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Dazed and Confused

With the Trial of the Millennial Epoch in something of a lull this sunny afternoon—what with the defence pawing the contents of those famous boxes hunting for exculpatory evidence and unpaid invoices—I find my mind wandering a bit. Most days I click through the ongoing roster of stories pertaining to the case, and every so often I come upon a putative fact or argument that, while in all likelihood hovers somewhere near the truth, nonetheless leaves me with my head cocked like a confused cocker spaniel. And in these instances, I almost always leave the items alone because, in journalistic expression, ambiguity is the enemy of clarity. But like I say, we’re on a sort of busman’s holiday, so here then are three instances of what I’m talking about. The first is from this morning’s National Post, on the infamous birthday party:

“The bill also included US$750 for beluga caviar. Ms. Akerhielm told the jury that while Hollinger International paid for two-thirds of the party, Lord Black covered a third of the cost himself. He paid US$20,000 of the bill through a special Hollinger account set up for his personal expenses in the United States. He paid another US$569.12 for the services of a professional calligrapher who created three menus for each table at the grand affair. Lord Black paid into the special account on a regular basis and did not have signing authority, the jury heard. Instead, the person with signing authority was Paul Healy, a senior Hollinger executive who set up the account because Lord Black was not an American citizen and therefore could not open a bank account in the United States.”

You see what I mean. The idea that Conrad Black can’t open a bank account (however sensible the reason) and as a result has to chase some underling around the tree so he could pay his calligraphy bill is a bit of a stumper.

And how about this, from Dominic Lawson’s column in this morning’s Independent?:

“You might not think it significant, but Radler has a hygiene complex. A colleague once said that ‘If I’ve got a cold, David is worried to talk to me even on the phone.’ Imagine the horror such a man would have of prison life. He would do anything—anything—rather than take the slightest risk of spending the next 25 years in Ohio’s Elkton Correctional Institution. Yet the jury will be asked by the prosecution to believe that Radler’s evidence is untainted by threat or compulsion.”

Okay. The caveat is appreciated, but still, isn’t it just a bit of a stretch to suggest that, in Radler’s mind, giving up his freedom falls second to his distaste for the unhygienic?

And this last one, from Barbara Amiel’s latest Maclean’s column, I offer without comment (though with the requisite incredulity):

“And what we are living through is not especially noteworthy on any scale of nightmares. I suppose it’s the process of being singled out that is often more frightening than the thing itself. A holocaust survivor once explained to me that when Jews were being rounded up it was awful, but you were not in it alone. Your friends and family were in a similar situation—there was a sort of order. One was, so to speak, less traumatized belonging to a persecuted group than being the single elephant man, though being a member of a persecuted group could be far deadlier.”

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