The Outcome is Rigged

Expect Congress to resolve the 20-year-long battle over exploring for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and in coastal waters before Thanksgiving.

Upshot: The rigs are going to rip.

The Republican leadership is wrapping both offshore exploration and Arctic drilling measures in a must-pass budget bill headed for House action. Under budget rules, the measure is crafted to be filibuster-proof so it can head off intense opposition in the Senate.

Environmentalists, who have led campaigns in the past to block offshore and Arctic oil exploration, are furious. The Natural Resources Defense Fund says 75 percent of offshore sites already are open for drilling, and there’s no need to touch the remaining 25 percent of sites that are protected.

Should the Alamagordo proving grounds where the world’s first nuclear bomb exploded become a national park? The Park Service is quietly studying the idea, as well as including other formerly super-secret sites of the Manhattan Project on a listing of future parks. That would stop tourists from taking away any more of the eerie green glass remnants from the desert floor left by the first bomb’s intense heat.

Those gold things that Republican House members are sporting on their coat lapels these days are hammers. It’s part of a campaign by the GOP to show their solidarity behind Rep. Tom “The Hammer” DeLay of Texas, who was forced to step aside as Republican leader after he was indicted in Texas on charges of illegally funneling corporate funds to races in that state.

Can inflatable rats be used by union rank and file to protest their employer’s position in labor disputes? A New York labor judge says no: leafleting is OK in disputes, but giant inflatable rats are a form of picketing and so aren’t permitted in information campaigns that fall short of strikes. Unions say banning rats violates their free speech rights and they’re appealing to the National Labor Relations Board.

While many retailers are gloomy about skyrocketing heating bills translating into lower Christmas sales, the Consumer Electronics Association says its surveys indicate a consumer boom this Christmas, with a 14 percent increase in spending. The industry says purchases of personal electronic equipment will increase 9 percent, with MP3 players topping both wish lists and gift lists, replacing last year’s digital cameras.

“Please do NOT mail disks or photos via the U.S. Post Office. The irradiation process melts them.” _ notice on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service correspondence. In the wake of the 2002 anthrax attacks, mail to government offices in Washington is now routinely irradiated before it is delivered.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has reversed course and now permits hurricane evacuees to own and possess firearms at shelters. The National Rifle Association protested a FEMA ban on possession of firearms as a violation of the gun rights of Louisiana and Mississippi residents. The NRA says it was preparing a lawsuit to overturn the ban before FEMA gave in.


It’s hardly a drop in the bucket with the federal debt topping $8 trillion, but the U.S. Bureau of the Debt says it collected $800,000 last year from taxpayers offering to pay off a little of their share of the public debt.

Mark New Year’s Eve 2008 on your calendar.

Under ambitious plans to persuade Americans to embrace the new age of digital TV, Congress is moving towards setting a 2008 deadline for everyone to be digitally enabled _ either with expensive new digital TV sets or converter boxes grandma will have to buy if she wants to keep watching her favorite shows on her old analog TV. But the National Association of Broadcasters says major technological issues remain to be resolved before digital TV is reliable or affordable, and America isn’t ready to make the switch. Some 76 million American homes still have analog TV sets.

(Contact Lance Gay at GayL(at)