Is That a Stinger Missile in Your Pants?

COUNT HER OUT
After a string of election controversies, molasses-like ballot counts and lawsuits real and threatened, Rosalyn Lever is punching out as Orange County's registrar of voters. She reportedly claims elections have gotten more complicated, her bosses make too many demands on her, and the time is ripe to retire.

Nice.

And yet, the most fitting way we can think of to thank Lever for her years of public service would be to count and recount her $58,000 annual pension one dollar at a time—and to finally deliver her payment several days after all the other retired registrars up and down the state have been paid. Oh, and every so often, $8,000 of that will wind up lost in a bag behind a dumpster in Santa Ana.


Harpo: spook SPY GAME
Jon Wiener is widely known as a Lennonist: the UC Irvine history professor famously used the Freedom of Information Act to open FBI files on slain Beatle John Lennon. (Read all about it in Wiener's 1984 book Come Together: John Lennon in His Time and his 1999 follow-up Gimme Some Truth: The John Lennon FBI Files.)

But Wiener's not as widely known as a Marxist. Yet he successfully secured FBI files on the one and only Groucho Marx. While awaiting the outcome of his suit against the government over the Lennon files, Wiener—just for shuckles—asked for everything the G-men had on Marx. Turns out it was mucho.

In J. Edgar Hoover's paranoid eyes, Groucho's offenses dated back to 1934, when an article in the Communist Party newspaper Daily Worker claimed he called Communist support for the Scottsboro Boys an inspiration for "Soviet America." Marx also defended Tom Mooney, a labor leader then imprisoned (and later pardoned) for a bombing that killed 10 people.

The feds had more: in the '40s, Marx attended a benefit concert for Soviet war relief! He helped sponsor a fund-raiser for The Nation—which now counts Wiener as a contributor—the plot thickens! And Groucho opposed UN recognition for fascist Spain—which, though no longer fascist, now counts George Argyros as a fascist American ambassador!

Marx once remarked he would never belong to an organization that would have him as a member, but the FBI logged his membership with the Committee for the First Amendment, an anti-House Un-American Activities Commission group that included fellow Hollywood pinkos Frank Sinatra, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.

A confidential informant's 1953 tip that Groucho was red led to a full-blown investigation . . . that eventually cleared him.

But we now know how close Hoover got to Marx. The Sunday Times of London recently reported that soon-to-be-released records will show the FBI chief recruited Groucho's brother Harpo as a spy. The paper claims the wild-haired funnyman—that would be Harpo, not J. Edgar—toured the Soviet Union in 1933 and brought "diplomatic mail" back home in his socks. A 1949 letter signed by Hoover in the FBI archives reportedly congratulates Harpo on his "loyal past services" to his country and suggests, "There may be ways that you can help your country again."

Enlisting Harpo made perfect sense. After all, he'd never talk. But spying on Groucho? You'd think the beloved leader of Fredonia would have been entitled to diplomatic immunity.

IMMINENTLY QUOTABLE
"I figured I had to land someplace, and the freeway was the only place I could land." Anaheim resident Kenneth Nicholson, inThe Orange County Register, after landing his single-engine plane on Interstate 15—and proving once and for all there is no need for an airport at El Toro or raising flight caps at John Wayne Airport.

"I guess you could say we're fat and drunk."

—Not Team Clockwork, but Timothy Naimiof the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, summarizing studies that show one in five American adults can be classified as obese and more than one in four engage in bouts of binge drinking.
 
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