I haven’t seen Left and Right this united over something in quite awhile. The evidence supports outrage in the Garner case. It did not in the Brown case. (But, unsurprisingly, the Left can’t look past their race narrative to see the distinction.) As you probably heard last night, there will be no indictment of the cop who caused Eric Garner’s death by putting him in a chokehold (which is not illegal, but is against the NYPD’s rules after they found it was causing people’s deaths) after he mildly resisted arrest over untaxed cigarettes. Now, we don’t know what the Grand Jury saw, but it’s difficult to imagine what they could have seen that would have trumped the obvious probable cause provided by the video evidence and the coroner’s report (his death was ruled a homicide). This looks like fairly obvious second degree manslaughter and how this didn’t at least go to trial is beyond me. Remember, the standard for an indictment is probable cause. Like I said, maybe the Grand Jury saw other evidence (it would be nice if they would release all the evidence to the public a la Ferguson, but the little bit they did release tells us nothing) or maybe the prosecutor is corrupt. Here’s the best analysis I’ve seen of the case from tough-on-crime, former federal prosecutor from New York, Andrew McCarthy who concludes: “I thus cannot in good conscience say there was insufficient probable cause to indict Officer Pantaleo for involuntary manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide.”
The media and the protestors have finally picked a case that actually warrants getting upset about, but the irony is the protestors are Leftists who are protesting Leftist policies imposed by the Leftist politicians they consistently vote for…but they don’t realize it. You can keep protesting, protestors, but nothing will change as long as you keep voting the way you do. Government = force, coercion, no accountability, etc….and you keep voting for the party of more government. As Jon Gabriel wrote yesterday:
I find it odd that the New York’s Mayor is demanding that the public protest against the NYPD, an organization that he ostensibly runs. The Mayor seems to be protesting himself. This is a continuing problem we see with many elected leftists. The romantic view of the protestor speaking Truth to Power maintains a steel grip on the progressive imagination. It is hard for De Blasio, Holder and Obama to shed the language and tactics of protest even though they run the establishment, top to bottom. Not only does the Left run the federal, state and local governments of New York, they run the media, the academy, the world of entertainment, and much of big business.
When a CEO is disappointed with his company’s performance in Q3, he changes policy and personnel to improve in Q4. He doesn’t carry a sign through the parking lot shouting “Hey Hey, Ho Ho, Joe in Accounting’s Got to Go!” He just makes the changes; that’s his job. If De Blasio wants to change the culture or procedures of the NYPD, meet with the police chief and get it done. You can’t keep fighting The Man when The Man is you.
De Blasio is responsible for reimplementing the flawed “broken windows” policing tactics, by the way, which lead to incidents like this one. These tactics encourage police to crack down on minor offenses (such as selling untaxed cigarettes, aka “loosies”). So instead of getting handed a ticket, Eric Garner gets put in a chokehold that results in his death over some “loosies.”
Here’s why Eric Garner is no longer with us: Nanny state Lefties think they know what’s best for you and therefore should impose it on you by force, so they tax cigarettes at 1000% because cigarettes are bad for you and they think by making them unaffordable they’re forcing you into making the correct life choice (quitting smoking). Their taxes don’t affect the rich, of course, they just make it impossible for the poor (who can’t possibly make their own decisions, duh, silly plebs) to afford cigarettes. So a black market for cigarettes is created because here’s the thing: unless you live under a fucking rock, you know cigarettes are bad for you. You’re not smoking them because you think they’re good for you. You’re smoking them because you’re addicted and you can’t stop and/or you just enjoy it. Smokers know it’s bad for them just like I know junk food is bad for me. But guess what? I eat it anyway, because I want to. I’m a consenting adult in a free society who doesn’t need Gaius Julius Bloomberg or Comrade de Blasio to make that decision for me. As anyone who has any knowledge of human nature or history or even a fucking modicum of common sense knows, the elites telling the plebs they should stop doing something doesn’t mean it stops being done. People will find a way to get what they want anyway, but now you’ve just made it illegal. And now that it’s illegal, the state is allowed to use force, which will sometimes be deadly force. And so here we are.
Eric Garner died because he was selling loose, untaxed cigarettes to people who just want a smoke but now can’t afford to buy a pack thanks to the nanny state. The nanny state will now probably raise cigarette taxes to pay for the civil wrongful death suit that is likely – rightly – coming their way from Garner’s family, because the government is broke as it continues to spend money it doesn’t have. It resolves this problem, not by exercising some actual fiscal responsibility and balancing the books, but by mining its citizens for money. As Radley Balko reported in St. Louis, and now we see it here, the state-to-citizen relationship starts to break down when people constantly feel they are being shaken down and scolded and bothered and fined for every little goddamn thing. Eric Garner’s last words are not the words of an aggressive man who wants to physically fight the police. They are the words of an exhausted man who is tired of being hassled for trying to make some money to feed his family by selling a legal product in a way that has now been made illegal by a bunch of arrogant, capricious bureaucrats:
And so, while the Left is going to continue with its race narrative because that’s what they do, hopefully some will wake up and realize that big government kills blacks, whites, adults, children, dogs, etc. every day over stupid little petty laws. I post many examples of this in my links from time to time. Race may be a factor in some cases, but I think it’s mainly about the powerful vs. the weak. I think it’s less about hating someone because of the pigmentation of their skin, and more about recognizing that some people are weaker in our society (poorer, can’t afford a lawyer, etc.) and therefore can be more easily taken advantage of. We’ve sadly reached a point as a society where the state is much, much more powerful than the citizen. That’s not what we were supposed to be. Whether the state is assaulting you or your property, the sad fact is, they usually get away with it. The IRS doesn’t give a fuck for the same reason the police don’t give a fuck (not all, but some). Because what are you going to do about it? Nothing. It’s the powerful (police, unions, politicians, anything backed by the state) vs. the weak (us, the average citizens). Here’s another example that will make your blood boil:
Wally Kowalski, an engineer living in a farmhouse in rural southwest Michigan, came home one day last September to find his property swarming with cops. They told him that they had spotted his marijuana plants from a helicopter. Kowalski has a license to grow and distribute medical pot to several low-income people who depend on the drug. He grows the plants in a garden area enclosed by a barbed wire fence.
But whether or not Kowalski had a legal right to grow mattered little to the state police, who seized his power generator—even though it had nothing to do with his marijuana plants—and some expensive equipment. They also destroyed the plants. Kowalski told the Mackinac Center for Public Policy that they grabbed anything likely to be sold at a police auction. He said they were positively giddy after searching his house and finding his financial papers…The police froze his accounts, rendering him unable to make payments on his student loans or other bills. And he could no longer complete the immigration process for his wife, a resident of Africa.
The authorities haven’t charged Kowalski with a crime. They didn’t even confiscate his marijuana license—probably because it has no auction value. He wishes they would—at least then he could defend himself in court, in front of a judge or jury. As things stand, he’s unsure what he’s supposed to do to convince the police to give him back his property.
Thomas Williams, another southwest Michigan resident, suffered a similar ordeal. His medical marijuana activities prompted police to ransack his property while they left him handcuffed for 10 hours. The cops took his car, phone, TV, and cash. Afterward, he had no means of getting to the grocery store or even contacting another human being for days. Like Kowalski, he hasn’t been charged with a crime. That was over a year ago. The police still have his stuff.
Government/the state is force. It is violence. It is not “just the name for things we do together” or whatever fluffy bunny bullshit way the Left wants to describe it. This is why there should be few laws and why that force should be used in few circumstances.
This is why I can’t stand the “do something!” crowd that rates Congress based on how many laws it passes. We have way too many laws as it is. People need to understand that when a law is passed the state is duty bound to enforce it and may end up killing a guy who resists arrest for it.
As George Washington (might have) said, “Government is not reason; it is not eloquence; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.” Robert Tracinski has a masterful piece on all of this. Here’s an excerpt, but go read the whole thing:
The thing that strikes me as most important about the Garner case is how stupid the reason was for arresting this guy: he was being busted for selling single, “loose” cigarettes in order to evade heavy taxes on tobacco products. Basically, he was arrested for doing something that, in a previous era, thousands of people would have been doing in New York on any given day: selling goods on the streets of the city without any particular permission. It’s a low-grade form of entrepreneurialism. But not in the nanny-state New York of today. In a city where everything is taxed and regulated and you can’t put trans-fats in your food or buy a soda that’s too large, it makes perfect sense that they would harass a guy for selling cigarettes on the streets without permission. After all, they’re bad for people. Somebody might die.
This case is a reminder that, as Twitter user Bill Hobbs put it, government is force, and more government equals more force. Government is not a benevolent authority working bloodlessly behind the scenes to ensure seamless social harmony. Government is a guy giving you orders about what you can’t do—with a gun on his hip, handcuffs at the ready, and a muscular arm to wrap around your neck if you resist.
Putting stiff taxes on cigarettes to discourage smoking may sound great, and shouldn’t we do it for the children? But what it means in actual, concrete practice, is this: Every confrontation between police and citizens has the potential to go wrong and accidentally kill someone. This is actually why I have some sympathy for the police. Their job is to be the instrument of all the laws we pass. So when the law descends from the clouds of benevolent abstraction and becomes a diktat telling specific, actual human beings what to do, the cop’s job is to make good on that diktat by using force against citizens.
We should remember that whenever the police use force, there is the danger that they will kill someone, whether through malice, poor judgment, poor training, or sheer accident. From time to time, they’re going to shoot the wrong person or wrestle a guy to the ground without knowing that he has serious health problems and can’t survive this kind of rough handling. That is one good reason (among many) to make sure that police are only authorized to interfere with someone whose actions are a threat to the lives and property of others, and not just to enforce some dumb, petty regulation.
The contradiction of the left is that they want to inject government into every little aspect of our lives and mandate that the police confront us all the time over everything—and then they scream when some of those confrontations go wrong. In this way, they are not only hoping for a new series of contentious, racially charged killings. By extending the reach of government and the omnipresence of police power in our lives, they are creating the conditions that make those cases inevitable.
But go ahead Lefties, continue to make the Garner case all about race if you must and we can continue to not solve the problem.
Some additional links:
None of the 4 EMS workers or 8 (!) cops on the scene lifted a finger to administer any aid to Garner as he was lying on the ground dying. What the hell is wrong with people?
David Harsanyi on how stupid laws can kill people.
Here are Radley Balko’s thoughts. He also points out that the cop had previously been sued twice for violating citizen’s constitutional rights.Abusive cops are notoriously difficult to fire (like abusive teachers) because of unions, of course. Another issue that needs to be dealt with that the Left refuses to deal with.
Ross Douthat hones in on another key problem that needs to be resolved: cops seem much too eager to use aggressive force these days, as I’ve written previously.
Ace offers a very reasonable dissent, though I disagree.
I’ll close with Charles C.W. Cooke’s great piece on all of this, in which he flushes out why progressives and conservatives are both outraged, but for different reasons. Here’s an excerpt:
Was Garner killed deliberately? No, of course he was not. Whatever the protesters might be chanting today, intent matters a great deal, and we are quite obviously not dealing here with a premeditated murder. Nevertheless, we should all be willing to acknowledge that Garner would never have been so much as approached had the city not wanted its pound of flesh in the first instance. Because there are consequences to all laws — however minor — it is incumbent upon us to ask if those laws are worth the risks that they yield. What, I wonder, would the anti-tax rebels who threw off the British Empire make of the news that a man had lost his life for peacefully selling a “loosie”? Is this why governments are instituted among men?
Evidently, this question occurred to others, too, for as soon as the decision had been announced, conservatives began to quote Cicero’s maxim — “the more laws, the less justice” — and to propose that by contriving fewer instances in which government force is deemed to be appropriate, we will limit the number of accidents and injustices perpetrated in the name of the state. Generally speaking, those on the right took a number of positions simultaneously: They were outraged by the behavior of both the cop and the Grand Jury, but they were also keen to note that the case was egregious and that it was newsworthy precisely because it was rare. There are hundreds of thousands of arrests made in New York every year, they observed, and this sort of thing rarely happens. Nevertheless, those who want to make sure it happens even less, they proposed, might stop calling for government that intrudes in every nook and cranny of our lives.
From what I can see, the Left found this reaction utterly perplexing — at best a distraction from the issues; at worst the cynical hijacking of a tragedy…On the face of it, then, we have a paradox: To wit, that those who believe these incidents to be rare are the ones making a strong case against the sort of laws that bring cops into contact with minor criminals; while those who believe that these things happen as a matter of routine reject such talk out of hand. On closer inspection, however, this is not quite as peculiar as it seems. Rather, it goes back to the fundamental philosophical cleavages that animate and undergird American life. As a rule, progressives believe that human nature can be changed over time, that abuses of power can be rooted out with better education and the selection of more angelic enforcers, and that by playing with societal variables in precisely the right way we will be able to turn the state into a benevolent and loving force. In consequence, the only real villains in this case are the cop and his prejudices, and to allow those to deprive us of laws designed to raise revenue, to protect community businesses, and to improve public health would be irresponsible and unfair.
Conservatives, by contrast, tend to be more convinced by the Hayekian asseveration that human nature is essentially fixed and that any consolidation of power serves eventually to attract to public service those who are least capable of bearing the responsibility. These people not only regard the Left’s refusal to connect the ideas of “government” and “force” as being illustrative of a more general unwillingness to acknowledge the consequences of its philosophy, but they believe that anybody who wishes to diminish the abuse of power without also diminishing the scope of that power is irredeemably naïve — and possibly even dangerous. To start any reform by proposing that the state must improve the human condition and eliminate the vicissitudes of daily life is, in this way of thinking, to admit that you don’t have a plan at all.