Thursday 15 May 2014

"Responsible Dealer" Haines Drops his Mask

Haines moderates his discussion list
Self-described "responsible collector" of Egyptian antiquities, and small-time dealer in some, as well as being the moderator of the  Yahoo "Ancient Artifacts Discussion Group" has a rather odd attitude to the responsibilities of a collector (or dealer). For him, to judge by what he told the CPAC, responsible collecting has nothing at all to do with the documentation of stuff in foreign markets. Oh no, he wants to see the reintroduction of a police state for the brown-skinned folk:
"the trade in looted artefacts is best prevented by proper housekeeping by the Egyptian authorities. If the Egyptians were to keep their own borders tight, ipso facto there could be no trade in looted Egyptian artefacts in the outside world, and hence no reason to prohibit their import to the USA.Why should the USA subject those who buy and sell such artefacts legitimately to excessive regulation and restrictions simply because Egypt cannot control her own borders?

With callous attitudes like that, why should collectors, his list members for example, bother about the documentation of objects once they are over the hurdle of getting them out of Egypt? This collector seems to be saying that if the Egyptians cannot keep their stuff, they should lose it. That is of course an incredibly self-centred, not to say irresponsible attitude, but one I think which is quite common among artefact collectors. The trouble is its not some foreign government this stuff is being selfishly taken from, but the loss is to us all. I expect Mr Haines would say the same about rhino horn smuggling, if the country of origin can't think of a way to keep rhino horn in, they are fair game to anyone who wants to buy a smuggled rhino horn outside, no questions asked... But the problem is that it's not about a government losing a horn, but a rhino losing its life so some greedy slimeball can make some cash smuggling a bit of it's nose. As an aside, there is no call for patronising the brown-skinned folk, the USA, or the UK, do not exactly do too good a job controlling their own borders either. 

There is a total lack of logic in Haines' explanation to the experts of the CPAC that an MOU requiring importers of Egyptian antiquities to present one of three different kinds of documentation to establish its licitness:
would also do nothing to stop the trade in, or import of, looted items. Frankly, those who are unconcerned about flouting Egyptian export law are unlikely to have any greater respect for US import law!
Well, first of all, the guy obviously muddles two cultural crimes, looting, and smuggling. One involves spades and crowbars, the other is what the MOU regulates. I really do not see how what he is saying makes any sense in the real world. Samid Ibn-Smuggler may well "flout" Egypt's export laws and wrap some newly-dug papyri in plastic bags and put them in a shipment of sugar cane going out of a Red Sea port. That's obvious, but then no US dealer trying to import them into Miami is going to have the paperwork  the MOU requires. He's either got to refuse to buy it, because the alternative is to risk trying to get them through without papers, or fake some paperwork (and then risk being done for that too if they catch him) or refuse to buy Samid's wares.  That's the whole idea.

Mr Haines, being a collector, also of course has not the foggiest idea what the CCPIA MOU is about. Not the foggiest, he's probably got nobody left on his discussion list to tell him, and he's too lazy to read it himself before commenting. But he's still going to try and tell the CPAC what's-what, even if he has to guess and make it up...
Furthermore, a blanket ban does not discriminate between a small number of looted artefacts and the much larger number of legitimate artefacts which have been in private and public collections for many decades, and which are the subject of legitimate trade. An import ban would cause hardship both to honest sellers of artefacts and to those who have invested in their collections and would now find the market for their collections restricted and hence the resale value depleted.
Complete nonsense. Why are people telling complete nonsense to the CPAC in all seriousness? If Haines had READ the documentation, he would be a bit more aware that nowhere, nowhere at all, does it say anything about a "ban", let alone a "blanket ban", or an "import ban", no "prohibit import". The guy is making it up. The CCPIA quite clearly talks of items on the designated list being imported  and the ways in which that happens in various circumstances. Has "responsible collector" Haines actually read the CCPIA? There is no "ban" on Bulgarian items in the US market, no ban on Italian, Chinese or Guatemalan items. The CPRI (for example) has not documented any drop in sales or availability of items from MOU-countries on the US market since the MOUs were signed because of any "ban", has it? What nonsense.

Note how he slyly slips in "a small number of looted artefacts"- can he document that, or is that no-questions-asked wishful thinking?

The MOU has nothing whatsoever to do with "legitimate artefacts which have been in private and public collections for many decades", if they're already in the US then the MOU is not applicable, if they are being imported from Egypt, they need an Egyptian export licence and if they are being imported from Europe, Asia or any other African country, the importer needs to be able to get his hands on a bit of paper like the Act says which states nothing more than it is is a "legitimate artefact which has been in a collections for many decades" and that's what the CCPIA requires. Just that. Not exactly difficult is it? So why all the fuss?

Why all the fuss Mr Haines, from a "responsible collector"? Is responsible collecting NOT in fact establishing for yourselves that the objects you and your members buy and sell can be determined as being "legitimate artefacts which have been in private and public collections for many decades", and how on earth are you and your members going to do that at all (in real life, not a pretend world) without a single scrap of paper confirming that?

Of course to be the "subject of legitimate trade" within the US, other laws may require other documentation - which they should have anyway. Who'd want to collect or trade items in the USA which cannot fulfil the legal requirement to be the "subject of legitimate trade"? But then, whether or not Mr Haines thinks those laws are easy to comply with or not (or even have any sense in the light of his earlier statement) has no bearing one way or another on any [objective] assessment of the CCPIA.

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