AUSTIN, Texas -- We Texans are sleeping more soundly at night now that Land Commissioner David Dewhurst is on the job as state director of Homeland Security, preventing attacks on important cultural monuments, such as the statue of the roadrunner in Fort Stockton. Dewhurst normally spends his time laboring on anti- litter campaigns, but he is fully qualified to ensure Homeland Security on account of he was once in the CIA doing something in Latin America we'd probably rather not know about.

On his regular watch, all Dewhurst has done for Texans' security is permit the Longhorn Pipeline Co. to build through populated areas without so much as an environmental impact statement, thus endangering the lives of thousands, if you believe those alarmist environmentalist types. Just the man for the job.

We would feel even better about this if alert eyes had not noted a peculiar error in a recent Dewhurst political ad in the Texas Monthly (he' s running for lieutenant governor, which has (SET ITAL) nothing (END ITAL) to do with the governor naming him security czar). In this four-page, full-color ad about Dewhurst's many virtues was a photo of a soldier standing in front of an American flag, all the better to emphasize Dewhurst' s patriotism. Unfortunately, the soldier was in the German Army, wearing German insignia on his uniform.

Great, our Homeland Security Czar can't even recognize a foreign soldier in uniform in his own ad -- hard to believe a terrorist might slip past him.

Speaking of homeland security, heads up -- between panic attacks about anthrax, you should eyeball the "fast track" negotiating authority on trade agreements. The effect of this legislation, which House Republicans are pushing for an early vote, is to allow trade agreements to be enacted without congressional input. No amendments to the agreements will be permitted, Congress can only vote up or down. This will make trade negotiations even more secret and unaccountable. G.W. Bush, not exactly a strong proponent of labor rights, promised to "consider" labor issues, but according to the Indian press, the World Trade Organization has "dropped" all labor-related issues from its agenda.

Robert Zoellick, Bush's trade rep, has been running around Washington telling people we need the fast-track authority to combat terrorism. He must have gotten that idea from David Dewhurst. This is one of the most unwelcome "hitch-hikers" on the Sept. 11 attacks, and it's particularly shameless conduct on the part of the big corporations.

Meanwhile, Sept. 11 has had the odd effect of strengthening the hand of the developing countries on one big issue. After four deaths from anthrax last month, Secretary Tommy Thompson threatened to override the Bayer company's patent on Cipro, the anti-anthrax drug. Bayer then dropped the price from $1.77 a pill to 95 cents. The Canadian government just ignored the patent and is getting Cipro for about 5 cents a pill.

But the United States has been stoutly defending the right of the big pharmaceutical companies to charge their rip-off prices. You can imagine how countries suffering through the AIDS epidemic, losing tens of thousands of people, reacted to the U.S. threat to override a patent after four deaths.

One of the ironies of trade negotiations is that the developing countries, like the big corporations, are firmly opposed to labor and environmental standards since they see them as part of a plot by the developed countries to stack the agreements in their own favor. The AFL-CIO is actually asking for basic human rights -- no child labor, no slave labor. Pretty radical stuff.

According to the National Journal, the Republican House leadership, aka, the Texas 'wingers Armey and DeLay, is urging Bush to use his high standing in the polls to turn reluctant Republicans on the fast-track legislation, as he did on the repellent economic stimulus package. They want to him to call in the waverers, whip them into line -- without this, they know they'll lose. Heaven forfend that any of them might actually use their own best judgment on an issue when the president's popularity is at 85 percent.

Of course, we are supposed to be too polite to mention it in time of national emergency, but campaign contributions have been known to affect congressional votes, as they so painfully obviously did with the House economic stimulus package. Even the Wall Street Journal's opinion page, which is somewhere to the right of Ethelred the Unready, carried a column that expressed appall at the corporate giveaways in that bill.

If you want to hold together support for a war against terrorism, this is not the right way to go about it. People are somewhat less inclined to risk their lives for their country in far-away places when they notice they're getting ripped off by greedheads at home.

To find out more about Molly Ivins and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at COPYRIGHT 2001 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.