Ashgabat airport

Paul Theroux's essay on Turkmenistan, "The Golden Man: Saparmurat Niyazov's reign of insanity," is no longer available on The New Yorker's site, but it's worth tracking down and reading in full. (Here's an abstract.)

All dictators are megalomaniacs, but Niyazov took things to a whole new level — proclaiming that his memoirs should be read as scripture and renaming the months and days of the week after himself and his mother.

On a tangential note, I liked this aside on the airport personnel in Ashgabat:

Few planes landed at the casino-like airport, which was staffed by officials with a very slim idea of how to do their jobs — a characteristic common to officials in most dictatorships, where fear of retribution inspires indecision and incompetence.

That applies as well, I think, to corporate America. Authoritarian leadership styles discourage competence. Competence requires the existence of an independent set of standards, those of a given craft. Leaders, or corporate managers, who insist on authoritarian control refuse to defer to such standards, and when the importance of those standards is reduced, the craft suffers.

This happens a lot, whether at the Ashgabat airport or in FEMA under the Bush administration. (I'm trying to state this in the abstract, but I'm also a copy editor for the largest newspaper chain in the country, so it's not an entirely abstract point for me.)

  • Drak Pope

    Three spambots posted comments just above.
    Oh……….. REALLY?

  • Jeff

    It seems that comments become open after a few days. The SpamBots never attack a current thread, but as soon as a thead has “lain fallow” for a few days, they’re all over it.
    Curious.

  • Drak Pope

    Spambots feed on helpless discussions. When the thread is still active, they hibernate until it dies and starts decomposing before swarming down upon it like a host of angry locusts.

  • Jeff

    Poor li’l discussions. Can’t we pass a Hate Crime Law against this sort of predetation?

  • Drak Pope

    No. It’s not an issue of hate; it’s an issue of predators and prey. Spambots evolved specifically to be able to hunt down dead threads; their noses are tuned to be able to sense the stink of a wildly off-topic and dispirited discussion and their words are basically designed to finish off the thread in a way that the “meat” as it were remains tender and flavorful.

  • Jesurgislac

    I’m vegetarian, myself. I hunt spambots for fun.

  • Jesurgislac

    I’m vegetarian, myself. I hunt spambots for fun.

  • Jeff

    Spambots evolved specifically to be able to hunt down dead threads
    [sarcasm] Great! [/sarcasm] Next you’re going to tell me that they’re an endangered species! (Jesu, you might want to put down the spear until we get a ruling.)

  • Drak Pope

    No, of course they’re not. Most forums / blogs / online newspaper articles are filled with abandoned or defunct discussions. They create ample habitats for spambots to hunt and raise their young. It is still important to avoid damaging their ecosystem by setting up spamblockers or something like that but otherwise they are not endangered in anyway.

  • Jeff

    I wonder then if we can captcha some for analysis (and dissection?)

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