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05.18.10

Philanthrocapitalism

Posted in Asia, Bill Gates, Marketing, Microsoft, Patents at 6:54 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Bill Gates Claimed to Have Said He Would
Spend Half His Money on PR (Propaganda)

Gates at Harper's Magazine

Summary: A roundup of news looking at the actions of the Gates Foundation and the consequences of profit which is made in the process

Matthew Bishop and Michael Green have published a book titled “Philanthrocapitalism: How the Rich Can Save the World”. The concepts they introduce help us analyse today’s news items which are focused on the activities of Bill Gates.

Harnessing the Press

As we have shown for the past couple of years, Gates invests a lot of money (at least hundreds of millions) in “communication”, which essentially means putting PR pieces all over the place (obscuring such opinions of grandeur as “news reports”). Well, Gates’ investment in the media expands further:

Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Link TV recently launched ViewChange.org — a digital media hub that highlights progress in reducing hunger, poverty, and disease in developing nations. It combines powerful video stories with the latest Web technology to make videos, articles, blogs, and actions readily available to key audiences working in global development. The Gates Foundation has also spearheaded the use of storytelling to shift industry and public attitude towards global health via the Living Proof Project, a multimedia initiative intended to highlight successes of U.S.-funded global health initiatives. By reporting success stories back to the people who funded them – American taxpayers and their representatives – the Project hopes to reframe the current global health conversation.

A few weeks ago we showed how the Gates Foundation pretends to do one thing while actually doing the exact opposite. This is simpler to achieve when one controls the message.

“If you can’t make it good, at least make it look good.”

Bill Gates, Microsoft

Last year we explained the concept of PR and the history of it. GatesKeepers understands the matter and can probably see beyond some spin. “Barbarians Led by Bill Gates“, a book composed by the daughter of Microsoft’s PR mogul, says a lot about how Microsoft employees built an image around “Bill Gates”. It says for example: “In the fall of 1982, Pam Edstrom [of Waggener Edstrom], a diminutive woman with piercing blue eyes, was recruited by Microsoft. [...] In modern-day business, flacks were responsible not only for avoiding bad press, but for spinning the good. [...] Hanson and Edstrom would spin a whole new image for Gates himself. They would tap the best and worst of Chairman Bill, changing his clothes, his voice, and his allegiances, driving him to become not just the boss, but, essentially, the company mascot—a sort of high-technology Colonel Sanders.”

Under the “Bill Gates” brand (similar to the “Obama” brand and associated PR tactics), we now find the following quote whose authenticity is said to be in doubt:

The tweetosphere is buzzing with this “quote” from Bill Gates. Did he really say this or is it apocryphal?

“If I had two dollars left, I would spend one on PR”

Assuming that it’s true (even hypothetically), it is curious to know that he would spend half his money on “perception management” [1, 2], not on health or development (which essentially have the same effect in the media if it’s properly owned and policed).

There is a lot of Gates PR going on in India this month. Microsoft and Gates are described as “software czar” and we’ll say more about this towards the end. In short, he is glorifying himself after committing crimes and there is money to be made while getting glorified.

Since the early days, we have quoted from many different sources bits of evidence that drew a clearer picture and explained how Gates takes control of education systems. We have only just discovered that some education reporting is also funded by Gates, along with a lot more papers and radio shows/sites that he funds (we gave many examples before).

The Hechinger Report is funded by four philanthropies: the Lumina Foundation for Education, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Foundation for Child Development, and the Joyce Foundation. The Gates and Joyce foundations have also provided grant support for Education Week. At this point, news organizations that publish content from The Hechinger Report do not pay for it, Mr. Colvin said.

This matters because Education Week is now likely never to criticise Microsoft or recommend software freedom in the classroom. That’s just one new example and there are many more. This is how the messages are controlled, by buying out writers or their publisher/editor (which can lead to self censorship).

It turns out, based on this short analysis at least, that Gates’ communications in Twitter are also PR which is managed by a team rather than Gates himself. They are building and embellishing the “Bill Gates” brand, as some people have suspected for quite a while.

It’s something that the Gates Foundation typically refers to as “communication/s” rather than PR (it’s just a euphemism). They are putting their words inside publications, which in turn deceive other publications and set the tone. This normalises philanthrocapitalism as acceptable and even commendable.

Arrogance and Seclusion

The Seattle Times writes about Gates’ new centre of operations, which shows discouraging early signs. “The Gates Foundation doesn’t want people driving near their new headquarters,” writes GatesKeepers (more in here).

The arrogance is astounding … and the power of money is not surprising.

The report says:

The northern on-ramp to Seattle’s planned downtown tunnel could lead traffic right under the Gates Foundation’s new $500 million campus.

And the world’s largest foundation doesn’t like that one bit.

“It’s a serious concern for us,” said Martha Choe, chief administrative officer of the foundation, which is pushing for the road to curve around its campus, instead.

Why the secrecy and isolation? Transparency would breed trust.

A few days ago we found an article about what Gates had been doing for the past several years. It’s called “philanthrocapitalism” and it’s nothing particularly new, unlike the following article:

Philanthrocapitalism: dawn of a new era?

[...]

When Bill Gates and Warren Buffett stood on stage together at the New York Public Library and the elder billionaire announced the he was going to give away most of his fortune through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to help the poor, a new ideology was born.

[...]

“It’s still in its early days, but if you go back 20 years, companies like Nike, Nestle, Coca-Cola, Wal-Mart regarded it as a badge of honour to be seen as not soft and sentimental, and socially progressive. They preferred to be seen as really focused on efficiency, and maximising profits and shareholder value.”

[...]

That said, he concedes that philanthrocapitalism is still “not a very well defined field” and that “there’s an awful lot of experimentation”, such as learning from others and trying things to see what works and what doesn’t.

These companies can afford to spend a lot for people to whitewash and change people’s memories. It’s an investment really.

Steve Jobs said that “It’s better to be a pirate than to join the Navy.” For Gates, being a pirate and then using the loot to buy PR seems like a way of life. Should we therefore cherish this pirate? And where did the wealth come from in the first place if not by exploiting or defrauding other people? Currency is a measure of power over others, it is not a commodity that can be increased in a planet with finite resources. You give and you take, you can rarely generate.

Colonisation and GMO

“Gates Foundation ‘strongly opposed’ to an expansion of the Global Fund mandate,” says GatesKeepers, which refers to reports like this.

Although it was set up by UN member states in 2002, the fund largely got of the ground thanks to the involvement of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

With new African ventures in places like Nigeria, Senegal, and Cameroon, one must remember who is investing in patents on drug production and the likes of that and who is actually paying (sometimes government, i.e. taxpayers). As it was put in The Scientist two weeks ago:

Most universities are non-profits, too, and many academic researchers share the altruistic motives of charitable organizations like the Gates Foundation. But when it comes to intellectual property rights, relations between universities and foundations can get tricky. Since 1980, when the Bayh-Dole Act was passed, research institutions that receive federal funding are required to seek ownership of any patentable technologies produced on school grounds. Some institutions also have licensing agreements with companies.

Bill Gates invests in drug design (invests, not donates), so the more of that business goes on, the more profitable it can be to Gates.

Last year we wrote about an African connection between Tony Blair and Bill Gates. It seemed like a scandal and news from Sierra Leone looks deeper into it:

Tony Blair’s Mystery Thieves in Sierra Leone – A Rejoinder to Blair/State House!

[...]

The said approximately ten billion leones cash was collected by Mr. Blair from the American Billionaire’s charity, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and paid into an entity operated by Mr. Tony Blair known as WINDRUSH VENTURES NO. 3 LIMITED PARTNERSHIP. The money was paid out to Mr. Blair in June 2008 under the award of a Grant numbered “Grant OPP50878″.

[...]

Mr. Blair regularly jets into Sierra Leone ostensibly to help Sierra Leoneans because he loves Sierra Leoneans but it is only now that Sierra Leoneans are learning that the “love” and the “help” has been propelled with some infusion of billions of leones from American Billionaire Bill Gates into the deep pockets of Blair’s private vehicle.

More information is contained in the article “Fresh Corruption Issues Dog Former British P.M. Tony Blair in Sierra Leone”

Another strand of investments which involve patents is Gates’ Monsanto push of which we are seeing more right now:

Research to improve sorghum’s nutritional levels through genetic engineering is under way.

[...]

The research is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

This is about GMO. Here is someone who apparently talks about bringing Monsanto to India [1, 2] and appeals to Bill Gates, whose relationship with Monsanto we have already covered in:

  1. With Microsoft Monopoly in Check, Bill Gates Proceeds to Creating More Monopolies
  2. Gates-Backed Company Accused of Monopoly Abuse and Investigated
  3. How the Gates Foundation Privatises Africa
  4. Reader’s Article: The Gates Foundation and Genetically-Modified Foods
  5. Monsanto: The Microsoft of Food
  6. Seeds of Doubt in Bill Gates Investments
  7. Gates Foundation Accused of Faking/Fabricating Data to Advance Political Goals
  8. More Dubious Practices from the Gates Foundation
  9. Video Transcript of Vandana Shiva on Insane Patents
  10. Explanation of What Bill Gates’ Patent Investments Do to Developing World
  11. Black Friday Film: What the Bill Gates-Backed Monsanto Does to Animals, Farmers, Food, and Patent Systems
  12. Gates Foundation Looking to Destroy Kenya with Intellectual Monopolies
  13. Young Napoleon Comes to Africa and Told Off
  14. Bill Gates Takes His GMO Patent Investments/Experiments to India
  15. Gates/Microsoft Tax Dodge and Agriculture Monopoly Revisited
  16. Beyond the ‘Public Relations’
  17. UK Intellectual Monopoly Office (UK-IPO) May be Breaking the Law
  18. “Boycott Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in China”
  19. The Gates Foundation Extends Control Over Communication with Oxfam Relationship
  20. Week of Monsanto

There are also signs that Monsanto is being promoted in India by Gates. As we showed last year, Gates and Monsanto are experimenting there, despite lawsuits from the government and backlash from farmers. As shareholders of the companies which benefit from it, is it fair to make judgment for the Indian people without their full understanding and consent? The press often deceives them.

Also in this month’s news:

Scientists have for years been using biotechnology to genetically modify crops in the United States. They say that changing the DNA of food with genetic engineering makes farming more efficient.

The United States is the main producer of such crops, along with Argentina, Brazil, Canada, India, and China.

But farmers and activists in many countries worry that genetic changes to crops are risky. They are concerned about health and environmental implications. They also say the new methods are expensive and tied to intellectual property laws, putting smaller farmers at a disadvantage.

There is a growing debate within aid groups over whether biotechnology is good for agriculture in Africa.

South Africa already grows biotech cotton, corn and soybeans, and Burkina Faso has started experimenting with BT cotton. Aid groups like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are looking into helping with biotech experiments in many other African countries.

But it appears to be the way forward for AGRA, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa. Four years ago, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation partnered with the Rockefeller Foundation to launch AGRA. Their strategy was explained in the report, “Africa’s Turn: The New Green Revolution for the 21st Century.” The report emphasized hybrid and genetically engineered seeds [a.k.a. GMOs or GE seeds], chemical fertilizers, training agricultural scientists for crop improvements and agricultural reforms.

Jos Ngonyo, recipient of the Eastern Africa Environmental Leadership Award, wasn’t scheduled to meet with the Gates Foundation during his visit. He says he would have welcomed the opportunity to explain why he thinks AGRA is a bad idea.

Ngonyo: “AGRA didn’t involve the people in Africa. This was an idea pushed to Africa and that does not work. It’s not about us without us.”

Ngonyo says people are so aware in the world that “you can’t just bring an ideology from outside and push. They’ll only take it for sometime and then rebel against it.”

In early April, protestors, lead by Kenya’s Biodiversity Coalition, rejected 40,000 tons of genetically modified maize grown in South Africa. The maize remains blocked at the port city of Mombassa. Protesters say the maize is a springboard to contaminate non-GMO crops.

“Green Revolution” is carried out with the Rockefeller Foundation (another convicted monopolist). It’s about GMO. See the Rockefeller Web site for news about the Gates Foundation working alongside Rockefeller.

Sometimes we find competition over influence. Here is an interesting take:

While at TED, Bill took time out (twice) to bask in the genius award glow of Esther Duflo. She says: “I had two dinners with Bill Gates in two days. It was efficient.” “Gates later pressed MIT to make Duflo’s undergraduate course on poverty available online and told her, “We need to fund you.”” Too bad, Bill. She’s already taken by MacArthur.

Is Bill Gates really, like, crass, or does he just put his foot in it too often? Will he now abandon his beloved microfinance program?

One thing ought to be clarified. We never claim that GMO won’t stop hunger; in fact, one issue is that the more people are fed, the more children they will have, unless contraception is made more widespread. The main problem with GMO is one of patents and long-term risk. Evolution is a slow process of careful selection that is self-correcting, whereas these companies obtain patents (monopolies) on rather arbitrary changes that they make without proper testing. It is very short sighted and it is profitable.

Here is a new CNN article that compares Monsanto to Microsoft Windows:

In the view of DuPont and other alarmed observers, this situation makes Monsanto an industry gatekeeper, capable of deciding which new genetically modified traits can be introduced and which cannot. Put another way, Roundup Ready has become a monopoly platform product, much like what the Microsoft Windows operating system became in the market for personal computer software in the late 1990s.

The parallels are not lost on DuPont’s longtime outside counsel Boies, chairman of Boies Schiller & Flexner, who was the Justice Department’s lead trial counsel in its antitrust case against Microsoft. He argues that Monsanto’s stacking restrictions are actually more objectionable than the conduct that got Microsoft (MSFT, Fortune 500) into trouble 15 years ago. “Microsoft’s actions were designed to inhibit the stacking of the Netscape browser on the Microsoft Windows operating system,” says Boies. “Here, you have outright prohibition of stacking genetic traits on top of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready trait.”

Some weeks ago we showed how selected officials from the US government backed Gates' adventures with Monsanto. It’s more of that push which would benefit Monsanto [1, 2] and thus benefit Gates at well, at the expense of taxpayers.

Patenting Life

Related to investments in GMO (biotechnology) there is the patenting of drugs, which are essentially biological too. We don’t intend to repeat old posts even though they are necessary background to those who are skeptical of Gates skepticism.

As we pointed out some weeks ago, Gates’ foundation comes handy when it comes to making profits. Gates is using it to market its patent troll Nathan Myhrvold (Intellectual Ventures), who is profiting from the vaccines push and apparently also these nuclear projects that Gates raved about earlier this year (Bill Gates is an Intellectual Ventures investor).

Now I know all this is a long way from Bill Gates trying to nuke us, but I’m getting there.

A spin-off company from Intellectual Ventures is TerraPower, a group developing new-age, next-generation nuclear power that is truly clean, cheap, safe and does not require the enriched uranium fuel that also makes bombs and leaves stockpiles of radioactive waste collecting around the world.

It’s almost as though Gates became a marketing front for Intellectual Ventures just as he did for Monsanto.

We previously wrote about the Lancet study [1, 2, 3], a study which was “published in The Lancet and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,” says pharmacynews.com.au (also here). Gates does have his critics in the medical community and they deserve more attention than they receive.

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is fascinating. So is the 19-page annual letter that describes the work of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the world’s largest philanthropy. But for someone as smart as Gates, who can afford to hire experts on any subject under the sun, some of his foundation’s strategies are baffling.

Consider his foundation’s approach to malaria, which focuses on bed nets, a low-tech, only modestly effective intervention, and on the development of a vaccine, a high-tech solution that has eluded intensive efforts for decades. This approach dismisses an old, cheap, and safe way to control the vector – the Anopheles mosquito – that spreads the disease: the chemical DDT.

[...]

Moreover, even if mosquitoes become resistant to the killing effects of DDT, they are still repelled by it. An occasional dusting of window frames and doorframes is extremely effective. Bill Gates’s experts seem not to know that; the foundation’s annual letter contains the following single mention of DDT: “The world hoped in the 1950s and 1960s that [malaria] could be eliminated by killing mosquitoes with DDT, but that tactic failed when the mosquitoes evolved to be resistant to the chemical.”

[...]

But policies based on science and data have a short half-life at the UN. With a notable absence of fanfare, in May 2009 the WHO, together with the UN Environment Program, reverted to endorsing less effective methods for preventing malaria, announcing that their goal is “to achieve a 30% cut in the application of DDT worldwide by 2014 and its total phase-out by the early 2020s, if not sooner.” In the absence of effective vaccines or new anti-malarial drugs – and the funding and infrastructure to deliver them – this decision is tantamount to mass murder, a triumph of radical environmental politics over public health.

How can we drain the public-policy swamp?

This was also published in the Taipei Times. It’s a shame that there is no PR (or “communication”) department to broadcast these messages more widely. Opposition to Gates is being squashed by well-greased marketing machines.

Earlier this year we wrote about the vaccine project in Canada [1, 2, 3] and it turns out that Gates is still involved in this [1, 2].

“The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is supportive of the mission of Grand Challenges Canada and pleased to work together on the Grand Challenge of Point-of-Care diagnostics,” said Dr. Carol Dahl, Director of Staff for the Global Health Program of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Gates’ affairs in Canada recently came under some scrutiny for the tobacco fiasco [1, 2], which is still being coverage in the Canadian press. The short story is that Gates’ foundation helped the tobacco companies for a long time and now it uses plausible denial.

Asia

GatesKeepers looks with concern at what Microsoft is doing in Asia and summarises:

Gates Keepers find the following statement distasteful: “Perhaps because of language or cultural barriers, stories of malaria elimination from Asia—Pacific have been under-recognised and under-appreciated within the region and by the international community.”

Let’s look a little deeper. Immunisation is a very important thing, but there is also money to be made from it and it’s important to understand who is doing that (the money which is made does not mean that immunisation is not effective). The new article “Bill Gates in India” says:

Bill Gates visited the village to research for a large-scale immunization program, which could potentially save hundreds of lives. By providing vaccines to villages in remote areas like Khangaria, “The idea is very exciting to us, we believe that we can save the lives of hundreds of children,” said Gate.

There are several new projects in this area, which Gates is funding:

OU assistant professor Sunil Joshi obtains $100,000 grant for his research on boosting immune systems.

Another project actually shows both the National Science Foundation (NSF) and Gates making the investment [1, 2].

BREAD is a new five-year program jointly funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

As in many such cases, Gates is among the stakeholders in the respective patents [1, 2] and in his trip to India he has just signed a Memorandum of Cooperation (MoC), so he plays a bit of politics too, putting polio and vaccination on the national roadmap for some companies to supply aid. Gates even met the Health Secretary (also mentioned in [1, 2] where the health official is given advice by a person who is not even in the field of health) and he is found to be in the midst of a bit of a scandal which gets covered in French. An automated translation says: “Margaret Chan, director general of WHO, announced the opening of an internal investigation into the circumstances of the leak. World learned that members of the panel had not been asked to sign a declaration of conflict of interest. Some observers note that the Australian Mary Moran, who played a key role within the group of experts working for the George Institute, An institution largely funded by pharmaceutical manufacturers and the Bill & Melinda Gates.”

“As in many such cases, Gates is among the stakeholders in the respective patents…”We have already written many posts to shed light on the relationship between pharmaceutical manufacturers and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (some of them actually work inside the Gates Foundation). To clarify again, “Big Pharma” is not the monster which many people claim that it is (extreme daemonisation), but there is a lot to be known about it. Those companies are sometimes giving away experimental drugs to see what happens in poor populations (as they would be unable to sue for damages or generate much publicity), but then again, these are amoral entities (sometimes immoral) working for their own interests. They are mostly owned by shareholders, Gates included. It’s not as though they produce many billionaires from within. A breakdown of stakeholders is quite revealing.

There is criticism of what Gates is doing in India right now. For example:

This coverage of the head of the Gates Foundation’s trip to India is amusing. It gives a whole new meaning to: “You are our father. You are our mother. Please adopt us” Arey bap! Bill appears to be a development tourist and Rahul is leading him by the nose. What does he expect the villagers to say to him except that they love his grants and want him to be their mother and father just like the Congress Party?

And further:

Development tourism in Bihar for the head of the Gates Foundation

This development tourist is so naive. He has never heard of breast milk as the first vaccine but mothers in Bihar have been told this for years. And they can parrot it to any important visitor with connections to the ruling elite.

And then he says he knows nothing about the cervical vaccine trial being stopped. He is either lying or ignorant. We are not sure which is worse.

The Indian press did not exactly do its job giving a voice to opposition.

Bill Gates flew in a chartered plane along with Rahul and landed at Fursatganj airstrip in Rae Bareli 15 km from Jais. Jais is 32 km from Rae Bareli district headquaters.

Gates was scheduled to meet Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to “adopt the village” (their words, not ours) and “Bill Gates takes over Indian village,” says another headline.

Bill Gates has offered to adopt an entire village in India.

This sounds like colonialism and this is also affecting computing there (sounds familiar because of EDGI in India with backing from Gates). Not all villages will benefit from this as one report states that “Gates denies promises to help Amethi”

“I did not make any promise in the IT sector in Amethi … In fact, I have not spoken anything on the IT during the past one week,” says Mr Gates to the journalists in India.

Not to worry. Microsoft is always making promises to Indian IT coordinators, as long as they do not touch Free software.

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