1. Bill Newman opposes Questions 1 and 2, favors 3 and 4

    It’s your turn to be a legislator.

    In Tuesday’s election, Massachusetts voters will decide the fate of four proposed laws. They’re called ballot questions because they appear on our ballot as interrogatories, i.e. — “do you approve of” — followed by the substance of the initiative.

    Question 1 proposes another slot parlor in Massachusetts. No thank you.

    Question 2 asks whether Massachusetts should authorize as many as 120 new charter schools — up to a dozen a year for the next decade. To this question, even people who in general enthusiastically endorse charter schools should just say no.

    Let’s, as they said in “All the President’s Men,” follow the money. Question 2 would require Massachusetts public schools, which already pay $425 million a year for the existing 65 charters, to fork over up to an additional $1 billion annually for the new ones at the end of 10 years. The credit-rating agency Moody’s Investors Service has warned that passage of this ballot question could significantly weaken municipalities’ (including Boston’s) financial standing and threaten their credit ratings.

    More on money: look at who is bankrolling the Yes on 2 campaign....

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  2. A case of nerves as election season ticks down

    ‘Plop, plop, fizz, fizz …” Thanks to a recent game of Charades, this 1950s advertising jingle had become stuck in my brain and as the Clinton-Trump debate approached, I kept thinking that in order to live through that television extravaganza, I might need more help than Speedy Alka-Seltzer could provide.

    Maybe some anti-anxiety medications would be in order. After all, given the low bar the media had set for Donald Trump, all he needed to do in the 90-minute debate was appear semi-normal. If he did that, the media might well proclaim him the victor, which might propel him towards the presidency.

    The notion that a totally unqualified, largely ignorant and extremely dangerous racist, misogynist demagogue whose head is full of half-baked – make that one-eighth baked – ideas could be elected president made me consider that an anti-depressant might need to be added to the medication mix.

    As it turned out....

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  3. Why Jeff Morneau is right choice for Governor’s Council

    Contrary to popular mythology, donning a black robe before entering a courtroom does not imbue that person with some sort of preternatural ability to divine what’s right and to mete out justice. Sorry if we’re busting any judicial bubbles.

    Of course, the perspective, experience and ideology of the person wearing that cloak matters a lot. The intensity of the debate over whether Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump should make Supreme Court and other federal court appointments highlights this point.

    The confirmation process for a federal judge is straightforward. The president nominates. Then the Senate Judiciary Committee holds a hearing (O.K., apparently not when Republicans control the Senate and Barack Obama is president but, you know, generally speaking, that’s what happens). Then the Senate votes. For state court judges the process is a bit different. The governor nominates one of the persons suggested by the Judicial Nominating Committee (approximately 20 lawyers from across the state appointed by the governor). Then the nominee appears before the Governor’s Council for an up or down vote.

    The Governor’s Council, a creation of the state constitution, is comprised of eight elected councilors. The lieutenant governor presides but votes only in the case of a tie.

    Mike Albano serves as the Governor’s Councilor for the four western counties. Albano is not seeking re-election because he’s running for Hampden County Sheriff. Two candidates are vying to replace him...

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  4. The last straw in one marriage

    “I’m never doing anything this stupid for you ever again.” My wife Dale announced this to me last summer as we peeled out of the driveway, late to catch a plane.

    Blame the robins. A couple had built a nest and laid eggs in the rhododendron bush, inconveniently located for breeding and egg-sitting purposes between our back door and the garage – our noisiest and busiest possible location. Note to robins: you chose this neighborhood.

    But forget the traffic and the noise. Another problem loomed.

    Baby robins, we learned, don’t magically fly from the nests when they feel big and strong enough – about three weeks after hatching. Rather, the first time they try, they tend to fall and flop. If they land on soft ground, they get to try again. The basement metal bulkhead doors directly below our robins’ nest seemed to unduly diminish their odds, and Dale – having succumbed to my groveling and importuning – had driven that morning to Jaescke’s Farm Stand to pick up two bales of straw to spread over our bulkhead and the driveway.

    “Never again,” Dale repeated....

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  5. Weaning U.S. from jail binge

    Let’s correct a misnomer – a misconception, a euphemism. Life imprisonment does not just mean life in prison. An ACLU event this past week has caused me to reflect on how a life-in-prison sentence really means death in prison.

    Of course many inmates without life sentences also die in prison – from suicide, homicide, beatings, rape, AIDS and gross medical indifference. Living through a 20- or 30-year sentence requires survival skills most of us could not imagine, much less attain.

    And over the past four decades judges have been dispensing years in prison as if they were handing out parking tickets. Fifteen-, 20- and 30-year sentences have become a norm. The number of people incarcerated in America has exploded from 300,000 in 1972 to 2.3 million today. The United States locks up a larger percentage of its people than any other country on earth – by a lot.

    And another six million are subject to the control of the penal system – on probation, parole or supervised release. Mandatory minimums, sentencing guidelines and political expediency bear much of the blame.

    Let’s not forget that racism constitutes a central pillar of our carceral system. No surprise there....

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  6. Candidate Trump is really a thing

    Late this past Tuesday night I was sitting in my family room staring at a blank, silent, switched-off television. I know – I grant you – at first glance this does not paint a picture of robust mental health.

    And, in truth, I was feeling more than a little anxious and depressed because the voters of Indiana had just anointed the mercurial, vacuous, unqualified, ignorant, racist and misogynist Donald Trump as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. That result made me extremely anxious. In addition, the mainstream media was reporting and repeating that notwithstanding Bernie’s victory in that day’s Democratic primary, his campaign effectively was finished. Hearing this drumbeat of finality made me depressed.

    Underestimating Trump constitutes one of my many political analysis failures this election cycle....

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  7. On GOP politics, call it global warning.

    On the flight from Boston to London last Friday I read the Daily Mail newspaper’s report on “How Trump lost cash in 18 of his 21 funds.” An English investor explained that the bad result “rather sums up Trump’s ability to lose rather than make shedloads of money.”

    “Shedloads" of money? Seriously – shedloads? You have to love the Brits’ sense of decorum. But I digress.

    The investor continued, “He’s just a spiv with a dodgy hairstyle. God help us....

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  8. Apple's righteous iPhone fight against the FBI.

    A legal battle is now raging between Apple Inc. and the FBI. Apple is right. The FBI is wrong. Here’s why.

    On Dec. 2 in San Bernardino, California, Syed Farook, with his wife, Tashfeen Malik, committed a horrifying mass murder, a terrorist attack. He killed 14 people and seriously wounded 22 more.

    Between the time of the killings and his death four hours later in a shootout with the police, Farook smashed his two personal cell phones into smithereens so that nothing could be recovered from them. His third cell phone, issued by his employer, he left untouched. That cell phone now occupies the epicenter of the legal struggle.

    The FBI asserts that it needs access to that phone for investigative purposes. It makes this assertion notwithstanding the improbability that Farook used his county government-issued work phone, and not one of his private ones, for anything related to his attack. The FBI demands access to the phone notwithstanding that all the device’s location data, calls, texts, and web searches are stored by the carrier and therefore readily available to law enforcement.

    The FBI, which has confessed to inadvertently locking Farook’s phone after seizing it...

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  9. Whose free speech display of Black Lives Matter banner on City Hall?

    Shortly after the Black Lives Matter banner was raised at Northampton City Hall on the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the president of a city police union, denying any connection, requested that Mayor David Narkewicz fly a banner recognizing National Peace Officers Memorial Day in May.

    Other banner and flag-flying requests no doubt will follow.

    We’ve been down this — or a similar — road before....

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  10. What's in a name? On protecting even racist trademarks and the court of public opinion

    This column tells the story of the ongoing battle between the United States government on one side and the curious combination of the Washington Redskins football team and a group of 20-something musicians called The Slants on the other.

    For decades Native American groups and their supporters have demanded that the Washington, D.C., National Football League team stop calling itself the Redskins. Enough with the racist moniker they say.

    And racist it is. America has long classified “the other” by the color of their skin — black, brown, yellow or red. For centuries the term “red man” has been disparaging. Recall, for example, the overt racism accepted by the majority culture in the song “What Makes the Red Man Red” in the acclaimed 1953 Walt Disney production of “Peter Pan.”

    Today the Redskins’ owner, Daniel Snyder, insists that his team’s name offends almost no one, and he has vowed...

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