Category Archives: rePosts

Nice Intro To Innovation!

from Robin Hanson Of Overcoming Bias blog:

I have learned most of the list from other places but I learned the following from the article.

5. Innovation in large systems comes mostly from part innovation, so system innovation is steadier than part innovation, and the largest systems grow steadiest.

6. System structures vary in how well they encourage and test innovations locally and then distribute the best ones widely. Better structures for this are meta-innovations.

  • Good modularity reduces the need to match innovations in differing parts.
  • Good abstraction puts similar innovation problems within the same part.

Billg Commencement Speech last year.

yOU CAN FIND THIS IN THE HARVARD WEBSITE:

FAVORITE LINE IS:

When you consider what those of us here in this Yard have been given – in talent, privilege, and opportunity – there is almost no limit to what the world has a right to expect from us.

Why? because i expect nothing less from myself.

text of the speech given by Microsoft chairman Bill Gates at Harvard University on June 7, 2007.

President Bok, former President Rudenstine, incoming President Faust, members of the Harvard Corporation and the Board of Overseers, members of the faculty, parents, and especially, the graduates:

I’ve been waiting more than 30 years to say this: “Dad, I always told you I’d come back and get my degree.”

I want to thank Harvard for this timely honour. I’ll be changing my job next year … and it will be nice to finally have a college degree on my resume.

I applaud the graduates today for taking a much more direct route to your degrees. For my part, I’m just happy that the Crimson has called me “Harvard’s most successful dropout.” I guess that makes me valedictorian of my own special class … I did the best of everyone who failed.

But I also want to be recognised as the guy who got Steve Ballmer to drop out of business school. I’m a bad influence. That’s why I was invited to speak at your graduation. If I had spoken at your orientation, fewer of you might be here today.

Harvard was just a phenomenal experience for me. Academic life was fascinating. I used to sit in on lots of classes I hadn’t even signed up for. And dorm life was terrific. I lived up at Radcliffe, in Currier House. There were always lots of people in my dorm room late at night discussing things, because everyone knew I didn’t worry about getting up in the morning. That’s how I came to be the leader of the anti-social group. We clung to each other as a way of validating our rejection of all those social people.

Radcliffe was a great place to live. There were more women up there, and most of the guys were science-math types. That combination offered me the best odds, if you know what I mean. This is where I learned the sad lesson that improving your odds doesn’t guarantee success.

One of my biggest memories of Harvard came in January 1975, when I made a call from Currier House to a company in Albuquerque that had begun making the world’s first personal computers. I offered to sell them software.

I worried that they would realise I was just a student in a dorm and hang up on me. Instead they said: “We’re not quite ready, come see us in a month,” which was a good thing, because we hadn’t written the software yet. From that moment, I worked day and night on this little extra credit project that marked the end of my college education and the beginning of a remarkable journey with Microsoft.

What I remember above all about Harvard was being in the midst of so much energy and intelligence. It could be exhilarating, intimidating, sometimes even discouraging, but always challenging. It was an amazing privilege – and though I left early, I was transformed by my years at Harvard, the friendships I made, and the ideas I worked on.

But taking a serious look back … I do have one big regret.

I left Harvard with no real awareness of the awful inequities in the world – the appalling disparities of health, and wealth, and opportunity that condemn millions of people to lives of despair.

I learned a lot here at Harvard about new ideas in economics and politics. I got great exposure to the advances being made in the sciences.

But humanity’s greatest advances are not in its discoveries – but in how those discoveries are applied to reduce inequity. Whether through democracy, strong public education, quality health care, or broad economic opportunity – reducing inequity is the highest human achievement.

I left campus knowing little about the millions of young people cheated out of educational opportunities here in this country. And I knew nothing about the millions of people living in unspeakable poverty and disease in developing countries.

It took me decades to find out.

You graduates came to Harvard at a different time. You know more about the world’s inequities than the classes that came before. In your years here, I hope you’ve had a chance to think about how – in this age of accelerating technology – we can finally take on these inequities, and we can solve them.

Imagine, just for the sake of discussion, that you had a few hours a week and a few dollars a month to donate to a cause – and you wanted to spend that time and money where it would have the greatest impact in saving and improving lives. Where would you spend it?

For Melinda and for me, the challenge is the same: how can we do the most good for the greatest number with the resources we have.

During our discussions on this question, Melinda and I read an article about the millions of children who were dying every year in poor countries from diseases that we had long ago made harmless in this country. Measles, malaria, pneumonia, hepatitis B, yellow fever. One disease I had never even heard of, rotavirus, was killing half a million kids each year – none of them in the United States.

We were shocked. We had just assumed that if millions of children were dying and they could be saved, the world would make it a priority to discover and deliver the medicines to save them. But it did not. For under a dollar, there were interventions that could save lives that just weren’t being delivered.

If you believe that every life has equal value, it’s revolting to learn that some lives are seen as worth saving and others are not. We said to ourselves: “This can’t be true. But if it is true, it deserves to be the priority of our giving.”

So we began our work in the same way anyone here would begin it. We asked: “How could the world let these children die?”

The answer is simple, and harsh. The market did not reward saving the lives of these children, and governments did not subsidise it. So the children died because their mothers and their fathers had no power in the market and no voice in the system.

But you and I have both.

We can make market forces work better for the poor if we can develop a more creative capitalism – if we can stretch the reach of market forces so that more people can make a profit, or at least make a living, serving people who are suffering from the worst inequities. We also can press governments around the world to spend taxpayer money in ways that better reflect the values of the people who pay the taxes.

If we can find approaches that meet the needs of the poor in ways that generate profits for business and votes for politicians, we will have found a sustainable way to reduce inequity in the world. This task is open-ended. It can never be finished. But a conscious effort to answer this challenge will change the world.

I am optimistic that we can do this, but I talk to skeptics who claim there is no hope. They say: “Inequity has been with us since the beginning, and will be with us till the end – because people just … don’t … care.” I completely disagree.

I believe we have more caring than we know what to do with.

All of us here in this Yard, at one time or another, have seen human tragedies that broke our hearts, and yet we did nothing – not because we didn’t care, but because we didn’t know what to do. If we had known how to help, we would have acted.

The barrier to change is not too little caring; it is too much complexity.

To turn caring into action, we need to see a problem, see a solution, and see the impact. But complexity blocks all three steps.

Even with the advent of the Internet and 24-hour news, it is still a complex enterprise to get people to truly see the problems. When an airplane crashes, officials immediately call a press conference. They promise to investigate, determine the cause, and prevent similar crashes in the future.

But if the officials were brutally honest, they would say: “Of all the people in the world who died today from preventable causes, one half of one percent of them were on this plane. We’re determined to do everything possible to solve the problem that took the lives of the one half of one percent.”

The bigger problem is not the plane crash, but the millions of preventable deaths.

We don’t read much about these deaths. The media covers what’s new – and millions of people dying is nothing new. So it stays in the background, where it’s easier to ignore. But even when we do see it or read about it, it’s difficult to keep our eyes on the problem. It’s hard to look at suffering if the situation is so complex that we don’t know how to help. And so we look away.

If we can really see a problem, which is the first step, we come to the second step: cutting through the complexity to find a solution.

Finding solutions is essential if we want to make the most of our caring. If we have clear and proven answers anytime an organization or individual asks “How can I help?,” then we can get action – and we can make sure that none of the caring in the world is wasted. But complexity makes it hard to mark a path of action for everyone who cares – and that makes it hard for their caring to matter.

Cutting through complexity to find a solution runs through four predictable stages: determine a goal, find the highest-leverage approach, discover the ideal technology for that approach, and in the meantime, make the smartest application of the technology that you already have – whether it’s something sophisticated, like a drug, or something simpler, like a bed net.

The AIDS epidemic offers an example. The broad goal, of course, is to end the disease. The highest-leverage approach is prevention. The ideal technology would be a vaccine that gives lifetime immunity with a single dose. So governments, drug companies, and foundations fund vaccine research. But their work is likely to take more than a decade, so in the meantime, we have to work with what we have in hand – and the best prevention approach we have now is getting people to avoid risky behaviour.

Pursuing that goal starts the four-step cycle again. This is the pattern. The crucial thing is to never stop thinking and working – and never do what we did with malaria and tuberculosis in the 20th century – which is to surrender to complexity and quit.

The final step – after seeing the problem and finding an approach – is to measure the impact of your work and share your successes and failures so that others learn from your efforts.

You have to have the statistics, of course. You have to be able to show that a program is vaccinating millions more children. You have to be able to show a decline in the number of children dying from these diseases. This is essential not just to improve the program, but also to help draw more investment from business and government.

But if you want to inspire people to participate, you have to show more than numbers; you have to convey the human impact of the work – so people can feel what saving a life means to the families affected.

I remember going to Davos some years back and sitting on a global health panel that was discussing ways to save millions of lives. Millions! Think of the thrill of saving just one person’s life – then multiply that by millions. … Yet this was the most boring panel I’ve ever been on – ever. So boring even I couldn’t bear it.

What made that experience especially striking was that I had just come from an event where we were introducing version 13 of some piece of software, and we had people jumping and shouting with excitement. I love getting people excited about software – but why can’t we generate even more excitement for saving lives?

You can’t get people excited unless you can help them see and feel the impact. And how you do that – is a complex question.

Still, I’m optimistic. Yes, inequity has been with us forever, but the new tools we have to cut through complexity have not been with us forever. They are new – they can help us make the most of our caring – and that’s why the future can be different from the past.

The defining and ongoing innovations of this age – biotechnology, the computer, the Internet – give us a chance we’ve never had before to end extreme poverty and end death from preventable disease.

Sixty years ago, George Marshall came to this commencement and announced a plan to assist the nations of post-war Europe. He said: “I think one difficulty is that the problem is one of such enormous complexity that the very mass of facts presented to the public by press and radio make it exceedingly difficult for the man in the street to reach a clear appraisement of the situation. It is virtually impossible at this distance to grasp at all the real significance of the situation.”

Thirty years after Marshall made his address, as my class graduated without me, technology was emerging that would make the world smaller, more open, more visible, less distant.

The emergence of low-cost personal computers gave rise to a powerful network that has transformed opportunities for learning and communicating.

The magical thing about this network is not just that it collapses distance and makes everyone your neighbor. It also dramatically increases the number of brilliant minds we can have working together on the same problem – and that scales up the rate of innovation to a staggering degree.

At the same time, for every person in the world who has access to this technology, five people don’t. That means many creative minds are left out of this discussion — smart people with practical intelligence and relevant experience who don’t have the technology to hone their talents or contribute their ideas to the world.

We need as many people as possible to have access to this technology, because these advances are triggering a revolution in what human beings can do for one another. They are making it possible not just for national governments, but for universities, corporations, smaller organisation, and even individuals to see problems, see approaches, and measure the impact of their efforts to address the hunger, poverty, and desperation George Marshall spoke of 60 years ago.

Members of the Harvard Family: Here in the Yard is one of the great collections of intellectual talent in the world.

What for?

There is no question that the faculty, the alumni, the students, and the benefactors of Harvard have used their power to improve the lives of people here and around the world. But can we do more? Can Harvard dedicate its intellect to improving the lives of people who will never even hear its name?

Let me make a request of the deans and the professors – the intellectual leaders here at Harvard: As you hire new faculty, award tenure, review curriculum, and determine degree requirements, please ask yourselves:

Should our best minds be dedicated to solving our biggest problems?

Should Harvard encourage its faculty to take on the world’s worst inequities? Should Harvard students learn about the depth of global poverty … the prevalence of world hunger … the scarcity of clean water …the girls kept out of school … the children who die from diseases we can cure?

Should the world’s most privileged people learn about the lives of the world’s least privileged?

These are not rhetorical questions – you will answer with your policies.

My mother, who was filled with pride the day I was admitted here – never stopped pressing me to do more for others. A few days before my wedding, she hosted a bridal event, at which she read aloud a letter about marriage that she had written to Melinda. My mother was very ill with cancer at the time, but she saw one more opportunity to deliver her message, and at the close of the letter she said: “From those to whom much is given, much is expected.”

When you consider what those of us here in this Yard have been given – in talent, privilege, and opportunity – there is almost no limit to what the world has a right to expect from us.

In line with the promise of this age, I want to exhort each of the graduates here to take on an issue – a complex problem, a deep inequity, and become a specialist on it. If you make it the focus of your career, that would be phenomenal. But you don’t have to do that to make an impact. For a few hours every week, you can use the growing power of the Internet to get informed, find others with the same interests, see the barriers, and find ways to cut through them.

Don’t let complexity stop you. Be activists. Take on the big inequities. It will be one of the great experiences of your lives.

You graduates are coming of age in an amazing time. As you leave Harvard, you have technology that members of my class never had. You have awareness of global inequity, which we did not have. And with that awareness, you likely also have an informed conscience that will torment you if you abandon these people whose lives you could change with very little effort. You have more than we had; you must start sooner, and carry on longer.

Knowing what you know, how could you not?

And I hope you will come back here to Harvard 30 years from now and reflect on what you have done with your talent and your energy. I hope you will judge yourselves not on your professional accomplishments alone, but also on how well you have addressed the world’s deepest inequities … on how well you treated people a world away who have nothing in common with you but their humanity.

Good luck.

Best Sentence of the Day 20080320!

from here:

Relief, joy, happiness, it was a pure moment of happiness. No expectations about tomorrow, or grief about the past, purely in the moment. It’s one I will remember always. +Lance Allred D-Leaguer signed to a 10 day contract by the Cleveland Cavaliers

Wish I Could Feel Like This Every Moment Of Every Day!

Rather,

I Would Try To Live My Life In A Manner That Would Increase My Chances Of Feeling This Way Every Second Of Everyday Of My Life!

Best Sentence Today 2008 03 17

Steve Jobs :On what drives Apple employees

“We don’t get a chance to do that many things, and every one should be really excellent. Because this is our life. Life is brief, and then you die, you know? So this is what we’ve chosen to do with our life. We could be sitting in a monastery somewhere in Japan. We could be out sailing. Some of the [executive team] could be playing golf. They could be running other companies. And we’ve all chosen to do this with our lives. So it better be damn good. It better be worth it. And we think it is.”

Can you honestly say this with what you are doing with your life? Are you actively trying to find something great to do with the great gift of life God has given you? Are you continually making excuses and taking the easy way out? Is how you feel during leisure an order of magnitude different(greater,happier) than what you feel during work?

If you do not examine yourself right now and ask yourself these questions when will you ever find out? If you continue to go the remote control path what do you think will happen. You are never going to be really happy by just going where other people tell you to go. Ask yourself these questions , and afterwards after reflecting on your answers think of somebody whom you trust and who would be honest to you. Find that person, and ask him about life, ask about the things you admire about his life, find out how he got to where he is, and about the principles tht guided him.

In an anime Full Metal Alchemist    full metal alchemist ost

there is this principle of equivalent exchangeTo Obtain Anything Something Of Equal Value Must Be Sacrificed.

You have to sacrifice now for a life well spent, remember the old adage “you can’t have your cake and eat it”. It takes sacrifice now and the pain that comes with going your own way.

Never Give Up On Your Dreams!

Follow Your Heart!

Some Lovin for The Wire from Newsweek!

Couldn’t have said this any better myself!

Joshua Alston on the Wire Finale:

from here:

“The Wire” succeeded in its final episode. The finale was peppered with Charm City montages, random shots of skylines, local attractions and average folks. And “The Wire” has always been a show about the city of Baltimore, about taking an honest look at the city in a way that you can only if you love it unconditionally, as the show’s creator David Simon clearly does. The finale also captured the agony and the ecstasy of being a fan of the show. “The Wire” was always a bit like a bad relationship. It required an inordinate amount of commitment and emotional investment. Some of our friends didn’t get it, and we thought less of them as a result. It broke our hearts over and over and we crawled back for more. But when it was good, whew … it was so good.

Amen to That!

re Post: How I Would Do Philantrophy!

It’s not often I find people of substance who shuns the big life of glitz and glamour, whose philantrophy is not of the immortal name type but of the actual would like to change the world type. To Warren Buffet and now to Chuck Feeney, I salute You! May More People Copy Your Examples!

here is the link to the original article

An elusive billionaire gives away his good fortune

 

 

Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles Times

PUBLICITY SHY: Chuck Feeney, in his daughter’s New York apartment, says of the billions he made running Duty Free Shoppers, “I’m not going to die until I can spend it.”

Chuck Feeney, who nudges others to give while living, plans to donate $8 billion by 2016. Just don’t put his name on anything.

By Margot Roosevelt, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
March 8, 2008

NEW YORK — One by one, speakers rose to toast the elderly gent with baggy pants and a shy, gaptoothed smile.

“Of course, he didn’t wear a tie tonight,” teased one. Another called attention to the honoree’s cheap watch and the plastic bag that serves as his briefcase.

The joshing at a Manhattan gathering would have been nothing out of the ordinary except that the man pulling a worn blue blazer over his head in mock modesty was none other than the onetime billionaire, Chuck Feeney.

Never heard of him? No surprise there.

Over the years, the frugal 76-year-old has made a fetish out of anonymity. He declined to name his foundation, Atlantic Philanthropies, after himself, registering the $8-billion behemoth in Bermuda to avoid U.S. disclosure laws. He lavishes hundreds of millions of dollars on universities and hospitals but won’t allow even a small plaque identifying him as a donor.

“We just didn’t want to be blowing our horn,” he explains in a rare interview at his daughter’s Upper East Side apartment.

The party was to celebrate a biography of the elusive tycoon by Irish journalist Conor O’Clery, titled “The Billionaire Who Wasn’t: How Chuck Feeney Secretly Made and Gave Away a Fortune,” published last fall.

Feeney said he cooperated with the book and submitted to an interview because he is driven by a new public mission: nudging hedge fund heavies and silicon scions into “giving while living.”

It is the latest trend in philanthropy and one that he, more than anyone, jump-started several years before billionaires like Bill Gates and Warren E. Buffett followed suit.

Feeney, a founder of the conglomerate Duty Free Shoppers, said he wants to “set an example” to address “that layer up there of people,” the ones, as he puts it, who have “a jillion dollars. . . . I mean, honestly, if you ask them, ‘Tell me what you’re doing with your money this week?’ they couldn’t spend a fraction of what they’re accruing.”

Most foundations, set up after the donor’s death, dribble out barely more than 5% of their assets each year, the legal minimum.

But Feeney, raised in a blue-collar Irish Catholic family in New Jersey, quietly transferred the bulk of his fortune to his foundation when he was 53. Then, eight years ago, he instructed his board to pay out every last dollar by 2016.

So far: $4 billion down, $4 billion to go. Atlantic Philanthropies is spreading its wealth at the rate of more than $400 million a year, more than any U.S.-based family foundation apart from Bill & Melinda Gates and Ford.

As Feeney sees it, there is too much misery in the world to justify delay. “I’m not going to die until I can spend it,” he vows with a merry chuckle.

Feeney’s biggest beneficiary has been Cornell University, which he attended on the GI Bill, earning spending money by selling sandwiches to fraternities. Over four decades, he has donated an astonishing $588 million to the Ithaca, N.Y., campus, almost all of it anonymously.

Many of Feeney’s grants are still directed to traditional bricks and mortar — $60 million for a Stanford biomedical center and $125 million for a UC San Francisco cardiovascular complex.

But others are iconoclastic: Fighting homophobia among South African Muslims. Lobbying against the death penalty in New Jersey. Buying medical supplies for Cuban-trained doctors. Funding a Washington office for Sinn Fein during the Irish peace negotiations.

Feeney built his global enterprise through cutthroat competition and uncanny business intuition. He speaks fluent French and Japanese. And he still hop-scotches from Dublin to Da Nang seeding new projects.

But his demeanor is affable and unprepossessing and his conversational style is hesitant. He is allergic to introspection. Direct questions send him into vague digressions leavened with humorous asides.

In the tiny world of stratospheric wealth, Feeney is a man of yin and yang: extravagant charity coupled with personal penny-pinching. “It’s the intelligent thing to be frugal,” says the erstwhile billionaire, who jokingly refers to himself as “the shabby philanthropist.”

He once owned six luxurious homes from the French Riviera to Mayfair to Park Avenue. These days, he owns none, instead hunkering down in a cramped one-bedroom rental in San Francisco with his second wife, Helga, his former secretary.

He raked in billions selling duty-free cognac, perfume and designer labels. But you won’t catch Feeney in a Hermes tie or Gucci loafers. He once met the prime minister of Ireland with his drugstore glasses held together by a paper clip.

Feeney doesn’t own a car and prefers buses to taxis. Until he turned 75, he flew coach. Now, making excuses for wobbly knees, he upgrades with frequent flier miles.

Fine dining? “There are restaurants you can go in and pay $100 a person for a meal,” he muses. “I get as much satisfaction out of paying $25. I happen to enjoy grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches.”

Niall O’Dowd, a friend of Feeney and editor of Irish-America magazine, reflects: “The way he copes with his wealth is to never remove himself from his working-class persona. He keeps grounded by acting like it hasn’t happened to him — like basically he is still the same guy.”

At the book party, most of the guests were bused in from the Garden State: former classmates from St. Mary’s of the Assumption High School and an extended clan of Feeney-Fitzpatricks, including two of his five children.

Feeney joked about his “rent-a-crowd” but, amid the toasts and roasts, seemed moved: “Who was it who said, ‘My cup runneth over?’ ”

He planted a kiss on the head of his 21-year old great-nephew, Dennis Fitzpatrick, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair. He autographed copies of the book while seated at a small table with Dennis by his side.

“He’d send my parents $50,000 for our college educations,” nephew Daniel Fitzpatrick, 50, recalled. “But if you went out to have a beer with him, he’d check the bar bill. . . . If I left the light on in a bedroom, he’d say, ‘By the way, you left a light on.’ And I knew I’d better go up and turn it off.”

O’Clery, former international business editor of the Irish Times, spent two years traveling with Feeney and investigating a financial empire that had been sheathed for decades in obsessive secrecy. He unfolds a story of ferocious entrepreneurship that operated, he concluded, “on the edge of legality but was never corrupt.”

Shortly after graduating from college, Feeney, who had served in the U.S. Air Force in Japan during the Korean War, moved to Europe. With a partner he knew from Cornell, Robert Miller, he began peddling duty-free liquor to sailors.

The two went on to sell cars to American soldiers based in Europe and Asia. Eventually, profiting from a postwar boom in tourism, they built Duty Free Shoppers into the biggest retailer of liquor and cigarettes in the world and a global purveyor of luxury goods.

Their ingenious schemes stretched the limits of the duty-free concept.

As O’Clery explains, Duty Free Shoppers allowed a tourist in Mexico, for instance, to peruse a catalog and choose a cashmere sweater to be shipped from Amsterdam to his home in the U.S. Leaving Mexico, he could declare the faraway sweater as “unaccompanied baggage” and avoid paying duty. Feeney and Miller operated with Swiss bank accounts and offshore headquarters in Lichtenstein, Monaco and the Netherlands Antilles. They registered assets in the names of Danielle, Feeney’s French wife, and Miller’s Ecuadorean wife, Chantal, as a precaution against the long arm of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.

Today, Feeney makes no apologies. “Most large companies structure their affairs so that they minimize their tax payments,” he says, rocking back on an armchair in his daughter’s apartment. “As long as you do it within the law, it’s OK.”

For Duty Free Shoppers, publicity was to be avoided at all cost, to ward off not just tax collectors but also competitors. “If you had a machine to make money, you wouldn’t blow your horn and say copy me, copy me,” says Feeney, whose annual share of dividends from the business reached $155 million in 1988, making him richer at the time than Rupert Murdoch, David Rockefeller or Donald Trump.

Why did he decide to give it away, leaving himself with a net worth then that dipped below $1 million? “I’m an easygoing guy,” he shrugs. “I like to eat my grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches quietly. I don’t like people to say, ‘Look over there; he’s eating a grilled cheese and tomato sandwich.’ ”

In 1990, Feeney had separated from Danielle. And, in the divorce, she retained their mansions and luxury apartments, along with $100 million.

“The wealth got to him,” recalls his nephew, Fitzpatrick. “He got disgusted by it, in my opinion. He said, ‘This expensive heavy-duty lifestyle doesn’t fit me.’ ”

Feeney gave his children, friends and colleagues copies of Andrew Carnegie’s 1889 essay “The Gospel of Wealth,” in which the robber baron-turned-philanthropist admonishes rich men to use their fortunes to help others and “to set an example of modest unostentatious living, shunning display.”

In the realm of modesty, Feeney tended to extremes.

For years, Atlantic Philanthropies staff couldn’t tell their families where they worked.

Beneficiaries, few of whom knew the origin of their grants, signed agreements acknowledging that the funding would halt if its source were revealed.

It was only in 1997 that the existence of Atlantic Philanthropies became public during the sale of Duty Free Shoppers to French luxury goods magnate Bernard Arnault.

Court papers revealed that Feeney’s share of the company had been transferred to a foundation. The news that a huge donor had surfaced — bigger than renowned charitable institutions founded by the Pew, Lilly, MacArthur, Rockefeller and Mellon families — rocked the philanthropic world, although many had long suspected something was afoot.

Today, though Atlantic Philanthropies lists its grants on its website, it still won’t issue news releases touting accomplishments. Black tie thank-you dinners, along with plaques, remain verboten.

Feeney’s practical reason for not plastering his moniker on buildings is to attract matching donors who would want naming rights — as was the case at Stanford with high-tech tycoon Jim Clark and at a UC San Francisco cancer facility with venture capitalist Arthur Rock.

Does Feeney have no ego, then? “It doesn’t matter who put the building up,” he says. “The important thing is that it happens.”

In Vietnam, he recounts with a chuckle, “the people at the Da Nang General Hospital felt so bad that we wouldn’t put our name on the hospital that they painted it green” — shamrock green. He pauses, adding, “Which used up a lot of paint.”

Although his parents were American-born, Feeney’s attachment to the land of his ancestors runs deep. The Republic of Ireland in the 1980s was plagued by high unemployment, a brain drain and the festering guerrilla war to the north. Anonymously, Feeney began pouring money into renovating Ireland’s seven universities, along with two in Northern Ireland.

He offered $125 million for postgraduate research if the Irish government would match the amount, nearly 20 times what the Republic was spending a year. Soon, Ireland’s best and brightest flocked to the new research institutes. In all, Atlantic Philanthropies has spent more than $1 billion in Ireland.

In 1993, O’Dowd, who had worked with Feeney to promote U.S. naturalization for Irish immigrants, asked him to join in what would become the Connolly House Group, named after the Belfast headquarters of Sinn Fein, the political arm of the Irish Republican Army.

The small, secret group of Irish Americans offered the newly elected Clinton administration a back-channel to negotiate a cease fire between Britain and the Irish Republican Army.

“At the time, it was risky business to be seen ‘talking to terrorists’–that was the label,” said former Rep. Bruce Morrison, one of the group.

Feeney was intensely involved in the negotiations that led Clinton to grant a visa to Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, and he funded a Washington office for Sinn Fein to the tune of $750,000.

“It was New Jersey working class meets Belfast working class,” O’Dowd recalled of a secret meeting between Feeney and Adams in a Dublin safe house. “These two guys understood each other right away.”

The peace processwas ultimately successful, and Feeney has since funneled millions into reconciliation programs in Northern Ireland.

“The only way you’re going to solve things with your friends or enemies is to sit down and talk to them,” he says today. “It didn’t seem right to me that Irish people were killing Irish people.”

On the coffee table in his daughter’s living room, Feeney opens Bill Clinton’s recent bestseller “Giving.”

He turns to the chapter “How Much Should You Give and Why?” and reads from statistics derived from U.S. income tax data showing that if the top 14,400 taxpayers gave a third of their income, the total would be about $61 billion.

Feeney shakes his head. “People who wouldn’t miss it,” he muses. “Sixty-one billion in one year!”

And why isn’t it happening? “People traditionally collect money. I guess there is an attraction to be known as a wealthy person,” he says. “It’s not my role in life to tell them what they should be doing. . . . I’m just convinced if people gave money to things they’ve identified as being in the public interest, they’d get great satisfaction out of it.”

Feeney mentions one of his favorite charities, Operation Smile, which sponsors surgeons to operate on children with cleft palates in developing countries.

He tells of watching a little girl in a waiting room sitting with her hands covering her mouth.

“I kept an eye on her,” he recalls. “After she had the operation and she was smiling [like], ‘It’s not the ugly me you knew before. It’s the new me.’ ”

On another occasion, he says, a man in a restaurant called him over and said, “Do you realize you educated me in this business? I had one of your scholarships . . . and here I am now, the general manager of this chain. ”

O’Clery, who hung out with Feeney for several years at P.J. Clarke’s, the Manhattan pub, before broaching the topic of a book, attributes Feeney’s generosity to growing up with charitable parents and in a neighborhood where people helped one another.

He calls his subject an “enigma. . . . He likes to make money, but he doesn’t like to have it. He travels all over the world, but in a way, he’s never left Elizabeth, N.J.”

Feeney suggests with a cryptic smile, “There’s a thin line between sanity and the other side. Some people might even say the idea of giving money away is crazy.”

For those folks, Feeney has a Gaelic proverb: “There are no pockets in a shroud.”

margot.roosevelt@ latimes.com

re Post: The World As I See It by Albert Einstein

Reposted this because I felt for this essay by a man I admired greatly.

from: http://www.aip.org/history/einstein/essay.htm

Einstein at his home in Princeton, New Jersey

“How strange is the lot of us mortals! Each of us is here for a brief sojourn; for what purpose he knows not, though he sometimes thinks he senses it. But without deeper reflection one knows from daily life that one exists for other people — first of all for those upon whose smiles and well-being our own happiness is wholly dependent, and then for the many, unknown to us, to whose destinies we are bound by the ties of sympathy. A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life are based on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving…

“I have never looked upon ease and happiness as ends in themselves — this critical basis I call the ideal of a pigsty. The ideals that have lighted my way, and time after time have given me new courage to face life cheerfully, have been Kindness, Beauty, and Truth. Without the sense of kinship with men of like mind, without the occupation with the objective world, the eternally unattainable in the field of art and scientific endeavors, life would have seemed empty to me. The trite objects of human efforts — possessions, outward success, luxury — have always seemed to me contemptible.

“My passionate sense of social justice and social responsibility has always contrasted oddly with my pronounced lack of need for direct contact with other human beings and human communities. I am truly a ‘lone traveler’ and have never belonged to my country, my home, my friends, or even my immediate family, with my whole heart; in the face of all these ties, I have never lost a sense of distance and a need for solitude…”

“My political ideal is democracy. Let every man be respected as an individual and no man idolized. It is an irony of fate that I myself have been the recipient of excessive admiration and reverence from my fellow-beings, through no fault, and no merit, of my own. The cause of this may well be the desire, unattainable for many, to understand the few ideas to which I have with my feeble powers attained through ceaseless struggle. I am quite aware that for any organization to reach its goals, one man must do the thinking and directing and generally bear the responsibility. But the led must not be coerced, they must be able to choose their leader. In my opinion, an autocratic system of coercion soon degenerates; force attracts men of low morality… The really valuable thing in the pageant of human life seems to me not the political state, but the creative, sentient individual, the personality; it alone creates the noble and the sublime, while the herd as such remains dull in thought and dull in feeling. “This topic brings me to that worst outcrop of herd life, the military system, which I abhor… This plague-spot of civilization ought to be abolished with all possible speed. Heroism on command, senseless violence, and all the loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism — how passionately I hate them! “The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed. It was the experience of mystery — even if mixed with fear — that engendered religion. A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, our perceptions of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which only in their most primitive forms are accessible to our minds: it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute true religiosity. In this sense, and only this sense, I am a deeply religious man… I am satisfied with the mystery of life’s eternity and with a knowledge, a sense, of the marvelous structure of existence — as well as the humble attempt to understand even a tiny portion of the Reason that manifests itself in nature.”