Jim Acosta Accosts a Young White House Aide

She remains unidentified, but the young White House aide who was pushed away by CNN reporter, Jim Acosta, is owed an apology. The president had ended his question time, and her job was to take the microphone. Mr. Acosta refused, she grabbed the mic, and he touched her to pull it away as he pushed her. In a professional setting, in the Barometer’s simple world, folks do not treat others this way. That the aide was female allows her a #metoo moment because physical contact was a disgraceful and infantile.

Mr. Trump and Mr. Acosta and their issues aside, someone should have stepped up and stepped in to preserve the dignity of this young woman. She deserved better. She showed great restraint in adhering to professionalism in circumstances that would have given her license to give Acosta a Barbara Stanwyck slap across the chops.

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Under Armour Gets Way Harsh on Corporate Credit Cards

Per company e-mail, Under Armour employees can no longer charge strip-club visits on their corporate credit cards. These are the times that try men’s souls. They follow on the heels of the times that tried the souls of the women who worked at Under Armour and witnessed the behavior.

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Accounting News from Apple, Tesla, and GE

As if GE did nor have enough troubles: CEO ousted, flaws in its power-plant turbines, dividend cut yet again, and now the Justice Department has announced criminal probe into its accounting. The SEC is already there on accounting issues. The new CEO has not commented on the accounting issues except to say that a CEO should never say that “there is nothing in the woodpile.” Conjures up some powerful images.

Apple — no longer going to disclose unit sales on iPhones, iPads, and Macs. Generally, when companies change sales reporting methods, there is a decline. When Coach no longer identified outlet sales vs. retail store sales it was because the brand was in a dip. Apple remains mute about unit sales, explanations, and insights. More probably coming.

Tesla — how exactly did Tesla make its biggest profit ever? Not entirely from care sales. Tesla booked $189.5 million in sales of government credits. The government credits are earned by Tesla by producing clean-energy products. Tesla can sell those credits to other companies. Not the core business, and a tribute to a government that subsidizes car purchases by the wealthy.

Accounting remains more art than science.

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What Do I Owe My Severely Disabled Parents?

Question asked of The Ethicist in the New York Times on Sunday, November 4, 2018.

Like shopping at Tiffany’s, if you have to ask the price, you cannot afford it.

If you have asked the question, you already have the answer.

The circumstances of the parents in this situation are severe (auto accident that left the parents severely disabled), trying, and demanding for their son/daughter (name was withheld). This is a tragedy, but the resentment in the description (of lost career opportunities), the discussion of cultural differences between the immigrant parents and their child, and the disgruntled acknowledgment of the parents’ sacrifice for the child’s education all point to a desire to walk away.

The advice given in response? Don’t further derail your life because then another life is lost. Is a life ever lost in making what will be the short last years of a loved one’s time on earth a bit more comfortable? Will the experience enrich the child? Is it possible that the child can reconnect with mom and dad? Just thinking through the issues beyond the derailed career.

Having raised a child with significant disabilities, the Barometer witnessed first-hand the number of philanthropic and other resources available for families trying to care for the severely disabled. With the help of those who feel we owe something to those who cannot care for themselves, we can shoulder the burden and still have a life.

For an ethics expert to fail to point out the human side in response is sad for the recipient of the advice as well as the expert. John Stuart Mill, quoted in the response, may not be the best source for a situation that requires a heart.

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The Companies That Need an Ethical Culture Review

Each day the Barometer muddles through four newspapers and scans in articles that involve ethical issues in government agencies, companies, nonprofits, NGOs, schools, etc. — anywhere humans are because where there are humans there are ethical issues. For futurists, where there are robots designed by humans, there will be ethical issues. The scanning is necessary because items disappear from the Internet. Also, some newspapers, in their online versions, update articles without explanation. Having the original often demonstrates ethical issues on the part of the journalists at the newspapers.

The Barometer is exhausted with the scanning. So, herewith is a plea to several companies, agencies, nonprofits, etc. to get some help. These organizations are in dire need of a review of their ethical culture. The hits just keep coming, yet they cannot seem to grasp that they have an issue. Herewith the Barometer’s list for ethical triage:

Facebook: From the privacy issues to the security breach that went undisclosed to its policies on pulling materials and closing accounts, this is a company struggling to find its way.

Tesla: Now facing a criminal investigation over its production numbers, which follows on the heels of the SEC settlement, which follows on the heels of accounting questions which follows on the heels of the conflicts in its purchase of a solar company run by Elon Musk’s brother– get some help quickly.

Goldman Sachs — with the criminal charges against two Goldman bankers in the Malaysian embezzlement prosecution and all the related and shady Jho Low activities, Goldman topped its previous issues. As the Justice Department phrased it, the Goldman fellows charged were focused on deals–“putting them ahead of the proper operation of its [Goldman’s] compliance functions.” This is a classic cowboy culture that still does not understand what its culture is. And it cannot be fixed with its fancy philanthropic and sustainability efforts.

Google– The “don’t be evil” gang surely struggles with ethical issues, from expanding into China to intolerance for diverse views to hiring practices to secret settlements to walk-outs — who exactly is running this company? An external review of its goings on and a slightly different perspective could help.

University of Maryland: Maryland’s Board of Regents is, in Shakespeare’s apt phrase, a piece of work. It recommended retaining the football coach under whom a player died. The president reversed the decision, but the Board was not pleased. The president agreed to retain the coach, but announced his retirement. Then the Board president resigned. The Board and the University need an external review. Without it, they both lose credibility internally and externally. The strongest and clearest communication any organization comes with this: Whom do you hire? Whom do you fire? Whom do you discipline? Who is quitting? Messages sent and received here, and the culture is affected and/or evidenced by both.

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Man Commits Suicide in His Parked Car in NYC: No One Said Anything

The tale of Geoffrey Weglarz is one that should give us pause. A man, troubled financially and personally, drank poison in his car, parked on a residential street in the East Village in New York City. His remains were finally found in the car one week later. One man said that he had passed by the car “half a dozen times” while Mr. Weglarz was in it.

His family in Florida were worried and tried to make contact with police, but rules, procedures, and cracks between both let time march on without finding the car. Mr. Weglarz had texted some troubling notes, but the responses from those who received them were too late to stop the suicide.

Mr. Weglarz visited with his son in the afternoon and then parked his car and took his life. Those in the neighborhood sensed a bad smell, but no one investigated. Friends were concerned with no responses on his phone, but waited.

Sometimes we don’t want to get involved. Sometimes we are too busy to notice. Sometimes we don’t pick up on signals from those we know and love. This sad story is a reminder that we may not be as concerned and connected as we need to be with those we love, those we know, and those we don’t know, except as a fellow traveler in this difficult world.

“Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.” John Donne

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Beto O’Rourke and Conflicts

When current U.S. Senate candidate in Texas, Beto, nee Robert, O’ Rourke, was a member of the El Paso city council he represented a historic Mexican-American neighborhood. He proposed a revitalization of the tenements with restaurants, shops, and an arts walk (think San Antonio River Walk). He was married to the daughter of an investor’s daughter.

In addition, his constituents, the residents and many of the owners of the small businesses in the area, were against the changes. Further, a study commissioned by the city referred to the residents of the area as “dirty,” “uneducated,” and “lazy.” Guadalupe Ochoa, a resident of the neighborhood, says that she voted for Mr. O’Rourke and then “he turned things around on them,” once he got close to the power. They filed an ethics complaint with the city, which was rejected. However, Mr. O’Rourke finally took the advice of an attorney to no longer be “tone deaf” to the appearance of a conflict, and recused himself from voting on the proposal. The plan eventually fell apart.

The folks in the neighborhood have not forgotten. It was not the appearance of a conflict. It was a conflict.

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Google and the Executive Exits With Golden Parachutes

The New York Timesran a story about the payouts that Google made to exiting executives, those who exited under a cloud of sexual harassment allegations. In one case, Google paid an executive $90 million upon his exit despite finding the allegations credible.

There was insurrection in the ranks once Google employees read the article in the Times, albeit online since one cannot find a newspaper in the Silicon Valley. The employees demanded a meeting, as they do when Trump is elected, Google might sign contracts with the Department of Defense, and when payouts are given despite behaviors.

The “Do no evil!” credo has definitional struggles. The strongest communication a corporation has with its employees comes through it hires, fires, and disciplines. The silent payouts were one heck of a message on values to Google employees.

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FBI Probe of Tesla RE: Production Figures

Tesla has voluntarily turned over documents to the FBI relating to the agency’s criminal investigation into whether Tesla misled shareholders and investors about its production figures. The Bureau has also been questioning former Tesla employees.

Elon Musk said in conference call with analysts in July 2017 that the company would be making 20,000 Model 3s a month by December 2017. Actual production for all of 2017 was 2,700, with 793 produced in the last week of 2017.

This investigation is separate from the SEC settlement for the Musk statements on the company going private. That settlement does not cover the production issues still under investigation.

We got big trouble here in Teslaville, that’s a capital T that rhymes with “P” and that stands for problems ahead.

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Judge Nelson: 28 Speeding Tickets and Counting

Ryan D. Nelson, former general counsel for a nutritional-supplements firm, was just named to the bench of the Ninth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals. Judge Nelson has no prior experience as a judge. He does, however, have plenty of court time. That time came as a result of his 28 speeding tickets as well as tickets for running traffic lights and stop signs, skipping auto inspection requirements, not registering his vehicle, and failing to carry proof of insurance. He was clocked going 100 mph in a 75 mph zone. The good judge is also amphibious. He was cited for failure to register his boat and to carry sufficient life jackets for the passengers on his 18-foot boat.

As one Idaho judge who handled two of Judge Nelson’s tickets (one for going 77 mph in a 35-mph zone), “You hope the person who is wearing the robe is going to follow the law.”

James V. Grimaldi and Alex CORSE, “Very Swift Justice: Judge Tangles With Traffic Court,” Wall Street Journal, October 20-21, 2018, p. A1 at A9.

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Former USA Gymnastics President: Charged with Evidence Tampering

Steve Penny, the former president of USA Gymnastics, who resigned in March because of the scandal involving Dr. Lawrence Nassar, who was convicted of abusing scores of young women, was arrested in his Tennessee cabin. Mr. Penny was indicted for allegedly removing evidence relating to the abuse of the young women gymnasts.

In addition, there are allegations that Mr. Penny offered a security job to an FBI agent while the Nassar case was under investigation. Mr. Penny’s lawyer says that Mr. Penny assumed that the case was with another FBI office when he offered the job to the agent. The agent had been working on the Nassar investigation.

Mr. Penny waited for five weeks upon learning of Dr. Nassar’s abuse to report it to the FBI. He resigned after he learned that 50 young women were molested by Dr. Nassar during that delay.

Mr. Penny has taken the Fifth in testimony before Congress. E-mails note din the indictment reflect Mr. Penny’s concerns about the harm to USA Gymnastics and whether it was possible to contain it.

Between Penn State, Ohio State, and now Michigan State (home base for Dr. Nassar), there is a pattern here. When you find out about untoward behavior and/or crimes: take your pain, get the information to those who can and will take action, and do not squirrel away documents.

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Harvard Prof and Cardiologist Fabricated or Falsified Data in 31 Studies

Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital began a review of the work of Dr. Piero Anversa in 2013. In 2014, co-authors who had worked with Dr. Anversa wrote to a journal to complain that the data Dr. Anversa included in the article were not the data they had generated. By 2017, the hospital agreed to pay $10 million to the Feds to settle charges that Dr. Anversa had submitted false data to get research funding. Now, Harvard has notified the publishers of 31 articles by Dr. Anversa needed to be retracted.

Turns out that the doc’s research was bogus. The injection of bone marrow stem cells into hearts does not repair heart damage. The doc had crashed onto the research scene with his study on bone marrow injections into the heart as a means of regenerating tissue. Docs and researchers around the country were trying to duplicate the results and could find no miracle or even movement. When they questioned the studies they were told, “You’re not doing the injections correctly.” No one in the field was ever able to do it right.

Yet, people are still signing up for the program and companies are still selling stem cells. And why did it take so long to get this all out in the open? Some say they wanted to believe. Some say they felt the, “Who I am to question?” syndrome because this was Harvard, after all.

Took almost two decades, but the truth emerged. However, along the way the questions should have been made public. 2013 would have been the latest date, not the earliest for a little candor.

We know about the social science research frauds — are people who ride the subway more likely to make charitable donations and do people who like Popsicles vote independent. Those types of falsified data just fueled discussions and USA Today p. 1A data charts in the lower left-hand corner. These studies put patients at risk, cost millions, and did nothing. Stunning is the only word that comes to mind.

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“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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