Open Sources, November 3, 2012

SO HOW DID WEN JIABAO’S FAMILY amass a family fortune of $2.7 billion? The difficulty of answering that question causes China to block the New York Times. The corruption of China’s politicians seems endemic and universal, but the prosecution of their corruption seems to have more to do with factionalism than morality.  I loved the close:

“When a country is so corrupt that one lightning strike can cause a train crash … none of us are exempt. China today is a train rushing through a lightning storm…. We are all passengers.”

I wonder how the Fifty Cent Army would spin that one.


WHEN NORTH KOREA COLLAPSES:” Any piece with that title, co-authored by Robert Kaplan, is well worth reading in full.


WHAT’S IN IT FOR US?  To some South Koreans, a “strong alliance” means we subsidize South Korea’s defense from North Korea, so that South Korea can afford to subsidize North Korea’s threat to South Korea.  Take your time unpacking that.


I KNOW THE NORTH KOREAN REGIME sends spies to the South who pose as defectors, but is this really the most effective way to uncover them?


  1. Evan Osnos’ New Yorker comment, to which Joshua linked, suggested that Chinese leaders should declare there assets. Wouldn’t it have been wonderful if Mitt Romney had set an example by releasing his last twenty tax returns?

  2. Yes, and it would have been just as great if you’d expected the same of all candidates over the years rather than just singling out Romney to be your class warfare voodoo doll. I don’t like or dislike either candidate, but please don’t threadjack this into a negative campaign ad. I live in a swing state. I get plenty of that already.

    You’re also missing the point. Chinese civil servants don’t have legitimate means to become billionaires. American capitalists do.

  3. The least bad North Korea policy we have ever seen has just been re-elected. This is wonderful news for the OFK community.

  4. And hopefully, a miracle happens and “least bad” changes miraculously into “good”. As far as I’m concerned, a brief with the text of Joshua’s 3-C policy should be on President Obama’s desk tomorrow.

  5. I believe that making an anti-islamic video does not bring exemption from the conditions on one’s parole.

  6. A perfect opportunity, truly. We can send the message “No criticism of Islam allowed!” while at the same time pointing to Youssef’s parole violations and saying “The First Amendment’s fine, really.”

    I know it’s too much to ask the Copts to just roll over and die, but couldn’t they get with the program and just become Muslims? At the very least, they wouldn’t need to have their places of worship rightfully burned down, or their children justifiably kidnapped. And they’d have the added bonus of Western media attention. What’s the downside?

    Glans, you can at least take some comfort in knowing that Youssef’s life is unlikely to be long.

  7. “Youssef admitted in open court that he had used several false names in violation of his probation order and obtained a driver’s license under a false name. He was on probation for a bank fraud case.” Greg Risling’s report at BigStory.AP.Org gives more details.

    His video, which I enjoyed, didn’t give him the right to violate the conditions of his parole.

  8. Right, as I said, an excellent opportunity. We wouldn’t know what to do with him otherwise. This way we get to send a message without having to state it directly, and we get to punish the filthy Copt legally. Perfect.

  9. There are two legitimate issues with Mitt’s tax returns:
    1. Was he one of 33,00 Americans who took advantage of the 2009 IRS tax amnesty on declared Swiss bank accounts, thereby dodging a felony conviction that would have made him ineligible for president?
    2. Which tax code benefits were used by an extremely wealthy presidential candidate who promises that tax revenues will actually increase despite tax cuts thanks to closing some of the very loopholes that increased his wealth?

    Mitt’s own father, the late great Michigan governor George Romney was a proponent of candidates for high office releasing their returns. Mitt’s choice not to release his returns left voters like me to assume the worst. His endless flip flopping does not indicate a man of high integrity.

    As for the fraudster getting tossed back in prison, do you have comparative data showing that his sentence was unusual given his prior conviction and violation or are you just assuming that he wouldn’t have been imprisoned otherwise? On a previous related thread, I posted links to blog posts by Libertarians who debated the appropriateness of the arrest. I am not a lawyer like you, but at least I looked for comparative data before drawing conclusions.

  10. I read the comments yesterday evening in dim light and overlooked your request to Glans not to thread jack. I apologize. Now maybe you can provide some unbiased support for your assumption that the dirty Coot fraudster would have not have been jailed if his parole violation involving aliases and the Internet had not mocked Muhammad. A search at Above theLaw turned up nothing on the topic. After going a Google search using the terms “law blog” and “Basseley”, the only useful results led me back to the Popehat blog I linked to before. He’s posted a response to the sentencing here:

  11. I’ going to cut and paste the conclusion from the blog post linked above:

    “Mr. Nakoula’s revocation proceedings required a probation officer (an employee of the judicial branch) to file a revocation petition and Judge Snyder (also in the judicial branch) to approve it. If the Obama administration — the executive branch — contacted the United States Probation Office and pressured the probation office to file revocation proceedings because Nakoula made the film, I think there should be a Congressional inquiry. I’m aware of the statement by Charles Woods, the father of the Navy Seal Tyrone Woods who was killed by terrorists in Benghazi, who says that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told him that the government would punish the filmmaker. Mr. Woods is justifiably furious with the administration and Ms. Clinton’s words to him are not to be taken at face value, so this report is not conclusive evidence to me. But it’s a piece of evidence, and Congress might think it sufficient to start an inquiry. Under existing selective prosecution law it might not be unconstitutional for the administration to suggest that Nakoula’s supervised release be revoked for conduct that would get anyone else revoked. Nakoula’s conduct is absolutely the sort that does, and should, routinely result in revocation of supervised release. But we should know whether or not the administration had a hand in it, and there should be consequences — even if they are only political — if they did.”

    Well said!

  12. Sonagi, do you believe that Hillary Clinton told Charles Woods that the government would punish the filmmaker? I don’t.

  13. Sonagi, you’re missing the point. No-one has argued that Nakoula / Youssef / whoever shouldn’t have been punished for his parole violations, or that he wouldn’t have if they’d been discovered under different circumstances. No-one is arguing that he’s a good or even regular person. However, the timing of his punishment, the possible involvement of officials in the administration and their statements about the case, suggest that there’s more going on than just an objective enforcement of the law.

    It’s clear that there are many people that want Youssef punished precisely for the video and view his sentencing in that light. The reasoning seems to be that only a bad person would make such a thing, and his crimes confirm his badness. In an indirect way he’s getting what he deserves for the video, even if it’s not “official.” Something like this attitude can be perceived in your and Glans’s posts, with the evident glee you take in the fraudster’s punishment. No doubt there are many in the government who feel the same way.

    The situation of the Copts in Egypt is not irrelevant. One might ask why a Coptic person, even a bad one, might make a video attacking Muslims, however crude (I haven’t seen the video and don’t plan to, so I don’t really know how crude it is). Answers found in the media were either that Youssef was a bad person, or that Christians are just intolerant. If there was any mention that the Copts might have some justifiable resentment at the way they are treated by the Muslim majority, I didn’t see it. It confirms the attitude of Western media and the human rights “industry” to religious minorities in Muslim countries – they barely exist. And who wants to say that the Arab Spring might represent a catastrophe for them?

    But none of this matters, and practically no-one cares anyway. Anyone can see that Youssef’s sentencing is objectively just, and there’s the obvious subtext that saying anything publicly critical of Islam, or the actions of people in Muslim countries, will get you special attention from the government, and who wants that? It’s rare for things to come together so perfectly.

    That’s it, I’m out.

  14. I’ve just seen this strip of comments. I hadn’t focussed on the case because I felt that a parole violator should simply be sent to jail for his violation. But then I saw the name of the judge, and I think that all the normal American conspiracy theories are worthless. I actually have litigated against Judge Snyder when she was a lawyer, and so know her a little. I don’t think there’s much likelihood that she’d take an instruction from any administration, Republican or Democrat, to sentence anyone to jail. She sent the guy to jail because he violated the terms of his parole (and in my opinion, for what it’s worth, in an unusually offensive, derogatory series of acts of criminal misconduct, deliberately done with full awareness of what he was doing.)

    Now I don’t doubt that the administration instructed the US Attorney (a federal employee) to seek a suitable term of imprisonment, thereby satisfying the Dept of State. But the guy invited it: he is, under any meaning of the term, a crook. As a nation, we routinely sentence public figures to jail for their crimes, regardless of the current good that they may be doing in other parts of their lives…examples are Dan Rostenkowski, and the soon-to-be-felon Jesse Jackson Jr on the Democrat side, and Governor Craig of Minnesota on the Republican side. The movie, good or bad, hysterically anti-Mohammed or utterly true, is irrelevant to the parole violation: it was simply the reason that the crook came to the gummint’s attention again, and for that he has only his own stupidity and duplicity to blame.

    Now we routinely condemn North Korea for every act of terrorism…we don’t say, let it slide because their intentions are pure and it’s just their methods that stink. It’s the same with this crook. He’s running a smokescreen to hide his guilt (and it’s serious guilt to use aliasses to do what you have been explicity ordered not to do, and which you have exzplicitly agreed not to do.) The guy’s bad.

  15. A UN report says North Korea’s harvest has improved, but it’s still short of fat and protein, and it will need imports.

    “North Korean farmers have recently mentioned that a proposed directive would allow them to sell or barter their surplus food at market, a move apparently aimed at boosting productivity on collective farms.”

    Nicole Winfield reports at Big Story AP.

  16. No, Rhesus, you are the one who missed the point. It doesn’t matter if people wanted the filmmaker punished for making the film. All that matters is whether the one-year sentence for parole violations was appropriate and whether or not the DOJ gave any direction to local law enforcement in handling his case, I do not think Nakoula Basseley Nakoula is a bad guy because he made a short film that mocked Islam. I think he is a bad guy because he misled the actors regarding the film,, and because he lied that an Israeli Jew named Sam Bacile was behind the movie.

  17. Sonagi, it was a federal case. The only thing local law enforcement did was arrest the guy. If it was appropriate to prosecute him, it was appropriate for the federal department of justice to request assistance from the local police.

    Like you, and unlike Joshua, I think pretending to be a Jew while insulting Islam is despicable. Like you, Joshua, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton, I think the US constitution protects “blasphemy”.

  18. Sonagi, you’ve been arguing as though Joshua and I had suggested that Nikoula shouldn’t have been sentenced, or that his sentence itself was unjust. That seems like missing the point to me, but just so this doesn’t turn into yet another “no, you!” internet argument, I’ll say “okay.”

    If this case had happened without any media attention, it would likely have little political meaning. But the video’s content and the reaction to it make it significant. Nikoula came to the renewed attention of the government because of the reaction his video caused. There’s no other reason. People in both the Muslim world and the U.S. vigorously protested. They condemned the video and demanded that its maker be punished. He was quickly identified and investigated. Saying that all this somehow doesn’t matter, that for some reason it had nothing to do with the outcome, is just bizarre.

    The administration has been trying to cultivate good relations with Egypt and other Muslim countries. The video was therefore a great embarrassment, which is made clear in the statements by our officials. What to do? When the crank Terry Jones wanted to burn a Koran a few years ago, Obama himself made an appeal for him not to. This shows how seriously the government takes its outreach to Muslims (it’s certain that he would’ve made no such appeal if Jones had wanted to burn one or a dozen Bibles). Unfortunately, Jones didn’t have a police record, so there was nothing the government could do. Nikoula being a criminal makes things much easier.

    In politics, perception is often (perhaps usually) more important than truth. How do you think ordinary people, who aren’t following this case closely, are going to perceive it? Nikoula made an insulting video about Islam, he was investigated and then punished. That’s the message.

    The result is, in effect, a propaganda victory for the administration. Nikoula has been punished, so the protestors may be appeased. At the same time, the administration can say to its critics, “He was punished for his crimes, not the video. The video has nothing to do with it. Really.”

    This illustrates another important part of politics – defining certain activities as not allowed, even when it’s not yet possible to make them officially illegal. At this point we can’t legally punish someone for insulting or criticizing members of a (certain) religion. However, we can focus the attention of the government on them. This can discourage them, but if we actually turn up something nasty in their past, all the better. Knowing this, how many conscientious people will say anything that could be construed as critical of Islam?

    But this is only a temporary condition. It seems certain that some kind of hate-speech legislation is coming, so that something like Nikoula’s film will be an actual crime in the future. At least by then everyone’s motivations will be clear.

    Oh, and Glans, here’s an encouraging story about those stupid Copts getting what they deserve. I’m sure you’ll get some giggles out of it:

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