does not understand, the Convention covers movement of cultural property across international borders which a state party to the Convention wishes to regulate the passage of, and not just that which is looted and pillaged. It is the legitimacy of that movement (and not merely the origins of the objects themselves) which is the subject of that Convention (see Art. 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10-15, 17). "As any fule can see".


III) Dealer Dave asserts that the CPAC is "entitled to recommend to the US Government that the requests of the Cypriot government are not in the best interests of the USA". Is it? Is that its actual mandate? I thought that was what the CCPIA leaves up to the President to decide and the task of the CPAC is something else, that's what the CCPIA says.


IV) Dealer Dave apparently thinks its awfully important to regulate metal detector use to prevent archaeological artefact looting (here we are agreed). In answer to what I wrote, he asks whether I can "establish that Cyprus is doing anything effective to actually regulate use of metal detectors on that island?" Well, despite the fact that it has nothing to do with the smuggling of antiquities, I suppose we could ask metal detectorists what they know about that. Here, for example, is a thread on a European metal detecting forum talking about beach detecting (not archaeological sites, shallow beach detecting is not - I would say - in general archaeologically destructive): "the local police [...] told her that anyone detecting on the beach or land would be scooped right away" (interesting to note another detectorist saying something quite significant in the circumstances: "Try the Turkish sector" since it is the looting following the Turkish invasion which is behind the whole fuss over Cyprus).

Dealer Dave is confused (and showing his woeful ignorance on the matter) when he says that metal detectors must be regulated because:
"metal detectors can only be used to search for buried metal artifacts"
Metal detectors are used in airports, schools, government offices and museums to check people entering the building, in food processing plants, sawmills, they are used by contractors to search for pipes and cables before using a mechanical excavator (or under plaster), they are used to search for lost change on beaches and fairgrounds (there are lots of You Tube videos of US detectorists getting excited by finding 1930s wheaties), they are used by meteorite hunters, gold prospectors. They can be used in token hunts on rallies, and childrens' games at English fairs, US exhibitions, and on the PAS website. All of which are archaeologically harmless (well, except - I would say - the PAS website one). This is one reason why I think the term "metal detectorist" is ambiguous and why when I am trying to be more lucid, I tend to speak of the problem I am concerned about as "artefact hunting".


V) Neo-colonialist Dave says "
nations such as the Republic of Cyprus must solve their own problems, and that it is unfair and unreasonable to create difficulties for US collectors because foreign governments are unable to control the behavior of their own citizens. A government that cannot do that, ipso facto stands indicted as being incompetent to be the steward and guardian of cultural property of any sort.
Let's leave aside that obvious fact that (just as the looting of Iraqi sites when the country was under US/UK-led occupation), the problem of looting on Cyprus is not actually always a problem of the Cypriot government "not controlling" its OWN citizens; Mr Welsh apparently needs reminding that part of the island is under foreign occupation. Also I'd be interested to learn of a nation that has no criminals or ofenders - equally when it comes to making money out of ancient collectables.

Taking the sort of isolationist attitude expressed by Welsh above to its logical conclusion, Welsh would presumably then have the US withdraw from all international conventions involving international co-operation to achieve a common aim. For the rest of us, the illicit trade by culture criminals in items which form the world heritage is not the problem of any one government, but one of those problems that all thinking people should be concerned about and decent people should be joining in to do something about. That antiquity dealers and collectors see themselves as somehow above all that and even actively oppose it is a shame. I personally think they should indeed be shamed and ashamed of themselves for this and the way they go about it.


I leave it up to the reader to decide the degree of intellectual honesty revealed by this polemicist. The original coiney commentator had in a brief text written at the behest of the dealers quite clearly got it wrong in several places. ACCG spokesman Welsh could have agreed and written something addressed to coineys to avoid a situation where they are all repeating the same nonsenses, wasting their own time and that of everyone else. Instead of doing that, Welsh sets out to convince his readers (among other things) that both the US law (CCPIA) as well as the Convention say something other than what they mean, though he provides not a smidgen of evidence (still less any kind of a link to the original text) to substantiate his claims.

Vignette: Dealer Dave thought it necessary to explain to his US readers what an ovicaprid is, for their information, this is not an ovicaprid, just looks a bit like one.

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