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Gates gives $100m to fight HIV, $421m to fight Linux

News from India and some letters

We do hate to rain on a high-profile corporate love-fest, but we have to point out that in addition to the much trumpeted $100 million Billg has donated to India's fight against HIV, he's funding the Microsoft jihad against Linux to the far more impressive tune of $421 million. That means that Linux is more than four times worse than AIDS to Billg and his happy Redmond family. God forbid any of them should learn the bitter truth the hard way and start talking sense.

Billg's personal $100 million goes to health initiatives over ten years, while $421 million of Microsoft's money goes, over a mere three years, to support MS-friendly development and 'educational' initiatives. And being a monster MS shareholder himself, a 'Big Win' in India will enrich him personally, perhaps well in excess of the $100 million he's donating to the AIDS problem. Makes you wonder who the real beneficiary of charity is here.

Oh, and let's not forget the five, count 'em, five, vanity puff-pieces appearing in the New York Times this week glorifying Billg's generosity, one of which he wrote himself. That's worth quite a lot too, in PR brownie points for both him and his company. It's far better than free advertising; it actually looks like news and therefore has immensely more persuasive value.

Interestingly, the NYT neglected to mention the gargantuan MS marketing tie-in and obvious bribe against, and obstacle to, Linux adoption in India. Certainly they've been falling all over Gates in their eagerness to give him ink, so we're at a terrible loss to explain why they could find no place, among those thousands of words, to plug in a brief mention of the $421 million in anti-Linux ammo he's delivering.

Readers see greene-eyed monster

Now for some reader feedback. Admittedly, criticizing a man who's giving a vast sum of money to needy people has its pitfalls, though since Biblical days the hypocrisy of rich men conspicuously giving away what they can't use has been a constant, exemplary theme, often treated with acidic and sarcastic language.1

Nevertheless our notoriously sharp-eyed and sharp-tongued readers have detected both bitterness and envy in my recent article criticizing Billg's pledge of $100 million to fight the spread of HIV in India, and the media blitz which the New York Times so graciously provided him.

Basically, I'm just plain bitter because I can't afford to offer such grand gifts myself, readers say:

Bill and Melinda Gates are philanthropists we could only dream of becoming. They have given $600 million away since the inception of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and chances are they are only getting started. Bill Gates said years ago that he will likely spend most of his later years giving most of his money away to help make the world a better place. Even though I'm sure that has given you a good laugh. he is living up to that prediction. NYT spent a lot of ink on the story because it was a rare instance of high-profile human generosity and HIV in India is truly and epidemic.

The fact is the man will never be able to do anything for the rest of his life without zealots like you trumpeting how it's somehow made you into a victim. It's pathetic - get on with something productive! Bill Gates and Microsoft, as much as I'm sure you hate to admit it, have the BEST (notice I didn't just say "leading") product in most of the markets in which they participate and THAT is why Microsoft is successful. Your article with the only waste of (electronic) ink that I've read on the subject.

The Register has also been removed from my Favorites list.

--Lyndal McMurphy

Did you know that the gates foundation has an endowment from Bill and Melinda of $24 odd billion dollars? Their recent quest to help alleviate the spread of aids in India is costing $100 million dollars. You said in you article that you quite often give money to charity... I hardly think your/our measly donations to charity are worth talking about; however $100 million dollars is worth making a song and dance about. It is obvious to all who read your articles on Bill and Microsoft that you're a victim of the green eyed monster we call jealousy and can't stand the fact that Bill is in the position to donate away billions of dollars and you are not.

Why don't you find something else to rant about you dried up old hack?

--Luke Faichney

I'm particularly intrigued by the line, "I hardly think your/our measly donations to charity are worth talking about; however $100 million dollars is worth making a song and dance about." Our Luke has clearly not taken the old story by another Luke, of the widow and the two 'mites' (i.e., coins of little value), to heart.


It's the disposition of the offerer, not the size of the gift, that defines the difference between self-interest and charity. Selfish motives, especially vanity and its corporate cousin, PR, cheapen gifts. There's also a general sense among people that the gift should cost the giver. It ought to hurt a bit. And it ought to be done primarily out of a desire to help another. Giving away money you couldn't spend in a million years is not charity any more than giving table scraps to a dog is charity.

Another letter, describing the tax shenanigans of Ireland's mighty Merchant Princes, offers additional food for thought.

If Gates and his like paid normal rates of tax on their income, whether by capital accretion or otherwise, it might be a lot more than they give away. We have a local variation where Tony O'Reilly, Michael Smurfit (Monaco), Dermot Desmond (Gibraltar!), PJ McManus (Geneva), Tony Ryan (Monaco), Denis O'Brien (Portugal) and others go into tax exile and avoid paying Irish tax. Some of them then make big gestures of funding academic institutions which bear their name. I am sure I have paid enough tax for a school hall somewhere by now, but it has gone to welfare payments, law & order, medical services, etc, etc. These guys, who can live up to 182 days per year on their Irish estates, lecture us on fiscal rectitude and cutting back on government expenditure. Lots of other smaller players live in the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands. I would much sooner [see them] pay the tax. I expect that if these people paid normal Irish tax, I would have less to pay.

George Soros, having scammed the long-suffering financial industry, seems to be recycling some of his money to good causes in deprived areas, mainly Eastern Europe and the Southern USA. Not likely customers for him.

Anyway, it is better if Gates and the others give money away rather than hoard it.

--name withheld by request

I'll admit freely that if I had Gates' money I'd be tempted to buy myself a humanitarian image that will endure for centuries. Giving it away is a no-brainer: there's absolutely nothing else you


do with that kind of wealth. I'd like to think that I'd give it away generously, and quietly, and that I'd even make personal sacrifices in order to do so. But the money would probably corrupt me as much as it's corrupted our poor Bill, who's using it not just for vanity, but to advance the sales agenda and polish the image of his mighty mega-corporation.

But yes, assuming his kind of bankroll, I can all too easily picture "Thomas C. Greene" carved in the eaves of libraries and museums and concert halls and plastered on the brochures and letterheads of relief, educational and artistic endowments throughout the world. And I'd probably become fatally proud of it, and of myself, too. But Chesterton makes the key observation here. The man with tremendous wealth is a paradox: he has to be smart enough to get it, yet stupid enough to want it.

Fortunately, I'm neither. ®

1 "Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly." Mt 6:1-4

2 "And he looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury. And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites. And he said, 'Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all: For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had.'" Lk 21:1-4

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