By Brian Bethune - Monday, May 13, 2013 - 0 Comments
In conversation with Brian Bethune on his new book, America’s best presidents—and his take on China
Conrad Black— British peer and American felon, former newspaper baron and current newspaper columnist—is also the author of two erudite and distinguished biographies of U.S. presidents. Now he’s turned to the broader sweep of the American story with Flight of the Eagle: A Strategic History of the United States. Black, who has already begun a history of Canada, wanted to correct what he saw as a common notion: that America, when it wasn’t being what Richard Nixon called a “pitiful, helpless giant,” was a happy, oblivious one, blundering its way through world history.
Q: Discussion of strategy is normally restricted to military or foreign affairs. What distinguishes a strategic history? Why write it?
A: My effort was to write something different in the vast literature on the history of the United States—if you can’t bring anything to that, you shouldn’t bother. But I think there is a widespread view that the United States just grew and grew as a power because it had half of a rich continent and attracted immigrants and it just happened. There’s some truth to that. But it still wouldn’t have happened if American statesmen had not taken, at decisive points, very important and often imaginative and courageous decisions.
By The Canadian Press - Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at 5:57 PM - 0 Comments
CHICAGO – Conrad Black has lost a bid to have his remaining convictions dismissed…
CHICAGO – Conrad Black has lost a bid to have his remaining convictions dismissed on the basis that prosecutors “intentionally deprived” the former media baron from hiring the defence lawyers he wanted.
The filing, made last year in a U.S. district court in Chicago, centred around claims that law enforcement’s seizure of $9 million of proceeds from the sale of his New York apartment left Black without enough money to retain lawyers Brendan Sullivan and Gregory Craig, who both worked at Williams & Connolly LLP in Washington.
Black purchased the apartment from his company Hollinger in 2000 for US$3 million and later sold for US$9 million. His lawyers argued that prosecutors deceived the court to obtain two warrants to seize the assets by concealing information that would have undermined their case for taking the money.
The former press magnate sold the Manhattan dwelling for $9 million, with the intent of paying for counsel to defend him against allegations of improper conduct at Hollinger International. Because the money from the sale wasn’t available to Black, his lawyers argued that denied him his right to counsel.
Black said that without the money he couldn’t afford the services of the two high-profile lawyers. Sullivan served as defence counsel for U.S. Marines Lt.-Col. Oliver North during the Iran-Contra scandal. Craig worked on Barack Obama’s White House Counsel, represented John Hinckley, Jr. when he was acquitted of an attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan, and represented Goldman Sachs in 2010.
On Tuesday, Illinois Justice Amy St. Eve, the same judge who presided over Black’s initial fraud charges, denied the motion.
“It is worth noting that this case was hotly litigated from the beginning,” Eve said in her decision.
“During the course of the pretrial proceedings and the trial, (Black) never informed the court that he was not represented by his counsel of choice.”
The filing accused prosecutors of leaving out two key documents that contradicted their claims that Black defrauded Hollinger in setting a purchase price of $3 million for the apartment, the same amount Hollinger had paid for it initially, even though it had appreciated in value.
Black, who was released from prison last May, would have been cleared of two remaining fraud counts if his motion was successful.
The initial filing stated that while it was too late to “turn back the clock” and allow Black access to his chosen lawyers, it was not too late to overturn his convictions.
Black served 37 months of a 42-month sentence in a Florida prison and returned to Canada last year under a special temporary permit given that he is no longer a citizen.
In a highly-publicized battle in 2001, he renounced his Canadian citizenship so he could accept a peerage in the British House of Lords.
By macleans.ca - Monday, January 28, 2013 at 5:57 PM - 0 Comments
Moses Znaimer brings the controversial former media baron to Vision
Do you want to see heart-pounding, adrenaline-pumping discussion of “the U.S. judicial system, prison reform and gun control?” Then you’ll love Conrad Black’s talk show! The formerly imprisoned media mogul has signed with Moses Znaimer’s Zoomer Entertainment to co-host a talk show on Vision TV, the cable channel Znaimer purchased. In seeking to transform Vision from a moderate, dull religious channel to a moderate, dull general-interest channel, Black and his co-host, music and TV executive Denise Donlon, will discuss issues of the day; there will even be a “round table discussion segment.” Look for the premiere in March.
By Tamsin McMahon - Thursday, December 6, 2012 at 12:40 PM - 0 Comments
Many happy returns to some familiar faces
J.K. Rowling may be the most commercially successful author in recent memory, but in the lead-up to her first adult novel, The Casual Vacancy, skeptics questioned her writing chops. It’s one thing to earn a billion dollars charming children with teenage wizards. It’s quite another to penetrate the cloistered world of the literary elite. The fuss turned out to be for naught. The Casual Vacancy has been a critical success: the Guardian declared Rowling a storyteller “on a par with R.L. Stevenson, Conan Doyle and P.D. James.” Any 10-year-old could have told you that.
Putting the Sheen on cable TV
Writers for CBS’s Two and A Half Men made sure Charlie Sheen would never return when his character was hit by a train, and his body “exploded like a balloon full of meat.” Leave it to cable TV to see the potential in Sheen’s penchant for drug-fuelled rants and rehab stints. Sheen’s Anger Management debuted on FX in June. Ratings were respectable enough for the network to commit to a further 90 episodes. Let’s hope they left some downtime in Sheen’s schedule for a possible relapse. Maybe Ashton Kutcher will be free.
An inauspicious homecoming
Visit a prison and you’ll find inmates who claim to be wrongly convicted. But few can proclaim their innocence quite like Conrad Black. Since his release from a Florida prison in May he has made the rounds of British and Canadian media to declare himself the victim of the “fascistic conveyor belt of the corrupt prison system.” If there is one decision Black seems to regret, it’s the one to renounce his Canadian citizenship for a British life peerage. Eleven years after he termed his exit from Canada as his “last and most consistent act of dissent,” Black is back home on a one-year visa and fighting to keep his membership in Order of Canada. Missing Tim Hortons coffee, m’lord? Continue…
By The Canadian Press - Friday, October 26, 2012 at 9:22 PM - 0 Comments
LONDON – Former media mogul Conrad Black has appeared on a British satirical show, defying the program’s mockery of his convictions in the U.S. and claiming innocence.
LONDON – Former media mogul Conrad Black has appeared on a British satirical show, defying the program’s mockery of his convictions in the U.S. and claiming innocence.
Satirists on the show “Have I Got News For You” made constant jokes at the expense of Black, who used to control papers including the Chicago Sun-Times and Britain’s Daily Telegraph.
But Black insisted on the show, which aired Friday, that he was wrongly convicted of fraud and obstruction of justice.
Earlier this week, he clashed with two British journalists, hurling insults at them and criticizing their questions.
He told veteran interviewer Jeremy Paxman that he was proud to have endured their exchange without “smashing your face in.”
Black was released from a U.S. prison in May, and is promoting his new book.
By Jaime Weinman, Emily Senger, Jonathon Gatehouse, Patricia Treble, Aaron Wherry, and Mika Rekai - Thursday, October 25, 2012 at 5:30 AM - 0 Comments
Danielle Smith’s offal tweet, Fidel Castro reappears (it seems), and Roberto Luongo a Leaf?
Let them eat steak
The Alberta Wildrose Party Leader Danielle Smith took a grilling this week when she suggested this week that recalled meat from Alberta’s XL food plant be fed to “the hungry.” Millions of kilograms of recalled XL meat is being destroyed due to an E. coli outbreak. “What a waste,” Smith tweeted. “We all know thorough cooking kills E. coli,” she added, endorsing another tweet suggesting that the meat instead be fed to those in need. When her comments sparked outrage, Smith was forced to backtrack: she did not mean that poor people should eat tainted meat, but if the meat could actually be salvaged, even she would buy it. Twitter had little sympathy—some suggested she feed it to members of Wildrose instead.
As the NHL lockout drags on into its second month, all hockey fans are hurting. But there might be some good news for the longest-suffering among them—the members of “Leafs Nation.” Reports surfaced last week that Toronto and the Vancouver Canucks have worked out a deal that will see mercurial goalie Roberto Luongo and his massive contract land in Hogtown when play ﬁnally resumes. Both sides deny that any agreement has been ﬁnalized (technically they can’t make a trade during the labour dispute), but there’s plenty of smoke. And at the very least it gives Leafs fans something else to obsess over: whether they’re getting the guy who backstopped Team Canada to gold in 2010, or the one who couldn’t stop a beach ball last season.
TV is so déclassé
“Stop this bourgeois priggishness!” cried Conrad Black, baron of Crossharbour and scourge of the bourgeoisie. The man who brought on Black’s outburst was BBC host Jeremy Paxman, who sat down with him for a TV interview. After Paxman called him a “criminal,” Black angrily dismissed his fraud conviction and prison sentence as a product of the U.S. justice system—“The whole system is a fraudulent, fascistic conveyor belt”—and commended himself for not “smashing your face in.” During the same round of interviews, Black appeared with Sky News host Adam Boulton, derided his questions and asked at one point, “What’s your name again?” Black has no time to learn the names of bourgeois prigs.
By Nicholas Köhler, Patricia Treble, John Geddes, and Aaron Wherry - Thursday, August 30, 2012 at 4:20 PM - 0 Comments
Maclean’s Newsmakers: A Murdoch family feud, Roger Clemens’s comeback and Conrad Black would like to make an appearance
His inimitable voice
The advisory council pondering whether Conrad Black should be stripped of his Order of Canada would prefer to just peruse the former press baron’s written arguments. But Black’s lawyers were in Federal Court last week asking Justice Yves de Montigny to instruct the council to let Black, who’s noted for his grandiloquence, make his case in person. “You need to see the man,” said Black’s lawyer, “to believe him or disbelieve him.” Black was named to the Order in 1990, but was later convicted of fraud and obstruction of justice in the U.S., where he served 42 months in prison before returning to Canada last spring. De Montigny did not say when he’d make a decision on Black’s special request.
Touching off a rush of musical snobbery and Twitter one-liners, Nickelback frontman Chad Kroeger and pop star Avril Lavigne announced their engagement last week. The easily mocked new royal couple of Canadian pop have apparently been dating for six months. Kroeger proposed in Los Angeles, where the two are collaborating on Lavigne’s fifth album. According to the precedent established by Bennifer, the new couple has been dubbed Chavril. Guests at the wedding will no doubt include former Seinfeld star Jason Alexander and former Baywatch beauty Brooke Burns who, both apparently eager for work, star as a lovelorn barista and his customer in the new video for Nickelback’s Trying Not to Love You. The video pairing is odd, but perhaps no weirder than the one in real life.
By Jessica Allen - Monday, August 27, 2012 at 1:18 PM - 0 Comments
FDR expert joins critics at ‘Hyde Park on the Hudson’ screening
TIFF has not even started and already there are sightings of celebrity types around Toronto.
By The Canadian Press - Saturday, August 25, 2012 at 7:29 AM - 0 Comments
Will Campbell, The Canadian Press
TORONTO — A lawyer for Conrad Black argues that…
Will Campbell, The Canadian Press
TORONTO — A lawyer for Conrad Black argues that allowing the former media magnate to make his case in person against being stripped of his Order of Canada would not open the floodgates to similar requests.
Peter Howard told Federal Court court on Friday that Black’s case is so “unique” that the advisory council currently reviewing his membership could give Black the hearing without having to make the exception again for a long time.
“Halley’s comet is due back in 2061 and this situation is unlikely to arrive again before its return,” Howard said.
“There won’t be another Conrad Black who fights for 10 years in the face of this kind of pressure because there hasn’t been to date,” he said, referring to Black’s legal battles in the U.S., where he was convicted of fraud and obstruction of justice.
In response, Justice Yves de Montigny questioned whether forcing the order to grant Black an oral hearing — complete with witnesses — would set a precedent for other members placed under review.
Black, 67, is asking Federal Court to force the hearing on the council as it decides whether to recommend the Governor General revoke his prestigious 1990 appointment as an officer of the Order of Canada.
The council notified him last July they were considering termination of his membership, but Black’s letter the next month asking to appear before them was met with a “10-month delay” before they denied his request, Howard said.
If expelled, Black would be the fifth person to lose membership in the order, the privileges of which are “purely symbolic,” federal lawyers argue.
Black did not attend court but argues in an affidavit that he should be able to look the 11-member advisory council “in the eyes” as they consider his status.
Chaired by Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, the council may recommend to the Governor General that an appointment be rescinded when a member has been convicted of a criminal offence, or if their conduct strays significantly from recognized standards of public behaviour.
Howard told court that Black has a right to speak his views aloud and take questions from the council since his credibility is on the line in light of his U.S. convictions.
“He’s going to tell them to their face that ‘I didn’t do anything wrong and here’s why not,’” the lawyer said.
Whether the order’s rules on just how a member is allowed to personally make their views before the advisory council are open to judicial intervention was a point returned to repeatedly in the federal court room.
Government lawyer Christine Mohr said whether the council reads or hears submissions is up for the order to decide, arguing the process falls under the Governor General’s “royal prerogative” and is thus beyond the reach of a judicial review.
And, she told court, the rules are clear to see.
“There’s no promise of anything other than a written representation,” she said. “There’s no circumstances that justify an exemption of that rule.”
Mohr denied claims by Black’s legal team that a call by council to kick Black out would automatically lead to his expulsion.
She said the Governor General has “unfettered discretion” in making such decisions.
When asked by Justice Montigny whether losing his status would ding Black’s public standing — a point Black’s legal team says warrants a fully voiced council appearance — Mohr said that any harm to Black’s reputation would instead be a consequence of his convictions.
Justice Montigny reserved his ruling Friday and did not immediately set a decision date.
Black, who renounced his Canadian citizenship in 2001 to become a member of the British House of Lords, recently returned to Canada on a temporary resident permit following his May release from a Florida prison.
By Will Campbell, The Canadian Press - Friday, August 24, 2012 at 10:17 AM - 0 Comments
TORONTO – Conrad Black has a way with words, government lawyers say, and the…
TORONTO – Conrad Black has a way with words, government lawyers say, and the Order of Canada advisory council is well aware of that — he gave them a copy of his latest book.
Federal lawyers are set to argue in court Friday that Black should have no trouble making written arguments to the council deciding the status of his Order of Canada membership, documents show.
Black, 67, is asking Federal Court to force the advisory council to allow him an oral hearing as it decides whether to recommend the Governor General revoke Black’s prestigious membership, bestowed upon him in 1990.
His lawyers are arguing that his case is too complex to be handled in writing — the only medium Order of Canada rules allow. The former media magnate went to Federal Court after his request to make arguments in person was denied.
But documents filed in advance of Friday’s hearing show federal lawyers are relying on Black’s own prowess with prose to argue that he doesn’t need oral arguments to make his voice heard.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, August 2, 2012 at 5:12 PM - 0 Comments
Three months ago, when Conrad Black received a visa to return to Canada, Toronto immigration lawyer Guidy Mamann told the Globe that “the idea that the minister didn’t wink or nod in favour of this thing is impossible to imagine.” In response to that comment, Jason Kenney filed a grievance with the Law Society of Upper Canada. In response to that grievance, 80 lawyers signed an open letter stating their agreement with Mr. Mamann and declaring that they would not “succumb” to attempts by Mr. Kenney and his officials to “muzzle freedom of expression.” And in response to that letter, Mr. Kenney’s office accused the lawyers of debasing their profession.
“Baseless accusations of misconduct and reckless character smears, by someone holding himself out to be an expert, poison the public discourse and debase the legal profession,” Ms. Curic said. “Instead of engaging in kneejerk outbursts of blind solidarity, these lawyers might consider the long-term damage to their profession of elevating activism above professionalism.”
Of Mr. Black’s application, the Prime Minister assures ”it is not in the government’s interest to intervene in this matter in any way, shape or form.”
Back in May, when the NDP was making accusations of special treatment, the Prime Minister made an interesting claim of innocence (emphasis mine).
Mr. Speaker, once again aspersions are being cast on public servants without any evidence. The leader of the NDP owes them an apology. There has been no involvement of anyone on the political side of government in this. It would be just as easy for us if Mr. Black were not allowed to come to Canada, but that is not the judgment of those who administer the law.
By Nicholas Köhler - Thursday, June 21, 2012 at 4:06 PM - 0 Comments
After a five-year absence from public life, Conrad Black is due up at the Empire Club
There’s something very Gulliver’s Travels about the title of Conrad Black’s speech Friday before members of the Empire Club of Canada, billed as his first public address since his release from a Florida prison last month: “My perspective of Canada after an absence of five years.” A bit of a self-serving euphemism–”absence”–so oblique you might even imagine Black himself believes his stint in jail was merely a blip of unpleasant awayness, a tortured period during which the U.S. justice system deprived Canadians of his presence.
That justice system, which Black has lately described as “the trumped-up system of the palace of corruption and hypocrisy of a courthouse in Chicago,” no longer has jurisdiction. His speech is to take place tomorrow at 1 p.m. in the Grand Ballroom of the Sheraton Hotel in Toronto. Yet beyond the Swiftian title, there’s little indication of what he’ll discuss.
There might be a good portion of what the old Frank Magazine liked to call “fart catching,” given that Black, as a non-Canadian citizen, remains in this country more or less at the pleasure of the government. So it was that, during an interview with the National Post not long ago, he referred to the federal government’s unapologetic emphasis on oil sands exports as “perhaps the most imaginative geopolitical initiative Canada has undertaken since Louis St. Laurent and C.D. Howe announced that Canada would build the St. Lawrence Seaway,” adding that “Stephen Harper’s calm response to American waffling over the Keystone XL Pipeline has been a model of having a Plan B at hand when dealing with an unreliable partner.” We should expect more of the same tomorrow.
And, for similar reasons, it’s unlikely that Black, who became a fierce critic of American prisons–though not a histrionic one: “it was tedious and outrageous but it wasn’t all that unpleasant,” he has said–won’t visit similar scrutiny on the Harper government’s push for more prisons here. “Since I am not technically a citizen, it’s not my place to come in here on a temporary resident permit and get up on a soap box and harangue the government,” he told the CBC’s Peter Mansbridge last month.
Whatever he discusses, he will do it before an audience of well-wishers. “Wherever I go, there are well-wishers,” Black, indeed, said not long ago. “I have received more than 5,000 messages from Canadians in every province and from every walk of life, every one of them positive. It is a laborious but pleasant task replying to them all…”
Tomorrow may well be laborious too, but much of the fun will be in discovering who is among that mob of wishers-well at the Sheraton in the Grand Ballroom. For whom is Conrad Black a draw? Stay tuned.
By macleans.ca - Thursday, May 17, 2012 at 4:39 PM - 0 Comments
‘My brave sweet duck, the night is over,’ he said to Barbara Amiel
“My brave sweet duck, the night is over.” Those were the first words Conrad Black said to his wife after being released from serving a three-and-a-half year prison sentence.
In an exclusive, candid five-page essay in Maclean’s this week, Barbara Amiel tells the intimate story of the arduous years the two spent apart and the tense and tumultuous countdown to his final release.
The last week of his imprisonment—not knowing his exact release date or if he could indeed settle in Canada—was its own particular kind of torture, she says, revealing for the first time the uncertainty that went down to the wire about where the former media baron would be allowed to settle.
“On May 1, I was choosing clothes for Conrad. . . I packed a suitcase to take with me: a suit if we had to go to the U.K., a jacket for Canada, lighter clothing for Bermuda, a couple of ties and underwear. Now that ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) had decreed I couldn’t meet him at the prison, I gave up on the pretty dress thing and opted for jeans comfort and getting my hair done.”
Black returned home to Toronto on May 4 after being released from prison in Miami, where he had been serving a 42-month sentence for fraud and obstruction of justice.
As Amiel writes in the Maclean’s piece, Black began to worry that the government would rescind the Temporary Resident Permit he had been granted because of the fuss caused by opposition leader Thomas Mulcair and the ensuing storm in the media that occurred in the days before his release.
“Now wound up by the emails he had received, a frantic Conrad managed to get to the prison telephone at 6:05 a.m. and called my dedicated black Samsung whose number is programmed into the prison computer. ‘I haven’t slept at all. The government will fold,’ he said. ‘They are going to withdraw my (Temporary Resident Permit). . . . ‘I’m taking my blood pressure pills but I don’t know how much more of this I can take before I have a stroke.’ I’m the drama queen in this family.,” Amiel writes. “When Conrad worries about a stroke you know he is in difficulty.”
Now at home in Toronto, Amiel writes of cooking for her husband as he regains his health and gets accustomed once more to life outside. “He hasn’t got back enough strength in his leg yet to easily walk the dogs any length of time but that will come. I had to remind him how to use a Toronto telephone and how to drive a keyless car. It’s all new.”
The full exclusive account from Barbara Amiel is in the latest issue of Maclean’s.
By macleans.ca - Monday, May 7, 2012 at 11:55 AM - 0 Comments
Ottawa’ s hanging on to its embassies’ artwork and al-Qaeda’s taste for porn uncovered
Back at the table
U.S.-Iran relations are enjoying a welcome thaw this spring, as the threat of further sanctions appears to have renewed Tehran’s interest in diplomacy. The two sides met recently in Istanbul and have agreed to more talks next month in Baghdad, with senior clerics in Iran voicing support. Two short months ago, the prospect of Israel bombing installations in Iran looked real, as Tehran remained defiant about continuing its nuclear program. Ending the stalemate will require Iran to stop making weapons-grade nuclear fuel while agreeing to a new inspection regime. Still, this is a good start—and far preferable to the alternative.
Back in Black
After Stephen Harper’s government initially refused to give special consideration to a residency application by Conrad Black, Citizenship and Immigration Canada granted the former media baron a one-year temporary resident permit, allowing him to live here after his release from prison. The backlash was immediate, and expected, with critics accusing the government of a double standard, but Black’s crimes were not violent, he behaved well in prison, and it served no purpose to prevent him from returning home.
By Gustavo Vieira - Friday, May 4, 2012 at 3:27 PM - 0 Comments
At home in Toronto, the former media mogul was all smiles and kisses
After being released from prison in Florida on Friday morning, Conrad Black returned to Canada, and went straight to his home in Toronto.
Black, who had relinquished his Canadian citizenship in 2001 to accept a title from the British House of Lords, has been granted a one-year temporary resident permit allowing him to return to Canada.
The former media mogul let himself be photographed and filmed with his wife, Maclean’s columnist Barbara Amiel, walking around the property in their home at Toronto’s Bridle Path neighbourhood on Friday afternoon.
By Gustavo Vieira - Friday, May 4, 2012 at 12:16 PM - 0 Comments
Former media mogul Conrad Black has been released from prison in Florida on Friday,…
Former media mogul Conrad Black has been released from prison in Florida on Friday, after serving a total of 42 months for fraud and obstruction of justice. He was picked up from prison by U.S. immigration officials, but it’s unclear if he was taken to a processing facility or straight to the Miami airport, according to the Globe and Mail.
Not being an American citizen, Black is expected to leave the U.S. right away, but his destination is as yet unknown. Black relinquished his Canadian citizenship in 2001 to accept a title from the British House of Lords, but was granted a one-year temporary resident permit, which allows him to return to Canada. Black has a house in Toronto, where his wife, Maclean’s columnist Barbara Amiel, lives. Since Black is a British citizen, he could also be flown to the United Kingdom.
From the Globe and Mail:
An immigration detainer had been placed on the former head of Hollinger International. It was expected that he was going to be driven to a detention centre and booked for deportation. But it appears Lord Black was driven straight to the Miami International Airport. A worker with the Krome Detention Center told reporters he was scheduled to take a charter flight. Immigration officials have not confirmed that Lord Black was taken to the airport.
Prison and immigration officials are revealing few other details, citing privacy laws and security policies. If Lord Black is deported, he faces a 10-year ban on returning to the United States.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, May 2, 2012 at 4:55 PM - 0 Comments
“Har-per! Har-per!” they chanted, the members of the Conservative caucus eager to hear the good news from their leader. There were “woohs!” as he took to the small stage at the front of the room.
Flanked by no fewer than four Canadian flags, he periodically allowed himself something of a smile.
“Today’s date is a big one,” he said, “and I want to talk to you this morning about the significance of the milestone that we passed, the first anniversary of the day that Canadians again endorsed our government and gave it a majority mandate.”
It seems so long ago. A simpler time. Back when we could still tell ourselves that the F-35 was only going to cost $16 billion.
“In doing so,” the Prime Minister continued, “they gave us a mandate to do one thing, one thing above all else.”
Consolidate the government’s computer systems? If memory serves that was the one thing standing between us and the economic and social chaos of Greece.
“They gave us a mandate to secure their prosperity,” he specified. “And this, my friends, we are doing—we are doing every day, every way and everywhere and in every way in which we can.”
The work of consolidating the government’s computer systems is never done. And the Prime Minister shan’t rest until total and complete consolidation is achieved. Especially when there is so much else that this depends upon. Continue…
By Erica Alini - Tuesday, May 1, 2012 at 6:24 PM - 0 Comments
Conrad Black will be heading back to his native Canada after he finishes serving…
Conrad Black will be heading back to his native Canada after he finishes serving his U.S. prison sentence next weekend even though he no longer is a Canadian citizen, the Globe and Mailreports. The former head of Hollinger International and owner of Canada’s Southam media company, now Postmedia, applied for and received a one-year temporary resident permit that expires in early May, 2013. In Ottawa, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney declined to comment on the case during question period, saying that he has removed himself from any proceedings involving Black, and adding that ”Matters such as this are a matter of personal privacy.” NDP Leader Tom Mulcair accused the government of using a “double standard” in deciding whether Canada should admit foreign citizens with a criminal record, the CBC reports. The opposition leader pointed to the case of a U.S. citizen who has not been allowed to return to Canada, where he raised a family, after serving 30 days in a U.S. jail in connection to a 1969 police shooting in Chicago. Citizenship and Immigration Canada granted Black a temporary resident permit, because he is believed to pose no threat to the Canadian public, an anonymous source told the Globe.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, May 1, 2012 at 6:19 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. Thomas Mulcair had news. Or, rather, he’d read the news. And so he had a question.
“Mr. Speaker, the member for Trinity-Spadina and I last year asked why Gary Freeman, who lived in this country peaceably for 40 years and had several children, was not being allowed back in the country. The answer was an event that happened in Chicago in the sixties and he had served a short jail time. They said that because he was not a Canadian he was not allowed back in,” the leader of the opposition recounted.
“We just learned that the British criminal Conrad Black will be allowed in despite serving a second term in a federal American penitentiary,” he reported. “Why the double standard?”
The New Democrats seated around him stood to applaud.
“What about the French citizen who leads the NDP?” chirped Conservative backbencher Jeff Watson.
One should have known then that this would not end well. Continue…
By Gabriela Perdomo - Monday, April 30, 2012 at 10:10 AM - 0 Comments
Canadian-born media mogul Conrad Black is set to walk out a free man next…
Canadian-born media mogul Conrad Black is set to walk out a free man next Friday, May 4. Black has been in a Miami prison since last September, convicted on counts of fraud and obstruction of justice.
From the CBC:
Black, 67, was resentenced last June to 42 months in prison on fraud and obstruction of justice charges.
Black had already served 29 months in the Coleman federal prison in Florida before the U.S. Supreme Court struck down some of his initial convictions, citing a misuse of the “honest services” provision of the U.S. fraud statute. His original sentence was for 78 months in prison after multiple convictions on fraud and obstruction of justice charges.
The court agreed to accept the 29 months he had already served as part of his new sentence of 42 months.
Black has reportedly said he would like to return to Canada upon his release.
By Brian D. Johnson - Friday, March 16, 2012 at 12:15 AM - 0 Comments
Payback. Although the title sounds like it could belong to a Nicolas Cage thriller, this is a wake-up call from the opposite end of the cinematic spectrum. And the only fireball you’ll see belongs to BP’s drilling disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Now, I know it doesn’t sound like a good time, a National Film Board documentary based on Margaret Atwood’s book of Massey Lectures about myriad forms of debt—societal, personal, environmental, criminal and economic. Not an easy sell. But bear with me. This captivating film comes from one of the most seductive, least didactic documentary artists at work today, Canada’s Jennifer Baichwal. Her subjects have ranged from expatriate writer Paul Bowles and Appalachian photographer Shelby Lee Adams to the toxic visions of Edward Burtynsky (Manufactured Landscapes) and exotic tales of lightning-strike survivors (Act of God). Like almost all her documentaries, Payback was shot by Baichwal’s husband, Nicholas de Pencier, a cinematographer whose lens seems almost magnetically drawn to poetry.
Wisely, Baichwal chose not just to illustrate Atwood’s book, Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth, but to extend its ideas to fresh and vivid ground. Just as the book takes the notion of debt beyond financial matters to broad arenas of moral and political obligation, the film takes its ideas out into the world, as it unearths half a dozen specific stories in very different realms. Baichwal explores a irreconcilable blood feud between an Albanian farmer whose belly is scarred from bullets fired years ago by his neighbour. She drills down into the indelible environmental debt of BP’s Gulf oil spill. She makes us thinking twice about the beauty of tomatoes with stories of plantation-like slavery among Florida’s migrant farm workers. In examining the notion of “paying one’s debt to society,” Baichwal finds empathy for a drug addict who can’t stay out of jail, and presents media mogul Conrad Black in a tolerant light—the philosopher con turns out to be one of the film’s more thoughtful subjects. Continue…
By Alex Ballingall - Thursday, December 8, 2011 at 9:20 PM - 0 Comments
From Julian Assange to RIM–this year’s reversals of fortune
As the hockey world adjusts to stricter hitting rules and increasing concerns over brain injuries, Cherry’s tough-guy rhetoric seems more and more antiquated. The man of a million suits bowed to pressure in October and apologized after he called three former NHL enforcers “pukes” and “turncoats.” Weeks later, he declined an honorary degree from the Royal Military College after a professor took issue with Cherry’s alleged intolerance of French-Canadians, immigrants and homosexuals.
In September the former business mogul was returned to the prison population he once described as “an ostracized, voiceless legion of the walking dead.” U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve had re-sentenced Black to 13 more months behind bars in Florida for mail fraud and obstruction of justice.
By Nicholas Köhler - Monday, September 12, 2011 at 10:35 AM - 2 Comments
An exclusive excerpt from ‘A Matter of Principle’
That a man whose baronic title remains Lord Black of Crossharbour should have written a book so redolent of his abhorrence of hierarchy, and of authority in general, must tell us something about our enduring fascination with Conrad Black, who returned to prison this week after a 13-month reprieve. During that period of freedom he saw an appeal of his 2007 fraud conviction fail and, because he could do himself no further harm, arranged publication of A Matter of Principle, as subversive a treatise on American justice as has likely ever been written by someone who also boasts of having received correspondence “from every U.S. president from Lyndon Johnson to George W. Bush, the last four while in office.”
In total, the story represents “the ludicrous demise of my great love affair with America.” It’s as much a tale of lost fortune, influence and reputation, one that should have been foreseen: “My pride and haughty spirit were of the nature that often leads to a fall,” he allows. “My prison number, 18330-424, is stamped on my clothes and mandatory on all correspondence. I am 65 years old. I entered these walls a baron of the United Kingdom.”
He and his wife, Barbara Amiel, first arrive at Coleman Federal Correctional Complex in Florida and are ignored. “Barbara, thinking I had been struck dumb, said, ‘My husband, Conrad Black, is here to self-surrender.’ ” Soon, a “beefy correctional officer, unarmed but heavy-laden with gadgetry, surged into the room and pointed at me with well-rehearsed purposefulness.” He and Amiel prepare to separate: “A kiss, a searching look, a very few words, and I walked forward, not turning back to wave lest I be reproved in front of her and add to the distress of us both. She departed.” Long before, Amiel had quoted from the Book of Ruth—“Whither thou goest, I will go.” The night before, “We had held each other during the night.” Within a few paragraphs Black is handcuffed and prison officials are probing “the approaches to my rectum.”
By Kenneth Whyte - Monday, September 12, 2011 at 10:25 AM - 5 Comments
On scrubbing showers, navigating the prison economy and getting used to sleeping alone
Q: I want to go back to something near the start of your troubles. Peter C. Newman predicted that you would get 15 years in jail, that you would be raped in prison, and that your wife Barbara Amiel would leave you and return to London for her fifth husband. Did he hit the mark on any of that?
A: No, he was rather wide of the mark on all of those. He missed completely on the last two. Where I was—there is practically no violence in this particular prison, and there certainly wasn’t anywhere around me or with anyone that I dealt with. The only homosexual activity is voluntary, and however much of it there is, it isn’t oppressive, and is not otherwise unconsensual. But on the first point, as you know there were 17 counts and four of them were not proceeded with; nine were rejected by the jurors, and the remaining four were vacated unanimously by the U.S. Supreme Court. Two of them were spuriously retrieved by the appellant panel that the Supreme Court excoriated, but in the perverse American manner had been sent back to the same panel for the assessment of the gravity of their own errors. So the grand total that I ultimately will have served is three years, even though anyone reading the relevant transcripts and filings can see that nobody amongst my co-defendants—including myself—broke any laws at all, and none of us would have dreamt of such a thing.
Q: You admit in the book to having missed a shift in the zeitgeist toward higher standards of corporate governance, and I was wondering if that was something you missed as much as didn’t agree with.
A: Well, the two I’m afraid run somewhat together. We had a very long and unbroken record—or practically unbroken—of taking distressed properties and fixing them up, both in quality and in profit level, and that was what our business was, producing quality products profitably. So my objection was this attempt to shunt the discussion with the shareholders into these issues of secondary relevance. On the other hand I must admit—as I did admit in my book—that I should have been more aware of how much shareholder and financial community and financial press attention was at that time already being focused on things like that.
Q: You were extremely worried during this time—it comes out in the book—about your personal financial position. It was the key to your survival and your ability to fight. I had no idea that your access to your wealth really was what was keeping you afloat.
A: Yes. Well, you see, the way the system works is that there are freezes on any trades in securities in companies under the kind of scrutiny that ours were, so you couldn’t realize on that if you wanted to. And then because of the publicity, I couldn’t find anyone to whom I could sell anything, other than a bottom-feeder or a vulture who would try to take advantage of me. All of a sudden, for my purposes, if I was trying to realize any money, nothing had much value, you see? Now, I managed to get ’round that eventually, but it requires a lot of setting things up carefully and moving with less speed and less liquidity than would normally be available, and yet the legal profession in these kinds of things is terribly expensive.
Q: On that note, tell me about Brendan Sullivan.
A: [He was] chairman of the Washington law firm Williams & Conway, and they’ve had a great many famous cases, including the defence of [Bill] Clinton in his impeachment case, and the civil complaints of the Democratic party after the Watergate affair.
Q: And you hired him, paid him about $9 million in fees, and in the end didn’t get a hell of a lot in return for it.
A: I’m afraid that is substantially true.
Q: But how could he charge you so much without really producing anything? He didn’t take your case in the end, did he?
A: No. No, he did not. He’d requested a large retainer of at least $15 million, and in order to be sure that I had that cash ready I sold the co-operative unit that I owned in New York City on Park Avenue. I sold it at quite a respectable profit, and the government was aware of that through, in fact, illegal telephone intercept, as the devices were all discovered when we moved the furniture out of the apartment. Then they, on the basis of a completely spurious FBI affidavit, they represented that I had paid an insufficient amount of money to the company—the company I was chairman of—to buy this apartment. But they got an ex parte proceeding in which a magistrate authorized the seizure of the proceeds of the sale with no notice to me. So the closing came, my counsel were there with the buyer’s counsel, and the FBI did an elephant walk through the room, picked up the cheque. The buyer had my apartment, the government had my money, and I didn’t have anything. And they knew perfectly well that would prevent me paying the retainer to Brendan Sullivan promptly.
Q: Normally I wouldn’t ask somebody about their personal financial position, but you wrote about it, so I was surprised at two or three things. One, most of your assets were in real estate. Why?
A: The largest asset by far was the control position in the company we directed, but that was frozen, and it rapidly deteriorated in value as these vandals with court protection destroyed the companies, wiping out $2 billion of shareholder value. Only about 15 per cent of that was mine.
Q: Is it common for people who build their own companies to have most of their wealth invested in those companies?
A: Yeah, sure, it’s quite common. When people are controlling shareholders that’s often how things are.
Q: At one point in this whole mess, because of your inability to access your wealth you were down to your last hundred thousand dollars. Had you ever, in your adult life, been that strapped before?
A: No. No, and not my last hundred thousand dollars in terms of assets, but everything had to be paid right away. You had no access to credit other than loan sharks, so it was a constant battle to keep enough liquid money around, to pay counsel and, since I had some fairly large homes, they did require some money to operate them. I got through it all, you know. I’m not a poor person today. I certainly am a less well-to-do person than I was, but it’s all right, it’s only money and I can build back from where I am if that’s what I want to do.
Q: By most people’s standards you’re still a wealthy man.
A: By the standards of contemporary fortunes I was never a tremendously wealthy man at the best of times, but I was a wealthy man and I am a less wealthy man now.
Q: So we go through the trial, most of the government’s case is knocked away, but you are convicted on three charges of fraud and one of obstruction of justice, and the latter—the obstruction charge—centres around that video of you coming out of your office with boxes, caught on a security camera, looking furtive, red-handed. What was going on there?
A: The famous picture of my pointing at the camera was that I was saying to my assistant and my driver that I certainly wanted to make sure this was all captured on film because I didn’t want any suggestion of anything surreptitious happening. Even though I technically owned the building where I had had my office for 27 years, one of the Toronto courts said I had to leave the building. We had six business days left, my assistant put some things in boxes, and had asked them to be moved, and then there was an intervention asking that they not be moved from the representative of the court-appointed inspector. So when I arrived later on in the day I spoke to the acting president of the company who said, “That’s fine to move it,” after questioning my assistant about the contents. I knew nothing about the contents, I just asked her if they contravened the order that we were under, and they didn’t. And in fact, everything in there was either totally personal or it was business-related and had already been handed over in complete compliance to five different subpoenas for documents from the United States. Every page we had in there had already been copied and sent away, and so it was a totally innocuous act.
Q: How would you explain, then, the court’s logic convicting you?
A: I think even the defence counsel who represented me on that particular item acknowledged they could have put up a better defence. The film, as you say—I mean, you’ve described it yourself, I suppose, quite accurately—that I appeared to be furtive and red-handed. And the jurors, as they acknowledged in post-trial interviews, did not always follow the judge’s instruction to be sure beyond a reasonable doubt. They got to the point, where one of the jurors was told by a relative that the speculation in the press was that they were just a bunch of yokels who would never be able to reach a verdict in such a complicated case, and this juror said, “So we really got to reach a verdict.”
Q: Tell me what it was like walking into prison for the first time.
A: Well, by the time it finally happened, my attitude was, “This has gone on so long and been so horrifying it can’t be worse than what’s happening now.” So to the extent that it is apparently survivable, I can start to develop a comfort level that I will in fact survive it and have a life after this appalling nightmare. And I had spoken with someone who had been in that particular facility, a low-security prison, who assured me there was no violence other than the occasional scuffles between people that didn’t amount to much and just occurred because individuals were ill-tempered, and that it, while sometimes quite tedious, was eminently survivable.
Q: What does it mean to be processed?
A: You, first of all, have to take off all your clothes and you’re searched . . .
Q: Thoroughly searched.
A: Thorough search, yeah. Intrusively, I think is the usual description. Then you answer medical questions and a lot of other questions, and they give you a card with your number on it, they issue some sort of basic clothing, and then they tell you where you’re supposed to go to live and approximately how to get there.
Q: And you were never handcuffed at any time during this, were you? I don’t ever remember you being in those pictures that you see on TV.
A: No. I was handcuffed when there was a move—that proved to be mistaken—to move me to another location because they thought I was being called as a witness in a civil proceeding in which I was in fact the plaintiff . . . fortunately the judge’s order arrived before I had to get on the bus, but in the meantime you have that very elaborate form of having manacles on your feet—chains, you know—as well as being handcuffed.
Q: What’s that sensation like?
A: It’s interesting in that it is so restrictive and demeaning, you feel intensely vulnerable. I knew that they were making a mistake and—incompetent though the Bureau of Prisons often is—this would come to light and it wouldn’t go very far, so I could look at it in a more relaxed manner than I would if I thought I would have to travel across the country in that condition.
Q: I don’t want to suggest that the time at Coleman was leisurely, but you weren’t busting big rocks into little rocks. I was kind of surprised at how much free time you had.
A: I don’t think in federal prisons in the U.S. you have them out breaking stones, I think that may be state prisons. In a low-security federal prison, everybody is supposed to have a job. In my case, some people in the library, who were aware of the book on [Franklin Delano] Roosevelt that I had written, got the head of the education section to engage me as a tutor, and I had a very satisfying job there. I worked quite hard at it.
Q: And you write in the book about your enormous pride in some of the progress that your students made.
A: Enormous in the sense of pride in them, not in myself.
A: This is true. I mean, some of them were very surly and terribly under-educated in formal terms when we started. Once they could see that there was a purpose to it, and that it was a way of getting something useful out of this unpleasant experience, they applied themselves. It was very heartening to see how hard they worked, how people who had been told all their lives they couldn’t possibly succeed at anything were so excited—and justly excited—because it was a great achievement for them.
Q: On one occasion you speak about cleaning a shower stall, and you attracted a crowd. What was going on there?
A: Well, apparently I was slightly late leaving in the morning, so the counsellor said, “All right, well then you can’t leave for an hour,” which is when the next opportunity was, “and so in the meantime you go and work with the men in the shower room.” And so I cleaned the shower stall that I normally used, and I cleaned it very thoroughly. And I didn’t attract the audience in the sense of there was any great merit to how I did it—I mean, cleaning a shower stall is an important activity but not an especially stylish one—but the counsellor and some of his chums who were correctional officers thought it was so uproariously humorous that a man of my alleged means would be cleaning a shower stall that they turned it into a spectator sport. I must say it was all quite good-natured, it wasn’t nasty.
Q: And you gave them a good show?
A: No one disputed that the stall was clean!
Q: How sophisticated is the economy within the prison? I imagine, especially in the kind of facility that you were in, that there are some pretty cagey operators.
A: Extremely so. It’s very sophisticated in the sense that you have tremendously talented craftsmen. I mean, if there’s a problem with your eyeglasses, or a problem with your radio, there are people who can fix them. And it’s also sophisticated in the upper ranges of what you might want in terms of consumer value, because there is some degree of smuggling there, and because all inmates who receive visitors are strip-searched at the end of the visit, really none of the smuggling is through prisoners’ families or other visitors, it’s all through corrupted correctional officers. If you really wanted to, you could get a cellphone—which is forbidden. You could get a bottle of good whisky—which is forbidden. Now, I never touched any of that because I conducted my battle with the U.S. authorities and this unjust prosecution entirely through the courts, and the last thing in the world I wanted was any needless dispute with the officials of the Bureau of Prisons.
Q: What was the worst moment for you in prison?
A: The worst was when the Court of Appeal in Chicago so cavalierly treated our case. We had a very strong appeal, as was ultimately demonstrated by the Supreme Court of the United States, and the chairman of the appellant panel would not allow my counsel to finish a sentence. It was the most disgraceful thing I have seen in a court in a serious country. I didn’t actually see it, but I heard the audio and I read the transcript. And it reminded me—not to be tendentious here—but it reminded me of these news films of the Nazi People’s Court after the attempt on Hitler’s life in July of 1944, where Judge Freisler shouted at the prisoner. It was a fantastic spectacle in what is generally a distinguished jurisdiction in Chicago and it was obvious that we had no chance in that court.
Q: Through the whole of this process, Conrad, you had some friends who left you and some who stuck beside you. I’m just going to give you some names. Henry Kissinger.
A: I’ve had a great reconciliation with him. I’d been here in New York for four months, and he went to some lengths to see me, and I told him what my objections were to what he’d done, and he . . .
Q: He failed to defend you after having called you on several occasions an indispensable pillar of his existence, I think that was the phrase.
A: Pillar of my life, but he said that and wrote that a number of times. And in fairness, unknown to me he wrote that to the trial judge. I didn’t ask him to write a letter, and I did not know until years later that he did write a letter.
Q: So you say in the book that his failure to stand up for you was a wound that wouldn’t heal. That’s no longer the case?
A: No. In fact I altered the wording in the final version of the book. I did say the litmus test was if he thought I had committed crimes, and he said immediately, “I do not think you’ve committed crimes, and I never did.” And I said, “In that case I suggest that we put it all behind us and never speak of it again,” and that’s what’s happened. I see him quite often. I’m having dinner with him tomorrow.
Q: Elton John continued to be a great friend.
A: Magnificent, absolutely magnificent.
Q: David Radler was an associate for more than a quarter century, and then he turns on you and gives evidence against you. Surely you had to know what he was capable of.
A: So one would think, and I reproach myself for not having known. But I must say, in his defence, that for almost all of that time there was never the slightest sign that he was capable of either committing illegalities himself or inventing untruths to level against his associates as part of an activity to try and transfer blame from himself to others in order to get a reduced sentence for himself.
Q: Rupert Murdoch: do you still consider him the greatest media proprietor of all time, given his recent troubles?
A: Yes, but I’ve made it clear that my admiration for his talents as a media proprietor are not on either the standards that he has in presenting news or his own ethics. I was referring to his tremendous boldness in breaking the primitive print unions in Britain, and in breaking the triopoly of the three American television networks, and vertically integrating a film studio with a television network and then being a pioneer in satellite television. But he’s always been a tabloid man, he personally is a complete cynic. I’ve often said that his political philosophy is in that cartoon show that his company produces, The Simpsons. I mean, the people are idiots and all politicians are crooks, and that’s how Rupert sees the world.
Q: Have you changed as a result of all of this? What has changed about Conrad Black?
A: I’m not the best person to judge. It is fair to say very few people would go through as prolonged and arduous an experience as this without changing in some way, and I believe that I probably have. I hope that I have a greater recognition about the numbers and dire conditions of disadvantaged people even in a rich country like the United States. I’m of course much more aware of how imperfectly the justice system functions.
Q: Do you feel remorse about anything you yourself did?
A: Well, I feel remorse about anything I did that helped bring this upon me. I certainly feel no remorse at all about the honesty of what I did, because I didn’t do anything dishonest. I have remorse about any errors that I made that contributed to the vaporization of $2 billion of shareholders’ equity, 85 per cent in the hands of average people throughout the United States and Canada.
Q: Less than a year from now you will be a free man. What is the next act?
A: Well, one of the few positive results of this difficult time is that my career as a writer has flourished. I was fortunate to be in a prison where there was email access so I could file columns for the National Post, the National Review in the United States, and various publications in other countries. I often wrote book reviews, including of your book about William Randolph Hearst, and so I hope to go on with that.
Q: It’s a hard way to make a living.
A: I wasn’t suggesting I had to do it for a living, although I think I could get a fairly respectable income out of it, but in the terms you mean I think I shall return to being an investor. I don’t want to say this in a way that’s inappropriate, but I had some success in that field and I think it can be done in a way that’s completely private, totally unobtrusive, and will furnish quite a decent living.
Q: And do you expect to return to Canada? Do you want to return to Canada?
A: I want to divide my time between Canada and Great Britain, but I certainly would like to come to Canada if only as a temporary resident.
Q: When you were in prison, what was the one material thing you missed most?
A: Probably good food, but I have to emphasize that far above material things was the companionship of my wife. There is no substitute, in the middle of the night, for moving your knee and hitting a cinderblock wall instead of connecting with a person you’re happy to share the bed with. I don’t mean that in a prurient sense, it’s just something that one feels acutely.
Q: How is the food in prison?
A: It’s the lower end of institutional food. There are microwaves in the units and you can buy food from the commissary and put together something a little better in the microwaves, if you want to. What’s offered in the dining hall is certainly enough to keep body and soul together, but it’s not very tasty.
Q: Is that what you spent your stamps on?
A: No, we had—to use Lenin’s phrase—a division of labour: I would do some things for some of the inmates, and in return they would do some things for me, and there were better cooks in that place than I am.
Q: Conrad Black, thanks very much, and good luck with the rest of your journey.
A: Thank you so much, Ken.
By macleans.ca - Wednesday, September 7, 2011 at 4:37 PM - 0 Comments
Black says former business partner devalued stock in newspaper chain
One day after returning to prison to serve the remainder of his sentence for fraud, Conrad Black has launched a lawsuit against his former business partner, David Radler, CTV News reports. Black is suing his former business partner at Hollinger International on the grounds that Radler illegally added shareholders and debt to Horizon Publications, a U.S. newspaper chain, which devalued Black’s stake in the company. Radler, who pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud in exchange for testifying against Black in 2007, says he has not yet seen the legal documents and will not comment.