Once more into the fray ...

I just landed in Hong Kong for the WTO's sixth Ministerial conference, and I wanted to share a few quick, down-and-dirty first impressions before some much needed sleep.

I've visited Asia twice before –Thailand and Japan – and on both occassions a stopover was involved. This time I flew direct on Continental – which, evil bastards that they are, charged me for drinks – and I can't say I recommend it.

16 hours is too long for a human to be crammed into a tin can. Worse yet, I was in a middle seat. The only good thing I can say is it was somewhat less painful than repeatedly jabbing a sharp stick in my eye.

**

This is my third WTO Ministerial, but the first one with credentials – in the past I've gone, you know, mostly for the riots.

The WTO pulled out all the stops in greeting delegates, the press and even the NGOs. We got a gift box of Chinese cookies.

The very first impression was of babes and bullet belts. There were hundreds of tiny, gorgeous women to greet us with huge smiles and guide us through customs and onto waiting shuttles.

In sharp contrast, there was also the kind of miltarized greeting we've come to expect at trade negotiations. Obviously, I don't know what the security usually looks like here, but boy were there a lot of guys bristling with those ugly little submachine guns.

**

Hong Kong's an amazing city – beautiful by night. And it's perfect for the occasion. One truly feels like one's at the center of the global economy here. Hong Kong's laid out around an enormous, bustling port with a ton of shipping infrastructure. It's still very British, although the young woman sitting in front of me on the plane was talking about how much it had changed since the handover. The quantity and brightness of the advertising assaults the senses like nowhere I've been before.

We're forty minutes from Shen Zhen, the factory city of ten million on the mainland – and Walmart's global procurement headquarters -- that sprang up out of nothing in the past 25 years as China became the world's manufacturer.

**

We should banish Bill O'Reilly to live out his pathetic little life in Hong Kong. He'd be happy – everywhere you look there are huge Christmas decorations. Many take up entire sides of buildings. And they all say 'Merry Christmas' -- none of that secular 'holidays' crap here.

And just how pathetic is our country's right-wing that I could even notice such a thing?

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