In trying to parse all the details that go into the ban of all ivory products into the US and the banning of those products for sale across state lines by the Fish and Wildlife Service, it is clear that a public relations effort is being launched to demonize all ivory. For example, the banning has been conflated with the trafficking of all animals on the ESA (Endangered Species Act) list. Yes, elephant’s are being slaughtered for their ivory and this needs stopping, but no one is smuggling already existing ivory and it is not related to the current slaughter of elephants. The Advisory Panel that met on Thursday, March 20 in Arlington, VA ignored this fact, preferring to note how criminal organizations that orchestrated such trafficking were involved in drug smuggling, people trafficking, money laundering and terrorism.

Interestingly, CITES (Convention in International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), in a report from March 2013 and which, since 1982 has required permits for the movement of all items shipped internationally that contain such materials, finds that there is no criminal activity associated with ivory smuggling within the United States. For the Advisory Panel to cite criminal activity with ivory smuggling must, therefore mean, that such activity is taking place outside the borders of the US. Hence, the ban on ivory sales within the US, at the very least, is a red herring. But this is only one aspect of a larger problem with the thought process of the Fish and Wildlife’s ban.

One of the immediate weaknesses facing Fish and Wildlife’s thought process is how ivory is perceived in Asian countries. The Chinese word for ivory, for example, relates to the word tooth. Many Chinese do not realize that the elephant has to be killed to harvest its ivory. They believe that the tooth can be removed without destroying the elephant and that ivory products bear no relationship to declining elephant populations. This misunderstanding has helped to sustain the illegal trade of ivory to Asian countries whose relative insouciance to the declining elephant population is entirely logical.

Another aspect of the ban that Fish and Wildlife seems unawares of is the nature of African governance. One panel member, John Webb, suggested that army surplus be allocated to countries to help them deal with the sophisticated poachers who are using helicopters and machine guns to mow down herds of elephants. If this is true, and there is no reason to doubt this, then the smuggling operation is far more sophisticated and deadly and would require actual intervention on behalf of some body—NATO or some militarized force—to actually counter such wanton butchery. A ban on ivory products, already largely regulated by CITES, is not focusing on the problem. African governments also need to ask for help and they haven’t and probably will not.

Perhaps the most paradoxical aspect of this new law, and the US is very good at passing what I would call “silver bullet” legislation (think Prohibition or the Rockefeller law) that will solve myriad problems with one sweeping law, is that it will encourage a black market in ivory products that are old and have nothing whatsoever to do with the slaughter of elephants. Our cultural history, whether we like it or not, is intertwined with ivory, tortoise shell, horn, whale products—a whole host of animal related items that are now included in wildlife trafficking. It is a thorny problem that has not simple solution as the emotional argument—to save these animals—is compelling. No one in their right mind wishes to see the extinction of any species.

The answer requires hard work and a reliance on the honesty of those people who trade and collect antique objects. I don’t find this a hard thing to conceptualize. Americans are, for the most part, law abiding and willing to accept reasonable restrictions. A data base could be established to register antique ivory products so as to allow their sale and transfer and not disenfranchise those people who have collected rare art objects that include endangered species materials. That data base would be international and would quickly establish those persons wishing to abide by the law.

I attended a meeting of the Advisory Council for the Fish and Wildlife Service yesterday. The aim of the meeting, according to the Chair, was to be a “bridge” between the public and the Service to determine the impact of its latest rules that would, effectively, ban the sales of all ivory, antique or otherwise. The meeting was scheduled from 11-5 and included seven panel members sitting around a U-shaped group of tables with microphones, ostensibly discussing how the new rule would help end terrorism, money laundering and human trafficking as well as save the elephants and other endangered species.

That is an impressive rule, in my opinion, if it works. Essentially, the idea is to reduce the trade in wildlife trafficking by banning all the products that are encompassed in the Endangered Species Act. Allegedly, this would end the trade in all such contraband straightaway. There were numerous sidebars to this such as enlisting public companies to help get the word out, working with travel companies for greater awareness and shippers to identify the “bad” guys. The panel spent three hours pretty much reiterating how successful this would all be if it was enacted. There wasn’t a glimmer of self doubt about the efficacy of the ruling.

The public opinion, mixed to be sure, but largely against the ban, made it clear that the banning presented a major problem for many of them. My presentation focused on existing research showing how ivory tusks, in particular, were not coming to the US and that the illegal ivory entering the US was largely tourist ivories purchased in Asia and Africa. I suggested a “passport” for legitimate antiques that would be on a data base. The chair interrupted me as I was reading after four minutes and said that I had already used too much time when, in fact, the person, before me had close to ten minutes to support the ban. I love how democracy works. Impressive “bridges” to nowhere, as far as I can tell.

I have written the letter below because of a variety of rules and regulations emanating from both the Federal and NY State governments. Please understand, I abhor the illegal trade in ivory that exists around the world, most notably in China but very heavily in the Far East. The elephant is fast disappearing, something I find both depressing and distressing. I have been lucky enough to see elephants in the wild and there is nothing as majestic on this earth. They are extraordinary animals. However, banning the trade in antique ivory does not seem to be the way to resolve the problem as far as I can tell. The antiques trade has long advocated the creation of “passports”, essentially a data base that has both photos and numeric identification that will allow its safe, legal transport. I ask of all of you to kindly forward the attached letter to the addresses listed below. The Federal hearing is in four days so time is of the essence.   I will be making the trip to Washington to speak to the committee but we also need your help.

Please let the committee know your concerns:

Craig Hoover, Chief, Wildlife Trade and Conservation Branch

Division of Management Authority

International Affairs

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Via email:

Timothy J. Van Norman, Chief

Branch of Permits

Division of Management Authority

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Via email:

Mr. Cade London, Special Assistant

USFWS International Affairs,

Via email:



You can also help by contacting your Congressmen and Senators:




Many thanks,


Clinton Howell

President Clinton Howell Antiques

President Art and Antique Dealer League of America

Member of CINOA



To Whom It May Concern;

I write this letter to confirm my support for legislation that will ban the sale of illegally obtained ivory. However, I would like to point out that the directive issued by the President to ban the importation of ALL ivory is seriously flawed. The intended objective is to stop the slaughter of elephants, but the means for doing so denies the cultural importance of objects that have been created by man, our essential cultural heritage, for the last 5,000 years. By banning the import of all ivory, this antique ivory is consigned to the dustbin of history.

The range of objects made of ivory is vast. Prior to the 19th century, when ivory was relatively scarce, it was highly prized as a superior material for carving. Almost every culture and religion venerated works carved in the material and a visit to the most museums will readily demonstrate this fact. When the source for ivory expanded, so did its uses. A very short list of uses for ivory includes buttons, brooches, desk sets, canes, furniture (and inlay to furniture), oil pigment, handles (from weapons to teapots) finials, poker chips, pool balls, the list is astoundingly long. To render these items stigmatized and valueless does not help the plight of the elephant today.

We would ask you to suggest to the President and to his committee that there is a better way to stop the slaughter of elephants. There is also a better way to register legal antique ivory in order to stop the sale of poached ivory identified by its importers as “antique”. We recognize the difficulties, we recognize the need and we echo the desire, but please, let us help create a law that is workable and effective, not one that stigmatizes and condemns our cultural heritage.


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Myron Magnet has written a wonderful book about some of the founding fathers called, “The Founders at Home”. The title is slightly misleading since they are biographical sketches with references to their homes, but the focus is more on the nature of how these men fit into the scramble occurring both during and post the Revolutionary War. Their different points of view come quickly to the fore when Washington assumes the Presidency In 1789. Before Washington knew it, his trusted advisors were at each other’s throats. The spirit that had led to freedom was officially divided into factions.

George III’s intractability to the colonies was a foible born of youth, bad advisors, stubbornness and a shortage of cash. Magnet refers to him as a martinet which isn’t quite true. What was true is that he had come to the throne at the age of 22 and was completely unprepared and not particularly worldly. He expected sacrifice from his subjects wherever they were and when the colonists revolted, he reacted in the only manner that he knew how. That he was unable to let go of his rancor and cut his losses was a sign of immaturity. He would not listen to those who disagreed with him.

What I find most interesting about these men is that they were, to a man, elitist. They were calling for a Republic, but they definitely feared full blown democracy. Whether it was Alexander Hamilton, the arch Federalist, or Thomas Jefferson, the Republican who never stopped tearing down to build up again, particularly at Monticello, his home, none of these men felt the common man should be allowed to try their hand at the wheel of governance. Equally true is that most of them felt that religion had absolutely no place in government.

The commonly held assumptions of current politicos, and non-politicos for that manner vis-à-vis the Supreme Court, about our founding fathers intentions, at least according to the liberal amount of quotes he cites from each man in the book, are just plain incorrect. “Corporations are people” is one and the founding of this nation based on religion is another. The foremost theorist for all the founding fathers was  John Locke, a man who wrote about tolerance and how coercion of religion is counter to man’s nature. If I could, I would happily offer Mr. Magnet’s book to such disbelievers.  It is a great read.

“A gentleman has his eyes on all those present; he is tender toward the bashful, gentle toward the distant, and merciful toward the absent.”

George Bernard Shaw

This is a demo Gallery Post Format. Image galleries are a great way to share groups of pictures on your site. The Create Gallery feature of the WordPress media uploader allows you to add a simple image gallery to pages or posts on your site.  Here’s How to Create a Gallery in WordPress.

Welcome to image alignment! The best way to demonstrate the ebb and flow of the various image positioning options is to nestle them snuggly among an ocean of words. Grab a paddle and let’s get started.

On the topic of alignment, it should be noted that users can choose from the options of None, Left, Right, and Center. In addition, they also get the options of Thumbnail, Medium, Large & Fullsize.

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