Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Death of Ted Kennedy

I have thought long and hard about whether, and how, I would comment on the death of Senator Ted Kennedy. There is no doubt he was an incredibly effective and powerful senator, and was integral in the passage of some incredibly important legislation. In addition, he was a man of who faced almost unfathomable tragedy, from the death of all three of his brothers, a plane crash, and bad health. Ultimately, however, he was a man who used his position of privilege and wealth to avoid responsibility for the death of another person. Like Robert Byrd's membership in the KKK, that incident is something that will, and in my opinion should, define his life.

However, there is no question that instead of dwelling on his life's limitations, he worked to overcome his past by doing great works for the public interest. His talent was the ability to craft and pass legislation with long lasting human benefits. Civil Rights was one of his focuses.

It was this arena in which his death has irony, poignancy, and in my position, is being under reported. President Barack Obama will be giving the eulogy at his funeral. The first major piece of legislation that Senator Kennedy pushed was the 1964 Civil Rights Act. A Bill that was intended, and did in fact, give African American's basic human rights in the United States. A bill that was in trouble at the time of the death of his brother, Jack Kennedy. Ted used the outpouring of grief to change the tenor in Congress, and push that bill through. 45 years later, the 45th President of the United States was sworn in; our first African American President. That was, and in an exclamation point on the success of that Bill.

Today, we face another civil rights issue, that being access to affordable health care. Without health care, noone is free from the fear of sickness without care. There was no more passionate Senator in favor of access to health care than Senator Kennedy. From Medicare to schip, Kennedy is was always pushing for increased access for all to health care.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if some senator and congressperson, from either party, took up the mantel of health care reform and used the death of Senator Kennedy to fulfill is mission and goal. In 45 years who will be giving his or her eulogy?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Are we really so miserable? | Salon Life, my favorite online magazine, asks the question of whether we are really so miserable.  After all, 1 of 10 American's is on anti-depressives.  Is this a new age of discontent, where we drift through life without meaning, wondering why we exist.  Blaming an obscure 1997 law which allowed drug companies to advertise, the article labels this companies as pushers with high priced marketing campaigns.  The article quotes a 1947 play, "the Age of Anxiety" and wonders whether we have simply replaced the bottle with what is in the bottles.  

There is some truth to this.  The marketing campaigns of drug companies have made consumers quite "knowledgeable."  As my friend, a urgent care physician notes, I don't diagnosis and prescribe any more, I give my patients what they "demand."  This is not a good trend in medicine with people self diagnosis and demanding, instead of seeking counsel and guidance from their physicians.   With drugs so readily available, it is possible, as Salon notes, our family doctor is replacing our friendly bartender. 

I look at our current situation as a bit different, however.  The current economic downturn should have brought our society together.  After all, in 1947 we had just clawed our way out of a recession and defeated Nazism.  We were probably due to a letdown.  In our current situation, by reverse analogy, we should be banning together, our minor mental concerns (and I am not making light of serious depression) pushed aside for the task of making ends meet in a very difficult economic society.

Quite the opposite, instead of pulling together, we are focusing on our differences.  We have seniors after all, who are already on national health care, protesting access of uninsured Americans who haven't reached the Golden Years.  At that same time, the 47 Million uninsured quietly suffer the lack of insurance without any visible anger; possibly aided by some form of anti-depressant.  Maybe if they felt a greater control over their lives, with guaranteed access to health care, and access to financial safety valves like bankruptcy, they would be off the drugs and out in force. 


Are we really so miserable? | Salon Life

Friday, August 21, 2009

Corporate vs Personal Bankruptcy Attitudes | Tamela Rich

Interesting blog post from Tamela Rich about the differing attitudes between personal and business bankruptcy.

Specifically, she wondered why there is such a stigma on individuals filing for personal bankruptcy as opposed to almost adoration for business that use bankruptcy as a financial tool.  This is an interesting and tough question, and deserves some analysis.

The reality is that there is a lot of mythology in business bankruptcy.  Most people really don't understand what is going on, and it seems quite above them.  That way, when it is used like a tool by the likes of Donald Trump, most people just shrug their shoulders, and strive to be that sophisticated.

In contrast, everyone can relate to someone filing personal bankruptcy.  Even people who make a good living often live hand to mouth at some point, and feel the financial cliff which is always lurking.  When someone choose to use bankruptcy to get out of a bad financial situation, they are demonized for not making good financial decisions. In my opinion, this relates to our culture of scarcity, which believes that what someone else is able to acquire is something that I can't have.  This "envy" is based on a belief that our society has limited resources.  If someone "else" files bankruptcy, it is affecting what "I" have.  In reality, the opposite is true, in that bankruptcy allows a crippled financial participant to get "back in the game."

To a lesser extent this is what is going on in the health care debate.  There is a belief that if everyone has access to health care, people with health care will someone loose what we have.

An efficient capitalist system does not require "losers" who are desolate, without food, clothing, health care, etc.  Quite the opposite, the healthier our population is, the more prepared we are as a society to compete globally.  We figured this out when the Russians launched Sputnik; and our current public education system is proof of what we can do.  To a lesser extent, personal bankruptcy is a necessary and important tool to assure that all members of our society can participate.  

Corporate vs Personal Bankruptcy Attitudes | Tamela Rich

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

My Article in Minnesota Bench & Bar on Counseling a Financially Distressed Business Client; Beyond the purely legal!

Please read my new article in the Minnesota State Bar Association magazine Bench & Bar on counseling a financially distressed business client. Instead of dealing with the purely legal aspects of restructuring, it addresses the psychological, practical and spiritual issues that individuals in financial distress face.

I, along with my partner, Tom Wallrich, will be giving a seminar at the MNCLE Annual Closely Held Business Institute on August 20, 2009, called The Practical, Ethical and Psychological issues of representing a Business in Financial Distress. This seminar will be a panel discussion with Tom and I leading a licensed psychologist, a workout specialist, the former head of the Minnesota Lawyer's Board, and a brand expert through hypothetical situations.

See the brochure here.