Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Last Call For The GOP's Race To The Bottom, Con't

Yet another white male Republican voter gets caught committing full-on intentional voter fraud, and gets a slap on the wrist for it, while Crystal Mason, a Black woman, continues to serve hard prison time for accidentally doing so.
In the wake of Donald Trump's defeat last fall, Republicans launched a desperate search for illegally cast ballots to help justify the GOP's conspiracy theories. But as regular readers know, despite all the hysterical rhetoric, only a handful of legitimate allegations have been raised -- and some of the most notable examples involve Republicans casting illegal ballots on behalf of dead relatives.

Take Pennsylvania's Robert Richard Lynn, for example. The Times Leader in Wilkes-Barre reported yesterday:

A man from Forty Fort said he used "poor judgement" and regrets using his deceased mother's name on an application for an absentee ballot for the 2020 presidential election. Robert Richard Lynn, 68, of Center Street, pleaded guilty to a third-degree misdemeanor charge of violations relating to absentee or mail-in ballots during a court proceeding before Luzerne County Judge Michael T. Vough on Monday.

The recent pattern is pretty amazing. Revisiting our earlier coverage, we learned in May, for example, about Pennsylvania's Bruce Bartman, who cast an absentee ballot in support of Trump for his mother -- who died in 2008. Bartman pleaded guilty to unlawful voting, conceded he "listened to too much propaganda," and was sentenced to five years' probation.

About a month later, Edward Snodgrass, a local Republican official in Ohio, admitted to forging his dead father's signature on an absentee ballot and then voting again as himself. NBC News noted at the time that Snodgrass struck a deal with prosecutors and was sentenced to three days in jail and a $500 fine.

This new example is notable in part because of the amount of effort the Republican voter in Pennsylvania invested in his scheme. This guy used a typewriter to complete an absentee ballot application -- pretending to be his deceased mother, Lynn claimed to be "visiting great grand kids" around the time of the election -- before signing the dead woman's name.

It wasn't long before election officials flagged the ballot, when a database showed that the voter in question died six years ago.

The defendant faced up to two years behind bars. He instead received a sentence of six months' probation.

As we've discussed, there are a handful of ways to look at incidents like these. My first thought is of Crystal Mason, who cast a provisional ballot in the 2016 while on supervised release for a federal conviction. She didn't know she was ineligible to vote, and her ballot was never counted, but Mason -- a Black woman -- was convicted of illegal voting and sentenced to five years in prison.

It's hard not to notice that White men like Robert Richard Lynn, Edward Snodgrass, and Bruce Bartman received vastly more lenient sentences, despite the fact that they knowingly hatched schemes to cast illegal ballots on behalf of dead relatives.


But of course, we know why. A Black former felon who served her time and voted because she didn't know that as a felon she had lost the vote (even though she was no longer a felon) was thrown back in prison, while white men who deliberately and fraudulently voted on purpose, with intent?

Slap on the wrist.

Food For Thought, Con't

Lost in all the noise about delta variant, Afghanistan, Haiti and Obama's birthday party, the Biden administration permanently increased SNAP benefits by 25% over pre-pandemic levels, which is a huge, huge boost for getting rid of poverty and food insecurity.

The Biden administration approved on Monday the biggest boost to food assistance benefits in the history of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, a reform that could impact as many as 42 million Americans.

Starting in October, SNAP benefits will increase by an average of 25% above pre-pandemic levels. That will be the first time the purchasing power of the aid has changed since the program’s creation in 1975.

“Ensuring low-income families have access to a healthy diet helps prevent disease, supports children in the classroom, reduces health-care costs and more,” U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement. “And the additional money families will spend on groceries helps grow the food economy, creating thousands of new jobs along the way.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said the updated benefits formula is based on current food prices, what Americans typically eat, dietary guidance and the nutrients in food items. A study by the government in June found that 88% of SNAP recipients were struggling to achieve a healthy diet.

The average benefit, which was $121 before Covid, will increase by $36 a month under the new policy, according to the USDA.

During the pandemic, all SNAP recipients got a 15% boost to their benefits, but that additional aid expires at the end of September.

Even as the economy improves from the worst of the pandemic, 10% of U.S. households continue to report not having enough food to eat, including 17% of Black families.
SNAP/food stamps are basically my age, and they're only now being updated with a better, more accurate formula. After 45 years.
But Biden did what had to be done, when Bush and Trump wouldn't, and Clinton and Obama couldn't.



The Vax Of Life, Con't

As expected with the delta variant of COVID-19 raging across the unvaccinated South and America as a whole crossing the million new cases per week mark again on Monday, the Biden administration today will be advising most vaccinated Americans to receive vaccine booster shots starting as early as next month.

The Biden administration has decided that most Americans should get a coronavirus booster vaccination eight months after they received their second shot, and could begin offering third shots as early as mid-September, according to administration officials familiar with the discussions.

Officials are planning to announce the decision as early as this week. Their goal is to let Americans who received the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines know now that they will need additional protection against the Delta variant that is causing caseloads to surge across much of the nation. The new policy will depend on the Food and Drug Administration’s authorization of additional shots.

Officials said they expect that recipients of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which was authorized as a one-dose regimen, will also require an additional dose. But they are waiting for the results of that firm’s two-dose clinical trial, expected later this month.

The first boosters are likely to go to nursing home residents, health care workers and emergency workers. They would probably be followed by other older people who were near the front of the line when vaccinations began late last year, then by the general population. Officials envision giving people the same vaccine they originally received.

The decision comes as the Biden administration is struggling to regain control of a pandemic that it had claimed to have tamed little more than a month ago. President Biden had declared the nation reopened for normal life for the July 4 holiday, but the wildfire spread of the Delta variant has thwarted that. Covid-19 patients are again overwhelming hospitals in some states, and federal officials are worried about an increase in the number of children hospitalized just as the school year is set to begin.

For weeks, Biden administration officials have been analyzing the rise in Covid-19 cases, trying to figure out if the Delta variant is better able to evade the vaccines or if the vaccines have waned in strength over time. According to some administration experts, both could be true, a distressing combination that is re-energizing a pandemic that the nation fervently hoped had been curbed.

Dr. Francis S. Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, told “Fox News Sunday” that “there is a concern that the vaccine may start to wane.” That, combined with the Delta variant’s ferocity, could dictate boosters, he said.

Federal health officials have been particularly concerned about data from Israel suggesting that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine’s protection against severe disease has fallen significantly for elderly people who got their second shot in January or February.

Israel can in some ways be viewed as a template for the United States because it vaccinated more of its population faster and has almost exclusively used the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine that made up much of the U.S. stock. Unlike the United States, though, Israel has a nationalized health care system that allows it to systematically track patients.

The latest Israeli data, posted on the government’s website on Monday, shows what some experts described as continued erosion of the efficacy of the Pfizer vaccine against mild or asymptomatic Covid-19 infections in general and against severe disease among the elderly who were vaccinated early in the year.
Extra protection against the delta variant is a good idea, and that means a booster shot early next winter for me. I hope we're in a situation where it's clerical work rather than a necessity, but I fear that another variant this winter could unleash this circus all over again because we have too many clowns in this country who refuse the vaccine.
At some point, we're going to have to make a choice: vaccinate people, mask mandates, and a national response, or live with the virus killing half a million of us a year or more.


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