Sunday, February 27, 2011

Who The Hell Is George Soros?

One shadowy puppetmaster down, one to go. Today, a primer on George Soros.

Born in Budapest, 80-year-old Soros, a Jew, was 13 years old when the Nazis invaded Hungary. Obviously, he survived or we wouldn't be discussing him right now. He moved to England in 1947, beginning a life in the financial sector.

Soros is sometimes referred to as "the man who broke the Bank of England," as on what is there known as Black Wednesday- September 16, 1992- he made over $1 billion US by short selling the pound, believing it would go down in value as England, which was giving out double-digit interest rates, had already tried just about everything else to prop up the pound and none of those plans had worked either. It did, to such a degree that the pound dropped out of Europe's Exchange Rate Mechanism, a precursor to the euro. Soros is still vilified for this in some circles.

In 1997, Soros was one of the actors in an Asian financial crisis, becoming rivals with Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir bim Mohamad. Mohamad had proposed that currency trading be made illegal. Soros called Mahathir "a menace to his own country." Soros had short-sold Malaysia's currency, the ringgit, as well, and Mahathir made anti-Semitic remarks in his placing of blame: "We do not want to say that this is a plot by the Jews, but in reality it is a Jew who triggered the currency plunge, and coincidentally Soros is a Jew. It is also a coincidence that the Malaysians are mostly Muslim. Indeed, the Jews are not happy to see Muslims progress." The two kissed and made up in 2006.

In 1988, he was approached about assisting in a takeover of French bank Societe Generale. He said no, but then went on to buy shares on his own. In 2002, a French court ruled that this was insider trading, fining Soros in the amount of money made from the trade, $2.3 million, going no further because of the 14-year delay. The ruling was upheld by France's supreme court in 2006; Soros has appealed further to the European Court of Human Rights, stating that the knowledge he traded on was public, and that court has agreed to hear the case.

Soros does his political financing chiefly through his think tank of choice, the Open Society Institute. Soros founded it in 1993, focusing largely on Eastern and Central Europe (remember, he's Hungarian). It is commonly cited as a key player in Georgia's 2003 'Rose Revolution'. He didn't get overly involved in American affairs until 2004, when he spent heavily to attempt to deny George W. Bush a second term, ultimately an unsuccessful effort. In the wake of that, Soros created another think tank, the Democracy Alliance, aimed at funding a variety of liberal causes.

Soros made an attempt in 2005 at becoming a minority shareholder in the Washington Nationals. It was scuttled when Republicans in Congress threatened to revoke baseball's antitrust exemption.

That should be enough to bring you reasonably up to speed. Just to recap one facet of our notes: If you see "Americans For Prosperity" tossed around in an ad, that means the Koch Brothers. If you see "Open Society Institute" or "Democracy Alliance", that's George Soros.

No comments: