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Jon Wiener


  • Originally published 08/08/2013

    Jon Wiener interviews Dan Savage for The Nation

    Jon Wiener teaches US history at UC Irvine.Dan Savage started the “It Gets Better” project in 2010, with a short video online addressed to gay, lesbian, bi and transgender young people facing harassment, letting them know that, yes, it gets better.  Today more than 50,000 people have posted videos at ItGetsBetter.org, which have been viewed more than 50 million times.  He’s also a best-selling author whose new book is American Savage.  He lives in Seattle with his husband, Terry, and their 15-year-old son, D.J. Jon Wiener: How did you feel when you first heard the news that the Supreme Court had overruled DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act that had defined marriage as limited to two people of the opposite sex?  I’m morbid, so my first thought was ‘I can die now.’Dan Savage: You didn’t think “now we can live happily ever after”?

  • Originally published 07/29/2013

    Jon Wiener: The Gore Vidal FBI File

    Jon Wiener teaches US history at UC Irvine.The first page of Gore Vidal’s FBI file, released by the bureau after his death a year ago on July 31, is not about his political activism, his critique of the National Security State or even about his homosexuality. The first page, from 1960, says he made disparaging remarks about FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.The problem: Vidal’s play The Best Man (a satire of Washington politics with characters loosely based on real political figures) had just opened on Broadway, and the assistant special agent in charge of the New York City office sent a memo to Cartha DeLoach, Hoover’s right-hand man, informing him that the play contained “an unnecessary, quite unfunny and certainly unfair jibe [sic] at J. Edgar Hoover”—according to a show-biz columnist for a daily newspaper.

  • Originally published 03/25/2013

    Jon Wiener: Homeless Vets vs. the VA: An LA Story Continues

    Jon Wiener teaches history at UC Irvine and is a contributing editor to The Nation.Greg Valentini is a homeless vet in Los Angeles who took part in the initial invasion of Afghanistan and participated in the assault on Tora Bora that sought Osama bin Laden. He’s also a plaintiff in the class action suit brought by the ACLU of Southern California (ACLU-SC) arguing that the VA has “misused large portions of its West Los Angeles campus and failed to provide adequate housing and treatment for the people it was intended to serve.” (See my Nation article “LA’s Homeless Vets.”) Valentini was a private in the 101st Airborne, and the lawsuit describes his service in Afghanistan: “He took part in significant ground fighting, under nearly constant sniper fire and mortar bombardment” and “witnessed the gruesome deaths of numerous civilians, including children.” He was redeployed to Iraq, where he again experienced heavy combat. He received six decorations for his service.

  • Originally published 03/14/2013

    Jon Wiener: For-Profit Fiasco: California Public Colleges Turn to Web Courses

    Jon Wiener is an historian who teaches at UC Irvine, and a contributing editor to The Nation.Here’s how California treats its public colleges and universities: first, cut public funds, and thus classes; then wait for over-enrollment, as students are unable to get the classes they need to graduate; finally, shift classes online, for profit. That’s the way Laila Lalami, UC Riverside creative writing professor, explained it in a recent tweet, and that’s pretty much the whole story behind the bill introduced this week by the Democratic leader of the state senate, Darrell Steinberg. His bill requires California’s community colleges, along with the 23 Cal State schools and the ten-campus university, to allow students to substitute online courses for required courses taught by faculty members. The key to the proposal: the online courses will be offered by profit-making companies.

  • Originally published 03/01/2013

    Jon Wiener: Another Watergate Gap

    The Nixon Presidential Library and Museum opened a new exhibit in Yorba Linda and online Feb. 15, "Patriot, President, Peacemaker." It covers Richard Nixon's entire life, like the permanent installation there, and claims to present "a fuller picture" than ever before.

  • Originally published 02/12/2013

    Jon Wiener: Lincoln's Birthday Special: Management Advice from Honest Abe

    Jon Wiener teaches US history at UC Irvine.Thanks to Steven Spielberg and his film Lincoln, we’ve been hit by a new wave of management wisdom supposedly gleaned from the film’s central character.  Business Week ran a piece titled “Career Lessons from Spielberg’s Lincoln”; the New York Times called theirs “Lincoln’s School of Management.”  Doris Kearns Goodwin, whose book on Lincoln and his cabinet, Team of Rivals, famously provided the basis for some of the movie, has been back on the “leadership advice” circuit.......[But] there are some key moments in Lincoln’s life that the management advice people have neglected.  One came in his Second Inaugural, when he declared that, if the Civil War continued “until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword”—if that happened, he said, he would conclude that "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether." 

  • Originally published 01/31/2013

    Jon Wiener: 'The Americans': Soviet Spies on Cable TV

    Jon Wiener teaches U.S. history at UC Irvine. His most recent book is How We Forgot the Cold War: A Historical Journey across America. The best thing about “The Americans,” the new spy show on FX cable TV, is that the Soviet spies are not Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.  They are a different married couple--Russians, sent by the KGB from Moscow to Washington DC.  The show begins shortly after Reagan takes office....If Claire Danes and Mandy Patinkin of “Homeland” had been assigned to this case, they would have caught Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys, the stars of “The Americans,” in episode one.Ron Radosh, David Horowitz & Co. will be unhappy with this show (of course they are unhappy about so many things) because the spies in question are not American communists.  They do have a point there – the most successful Soviet spies in the US were not Russians.  I’m not talking here about Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.  Historians today pretty much agree that Julius was a spy but he didn’t give the Soviets the secret of the A-bomb; Ethel was innocent but was framed by her brother, David Greenglass, because the FBI threatened to indict his own wife....

  • Originally published 01/22/2013

    Jon Wiener: When Universities Sell Art: The Case of Columbia's Rembrandt

    Jon Wiener teaches US history at UC Irvine and is a contributing editor for "The Nation."A Rembrandt portrait that had been protected by Columbia student protesters in 1968 and later sold by Columbia for $1 million is back on the market this year, with a price tag of $47 million.  The story of the 1658 painting, Man with Arms Akimbo, has many lessons, starting with the folly of universities selling art to make money.When radical students at Columbia occupied several buildings, including Low Library, the administration building, in May 1968 to protest university complicity in the Vietnam War, the painting hung in the office of then president Grayson Kirk. According to The New York Times, the student occupiers agreed to allow police to remove the painting to protect it.Student radicals in 1968 were criticized as barbarians out to destroy the university and all that it stood for. But the students at Columbia protected the university’s Rembrandt—and then the university put it in storage, and sold it in 1975 in a secret transaction with a private collector. A painting that should have been on display disappeared from public view for the next forty years—in exchange for which the university got $1 million. So who were the real barbarians?...

  • Originally published 01/15/2013

    Eight Things I Miss About the Cold War

    Credit: Wiki Commons.At a book festival in Los Angeles recently, some writers (myself included) were making the usual arguments about the problems with American politics in the 1950s -- until one panelist shocked the audience by declaring, “God, I miss the Cold War.” His grandmother, he said, had come to California from Oklahoma with a grade-school education, but found a job in an aerospace factory in L.A. during World War II, joined the union, got healthcare and retirement benefits, and prospered in the Cold War years. She ended up owning a house in the suburbs and sending her kids to UCLA.Several older people in the audience leaped to their feet shouting, “What about McCarthyism?”  “The bomb?” “Vietnam?” “Nixon?”

  • Originally published 12/17/2013

    American Hellfire: Historian Robert Neer on "Napalm"

    February 1942. Just two months after the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, at a dark time of defeat and anxiety for America, a bright spot for the military: Harvard researchers led by revered chemist Louis Fieser developed an incendiary weapon that would burn longer than traditional weapons, stick to targets, and extinguish only with difficulty. It was cheaper and more stable than existing alternatives, could survive extremes of hot and cold in storage, and could be mixed by soldiers on the battlefield.      

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