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Jon Wiener

Contributing Editor

Jon Wiener is host and producer of “Start Making Sense,” The Nation’s weekly podcast. He teaches US history at UC Irvine, and his most recent book is How We Forgot the Cold War: A Historical Journey across America. He sued the FBI under the Freedom of Information Act for its files on John Lennon. With the help of the ACLU of Southern California, Wiener v. FBI went all the way to the Supreme Court before the FBI settled in 1997. That story is told in Wiener’s book, Gimme Some Truth: The John Lennon FBI Files; some of the pages of the Lennon FBI file are posted here. The story is also told in the documentary, “The U.S. Versus John Lennon,” released in 2006.  His work has also appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the New Republic, and the Los Angeles Times. It has been translated into Japanese, German, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, Danish and Italian.

Wiener also hosts a weekly afternoon drive-time interview show on KPFK 90.7 FM in Los Angeles His guests have included Gail Collins, Jane Mayer, Joan Didion, Gore Vidal, Barbara Ehrenreich, Frank Rich, Seymour Hersh, Amos Oz, Mike Davis, Elmore Leonard, John Dean, Julian Bond, Al Franken, and Terry Gross.

Jon Wiener was born in St. Paul, Minnesota and attended Central High School there. He has a B.A. from Princeton and a Ph.D. from Harvard, where he began working as a writer in the late sixties for the underground paper The Old Mole. He lives in Los Angeles.


  • March 19, 2009

    Obama Takes Fight to Southern Calif. GOP

    When Barack Obama appeared on Wednesday at a town hall-style event at the Orange County Fairgrounds in Southern California, he was challenging the Republicans in their historic heartland. The area had been ground zero for the Goldwater revolution in the early 1960s. Orange County provided the core supporters and the money that launched Ronald Reagan's political career in the mid-sixties. Reagan won 75 per cent of Orange County's vote in 1984; George W. Bush won 60 per cent in 2004. The county has always been solidly Republican.

    Until Obama.

    The hardest of hard-core Republican congressional districts in California is coastal Orange County, centered on the wealthy town of Newport Beach – previously Chris Cox's district before George Bush elevated him to head the SEC. California political experts were stunned on Nov. 4 when Obama carried the district – by 2,500 votes. And in the city of Costa Mesa, Obama beat McCain 51-45.

    Jon Wiener

  • March 17, 2009

    AIG’s “Best and Brightest”

    "We cannot attract and retain the best and brightest talent," AIG says, unless they pay those bonuses -- $165 million. Barney Frank had the best and brightest reply: on the Rachel Maddow Show Monday night, he said: "I don't want to retain them."

    He's talking about the people at AIG who brought down the company and then the financial institutions and then the rest of the world economy. "If you are trying to undo mistakes," Frank said, "it‘s very often not a good idea to keep the people who made the mistakes in there."

    But that $165 million is only the latest in outrageous payments to "the best and brightest" talent at AIG. The disaster was rooted in AIG's Financial Products Group in London. In 2008, when the unit was collapsing, "they were still paying the head of the unit a consulting fee of $1 million a month," according to Gretchen Morgenson of the New York Times, interviewed Monday on "Fresh Air with Terry Gross."

    Jon Wiener


  • Politics February 26, 2009

    Opening the Files on Bush’s Secrets

    Freedom of Information wish list: What did Treasury do with the TARP money? Who authorized torture? Plus, warrantless wiretap targets, FEMA's Katrina records and White House e-mail.

    Jon Wiener

  • History January 28, 2009

    Let the Sun Shine In

    The era of secrecy in government is officially over.

    Jon Wiener

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  • Politics January 15, 2009

    Rick Warren’s Clout

    How powerful is he? Take a look at his tax breaks.

    Jon Wiener

  • November 24, 2008

    Prediction: Franken Will Win by 27 Votes

    Nate Silver, whose website FiveThirtyEight.com had the most accurate predictions for the Nov. 4 vote for president and senators, has a new prediction: Al Franken will win the Minnesota Senate recount -- by 27 votes.

    Franken came in 215 votes behind incumbent Republican Norm Coleman on election day, in an election where 2.9 million votes were cast. Under Minnesota election law, a hand recount was mandatory and began last Wednesday.

    Silver, a sports statistician who turned his formidable mathematical talents to evaluating political polls for the 2008 election, became a legend among political junkies when his final prediction for the Nov. 4 election accurately predicted the winner of 49 of the 50 states. He forecast that Obama would beat McCain by 6.1 percentage points; Obama won by 6.8 points. Silver also correctly predicted the winner of every Senate race (except for Minnesota, which has not yet been settled).

    Jon Wiener

  • November 22, 2008

    Hillary’s Big Ethics Problem: Bill

    What guidelines should govern Bill Clinton's future activities if Hillary becomes Secretary of State? Recent events suggest that at least two are necessary: no more favors for human rights violators in exchange for big contributions to the Clinton Foundation; and no more lying to the news media about such deals.

    It's worth remembering the nearly-forgotten story we could call "Bill Clinton and the Kazakh uranium." As Jo Becker and Don Van Natta Jr. of the New York Times reported in January, 2008, Bill Clinton was part of a corrupt three-way deal in 2005 involving the president of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, whose human rights record has been criticized by many, including the Bush White House -- and Senator Hillary Clinton.

    Kazakhstan has uranium--one fifth of the world's reserves. The president of Kazakhstan wanted to be named head of an international election-monitoring organization--the same one that had ruled his election fraudulent. What to do?

    Jon Wiener

  • November 19, 2008

    McCain’s Favorite TV Show, ’24,’ Brings Torture Back Sunday

    John McCain's favorite TV show, 24 -- the one that glorifies torture - is returning to Fox TV this Sunday night with a two-hour special.

    McCain named 24 as his favorite show on his Facebook page. The show has done more to advance the Bush White House defense of torture than anything else in the American media. According to its "ticking time bomb" scenario, the only way to stop terrorists from exploding a nuclear weapon in the heart of an American city is to torture them into revealing their fiendish plot.

    During the campaign McCain was asked by a reporter which celebrity he most identified with. "It's Jack Bauer," he replied -- the Kiefer Sutherland character who does most of the torturing. "We have a lot in common." And in 2007 he talked about 24 on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart: "I watch it all the time," he said. "I'm sort of a Jack Bauer kind of guy."

    Jon Wiener

  • November 5, 2008

    California Initiatives: Go Figure

    In California's wild world of ballot initiatives, the chickens defeated the egg factory owners, and an anti-abortion parental notification proposition was defeated.

    Prop. 8, the ban on gay marriage, is winning 52-48 with 95 per cent reporting: see our separate coverage today by Richard Kim.

    California's anti-abortion/parental notification initiative is losing, 52-48, with 95 percent of precincts reporting. The campaign was deeply dishonest – proponents called their proposition "Sarah's Law," supposedly in honor of a 15-year-old girl who died from an abortion gone wrong 14 years ago, an abortion where the parents were not notified. As the LA Times pointed out in an editorial, "Much of that is false. The girl's name wasn't Sarah; she lived in Texas, not California; and though she was 15, she already had a child and was in a common-law marriage, which means she wouldn't have been covered by the law Californians are being asked to consider."

    Jon Wiener