Dohiyi Mir
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Sunday, January 04, 2004
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The Goring Of Dean

Cowboy Kahlil brought this lovely UPI article to my attention: Outside view: The Howard Dean implosion.

Here's one choice bit of information that supports author Rachel Marsden's thesis:

"The problem is that the Howard Dean gravy train seems to be sputtering toward the end of its track. One can only play "rotate-a-date" for so long, even if it is for a political cause. Looks like they're running out of beer keg money on the Dean campaign trail. They've dropped the fun, playful pretense and are now resorting to flat-out desperation.

On Dec. 28, Dean's campaign manager, Joe Trippi, sent out a mass mailing to every poor sap who happened to give the "Dean for America" folks his or her e-mail address: "We need to raise $1.5 million before midnight on December 31 so we can win Iowa. With just four days left to go, we're $1.2 million short. Please take action right now, because these are the most critical days our campaign has ever faced."

The e-mail message ends with a lovely, upbeat, "We need each other now more than ever. Stand together and do what you can do, but do something." Perhaps a "get off your arses, you lazy hippies" would have been more effective?

Oh my god, she's right! The Dean campaign, in its desperation actually sent out an e-mail to Howie's supporters asking for more money! What's that you say? The GOP sent e-mails telling me that foreigners and liberal billionaires are working to raise $400M to defeat Bush?

But still, the Dean campaign said they were $1.2M short of their goal with four whole days left to go! Clearly the wheels are flying off the Deanmobile. What's that you say? Dean subsequently shattered the quarterly contribution record he set in Q3?

Well, whatever. But how about this:

[H]e said that Bush was given a "heads up" about the 9/11 attacks by Saudi Royals. When he was asked to back up the claim, of course he couldn't.

Wow, Dean is a nut job. How could anyone claim that Bush got a "heads up" about 9/11? What's that you say? He didn't? Oh, you must be referring to his interview on the Diane Rehm show:

Diane Rehm: "Why do you think [Bush] is suppressing [the Sept. 11] report?"

Howard Dean: "I don't know. There are many theories about it. The most interesting theory that I've heard so far - which is nothing more than a theory, it can't be proved - is that he was warned ahead of time by the Saudis. Now who knows what the real situation is, but the trouble is by suppressing that kind of information you lead to those kinds of theories, whether they have any truth to them or not. And eventually they get repeated as fact. So I think the president is taking a great risk by suppressing the key information that needs to go to the Kean Commission."

(There's no transcript, but streaming audio is available, via DocBug.)

Well then, I guess Dean was right: lots of false things get repeated as fact, including the "fact" that he made unsubstantiated claims about Bush's foreknowledge of 9/11. Anyway, looks like it's not unreasonable to say that conspiracy theories develop when you stonewall a commission investigating the worst terror attack on US soil.

Okay, but he's totally out to lunch when it comes to healthcare:

Even when it comes to supposedly "left-wing" issues like healthcare, Dean doesn't seem to have a clue. One would think that, since he's a medical doctor himself, this would be the one area where Dean would really shine. However, when he spoke at a New England conference on healthcare in 2001, he suggested that Vermont's healthcare system should be used as a "national model" since 93 percent of residents (that's Dean's figure -- not that of the Census Bureau's, which says the number is significantly lower) have health insurance.

Dean went on to say, in the same speech, that Vermont's insurance program will be $50 million in the red if something isn't done. OK -- so Vermont, with a population of a little more than 600,000, represents about 0.2 percent of the entire national population. If Dean's model was a national one, covering all 50 states, then America would be about $22 billion in debt.

Completely nuts to try to cover 93% of Americans, and to go into the red to do it! Clearly Dean isn't a fiscal conservative. What's that you say? There's more to this than meets the eye?

Here's what it says in the original AP story the UPI clearly used as source

The lesson from the failure of President Clinton's plan to provide universal health insurance in 1993 is that health care can't be reformed all at once, Dean said.

He suggested Vermont be viewed as a national model, because 93.7 percent of its residents have health insurance. The state offers universal health care for children under 18, a prescription drug purchasing program and a program to move people out of nursing homes into less-expensive home health care.

Vermont's insurance program will be $50 million in the red if something isn't done, Dean said. He's thinking about raising the cigarette tax to raise revenue for health care, following Massachusetts' example.

And sure enough, Governor Dean did raise cigarette taxes to address the shortfall:

Governor Howard Dean signed legislation to increase the cigarette excise tax by $0.75 over two years. The tax rose from the current $0.44 to $0.93 in July 2002, and then to $1.13 in July 2003. Generated funds will be dedicated to health care programs for the poor and disabled. A June 2001 poll found that 71 percent of Vermont voters support a $0.67 tobacco tax increase.

But what about his clearly inflated numbers for how many Vermonters are insured? Oddly, Marsden failed to include the Census Bureau figure, so let's check out what they have to say. A 2002 report (PDF) showed that Vermont had one of the highest insured rates in the country, averaging 90.4% covered from 2000-2002. I'm not so sure that's "significantly lower" than Dean's figure, and I guess it might have been worth including in the article. Digging a little deeper, according to the AP:

87.3 percent of Vermonters had health insurance that year, which would mean the percentage of insured climbed from 87.3 percent in 1991 to 90.4 percent in 2001.

But even so, health analysts say the Census Bureau figures on health care coverage, especially from the early 1990s, are unreliable because of the small sample size used in the survey. Robert Mills, a researcher at the Census Bureau, wrote last year that this particular Census Bureau survey "is not designed primarily to collect health insurance data; it is largely a labor force survey."

Steven Kappel, a health analyst with the non-partisan Joint Fiscal Committee of the Vermont Legislature, said the Census Bureau's figures are especially suspect in small states.

Kappel said more accurate surveys show that the percentage of Vermont's insured climbed from 89 percent in 1993 to 93 percent in 1997 before dropping to 91.6 percent in 2000.

Bottom-line: these numbers are all apparently estimates, but all within a few percentage points of each other. Regardless, it seems like maybe covering a lot of people is a good idea.

Not content to let the UPI skewer Dean by itself, the AP has also gotten into the act: Dean Was Warned on Vt. Nuke Security. Sounds pretty ominous. Here's some choice info:

Presidential hopeful Howard Dean, who accuses President Bush of being weak on homeland security, was warned repeatedly as Vermont governor about security lapses at his state's nuclear power plant and was told the state was ill-prepared for a disaster at its most attractive terrorist target.
During Dean's final year in office in 2002, an audit concluded that despite a decade of repeated warnings of poor safety at Vermont Yankee, Dean's administration was poorly prepared for a nuclear disaster.

Those damn Reports of Mass Destruction! Dean was warned, WARNED, I tell you, that Vermont Yankee is a disaster waiting to happen! What's that you say? Oh, there's important stuff buried in the article:

State Auditor Ready, a Democrat and Dean backer, agreed things improved after her critical 2002 report and that security tests this year showed Vermont Yankee was safer. "Once Governor Dean got that report there was swift and thorough action," she said.
The lack of preparedness was blamed in the 2002 audit on inadequate funds. "Vermont receives the least amount of funding for its Radiological Emergency Response Plan, in total dollars, of any New England state that hosts a nuclear power plant," the audit disclosed.

What's more, here's what the NRC, who is actually responsible for nuclear security, said:

[N]o weaknesses were of such significance that they could not be dealt with promptly through compensatory measures. Vermont Yankee did establish such measures immediately, and longer-term improvements, including improved internal and external strategies and organizational improvements, were also begun. The NRC inspectors determined that the plant's security program was sound before departing the site. The NRC has also conducted subsequent reviews of the plant's security and found it to be satisfactory.

So actually, Vermont Yankee has since earned "green" ratings from the NRC.

Gee, I'm beginning to wonder if these articles are just more silly attempts to smear Dean, just like the SCLM did to Al Gore in 2000. Not so sure it will work this time.


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