Not All Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys; Conrad Black

Not All Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys

According to this poll, Europeans would favor bombing Iran if it got nuclear weapons by a 52-to-40-percent margin:

"A majority agreed with the statement in 18 EU states including France and Britain while a majority was against it in nine others, including Germany and Spain. Support was highest in Denmark (68 percent) and fell to 37 percent in Slovakia, the poll by France's TNS-Sofres showed."

"Europeans differed more on the threat to their country from Islamic fundamentalism. While 58 percent on average agreed it was a serious threat, the span ranged from 71 percent in Britain--where 52 people were killed in suicide attacks by Islamists in London in July 2005--to 24 percent in Latvia."

This struck me as surprising. It's in vivid contrast to the European Union's unwillingness to cut back on its subsidies of exports to Iran in response to Iran's taking 15 British sailors and marines hostage. It suggests that many Europeans realize that a nuclear-armed Iran would be dangerous. Especially the Danes, who, as Paul Mirengoff of Power Line points out, are a virtuous outlier in Europe.

Conrad Black

Conrad Black (Lord Black of Crossharbour), the former proprietor of the Telegraph of London, the National Post of Canada, the Chicago Sun-Times, and many other newspapers, is on trial in Chicago on charges of looting the corporation through which he controlled those newspapers. A conviction could result in his spending the rest of his life in jail. I think this is an injustice. As I understand it, he is charged with two things. One is spending his corporation's money on lavish entertainment and the maintenance of a luxurious lifestyle.

But many corporations do this. It's not an attractive practice, perhaps, and one I think I would not indulge in if I were to be in a position to do so. But it shouldn't be criminal. The other is arranging to receive large sums for agreeing not to compete with the company to which he was selling his Canadian newspapers. But the buyer insisted that this noncompete clause must be signed by Black, not by the corporation. Black, who had had great success as a newspaper proprietor, was the competitor he feared. It was worth a lot of money to him to make sure that Black did not compete with his former newspapers. This looks like sound business judgment, and if so, how can it be criminal for Black to receive money that the seller agreed to pay him? There may be more to this case, but that's how it looks to me. For more details, the incomparable Mark Steyn, a friend and supporter of Black, is live-blogging the trial.

This article by Peter Stothard of the Times of London has links to a column by William Rees-Mogg defending Black; evidently he is one of the few people in the British press to do so. Stothard and Rees-Mogg both served as editor of the Times, and the Telegraph and the Times are fierce competitors, the two British broadsheets (actually the Times is a tabloid now) on, more or less, the political right. I should add that I have a social acquaintance with Black and was a guest in June 2002 at his summer drinks party at his mansion (not too strong a word) in Kensington. I have had articles published in the Daily Telegraph both during his proprietorship and after. I greatly admired his biography of Franklin Roosevelt, which I think gets Roosevelt's greatness and also his faults better than any other biography I've read.

And I started reading his 1977 biography of the long-serving premier of Quebec, Maurice Duplessis, about which I was curious, since Duplessis was still in office when I first visited Quebec as a tourist in 1957. As I understand it, Duplessis's government was a sort of clerical regime, determined to wall off Quebec from the Anglophone outer world, and Quebec then semed to me a very foreign and strange place. Unfortunately, I didn't get very far in the book. Black seems to assume that his reader has a detailed knowledge of the leading figures and issues of Quebec politics in the mid-1930s. I lack such knowledge--and fear that I will never have it--and so I put the hefty volume down.

I hope that Conrad Black is acquitted, as I believe he deserves to be.

By Michael Barone