Bozeman, Mont.

In “Morality Gets a Massage,” your May 28 editorial criticizing the Administration’s focus on abstinence over AIDS prevention, you proclaim, “Nine states have now turned down the tempting pot of abstinence money, including ‘red state’ Montana.” Montana has two Democratic US senators. Our governor and four or five statewide elected officials are Democrats. The State Senate (26 to 24) is Democratic. Montana’s secretary of state, State House of Representatives (50 to 49) and US House member are Republican. Color us purple (deep purple) if you wish. Red we ain’t.



Cambridge, Mass.

I don’t recall any outrage from the hard left when Noam Chomsky led a campaign of outsiders against Henry Kissinger’s efforts to receive a tenured chair at Columbia University. Nor do I recall outrage when Norman Finkelstein tried to get NYU Professor Burt Neuborne fired and disbarred. But now suddenly when a darling of the anti-Israel hard left, Norman Finkelstein, is up for tenure it becomes “virtually unprecedented,” in the words of Jon Wiener [“The Chutzpah Industry,” May 21], to send unsolicited letters to DePaul University. Nor does it matter to Wiener that my letter was in fact solicited, in writing, by the former chairman of DePaul’s political science department.

I strongly believe that Norman Finkelstein does not deserve tenure at any university, any more than David Duke or Ann Coulter do. His writing is not scholarship. It is entirely ad hominem. Those who disagree with my assessment have exercised their freedom of speech by signing petitions and writing unsolicited letters to DePaul. I will continue to exercise my freedom of speech and urge others to do likewise. Freedom of speech is not only for the hard left and not only for Norman Finkelstein. It goes both ways and neither Jon Wiener nor the DePaul Faculty Governance Counsel will stop me from exercising my academic freedom and my right of free speech.



Jon Wiener writes that the “political science chair” contacted Peter Novick of the University of Chicago concerning allegations of academic misconduct against Norman Finkelstein. It’s a minor point, but Professor Novick was not contacted by the then-serving department chair but by a former chair acting as an individual member of the faculty. As chair of the department since 2005 (before the start of the Finkelstein tenure process), I have never contacted professors Dershowitz or Novick on this or any other matter.



Irvine, Calif.

Alan Dershowitz tries to change the subject from his conduct to Chomsky’s–thirty years ago–but I couldn’t resist a little fact-checking. Chomsky did not in fact lead “a campaign of outsiders against Henry Kissinger’s efforts to receive a tenured chair at Columbia University”–at least not according to the Washington Post. The Post reported that in 1977, “A faculty organization, complaining that university officials decided on the [Kissinger] appointment in secret and violated normal review procedures, has obtained the signatures of over 130 faculty and research staff members to a letter opposing Kissinger; another group has prepared a petition signed by 1,000 students, faculty and staff members protesting the appointment.” The Columbia Spectator declared in a front-page editorial, “There is no place at Columbia for Henry Kissinger.” None of this was Chomsky’s work. He isn’t mentioned in the Post story until paragraph ten, which reports that he spoke at a protest rally. So much for Dershowitz changing the subject.

Dershowitz says his letter about Norman Finkelstein “was in fact solicited”–but not by the dozens of DePaul faculty members he sent it to. That’s why the school’s Faculty Governance Council voted unanimously in November to write to administrators at both DePaul and Harvard expressing “dismay at Professor Dershowitz’s interference in Finkelstein’s tenure and promotion case.” That’s why the issue is not Dershowitz’s freedom of speech but rather his interference in what Michael Budde called “the integrity of our process and our institution.”




Thanks for mentioning, in your May 7 tribute to Kurt Vonnegut, that he hailed from Indiana. Unlike many famous authors, Vonnegut had great affection for and maintained close ties with his hometown, Indianapolis, where his father and grandfather had been prominent architects. He credited much of his literary success to the good education he received at the city’s Shortridge High School. He liked to mention that Indianapolis was the first place in America (and probably the last) where a white man was hanged for the murder of a Native American.

Ironically, the City of Indianapolis had proclaimed 2007 as “The Year of Vonnegut.” All kinds of celebratory events were planned, the biggest being a major address by Vonnegut himself on April 27. Tragically, he died April 11. However, he had written his Indianapolis speech ahead of time, which was delivered April 27 by Mark Vonnegut, the author’s son. Thus, Vonnegut’s last speech was set in the nation’s heartland, which I suspect is the way he would have wanted it.



San Antonio

When recalling films like Norma Rae [“Letters,” May 7], let’s not forget the wonderful and inspiring Woody Guthrie in Bound for Glory. The working person’s troubadour, Woody never hesitated to make waves even if it meant capsizing his own boat. He was a true working-class hero too often ignored in history books but certainly brought back to life in this outstanding film.


Santa Monica, Calif.

In his May 7 letter, Irv Silver warns against “historical amnesia” regarding Salt of the Earth, but then engages in historical fallacy. The film’s director, Herbert Biberman, was not arrested during the filming and did not direct the film “by letter and phone from prison.” The film’s female star, Rosaura Revueltas, was deported during filming, and a crew had to go to Mexico to finish filming some of her scenes.



Tulsa, Okla.

Laura Flanders’s April 23 “Bottom-Up Power” on organizations uniting to register and turn out voters prompts me to let you know about our own Kalyn Free and INDN’s List. This organization recruits and trains Native American Democrats to run for public office at all levels. Kalyn had much success in the 2006 cycle. For more information: Kalyn Free INDN’s List, 406 South Boulder, Tulsa, OK 74103; (918) 583-6100;



We have had an unusually high volume of mail reacting to our May 7 special issue on global warming and to Alexander Cockburn’s series of columns (May 14 and 28) debunking mankind’s responsibility for it. Next week our letters page will be devoted to this mail.