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31 August 2006

HEY GEORGE SOROS I WANT TO BUY YOU LUNCH!


Photo by Sergi Guneyev / Saba
Financial World, 1996


George Soros is one of the richest human beings on Planet Earth -- estimates range between $7,200,000,000 and $11,000,000,000 -- an achievement made primarily by trading in currencies of various nations. He began with virtually (or perhaps, as a teenage fugitive from Communist Hungary, literally) nothing.

Soros is a Jew and had barely survived Nazi rule in Hungary. In 1945, when Soros was 15, the Communists replaced the Nazis.

Esperanto ("hopeful") is an artificial language invented by L.L. Zamenhof in 1887 for the purpose of supplanting Earth's confusing and incomprehensible babel of languages to foster universal understanding. Of course it went almost nowhere and was always at best an intellectual oddity. But Soros' freethinking and idealistic parents raised the boy to become a fluent Esperanto speaker -- a creature about as common and useful as a fish who can ride a motorcycle.

But the Communist authorities were warm to Esperanto as a propaganda gimmick intended to show their commitment to world cooperation, and allowed Soros to attend an international Esperanto conference in the UK. He forgot to come back to Hungary. Eventually he became a naturalized U.S. citizen.

Soros is one of about a half-dozen vastly wealthy Americans (including the founders of Progressive auto Insurance, Gentlemen's Wearhouse, and the on-line University of Phoenix) who have spent gazillions to fight and end the disastrous War on Drugs, which has made the USA the world's largest Gulag (about 2,300,000 children, women and men behind bars about now).

His Open Society Institute also funded organizations like Poland's Solidarity and Czechoslovakia's Charter 77, which eventually overthrew their Communist regimes in bloodless revolutions. Soros also spent heavily to fight South Africa's apartheid system of racial oppression, and was most recently famous/notorious as a huge spender to defeat President George Bush's re-election bid in 2004. If you want to see an authentic cyber-riot, click into the right-wing IRC chatroom Undernet #politics and say something nice about Soros.

Today's sermon by Soros concerns one of the world's most Sacred Cows -- not Israel per se, but its government policies, and particularly its recent war against Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.

Public criticism of anything the Israeli government does in its relations with Palestinians, Muslims and Arabs is an E-Z Pass to being loudly accused of antisemitism (even if you're a Jew).

But when you have a few billion dollars, and George Soros' remarkable credentials as an advocate for Human Rights all over the world for decades, you can get away with it.

Notice also that when you have a few billion dollars, you don't have to wear a necktie.

George Soros has a blog. I have a blog. We're practically twins, it's spooky.

For years, I've had one little fantasy: I want to buy the guy lunch. The guy's got to eat sometime, and who says he always has to pick up the tab? Any time he's ready, I can hop the Metro North train and be in NYC by lunchtime. Or maybe he likes to drive his Volvo up to New England; Northampton is an easy-off easy-on stopover on the way to Vermont, and we got a dozen restaurants as damned good as any joint in the Apple. If he reads this, I'm crazy about Indian food, sushi, deli, the Empire Diner ... I'm totally loose about the venue. I'll even eat at a vegie joint.

=======================

The Boston Globe
(Massachusetts USA / owned by The New York Times)
Thursday 31 August 2006


Blinded by a concept

by George Soros

THE FAILURE OF Israel to subdue Hezbollah demonstrates the many weaknesses of the war-on-terror concept. One of those weaknesses is that even if the targets are terrorists, the victims are often innocent civilians, and their suffering reinforces the terrorist cause.

In response to Hezbollah's attacks, Israel was justified in attacking Hezbollah to protect itself against the threat of missiles on its border. However, Israel should have taken greater care to minimize collateral damage. The civilian casualties and material damage inflicted on Lebanon inflamed Muslims and world opinion against Israel and converted Hezbollah from aggressors to heroes of resistance for many. Weakening Lebanon has also made it more difficult to rein in Hezbollah.

Another weakness of the war-on-terror concept is that it relies on military action and rules out political approaches. Israel previously withdrew from Lebanon and then from Gaza unilaterally, rather than negotiating political settlements with the Lebanese government and the Palestinian authority. The strengthening of Hezbollah and Hamas was a direct consequence of that approach. The war-on-terror concept stands in the way of recognizing this fact because it separates "us" from "them" and denies that our actions help shape their behavior.

A third weakness is that the war-on-terror concept lumps together different political movements that use terrorist tactics. It fails to distinguish among Hamas, Hezbollah, Al Qaeda, or the Sunni insurrection and the Mahdi militia in Iraq. Yet all these terrorist manifestations, being different, require different responses. Neither Hamas nor Hezbollah can be treated merely as targets in the war on terror because both have deep roots in their societies; yet there are profound differences between them.

Looking back, it is easy to see where Israeli policy went wrong. When Mahmoud Abbas was elected president of the Palestinian Authority, Israel should have gone out of its way to strengthen him and his reformist team. When Israel withdrew from Gaza, the former head of the World Bank, James Wolfensohn, negotiated a six-point plan on behalf of the Quartet for the Middle East (Russia, the United States, the European Union, and the United Nations). It included opening crossings between Gaza and the West Bank, allowing an airport and seaport in Gaza, opening the border with Egypt; and transferring the greenhouses abandoned by Israeli settlers into Arab hands. None of the six points was implemented. This contributed to Hamas's electoral victory. The Bush administration, having pushed Israel to allow the Palestinians to hold elections, then backed Israel's refusal to deal with a Hamas government. The effect was to impose further hardship on the Palestinians.

Nevertheless, Abbas was able to forge an agreement with the political arm of Hamas for the formation of a unity government. It was to foil this agreement that the military branch of Hamas, run from Damascus, engaged in the provocation that brought a heavy-handed response from Israel -- which in turn incited Hezbollah to further provocation, opening a second front.

That is how extremists play off against each other to destroy any chance of political progress.

Israel has been a participant in this game, and President Bush bought into this flawed policy, uncritically supporting Israel. Events have shown that this policy leads to the escalation of violence. The process has advanced to the point where Israel's unquestioned military superiority is no longer sufficient to overcome the negative consequences of its policy. Israel is now more endangered in its existence than it was at the time of the Oslo Agreement on peace.

Similarly, the United States has become less safe since Bush declared war on terror.

The time has come to realize that the present policies are counterproductive. There will be no end to the vicious circle of escalating violence without a political settlement of the Palestine question. In fact, the prospects for engaging in negotiations are better now than they were a few months ago. The Israelis must realize that a military deterrent is not sufficient on its own. And Arabs, having redeemed themselves on the battlefield, may be more willing to entertain a compromise.

There are strong voices arguing that Israel must never negotiate from a position of weakness. They are wrong. Israel's position is liable to become weaker the longer it persists on its present course. Similarly Hezbollah, having tasted the sense but not the reality of victory (and egged on by Syria and Iran) may prove recalcitrant. But that is where the difference between Hezbollah and Hamas comes into play. The Palestinian people yearn for peace and relief from suffering. The political -- as distinct from the military -- wing of Hamas must be responsive to their desires. It is not too late for Israel to encourage and deal with an Abbas-led Palestinian unity government as the first step toward a better-balanced approach.

Given how strong the US-Israeli relationship is, it would help Israel to achieve its own legitimate aims if the US government were not blinded by the war-on-terror concept.

- 30 -

George Soros, a financier and philanthropist, is author of "The Age of Fallibility: Consequences of the War on Terror."

© Copyright 2006 Globe Newspaper Company.

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e-mail received this morning:
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Dear Colleague:

I thought you would be interested in reading George Soros' most recent opinion piece, published this morning in the Boston Globe. In it, he applies his thinking on the weakness of the War on Terror concept to the current situation in Israel.

To find out more about Soros' views on the War on Terror, the global energy crisis and other important issues, visit George Soros' homepage. There you can download sections of his book "The Age of Fallibility: Consequences of the War on Terror" and join our mailing list.

Best,
Michael Vachon

GeorgeSoros.com | 888 7th Avenue | New York | NY | 10106

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somewhat filetted (Notepad ran out of memory)

the original Wikipedia article
with lots more references and hot links
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George Soros (born August 12, 1930, in Budapest, Hungary, as György Schwartz) is a financial speculator, stock investor, liberal political activist, and philanthropist.

Currently, he is the chairman of Soros Fund Management and the Open Society Institute and is also a former member of the Board of Directors of the Council on Foreign Relations. His support for the Solidarity labor movement in Poland, as well as the Czechoslovakian human rights organization Charter 77, contributed to ending the Soviet Union's rule in those nations. His funding and organization of Georgia's Rose Revolution was considered by Russian and Western observers to have been crucial to its success, although Soros said his role has been "greatly exaggerated." In the United States, he is known for having donated large sums of money to efforts to defeat President George W. Bush's bid for re-election.

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker wrote in 2003 in the foreword of Soros' book The Alchemy of Finance:

"George Soros has made his mark as an enormously successful speculator, wise enough to largely withdraw when still way ahead of the game. The bulk of his enormous winnings is now devoted to encouraging transitional and emerging nations to become 'open societies,' open not only in the sense of freedom of commerce but - more important - tolerant of new ideas and different modes of thinking and behavior."

Biography

Family

George Soros is the son of the Esperanto writer Tivadar Soros. According to Kaufmann's biography Soros (2002), Tivadar was a prisoner of war during and after World War I and eventually escaped from Russia to rejoin his family in Budapest.

The family changed its name in 1936 (see Kaufmann, p. 24) from Schwartz to Soros, in response to the Fascist threat to Jews. Tivadar liked the new name because it is a palindrome and because it has a meaning. Though the specific meaning is unstated by Kaufmann, in Hungarian "soros" means "next in line, or designated successor", and in Esperanto it is the future tense of "to soar". Tivadar wrote of his ordeal to survive Fascist Hungary, and help many people escape it, in his book Maskerado.

George Soros has been married to Annaliese Witschak and to Susan Weber Soros. He is now divorced. He has five children: Robert, Andrea, Jonathan (with his first wife, Annaliese), Alexander and Gregory (with his second wife, Susan). His older brother Paul Soros is an engineer, and is also a well-known philanthropist, investor, and New York socialite.

Native Hungary, and move to England

Soros was thirteen years old when Nazi Germany took military control over its wavering ally Hungary (March 19, 1944), and started exterminating Hungarian Jews [1] in the Holocaust. To save his family, Tivadar gave his children false identities and bribed Hungarian Christians to present them as their own children. George was taken in by a man named Baumbach, an official of Hungary’s fascist government. Baumbach claimed George as an adopted godson. In this role, Soros went with Baumbach to deliver deportation notices to Jews and helped him confiscate their property. Critics claim that this event is an indicator of the moral quality of his life-long choices.[2]

In the following year, Soros survived the battle of Budapest, as Soviet and Nazi forces fought house-to-house through the city. George first traded currencies during the Hungarian hyperinflation of 1945-1946.

In 1946, Soros escaped the Soviet occupation by participating in an Esperanto youth congress in the West. Soros was taught to speak the language from birth and thus is one of the rare native Esperanto speakers.

Soros emigrated to England in 1947 and graduated from the London School of Economics in 1952 but could find only unskilled jobs. As a student of the philosopher Karl Popper, Soros funded himself by taking jobs as a railway porter and a waiter at Quaglino's restaurant. He eventually secured an entry-level position with an investment bank in London.

Move to the United States

In 1956 he moved to the United States, where he worked as an arbitrage trader with F. M. Mayer from 1956 to 1959 and as an analyst with Wertheim and Company from 1959 to 1963. Throughout this time, but mostly in the 1950s, Soros developed a philosophy of "reflexivity" based on the ideas of Popper. Reflexivity, as used by Soros, is the belief that self-awareness is part of the environment: actions tend to cause disruptions in economic equilibriums, which may run counter to the progression of free-market systems. Soros realized, however, that he would not make any money from the concept of reflexivity until he went into investing on his own. He began to investigate how to deal in investments. From 1963 to 1973 he worked at Arnhold and S. Bleichroeder, where he attained the position of vice-president. Soros finally concluded that he was a better investor than he was a philosopher or an executive. In 1967 he persuaded the company to set up an offshore investment fund, First Eagle, for him to run; in 1969 the company founded a second fund for Soros, the Double Eagle hedge fund. When investment regulations restricted his ability to run the funds as he wished, he quit his position in 1973 and established a private investment company that eventually evolved into the Quantum Fund. He has stated that his intent was to earn enough money on Wall Street to support himself as an author and philosopher. After all those years, his net worth reached an estimated $11 billion.

Business

Soros is the founder of Soros Fund Management. In 1970 he co-founded the Quantum Fund with Jim Rogers. It returned 3,365% during the next ten years, and created the bulk of the Soros fortune.

Currency speculation

On Black Wednesday (September 16, 1992), Soros became immediately famous when he sold short more than $10bn worth of pounds, profiting from the Bank of England's reluctance to either raise its interest rates to levels comparable to those of other European Exchange Rate Mechanism countries or to float its currency. Finally, the Bank of England was forced to withdraw the currency out of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism and to devalue the pound sterling, and Soros earned an estimated US$ 1.1 billion in the process. He was dubbed "the man who broke the Bank of England."

The Times October 26, 1992, Monday quoted Soros as saying: "Our total position by Black Wednesday had to be worth almost $10 billion. We planned to sell more than that. In fact, when Norman Lamont said just before the devaluation that he would borrow nearly $15 billion to defend sterling, we were amused because that was about how much we wanted to sell."

In 1997, during the Asian financial crisis, then Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad accused Soros of using the wealth under his control to punish ASEAN for welcoming Myanmar as a member. Later, he called Soros a moron. [3] Thai extremists have called Soros "an economic war criminal" who "sucks the blood from the people". [4]

Partners

George Soros's most successful partners at Quantum fund have been Jim Rogers, Victor Niederhoffer, and Stanley Druckenmiller all of whom are famous traders in their own rights.

Insider trading conviction

In 1988, he was asked to join a takeover attempt of the French bank Société Générale. He declined to participate in the bid, but did later buy a relatively small number of shares in the company. Fourteen years later, in 2002, a French court ruled that it was insider trading as defined under French securities laws and fined him $2 million. Soros denied any wrongdoing and said news of the takeover was public knowledge. PBS

His insider trading conviction was upheld by the highest court in France on June 14, 2006. [5]

Philanthropy

Soros has been active as a philanthropist since the 1970s, when he began providing funds to help black students attend the University of Cape Town in apartheid South Africa, and began funding dissident movements behind the iron curtain. Soros' philanthropic funding in Eastern Europe mostly occurs through the Open Society Institute (OSI) and national Soros Foundations, which sometimes go under other names, e.g. the Stefan Batory Foundation in Poland. As of 2003, PBS estimated that he had given away a total of $4 billion. The OSI says it has spent about $400 million annually in recent years. Notable projects have included aid to scientists and universities throughout Central and Eastern Europe, help to civilians during the siege of Sarajevo, worldwide efforts to repeal drug prohibition laws, and Transparency International. Soros also pledged an endowment of 420 million euros to the Central European University (CEU).

He received honorary doctoral degrees from the New School for Social Research (New York), the University of Oxford in 1980, the Budapest University of Economics, and Yale University in 1991. Soros also received the Yale International Center for Finance Award from the Yale School of Management in 2000 as well as the Laurea Honoris Causa, the highest honor of the University of Bologna in 1995.

Education and beliefs

Soros has a keen interest in philosophy, and his philosophical outlook is largely influenced by Karl Popper, whom he studied under at the London School of Economics. His Open Society Institute is named after Popper's two volume work, The Open Society and Its Enemies, and Soros's ongoing philosophical commitment to the principle of 'fallibilism' (that anything he believes may in fact be wrong, and is therefore to be questioned and improved) stems from Popper's philosophy. Some critics argue that Soros's static political beliefs appear to conflict with the critical rationalism espoused by Popper, though Soros argues that these beliefs were arrived at through such rationalism.

Reflexivity, financial markets, and economic theory

Soros's writings focus heavily on the concept of reflexivity, where the biases of individuals are seen as entering into market transactions, potentially changing the fundamentals of the economy. Soros argued that such transitions in the fundamentals of the economy are typically marked by disequilibrium rather than equilibrium in the economy, and that the conventional economic theory of the market (the 'efficient market hypothesis') does not apply in these situations. Whether Soros is theoretically right or wrong on this issue, Soros certainly has the market credentials and proven track record to effectively maintain that his theory of reflexivity is practically relevant in the marketplace - at least for him. Soros has popularized the concepts of dynamic disequilibrium, static disequilibrium, and near-equilibrium conditions.

View of potential problems in the capitalist free market system

Despite working as an investor and currency speculator (his fortune in 2004 was estimated at US$ 7 billion), he argues that the current system of financial speculation undermines healthy economic development in many underdeveloped countries. Soros blames many of the world's problems on the failures inherent in what he characterizes as market fundamentalism. His opposition to many aspects of globalization has made him a controversial figure.

From Victor Niederhoffer (under "external links"): "Most of all, George believed even then in a mixed economy, one with a strong central international government to correct for the excesses of self-interest."

Soros draws a distinction between being a participant in the market and working to change the rules that market participants must follow. He appears to have no problem working to further his own self-interest economically, while at the same time lobbying for a drastic overhaul of the global financial system. Responding to accusations of being personally responsible for many financial collapses, including those in England, Eastern Europe, and Thailand, he stated, "As a market participant, I don't need to be concerned with the consequences of my [financial] actions."

Political activism

Opposition to the Soviet Union

According to Neil Clark (writing in the New Statesman): "(t)he conventional view, shared by many on the left, is that socialism collapsed in eastern Europe because of its systemic weaknesses and the political elite's failure to build popular support. That may be partly true, but Soros's role was crucial. From 1979, he distributed $3m a year to dissidents including Poland's Solidarity movement, Charter 77 in Czechoslovakia and Andrei Sakharov in the Soviet Union. In 1984, he founded his first Open Society Institute in Hungary and pumped millions of dollars into opposition movements and independent media."

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Soros' funding of progressive, anti-imperialist causes has continued to play an important role in the former Soviet sphere. His funding and organization of Georgia's Rose Revolution was considered crucial to its success by Russian and Western observers, although Soros has said that his role has been "greatly exaggerated."

Bush

In an interview with The Washington Post on November 11, 2003 ([6]) , Soros said that removing George W. Bush from office was the "central focus of my life" and "a matter of life and death." He joked that he would sacrifice his entire fortune to defeat Bush, and many continue to state this as Soros' position even after Soros clarified the humorous nature of the statement in a Q&A session at the end of his March 3, 2004 address to California's Commonwealth Club.

Soros gave $3 million to the Center for American Progress, committed $5 million to MoveOn, while he and his friend Peter Lewis each gave America Coming Together $10 million. (All were groups that worked to support Democrats in the 2004 election.) On September 28, 2004 he dedicated more money to the campaign and kicked off his own multi-state tour with a speech: Why We Must Not Re-elect President Bush delivered at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. The online transcript to this speech received many hits after Dick Cheney accidentally referred to FactCheck.org as "factcheck.com" in the Vice Presidential debate, causing the owner of that domain to redirect all traffic to Soros's site.[7]

Soros was not a large donor to US political causes until the U.S. presidential election, 2004, but according to the Center for Responsive Politics, during the 2003-2004 election cycle, Soros donated $23,581,000 to various 527 Groups dedicated to defeating President George Bush. Despite Soros' efforts, Bush was reelected to a second term as president on November 2, 2004.

Soros has been criticized for his large donations, as he also pushed for the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 which was intended to ban "soft money" contributions to federal election campaigns. Soros has responded that his donations to unaffiliated organizations do not raise the same corruption issues as donations directly to the candidates or political parties.

Incidentally, Harken Energy, a firm partly owned by Soros, did business with George W. Bush in 1986 by buying his oil company, Spectrum 7.

Criticism of financial activities

Critics claim that Soros has an undue influence on currency markets through Quantum Fund, his privately-owned investment fund. Like many large hedge funds, it is registered in an offshore tax haven, specifically Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles.

In an August 2004 appearance on Chris Wallace's FOX News Sunday, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Dennis Hastert (Republican), stated, "We don't know where George Soros's money comes from. We don't know where it comes from, from the left, and you don't know where it comes in the right. You know, Soros's money, some of that is coming from overseas. It could be drug money. We don't know where it comes from." Soros responded to Hastert by saying, "by smearing me with false charges and mischaracterizations you are attempting to stifle critical debate and intimidate those who believe this administration is leading the country in a ruinous direction. Now that I have called you on your false accusation, you are using additional smear tactics." [9] Soros filed an official complaint with the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct. Soros claimed that Hastert's comments "strongly suggests a deliberate effort to use smear tactics, intimidation and falsehoods to silence criticism."

Criticism of political activities

Author Bernard Goldberg harshly criticized the philosophies of Soros in his book, 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America.

Supporters of the Bush administration dislike his contributions to campaigns against Bush.

George Soros has many critics amongst American social conservatives and supporters of Israel.

Defense of political views

At a Jewish forum in New York City, Soros partially attributed a recent resurgence of anti-Semitism to the policies of Israel and the United States, and to successful Jews such as himself:

"There is a resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe. The policies of the Bush administration and the Sharon administration contribute to that. It's not specifically anti-Semitism, but it does manifest itself in anti-Semitism as well. I'm critical of those policies.

If we change that direction, then anti-Semitism also will diminish. I can't see how one could confront it directly ...

I'm also very concerned about my own role because the new anti-Semitism holds that the Jews rule the world ... As an unintended consequence of my actions ... I also contribute to that image." [10]

Quotations by George Soros

* On Terror: "How can we escape from the trap that the terrorists have set us?" he asked. "Only by recognizing that the war on terrorism cannot be won by waging war. We must, of course, protect our security; but we must also correct the grievances on which terrorism feeds. ... Crime requires police work, not military action."

* On the Bush Administration: "An open society is a society which allows its members the greatest possible degree of freedom in pursuing their interests compatible with the interests of others," Soros said. "The Bush administration merely has a narrower definition of self-interest. It does not include the interests of others."

* On the Bush Administration: "The supremacist ideology of the Bush Administration stands in opposition to the principles of an open society, which recognize that people have different views and that nobody is in possession of the ultimate truth. The supremacist ideology postulates that just because we are stronger than others, we know better and have right on our side. The very first sentence of the September 2002 National Security Strategy[11] (the President's annual laying out to Congress of the country's security objectives) reads, 'The great struggles of the twentieth century between liberty and totalitarianism ended with a decisive victory for the forces of freedom and a single sustainable model for national success: freedom, democracy, and free enterprise.'"

* On drug legalization: "I'll tell you what I'd do if it were up to me. I would establish a strictly controlled distribution network through which I would make most drugs, excluding the most dangerous ones like crack, legally available. Initially I would keep the prices low enough to destroy the drug trade. Once that objective was attained I would keep raising the prices, very much like the excise duty on cigarettes, but I would make an exception for registered addicts in order to discourage crime. I would use a portion of the income for prevention and treatment. And I would foster social opprobrium of drug use."

* On Philanthropy: "I'm not doing my philanthropic work, out of any kind of guilt, or any need to create good public relations. I'm doing it because I can afford to do it, and I believe in it."

* On Stock Market Bubbles: "Stock market bubbles don't grow out of thin air. They have a solid basis in reality, but reality as distorted by a misconception."

* On Currency Speculation: "...obviously the totally free flow of capital is not advisable, so you need to create some mechanism for introducing stability." [12]

* On America: "I grew up in Hungary, lived through fascism and the Holocaust, and then had a foretaste of communism. I learned at an early age how important it is what kind of government prevails. I chose America as my home because I value freedom and democracy, civil liberties and an open society. When I had made more money than I needed for myself and my family, I set up a foundation to promote the values and principles of a free and open society."

3 comments:

DespicableTeacher said...

I wouldn't mind if HE invited me to lunch;)

Bob Merkin said...

Remember Sheikh Yemani, who was the head of OPEC back in the 1970s? My widowed mom confessed to me that when she saw him on the nightly TV new (very frequently in those days), she just thought he was the handsomest most elegant guy she'd ever seen.

I told her I couldn't speak for the rest of the family, but if she wanted to date the head of OPEC, that would be fine with me.

As for George Soros, you and I clearly have different ideas. I'll be it's been 20 years since anybody bought the dude lunch. I want to buy the dude lunch.

jackl2400 said...

Too bad George has never taken you up on yr kind offer. Didn't you offer to take him to the funky diner in NoHo a while back (I'm confused between the dates on your "old" Vleeptron blog and the new _Z version perhaps?).

I mean, I'm speculating wildly here, 'cuz I don't know anyone who knows George, but part of George's problem might be that he is living in the same celebrity bubble as Bush, Kerry, Hillary, Tom Brokaw, Paris Hilton or any other important person as they are whisked from Davos to Aspen to the Hamptons to attend their red carpet events and have no idea of what a supermarket scanner is or how much milk costs.

If one of his PR people saw this invite, or even if you left it on his blog, I'm sure it raised nothing more than chuckles, like my impolite suggestion on Preston's list yesterday, that guys like George would greatly benefit from coming down from Olympus once in a while and hanging out with real people on the front lines of reform.

I'm not aware that he even attends conerences like DPA...he probably thinks that sending Ethan and Rob and the other leaders and their staffs is already pretty generous. And it is of course. Maybe he's just shy? Maybe he feels too visible and is worried about self-promotion?

(Well, I go for the bubble theory).

Anyway, his loss.

I contrast this to the world of music fandom, where the rabid fans who hang around a lot at least develop personal relationships with the staff and crew, if not the artists themselves (but that happens too).

And in the world of "retail politics", I have to tell you about an TrueMajority event my wife and I and a local friend attended near Burlington, Vermont, a fundraiser for the Independent/socialist candidate for the U.S. Senate, Bernie Sanders.

It was held at the country HOME of Ben Cohen of Ben and Jerry's fame and fortune. It cost $50/person. There were probably about 500 people. Ben was outside cooking fried turkeys. Bernie brought Max Cleland to speak and be honored, and Bernie walked around chatting up the crowd as we sitting on the lawn eating. Kat chatted with Bernie and reminded him of when they had met in 1974 and Bernie, the local welfare commissioner at the time, arranged for food stamps for her.

The whole thing was pretty cool, real and made me feel all warm and fuzzy about politics, that it was a tangible thing with REAL PEOPLE and not just tired ideolgical handwringing...that we were all in this together.

Of course, this was Vermont with like 600,000 residents.

But all the same, I bet Soros would have a more interesting lunch conversation with you than most of his fellow celebrity and tycoon denizens of the bubble (unless he loves talking about the best golf courses he's ever played on, the merits of Gulfstream business jets as opposed to King Air turbojets, or whatever it is the superwealthy like to talk about amongst themselves). Somehow, Soros doesn't seem like the par handicap type golf or tennis dude, but who knows.

(Does he have any hobbies...I don't know...maybe he just writes books exorting open societies for kicks).