Sunday, July 15, 2007


To quote Toronto Star columnist Rosie DiManno (of all people), "the fellating of Black, in some quarters, has been astonishing." Indeed it has.

It looks, in fact, as though I was wrong--at least in the short term--about the "gnathonic media." The chorus has continued unabated, producing a sound, not of anvils, but akin instead to the one allegedly caused by the wholesale flight of jobs to Mexico. I here reproduce a sample of kneepad commentary from the press and some of the same from the blogosphere. (Readers are invited to add to the list.)

The sad part is that Conrad is unlikely to have a Presidential commutation available to correct yet another of Fitz’s travesties of justice.

I'm not familiar enough with the trial or evidence, but I suspect Chretien's gang behind it.

The US Attorney's office might usefully adopt as its motto the IRA's message to Mrs Thatcher after the Brighton bombing, "You have to be lucky every time. We only have to be lucky once."

Hollinger International revealed that Conrad had stiffed the company for some $60,000 for a birthday party for Barbara, a figure that caught my eye because I'd recently paid for my six-year-old's birthday party in Montreal. Given the difference in size of guest list, status of those in attendance and glamorousness of venue, I reckon, dollar for dollar, Lady Black's party was a rather better deal than my kid's. It certainly sounds something of a bargain by the standards of Park Avenue hedonism. But by now the image of Conrad as a socially ambitious fraud egged on by a sinister out-of-control Zionist trophy clotheshorse and enjoying the lifestyle of a Gulf emir on the shareholder's dime was set in stone.

Having met Lord Black, I can report that he comes across as polite and quite amiable – hardly the conniving con artist portrayed by the prosecution. Expecting a slick fraudster with verbal diarrhea, the jury would have been pleasantly surprised.

[T]he state naturally hates individuals such as Lord Black. For the little prosecutors in Chicago, their careers and political interests are strongly biased toward bringing down a famous man such as Lord Black. The new Inquisitors know that, however hard they work for injustice, they are likely never to be hanged from lampposts in a revolution...[M]y invitation to Conrad for dinner is still valid, for another time and another place.

But last word to Conrad Lord Black, who presciently managed to get it right in one:

[A] substantial number of journalists are ignorant, lazy, opinionated and intellectually dishonest. The profession is heavily cluttered with aged hacks, toiling through a miasma of mounting decrepitude and often alcoholism.

And that miasma, it seems, includes as well a serviceable political ideology that calls for the automatic exemption of the rich, the powerful and the right-wing from the demands of justice.


Further fellatio:

I spent the month of June in Chicago with Conrad. No person could have shown more grace under pressure. In the evenings we talked about the case, the witnesses, the lawyers. We talked about history. Now and then Conrad would take a sip of white wine, or feed cheese to Daisy, my wife’s working dog, who was gradually eviscerating a toy hedgehog. As the jury started deliberating, I had to return to Toronto. “You are all missed here,” read Conrad’s parting e-mail. “I have the hedgehog as a reminder of the cheese-eating Labrador.”

George Jonas, National Post, July 13, 2007.

It is a shame to think that Lord Black could end up confined in one of the United States’ countless lockups. There are any number of wealthy entrepreneurs, but very few with the intellectual luminosity and personality of Lord Black. He is far more than a Tory with an impressive vocabulary. He is an exceptional man, a public intellectual whose political asseverations have rarely failed to stimulate. He is also a serious scholar whose acclaimed 2003 study Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Champion of Freedom was hailed by Publishers Weekly as ‘not only the best one-volume life of the 32nd president, but the best at any length.’ And for a non-Canadian, he is also a distinguished Canadian. His Order of Canada citation sums it up well: ‘a man of diverse achievements within the realms of Canadian commerce, education, literature and the arts.’

Globe and Mail, editorial, July 14, 2007. H/t James Laxer.

Is it just? That is, did Conrad Black and his co-defendants get what was due to them?

Justice is a matter of proportion. The Black trial, in its entirety, utterly lacked any sense of proportion. The jurors curbed some of the worst excesses, but it remained in its conclusion what it was at the beginning. I wrote four months ago that I hoped for an acquittal "as a rebuke to the misuse of state power in the criminal justice system." Nothing that happened since convinces me that what transpired is anything other than that.

Father Raymond J. DeSouza, National Post, July 14, 2007.

I had far rather live in a country with a Conrad Black than without him, and now that he has been found guilty -- pending appeal -- I confess I will be one of those hoping for a light sentence.

Andrew Coyne, National Post, July 14, 2007.

(July 18) Here's a further bit of kneepaddery, from the Ottawa Citizen's egregious David Warren:

The spectacle of greedy, vindictive shareholders who had their reward, but wanted more, and found a way through the law to seize it, is starkly in contrast with the dignity Black has shown throughout his ordeal.

He has been flamboyant and entertaining; yet he has also written books and articles that show him to be a serious thinker on historical and political themes. He has consistently shown courage and audacity, and to this day, grace under terrible pressure. It should go without saying that he never consciously broke any law, and indeed, he invited in the corporate auditors who ultimately made a meal of him, because he was confident he had broken no laws.

And here's a sex-tour of the blogosphere, h/t Stageleft:

Lord Black has been found guilty on 4 0f 13 charges of fraud. I think he has just been convicted of being wealth and privileged. His lawyers should appeal. I don't think the prosecution met their burden. Needless to say I am very unhappy with this verdict.

[W]hatever the man's current travails, it is important that Canadians put his lasting legacy in context. Lord Black delivered to this country a stronger, more vibrant and diverse media market - the National Post being a case a point. With his conviction, the man's critics will have their day. But they should not be permitted to define his place in this country's history.

Fear not. Black can no longer return to Canada and the Liberals will soon be back in power. Then we’ll all be able to wallow happily in our country’s mediocrity once again.

[A]s the jurors begin to speak out it becomes clear, while they may have conscientious, they hardly qualified as a jury of Lord Black’s “peers,” capable of processing the material, discerning what was actually proof beyond a reasonable doubt, and rendering a fair verdict.

And the tour continues:

Conrad Black wasn’t brought to trial for anything he did wrong. He was tried precisely for what he does right. In a time of mediocrity he strives for excellence. In a time of conformity he acts audaciously. In a time of intellectual sloth he demonstrates intellectual rigour. In a time peopled by the feckless and the fey he lives with the bold and brave. In a time of a race to the bottom of the lowest common denominator he reaches for the top. In a time of gray, Black stands out.

In view of the verdict, which is essentially an endorsement of the legality of the Hollinger non-compete agreements coupled with instinctive disapproval of some of Black’s peripheral behaviour, civilized sentiment cannot hope for anything but leniency from the judge.

"'There's no way a blue collar jury in Chicago can let a man who looks like Conrad off every charge,' said one of his friends to me, before the trial began" [Quotation from The Guardian]. Given that the central charges failed, it does make me wonder if he was not in truth convicted of being unapologetic about being rich and being called Lord Black. Perhaps the verdict had as much to do with the jury selection process and where the prosecution chose to hold the trial than whatever Lord Black actually did or did not do.

But read this refreshing counterpoint from Tom Bower, Con Black's biographer.


Black has never dared to expose himself to cross-examination, and too many among Canada’s sychophantic media tolerated that outrage.

As I found when writing his biography, his career as a fraudster goes back to his days at school, where he stole and sold exam papers. Inheriting substantial funds, he originally built his fortune by tricking two widows to sign over control of a $4 billion conglomerate and in 1982 was condemned by a judge in Ohio for lying during a covert takeover bid.

Repeatedly he squandered millions on his lifestyle, resorting to thefts from shareholders to pay his bills.

Black, a Catholic convert, never seems to have been troubled by his conscience. Like many confidence tricksters he appealed to God to confirm his entitlement to shareholders’ money.

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