Friday, December 5, 2014

Conservatives Are Aghast at the New York City Non-Indictment in the Eric Garner Homicide

The contrasting reactions to the grand juries non-indictments in the Ferguson and Eric Garner deaths are illuminating. Conservatives supported the Ferguson decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson. Civil libertarians protested. Both riots and peaceful demonstrations followed. “Hands up; Don’t shoot” became the rallying cry. Conservatives supported the decision. The overwhelming weight of the evidence showed the Officer had the right to self-defense as Michael Brown unwisely attacked him in his car, and that the deceased was not shot in the back. Eric Garner’s death was different. The cry became “I can’t breathe.” Peaceful demonstrations followed throughout the country. Conservative pundits, including those of FoxNews, are outraged by the Grand Jury’s decision. The video in the legal phrase “Res Ipsa Loquiter” speaks for itself. Even former President George W. Bush found the decision to not indict “hard to understand.” Congressman Peter King (R. NY) had a contrary position. He said on FoxNews' Megyn Kelly show that since Eric Garner could say "He couldn't breathe," that showed he could breathe. Unlike Congressman King, I understand what Eric Garner was saying. I can literally say as an asthmatic to a doctor that I can't breathe when the asthma is so severe that it is as though I cannot breathe. A 6’3” 350 lb. African American was gang tackled and apparently chokeholded for selling Loosie cigarettes, that it, single cigarettes, for $.75 each on the street. He was crying out “I can’t breathe.” He was left alone in extremis for a time while paramedics stood by. Capital punishment for a $.75 cigarette seems cruel and unusual punishment. Eric Garner resisted arrest in the sense that his arms were flailing and he refused to cooperate with the horde of officers surrounding him. The Officer testified before the Grand Jury that he did not use a chokehold proscribed by the NFPD, but a wrestling move he was taught in the Police Academy and which is legal under New York State law. The video looks like a chokehold. New York City Mayor De Baslio said: ”This is now a national moment of grief, a national moment of pain, and searching for a solution …. We’re not just dealing with a problem in 2014, we’re not dealing with decades years of racism leading up to it, or a decade of racism – we are dealing with centuries that have brought us to this day.” Eloquent, but wrong – a misdirection and feint over the underlying problem, which is of the day – nor the centuries , but New York’s rapacious cigarette tax, the consequences of which proved tragic with Eric Garner. Mayor De Blasio told the police weeks earlier to enforce the cigarette tax and go after the street sellers, such as Eric Garner. The City and State needed the revenue. New York State imposes a tax of $4.35/pack of 20 cigarettes. New York City adds another $1.50 to the tax, yielding a tax of $5.85/carton, or 29.25 cents per cigarette. Packs retail for $13 - $17, with cartons selling for $130 and up. In short, the government is making more off a pack of cigarettes in New York City than the tobacco companies. The cigarette tax raises money, when it’s collected, but over 60% of the cigarettes sold in New York are bootlegged into the state. The tax is so regressive that the poor can spend 22% of their disposable income on cigarettes. Truckloads of cigarettes are bought in Virginia with a tax of $.30/carton and then enter the New York blackmarket, often selling on the streets of New York as “Loosies” for 75 cents each. Eric Garner was the final link in the distribution chain. He had 2 ½ packs of Newports on him when the confrontation with the police occurred. He died because of a modern tax policy. No one should be confronted by the police over a single cigarette. We have not yet been told if he was selling taxed or untaxed cigarettes. There is no justice in his death, but the settlement with his family will chew up much of the City’s cigarette tax revenue.

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