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Soros buys Halliburton

Normally, I'm willing to overlook the hypocrisy of the liberal elite. If Al Gore and his Hollywood cronies want to fly around on gas-guzzling, atmosphere-polluting private jets while railing against global climate change, I'm willing to overlook it.

But the latest move by globe trotting, hyper-liberal billionaire George Soros borders on being too much. According to papers filed with the SEC, in the fourth quarter of 2006 Soros purchased nearly 2 million shares of ... hold your breath ... Halliburton. The Halliburton shares reportedly went for an average purchase price of $31.30 a share. That puts Soros' total investment in Halliburton at around $62.6 million, or about 2 percent of his total portfolio.

Soros, of course, is the dean of Democratic money giving. And Halliburton, of course, is the company that embodies everything the Democrats see as evil. Dick Cheney is its former chief, for goodness' sake. But Soros is also a man of contradictions. He supported campaign finance reform for years, only to declare that defeating President George W. Bush was the "central focus" of his life. To prove it, he sunk $24 million of his own "soft" money into the 2004 campaign, helping make that election one of the most divisive in modern history.

Soros' position in Halliburton is reported to be his first, which means he bought it with a full understanding of Halliburton's reputation. Soros may not see a problem with profiting from a company that has been accused of everything from sweatheart deals to cooking the books to serving U.S. troops lousy food in Iraq. The real question, however, is whether MoveOn.org, the Center for American Progress, and other organizations that have benefitted from Soros' charity will see a problem with accepting money earned off Halliburton shares?

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When kites and Islamists attack

ARIF ALI/AFP

I noted back in January that Pakistani authorities had temporarily lifted a ban on kite-flying in time for a spring festival, Basant. Well, it turns out that 11 people died during the weekend celebration—two from having their throats slit by wire strings, five from celebratory gunfire, two from electrocuting themselves in power lines, and the final two from falling from rooftops. 

The deaths are a great opportunity for Islamist political parties, many of which consider flying kites to be "un-Islamic." Jamaat-e-Islami, the largest of these groups, held anti-Basant rallies in a number of Pakistani cities yesterday:

JeI leader Muhammad Kamal criticised the government of adopting 'Western and Hindu cultures' in the name of 'enlightenment and moderation' that President Pervez Musharraf has been advocating.

Kamal's speech shows the Islamist opposition as struggling to get much mileage out of U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney's concurrent visit to Pakistan. The United States seems to have learned from President Bush's disastrous March 2006 visit, when the U.S. leader told Musharraf in public, "I came to check up to make sure you're still with us." As regional expert Barnett Rubin complained to FRONTLINE about that incident:

What Bush is actually doing is saying, "I came here to see if you're really on my side," and he looked at Musharraf and he expected Musharraf to say something like, "Yes. We are the loyal followers of the United States of America." In other words, he expected Musharraf to commit political suicide, which shows his complete lack of understanding of Pakistan or many other Muslim countries.

Cheney's quieter trip, though a stern warning that U.S. patience with Musharraf's foot-dragging is wearing thin, was therefore a smarter approach to a delicate political problem. Better, from the U.S. perspective, to have rallies about kites than nefarious American influence.