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Inside the Beltway: Ayn Rand, Part 2

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It's on the way: "Atlas Shrugged Part II" is now filming in Los Angeles, the second installment of an ambitious independent movie project — due for commercial release in October, just as the presidential election looms. A source says some of the film's background extra roles will be played by persons of note who, uh, get the significance of Ayn Rand's original 1957 novel, and this determined undertaking.

"Part I" was released nationally more than a year ago, based on the 1,100-page novel set in the near future when a dystopian America finds its leading innovators, industrialists and artists mysteriously disappearing — resulting in the "stopping the motor of the world." Producer Harmon Kaslow has thought much about this.

"It's important to note that Ayn Rand was neither a conservative or a liberal," Mr. Kaslow tells Inside the Beltway. "Ayn Rand was very simply a staunch supporter of real capitalism. While in her writing Ayn Rand warned of the dangers of crony capitalism and socialism, her primary motive was to highlight what could happen if we fail to acknowledge the rights of the world's smallest minority — the individual. Our primary motive in making the film is the same.

"What we continue to get excited about are the droves of Ayn Rand and 'Atlas Shrugged' fans that continue to find us every day online on Facebook and Twitter. From people that read the book 50 years ago to kids in college that are just discovering Ayn Rand, it's amazing to experience the diversity, and see new people."

PRESTO, CHANGE-O

Other federal agencies have learned quickly from the General Services Administration's recent $823,000 Las Vegas debacle. In a prudent decision, not to mention a disappearing act: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration canceled a call for a magician to show up at "The Magic of Change," an upcoming two-day training conference for agency personnel.

Organizers originally wanted someone who could transform "magic and [principles] of the psychology of magic, magic tools, techniques, and experiences into a method of teaching leadership," according to a lengthy contractor solicitation. It took only four minor mentions in the press before the ad was yanked and the agency went mum, but not without a slap from Sen. Scott P. Brown, who calls the whole idea "taxpayer abuse, pure and simple."

The Massachusetts Republican adds: "This was a low point even by Washington's standards and an insult to the fishing families that have been harmed by NOAA's overregulation and attitude of indifference. The best magic that NOAA could perform would be to make this wasteful spending disappear."

HISTORIC MUDSLINGING

"A crafty and lecherous old hypocrite whose very statue seems to gloat on the wenches as they walk the States House yard."

British journalist William Cobbett on Benjamin Franklin, 1796.

SWING STATE ALLURE

Though he's already staged 128 fundraisers, President Obama launches his official re-election campaign Saturday in grass-roots, "fired up"-style, say organizers, with back-to-back rallies at Ohio State University in Columbus and Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. The jumbotrons are ready.

"The president claims that he's kicking off his campaign in Ohio and Virginia this weekend, But I think we all know that he's been campaigning on the taxpayers' dime for over a year now, and we have a complaint that has been filed with the [Government Accountability Office]," says Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus. "If we don't hear anything, then we'll have to take more steps."

To triumph in November, both Mr. Obama and rival-in-chief Mitt Romney must woo valuable, fickle voters in nine battleground states, with Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania among the most critical. No one has won the White House since 1960 without carrying at least two of them, says the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, which is tracking the excruciatingly close race.

"Gov. Romney has closed President Obama's leads in Ohio and Florida to the point that those two states are now essentially tied, a turnaround from the end of March when the president enjoyed leads in those key states," says Peter A. Brown, assistant director at the campus polling center.

And the numbers: In Florida, Mr. Romney has 44 percent of voter support to Mr. Obama's 43 percent; in Ohio, Mr. Obama has 44 percent to Mr. Romney's 42 percent. The president wins Pennsylvania, though. He tops Mr. Romney 47 percent to 39 percent.

HOLA, AMERICA

"I want to sign the Dream Act into law. I've got the pens ready."

(President Obama at an early White House Cinco de Mayo party in the Rose Garden, "featuring colorful tables and flowers, flamenco dancers and margaritas," according to "pool" reporter Malia Rulon Herman, a correspondent with Gannett.

POLL DU JOUR

*76 percent of Americans get news from local TV news; 80 percent of Democrats and 73 percent of Republicans agree.

*72 percent get news from their local newspaper; 76 percent of Democrats and 70 percent of Republicans agree.

*55 percent get news from Fox News; 36 percent of Democrats and 75 percent of Republicans agree.

*51 percent get news from CNN; 60 percent of Democrats and 39 percent of Republicans agree.

*39 percent get news from talk radio; 33 percent of Democrats and 45 percent of Republicans agree.

*27 precent get news from a political blog or website; 27 percent of Democrats and 26 percent of Republicans agree.

*23 percent listen to National Public Radio; 28 percent of Democrats and 16 percent of Republicans agree.

Source: Fairleigh Dickinson University survey of 1,185 U.S. adults conducted Feb. 6 to 12 and released Thursday. For complete results: publicmind.fdu.edu.

*Tipline always open at jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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