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SeaViews: Insights from the Gray Havens 
April 2000

(formerly the _Rochester Rag_, formerly the _News from Detroit_)

Motto: The surest way to get a reputation for being a trouble maker these days is to go about repeating the very phrases that the Founders used in the struggle for independence.

-- C.A. Beard


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On last month's Fix;

the answer to last month's Fix,
"What should be done with Elian Gonzalez?"

At first I thought, like probably many of you, that Elian should go back to his father. I was thinking, as an American would, that this was a child custody case. It is not. The father, Juan Miguel, divorced the mother 2 years before Elian was born, and he has not seen the boy since he was three (Juan has a new wife and child). [In fact, the Drudge Report questions whether this guy even is the biological father.] Furthermore, Juan took his damn sweet time getting here (his son, after losing his mother, reached US soil last ThanksGiving). Why is he only coming now? Because Castro now wants him to. A US registered Leat jet, with a tailor on board, was flown to Cuba to pick up Juan and his family and drop him off in D.C. with his freshly tailored suit.

How many of you realize that since 1960, there has been a law  in place that gives any Cuban (of any age) instant sanctuary once they reach US soil? They need only ask, and will be granted citizenship. Also, do you know that when Cuban kids turn 11, they are taken from their parents to go to state schools and work in the fields? Parents may visit monthly. By age 18, males have to serve 2 years in the military. By 20, all of them are thouroughly indoctrinated.

Castro's own daughter, exhiled to France for political treason, says the boy should stay in America. She said that the father should also, except he likely is covered by Cuban guards in the US and knows that his new wife and child's lives would be forfeit if he escaped.

Juan was "praying" in the National Cathedral yesterday (April 14) for the return of his son. Interesting, since the state religion in Cuba is atheism. Every action this man takes is scripted from Havana folks.

On a New Look;

 In the past I have always been careful to keep most of my opinions above the Guest Editorial, and if a news item demanded comment, I put mine in Italics below it with the prefix Ed:. But, I don't think that's immediate enough anymore. So for the next few issues, I'm going to wrap my commnetary around the news item (which will be in italics) to provide insite where it may do more good.

Guest Editorial:

As Life for Family Farmers Worsens, the Toughest Wither


RYON, Neb. -- Walking across the prairie, stepping carefully around cow pies, Mike Abel confesses that he has told his son and daughter not to follow in his line of work.He sounds for a moment like a repentant bank robber. But Mr. Abel, 45, is in an even less promising field: He is a cattle rancher. Ranchers like Mr. Abel on the lovely desolation of the Nebraska prairie near this hamlet, miles and miles from nowhere and nothing, evoke the gritty determination and toughness of John Wayne on a good day. These days the ranchers evoke something else -- poverty.

This rural area, McPherson County, is by far the poorest county in the country, measured by per capita income. Federal statistics show that people in McPherson County earned an average of $3,961 in 1997, the most recent year for which statistics were available, compared with $5,666 for the next poorest county, Keya Paha, also in Nebraska. The richest, New York County, better known as Manhattan, had a per capita income of $68,686 in 1997.

Cowboys like Mr. Abel might seem the last people to cry. But with much of the agricultural economy in deep distress, with dreams of family farms fading like old cow bones on the prairie, even the cowboys' lips are       sometimes trembling. "What always hurt us was when we're at the table trying to figure out how to make a land payment, and the kids are seeing us crying as we wonder what happens if we can't make the payment," said Mr. Abel, a sturdy man with flecks of gray in close-cropped hair. "We'd always hoped this would be a family operation. But why should my son, Tyler, struggle and make money only two out of five years when he could get a         good-paying job in the city somewhere?"

While most of the American economy is going gangbusters, many rural areas are undergoing a wrenching restructuring that is impoverishing small ranchers and farmers, forcing them to sell out, depopulating large chunks      of rural America and changing the way Americans get their food. The gains in farming and ranching efficiency are staggering, but so is the blow to the rural way of life.

Just a few years ago, the United States thought it had a plan to revitalize the agriculture economy: the Freedom to Farm Act. Passed by the Republican Congress and signed by President Clinton in 1996, the law aimed to phase out subsidies but ease regulations and promote exports to make farming profitable without government aid.

Almost everyone agrees that the law has not worked (although there is  also a consensus that it is the other guy's fault). Direct federal payments to farmers last year rose to a record $23 billion. That is far more than the   federal government spent on elementary and secondary education, school lunches and Head Start programs combined.

With the failure of American farm policy, no one has much of a plan  anymore, even though the present course appears unsustainable.   The growing cost of federal farm programs, the replacement of small  family farms with huge factory farms, the fading of rural hamlets -- all these point to historic changes under way in American agriculture. Yet the changes are happening without anyone guiding them or the nation  paying them much heed.

The poverty statistics can seem misleading to city dwellers, for the poor farming areas rarely have homeless people or anything like a slum, and in  any case cattle and hog prices are rising this year. But prospects look  dismal, adding to the pressure on many rural areas.   The depopulation is evident in the grade school in Ringgold, a crossroads village in the east end of McPherson County. Leah Christopher, an effervescent eighth grader who is an outstanding gymnast, will graduate from the school in a few months at the top of her class, and at the bottom. She is the only eighth grader.

 The entire school, from kindergarten to the eighth grade, has only one teacher and seven students, four of them from Leah's family. Another grade school in the county has just four students and will drop to three next year.  "I took a training course once where the other teachers were talking about using the school psychologist and other resources like that," said Elnora Neal, the teacher at the Ringgold school. "Well, I'm everything. At  this school, I'm teacher, nurse, psychologist, P.E. teacher and janitor."

McPherson County had 1,692 people in 1920, and since then its   population has been steadily falling, to about 540 today. At its peak, it  had 20 post offices, 5 towns and 63 school districts; now it has 1 post  office, 5 schools and, if one is generous enough to include Ringgold, 2 towns. The average age in the county is in the late 50's, the average American farmer today is 54.

The Efficiency
Surge in Output Keeps Prices Down

Rusty Moore, a lanky, rail-thin fifth-generation rancher, complains bitterly about the difficulties as he sorts cattle on an icy, overcast day on his 13,000-acre ranch.   "I went to college for four years and decided to come back and live in poverty," Mr. Moore, 26, said laughing, as he stomped his feet against the cold.

But while there are many reasons for the misery in the agricultural economy, perhaps Mr. Moore's greatest adversary is himself -- and all the other farmers and ranchers like him who have figured out how to increase the output of their land. In Mr. Moore's grandfather's day, it took about 18 acres of this land to sustain a cow and her calf. Now, ranchers have improved efficiency so that they need just 7 acres for a cow and a calf.This surge in output is the main force driving the restructuring of  agriculture. In 1969, the average pig used for breeding produced 6.7 piglets per year. By last year, that had risen to 16 piglets per year, and the most efficient operators got 22.

Those kinds of productivity increases have resulted in a world awash  with grain, pork, beef and milk, even though the proportion of the American public living on farms and ranches has tumbled to 1.5 percenttoday from 42 percent in 1900. Some experts believe that with biotechnology, the productivity increases are now beginning to accelerate.

For many years, the agricultural equivalent of the four-minute mile has been the yield of 400 bushels of corn per acre. The average is about 150 bushels, but last year an Iowa farmer, Francis R. Childs, achieved celebrity by producing 394 bushels under tight monitoring. Just as Roger Bannister changed the world's understanding of human athletic potential when he ran a sub-four-minute mile in 1954, so Mr. Childs is waking up agricultural economists. If his techniques could be replicated and spread widely, that could mean a doubling of corn output.  "I don't see any reason why that can't be done," Mr. Childs said.  Yet he acknowledges that he is a bit worried about what could be done with all that corn. Historically, increases in productivity have brought falling prices that punish the farmers, while rewarding consumers. "Consumers have a great life ahead of them," said Neil E. Harl, anagricultural economist at Iowa State University. "We're entering a new era, especially in crops but also in livestock."

The Factory
Mass Producing Under Contract

You can smell the future of farming as you approach it on a narrow dirt road just west of McPherson County, in neighboring Arthur County. A series of long, low warehouses contain what is less a hog farm than a pork factory. The factory is still being expanded, but ultimately it will cost $5 million and produce 120,000 pigs each year.   To anyone who thinks that hogs are dirty and humans are clean, a visit to  this farm is an indignity. Before being allowed near the pigs, all employees and visitors must strip, shower, shampoo and change into new underwear, socks, boots and overalls that the farm provides. The aim is to protect the pigs from diseases brought in by nonhygienic humans.

The sows spend their days lying in tiny pens, eating, drinking and growing piglets inside of them. After giving birth, the sows suckle their piglets until being weaned at 17 days and then after a few days' respite they come in heat and the process begins again.  The sows are taken into a pen next to several boars, whose sole job is to sweet talk the sows and get them sexually excited.  At that point, a technician artificially inseminates the sows, as the boars watch from the next pen.  "It must be a frustrating existence for the boars," acknowledged Dwayne  Fritzen, the manager of the operation.The pregnant sows even get ultrasound examinations at 30 days and 60 days to make sure their pregnancies are going well.

 "This is efficiency," Mr. Fritzen said. "I grew up on an old-fashioned hog farm, where you go out and buy hogs and you don't know the pedigree. Here, you know everything about these gals" -- gestured to the sows -- "and if you don't like the results, then you switch genetic companies" and get new sows or new semen.

Industrialized agriculture began to replace traditional family farms in  poultry, and one study found that these days the average poultry farmer  raises 240,000 birds a year and earns just $12,000 for his labor.Many scholars say that increasingly, livestock and crops alike will be produced under contract to large food companies.

 "The farmer in those contracts is somewhere between what you'd call a businessman and a laborer," said Chuck Hassebrook, program director for the Center for Rural Affairs, a Nebraska research center. "Management decisions are typically made by the company."  Mr. Hassebrook added: "More and more, the people on the land become simply laborers. The returns are siphoned out of their communities."

The Poverty
Being Squeezed by the System

With the welfare system hugely curtailed in the last few years, there is more scrutiny than ever of what critics see as a major welfare system for  grain and cotton farmers. Moreover, though the evidence is mixed, some economists argue that the billions of dollars in federal payments are helping to drive out family farmers and ranchers.  "Congress talks about saving the family farm, but it pours the money disproportionately to larger farmers," said John A. Schnittker, who runs an agricultural economics consulting firm in California. "As you subsidize these large farms, they can pay more in buying land, and they can pay  more in renting land. And so the system we have now really concentrates  farming among the large operators."  Two situations loom, neither one encouraging: payments may continue to soar until they threaten the budget, or Congress may be forced to cut payments, leaving farmers in desperate shape.

"We're in a quandary," said Keith Collins, the chief economist for the United States Department of Agriculture. Mr. Collins said the department's projections were that this year's price for wheat would be the lowest since 1986, for cotton the lowest since 1974 and for soybeans the lowest since 1972.  While grain farmers are ever more dependent on the agricultural dole, ranchers -- who get left out of the payment system -- are often irritated  by the payments.  "Just to subsidize people because the price is low -- that kills ingenuity," said Doug Schmidt, 45, struggling to make a go of cattle ranching on a  small spread, near Ringgold.

 Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman says that farm policy has to be  revamped and broadened to do more than make payments to distressed  farmers.   He says that it should also help them add value to their products, make it easier for them to insure against risks and work on mechanisms to help   people run businesses in rural communities.

 "As much as we'd like to use farm programs as the panacea for problems  out there affecting rural America, they cannot be," Mr. Glickman said. He  added, "We've also got to make rural America economically thriving, so  that people will have a reason to stay on family-sized farms even if they can't get all their income" from farming.

The larger question is why the government should work so energetically and expensively to preserve the family farm.

 Family-owned restaurants, bookstores and newspapers were all widely  regarded as beneficial to their communities, yet in each case America allowed many of them to fade and be replaced by more ferocious and  efficient economic competitors. Only in the case of family farms,  presumably because they are so rooted in American mythology and in Jefferson's ideal of the yeoman farmer-citizen, are Americans willing to   spend $23 billion a year fighting economic change.

 The Future
 Corporate Flags Over Giant Spreads

As dawn comes in McPherson County, a glorious orange sun rises from  the prairies and casts a glow on LaVerne Neal, a 73-year-old rancher  feeding his cattle.   Mr. Neal has 240 cows and 3,840 acres, and he had always assumed   that his family would ranch here forever. But he now realizes that his land  is really too small for future generations to make a living, and he sees his  problem as emblematic of a larger pattern of the decline of the family farm. "I don't think there are going to be family farms for too many more  years," Mr. Neal said wistfully, driving his pickup over the fields. "Those big outfits are taking over."

That is one of the most common laments in agriculture. The underlying problem for small farms and ranches is diminishing margins and a tiny  return on capital. Many farmers and ranches have million-dollar  investments that are losing them money, and so the country's poorest county probably has a high proportion of millionaires.

Yet paradoxically, for all the fears of corporations sneaking into agriculture, dismal returns are the best protection family farms have. If McDonald's announced that it were going to produce its own beef,  wheat, lettuce and tomatoes, its shareholders would sell in panic, because  the return on the investment would be dreadful.

"Why would they want the aggravation?" asked Ed Sowder, a county commissioner. "If you've got ranchers out there who think they're working for themselves, why bother?" Only about 2 percent of farms are run by corporations. But corporate oligopolies dominate both the input side (selling seed and equipment) and  output side (four companies now control 80 percent of the beef market).

 The consolidation of farms under way today seems to be a continuation of a trend that goes back 100 years. The average American farm has  gone from 139 acres in 1910 to 435 acres today, and the driving force behind this change is simple: economics and a yearning for a better life. For all the rosy glow that is conjured by the phrase "family farm," it was often a harsh life. "When I was a boy, for my birthday all I'd get was a pair of socks," Mr.  Neal recalled. "Come to think of it, that's all I used to give my children, as well. But these days, you walk into a kid's room, and you have to kick aside half a dozen teddy bears just to step inside."

 As the pain in the farm sector drags on endlessly, farmers like the Abels decide that if they are to keep their children in teddy bears, they may be better off in other lines of work.

"If you pass on your ranch to your son," Bob Long, a county  commissioner and rancher, said, "then it's child abuse."



My apologies, I was Microsoffed again and lost all the letters for this issue. The story:

Usually, I cut and paste laetters from PINE into the news which I was editing on WinNT Svr with Netscape's composer. As I was copying the notes to this area, I marked them for deletion in PINE.

Then - I made the most unforgivable of sins - I hit Save in Composer. Naturally, the appliction locked - and took NT with it. No problem, thought I, I never cleanly quit PINE, so I'll just start up, return to my PINE mail and do the job over. Except ... PINE lost everthing that I had marked for delete, even though I didn't really exit the damn thing.

So, there we are.

Quote(s) of the month:

"You know you're a liberal if you feel generous with other people's time and money"

--SGL, liberal definition #3

Fix of the month:

"Is the direction of the federal govt. on the right track, when we punish legal businesses with bankrupting policies, purposely distort the markets, and return political refugees to dictatorships?"



  1. April 29, Redmond: The govt. plan tp break up Microsoft does not seem to be causing all that much turmoil in the home turf. "I really don't see the need for it, but if you ever did split up Microsoft, I think the new companies would just grow like weeds," explained Dana Nielsen, the owner of Ray's Cafe, a diner in a mall near the Microsoft campus here. "So your stock would be worth more than ever."

Some express an almost messianic faith in the company's chairman. "This is Bill Gates we're talking about here," said Alan Paisley, a Seattle guitarist. "I wouldn't put it past Gates to somehow come out of this whole thing smelling like a rose. You get two or three little Microsofts running around out there, it could be very profitable for all concerned."

Interviews with small-time Microsoft investors, who are remarkably easy to find in malls and streets here, turn up only isolated cases of semi-woe. One man explained that he recently backed out of a deal to buy a house -- not because he could no longer afford to do so, but because he just could not bear to cash out any of his Microsoft stock at $65, even though he bought most of it for a fraction of that. Whatever happens in the antitrust case, he said, he was sure it would come back up.


 1. Miami, April 23: Showing that she's willing to go out the way she came in, Janet Reno ordered the forcible extraction of Elian Gonazalez from his family and friends in the style that she started with Ruby Ridge and Waco -- stormtrooper raids at gunpoint -- in this case of unarmed people -- on Easter Sunday.

Interestingly, a Dade county attorney who was trying to broker a peaceful exchange said he was actually on the phone with Reno, with whom he used to work with and knew for 30 years, when his family showed him the raid in progress on CNN. Saying that his son need's friends from home, the Senior Gonzalez requested that a cousin, schoolmate and 6 psychiatrists come up from Cuba to help Elian deal with the mental anguish he's endured at the hands of his capitalists handlers.

New York;

1. April 14: File this under, "I told you so." Last month's issue pointed out that I felt the Justice Dept. investigation of Microsoft should have been called off, but they had gone to far to risk that embarrassment. Two days later, Judge Jackson made his rulings, and on April 3 to the present the Stock Market has had the worst decline in this decade. Clinton, standing by British Prime Minister Tony Blair last week, quipped "I guess Tony and me crashed the NASDAQ."

Stocks Suffer Historic Losses
April 14 2000 5:28PM ET

Cash tumbled out of top technology, computer-chip makers, financials,  retailers and manufacturers in a slide that left trading floors with only sell orders. Traders were dumbfounded as sell orders flooded the system, saying they couldn't even look at their own portfolios.

The Dow Jones industrial average (.DJI) lost a record 617.78 points, or 5.66 percent to 10,305.77 as financial stocks erased all their recent gains, joining technology leaders to drive the blue-chip gauge further into the red for the year.
Investors were stunned and hushed, crowding around outdoors stock monitors in New York all day.

Yes, Mr President, you have crashed the NASDAQ. Bully for you. But this is not an isolated event. Two weeks ago you succeeded in putting the life science stocks into a spin when you said that genome research shuld not be patentable. And of course your influence on guns and tobacco is well known.

I predicted in 1992 when this group came to Washington that the Misery Index would sky rocket - and I've been plotting that trend for you every new year (although I think I forget this one). I predicted that inflation, interest rates, and taxes would increase - and they have. I predicted that the price of gold would increase as a hedge against those things - and it it is. Let's - just for a moment - review what the White House and Feds can and cannot do to help the economy.

Help the Economy

  1. Cut taxes (personal and corporate)
  2. Reduce regulatory burdens on business
  3. Return power to the states and their citizens
  4. Appoint responsible Fed Chairs
  5. in other words, get out of the way

Hurt the Economy

  1. Target businesses with destructive regulation (Tobacco,Pharmacy, High tech, guns)
  2. Raise taxes
  3. Centralize power

So, economically at least, the govt. that governs best - governs least. Seems that I've heard that before. [We will no doubt have occasion to test the theory in non-economic areas in  the future.]

Some of you may recall that when Cliton debated Bush he claimed we had the worst economy in 50 years, yet at the very moment he said that, it was growing at about 4~4.1 percent. It's less now, but somehow the press reports it as healthy. The stock plunge is therefore "inexplicable" or is only related to the price of Gas.

I have another theory. The economy is debt heavy, and it's only becuase of a very prescient Allen Greenspan, the payoff of the S&L Bailout, and a reduction in the military that Clinton has enjoyed the continuance of the Reagan economic expansion that started in the 80's.  As those gains are undone, the weight of debt will crash down.

So folks, remember when Al Gore says he is the heir apparent to his mentor's econmic success what that will mean to your 401K (you know, the one that's got a 30% stake in Microsoft).

Washington D.C.

1. Showing that the Constitutional "right" against unreasonable search and seizure has been antiquated - view the following:

Protesters' Headquarters Raided
Associated Press
Apr 15 2000 10:34AM ET

 WASHINGTON (AP) - Police staged a lightning raid and closed down  the headquarters of world finance protesters today after fire officials declared the old warehouse unsafe.``We're simply concerned about their safety,
and we want to make sure there are no fire hazards,'' Washington Police Chief Charles Ramsey said.

He said around 300 people were in the building at the time.``We probably saved their lives,'' Ramsey said, when asked why fire officials ordered protesters to vacate the building set up as demonstration headquarters.Ramsey spoke to protesters on the streets earlier. When one asked whether police would use tear gas, the chief replied, on WRC-TV, ``We could light this town up if we had to, but we don't intend to do that.''

Patrick Reinsborough of San Francisco, who was in the warehouse, said two police officers and two fire officials came to the center unannounced and began inspections. Several of the protesters demanded a search warrant, but the fire officials said they didn't need one for a fire inspection ``The police said they found things that were a fire hazard,'' Reinsborough said. ``As soon as they claimed they found a fire hazard, a large number of police were in the area. They demanded the space be evacuated.''

Interesting, the Fire Dept. is not held to constitutional standards, but they can give the Police the probable cause to break in without a warrent. So, take note friends, the next time you see an inspector at the door - call your lawyer.


Net News;

Record shows Gore long embellishing truth

By Walter V. Robinson and Michael Crowley, Globe Staff, 4/11/2000

   Vice President Al Gore brings a remarkable life story to the presidential
 race: His father was such an unwavering supporter of civil rights that it
cost him his Senate seat. His older sister was the first-ever volunteer in the
Peace Corps, that heroic outpost on President Kennedy's New Frontier.

By Gore's account: He was raised in hardscrabble Tennessee farm country.
He was a brilliant student, in high school and at Harvard. And despite his
political pull, he received no special treatment, opting instead to go to
Vietnam where he was ''shot at.''

After his Army service, he spent seven years as a journalist, and his
reporting at the Tennessean in Nashville put corrupt officials in prison.

As a junior member in the US House, he was a major force: He wrote and
then spearheaded passage of the Superfund law. He even authored the US
nuclear negotiating position. And at a time when President Reagan and
Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev faced off on the superpower stage, Gore
had his own meeting with Gorbachev.

And, of course, he created the Internet.

At various times in his political career, Gore, the presumptive Democratic
presidential nominee, has said all those things about himself and his family.

None are quite true.

Some are exaggerations grown up around kernels of biographical fact.
Others are simply false. A few, like the boastful claim about the Internet,
have become comic fodder, even for Gore.

The mystery, even for Gore's friends, is why he has persistently embroidered
a political resume and pedigree that shorn of embellishments are impressive
by any measure. Gore did press for early funding of the network that grew
into the Internet. He served in Vietnam when he could have arranged a safer
setting, unlike his Republican rival, George W. Bush. His journalism did
unearth corruption. And in Congress, he exerted uncommon influence on
technology and national security matters, notwithstanding his lack of

But for Gore, the facts have never been quite enough. Starting as a junior
congressman and continuing through this year's primaries, Gore has regularly
promoted himself, and skewered his opponents, with embroidered,
misleading, and occasionally false statements to a degree that even some of
his allies concede is rare for a politician of his stature.

Many of Gore's inflated claims have been reported, though only a few
prominently. But a review by the Globe of Gore's public statements over
more than 20 years, as well as two recent biographies, suggest that the
pattern has been more pronounced than previously believed, and that it
remains unchecked.

Earlier fears that Gore would be hobbled by President Clinton's character
failings have abated. Now, it is Gore's credibility that could become an issue.
Behind the scenes, according to sources, top campaign aides have met to
consider the issue's potential for damaging Gore's candidacy. His Republican
opponent, Texas Governor Bush, has already telegraphed his plans to attack
Gore's believability.

Gore's recent campaign rhetoric has invited scrutiny of his sometimes
freewheeling treatment of facts. Several times, he misstated his own record
and that of his Democratic opponent, former senator Bill Bradley. In Iowa,
Gore's misleading claim that Bradley voted against disaster relief for the
flood-stricken state dealt a serious blow to Bradley's insurgent candidacy.

''Why should we believe that you will tell the truth as president if you don't
tell the truth as a candidate?'' Bradley asked Gore at a debate in New

Kathleen Hall Jamieson, dean of the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg
School of Communications, said she is troubled that Gore sometimes
continues to use exaggerated or inaccurate claims even in the face of public
evidence that he is wrong.

''You wonder if it's a failure to listen or an impulse to deceive,'' said
Jamieson, who monitors the accuracy of political statements. ''The question
is, is there a basic personality flaw there that will make it more difficult for
him to be president? Is there a tendency to exaggerate? Is there a tendency
to reconstruct the past? When you start counting on the fingers of both
hands you start to say maybe there's a pattern here.''

Douglas Hattaway, a campaign spokesman, said Gore could not be
interviewed on the issue.

''Everybody makes mistakes, and every politician's utterances are pounced
upon. But it is not fair to pull out every misstatement and honest mistake and
attack him for it,'' Hattaway said.

Many political candidates portray themselves as more effective or
courageous than the facts justify and paint their opponents in the worst
possible light.

For example, Bush has made claims about his gubernatorial record that are
open to challenge. To cite one case, Bush takes credit for a major HMO
reform in Texas. In fact, he opposed the bill and it became law without his
signature. And during the New York primary, Bush's campaign ran an
advertisement that falsely characterized Senator John McCain's record on
breast cancer research. Bush narrowly won that election.

But even some of Gore's supporters glumly acknowledge that Gore stands
out for the extent to which he has created myths about his life and his record.
As the Globe reported in January, the issue so troubled his presidential
campaign staff in 1988 that aides twice sent him memos warning him about

More recent Gore claims make it clear that the predilection persists. In
announcing his candidacy last June, Gore praised his father's courage on civil
rights but sidestepped an obvious contradiction: The elder Gore strongly
opposed the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act. And his sister was a salaried
midlevel political appointee at Peace Corps headquarters, and not, as Gore
has said on a couple of occasions, a ''volunteer,'' the label reserved for those
who serve overseas.

Newsweek reporter Bill Turque, the author of a new biography, ''Inventing
Al Gore,'' said Gore is prone to ''self aggrandizement.'' Yet in most
instances, Turque noted, the embellishments are not made up out of whole
cloth, but involve a ''nugget of fact'' that Gore has embroidered.

''The most bewildering thing is that, in most of the cases, the straight story is
as praiseworthy as the one he inflates,'' Turque said last week.

Turque and Bob Zelnick, a former ABC News reporter and the author of a
1999 Gore biography, ''Gore: A Political Life,'' both trace Gore's tendency
to exaggerate his resume to the vice president's childhood. They said the
child of prominent parents could never quite measure up to their
unreasonable expectations.

In his parents' eyes, said Turque, ''it was not enough for him to be good, to
be excellent. He had to be transcendent, he had to save the world. This
desire of his to please them left him with a compulsion in the retelling to
stretch what are honorable, credible accomplishments.''

Dukakis responds

In the 1988 presidential primary campaign, then-Massachusetts Governor
Michael S. Dukakis, needled once too often by Gore, upbraided him during
a debate: ''Please get your facts straight. If you want to be president of the
United States, you better start by being accurate.'' Another candidate,
former Senator Paul Simon, scolded Gore during another debate for making
''sweeping charges.''

In recent interviews, Simon and Dukakis were reluctant to discuss their
scrapes with the man who is now their party's standard bearer. But Simon
said Gore's rhetorical excesses that year ''could accurately be described as
brashness, which obviously didn't get him anywhere. ... It was a combination
of youth and inexperience.''

But what raised the most eyebrows in 1988 was not what Gore said about
his opponents. It was his inclination, during his first audition on a national
stage, to add lustrous detail to his own resume.

Many of the embellishments were unearthed at the time, but attracted little
attention because Gore's 1988 campaign proved a hapless effort.

The aides in 1988 who warned Gore about sticking to the facts had plenty
to worry about: Gore's claim that he grew up in Carthage, Tenn., when he
was reared in a Washington hotel suite; his exaggeration of his farming
background; his statements, later debunked, that he had been under fire in
Vietnam and that his investigative reporting at the Tennessean in Nashville in
the 1970s had sent people to jail; his claim to have been schooled in rural
Tennessee and urban Washington, when he was educated at an elite private
school in the capital; and his insistence that he had been a homebuilder and
small businessman when he had minimal involvement in a small Tennessee

Last March, Gore reasserted his claim to have been a developer and small
businessman. And, starting in 1994, Gore has added two years to his
journalistic experience, upping the figure from the five years he once claimed
to seven.

In one 1988 ad, Gore claimed to have been a ''brilliant student,'' but that has
been contradicted by Turque's biography. Gore's transcripts show that his
high school and college grades were predominantly B's and C's. The same
campaign ad also said Gore ''refused any special treatment'' when he joined
the Army for two years and went to Vietnam, where he spent five months.
Yet Turque discovered evidence that General William C. Westmoreland
played some role in Gore's enlistment. And when Gore arrived in Vietnam,
Turque reports, his commanding officer issued instructions that Gore be kept
away from danger.

Hattaway, Gore's spokesman, said that if there was any preferential
treatment, Gore was unaware of it. ''The fact is,'' Hattaway said, ''everyone
in Vietnam was in danger. And Al Gore served in Vietnam, when a lot of
people were doing their best to avoid it altogether.''

In his campaigns in 1984 and 1988, Gore awarded himself credit for
national policy accomplishments that a junior member of the House or
Senate could only dream of.

For example, Gore immersed himself in the nuclear arms debate, becoming
one of a number of House moderates whose support was coveted by the
Reagan administration. The Democrats, led by Representative Les Aspin
and Senator Sam Nunn, and backed by Gore, wanted a less destabilizing
option than the multiple-warhead MX missile. Their plan, ultimately shelved
by the White House, called for the single-warhead Midgetman missile.

Yet when Gore ran for the Senate in 1984, one TV ad proclaimed, ''He
wrote the bipartisan plan on arms control that US negotiators will take to the

''That is a vast overstatement. He had nothing to do with what we proposed
to the Soviets,'' Kenneth Adelman, who was the director of the US Arms
Control and Disarmament Agency, said in an interview. Adelman's view is
supported by the two biographies, and by contemporaneous news accounts.

When he ran for president four years later, Gore aired television ads
showing him shaking hands with Gorbachev. And he told audiences that he
had met with the Soviet leader. But Gore's only ''meeting'' with Gorbachev
took place when the two men shook hands during a luncheon Gorbachev
had with 26 members of Congress.

And further seeking to highlight his national security credentials in that race,
Gore visited the naval base in Norfolk, Va. in February 1988 to chastise his
Democratic primary opponents for opposing funds to build new aircraft
carriers. As for himself, Gore said, ''I would stand for a strong America.''

Gore neglected to mention that he had voted in the Senate against the
funding for carriers.

In two other campaign ads in 1988, Gore awarded himself credit for the
landmark 1980 Superfund legislation, saying he ''led the fight to clean up
toxic waste'' and was the ''author of a tough Superfund law to protect the
environment and crack down on toxic polluters.'' But someone else was the
author. Gore played only a supporting role as one of 42 House co-sponsors.

Tobacco is another issue where Gore's statements have been open to
question. Despite his assertions, repeated this year, that he worked for
tougher restrictions against tobacco, Gore was a reliable vote for tobacco
interests while he was in the House.

But it was an emotional speech at the 1996 Democratic National
Convention in Chicago that biographers like Turque and Zelnick find even
more troubling. In it, Gore recounted his sister's death from lung cancer,
caused by cigarettes she began smoking at age 13.

''Tomorrow morning, another 13-year-old girl will start smoking. I love her,
too,'' Gore declared, bringing tears to the eyes of many listeners. ''Three
thousand young people in America will start smoking tomorrow. One
thousand of them will die a death not unlike my sister's. And that is why until
I draw my last breath, I will pour my heart and soul into the cause of
protecting our children from the dangers of smoking.''

A day later, Gore was accused of hypocritically exploiting his sister's death
for political gain. The reason: For seven years after his sister died, Gore
remained an ally of big tobacco and accepted both tobacco campaign
contributions and federal subsidies for the tobacco grown on his farm.

Even in the face of lingering questions about his tendency to embellish, the
vice president nevertheless misstated his own record and distorted Bradley's
at several critical junctures in the last six months.

Jamieson, the University of Pennsylvania scholar, said this year's most
egregious example of Gore's willingness to stretch the truth was his
continued repetition of the charge that Bradley had opposed flood relief for
midwestern farmers in 1993.

During a Jan. 9 debate in Des Moines, Gore chastised Bradley for opposing
flood aid. The attack had been choreographed in advance: Gore asked a
local farmer hurt by the floods to stand for dramatic effect.

Soon after, Gore unveiled television advertisements in which Iowa Senator
Tom Harkin touted Gore as ''the only Democratic candidate for president
who helped make sure that Iowa got the help we desperately needed after
those floods.''

Caught off guard in debate, Bradley failed to respond. But Gore was widely
criticized when details of the flood votes emerged, showing that Bradley had
voted for $4.8 billion in Midwest flood relief and opposed only an
amendment to add $900 million more. Even the White House opposed the
amendment until the last moment.

Under criticism, the Gore campaign briefly stopped running the ad. But on
the weekend before Iowa's caucus, it reappeared on Iowa airwaves.
Bradley was badly drubbed in Iowa, sending him into a tailspin from which
he never recovered.

Biographer Zelnick, who now teaches at Boston University, called the
disaster relief accusation a ''premeditated falsehood.'' That incident, Zelnick
said in an interview, ''was far different from speaking off the cuff and having
an irresistible impulse to embellish. The farmer was a total plant, and the
assertion misrepresented Bill Bradley's position. It is and should be a subject
of concern for voters.''

Family members get praise

But it is not just his own life story and record that Gore has selectively

Since his father died 16 months ago, the vice president has described the
elder Gore in several speeches, including one last April before an NAACP
audience, as an early champion for civil rights during his three Senate terms
from 1953 to 1971.

''Halfway through this century,'' Gore said, in declaring his candidacy last
June, ''when my father saw that thousands of his fellow Tennesseans were
forced to obey Jim Crow laws, he knew America could do better. He saw a
horizon in which his black and white constituents shared the same hopes in
the same world.''

It was a moving tribute, but with a notable omission: The elder Gore voted
against the landmark civil rights legislation of his time, the Civil Rights Act of
1964, which repudiated the Jim Crow laws.

To be sure, Albert Gore Sr. stood out among Southern Democrats in the
Senate. He refused to support the Southern Manifesto in the 1950s,
supported the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and voted against two Supreme
Court nominees who opposed civil rights.

`Those brave stands probably cost him his career,'' Gore told the NAACP
audience in Detroit last April 25.

But historians and the elder Gore have attributed his 1970 defeat mostly to
his opposition to the Vietnam War. Before other audiences, Gore has cited
the war as the issue that cost his father his Senate seat.

And, during his lifetime, the elder Gore made no claims to match his son's
recent recollections. Late in his life, he said he regretted his vote against the
1964 measure. In his memoirs, he said he was ''no white knight'' on civil

Hattaway played down the contrast between Gore's claims and his father's
record, noting that many civil rights leaders have praised Gore's father's

Nancy Gore Hunger, who was 10 years older than her brother, worked as a
paid staff aide at Peace Corps headquarters from early 1961, when the
agency was founded, until 1964, according to Peace Corps records and
several friends.

Yet Gore, in a 1992 appearance on C-SPAN, called his sister ''the very first
volunteer for the Peace Corps.'' In 1994, when the University of Tennessee
at Knoxville established a chair in her name, Gore said: ''She was the very
first volunteer in the Peace Corps. She did so much for so many.''

In 1996, when Gore addressed a meeting of Peace Corps officials, for
whom the ''volunteer'' label has special meaning, he did not describe her as a

Coates Redmon, author of a book about the Peace Corps and a Peace
Corps colleague of Nancy Gore Hunger's, said the agency's first volunteers
have always been afforded special status.

For the vice president to describe his sister that way, Redmon said,
''amounts to stretching the truth.'' 

© Steve Langer, 1995-2000