Two examples of downright, calculating festive nefariousness have happened today in Afghanistan and China. One set of media-savvy people wanted to hide their cruelty and the other wanted to show it off. See if you can guess which is which.

The Chinese decided, completely by accident and with no thought that a lot of the West shuts down today, to sentence a political dissident, Liu Xiaobo, to 11 years for inciting "subversion of state power." It was the harshest punishment of a dissident for two decades, according to the Times of London. Liu published six critical articles on the internet and organized a petition. One of the demands of that petition was that "we should end the practice of viewing words as crimes." The irony will probably not keep him warm in Siberia or wherever the government send him.

In Afghanistan, meanwhile, the Taliban released a video of a captured American soldier to taunt his family on Christmas day. Which I suppose is not much worse than what went on in Abu Ghraib, but that's really no bar to be setting for decency to your fellow man. Pfc. Bowe Robert Bergdahl, 23, was captured in June. From CNN:

To release this video on Christmas Day is an affront to the deeply concerned family and friends of Bowe Bergdahl, demonstrating contempt for religious traditions and the teachings of Islam," said U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Gregory Smith, spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force.

To make it worse — the army has been unable to reach Bergdahl's family in Idaho because of the storm in the Midwest. People, people, people. Can we all just be a little nicer to each other? Have countless heartwarming Christmas movies in which a mean person learns the value of generosity and warmth not taught us anything? Copies of Trading Places and Scrooged should be dispatched to Hu Jintao and Maulana Fazlullah, or some other prominent Taliban leader, immediately.