The Independent

The right wing’s embrace of Daniel Penny is eerily familiar

Cue the newest hero on the MAGA celebrity circuit: Daniel Penny, the former marine whose golden ticket to infamy was allegedly choking to death 30-year-old Jordan Neely, a Black homeless man with mental health issues on a New York City subway. Penny has been charged with second-degree manslaughter. He happens to be white, and is using self-defense as the excuse for his actions.

This article originally appeared in The Independent and was reprinted with permission.

Sound familiar? Who can forget Kyle Rittenhouse, the AR-15 toting 17-year old who successfully claimed self-defense when he traveled out-of-state and killed two men, severely wounding another during a violent evening of protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Since then, baby-faced Rittenhouse has been a frequent guest on FOX News, and a repeat visitor to the MAGA king’s lair in Mar-a-Lago. His very first interview after the shootings was with the now-unemployed Tucker (will-work-for-lies) Carlson.

At the time, Republican lawmakers rushed to the teen’s defense, including Florida Rep Matt Gaetz, Arizona Rep Paul Gosar and the forgettable former North Carolina Rep Madison Cawthorn. (Recently, Cawthorn pled guilty for trying to smuggle a loaded handgun through security at the Charlotte Douglas International Airport, his second such attempt.)

GiveSendGo, a Christian fund-raising site, “the place where help and hope go hand-in-hand,” was instrumental in hauling in a half million dollars from donors to aid in Rittenhouse’s defense. Here was the pitch: “Kyle Rittenhouse just defended himself from a brutal attack by multiple members of the far-leftist group ANTIFA – the experience was undoubtedly a brutal one, as he was forced to take two lives to defend his own…Let’s give back to someone who bravely tried to defend his community.”

Rittenhouse was acquitted of the charges against him, but is now being sued by John Huber, the father of Anthony Huber, who was one of those shot to death by Rittenhouse. GiveSendGo has already raised $243,000 for that latest lawsuit.

So it should come as no surprise that the same online business is now raising funds for Daniel Penny’s defense. The campaign, set up by the New York City law firm, Raiser & Kenniff, PC, states that, “Daniel Penny is, a twenty-four-year-old college student and decorated Marine veteran, facing a criminal investigation stemming from him protecting individuals on a NYC subway train from an assailant who later died.”

Money raised so far? $1.5 million from more than 20,000 donors. Christopher Ekstrom donated $500. “Marines like Mister Penny MADE AMERICA 🇺🇸 GREAT. Thanks for being a MAN! I’m sorry our sick society is punishing you.”

An anonymous donor, who contributed $1,001 to the cause, wrote, “Daniel Penny is an American hero. He had the bravery to stand up and do the right thing. No tears for the [man] who died.”

Republicans, always ready to appeal to the politics of division, have rushed to embrace Penny. Florida Governor and future presidential candidate Ron DeSantis tweeted, “We stand with Good Samaritans like Daniel Penny. Let’s show this Marine … America’s got his back.”

Georgia Rep Marjorie Taylor Greene characterized Neely as, “a violent criminal who should have been behind bars.”

On the fateful day when Neely and Penny’s paths crossed, the “violent criminal” was shouting that he was hungry and thirsty. He was crying out for help, help that never came. He did not deserve to die in such a brutal manner. The system failed him. We failed him.

Taylor Greene, who fancies herself a Christian, apparently forgot this Biblical instructive from Matthew 25:35-40: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink.”

Jordan Neely was not a violent criminal or an assailant. He was not a “thug.” He was a Black male. With the increased embrace of “stand your ground” laws, and with the full-throated endorsement of the bellowing MAGA mob, violence carried out by white men is mostly forgiven, if not encouraged.

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Although the U.S. study was unable to determine a specific reason, it suggests there may be a link between drilling and ill health, scientists said.

Residents in high-density areas of fracking made 27 per cent more hospital visits for treatment for heart conditions than those from locations where no fracking took place, according to a new study of drilling in Pennsylvania between 2007 and 2011.

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TAKE ACTION: Tell Congress to pass the FRAC Act

“At this point, we suspect that residents are exposed to many toxicants, noise and social stressors due to hydraulic fracturing near their homes and this may add to the increased number of hospitalisations.”

The findings revealed that cardiology and neurological in-patient prevalence rates  were significantly higher in areas closer to active wells. Hospitalizations for skin conditions, cancer and urological problems also increased with proximity to wells.

Prof Panettieri cautioned that the study did not prove that fracking actually caused the health problems and said more research was needed to determine exactly what effect any pollution associated with the technique may be contributing to heart conditions or neurological illnesses.

But the significant increase in hospital visits observed relatively quickly after fracking began in an area “suggests that healthcare costs of hydraulic fracturing must be factored into the economic benefits of unconventional gas and drilling”, said the report, which is published in the journal PLOS One and also involved Columbia University in New York.

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The Jordanians and Saudis and Bahrainis are also bombing Isis in Syria and Iraq because they don’t like them, but the Jordanians are bombing Isis even more than the Saudis after their pilot-prisoner was burned to death in a cage. The Egyptians are bombing parts of Libya because a group of Christian Egyptians had their heads chopped off by what might – notionally – be the same so-called Islamic State, as Isis refers to itself. The Iranians have acknowledged bombing Isis in Iraq – of which the Americans (but not the Iraqi government) take a rather dim view. And of course the Israelis have several times bombed Syrian government forces in Syria but not Isis (an interesting choice, we’d all agree). Chocks away!

It amazes me that all these warriors of the air don’t regularly crash into each other as they go on bombing and bombing. And since Lebanon’s Middle East Airlines is the only international carrier still flying over Syria – but not, thank heavens, over Isis’s Syrian capital of Raqqa – I’m even more amazed that my flights from Beirut to the Gulf have gone untouched by the blitz boys of so many Arab and Western states as they career around the skies of Mesopotamia and the Levant.

The sectarian and theological nature of this war seems perfectly clear to all who live in the Middle East – albeit not to our American chums. The Sunni Saudis are bombing the Shia Yemenis and the Shia Iranians are bombing the Sunni Iraqis. The Sunni Egyptians are bombing Sunni Libyans, it’s true, and the Jordanian Sunnis are bombing Iraqi Sunnis. But the Shia-supported Syrian government forces are bombing their Sunni Syrian enemies and the Lebanese Hezbollah – Shia to a man – are fighting the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s Sunni enemies, along with Iranian Revolutionary Guards and an ever-larger number of Afghan Shia men in Syrian uniforms.

And if you want to taste the sectarianism of all this, just take a look at Saudi Arabia’s latest request to send more Pakistani troops to protect the kingdom (and possibly help to invade Yemen), which came from the new Saudi Crown Prince and Defence Minister Mohammed bin Salman who at only 34 is not much older than his fighter pilots. But the Saudis added an outrageous second request: that the Pakistanis send only Sunni Muslim soldiers. Pakistani Shia Muslim officers and men (30 per cent of the Pakistani armed forces) would not be welcome.

It’s best left to that fine Pakistani newspaper The Nation – and the writer Khalid Muhammad – to respond to this sectarian demand. “The army and the population of Pakistan are united for the first time in many years to eliminate the scourge of terrorism,” Muhammad writes. But “the Saudis are now trying to not only divide the population, but divide our army as well. When a soldier puts on a uniform, he fights for the country that he calls home, not the religious beliefs that they carry individually… Do they (the Saudis) believe that a professional military like Pakistan… can’t fight for a unified justified cause? If that is the case then why ask Pakistan to send its armed forces?”

It’s worth remembering that Pakistani soldiers were killed by the Iraqi army in the battle for the Saudi town of Khafji in 1991. Were they all Sunnis, I wonder?

And then, of course, there are the really big winners in all this blood, the weapons manufacturers. Raytheon and Lockheed Martin supplied £1.3bn of missiles to the Saudis only last year. But three years ago, Der Spiegel claimed the European Union was Saudi Arabia’s most important arms supplier and last week France announced the sale of 24 Rafale fighter jets to Qatar at a cost of around £5.7bn. Egypt has just bought another 24 Rafales.

It’s worth remembering at this point that the Congressional Research Services in the US estimate that most of Isis’s budget comes from “private donors” in – you guessed it – Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE and Kuwait.

But blow me down if the Yanks are back to boasting. More than a decade after “Mission Accomplished”, General Paul Funk (in charge of reforming the Iraqi army) has told us that “the enemy is on its knees”. Another general close to Barack Obama says that half of the senior commanders in Isis have been liquidated. Nonsense. But it’s worth knowing just how General Pierre de Villiers, chief of the French defence staff, summed up his recent visits to Baghdad and Iraqi Kurdistan. Iraq, he reported back to Paris, is in a state of “total decay”. The French word he used was “decomposition”. I suspect that applies to most of the Middle East.

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