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"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

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Wednesday, 10 March 2004

Topic: Election Notes

So, let's talk about George Soros. And how anti-Semitism goes mainstream with the approval of National Public Radio

Update: My friend in New York, the high-powered Wall Street Attorney, tells me that he read the Soros article below and my reaction. He says I'm overreacting, that this fellow in Slate only mentions in passing that Soros is Jewish, and what I think is implicit isn't. As he was on his cell phone speeding on his way to Temple for a board meeting, I'll grant him that goys shouldn't have the definitive word in such matters.

____

Sebastian Mallaby is a member of the Washington Post editorial page staff. And in September he has a book coming out - The World's Banker - which seems to be about the World Bank under James Wolfensohn. I don't suspect that will be a best seller. But one never knows.

In any event, today in Slate he has a few this to say about George Soros. I've sort of stopped reading Slate in spite of their new collaborative efforts with National Public Radio - they co-produce a mid-day news and commentary show called "Day to Day" - broadcast from out here in the new NPR Culver City studios down the hill from me. But I'm wondering what Slate is up to. They used to be middle-left liberal, but now, led by their key columnist Mickey Kaus, they are doing everything they can to ridicule and destroy John Kerry's campaign. Column after column is merciless. I'm not sure they're pro-Bush, kill-the-faggots, Mel-Gibson-is-God full right yet. But they're working on it.

Anyway, today's target is Soros.

See George Soros: Is the billionaire speculator the Democrats' most powerful weapon?
Sebastian Mallaby, SLATE.COM, Posted Wednesday, March 10, 2004, at 2:17 PM PT

A reminder of who this Soros fellow is....

Soros in the spring of last year sort of committed three million dollars over three years to an anti-Bush policy shop headed by ex-Clintonite John Podesta. He followed up with a ten million grant to launch America Coming Together, a get-out-the-vote effort to help the Democratic presidential campaign. Next he promised two and a half million to MoveOn.org, for their anti-Bush spot television commercials in swing states. Those stared today.

He's an international financier. He deals in markets and speculation, particularly currency markets. His Quantum Fund averaged thirty-one percent returns for more than a decade and left him with a personal fortune of around seven billion dollars, give or take and odd ten million here or there. He pretty much destroyed the British Pound a bit back - earned a cool billion by betting against the British currency in the early nineties.

And he's a bit of a philanthropist. He coughed up almost five billion to get some sort of democracies going in ex-Communist Europe - stuff like helping with the reconstruction in Bosnia, and something to do with to exit polls in Georgia. Russia? He paid stipends to "tens of thousands" of scientists whose state jobs collapsed along with the Soviet order, and he tossed in some money to fight AIDS, he sponsored the new independent media outlets that irritate Putin, and he commissioned new history textbooks. That sort of thing.

And Soros is not happy with George Bush. Soros is a naturalized American citizen. Mallaby points out that Soros likes to talk about his early life as a Hungarian Jew living under Nazi and then Soviet rule. Soros likes to quote Bush's view: "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists." Soros has a reaction. "This is not the America I chose as my home."

Maybe he should leave before Arnold Shwarzenegger become president, if Orin Hatch, the Republican senator from Utah, get his constitutional amendment allowing power-mad Austrian-born bodybuilders to run for that office.

Anyway, Mallaby zeros in on Soros as, implicitly, one more Shylock. You know, the plotting Jew from "The Merchant of Venice" -
Way, way back, when Howard Dean had neither risen nor fallen, George Soros began to plot the sort of speculative bet that has made him a hero and a villain. Contemplating a popular president preparing an invasion of Iraq, Soros was shocked but unwilling to be awed: He believed that this show of American supremacy was a bubble waiting to be pricked and that the president's popularity could be made to pop with it.

And so he did what only billionaires with attitude can do. He prepared to back his hunch with millions of dollars in speculative wagers, the sort that triggered the collapse of the British pound in 1992 and made Soros a demon to Asian leaders during that region's financial crisis.
Get the drift? The whiff of a sneaky Jewish plot?

And how evil is this plot. Mallaby lets you know how these guys "really" work:
Currency speculation works by spotting fragile equilibriums. In Round 1, a government has pegged its currency at a level that everyone considers normal. In Round 2, a speculator notices that economic fundamentals won't support that level for all time and starts betting against it. In Round 3, lesser mortals realize that the speculator is right, and the ensuing stampede fulfils his prophecy. Something like this happened when Soros famously earned $1 billion by betting against the British currency 12 years ago. And something like this may be happening now, with Soros' bets against the Bush administration.

Each Soros bet was designed to shake other market participants awake--to set off the sort of stampede that makes a speculator's insight self-fulfilling.
How dastardly!

Well, you can click on the link and read all the details. Mallaby seems to find this all quite unseemly.

His conclusion?
Of course it's too early to say whether Soros' speculation will pay off; I'd bet on a Bush victory. But it's not too soon to note what's happened over the past year--a year in which Soros has been the Democrats' most generous financier. Starting in the shadow of the 2002 midterm elections, which seemed to show that Bush was invincible on foreign policy issues, Soros' money helped to energize Democrats, turning their resigned deference to Bush's positions into a feisty defiance. To be sure, others contributed to this transformation, most notably Howard Dean (for whom Soros raised money). But the secret of speculation is to start bandwagons that attract others as well, because the fundamentals make joining seem logical.
Mallaby of course has comments on Soros' books.

Mallaby discusses The Bubble of American Supremacy - and that is Soros' eighth and latest book. Mallaby summarizes that the book argues that Bush's foreign policy, far from being unassailable, is actually untenable; it confuses overwhelming military superiority with omnipotence.
Like other Democrats before him, Soros points out that you can't remold the world with tanks alone. Harvard's Joseph Nye, for example, has compared American power to a three-level chessboard. On the military level America has no rival; on the economic level it depends on partners to finance its twin deficits and buy its exports; and on the third level--the level of transnational threats like terrorism and AIDS and drugs--America can do little by itself. In this sense, American supremacy is illusory.

This, however, is not all Soros argues. His mind has a way of stretching a bit greedily for rich philosophical structures. [How Jewish of him!] One of his earlier books expounded on something called "reflexivity," essentially the idea that reality and the perception of reality affect one another, prompting the Economist to write that "Mr Soros gorged on chopped philosophy, mashed economics and facts and figures swimming in grease. It was too much. Before he knew what was happening, out rushed this book."

Soros' latest volume presents another digestive challenge. The concept of reflexivity is hauled out again, along with "the human uncertainty principle" and "the postulate of radical fallibility," and all point to the verdict that Bush is wrong on domestic issues too.
So, well, maybe he is wrong.

But Mallaby still defends Bush.
The idealism that animates Soros' philanthropy - the idealism that makes him a hero across Eastern Europe -is not unlike the idealism of George Bush, who wants to defeat terrorists who are indeed evil and to make Iraq into a democracy. Bush's idealism redeems his foreign policy, at least to some degree. Which is one reason why voters may not condemn him in November - and why the idealistic speculator who has hounded him this past year may ultimately be confounded.
Well, well. There you have it.

Bush's Christian idealism redeems his foreign policy and justifies the war and all the dead, and the sneaky Jew speculator and usurer funds the Democrats.

Yep, this Slate magazine is changing sides.

Posted by Alan at 18:46 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, 11 March 2004 10:40 PST home

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