Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Watergate Mystery Man unmasked
From the Washington Post history in the making. I read the book and one of my favourite DVDs is the Redford and Hoffman version of All the Presidents Men. Now the undercover source central to it all is unmasked.

Washington Post Confirms Felt Was 'Deep Throat'
Woodward, Bernstein and Bradlee Reveal Former FBI Official as Secret Watergate Source
By William Branigin and David Von Drehle
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, May 31, 2005; 6:33 PM

The Washington Post today confirmed that W. Mark Felt, a former number-two official at the FBI, was "Deep Throat," the secretive source who provided information that helped unravel the Watergate scandal in the early 1970s and contributed to the resignation of president Richard M. Nixon.

The confirmation came from Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the two Washington Post reporters who broke the Watergate story, and their former top editor, Benjamin C. Bradlee. The three spoke after Felt's family and Vanity Fair magazine identified the 91-year-old Felt, now a retiree in California, as the long-anonymous source who provided crucial guidance for some of the newspaper's groundbreaking Watergate stories.

The Vanity Fair story said Felt had admitted his "historic, anonymous role" following years of denial.

In a statement today, Woodward and Bernstein said, "W. Mark Felt was 'Deep Throat' and helped us immeasurably in our Watergate coverage. However, as the record shows, many other sources and officials assisted us and other reporters for the hundreds of stories that were written in The Washington Post about Watergate."

Felt's guidance to Woodward -- provided on "deep background" in secret meetings -- helped keep public attention focused on the June 1972 break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington's Watergate office and apartment complex, and on a subsequent cover-up effort. This ultimately led to a congressional investigation that revealed the role of Nixon and a number of his top aides. Under threat of impeachment, Nixon resigned in 1974.

Woodward, Bernstein and Bradlee had kept the identity of "Deep Throat" secret at the source's request, saying his name would be revealed upon his death. "We've kept that secret because we keep our word," Woodward said.

But with the Vanity Fair article and the family's statement, the three decided today to break their silence.

Bradlee said today, "The thing that stuns me is that the goddamn secret has lasted this long." He was the Post's executive editor during Watergate and now is a vice president of the newspaper.

Woodward agreed to confirm his source's identity despite skepticism that the former FBI official was competent to decide to change the ground rules of their secret relationship. Felt has been in declining health since suffering a stroke in 2001.

Woodward, now a Post assistant managing editor, said he is writing an article for Thursday's newspaper that will provide a personal account of his and Bernstein's experience in covering Watergate. Bernstein left the Post in 1976 and is now a freelance writer.

Woodward said Felt helped The Post at a time of tense relations between the White House and much of the FBI hierarchy. He said the Watergate break-in came shortly after the death of legendary FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, Felt's mentor, and that Felt and other bureau officials wanted to see an FBI veteran promoted to succeed Hoover.

Felt himself had hopes that he would be the next FBI director, but Nixon instead appointed an administration insider, assistant attorney general L. Patrick Gray, to the post.

radlee, in an interview this afternoon, said that knowing that "Deep Throat" was a high-ranking FBI official helped him feel confident about the information that the paper was publishing about Watergate. He said that he knew the "positional identity" of "Deep Throat" as the Post was breaking its Watergate stories and that he learned his name within a couple of weeks after Nixon's resignation.

"The number-two guy at the FBI, that was a pretty good source," he said.

"I knew the paper was on the right track," Bradlee said. The "quality of the source" and the soundness of his guidance made him sure of that, he said.

"We made only one mistake . . . and that had nothing to do with 'Deep Throat,' " Bradlee said, referring to an error in reporting grand jury testimony.

Bradlee said that over the years, "it was interesting to watch people flounder around with odd choices" about the identity of "Deep Throat," a nickname borrowed from the title of a pornographic film. Although he knew the source's identity, Bradlee said, "I've never met Felt. I wouldn't know him if I fell on him."

In a family statement released today, Felt's grandson, Nick Jones, said, "The family believes my grandfather, Mark Felt Sr., is a great American hero who went well above and beyond the call of duty at much risk to himself to save his country from a horrible injustice." The statement added, "We all sincerely hope the country will see him this way as well."

Jones said in the statement, "My grandfather is pleased he is being honored for his role as 'Deep Throat' with his friend Bob Woodward. As he recently told my mother, 'I guess people used to think "Deep Throat" was a criminal, but now they think he was a hero.'"

In a subsequent appearance before reporters outside their Santa Rosa, Calif., home, Felt's daughter, Joan Felt, and her son Nick said the family, including Mark Felt, feels relieved now that the secret is out.

"We're so proud of him, not only for his role in history . . . but for the person he is," Joan Felt said of her father. She said he is aware that Woodward has confirmed he was "Deep Throat" and is pleased about the disclosure. She said Felt "always remembers Bob very fondly."

"We're all relieved," Joan Felt said. She said her father is "in good health" and "says he's going to live to be a centenarian." Asked how he is feeling today, she said, "He's happy. He's grinning from ear to ear."

"He's always lived with honor," Joan Felt said. "He's a great patriot."

The Vanity Fair article, by California attorney John D. O'Connor, described Felt as conflicted over his role in the Watergate revelations and over whether he should publicly reveal that he was the anonymous source whose identity has been a closely guarded secret for more than three decades.

"On several occasions he confided to me, 'I'm the guy they used to call "Deep Throat," ' " O'Connor wrote. The author wrote that Felt "still has qualms about his actions, but he also knows that historic events compelled him to behave as he did: standing up to an executive branch intent on obstructing his agency's pursuit of the truth."

The article concluded, "Felt, having long harbored the ambivalent emotions of pride and self-reproach, has lived for more than 30 years in a prison of his own making, a prison built upon his strong moral principles and his unwavering loyalty to country and cause. But now, buoyed by his family's revelations and support, he need feel imprisoned no longer."

Monday, May 30, 2005

Roadwarrior Blues

Sprint the US mobile carrier has published an interesting whitepaper based that highlights some of the challenges that mobile workers often face.

Take outs:
  • Almost 96 per cent of both large and small companies surveyed will be taking advantage of wireless technology (both GPRS type connections and 802.11x)
  • The biggest wireless and wireline technical challenge was providing remote access for suppliers and partners indicating that supply-chain management and partner management was still a difficult process and a barrier toward the virtual enterprise
  • 11 per cent of respondents considered that remote access and or mobile access was not on their list of IT priorities
Tech silly season Apple and Intel reports

Every so often there is media reports about Apple and Intel rumours. Usually the speculation runs along the lines that Apple may be getting ready to move the Mac platform on to Intel chips.

Its not likely to happen, especially at the moment. Intel has a number of problems that would make it unappealing to Apple. Its processors have hit a performance roadblock, it is being outgunned in the performance stakes by rival AMD and the EPIC architecture of the Itanium (the processor closest to Apple's PowerPC chipsets from IBM and Motorola) is a dogs dinner that the industry including Itanium development partner HP has largely ignored. In addition, the amount of money flowing into the PowerPC architecture from IBM contracts with Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft means that it will receive an addtional boost in the arm. The sales of consoles will encourage IBM to make the chipmaking process ever cheaper to profit from the volume business coming its way.

Intel not only makes PC processors, but also other chips like the Xscale series that may find their way into future iPod like devices or other specialist network chips that would be handy for the likes of Apple's Airport Express. It would also be sensible for Apple to have a dialogue with Intel on future technologies like WiMax and future generations of USB.
First-World Sachet Marketing, its better to arrive than to travel and Hot Java

Sachet marketing was developed in emerging powerhouse economies like Brazil, India and China to enable FMCG companies to sell their products to more customers. Now the concept has been used by Proctor & Gamble and Kraft Foods subsiduary Nabisco to sell their products in the US and combat obesity at the same time by adopting sachet marketing as 'portion control'. Oreos and Pringles will be sold in 100 calorie micro packs according to the New York Times.

Lastiminute.com may have sold out to Travelocity at the right time, the New York Times has an interesting article about the rise of hypercompetition as the online travel industry matures.

Finally, Dutch telecoms news site Telecompaper has an interesting article about the Java economy, over 579 million Java compatiable mobile phones from 30 different manufacturers have now been sold, and a supporting an economy worth about 100 billion USD has been developed.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Stop Press

Marketwatch.com sent out an email news alert saying that an early vote count in France indicate that the public have rejected the EU constitution by about 57 per cent to 43 per cent.
Jamster economics and a touch of class

Jamster the ringtone, logos and java games company most famous for its crazy frog ringtone TV adverts has been all over the media this week with the success in the UK charts of a single based on the ringtone.

According to the Financial Times on Saturday the company has sold about 11 million Crazy Frog ringtones across Europe at about 3GBP a time. Lets be generous and allow them a cost of transcation of about 0.15GBP, giving a potential pre-tax profit of about 31.5 million GBP. This doesn't take into account the cost of making the ads, online advertising, business infrastructure etc.

Now in the UK according to anonymous sources quoted by media gossip newsletter Holy Moly, they have spent about 30 million GBP on TV advertising. Given the amount of times that I see the adverts when I go to the gym, I suspect that this number is not far off the mark. So, the frog is not as profitable as it would first seem. In addition, the adverts do not drive traffic to Jamster's website where they can cross promote other products, but flash up a short code number that you SMS for your ringtone.

Where it gets really interesting according to the same sources is that from the a TV advertising point of view is that the ringtone adverts are apparently driving down the cost of TV ads. Understandably advertisers generally don't want to appear in the slot after a Crazy Frog ad as a large proportion of the audience will have channel surfed off until the programme is back on, this means that the TV channels finding it harder to sell on these slots. The big mystery is why they haven't told Jamster to get lost yet?

The New York Times has run a very interesting article on class and consumption in the US. When the Jones' wear jeans talks about how technology, low inflation and consumer credit has levelled the playing field for the consumption of luxury goods and that the rich are more likely to be diffferentiated by the personal services they consume like plastic surgery, a nanny and a personal chef.

Key take outs:
  • With the demise of the community and the rise of mass media, people are less likely to be bothered about keeping up the Jones' (ie their local community) and more bothered about getting their fair share of what the rich have
  • Consumption is patchy, people may shop for discount brands but still like Starbucks coffee, iPods and designer jeans
  • About half of Americans now have a cell phone (there is about 176 million cellphones in the US), the cost of a cellphone has fallen to about an eighth of what it was a decade ago
  • Department store prices have fallen by about 10 per cent in the last decade
  • The new hot segment in the car market is 'sub-luxury' cars (like the BMW 1 series and the Audi A3)
  • American consumer debt is about 750 billion USD, up about six-fold over the past 20 years
  • I found it interesting that the article made a big play about how marketers are having to move from income and gender (socio demographic) segmentation to lifestyle and interests. (Are US marketers way behind the UK in this respect? I would have thought that the likes of P&G would have led the way rather than followed?)

Finally a quote from a spokesperson from Godiva - the chocolate firm: "People want to participate in our brand because we are an affordable luxury," said Gene Dunkin, president of Godiva North America, a unit of the Campbell Soup Company. "For under $1 to $350, with an incredible luxury package, we give the perception of a very expensive product."

renaissance chambara says that it goes to show the old maxim that perception is reality.

Saturday, May 28, 2005


Guy Kewney has written an interesting article on PalmSource over at eWeek.com. While I do not agree with Kewney in his conclusion about the eventual fate of Palm and the PalmOS platform; for instance the MacOS stared death in the same way, he makes some valid historical points. Well worth a read.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Exciting Nokia Device

Exciting Nokia Device

Picture courtesy of Nokia

Nokia 770 is an internet tablet with wi-fi and has an Opera web
browser. As you can see it benefits from Nokia's excellent product
design. It runs Linux rather than Symbian. Now the downside,
according to early reports from some news sources the device has a
disappointing three-hour battery life, so it won't be replacing my
Treo just yet on that performance. The reports I have seen, blame the
WiFi facility for the poor battery life.

Its an interesting device a cross between a wireless PDA and an
internet appliance like 3Com's Audrey or Sony's eVilla of old. I hope
that Nokia does not give up at this first try, things are about to
get very interesting.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Divestiture of Non-Core Assets Smokescreen

Unilever is a company that I have been aware of since a small child. The soap to foods giant started in Port Sunlight near to where my parents now live. The legacy of the original Lever Brothers enterprise can be seen in the quality of the art collection at the Lady Lever art gallery and the listed village of Port Sunlight. The business dictated much of the local area from the former margarine plant, related food factories, the former candle works and docks for the barges bringing in palm oil, chemicals and tallow.

The sirens signalling a change of shift at the factory used to punctuate the day for me as a youngster. Sunday mornings used to have brown smoke emerging from the factory chimneys as they cleaned the boilers. During foggy days or when the wind blew in the right direction the air used to smell: sour from the cooking fat, sweet from the perfumes of soaps and washing powders or the baked goods. Our house used to have unmarked washing powder boxes stored on top of the wardrobe in my bedroom as local housewives to the Lever Brothers factory would try out the company's new formulations on their own clothing and report the results in return for free washing powder.

Viscount Leverhulme, a direct decendant of the founder William Hesketh Lever died a number of years ago, his property was auctioned off and his house is now a venue for weddings and parties.

The business to which the Lever family leant their name has also has been having a sale, slowly dismantling the business following the 'post-conglomerate' fad of focusing on core competences. Unilever Cosmetics International has been sold to American group Coty. The move to sell this particular 'non-core' asset was a surprising one for me. Perfumes and cosmetics struck me as being a potential goldmine as the size of the market in emerging countries like China, India and Brazil continue to expand. Perfumes are an easily obtainable luxury good. What's more the profit margin they afford is much bigger than many of Unilever's other products.

The two most expensive parts of a fragrance are the packaging and promotion, the product itself costs pennies - allowing extremely fat profit margins. In addition, the development of fragrances and cosmetics is complementary to the development and research of other personal hygiene products. I am not inclined to believe that Unilever are letting the business go because they do not believe in the fragrances and cosmetics marketplace is a non-core item.

They may argue that in an aging western society these products are not important, I would argue the opposite, older people do not see themselves as old. They buy Rolling Stones tickets, go travelling, find new loves (and divorce existing partners).

I would not be surprised if Unilever reentered the market at a later date unemcumbered by long term contracts with the likes of Cerutti and Calvin Klein. Otherwise I cannot understand how the deal would represent good shareholder value?
The new big boss
In the early 70's before wire tricks and CGI graphics audiences where introduced to the pure athleticism of martial artists like Bruce Lee (and the countless anonymous stunt men as well). While films like The Matrix and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon have reintroduced Asian cinema to audiences, they lacked the athletic feats of those early movies. Ong Bak is a Thai production that takes the martial arts movie back to its roots, with elements of the Big Boss, Enter the Dragon amongst the earlier films a debt, but also brings its own style.
The film addresses current themes in Thai society, the tussle between their own culture and western influences, religion, the draw of the city to rural communities, drug addiction and the seedier side of Bangkok's nightlife.
Tony Jaa is a very athletic star with the skill of Jet Li. The film feels very different also because of the combat style, Muay thai is a more brutal functional fighting style than kung fu and so doesn't have the cinematic flair, but still impresses. I would recommend that you get to see Ong Bak if you have the chance.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Brilliance of the Bootstrap Enterprise

I borrowed and read the final part of Lian Hearn's Otori trilogy the Brilliance of the Moon. It is as good as her other two books and well worth a read. Whilst not heavy reading, it shows that books can be easy to read and well written - something that people seem to think is an oxymoron with the rise of the DeVinci Code.

Moving on to new media Siliconvalleywatcher.com has an interesting article about the changing roles of VCs on the west coast. In an interesting profile with Walden VC, Tom Foremski came up with some interesting points:

Valuations of startups in the online marketing/advertising sectors are going through the ceiling. Usually, private-company valuations tend to be 40 per cent below comparable public valuations, depending on the sector. Now, valuations of private companies are at a premium over the public valuations. [Ouch.]

Some startups in the online sector already have very healthy revenues and so they don't need investment capital. But the founders are taking money off the table by selling stakes to VCs. [Interesting to see such liquidity events because no IPO or sale of company was involved]

Many young startup companies are seeing fantastic revenues - but they can't collect what they are owed fast enough, so they are burning precious reserves between the time they invoice and when they get paid. The VCs can provide a float. For example, with a $5m monthly revenue it's typical to take 60 days to collect payment from large companies, so it needs a float of $10m, which VCs can provide.

Foremski in his posting does not queston the supply-side factors in VCs that are driving these very different roles including the VC money glut.

The relative ease of bootstrapping a lot of the pieces together:
  • Online auction sites like eBay providing an easy way to get hold of IT equipment that would do the job. There is still a lot of old but servicable Cisco and Sun kit out there to be bought at knockdown prices
  • Virtual offices and teams through the Internet and broadband
  • The move away from capitial intensive product development to media creation

Friday, May 20, 2005

Glass School of Journalism finds new recruit

Stephen Glass, the former star journalist of the New Republic was exposed for making up some of his stories. Now freelance journalist and extensive contributor to Wired magazine Michelle Delio is suspected of using similar tactics in some of her articles for TechnologyReview.com and Wired News. More information here.

Kudos to Charles Arthur for the link.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Life Drive analysed

Life Drive analysed

Picture courtesy of PalmOne

I have a soft spot for Palm devices, I have owned a Palm of one sort or another for the past six years. I bought a Palm with my first bonus, back when the PR agency that I worked with was awash with telecoms and dot.com fees. Soon after buying my first Palm I got put on the Palm account. Despite having had Palm as a client, which means that you get to see the belly of the beast I am still happy (most of the time) to use their devices. I was curious to see the latest product concept.

The Life Drive is a portable hard drive and PDA with additional multimedia functions. The screen is clear, crisp and bright,easy-to-read and the look and feel is familiar to Palm users. The product design on the device resembles Sony's Clie range in a positive way, but the case is a bit thicker. The voice memo recording facility that was on the Tungsten T3 makes a welcome comeback.

Will I be spending my cash on getting one? Probably not, for 77GBP I can buy a 1GB SD card to move data around with, and go for a cheaper PalmOne model or a Treo instead.

In contrast the 4GB hard drive on the Life Device will look positively mean in 12 months. Flash memory is more conducive to a long battery life and allows you to pack a lot of data in a package truly svelte enough to to fit in a shirt pocket like my old Palm Vx of yore. With its pretensions towards multimedia a la the iPod, and being a portable storage device the LiveDrive is a world away from the 'Zen of Palm' and a technological jack-of-all-trades, but master of none.

Surprise Retreat

Wal Mart the retail leviathan who makes shop owners quake at the mention of its name has backed out of the online DVD rental marketplace. The company has entered into a relationship with Netflix whereby it will instead direct its customers to the pure-play DVD rental business.

Wal Mart has kept on keeping on with a number of under-performing businesses over the years such as its German retail arm, so the Netflix deal and withdrawl from the marketplace is a bit of an uncharacteristic turn. It makes you wonder what's next for the chop, its online music business?

Netflix are best known in the UK for their aborted market entry which stopped before they started. The company recruited a marketing team, touted for PR agencies and then promptly shut up shop.

Reuters have the full skinny on the Wal Mart deal here.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Counterculture Roundup

News.com have a great analysis piece that focuses on the counterculture that helped spawn modern IT. Most people think of hippies as tie dyed, bead wearing, soap dodging stoners into free love and psychadelic rock, but the counterculture was so much more.

If you like what you read also check out Accidential Empires by Robert X Cringely.

Organic food advocates have put together this great Star Wars spoof which is taking off as a great viral courtesy of Lucy

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Inflection Point
Over at his weekly column for PBS, Bob Cringely has written about four developments that he feels will have a major impact on the way that technology will develop over time.
Yahoo!'s new music service is seen by Cringely as a statement of intent to push forward music by subscription and defeat all current players. Indeed, its 6.99 USD subcription rate hand an immediate effect on Wall Street, adversely affecting the share prices of Apple, Napster and Real Networks.
Microsoft's forthcoming XBox 360 was seen as a statement of intent against some of its closest PC partners (Dell, HP etc) by providing a home computing device that can surf the web, pick up mail, do VoIP, potentially provide a platform for video on demand and play games. Given that the margins are so tight in the PC industry anyway and Dell is the only one that consistently makes money selling Windows PCs this could proved to be very interesting.
Cringely, returned to an area of previous speculation on Apple providing a film by download model similar to the iTMS model.
Finally he speculated that Google's Web Accelerator was an audious land grab that would shake the industry to its foundations. Speeding up web pages would mean that every ISP and web page creator would be a content provider or customer for Google. That the service would turn PCs into thin-clients lengthening the useful life of the home PC and reducing sales. Further that it would be a staggering tour-de-force of technology. What surprised me about the Google part of his article is that Cringely thought an improvement of only double what consumers have now would be enough to shift the balance of power. In his book Accidential Empires and similar works by other authors, a 10x factor is usually required to differentate the killer products from the 'better mouse traps'. I guess time will tell.
End of an era

Flying Records has been at the centre of club culture for over a decade tied up with some of the UK scenes key movers including promoter Charlie Chester and DJs like Dean Thatcher and Southport Weekender stalwart Dr Bob Jones. The shop was also associated with influential labels including R/C favourite Cowboy Records, Volante and Chillifunk. A few years ago it moved from its Dean Street shop, to an online presence and a small office in Berwick Street above the market. Now the shop is being wound down by the management, however the man behind it is moving on to work on Goya Music's online presence.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Tiger Woes part two

Following on from my initial look, being a .mac user and using Apple's latest version of its operating system 10.4 Tiger has brought some disappointments.

First of all synching of data between your .mac account and your computer seems faster, unfortunately looking at the data itself, the synching does not seem to happen. Then the Virex anti-virus application that comes with .mac is not 10.4 compatiable. There is no information about if or when Virex will be 10.4 compatiable. In the meantime here is a link to a freeware virus scanner courtesy of the Small Dog Electronics newsletter Kibbles & Bytes.

Apple is offering .mac users exclusive widgets in the near future, but I can't get the ones I already have to work. According to Mossberg the OS ships with over a dozen, I can only find three on my machine, I tried to download more from the Apple site but Dashboard just wouldn't play nice with them.

Don't get me wrong MacOS X is a great operating system but there is little reason to upgrade from Panther yet.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Around the web

According to the Global Telecoms Business top five stories newsletter that NTL and O2 have announced which TV channels will be available to the 350 test subjects during their six month-long trial in Oxford. The 16 channels involved come from BSkyB, Chart Show TV, Discovery Networks Europe, Shorts International and Turner Broadcasting.

In New York, Nike has extended their design your own trainer programme to billboard signs that you can manipulate via phoning a free phone number. Your specification can be shared via an SMS message. There is still no option to allow people like Jonah Peretti have Sweat Shop sewn on his set of trainers.

Finally '8vo: On the Outside’ is going to be launched. Written and designed by Mark Holt and Hamish Muir, based on their work designing for the likes of the famous Hacienda nightclub and changing and its influence in the emergent typographically-led design movement in the UK during the late 80s and through the 90s.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Vivid Imagination, Private, Hustler.....

Is Rockstar Games about to join the titans in 'adult entertainment'? According to Reuters, California legislators want to put violent video games in the same space as pornography and forbid its sale to minors. If this becomes a widespread trend it could have a tremendous knock-on effect for the computer games industry. Although the Playstation helped to extend computer games into adult males, children and teenagers are still a very important market.

Having this market taken away from them will adversely affect sales of games and consoles. Given that gaming is considered a major growth opportunity for Microsoft and the main thing that has kept Sony in the black for a considerable amount of time, this law change is dynamite.

In addition, where California has pioneered the world has followed; catalytic converters on your car for instance. Anti-computer game laws are also expected to pass in Illinois, Michigan and North Carolina. Ironically the law will have the least impact on Nintendo who have always pitched their games as more child-friendly material.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The Twilight Zone

I was reminded of the foibles of packet networks yesterday by my posting from the Red Bull Art of Can exhibition. I was surprised to see it on my blog as I had posted to Flickr via email some eight days previously and presumed that it had got lost in the ether. Hence the reason why part three occurs after the final part in my series of Red Bull themed photo snaps.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Baby boomer legacy

The New York Times today had a very interesting op ed piece on the way the baby boomer generaton will be seen from a historical point of view entitled 'The Greediest Generation'. The article is very much down on the 'boomers'. It neglects to mention many of the good things, for instance, the counter culture that free love swept along also gave us fantastic cultural materiel, its attitude helped shape a lot of the technologicial developments that we still benefit from now.

Rather than focusing on the negative why not focus on the potential upsides, we have a generation that is moving into a potentially more active retirement than ever before was possible who can still contribute positively to society, how do we look to utilise and motivate that energy before it is gone?

The Greediest Generation

s a baby boomer myself, I can be blunt: We boomers won't be remembered as the "Greatest Generation." Rather, we'll be scorned as the "Greediest Generation."

Our influence has been huge. When boomer blood raged with hormones, we staged the sexual revolution and popularized the Pill. Now, with those hormones fading, we've popularized Viagra.

As we've aged, age discrimination has become a basis for lawsuits, and the most litigated right has become the right to die. The hot issue of the moment is Social Security, and the newest entitlement program is a prescription drug benefit for the elderly.

Our slogan has gone from "free love" to "free blood pressure medicine."

But I fear that we'll be remembered mostly for grabbing resources for ourselves, in such a way that the big losers will be America's children.

Traditionally in America, the people most likely to be poor were the elderly. As recently as 1966, for example, 29 percent of Americans over 65 were below the poverty line, compared with only 18 percent of American children.

But that same year, Medicare took effect to provide medical care for the elderly, and Social Security adjustments steadily reduced poverty among them. We were suitably embarrassed that old people were eating cat food or scavenging garbage cans for food, so we reallocated resources to the elderly.

As of 2003, the share of elderly below the poverty line had fallen by two-thirds to 10 percent - representing a huge national success. Retirement in America is no longer feared as a time of destitution, but anticipated as a time of comfort and leisure.

On the other hand, the proportion of children below the poverty line is still 18 percent, the same as it was in 1966. And while almost all the elderly now have health insurance under Medicare, about 29 percent of children had no health insurance at all at some point in the last 12 months.

One measure of how children have tumbled as a priority in America is that in 1960 we ranked 12th in infant mortality among nations in the world, while now 40 nations have infant mortality rates better than ours or equal to it. We've also lost ground in child vaccinations: the United States now ranks 84th in the world for measles immunizations and 89th for polio.

With boomers about to retire, I'm afraid that national priorities will be focused even more powerfully on the elderly rather than the young - because it's the elderly who wield political clout.

"The elderly are retired, and it's easier to get them to go to rallies or write their congresspeople," notes Heather Boushey of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington. "Children can't vote, don't give money and have no power, and neither do their parents."

We boomers are also preying on children in a more insidious way: We're running up their debts, both by creating new entitlement programs and by running budget deficits today. Laurence Kotlikoff, an economist and fiscal expert who with Scott Burns wrote the excellent and scary book "The Coming Generational Storm," calls this "fiscal child abuse."

The book says that the Treasury Department commissioned a study by two economists of the United States' long-term liabilities, for inclusion in the 2004 federal budget. The study found that the government faces a present value "fiscal gap" - the excess of expected payments over expected revenues - of $51 trillion. That's 11 times our official national debt and also greater than our total net worth, meaning that in some sense we're bankrupt.

Not surprisingly, the Bush administration took a look at the study, blanched, and declined to publish it.

In coming years, we'll hear appeals for better nursing homes, for more Alzheimer's research and for more wheelchair-accessible office buildings, and those are good causes. But remember that American children are almost twice as likely as the elderly to live in poverty, and that you get much more bang for the buck vaccinating a child than paying for open-heart surgery.

The solution is not to force the elderly to get by on cat food again. But we boomers need to resist the narcissistic impulse to ladle out more resources for ourselves. Our top domestic priorities should be to ensure that all children get health care and to get our fiscal house in order.

Otherwise, we boomers may earn a place in history as the worst generation.
Around the web

Thanks to Stephen for two election related links, Channel 4 news online features alternative political party adverts made by a creative team at a London advertising agency. Makes for more interesting viewing than the actual party political broadcasts. The Unincredibles is a flash animation that encapsulates political satire with voter apathy in a homage to Pixar Pictures The Incredibles, this is so much touching on the public pulse that it made Friday's Evening Standard newspaper

Uri sent me a link to the Dubtribe Sound System site as they are now doing regular mixes available via Podcasting. This seems to have be a bit of a theme as the BBC is also starting to distribute programming via Podcasting.

Star Wars Revelations is a 40-minute fan film with DVD disk images available via BitTorrent. The movie has the same wooden dialogue that we have come to expect from George Lucas. What is really impressive is the special effects that have been created on a budget.