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Understand all, Forgive All, Not Likely!
on March 28, 2012
Though I find Black readable, I don't find him a credible read because of his propensity to either bask in the dangerously delusional sense of self-importance or to wallow in the mire of being misunderstood and slighted by those like me who don't buy in. It is between these two positions that Conrad Black's later autobiographical statement, "A Matter of Principle" lies. Focusing on those very troubling years of 2000-2010, this book attempts to explain why and how the baron did what he did as one of the main equity holders in Hollinger Inc. Black sets the context in which he and other key board members attempted to divest themselves of their newspaper holdings through special deals that involved non-compete arrangements. He paints a one-sided picture where he and his partners were embroiled in a nasty battle with the common shareholders and certain legal activists in it for their own personal gain. Such a version of events sounds rather self-serving and self-righteous. Naturally, he challenges the rights of others to question him on the use of corporate funds for personal indulgences. He alludes to the US Supreme Court's decision to overturn the fraud charges on the grounds that Black and friends did not deny the right of shareholders to honest services as proof of his innocence. In the second part of the book, Black attacks those who either deserted him in his fight for justice or failed to act on their consciences at critical moments. Key figures like Judge Posner, Eddie Greenspan, Radler, Judge St. Eve and some of his former Tory cronies come in for a lot of scorn for failing to vigorously defend his constitutional rights. When that line wears thin, a deeply stoical but obviously wounded Black launches a vitriolic attack on the glaring deficiencies of the America judicial system, from a jail cell within the walls of the Coleman detention centre, looking for a new following among the downtrodden and badly-served victims of a corrupt penal system. Read this book if you need, like I did, to see where Black presently sees himself in this unfolding drama. While he might have some provocative things to say about the ills and shortcomings of the American judicial system, he fails to understand the real principle at stake here; that legal system actually succeeded in taking the side of the little guy by prosecuting, convicting and sending him to jail.