1. Taking roads, and trails, less traveled by

    On a spectacularly clear August morning, our Roaring Fork Transportation Authority bus was wending its way above the sharp ravine on narrow Maroon Creek Road in Colorado’s White River National Forest. Steve, the driver, was holding forth on encountering mountain lions, avoiding avalanches, and appreciating conifers. He also mentioned that in the mountain meadows where we’d be hiking that day, the wildflowers had passed their prime.

    That was okay with us, four couples sharing a house for a week in Basalt. We could commiserate with those flowers. Some of these friendships began in college, close to 50 years ago. We, too, are a little past our prime.

    That day soon offered us another lesson...

    Read More of Taking roads, and trails, less traveled by
  2. Difficult vital decisions at life’s end

    NORTHAMPTON — My mother was seated comfortably in a favorite chair by her bedroom window that overlooked the snow-dusted fields and stands of evergreens behind the Lathrop Community in Easthampton. The gentle late afternoon light of that warm-for-winter day filled the room. Her oncologist was seated on the hassock beside her — a woman doctor who was accomplished, kind, direct, experienced and pretty — my mother liked all that.

    I was listening intently. Their conversation sounded calm, logical and intensely human. At the same time, to me it felt surreal.

    My mom was suffering from multiple myeloma. She had been receiving chemotherapy for a couple years. Did she want to continue treatment that was having less effect — that was the question.

    The choices seemed stark...

    Read More of Difficult vital decisions at life’s end
  3. Work still needed to ensure full LGBT equality

    America is a freer country today than it was before June 26, 2015, the day that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality.

    Since 2011, with the demise of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” gays and lesbians have been entitled to serve equally in the military. Since 2013, when the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, married gay couples have been entitled to equal treatment under federal programs and laws including Social Security, the Internal Revenue Code, and veterans benefits. And now in every state gays and lesbians may marry the person they love.

    But the legal terrain is still littered with land mines. No federal law prohibits discrimination in employment, housing, or public accommodation . . .

    Read More of Work still needed to ensure full LGBT equality
  4. The tenants in the treehouse

    NORTHAMPTON — What I saw early last Friday morning took my breath away. Perhaps it shouldn’t have. After all, we are adults who live in Northampton, where this kind of thing happens a lot.

    But in my whole life I don’t remember ever having seen this before. Photographs and paintings, sure, but this was right in front of my eyes, close enough to touch except that I was surreptitiously peering out through the first-floor bedroom window, standing on the bed in order to get a good look...

    Read More of The tenants in the treehouse
  5. The wait for full marriage equality

    NORTHAMPTON — No one outside Northampton City Hall on the evening of Nov. 18, 2003, will forget the celebration. People hugged and cheered. Balloons floated. Signs were hoisted. Rainbow flags were waved. And Rachel Maddow spoke. Earlier that day the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court had issued its decision in the Goodridge case, holding that our state constitution guaranteed gays and lesbians the right to marry.

    So we celebrated — celebrated Massachusetts being the first state to guarantee this right, celebrated the dawning of what we hoped was a new day of equality, celebrated because we believed that other states would follow suit.

    And, indeed, that has happened. Either by court decision or legislative action, some 36 states now have marriage equality. But whether this liberty will be extended across America depends on...

    Read More of The wait for full marriage equality
  6. Between the lines on marathon bombing case’s death penalty option

    NORTHAMPTON — The guilt-innocence phase, the first part, of the trial of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, is drawing to a close. Final arguments are scheduled for Monday.

    After Monday’s arguments, Tsarnaev will come face to face with the possibility of being executed by the United States government. Seventeen of the 30 counts in the indictment against him carry the death penalty, and he will be found guilty.

    There’s not much question about that. After all, Tsarnaev’s lawyer, Judy Clarke, in her opening statement, conceded his involvement ...

    Read More of Between the lines on marathon bombing case’s death penalty option
  7. When law enforcement bends rules on interrogation

    NORTHAMPTON — After almost 40 years as a civil rights attorney, nothing that law enforcement does to shred constitutional guarantees should surprise me. But a news report this week made me flinch.

    The Chicago police, America has learned, operate a secret interrogation facility in a non-descript warehouse called Homan Square. Prisoners – juveniles, as well as adults, some as young as 15 – are disappeared there, often shackled for hours, denied their right to counsel and beaten. At least one man, found unresponsive in an interview room, later was pronounced dead.

    Brian Jacob Church, a protester who was held and interrogated at Homan Square in 2012, was quoted by The Guardian, which broke this story, as saying, “It brings to mind the interrogation facilities they use in the Middle East...

    Read More of When law enforcement bends rules on interrogation
  8. A Guantanamo prisoner’s own story

    NORTHAMPTON — United States government officials arrange for proxy jailers in a foreign country to arrest a man, who is then held incommunicado, interrogated and tortured. Although our government determines that the factual basis for its requested detention was wrong — impossible actually — the man, with no judicial involvement, is transferred to and tortured at one horrifying prison after another.

    Eventually, painfully shackled, suffocated and half dead, he is dumped at a United States military base where he languishes for over a dozen years. The government insists that it can incarcerate him indefinitely without a charge or a trial.

    If this Kafkaesque fact pattern had been presented. . .

    Read More of A Guantanamo prisoner’s own story
  9. On Bryan Stevenson’s long search for justice

    NORTHAMPTON — I want to share with you a story about compassion and courage, life and death, despair and jubilation. I want to tell you about Bryan Stevenson.

    In 1986, I traveled to Georgia to meet Stevenson, an African-American attorney who grew up in the 1960s in the segregated, Confederate flag-displaying Eastern shore of Maryland. He and I were representing a young man on Georgia’s death row. I had not previously worked on a capital case. In contrast, most of Bryan’s clients were on the row.

    When I arrived at his office address, I found no sign and no lights and the door locked, dead-bolted. The reason for the anonymity, I would soon learn, was bomb threats directed at him and his colleagues at the Southern Prisoners Defense Committee. . . .

    Read More of On Bryan Stevenson’s long search for justice
  10. The next challenge for downtown Northampton

    NORTHAMPTON — The place was packed. Every seat was taken. It was standing room only.

    Three weeks ago a Superior Court judge killed the Northampton Business Improvement District. The rationale? The city failed to check the signatures required to establish the BID for accuracy or legal authorization and, therefore, the BID was a nullity. In response to the BID’s demise, Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz — after some heated public contretemps about the guest list — convened a come-one, come-all confab this week at the Hotel Northampton...

    Read More of The next challenge for downtown Northampton