- The Washington Times - Friday, August 2, 2002

Not buying it

"Jim Traficant wants us to think he's crazy. Throughout his recent trial for bribery, tax evasion, and racketeering, as well as during more recent congressional proceedings to expel him from the House of Representatives, Traficant has acted as if he's slightly off his rocker.

"Trouble is, as amusing and kooky as Traficant's antics are, no one really buys what he's peddling. What Traficant's really trying to do, it seems, is deflect attention from his crookedness by wrapping himself in the mantle of insanity.

"That's too bad, because a crazy congressman makes a great story.

"There was, however, a member of Congress some years back who really was nuts. Marion Zioncheck, a New Deal congressman from Washington state, was colorful, charming, quirky, and, sadly, it turns out, insane. His descent into dementia was very short just seven months and very public. And, like Traficant's downfall, it made for great copy.

"In just a short period of time Zioncheck grabbed the nation's attention with a hilarious series of madcap antics, bizarre stunts, and numerous arrests. Almost overnight he shed his congressional obscurity to become known as the 'Playboy Congressman,' with a wild bride he barely knew, an odd ping-pong obsession, dancing pet turtles and an Indian headdress. Today, strangely, he is entirely forgotten."

Jerry Carter, writing on "The Crazy Congressman," July 31 in AmericanProwler.org

Mythical injustice

"In Brooklyn in 1987, Marlene Wagshall shot her sleeping husband, Joshua, in the stomach, crippling him for life, after finding a photo of him with a scantily clad woman. Wagshall was charged with attempted murder, but on the basis of her uncorroborated assertion that her husband had beaten her, District Attorney Elizabeth Holtzman, a strong champion of women's rights, let her plead guilty to assault with a sentence of one day in jail and five years' probation.

"Even when feminists do not actively defend violent women, they hardly ever speak up against inappropriate leniency toward female defendants. Mostly, they refuse to admit that such leniency exists perhaps because it would be heresy to concede that 'patriarchy' has sometimes worked in women's favor and prefer to focus on real or mythical instances in which the justice system treats women more harshly.

"As a result, if a man commits a violent crime against a woman and gets off lightly, an outcry from women's groups often follows. If it's the other way around, the only vocal protests are likely to come from the victim's family and from prosecutors.

"The [Brenda Lee] Working case, like the Wagshall case, received minimal publicity. Imagine the reaction if a judge had said publicly that a man who had ambushed and shot his estranged wife should have been spared prison because he was depressed over the divorce."

Cathy Young, writing on "License to Kill," in the July edition of Reason magazine

Not normal

"You are perhaps reading this at the beach, or after a day at the pool, or at home in your den near midnight as you sneak a bowl of Häagen-Dazs frozen yogurt with fresh strawberries. You are comfortable, well fed, well clothed; the air conditioner hums. Everything feels normal. Everything is! Which is why you haven't gotten your brain fully around the fact that we are living through abnormal times.

"We are living Days of Lore. Days of big history. We are living through an epoch scholars 50 years hence will ask about and study "

"All this financial woe, all these economic headlines, take place against a backdrop of a Pentagon attacked, of falling towers and America at war.

"Sort of. We know it's going on, but unlike World War II few of us feel it. Do you know anyone who has died or been wounded in it since Sept. 12? Most of us experience the war as an abstraction, a background against which pundits occasionally explain that an event is occurring.

"But it is an abstraction taking place within a new time, the Era of Weapons of Mass Destruction. An era in which the nature of war and warfare has changed utterly, an era that promises, truly promises, bad pain ahead."

Peggy Noonan, writing on "A Time of Lore," in the July 26 edition of the Wall Street Journal's OpinionJournal.com

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