Sunday, June 28, 2015

Privacy, Qualifications and Blogging Ethics

Everyone has an inherent "right to privacy," but public figures must be prepared for the reality that the public is interested in them, and that this affects their right to privacy. Actors, actresses, politicians and royalty have long been plagued by "paparazzi" and understandably resent such uninvited attention.

Relatively recently, the Internet has provided a new venue for becoming a public figure: the web log, or "blog."

Blogs began as personal logs and repositories of information found on the Internet, interspersed with commentary  regarding the blogger's interpretations of logged items, personal interests and concerns. The great majority of blogs are still personally oriented, and are frequently kept private - only being shared with a few friends and associates.

Blogs which are open to the public (such as this one) are in reality a form of publication. Very often such blogs address a particular interest of the blogger -- in the case of this blog, collecting and dealing in ancient coins. The majority of problems and concerns in these interest areas now center upon cultural property law, and the one-sided conflict between archaeology and collecting. Archaeologists are on the attack, while advocates of collecting do their best to present the merits of this avocation and to highlight inconsistencies and inequities in the demands of archaeology's extremists.

One such extremist has recently restated a longstanding, oft-repeated view that "his personal life" has nothing to do with what he posts in his blog. Certainly, he needs no one's permission to say there whatever he likes. However, some aspects of what he considers to be "his personal life" are indeed relevant, as to how those who read his blog react to it. These aspects include his qualifications as an archaeologist, and as an observer of (and commentator upon) events relating to antiquities collecting and metal detecting. 

This archaeologist has not published a resume or curriculum vitae, nor has he disclosed relevant information that would enable readers to make an informed, thoughtful judgement regarding his education, professional experience, political philosophy and motives. All these are essential background necessary to decide how much weight to give to his remarks and opinions.

He clearly has developed a "public," which includes those who unreservedly applaud his crusades for "responsible collecting" and against "irresponsible metal detecting." It also includes many who see some merit in his concerns, but dislike his confrontational manner of presentation. It further includes many who see little merit in his views and concerns, instead regarding him as an offensive pest and perhaps even a public nuisance.

Whether this archaeologist likes it or not, he has deliberately and intentionally made himself a public figure through his blogging activities, and must accept the consequences. These include public interest in learning more about his education, professional experience, political philosophy and motives, and a tendency to wonder why he is reluctant to make this information public.

In this observer's opinion, it is at best disingenuous to publish a blog that is intended to have a wide readership, and at the same time insist upon keeping one's own background and qualifications (as an expert observer upon the blog's subject) secret. That certainly isn't my conception of "best practice" where blogging ethics are concerned, and is especially inappropriate when a blogger frequently criticizes (and even castigates) others for not following "best practice" in their activities.

Those whom this blogger criticizes have not maintained such a reserve regarding their own backgrounds, and have considered it proper to publicly disclose their qualifications.


Here it is clearly appropriate to once again present my own qualifications as a numismatist and numismatic blogger, in a convenient Internet-accessible public disclosure of my background.

My numismatic background and interests are outlined here:

My focus upon education as a primary objective of my numismatic website begins here:

My focus on numismatic research and information-sharing is apparent in these pages:

My technical background is the focus of the ATM consultancy website:

That background is additionally discussed here:

The most recent [2006] version of my technical resume is available here:

Readers who play chess might be interested in the best-known game of my brief  career as a competitive chess player:

While this has nothing to do with numismatic blogging qualifications, it gives insight into the diversity of my interests. This game received the Brilliancy Prize at the 1968 U. S. Open and was published in that year's Chess Informant. After I stopped playing competitively, I concentrated on furthering the development of computer chess.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Decline and Fall of the PAS

This observer is troubled and apprehensive regarding the future of the highly regarded British PAS, a voluntary antiquities discovery reporting and recording scheme administered by the British Museum, under the expert leadership of highly respected archaeologist and numismatic expert Dr. Roger Bland.

It seems to this observer that Dr. Bland did as much as could reasonably be considered to be humanly possible, to reconcile the conflicting interests of archaeologists on the one hand, and amateur investigators and metal detectorists on the other hand, and steer them toward a beneficial collaboration.

It cannot be questioned that there were very significant, indeed historic, successes resulting from that collaboration when it functioned at its best.

On the other hand there were also irregularities (perhaps even culpable negligence) in the manner in which certain excavations were conducted, which aroused the understandable ire of doctrinaire archaeologists, when the collaboration functioned at its worst.

It seems to this observer that the triumphs far outweigh the irregularities/negligence, which however must not be neglected, but instead addressed in a manner inspiring confidence that they will not continue.

The most vocal critic of the PAS regime to date is unquestionably Paul Barford.

In his blog reaction to this development,

Mr. Barford conveys commendably serious second thoughts regarding this incontinent discarding of an arrangement which had genuine merit in spite of the flaws he reported, and the consequent resignation of the universally respected leader of the PAS.

Dr. Roger Bland is not only a very distinguished archaeologist but also a very distinguished numismatist. This observer does not perceive anyone in the remaining administration of the BM and the remnants of the PAS as being professionally worthy of carrying Dr. Bland's boots. No doubt they do have organizational harmony merits and political connections sufficient to make them more comfortable colleagues for the beleaguered politicians who have now sacrificed the PAS upon the reeking altar of budget reductions. Dr. Bland always impressed this observer as being very moderate and thoughtful in his tone, and cautious but firm in his principled approach to the conflict between the interests of archaeology and collecting. Such circumspection was in every respect appropriate, considering his manifold and serious responsibilities.

One might think that it would not be possible to unite Mr. Barford and this observer in expressing serious doubts and grave reservations regarding the wisdom of any UK government policy development. It seems however that this particular "restructuring," involving as it does the exit of a very distinguished and trusted public servant, imposes an almost impossibly high expected standard of achievement and performance upon his successors.

To Dr. Bland: Kudos in excelsis. You have very ably (and indeed nobly) discharged your weighty and complex responsibilities for the preservation and dissemination of mankind's heritage.


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

A glimpse into Amorality and Corruption

Here is a very troubling report:


Is it really necessary to comment upon such a report?

Conservative political pundits have, for many years, repeatedly alleged that the UN is a corrupt organization deceptively pursuing a left wing Socialist, if not actually Communist, oriented "new world order."

This observer believes that the UN would do well to restore public confidence that its policies and intentions are consistent with traditional American beliefs and core values.

The UN was founded upon the impetus and success of US and British arms during the Second World War. Large numbers of British and American patriots gave their lives or limbs to defeat totalitarian Fascism and make this world organization a reality.

It is now incumbent upon this embattled organization to demonstrate that their sacrifice was not in vain, and that Socialism, administered by a totalitarian bureaucracy unaccountable to voters, has not triumphed.


Saturday, June 13, 2015

Collecting Ethics

The ethics of antiquities collecting (of course including collecting ancient coins) are constantly being assailed by leftist archaeologists and their sympathizers. With due respect for the principle that the tenets and motives of such archaeology-centric activists cannot accurately be encompassed in a few words, a reasonable attempt would be to advance the concept that the archaeological record, and all of the artifacts and situational context comprising it, inherently belong to all mankind and must not be disturbed by, still less possessed by, private individuals.

This observer believes the above to be a neutrally worded statement of fact which everyone involved in any side of the question ought to be able to agree upon.

What does the above statement imply? A great deal. To begin with, it asserts an overriding declaration of inherent ownership based upon a concept of cultural and societal identity, as being superior to and overriding all traditional principles of personal ownership and property rights.

Speaking in admittedly very general terms, the above declaration of inherent ownership of cultural identity most easily fits the tenets of the far left wing of the present political spectrum, i.e. left wing Socialism and Communism.

Before anyone trundles out the heavy artillery of their personal political persuasion for a barrage against that observation, this observer must declare that he is primarily concerned with individual human rights, and the extreme desirability of individuals enhancing their understanding of the past. If that understanding is improved by the efforts of left wing Socialism and Communism to present their social perspective, which should not be rejected without careful study, so much the better. But that understanding also unquestionably depends upon the efforts of concerned individual students of the past, expert in their discipline, to present and assert their perspective.

This observer is neither a Communist nor a left wing Socialist. He will, however, confess to being an inveterate idealist willing to go to to great lengths in defense of his ideals.

That is a description which could also be varyingly applied to almost everyone from American Kennedy Democrats (mea maxima culpa) to SS Totenkopf storm troopers. This observer's father was a naval officer in the great War against Fascism, who hated Fascism and Naziism with an impulsive aversion difficult to convey in today's terminology, for in those days when Communists were our cordial allies he was equally far from being a Socialist, and farther still from being a Communist. But he was unquestionably also something other opponents of Fascism all shared: a resolute defender of personal freedom.

There is a great deal to be said for the ancient Roman tradition of mos maiorvm, societal morality or  'the customs of our fathers." Therein lies societal stability, a sense of social identity and a genuinely rational personal commitment to liberty and freedom.

Mr. Barford very freely advocates being completely "up to date" regarding one's personal attitude toward left wing Socialism and Communism. Perhaps it would be better if he also equitably addressed the values and merits of moderate Socialism, and even those of socially responsible Capitalism. This observer tends to see them all converging upon a social perspective Barford ought to be able to support.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Time to Rewrite the 1970 UNESCO Convention???

Archaeology-centric blogger Paul Barford made this provocative (but uninformed) statement at the end of a recent post to his notorious blog:

"OK, UNESCO, time to rewrite that 1960-ish document the Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property."

Changes to the text of the adopted 1970 UNESCO Convention are not allowed, except through the agency of a revising Convention adopted by the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. This in effect would become a new Convention, and "Any such revision shall, however, bind only the States which shall become Parties to the revising convention." Article 25, part 1.

In other words, no signatures or instruments approving or acceding to the original Convention would be valid as approval of or accession to the revised Convention.

UNESCO did, in fact, collaborate in "rewriting" this document in the process of preparation of the 1995 UNIDROIT Convention, which is now a "dead letter," having failed to secure accession from any nation having a major art and/or antiquities trade, other than Italy. 

This observer would be pleased should UNESCO decide to follow Mr. Barford's suggestion. It would be extremely interesting to see how much real-world political support there is for his anticollecting notions. Should a revising Convention follow them, it would be very surprising if the USA signed or acceded to that document, given the flagrant abuses resulting from the existing Convention.

It is quite possible that the firestorm of controversy that would culminate in the defeat of efforts to secure US approval of or accession to such a revised Convention would eventually lead to revocation of, or modifications to, the deposited US instrument of accession to the existing Convention.


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Greece is nearly bankrupt

With Money Drying Up, Greece Is All but Bankrupt

This is a very dangerous situation, in this observer's opinion. 

If Greece exits from the Euro, which now appears to be only a matter of time and perhaps not very much time, it is widely predicted in economic circles that the drachma would rapidly depreciate in value vs. the Euro making imported commodities and goods extremely expensive for Greek citizens.

That would exacerbate an already unsatisfactory cultural heritage management situation, making it more and more difficult for those in charge of the nation's monuments and antiquities to live on their salaries and perhaps preventing recruitment of additional personnel.

Meanwhile the far-reaching effects of inflation in the Greek economy are likely to create very strong incentives for illicit excavation of, and trafficking in, antiquities whose relative value would greatly increase in the drachma economy. 

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Anti-Tompa "Crusade"

Having failed to make significant headway in his efforts to discredit the ACCG and numismatic trade associations, Varsovian archaeology-centric blogger Paul Barford has now instituted an effort to personally discredit ACCG spokesman (and trade association lobbyist) Peter Tompa:

This observer views that unscrupulous effort as being both deceitful and dishonorable.

Attorney Tompa has very distinguished qualifications in his field, far more so that those of former archaeologist Barford. His representation of the interests of the ACCG, IAPN and PNG has been in this observer's opinion, ethical, honorable and professional.

Perhaps the difficulty here is that the words ethical, honorable and professional have very different meanings to Mr. Barford than they do to the average citizen of the USA, and quite possibly, also the average citizen of other English-speaking nations.

Peter Tompa's blog is a venue in which the real truth, as Dr. Tompa (J.D. cum laude, 1986) sees it, is honestly presented. Mr. Barford's blog on the other hand, is for the most part mere anti-collecting and anti-trade propaganda. Lately it seems that his attempts to disguise his extreme bias against private ownership of, and free trading in, "archaeological objects" such as ancient coins have become less and less noticeable, and the anger and bitterness he cherishes toward collectors, the antiquities trade, metal detectorists and the British PAS have been more and more overtly revealed.

Mr. Barford has not published a curriculum vitae, nor has he publicly disclosed relevant details of his present employment, political affiliation, and other matters of interest to those who seek to accurately assess his qualifications and objectivity as a commentator upon events and developments in cultural heritage affairs.

Mr. Tompa on the other hand, along with other officers of the ACCG including this observer, and others associated in the cause of pro-collecting advocacy, have published such curricula vitae and have made no attempt to conceal any relevant aspect of their lives and opinions.

Some observers, focusing upon Mr. Barford's extreme antipathy toward private ownership of antiquities and commerce in these objects, have contended that this is prima facie evidence that his 1986 hegira to Warsaw, where he subsequently served the People's Republic of Poland as a university lecturer and as Inspector of Monuments, was motivated by Communist sympathies and that Mr. Barford is actually a closet Communist.

Barford's secretiveness regarding his background certainly does not discourage such speculation.

This observer does believe that if Mr. Barford were in fact a Communist, he could hardly be expected to publicly oppose private collecting, the antiquities trade, and metal detecting with more antipathy and venom. The question therefore appears, for all practical purposes, to be moot.

UPDATE 5/19/2015

It did not take very long for Mr. Barford to react to the above remarks:

That is of course very much a matter of opinion. Suffice it to say that no one has appointed or elected Mr. Barford (or any other archaeologists) to be the arbiters of morality, regarding what is "right" or "wrong" with respect to the possession and sale of antiquities, for example ancient coins.

In this case I believe that Mr. Barford is deceitfully misrepresenting what he presents himself as being the spokesman for. He has taken to using the plural pronoun "we" to suggest that he is voicing the opinions and concerns of a great many others who concur with his ideological fixations regarding acquisition of, and trading in, unprovenanced antiquities. However, no information is provided regarding who these undefined "others" are, their numbers, or their knowledge of the issues.

Those prominent in the pro-collecting advocacy movement (including this observer) believe that Mr. Barford does not have many supporters within the archaeological establishment. Much has been said (in private) indicating that his extremism and discourtesy are actually regarded as an embarrassment by more open-minded archaeologists.

Mr. Barford's habitual use of the term "ad hominem" in an attempt to deflect the reader's attention from anything he regards as being unfavorable to his personal credibility is really quite incongruous, given the plethora of pejorative jargon that fills his blog whenever he discusses anyone connected with the pro-collecting advocacy movement, anyone involved in the antiquities trade, or collectors.

Another theme very frequently found in his blog utterances is the implication that doing something for remuneration or profit is morally wrong. Attorney Tompa, representing trade organizations in venues important to their interests, is described as a "paid lobbyist." This observer is habitually described as "Dealer Dave," sometimes even as "Dugup Dealer Dave," with frequent implications that my real motivation for being involved in pro-collecting advocacy is greed and selfishness. Such implications and insinuations do suggest a Marxist social and economic perspective.

I don't think it is in any way unreasonable or unjust to describe this passage in Mr. Barford's paean of hate toward attorney Tompa as being dishonorable:

"If a person associated in any capacity in the public eye with the PNG in his "personal blog" had expressed extremist anti-Moslem or anti-semitic views, or White Supremecist ones, would an organization truly promoting integrity and responsibility not distance themselves from him? If for example a person representing PNG had written his "personal view" that "little n***r girls who go out in the streets in white areas of the town in short dresses deserve to be raped", would the PNG still take the view that their representative is entitled to his personal views, or would they consider that such opinions are detrimental to the image of themselves and all of their members and put a stop to it? I see very little difference in the fictional view above and the victim-blaming "personal view" expressed throughout his lobbyist's blog by the chosen representative of the PNG that people who live in countries with (what he sees as) "corrupt governments" deserve to have their heritage raped by looters and smugglers, and dealers should not be expected to lift a finger to do anything."

Perhaps Mr. Barford really does believe what he utters in his blog, and is not just saying such things to score propaganda points or to create an effect. Sincerity may perhaps explain, but does not in any way excuse, the excesses of that hideously inappropriate and defamatory passage.