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I only vowed to

I only vowed to mostly resist my current pet obsessions while squatting here. And now Ross Douthat forces me to speak up on the astonishing new documentary Grizzly Man, which he declares "the movie of the year" with a wonderfully sophisticated (but readably short) argument about nature, religion, and, well, getting eaten by a bear.

Is it really such

Is it really such a surprise that the credibility of the Able Danger story is in so much doubt? Not if you know much about the chief advocate of the theory, Republican Congressman Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania, one of Washington's most eccentric freelance diplomats and self-styled terrorism experts.

It's interesting to note that this controversy comes just days after Weldon -- who was furious about not getting the chairmanship of the House Armed Services Committee in 2000 -- publicly claimed he had House Speaker Dennis Hastert's backing to assume the job in a couple of years. If the Able Danger story turns out to be a huge embarassment for Weldon, you have to wonder if he'll still be Hastert's guy.

P.S. Yes, that is assuming Republicans keep the House for a while. But that's hardly a crazy assumption.

The Houston Chronicle reports

The Houston Chronicle reports on a "hush-hush" September fundraiser for Tom DeLay featuring Dick Cheney. This is interesting for two reasons. One, it shows that the Bush administration remains totally supportive of DeLay (although it's duly noted that Cheney and not Bush is the attendee). Second, it suggests that Republicans believe DeLay will have a serious re-election fight on his hands next year and needs mondo cash to wage it.

And now for something

And now for something completely different: From a letter to the Times of London, here's a creative, of-the-moment argument against exending pub hours in the UK:

Effects of new drinking hours

Sir, I turned teetotal having seen, as a barrister, many lives destroyed by alcohol: those of both otherwise law-abiding citizens, who committed acts of violence when drunk, and their victims.

Like Judge Charles Harris, QC, and the Council of Her Majesty’s Circuit Judges (report, August 10), my many Muslim friends also see large-scale loutish alcoholism, and the society which permits it, as decadent.

Allowing pubs to open round the clock will increase Muslim disaffection and support for those fighting such decadence. Extended drinking hours may cause more terrorism.

ANDREW M. ROSEMARINE Salford, Manchester

I wonder what Richard Clarke thinks of this idea...

(Thanks to reader Alex Massie)

As journalism grows ever

As journalism grows ever more fractured and shallow, The Washington Monthly remains one of the industry's truly noble institutions. Its sense of public service and the national welfare isn't often rewarded with the kind of "buzz" that magazine editors obsessively pursue -- to the detriment of our collective IQs. Which is why it's great to see the Monthly's ingenious and inspiring take on the silly ritual of college rankings rewarded with a big Washington Post write-up. (You can thank the magazine's visionary founder, Charlie Peters, by checking out his well-received new book.)

Id be remiss if

I'd be remiss if I guest-hosted Josh's site and didn't mention this story from The Hill: House Republicans are holding a fundraiser on Wednesday to benefit the legal defense fund of two DeLay associates indicted on money laundering charges. What sort of fundraiser, you ask? A golf tournament, naturally!

US News World Report

US News & World Report has a big Jack Abramoff piece this week. I've followed the Abramoff story closely, and this installment is a pretty familiar rehash of the basic narrative. But a couple of things in it struck me. One is that the Justice Department has been poring through fully 500,000 of Abramoff's emails. That's a reminder of just how much of the conservative lobbyist's enthralling secret world remains unrevealed, despite all the national coverage to date. (It's also a reminder of Sam Rosenfeld's understandable surprise at why Democrats on the Senate Indian Affairs Committee haven't released more Abramoff emails and generally pushed the story harder.)

And in the wake of Abramoff's indictment earlier this month for his role in an allegedly fraudulent Florida business deal, there was also this interesting passage on the current state of the DOJ's investigation into Abramoff's general lobbying and political activities:

Prosecutors often like to use criminal charges from one inquiry as leverage in another, and that may well happen with the investigation underway in Washington. But people familiar with the investigations say prosecutors aren't in a big hurry. "There is no need to rush into this thing," says a person familiar with the Washington inquiry. "It is almost a foregone conclusion that [the grand jury] could indict him anytime [it] wanted to. For now, he spent a night in jail [in relation to the Florida charges]. Let's see what his mind-set is." Prosecutors would ultimately like to secure Abramoff's cooperation, the source added. With more than 40 FBI agents assigned to the case, there is every indication that prosecutors are interested in more than just a couple of lobbyists. The source also confirmed a recent Washington Post report that Scanlon, a former press aide to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, has been in discussions with Justice Department lawyers.

The Washington buzz about Abramoff has subsided for now. But this story is a long way from over. Later today or tomorrow we'll look at a question that has largely slipped through the media cracks about Abramoff, Tom DeLay, and potential Russian arms dealers. <$NoAd$>

The Sheehan Effect Tappeds

The Sheehan Effect? Tapped's Garance Franke-Ruta flags a new ARG poll that shows Bush's approval rating has plummetted to an astonishing 36 percent -- down six points from a month ago.

Update: A reader notes that the recently reliable Rasmussen poll (which almost precisely forecast the 2004 presidential vote) shows Bush at a far healthier 48 percent, which is up five points from early last week. (That's right around when the conservative anti-Sheehan backlash really got rolling, by the way.)

Incidentally, Rasmussen also shows that Americans aren't too crazy about Cindy Sheehan, and that nearly four in ten (and a clear majority of Democrats) think it's time to bring the troops home.

Senator Paul Hackett Youre

Senator Paul Hackett? You're all probably familiar with Paul Hackett, the anti-war Iraq veteran who recently made a stunningly strong showing in a special House election in a blood-red Republican district near Cincinnati. I saw the closing days of Hackett's campaign first-hand, and, while he wasn't always the smoothest candidate, it was amazing to watch how the one-liner "Just Back from Iraq" stopped people in their tracks and made them listen.

It now looks increasingly likely that Hackett will run for Senate next year, against the vulnerable Republican incumbent Mike DeWine. This Cincinnati Post article has current details, including the decision by one top Ohio Democrat to skip the race and the signal from another that he probably won't run -- developments which appear to make Hackett the Dems' de facto candidate.

That's got to terrify DeWine. Although a statewide campaign could test Hackett's raw political skills, he'd be an instant celebrity candidate on par with, say, Barak Obama. And given that Hackett, who thrilled liberals by calling Bush a chicken hawk and an S.O.B., raised around half a million dollars online for his House special election, imagine what he could do in a marquee Senate battle.

But a Hackett Senate bid would channel the same intraparty tensions discussed below. Many Democrats feel Hackett was too anti-Bush for his own good, that his blazing rhetoric may have scared off some war-weary Republicans who nevertheless respect the president. Needless to say, Hackett's liberal champions don't buy that. So if party consultants convince Hackett to hold back on the Bush-bashing in a Senate race, his liberal-blog-fueled fundraising could dry up fast. But Hackett's a cocksure, shoot-from-the-hip kind of guy -- he even lapsed into a Robert De Niro "Are you talkin' to me?" imitation during his House concession speech -- and it's not clear anyone can tell him what to say in the first place.

The Cincy Post says Hackett may soon visit Washington to meet with party leaders about the race. If so, I assume this would be a key topic of conversation.