The U.S Office of Government Ethics was established in 1978 through the Ethics in Government Act. It “provides overall leadership and oversight of the executive branch ethics program designed to prevent and resolve conflicts of interest.” Apparently the Trump White House has not welcomed such oversight. Consequently, the office’s director, Walter M. Schaub, Jr., announced he would resign on July 19, stating, “In working with the current administration, it has become clear that we need to strengthen the ethics program.”
Even prior to Donald J. Trump’s inauguration as the 45th President of the United States, the OGE anticipated his potential conflicts of interest, encouraging the President-Elect to divest himself of his businesses. That did not happen. Other ethics issues arose, but Trump has been recalcitrant about addressing them. These issues highlight a distinction between what the law and ethics separately require. Think about it this way: what’s legal is not always ethical. For example, there is no law requiring U.S. presidential candidates or sitting presidents to disclose their tax returns. It is, however, not the norm, and for good reason. Continue reading “Conflicts of Interest, Ethics, and Donald J. Trump”
Trump the Bullshitter
While campaigning for the highest political office in the United States of America, Donald J. Trump charmed a celebrity journalist with exploits of sexual assault and attempted adultery, wowed his supporters with promises of launching a criminal investigation into his opponent, Hillary Clinton, invited Russia to hack into her email, for good measure, and boasted about not paying taxes.
Quite a few found Trump’s mode of communication refreshing, and didn’t seem at all perturbed by the content. No oblique political talk for this straight shooter, who promised to “make America great again” by “winning.” This would be accomplished, by, among other actions, forcing manufacturers to keep jobs in the U.S., cracking down on “bad hombres,” barring Muslims from entering the country, withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, repealing the Affordable Care Act, and eliminating environmental and business regulatory oversight.
Shortly after his inauguration as the 45th President of the United States at twelve Noon on January 20th, 2017, he began taking action on some of his campaign pledges, but dismissed others. It was not obvious how was one to know which he meant and which were comments tossed off the top of his head. Additional confusion was generated by extraordinary inarticulateness, which seemed to manifest in a rather disorganized management style and vague executive orders implemented in an apparently off-the-cuff style.
In Plato’s Apology, Socrates declares himself “a sort of gadfly” to Athens, constantly stinging it, ‘stirring it to life.’ Among other things, he is concerned with the idea that Athens’ survival depends upon the quality of its citizenry. That quality is determined by each individual’s continual self-examination, that is, reflection on what makes a good life and how to live it. This is no easy task. Just what is the method whereby one examines one’s life, and just how one recognizes what the good is, requires an investment of time and effort that many people find insupportable.
About a month ago, I landed on a site called American Thinker. I noticed “critical thinking” in the title of an essay by investigative journalist, Richard F. Miniter: “The Great Critical Thinking Dodge”. Because I routinely conduct critical thinking courses in my discipline, my curiosity was piqued. I was disappointed, however, that the essay was more a superficial political attack than a genuine engagement with an interesting topic: critical thinking and the politics of education.
“I am an artist first,” Tammy Ruggles declares. “I am also a legally blind artist.” The soft patter of her accent belies a steely determination she developed growing up in the rural South.
It was the only place where she felt calmer, and she had created it for herself. Temple Grandin was just fifteen-years old when she designed and built the “squeeze machine,” or “hug box,” and she’s been using her extraordinary mind to innovate ever since.
You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time. — Abraham Lincoln
Some people believe that politicians attempt the ultimate fool: all of the people all of the time. Consequently, many observers find politics, and especially political campaigns, to be distasteful at best, and morally offensive at worst. Candidates, it is believed, will say anything to get elected, will engage in ruthless practices to win votes.
Of course, political “dirty tricks” and manipulative rhetoric disguised as argument are nothing new. That’s because they’re effective, inviting you to check your thinking skills at the door. The current master of this technique is the man who ‘has the best words,’ Donald J. Trump:
It’s in the air. You can catch a whiff from the U.S. presidential race as it gears up for the 2016 election. But it’s not just a political fragrance. No, it’s a pungently familiar smell that permeates all aspects of our lives. You produced some yourself in your last job interview. And, yes, that advertisement for penis enlargement supplements is an exemplar. “What’s that scent?” you ask. It’s bullshit.