Friday, December 19, 2003

Is it Friday?

Yesterday I struggled for some serious words and finally posted some intelligent thoughts. I think it drained my batteries so today I'm back to my normal ramblings.

What's up down in Texas? I think this law belongs back in the dark ages.

No Freakin' Way...

Okay, if there's anything I hate more than a stupid law, it's the overzealous enforcement of a stupid law. In Texas, yesterday, we got a nice little taste of both.
Apparently, it's illegal in Texas to sell obscene sex toys. This is anything that resembles or simulates sexual organs. Whether you are likely to want to buy one of these toys yourself, is it really in anyone's best interest to try to police those who do want to buy them? Okay, so in my view, that's a stupid law.
A woman was arrested after police set up a little sting operation. When they got a tip that Joanne Webb hosted parties to sell toys, they sent in undercover officers posing as a couple to purchase toys. Toys were sold, and, subsequently, a citation was issued. Webb could be fined up to $4,000 and spend up to a year in jail.
So, recap, the police department used undercover cops--a fairly limited resource, I'm sure--to bust a big bad sex toy dealer.

She's taken a leave of absence from the chamber of commerce until her obscenity case is settled, but she plans to keep hosting parties -- although she now makes sure she says that they are novelty items.

That little loophole in the law makes it all the more rich. That faux penis is a wonderful novelty item; it's an awfully obscene sexual toy, though.
CLEBURNE -- Joanne Webb intended to spice up marriages and earn extra cash by selling erotic toys as one of Passion Parties Inc.'s 3,000 national consultants.
Instead, the former fifth-grade teacher and executive board member of the Burleson Chamber of Commerce faces criminal charges and embarrassment after a police sting. Her first court appearance was set for today.
"My mouth did drop open," said Webb, 43, who has been married 20 years and has three children. "It's ludicrous to think that the government can step into our bedrooms."
With the motto "where every day is Valentine's Day," California-based Passion Parties expects to do $20 million in business this year, company president Pat Davis said.
Some describe the gatherings as Tupperware-type parties for suburban housewives who feel more comfortable buying marital aids in a private home than at an adult bookstore or on the Internet.
"We're doing a wonderful service, and we're not doing anything wrong," Davis said.
Of the company's 300 products, about 60 percent of sales are lotions, bath products and edibles, while sex toys make up the remaining items, Davis said.
It's the sex toys that brought trouble for Webb, a consultant since June and the first Passion Parties' consultant charged with obscenity in the company's 10-year history, Davis said.
Last month, acting on a tip, two undercover officers went to the office of Webb's husband, a homebuilder, where Webb helps out with clerical work. Webb had placed a small sign in the window advertising her parties.
The man and woman asked if they could look at a product catalog. Webb showed them one and the "couple" said they wanted to buy two items. Webb said she tried to talk them into hosting a party, but when they declined, she agreed to sell them the items.
She said she retrieved the items from her home and the couple later came back to her husband's office to pick them up.
A month later, an officer called her and said a warrant had been issued for her arrest on charges that she had sold obscene devices, a violation of state law.
According to the state's obscenity code, an obscene device is a simulated sexual organ or an item designed to stimulate the genitals. Adult stores get around the law by posting signs that say "sold only as novelties."
Webb's charge is a misdemeanor; she faces up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine. An obscenity charge is a felony if someone sells obscene devices or materials at wholesale.
Webb said she only sold items through private parties and never kept products at her husband's office. The only time she did Passion Parties business at that office, she said, was when the undercover officers approached her.
Webb's attorney BeAnn Sisemore plans to file a motion to dismiss the case, because she says the law violates someone's right to own a sexual device, which is not illegal. Federal obscenity law overrides the state law anyway, Sisemore said.
Obscenity laws often vary from state to state and are often vague, so people don't know what is considered obscene until an arrest, said Lawrence Walters, a partner with the Florida-based law firm of Weston, Garrou & DeWitt, which handles First Amendment cases. Governments should not be able to regulate what consenting adults do in their homes, he said.
Critics also say enforcement of obscenity laws is inconsistent.
For example, last year a consultant for Slumber Parties Inc., a Passion Parties competitor based in Greenwell Springs, La., was stopped in East Texas for driving erratically. She was arrested after officers found 17 sex toys in her car.
Webb believes she was targeted by some conservative residents in Burleson, a community of nearly 26,000 people about 10 miles south of Fort Worth.
She's taken a leave of absence from the chamber of commerce until her obscenity case is settled, but she plans to keep hosting parties -- although she now makes sure she says that they are novelty items.
"One minute I'm thinking: `Is it worth putting my family through it?'" Webb said. "But there are so many products to help couples stay together, so I'm not going to quit."

Associated Press, December 15, 2003

Then there are these ding-bats!

SAN DIEGO – They don't call them "bug bombs" for nothing.
A City Heights family took pest control to the extreme today by releasing an excessively heavy fog of insecticide – 19 aerosol dispenser cans worth – that exploded on contact with a wall heater, San Diego fire officials said.
The 8:45 a.m. blast in the 3700 block of Euclid Avenue blew out a wall and numerous windows in the small bungalow, rendering it uninhabitable for people and roaches alike.
Luckily, the residents, including a toddler, were outside at the time and escaped injury, a dispatcher said.
Investigators set the monetary loss total at about $150,000.

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