Monday, December 10, 2007

A 5 Megabyte Hard Drive With Vacuum Tubes in 1956 Could Be Yours for $3200 a Month

Lord Tubby Gets All That He Deserves? I Don't Think So

I can ‘t seem sleep tonight.

(Oh, that was just the paper hitting the door. I think I will wait a bit to retrieve it.)

Of course I am not alone in my insomnia. But rarely do I knowingly (I presume anyway) share my sleeplessness with a Lord, as today, as everyone knows, is the day that Lord Black of Crossharbour receives his sentencing.

I would like to note I have always admired Conrad Black (and still do to a degree).

I admired Black’s books – and I am still of the opinion that the first part of his autobiography A Life in Progress and his biography of Duplessis are great books that will stand the test of time. I am not alone in this. Despite what people say about the man, the books have always been favorably reviewed.

Black was not however without his detractors and in a very juvenile way I always chalked this up to that peculiarly made in Canada jealously that has always dogged those in Canada – other than, say, my un-idols Michael Lewis or David Suzuki – who have taken a significant place on the world stage.

And I have also always thought that Chr├ętien (or Crouton as the long missed Frank had it and who Black secretly funded even though they coined the term Tubby for him) who is no doubt reading this morning’s papers, along with many others, with a peculiarly self-satisfied sense of ‘I told you so’ way) was being nothing more than vindictive when he invoked the long forgotten law that forbid Canadians to sit in the House of Lords for it has always been a perk of The Telegraph’s proprietor, quite often Canadian, to take a seat among the insufferable in pursuit of the inedible. Now, I imagine Crouton is feeling smug.

Today, most likely however, the Lord of Crossharbour – incidentally, where Louise and I lived for a time with a view of The Telegraph, and incidentally The Financial Times’ printing plant off West Ferry Road—will learn how long he is to spend in jail. Black’s detractors, like Crouton, will feel vindicated.

For me, though, it will be a sad vindication.

(At 63 years of age, or any age for that matter, going to jail – or gaol – cannot be a comforting thought.)

All that said, while Black certainly did not obey the spirit of the US Security laws, I still do not quite understand how he broke them. All was noted in the very fine print of the public filings and all was signed off by a board who, I do admit, ought to have been a bit more careful. In any event, what did Messrs Kissinger and Perle know about a balance sheet anyway. Perhaps I am just being pigheaded. It wouldn't be the first or the last time.

Black’s misfortune, it seems to me, was to be born in the wrong century. Had he ran his business in the 19th Century or distinguished himself on the battlefields of' the 18th (where I imagine he fancied himself) his ‘crimes’ would neither have been noted nor even considered as such.

I did get to meet Mr. Black one on one in his two story office at the top of Canary Wharf. I asked to meet him (with no reason) and he agreed to meet me. I mentioned in passing that
magazine, which had recently folded, owed me about 6 issues. He wryly countered they owed him a lot more.... It was only later pointed out to me that he had been floating Encounter during its last days.

I would only add that in the days of the miserable Bora Bora trip, Hollinger International was trading at $12 a share. Sun Times Media Inc. (Hollinger by another name) is now trading for less than a dollar. I can’t but think this was not Tweedy Brown’s intention.