“. . . the adolescence of humanity is coming to an end and must come to an end.”

Boris Johnson, at the United Nations. Mr. Johnson surrounded this pithy insight with the following, “We still cling with parts of our mind to the infantile belief that the world was made for our pleasure. And we combine this narcissism with an assumption of our own immortality. We believe that someone else will clear up the mess, because that is what someone else has always done.”

From the amount of debt to the amount of corruption to the number of young people adrift and lost, the days of accountability and cost are here. The quote seems odd coming from the mouth of a man with six children, two divorces, and a daughter from an extramarital relationship. Perhaps the thoughts come from his inevitable realization about the cost to others of his behavior and choices. We never lose hope for reform; it really is a timing issue. Is there enough time before adult adolescence ends to change and repair?

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The 46th Parent Enters a Guilty Plea in Operation Varsity Blue

Marci Palatella, the CEO of liquor distribution company in California, entered a guilty plea to conspiracy to commit honest services fraud. Ms. Palatella, who is married to former 49ers player, Lou Palatella, was sentenced to six weeks in jail, a $250,000 fine, two years probation, and 500 hours of community service. According to the indictment, Ms. Palatella worked with William “Rick” Singer to funnel $500,000 to Mr. Singer and others to have her son admitted to USC as a football recruit. Her son, however, does not play football. There are five more parents scheduled to go to trial.

The jail sentences have been light and the fines hefty in these pay-not-to-play-but-stil-get-into-college-Rick-Singer plans. For all of us who have crossed a line with homework “help,” the cases are a stark reminder of the reality of the slippery slope. Truth percolates, and the fall-out is great.

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“Harvard’s Chief Chaplain Is An Atheist”

Headline New York Times August 27, 2021. The new chaplain is in charge of coordinating the efforts of 40 faith leaders on campus. He is the author of a book, “Good Without God.” Greg Epstein, the new chief chaplain says, “There is a rising group of people who no longer identify with any religious tradition but still experience a real need for conversation and support around what it means to be a good human and live an ethical life.” The good chaplain is correct. However, the piece that is missing is whether the rising group still believes in God, despite their non-embrace of organized religion. Keeping the lines of communication open is important to Chaplain Epstein. Some folks believe there is an important line of communication an atheist might not understand because the label “atheist” necessarily means the denial of the existence of God. Those who pray may have some thoughts on that and might, in the challenging university years, want some perspective on monotheism. There is something counterintuitive here. Perhaps the open-minded humanists can shed some light.

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18 Midshipmen Expelled From the Naval Academy for Cheating on a Physics Exam

You never hear of anyone being expelled for cheating on a philosophy exam. Perhaps philosophy students are more mellow. Perhaps the questions on physics exams require more precision than the answer to, “If a tree falls in a forest . . . “. The West Point cheating scandals involved exams in the sciences. Medical school cheating involves memorizing body parts. However, all of these scandals arose because of exams taken online. When will colleges and universities learn that there is no way to set up an online exam that closes all cheating loopholes? Whatever loopholes we faculty close will be short-circuited by the genius of today’s students. If we could just put their knowledge and skills to work in a positive way, i.e., something beyond facilitating exam cheating.

Nonetheless, the U.S. Naval Academy does not mess around: 18 were expelled and 82 entered a five-month remediation program for violation of the academy’s “Honor Concept.” Four were found not guilty of any violations and one is awaiting final determination. That’s 105 midshipmen out of a class of 653. The percentage of the class cheating is troublesome. Judging from general undergraduate statistics on cheating however, the academy may not have caught them all. General percentages range from 50-75% of undergrads confessing to some form of cheating on course work. Another possibility is that those in the Naval Academy believe in their honor code. We can hope. In the meantime, physics, engineering, and medical school exams are hotbeds of temptation.

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“United Airlines Tells Employees Never Use Tape on Passengers”

News article headline, New York Times, August 20, 2021, p. B5

That’s a combination of words we might not have anticipated before we entered the Twilight Zone on so many levels. In July, Frontier Airlines employees had duct-taped a rowdy passenger to his seat following his rather wild behavior in an inebriated state. United went on to tell its flight attendants that “there are designated items onboard that may be used in difficult situations.” The “other items” were not specified.

United does not understand the duct-tapers’ mantra: Serious issues and serious times call for immediate solutions. Nothing works like duct tape.

To clarify — the tape available on flights is not “duct tape”; it is “restraint tape,” and it is not silver. Pardon us! We just want the rowdies reined in. And hopefully whilst keeping the aircraft en route.

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The WSJ’s Andy Kessler’s Frightening Confession

Wall Street Journal editorial writer, Andy Kessler, wrote a column that appeared on August 9, 2021 entitled, “To Lie Is Human.” He began the column by confessing that as he and his family visited Lake Louise, Alberta he did the following:

1. He told his son to lie about his age when they were going to go horseback riding. His son was 6 and turning 7 that day (his birthday). The minimum age was 9. His son lied about his age, saying he was 8 and turning 9 that day, and got his horseback ride for his birthday.
2. Later that day they went to ride the ski lift. The fare is $35 unless you are five or under. Then the ride is free. He told his son to tell the lift operator that he was 5 — the son complied.

Mr. Kessler seemed entertained by the thought that his son was ages 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 all in one day. Mr. Kessler used it as an example of how children are not always refreshingly honest. He took pride in believing he was training his son for a career in politics.

What Mr. Kessler may not know is that children’s attitudes about ethics and honesty are formulated at a very early age by, you guessed it, the example of their parents. What Mr. Kessler’s son saw was that it’s okay to lie when you really want to do something or when you want to save $35. Children do not forget these incidents, precisely because they were placed in an ethical dilemma: Do I do what dad says or do I do what I have learned is the right thing to do?

Complicity of adults in the bad behaviors of others has resulted in everything from ongoing sexual harassment to the slaughter of innocents. What Mr. Kessler confessed to was training his son to be complicit under a standard of moral relativism. He should not be surprised if his son’s actions as a teen and adult mirror his lessons taught alongside the glistening and reflective water of Lake Louise.

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Even with an SEC Break, the Execs Still Dabble in Their Own Companies’ Stock

The Securities Exchange Commission cut corporate executives some slack on insider trading. The execs could file 10b5-1 plans that disclosed their schedules for buying and selling stock in their companies. Follow the plan, no insider trading charges. However, the execs found the loopholes. You don’t have to follow the plan — you can cancel at any time. You can also change the plan at any time and not tell anyone that you are doing so. The vaccine company execs did a whole lot of plan modifications on the stock in their companies once the clinical trials began. They made some serious money and all without insider trading. They just didn’t disclose their modifications. Making modifications is an indication of something being afoot at your company. About 60% of executives’ dabbling in stock last year was done under plans. All done with full immunity from inside trading. Now we will have to regulate insider modifications.

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The Cuomo Boys, Conflicts, and CNN

From the New York Times, “CNN has barred Chris Cuomo from engaging in strategy sessions with the governor’s aides, but has said it would not prohibit him from speaking directly with his brother about the scandal.” The scandal is now former Governor Andrew Cuomo’s grappling with accusations of harassment and more from 11 women. Chris Cuomo had done so in the past, even having his soon-to-be-ex-governor brother on the show for interviews, even as he was helping said governor/brother with strategy for dealing with the accusations, report, and looming impeachment. CNN told Chris Cuomo that such conduct was, “inappropriate.” Mercy, the rough treatment! Nonetheless, Chris Cuomo’s show sallied forth without mentioning the nation’s biggest story. That’s crackerjack journalism.

Could you talk to a sibling facing sexual harassment allegations without suggesting strategies? “Here’s what you ought to do,” would be the first words out of my mouth.

There are only two ways to manage a conflict: You disclose whatever. CNN and Chris already failed the public on this one. So the answer is, “Don’t do it!” CNN proposed a leave of absence with a guaranteed return for Chris Cuomo. Chris Cuomo instead went to the Hamptoms. That oughta do it. The Hamptons cleanses everything. You can bet that the phone lines between Albany and Sag Harbor are full of strategizing. But Chris Cuomo will be back on the air thanks to the mish-mash of ethical standards the Cuomos and CNN follow when it comes to conflicts.

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Credit Suisse and Its Management, Risk, and Inaction Problems

The Credit Suisse board commissioned an investigation into the losses the bank has faced resulting from its ties to Archegos. By March 23, 2021, Credit Suisse had $27 billion in exposure on its Archegos investment. While it dawned on few people at the bank that it might be good to obtain a little more collateral from Archegos, no one ever asked. In international banks, the right hand does not always know what the left hand is doing. The end result, according to Credit Suisse’s review by a law firm is that Credit Suisse did not care to know the answers about what was really going on with Archegos.

Bill Hwang, the founder of Archegos had a long history with Credit Suisse as well as one with the SEC. His now defunct hedge fund, Tiger Asia, settled insider trading charges with the SEC. Mr. Hwang was banned from trading in Hong Kong. That’s when Credit Suisse stepped in and helped Mr. Hwang relaunch a hedge fund in the United States, the no defunct Arcehgos. Credit Suisse employed no additional scrutiny despite Hwang’s history. There was also no additional action when the margin calls on Archegos kept coming even as Credit Suisse’s risk exposure ballooned to $530 million. When credit risk managers escalated their concerns about risk and exposure due to Archegos, Credit Suisse’s combination of poor processes and too many junior staffers resulted in no action being taken to rein in Hwang. By March of 2021, Credit Suisse had $27 billion in exposure due to Archegos. The communication was so poor that the CEO was unaware of the extent of his bank’s exposure.

Perhaps the most telling part of the report was, “The business was focused on maximizing short-term profits and failed to rein in, and, indeed, enabled Arcehgos’s voracious risk-taking.” The young ‘uns running risk and oversight were meeting their numbers and doing well, temporarily. No reason to rock the boat. They created a massive risk with no systems in place to curb it.

Good news, though. Credit Suisse has hired a chief risk officer from the ranks of Goldman Sachs. It will take a great deal more than that to straighten around the culture of this bank.

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Toyota and Selective Election Dispute Outrage

Corporations should not be involved in politics.Should they feel the necessity to get involved, is it too much to ask for consistency?

Toyota announced that it will no longer donate to Republicans who disputed the 2020 presidential election. Toyota is right to seek to preserve respect for elections. However, Toyota is confused. “Disputing” and “accepting” are two different things. Toyota took no such action in 2016. The late John Lewis refused to recognize (accept) that Donald Trump was a legitimately elected president because of his belief of “Russian interference.” In 2000, following the U.S. Supreme Court decision on Florida and all its hanging chads, there was a conga line of disputers who spent four years chanting “Not my president” rhetoric directed at Mr. Bush.

Elections are close, battles are heated, and emotions run high. To dispute an election is permitted constitutionally. To refuse to recognize election outcomes undermines the ability to govern. Toyota is withholding money from those who exercised rights. Toyota did not take action against those who refused to recognize election results in the past.The steps to exercise a right are finite. Once the process ends, the election is final. There is no end to a refusal to accept. Under Toyota’s donation policy, it has chosen a path that undermines a right and protects those who actually do undermine elections.

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The Lawyer and Salad-Bar Cheating

Erin Gilmer, an attorney and consultant to hospitals on medical privacy and compassionate health care, died on July 7, 2021 at the young age of 38. The cause of death was suicide. Ms. Gilmer suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, Type I diabetes, and occipital neuralgia. She was divorced and estranged from her parents.

She was an advocate for patients and an expert in that area who shared her knowledge for no cost online. Despite being an attorney and consultant, she struggled financially, confessing to reliance on food stamps. In a 2014 speech at a Stanford medical conference she told attendees that when she could not make ends meet, “I would disguise myself in my nice white-girl clothes and go to the salad bar and ask for a new plate as if I had already paid.” The Barometer is unclear on what constitutes “white-girl clothes” and why they are a disguise for purloining at a salad bar.

She added, “I’m not proud of it, but I’m desperate. It’s survival of the fittest.” Clay Risen, “Erin Gilmer, 38, Lawyer and Disability Rights Activist,” New York Times, July 19, 2021, p. B6.

Sometimes those who do much good for so many feel free to cross a few ethical lines here and there in the name of achieving those good things or to just survive. However, survival for some depends on that salad bar staying afloat. You get enough clean-plate faux diners and the salad bar’s margins take a dive. If everyone behaved as Ms. Gilmer did, well, patient advocacy would be irrelevant. Survival of the fittest. There is some irony here.

Nonetheless, RIP, Erin Gilmer, RIP.

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When Hate Sidetracks Due Process: Lessons from Planet Fitness and Horse-Racing

The Barometer was awaiting the opening of the doors to the mighty Planet Fitness gym, you know, the alleged “Judgement-free zone.” The English spelling of “Judgment” in the United States will not be corrected because as a Planet Fitness manager responded to the Barometer as she raised the issue, “It was judgmental to point out a spelling error.” Ah, alert the National Spelling Bee folks for the rules must change.

A gentleman also awaiting fitness on his own planet began espousing his political views, as he always does when we are found together at the locked door. He explained to us that New York was going to indict Trump and his company and added, “I hope he goes to jail and that they lock him up for life.” Seemed a little harsh for an income tax issue involving executive perquisites. And Trump was not the one who got the perks.

Then came the New York Racing Commission banishing Bob Baffert from racing in New York because of allegations of cheating (i.e., his winning horse in the Kentucky Derby had banned substances that showed up in a post-race drug test). Bob Baffert is one who gets as close to the line as a human being can get and sometimes his toes cross over that line. His autobiographical book has some frightening admissions about his behaviors in the climb to the top. The worst part about the admissions is that he seems to have no self-awareness that his book includes such admissions.

Nonetheless, a New York court has lifted the Baffert suspension because he was suspended without a chance to be heard. Like the Planet-Fitness zealot, emotions often kick in and the powerful and those who wish they had power want those they believe to be bad out and now! Baffert was banned without an evidentiary hearing. He was banned because so many in the sport have strong feelings about him and allegations of his cheating. Off with his head!

There are similar (stronger?) feelings about former President Trump. He is already out of office but many want him banished from life for life. In the words of so many defenders of rights in different context, “This is not who we are.”

This is a nation of due process. This is a nation that subscribes to the notion Benjamin Franklin articulated as follows, “That it is better 100 guilty Persons should escape than that one innocent Person should suffer.” Franklin called it “a Maxim that has been long and generally approved.” He was referring to similar statements by Voltaire and Blackstone (although Blackstone limited his swath to ten going free).

A longstanding maxim across religions and ethics scholars is that we should treat others as we would want to be treated. Regardless of what Baffert or Trump may or may not have done, they need their chances to be heard. That chance to be heard is a small price for a society to pay to be certain that they are not mistaken in their perceptions and beliefs. Due process is the protection against emotional swings that pass judgment without even being willing to listen to the defenses, explanations, or facts those charged wish to share.

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Hunter Biden: Renaissance Man, Painter, and Ethics Expert

President Biden’s son has discovered his inner self and is now a painter of art the quality of which brings up to $500,000. Not to worry. He has a solution. He is going to keep everything a secret from everyone. The New York City gallery will be responsible for rejecting “suspicious offers.” Did no one see “Mickey Blue Eyes”? The art world has long been an ideal forum for money launderers from the underworld, the third world, and the drug world. The talent-lacking sons of Cosa Nostra bosses have also managed to become highly desired painters. Gallery owners did the deals for protection, for favors, and for cuts in the deals.

Hunter will have large sums appear in his bank account, from whence and whom it came will be a secret. And, of course, we can all trust the buyers of the Hunter paintings to keep their purchases secret and not display their new treasures. Don’t you know that buyers and bidders will be kept confidential? Certainly there would be no use of front men in this scenario. When Communists sidle up to the art world, there is no limit to the havoc they can wreak. Not to worry. Be happy! We will be blithely ignorant.

There are two ways to manage a conflict of interest: Disclose it or don’t do it. The latter is the only choice when there is no way to clean up a transaction of influence. If ever we have had a transaction of influence it would be the purchase of flea-market-level art offered up by the current U.S. president’s son. What could possibly go wrong here? Watch “Mickey Blue Eyes” to find the answer.

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Six-Feet Nothing and the Point God

Chris Paul is 36 years old and just 6-feet tall. He was once poison in the NBA — one team gave away its draft picks just to be free from Paul’s contract. Today, having scored 41 points in Game 6 of the NBA semi-finals, Mr. Paul is known as the Point God.

Mr. Paul has led, what the Barometer tries to explain to students, a nonlinear life. He did not go from high school basketball star to college scholarship to the NBA. He played junior varsity basketball in high school. He had been on the varsity team as a bench warmer and went back to JV in order to play more. He went to Wake Forest for two years, and he was drafted into the NBA with a resulting unremarkable career. A decade and one-half later the Phoenix Suns and its ragtag club made a trade and got Mr. Paul. Mr. Paul has done for the Suns what he did for the JV teams — he leads so that others become better.

Michael Jordan carried bitterness around with him after he did not make varsity. Chris Paul saw it as a chance to play more and now, “the best thing that ever happened to me.” They sportscasters call him old. For the court he is ancient. But all those years mean that he has had more time on the court than any other player. He gained experience and calm. Humility from that JV background gives him the moral authority to lead. The Winston-Salem Chronicle described Mr. Paul in a headline about the success of his JV team, “Paul’s leadership, unselfish play set him apart in basketball.”

The linear life follows a pattern previously determined and documented as the path to success and goal achievement. Just because “everybody does it” does not mean it is the right or ethical path as we face ethical dilemmas in our lives. The same principle carries over into life generally. Sometimes the achievement arrives just because you took the road less traveled. The ragtag Suns have been operating at JV for many years, until Chris Paul. He makes everyone around him better.

Once in a great while, sports stories surprise us, pleasantly.

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