Texas housewife busted for selling…vibrators!

Your tax dollars at work in George W.’s Texas:

A Texas housewife is in big trouble with the law for selling a vibrator to a pair of undercover cops, and the Brisbane vibrator company she works for says Texas is an “antiquated place” with more than its share of “prudes.”

Joanne Webb, a former fifth-grade teacher and mother of three, was in a county court in Cleburne, Texas, on Monday to answer obscenity charges for selling the vibrator to undercover narcotics officers posing as a dysfunctional married couple in search of a sex aid.

Webb, a saleswoman for Passion Parties of Brisbane, faces a year in jail and a $4,000 fine if convicted.

“What I did was not obscene,” Webb said. “”What’s obscene is that the government is taking action about what we do in our bedrooms.”

Once again, I can only wonder what the cops were thinking. This sort of thing only serves to make them look like buffoons. And now, sales for Passion Parties’ vibrators are sure to skyrocket with all the free publicity.

Link via Daily Dish.


Double jeopardy: Cyber-dissident AND supporter of illegal church in China

Continuing its crackdown on illegal religious activity, China has arrested Zhang Shengqi for posting Internet articles that support an unapproved Christian church.

Telephones rang unanswered at Hangzhou’s city government offices. A woman at the city’s police bureau who would only give her family name, Liu, said she had “never heard of this case,” while a man at the provincial jail said he was “unclear” about the matter. He refused to give his name.

Zhang’s arrest appeared to be related to police suspicions that he helped church historian Liu Fenggang post information on the Internet about the Hangzhou crackdown. Liu, a veteran pro-democracy campaigner, has also been detained in Hangzhou on state secrets charges.

Churches demolished, preachers detained

City authorities earlier this year demolished a number of unregistered churches and detained preachers in what activists said was a trial run for techniques to be used against unregistered religious groups elsewhere in China

I want to give the government every benefit of the doubt and acknowledge what they are doing right. But when they make a lot of noise about reforms yet continue and actually increase their anti-reform activities, I’m going to write about it.

Link via Radio Free China.


Blind date

I mentioned earlier that I’ve become good friends with a senior State Department employee and his wife, and I was delighted and surprised when they called me up a couple of Sundays ago to have lunch with them. At lunch, they introduced me to a Western woman who is a prominent artist here, and we had so much to talk about (classical music is her specialty). It was great. She is older than I am, very worldy and very interesting.

So I was happy, albeit surpised, when a few days later she called and asked if I’d like to go to dinner with her. We met at a fancy fusion restaurant and, since I so rarely go to dinner with anyone but myself, I ordered a good bottle of wine. In retrospect, that was a mistake.

We were about halfway done with our over-priced dinner and wine, when she started to tell me why she finds me so attractive. Suddenly, I felt a sense of dread come over me, almost as if a rat had bitten me. I really panicked, although I kept my composure (I’m a PR man, calm in the face of horrific circumstances).

She kept talking, but at this point I couldn’t make out anything she was saying. It hit me — my State Department friends had set us up that morning. The whole things was an act of matchmaking on their part, and they thought they were doing both of us such a favor. Their intentions were totally good, but my God, what had they gotten me into?

I clasped my wine glass and swirled the wine around idiotically while I wondered, how the hell am I going to get out of this one? At this point, she was praising my necktie (or was it my cologne? I can’t remember, I was so frantic, and all that 2000 Wolf Blass Shiraz didn’t help me think more clearly). I looked up at her, sat up straight and gave her my most serious look. I think she was expecting me to propose.

“Listen,” I said. “Before you go any further, there’s something I have to tell you. To be honest, I thought you’d figured it out already. I’m….I’m….” I was hoping she would get it, so that I wouldn’t have to fill in the ellipse. I paused and waited for her, hopefully. But no. She looked at me with this inquisitive and innocent look, and I knew I was going to have to complete the sentence myself. It wasn’t easy, but I did.

Well, suffice it to say that it was all downhill from there. I really like and admire this woman and I want to be her good friend. But it was as though her balloon simply burst, and her facial expression just shouted out, “Oh shit.” She looked crestfallen, and I felt as though I’d committed a crime.

Her next line — “Oh, that’s okay, I’m glad you feel you can trust me with that” — was utterly unconvincing. All I did for the rest of the meal was apologize, and say, truthfully, that I had absolutely no idea she was thinking of us in a romantic light.

We got through it all, but I felt like sinking into the floor. I don’t like to disappoint people, but what could I do? I had to tell her, but it was so obvious that she just wasn’t ready. Afterwards, she didn’t say a word about how handsome I am.

I felt so bad for her. She had a clear expectation of what the night would be, and I pulled the plug on it.

Oh well, just one more of my many unusual experiences here in Asia. It sounds funny now, but I promise, it was anything but funny as I was going through it. She never called me again, though I wish she would; she loves Brahms and Wagner.


Michael Jackson as you’ve never seen him before

Would you want this painting hanging on your living room wall?

Michael Jackson looks freaky enough just as he is. And yet, the images from this creepy art gallery manage to make him even scarier. And this stuff is for sale. Hurry, while supplies last. [via boingboing]


Story of the 1989 flagbearer at the Shanghai demonstrations is up

You’ll find it over at Living in China. I’ll post it on this site in a few days.

This was a very heartfelt project, and I think some of you will be surprised that I would write such a piece. Doing so has been a moving and valuable experience.


CCTV covers Saddam’s capture. Poorly.

Check out this brief but telling post on how CCTV covered last night’s big news. Some things never change.


Beaten to the punch

Last night I was considering posting about the irony of the justified euphoria over Saddam’s capture and Thomas Friedman’s Sunday column (written pre-capture) on just how poorly we are running things in Iraq. Remember, Friedman was pro-invasion and an outspoken Saddam critic. Now he sounds downright grim.

Anyway, I was going to post about this, but I see that Long Bow has beaten me to the punch. So no need.


My interview with a 1989 demonstrator in China

Yesterday, for an article I’m hoping to write for Living in China, I interviewed a Singapore executive about his role in the 1989 student demonstrations. It was absolutely intriguing. He was in Shanghai, not Beijing, and the differences between how the situation was handled in the two cities is extraordinary.

He didn’t tell me anything earthshattering, but it did impress on me how fundamentally different the Western and Asian approach to human rights is. I have been aware of this, but I never actually discussed it face-to-face with a native Chinese. It’s an interesting conversation, to discuss something as frightening as the Tiananmen Square massacre and agree on everything that took place, and yet arrive at such different conclusions.

I’m about three-quarters done with the article and it should be ready to go by Monday afternoon or Tuesday.


Has Irrational Exuberance Hit China?

A NY Times article today asks just that question, citing a warning from Alan Greenspan that China’s economy could (repeat, could) be at risk of overheating, especially in light of a recent CCP decision to reduce interest rates and incentivize banks to lend away.

While China’s leaders portray themselves as farsighted engineers who can manage their country’s economic growth better than a democratically elected government could, their recent economic policies show a strong inclination to let the good times roll for now and to worry later about any ensuing bust.


Prodding the money supply while resisting currency appreciation shows a reluctance to let economic growth falter at all, even as Western economists put China’s expansion at an annual pace of 10 percent this fall. “If you’re very preoccupied about social stability and you’ve got a weak banking system, do you really want to appreciate your currency?” said William Belchere, chief Asia economist at J. P. Morgan Chase.

The common denominator in many of China’s economic problems is a dysfunctional banking system that still extends some loans based on the political connections of borrowers, especially state-owned enterprises. At the same time, the executives of state-owned enterprises have shown a strong herd instinct of rushing into whatever industry seems to be growing fastest. A result is that many provinces build the same kind of factories at the same time, as is now the case with steel, and bank officers approve loans for most or all of the factories.

What’s most worrying, according to the article, is that there is no sober authority, like the Fed, to put the brakes on things. Those pulling the levers only want to rock and roll, but history proves such parties always come to an end. The harder you step on the gas, the worse the crash.


Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead

Or captured, at least. It seems pretty official — Tony Blair has apparently confirmed that Saddam has indeed been captured in Tikrit, and the US will hold a press conference in 45 minutes.

I hope they make the trial a very public affair, and the punishment a painful one.

Let’s face it, everyone: George W. Bush is going to win the 2004 election, and there’s little we can do about it.