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RALLY 'ROUND THE RALLY

Broadcasters can dream, can't they? Though the National Park Service has yet to grant Comedy Central a "final permit" to stage a much-ballyhooed parody rally later this month, C-SPAN plans to cover the, uh, politicized gathering - which could still prove to be a canny publicity stunt. Remember, this all started as a joke - a "truthiness rally" - proposed by Sam Mercer, a blogger with the news site Reddit.com.

"C-SPAN Networks will provide live coverage of the entire Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, produced by Comedy Central and featuring Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert," notes a missive from communications director Howard Mortman.

A cottage industry has sprung up. Naturally, Comedy Central is already marketing merchandise for the event, including a T-shirt emblazoned with the motto "I have a scream." Pollsters are nibbling. According to Predicto, a "vote-by-text poll site," 73 percent of the nearly 800 respondents expect "at least 50,000 people" to show up for the event. If there is one.

Despite Arianna Huffington's promise to finance transportation for marchers, charter bus companies also are entering the fray - including an organizational enterprise called "D.C. Rally Bus." Entrepreneurs Numaan Akram and Afraz Haque, who began their effort in late September, proclaim "Our ultimate goal: destroy Glenn Beck's turnout for his small meeting on August 28th. We have never been so motivated."

WIKI WATCH

Impatient buzz grows as the press awaits the rumored release of a half-million classified documents related to the war in Iraq, courtesy of whistleblower WikiLeaks.org and founder Julian Assange. There's an identity crisis looming for journalists who must choose between informing the public and compromising national security or the safety of U.S. troops. The Pentagon has taken clear footing, deeming the documents "stolen" and cautioning the press against enabling Mr. Assange.

"The concern is that WikiLeaks as an organization should not be made more credible by having credible news organizations facilitate what they're doing," Pentagon spokesman U.S. Marine Col. David Lapan told journalists on Monday.

HALLOWEEN INDUSTRY

- $2 billion: Amount Americans will spend on Halloween costumes for adults, children and pets this year (National Retail Federation)

- $1.8 billion: Amount Americans will spend on Halloween candy (National Retail Federation)

- $1 billion: Amount they'll spend on admission to a commercial haunted house (Haunted House Association)

- $30: Cost of a Sarah Palin vinyl mask (Halloween Adventure Super Stores)

- $25: Cost of a President Obama vinyl mask (Halloween Adventure Super Stores)

- $5: Cost of plastic glow-in-the-dark vampire fangs, box of 72 (Oriental Trading Co.)

- $3 Cost of skull-and-crossbones 12-ounce "Shocktails" martini glass (Party City stores)

GRANNY LOGIC

Let the handwringing commence. With prospects of a Republican takeover of Congress, the Libertarian Party is asking questions, lots of questions.

"In order to balance the budget, where will the GOP pull the plug first: on Granny, or on foreign wars?" demands party Chairman Mark Hinkle. "Republicans may have no serious intention of cutting federal deficits or spending, and their complaints about 'out-of-control spending' might be hypocrisy."

It's complicated. A new Gallup Poll finds that 77 percent of Americans say the cost of entitlement programs like Social Security will create major economic problems. Forty-two percent favor raising taxes to cope with it; 31 percent say the government should cut benefits. The partisan divide: 86 percent of Republicans say the cost would yield economic problems; 29 percent favor a tax increase and 41 percent favor benefits cuts. Sixty-nine percent of Democrats say the programs would mar the economy; 60 percent favor a tax increase and 22 percent the cuts.

"To make Social Security solvent as our population ages, the federal government either has to raise the tax or cut the benefits. The last significant change to Social Security was a tax increase approved by Ronald Reagan. Libertarians favor cutting Social Security benefits, and we oppose tax increases. Libertarians would prefer to allow workers to opt out of Social Security. Perhaps entitlements can be cut gradually, rather than slashed abruptly, but that depends on taking action sooner rather than later," says Wes Benedict, executive director of the party.

OVERHEARD

At a recent early-morning gathering of Republican types, that is:

"Let's hope Hillary doesn't throw her broom in the ring for 2012."

PELOSI WATCH

"Isnt it interesting that Reps. Jason Altmire, Mark Critz and Kathy Dahlkemper are nowhere to be found when Nancy Pelosi is in town? No amount of hiding is going to change the fact that they vote with Pelosi nearly 100 percent of the time."

(Republican Party of Pennsylvania Chairman Rob Gleason, following House Speaker Nancy Pelosis appearance before a United Steelworker's Union women's conference in Pittsburgh Monday)

POLL DU JOUR

- 58 percent of likely voters are not members of the "tea party" movement.

- 55 percent say they support the tea party positions on the issues.

- 53 percent say the tea party movement will dominate the Republican Party during the 2012 presidential elections.

- 51 percent say President Obama will not pursue a more moderate agenda if Republicans regain control of Congress.

- 48 percent are more likely to vote for a "tea party candidate."

Source: A PJTV "tracking study" of 1,000 likely voters conducted Oct. 10.

Raves, rants, candy corn to jharper@washingtontimes.com

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