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.

Republicans deliberately broke American politics

❝ As far as anyone can tell, Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House — and the leader of what’s left of the Republican establishment — isn’t racist or authoritarian. He is, however, doing all he can to make a racist authoritarian the most powerful man in the world. Why? Because then he could privatize Medicare and slash taxes on the wealthy.

And that, in brief, tells you what has happened to the Republican Party, and to America.

❝ This has been an election in which almost every week sees some longstanding norm in U.S. political life get broken. We now have a major-party candidate who refuses to release his tax returns, despite huge questions about his business dealings. He constantly repeats claims that are totally false, like his assertion that crime is at record highs (it’s actually just a bit off historic lows). He stands condemned by his own words as a sexual predator. And there’s much, much more.

Any one of these things would in the past have been considered disqualifying in a presidential candidate. But leading Republicans just shrug. And they celebrated when James Comey, the director of the F.B.I., broke with policy to lay a heavy thumb on the election scales; if Hillary Clinton wins nonetheless, they have made it clear that they will try to block any Supreme Court nomination, and there’s already talk of impeachment hearings. About what? They’ll find something.

❝ So how did all our political norms get destroyed? Hint: It started long before Donald Trump…

❝ Those of us old enough to remember the 1990s also remember the endless series of accusations hurled against the Clintons.

Nothing was too implausible to get on talk radio and get favorable mention in Congress and in conservative media…Nothing was too trivial to trigger congressional hearings…

❝ And since accusations of Democratic scandal, not to mention congressional “investigations” that started from a presumption of guilt, had become the norm, the very idea of bad behavior independent of politics disappeared: The flip side of the obsessive pursuit of a Democratic president was utter refusal to investigate even the most obvious wrongdoing by Republicans in office.

Paul Krugman suggests It would help “if the media finally learned its lesson, and stopped treating Republican scandal-mongering as genuine news”. Ain’t about to happen. A story that gets the most eyeballs is still the best story.

RTFA for lots more detail, making of historic points. I suggest Mr. Krugman has too much optimism about what can be done with a political party – the Democrats – that was happy for too many years simply representing the liberal side of Wall Street. Yes, there is one and it’s just as limiting as you might presume.

Being a lot older than Paul Krugman, I’d also take the Republican commitment to racism back to Nixon’s decision to lead his party into the valley of bigotry abandoned by LBJ and the Democratic Party – in response to Dr. King and the civil rights movement building into something large enough to challenge imperial war as well as racist American culture.

Truthiness on the March

lucy-p-marcus
Lucy P. Marcus

❝ The late US Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” That may be true. But, entitled or not, politicians and electorates are constructing their own alternate realities – with far-reaching consequences.

❝ Nowadays, facts and truth are becoming increasingly difficult to uphold in politics…They are being replaced with what the American comedian Stephen Colbert calls “truthiness”: the expression of gut feelings or opinions as valid statements of fact. This year might be considered one of peak truthiness.

❝ To make good decisions, voters need to assess reliable facts, from economic data to terrorism analysis, presented transparently and without bias. But, today, talking heads on television would rather attack those with expertise in these areas. And ambitious political figures – from the leaders of the Brexit campaign in the United Kingdom to US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump – dismiss the facts altogether…

❝ …The Iraq War was launched in 2003 under false pretenses. Intelligence reports had not established that there were weapons of mass destruction in the country, yet British Prime Minister Tony Blair dutifully followed US President George W. Bush in ordering his military to invade. The consequences of that decision are still emerging.

If our leaders can be so willfully wrong about such consequential matters, how can we believe anything they tell us? This question has opened the door for a new, more overt truthiness, espoused by the likes of Trump, who seems to introduce freshly invented “facts” on a daily basis. Trump’s surrogates, for their part, use television appearances and social media to restate the falsehoods, seemingly operating under the principle that if you repeat something often enough, it will become true…

RTFA for more details – if you need them. There is an added parallel example in the cupidity of British voters and how they were misled quite deliberately into the Brexit vote. Lies, agitprop both for and against voting at all. Not unlike Republicans who swear they haven’t a bigoted bone in their body – and never emit the slightest peep over that party’s vaguely-disguised voter suppression campaign.

Black Trump supporter called a thug, booted from campaign rally — Trump presumes he’s a protestor


Cary being removed from the Trump rally

❝ C.J. Cary really loves Donald Trump. He has loved him for years, and he really wants him to be president. On Wednesday night, the 63-year-old came to a Trump rally in Kinston, North Carolina, determined to pass his candidate a note of advice: stop being so offensive on the campaign trail to women, minorities, and people with disabilities, or else “lying Hillary” will defeat him.

❝ According to the Charlotte Observer, Trump spotted Cary, wearing sunglasses and a bright red shirt, after he had made his way to about 30 feet from the stage and began waving his note in the air while shouting “Donald!”

Oh, did we mention Cary is black? He is.

❝ Anyway, Trump mistook Cary for a protester. Trump addressed him directly from the podium: “We have a protester!” he said…Trump then said this to Cary: “By the way, were you paid $1,500 to be a thug?”

Thug! Thug. $1,500. Thug.

❝ As the crowd erupted into chants of “Trump! Trump! Trump!” the candidate instructed his security team, as he usually does when there’s a disturbance at one of his events: “You can get him out. Get him out.”…

About the most support Trump gets from likely voters in the Black community is 4%. I’m surprised there are that many fools willing to sell out.

What are the goals of the Trump/Bannon White Nationalist coalition after Election Day?

This week, Donald Trump’s campaign took a new and even darker turn. As multiple women accused the Republican Presidential nominee of sexual harassment and sexual assault, Trump gave speeches on Thursday and Friday that had two themes: he denied all the charges against him, most notably by arguing that his accusers were not attractive enough for him to assault, and he claimed that the accusations are part of a global conspiracy against him, involving the Clintons, the news media, international banks.

Trump has long been a conspiracy theorist. He gained a prominent role in American politics in 2011 by questioning Barack Obama’s birthplace…It’s no surprise, then, that Trump has been advised for decades by Roger Stone, a prominent political strategist and conspiracy theorist who believes that Lyndon B. Johnson had Kennedy killed…and that George H. W. Bush may have tried to kill Ronald Reagan…

But it took someone a little smarter — and more cynical — than Trump, Stone, or Jones to distill Trump’s platform of protectionism, closed borders, and white identity politics into one message about a global conspiracy. The man behind this new message is Steve Bannon, who became the C.E.O. of the Trump campaign in August. Bannon is on leave from Breitbart, the right-wing news site where he served as executive chairman, and where he honed a view of international politics that Trump now parrots.

Bannon embraces the growing populist movement in America, including the “alt-right,” a new term for white nationalists, who care little about traditional conservative economic ideas and instead stress the need to preserve America’s European heritage and keep out non-whites and non-Christians. Under Bannon, Breitbart promoted similar movements in Europe, including the United Kingdom Independence Party, the National Front in France, Alternative for Germany, and the Freedom Party in the Netherlands. Bannon likes to say that his goal is “to build a global, center-right, populist, anti-establishment news site.” After the election is over, Breitbart, which has offices in London and Rome, plans to open up new bureaus in France and Germany.

This ambition extends to supporting the election of right-wing candidates…

…He believes that the white working class is still the key to the election, because the Clintons have never been able to win without this demographic. While Bill Clinton won two Presidential elections with the support of white working-class voters, this view is wildly at odds with recent changes in the electorate, which have made the Democrats more reliant on minority voters and college-educated whites…

Bannon’s view of the media is similarly narrow. He sees the dominant conservative media players as the establishment, not as allies. He views Fox News as highly unreliable on the nationalist cause…He despises Rupert Murdoch—the chairman and C.E.O. of the News Corporation…When Bannon ran Breitbart, he didn’t want his reporters appearing on Fox, because he believed the cable news channel had made smaller conservative news outlets subservient to it…

Bannon…is a right-wing new-media entrepreneur who is building a political and news infrastructure that mimics Europe’s nationalists. After Trump’s speech on Thursday, when he linked Clinton to “international banks” and “global financial powers,” Jonathan Greenblatt, the head of the Anti-Defamation League, issued a statement that Trump “should avoid rhetoric and tropes that have historically been used against Jews and still reverberate today.”

The rhetoric that Bannon is feeding Trump makes it increasingly likely that Trump will lose in a landslide. Polling averages show Trump trailing Clinton by eight points, the largest gap since August…Most election forecasts put Clinton’s chance of victory at about eighty per cent.

Trump’s response to these numbers has been to tell his supporters, repeatedly in recent days, that the election is “rigged,” creating a sense of grievance about the likely results that can be exploited after November 8th. Trump and Bannon have given up on trying to defeat Clinton. They seem more interested in creating a platform for a new ethno-nationalist politics that may bedevil the Republican Party—and the country—for a long time to come.

To me, the only question to be resolved is what will they end up being called. Will they win the battle for control of the Republican Party – still an important name – and defeat more traditional Congressional Republicans? Will they maintain a position within the Republican Party as the new leaders of the Tea Party – created by fossil fuel barons like the Koch Bros and creeps like Dick Armey. Or will they try to take the Tea Party out of the Republican Party forming a right-wing 3rd Party – if they lose the battle for internal control of ideology and the all important purse strings.

I don’t care what the answer is. Recognizing the likelihood of this proto-fascist movement bringing together everyone from “respectable” Congressional racists like Jeff Session all the way over to Klan and militia types – my responsibility is to support movements for democratic solutions on the Left, within and without the Democrats, and oppose the dangers presented by a united white supremacist, fascist movement in America.

This is only the beginning, folks.