Conservative capitalist Koch holds Trump accountable for his bigotry

❝ Conservative patriarch Charles Koch and his vast network is vowing to oppose President Donald Trump if and when he deviates from their dedication to “free and open societies.”

This weekend alone, Koch raised concerns about whether the Republican president will adopt an “authoritarian” governing style. Koch’s chief lieutenants condemned the nascent administration’s plans to invest hundreds of billions of dollars in infrastructure projects. And the Koch network’s many donors lashed out at Trump’s push to block immigration from several Muslim-majority countries.

“It doesn’t do any good for us to be positioned as hating whole classes of people,” said Erick Brimen, who, like the other 550 or so donors who gathered at a luxury California hotel this weekend, will pay at least $100,000 this year to fund Charles and David Koch’s nationwide network of policy and political organizations…

❝ The sentiment was in line with a formal statement released Sunday by the Koch network, which said Trump’s “travel ban is the wrong approach and will likely be counterproductive.”

❝ Many who attended this weekend’s Koch donor conference reported anxious optimism about the extraordinary opportunity for conservatives. They highlighted strong ties between the Koch network and the Trump administration. And even before it is announced, Koch’s team is preparing to devote its tremendous resources to defend Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court.

Yet there are also deep concerns about a new president with no long-term commitment to conservative priorities like free trade, free markets and small government.

“Our suspicion is we’re going to get three parts good and one part bad,” said Chris Wright, a Colorado-based energy entrepreneur. “We’re worried about the one part bad.”

Always interesting to see the way America’s rightwing devolves – when push comes to shove. Mike Pence is one of those political cretins who rejects an inclusive democracy altogether. He claims to be a Christian, conservative and Republican in that order. The Koch Bros own all three of him.

Trump OTOH cares for nothing more than the world of real estate development – and folks tugging on their forelock when they address his majesty. The Koch Bros leave the ignorant, the idiocracy to Trump.

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Pic of the day


Click to enlargeAndrew Kelly/Reuters

Iraqi immigrant Hameed Darweesh walks out of JFK with Congressman Jerrold Nadler (L) and Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez (R) after being released

The whole world is watching. Trump’s official bigotry is halted for a brief while. The Republican Party’s acceptance of official bigotry is halted for a brief while. Congress’ acceptance of official bigotry on behalf of the United States of America – is halted for a brief while.

Amazon didn’t kill Macy’s — Macy’s did

❝ It has been a very bad week for some of the country’s biggest department stores, with Macy’s feeling the brunt of it. The mass-market retailer’s stock has dropped 16 percent since it announced disappointing holiday sales results and details on thousands of job cuts on Jan. 4.

Macy’s has said that it has too many stores, in too many underperforming locations. It’s closing 100, and no one should be surprised if that number grows in future years.

❝ Macy’s has also blamed what it calls “changing customer behavior.” That’s code for the rise of Amazon.com and the adoption of e-commerce shopping in general. It’s also the idea that a new generation is spending more money on experiences over physical goods.

But while Amazon has certainly had a hand in Macy’s struggles — and we’ll get back to this in a bit — Macy’s should look within, first, for the cause of its current predicament. Because if not Amazon, someone else would have come along and taken advantage of the complacency that’s been on display inside Macy’s over the last decade.

❝ For starters, a trip into Macy’s this holiday season felt like a visit to a teenager’s bedroom: In its Paramus, N.J., store, items were strewn everywhere and no useful answers were to be had.

Even in a neat Macy’s, the selection of merchandise has left a lot to be desired — namely because there doesn’t appear to be much stuff that you can’t find elsewhere.

Prior to the rise of e-commerce, Macy’s could get away with some of this. But you can now buy the same stuff in lots of places — whether from Amazon or a brand’s own website. Comparing prices has gotten infinitely easier, too.

❝ The bottom line, however, is that Macy’s stores, by and large, have looked and felt the same forever. And in digital, Macy’s has long been on the defensive.

Now, take this object lesson and show it to someone in the “leadership” of the Democratic Party.

With the exception of Obama’s presidential campaigns pretty much everything that party has offered around the country for decades felt like 1984. With the addition of candidates whose main qualification was “they’ve been waiting long enough for a chance”. Not just presidential candidates; but, everything down the ballot to governors and state representatives.

Losing a few here and there was akin to simply missing your turn. We’ll try, again, later on. Little or no thought of changing times inside Macy’s or Democrat politics. Macy can blame Amazon and the Republicans will claim superior strategy. Both are about intellectual laziness and ennui.

Republican War on the Environment marches on — Michigan just banned banning plastic bags


The queen of a Republican fundraising festival

❝ A new law in Michigan will prohibit local governments from banning, regulating or imposing fees on the use of plastic bags and other containers. You read that correctly: It’s not a ban on plastic bags — it’s a ban on banning plastic bags…

The new public act prohibits local ordinances from “regulating the use, disposition, or sale of, prohibiting or restricting, or imposing any fee, charge, or tax on certain containers,” including plastic bags, as well as cups, bottles and other forms of packaging. This means individual cities and municipalities are not allowed to ban plastic bags or charge customers a fee for using them.

❝ Bans and restrictions on the use of plastic bags are widespread in other parts of the country and around the world. The rationale is simple: Plastic bags are infamous non-biodegradable sources of pollution — although they will eventually break down into tiny pieces, scientists believe this process can take hundreds of years, or even up to a millennium, in landfills…

❝ Bangladesh was the first country in the world to ban certain types of thin plastic bags in 2002, after they were found to have choked the nation’s drainage systems during a series of devastating floods. China instituted a similar ban in 2008, and also prohibits businesses from giving out thicker plastic bags to customers for free. Other nations, including South Africa and Italy, have also enacted similar restrictions.

San Francisco became the first U.S. municipality to institute a plastic bag ban. And in 2014, California became the first state. Many other municipalities around the country have bans or fees in place, including Austin, Seattle and Chicago…

❝ On the other hand, Michigan is not the only state to have implemented a ban on bans. Idaho, Arizona and Missouri all have enacted similar laws. In these cases, proponents of the laws have defended them as a way of protecting businesses from having to comply with additional regulations.

Today’s Republican mind considers any facet of economic life beyond profit margins to be trivial. Perhaps, suspect and subversive.

Texas sets the standard for Republican lies about abortion


Click to enlargeRena Schild/Shutterstock

❝ Despite suffering a major defeat at the Supreme Court this past June, Texas simply can’t stop — won’t stop — undermining reproductive rights. Earlier this month, the Texas Department of State Health Services released an updated edition of its abortion booklet — ironically titled “A Woman’s Right to Know” — which unapologetically promotes debunked links between abortion, breast cancer, and adverse psychological risks.

❝ A pregnant person considering termination in the Lone Star state may very well believe that her physical and mental health are at risk if she obtains an abortion. Texas already requires a 24-hour waiting period for abortion, after mandated counseling that includes information on breast cancer, fetal pain and mental health effects. But the updated DSHS booklet spreads further misinformation.

With regards to mental health, the booklet says, “Women report a range of emotions after an abortion. This can include depression or thoughts of suicide. Some women, after their abortion, have also reported feelings of grief, anxiety, lowered self-esteem, regret, sexual dysfunction, avoidance of emotional attachment, flashbacks and substance abuse.”…

Everything an otherwise sensible person feels after voting for Trump. Har.

❝ …Not only does promoting such misleading information stigmatize a common medical procedure that 1 in 3 U.S. women will have, but it also directly impacts the quality and availability of abortion care. Anti-choice legislators routinely use the mental health myth to pass restrictions on abortion, from mandatory waiting periods and counseling to gestational limits on abortion…

Ultimately, there is no right or wrong way to feel after having an abortion; every person’s experience is unique and valid. State legislators and governments would do well to finally acknowledge this, and abandon the harmful myths that drive legislation designed to make women feel bad about their decisions.

I wonder if the Republican Party will ever get round to abandoning the 19th Century religious claptrap that mandates their patriarchal War on Women and Women’s Rights? I realize that offering scientific and social proof means nothing to spooky, fearfilled mice. But, just stepping back and peering with open eyes at decades of failed ideology might eventually make an impression. Even on a Texas Republican.

A cluster of politicians, spies, and a Trumpkin – run a casino in the middle of the Pacific Ocean

On a tiny island in the western Pacific, at the end of a duty-free mall wedged between a one-story laundromat and a cell-phone shop, you’ll find what may be the most successful casino of all time.

The awkwardly named Best Sunshine Live hardly looks like a high-roller hub. Construction workers bet $5 or $10 at a time on roulette and baccarat in a fug of nicotine. Clustered in a far corner are a handful of tables for so-called VIP gamblers, which at 8:30 p.m. on a September Saturday are almost empty. A nearby bar has just a couple of patrons.

Nothing about the facility, which opened last year on the U.S. island of Saipan, hints at the money flowing through it — table for table, far more than at the biggest casinos in Macau, the world’s number-one gambling capital. Nor is there any sign of the connections of its owner, Hong Kong-listed Imperial Pacific International Holdings Ltd., which has a market value of $2.4 billion.

It’s a power list that includes a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, a former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and three former U.S. governors, including past chairmen of both the Democratic and Republican National Committees. Behind them all: a Donald Trump protege, Mark Brown, who ran the Republican president-elect’s Atlantic City casino empire and is now Imperial Pacific’s chief executive officer.

With that backing, Best Sunshine is posting numbers that stagger industry veterans. The daily reported revenue for each of its VIP tables in the first half of the year, about $170,000, is almost eight times the average of Macau’s largest casinos. Its 16 VIP tables alone generate revenue that’s more than half of the receipts from 178 high-stakes tables at Wynn Resorts Ltd.’s flagship casino in the Chinese territory, a 20-story palace with three Michelin-starred restaurants.

The revenue figures, or actual wins by the house, are just a fraction of total bets. In September, Imperial Pacific reported a record $3.9 billion in bets at its casino — meaning the 100 or so high-rollers who it says come through its doors monthly each wagered an average of $39 million.

Those volumes of cash are drawing the attention of law-enforcement officials. The U.S. Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, which is responsible for alerting prosecutors and other authorities of suspicious financial flows, has taken notice of the activity at Best Sunshine…

Nothing new about accusations of money laundering via casinos whether overtly owned by the mob like the old days in Las Vegas or contemporary arrangements stacked with public figures from the world of American politics and covert intelligence. Beacoup funds passing through an operation that can’t even attract regular air flights.

“A legitimate high-stakes gambler wouldn’t want to spend time in this place,” said Greg Hunter, plaintiff in a suit against the Saipan casino law, said of Best Sunshine. “Have you seen it? It’s a duty-free store with a fresh coat of paint and some chandeliers.”

RTFA. A delightful piece of investigative journalism and writing by folks who usually report on economics and high finance throughout Asia for Bloomberg. Impressive.

Nearly half of Americans didn’t vote — Shutting down easy access to vote was part of the reason

The latest poll numbers also indicate that Clinton may have just barely squeezed out a win in the popular vote. An estimated 25.6 percent of eligible voters named Clinton while 25.5 percent voted for Trump.

When you narrow the numbers down to those who did vote, Clinton had 48 percent (59,580,545 votes) compared to 47 percent (59,341,558 votes) for Trump, according to the Associated Press.

Last Tuesday was the first election since the 2013 Supreme Court ruling against the Voting Rights Act. The changes added new voter identification requirements.

Opportunity remains an outstanding limiting factor. Since the 2012 election, over 800 polling places were simply closed.