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Monday, December 10, 2007

Black's redefining moment

Conrad Black's appearance in a Chicago court today, during which he expressed "profound regret and sadness" for the hardship endured by Hollinger International shareholders and, more importantly, heard he had been sentenced to 6 1/2 years in jail for misappropriating funds, reminded me of something from Tom Wolfe's novel, The Bonfire of the Vanities.

Towards the end of the novel, the main character, Sherman McCoy, a high-flying businessman who becomes entangled in the U.S. criminal-justice system, has an ephiphany: that he has to change the definition of himself, from that of superstar "Master of the Universe" trader, to one of, essentially, a full-time defendant.

The redefinition was, I believe, necessary for McCoy to preserve his sanity.

Posted by Terry O'Neill on December 10, 2007 in Crime | Permalink


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If Conrad Black sees himself as a full-time defendant, it's probably because his crimes make him one.

Speaking of Black and in light of the recent announcements of the future (or lack thereof) of the WS, it might be time to go down memory lane. Remember when (it almost seems like yesterday) the whole WS crew was partying with Lord Black? Partying like it would never end ... http://westernstandard.blogs.com/shotgun/2006/03/second_annivers.html

Posted by: Fact Check | 2007-12-10 1:48:30 PM

Terry, I don't think Black apologized for misappropriating shareholders' funds. He is appealling his convictions -- and denies that he misappropriated anything. From the reports I've seen, he apologized for the decline of the value of the companies he led since the barrage of lawsuits against him began. In other words, he apologized to shareholders who were collaterally damaged by civil and criminal suits targeting him.

Posted by: Ezra Levant | 2007-12-10 1:52:48 PM

"In other words, he apologized to shareholders who were collaterally damaged by civil and criminal suits targeting him."

That's still a lot better than anything we've heard from Canada's chief embezzler & thief - Jean the Creton.

Posted by: obc | 2007-12-10 2:04:09 PM

Sorry for Black. There are far, far worse characters in this world than Conrad Black and many right here in our country who have done far worse and got away with it. And they were in high office.

Yes, his apology was to shareholders but that would never stop those from spouting otherwise who never let facts get in their way.

Chretien wasn't called Teflon Jean for nothing.
He's one SOB who'll be gloating over this.

Posted by: Liz J | 2007-12-10 2:37:08 PM

Ezra is correct: Black did not apologize for committing the crimes of which he was convicted. I misunderstood initial reports. I'll correct my posting in a moment.

Posted by: Terry O'Neill | 2007-12-10 2:40:05 PM

obc - the fact that Mr. Black found Cretian contemptible and named the crimes of the Liberano crooks in newspapers, in cities, in Canada speaks volumes to a unsophisticated Western Canadian like me. Canadians should be asking themselves; 'What role did the former PMJC play in the devaluation of Holliger shares'? If the former PMjc and his follow up, 'mini me' Martin, were involved they should share financial responsibility, IMO. We should order a public inquiry on this issue.

Isn't it interesting that R Picton, the pig farmer in BC who murdered several innocent people gets 10 years in Canada - and sympathetic Press coverage; while a successful businessman who tried to help the foolish Canadian people though press information about the way the gument was taking them to the cleaners, gets 6 years in the jailhouse for his GOOD work - and juvenile, vicious Press coverage.

I have, and always will have, great respect for and gratitude to, Lord Conrad Black. He is a Canadian Hero, IMO. History will vindicate this man as the media continues to unravel the web of lies they have spun to the free nations of the world (esp in Canada because of the Puffin/Dipper culture of corruption in the gument subsidized, hence owned, media). The reason: the Internet web sites(like WS) are light years ahead of the mentally impaired old media, the lies will be undone with the liars; in not a long time!

Posted by: jema54j | 2007-12-10 2:58:17 PM

From memory, it seems to me that Black was convicted for a "crime" WAY DOWN in the weeds of the corporate accounting of his enterprise. And, since it is so cravenly typical (following the pathetic pattern established by Bill Clinton and multiple other fakes) to "apologize" that I have my antennae sharply tuned for any such phony appeal by anyone for BS sympathy. My recollection was that Black did NOT in any way soil himself before that (unfortunately typically "corrupt") Lefty Court in Chicago.

Investments go up and go down. Theft is a way of life (you know, "political professionals" stuff), and not something you engage in as a Conversative flame thrower in the "media" industry.

This entire prosecution is entirely of the same cloth as the prosecution of Rush Limbaugh for illegal drug dealing (when he got a fat stomach and screwed up his back and took perscription pain pills until he became addicted to them).

This is merely a TAX on freedom of speech imposed by the Communists by means of appointing Leftist judges (i.e. who are also "good" on the Abortion issue, etc.).

Posted by: Conrad-USA | 2007-12-10 3:04:05 PM

Conrad, this is one of the most outrageous cases in my memory. The Left of the spectrum here are orgasmic. Wouldn't doubt even Chretien is feeling frisky.

Posted by: Liz J | 2007-12-10 4:46:27 PM

Our dopey President should just immediately pardon Lord Black, but our President never does anything right until he has done a completely stupid and wrong thing and then everyone in America calls the stupid White House (or Senate or where ever the blithering is then occurring) and tells him how stupid he is and that he should do the exact opposite. Unless it is a matter of "principle" for President Bush, such as encouraging an illegal alien invasion or nominating the stupidest blithering idiot phony "conservative" woman on earth (Harriett Miers) for our Supreme Court after decades of missed opportunities.

We are fighting Communists. It is that simple and that clear. Communists are the LEFT and they have an unerring long history of murderous actions on every front to achieve Totalitarian governmental control over all free peoples.

Posted by: Conrad-USA | 2007-12-10 5:52:13 PM

Is Black worse than Ottawa's mayor - or Jean the Creton? How much jail time will THEY see?

"Charges against mayor send ripples through Ottawa"

CTV.ca News Staff

The mayor of Ottawa was charged with bribery-related offences in connection with a 2006 mayoral race on Monday, sending ripples through city hall and the federal Parliament.

The charges stem from an allegation that Larry O'Brien's campaign tried to offer Terry Kilrea, a fellow candidate, a job in return for dropping out of the race.

Kilrea alleges he was offered $30,000 to cover his expenses. Kilrea did eventually drop out of the race, but said he never accepted any money.

Posted by: obc | 2007-12-10 7:53:26 PM

It's actually quite astounding that those who charged Black were willing to do so at the expense of Hollinger and its survival. Usually, these are business decisions. Companies make them all the time. If the overall effect is negative, charges are never laid. There is something other than business ethics at play here. Something personal and nasty.

Posted by: Cynic | 2007-12-10 8:31:38 PM

Cynic - the people who originally complained have long since lost interest in the case. Basically, control of the company was stripped from Black and thrown over to a Court-appointed Board with little stake in the company which, in turn, was later replaced by another similar board. Hollinger's existance as a going concern, in any case, was wholly dependent upon Conrad Black. That was the company's only reason for existance.

What we have here is, in the form of Patrick Fitzgerald, a grandstanding US Attorney who, based on his conduct here and in the Libby cases, seems to either have political ambitions.

I agree, though, that Black would make an excellent candidate for executive clemency. Perhaps when the President leaves office in 2009 it might be granted. It might well be worth organizing a campaign to bring the issue in front of the President.

Posted by: Adam Yoshida | 2007-12-11 12:22:15 AM

Well said Conrad in USA!! We are fighting Communists yet we jail a icon of Free enterprise a person who rewarded the motivated and the talented. I am certain that the reason the msm hate Mr. Black with such venom is that he was so much better at their job than any of them ever dreamed they could be. Mr. Black has a very high IQ and he is not lazy so he was not ever mentally challenged by the yappy, nasty, small minded Liberano groupies in the media. He was not afraid of them, he was not interested in sparring with them; he dismissed them! Their inflated egos hurt; they pooled all their hateful, pathetic, little mental might into bringing down the intellectual giant, Lord Black.

They have failed; but they are too stupid to know they failed and I think they will be sorry, probably very sorry, for their smear job. In not a long time.

Posted by: jema54j | 2007-12-11 1:38:37 AM

As an American conservative I am quite frankly shocked at the pass you are all giving Conrad Black. The evidence is very clear that he embezzled vast sums of money from Hollinger for frivolous uses such as a $54,000 birthday party for his wife and then specifically told his secretary that it was to be expensed as "1/3 personal and 2/3 corporate".

How exactly is stealing $54,000 from the shareholders of Hollinger ethical or legal? There is far too much of this type of under-the-table, petty corporate theft going on these days and it is nice to see some of the people responsible for it being held accountable for their actions. That money was not Lord Black's to spend, it was the property of the shareholders of the company which he stole for his own extravagant uses.

When a man steals $7 million from a company and is then found guilty of it in a court of law where all of the evidence was presented publicly it behooves the intelligent observer to conclude that perhaps he did in fact commit the crime. Don't point out that others' crimes and ethical lapses are far worse (the Canadian Liberanos, corrupt Chicago officials, a politically ambitious US attorney, etc.) because that is totally irrelevant to the facts at hand.

Conrad Black stole $7 million worth of Hollinger shareholders money. That is a crime, end of story. Why make excuses for the man?

Posted by: Mike | 2007-12-11 9:45:16 AM

The next $54,000 birthday party that I throw for my wife will be the first one.

By your telling (Mike) Lord Black expensed 2/3 to the business.

Did Jesse James pay taxes on and own up to 1/3rds of the bank money that he STOLE, and only feel remose (?) about the 2/3rds?

If one is "stealing" you steal it all, e.g. 3/3rds.

While never having held a $54,000 party for my wife, I've certainly attended such, and well in excess of that amount, VERY MUCH as a BUSINESS activity on my part, and many many many such parties are exactly the opposite of what I actually "want" to do with my time. But during such parties, 99% of the entire activity is all BUSINESS, advancing the fortunes of me and my "side" in the activity-party what have you.

These "crimes" are entirely about the voluntary nature of American jury duty, wherein the jury pool frequently cannot comprehend what a CEO of say a media company may NEED to do in order to deliver VALUE to his business enterprise.

Most of the truely, breathtakingly, wealthy people who I know or have known, actaully care nearly nothing for material things. They are NOT materialistic at all. So, when a jury of "peers" is presented with wide eyed jaw dropping concepts of amounts spent, as the only basis of understanding, a birthday party, sans ANY individual effort or loving family care or connection, but instead a "factory made" event, becomes supposedly something that "we all want" to "steal" from our employers.

And a lousy creepy Prosecutor like that guy Fitzgerald in Chicago, is the "perfect" Democrat type envy monger, who could "win" such a great legal victory as to get a group of people to see "theft" just as they saw "innocence" at O.J. Simpson's trial.

Posted by: Conrad-USA | 2007-12-11 11:16:13 AM

"These "crimes" are entirely about the voluntary nature of American jury duty, wherein the jury pool frequently cannot comprehend what a CEO of say a media company may NEED to do in order to deliver VALUE to his business enterprise."

If you say so my friend. Spending $34,000 of other people's money on his wife's birthday party is not adding value to the company. If business was discussed there it was ancillary. That is why he was forced to resign by Hollinger, that is why he is being prosecuted by the Securities and Exchange Commission, and that is why he is being sued by his former employer. Conrad Black took money that belonged to the shareholders and spent it on his own lifestyle. That is illegal in America gentlemen, it is called theft. Whether he took 2/3s, 1/4th or 2% of someone else's money it is still theft. This isn't a smear campaign, this is simply what we do to custodians of companies that expense their private life onto the corporation. It is a common crime in this country, which is why hardly any eyebrows are raised about it here. Apparently in Canada this is never prosecuted.

I have little love for Patrick Fitzgerald, but to say he is an envious liberal is hardly a reality. Looking around the internet I find very few conservative American blogs defending this man and his actions. You might ask yourself why.

"Indeed, the evidence at Black's trial showed that he never did anything illegal. Black was wrongly convicted."

How so? Care to share any of this evidence?

Posted by: Mike | 2007-12-11 2:02:33 PM

Mark Steyn did a very thorough coverage during the trial for Macleans Magazine. Why don't you go and look in their archives instead of asking people here to explain everything to you? You need more information.

Posted by: Wm. L. Hyde | 2007-12-12 1:15:59 AM

Mike has way too much faith in a prosecutorial system that is out of control in the United States. Fitzgerald is a witch-hunter.

In the Libby case he knew from the get go who had actually "outed" Plame (nothing to out, actually) and that it wasn't Libby. He went fishing and because Libby wasn't as sophisticated as the Clintons who "couldn't remember" anything during their own brushes with the law over their financial dealings, he was caught. Libby tried to remember and made the mistake of guessing instead of claiming Clintonian amnesia. Because he guessed wrong about one conversation, he was charged and found guilty of obstruction of justice! Fitzgerald literally made a crime out of thin air.

In the Conrad Black case, it was just as egregious. Radler was literally bribed into being a witness for the prosecution by being promised a short sentence in a Canadian Club Fed complete with its own golf course. Even worse, the three high-powered auditors perjured themselves on the stand to avoid threatened prosecution themselves! They each claimed they did not notice the non-competes on the 11 pages they signed off. In other words, they copped to being completely incompetent and doing nothing for their high pay rather than admit that they saw nothing wrong with the non-competes and approved them.

The birthday party that Mike keeps flogging was one of the charges that even the jury dismissed with "not guilty". Even they got it. There were some pretty high power witnesses who had been invited, barely knew Ms. Black and conducted business during the party. This is very typical business behavior. Lots of people like to do business on golf courses, in pleasant social surroundings, not only in boardrooms. Despite the prosecution's attempt to rouse class envy (succeeding with the Mikes of the world) by dragging in all kinds of irrelevancies like towel racks to stress the wealth of the defendant, their tactics by and large fizzled.

The prosecution's case was so poor that 4/5 of it went in the crapper. The amounts "stolen" went from 600 million to 1% of that. The jury could not believe that all that smoke didn't mean a fire somewhere so they co-operated that much.

This was a venomous prosecution all the way through to demanding a 30 year sentence and there's something fishy going on. Someone with pull had a personal interest in seeing Black go down and/or Fitzgerald is power mad.

Agree that Mark Steyn's analysis of the trial was the most lucid and easily understandable (as well as entertaining) for anyone who wants to be better informed.

Posted by: tarkus | 2007-12-12 11:40:06 PM

tarkus ~

Spot on - and well stated. Bravo!

I knew Fitz was a fraud when the DemoRats welcomed his appointment in the Libby matter as being "righteous".

Posted by: obc | 2007-12-13 8:21:39 AM

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