Noontime Ethics, 8/18/2021: The Segue Edition

Segue

1. Combine mental health with unaccountable female superstar athletes and you get.…another “How dare you expect me to answer questions like any other pro athlete, you sexists racist!” moment from Naomi Osaka. Ahead of the Western & Southern Open in Mason, Ohio, tennis’s reigning queen finally agreed to sit down for questions from the press on a Zoom call. You will recall that at the French Open in May, she said she would decline to do pretournament or post-match news conferences, even though they are required of all players. When Osaka was fined $15,000 for skipping her press commitments after her first-round victory, she withdrew before her second-round match in Paris, for the first time playing the mental health card., later used so effectively by Simone Biles at the Olympics. At the session in Mason, Paul Daugherty, a sports columnist for The Cincinnati Enquirer, asked ,“You are not crazy about dealing with us, especially in this format. Yet you have a lot of outside interests that are served by having a media platform. I guess my question is, How do you balance the two?” Osaka, after an attempt at an answer that wasn’t an answer, ran out of the room in tears. Her agent, Stuart Duguid, said via text message, “The bully at The Cincinnati Enquirer is the epitome of why player/media relations are so fraught right now. Everyone on that Zoom will agree that his tone was all wrong, and his sole purpose was to intimidate.”

Imagine that response from a male athlete to a legitimate if tough question. Imagine an agent for such a male athlete calling the questioner a “bully.” Female athletes cannot protest that they must be treated equally with male jocks and still reserve the right to revert to delicate flowers when it serves their purposes.

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Anderson Cooper’s Reflections on Inheritance: Not Unethical, Perhaps; Just Ignorant, Self-Serving and Presumptuous

I was going to let this go, but it kept gnawing at me, and nobody in the news media called out Anderson Cooper on his outrageous misrepresentation of history and human character. I guess it’s up to me.

gloria-vanderbilt-anderson-cooper

“Thanks for nothing, Mom!”

Cooper is the son of fashion designer Gloria Vanderbilt, and thus an heir to one of the most storied of American family fortunes. Apparently Cooper has known for some time that he’s getting none of his mother’s estimated 200 million dollar estate, and he told Howard Stern recently that he was fine about it, an had no bitterness or regrets.

“I don’t believe in inheriting money, ” he told Stern. “That’s a total fantasy … I think it’s an initiative-sucker, I think it’s a curse. Who’s inherited a lot of money who’s gone on to do things in their own life? If I felt that there was some pot of gold waiting for me, I don’t know that I would have been so motivated.”

As for his mother, who inherited many millions and who still made a name for herself by launching a  line of designer jeans, Cooper told Stern, “I think that’s an anomaly.”

Cooper is free to adopt whatever myths and rationalizations that help him get over the fact that his mother is cutting him off. He is not free to misinform the historically ignorant that a tendency exists which may describe his own mental state but which is far from the presumptive norm with others throughout the centuries. “Who’s inherited a lot of money who’s gone on to do things in their own life?” The answer to that question is “Too many to mention, Anderson. Are you kidding? Do you know anything about history?”

Just counting U.S. Presidents, which I think even in this period of reduced stature among White House occupants, would still qualify as “doing something with your life,” we have Washington, Madison and Monroe, all of whom inherited substantial property and assets from their families, as did William Henry Harrison and his grandson, Benjamin Harrison. Both Roosevelts inherited substantial wealth; so did William Howard Taft, whose family was (and is) one of the richest in the U.S. Both Bush’s managed not to let the curse of inherited wealth undermine their wills to succeed. Continue reading

Estate Tax Ethics

This was not my father. For one thing, he was shorter.

My sister and I finally settled up the estate of our parents after over a year of paper signing, meetings with accountants, and mind-numbing calculations. The estate, as my folks wanted it, was divided 35%-35%-30%, with the last portion going into a trust for the three grandchildren. The amount of money in the estate was a shock to my sister and me, and a very pleasant surprise, though for all the problems the money will solve, we would have forfeited all of it to have Mom and Dad alive today. Still, being able to give over substantial assets to their children and grandchildren was one of their lifelong goals, and they would have been satisfied and proud that they succeeded so spectacularly.

My sister, a good, reliable liberal, asked me whether I felt guilty about the inheritance. I said yes, in the sense that I wish our parents hadn’t been so resolutely frugal in their retirement, and had spent more of the money they earned and saved on more of their own pleasure and enjoyment rather than squirreling it away for us. But did I feel any pangs of conscience because the money wasn’t going to Uncle Sam’s coffers?

Absolutely not. Continue reading

The Conflict of Interest That Isn’t, But Looks Terrible Anyway

David Becker, the top lawyer at the Securities and Exchange Commission, is suddenly an embarrassment to his employers. He and his two brothers inherited more than $1.5 million in phony profits from their mother’s investment in $65 billion Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. Since the S.E.C. was famously asleep at its post regarding Madoff, its negligence and incompetence allowing him to destroy individual lives, charities and more, having a key lawyer at the regulatory agency profit from Madoff’s scheme, even by inheritance, looks corrupt and unconscionable.  Continue reading