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Journal: Dr SimianOverlord, back from the dead

Journal by SimianOverlord

2006. Holy shit. Did I really use to be on Slashdot? Back then, I was working just outside of London - as the name suggests, using primates as a model of HIV infection. The funny thing with research is that you're busy all the time, but with significant downtime in between. I should have been reading the literature, catching up on my reports or presentations, or figuring out some other experiment I could slip in between my main ones. But I wasn't. I had discovered slashdot.

Slashdot filled that entertainment gap for me, since I was too lazy to check more than one site, and I was an asshole who liked to give my opinions to other people. And boy, did I post a whole lot of crap, now I come back to look over it. Most of it is just amusing to me now, I can't even remember posting half of it, nor can I really remember how I knew what I was posting about, since I don't know it any longer. Perhaps the daily wash of topic summaries that gave me that knowledge has been wiped away by the past few years.

I ended up leaving my job, where I was a lowly research assistant because I did a PhD. No point in pursuing research if you don't have one - you're following orders for the rest of your life. So now 4 years later I have the piece of paper and the sense of anticlimax. It isn't a big deal to anyone but my parents and employers, now that I've gone through the crucible. It was the same old shit, only far more complex, far more arduous and demanding far more stamina then I could ever have realised (and I'm glad I didn't, because I wouldn't have done it.)

I'm now the Internet's passing expert in a minute part of a minute field of human research, I've got some published research and I'm getting at last the Post Doc jobs. I went from HIV research right out to left field, into Cutaneous research, specifically proteins of the terminally differentiating keratinocytes that make up your skin surface. What I research won't cure cancer, it won't really help in wound healing, inflammation, allergic responses, squamous cell carcinomas, the horror of skin diseases like psoriasis, atopic dermatitis or anything else. Probably. But you never know with basic research. You just never know.

User Journal

Journal: UK Health - Following the Blogs

Journal by SimianOverlord
You know, blogs get a really bad name, and in most cases that is justified. But even the hardiest cynic would admit that there are some of them out there that are an absolute pleasure to read.

I'm UK based, and a lot of our professionals have been slow to catch up on the "blogging revolution". There's a couple of obvious reasons for that. Most professionals have little time during the day to devote to themselves, and of that little time, only a small percentage would have the interest or basic know how to use the Internet.

But in the last year or so, papers like the Guardian or Times have, from time to time, run stories to fill their respective technology sections outlining blogs, the role of bloggers and covering some juicy blogging related stories, I'm thinking here of the Rather memos, as a good example.

This has slowly led to an education of the sort of people who I'd love to write about their day to day activities, and who probably have the least amount of time to do so. They've cottoned on to the opportunities the medium has to offer, and are slowly but unmistakeably making use of them.

A particularly interesting aspect of modern British life is the health service. It's one of the biggest employers in Britain, and its one of the hardest subjects to get any accurate information on. The picture is so obscured by spin, by outright lies, by behind-the-scenes manoueverings, and by shoddy reporting, that it is difficult to see the big picture, to work out how the people IN the NHS view a lot of the government rubbish coming out, the target culture, etc. etc.

So I thought it kind of neat that I can follow a large number of different parts of the NHS by reading what the actual people who work there have to say. I can hear what standard of care GPs expect, what paperwork they have to deal with, and get some sort of insight into what their usual day is like. I can read what Ambulance men deal with daily, what they think of their latest paydeal. I can read what the dispatchers dislike, and what they have to put up with. And many more, to many to list, of varying quality slightly less than the three excellent ones referenced above.

I hate the word blog, and the mundane discourse of most of them as much as the next man, but I have to admit, when there is a good one, there's no way I'd rather spend a slow afternoon.
User Journal

Journal: Irreducible complexity and a man on top of a cliff 6

Journal by SimianOverlord
An oft-cited explanation for many people's belief in Intelligent Design(ID) is the argument of "Irreducible Complexity". This states that certain processes, structures, or biomechanics due to their inherent complexity, or their reliance on many simultaneous, finely interdependent parts, could not have resulted from Darwinian evolution.

A common example of this was the bacterial flaggellum, which is a thick rod extruding from some bateria that is spun around to move them through their liquid habitat. The complexity of the flaggelum, which has about 80 moving parts that each require the other moving parts for the whole to function correctly could not have come about through darwinian selection, it was argued. For any one part to evolve needed the other parts in place - any one component could not evolve without the others, or the flaggellum would not work.

The flagellum example was popular until it was shown that other, more primitive forms of flaggellum exist - an intermediate, simpler form that gave a sort of snapshot of how evolution had created the finely functioning finished flagellum.

Blood clotting is the latest example. Blood clotting is a fantastically intricate process that requires the simultaneous interactions of hundreds of proteins. Therefore... yadda, yadda, you get the picture.

The problem with irreducible complexity is obvious. As the evolution of one complex piece of machinery or one convoluted biological process is partially explained, proponents can simply surf onto another. There are plenty of examples of complicated processes in biology, after all, and science is not so advanced as to be able to outline plausible evolutionary paths for all of them.

You see, the structures and processes we see now are, to us, the final product. Unlike larger features that can be traced in the fossil record, no stone-imprinted proof awaits our discovery of the evolution of blood clotting agents, there aren't always easily discoverable primitive forms of flagellum, because the prototypes have died off, their descendents inheriting the final, seemingly perfect form.

The sum of irreducible complexity comes down to "evolution is disproven because we cannot see it working", which is no satisfying argument at all.

Imagine a man climbing a cliff with only a short ladder. Fortunately, the cliff has many horizontal ledges set not too far apart that he can scale. He sets his ladder, clambers up, then lifts his ladder up after him. In this way, from ledge to ledge, he can scale the cliff, which is many times higher than his ladder. Someone, who hadn't observed the process, and who believes in irreducible complexity, might imagine that the man must have had outside help to scale the whole cliff. After all, his ladder is too short to reach the top. And there is no evidence of the ladder left behind on any of the ledges.
User Journal

Journal: P23 5S

Journal by SimianOverlord
And anon, I would look upward, and see the grey, metalled mountain going up measureless into the gloom of the everlasting night; and from my feet the sheer downward sweep of the grim, metal walls, six full miles, and more, to the plain below.

William Hope Hodgsen, The Night Land

The Ghost Pirates was pretty good. It'd make a good movie, I was thinking.
User Journal

Journal: Dumb little "amigos" trick 2

Journal by SimianOverlord
It's kind of fun. I don't know if anyone's noticed it before. There's a useful little feature called "amigos" which lets you catch up on all the journals your friends have written recently, in a nice readable format. Yours is here.

But if you want to read what other people's friends are saying you can...

Read t_m_p's friends journals
Read OnLawn's friends journals
Read Railgunner's friends journals

Or Cyrano, or geoswan, or ...Fortknox, the nexus ... anyone really. Just change the UID in the URL ( http://slashdot.org/journal.pl?op=friendview&uid=XXXX&start=0) to the one you want. Or if you have firefox, Bookmark this, and set it to a keyword, ie "sf" for "slashfriends". Then you can type "sf UID" into your location bar and get up a set of friends journals.

It's nice to be able to use other people's friends networks to discover regular journallers, especially if they have hardly any overlap with your own. Here's my own.
User Journal

Journal: Explosions in London

Journal by SimianOverlord
Breaking news on the BBC.

First reports suggested a power surge on the London Underground stopped trains and possibly caused a collision. Since then I've heard:

whole Underground has been closed

About 30 deaths according to eyewitness who had spoken to police

An eyewitness said a litterbin had exploded

Recently, there have been reports of a bus exploding.

Watching it on the bbc website, listening on 5 live

Too early to say what is really going on.

UPDATE: National Gird have confirmed there was no power surge. Areas have been cordoned off, fatalities have been reported.

Businesses

Journal: Business Opportunity (NOT NIGERIAN) 4

Journal by SimianOverlord

I'm looking for a general manager to do all the work for this great startup idea I've had. I wanted to recruit the cream of the crop, which is why I'm posting this to journal land. No timewasters here.

Anyway, I'm going to start a new product called... wait for it... Open Sauce. It's ketchup - but with a twist. The twist is the name! The brilliance is in the simplicity.

I'm looking for someone to buy lots of Heinz ketchup at wholesale, steam off the labels and gum on my new ones. I'll advertise my product on Slashdot. You can get 10% of any profit or losses made.

Geeks will love adding Open Sauce to any closed shop traditional fries they have. And it works brilliantly with other foods too! I plan on sending a complimentary box to Linux, ESR, RMS and Bruce Perens for the cachet. Maybe it could have Linus's head on the bottle.

Here's a mock up. I used an old photo of Linus deliberately, to flatter him. Open Sauce - Good With Anything.

The Gimp

Journal: I'm drunk and it's all OnLawn's fault 2

Journal by SimianOverlord
You see (this will go down on my permanent record), I invented an OnLawn drinking game.

It's quite simple - but the beauty lies in the simplicity, you see. For this you need:
  • Abouta week's worth of posts by OnLawn
    • A bottle of "liquor" as you Yanks callit
      • (optional) An open communicative portal with a like minded Slarshdort regular

        The RULES

        The RULES are very simple. You must take a drink whenever you come across a post of OnLawn's made in the last week where he does one of the following: (if you are playing with a friend, the first to paste the uuuuh-rl gets the drink)

        Take a drink ifffffffffff......

        OnLawn says: "I'm chuckling as I write this"
        OnLawn posts more than 5 times in one thread in any one journal
        OnLawn gets the last post in a thread
        He misspells something
        He writes something that makes no obvious sense, from the point of view of the standard rules for grammar and the glorious English language, God save our Queen.
        OnLawn accuses someone of being something he seems to be
        OnLawn mocks Tom Hudson, T_M_P, or agrees with RailGunner, nccWTF, Mike Hawk etc.
        OL jumps into a thread of which he has played no part to add meta-thread detail ie. "You are against the ropes / You have lost / You have been played off the park / Game, Set and Match"
        OL repeats his word of the week ie egregious (word of the week can be identified by careful analysis of several posts)

        I only read one post of his and I'm drunk as a skunk.

        P.S. If he references "Men's News Daily" or the "WSJ" or mentions gay marriage in a journal entry you have to drink a double.
User Journal

Journal: "Slashstantiated" 2

Journal by SimianOverlord
What if... pudge replied in his usual slapdashdot style....??

To: Seattle P-I Editorial Page, Seattle P-I Ombudsman
From: pudge

In a letter the other day, "More evidence that Bush & Co. used false pretenses," the letter writer wrote:

"With the recent disclosure of the secret British memorandum that substantiates the testimony of terrorism expert Richard Clarke and the writing of ex-Secretary of the Treasury Paul O'Neill, it should be abundantly clear that President Bush, Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice and Donald Rumsfeld conspired to lie to justify the war against Iraq."

This is not true. The memorandum does not substantiate anything. To substantiate is to "support with proof or evidence." Every definition of the word has the sense of using facts, evidence, etc. to back up an assertion. But the memorandum merely makes an undetailed claim, without even attempting to back it up.

I know it is a letter, but the letters you publish should not make blatantly false claims. A better rewriting may have been something along the lines of, "... memorandum that reiterated the claims made by Clarke and O'Neill ..."

============

To: pudge
From: Seattle P-I Ombudsman

Dear pudge: Thanks for your message. I can appreciate what you are saying.

However, the idea of the letters column is to let readers express their opinions. Something that is proof in one person's mind is not proof in another's.

To turn the tables a bit, a person could believe that Newsweek's reporting of a Koran being flushed down the toilet at Guantanamo Bay was proof that the magazine is trying to make the U.S. or its military look bad. Other people would disagree. And that's the basis for printing both opinions. The idea is to further the discussion.

I see you've written this to editpage, so the editors involved will have read your message. We appreciate your interest and that you took the time to write.

============

To: Seattle P-I Editorial Page, Seattle P-I Ombudsman
From: pudge

Dear pudge: Thanks for your message. I can appreciate what you are saying.

I am sure you would like to believe that I appreciate what you are saying.

However, the idea of the letters column is to let readers express their opinions. Something that is proof in one person's mind is not proof in another's.

No, it isn't. You're lying.

To turn the tables a bit, a person could believe that Newsweek's reporting of a Koran being flushed down the toilet at Guantanamo Bay

This has nothing to do with our topic of discussion. You have lied and now you are covering your tracks.

And that's the basis for printing both opinions. The idea is to further the

One of the opinions was FACT, not opinion. My opinion. By giving one undue prominance you have perpetuated a lie and therefore, are a twice documented liar.

I see you've written this to editpage, so the editors involved will have read your message. We appreciate your interest and that you took the time to write.

I am sure you would like me to believe that you think I would likely substantiate that you believe I would think so. I would not.

Regards.

============

To: pudge
From: Seattle P-I Ombudsman

pudge: Thanks for the clarification. I'll share it with the editorial page editor.
We appreciate your intensity.
The Matrix

Journal: More Republican Cognitive Dissonance

Journal by SimianOverlord
Newsweek is incredible! They printed inflammatory allegations that have caused deaths around the globe based on single source! How could they do such a thing?

You critics are incredible! While we may have deliberately manipulated public opinion with inflammatory allegations like 'Saddam had mobile chemical weapons labs' based on a single source, it's no big deal. Get over it!

The CIA's assessment that Iraq had secret arsenals of deadly bioweapons, the report said, "was based largely on reporting from a single human source," Curveball, even though his reporting "came into question in late 2002." The failure to communicate serious concerns about him to Powell and other policy makers "represents a serious failure of management and leadership," the commission concluded.

I see Malkin's providing her usual unintentionally hilarious commentary "Newsweek lied*, People died". Following the asterix leads us to:
"* Didn't think I needed to s-p-e-l-l i-t o-u-t, but some readers asked for clarification. Newsweek was reckless and sloppy and wrong. But I do not think the magazine "lied." Just thought it a very appropriate moment to do a boomerang on the moonbats' most dishonest and annoying meme."

Let me paraphrase: "* Although I said Newsweek lied, they didn't. I didn't think I needed to make that clear for my readers, who must be aware by now I make shit up all the time. I just thought it was appropriate to show how the "moonbats" use lying and annoying phrases. I did this by err...lying and... errr...echoing a phrase to annoy them. Goddam moonbats wouldn't see the logic in that."

Worms

Journal: Creation and Evolution: A Collision of World Views 27

Journal by SimianOverlord
What do you call it when two different people can look at the same data set and come to two completely different and largely incompatible conclusions? Moreover, two conclusions that implicitly depend on the way they view the world around them, the path they have travelled, their experiences and attained knowlege, their upbringing, their highs and lows? For want of a better word, I would call it a collision of worldviews. And I believe I detect it in specific instances of the Creationism/ Evolution debate.

Let's explore this intellectual abstraction, bearing in mind it is a only a vehicle to tune our minds for thinking in a particular way about this particular debate, and will, like all analogies, fit some situations well and some situations ill.

I guess I would call these two worldviews Religious and Scientific. A religious worldview holder looks over the wonder of the world around them, and sees the seemingly random little choices they have made in their life that have turned out for the better, and detects in them the hand of the divine, intervening in a million small miracles everyday to shape the lives of friends, loved ones and him; or her;-self. There is magic in the world that confounds or supplements the rational basis of God's creation.

A scientific worldview holds that the universe around him is shaped by rational laws set down at the birth of the universe and varying only slightly since then, events in someone's life are the result of a intricate network of interrelationships, the wonder of the world is appreciated in the complex interplay of physical laws and condensations of matter, and best understood by the aristotlean method of hierarchies, by division of physical objects or forces into smaller and smaller atomies, catagorising, understanding and aiding fine manipulation of these forces.

On the face of it, a Scientific and a Religious person could cohabit peacefully without rancour, though both might pity the other for what they percieve as their narrow minded and stunted appreciation of the world around them.

But in certain debates, data from the scientific community of individuals impacts on the worldview of those who hold a religious way of looking at things. And it impacts on sub categories of those who hold religious viewpoints differently depending on when they believe divine intervention occurred.

For example, if one were to believe God created the Universe and set it spinning off into the void with conditions carefully selected to produce these laws, this earth, and this people, then essentially left it alone thereafter, evolution is a dead duck - it impacts not at all on this belief system. These people are rare, but are over represented in science.

Most religious worldviews I am familiar with hold that God not only went through this initial creation, but also intervened in key periods in human history, as outlined by one of their holy books. Evolution impacts on these people depending on how holy they consider their truth, how dogmatic they are about their scripture. There is a spectrum within the spectrum therefore, from people who believe, say, the Bible IS Gods work, but transcribed through the faulty hand of man, and full of metaphor which is often mistaken for literal truth. This group can accept evolution, and explain away biblical conventions, though perhaps are not fully comfortable in doing so.

At the other end of the spectrum is the fully dogmatic, who believe every literal word of the Bible, that Methuslah lived to 720 years old, that the earth was created in 6 days (nearly wrote 7), only a couple of thousand years ago, and it is with these people that Scientific worldview holders have the greatest arguments with.

For one thing, science hates dogma. It continually attacks it, trying to find places where an apparant fact or theory breaks down, looking for chinks in its armour, eroding away its conclusions. Only the best dogma, that which corresponds closest to the truth, survives this process, and it is embraced at the end of it as Fact, written in textbooks and taught to the next generation. Thus holding to one particular set of facts without investigation or critical thinking is especially galling to scientists.

For another, dogmatics appear to believe turnabout is fair play. If scientists are attacking their beliefs, it is perfectly fair to take the battle to science on its own scientific ground. Witness the plethora of sites attacking evolution on seemingly rational, scientific bases. Sadly, there is little scientific evidence to counteract the Theory of Evolution, so too often the arguments of the Sophist come into play, misdirection, undue emphasis and outright lying. Again, this infuriates scientists, who view it as a form of cheating, or intellectual dishonesty, which is not tolerated in science (but sadly happens) because of the faith one scientist must hold in another. No scientist can repeat every experiment or test every theory leading to their own work, they must take it on faith that the scientist themselves was rigorous in their experiments, truthfully reported what they found, and were evaluated correctly by the community at large. Set against this background, no wonder science has a natural inbuilt hatred of charlatanism.

But this idea of worldviews shows just how futile the dogmatic / rationalist argument is - while scientists can refute arguments based on science by the usual process of quoting evidence, or informed opinion, arguments based on faith - "I believe it because I believe in God" for instance - cannot be refuted by any sort of rational analysis. Any argument based on logic is also based on the worldview of a rational universe with set laws and no 'magic', no 'god', no incredible miracles or divinity. And this worldview is implicitly never accepted by the very person you are trying to argue against.

So I would say, a large (or perhaps a small, but very vocal) part of the creationist / evolutionist argument is impossible to resolve through debate.

So to the point of this essay. It is the worldviews in competition here, one version will die out or transform and one will not. Therefore you must treat with the greatest hostility and suspicion any attempt to impose a worldview on people by the control of teaching to kids, because it is an attempt to perserve a rancourous debate, and to pass ones own dogma to a new generation.

And here I hit the limits of my understanding. Because the way schools are, and have always been set up, is to teach the rational view of the universe for example in the fields of physics, mathematics and biology. Creationism can't be taught in this framework. So the dogmatics appear doomed, and although from my own biases I would not be sorry to see them go, I can't help but feel a sense of loss that something that people believe in and have faith in should be inevitably steamrollered by a state institution, and a societal emphasis since the 1950s on science and its transforming powers. Who could have forseen it?

-----

I apologise for the mind-dump, I attempted to give it what structure I could. Also, I tried to eliminate bias towards a scientific viewpoint, apart from the meta-bias that is the whole essay itself; the division of the creationist / evolutionist argument into a hierarchy with defined and described subdivisions. I can't take out that bias, it's how I was taught to structure essays.

Just as a general note, I'd say its too easy for those with a scientific viewpoint to sneer at religious people. I try to remind myself that there is no way for me to tell if a more fufilling and enjoyable life is to be had through a spiritual or a rational life, which is all that matters in the end.

The topic icon is the worm in the apple.
Education

Journal: 30/330 1

Journal by SimianOverlord
I have been known to troll the frontpage from time to time. I'm pretty sure it's the only rational response possible to the front page. I draw the line at trolling journals, I have standards. Here are some trolls that I especially enjoyed writing, saved for posterity. Knock yourself out.

The SCO/ butter caper. One of my first, and probably the most successful. I was joking about, and was honestly surprised at how many people seemed to feel the need to respond to this. The people who wrote 1000 word essays correcting an analogy hopelessly flawed by design to begin with are pretty funny.

Some of the best trolls take a point of view you can almost, but not quite justify. I particularly enjoyed the absurd conclusion to this troll about REAL Security Problems. I got 4 new foes after this one, yes, 4 people who FOE someone because they insult Apple owners.

Defending the indefensible is always entertaining. The follow up was somewhat more successful.

I occassionally needed to let off some steam regarding certain geopolitical situations. Consider it therapy.

I felt necessary to remind everyone that we Brits invented the Internet whereas you Yanks are all just evil spammers. Firefox attracts such fanboiism that it irks me from time to time. I turned the stupidity dial up to 11 with this set of posts...

...and left it there: GOOGLE THIEVES, POLITICIANS ARE REPRESSED GAYS, Kerry's spirit impresses me, and ANIME IS OUTSOURCING.

Anyway, that's it. Out of 330 comments, I've made about 30 trolls. I write them because they make me laugh, and I want them to make other people laugh. As far as I'm concerned, posts like the Firefox ones aren't trolls: they're clearly jokes. Unfortunately, some people will just never get it. Some people will hold it against you if they feel you've somehow tricked them. And anyone on this site is going to take karma hits if they try to make people laugh, because +1 Funny doesn't count, but the moron modding -1 Offtopic does. I think its a shame, and it's why I spend more time in journal land than the frontpage, you're just freer to write whatever you want.

P.S. I posted ruined by the GNAA and ruined again, and was vastly amused to see one GNAA member on Wikipedia: Votes for Deletion arguing GNAA was notable because it "cost this one guy his job".
User Journal

Journal: Schoolkid Jailed for Evil Zombie Army Threat 4

Journal by SimianOverlord
Rejected article for YRO/It's Funny, Laugh. Probably didn't contain enough spelling or grammer errors or inept moralising:

SimianOverlord writes:" The Register reports on the case of William Poole, a student at George Rogers Clark High School, Winchester, Kentucky, who is facing a second degree felony terrorist threatening charge for writing a short story about zombies attacking a high school. His grandparents discovered the short story and naturally informed the authorities. Poole protested: "My story is based on fiction. It's a fake story. I made it up. [...] Yes, it did say a high school. It was about a high school over ran by zombies. It didn't mention nobody who lives in Clark County, didn't mention [his school], didn't mention no principal or cops, nothing." A judge recently ruled in favour of prosecuters seeking to raise his bail from $1,000 to $5,000, on the grounds of the "seriousness of the charge". Winchester Police detective Steven Caudill explains: "Anytime you make any threat or possess matter involving a school or function it's a felony in the state of Kentucky.""

To be honest, I was in two minds as to the way the write-up should go. On the face of it, its simply a ridiculous situation that should be regarded as somewhat of a joke. On the other hand, it would be easy enough to rewrite as a flagrant and stupid abuse of anti-terror laws, or a freedom of speech issue. Anyway, it was rejected in about 2 minutes.
User Journal

Journal: How Does America Score? 5

Journal by SimianOverlord
Parade magazine recently published a list of the top ten worlds worst dictators. You might be surprised by some of them:

1. Omar al-Bashir, Sudan.
Age 61. In power since 1989.
Last year's rank: 7

STATUS: American ENEMY.

2. Kim Jong Il, North Korea.
Age 62. In power since 1994.
Last year's rank: 1

STATUS: American ENEMY

3. Than Shwe, Burma.
Age 72. In power since 1992.
Last year's rank: 2

STATUS: American INDIFFERENCE, mild sanctions

4. Hu Jintao, China.
Age 62. In power since 2002.
Last year's rank: 3

STATUS: American ALLY

Despite China's economic liberalization, President Hu Jintao's government remains one of the most repressive. Some 250,000 Chinese are serving sentences in "re-education and labor camps." China executes more people than all other nations combined, often for nonviolent crimes. The death penalty can be given for burglary, embezzlement, counterfeiting, bribery or killing a panda. Hu's government controls all media and Internet use. Defense lawyers who argue too vigorously for clients' rights may be disbarred or imprisoned. And if minorities (such as Tibetans) speak out for autonomy, they're labeled "terrorists," imprisoned and tortured.

5. Crown Prince Abdullah, Saudi Arabia.
Age 81. In power since 1995.
Last year's rank: 5

STATUS: American ALLY, outsourced torture work to regime.

Women may not vote or run for office, owing to "technical difficulties": Most Saudi women don't have the photo IDs needed to register; there aren't enough female officials to register those who do; and men may not register women, because the sexes are forbidden to mingle in public. Worldwide, the royal family promotes an extreme form of Islam called Wahhabism, which considers all followers of other religions--even other Muslims--"infidels." In 2004, the U.S. State Department added Saudi Arabia to its list of nations in which religious liberty is severely violated.

6. Muammar al-Qaddafi, Libya.
Age 62. In power since 1969.
Last year's rank: Dishonorable mention

STATUS: American ENEMY, thawing towards INDIFFERENCE.

7. Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan.
Age 61. In power since 1999.
Last year's rank: Not mentioned

STATUS: American ALLY, outsourced torture work to regime.

Pakistan has endangered the world by spreading nuclear technology. Last year, it was discovered that Abdul Qadeer Khan, head of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program, had been selling nuclear technology to North Korea, Libya and Iran. As for civil liberties in Pakistan, a woman who has been raped may present her case only if she can produce four Muslim men who witnessed the attack.

8. Saparmurat Niyazov, Turkmenistan.
Age 64. In power since 1990.
Last year's rank: 8

STATUS: American ALLY, part of coalition of the willing
"He controls his one-party state with torture, disappearances, detentions, house demolitions, forced labor and exile. He muzzles all media, and it is illegal to criticize any of his policies."

9. Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe.
Age 80. In power since 1980.
Last year's rank: 4

STATUS: American INDIFFERENCE.

10. Teodoro Obiang Nguema,
Equatorial Guinea. Age 62.
In power since 1979. Last year's rank: 6

STATUS: American INDIFFERENCE, good relations, not an outright ally.

3 enemies, 4 indifferences and 4 Allies.

Let's leave the last word to Bush.

The only force powerful enough to stop the rise of tyranny and terror, and replace hatred with hope, is the force of human freedom. (Applause.) Our enemies know this, and that is why the terrorist Zarqawi recently declared war on what he called the "evil principle" of democracy. And we've declared our own intention: America will stand with the allies of freedom to support democratic movements in the Middle East and beyond, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world. (Applause.)

The United States has no right, no desire, and no intention to impose our form of government on anyone else. That is one of the main differences between us and our enemies. They seek to impose and expand an empire of oppression, in which a tiny group of brutal, self-appointed rulers control every aspect of every life. Our aim is to build and preserve a community of free and independent nations, with governments that answer to their citizens, and reflect their own cultures. And because democracies respect their own people and their neighbors, the advance of freedom will lead to peace. (Applause.)

Never ask two questions in a business letter. The reply will discuss the one you are least interested, and say nothing about the other.

Working...