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Author Archives: Jack L.B. Gohn

Jack L.B. Gohn: Our metadata, ourselves

Sen. John McCain recently expressed surprise that young people see Edward Snowden as a hero. It’s surprising he’s surprised. When, thanks almost exclusively to Snowden, we have learned of the existence of huge government programs that impinge drastically upon everyone’s privacy (in their Internet communications, their telephone calls, their mail and their own computers), and we see the price Snowden has had to pay, is it any wonder there are people who think of him as a hero?

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Jack Gohn: Command influence at the end of a rope

On Nov. 22, 1944, the United States Army hanged Privates Arthur Davis and Charles Jordan for the crime of rape. They were likely not guilty. But they were African American. What happened to them happened to many others, their real transgression being soldiering while black, in a racist army, in a racist part of France. Mary Louise Roberts, who teaches history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has put before us Davis’ and Jordan’s story and those of many of their compatriots, in her recent book, “What Soldiers Do.”

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Jack L.B. Gohn: Two lawyers named Thomas

King Henry VIII of England and his intimates have recently been brought to televised life in The Tudors and revivified in Hilary Mantel’s trilogy of historical novels, now two-thirds complete, about Lord Chamberlain Thomas Cromwell. The books and the television show run us through all the same events and from a surprisingly similar perspective. A picture emerges.

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Jack Gohn: The Torture Report – We need names, consequences

Ordinarily, when this column turns to things our government has done wrong, out of respect as much as anything else, it lays out the facts in some detail. This time, I’m sick of facts; I have waded through most of the 600-page report of the Constitution Project’s Task Force on Detainee Treatment, in particular the parts that had to do with torture.

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Jack L. B. Gohn: On same-sex marriage, reasonable minds may no longer differ

Last November, Maryland had a referendum on same-sex marriage. In the run-up to the election, the Catholic archbishop of Baltimore wrote a letter effectively ordering the faithful to vote against gays and lesbians marrying, and directed that it be read aloud in every pulpit. A friend of mine, from a venerable and distinguished Catholic family, was in church that Sunday with her two teen-aged daughters, both of whom attend Catholic schools. After Mass that day and hearing the letter read, they announced to their mother that they were finished going to church — and obviously, short of dragging them physically, the mother had no way of forcing them into the pew. So that was that: the Church had just lost two bright young members.

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Jack L.B. Gohn: An informed debate begins about drones

Those of us who have been urging disclosure of the legal reasoning behind the Administration’s drone killings policy have received nothing but vindication from the vital debate that ensued after the leakage last month of the Congressional Briefing, the so-called Department of Justice White Paper culled from Office of Legal Counsel memoranda. Even though this was surely but a sampling of the OLC memos that must exist, and even though nothing can diminish the inherent complexity of the subject, I sense a certain clarity emerging in the resulting discussion. And, so far as I can see, the disclosure came at zero cost in terms of the nation’s strategic and tactical options.

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Jack Gohn: The secret warriors’ secret law unveiled (kind of)

And why am I under arrest? Herr K asks in Kafka’s The Trial. That’s something we’re not allowed to tell you, the plainclothes arresting officer responds. This surprises K: K was living in a free country, after all, everywhere was at peace, all laws were decent and were upheld.

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Jack Gohn: Spring cleaning

Periodically, the moment known as spring cleaning arrives. We scour out closets and garages and attics, and rid ourselves of accumulated bric-a-brac, of objects that (rightly or wrongly) seemed like good ideas when we acquired them, but no longer do. Garage sales, passing things along to Goodwill, and just putting junk out on the curb for the sanitation workers — all these tactics are vital to our domestic success. If we didn’t cull and toss the accumulated flotsam now and then, it would eventually render our homes impassable and uninhabitable.

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