How amusing

Conrad Black, have I got news for you – you haven\’t discharged your sins

The disgraced press baron\’s complete lack of contrition should debar his re-entry into decent society

The idea that an Observer columnist gets to decide who any of us invites to dinner.

Taking that Stalinism just a little too far I feel.

21 thoughts on “How amusing”

  1. Porter has a point. All sorts of loathsome people end up going onto HIGNFY and the fact that they have to face the odd wisecrack from Hislop and Merton is treated as if it’s fitting retribution for their crimes and misdemeanours when it’s really as traumatic as being mauled by a lamb. Black, at least, has served his time. When Alastair Campbell was on I thought my TV was going to explode in shame for having to broadcast his smug face.

  2. So Much for Subtlety

    Well at least no one has given him an Honour of some sort from the Queen. Unlike Eric Hobsbawm. Who merely wanted to execute a third of the country and force the rest into slave labour. At the behest of a foreign power. For which he actively worked against a British victory and in favour of a Nazi triumph from 1939 to 1941.

    And was utterly unrepentant about it.

    And no doubt Mr Porter would be happy to invite Zygmunt Bauman – former Red Army Political Officer who also joined the Polish branch of the KGB hunting down his fellow Poles who dared to resist Stalinism. And why not? Compass is.

    The idea the Left has anything to say to anyone about decency or morality is a joke.

  3. Philby and Co. ‘worked’ for a British victory. Eric was cut from the same cloth. Incidentally about his service:
    “Mr. Hobsbawm served in the British Army from 1939 to 1946, a period he later called the most unhappy of his life. Excluded from any meaningful job by his politics, he languished on the sidelines in Britain as others waged the great armed struggle against fascism.” At least he didn’t do too much damage.

  4. “I did nothing of significance in it,” Hobsbawn wrote of the war, “and was not asked to.”
    Well that was a bit of luck, then.
    Not what he volunteered for though, was it Paul? You don’t think an active Soviet sympathiser might have been a slightly unlikely candidate for intelligence work in ’39. Being as Stalin & Hitler were on the same side & all that?
    Incidentally, one noticed he sloped off to get a Masters in ’42. That’d be the year my mother’s brother’s Wellington failed to return. I think he’d done some leafleting in Berlin. Or rather over Berlin.
    Piece of shit.

  5. I’m not an admirer of Hobsbawm’s support for Stalin’s works, including the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. I’m not surprised he wasn’t offered a more prominent wartime role.

    Back to the matter in hand: obviously Henry Porter doesn’t imagine he gets to decide whom you invite to dinner. Which is why he’s taking the trouble to try to persuade you that Conrad Black would be a poor choice.

    Tim speaks of “Stalinism”: I wonder whether Stalin ever sought to sway opinion by writing a commentary in a centre-left newspaper. I suppose he may have done something like that in his early days as a seminarian. Is that what you mean, Tim?

  6. Almost all of the charges against Black were dismissed in court, or later dismissed on appeal. He was not convicted of ‘looting his company’, as one report put it today.

    Anyone who has read Mark Steyn’s day-by-day coverage of the Black trial would realize that the trial was an idiotic farce.

  7. “Anyone who has read Mark Steyn’s day-by-day coverage of the Black trial would realize that the trial was an idiotic farce”

    It wasn’t so much farce as an example of how little the law will protect you if you behave like a complete arsehole to absolutely everybody. People were well aware that Black was being held to a stricter rule than everyone else, but no-one cared. I still don’t care, because it couldn’t have happened to anyone who had even the slightest hint of consideration for others.

  8. Dave:

    Are you trying to tell us that, as a juror, you’d’ve voted to convict–not because he’d violated a law–but because he’d behaved “like a complete arsehole to absolutely everybody?”

    Sounds to me as though you’re comfortable with the law being used to persecute those you don’t like, rather than actually violated a law.

    Further, if the entire jury (or judge, as may have been the case) behaved as you suggested was the case, they would have been committting a crime.
    You’re all in favor of that?

  9. Conrad Black should not have been convicted, but the US system of prosecutors on the make, who throw dozens of charges at a victim- safe in the knowledge that only one needs to stick- ensures that innocent people will get stitched up.

  10. So Much for Subtlety

    PaulB – “I don’t know why SMFS wants to drag him into this, but it seems that Hobsbawm activiely worked for a British victory by, er, joining the army, and working on coastal defences in East Anglia.”

    No. He actively worked for a Soviet victory. He spent 1939-1941 working for a British defeat.

  11. I think Tim may be offended that Henry Porter thinks that he has taken over the role currently undertaken by Pope Benedict. “Sin” only has a theological meaning and the only person currently on earth who genuinely believes he is authorised to adjudicate on whether Black’s sins are discharged is the Pope.
    [FYI I am not a Roman Catholic, but I am a pedant]

  12. SMFS: argument by repeated assertion is all very well, but I think you owe us an explanation of how the building of coastal defences in East Anglia was the key to Soviet plans to invade Britain.

    john77: “Sin” has only a theological meaning? My dictionary doesn’t think so,

  13. Dave

    Tank is correct.

    I was once involved in a (civil) case in High Court in which the judge said to what people thought about the parties was irrelevant.

    So what you think other people think about CB is irrelevant to whether he should have been convicted.

    Under English law, that is. In the US you can bribe the judge.

  14. When I said that was a crock, I wasn’t just referring to the ‘Who cares what happens to Black, he’s an asshole’ attitude. I was referring to the claim that trial wasn’t a farce. It was, and it threw up some very disturbing aspects of the current US legal system.

    For one, there was the aspect that Ross mentioned — prosecutors can throw huge amounts of charges with little evidence at innocent people and the jury tend to think there must be something there and so convict on at least a few of the charges.

    Another very disturbing aspect was that a lot of what Black did that supposedly constituted the looting of the company by him was all cleared in writing by the board of directors, including some very prominent outside members of the board who were supposed to be there as objective overseers, and they were getting a lot of money for doing that. They signed off on it all. So the prosecution team leaned on them. So instead of them saying ‘Yes, we cleared it, Black did nothing wrong’, they took the cowardly route and said Black must be a baddie, and of course it was nothing to do with them, and the fact that they signed off on this stuff didn’t mean anything, they sign lots of papers every day in all sorts of capacities, and they couldn’t be expected to understand it all, and it’s all Black’s fault for somehow getting it past them. They said all this because they knew that if they didn’t say what the prosecutors wanted they might be in the dock too.

    The other appalling aspect of the whole case was that while Black built up that company and made his shareholders wealthy, once the state-apppointed team (led by Richard Breeden) took it over they ran it into the ground, and looted it on a far grander scale than Black was supposed to have done . Most of the shareholders now agree that getting Black arrested was the worst thing that could have happened. A company that was performing well (thanks mainly to Black) was soon rendered worthless by Breeden.

    A good summary of this latter aspect by Steyn here:
    http://www.macleans.ca/homepage/magazine/article.jsp?content=20070312_103140_103140

    I’m no great fan of Conrad Black, who does seem to be an egocentric windbag. But I don’t think he was guilty. He certainly has nothing much to be ashamed about, and has much to complain about. So I think he’s doing the right thing. He should be making as much fuss about this as he can, because what happened was beyond the pale and shouldn’t be allowed to happen again (although it will).

  15. Gene and Tank>

    “Are you trying to tell us that, as a juror, you’d’ve voted to convict–not because he’d violated a law–but because he’d behaved “like a complete arsehole to absolutely everybody?””

    No, if I’d been on the jury he’d probably have got off. The point wasn’t that the jury thought he was an arsehole, though.

    Of course the trial was a farce, but the farce would have broken down in a second if anyone at all had been willing to stand up and speak for Black. No-one was, because he’s a complete arsehole to everyone. That’s why I’m comfortable with the process. If he had a single friend, he’d have got off.

    Whatever the legislation in any particular jurisdiction may say, common law is a powerful force in jury trials. Evidently if you’re enough of a cunt, there’s an unwritten law which says you go to jail. Is that a bad thing?

  16. @ PaulB
    The last book that I heard about that thought was Tom Riddell’s diary. You should be afraid, very afraid.
    Buy a decent dictionary.
    The OED gives two meanings: one is an action contrary to divine law, the second is a a derivative, using the first meaning colloquially.

  17. john77: I don’t understand your joke about the children’s story.

    I think you’re relying on the (short) free online Oxford English Dictionary, which is not “The OED” as usually understood. The (short) free online Chambers is better. The longer Chambers, which I have on this computer, gives for the noun:

    moral offence or shortcoming, esp from the point of view of religion; the condition of offending in this way; an offence generally; a shame or pity (old informal).

    I suggest you buy a decent dictionary.

  18. Of course the trial was a farce, but the farce would have broken down in a second if anyone at all had been willing to stand up and speak for Black. No-one was, because he’s a complete arsehole to everyone. That’s why I’m comfortable with the process. If he had a single friend, he’d have got off.

    No, completely wrong, you obviously didn’t follow the trial very closely at all. For a start, Black pretty much did get off the great majority of charges anyway in the first trial, which he couldn’t have done if your ‘asshole’ theory was correct.

    More importantly, it wouldn’t have mattered if anyone who was involved thought they should stand up for him in court, because if they had done so the prosecution would have put them on trial as well. For the purposes of self-preservation such people had to either hide away or pretend that Black had pulled the wool over their eyes.

    As it happens the other co-accused, some poor schmucks who who seemed to be innocent and who didn’t really understand what was going on with the trial, didn’t sell Black out, and didn’t accuse him of any wrong-doing, and got sent down as a result. Apart, that is, from the devious David Radler , who was the one guy in the whole story who may have been guilty of skullduggery. He did sell Black out right from the start in order to reduce his sentence, because he understood straight away how the game was going to be played.

  19. In passing, this trial illustrates why the UK should not extradite people to the US. Not because the burden of truth is out of whack, but because of their plea bargaining process.
    That allowed the Feds to cut a deal with Radler that gave him a cushy and short sentence in return for him giving them a story on CB.
    CB refused to plead, so they went for him very hard.
    A variant happened with the NatWest 3. The Feds stopped them from working then delayed the trial until their money was running out and their families back in the UK were hurting.

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