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Jailhouse rock

The strange case of poisoned pen letters sent to political leaders gets stranger by the day.

First, an Elvis impersonator from Tupelo was nabbed. No ricin was found on his premises, and he was released. During questioning, however, he fingered an erstwhile friend, Everett Dutschke, who was arrested Saturday. Today, as Dutschke appeared in court, NBC’s Pete Williams told Andrea Mitchell that Dutschke used to be a Wayne Newton impersonator. (“Danke schoen! Save those lies, darling, don’t explain!”)

Why were the ricin-laced letters sent to Obama, a Mississippi senator and retired judge?

It’s not political, it’s personal.

According to reporter Matthew Teague in a hilarious and insightful piece in the Los Angeles Times, the reason may be found in the Southern Gothic-like atmosphere of Elvis’ hometown rather than in any grievances against the government.

According to Teague, Tupelo has plenty of odd ducks. But Dutschke’s quack may be louder than most: He’s been in and out of jobs, and trouble with the law. It seems he gravitates toward the center of attention. His many gigs have been relatively high-profile: He’s a failed political candidate, onetime karate instructor and singer. He’s spent time in jail for assault  and he’s an alleged child molester.

In Italy, an unemployed bricklayer appears to have been motivated more by personal anguish than any political grudge. Luigi Preiti wanted to shoot politicians on Sunday, but with the new government being sworn in a half mile away, he aimed his anger at the closest authority figures: two Carabinieri. A Roman prosecutor described Preiti, 49, who had recently separated from his wife, as ”a man full of problems, who lost his job, who lost everything.”

As federal investigators visited the Rhode Island home of Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s widow today, no doubt they are trying to piece together what made the Boston bomber tick. Perhaps his uncle wasn’t off the mark when he called his nephew simply a loser. Could his “jihad” be more personal than political?

In the photo essay taken a few years ago of Tamerlan boxing, he positively preens. But he’s a dandy who flirted with crime. His girlfriend called the cops on him because he  “slapped” her around. His best friend was killed in what police assumed was a drug-linked slaying.

When his domestic violence charge prevented him from obtaining U.S. citizenship and hence a spot on the U.S. Olympic team, he didn’t have a career, or even a job. His wife was the bread winner while he collected welfare. Was he thinking, “I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum”?

He, too, was “a man full of problems.” Committing a brazen act at an event such as the Boston Marathon would bring a narcissist  fame in his own mind, infamy in ours.

Was he self-radicalized, or simply self-absorbed?

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