Perhaps Black should reacquaint himself with the last line of The Great Gatsby: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past,” says Media Monkey in The Guardian.

Week three of the United States v Conrad Black et al and the cultural difference between the Americans and the Canadians is stark. One defence lawyer attempted to explain to the jury this wild lawless terrain across the 49th parallel. “They speak the same language. They play baseball,” he said. “But they have their own laws.” It reminded many of Chicago gangster Al Capone’s famous quip: “Canada? I don’t even know what street that’s on.”

The animosity extends to Canadian wildlife. Global warming has led to thousands of once migratory Canada wild geese moving into Chicago’s public parks and making a mess. In an urban setting, the birds have escaped from their natural predators, such as coyotes and the Arctic fox. Each weekend, Chicago public park officials hunt down their nests and destroy the eggs by shaking them or coating them with corn oil.

Exterminate the eggs is a final solution to this foreign pest problem. Experts call this pogrom “egg depredation”. The geese, like baseball, originated across Lake Michigan in Canada. This is an extraordinary rendition practised by the Americans on their Canuck cousins.

Our lawyers are better than yours. Mark Steyn in Macleans:

Examining the witness was Eric Sussman, one of the lean young Turks who make up the prosecution team. Collectively, they look like a pilot for Chicago Legal. The defence attorneys, by contrast, are mostly old, overweight, odd, eccentric and lumpily clad, but in the first couple of days they’ve been doing a better job. Still, I got the impression the lady jurors were eagerly anticipating Mr Sussman, who’s 37 but looks a boyish 12.

Black is victim says Black. Biographer Tom Bower unloads. The Sunday Times:

With obvious distaste throughout the first week of his trial, Lord and Lady Black have silently entered the 12th-floor Chicago courtroom appearing like outsiders at their own party. Walking past dozens of journalists whom Barbara Amiel characterised in a courthouse lift as “vermin” and facing a jury described as “working class, meat-and-potato folk” — a class the two social aristocrats have always disdained — the Blacks seem bereft of much comfort.

The odds, they know, are stacked against his acquittal. No less than 95% of federal prosecutions for fraud in the city end in conviction, and he faces 17 charges, including racketeering and obstruction of justice with a maximum sentence of 101 years in prison…

Just how Black will successfully pose as the ignorant victim of his partner intrigues the prosecution. After all, he was chairman, chief executive, a major shareholder and exercised the majority of voting rights. Repeatedly, in e-mails and conversations, he called Hollinger “my company” and described himself as the “proprietor”. Although more than $100m poured into his personal bank account from illegal deals, Black claims that he never closely questioned Radler about the source of the money…

Amiel sank back in her chair. Notoriously, despite receiving an income of $1.45m from Hollinger, Amiel had charged the company $20 for a tip to the doorman of Bergdorf Goodman, the fashion store on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue… All those perks will emerge during the trial, which promises to be ferocious and dirty.

Before leaving Toronto, Black promised to destroy his accusers. The lust for blood is shared by his young prosecutors. Their careers depend on convictions. Over the next four months, neither side will show mercy or magnanimity. Conrad Black has declared that this is a fight to the death, and nobody disagrees.

Defending Black and the rule of law. WF Deedes pontificates in the Telegraph:

So my friend Barbara Amiel, Conrad Black’s wife, finally flipped. “You slut!” she shouted at a journalist who joined them outside the lift in Chicago’s federal court house where Conrad is being tried. She called journalists “vermin” — one better than Denis Thatcher, who called them “reptiles”. I can’t say I am surprised.

As a young reporter, I was constantly warned never to break the sub judice rule, which says, in effect, that when someone has been charged with an offence, there must be no further comment on it that could influence the mind of judge or juror. For years now, we journalists have been treating that rule lightly – and getting away with it. Comments on Conrad Black’s chances have been abusing it.

I admire Tom Bower, who writes books about doubtful characters. He is a fine reporter, bolder than I would ever dare to be. But his book on Lord Black and his wife, in view of the impending trial, was off-side, and that applies to yards of other comment we have been reading about the Blacks. No matter what he is charged with, a man is innocent until a court of law finds him guilty in my book — yes, terribly old-fashioned.

In this column, I recently made the same point in defence of Tony Blair and the alleged cash-for-honours scandal. There has been too much nod and wink stuff between the police and the press about it. If there are any proceedings, defence counsel has every right to bring this up – as Conrad Black’s counsel is doing in Chicago.

I am defending neither Blair nor Black, but the rule of law.

Peter Fray

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