Your rebuttal of the Knapp/Thomas letter on the organochlorines article [Press Briefs, "Fool Us Once..." by Josh Daniel, January 20] was uncalled for! Like many Houstonians, I am very interested in reducing the pollution caused by the "bad" chemicals in consumer products, their manufacturing byproducts. Also, like many Houstonians, I am employed by a company which operates in the worldwide petrochemical industry. We manufacture the equipment which is used by chemical plants, which make the raw materials, which are used to make the products you buy for your family at Randall's, Builder's Square and Toys-R-Us. Every drop and ounce of chemicals is consumed in one way or another by you and the rest of us on earth in one product or another.

The solution to the chemical problem is knowledge and market information (which will come from these same folks and hopefully would be printed in the Houston Press) about alternative chemicals that can replace the "bad" ones -- which chlorines admittedly appear to be. These alternative chemicals are then researched, manufactured, processed, marketed and distributed by the same people who do it now. Then you can still go to Randall's, Builder's Square and Toy-R-Us and not be disappointed.

If you want to impact the organochlorine problem, ask your educated readers (or better yet -- Greenpeace) for an alternative to organochlorines -- then Houston Press can spread the word. Interested people like myself (and Knapp and Thomas) will adjust our purchases accordingly.

Gary Beck

Editor's Note: Per Mr. Beck's suggestion, we asked Greenpeace for alternatives to organochlorines. Here's what Bill Walker, the organization's chief press officer, had to say:

Don't take Greenpeace's word for it. The entire class of organochlorines has been targeted for phase-out by such authoritative bodies as the International Joint Commission on the Great Lakes, the Barcelona Convention on the Mediterranean and the Paris Commission on the North Atlantic. For all major chlorine uses, alternatives exist today: soap and water to clean circuit boards, instead of CFCs; organic farming instead of pesticides; durable, reusable materials instead of PVC plastic; paper in natural tones instead of bleached white. Ultimately, one of the most compelling reasons to phase out chlorine is because we can.

Justice Is Served
I very much appreciated Steve McVicker's article "The Life and Death of Houston's ACLU" [December 23]. Although his balanced account suggests that the national ACLU is beginning to show greater sensitivity to its Texas affiliate and even its former Houston chapter, I for one will continue to look to the Clark Read Foundation for leadership in the Houston civil-liberties community as long as Bruce Griffiths remains a member of the foundation's board.

Griffiths earned my undying respect and admiration in the summer of 1989 when, as the Houston ACLU staff attorney, he agreed to assist me in the defense of a lawsuit filed against me and my organization by the tobacco and alcohol conglomerate Philip Morris. My colleagues and I had produced a T-shirt aimed at ridiculing the company's sponsorship of the Special Olympics. Parodying Philip Morris' ad-campaign slogan "Miller Lite... We're Having a Party," our T-shirt featured a drunk barfing into a toilet and read, "Killer Lite Beer... We're Grabbin' a Potty." The Houston Post ran a photograph and an article about the shirt (written by then medical writer [and current Press reporter] D.J. Wilson), and within a few days I was slapped with state and federal lawsuits by Philip Morris claiming everything from trademark infringement to damage of their good name.

Although I was initially amused, I soon sobered up when none of the major law firms in Houston was willing to defend me. After first expressing enthusiasm for taking on the case, several attorneys called back apologetically after learning that their firms were on a retainer from either Philip Morris or another tobacco or alcohol company. I was reluctant to call the ACLU because in recent years its national office has become an outspoken supporter of Philip Morris -- and a recipient of financial contributions from the company -- in the fight against restrictions on tobacco and alcohol advertising. Ironically, I myself do not support prohibition of the company's ads or its products, preferring instead to mobilize public disdain by means of satire, such as the T-shirt I designed.

I finally called the Houston ACLU. I will never forget the professional way in which the staff member listened to my story and then transferred me to Bruce Griffiths. He immediately invited me to discuss my case with him at the ACLU office, and within a few days had connected me with an outstanding attorney, Rick Knight. The lawsuits were settled very much to our satisfaction.

I have no doubt whatsoever that a local Houston ACLU chapter ruled by New York policy-makers all too cozy with the corporation that was suing me and my nonprofit health advocacy organization would never have helped me. Under Griffiths the Houston ACLU truly protected the civil liberties of the underdog.

Alan Blum, M.D.
Chairman, Doctors Ought to Care

Listings with Bite
It was a treat to read the new [Press] restaurant listings. They are objective, credible and fun to read. I also appreciate that you (or someone) actually ate here. No one could have written our blurb without a real Treebeards meal.

Dan Tidwell
Co-owner, Treebeards

To Forgive is Divine
Please bring back News of the Weird and Click & Clack. What is cake without icing? What is sex without love? What is the Houston Press without these two entertaining columns? To correct a mistake is divine.

Michael Bolton



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