The Soros Demonization

Dear Group,

In Monday’s post, “The Soros Meme” (which you can read here), I reviewed aspects of George Soros’ life history that made him a convenient target. But how does a Hungarian/American jewish financier who spends his money fostering democratic values in Europe and the U.S. become the all purpose boogeyman of nationalists, racists, and even (in the U.S.) run-of-the-mill Republicans?

The answer lies with the right wing nationalist prime minister of Soros’ native Hungary, Viktor Orbán, and two American Republican political consultants, Arthur Finkelstein and George Birnbaum. Finkelstein, who died in 2017 at age 72, has been celebrated among Republican/Libertarian political strategists since the 1960s and Richard Nixon. The following lengthy quote is from an article entitled The Unbelievable Story Of The Plot Against George Soros (a great read if you have the time):

It was back then [the 1960s] that Finkelstein started developing a political method that now reads like a how-to guide for modern right-wing populism. Finkelstein’s premise was simple: Every election is decided before it even begins. Most people know who they will vote for, what they support, and what they oppose. It’s very difficult to convince them otherwise, Finkelstein believed. It’s a lot easier to demoralize people than to motivate them. And the best way to win is to demoralize your opponent’s supporters. That’s what Trump did to great effect against Hillary Clinton, and what he meant when, after the election, he thanked black Americans for not voting.

Finkelstein had long been studying the big political trends, and he settled on simple issues that could do the most damage. In the end, he noticed, it usually comes down to the same concerns: drugs, crime, and race. These are the issues that create the most political division, he wrote in a memo to the Nixon White House in 1970.

Finkelstein’s goal was to polarize the electorate as much as possible, to pitch each side against the other. The fuel: fear. “The danger has to be presented as coming from the Left,” a 25-year-old Finkelstein advised Nixon.

Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu (current prime minister of Israel) hired Finkelstein as a political consultant in 1996. Using Finkelstein’s signature smear tactics, Netanyahu came from 20 point deficit to squeak out a win against Shimon Peres, Yitzak Rabin’s successor following Rabin’s assassination. Today Netanyahu is serving in his fourth Israeli premiership. Netanyhu’s views on many issues, including immigration, are parallel to those of Donald Trump. Netanyahu is known for having warm relationships with Vladimir Putin, Viktor Orbán of Hungary, Silvio Berlusconi, and Trump. 

In 1998 Finkelstein invited a younger jewish american political consultant, George Birnbaum, to join forces with him. Together they applied Finkelstein’s formula for other hard right candidates in eastern Europe. Netanyahu recommended them to his friend Viktor Orbán of Hungary. There Finkelstein and Brinbaum engineered an “electoral masterpiece” for Orbán’s 2014 re-election campaign. Finkelstein and Brinbaum needed a boogeyman:

Finkelstein had an epiphany. What if the veil of the conspiracy were to be lifted and a shadowy figure appear, controlling everything? The puppet master. Someone who not only controlled the “big capital” but embodied it. A real person. A Hungarian. Strange, yet familiar.

That person was Soros, Finkelstein told Birnbaum.

Birnbaum was mesmerized: Soros was the perfect enemy.

At the beginning, it almost didn’t make sense. Why campaign against a nonpolitician? Although he was born in Hungary, Soros hadn’t lived there in years. He was an old man, known all over the country as a patron of civil society. He had supported the opposition against the Communists before the fall of the Iron Curtain, and financed school meals for kids afterward. In Budapest, he had built one of the best universities in Eastern Europe.

[This extended quote also comes from The Unbelievable Story Of The Plot Against George Soros. I again recommend reading the entire article.]

Soros had spent money defending “…everything the right was against: climate protection, equality, the Clintons. He opposed the second Iraq War in 2003, even comparing George W. Bush to the Nazis, and became a major donor for the Democrats. He was soon a hate figure for the Republicans.” His Open Society Foundations worked in support of liberal democracy in a series of countries in which Finkelstein and Birnbaum were hired by the hard right. The Soros meme grew internationally and took on a life of its own. Soros jewish background fit easily into the old anti-semitic conspiracy theories. In Hungary:

In the fall of 2017 the administration conducted a “national consultation.” Millions of citizens received questionnaires, in which they could choose whether or not they supported the “Soros plan” to allow a million people from Africa and the Middle East to enter Europe per year.

It worked. A huge part of the country turned against Soros. Orbán won in 2014 and 2018, both times with an overwhelming majority.

Soros sadly maligned persona lives on the lips and in the minds of Republicans in Spokane, most of whom have no idea of Soros’ life, A group has swallowed the dishonest propaganda of two jewish american political consultants most of us have never heard of. Finkelstein and Birnbaum touched off a campaign of distortion and lies that would have made Joseph Goebbels smile. 

Keep to the high ground,

Jerry

P.S. For a fascinating further look at this subject listen to Chris Hayes’ Why is the Happening Podcast entitled Tracing the roots of anti-Semitism with Deborah Lipstadt.

The Soros Meme

Dear Group,

George Soros name appears on their lips at odd moments, an epithet, a meme, an insider story meant to convey suspicion and evil conspiracy. “Those protestors were paid by George Soros. Soros bussed them in!” McMorris Rodgers tosses out “George Soros” in a debate with Lisa Brown, implying evil.  About half the audience applauds, and it flies over the head of the other half.

The local king of wing nut conspiracy theory, Matt Shea (R, Legislative District 4, Spokane Valley and points north) [the bold is mine] asked on his podcast:

…if groups like Latinx advocacy organization UnidosUS (formerly La Raza) were working together with protest groups like Antifa and Black Lives Matter, [he] claimed that these groups were also cooperating with other groups and were funded by the billionaire George Soros. ‘They are working together, it’s happening. They are very well connected through their networks, and their networks generally lead back to one George Soros, as you know,’ he said.

George Soros has become the all-purpose boogyman for a broad range of nationalists, anti-immigration zealots,and right wing conspiracy theorists, Very few of these people have any idea of this man’s life and passions. 

George Soros is wealthy, influential with a complicated life history. He is now 88 years old. Born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1930 into a non-observant Jewish family. As a teenager he survived the Nazi occupation of Hungary posing as the Christian godson of a collaborationist Hungarian government official (whose wife was jewish and in also hiding from the Nazis). (One of the gross distortions of Soros’ history labels him a “Nazi.” That’s how crazy the stories have become.) After the war Soros and his family made their way to England, where young George Soros attended the London School of Economics. There he earned a  Bachelor of Science in philosophy in 1951, and a Master of Science in philosophy in 1954.

At age twenty-four in 1954, he set forth on a career in finance and banking in London, starting as a clerk in a merchant bank. He moved from London to New York in 1956, taking a position as an arbitrage trader. Eventually he accumulated a peak net worth of around 26 billion dollars through decades of hedge fund management. The arcane details can be combed through by visiting the wikipedia article and branching out from there. Some of his financial efforts were internationally controversial, especially his “shorting the pound” (the English pound sterling) in 1992, allowing Soros and his investors to take advantage of currency markets to make several billion pounds at the expense of the Bank of England. The “1992 pound short” made Soros internationally (in)famous, leaving a residual in the popular consciousness that would later be useful in making him into a target. 

Soros’ investment fund management and wealth accumulation are also a convenient fit for a conspiracy theory that has been around for centuries. I was introduced to the “Rothschild conspiracy” as a teenager, the concept that a jewish cabal (in the relatively recent version, lead by the Rothschild family), control world governments through their manipulation of international banking. The section entitled “Economic Anti-Semitism” in the wikipedia article on “Antisemitism” is a must read for more background.

So that is Soros background that makes him a convenient target. Why is he a political target for the Christian and Far Right?

Soros, having personally experienced the Nazi occupation of Hungary as a boy, is an outspoken critic of totalitarian governance. He has used his considerable wealth to foster the growth and preservation of democracy. He opposed and opposes the autocratic regimes of the U.S.S.R., China, and modern day Russia. He supported the Solidarity movement in Poland, led by Lech Walesa in 1980 and the Chapter 77 movement pushing for free society in Czechoslovakia in the 1980s, In 1984, he founded his first Open Society Institute in Hungary with a budget of $3 million, the first of a number of Open Society Foundations around the world. Among the expenditures of the Open Society Foundation in the last 20 years are “$2.9 billion to defend human rights, especially the rights of women; ethnic, racial, and religious minorities; drug users; sex workers; and LGBTQ communities.” Are you beginning to understand why the religious right is anxious to demonize this man?

As was pointed out in The Business Insider by Veronica Bondarenko, Soros, as a wealthy, politically active liberal, stands out because there are so few uber-wealthy liberals. The right wing, libertarian wealthy are far more numerous and far more secretive, including the Koch brothers, James Mercer, the Bradleys, the Uhleins, the Mercers (James in particular), and the DeVoses, to name only a few. Possessing the wealth, they are inclined to invest their money in foundations and political causes that will defend it. 

But the story of Soros’ demonization has its roots in the work of two jewish american political consultants, Arthur Finkelstein and George Birnbaum. Stay tuned for part two in a later post.

Keep to the high ground,

Jerry

P.S. Note: Soros peak fortune, estimated at 26 billion, pales in comparison to the Koch brothers. Their combined fortune is estimated at 99.6 billion. The Koch’s money is further leveraged politically by an the extensive network of Libertarian/Republican donors they have assembled (as detailed by Jane Mayer in “Dark Money.” For more on “Dark Money” see below in the Reference box.)

Scott Walker on Partisanship

Dear Group,

On May 15, the day after the much advertised Washington Policy Center’s and Greater Spokane, Inc.’s “Solutions Summit” the Spokesman ran a front page article describing former Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s speech. Here are the first two paragraphs:

Former Wisconsin governor and presidential candidate Scott Walker urged conservatives to be prepared if Washington state ever flips from blue to red during a speech to hundreds of business leaders and elected officials Tuesday in Spokane.

Walker said the state could be at a tipping point, just like Wisconsin was when he first ran in 2010. In that election, Republicans won control of the state government and later passed a controversial bill that dramatically decreased public unions’ ability to collectively bargain.

The basic message: “We have an important Republican agenda. You business people are on the Republican team. If the team all works together in Washington State, if you’re prepared when your state flips (i.e. to a trifecta, a Republican majority in both houses of the State House and a Republican governor) the way Wisconsin flipped in 2010, you can ram our agenda down the throat of the citizenry before they know what’s happening. What he probably did not say was that in the 2010 Wisconsin governor’s race Walker purposely did not run on attacking collective bargaining for public employee…but that was his first priority once in office. 

The Spokesman article goes on: 

He [Walker] said if he would have waited until longer into his term to pass conservative policies, he likely wouldn’t have won his recall election.

Message: Strike hard. Shock and awe. If people have time to figure out what you’re up to you might be removed from office. That is a revealing. The attendees at the Solutions Summit must have been clear they weren’t listening to a statesman, a man interested in the good of the country, but rather a political ideologue bent on winning, defined as passing as much partisan legislation as possible.

More (the bold is mine):

Walker said Wisconsin Republicans had prepared policies and talking points years before winning control, a feat Washington Republicans could achieve as well.

That is, with enough conservative opinion pieces and talking points from the non-profit dark money Washington Policy Center to rally around you can achieve here in Washington what I, Scott Walker, achieved in Wisconsin before the voters wised up and elected, in 2018, a governor with actual knowledge and experience in education, Tony Evers. 

What Mr. Walker perhaps did not say was this: When you finally are voted out of office don’t leave in a statesmanlike manner. During the lame duck session between your loss and the seating of the new governor make every effort you can to hamstring the incoming Democratic governor. You must plan for these things, too. After all, to Walker government isn’t cooperative, it’s a winner takes all enterprise. There are many articles on what the lame duck Wisconsin legislature and Mr. Walker rammed through in the last days of his governorship. Read here if you have access to the New York Times.

Then what does one expect from a college dropout with little life experience outside of politics, a dropout steeped in Baptist and Republican ideology from his early youth? 

Various local Republicans came to hear Walker speak at the Washington Policy Center’s Solutions Summit, came to hear his counsel on how they should function, plot, and plan in their elective offices (the bold is mine):

Walker was one of many prominent attendees at conservative think tank Washington Policy Center’s Solutions Summit event at the Historic Davenport Hotel. Secretary of State Kim Wyman, state Treasurer Duane Davidson, Spokane Mayor David Condon, Sen. Sharon Brown, R-Kennewick, Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, and several Spokane Valley council members attended the event.

Nadine Woodward, mayoral candidate for the City of Spokane, was also there, in case you had any doubt as to her partisan leanings. 

I doubt Walker’s speech offered anything new for most of those who listened. I wonder how many of the listeners had any acquaintance with the rest of the Walker story.

Keep to the high ground,

Jerry

P.S. Scott Walker’s speaker’s fee is reported to be between $15,000 and $25,000. Once he quit licking his wounds from last fall’s election defeat he joined up with the Worldwide Speakers Group, purveyors of other guiding lights like former White House press secretary Sean Spicer, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and former Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina. Not bad for a guy whose salary as governor of Wisconsin was $146,597.88. Let’s see, six to ten half hour speeches as a Republican cheerleader to make your prior annual salary? 

Elections!?!

Dear Group,

You were thinking Presidential Election? That consumes the consciousness of many Americans, and it certainly consumes the national news media. Here in eastern Washington, though, we’ve got a 

Municipal Primary Election on Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Municipal General Election on Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Put those dates on your calendar. You should receive a ballot for the Primary in the mail by the third week of July. These are the elections to which many of us (including this writer) have paid little attention in many past years. As a result people like Mike Fagan, a speaker at the Liberty State Gala, get elected. THEY pay attention.

First, check yourself out on MyVote.wa.gov. Are you registered? Is your information up to date? One tab there shows you who your incumbent elected officials are.  Another tab, “Voters’ Guide,” shows those among whom you get to chose in the Primary. (Note: Since we have “top two” primaries in Washington State, if two or only one candidate has filed for a position, they will appear only on the General Election ballot in November.) 

Print out the list. Pay attention to the names. Who, if any, is the incumbent? When you look at the paper or watch local news some of what you hear and see will stick better with some name recognition.

These elections are said to be “non-partisan.” It only takes a few minutes at the computer to figure out likely party affiliation. No one, for instance, is likely to mistake Nadine Woodward for a Democrat, especially after she dutifully attended the recent Washington Policy Center “Solutions Summit” with “Governor” Scott Walker (WI) as the featured speaker. 

For those interested in a broader view of the election landscape check out the comprehensive list of “Candidates Who Have Filed” available through the Spokane County Elections website. Check out the links to maps in the References section in the next box below, maps that show the layout of the City Council Districts and School Districts. 

Finally, the Public Disclosure Commission’s “Campaign Explorer” offers a snapshot of who currently has a significant campaign war chest. Click on individual names to get an idea of who their contributors are. It takes some fiddling, but there is a wealth of information there required by law, information that can be very revealing.

At the very least right now go to MyVote.wa.gov, make sure your voter registration is up to date and check out your Voters’ Guide so you know who the players are.  

Keep to the high ground,

Jerry

Global Warming and Physics

Dear Group,

Every once in a while I find a quote that’s spot on. This one, particularly the part I’ve bolded, is such a quote. It is from a podcast of an interview with Bill McKibben on NPR’s Fresh Air entitled “Climate Change Is ‘Greatest Challenge Humans Have Ever Faced,’ Author Says” .The link offers the podcast itself as well as a transcript. Here was the most striking bit for me (the bold is mine): 

Having wasted 30 years, doing nothing at the behest of the powers that be, we’re now left with a set of very uncomfortable and difficult choices. We have to move much more quickly than is convenient, politically, economically, socially. But what choice do we have? I mean, in the end, this isn’t a fight between Republicans and Democrats or environmentalists and industry. It’s, in the end, a fight between human beings and physics. And physics is poor at compromise, doesn’t negotiate easily. We’re going to have to do what physics demands.

Keep to the high ground,

Jerry

P.S. Bill McKibben is the founder of 350.org. 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide is considered a relatively safe concentration in our atmosphere. CO2 concentration was 280 ppm when we started burning fossil fuels in large quantities (coal at first) in the 19th century. Today the concentration hovers around 400 ppm. Recently, at the observatory on Mauna Loa in Hawaii (with continuous measurements since the late 1950s) a seasonal high of 415 was reached, higher than any point in the last 800,000 years. There is a local chapter of 350.org, 350Spokane.org. Another organization, Citizens Climate Lobby, is currently sponsoring bipartisan legislation, H.R. 763, the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, offering a free market solution to address this existential threat. Check them out.

State of Liberty Gala this evening

Dear Group,

Here is a copy of the ad for the Liberty State Gala Event this evening. There are a number of people planning to go and listen. It’s free and attending might offer some insight. There is a hint the unnamed speaker in the invitation, “Lady Liberty,” is René Holaday, Matt Shea’s Legislative Assistant and, apparently, the proud author of a 2012 book entitled “The Perils of Sustainable Development.” Since 2012 it has gathered a grand total of thirteen reviews. Click on the title to check out the praise for the book. I’ve copied and pasted the “Editorial Review” below for the flavor it gives of this mindset of these folks.

Ad for this evenings event from Facebook:

Liberty State Spokane County is pleased to announce that we have finalized the speaker lineup for our Liberty State Gala Event. The rally will take place on Thursday, May 23rd at Center Place in Spokane Valley from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.

Headlining the event will be 4th Legislative District Representative Matt Shea. Joining Matt on stage will be Mike Fagan and Tim Benn from the ACN radio show, The Right Spokane Perspective; Republic, WA Chief of Police & author, Loren Culp; and Lady Liberty.

Admission to the event is free, however donations would be gratefully accepted. There will also be a “Dessert Plus” auction to raise funds for Liberty State. Mike Fagan will be the auctioneer.

This will be a family-friendly event. Come and learn about Liberty State and what you can do to make it a reality!

Editorial Review of Ms. Holaday’s book:

“The Perils of Sustainable Development” is about “The United Nations Sustainable Development Agenda 21”, and how Sustainable Development plans to completely abolish things like private property rights, individual rights, air conditioning, driving of vehicles, rural living, meat consumption, livestock ownership, farming, logging, and much much more. It is written in a way that makes it an “easy and a quick read” that will provide the reader with an instant basic outline of all the most important facts, so that you don’t have to spend years weeding through endless deceptive government documents and websites! Six years of solid research has pulled together a complete picture of what the UN has in store for the United States, and what has already been covertly accomplished in our great nation. It is a compilation of all the most important facts and glaringly incriminating quotes. It also supplies the reader with Resolution Templates and blueprint action plans that have already been successful in over 57 cities, counties, and two states in the USA. The reader can use these “blueprints” in order to start putting their own plans of action into progress in their own local areas to put a stop to these UN programs. This book is also highly recommended for use by our elected officials, regardless of party affiliation. If you enjoy your private property rights and other essential American values, this is a “must have” book that will show you what is going on and what we can do about it! When deception has been the central theme of these UN programs, every American needs this information before it is too late for the entire nation. It also contains multiple maps that outline affected areas, regional governance, and much more. You will need to know- do you even know if you live in an area deemed by the UN to be a “Wildlife Corridor” that will allow little to no human use within the next few years? Buy now!

It behooves us to understand something of the mindset of these people. For my part, I find it appalling that several of them have held or hold public office in the region.

Keep to the high ground,

Jerry

Local Christian Identity Politics

Dear Group,

There is a recurring cancer in our midst. The signs of its recurrence have been present but noticed by only a few. Now the cancer has a Representative in the Washington State House of Representatives. His name is Matt Shea. At least some people of both the major political parties and some Christian leaders are starting to pay attention.

Last evening I attended a presentation by “Senator” John Smith to the Republicans of Spokane Valley. (See Monday’s post, Local Republican Soul Searching, for details on Mr. Smith’s political career.). Mr. Smith, who was brought up in the culture of Christian Identity, gave a chilling account of the worldview of groups like the Marble Fellowship in northern Stevens County, a frequent lecture stop of Matt Shea: “the supremacy of the white race, the evil of the Jews, and an anti-govenment belief that they were ordained by God to control the church and the state.” He detailed tactics. Start at the level of local government. Seek folks with whom you find some common ground, then draw them in. You don’t want eastern Washington to become like Seattle? Join us. We’ll form the “State of Liberty,” where “we” will be in the majority. Mr. Smith traced links to the neo-nazi Aryan Nations, founded in Hayden Lake, ID in the 1970s, the Redoubter movement, the Bundys and the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. (All three of the latter have abundant connections with Matt Shea.)

The audience of about thirty people, including Leonard Christian [1] and a brief appearance of Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, seemed appropriately concerned by Mr. Smith’s presentation. Mr. Smith never directly brought up Matt Shea, but in the question and answer period it was clear that everyone had Shea in mind. 

Earlier in the week one of my readers wrote, “I’ve had several very productive conversations with some of my rabid Trump/CMR supporting friends regarding Matt Shea.  I approach them describing my curiosity to learn how they are reacting to all the news swirling around Shea.  So far, none of them have really known much about it. That’s because Shea is not being covered on Fox News, which is their primary source of information about current events.  But, it has opened up the door for me to share some of these articles and so far I am 100% in hearing them express shock, disgust, and in a couple cases a desire for him to be impeached, followed by pledges that they will never vote for him again.”

This is a problem. If people who would be aghast at Shea’s revolting wing nut activities don’t hear of them, he will sail back into office on the November 2020 election. All of us need to talk with our neighbors in the way my reader did.

There has been some coverage of Shea in the Spokesman, but not nearly enough. Daniel Walters of The Inlander has done better. I encourage you to click and read Mr. Walters’ May 7 article, Rep. Shea’s secret group discussed sending severed wolf tail and testicles to environmental activist, as well as Jason Williams’ article in The Guardian, Exposed: the Republican who stokes fears of civil war and fuels conspiracy theories. Share the articles, especially with Republican friends, Click on the links in the articles. Go down this disgusting rabbit hole, look around, and learn enough about it to talk with people. The Guardian has worldwide distribution. Eastern Washingtonians (and North Idahoans) do not want this reputation, especially having partially excised the earlier cancer of the Aryan Nations. The difference this time is the movement has a political foothold.

One should not expect the entire worldview of the Christian Identity crowd to be on display at every event. Tomorrow evening you could go listen for yourself at the Liberty State Gala from 6:30 to 8:30PM at the Centerplace Regional Event Center, 2426 N. Discovery Place, Spokane Valley. Click here for the advertisement. Here’s the lineup: “Headlining the event will be 4th Legislative District Representative Matt Shea. Joining Matt on stage will be Mike Fagan and Tim Benn from the ACN radio show, The Right Spokane Perspective; Republic, WA Chief of Police & author, Loren Culp; and Lady Liberty”. (ACN stands for the American Christian Network, a broadcast network exclusive to the Inland Northwest and Shea’s favorite medium, based on where he spends a lot of his campaign money.) It should be an interesting evening. Others are planning to attend and ask exactly who is writing the constitution for this new state and what it contains. Listen carefully and share.

Keep to the high ground,

Jerry

[1]  Leonard Christian, like Mr. Smith, was appointed to the Washington legislative but was beaten in the following election. In Mr. Christian’s case he was beaten in the Primary for LD4 by not one but TWO Republican challengers for the seat now occupied by McCaslin Junior. Mr Christian was also a failed candidate for Spokane County Assessor last fall. Neither Mr. Christian nor Mr. Smith, as far as I can tell, ever been elected to public office.