Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Wholly Legally Loopy: Hobby Lobby Jesus Cartel Agrees to Forfeit Thousands of Looted Ancient Sumerian Artifacts, Pay Modest Fine (UPDATED with Charlie Pierce's Take on the Matter)

**UPDATED 1:56PM 7/6/2017 to include Charlie Pierce's commentary - see bottom of entry.**

Here's a story worth relating and remarking upon:

Hobby Lobby Agrees to Fine and Return of Thousands of Smuggled Iraqi Artifacts It Bought Despite Red Flags

Story from Slate here.


The Department of Justice announced Wednesday the arts and craft chain store Hobby Lobby has agreed to pay a $3 million fine and return thousands of ancient Mesopotamian artifacts that were smuggled out of Iraq, sold by a dealer in the United Arab Emirates, and shipped to its Oklahoma City offices using fabricated shipping labels.

The Oklahoma City-headquartered company orchestrated a dodgy deal for thousands tablets and bricks written in cuneiform, one of the earliest known systems of writing, along with clay bullae and cylinder seals, paying $1.6 in December 2010. The more than 5,500 artifacts were valued at nearly $12 million.

Federal prosecutors said the deal was "fraught with red flags," but Hobby Lobby President Steve Green, who traveled to the Emirates in 2010 to inspect the artifacts, continued to pursue the objects to add the Green family's collection of historical Biblical pieces. The Hobby Lobby retail chain was started and continues to be owned by the family of company founder David Green. The Green family are outspoken Christians and in June 2014 successfully challenged the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that health insurance providers provide women access to contraception claiming it violated their religious beliefs. The Green family is also bankrolling a new $500 million Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C.

"In a statement, Hobby Lobby President Steve Green says the company cooperated with the government and 'should have exercised more oversight and carefully questioned how the acquisitions were handled,'" according to the Associated Press. "Prosecutors say Hobby Lobby has agreed to adopt internal policies for importing cultural property and training its personnel."

As the article notes Green is a rightwing fundamentalist Protestant billionaire (pictured left), and his family -- and he successfully challenged before the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Burwell v Hobby Lobby in 2014 the Affordable Care Act's requirement that health insurance providers provide women access to contraception claiming it violated their religious beliefs.

But Green has no problem stealing a country's ancient treasures -- and then getting out of the mess by virtue of his wealth and position in society. He doesn't even recognize why it was wrong what he did and comprehend how the minor hand-slapping he got as an outcome.

The two cases put together clearly demonstrate the typical self-absorbed hyper-self-righteousness but otherwise cluelessness of rich rightwing American fundamentalist jackasses. I refer to those forever proclaiming their victimhood at the hands of a decadent secular society and yet use their wealth to do as they please -- in this case, blithely plundering Iraq's ancient treasures.

Above: One of the cuneiform tablets that Hobby Lobby forfeited as part of this settlement.

On that point, here is the current top comment by commenter "Alien Jesus" to the Slate story:

"should have exercised more oversight and carefully questioned how the acquisitions were handled,'"

Meaning we purchased 11.8 million dollars in rare artifacts for 1.6 million and got caught aiding and abetting terrorists but at least we don't pay for birth control"

The Atlantic has a more detailed article on how the purchases were made. This includes stating the really odd name of the "defendants" in this civil-forfeiture case -- namely, the objects themselves: The United States of America v. Approximately Four Hundred Fifty (450) Ancient Cuneiform Tablets; and Approximately Three Thousand (3,000) Ancient-Clay Bullae.

As a final point, as the Slate article noted, the Green family Jesus cartel is also bankrolling a new $500 million Museum of the Bible that is going to open here in Washington, D.C. Undoubtedly, many of the artifacts were intended for that museum.

Putting aside Green's little operation for cheaply stocking his museum with the plundered treasures of Iraq, just a remark on its location here in Washington, D.C.:

Wonderful. It's just what we need -- something to bring in more busloads of blundering behemoths of Red State tourists.

UPDATED 1:56PM 7/6/2017

I really should have waited a day to post this entry because the inestimable Charlie Pierce has posted an entry on his Esquire political blog far better written than I could do (link embedded): The Most Interesting Story of the Day Has Nothing to Do with Trump.

The sub-headline is "The Hobby Lobby theocrats allegedly got greedy trying to stock their Museum of the Bible."

Here are some extended excerpts (without pictures -- I just don't have time to break up the text with images):

The most interesting story in the news these days is not the fact that El Caudillo del Mar-a-Lago has gone to Europe to Not Talk About Ratfcking with Vladimir Putin, and to test the capabilities of various German riot squads. No, the most interesting story in the news is the fact that Hobby Lobby, the arts-and-crafts empire run by a family of stupid-rich Bible bangers, has been exposed as an international smuggling operation, as The New York Times explained.

While the Times story dances around the possibility that the Hobby Lobby people may have helped finance Daesh through the purchase of black-market antiquities (and boy howdy, wouldn't that be delicious?), it also makes clear that the company wasn't exactly diligent in examining the bona fides of the people who were peddling the stuff...

For their part, because this is their default move on everything from stolen antiquities to providing birth control services to their employees, the Hobby Lobby executives portrayed themselves as the victims in the swindle...

As for the smuggling allegations, Mr. Green said in the statement that Hobby Lobby was "new to the world of acquiring these items, and did not fully appreciate the complexities of the acquisitions process." He added that "regrettable mistakes" were made and that he should have "exercised more oversight."

This is hilarious. Because they were such babes in the Mesopotamian woods, the Greens were not hipped to the ways of the crafty natives by the fact that they had to wire the money to seven different individual bank accounts. If the company's response is to be believed, it's a wonder that the people running Hobby Lobby don't each have a document demonstrating their clear title to the Brooklyn Bridge...

The [M]useum [of the Bible] will represent the culmination of the Green family's long fascination with obtaining religious antiquities. And it's not like the Greens are the first Westerners to deal in the black-market pillage of a brutalized nation's cultural heritage. But they should count themselves lucky that this sleazy business resulted in merely civil penalties under the law. The Greens behaved very much like crooks in this matter, and they may theoretically have helped finance the murder of Christians in the Middle East as part of the bargain.

Not only that, but they are risking the wrath of Gilgamesh and Enkidu, and the vengeance of the Annunaki, the latter of which can be considerable as ancient astronaut theorists believe.

Great take on the matter.

End of Update and of Entry.


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