1. Pushing America on path toward autocracy

    The rule of law — inviolate principles of equal protection, due process and checks and balances that structure our government and our civic life — is foundational to American freedom. Donald Trump is blowing up that foundation.

    Consider Charlottesville, Virginia. White supremacists and anti-Semites at a pro-confederacy rally chanted “Jews will not replace us,” hoisted swastikas, celebrated racism, intimidated bystanders and counterprotesters, shot weapons, and killed a young woman. Donald Trump used the occasion to pick sides, and he picked theirs.

    Following Charlottesville, Trump again stood up for — and further normalized — bigotry...

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  2. Protecting immigrants from President Trump's irrational fear

    We entered the church at dusk. It was deserted except for the family and the pastor who greeted us. Three of us from the Immigrant Protection Project of Western Massachusetts (IPP) came to help a married couple fill out some forms. Lawyers do not usually lose sleep or get teary-eyed filling out a form. This time would be different.

    We sat at a round table in a large room with fluorescent lights...

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  3. America needs Medicare for all

    It will be great! Donald Trump promised repeatedly that his Obamacare replacement would offer Americans universal or near universal health insurance at a lower cost than the Affordable Care Act.

    He guaranteed the same protections for preexisting conditions and a continuation, and probably improvement, of essential services. He assured his boisterous crowds of greater access to medical services and more freedom of choice.

    A show of hands, please. Does anyone believe a word of what he said? ...

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  4. Unanswered questions in UMass overdose death conviction

    This is a story of sadness and punishment compounding tragedy and pain.

    On Oct. 4, 2013, Eric Sinacori, a 20-year-old kinesiology major at the University of Massachusetts, was found dead in his apartment at Puffton Village in Amherst. He died from a heroin overdose. His father found his body.

    Sinacori’s story is heartbreaking. Most heartbreaking, perhaps, is the many tens of thousands of times this story — with details that vary — has been told and written about families throughout America in recent years. The opioid epidemic has become an almost equal-opportunity killer....

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  5. Political, moral fight joined over health care

    People with pre-existing conditions fear that they “are going to die because of a vote we might be taking.”

    Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Florida) said that earlier this week. He added, “(A) lot of people … call my office … daily who are extremely angry … because they are sincerely scared.”

    With good reason....

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  6. Constitution reading inspiring, disheartening

    The Preamble begins, “We the People.” The evening of March 26, a large group gathered at the Haymarket Café in Northampton to read the United States Constitution and its amendments. The thought was, we talk about the Constitution a lot but we actually don’t often read it.

    We began appropriately with Section 1 of Article I, which says, “All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.” Section 8 of that article enumerates, that is, specifically lists, the kinds of laws Congress has the power to enact. By enumerating Congress’ authority the founders intended to establish the boundaries of the power of the central government.

    To put an exclamation point on this limitation, the drafters included in the Bill of Rights the Tenth Amendment that reserves all rights not explicitly granted the federal government...

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  7. Resist federalizing local police

    Sanctuary. That exquisite word conjures images of sunlight through stained glass windows and feelings of calm, peace, quietude, and safety.

    But sanctuary, in the context of sanctuary city, is a misnomer. Sanctuary cities do not actually offer undocumented immigrants sanctuary, but they still matter a lot.

    Sanctuary has deep religious roots. In medieval England, a criminal could put himself beyond the reach of the law for 40 days by seeking refuge in a church. By the early 17th century, however, the church and the king of England had abolished the practice.

    Although church-based sanctuary has never taken root in American law, the religious practice of sanctuary is embedded here. In the early 1980s, for example, the sanctuary movement involved over 500 congregations of all faiths. Places of worship, although not legally protected, nonetheless often provided a safe haven – with shelter, food, clothing and legal advice – for Central American refugees fleeing oppression and death squads. Today, in reaction to Trump, religious institutions once again are embracing sanctuary for immigrants.

    The concept of sanctuary, to a degree, was incorporated into our system...

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  8. President Trump's travel ban inhumane

    On Dec. 7, 2015, candidate Donald Trump called “for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”

    This threat (or to his supporters, a promise) became a mantra, a pillar of his campaign.

    Trump later added a demand for a registry of all Muslims already in America. He had his reasons. Reflecting the views of his alt-right, white supremacist and now chief policy adviser, Steve Bannon, Trump told CNN, “I think Islam hates us.”

    Fortunately, two major obstacles have impeded implementation of Trump’s plans to ban and register Muslims....

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  9. Is fascism at America's door?

    A year ago I could not have imagined asking or being asked the question, is fascism at America’s door? Now I find it critical to contemplate the answer.

    The question takes me back to my senior year at Antioch College in 1972 when I was taking a course taught by Mary Kaufman. She had been a prosecutor of I.G. Farben, Germany’s World War II chemical, industrial and financial war machine. Mary knew a thing or two about fascism.

    In her class we read Korematsu v. United States, the Supreme Court decision which held that President Roosevelt’s executive order during World War II to forcibly remove over 100,000 citizens from their homes, herd them into jails, and hold them indefinitely with no charges because of their ethnicity violated no constitutional right.

    During a discussion, one student referred to those prisons for Japanese-Americans as concentration camps. Another student objected. She argued that although those incarceration facilities in Arizona, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado and California were horrifying, racist and jingoistic, they did not constitute the moral or functional equivalent of the Nazi death camps at Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen and Dachau....

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  10. Keeping the flag flying

    On a Saturday morning some years ago, as part of a symposium sponsored by the Traprock Peace Center at Greenfield Community College, I participated on a panel with Frank Serpico, the retired New York City police officer who exposed corruption and bribery committed by his fellow officers. Al Pacino played him in the movie. The room was packed. Frank was the draw.

    I began my remarks by apologizing for running late and not having had enough time to finish dressing, at which point I took a tie out of my suit jacket and slid it under my shirt collar. Finishing dressing in front of an audience was a bit odd, I grant you that.

    But I had everyone’s attention. More accurately and importantly, the tie did. No one could miss the repeated pattern of American flags from the half-Windsor knot to my waist.

    This political theater allowed me to make the point that we who believe in liberty and equality should not allow the flag to be misappropriated....

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