The no-frills YouTube video looks like it could be the chronicling of an ambitious science fair project. Inside a spare Indiana warehouse, a young man launches a thin two-and-a-half-foot black cylinder into the air, where its propeller blades keep it hovering vertically. Then it moves slowly across the warehouse, past the Purdue University and ROTC signs, before easing its way back into the waiting hands of the same young man who launched it.
But this is no schoolboy experiment, and the small flying cylinder is no model airplane. It is the Voyeur UAV, or unmanned aerial vehicle, also known as a "drone." According to the Web site of its manufacturer, West Lafayette-based Lite Machines, Inc., the Voyeur is designed to allow military and law enforcement to conduct surveillance and "human or non-human target acquisition." The Voyeur can travel as far as 50 miles in the air and can hover over and/or touch its target.
One afternoon, the young boy from Lafayette came home from fifth grade classes to discover that his father had been deported.
Before going back to school the next day, the boy dried his eyes and steeled himself to pretend nothing had happened. Otherwise, the suspicion would be directed toward him and his mother and brothers.
Born in Zacatecas, Mexico, the boy stayed in Lafayette and stayed in school. He is now 19 years old, a high school graduate dreaming of attending college. He is also justifiably afraid of having his name appear in a newspaper article.
Corporate America is quite capable of communicating political messages that are both false in content and evil in intent. It is never good news when the folks who brought us the fictional characters of Harry, Louise and clean coal are presented with more opportunity to influence public policy.
So perhaps I should not have been surprised that the Supreme Court's recent decision in the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, holding that government may not ban political spending by corporations in candidate elections, was greeted by great wailing and gnashing of teeth, especially among the progressives with whom I usually agree.
Democratic members of Congress grabbed poll-tested talking points and raced to microphones to condemn the ruling, even though Democrats have taken more corporate money than the GOP lately. Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Florida) even called Citizens United the worst Supreme Court decision since the Dred Scott case.
As anyone who has walked the halls of the U.S. Capitol can attest, the hairstyles of male politicians oftentimes rival Stonehenge for implausible construction.
Perhaps it is easy for me to say, since I don't have to brandish my own rapidly receding hairline on C-Span, but Indiana voters seem to be treated to more than our share of toupees, hair plugs and comb-overs elaborate enough to make Donald Trump blush.
But, if hair provided the window on the political soul, the true look of the moment would be the faux-hawk.
If they saw Alice's suffering close up, I think that WellPoint executives, Republican members of Congress and conservative pundits would help her.
Alice is one of my Indiana Legal Services clients, who lives alone in a town in eastern Indiana. Several years ago, she was crushed in a gruesome car accident, which left her with injuries severe enough that she was quickly declared fully disabled by the Social Security Administration.
But, like many other Hoosiers with devastating illnesses and injuries, Alice has been told by the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration that she does not meet our state's standard for being disabled and thus does not qualify for Medicaid health insurance coverage.
It is the question that puzzles many of us when we hear about the tragic conclusion of a domestic violence relationship. Why doesn't the victim simply look at herself in the mirror, decide it is time for a change, and head out the door?
Perhaps, though, it is we who need to look in the mirror. Are our communities doing enough to make sure that door is not barred shut?
Like abolitionists, civil rights activists and opponents of the wars in Vietnam before them, those who question the endless U.S. war on terror are routinely dismissed as naive.
But what should we call those whose trillion-dollar wars hold no answers for a disturbed Nigerian young man willing to blow up an airplane on Christmas? What about those whose bombs could not prevent a Jordanian spy from killing himself and eight others on a CIA base in Afghanistan?
Predator drones and troop surges could not stop these threats. But U.S. invasions, missiles and torture surely fueled them. And the cycle of violence rolls on.
Earlier this month, Indiana House and Senate committees delivered bipartisan support for a proposed amendment to the Indiana Constitution that would permanently cap property taxes. And Governor Daniels insisted that slashing the budget for K-12 education was a necessary "last resort" in response to the state budget woes.
It is tempting to criticize these developments. After all, responding to short-term political expediency by locking in property tax caps is the fiscal equivalent of painting ourselves into a corner and burying land mines under all the exit paths. Ask the folks in California how Proposition 13 is working these days.
But, on second thought, perhaps I should get with the times. If constitutional amendments are the flavor of the moment, I would like to propose my own addition to the Indiana Constitution.
It is a bitter cold Friday afternoon, and three people stand bundled up against the wind on a downtown Indianapolis street corner, silently holding signs pointed toward the rush-hour traffic. Two of the signs are in blue and white, with the words "War is not the answer" printed next to a drawing of a dove. The other sign reads, "Peace is patriotic."
This presence across from the Minton-Capehart Federal Building has been a weekly vigil since shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, when President George W. Bush chose to respond to tragedy with warfare.
A few folks driving or walking by wave at the demonstrators; a peace sign is flashed. Most just stare and move on.
Private suffering, especially by the poor and the sick, does not often become a political issue. Usually, our powers-that-be are transfixed by property taxes, corporate concerns and electoral power struggles, where well-connected folks with a few dollars in their pockets can make their voices heard.
But in the spring of 2008, the pain of Hoosiers hurt by the privatization of Indiana's welfare program slowly transformed into a hot topic. Governor Daniels' $1.34 billion contract with IBM had led to a rash of incorrect denials of food stamps and health care assistance. In many Indiana communities, emergency food pantries began running out of stock, and private charities found themselves under siege.
In response, simple handbills were circulated to announce a public meeting in Anderson about the privatization, and a handful of people were expected to exchange views. To the surprise of the organizers, a crowd of 200 packed a union hall. Five hundred more went to a subsequent meeting at the convention center in Muncie, many lining up for hours afterward to get a few minutes to share their problems with a state agency representative.
"The Muncie hearing was a game-changer," says John Cardwell, a longtime Indiana health care activist and lobbyist. "After that, I had legislators coming up to me and saying, 'This is the real thing, isn't it?'"