Ethics, History, and Robert Redford’s “The Conspirator”

James McAvoy as Frederick Aiken, a Civil War era Ethics Hero you've never heard of.

Throughout Hollywood history, there have been actors who regularly used their screen personas to explore ethical issues: Henry Fonda, Glenn Ford, Paul Newman, John Wayne of course, Clint Eastwood, and recently, George Clooney. None of these focused their artistic attentions on ethics more sharply than Robert Redford, however, in such films as “All the President’s Men,” “The Candidate,” “The Proposition,” and “The Natural,” and he has continues his exploration of ethics as a director, in such films as “The Milagro Beanfield War” and “Quiz Show.”

Redford’s most recent film, “The Conspirator,” is another ethics movie, as well as one that explores law and American history. I am a Lincoln assassination buff, and I was eager to see the movie until I read several reviews criticizing it as a heavy-handed allegory attacking the Bush administration’s response to 9/11. Score one for the confirmation bias trap: the movie is nothing of the kind. Continue reading

U.S. Attorney General Ethics, Rule #1: Remember What Your Job Is

"I am acting based on the expressed instructions of my client, who is, unfortunately, a moron."

How does the nation’s highest ranking lawyer forget what a lawyer’s job is? If I had to guess, I would say it could happen when the U.S. Attorney general in question is thinking about politics more that the law, and has been under such continuous fire from the public and the media for repeated bungles that he no longer knows who he’s working for.

But that would just be speculation on my part.

We know for certain, however, that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder delivered a statement announcing that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his four co-conspirators would be tried by a military tribunal at Guantanamo, and not in civilian trials in the U.S. as the Obama Administration had preferred. In the middle of this statement, Holder says, Continue reading

The Ghailani Verdict Spin

Terrorist and mass murderer Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani was acquitted this week of 284 counts of murder , deaths that he unquestionably engineered, planned, a brought about in the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in East Africa. He was convicted of just one count: conspiracy to destroy U.S. property and buildings. Since one logically cannot conspire to destroy buildings with people in them and not be guilty of murder, the verdicts make no sense. There was indeed plenty of evidence presented to prove Ghailani  guilty of all the murder counts beyond a reasonable doubt, but this was just a bad jury, or to be more precise, a jury with a bad juror. We now know that one women held out against the rest, insisting on acquittal for the murder charges for reasons known only to her. Maybe she thought he was Ghailani. Maybe she wanted to make the Obama Administration, and specifically the Department of Justice, look inept, though it hardly needs any assistance. Maybe she’s a fan of terrorism. Maybe she’s just a dolt….who knows? The bottom line is that a terrorist got away with murder. Continue reading