Making A Pitch

The country's major environmentalists -- plus a who's who of the other libs, such as Peace Action, OMB Watch, U.S. PIRG, the Center for Defense Information and Ralph Nader's Public Citizen -- are being enlisted to battle a major government project.

Would the endangered entity be old-growth forests, the spotted owl or salmon runs? No, it's something even more precious: the softball fields near the Washington Monument, which are threatened by the proposed World War II memorial.

The groups, including Greenpeace, the National Wildlife

Federation and Defenders of Wildlife, have squads in the Cool League, an 18-team softball league, and the memorial, to be built between the obelisk and the Lincoln Memorial, might encroach on the diamonds. "The area where we have been playing softball," league commissioner Scott Nathanson warned in a recent e-mail to all coaches, "will be gone before next season if this project moves forward."

"While I am not against a WWII Memorial," wrote Nathanson, coach of the Mighty Doves and executive director of Citizens for a Responsible Budget, "I feel that a major part of the charm of the Mall area is the open spaces where people can play just about whatever they want." Not to mention that it's convenient for players working downtown.

Elevating the issue to high liberal-envirospeak, Nathanson urged teams to write the National Capital Planning Commission, saying the memorial "should not supplant softball [in] the shadow of the Monument, a wonderful, organic and thoroughly American part of the Mall experience, in addition to permanently changing the beautiful, open quality of that part of the Mall area."

Memorial proponents may be the first folks ever required to discuss "organic" softball in an environmental impact statement.

Conveniently Located

And now, the Loop Award for party invite that shows how Washington works. The winner is one we got from Restructuring Opportunities for America, a brand-new group chaired by former U.S. representative and almost-Speaker Bob Livingston of Louisiana.

Livingston "cordially invites you to attend a reception honoring congressional supporters of electricity and natural gas restructuring," the invitation says. These would be commercial and industrial electricity users pushing deregulation so they can get better rates.

And is this reception in a local hotel or restaurant? No, it's in Room H-137 of the Capitol itself, which groups can reserve -- via a friendly lawmaker -- for little cocktail-and-hors-d'oeuvres gatherings. Just a getting-to-know-you for the new lobbyist in town.

Defensive Reading

A venerable Washington tradition is that, whenever a government agency screws up big-time, more money will be tossed its way. So when the CIA helped NATO score a bull's-eye on the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, there was instant talk of a budget increase for the spooks to get those maps right.

And now that it looks as if the Chinese have pilfered some serious atomic secrets? Here's a message recently sent from the Department of Defense Polygraph Institute to a psychologist.

"The Institute is anticipating a major increase in research funding," wrote Andrew B. Dollins, a research psychologist at the institute. "A byproduct of this is an increase in manuscripts to be reviewed," he wrote, asking if the recipient wanted "to become a member of our peer review panel." The institute pays $150 for every manuscript reviewed, Dollins wrote. That may not sound like much, but "the manuscripts are always less than 25 pages," not counting appendices.

Security guards, dust off those resumes.

The Race To Embrace

When last we checked, the Dem-ocrats of Broward County, Fla., had surged ahead in the race to build the biggest political tent, electing a transsexual to their party's board of directors.

But that doesn't mean the Republicans down there aren't doing some tent expansion. The Log Cabin Republicans, a national gay Republican organization, reports that the Florida GOP recently officially chartered a Broward County chapter of the group, the first one so recognized by a state GOP in the South. The move "demonstrates the kind of inclusive party that Governor Jeb Bush has been promising," national executive director Rich Tafel said. Not that Broward's exactly Mississippi or anything.

Tips and comments for Al Kamen's column are welcomed at:

In the Loop, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or by e-mail at Loop@washpost.com. Please include home and work phone numbers.