“Other bucket-list items: I want to travel more and I can’t wait to start a family, but in due time,”

Meghan Markle in an interview. Recognizing that this is the Duchess’s first child, she may not realize that starting a family is a tad more than an item to check, like a trip to New Zealand. Or, if we hold to the exact wording, is the bucket-list item just the starting of a family and then proceeding to the travel? It could have been worse. Other items on her bucket list? “Run a marathon. Stop biting my nails. Stop swearing. Re-learn French.”

There is a draw on the heartstrings in this statement. The commitment to shepherd another life through the shoals of this world is part of the folklore of a Morgan Freeman movie. The quote is a commentary on values: Starting a family is right up there with bungee jumping and running with the bulls. The latter are one-time activities, the former is anything but. The latter fuel more wanderlust. The former grants the blessing of expunged wanderlust as joy is found at home in a tiny being.

All good wishes to The Duke and Duchess of wherever as they start this journey — may they dump the bucket list when they discover what it means to have a family, not just start one.

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The Ethicist Tackles Cheating, Again

In yesterday’s New York Times, the Ethicist tackled another letter from a young ‘un who was witnessing a colleague cheating and wondered what to do. This time, the two students are seniors (last time the cheating involved the entrance exams to prestige high schools and a merry band of cheating middle-schoolers). One senior has seen his/her best friend cheating on tests and plagiarizing work (several times). The cheating best friend says that it is not cheating but “outsmarting the system.”

In response, the Ethicist recommends saying nothing because “That would get you in trouble with your peers and violate the norms of friendship.” Besides, adds the Ethicist, the cheater “has already lost out. When your putative successes are faked, you’re not entitled to self-respect.” There’s more, “Worse, his cheating amounts to abusing the trust of others and fraying the social bonds that sustain us. To cheat, after all, is to take advantage of students who don’t.”

How exactly does the Ethicist think norms are created? By tolerated behaviors, which is how we got into the cheating thing in the first place. Without consequences, yes, the norms shift. The issue is: Which way do you want the norms shifting to more cheating or less? How does remaining quiet and threatening cheaters with loss of self-respect instill fear in the hearts of high-schoolers?

By saying nothing, this best friend sets up his/her cheating best friend for a comeuppance at some point that will be far more consequential. The Barometer’s advice? Talk to the friend one more time — discuss disclosure, threaten disclosure, suggest voluntary disclosure, and explain why remaining best friends is dangerous for both of them. One because of guilt by association (others have, without a doubt, seen the cheating — perhaps participating as well) and the other because they are now and forever prisoners of each other. One knows about the cheating and the other knows about his/her tolerance. Those who know each other’s failures to act know secrets untold and acts unconfessed that bind them forever in deception and distrust. That’s the fabric of friendship, eh?

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The College Basketball Bribery Trial

It’s a wonder to behold. A father, Brian Bowen Sr., testifying that he made the arrangements for payments totaling $100,000 in exchange for having his son, Tugs Bowen, a star basketball player, choose Louisville for college. When asked if his son was involved in the meetings, Mr. Bowen responded, “Of course not, no.” When asked why, Mr. Bowen responded, “I mean. I don’t want him to be involved in something that’s wrong or something like that.” There’s a defense lawyer’s nightmare when it comes to a client’s testimony. Admissions of accepting commercial bribes is one of those Top Ten moments when you know the trial is not going well.

However, these defense lawyers are not disputing the payments or arrangements for Tugs to go to Louisville. Defense lawyers are building their case on a theory of, “There’s no criminal behavior here,.” because there are no victims. The colleges benefited from the Adidas “program,” under which assistant coaches worked together with Adidas reps to talk high-school players into going to colleges that had Adidas sponsorships. Defense lawyers maintain that the colleges benefited by obtaining top talent.

But there is Tugs. He has been banished from NCAA sports. He tried the NBA draft, but withdrew and is now playing in Australia. The kid carries the burden because the adults were looking out for, well, sales and cash.

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The FBI’s Ethical Culture Problem

This is not your father’s FBI. This is not even Kevin Costner’s FBI. The FBI issued a “recall” of several agents in Asia whilst the agency investigates reports of “parties and interactions with prostitutes.”

Let’s recap the past 18 months of FBI activity:

25 FBI agents and Department of Justice officials have been fired and/or demoted and/or resigned (although not in that order)

These were not run-of-the-mill agents who were partying. The list is long and troublesome (Thanks to Seamus Bruner and the Epoch Times for keeping track of the comings and goings (mostly goings) https://www.theepochtimes.com/strzok-joins-list-of-25-top-fbi-doj-officials-who-have-been-recently-fired-demoted-or-resigned_2624607.html::

From the FBI:

James Comey, director (fired)
Andrew McCabe, deputy director (fired) (grand jury investigation into his activities is pending)

Peter Strzok, second in command at FBI counterintelligence (demoted to HR and then fired)
Lisa Page, attorney (demoted; resigned)(to add to the drama, Strzok and Page were paramours and used their work phones to send thousands of texts to each other in a discoverable way under Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) (kind of the epitome of counterintelligence, wouldn’t one say?) including the following disturbing messages.

In a text message on August 8, 2016, Page stated, “[Trump’s] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!”
Strzok responded, “No. No he’s not. We’ll stop it.

And after Mr. Trump won the election:

09:38:14, FBI Attorney 2: “I am numb.”
09:55:35, FBI Employee: “I can’t stop crying.”
10:00:13, FBI Attorney 2: “That makes me even more sad.”
10:43:20, FBI Employee: “Like, what happened?”
10:43:37, FBI Employee: “You promised me this wouldn’t happen. YOU PROMISED.”
10:43:43, FBI Employee: Okay, that might have been a lie…”
10:43:46, FBI Employee: “I’m very upset.”
10:43:47, FBI Employee: “haha”
10:51:48, FBI Attorney 2: “I am so stressed about what I could have done differently.”
10:54:29, FBI Employee: “Don’t stress. None of that mattered.” 10:54:31, FBI Employee: “The FBI’s influence.”
10:59:36, FBI Attorney 2: “I don’t know. We broke the momentum.” 11:00:03, FBI Employee: “That is not so.”
11:02:22, FBI Employee: “All the people who were initially voting for her would not, and were not, swayed by any decision the FBI put out. Trump’s supporters are all poor to middle class, uneducated, lazy POS that think he will magically grant them jobs for doing nothing. They probably didn’t watch the debates, aren’t fully educated on his policies, and are stupidly wrapped up in his unmerited enthusiasm.”

Mr. Strzok was working on Robert Mueller’s team that was investigating the presidents for possible collusion. He was removed from that tema when the Inspector General found these texts. You can view the Inspector General’s full report on all of this: https://www.justice.gov/file/1071991/download

Other FBI employees:

James Rybicki, chief of staff (resigned)
James Baker, general counsel (resigned)
Mike Kortan, assistant director for public affairs (resigned)
Josh Campbell, special assistant to James Comey (resigned)
James Turgal, executive assistant director (resigned)
Greg Bower, assistant director for office of congressional affairs (resigned)
Michael Steinbach, executive assistant director (resigned)
John Giacalone, executive assistant director (resigned)

From the Justice Department

Sally Yates, deputy attorney general (fired)
Bruce Ohr, associate deputy attorney general (twice demoted) (working with Andrew McCabe)
David Laufman, counterintelligence chief (resigned)
Rachel Brand, deputy attorney general (resigned)
Trisha Beth Anderson, office of legal counsel for FBI (demoted or reassigned — remains unclear)
John P. Carlin, assistant attorney general (resigned)
Peter Kadzik, assistant attorney general, congressional liaison (resigned)
Mary McCord, acting assistant attorney general (resigned)
Matthew Axelrod, principal assistant to deputy attorney general (resigned)
Preet Bharara, U.S. attorney, SDNY (fired along with 45 other U.S. Attorneys)
Sharon McGowan, civil rights division (resigned)
Diana Flynn, litigation director for LGBTQ civil rights (resigned)
Vanita Gupta, civil rights division (resigned)
Joel McElvain, assistant branch director of the civil division (resigned)

If one were to diagram connections between and among these folks, there would be a lovely web. Regardless of where one sits on the political spectrum, there are serious issues at the FBI. The tone at the top is awful, the enforcement is slow and lax, and the rank-and-file need better leadership. This top-notch law enforcement agency, the one we could count on when organized crime escaped state and local authorities, is now an organization with serious ethical lapses and possible pending crimes. A top-to-bottom ethical culture assessment is the ticket for solving this crisis.

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Third-Grade Teacher Spouts Off on White House’s Stephen Miller

Nikki Fiske taught Stephen Miller in third grade. Ms. Fiske thought it appropriate to share with Hollywood Reporter that Mr. Miller was a “strange dude” in third grade. Weren’t we all? The Barometer had cat-eye glasses and a seriously flawed hair style that came from a barber shop (cheaper than having a trim in a beauty parlor).

It is tragic that the political environment (Mr. Miller is a Trump adviser on immigration issues) has seemingly allowed a teacher to feel comfortable disclosing not just a childhood issue but what she wrote in school files about this “strange dude.”

There are student privacy rights, and Ms. Fiske, who is now on “home leave” did not just breach the standards of teacher professionalism. She violated the law. Beyond both of those issues, what was disclosed was just hurtful.

As a former third-grader, as a mother of four former third-graders, and as a teacher, here’s a plea: Could we all just take a deep breath once in awhile before spouting off insults about those with whom we disagree politically?

When exactly is the statute of limitations on dredging up youthful indiscretions? Is there no limit to what is said about those with whom we disagree? Surely we are better than this.

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Suspect Stole $1.2 Million in Wine From His Boss: Jumps From 33rd Floor

Nicholas De-Meyer was a former assistant to Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon. One of his responsibilities was to receive wine deliveries at Solomon’s Manhattan apartment and then transport them to Solomon’s East Hampton home. De-Meyer allegedly lifted some of the bottles and sold them to a North Carolina wine dealer. Some of the wine cost as much as $133,650 per bottle. Hence, the total alleged of having pilfered a total of $1.2 million — ten bottles tops at that rate.

Mr. De-Meyer was scheduled to appear in federal district court in Manhattan at 2:30 on Tuesday, October 10, 2018 to enter a guilty plea. However, he jumped from the 33rd floor of the Carlyle Hotel, landing on a 15th floor balcony where he was pronounced dead at 2:38 PM.

Police arrived quickly because his sister had received texts from her brother about committing suicide. His sister notified the police and went directly to the Carlyle Hotel where they found him on the 15th floor.

Such a tragic case. Liquor is known to be a vice, and its draw, particularly at these prices, is so powerful. A 41-year old is gone, his family grieves. The temptations and desires that come with wealth and power and all those in that orbit seem inexplicable. .

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Audi Employees Suspected of Falsifying Road-Worthiness Certifications

Wow — do they not read the papers in Germany? News of VW’s false emissions problems seems to have escaped notice by employees in the automaker’s other subsidiaries. There is a basic ethical standard here: Don’t make stuff up!

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Carlos Ramos: A Stickler for the Rules at the U.S. Open and Always

Carlos Ramos, the chair empire at the Serena Williams U.S. Open final, where there actually was another tennis player who actually won the match (Naomi Osaka). But Ms. Osaka is a footnote as U.S. Opens go because Ms. Williams railed against Mr. Ramos throwing “liar,” “thief,” and misogynist. The backlash against Mr. Ramos has been fierce. There are proposals to change the rules to allow coaching during matches. And, of course, the equality demands are loud and frequent.

No one seems to recognize that you have a humble man who worked his way through a bad backhand to find his niche in the rules. Mr. Ramos also mastered a stutter and now speaks 4 languages, an important tool as an ITF umpire. He knows the rules, he sticks to the rules, and he respects the rules. No ITF umpire has disagreed with the infractions and penalties in the U.S. Open.

What is troubling is that some umpires have seized upon what they call Ramos’s “inflexibility.” Flexible rules net, as it were, inconsistencies. Ms. Williams says the inconsistencies exist by gender. Perhaps what Ms. Williams experienced was just an umpire who always applies the rules, as opposed to other more flexible umps. With the inflexible, you have consistency. With the flexible, players do not know which way the calls may fall. Playing under inflexibility seems like a better option for players to curb their conduct.

For parents teaching children sportsmanship, they will take inflexibility and consequences. For businesses coping with employees who breach rules, regulations, and laws, it is the consistency of inflexibility that communicates you are serious about the whole compliance thing. When consequences for infractions are consistent, you provide more training than any training session could provide. Communication is clear when actions are consistent.

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“Is It O.K. To Press Your Spouse To Have A Vasectomy Before You Ditch Him?”

The dilemma “The Ethicist” addressed on Sunday, October 7, 2018 in the New York Times.

The Barometer is speechless, although not without questions:

Why is this a worry if the relationship is so damaged that you are leaving? Why is there still intimacy if you are leaving? Why not just end the marriage? If this is the level of respect and trust between the spouses, isn’t the marriage pretty much shot? Why interfere with your spouse’s future? Is this one last round kick whilst heading out the door?

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“Their truth,” “Her truth,” and “His truth.”

The Barometer keeps hearing the description of the “right to speak their truth.” The Barometer is not clear on what that means, but the truth is not a personal thing. There is one truth, no matter how much people believe that they are being truthful.

The Barometer studied philosophy and the professor used an example of socks in his drawer to teach the concept of truth. His question was, “How many pairs of socks do you think that I have in my drawer at home?” He let students guess. Then he asked if there were some data we could examine. Some students offered their thoughts on how many socks they had seen the professor wear and then extrapolate from there. The professor then confessed that he was not sure how many socks were in the drawer. There was a true and accurate and irrefutable number, but we just did not know it. There was one truth, and we had to go count the socks to know.

What me may perceive to be the truth is not always the truth. There is one truth, not his truth, her truth, or their truth. There is one truth that can be discovered only by facts, not recollection or belief.

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Is It Ethical to Choose Your Baby’s Eye Color?

The title of a Wall Street Journalarticle on how fertility clinics are offering parents new options, including DNA tests on embryos to predict their baby’s eye color. That way they and pick and choose embryos.

The unknown is parenthood, with different joy accompanying each little being who comes into this world with your DNA but wholly unique characteristics. Love those characteristics, celebrate and rejoice in the knowledge that this particular child is uniquely yours.

In our household, we had the experience of raising a child with significant disabilities. She never walked, talked, or even sat up, and had to be fed via feeding tube for most of her life. Yet this silent human being with such dignity stayed with us for nearly 20 years. Someone asked us when she died from respiratory complications whether we we do it all again. We replied, “In a heartbeat.” Who would want to miss what she brought to our home, our lives, and our other children? Perspective, for one thing. perspective that makes eye color seems like vanity, pride, and, well, just silly.

Who knows why some eyes are blue and some brown — Mendel’s work aside. Who knows why one child has a huge birthmark and others have webbed toes? Part of parenting is learning that you cannot control another life. You cannot engineer a child, en utero or postpartum. More importantly, you should not engineer a child. The Barometer votes a big “no” on the WSJ question.

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And 24 Hours Later . . . Elon Musk Will Step Down as Tesla Chairman

Mr. Musk will settle the SEC suit he vowed to fight only yesterday morning. He will pay $20 million and no longer be chairman of the board of Tesla. Yowzers. When entrepreneurs go off the rails at full speed, it is not a pretty sight.

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SEC Files Complaint to Have Elon Musk Ousted

It took the SEC about two weeks to figure out that when Elon Musk tweeted that he had funding for going private at $420 per share, he was puffing. “Puffing” is a charitable description. The complaint alleges Mr. Musk misled shareholders. The SEC wants Mr. Musk ousted, and may seek to ban him from serving as an officer or director of a publicly traded company. Tesla shares dropped 9.9%, to $277. Mr. Musk has chosen to fight the suit, “I have always taken action in the best interests of truth, transparency, and investors. Integrity is the most important value in my life and the facts will show I never compromised this is any way.”

Not sure what the best interests of truth and transparency are. But, truth and transparency generally are in the best interests of investors. Either the $420 going-private statement was true or it was false. If it was false, it was not transparent. Whether it was true or false, transparent or opaque, the statement was never in the best interests of investors. Just look at the share price, the debt, and cash-burn rate.

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Brazil’s Petrobras Settles Bribery Case for $853.2 Million

The investigation began in 2014, and was called Operation Car Wash. The investigation focused on construction companies, and Operation Car Wash discovered that the construction companies over-billed Petrobras and bribing Brazilian officials and Petrobras executives for the privilege of over-billing and being awarded contracts. They just went to the well too often — Petrobras suffered multi-billion dollar losses and a dive in its share price. Several Brazilian officials, including former President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, are serving prison terms for their roles in the bribery scam. Marcelo Odebrecht, the former CEO of Odebrecht, one of the construction firms, served 2.5 years of a 10-year sentence and is now at home, all the time, on house arrest.

Because of violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), Petrobras agreed to pay the U.S. $85.3 million in fines, submit three years of compliance reports, and admit criminal violations of the FCPA requirements on maintaining accurate books and records. Petrobras had already agreed to a $930 million civil penalty with the SEC, but the SEC agreed to credit that amount back to the shareholders because the SEC saw the shareholders as victims of the corrupt executives.

What a car wash!

Safety tip for avoiding FCPA violations — check pricing differentials and see what’s going on with that.

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