Archive for January, 2011

Stanley Ho family drama obscures bigger issues

January 27, 2011

With more characters than a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel, Macau magnate Stanley Ho’s handover of his casino assets has the makings of a prime time soap opera. The spectacle of the families of four wives who bore Ho 17 children fighting over an estimated $3 billion dollar fortune promises compelling viewing.

But the saga is a glittering distraction from the more important story of what happens to Sociedade de Jogos de Macau (SJM), the casino market leader in the world’s top gaming destination, and the rest of Ho’s empire without him. As I wrote in Asia Times, however the family drama plays out, it won’t resolve that question.

After initially stumbling in post-monopoly Macau, SJM has regained its overwhelming market leadership by following Ho’s business principles. Even while Ho has been sidelined since a late July 2009 fall at home, SJM has moved ahead. The key to its continued success seems to be less which faction wins control of the company but that the winners don’t get in the way of SJM management that seems to know what it’s doing.

Dispersing ownership widely, whether among two of his families or four of them, could be Stanley Ho’s way of ensuring that SJM isn’t dominated by someone who inherited the position. Whoever takes Ho’s place as Macau’s leading business figure will have to earn it.

Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, financial crisis, and cheap lingerie.

ObamaCare index measures newfound civility

January 18, 2011

In the wake of the Tucson shootings and President Obama’s call for dialogue, not diatribes, there’s plenty of talk about greater civility in US politics. This week’s House of Representatives debate on repeal of healthcare reform will give an early indicator of whether Republicans really mean it.

The healthcare debate is a test for Republicans because, at least on this subject, they’re responsible for lowering the tone of the discussion. They’ve spread disinformation about a government takeover of healthcare, death panels of bureaucrats (from the government, as opposed to the insurance company variety) killing Grandma, that no one in the US goes without healthcare they need, that the best route to reform is more power for insurance companies, and that US healthcare is still the best in world. They confused the issue so much that people declared, “Government hands off Medicare.”

The biggest injection of invective came from dubbing reform “ObamaCare.” It echoes use of “HillaryCare” during the Clinton administration’s failed reform effort. As with invoking the name of Hillary Clinton – Christine O’Donnell was hardly the first alleged witch in politics – attaching Barack Obama’s name to reform was designed to turn people’s attention away from the issues and recast the discussion in terms of Obama’s inherent evil.

In other words, it made the debate personal. When it’s personal, there’s no room for rational discussion or compromise. How can there be, when one side represents good and the other side is evil? If politics are going to start getting civil, then politicians will have to stop making things personal. To measure whether it’s happening, check the healthcare reform repeal debate for use of the term “ObamaCare.”

Before the Tucson shootings, here’s what Brad Dayspring, a spokesman for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said about healthcare repeal: “ObamaCare is a job killer for businesses small and large, and the top priority for House Republicans is going to be to cut spending and grow the economy and jobs. Further, ObamaCare failed to lower costs as the president promised that it would and does not allow people to keep the care they currently have if they like it. That is why the House will repeal it next week.”

Here’s are Dayspring’s post-Obama Tucson speech comments on healthcare reform repeal: “As the White House noted, it is important for Congress to get back to work, and to that end we will resume thoughtful consideration of the health care bill next week. Americans have legitimate concerns about the cost of the new healthcare law and its effect on the ability to grow jobs in our country.”

Those comments alone took two points off the ObamaCare index, indicating the House Republican leadership has changed its tune. Stay tuned to see whether Cantor’s new tone carries over to the actual debate and filters down to the rank and file.

This week also marks 50 years since John F Kennedy’s inauguration. As I wrote in November, JFK’s inaugural address would be mocked in this age of politics as blood sport.

Like Obama’s words in Tucson, Kennedy’s speech also included a formula for civility among enemies holding differences far deeper than Republicans and Democrats. Re-reading Kennedy’s stirring words after the Tucson shootings, under the shadow of JFK’s assassination and that of Martin Luther King, the other great American we celebrate this week, reminds us how much work remains to become the nation future generations deserve.

Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, financial crisis, and cheap lingerie.

Macau’s record year means less of more

January 12, 2011

In 2010, Macau gaming revenue set another new record at 188.34 billion Macau patacas ($23.5 billion), capped with its biggest monthly haul ever in December. Gaming industry experts are convinced that Beijing will continue permitting vast quantities of the mainland’s wealth to leave via Macau’s baccarat tables.

But grassroots Macau benefits little from its influx of tourists and money, and there’s no coherent plan to change that. Efforts at diversifying the economy from its reliance on gaming, in the few cases where they’ve progressed past the talking stage, remain fruitless. As I wrote in Asia Times, the hospitality industry suffers from a plague of Macau see, Macau do: emulating rivals’ (mainly unsuccessful) ideas rather than daring to be original. The government looks increasingly unable to spend its vast wealth, now estimated are more than $25 billion for a city of 550,000, to benefit residents.

Macau has become a great place to bet or buy Gucci, but an increasingly poor place to live and work. In the long run, that’s not good for anyone. Even if Macau’s ruling elite and gaming industry don’t realize it, Beijing surely does.

Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, financial crisis, and cheap lingerie.

Bangkok bounces back

January 1, 2011

Bulletin: My heartfelt thanks to all of you who voted for Twenty reasons Barack Obama stinks in the 3QuarksDaily.com 2010 Prize in Politics. Your support made the piece the top vote-getter in the competition, helping it to advance to the final round. Unfortunately, the judges didn’t select Twenty reasons Barack Obama stinks as one of the three prize winners. In this case, I’ll defer to the wisdom of crowds.

Let me also take this moment to wish you and your loved ones a happy new year. I hope you find all you seek and more in 2011. And I hope you’ll keep stopping by here to read and comment on what I have to say.

Walking through CentralWorld Mall in Bangkok, you’d never suspect that the place had been torched in May by anti-government protests. There are few hints left of the thousands of the demonstrators that occupied the city’s main shopping district for two months and the crackdown that cleared them, events that left at least 90 people dead.

By every measure, Bangkok has returned to normal. Despite two months of virtual urban warfare, tourist arrivals will top last year’s total by a wide margin. Yet all is not well in Thailand. As I reported for Asia Times from the Thai capital, the rift between supporters and opponents of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, dating back to the 2006 coup that deposed him, and the underlying social and economic issues haven’t healed. With elections due within a year, Thailand may well see more fireworks.

Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, financial crisis, and cheap lingerie.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 193 other followers

%d bloggers like this: