Dean's 'front-runner' status eroding political process

Regarding the Jan. 5 article, "The front-runner as lightning rod": I am deeply concerned about how the 2004 presidential campaign is falling into place. The year 2003 has scarcely drawn to a close, and no primaries or caucuses have been held, yet Howard Dean has been all but declared the Democratic nominee in next year's battle for the White House.

I find myself at a loss to understand this phenomenon and feel a disconcerting sense of resignation about the election year ahead of us.

Dr. Dean was given front- runner status late last summer. Since then, he has become the darling of the media, with commentators lauding his fundraising ability and grass-roots support. But his record as Vermont governor does not seem to have fallen under scrutiny of any kind, and he has not been called upon to fully explain his proposed presidential policies. Neither has he been held accountable for vague and inconsistent statements he has made, such as his allegation (on which he later backpedaled) that the Bush administration had been warned about the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

It's inconceivable to me that the outcome be decided so early in the game. The first votes will not be cast until Jan. 19; the coming months hold a full slate of primaries and caucuses. In fairness to the voters and the eight other Democratic candidates, the media, politicians, and political pundits should restrain themselves from passing judgment and should allow the political process to play itself out.
Linda E. Manning
Brookline, Mass.

Securities market unwise for retirees

David R. Francis's Jan. 5 Economic Scene column, "Why retirement plans are falling short," is a classic article dealing with the classic problem of fitting a square peg into a round hole - it ain't going to happen.

For the population at large, the securities markets were simply not designed for the accumulation of retirement funds that will be safe from investment losses, insurers are not geared to provide annuities that are inexpensive, and workers will be forever unable to save and or retain money needed, even in tax-sheltered retirement accounts.

The classic solution, Social Security, which neatly solves the problems posed by private means, has had its otherwise spotless reputation so bloodied by partisan privatization politics that it gets nary a glance anymore. It needs to be revisited.
David Langer
New York

Forget Mars, remember life on Earth

Regarding the Jan. 5 editorial "Mars, Stars, and Life's Origins": So what if they find water on Mars? It won't do us any good to know if there was once water there or to theorize wether the planet may support life. This just proves that our nation's priorities are further off course than an errant spacecraft.

I look around and see underfunded educational mandates; I see senior citizens struggling to make ends meet and families without homes, yet scientists squander hundreds of millions of dollars trying to find whether water exists on Mars.
Alfred Campbell
Cape May Court House, N.J.

Deer hunts charitable, environmental

Regarding the Jan. 6 article, "Of deer and men: How a hunt has riled a suburb:" Allowing deer to multiply unhindered is not environmentally sound. In Oak Mountain State Park, just south of Birmingham, Ala., park officials have set up a bow-hunt to thin the deer herd, which is so large that many deer there can no longer survive as healthy animals. Some animal activists claim there are better ways of controlling the deer populations, but are these as efficient? This way puts a lot of meat on the tables of the poor.
Roy Lechtreck
Alabaster, Ala.

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