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VOLUME 88, No. 8 A JOURNAL OF FREE VOICES We will serve no group or party but will hew hard to the truth as we find it and the right as we see it. We are dedicated to the whole truth, to human values above all interests, to the rights of human-kind as the foundation of democracy: we will take orders from none but our own conscience, and never will we overlook or misrepresent the truth to serve the interests of the powerful or cater to the ignoble in the human spirit. Writers are responsible for their own work, but not for anything they have not themselves written, and in publishing them we do not necessarily imply that we agree with them, because this is a journal of free voices. SINCE 1954 Founding Editor: Ronnie Dugger Publisher: Geoff Rips Managing Publisher: Rebecca Melancon Editor: Louis Dubose Associate Editor: Michael King Production: Harrison Saunders Copy Editor: Mimi Bardagjy Poetry Editor: Naomi Shihab Nye Subscription and Office Manager: Amanda Toering Editorial Intern: Ayelet Hines Contributing Writers: Bill Adler, Barbara Belejack, Betty Brink, Brett Campbell, Jo Clifton, Carol Countryman, Lars Eighner, James Galbraith, Dagoberto Gilb, James Harrington, Jim Hightower, Molly Ivins, Steven Kellman, Tom McClellan, Bryce Milligan, Debbie Nathan, Brad Tyer, James McCarty Yeager. Contributing Photographers: Vic Hinterlang, Alan Pogue. Contributing Artists: Michael Alexander, Eric Avery, Tom Ballenger, Richard Bartholomew, Jeff Danziger, Beth Epstein, Valerie Fowler, Kevin Kreneck, Michael Krone, Ben Sargent, Gail Woods. Editorial Advisory Board: David Anderson, Austin; Elroy Bode, El Paso; Chandler Davidson, Houston; Dave Denison, Arlington, Mass.; Bob Eckhardt, Austin; Sissy Farenthold, Houston; John Kenneth Galbraith, Cambridge, Mass.; Lawrence Goodwyn, Durham, N.C.; George Hendrick, Urbana, Ill.; Molly Ivins, Austin; Larry L. King. Washington, D.C.; Maury Maverick, Jr., San Antonio; Willie Morris, Jackson, Miss.; Kaye Northcott, Fort Worth; James Presley, Texarkana; Fred Schmidt, Fredericksburg. Development Consultant: Frances Barton Business Manager: Cliff Olofson, 1931-1995 SUBSCRIPTIONS: One year $32, two years $59, three years $84. Full-time students $18 per year. Back issues $3 prepaid. Airmail, foreign, group, and bulk rates on request. Microfilm editions available front University Microscriber who finds the price a burden should say so at renewal time; no one need forgo reading the Observer simply because of the cost. INDEXES: The Texas Observer is indexed in Access: The Supplementary Index to Periodicals; Texas Index and, for the years 1954 through 198I,The Texas Observer Index. copyrighted, 0 1996, is published biweekly except for a three-weelvinterval 477-0746. E-mail: txobserver\(e’ World Wide Web DownHome page: Second-class postage paid at Austin. Texas. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to THE TEXAS OBSERVER, 307 West 7th Street, Austin, Texas 78701. SOLOMON UNWISE? While I have concerns about the impact of international trade agreements on U.S. environmental laws and regulation, Norman Solomon’s article, “Clean Air Fouled by accurate piece of reporting. Solomon’s statement, “a global trade authority ordered the United States to allow higher levels of air pollution,” outraged me. I learned more from the actual text of the order \(available on the internet at gopher://gopher.igc.apc. First, it should be noted that the order affects the regulation of about three percent of gasoline used in the United States. Second, it affects the method for calculating a baseline against which the clean air qualities of imported gasoline will be measured. The World Trade Organization found that imported gasoline would be held to a higher standard than domestically refined gasoline. Its order requires the United States to hold imported gasoline to the same standard as domestic. It seems to me that very little gasoline is affected in the first place, and that the difference in regulation that is being required by the WTO does not seem that great in the second. Solomon needs to better explain why his argument is not just an abstract complaint with little relevance to the air we actually breathe. John Wilson Houston Norman Solomon replies: The World Trade Organization’s power is all too relevant to the air we’ll actually breathe. John Wilson has overlooked some key factors: The imported gasoline at issue, from Venezuela and elsewhere, is heavily laden with smog-producing chemicals known as “aromatics.” It is mostly destined for urban areas of the Northeast, where the health effects of heightened air pollution could be . appreciable. As the Los Angeles Times noted on January 19, the U.S. government had “established a baseline for determining the acceptable amount of contaminants. A separate requirement was set up for those countries, such as Venezuela, whose firms had not historically kept the records necessary to meet the standards.” The WTO’s January 17 ruling promises to be just the beginning of multinational assaults on the U.S. Clean Air Act. Now that the WTO has ruled that the Act poses an unfair trade barrier, the path will be smoother for dirtier gasoline from / various other countries to find its way into gas pumps in the United States. The implications of the WTO ruling go well beyond air quality. In the apt words of Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch: “Under the WTO, countries and their democraticallyelected representatives are very limited in what they can do to implement and enforce environmental objectives.” FREE VOICES Since I have been subscribing to the unique Texas Observer have introduced to Commerce audiences such stimulating speakers as Ronnie Dugger, Greg Olds, Willie Morris, Molly Ivins, and, this year, your poetry editor, Naomi Shihab Nye. She \(in her own poetry and her extraordinary knowledge of the well-chosen words of your admirable creed which appears in each issue of the Observer. Jim Byrd Commerce HIP-.DEEP OBSERVATIONS I just wanted to drop you a short note to say thanks for your story on the Merco business \(“Sued and Censored!” March Observer has covered a very important story that has been virtually ignored by the rest of the press. I am grateful for [Lou Dubose’s] personal work and for the Observer in general. Keep up the great work. Don Gardner Austin Thank you for going to Pecos and more importantly, thank you for writing about it. In many ways the outcome of the Pecos libel trial explains the baffling vacuum we have witnessed for years in West Texas when it comes to issues of social responsibility. When there is disdain for open debate and complacency in seeking knowledge, the muscles of knowledge atrophy and wisdom itself becomes suspect. West Texas is in a sad and impossible situation. Linda Lynch Chicago Write Dialogue: The Texas Observer 307 West 7th St., Austin, TX 78701. DIALOGUE 2 APRIL 19, 1996