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New at Reason: Could the growth of weblogging into a quasi-professional industry be taking the fun out of blogs? Assuming for the sake of argument that there was ever anything "fun" about blogging, Julian Sanchez casts a cold eye on the Kos affair.

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  1. Markos Moulitsas Zuniga is a tard. His comments about mercenaries show how little he knows of the field. As an individual who someday hopes to get into the field that Blackwater is in, I can’t help but take it personally. Merecenaries are a neutral force, directed only by the market, and those in charge of the company. That alone gives them a moral advantage over national armies. Plus, with mercenaries, they can be contracted by a government as needed.

    A way to maintain an elite, well equipped, professional army …without a 6 billion dollar budget? I say rot in hell, Zuniga.

  2. Oops, by 6 billion I meant whatever the US military budget was. I don’t know why I said 6B. Probably should lay off the MS Contin…

  3. Oops, by 6 billion I meant whatever the US military budget was. I don’t know why I said 6B. Probably should lay off the MS Contin…

  4. Apologies for the double post.

  5. Julian,
    You forgot to mention that the Kerry blog delinked Kos as a result of the flap as well. Smart move by Kerry. I wouldn’t want to be associated with a comment like that if I were running for president either.

  6. Oops, never mind. That was the “formal response” by the Kerry campaign. My bad.

  7. Ahh, the power of the pen (keyboard).Or maybe it was that stinkin fecal tsunami!

  8. So the blogosphere is starting to become like every other ‘marketplace’? Oh boo-hoo-hoo.

  9. So the blogosphere is starting to become like every other ‘marketplace’? Oh boo-hoo-hoo.

  10. I was disappointed in the article.

    I thought I was going to read about “When Bloggers Attack Julian Sanchez”

    I don’t have anything against Julian; I just thought it would be interesting to read about him being attacked by bloggers.

    Oh well…

  11. Julian’s piece isn’t bad, but his thesis is that the outrage over Kos’ statement is ritual or exaggerated, and I don’t think it is. Sure, there’s been some controversy, and some ads got pulled. So what? When an American with a minor but semi-well-known soapbox says “screw them” about four Americans who got murdered in a barbarous way, he deserves to catch some flak. If Kos gets yanked from his ISP or his statement gets used in campaign ads, I’ll say that a mountain has been made from a molehill, but not before then.

    Something else galling about his statement is that the murdered men weren’t “mercenaries” by any reasonable definition: they were security guards guarding a convoy delivering food to Falluja.

  12. Yes, though contrary to popular lore, mercenaries are routinely contracted for assistance in humanitarian operations. Their bad rep stems from EO’s work in Africa. Mostly the result of a lot of pissed off Communist revolutionaries… errr, former revolutionaries, thanks to the mercenaries who were contracted by the legitimate regime, I believe.

  13. What a joke the right has become!When,the party of compassion has yelped loudly that America is THE greatest nation on earth because of it’s freedoms,goes on to denounce someone applying their right to free speech it becomes hypocrytical.Then again what can we expect from those that turn their eyes to truth and real justice.To decide that someone is bad or evil for their opinion is to decide that all people of this country are going to hell.I know that the influence of the religious right have gotten their claws into every single voter on the right,but you people have gone beyond reasonable!When will we get relief from the repression of those few that think that freedom is’nt about changging us all into mindless zombies?!

  14. Yeah, they were delivering food… to U.S. troops. Check out this Jobs Available page from their employer

    http://www.blackwatersecurity.com/resumescrub.html

    and please tell me how anyone doing these things, in the pay of the U.S. government, for the benefit of the U.S. military, is by any meaningful definition a “civilian.”

  15. Smalfish,

    Are you for real? Last I heard, Kos hasn’t had a bullet put through his head by Ashcroft’s storm troopers. He is not in jail, and the goverment has not siezed any of his personal property. What has happened is some of his advertisers, excercising their own right to freedom of expression, have decided they don’t want to be associated with the views he expressed. And some other citizens, also with websites, expressed distaste, displeasure, and quite often annoyingly self-rightous indignation.

    In other words, the system works.

  16. Smalfish, denouncing someone for the content of their speech is also free speech. “Free speech” doesn’t mean “speech that cannot be criticized.”

    MB, I didn’t say they were civilians, I just said they weren’t really “mercenaries.”

  17. There are two additional sins that make this even worse. I’ve just read about these, haven’t verified them, but: a) he played the Race Card and called himself a victim, and b) he tried to erase this from google’s cache.

    I’ve been on to Kos for a while. He banned me after I pointed out that the source for one of his Iraq pictures was not al Jazeera as he claimed, but aljazeerah.info.

  18. PapayaSF,
    They were mercs. Armed guards of a military food convoy are still mercenaries. They were doing a job usually reserved for American troops or reservists, for higher pay. You call them “contract security,” Kos calls them “mercenaries.” Po-tay-toe vs Po-ta-toe.

  19. Armed guards of a military food convoy are still mercenaries.

    Interesting definition. So if Marines had been guarding the convoy, they would have been mercenaries? Or if Iraqi police had been guarding the convoy, they would have been mercenaries? After all, all three groups are (a) paid, (b) armed, and (c) guarding.

    If you want to get technical about it, most of us are mercenaries — most of us, whether we’re garbagemen, soldiers, engineers or McDonald’s employees, perform our jobs solely because we’re paid. Check a Merriam-Webster; that’s the definition of a mercenary.

    People commonly reserve the term “mercenary” for soldiers who fight solely for money, rather than for a country. It is not used to refer to everyone with a gun who cashes a paycheck. The four dead men were not soldiers and weren’t acting as soldiers; they were security guards.

    What’s more interesting to me is why the term “mercenary” is supposed to be bad. Certainly there have been countless mercenaries who have committed countless atrocities this century, but the same statement applies to the terms “left-winger” and “right-winger”. What matters isn’t that the men carried guns and cashed paychecks (unless, of course, you believe that money and/or guns are inherently evil, which many do), but what they did with those guns. These men guarded food; unless the food in question was Soylent Green, they’re morally unimpeachable.

  20. hqm sez:

    Merecenaries are a neutral force, directed only by the market, and those in charge of the company. That alone gives them a moral advantage over national armies.

    moral advantage? how does that work? i’d agree (to no one’s surprise, given the forum) that freer markets are “morally” preferable to less free markets, but i fail to see how pointing your guns away from the highest bidder is “morally advantage[ous]” over joining your nation’s armed forces and following orders.

    if your argument is that the u.s., thanks to its freer markets, has more money and can therefore afford the best mercenaries, what happens when the axes of evil-doing america-haters pool their money? maybe you’re supposing that the mercenaries would vary their price according to which causes appeal to their red-blooded freedom-loving tendencies, such that even an oil-rich osama bin laden can’t afford their services.

    but that leaves the troubling-to-some fact that these folks profit from war. if you’re of the opinion that peace is morally preferable to war (admittedly up for debate in every instance), then it’s difficult to square that with the contention that there’s a moral advantage enjoyed by a class of warriors who have an incentive to make, continue, and prolong war, as opposed to ordinary soldiers, who, i’d assume, all else being equal, would prefer safety and proximity to home over whatever extra they earn for combat pay.

  21. Yep, it’s ugly and stupid:

    …wishing for pro-Palestinian activist Rachel Corrie, crushed by an Israeli bulldozer last year, to “burn in hell”

    or just plain stupid:

    At last count, Kos had dropped some $60,000 into the DNC’s collection plate .

    …in some regions of the blogoshpere

  22. C’mon Rick, you exaggerate – its all been very entertaining. Atrios the anti-ashcroft appears to have purged all liberal dissenters from his blog-roll besides threatening some sort of non-cooperation (i didn’t quite understand what he was saying he would do or else) if the troops didn’t shape up & fall in line. He’s also dug up incriminating evidence on that Michael Friedman dude. Turns out that this avatar of moral clarity is an apologist for the perpetrators of the Tiannamen Square massacre. Friedman then showed up in Atrios’s comment section to defend himself and ended up apologising for the “Butchers of Beijing” some more. Blamed the western media for T Square, he did. Boyoboy what comes next ? Just when the blog world was getting stale & boring.

  23. Mostly outrage is an etymological confusion that became a covert doctrine.

    “Outrage” comes from French “outre,” beyond what is proper, plus a noun suffix -age. In English that forms the word “rage,” and you get a covert doctrine : what is beyond what is proper deserves rage – the word itself says so! The doctrine is so useful that the word was reimported into French in the new meaning.

    Any slight or nuance now provokes rage that is its own justification. “As you can see, an outage has been committed, because I am raging.”

  24. jason ligon:

    you’re presuming that the interests of the for-profit warriors parallel those of their paymasters. i agree, nations can hire mercenaries in order to bring peace, but i think it would be very easy for soldiers of fortune to realize that their continued good fortunes are tied to the continuing need for their services.

    teaching is a disanalogous context because the theater in which one’s ability to teach is measured regularly, predictably, periodically — with every report card, by the school calendar, or per semester. because the semester cannot be prolonged indefinitely, it’s in the teacher’s interest to tailor their teaching to be “finished” by the time finals come around, and to have done a good enough job so that the student makes a solid reference for future work.

    in the situation in which there is no such structure (private language tutoring, for example) the student should usually be in a good position to judge the effectiveness of the teacher, as compared to other claims of effectiveness in the market. but, insofar as there’s no telling how well the teacher is doing, as in, for example, i don’t know … the new-age yogi context: the lessons are never-ending. it’s against the teacher’s interest to say, voila! you’re enlightened! congrats! tell a friend!

    i think mercenaries are more like the unaccountable yogi.

    if the military were truly completely privatized, then how would they be accountable to the citizenry? through oversight by the people’s elected political representation? but how would senators and presidents know what’s going on in iraq? through military intelligence? so that part’s not privatized? then where do they get their data? from military commanders? so they’re not privatized either? etc., etc., ad infinitum.

    and at some point you wonder why any of it would be privatized. maybe you can privatize the cannon fodder without worrying about accountability — either they follow orders well or they are fired and/or killed — but at that point how much would they be worth? aren’t we getting a better bargain on our oil for blood program what with the GI bill and all, as opposed to paying people whatever they would actually charge for such dangerous work in a real market?

    so maybe now i’ve answered my own original question and see how this arrangement would be morally superior.

  25. gary zimmons:

    You seem to be presuming that private contractors work to increase violence rather than increase peace, because that is where their checks come from. I don’t know that the incentives work that way. They have incentive to bring peace in hostile areas.

    By analogy, would you argue that private teachers work to increase stupidity?

  26. Kos did not “play the race card,” wacko. He provided relevant background information from his upbringing to clarify his hostility to mercs.

    But because some of that relevant background including mentioning that’s he’s from Latin America, you try to make the argument about racism. Now THAT’s playing the race card.

    Repeatedly shouting “He’s crying wolf!” can be a form of crying wolf, too.

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