Once again, Pakistan is preparing for an election that is suspect, where General Musharraf will seek another five-year term.

The presidential "election," which will take place on October 6, 2007, will be far from fair and free: Pakistan's presidents are selected by an electoral college which is made up of the national and provincial assemblies. Yet the current parliament is a result of the rigged 2002 "elections." The current parliament's term is up come November, making the October date timely for Musharraf.

Musharraf's bid for re-election was approved on Friday by the Supreme Court, which threw out petitions contesting the constitutional legality of Musharraf seeking a re-election while keeping his military uniform on. Upon hearing the verdict, Pakistani lawyers in the courtroom angrily bellowed, "Shame, shame!" and "Go Musharraf, go!" Musharraf claims that if he "wins" (which he most certainly will), he'll take off his uniform before the presidential inauguration. Let's not bet on it.

Last weekend, prior to the verdict, Musharraf started locking up opposition members (which some say number in the thousands) in an effort to thwart protests that seized the day when Musharraf filed his nomination. These detentions prompted the normally reticent US Embassy in Islamabad to issue a press release stating:

The reports of arrests of the leadership of several major Pakistani political parties are extremely disturbing and confusing for the friends of Pakistan. We wish to express our serious concern about these developments. These detainees should be released as soon as possible.

Chief Justice Muhammad Iftikhar Chaudhry ordered the government to free hundreds of activists on Thursday. Then on Saturday lawyers, journalists, and activists observed a "black day" to protest Musharraf's bid. The Islamabad police cracked down on the protesters, injuring roughly 83 people. (The chief of police and two senior officials have since been suspended.)

But there are no worries for Musharraf and his allies. Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz claims that this electoral process will put Pakistan on the path of democracy, and Pakistan's friend in need- the US- says that the Supreme Court's verdict was "based on the Constitution and existing laws of Pakistan. We do not want to make any sort of assessments." What was omitted was that the Constitution and "existing laws" of Pakistan have been tweaked by the General in order to allow him to hold both the army chief and presidential posts concurrently.

— Neha Inamdar

Burma is eerily quiet.

Thursday's protests were by far the most eventful yet— an estimated 70,000 people were on the streets demanding democracy. Soldiers fired tear gas and shots on crowds, the government says the death toll is ten; but some estimates put it as high as 200.

So what does the military do in an effort to contain further pro-democracy protests? It blocks the Internet. Since press freedom in Burma is fiercely curtailed, bloggers have played a critical role in showcasing the mayhem. The military government also launched raids on monasteries, beat and arrested at least 1,000 people, locked up tens of thousands of monks within the monasteries, and sealed off five "key" monasteries.

In spite of that, protests have continued- albeit their momentum slowed. Reports the Times, now that the monks have been locked up, the "demonstrations seemed to have lost their focus, and soldiers are quick to pounce on any groups that emerged onto the streets."

Demonstrations have cropped up across Asia, in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines. ASEAN has issued a statement about their "revulsion" towards how "the demonstrations in Myanmar are being suppressed by violent force and that there has been a number of fatalities." India, which has armed the Burmese military regime, has generally remained silent. The UN sent UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari, who arrived Saturday and is due to meet the Burmese senior general on Tuesday. Dana Perino says that "The United States is pleased that U.N. Special Envoy Gambari was able to see Aung San Suu Kyi. Mr. Gambari remains in Burma in order to see the top junta leader, Than Shwe."

At least the UN has some use for the U.S.

— Neha Inamdar

Citigroup today announced that its third-quarter earnings dropped 60 percent, in large part because of more than a billion dollars worth of bad subprime loans in its portfolio. But no one, especially not Citigroup, should be surprised that its loan portfolio is a minefield of rotten debt.

For years, Citigroup has preyed on the mentally retarded, the elderly, and the illiterate, particularly in the South, to push predatory subprime loans on people most ill-equipped to pay for them. Reporter Mike Hudson, now at the Wall Street Journal, has been chronicling this story for a decade, and in 2003, Southern Exposure magazine won a George Polk award for his investigative package on Citigroup and its history of assembling some of the country's sleaziest subprime lending companies under one roof. Lots of people who got subprime loans from Citigroup and its subsidiaries ended up losing their homes long before the current foreclosure crisis.

Just five years ago, Citigroup agreed to pay $240 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the Federal Trade Commission over its predatory lending practices, and it has settled a host of private lawsuits over similar charges. The lawsuits never seemed to put even a hitch in Citigroup's step, but it looks like all those bad loans are finally coming home to roost. Citigroup deserves to collapse under the weight of its scummy business practices, but it's unfortunate that the reckoning threatens to bring down the rest of the economy with it.

Here are the raw numbers for Obama's fundraising, snatched from a press advisory email his campaign just sent out:

Third quarter totals:
• Primary dollars raised: at least $19 million
• Overall dollars raised (with general election): at least $20 million
• Number of new donors: over 93,000

Total 2007:
• Primary dollars raised: at least $74.9 million
• Total number of donors: 352,000

It's that last one that I find most impressive. If Obama has managed to find 352,000 donors from January 1 to September 30, that's roughly 1,290 new donors every single day.

I'm interested to know what Obama's cash-on-hand is. He may have raised a whopping $75 million up to this point, but how much does he have left to spend? I've placed a call to the Obama press office to find out.

Update: No call back. From other news reports, it looks like they are keeping the cash-on-hand number under wraps.

This from the office of the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Henry Waxman: "Previously undisclosed information reveals (1) Blackwater has engaged in 195 'escalation of force' incidents since 2005, an average of 1.4 per week, including over 160 incidents in which Blackwater forces fired first; (2) after a drunken Blackwater contractor shot the guard of the Iraqi Vice President, the State Department allowed the contractor to leave Iraq and advised Blackwater on the size of the payment needed 'to help them resolve this'; and (3) Blackwater, which has received over $1 billion in federal contracts since 2001, is charging the federal government over $1,200 per day for each 'protective security specialist' employed by the company." Memo available here.

It's been well-documented that James Dobson hates most of the Republican field, but he realllly hates Rudy Giuliani. According to Salon's Michael Scherer:

A powerful group of conservative Christian leaders decided Saturday at a private meeting in Salt Lake City to consider supporting a third-party candidate for president if a pro-choice nominee like Rudy Giuliani wins the Republican nomination.
The meeting of about 50 leaders, including Focus on the Family's James Dobson, the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins and former presidential candidate Gary Bauer, who called in by phone, took place at the Grand America Hotel during a gathering of the Council for National Policy, a powerful shadow group of mostly religious conservatives...
"The conclusion was that if there is a pro-abortion nominee they will consider working with a third party," said the person, who spoke to Salon on the condition of anonymity. The private meeting was not a part of the official CNP schedule, which is itself a closely held secret. "Dobson came in just for this meeting," the person said.

I wonder if this is just another form of pressure — that is to say, perhaps the Christian right is letting it be known in the press that they will consider supporting a third party if Giuliani wins the nomination as a way of pressuring Giuliani into moving his views on gays and abortion closer to theirs.

If you think that theory presumes too much organization and discipline on the part of the evangelical community, you obviously haven't read our cover package on the Christian right.

If you're a regular user of the internets, you've probably seen the video of Rudy Giuliani awkwardly interrupting a speech to the NRA in order to take a phone call from his wife Judith.

Turns out, Rudy's made quite a habit of this behavior. According to John Fund at the Wall Street Journal, Rudy's own staffers estimate the candidate has taken phone calls from his wife "more than 40 times in the middle of speeches, conferences and presentations to large donors." And it's pissing people off. Witness:

Consider a spring incident in Oklahoma City. Mr. Giuliani spoke twice at the Oklahoma History Center, first at a small private roundtable for $2,300 donors and then to 150 people who donated $500 apiece. Ten minutes into the roundtable, Mr. Giuliani's phone rang. He left the room to take the call, apparently from Mrs. Giuliani, and never returned. The snubbed donors received no explanation. "The people there viewed it as disrespectful and cheesy," says Pat McGuigan, a local newspaper editor who was asked by the Giuliani campaign to moderate the roundtable.
An hour or so later, Mr. Giuliani was speaking to the bigger group of donors when his phone rang again. While he spoke with his wife, he invited her to say hello to the assembled crowd...
I've been told of many other incidents, from a California fund-raiser to a Florida speech to a gathering with top donors at Bear Stearns in New York. At the Bear Stearns meeting, Mr. Giuliani took a call from his wife and then noting the strained faces of his supporters, he sheepishly tried a joke. "I've been married three times," he explained. "I can't afford to lose another one. I'm sure you understand."

Rudy's bizarre behavior just gives the media more opportunities to bring up the "Queen Bitch" meme about his wife. Consider this from Fund's closing paragraphs: "Staffers have been fired, advisers shut out of meetings, schedules changed based on [Judith Giuliani's] whim. But it was her idea for Mr. Giuliani to suggest on national TV that he might let her attend cabinet meetings... The staff remains "terrified" of her, according to a former staffer. "Mollifying Judith is at the top of the to-do list for far too many people on the campaign," one person close to Mr. Giuliani told me."

So what's the deal? Is Rudy really so devoted to his wife that he can't resist taking her phone call even at the most inappropriate of times? Or does he think this staged tenderness humanizes him? Or is he as afraid of his wife as his staffers are? Whatever the explanation, I certainly hope this trend continues. I'd love to see Rudy interrupt a nationally televised debate by taking a phone call from his wife. Or, heaven forbid, the oath of office itself.

Oh, and PS — Rudy's explanation for all this? What else, 9/11.

My good buddy, and one of the smartest race-thinkers we have, the LA Times' Gregory Rodriguez has a very good question for America: "Why is everyone so anxious to elevate Latino-black violence to historic levels?" (Violent crime, generally, is down there due to police innovations like asking locals to help instead of only asking them to assume the position.)

As he wrote in his latest column, "A new study by three UC Irvine criminologists has concluded that Los Angeles is not on the brink of a major interracial crime wave. Surprised? That's understandable. Because for the last several years, the media have been increasingly fixated on the specter of black-versus-brown violence."

Sadly, violence remains intra-communal. It aint even close. Though Gregory's analysis is great, as usual, I think there's a puzzle piece missing in figuring out why everyone's primed for a good old-fashioned race war.

It's true that scaring readers sells newspapers and magazines. It's also true that whites like to believe that black-white relations are good (75% of white Angelenos think so, given how well our racial rivenings work out for them), while black-Hispanic (black-anybody) relations must be bad (46% think so). Funny, then, that 68% of blacks and 59% of Hispanics think the opposite. True, too, that white racial fatigue, well underway while Kunta Kinte was getting his toes chopped off, compels them to flip the script. "We're not the problem anymore. Look at how those people behave." Career criminals are always bored by their victims' complaints. Still, however real white fatigue may be, it's only a slice of the phenomenon.

People see what they want to see. In this racially ridiculous country, people want, need, to see 'the other' reduced to the characteristics assigned to them by their worst enemy. Blacks and browns are lazy, rapacious animals who could never handle freedom. Raping, clawing and murdering each other in the Super Dome post-Katrina. Grandmothers at 14. Welfare queens. Super predators. Sing good, though and boy can they box/dance/shoot hoops. All's right with the world when whites are socially constructed as beneficent, enlightened, long suffering. When white criminals are culturally understood as individuals, minority criminals: mascots. When there's lots of blacks and browns to feel superior to. And here's the bonus: jones-ing for minority crime 'proves' that our criminal justice system isn't racist. Just a sad fact of life.

We all do it.

Worldcom, Enron, Halliburton's no-bid Iraq contracts, Blackwater, insider trading, stolen elections, corporate kickbacks--we Negroes LOVE that stuff. Don't even get us started on how sexually kinky we believe whites to be. I'm guessing, Hispanics get off on white corruption, too (but I have no idea how Asians fit into this except as the 'model minority'). Even as we lose our jobs, pensions, and houses, wer'e crowing, we can't forward each other emails fast enough, because we have the threadbare, pathetic joy of seeing whites exposed as their 'true' selves: hypocrites who'd deal with the devil for a dollar, happily selling their own mothers out for a time share in the Hamptons. Selling out the nation? No problem if the price is right.

It's porn. Racial porn. And we all do it.

Yet another reason to worry about rising global temperatures: Brain-eating amoebas are apparently thriving in warmer water in lakes and other popular swimming spots. The amoebas have killed a record six people nationwide this year, a trend that's expected to get worse as the world gets hotter. The amoebas swim up your nose and eat away at your brain until you die. Experts warn against performing somersaults in shallow water where the bugs hang out. Nose plug sales are expected to skyrocket...