Gates Of Hell

Here they were, on the magazine“60 Minutes” of CBS News, once made famous for revealing serious data about the Vietnam War. Our Lords. On the left Warren Buffet, on the right Bill Gates.
In the middle, domineering psychologically and physically, in a striking mix of self appreciating virgin Mary, and ramrod straight Marie Antoinette, Melinda Gates.
The subject? The good plutocrats make, as governments flounder, and the billionaires come to save us, by displacing and replacing it (say by replacing public schools by privatecharter” schools, with the benediction of the Financial Times mesmerized Obama).
Gates Tax Free Palace, Seattle Behind

Gates Tax Free Palace, Seattle Behind

The propaganda piece told us how the billionaires were a “silver lining” in lieu of government for education, research, health, etc. Hey, the Gates, we were told, nearly eradicated polio. Things sure have changed since the Vietnam War. 

The 60 Minutes interviewer was Charlie Rose (himself family connected to plutocracy). Here is his introduction:
Today, the wealthiest 400 Americans are worth over $2 trillion… they own as much wealth as the bottom half of American households combined.
While resentment towards the super rich grows, there may be a silver lining taking shape. It turns out a lot of those rich people are giving staggering sums of money away, in what is being called a golden age of philanthropy.
And this surge in generosity is not by accident…. it was started by an influential trio: Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett… Learn more about their new club for billionaires. Membership comes with just two requirements: be worth at least a billion dollars and be willing to give half of that away.” 
The report did not define what “giving” means. As we will see, it’s not “giving” at all. It’s more like the difference between leasing and owning. Or more like the difference between having capital, and having a rent. Rich people, in the Nineteenth Century, were called “rentiers”. Because they had a rent. This is what Buffet advocates. A rent. Tax free. Instead of going to the Buffet once, go there everyday. For free. Forever.
Ah, yes, because I forgot a slight detail, and so did Charlie Rose: that rent is tax free. So the difference is between taxed capital (however lightly), and tax free rent.
Nor did the report insist that money is all about controlling power. If one has power control, one does not need money. Te report alluded to that problem, just to shrug it off. How? Hell, the Gates “nearly eradicated” polio. (They did not eradicate Monsanto, though…) 
“60Minutes”:”Buffett and the Gates invite pledgers once a year to exclusive resorts like Kiawah Island in South Carolina. Here billionaires attend sessions on how to give money away more effectively. Our cameras were not allowed in.”
[Nothing like “exclusivity”; camera pans out on incredibly luxurious accomodations, gigantic resort, gold plated everything, cashmere carpets, crystal chandeliers, etc…]
“60 Minutes”: “This day’s agenda: it included lessons on how tools like technology can be used to transform failing schools and, with the government cutting funding on medical research, how can philanthropists step in and help spur new medical breakthroughs. But we wondered, what else goes on behind closed doors?” 
Randall Lane [Forbes Magazine editor; interviewed by “60 Minutes”, as part of the segment]:
The public has a right to know who owns the world. Government is showing, you know, over the past couple decades that it can no longer solve the great problems of the day. Now these philanthropists who have incredible wealth, the problem-solving brainpower, and also the name and the influence to be able to open doors are uniquely qualified right now to solve the huge problems.
60 Minutes: But that does raise the question: do these billionaires have too much power?
Charlie Rose: There’s some people who say big philanthropy is not such a good idea, meaning that somehow you have enormous power and you’re not elected and, and that that may not be such a good idea to have people with enormous wealth to have so much influence. 
Warren Buffett: Well, would they prefer dynastic wealth? Pass it on. Or would they prefer, you know, obscenely high living?
Bill Gates: …We do think we’re all gonna be smarter and do it better learning from each other. But there is no pooling of money. We celebrate the diversity of philanthropy.
Charlie Rose: “OK, so there’s no instance in which somebody could say, “Look, I mean, we got too many people of huge wealth who are having too much influence.”
Jean Case [plastic surgery billionairess]: “Well, Charlie. Think about Bill and polio, for instance. Bill and Melinda’s work in polio. I mean, they’re coming close to eradicating polio on the face of the Earth. I think when we have a couple of examples like that, people will see, that’s not power being used for personal purposes. That’s really leveraging everything you have to change the world to make it better.”
What is all this giving all about? Creating “Foundations” upon which the relatives of the hyper wealthy can get a rent, tax free, forever. It all started with Rockefeller, a century ago, and was initially blocked by all, ferociously. But times have changed. A lot.
For plutocrats, wrong is right. So when they are wrong, they feel right. By definition of what “Pluto” means.
The mythical Jesus Christ discovered this 2,000 years ago, and was very clear on the subject:“A rich man will find it more difficult to go to heavens than a camel through the eye of a needle”. It is curious that Christians are not making more noise about this.
Krugman is coming to the same conclusion as Jesus. Me too.
The true aim of economics ought to be work and energy (same thing). Instead it has evolved into theories about money, something private bankers create on behalf of the government, and give to their friends and clients.
A whole generation of economists has become rich by serving the rich with theories that help the rich. Why would they stop? They would endanger their income, power and reputation by doing so.
According to “60 Minutes“, the new power to replace government is that of the hyper rich. And therein the problem. Under Eisenhower, the upper tax rate was 93%. There few very rich individuals. Most people felt that they were owners, stakeholders, of the economy, of the society, of the country.
The USA has been going downhill ever since, in tax rates, as in its prospects.
Now we are being told that money ought to govern, not just economics, but society itself. Directly.
The Foundation Law allows plutocrats to exert power, basically tax free, forever (there is 2% tax on “investment income”). Foundations just have to spend 5% of their capital a year, but the beauty of it, is that they can spend it on themselves. And they do.
Example: Gates’s palatial headquarters in Seattle.
Patrice Ayme

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50 Responses to “Gates Of Hell”

  1. Alexi Helligar Says:

    I really find fawning over the “generosity” of billionaires hideous. In the Bible, the widow who gives her last penny is more generous than the wealthy ostentatiously giving away large but fractional portions of their wealth. Also, people seem to forget that deciding who gets money confers great power on the “giver”.

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Hi Alexi! Helligar
      I had formatting and other problems, so I improved the essay in the meantime. My point is that they are NOT giving ANYTHINg. It’s the exact OPPOSITE. They found a way to cheat, even more than before, and they go industrial about it. I had it from a friendly chair of a computer science department, that Gates cheated all his life (it did not really invent the system that made his fortune). Uneducated people like that ought not to be in charge without us being able to intercept their mediocre thoughts that they try to impose on the whole planet.

  2. Alexi Helligar Says:

    The Story of the Widow’s Mite:'s_mite
    Lesson of the widow’s mite – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    The Lesson of the widow’s mite is presented in the Synoptic Gospels (Mark 12:41-…44, Luke 21:1-4), in which Jesus is teaching at the Temple in Jerusalem. The Gospel of Mark specifies that two mites (Greek lepta) are together worth a quadrans, the smallest Roman coin. A lepton was the smallest and least valuable coin worth about six minutes of an average daily wage.

    In the story, a widow donates two small coins, while wealthy people donate much more. Jesus explains to his disciples that the small sacrifices of the poor mean more to God than the extravagant, but proportionately lesser, donations of the rich…

  3. Alexi Helligar Says:

    I agree that they are not really giving anything and that foundations exist to entrench wealth and power in the guise of charity.

    The story of how Gates made his billions is a combination of Gates being in the right place at the right time and his cunning ability to capitalize on the blundering of others. Gates purchased the disk operating system or DOS which he and Paul Allen modified and resold the repackaged goods to IBM. He had access because his father had connections with IBM PC engineering team and his mother sat on IBM’s board of directors.

    The “genius” stroke was getting IBM to agree to let him also license DOS as well, which he promptly did to all comers. This led his version of DOS or MS-DOS to become the de-facto choice for hardware manufactures of PCs over IBM’s PC-DOS. This is not so much cheating as briliant tactical manoeuvring. I have to give this one to Gates.

    The second master-stroke was capitalizing on the inept execution and hubris of software companies like WordPerfect and Lotus. He was able to wrest control away from these companies by integrating the Office software most need by business and bundling them with MS-DOS and Windows and tuning the whole mess so it worked better than competitor products. Again less cheating and more brilliant tactical manoeuvring.

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      WOW! Alexi, you are teaching me surprising, but credible stuff, here. I already knew that people such as Steve Case and Obama were connected to the rich (very very very rich in the case of Case, a scion of the wealthy… BTW, case went to the same privileged high school as Obambi). And I already knew that Gates Senior was name partner of the biggest law firm indigenous to the state of Washington (that’s why his son Bill went to Harvard).

      But that Gates Senior had connection to IBM, and his mother was on the board of IBM, that’s something else…

      Conclusion: Bill Gates is NOT a self made man. He is mummy’s boy, and daddy’s girl, all rolled up in one…

    • hazxan Says:

      Great article, Patrice. These people need a dissenting voice, somebody who will stand up and say “Yes, but…” to the utter self-serving nonsense they spout.

      And great stuff Alexi, too. As I’ve worked in computing since the late 70’s, I’m very aware how history has been rewritten and inconvenient truths of the time left out.

      One point though, Bill Gates family background was very, very privileged, but his mother was not on the board of IBM. She certainly had contacts with the board of IBM, she was on the board of several important organisations, doing mostly “charitable” deeds, I believe (see, it’s a family tradition to milk all the wealth, keep the best and give a little back). It was through her contact with IBM than young Billy got his big break.

      Gates has always been a ruthless cutthroat in business, rather than an innovater. Microsoft has always been last in on any new technology. Just one of many typical examples – Apple, Atari, Commodore, Sun and probably many others had working “Graphical Interfaces” on the market way before MS’s pathetic Windows 1. Windows 95 was technically inferior to what Apple were doing 10 years before, but was hyped to high heavens, which is the MS way.

      The Internet? MS were late to the party as ever. Using shady business practices to gain a foothold as other far more innovative startups had done the innovation. These would be people with a pasionate interest in the technology, rather than a passionate interest to own every last cent on planet earth. Which is Bill Gates aim. 150 years ago he’d have been a robber railroad baron.

      There are sites objectively detailing at great length the inferiority of MS operating systems, yet they have captured the “corporate-grey-suit-middle-aged-middle-manager” market like nobody else.

      Back on topic, Patrice, a question: How does one become a plutocrat? I’m not being facetious – I know they exist and I agree with much of your opinion on the damage they do and have dome historically. Is it a psychologocal thing? I recall that the USA has a significant higher percentage of sociopaths than the rest of the world. And psychologists are saying that socipaths can thrive in a “corporatocracy”, again, there are mant sociopaths who get to the top in business. I think there is some link between the two, sometimes I think we live in a “sociopathocracy” as much as a “plutocracy”. However, there is also a line of thought that our society forces us to become un-empathic to others to succeed i.e. to “fake” sociopathy for a variety of reasons such as our fear of *them* in power. Interested in your thoughts…

      • Patrice Ayme Says:

        Thanks for the info on the Gates, Hazxan. So what did the mom do? Sleep with the right guys?

        Very good question about plutocrats. I will think about it. I have some inside data. I knew some of the guys who financed the likes of Google and Facebook. Before. So I did psychologically observe. Right now no time, but think I will. A hint: they often looked at with the sort of awe one usually reserves for the devil.

        There is a self selection effect of the lowest characters, just like with, say Nazism or Stalinism. Take Sheryl Sandberg (“Lean IN”). In like in and out, I guess… As even the Wall Street Journal pointed out, she preaches the exact opposite of her true life. Her true life? As Summers’ wh… I mean geisha. And then as woman symbol, still an agent of Summers and his ilk.

        The guy who “founded” Facebook, that robot, was actually teleguided by Sequoia Cap, then boosted by Goldman Sachs, etc. I know enough about Silly Cone Valley to know that there is a strong component of organized crime at the root of it all (the word CISCO shall not be pronounced, by fear of the godfathers… there again the WSJ has been illuminative over the years, let alone personal experience). I know very well what they do to enrich themselves, and it should not be legal.
        Just don’t ask the U2’s bon Bono for confirmation, he will tell you my tongue is forked.

        Let him rake the $$$$$$$$$ quietly.

  4. Alexi Helligar Says:

    The real cheating came a bit later after Gates and Co. had established Microsoft as a global OS and Productivity monopoly.

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Well, I heard the basic system was established by university professors. Making a monopoly for oneself of something others invented is cheating in my book.

      • hazxan Says:

        Isn’t this the case with most, if not all, technology? That humane, ethical, creative, smart people genuinely trying to improve ‘the human condition’, develop something new. Then the inhumane, unethical, uncreative, soulless thieves move in, take control and figure out how to make a fortune from it. Delivering whatever it is, at far higher cost than it takes to produce, exploiting whomever to produce it.

        • Patrice Ayme Says:

          Thanks Hazxan! Now the Gates want all of us to enter hell, under their guidance. A lot of scientists of all kinds have been complaining about Gates’ nefarious influence, be it on fighting malaria, or GMOs… The Gates’ drive to privatization of everything, including schools, is just bringing back not just paternalism, but feudalism.
          And all this from a guy who is not only fundamentally uneducated, but sincerely believes money is all we need.

  5. Alexi Helligar Says:

    IBM wanted to originally use the far superior CP/M DOS but felt the asking price was too high. So the turned to Gates and Co. who purchased the inferior Quick and Dirty DOS or Q-DOS from Tim Patterson. Q-DOS was modified by Gates and Allen, then sold to IBM with the crucial stipulation that Microsoft could still sell licenses of its own. Remember, no one at the time realized how lucrative the PC business would become. It was less cheating and levering great connections, brilliant tactics and dumb luck.

    The monopoly was granted to Microsoft by the PC community because his software really did solve some pressing problems of the early PC age. Now Windows and Office are more blight than benefit.

    P.S. the idea that any human being is self-made is laughable

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Well, Gates presents his fortune as self made. So does Case. But Case was from a filthy rich family. And who has a mother on the board of IBM? I know very accomplished people, astounding people, super researcher, with tremendous adminstrative skill, chair of department of CS, lawyer of the highest type, all rolled in one, who could not dream of such a thing.

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Dumb is the important word there. I mean most of these people have, first, the dumb luck to be living in the USA. Then, say in the case of facebook, it’s clearly all about the connections. With plutocrats (Goldman Sachs).

      I have also seen from distance zero what they do in the Silicon Valley (Silly Cone?) big time conspiracies, and stealing other people’s work, preferably from Europe (here comes the NSA… I actually knew quite well a CIA like-engineer-venture cap guy, so I had inside perspectives about stealing tech from Europe…He admitted to it, on his own.)

      So they are dumb luck, but then came to believe they are god’s gift… sort of like Hitler surviving the bullets flying all over, in WWI, and then believing he was so incredibly special, just because of his dumb luck. So he could do whatever. Except Hitler had no connections, before he got started, and more evil mentors… And Hitler was actually launched by his connections…

  6. Dominique Deux Says:

    I don’t see what’s your concern there. So unelected people hold all the power and keep increasing their wealth/power? ordinary people are robbed of their right to decide their own fate through that costly, thankfully ineffective system dubbed “democracy” by Greek-speaking dons? What a Socialist, un-American notion! Don’t you know (for it is well known and taught in the best Universities) that the masses freely express and implement their collective will at the supermarket till, which provides more than enough power to them, With the additional precaution of carefully opaque labeling, and wealth-creating price fixing, this is truly the end of History and the advent of Peace and Love (angelic choirs here). Ah, I get it: you must be an historian.

    This was a message from your friendly Pluto. Beware, the unfriendly one has your name.

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Yes, Master Pluto, historian I am, I confess abjectedly. An historical frog, thrice doomed by my natures and impertinence. Actually I would love to reproduce the dialogue you consented to have with your unworthy servant Obama the other day, that was hilarious, how he was anxious to please, although, fully conscious as I am of my grotesque insignificance and lack of achievement, I will cautiously write about Neanderthals first, to extoll their might and brutish ways.

      Neanderthals are the very proof that, the more you throw at us, the stronger, and smarter we get. You are a force for good, Master, because force is not just good. It gives us meaning. And it’s most delectable when applied to losers. How I love to hear them whine.

  7. Paul Handover Says:

    All the power and all the money in the world will not stop Nature having the last word. Unless and until species man learns the ways of, for example, dogs and many other warm-blooded animals, this is the beginning of the end. Money or no money. That’s my message of the day! (Another stupendous essay, Patrice.)

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Well, Paul, the fly in that ointment is that Homo has been the master of creation for more than a million years. It started with the mastery of fire.

      Everything indicates that man goes as nature does. See Easter Island.

      Thanks for finding my essay “stupendous”, that’s very generous! Initially I published it under an approximate form, as I had lots of formatting problems that dissipated later (mysteriously). That in turn led me to typos, etc. But I thought it was better to follow the WordPress recommendation to publish something deemed imperfect initially. Now to neanderthals and their dogs!

  8. Martin Lack Says:

    I recently came up with what I thought was a brilliant idea for a novel, which I even discussed with Paul Handover. My putative book idea even had a title – Life After Earth: The Ultimate Conspiracy. Then I discovered that it had not only been written already; it had been turned into at least two feature-length movies – ‘After Earth’ and ‘Elysium’.

    It is hardly surprising that people come up with such ideas. How else are we supposed to make sense of such catastrophically short-sighted and/or selfish behaviour?

    Anthropogenic climate disruption is everywhere – the latest casualty appears to be Sardinia.

    You may enjoy reading my review of Craig Rosebraugh’s ‘Greedy Lying Bastards’ documentary (now out on DVD):

    • Paul Handover Says:

      Well done, Martin. I plan to order a copy of Craig’s DVD.

      I know I’ve repeated this old saw too many times: Why is it that Planet Earth has never been visited by aliens? Because they have seen no signs of intelligent life!

      • Patrice Ayme Says:

        Or they have seen a very bad problem: do we intervene, and send them to a stiff school, or do we take a very wide berth?

        Seriously, as I said in “40 billion earths”, I doubt that there is another civilization in the galaxy. Too many obstacle. The MAVEN mission of NASA (the latter still exists, in spite of privatization efforts) has been launched to help find out what went wrong with Mars’ atmosphere (a prime suspect is lack of an active enough internal nuclear reactor, in my book; same for Venus; Earth may just have been lucky to pile up on radionuclides!)

  9. Martin Lack Says:

    What we need is mass participation in civil disobedience. Here’s a tune to get you motivated: ‘Mississippi Goddam’ by Nina Simone, written in response to the death of civil rights activist, Medger Evars, murdered in 1963 by a white supremist (et al)… as performed in Holland in 1965.

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      hi Martin! What we need first is civil mass understanding. As the madness of Obamacare demonstrates, people have no idea, none, zilcht, whatsoever. Now Pelosi says:”we should have done single payer!”
      She says that, but she does not mean it. And the reason she was able to get away with Obamacare, is that people understood nought.

      Similar with XL pipe line. Obama speaks about it, but in the meantime an equivalent volume is displaced in trains, and only local opposition, in Oregon (should interest Paul!) has prevented him to send all the cial he can, from the Appalachians, to… China.

      There are very well organized interests. If one writes about THORIUM, immediately paid lobbyists drown with organized drivel (mostly false or irrelevant), etc…

      The Swiss, because they have direct democracy, are increasingly motivated to learn stuff, and that’s a difference with supine Americans…

      • Martin Lack Says:

        How and why it can be that so many otherwise intelligent people remain oblivious to the nature of reality – despite the way history is repeating itself – is a question I pose in my review of ‘Greedy Lying Bastards’.

        In my more positive milliseconds, I like to think it was a good sign that thorium reactors even got on BBC TV news recently.

        • Patrice Ayme Says:

          Martin: To each abuse its own logic. There are obviously people paid to shot down Thorium. (see one of the comment on this site with “Nuclear Salvation”. The gentleman is a paid shill against Thorium, with thousands of similar comments all over the Internet.)

          Thorium, at this point, in EXISTING technology, is the only reasonable and plausible way out. India has a plan to build 62 such reactors…

          • Martin Lack Says:

            Interesting: If it is into investing in the future (rather than alleviating current poverty), India might do well spending billions on thorium reacotrs (rather than on rockets to Mars). Either way, however, they should also expect a reduction in the development aid money they receive from the UK very soon…

            • Patrice Ayme Says:

              Dear Martin: The rocket to Mars did not cost that much (it’s India, not the USA!). Excellent rocketry is, ought to be, a national priority. Expertise there can be carried all over.

              And on the Thorium, they have no choice. I did not know India got aid from the UK! Wow! I think all this aid stuff has to be reviewed. The NGOs just pulled out of the Warsaw circus. Rightly so. I have an incendiary essay coming up on that.

              Turns out the warming “pause” in the 2000s was an OBVIOUS ARTIFACT!
              They just did not count the Poles…and Africa! In other words, the places that heated MOST!

            • Martin Lack Says:

              I look forward to seeing that post, Patrice. I must confess I have given up following UNFCCC meetings, so I am not surprised NGOs would walk out. I hope you will visit my blog and find some way to link your forthcoming piece to the subject of my next post (i.e. a quotation from Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s ‘The Social Contract’). 🙂

            • Patrice Ayme Says:

              With pleasure, Martin. Rousseau is a very interesting subject, in more ways than one. Sade and Voltaire, who knew him well (a hate-love triangle!) considered him a propagandist for stupidity (Voltaire), and naive about nature (Sade).
              Yet, Rousseau had a huge influence, qualities and defects, all…
              And is not as bad as Kant, or Locke, and of those one needs to talk to, as they live on, and on, and on, and be it just for that…

  10. Kevin Berger Says:

    Just FYI, you might want to read this article – better hurry, though, as the unlock is on ly good for 3 more hours!

    “The world knows very little about the political motivations of Pierre Omidyar, the eBay billionaire who is founding (and funding) a quarter-billion-dollar journalism venture with Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Jeremy Scahill. What we do know is this: Pierre Omidyar is a very special kind of technology billionaire.

    We know this because America’s sharpest journalism critics have told us.

    In a piece headlined “The Extraordinary Promise of the New Greenwald-Omidyar Venture”, The Columbia Journalism Review gushed over the announcement of Omidyar’s project. And just in case their point wasn’t clear, they added the amazing subhead, “Adversarial muckrakers + civic-minded billionaire = a whole new world.”

    Ah yes, the fabled “civic-minded billionaire”—you’ll find him two doors down from the tooth fairy.”

    Long, but very interesting, and well worth the read, FWIW.

    Best, Kevin

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Hi Kevin: Thanks! Just got to my computer, fell on your comment. I made an immediate copy. Yes, I heard of that story, vaguely. Greenwald did not meet with his rich sponsor, but only on the Internet. I use that argument with those who want to meet with me by voice or presence.

  11. Patrice Ayme Says:

    Alexi Helligar Just curious. Do you use Windows and Office?

  12. Old Geezer Pilot Says:

    “,,,Conclusion: Bill Gates is NOT a self made man…

    Mark Twain said, “A self-made man is as improbable as a self-laid egg.”

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Well, we are unfair. Bill Gates is a made man, as they say in the Mafia… And now the Mafia tells 60 Minutes what’s up and what’s down, and where the silver lining is. On the robes of plutocrats.

      Meanwhile I’m adding more extracts of the Naked Capitalism article on the ACA aka Obamacrap, in the essay by the same name… Real good stuff.

  13. Old Geezer Pilot Says:

    Of the world’s 100 largest economic entities, 51 are now corporations and 49 are countries

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Very interesting OGP! Well done. Eye opening. However this is for year 2000 CE.
      More recent:

    • Old Geezer Pilot Says:

      Just proves what “Mr Jensen” in the movie “Network” said:

      “…There are no nations. There are no peoples. There are no Russians. There are no Arabs. There are no third worlds. There is no West. There is only one holistic system of systems, one vast and immane, interwoven, interacting, multivariate, multinational dominion of dollars. Petro-dollars, electro-dollars, multi-dollars, reichmarks, rins, rubles, pounds, and shekels. It is the international system of currency which determines the totality of life on this planet. That is the natural order of things today…”

      Paddy Chayefsky was way ahead of his time.

      • Patrice Ayme Says:

        Good quote.
        However, there is even a deeper motivation, would say Caesar, Napoleon and Nietzsche (and implicitly Lenin or Mao): Will To Power. And I add, with the divine Marquis, that Nature, in full, always gets even (as Paul Handover would say, a bit more gently). Getting even, balancing the excess, means a propensity for the ultimate, whatever it is.

  14. Patrice Ayme Says:

    Bill Gates Can’t Build a Toilet
    Published: November 18, 2013

    IN addition to eradicating polio in India and starting the personal computer revolution, the Seattle Superman of our age has managed to make going to the bathroom a cause célèbre. Five years ago, if I’d told people I worked on toilets, they would have surely assumed I was a plumber. Now, they exclaim: “Oh! Isn’t Bill Gates into that?”

    More than one-third of the world’s population, approximately 2.5 billion people, doesn’t have access to a toilet. The Gates Foundation and a handful of celebrities like Matt Damon deserve credit for putting this sanitation crisis on the map.

    The trouble is that the Gates Foundation has treated the quest to find the proper solution as it would a cutting-edge project at Microsoft: lots of bells and whistles, sky-high budgets and engineers in elite institutions experimenting with the newest technologies, thousands of miles away from their clients…

    Just consider some of the parameters of the Gates Foundation’s first Reinvent the Toilet Challenge: Create a “practical” toilet that is suitable for a single-family residence in the developing world. Make sure it takes in the bodily waste of an entire family and outputs drinkable water and condiments, like salt. And while you’re at it, make sure that the toilet is microprocessor-supervised and converts feces into energy. And all this has to cost just pennies per person per day. That’s some toilet.

    The winner of last year’s contest invented a solar-powered toilet that converts poop into energy for cooking. Impressive — but each one costs $1,000.

    High-tech toilets are exciting, but even the Gates Foundation has admitted that “the economics of such a solution remain uncertain.” In plain English: No one can afford them.

    They are beyond impractical for those who need them most: the residents of slums in countries like Haiti, Indonesia and Bangladesh, where people make between $1 and $5 per day.

    Just imagine the fate of a high-tech toilet in one of these communities. What happens if the unique membrane systems get clogged? Or if the supercritical water vessel or the hydrothermal carbonization tank leaks, or worse, explodes? Or what if one of the impoverished residents realizes the device is worth more than a year’s earnings and decides to steal it? If the many failed development projects of the past 60 years have taught us anything, it’s that complicated, imported solutions do not work.

    The people I’ve met in countries like Peru, El Salvador and Haiti tend to be subsistence farmers in the countryside or residents of big-city slums who do odd jobs to make ends meet. They are survivors. They make use of what they have, and are often very good at fixing things. But don’t ask them to become industrial engineers overnight.

    When I listen to Mr. Gates talk toilets, I think of Juana, who lives in Belén, Peru, a city of 65,000 on a tributary of the Amazon River. Her neighborhood is under water half the year. During the other half, the drainage ditches are filled with excrement and rats.

    When Juana needs to relieve herself, she walks on a narrow plank for about 30 feet until she arrives at her bathroom — four rotting wooden posts wrapped with a tarp. She stands, precariously, on two narrow slats perched above a ditch and does what she needs to do. She also knows that her kids play nearby and worries about their getting sick, since the waste goes directly into a stream.

  15. Andy Outis Says:

    Among my favorite Patrice quotes:

    “I do not reveal my age, my nationality, or my gender…”

    Or his (her?) OS, apparently.

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Indeed, Andy, indeed. If we are anti-ageist, anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-originist, anti-nationalist, that’s what we have to do. I wax lyrical only on assassination attempts… It’s sort of retrospectively funny… Like the New York Times “expiring” my fully paid full subscription unilaterally. Fully hilarious. and for Alexi: One fights lions successfully by being more lion than the lions. I am actually much more secretive than even uncommonly secretive plutocrats. A question of survival.

  16. Patrice Ayme Says:

    Corporate power has long been fustigated (see Teddy Roosevelt). So has capitalism (see Marx). Or even property (Proudhon). But these efforts were unsuccessful, because they are the wrong targets: corporate power, property and capitalism are OK… within bounds to be determined by We The People.

    The real problem is that representative democracy ought to be discarded. And replaced, in first order, by a Swiss style direct democracy (that means with blocking first the enormous influence of giant money as in California, were referenda get bought).

    Another target ought to be the fractional reserve system, which had been reformed thoroughly by the Banking Act of 1933 (demolished under Clinton). That sounds abstract, but that’s how money is generated: privately. Roosevelt regulated it, Clinton gave it back to the greedy bastards without regulation.

    Privatizing everything neglects one factor that has destroyed civilization again and again: the plutocratic phenomenon. It’s now getting fully in gear.
    The Gates of Hell have opened again:

  17. Who Wanted Kennedy Dead? | Some of Patrice Ayme's Thoughts Says:

    […] Similarly, Kennedy’s son misjudged the mood of the upper crust of American society, and, especially, that of its racist, violent, greedy, ruthless, darker underbelly. JFK had deeply annoyed a lot of mighty, ruthless organizations by 1963. JFK also knew there were bodies buried, why, and where (at least figuratively speaking). JFK, and his Jesus Christ attitude (he expected to be assassinated and spoke of this to his wife everyday) was a Damocles Sword over the plutocratic establishment. After calling businessmen “son of bitches”, what was JFK going to do next? Rant against Foundations? […]

  18. Australian Thunderstorm Or GMO Asthma? | Patrice Ayme's Thoughts Says:

    […] Gates of hell. […]

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