1. An anti-public act of concealment in Chicago

    Consider Chicago. There on a city street, police officer Jason Van Dyke shot 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times — in the chest, back, neck and head — mostly while the teen was lying on the pavement. This was a cold-blooded execution.

    Hard to believe? Go watch the video, the Chicago police dashcam recording. fter the shooting, city officials engaged in a conspiracy of silence for 13 months. But a judge ordered the video released and this past week, the day before the release, the state charged the cop with first degree murder.

    Why was the video suppressed? Why was the public’s right to know so blatantly ignored and discarded? Aren’t police officers public officials subject to the same disclosures and bound by the same legal rules and standards that apply to all other public officials? ...

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  2. Into the Bernie Maelstrom

    At the recent Bernie Sanders rally in Springfield, a woman I met confided she hadn’t been as excited about a presidential candidate since Bobby Kennedy.

    Her enthusiasm was shared. Six thousand people jammed into the Mass Mutual Center on that Saturday afternoon to listen to Bernie.

    When introducing Sen. Sanders, Bill McKibben, the internationally renowned environmentalist, recounted that Bernie had announced his opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline in September. McKibben paused, the venue fell quiet and the crowd tensed. This event was taking place Oct. 3. September sounded really late and opportunistic.

    Then McKibben repeated “September.” He paused one more time before adding...

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  3. Innocence is Lost, Decency Found -- Thanks to Yogi Berra

    I miss Yogi Berra.

    A signed photograph of him, a Father’s Day gift from my wife Dale, hangs on a wall in my office, close to the one of Mickey Mantle, above the one of Bobby Kennedy, near the one of my late dad and our daughter Jo laughing together.

    The Yogi photograph captures him in full catcher’s regalia — his cap on backwards, flying forward about six inches above the ground, arms extended, his catcher’s glove in his left hand, the ball in his right, about to tag Ted Williams, who is sliding hard toward home with dirt flying from his spikes.

    Yogi’s death a week ago should not have shocked me. After all, he was 90. But it kind of did...

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  4. 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...

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  5. 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...

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  6. 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 . . .

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  7. 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...

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  8. 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...

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  9. 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 ...

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  10. 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...

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