Roaming Charges: Neely Don’t Surf

Still from Apocalypse Now.

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A society that systematically victimizes people tends to reflexively blame its victims for their own misfortune: poverty, hunger, chronic illness, homelessness, mental distress and, as we’re witnessing once again with the case of Jordan Neely, even their own deaths.

Traditionally, this role has fallen to the New York Times and when it came to the murder on the F train they sprang into action. Within a few days of the killing of Jordan Neely, the Times was out with a piece by Michael Wilson and Andy Newman that softened the image of Daniel Penny, the unemployed ex-Marine who choked the life out of Neely, making the killer more relatable to the Times’ middle class readers, while dirtying up the image of the man Penny asphyxiated in a chokehold that lasted more than 10 dreadful minutes.

Penny is described as easy going, a people person, an unstressed former Marine who loved surfing. Yes, he too was jobless, but unlike Neely, he had aspirations. He wanted to become a bartender in Manhattan and a good citizen in the city he loved.

When the Times turns to Neely, we are treated to sketches in urban pathology–the portrait a troubled black youth, who has been in decline since high school.  His life is reduced to his rap sheet, his arrests, his confinements to the psych ward. There’s even a gratuitous description of Neely urinating in public, though surely at some point in his life Penny had done the same.

Neely is depicted as ranting, homeless, troubled, erratic, violent, mentally ill and ready to die. It’s almost as if we’re meant to believe that Neely’s murder was a case of “suicide by vigilante.” He was, the story implies, almost asking for someone to kill him.

The Times reporters paint Penny’s takedown of the frail, malnourished Neely as a “struggle.” Despite a car full of witnesses, the Times account says the origins of this “struggle which ended Neely’s life” were “unclear.” They couldn’t find anyone who would say Neely had threatened them, but left the impression that he might have and likely did.

As a Marine, we’re told that Penny had been trained in the “blood choke,” which is described as a “fast and safe” method of rendering people unconscious. No mention is made of the chokehold deaths of Eric Garner and George Floyd or the scientific evidence that chokeholds which cause people to lose consciousness often inflict brain injuries. We’re left to believe that Neely didn’t respond properly when his neck was being choked, that he struggled and flailed for his life, instead of passively surrendering and slipping into a harmless sleep.

Penny’s motives were pure and Neely’s were suspect. “Knowing Danny and knowing his intentions,” the Times reporters quote one of Penny’s friends as saying, “it was to help others around him.”

After all, Penny surfs and Neely didn’t.

+ Late on Thursday, NYC prosecutors announced they were charging Penny with Manslaughter in the Second Degree, which is classified as a Class C Non-Violent Felony, where first-time offenders often receive a non- incarceratory sentence, usually of probation.

+ Are they going to be rewriting the Gospel of Luke in the King Ron version of the Bible, where the Good Samaritan kills the homeless person left along the road without money or food?

+ I’m not a Christian, but I think DeSantis has missed the core teaching of its prophet, which is that the robbers, especially those acting out of destitution, should be forgiven not asphyxiated by trained killers. The parable itself is about a reversal of fortune– a rich man suddenly deprived of his wealth and health and thus ignored by passers-by–including pious Jews and gentiles–until a heretical Samaritan comes to his aid. A true Good Samaritan would have offered a distraught man shouting he was thirsty a drink–not crushed his windpipe.


+ Without Court expansion, Democrats are unlikely to retain control of the Court until…2065. That’s the conclusion of a new research paper in SSNR. If Ruth Bader Ginsburg had retired under Obama (or had Garland been confirmed for the seat vacated by Scalia’s death) Democrats would likely have retaken control by 2029, and would control the Court for about half of the next century.

+ The federal prison population will soon reach its highest point yet under the Biden administration, with nearly 8,000 more people imprisoned than when he entered office. During his campaign he promised to cut the prison population by more than half.

+ In 2022, Illinois passed a law allow for the release of terminally ill and seriously disabled inmates from prison, which should help ease the burden on the underfunded and understaffed prison health care system.

+ According to a study reported by Newsweek, the high crime rates in Republican-led cities is fueled by economic inequality and the prevalence of guns.

+ Marjorie Taylor Greene tweeted on Sunday that the Allen outlet mall shooting suspect “appears Hispanic with what looks like a gang tattoo on his hand.” The hand-tattoo pictured in the photos she shared was of the City of Dallas logo. So, not far off then.

In fact, Mauricio Garcia, the Allen, Texas mass shooter, had Nazi and SS tattoos. On the Russian social media site, OK.RU, where Garcia maintained a profile, he wrote on that Josef Mengele was his “hero.” In one manifesto, he wrote “this post is inspired by LibsOfTikTok,” before howling about “drag queen story hour.” He signed off that post with “Heil Hitler.”

+ Still some wonder if he could really be a white supremacist…

+ Do the names Francisco Franco, Jorge Ubico, Juan Peron, Augusto Pinochet, Arana Osorio, Roberto d’Aubuisson, Gustavo Alvarez Martínez, Efrain Rios Montt, ring any bells?

+ In 1990, there were 22,000 felonies committed on the New York subway system. Last year, there were 2300.

+ Newly released body cam footage shows that police officers in the town of Sheffield, Alabama sicced their K-9 on Marvin Long, a 53-year-old unarmed black man, while he was standing on his own porch. As Long shouted for help, one of the officers can be heard urging the dog on: “Bite him! Bite him! Yes! Get him!

+ Three women were charged this week with “home invasion” in the Detroit suburb of Roseville. Two of them were police officers.

+ According to an internal review, Cesar Alcantara, a former cop with the San Diego police, faked his own suicide and solicited sex from prostitutes while on duty, faced no disciplinary action from the department.

+ For years a rape survivor told prosecutors and court officials that Patrick Brown, the man who had been convicted of raping her, wasn’t the man who raped her. She was ignored. Now, 29 years later, Brown has been released, his conviction overturned.

+ In 2022, 81 homicide defendants were exonerated: 80 for murder, and one for manslaughter. Two of the cases involved death sentences and 28 involved sentences of life without parole. According to the annual report by the National Registry of Exonerations, 78.8% of the murder exonerations involved both official misconduct and perjury or false accusation.

+ For decades the US has been killing kids in other countries in the name of liberating them. Now the same forces have been unleashed in the streets, homes & malls of the US, where kids are shot with increasing frequency every day–their deaths rationalized as “the price of freedom.”

+ 8: the number of teens and children shot by “unintentional family fire” every day in the US.

+ In the last two weeks, there have been nearly 200 people shot in mass-shooting incidents.

+ Since 2020, Americans have been on a gun-buying spree. Total firearms purchases have topped 20 million in each of the last three years, a 64 percent increase over the pre-2020 sales levels. What’s driving this surge buying? A study published in Science Direct finds that “surge purchasers have higher levels of intolerance of uncertainty and threat sensitivity relative to firearm owners who did not purchase during the surge and non-firearm owners. Additionally, first time purchasers reported greater threat sensitivity and intolerance of uncertainty relative to established firearm owners who purchased additional firearms during the purchasing surge.”

+ Did the original Molotov specs call for the use of Topo-Chico bottles…?

+ I’d originally believed that the famous incendiary device was named after Vyacheslav Molotov, Soviet Foreign Minister, and in a way it was. But not as an honorific. These light-it-yourself IEDs were the Finnish response to cluster bombs the USSR was dropping on Finland during the Winter War of 1939, which Molotov had described in radio broadcasts as “airborne humanitarian food deliveries” to Russia’s starving neighbors. The Finns started jokingly calling the bombs “Molotov’s Breadbaskets” and when Red Army tanks rolled across the border they were greeted with hand thrown “burn bottles”–flaming cocktails to go with the foreign minister’s “food parcels.”

+ A new study published in the Journal of Experimental Criminology undermines the notion that people with a criminal record are inherently more inclined to break the rules or are intrinsically “immoral.”

+ Most of us know that with 1.9 million people beyond bars, the US has one of the highest incarceration rates in the world. But this doesn’t even tell half the story. On any given day in America, there are another 3.7 million people who are under some kind of court-order supervision, 2.9 million on probation and 800,000 on parole. According to a new report by the Prison Policy Initiative, more than 230,000 people went to prison last year for violating some condition of their parole: failed a drug test, missed a meeting with parole officer, couldn’t pay mandated fees, couldn’t find a job,

+ When a police officer is injured on duty, other police officers become more likely to injure suspects, violate their constitutional rights, and receive complaints about neglecting victims in the week that follows, according to research on “peer effects in police use of force” published in the American Economic Journal.

+ Granny Get Your Gun: Sen. Marsha Blackburn  told Fox’s Kayleigh McEnaney that grandparents could join a force of armed military vets and retired police officers to protect schools from shootings.

+ North Carolina’s Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, the leading contender for becoming the state’s next governor, has repeatedly justified the shooting of student protesters at Kent State opposing the Vietnam War and said he wanted to see the response emulated today.

+ 34: number of states with more lenient shoplifting laws than California.

+ The Trump-appointed Judge James Ho, who has previously written that abortion is “immoral, tragic, and violent,” will hear the mifepristone case on May 17. In January 2018 Ho was sworn by Justice Clarence Thomas in his benefactor Harlan Crow’s private library.

Photo: Ted Cruz.

+ There are two senate committees looking into, rather passively to be sure, Harlan Crow’s financial gifts to Clarence Thomas. Crow’s given money to each of the Republican senators on both committees to the tune of $429,000 to Republicans on the Judiciary Committee and $239,140 to Republicans on the Finance Committee.

+ The Louisiana House of Representatives killed a measure that would have allowed a rape and incest exception to the state’s extreme abortion ban. The chamber was apparently swayed by the testimony of  Pastor John Raymond, who claimed that women would lie about being raped and “clamor to put old boyfriends behind bars…to dispense with the inconvenience of giving birth.” Republicans  found Raymond a persuasive witness despite the fact that the man of the cloth is facing multiple counts of cruelty to children, including taping church students’ mouths shut as punishment for talking in class and holding a 4-year-old upside down by his ankles and whipping him in the buttocks.

+ Last year, a Tennessee woman named Mayron Michelle Hollis was diagnosed with an abnormal pregnancy that threatened her own life. Her condition (cesarean scar ectopic pregnancy) was so severe that Hollis’ doctors feared her pregnancy could rupture and cause a hemorrhage in the first trimester, where she could bleed out in less than 10 minutes even with medical help. Hollis didn’t want to end her pregnancy, but she also didn’t want to die. The immediate problem was that Tennessee had just outlawed abortion without any exceptions, making it a crime punishable by up to 15 years in prison for any doctor who terminated any pregnancy. So Hollis was left with few options but try to take the pregnancy to term. At around seven months, she began to bleed profusely and was taken to Vanderbilt hospital, where doctors performed an emergency C-section. The baby girl weighed one pound and 15 ounces,  and unable to breathe on her own. Hollis nearly bled out on the table. Both ended up surviving. But a few weeks later, Hollis was notified that the state of Tennessee was opening a child endangerment case against her because THC had been detected in in her daughter Elayna’s umbilical cord, even though the compound, delta-8, a synthetic THC, is legal in Tennessee and was probably the least harmful thing done to mother or daughter.

+ Weird sociological study of the week: Apparently, women are more likely to blame a rape victim who is shown wearing red vs. one who is wearing green, especially when the blamers have heightened just world beliefs (i.e. they believe life is fair). One theory of victim blaming among women is female intrasexual competition.

+ Kurt Vonnegut: “Wherever you go there is always a Hoosier doing something very important there…” a gutsy, 79-year-old one just landed the first knockdown of Trump…

+ CNN used the Carroll verdict to advertise its Town Hall with Trump. What’s next? MSNBC promoting the return of the Cosby Show?

+ The grotesque spectacle of CNN’s Town Hall shows that Trump has lost none of his malign magic. Desperate to boost its ratings, CNN gave Trump a platform and it paid demented dividends. He insulted one of the network’s star reporters Kaitlan Collins (who once rated male Syrian refugees by their hotness for Tucker Carlson’s e-zine The Daily Caller), repeated his election lies, celebrated the J-6 rioters, urged the House Republics to default on the debt and slandered E. Jean Carroll, claiming he didn’t know anything about her except that she was a “whack job” with a cat named “Vagina.” Carroll should sue CNN for everything they’ve got. Unfortunately, all the failing network’s got at the moment are the receipts from the ads they sold to give Trump a platform to defame her again. On the evidence of this showing, Trump’s going to shred Ron DeSantis, who is even stiffer and slower on his feet than “Jeb!”

+ Before the Town Hall, Trump supposedly told CNN supremo Christ Licht backstage that he would boost their ratings. Licht nodded and said Trump should “have fun.

+ Shouldn’t some of the blame for the debacle lie at the feet of two of the most insufferable people on TV, Joe Scarborough & Stephen Colbert? After all,  Licht rose to prominence as producer and “show runner” (whatever the hell that really means) for Morning Joe and the Late Show.

+ CNN’s Trump show managed to win the cable ratings night with 3.1 million total viewers. But this still was around 500,000 fewer than watched Tucker Carlson’s interview with Kanye West.


+ British PM Harold MacMillan on Ike’s Sec. of State John Foster Dulles: “His speech was slow, but it easily kept pace with his thoughts.”

+ When Ike took office in 1953, the US nuclear arsenal stood at around 2,000 warheads and the USSR, after the death of Stalin, was anxious for a new detente with the West. But the conciliatory overtures from Stalin’s successor Gregory Malenkov were rejected, largely at the insistence of John Foster Dulles, in favor of a nuclear build-up under the administration’s “New Look” national security policy. When he left office 8 years later, the stockpile had swelled to more than 22,000. There’s little evidence Eisenhower ever heeded his own apparent misgivings about the military-industrial complex.

+ As Ben Freeman and William Hartung reported in CounterPunch last week, the average taxpayer in the US contributes $1,087 per year on weapons contractors compared to just $270 for K-12 education.

+ Alabama Senator, and former Auburn football coach, Tommy Tuberville is currently holding up the promotions of some 200 senior military officers because he believes the Pentagon has surrendered to “wokeness.”

“Do you believe they should allow white nationalists in the military?” Sen. Tuberville: “Well, they call them that. I call them Americans.”

+ In an interview with WBHM, the NRP station in Birmingham, Tuberville was asked: “Do you believe they should allow white nationalists in the military?”

Tuberville: “Well, they call them that. I call them Americans.”

Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His most recent book is An Orgy of Thieves: Neoliberalism and Its Discontents (with Alexander Cockburn). He can be reached at: or on Twitter @JeffreyStClair3