Las Vegas goes Asian

October 30, 2006,0,7257344.story?coll=la-home-headlines

Taking their cue from Macao’s gambling boom, the city’s casinos and tourism officials are chasing the new high rollers as never before.

By Kimi Yoshino
Times Staff Writer

9:34 PM PDT, October 28, 2006

Alan Tam is playing Vegas these days. Never heard of him? Some say he’s a Chinese Mick Jagger. Comedian Crocket performed over the summer at Caesars Palace. He’s the Robin Williams of Japan.

In almost every way, Las Vegas is catering to Asians, offering Asian entertainers, high-stakes baccarat tournaments and rice congee by room service. The festivities and decorations for Chinese New Year have become second only to those for New Year’s Eve.

Hoteliers and tourism officials have chased Pacific Rim high rollers for years, and the effort is intensifying. Korean Air last month began nonstop flights three times a week from Seoul to Las Vegas. Many of those flights are expected to draw travelers from China.

In part, Vegas is reacting to the success of gaming in Macao — and hoping to capitalize on it. The Chinese territory’s 22 casinos, with their proximity to the sheer wealth and population of China, are viewed as competitors and appetizers for Vegas’ allure. This year casino gambling revenue in Macao is expected to edge past that of Las Vegas. Each locale brings in more than $6.5 billion.

“There’s no question in our minds that as more and more Chinese customers experience Macao, their natural curiosity is going to make them find out what the major leagues are like in Las Vegas,” said MGM Mirage spokesman Alan Feldman. (An MGM Grand is scheduled to open in Macao in 2007.)

“If you go to Macao and you really like it, the next thing on your list is going to be to come to Vegas.”

As tourism markets go, China is a jackpot in the making. Within five to 10 years, overseas travel will lure an estimated 100 million Chinese annually, a figure that will dwarf every other market in the world, tourism officials said.

In preparation, Nevada has been greasing the wheels overseas. It was the first tourism destination to be issued a license to advertise in China, and four tourism commission staffers are based in Beijing. Last year the state spent $100,000 on advertisements in Asian airline magazines.

Vegas-based tour operator David Huang, owner of Chinese Hosts Inc., says he shuttles about 100 Asians a day to the Grand Canyon, with dozens of others taking tours of the Strip and Arches National Park in Utah.

“For China, in their mentality, this is the ultimate destination,” Huang said.

On one recent night, Huang’s company chauffeured two busloads of tourists — most of them Asian — on a tour of Vegas after dark, hitting all the glitzy, tacky, over-the-top attractions that many had seen only in the movies. They watched the volcano explode at the Mirage, the “Masquerade Show in the Sky” at the Rio, the fountains at the Bellagio and the campy Fall of Atlantis at Caesars Palace.

“We’ve heard so much about this place,” said Elisa Laurente, 55, traveling with her husband from the Philippines. “We wanted to see for ourselves how Las Vegas is. It’s beautiful. It’s simply awesome.”

Friends Stephanie Liu and Matilda Tai, both 26 and from Taiwan, took in the same night tour after a full day of shopping.

They had spent hundreds of dollars each on Coach purses — two of them — clothes from Gap and souvenirs. Liu said she had “no budget.”

“I’ll play the slot machines, maybe,” Liu said. “That’s the easy one. I will win all the money I spend.”

Las Vegas casinos, restaurants and other tourism-reliant businesses are welcoming visitors like Liu and Tai. “There is a very widespread awakening to the value of the Asian market to our tourism-based economy,” said Chris Chrystal of the Nevada Commission on Tourism. “They stay longer and they like to spend money.”

To better cater to visitors from China, many Vegas operators are taking cues from their ventures in Macao, which are drawing crowds of visitors by ferry from Hong Kong.

Vegas hotels have hired chefs from Hong Kong to serve up authentic dishes. Even room-service menus are starting to reflect the desires of the diverse customer base, offering rice congee and dim sum alongside hamburgers and turkey clubs. There are a multitude of Asian restaurants to choose from, where waiters are more comfortable speaking Mandarin or Cantonese than English.

Las Vegas Sands Corp., the first Western operator in Macao, opened the Sands casino in 2004, and a Venetian is slated for completion next fall.

“I’ve been to Asia a dozen times or so,” said Ron Reese, spokesman for the Venetian. “Sometimes I’ve landed in Macao and all I’ve wanted is a cheeseburger. They may want dim sum … and we’re able to provide that” in Las Vegas.

The Venetian in Vegas boasts seven Asian-language television stations in every room and same-day delivery of several Asian newspapers. On the gaming side, the casino opened a high-end baccarat salon. It is stocked with 100 types of tea, rather than dozens of beers on tap.

“A traditional gaming experience for an American may be to sit down and have a Budweiser,” Reese said. “We’ve obviously found out through our operations in Macao that Asians prefer not to drink alcoholic beverages while they’re playing. They enjoy a good tea.”

The Venetian’s exclusive Paiza Club, which opened last year, has an Asian theme, including dragon statues and other art. The high-roller suites even have a karaoke room complete with flashing lights, microphones and a curved lounge-style couch.

“Compared to what this room would have been, I bet you would have been hard-pressed to find daily delivered Chinese newspapers, Chinese programming on TV and dragons on the backs of chairs,” Reese said. “Certainly there’s a different feel and atmosphere than Las Vegas five years ago.”

Iraq vs. Vietnam

October 30, 2006

Myth vs. Reality

It is sad and disturbing the number of people I have heard maintain that the war in Iraq is “just like Vietnam.” It’s not just moonbats, either. If it was, it would be easy to dismiss them out of hand. I’ve heard the comparison lamented by intelligent people, people I know and wouldn’t want to argue with. People I respect and admire.

Vietnam veterans — real ones, not impostors and poseurs like Kerry — take exception to the comparisons. They were there, they know damned well the differences. I wasn’t there, of course. I was a kid during Vietnam. My Dad was there, the year I was in fifth grade. I remember the year I was in sixth grade, the year my Dad came home. I remember how long it took him to get used to the idea he was no longer in a war zone. I remember his white hot hatred for the things John Kerry and Hanoi Jane were saying and doing. The memories he sometimes shared over the years since.

Because I wasn’t there, a friend of mine recently informed me that I have no “right” to dismiss anything in the matter of comparisons. (The fact that he wasn’t there either is apparently irrelevant, as he is permitted to continue making the comparisons.)

Colonel Oliver North was there. Colonel North has expressed his thoughts on the matter of comparisons between Iraq and Vietnam. Allow me to share with you some of Colonel North’s comments:

Speaking as someone who has spent nearly an equal amount of time in Iraq as he did during his first tour in Vietnam, Colonel North explains that the parallels between the two are virtually non-existent on the battlefield.

In the press and politics – it’s a different matter. The barons of bombast have decided that Iraq equals Vietnam. Those who make this argument are ignoring some very inconvenient facts.

For starters, Colonel North explains the differences between the adversaries in each war. First, Vietnam:

In Vietnam, U.S. troops faced nearly a quarter of a million conscripted but well trained, disciplined and equipped North Vietnamese Army (NVA) regulars and upwards of 100,000 highly organized Viet Cong (VC) insurgents on a constant basis from 1966 onward. Both the NVA and the VC “irregulars” were well indoctrinated in communist ideology, received direct aid from the Soviet Union, Communist China and the Warsaw Pact and benefited from logistics and politico-military support networks in neighboring countries. During major campaigns against U.S. and South Vietnamese forces – of which there were many each year – both the NVA and VC responded to centralized command and control directed by authorities in Hanoi. None of that is true of Iraq.

Now, Iraq:

In the land between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, enemy combatants are a combination of disparate Sunni Jihadi-terrorists, disenfranchised Ba’athists, Shia militias aligned with Iran, fanatical foreign Wahhabi Mujahadeen, Muslim Brotherhood-supported radicals and well-armed, hyper-violent criminal gangs, often with tribal connections that are stronger than any ideological, religious or political affiliations. Though many Jihadis receive indoctrination, munitions and refuge from a network of mosques and sectarian Islamic groups, centralized command, control and logistics support is virtually non-existent. Operating in small independent “cells” instead of organized, disciplined military units, the enemy in Mesopotamia has no ability to mount any kind of protracted offensive against U.S. or even lightly-armed Iraqi government forces. Increasingly dependent on improvised explosive devices and suicide-bomb attacks to inflict casualties, the opposition in Iraq is more “anarchy” than “insurgency.”

Next, Colonel North talks about casualties:

The second great fable about the war in Iraq is the horrific casualty rate. This is always the most difficult aspect of any war to address for all comparisons seem cynical. For those of us who have held dying soldiers, sailors, airmen or Marines in our arms it is particularly painful. Yet, it is one of the oft-cited reasons for why we were “forced” to get out of Vietnam – and why we are once again being urged by the media to “end the bloodshed” in Iraq. Here’s a reality check.

Compare …

Over the course of the entire Vietnam War, the “average” rate at which Americans died as a consequence of armed combat was about 15 per day. In 1968-69, when my brother and I served as Rifle Platoon and Infantry Company Commanders – he in the Army and I in the Marines – 39 Americans died every day in the war zone. In Iraq, the “kill rate” for U.S. troops is 2.06 per day.

[Emphasis mine.]

During the 1968 “Tet Offensive” in Vietnam there were more than 2,100 U.S. casualties per week. In Iraq, the U.S. casualty rate from all causes has never exceeded 490 troops in a month.

[Again, emphasis mine.]

As of this writing 2,802 young Americans have been killed during three and one half years of war in Iraq. That’s roughly the same number killed at Iwo Jima during the first three and one half days of fighting against the Japanese.

[Ditto on the emphasis.]

On 27 February 1968, after a month of brutal fighting and daily images of U.S. casualties on American television, Walter Cronkite, then the host of the CBS Evening News, proclaimed that the Tet Offensive had proven to him that the Vietnam War was no longer winnable. Four weeks later, Lyndon Johnson told the nation that “I shall not seek, and I will not accept the nomination of my party for another term as your President.” It didn’t matter that Tet had been a decisive victory for the U.S. and South Vietnamese.

The press has a long history of not letting the facts get in the way of their spin.

Today’s potentates of the press are trying to deliver the same message: that Iraq, like Vietnam, is un-winnable. One television network has gone so far as to broadcast images of U.S. troops being killed by terrorists – making Iraq the first war where Americans get their news from the enemy.

I kind of have to disagree here — seems to me quite a few Americans got their news from the enemy (Kerry and Jane come immediately to mind) back then, too.

The war in Vietnam wasn’t lost during “Tet ‘68” no matter what Walter Cronkite said. Rather, it was lost in the pages of America’s newspapers, on our televisions, our college campuses – and eventually in the corridors of power in Washington. We need to pray that this war isn’t lost the same way.

From your lips to God’s ears, Colonel.

Incidentally, one final thing … the comparison before Colonel North dealt only with Vietnam. It did not include any discussion on the length of time between occupation and final withdrawl from the region. If it had, I’m sure the good Colonel would have pointed out the fact that after WWII, American forces occupied Japan for seven years, and Western Germany did not become fully sovereign until 1955; both countries were long barred from fully rearming, and for decades the United States assumed much of the burden of their defense from the Soviet Union. – Vietnam and Iraq: Myth vs. Reality

Kate blogs at The Original Musings.