Political Pretzel Logic without Cognitive Dissonance

By
• Topics: USA & World,

Ray Kamada guest writes. Ray is a retired atmospheric physicist from NOAA/DoD, and is now mostly involved in climate change and renewable energy studies.

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Ever notice how some folks don’t suffer any mental discomfort, aka cognitive dissonance, from holding conflicting beliefs? What I mean is - pretzel logic just doesn’t bother them.

For example:

How can people who wave Confederate flags claim they’re patriots?

Or, how can people insist Blue Lives Matter, yet think that two dead United States Capitol cops, plus another 140 stomped by a Trump-loving mob, is somehow OK?

Or, how can Trump not be impeachable because he’s no longer president, yet still be the real president because he didn’t really lose? Conversely, if he’s still the only legitimate president, then how can he not be impeachable?

Or finally, how can one be “all in” for natural herd immunity, yet insist on one’s right to be a breeding ground for ever-new strains of COVID-19 that will bypass herd immunity?

Allow me to elaborate.

A) How can people, while waving Confederate flags or sporting other secessionist regalia, claim they’re American “patriots”?

This one seems self-explanatory, but maybe not. And that’s my basic point - why is there no disconnect? Do they think the former Confederate States are the real, yet secessionist, America? For example, it’s been said that Sarah and Todd Palin are forerunners of today’s Republicans. Yet, for seven years, Todd belonged to Alaska’s Independence (secessionist) Party. However, Alaska didn’t exist during the Confederacy. So maybe it’s based on something else… whiteness? Being anti-government? Or perhaps such people wish to emulate banana republics and failed states by adding a few words to our nation’s founding phrases, such as…

“We are a nation of (scoff and out) laws.”

“Taxation (even with over-) representation is tyranny.”

“America, the land of the free (from accountability).”

Then again, unlike the mob that stormed the Capitol Building a month ago, at least Todd didn’t chant for the VP to be hanged, even if his name is Mike, not Sarah.

B) Speaking of which, how can people think 140 Capitol Police getting stomped by a right-wing mob is no big deal, yet still claim that Blue Lives Matter?

This one seems more like superficial convenience, as in “Blue Lives Matter”—but only when they take our side. If someone has a more credibly nuanced view of it, go ahead and bring it. Meanwhile, we note that Fox News chose to cut away to other issues, rather than cover the state funeral of Officer Brian Sicknick, the Capitol Police cop who died of head injuries suffered during the attempted coup, insurrection, storming, or whatever you choose to call it.

And as a directly related subject:

C) How can Congressional representatives credibly claim that Trump can’t be impeached for inciting the above insurrection because he no longer “holds the office,” yet somehow also claim that he’s the real president because he didn’t actually lose? Sounds contradictory and perhaps moot, but can one even “hold the office” without being “in office”?

The answer to that is YES! That is, Congress was forced to impeach and convict Federal District Court Judge Harry E. Claiborne, due to that very distinction between “holding office” and being “in office” because rather than sit on the bench, Harry was sitting in a jail cell.

That is, according to his wikipedia entry. “When Claiborne entered prison on March 16, 1986 for tax evasion, he intended to return to the bench two years later and therefore did not resign his judiciary post. As a result, he continued to receive his salary of $78,700 a year. This brought considerable controversy and pressure on some in Congress to remove him. However, the United States Constitution allowed only one method for removing a federal judge – impeachment.”

While Trump is clearly not “in office,” if his supporters believe he is actually the real president, then they must also believe he still “holds the office,” and, if so, he’s impeachable. You can’t have it both ways.

Though you can always try, as in…

D) How can one be “all in” for natural herd immunity, yet insist on being a breeding ground for ever-new strains of COVID-19 that will bypass that herd immunity?

This one calls for some detail. Unlike the “COVID-is-a-hoax”-ers, the “herd immunity” mongers concede that the pandemic is an actual problem. But their sub-claim is that COVID is scarcely more serious than seasonal flu. Thus, their real issue is mostly that it’s tanking the economy, due to a politically inspired over-reaction. This view was strongly endorsed by the Trump White House; and physician David L. Katz, on the nominally left-leaning Bill Maher Show; as well as Stanford University epidemiologist, John Ioannidis. So, let’s review their sub-claims against the following, quite remarkable finding.

CDC statistics, from October through January of this winter, show that there were more than 350k confirmed COVID hospitalizations and 200k confirmed COVID deaths. Meanwhile, U.S. deaths due to flu were averaging about 24k per year. Yet, this winter we’ve seen only 142 flu hospitalizations and less than ten deaths, a phenomenal drop!

From this, we can infer that COVID is clearly far more serious than flu. It also seems the COVID mitigation measures, in place this winter, have also limited the poorly transmitted flu at least as effectively as the far more contagious COVID. After all, R0, the basic reproduction number (number of people each carrier is likely to infect under unmitigated conditions) has a median value for flu of around 1.28 and fatality rate of around 0.1%. By contrast, the currently dominant D614G strain of COVID-19 has an R0 of maybe 2.5 to 4.0, with a median fatality rate of around 0.6%. (11, 12, 13) However, R0 values for the new UK, South African, and Brazilian strains are likely higher. For example, the UK strain has been tracked long enough to suggest that it’s about 29% more lethal and 70% more contagious. (14, 15, 16) Thus, one of these new variants is bound to displace DG614 as the dominant strain.

Which underscores the ugly irony of item D): By avoiding vacccination, those who advocate for natural “herd immunity,” may ensure we never reach it.

Take for example Manaus, Brazil, a city of two million, where more than three of every four residents test positive. Yet, Manaus is suddenly surging with new COVID cases, perhaps because the immunity conferred by exposure to the old strain doesn’t extend to the new strain that’s raging there now. And therein lies the rub. As long as there’s a sizable, un-immunized population, the virus will keep mutating within it to more virulent strains. And that feature may extend to the already vaccinated. That is, some of our initial vaccines don’t seem as effective against the newer UK and South African strains.

Thus, a large pool of unvaccinateds poses the unwelcome prospect that herd immunity, natural or not, may be out of reach. If so, we’ll require at least yearly booster shots, to deal with ever-mutating, new strains of COVID, like the flu, except far deadlier.

So, pretzel logic sans cognitive dissonance may be amusing, but when it degrades the lives, safety, security, and democracy that we cherish, there’s really no substitute for facts, logic and solid reasoning.

About Guest Writer

Citizen Journalist • Member since Jun 15, 2008

Since 2008, this moniker has been used over 130 times on articles written by guest writers who may write once or very occasionally for Northwest Citizen, but not regularly.

Comments by Readers

Dick Conoboy

Feb 09, 2021

There are several other cases of an impeachment trial after the individual leaves office:

“In 1861, West Humphreys left his federal judgeship to join the confederacy as a judge. A year later, the House impeached him, and the Senate convicted, removed, and disqualified him from holding any federal office again. If one merely looks at presidential impeachments as a guide in answering the question whether Trump may be tried after leaving office, this precedent will be among those overlooked. No serious impeachment scholar has ever contested Humphreys’ impeachment or conviction though he had abandoned his office a year before his impeachment, conviction, removal, and disqualification.

[Another] precedent involves President Ulysses Grant’s secretary of war, William Belknap. Belknap was corrupt, and in 1876 the House had begun to consider his impeachment for bribery. Belknap was desperate to stop the impeachment, so he rushed over to the White House and pleaded with the president to accept his letter of resignation before the House formally impeached him. He hoped his resignation would block the House, but it did not: The House proceeded to impeach him. In the impeachment trial, the Senate voted 37-29 that Belknap was “amendable to trial by impeachment [notwithstanding] his resignation of said office.”  The Senate voted to convict Belknap by a similar vote, which fell short of the two-thirds required for a conviction.”

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Steve Harris

Feb 09, 2021

We won’t know whether (or not) the act of impeaching an elected official after they leave office is constitutional until an actual case is decided by the judiciary. I don’t believe the House or Senate has the authority to decide whether or not their own actions are constitutional. That why we have a SCOTUS.  Kinda like our own County Council taking an action and then justifying the legality (or constitutionality) of that decision simpy because a majority of its current body said it’s so.

As far as Law Enforcement.  I don’t think you’ll find a single LE Officer that isn’t saddened by the death of another LE Officer..that’s the whole point of “blue lives matter”.  Anyone responsible for the death of a police officer (or anyone else) should be held accountable without regard to who they voted for.  It isn’t cognitive dissonance to vote for someone and then support the arrest of someone that happened to vote for the same person. 

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David A. Swanson

Feb 09, 2021

For hard-core cognitive dissonance check out the COVID-19 situation in Tanzania, where according to President Magufuli, God has removed the virus. Hard to tell though since Tanzania has not reported any health data for months. Likely, God will remove adverse climatic changes along with Magufuli’s political opponents. Trump should turn to the power of prayer. Joel Osteen will likely help him find his way. Hopefully, it will be all the way to Tanzania with his brownshirts, the maga militia.

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Ray Kamada

Feb 14, 2021

From Steve Harris above: “We won’t know whether (or not) the act of impeaching an elected official after they leave office is constitutional until an actual case is decided by the judiciary. I don’t believe the House or Senate has the authority to decide whether or not their own actions are constitutional. That why we have a SCOTUS.”

My article didn’t attempt to address whether it’s constitutional to try an impeachment case after the defendant has left office. However, as Dick Conoboy has pointed out above, the first such instance of Congress having done so occurred in 1862, and another in 1876, as well as the 1986 Judge Harry Claiborne case I cited that occurred in more recent times, along with others. So, it seems that the SCOTUS has had 158 years to render a decision on constitutionality, yet hasn’t done so, despite having had several opportunities, perhaps most notably in

Hastings v. U.S. 802 F. Supp. 490 (D.D.C. 1992)

  • The defendants urge the Court to dismiss this action on the grounds that it lacks jurisdiction to review any matter having to do with impeachment. The defendants claim that the political question doctrine applies to this case, therefore it is nonjusticiable. For support, they cite the decision by the Court of Appeals for this circuit in Nixon v. United States, 938 F.2d 239 (1991). In that case, former federal district judge Walter Nixon sued the Senate after he was impeached and convicted claiming among other things that the procedures used by the Senate violated the Constitution.

    AND

 

Nixon v. United States 506 U.S. 224 (1993)

Holding nonjusticiable the Senate’s impeachment procedures in light of Article I’s commitment to the Senate of the ” ‘sole Power to try all Impeachments’ “

Pp. 236-238. 290 U.S.App.D.C. 420, 938 F.2d 239, affirmed. REHNQUIST, C.J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which STEVENS, O’CONNOR, SCALIA, KENNEDY, and THOMAS, JJ., joined.

Note that Justices Scalia and Thomas joined the majority opinion that these cases were non-justiciable, meaning, as consistent with Article I of the US Constitution, that the courts have, essentially, no say over federal impeachments.

So, though I’m not remotely a constitutional scholar nor even a lawyer, my reading is contrary to Mr. Harris’ view in that the courts, by disavowing any claim of authority, have indeed affirmed in multiple cases, that the House and Senate do solely determine the constitutionality of their own actions wrt presidential and other impeachments.

Moreover, a) the House did impeach Trump prior to the end of his term. And b) the trial was far from moot because, if convicted, Trump would not only have been turned out of office, he’d also have been barred from the Presidency, as well as any other federally elected office, in this instance, the latter penalty being the obviously crucial one.

BTAIM, I’d further opine that the Republican senators are extremely lucky to have Mitch McConnell, who successfully delayed the impeachment trial until after Trump left office. Then he claimed that the delay that he himself had wrought was somehow constitutionally dubious, and thus a valid reason not to convict. Then, immediately following the impeachment vote, he proceeded to blast Trump as being, essentially, guilty as sin, yet also laid the onus of restitution elsewhere, i.e., at the feet of the regular criminal and civil courts.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/13/us/mcconnell-trump-impeachment-acquittal.html

As further example of his deft use of de facto PRETZEL LOGIC, this utterly successful series of moves was frankly, BRILLIANT, in that it provided the pretext his fellow Republican Senators needed in order to avoid having to convict, in front of all of his zealous and evidently violent supporters, according to McConnell’s own words, a clearly guilty Trump, while also de facto dumping, on the rest of us, any and all responsibility for bringing Trump to any sort of justice.

TOUCHE!

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Ray Kamada

Feb 23, 2021

As for Mr. Harris’ comment regarding the high regard of fellow law enforcement officers for one another, the Law and Crime site says the FBI just arrested an ex-20 year NYPD cop for repeatedly assaulting a Capitol policeman during the Jan. 6th insurrection.

https://lawandcrime.com/u-s-capitol-siege/a-danger-to-the-community-20-year-nypd-veteran-denied-bail-over-role-in-jan-6-insurrection/

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