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Hebenstreit: Witnessing the Unimaginable

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IBA-hebenstreitSometimes, world events are just too much to ignore. We were out of the country when the First Act of the Japan crisis unfolded and heard about it second hand and late. Not too many areas can withstand a 9.0 earthquake and get back to normal life quickly. But then the cruel Act 2 occurred. It is hard for me to understand the difference between a tidal wave and a tsunami, but for those involved, it probably does not matter much. Watching those boats, cars, and buses just being swept away like small corks in a stream was a pretty chilling realization of the power of nature – nature that with all the technology we have, no one can figure out how to predict or control. Then Act 3 occurred – a nuclear situation as bad as Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. What next?? What possibly can happen to punish the Japanese population anymore?

Who really knows what the ultimate figures will be, but the current numbers indicate that over ½ million Japanese are without homes, and over 1 million are without water. Those near the Fukushima nuclear plant have to stay in their houses with duct tape over the windows. I am old enough to remember the Civil Defense issues of the cold war. Teachers had us practice drills in case of nuclear holocaust, and houses and public buildings were equipped with fallout shelters complete with fresh air and food systems. We thought those were a thing of the past until Fukushima.

One of the things that has really hit me is that these folks are just like us. I hate to sound callous, but the tsunami that hit Thailand several years ago was terrible, but it was hard to relate to. It hit pretty much rural areas. The Japanese situation hit cities like Indianapolis. The news has reported that Matsushima, Japan was a beautiful resort town similar to Big Sur or Cape Cod. Now, it is a heap of rubble. The only things standing are the pine trees from which it drew its beauty. Amazing what Mother Nature can destroy, and what it does not.

It is hard for me to even imagine having my home float away along with my car and all of the family furniture, photos and memories. What do you do with 24 hours if you have no job, or can’t get there because the trains are not running, or if you are lucky enough to still have a car, there is no gas to purchase? How do you generate income? But does it matter because even if you have money, the electricity won’t power up the ATM machines and there is no inventory at the store to buy. Pretty unfathomable.

But natural disaster can happen, even in Indiana. Do you remember that Final Four night when the winds reduced the Regions Tower to a shell? Windows were torn out and debris was everywhere. My office was on the 20th Floor of the Gold Building. I looked out my window and saw white papers on the rooftops of every building as well as just on the streets. It occurred to me that what I was looking at was in actuality the tax returns of clients or the evidence that was to be introduced at a trial that week. Yes, it can happen in the heartland.

The Hackman, Hulett & Cracraft firm was one of the hardest hit. Their offices were on the 24h floor. Mike Cracraft’s corner office had windows blown away, but the contract and marker he had been working on the day before the disaster were still on his desk. Mother Nature is fickle. According to Dave Bodle, what saved the firm was that they were able to retrieve their computer server and access their information remotely. Now, the firm has an offsite server just in case. Dave credits the management of the Regions Tower with clear thinking and good strategy to allow tenants to retrieve their important systems as quickly as possible. Maybe we should all create a disaster plan just in case.

We all live our lives day to day. Each day we attend to the matters before us as if they are the most important in the world – and they are. Legal problems are the most important issues our clients face. They are not familiar with the system and rely on us to help them navigate the legal system and to solve their problems. But as disasters like the Japanese situation occur, we need to stop for a minute to reflect on just how lucky we are. Sure, we all probably complain that the Judge just was not listening when we argued our best points. Or maybe our partners were not paying attention when we discussed the way to make our firm more profitable. But we at least have homes, offices, electricity and the ability to carry on somewhat normal day to day life. Things we take for granted, but things for which we should be very grateful.

Let’s take a minute to reflect about exactly how lucky we are and pray for those who seemingly have nothing but heartache and misery ahead. •

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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