1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. Let science, not fear, guide on Ebola health care workers

    NORTHAMPTON — Many scary things — ghosts, goblins and IRS agents — undoubtedly came to your door last evening on Halloween.

    I like Halloween. I remember as a kid going house to house dressed as a gunslinger, saying, “Trick or Treat for UNICEF.” I knew what UNICEF stood for, but I actually didn’t understand the trick or treating part until a friend explained the shakedown: hand over the Tootsie Rolls or we’re going to soap your windows, flatten your tires, or smash your pumpkins. (And actually, even if you give us candy, we might do that anyway.) But I digress.

    The point is that threats can be scary.

    Consider Ebola and Ikeoluwa Opayemi...

    Read More of Let science, not fear, guide on Ebola health care workers
  5. Where more than headlines blossom

    NORTHAMPTON — It is mid-morning on the last Sunday in September. The day’s newspapers lie open on the table on the deck which overlooks our yard. Sunlight is speckling the garden, lightly touching the cimicifuga.

    Cimicifuga, also called bugbane, is comprised of thousands of tiny translucent white flowers on top of a stem. From a distance they resemble icicles growing skyward except that they look soft and warm. Two hydrangeas near the side of the garage are still blooming. With the passage of summer they no longer are blue, but rather offer hues of green, pink and lavender.

    “U.S.-led Planes Strike Syrian Targets.” Three newspapers, three headlines, all report these bombings. “One hundred thousand refugees flee fighting” one sub-headline reads. Most of those 100,000 are escaping from the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani, it appears. . . .

    Read More of Where more than headlines blossom
  6. White America’s invisible injustice

    NORTHAMPTON — Here is what we know so far about police officer Darren Wilson fatally shooting 18-year-old Michael Brown on Canfield Drive in Ferguson, Missouri, a minute or two after noon on Aug. 9.

    Officer Wilson is white. Michael Brown is African-American.

    Brown, and his friend Dorian Johnson, 22, both unarmed, were walking in the street. A struggle of some sort occurred through the patrol car window, and Officer Wilson’s firearm discharged in the car. Brown and Johnson ran away. Officer Wilson exited his cruiser. Brown stopped, turned and faced Wilson, and the officer fired again. Neither Johnson nor Brown had any weapon. Brown died approximately 35 feet from the cruiser.

    Three autopsies have been performed — one at the request of Brown’s family by the highly regarded former chief medical examiner of New York City, Dr. Michael Baden, one by St. Louis County Medical Examiner Mary Case and one by military coroners at the behest of the federal Department of Justice. . . .

    Read More of White America’s invisible injustice
  7. How Hatfield resident William Burke III was found guilty of a thought crime

    NORTHAMPTON — Headlines in western Massachusetts newspapers at the conclusion of the recent federal criminal trial of former Probation Commissioner John O’Brien and his assistants, Elizabeth Tavares and Hatfield resident William Burke III should have read, “Jurors reject almost all government case against Burke.”

    Instead, the headlines emphasized the half dozen guilty verdicts the jury returned against O’Brien and Tavares.

    The government alleged that O’Brien, Tavares and Burke rigged the state probation department’s hiring process by awarding jobs to applicants recommended by state legislators. The supposed pay-off was that legislators would not cut the Probation Department’s budget. . . .

    Read More of How Hatfield resident William Burke III was found guilty of a thought crime
  8. Paint on, Northampton, and let’s keep debating

    NORTHAMPTON — The streets belong to the people. But what about the crosswalks?

    This issue has riveted Northampton since the Department of Public Works — at the request of a private citizen, who paid for it — painted the crosswalk on Main Street between Thornes Marketplace and TD Bank in stripes vaguely akin to the rainbow flag to celebrate Pride Day.

    A lot of people liked it, but some didn’t. The Northampton Arts Council people, for example, were miffed that no one asked their opinion or permission.

    But all in all, life around the crosswalk for some time was copacetic. Cars drove over it, pedestrians walked on it and residents debated the propriety of it — all as we are supposed to do.

    And then in June, Katherine Osborne of Washington Place requested red, white and blue stripes in the crosswalk between Pulaski Park and Masonic Street, particularly appropriate for the approach to Memorial Hall. In response, a reader of this newspaper commented . . .

    Read More of Paint on, Northampton, and let’s keep debating
  9. The world of whistle-blowers, as seen through ACLU’s Baldwin Awards

    Read More of The world of whistle-blowers, as seen through ACLU’s Baldwin Awards
  10. Last-gasp bigotry against gays? Not quite yet

    NORTHAMPTON — “NO FAGGOTS ALLOWED.” “STRAIGHTS ONLY.” Some lawmakers across America want to endow businesses with the clear legal right to post signs such as these.

    The asserted right to discriminate, based purportedly on grounds of religious freedom, has a long and sordid history in America. Recall the words of Judge Leon Mazile of Virginia, who in upholding that state’s anti-miscegenation law in 1959 wrote, “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, Malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents ... show(ing) that he did not intend for the races to mix.”

    Read More of Last-gasp bigotry against gays? Not quite yet