Perhaps it was an error of judgement on my part to post a comment on Conrad Black’s latest opinion piece in today’s National Post in which he tells us Donald Trump’s presidency was “incomparable”. Black gushes praise for the President who pardoned him. 

But he also has a go at critics such as the Toronto Star's "plagiarist" Bob Hepburn

"who for 40 years has been intermittently snorting out of the undergrowth foaming biliously about some alleged turpitude of mine. This week I am the “Rudy Giuliani of Canada.”"

As it happens, in 2019 I was astonished to receive, completely out of the blue, an email from his Lordship threatening to sue me for defamation for referring to him in one of my blogs as a “convicted fraudster”. 

Bile and animus

In today’s hagiography of Trump he spends a full paragraph regurgitating the bile and animus he has for the US legal system. He tells his readers:

“The White House legal office, after extensive research, concluded that none of the defendants in our case should ever have been charged.”

This is a complete red herring. The White House legal office is not a Court of Law. Far from it.

Re-writing history

At the end of the day and after endless appeals Black was convicted and sent to prison. Since his release he has spent every waking moment trying to re-write history, telling us he was innocent all along. So I pick up my pen and post this comment:

 Conrad Black threatened to sue me for defamation for referring to him as a “convicted fraudster” – which he is. The pardon he received from President trump did not expunge his conviction. The details are in my blog: https://www.shrinkslessorsquare.ca/876-conrad-black-threatens-to-sue-mefor-defamation

Only two readers responded. Det Doowlle tells me, preposterously, Black wasn’t convicted of fraud and suggests I apologise.

Frauds and swindles

I tell him Black was convicted under sections 1341 (Frauds and Swindles) and 1512 (Tampering with a witness, victim or informant) of the US Code.  I tell Det Doowlle:

“It was for those crimes that he received a pardon from President Trump.”

And then the National Post moderators step in to tell me my post has been disabled:

“Your comment appears to violate our community guidelines and has been disabled.”

I’ve written to the National Post asking them to point me to the guideline I may have unwittingly contravened. I am waiting to hear from them but, in the meantime, I learn there is one stipulation saying comments with hyper-links may not be posted. So, if that’s the reason, I’ve no complaint. Fair cop.

Black is a convicted fraudster

But the substance of my comment is another matter entirely. It is a fact beyond dispute that Black was convicted of fraud and obstruction of justice.

President Trump gave a “full and unconditional pardon” to Conrad Moffat Black:

“For his conviction in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois on a superseding information (Docket No. 05 CR 727-1) charging violation of Sections 1341 and 1512©(1)and (2), Title 18, United States Code, for which he was sentenced on December 10, 2007 to a total of 42 months’ imprisonment (as amended June 24, 2011), two years’ supervised release, and a fine of $125,000.”

The Ontario Securities Commission helpfully (and briefly) lays out the history of the criminal prosecutions. As was acknowledged in the Presidential Pardon, on June 24, 2011, Black appeared before the U.S. District Court and was resentenced to 42 months of incarceration for his fraud and obstruction of justice convictions.

Black continues to protest his innocence but it’s always been fake news. The facts say otherwise.

And, while I’m at it, why is Conrad Black still in Canada?

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Alert at Canadian Border Crossing

Todd Kyle, the Chief Executive of Newmarket Public Library, leaves 438 Park Avenue today for the last time. On Monday he starts his big new job running Brampton library, an empire with eight branches. 

Todd says his years at Newmarket were among the best of his career but he is looking for new challenges. (Photo right)

The Library Board Chair, Darcy McNeill says Todd was responsible for expanding the Library’s digital collection, boosting borrowing by 25% and bringing in the (famously temperamental) 3D printer. But I suspect Todd’s biggest disappointment will be leaving Newmarket after ten years much as he found it – an undersized building with no satellite branches.

No longer fit-for-purpose

Way back in October 2014 Todd told an IdeaMarket programme about the future of libraries that Newmarket’s was no longer fit for purpose. He was talking to a panel of people from the Library world and was unusually candid. Whenever I heard him talking to councillors he was always measured and nuanced, offering “potential road maps going forward” and suchlike with decisions pushed back to another day. 

However, I noticed that by 2016 he was getting more assertive, telling councillors the library was too small and in the wrong location. And the roof leaked

The result of all the vacillations was, inevitably, another study - on Library future facilities options

New library

Things looked as if they might be about to change when veteran Newmarket councillor Tom Vegh decided to run for York Regional Council campaigning on a platform whose centrepiece was a new library and seniors’ centre on the site of the old Hollingsworth Arena. This was an eye-catching promise to voters.

Emboldened, Todd tells the press: 

“The last two terms of council haven’t put the library on the priority list. It would be nice to just have a space where people aren’t tripping over other people constantly.”

“The current location has restrictions on the land so we would have to build up to expand, which isn’t ideal. Our two options seem to be building a new facility or constructing satellite branches to increase our services to the public.”

After the Municipal election in November 2018 Newmarket Councillors sat through a series of workshops to decide their strategic priorities. Unfortunately, they decide the Library isn’t one

New library not a priority

At the very least I expected a stirring speech from Tom Vegh, pressing the case for the library. Reminding his colleagues that, in these days of fake news and disinformation, libraries, wired-up and digital, are needed now more than ever. But what we heard was painfully limp and half hearted.  

“...the library must go through its own process that will evaluate and rank all the possible site locations in Town for a new building if that is the route that they choose to go. So there is no guarantee that going through that process the library will land on the Hollingsworth site and there is no guarantee that we are looking at a library.” 

It's not quite as snappy as his promise to the voters:

“The debate over the need for a new public library is long over. The only question now is where and when.”

The new Mayor, John Taylor, isn't giving much away. In a statement of the obvious he tells the press:

“Ultimately, the decision to build a library, or a satellite or nothing is a decision of council, and that will be our decision when that time comes.”

Can't argue with that. It's the Councillors who have the last say. But, in the meantime, here's a question to think about for anyone who wants the job of Library Chief Executive:

Does Newmarket need a new Library? And, if so, where should it go and when can we expect to see it?

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Earlier today (Monday 11 January 2021) Articles of Impeachment against President Donald J. Trump are tabled in Congress. Alongside is a resolution calling on the Vice President, Mike Pence, and his Cabinet colleagues to invoke the 25th Amendment and remove Trump from office. It is to be debated tomorrow.  

Unquestionably, Trump will go down in history as the worst American President ever, unleashing a howling mob on Congress which led directly to the murder of police officer Brian Sicknich. Others died or were seriously injured in the storming of the US Capitol which Trump orchestrated. Inciting violence is a criminal offence and, in my humble opinion M’Lud, Trump should be behind bars.

The US Capitol is, of course, more than just a work-a-day place where laws are made. It is a symbol of American democracy.

The last time the Capitol saw anything remotely similar was in the War of 1812 when the British torched the building (then under construction) in retaliation for the burning of York (now Toronto) by the Americans.

"They could have killed us"

The long-time Trump apologist, South Carolina’s Senator Lindsey Graham, now accepts the result of the Federal Election. He says 

“the mob could have blown the building up. They could have killed us all.”

Indeed. I remember being in the UK House of Commons on 4 May 2004 when a condom full of powder was lobbed from the public gallery, hitting the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, on the shoulder before exploding in a purple puff. 

Blair appeared unconcerned and for a couple of seconds everyone seemed to find it mildly amusing. And then the realisation dawned that the powder could be deadly anthrax or ricin and we were ordered out of the Chamber. 

Long-term impact

Afterwards, I recall one of Blair’s Cabinet colleagues telling me of a conversation he had with the then head of MI5, Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller. He was worrying about the safety of MPs. She seemed more concerned about the impact of a successful attack on the physical fabric of Parliament, an institution symbolising the British State. Hmmmm. Which would have the greatest long-term impact? The loss of a few MPs or images of Big Ben, reduced to a stump of smouldering rubble by a terrorist’s bomb?

The US Capitol joins the list of other buildings representing State power that were ransacked by revolutionary mobs. The storming of the Winter Palace and the Bastille immediately spring to mind.

Our memories of the attack on the US Capitol on 6 January 2021 will remain vivid long after Trump’s Tweets have faded away.

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If the UK fails to strike a trade deal with the EU chaos will follow

Huge, snaking 10 mile-long tailbacks of trucks at Dover waiting for customs clearance will be the most visible consequence of a no deal. But there will be a million other downsides.

Such as the future of the UK itself.

Next May there are elections to the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh which the Scottish Nationalists are widely expected to win. They will immediately press for another referendum on independence - which only the Westminster Parliament has powers to grant. But the Scottish Parliament could, perhaps, hold an "advisory" referendum.

Imagine the turmoil and turbulence that would unleash.

The UK will seal a deal with the EU. Or I shall eat my hat.

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From the Guardian: What will change from 1 January 2021

Update on 24 December 2020: From the Guardian: UK and EU agree Trade Deal and the timeline on Brexit.