Black Watch: Today’s Top Stories
Another flood of Blackanalia this morning, what with reports on the defence’s 53-page response to the PSR, the hundred-odd letters from the great and good favouring mercy, his Lordship’s second LongPen event (this time in London), and even a story about Black litigating Revenue Canada over efforts to review his tax records. Where to start? The Globe and the Post devoted front-page coverage, offering comprehensive précis of the report, including contents of the various letters and the mitigating legal arguments. The Globe’s partial list of letter writers alone is jaw dropping:
Rush Limbaugh, William F. Buckley Jr., Margaret MacMillan, Mark Steyn, Baron Peter Carrington, Paul Desmarais, Elton John, David Frum, Lady Victoria Getty, Sir Martin Gilbert, Lady Annabel Goldsmith, Boris Johnson, Brian Mulroney, Paul Johnson, Sir John Keegan, William Hague, Norman Podhoretz, John Polanyi, Lord Charles Powell, Lord William Rees-Mogg, Andrew Roberts, William Thorsell, Lord Maurice Saatchi, Lord Norman Tebbit, Taki Theodoracopulos, Patrick Watson, Mortimer Zuckerman.
The reporting on sentencing consultant Jeffrey Steinback’s (clearly the primary author) summary is relatively straightforward. Writing on Fortune magazine’s Web site, Richard Siklos depicted Steinback’s efforts at painting an “epic” portrait. No act of kindness goes unremarked upon, no virtuous quality of character unexamined. “In the submission,” writes Siklos, “Black is portrayed as ‘a person with a deep reservoir of kindness and generosity’ who personally and financially looked after his ailing brother, former editors of his newspapers, and domestic help alike when they faced health problems. Beyond that, the submission goes on at length to showcase his accomplishments as a biographer and man of letters, not to mention a staunch—and often unpopular—public supporter of the country whose justice system he has now run afoul… As Conrad Black stands before the court for sentencing, he is neither the embodiment of the greatest act of charity he has ever accomplished nor the personification of the worst mistake. He is a husband, father, friend, patron, benefactor and mentor. He is a combination of all of his thoughts, words and actions as expressed through 63 years of life. That legacy has touched many individual lives and has made positive contributions on a global scale.”
For all that, a close reading of the submission reveals that the effort to translate for the judge this avalanche of support into a single and signal plea for mercy occasionally goes awry. For instance, in seeking to describe Black’s virtues as a mentor, Steinback writes that on numerous occasions, “Conrad immersed himself in the joyous problems of young people—choices of schools and jobs as well as burgeoning relationships—offering assistance, advice or a sympathetic ear. Young law students such as Adam Daifallah, once aspiring journalists such as Heather Reisman, musicians such as John McDermott and artists such as Tony Scherman have written of the vicarious pleasure Conrad has taken in their professional development and the support and encouragement he has extended along the way. It is both sad and ironic that after Mr. Black spent a lifetime deriving such joy from assisting other people to find success, so many revelled so cruelly in his tribulations.” The substantive merit of this argument notwithstanding, to describe Heather Reisman as a “once aspiring journalist” in that context beggars credulity.
In other quarters, the British papers were full of Black’s performance at the LongPen event and reveal his Lordship still coolly confronting his fate. The Guardian’s Patrick Barkham reports Black admitting that he’d have to be “brain dead” not to expect at least the possibility of doing prison time, while at the same time joking darkly that while awaiting sentencing he was seeking solace in Franz Kafka’s The Trial. “When I read it, at first I thought it was a novel,” he said. “Now I realize it’s just journalism.”
Ain’t it the truth.
A picture of the beneficent Lord Black: Source [The Globe and Mail]
Conrad Black’s fan club: Source [Fortune]
Quote, Unquote: Source [National Post]
Secret report suggests Lord Black will be spared spending rest of his life in jail: Source [The Times]
Luminaries vouch for Black: Source [Toronto Star]
Black’s legal team asks for shorter term: Source: [Chicago Tribune]
US prosecutors object to Black sentence plan: Source [Financial Times]
Conrad Black appears in a London bookshop, virtually: Source [Guardian Unlimited]
Black admits he faces jail as he vows to clear name: Source [The Independent]
Upbeat Lord Black pops up in True Crime: Source [The Times]