Friday, December 18, 2009

420chan

With all the debate on the legalization of marijuana these days you probably know that drug culture is embedded in American culture from every head shop to Phish concert and if you’re hip you might have also noticed that everything from Lolcat’s to the use of words like “epic win” and “fail” are starting to make the leap from the web and into real life. But, in the underbelly of the internet unbeknownst to most, drug culture is beginning to merge with internet culture and a lot of it is happening on one of the premier image boards: 420chan.

If you don’t know what an image board is, it’s basically the same as a forum but with images as the primary focus and words being secondary. They operate faster, like a cross between a normal forum and a chatroom and they’ve been gaining a lot of popularity and attention. You may have heard of 4chan, whose members have had a hand in everything from inventing Rickrolling to staging worldwide protests against the Church of Scientology. It’s founder, Moot, has even had an interview with Time magazine. 4chan is now the 593rd most visited website on the internet according to Alexa.com, a traffic ranking service. This immense popularity, and in some cases power, has created an army of knockoffs (though 4chan was originally a copy of a Japanese site itself). Out of these copies only a few have managed to gain a following anywhere near that of their predecessor and one of these is the aforementioned 420chan.

These days the creation of imageboards is fairly easy. There is even an “Imageboard for Free” service available to host low bandwidth vanity chans. What makes an imageboard popular however has much less to do with the structure of the site and more with the culture that comes with it. 4chan’s popularity came from a combination of anime and japan related topics as well as its beginning on famous internet troll forum and comedy site somethingawful.com. Other boards have to find way to differentiate themselves and prove themselves worthwhile. For example: 711chan became popular when it hosted a board dedicated to assaulting websites its users deemed stupid. This lead to a tiny internet army known as the /i/nsurgency. 7chan on the other hand made its way through oddities such as boards dedicated to bees, zombies, and a “wine tasting” board filled with pictures of users sticking their genitals in glasses of wine.

Located at 420chan.org, 420chan’s main feature is an array of drug related boards including stimulants, opiates, cannabis, dissociatives, and a miscellaneous drug board. These boards are unique to 420chan and have brought it an audience that ties it for second place behind 4chan with a few others. 420chan, while transparently helmed by drug aficionados, states that its purpose is to provide a safe place for drug users to talk to each other with the goal of self-education. This harm-prevention stance is held by many drug related publications and groups and goes a long way to prove that 420chan is not a dangerous den of career criminals. 420chan has more to offer than that though. It has boards dedicated to nerdier topics such as anime, dinosaurs, comics, and Pokémon as well as many more general and accessible boards with topics like fitness, food, television, literature, and technology. The site may be rooted in internet geek culture, but the boards that differentiate it bring in a new crowd not often seen on the internet. Here a strange combination takes place, where drug culture starts melding with internet culture. Somewhere between hippies and hackers we find pot smoking Pikachu’s and ketamine inspired MSpaint comics. 420chan has not only provided a starting point for a focused drug culture on the internet, it has violently smashed it into the pre-existing culture to produce an extremely bizarre mashup.

420chan started as a joke, a surprisingly common way for these unlikely behemoths. Many of the chans are made for their creators to have fun in and end up finding themselves the target of huge amounts of traffic when 4chan goes down. From there they grow their own userbase and eventually find themselves with a solid foundation. In the original F.A.Q. provided by the website’s founder, he states:

“Well one day I was sitting around and I noticed that my new hosting package allowed for a single free domain name registration. I was with Tinal [an ex-mod and friend of his] at the time and he came up with "420chan", a stupid combination of 4chan and drugs. I decide to use this suggestion, and register it as a joke domain many many moons ago. I didn't actually intend on having 420chan be a serious thing until another site (420chan.ath.cx) run by a handful of wtfux guys decided to have a shitstorm over the fact that I was using the same name. So to be a dick, I decided to actually set up boards on the thing. Since then 420chan has grown into a gigantic horrible place and I love it.”

Kirtaner, real name Aubrey Cottle, may have started the website for fun but today has turned it into one of the most progressive image boards on the net. Despite not being paid at all and even taking money out of his pocket to support the site he has worked to update the site with new features such as a wiki, a board with a built in chatbot, a store, and a developers blog. Recently, however, the site has managed to stay afloat entirely off of user donations with some posters anonymously donating as much as $250. This supplements money gained from advertising. Kirtaner isn’t the only one keeping the site going though, he is helped by a small group of about 18 moderators (or mods) who make sure they keeps the posters in check. These moderators are all volunteers who started off as users of the site and eventually asked or were approached by a mod to help out with the running of the website. The site’s staff comes from all over the world: Kirtaner is from Canada while others are from over the U.S. and Europe. In a recent interview with LickTheShade, a female mod from Britain, she said

“The cool thing about working on a project online is that having people from all over the world makes it feel bigger. It’s not like I’m communicating any less with them than I would in real life and I went over to the U.S. recently and hung out with some of the others”.

Despite the enthusiasm of those involved, the site faces an uphill battle until it manages to strike a balance between bandwidth use and financial gain. Obtaining advertising can be difficult. On top of a focus on illegal activity, the difficulty of monitoring such speedy user interaction leads to penty of undesirable content being displayed before the mods have a chance to clean it up. As a result, 420chan’s main advertisers are drug paraphernalia sites such as bouncingbearbotanicals.com. Another mod, Fallen, stated his worries that the site was always in danger. He considered the recent strength of user donations to be miraculous and explained that a site like 420chan is always inches away from being in the red.

“I see the site heading into some trouble. Our userbase tripled in October. Our boards Harddrives are actually filling occasionally. Either one of two things is going to happen in the next few months: Kirtaner is going to have to collect money for this board fast or he’s going to probably not be able to run it himself. He works really hard for this community that has actually gotten him into trouble in the past. It’s eaten his pocketbook and his time. Or the other thing is something bad might happen, with chans… you never know” says Fallen.

Struggling to pay the bills is common to most chans. If they receive a lot of traffic they rarely have enough users interested in supporting the site despite using its services. 4chan itself goes under frequently when going over its bandwidth limit, this leads to a flood of “refugees” going to the other chans. These waves are one of the main ways fledgling chans manage to get any popularity in the first place. 7chan only exists today because 4chan was down for most of a week and it became the main place for internet hungry channers to go.

All this worrying may seem paranoid, but Kirtaner has run into serious trouble because of 420chan before. One user, slighted for reasons never stated, started a personal war against Kirtaner by spamming the website and attempting to flood the servers. It culminated in a call to the local police that had them believing there was a hostage situation inside of Kirtaner’s home. SWAT teams were called in and eventually the whole mess was sorted out with the police looking into a possible suspect from Australia.

“I got out of bed, I open up my bedroom door, walked over to the front door and had an automatic combat shotgun in my face. When you're getting woken up at 4:30 in the morning by a whole bunch of cops with automatic weapons and then finding out that they've blocked off the entire street outside - pretty unsettling.”-Kirtaner

The perpetrator was actually a Massachusetts resident and serial cyber-criminal whose name was not released as he was 17 at the time of the arrest. He was given eleven months of juvenile detention last year for crimes such as hacking into corporate databases, credit card fraud, and a series of bomb threats and faked 911 calls.

Despite all this, 420chan soldiers on. Kirtainer has no plans to shut down the site and has stated that he wished to take out business loans in order to expand the site and attempt to make it more profitable. One would hope 420chan continues to exist because it provides fertile ground for one of the more interesting groups of people to call the internet their home. So if this curious mélange of nerd and narcotics has piqued your interest or if you think there’s something useful you could take away from the most laid back of cha

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Eliminating Competitors: Resume and Cover Letters 101

Everyone’s heard the expression “First impressions are the lasting ones” so when applying for a job it’s important to captivate employers the first chance you get. Therefore creating an eye-catching resume and cover letter is essential in ensuring your not just one more in a pile of applicants. In fact before employers even consider meeting applicants face to face their resume and cover letter should attract, convince, and ooze professionalism and personality. In times where competition for employment is extremely high it’s important to stand out. Whether you’re a recent graduate or just looking for job knowing how to correctly express yourself while highlighting important skills and traits is a must. A professional yet attractive resume and cover letter will definitely get employers interested. After reading it they should want to know you better.

Your resume and cover letter is the first meeting between you and a prospective employer, more now than ever. Companies don’t have the time to interview everyone that’s interested in the job so they use an eliminating process. That’s right –resumes and cover letters. Resumes supply the employer with a great deal of information about you such as where you’ve been, where you are, and where you’re headed. “Resumes are a piece of art and are forever changing; it's important to create a tailored resume for each and every job, making sure the resume speaks directly to the employer and that employer's needs” stated Shannon Seaver-Rojas, a Career Specialists at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Cover letters allow you to express yourself in your own words. It’s your chance to really tell employers why you’re right for the job. Unfortunately many times people tend to focus only on their resumes and forget that cover letters have the power to differentiate them from the others. Not to mention it boosts your possibility of obtaining the desired position. Seaver-Rojas added that, “cover letters are a great way to show your writing abilities, which is a vital skill and one sought after by employers. It's important to include a personal statement in the cover letter; a few sentences stating why you're interested in the company.”

Because employers don’t have time to read extensive amounts of information about each applicant you only have a few moments to convince the employer why he/she should give you an interview. So it’s important to never falsify information. Make sure it emphasizes the good and that it fits the needs of the employer. It should shout professionalism but most importantly it should shout confidence. So how do you want to be remembered? Wrinkled and unorganized? Neat and structured? Long and boring? Precise and interesting? It all depends on you!

Many universities have career specialists that offer students assistance in creating an effective resume and cover letter, so if you’re a student make sure to take advantage of these services. Make sure your lasting impression is a positive one.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Boston Hosts the V Annual Apostolic Seminar

Thanksgiving week –a time people set apart to join their families and friends in celebrating all the good and wonderful things in their lives. Traveling, shopping, turkey, stuffing and massive weight gain are all an integral part of what Thanksgiving is about. Of course for some it also means loads of homework, time off from work, and obnoxious relatives but for me it’s one of the most refreshing weeks of the year. From November 26th through the 29th I attended the Apostolic Seminar (A.S.), an annual gathering of the Fountain of Life Church (F.O.L.) where hundreds of people from all over the country come together. After two consecutive years in Atlanta, GA the A.S. finally came to Boston, MA. These are days separated for spiritual renewal and enlivenment where participants have only one goal: seek God. Plus taking a couple of days off during such a hectic holiday is extremely relaxing providing relief from stress.

The F.O.L. was originally founded in Brazil in 1992 and later begun in the United States in 1997. Today there is a F.O.L. in almost every continent including Africa and Europe and over ten satellite churches in America. The Church is known for its outreach programs in under developed countries and for its booming worship ministry, which has released various CDs and DVDs over the years. The Apostolic Seminar initiated in 2004 and was held in Hyannis, MA for two years later being transferred to Atlanta, GA. With the purpose of gathering as many F.O.L. members under one roof to collectively learn and receive more from God, it’s amazing to see how the Church has grown in these last five years. The Seminar has become the Church’s biggest event of the year and so all are encouraged to attend. Because of these last two years of financial difficulty for many, the Church created innumerable programs, fund-raisers, and has donated to help pay for families in need.

Many months of planning and organizing went into making the Seminar a reality, and none of it would be possible without the hard work of dedicated volunteers. With over ten different departments it took a strong team of leaders to make sure everything ran smoothly. Bishops Ricardo and Marcia Agostino, regional coordinators for the F.O.L. churches in Georgia, played a key role in the event’s success. They were given the responsibility of leading and managing the seminar’s formation and department heads. However, this year they faced the challenge of having to do it all from another state. “Being far away from the organization generated a higher workload in the short time that we were [in Boston] but in result, what God did in those days exceed all expectations!” stated Bishop Agostino. Their passion, patience, and competence resulted in a great achievement for the Fountain of Life Church. Boston is the home of thousands of students and many highly regarded universities and colleges such as Harvard University and MIT; it’s known as the world’s intellectual center. For the Seminar to be fulfilled in this old yet lively city is a break through not only for the Fountain of Life Church in general but for all five satellite churches in Massachusetts. “For the Seminar to be held in Boston was prophetic because it’s where the Church’s national headquarters is located and it’s where the F.O.L. first began in the United States.”

This year it took place at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Cambridge out looking the Charles River. The usual rate for a night at the Hyatt could range anywhere between $120.00 to $200.00, but rooms reserved for the Seminar received a discounted price of $85.00 a night. The rooms had a guaranteed balcony facing the river and Boston’s skyscrapers. The view was amazing and as the sun went down the many city lights of Boston lit up the sky creating awestruck beauty, not to mention the magical reflection of the moon on the still waters of the Charles River. Because of the very convenient location, participants had easy access to restaurants and stores nearby plus the Seminar offered free transportation for all out-of-state members. The hotel also provided excellent meals at their restaurant including a delicious Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday night. Everyone who presented their A.S. nametag received a twenty percent discount on all meals, including room service.

Apostle Cesar and Bishop Rubia Sousa, founders of the Fountain of Life Church, arrived from Brazil last Tuesday, November 24th to minister messages of love, hope, and faith. “This year there was an emphasis to walk with God, in a commitment of expressing the Kingdom and the Presence of the Lord under a new and fresh anointing from God” said Bishop Agostino when asked to comment on the overall theme of this year’s Seminar. The special guests Pastors Jack and Anne Schisler also ministered, bringing a word of brokenness and passion for Christ. Apostle Cesar shared with the congregation the importance that these two ministers have in his life, the life of his family, and in the history of the F.O.L. Pastor Jack’s biography, A Man After God’s Own Heart, was on sale at the Seminar’s bookstand. Many copies were sold and were later autographed by him. Pastor Jack, at ninety-four, encouraged all with his strength and joy during his messages. The beloved Bishop Thomas Walker also ministered about the act of God in every process we go through. “It’s not about the goal, it’s about the process” declared Bishop Walker. “It was one of the best messages I received, and it affected me greatly,” stated Nicole Johnson, an active member of the F.O.L. and first time participant.

There were very high expectations for this year’s Seminar and it’s safe to say that all expectations were surpassed. Bishop Agostino confirmed that “the number of participants worried us because of the change of location and because of the country’s struggling economy. But God is faithful and we can say that we had the best Seminar of all!”

The 2010 Apostolic Seminar will once again be held in Boston during the Thanksgiving break. For more information or to obtain your copy of A Man After God’s Own Heart and the messages ministered at the Seminar please visit the F.O.L. website at www.fountainoflife.com or call to inquire at 781-233-6600



Café Belo: Serving Brazilian Food Like No Other

Welcome to the world of authentic Brazilian cuisine, whee at Café Belo good and cheap walk hand-in-hand. Gorgeous top models and amazing soccer players aren’t the only good things coming out of Brazil. Just make your way down to 158 School Street in Everett, where you’ll discover Brazilian food is like no other. When it comes to choosing a restaurant in the Greater Boston area there’s a lot more to consider than just the price. In an economy like ours today ignoring the price is completely out of the question, but why settle for okay cheap food when you can have great cheap food? At Café Belo it is possible to have a mouth-watering meal for less than $10.00, plus it’s a great place to take family and friends or order to go.

For only $9.99 you can eat all you want! This incredible deal includes the buffet and the famous Brazilian churrasco (barbeque). The buffet consists of the typical Brazilian foods such as white rice, beans, farofa (toasted corn flour) and fried plantains. It also includes spaghetti in garlic and oil, mashed potatoes, French fries, fried yucca, stir fired okra and much more. Not to mention its salad bar has a large variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. Churrasco contains a wide range of meats such as pork, chicken wrapped in bacon, beef tenderloin, sausages, and pollack. Try the chicken hearts, if you dare. Not only is the meat to die for but the waiters move around the restaurant with the skewers slicing meat into your plate. You don’t even have to get out of your seat! If you’re a meat lover this is definitely the place for you. Like many typical Brazilian restaurants, the meal is priced in terms of weight so if you’re not that hungry take advantage of the buffet. The buffet is $7.99 per pound so it can get pricey depending on the amount of food, making the all-you-can-eat a much better deal. The desserts are incredible and there’s a great selection that includes passion fruit mousse, chocolate and coconut cake, strawberry cake, flan and many others. They also serve typical Brazilian drinks such as cashew, acai, and mango juice and smoothies.


The Sugar Bar Lounge is also a big part of Café Belo, where there’s live music almost every night. The music is usually great but not always and then there’s karaoke night –the singers are horrible yet quite entertaining. Why go anywhere else? Café Belo has it all: savory meat, delicious typical Brazilian foods, great desserts, cheap drinks, and great prices! Plus you don’t have to wait for your food to be cooked. You won’t regret it!

For more information check out their website at www.cafebelo.com

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

420chan

With all the debate on the legalization of marijuana these days you probably know that drug culture is embedded in American culture from every head shop to Phish concert and if you’re hip you might have also noticed that everything from Lolcat’s to the use of words like “epic win” and “fail” are starting to make the leap from the web and into real life. But, in the underbelly of the internet unbeknownst to most, drug culture is beginning to merge with internet culture and a lot of it is happening on one of the premier image boards: 420chan.

If you don’t know what an image board is, it’s basically the same as a forum but with images as the primary focus and words being secondary. They operate faster, like a cross between a normal forum and a chatroom and they’ve been gaining a lot of popularity and attention. You may have heard of 4chan, whose members have had a hand in everything from inventing Rickrolling to staging worldwide protests against the Church of Scientology. It’s founder, Moot, has even had an interview with Time magazine. 4chan is now the 593rd most visited website on the internet according to Alexa.com, a traffic ranking service. This immense popularity, and in some cases power, has created an army of knockoffs (though 4chan was originally a copy of a Japanese site itself). Out of these copies only a few have managed to gain a following anywhere near that of their predecessor and one of these is the aforementioned 420chan.

These days the creation of imageboards is fairly easy. There is even an “Imageboard for Free” service available to host low bandwidth vanity chans. What makes an imageboard popular however has much less to do with the structure of the site and more with the culture that comes with it. 4chan’s popularity came from a combination of anime and japan related topics as well as its beginning on famous internet troll forum and comedy site somethingawful.com. Other boards have to find way to differentiate themselves and prove themselves worthwhile. For example: 711chan became popular when it hosted a board dedicated to assaulting websites its users deemed stupid. This lead to a tiny internet army known as the /i/nsurgency. 7chan on the other hand made its way through oddities such as boards dedicated to bees, zombies, and a “wine tasting” board filled with pictures of users sticking their genitals in glasses of wine.

Located at 420chan.org, 420chan’s main feature is an array of drug related boards including stimulants, opiates, cannabis, dissociatives, and a miscellaneous drug board. These boards are unique to 420chan and have brought it an audience that ties it for second place behind 4chan with a few others. 420chan, while transparently helmed by drug aficionados, states that its purpose is to provide a safe place for drug users to talk to each other with the goal of self-education. This harm-prevention stance is held by many drug related publications and groups and goes a long way to prove that 420chan is not a dangerous den of career criminals. 420chan has more to offer than that though. It has boards dedicated to nerdier topics such as anime, dinosaurs, comics, and Pokémon as well as many more general and accessible boards with topics like fitness, food, television, literature, and technology. The site may be rooted in internet geek culture, but the boards that differentiate it bring in a new crowd not often seen on the internet. Here a strange combination takes place, where drug culture starts melding with internet culture. Somewhere between hippies and hackers we find pot smoking Pikachu’s and ketamine inspired MSpaint comics. 420chan has not only provided a starting point for a focused drug culture on the internet, it has violently smashed it into the pre-existing culture to produce an extremely bizarre mashup.

420chan started as a joke, a surprisingly common way for these unlikely behemoths. Many of the chans are made for their creators to have fun in and end up finding themselves the target of huge amounts of traffic when 4chan goes down. From there they grow their own userbase and eventually find themselves with a solid foundation. In the original F.A.Q. provided by the website’s founder, he states:

“Well one day I was sitting around and I noticed that my new hosting package allowed for a single free domain name registration. I was with Tinal [an ex-mod and friend of his] at the time and he came up with "420chan", a stupid combination of 4chan and drugs. I decide to use this suggestion, and register it as a joke domain many many moons ago. I didn't actually intend on having 420chan be a serious thing until another site (420chan.ath.cx) run by a handful of wtfux guys decided to have a shitstorm over the fact that I was using the same name. So to be a dick, I decided to actually set up boards on the thing. Since then 420chan has grown into a gigantic horrible place and I love it.”

Kirtaner, real name Aubrey Cottle, may have started the website for fun but today has turned it into one of the most progressive image boards on the net. Despite not being paid at all and even taking money out of his pocket to support the site he has worked to update the site with new features such as a wiki, a board with a built in chatbot, a store, and a developers blog. Recently, however, the site has managed to stay afloat entirely off of user donations with some posters anonymously donating as much as $250. This supplements money gained from advertising. Kirtaner isn’t the only one keeping the site going though, he is helped by a small group of about 18 moderators (or mods) who make sure they keeps the posters in check. These moderators are all volunteers who started off as users of the site and eventually asked or were approached by a mod to help out with the running of the website. The site’s staff comes from all over the world: Kirtaner is from Canada while others are from over the U.S. and Europe. In a recent interview with LickTheShade, a female mod from Britain, she said

“The cool thing about working on a project online is that having people from all over the world makes it feel bigger. It’s not like I’m communicating any less with them than I would in real life and I went over to the U.S. recently and hung out with some of the others”.

Despite the enthusiasm of those involved, the site faces an uphill battle until it manages to strike a balance between bandwidth use and financial gain. Obtaining advertising can be difficult. On top of a focus on illegal activity, the difficulty of monitoring such speedy user interaction leads to penty of undesirable content being displayed before the mods have a chance to clean it up. As a result, 420chan’s main advertisers are drug paraphernalia sites such as bouncingbearbotanicals.com. Another mod, Fallen, stated his worries that the site was always in danger. He considered the recent strength of user donations to be miraculous and explained that a site like 420chan is always inches away from being in the red.

“I see the site heading into some trouble. Our userbase tripled in October. Our boards Harddrives are actually filling occasionally. Either one of two things is going to happen in the next few months: Kirtaner is going to have to collect money for this board fast or he’s going to probably not be able to run it himself. He works really hard for this community that has actually gotten him into trouble in the past. It’s eaten his pocketbook and his time. Or the other thing is something bad might happen, with chans… you never know” says Fallen.

Struggling to pay the bills is common to most chans. If they receive a lot of traffic they rarely have enough users interested in supporting the site despite using its services. 4chan itself goes under frequently when going over its bandwidth limit, this leads to a flood of “refugees” going to the other chans. These waves are one of the main ways fledgling chans manage to get any popularity in the first place. 7chan only exists today because 4chan was down for most of a week and it became the main place for internet hungry channers to go.

All this worrying may seem paranoid, but Kirtaner has run into serious trouble because of 420chan before. One user, slighted for reasons never stated, started a personal war against Kirtaner by spamming the website and attempting to flood the servers. It culminated in a call to the local police that had them believing there was a hostage situation inside of Kirtaner’s home. SWAT teams were called in and eventually the whole mess was sorted out with the police looking into a possible suspect from Australia.

“I got out of bed, I open up my bedroom door, walked over to the front door and had an automatic combat shotgun in my face. When you're getting woken up at 4:30 in the morning by a whole bunch of cops with automatic weapons and then finding out that they've blocked off the entire street outside - pretty unsettling.”-Kirtaner

The perpetrator was actually a Massachusetts resident and serial cyber-criminal whose name was not released as he was 17 at the time of the arrest. He was given eleven months of juvenile detention last year for crimes such as hacking into corporate databases, credit card fraud, and a series of bomb threats and faked 911 calls.

Despite all this, 420chan soldiers on. Kirtainer has no plans to shut down the site and has stated that he wished to take out business loans in order to expand the site and attempt to make it more profitable. One would hope 420chan continues to exist because it provides fertile ground for one of the more interesting groups of people to call the internet their home. So if this curious mélange of nerd and narcotics has piqued your interest or if you think there’s something useful you could take away from the most laid back of chans, then stop by and maybe consider giving a donation.

I Love You, I Love You Not


How can one little word have so much power? This word can captivate a heart, liberate a soul yet it can restrain emotions in shackles and devour moral values. This word is Love. However one views love, whether positively or negatively, we all have the natural desire to love and be loved in one form or another. Yet it seems as though the essence of loving and being loved has become more difficult. It is necessary to understand that love doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time. Each day, each date, each moment is like a brick that is applied in making the castle of love.

Nevertheless, this is not about love per se. It is in fact about young men and women interacting with each other. No matter who we are or where we come from, as long as we’re heterosexual, we are all prone to the attraction of the opposite sex. It is how we react to these attractions and what we expect from each other that determine not only our relationship status but how we view ourselves and those around us. So what am I really trying to get at? Let’s cut to the chase here. As a young woman who knows what short-term and long-term relationships are like and who’s had her share of bad dates, I reserve the right to publicly express my full opinion on how I view the subject of relationship dating --not only dating but how men should act towards women.

Relationship dating is like every other great success in life; it comes with hits and misses. Sometime more misses then hits. Am I the only one that feels like men may have given up on sweeping us off our feet? The fact that there are 86 single men to every 100 single women doesn’t help. However this isn’t about blaming millions of men. In a world where women are portrayed as sex objects men have forgotten how to treat women. It’s up to us to remind them. It’s necessary to understand that women have different needs than men and usually these needs cater to our emotions. Some men are just oblivious.

Not all women are the same. It’s true --today you can find women of all sorts. Some women like to date several at a time, others are not into commitment, and some don’t mind being treated like a piece of meat. The reason why is beyond me. Therefore these words of advice do not apply to every girl in the neighborhood. It’s important to know what kind of girl you’re investing your time in. So guys listen up.

Maybe I’m old fashioned but I think politeness is sexy. Since when did chivalry die? Pulling out a girl’s chair or holding the car door open for her isn’t lame and believe me guys, girls like that. I’m not talking about serving your girl hand and foot, although that would be nice, but girls are more likely to date men who treat them with kindness and respect than someone who is physically attractive yet a complete jerk. This isn’t rocket science. Kindness and respect are very big with women; we respond it to.

Guys, what is so wrong about calling a girl the day after the first date? What is up with these silly 3-day-wait rules? Seriously if you want to play games go to an arcade. I’m not talking about an hour long conversation, but even a text message would be nice. Girls like to feel they haven’t been forgotten.

The word “security” often has the tendency to scare men. But it’s true women do look for someone who is able to offer physical, emotional, spiritual and yes, financial security. Money doesn’t buy love and it definitely isn’t everything, but men please don’t treat your girl like she’s your sugar mama and girls you shouldn’t be dating a man if he doesn’t have a j-o-b in the first place. Not only that but women like to know that their men are willing to do little things for them like putting gas in their car or taking out the trash. Little things count. Transparency is another aspect of security that is highly important. Covering up your tracks may work for a while but we’ll eventually crack the code. Sharing you with someone else is definitely out of the question. Honesty and fidelity is a must.

Men, don’t be afraid to pursue us. Women have the tendency to withdraw from a relationship once they feel they are being neglected. Is it really so hard to be attentive? Think of taking us out as an investment. A couple of hours or a day really makes a difference because girls love to be wooed. One of the most important strategies in wooing a girl is listening. This might be divine revelation for some, but there is a difference between hearing and listening. Girls like to be listened to. There’s no point in pretending to listen to us or pretending to pass off what we said as trivial. By taking time to listen, comprehend and partake in the conversation you’ll be sure to hold her attention for longer.

Last but definitely not least let her know that you love her. As mentioned love is a very powerful word. It’s not a word you use on the first date or the second for that matter. Although it sounds cheesy every day, every date, every moment is in fact like a brick that is gradually building the love within that relationship. Love isn’t a word that can be thrown around; there has to be meaning and sincere emotion behind it. Cherish and honor it.

Although it is possible to find love on the first try, it doesn’t always happen. However we can’t let that hold us back from finding the happiness we deserve.

Men, be sure to put this into practice. Girls, don’t settle for less!

Eclipse Review



“It was too dark to see much besides the black triangles of the spruces leaning and shaking with the wind. But I strained my eyes anyways, searching for other shapes in the storm. A pale silhouette, moving like a ghost through the black…or maybe the shadowy outline of an enormous wolf…”

Stephanie Meyer’s astounding ability to capture readers in a mythical world of undeniable love and unquenched vengeance brilliantly spellbinds the imagination. Eclipse, the third book in the Twilight saga, is full of energy, romance, chills and thrills making it almost impossible to put down. Reading Twilight and New Moon, in that order, is essential to understanding the continuing story line, because readers are dropped straight into the story, and they’re both excellent novels.

The conflicting forces between vampire Edward’s selfless eternal love and the warmth of werewolf Jacob’s friendship and persistence for more stirs within Bella, the narrator, as she reaches graduation. Bella is once again surrounded by danger as tensions rise when a chain of murders take place in nearby Seattle, all of which point to a looming vampire threat. These dangerous vampires make their way to Forks in search of Bella leading to a suspenseful plot that weaves its way through the story. However, the main conflict within the novel is the love triangle between Edward, Bella and Jacob created in New Moon adding to the enmity between vampires and werewolves. She must now choose between fire and ice, life and death.

The first several chapters are dedicated to the stifling issues of jealousy yet soon pick up steam as they revisit the romance between Bella and Jacob, my favorite part. Despite Bella’s love for Edward she is drawn to Jacob. They take long hand-in-hand walks by the beach, spend intimate moments in the woods, and constantly find themselves in each other’s arms. This causes Eclipse to enter soap opera mode as it becomes highly saturated with teen drama and angst. Edward is Bella’s soul mate but Jacob is the soul mate she should/would have had naturally if Edward didn’t exist. Poor Jacob didn’t even have a fair chance. “Well, I’m so sorry that I can’t be the right kind of monster for you Bella. I guess I’m just not as great as the bloodsucker, am I?”

Bella’s dependency on Edward soon becomes very frustrating and tiring as her obsession is passed off as normal. I have to admit that I did gag a few times at the overly perfect portrayal of love between the two, which is why I love Jacob so much. His pushy yet captivating charm really won me over and definitely made it a more interesting read.

Eclipse is packed with action and suspense that sends you racing through the pages. Although it is very predictable and quite obvious who is threatening Bella the final battle delivers on excitement.

Eclipse is a novel for all ages –an easy read yet dense with exhilarating imagery and creativity.

Freedom While We Sleep

Not everyone loves Veterans Day for the same reason. Some love it because classes are canceled, others because they have the day off from work, while others just enjoy attending the parades. The truth is not many understand the true meaning behind this national holiday, especially the younger generation. It might be hard to grasp but Veterans Day isn’t just about sleeping in; its about saluting the ones who keep our country free while we sleep whether it’s in Iraq, Afghanistan, Germany, Japan or Korea. “Politicians didn’t give us freedom, the veterans did” stated Nicholas Bua, the director of Veteran Affairs in Revere, MA. The department of Veteran Affairs provides a wide range of benefits such as disability, education and training to those who have served the country and Mr. Bua is an essential figure in ensuring these men and women get the assistance they need. Plus he plays an important role in making sure the Revere parade and the ceremony at the Paul Revere School, formally known as Beachmont, is a reality.

There are numerous parades and events in cities and towns throughout the United States mostly to honor all of those who served and were fortunate to come home. Memorial Day, on the other hand, is to honor those who died. Millions of American soldiers served and gave their lives in wars, and many more are fighting for us today. Families, friends, wives, mothers and fathers of these good men and women are the ones who truly appreciate ceremonies such as the one held at the Paul Revere School on Wednesday. It lasted for about two and a half hours with various presentations and tributes. “Many had tears in their eyes when pictures were shown of veterans killed in action. Some were only boys –eighteen, nineteen, twenty year-old boys. It was all very heart warming.”

Mr. Bua feels that the younger generation doesn’t fully comprehend the meaning of Veterans Day but that it’s understandable and one day they will. Many children participated in the ceremony by singing patriotic songs, and according to Mr. Bua they were very excited. “I’m curious about whether or not they realized what they were singing about.” There are many programs and organizations that encourage children and teenagers to become active on this special day. “It’s very important that the younger generation remember these people. We are all blessed to have these veterans come back home and even those killed in action.”

This country has been involved in various wars and without these brave soldiers America wouldn’t be where it is today. No one knows if they’re going to be a hero or if their end quickly awaits, but they do what they have to do to get the job done. They provide for our country; they keep it free and watch over us. “This country lost a lot of good men and we have to be thankful for them.” Veterans Day is our opportunity to show our appreciation for their job well done.

Revolving Around US: The World View of the War on Terror


It seems a bit rash to believe that a country fighting against global terrorism could be looked down upon. However, due to the process the United States has gone through to engage with countries like Afghanistan and Iraq, the wont-take-no-for-an-answer attitude showing boldly when President Bush ignored the lack of a United Nations mandate, America is now viewed as irresponsible, carefree, and overall, quite unpleasant to deal with.

The War on Terror began in the immediate months after the events of September 11th, 2001. Troops from the Unites States, along with its major allies, began to bomb, invade, and occupy Afghanistan, as well as hold place in Afghanistan’s surrounding countries in what was known as Operation Enduring Freedom. The invasion started with an ultimatum issued by President Bush to the Taliban, noting five points the Taliban must fulfill:
• Deliver to the U.S. all of the leaders of Al-Qaeda.
• Release all imprisoned foreign nationals.
• Close immediately every terrorist training camp.
• Hand over every terrorist and their supporters to appropriate authorities.
• Give the United States full access to terrorist training camps for inspection.
At this point, Bush’s approval rating, along with his national and international support, was running high. However, things took a turn for the worse when the United States thought it best to invade Iraq.

In 2003, President Bush and United Kingdom Prime Minister Tony Blair set to invade Iraq to disarm Saddam Hussein of weapons of mass destruction, and in turn, free the Iraqi people from a fearless dictator. While a 2004 CBS poll shows that 64-percent of citizens supported military action in Iraq, 63-percent suggested Bush find a diplomatic solution rather than engaging in war, and 62-percent believed the threat of terrorism would increase in a time of war. Former US allies including France, Canada, New Zealand and Germany publicly opposed the war, as well Rome—which held the largest anti-war rally in history on February 15th, 2003. However, nothing swayed the opinions of the United States. Bombing of Iraq began on March 19th, 2003, and concluded on May 1st, which began in the era of US Occupation in Iraq.

Nearly seven years later, there is still no trace of weapons of mass destruction, and the United States is still occupying Iraq. It has been clear that Americans have grown skeptical of their own country, and the extent they went to in order to go to war. But how has the rest of the world responded to the Unites States’ discouraging behavior?

In 2004, Kofi Annan—United Nations Secretary-General—told BBC, "[F]rom our point of view and from the Charter point of view, [the war] was illegal." Paul Reynolds of BBC News suggests that the United States, especially during the Bush administration, has been running on fear. “Fear is a powerful motivating factor. Fear after 9/11 led to the Bush doctrine of the pre-emptive strike.” Owen Fay of Al Jazeera reports that Pakistanis see the United States as their biggest threat, noting, “when respondents were asked what they consider to be the biggest threat to the nation of Pakistan, 11 per cent of the population identified the Taliban fighters, who have been blamed for scores of deadly bomb attacks across the country in recent years…18 per cent said that they believe that the greatest threat came from neighbouring India, which has fought three wars with Pakistan since partition in 1947…[and] an overwhelming 59 per cent of respondents, said the greatest threat to Pakistan right now is, in fact, the US.”

Professor Erica Frank went so far as to say that the War on Terror hurts Americans at home just as much everyday. Frank suggests funding towards the war diverts aid from healthcare, which is then leading to more and more deaths at home. She calculated that nearly 2,000 more people died on September 11th of serious illness than in the World Trade Center attacks, a number that is recurring each day, leading to a growing number of curable yet untimely deaths. But it’s not just politicians and professors who doubt the United States’ efforts.

A survey conducted by the BBC shows that 53-percent of United Kingdom citizens believed the UK was losing the war on terror, and that 56-percent of westernized countries were losing the war overall. Frank Gardner, security correspondent for the survey, believed the response was in part due to the fact that “it was difficult to define what ‘victory’ in the so-called war on terror meant.”

Alaa Bayoumi of Al Jazeera suggests that while America has taken large steps in the right direction, the Muslim World and the United States have still not learned the most critical lessons from September 11th. In his article, Missed Lessons of 9/11, he speaks to Burhan Ghalioun, a professor of political sociology at the Sorbonne in France, who states "America was wrong in believing that the terrorist movements are expressing animosity against the West and are not, rather, an expression of the social, economic, and political problems of the Muslim world.”

It doesn’t help that the United States military is milking its soldiers for everything they’ve got. With volunteer soldiers at its lowest point since Vietnam, the Army’s tank is low on fuel. “America's retreat was not based on rational calculations,” says Ghalioun. “It was the result of the failure of the strategy of pre-emptive wars on terrorism and the lack of any other alternative. America no longer has a comprehensive strategy when it comes to terrorism or any other issue.”

Not only was the War on Terror executed poorly on the battlefield, but also behind closed doors. After the events the likes of Abu Ghraib, the United States’ legacy of torture—or “enhanced interrogation” techniques—is still haunting the US to this day. Many also seem to believe that Obama has done little to fix this since his stay in office. The belief is that so much of Obama's plan is that “we'll do it smarter. You can trust us.” But many agree this is still not acceptable.

It doesn’t help that the officials responsible for much of the torture haven’t shown any remorse. Human Rights groups around the globe want top officials like Rumsfeld and Cheney to be prosecuted for their actions. According to Mark LeVine, writer for Al Jazeera, “most activists agree that if Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, and White House lawyers such as John Yoo and Jay Bybee are not called to account for their actions while in power, future administrations will feel confident that they can resume now discredited practices without fear of prosecution.”

So how does one end—or attempt to fix—one of the most unpopular wars in history? There aren’t many quick fixes. Many believe that pulling out of Iraq will leave the country somewhere between anarchy and a faux Democracy. Others believe that there is no other solution but to pull out, seeing as the country is in financial shambles and other issues, such as health care reform, have begun to come forth. Add to all this a concern that either way, the end of the war will give way to more terrorism, and you’ve got quite the conundrum. Perhaps only time will tell whether this war was justified or not. But as of right now, the War of Terror is being written into the history books as a negative marker in history, all across the Globe.

The Fall of the Citizen-Soldier


War has changed throughout the years, structurally and technologically. We have seen the developments in weaponry, tactics, and soldier’s ability to fight. But one thing that hasn’t changed is the use of mercenaries; these are soldiers that fight merely for money, rather than a legal or moral obligation to their country. Throughout time mercenaries have been used and have profited from wars waged. Xerxes, king of Persia, used mercenaries to invade Greece in 484 BC. A quote from Returns the Nostoi an ancient Greek poem written around that time states,” For gifts beguile men's minds and their deeds as well.” Even in ancient Greece after the sacking of Troy, people were aware of how money and gifts change man’s perceptions on things. Centuries ago mercenaries had bad reputations for just being hired soldiers and will leave with the first sign of opposition. Machiavelli wrote at length warning rulers of the use of mercenaries in the Italian Wars. The main motive for mercenaries not to be trusted was greed, they didn’t care about the people they were fighting for or the country they were defending. That is why they were viewed as not trustworthy.

Now instead of mercenaries there are privatized military companies such as; Xe, KBR, DynCorp, and Custer Battles. All of these privatized military companies currently have troops in Iraq, fighting alongside American soldiers. With the American government unable to supply enough troops for the war they were forced to look in another direction. As Washington Post writer Steve Fainaru describes,” the government chose to outsource responsibility for deciding who can kill and die for the United States to for-profit companies that employed tens of thousands of soldiers-for-hire.”
This is a disturbing trend, private military personnel on the grounds in Iraq representing the US and they hold a great deal of power. Fainaru goes on to say, “The mercenaries developed their own language and subculture, and they fought their own secret battles under their own rules – ‘Big Boy Rules,’ as they called their playbook, with more than a hint of condescension, to distinguish it from the constraints of the military's formal code. They weren't counted by our government, alive or dead.” In many respects there is a “parallel war” going on in Iraq, the privatized soldiers have their own agendas, different from the American soldier that enlisted with the government. War crimes are a big deal especially when it was documented that employees of Blackwater massacred 17 people at a Baghdad traffic circle. This brought to thought how these private mercenaries can be stopped from committing these war crimes. They have to be held accountable for their actions, but the government treats them as rouge soldiers that really don’t exist, because of this there are no exact statistics for how many private mercenaries were killed in Iraq.
It is well known that the US wouldn’t be able to maintain their campaign in Iraq without the use of privatized military personnel. But is this the future of warfare? Will we see countries hire private contractors to fight their wars for them instead of risking their citizen’s safety? Skeptics of PMC’s believe this is a growing trend and you will see other countries hire out private contractors for war. For example, imagine that the Iraqi insurgents hired out Xe to fight against the US. The war may be going a different way than it is right now. Instead of untrained terrorists shooting at US military, there would be highly trained killing machines shooting. That could lead to many more casualties than we have already seen in Iraq thus far. When we talk about private soldiers we’re strictly speaking about those soldiers that are non-American. The soldiers hired out from South America and other countries. Unless the American soldiers hired out want to commit treason and be lumped in with the likes of Benedict Arnold. Esther Schrader writes in the LA Times,”Although the most successful of the U. S. firms carefully screen their employees, prohibit them from carrying arms and generally reject contracts with governments the U. S. considers unsavoury, they operate in a world populated by a darker breed of ex-soldiers who serve as guns for hire to thugs throughout the world. Competing military companies in Britain and South Africa have hired out their employees as combatants in Angola and Sierra Leone. And employees of the U. S. companies have sometimes taken up weapons themselves, employees of the firms say.” These companies are strictly about making money and would sell their services to the highest bidder regardless of who it is. They can’t be trusted. It would be devastating to see Iran or North Korea hire out private contractors, in the event that the US goes to war with those two countries. Unless, these companies have morals and grow a conscious, these companies could become a problem for the United States in the future.

Private Military Contractors: Who are these Corporate Soldiers?












By: Regina Bullock

With the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we have heard more and more about the United States using private military contractors. For many of us, this is just another aspect of the war that we don’t have much information on. We just hear about it enough to know that it is something we should question. Who are these corporate soldiers and what do they do?

Private military contractors are small companies that provide military services. They perform most of the same duties as U.S. military troops, but on a smaller scale. Since a private contractor isn’t a part of the initial military they are helping, they are considered civilians. Private military contractors or PMC’s are used by the United States to train other military personnel and supplement the troops. Throughout history, the United States has used private military contractors instead of US troops for certain covert military operations. While the use of private contractors is nothing new, the increase in the usage of them by the United States is.
After the first Gulf War, the United States drastically cut back on their number of troops. This left many soldiers unemployed. Many of these soldiers went on to provide private military services and training. After 9/11, the market for private military contractors started booming. The beginning of the war in Iraq only increased the demand for PMC’s. The United States army doesn’t have the means to continue two long-term wars so they have increased their usage of private military contractors to aid their troops.


Private military contractors provide both security and military services. Security services can include everything from policing to catering. Military activities include protecting important U.S. and Iraqi officials, intelligence gathering, and security consulting. PMC’s also provide military training for Iraqi security forces. Different contractors provide different services. PMC’s are not just hired by governments. They are employed by corporations and humanitarian groups also.

There are an estimated 100,000 private contractors in Iraq who work for the United States Department of Defense. This is ten times the amount of private contractors being used since the Persian Gulf War. Private contractors account for about 20% of the US presence in Afghanistan and Iraq. One of the most noted private contractors is Xe, formerly known as Blackwater. Xe is made up of mostly ex-US Special Forces soldiers. They also employ Chilean ex-commandos. KBR is another big military contracting company in Iraq. KBR has more American contractors in Iraq than any other PMC. They also have a larger contract with the U.S. than any other private contractor. For a job like delivering a shipment of supplies, a private contractor can be paid as much as $1500 a day. Because of the demand for PMC’s and the ability to make large amounts of money, a lot American and British soldiers have resigned to join private contractors.

Private military contractors are nothing new to United States warfare. They have been used before, but not as much as they are now. The lack of military volunteers and the reduction of troops after the Gulf War have made them a necessary addition to the United States military. While they may be needed, PMC’s has opened a door for war profiteering. Soldiers are leaving their ranks to join private contractors to make more money. The use of PMC’s is also a way for the United States to carry out certain missions without having to report the cost or amount of casualties to the public. The use of private contractors is considered sanctioned war profiteering. Although this form of war profiteering is seen as acceptable, there are still many issues with contracting companies crossing the lines of sanctioned and unsanctioned profit. Big name contracting companies like Xe, KBR, and Halliburton have been investigated for overcharging for their services. As a measure against excessive profiting by PMC’s, there is an excess profit tax to try and control war profiteering. But since it’s hard to really declare what’s “excessive”, instances of excessive profits often go uninvestigated.

Not only have private military contractors been accused of excessive profiteering, there have also been allegations of them being caught up in other illegal activities going on in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2008, KBR came under fire for the negligent death of a Special Armed Forces officer after he was electrocuted in his bathroom stall due to faulty wiring put in by them. Because of this, they almost lost their contract with the U.S. in January of 2009. A former employee of KBR reported being gang raped by 7 other employees of KBR. Xe’s license to operate in Iraq was revoked in 2007 after a private security detail opened fire and killed 17 Iraqi’s while escorting some U.S. state department vehicles. Their actions were considered excessively forceful and without cause.

The current state of U.S. warfare has made private military contractors necessary. There are not enough troops to carry the country through two wars simultaneously. While the use of PMC’s may be necessary, the United States has made it that way. Even with more information on them, it’s hard to tell if the country benefits more from their use or if it’s just more convenient. The United States may need to use private contractors, but their overuse is making war a profession.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Internet Will Eat Itself Alive



The internet was once a place of wonder. When it was first cooked up in a military bunker way back in the 1980s as a sophisticated armed forces network, little did its creators know what era they would initiate by the public introduction of the World Wide Web. While many granola-munching, wooly bearded and Carl Sagan revering Jim Henson impersonators would claim the internet to be a revolution in global communication and open source information sharing, the fact is that nowadays everyone uses the internet for pornography and illegal music downloads.



But the tarnishing of what was once deemed a golden age of communication networks hasn’t been undocumented, nor the fact that as millions of people toss their personal info on MySpaces and Facebooks, more than a few of those sad sacks of shit are going to be worth a king’s ransom in off-key hilarity. One of the earliest sites to catalogue such inanity was Something Awful, a humor website started as a personal stomping ground for founder Rich “Lowtax” Kyanka’s particular brand of acerbic comedy, until later evolving into an almost journalistic compendium of all the worst the web has to offer. From creepy tribute pages for fictional video game characters to forums a little too dedicated at sexualizing the Simpsons, SA defined the battle lines of what is weird and funny in bad taste and harassment for years. After stepping into the whole Web 2.0 business, community forums were formed and centered not only around harassing all the creeps hiding in the dark corners of the web, but also for generating an audience of like-minded individuals who flock to the utterly bizarre in humor as much as they do in their own interest groups. The SA Forums would eventually eclipse the popularity of its founding website, with current forum registrants exceeding 100,000 users, but the spirit of grief and humiliation would live on as the various subforums would not only fuel debates on what’s good and what’s crap in music, film and television, but also provide more personal examples of embarrassing behavior (such as crafting homemade Wendys Baconators or running Legend of Zelda themed weddings). The front end content of the site would also draw acclaim as one of Something Awful’s prized contributors, David Thorpe, would later go on to write for alternative Boston newspapers like the Weekly Dig and the Boston Phoenix.



Nevertheless, SA wouldn’t be the end-all of crude internet humor, as its influence coupled with that of similar sites such as comedy aggregator Fark or gore album Rotten.com would spark even more locations for IT drones to waste away their work hours on company dime. Of the many websites to spawn from these virile wombs, none have achieved the level of infamy as 4chan, an image-based message board founded in homage to Japanese counterpart 2chan. Despite its humble beginnings as just another place online to discuss various nerd-related topics, 4chan quickly burgeoned into another subculture of in-jokes and offensive humor with an addiction to the internet’s more unstable contributors. Dozens of memetic sayings and images burst forth from the ‘chans, including YouTube sensation Chocolate Rain and the entire Rickrolling phenomenon, while users of the site, not fettered down with registered accounts or easy ISP tracking, launched humorous raids on everything from social networks such as Habbo Hotel and SecondLife to the online activity of individuals such as controversial talkshow host Hal Turner or web entrepreneur Adam Goldstein. Clearly, 4chan presented an evolution in internet pranking, in that while its predecessor Something Awful would regularly track down offensive pages for its Awful Link of the Day segments, 4chan would unite users from around the world to harass Scientologists while wearing Guy Fawkes masks and blasting mind-numbing techno outside their churches.



The halcyon glory of an internet never to be, a place where a rather more sane audience could talk about programming languages and bad sci-fi novels, faded further away with the advent of these sites and their proclamation of entertainment through vicarious annoyance. And as sites such as 4chan and Something Awful march on in popularity, wikis like Encyclopedia Dramatica emerge to document the fetid annals of shock content, obscene hacker raids, stupid amateur videos and mindless catchphrases that have been slowly taking over the innocence of the World Wide Web. Already this encyclopedia has become a sort of rogue authority on the perceived nature of other established online sources, with defamatory articles on Wikipedia as well as any number of other wikis or popular websites being the highlight of ED, whom seem to place more racial epithets in their work in jest than any other news source I have ever come across. Perhaps the highlight of ED and the bad comedy trend in general would be their continued chronicling of a man-boy named Christian Weston Chandler, a mentally disabled Sonic the Hedgehog fanatic whose abysmal living situation and painfully awkward romantic exploits are documented with Library of Congress precision by anonymous net-goers more than eager to encourage his uncomfortable YouTube video-blogs and perennial real life fuck-ups. One will have to wonder, when they peruse these archives in the future, exactly what kind of generation allowed the degree of humiliation and grief demanded by the aforementioned sites to exist, and even worse, how the internet could give way to the morons and neckbearded basement dwellers who fueled them in the first place.


Blood For Profit

What if there were armed business men in bed with your state and federal government officials? Corporate mercenaries making midnight moves on the marital mattresses of our military leaders? Would you recognize them the morning after as they executed their walk of shame across Capitol Hill? Everyone knows that when private interests strip down with our politicians we’re the ones who get fucked, and this might be one of the dirtiest smut films you’ve ever been a part of.
Within the last ten years the US has seen a dramatic increase in the government’s endorsement of private military companies to provide services that are traditionally carried out by the US Armed Forces. Simply put, the US has outsourced a significant percentage of its military responsibilities to men armed beneath their Armani and women with Berettas tucked inside their braziers.

After the Cold War it became necessary to begin employing private companies to help expand technological aspects of war; weapons manufacturing became big business and a source of huge profits. Following the invasion of Iraq in 2003, specifically after an incident where contractors from the Blackwater Worldwide Corporation were murdered in Fallujah, the US media has become saturated with terms like “private military companies,” “military contractors,” and “security companies.” These businesses are actually manning our battlefields and participating in hands-on combat. It seems that these corporations are not only providing the weapons, their now providing the men to operate those weapons. Employees of these business battalions have become as dispensable as the bullets in their clips.

To illustrate the how prevalent the practice of hiring private soldiers and their companies has become in our contemporary military campaigns, according to the New York Times there are about 160,000 private military contractors fighting in Iraq. In the Gulf War which took place a mere fifteen years ago there were about 9,200. That is a 1700% increase within twenty years.

Considering military operations have a great effect on both foreign and domestic policy, it seems only reasonable that the people of our nation have a transparent view of who is in charge of managing our wars. There’s a wealth of controversies surrounding the private military companies, their command, conduct and control. Aside from the controversies involving the actual wars themselves, issues as basic as the general employment of the mercenaries, to the companies’ lack of accountability to the military are flourishing in media reports and public opinion. The most concerning problem facing the employment of these commercial enterprises is the number of specific incidences involving outright wrong doing on behalf of the soldiers for hire; incidences including the massacre on September 16th 2007 that resulted in 17 dead Iraqi civilians that the New York Times concluded was “unprovoked,” have left publications plastered with the names of these PMCs, expanding on their reputation. With controversy comes accountability, yet it is hard for the public to hold a faceless corporation accountable for anything.


Nearly every important industry has a face the public can associate with it. For media outlets the public can turn to Rupert Murdock, owner of countless information sources from television stations to newspapers. For the enormous corporation that provides questionable management practices at everyday low prices the people can turn to Sam Walton. What about the people making money off of blood? What face is there to put on those companies getting paid to do the job that our government and its citizen soldiers are responsible for? With this new layer of bureaucracy so ripe with the potential for corruption it’s about time the public look into these private interest prostitutes and figure out just whose lobbying for war.

Luckily within the last few years there has been a push for some accountability and transparency into the top executives who reap fatten their pockets waging our wars. In Jeremy Scahill’s Blackwater: the Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army the author provides a historical account regarding the formation of the most famous (or perhaps infamous) private military company, Blackwater Worldwide (now Xe). The novel is as shocking as it is distressing and exposes the PMC’s capacity to skirt around the rules and the overall secretive nature of the corporation and its executives. One key passage exemplifying the clandestine character of these executives is Scahill’s depiction of Blackwater owner Erik Prince’s visit to Capitol Hill for his testimony for the “Hearing on Private Security Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan.” After outing the attempts by Republican senators sitting in on the hearing to end it before it even began, Scahill also illustrates the well calculated attempts by these higher-ups to stay out of the limelight, “Before that warm October day in Washington in 2007, he had shunned the spotlight, and his people were known to stifle journalists’ attempts at taking his picture. When Prince did appear in public, it was almost exclusively at military conferences, where his role was to extol the virtues of his company and its work for the U.S. government.”

Although there is a growing journalistic movement dedicated to uncovering the secretes harbored by these companies and outing the unelected businessmen who have been contracted to carry out our military responsibilities, public knowledge is still relatively limited. By providing a background of a few key players of the Xe Corporation including an expansive profile o the owner, the fundamental issues surrounding the management of these corporations, and the obvious potential for these companies to be breeding grounds for corruption should become evident. If nothing else, the next time that you hear about someone being murdered at the hands of a US sponsored mercenary you can at least put a face on the man who issued the orders. These are the men lobbying for war.

It should be noted that the majority of this information is completely impossible to find on the Xecompany.com website. Instead it is necessary to find out works the corporation from outside sources.

Erik Prince, founder and chairman of Xe-

Born: June 6, 1969

Birthplace: Holland Michigan
Political Affiliation: Republican

Religious Affiliation: (converted) Roman Catholic

40 year old Erik D. Prince is the sole owner of Xe which employs 600 full-time employees in the U.S. and 2,000 contractors across the globe. Until March 2, 2009 he was CEO. In 2009 following multiple publicized controversies he resigned from position of CEO though he still retains the position as the company’s chairman.

Prince graduated from Holland Christian High School, attended the US Naval Academy and transferred to Hillsdale College where he would eventually graduate. Hillsdale was described by the National Review as a “citadel for conservatism.”

In 1992 he joined the US Navy and served as a NAVY SEAL being deployed all over the world including working on what he referred to as “secret missions in Haiti and Bosnia.” After his father, founder of Prince automotive, died he took up an enormous inheritance.

In 1997 he bought 6,000 acres of land in North Carolina and with help of former ex-Navy SEAL Al Clark opened up what would become Blackwater Worldwide in North Carolina. Blackwater is described as a “US Training center” providing the necessary training for security and military positions. Clark left early in the inception of Blackwater, though it is speculated that the notion of a one stop military training facility was his idea and that Prince simply provided the funding.

Since 1986 Prince has personally donated over $230,000 to Republican causes and has also donated to the right-wing Christian conservative legal organization the Alliance Defense Fund. Despite his intense religious relationship he has told Newsweek, "I'm a practicing Roman Catholic, but you don't have to be Catholic, you don't have to be a Christian to work for Blackwater." Still a defense-industry newsletter quoted him as using a biblical reference as a method of advertising his company, "Everybody carries guns, just like Jeremiah rebuilding the Temple in Israel, a sword in one hand, a trowel in the other.”

In 2007 Prince claimed that 90 percent of Blackwater revenue came from the US government.

On October 2, 2007 Prince was called into Congress to testify on behalf of his company after a barrage of controversies involving the company. When asked for financial information about his company he responded 'We're a private company. There's a key word there - private.”

On August 3, 2009 two former Blackwater employees including a former Navy SEAL alleged that Prince had murdered or arranged the murder of individuals who were cooperating with the US government to investigate the company. The accusers also included the statement that Prince "views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe.”

Prominent Political Ties:

Among various religious contributions, according to Scahill’s book he has made personal financial contributions to:

President George W. Bush

Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC)
Rep. Richard Pombo (R-CA)
Rep. Dick Chrysler (R-MI)
Rep. Rick Santorum (R-PA)

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK)
Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX)Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC)

Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN)
Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ)
Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA)

In 1990, Prince worked as an intern for Rep. Dana Rohrabacher’s (R-CA).

In 1992 he served as a White House intern under President George H.W. Bush .
He interned at Gary Baur’s Family Research Council that his father helped found. The Family Research Council is a Religious Right foundation that promotes the views of the conservative church.















NOTABLE EXECUTIVES HIRED IN 2005 “The Big Three”


Joseph Schmitz- On August 26, 2005 Joseph Schmitz informed the Pentagon that he would resign as Inspector General for the Department of Defense to work for Blackwater as Chief Operating Officer. He still maintains a position under the Prince Group, the mother company of Blackwater. While working for the pentagon as Inspector General he was in control of defense contracts and contributed to the largest increase in military contracting ever just before joining Blackwater. Schmitz is also a devout Catholic contributing to various Religious Right foundations.

Robert Richer- Originally tagged onto Blackwater as Vice President for Intelligence; Robert Richer “left” Blackwater to form Total Intelligence Solutions, a Prince Group company, with Cofer Black. Richer is a former Marine and worked for ten months as deputy director of the CIA.



Cofer Black- From beginning in 2005 Cofer Black served as Vice Chairman for Blackwater, until when he left in 2008 to focus on the sister company, Total Intelligence Solutions that he had formed with Robert Richer. Prior to joining Blackwater he worked for 28 years in Directorate of Operations for the CIA. In 1999 was appointed to director of the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center. From 2002 to 2004 he served as Coordinator and Ambassador at Large for the Department of State’s counter-terrorism unit under Colin Powell.



Although the new faces of the Blackwater higher up are not afraid to advertise their conservative political alignment, president Joe Yorio and C.O.O Danielle Esposito have little government affiliations. This was arguably a maneuver used by Blackwater to avoid any obvious controversial connections.



Clearly there are some serious relationships between these cowboy corporate commanders and key players of the political arena. It raises questions as to who else may be on the Prince payroll. Inevitably there will be secretes held within government and military operations, but when the military becomes a high profit business it is important to understand who has the most to gain from bloodshed. These secretes will not be as easily kept with media attention being able to provide insight into the actions taken by the executives. Still, with a decrease in the number of men and women citizens enlisting into the services, privatized military companies continue to flourish. Blood for profit continues to be a looming reality hanging over the head of our collective military organizations and the country as a whole.





The Cost of Privatizing Warfare

Does privatizing warfare save money? In comparing the cost of public and private security forces it is evident that privatizing warfare saves the taxpayer money in the short-term, but puts America’s national security on a perilous course. However, before engaging in a cost comparison between public and private national security forces, we must place this discussion within the context of the policy changes which have occurred in America’s national security system during the past 30 years. On November 8, 2006, when Donald Rumsfeld resigned as Secretary of Defense, he declared that America’s War on Terror was greatly misunderstood. Rumsfeld’s assessment was accurate and prescient; the War on Terror is undoubtedly misunderstood. In his declaration Rumsfeld was referring to an ideological shift in military policy, which flourished in the 1980’s, and which he believed the general public failed to comprehend. The new military policy called for two objectives; the first, lowering the cost of maintaing the armed forces and the second, making the American armed forces into the swiftest and most effective military in the world. The outcome of this policy shift was 1985’s Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP), whose main objective is to “preplan for the use of civilian contractors to perform selected services in wartime to augment Army forces.” (source United States Army).

LOGCAP came into fruition by the start of the 2001 War on Terror. 2001 marked the turning point where United States began to significantly rely less on the public national security establishment and more on private industry to wage war; Halliburton, Kellog Brown and Root (KBR), Blackwater as well as other firms, both domestic and foreign, have provided soldiers and logistical services to the U.S. military over the last several years. However, is there evidence that the U.S. government maximizes public money by employing the private sector? And overall, is the growing reliance on the private sector wise for the security of the United States?

Let us begin with the most basic element of America’s national security establishment, the soldier. According to Doug Brooks, President of the International Peace Operations Association, an association of private security contractors, the corporal soldier of the U.S. Army is paid an average salary of $18,000 per year and costs the taxpayer $25,000 per month to maintain in a war theater such as Iraq. In addition Brooks notes the public soldier is furnished with social programs, such as the G.I. Bill and services provided by the Veteran Affairs department, which add to the expense of employing a public soldier. In contrast, Brooks cites that the private soldier on average costs $750 per day, but once the contract expires there are no additional costs to the taxpayer; no pensions, no health services costs, no educational costs et cetera. In essence, by these calculations the private soldier lowers the cost of war to the American taxpayer.

However, there is another way by which the cost comparison of a private and public soldier must be calculated. We must consider the role of the soldier to the nation. If the vital forces of the nation are nationalism and long term economic strength, then by this measure hiring the public soldier has paid huge dividends to the American nation. Not only has the G.I. Bill adequately rewarded those Americans who risk their lives on the battlefield, but it has also provided a large portion of the American population with the tools to develop skills to adapt to America’s constantly changing job market. Furthermore, a highly trained and highly skilled labor force has been a boon for American companies. In essence, Doug Brooks is right, the cost of hiring a private soldier ends at the expiration of the contract. By contrast, the contract between the public soldier and America is perpetual. Since 1944 the taxpayer funded G.I. Bill has helped millions of Americans become productive self-sufficient citizens by giving them access to a college education, vocational schools and low interest loans to purchase homes. Thus, in the long run the public soldier, unlike the private soldier, is an investment in national security and social capital.

In addition to hiring private soldiers, the U.S. government has also used the private sector for the maintenance of military bases and for the delivery of arms and food to war zones. Firms such as KBR have been hired to operate bases which have thousands of soldiers and service personnel; by U.S. standards, many of these bases are like towns. Thus, firms like KBR have provided essential municipal services, such as sanitation and electricity, which have allowed these vast facilities to properly function. More importantly, as designed by LOGCAP, the use of private contractors has allowed for the U.S. military to use soldiers for the war effort rather than divert their labor for routine maintenance tasks. According to Doug Brooks, KBR was awarded a $14 billion contract in 2003 to provide such logistical services; and overall, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), between 2003-2007 the U.S. government awarded $85 billion in contracts to private contractors, the majority of which was spent in Iraq.

Nevertheless, this billion dollar cost of private contractors is not necessarily saving money. A recent study done by the Rand Corporation, a non profit think tank, revealed that in the long run military contractors “might cost a great deal more than a comparable military capability.” Furthermore, allegations that military contractors have defrauded the U.S. government are many. Such was the case when U.S. Representative Henry Waxman found that KBR inflated the prices on its Iraq contract. Also, in 2008 the New York Times reported that KBR was guilty of installing faulty electrical wiring in army bases which since 2004 has killed many American soldiers. The lesson here is that, in an effort to be profitable and manage money efficiently, corporations sometimes cut corners or dishonestly breach contracts. However, corporations are not necessarily the problem, the bigger problem is the U.S government and the LOGCAP security model. According to George Washington University professor Steven Schooner, an expert in military contracting, the U.S. government is not properly staffed to monitor and audit private contractors. He said:

It's been an unmitigated disaster to the extent that the United States military and the government generally has refused to invest in the required amount of contract management resources needed to get the job done. To say that another way, there are not enough trained professionals in the government to manage the contractors that the government needs every day.

The procurement officer staff shortages were due to the policies which fiscal conservatives promoted and instilled in the 1980’s as a response to the high government deficits created in the 1960’s and 1970’s. During the 1980’s many government administration offices were eliminated. Correspondingly, the staff shortages have undermined the ability of the U.S. government to weed out military contractors that are inefficient and deliver poor products and services. As a result of the lack of a robust auditing apparatus, the U.S. government is simply dependent on private military contractors to be forthright business partners. The implications of this is worrisome. Unlike the private soldier vs. public soldier cost analysis, it is not as clear if the United States saves more money by outsourcing logistical services. What is clear is that the current national security model is flawed and is not sustainable.

The billion dollar private contractor price-tag also reveals that the over-reliance on the private sector is compromising national security. According to the CBO, in 2008 the Iraq war theater featured a 1 to 1 ratio of U.S. military personnel to private contractors; that is 200,000 U.S. soldiers to 190,000 contractors. The first Gulf War had a 1 to 55 ratio, the Vietnam War had a 1 to 7 ratio and America’s grandest war, WWII had a 1 to 7 ratio. Is it far fetched to surmise that the 1 to 1 Iraq war ratio poses a risk to America’s national security? Hardly, the risk is serious and Professor Schooner explains why. He cites that some private military contractors are not as highly profitable as one may think. He noted:

The fact that a contractor can be reimbursed for allowable costs doesn't mean that it recovers all the money that it spends. Now, part of this is just the nuance of the way government contracts operate. But it is perfectly feasible, and it happens all the time, for contractors to lose money on cost-reimbursement contracts. Let's also not lose sight of the fact that KBR's employees have not only been injured but have been killed in large numbers in Iraq, and it's very difficult to put a price tag on that type of activity or that type of loss.

In 2004 Newsweek magazine reported that KBR made a meager 1.4% profit on a $1.7 billion dollar job in Iraq. Therefore, if America is clearly relying too heavily on private contractors, but on the other hand these contractors aren’t finding lucrative business opportunities, then this scenario poses a real national security problem. We must not forget that a for-profit organization will act accordingly; if business risks become too costly and the profit margins diminish, a military contractor will either raise prices or spin off into a new business venture and leave a security void which the American military must hurriedly fill. Thus, in placing a large portion of the military infrastructure in the hands of military contractors, America is undermining its own security and defense capabilities.

In sum, the downsized public defense establishment and its growing reliance on the private sector has placed American national security on an uncharted potentially perilous course. Hiring private contractors has saved money in the short-term. However, this policy is shortsighted, as it fails to account for the many benefits a public soldier gives a nation. Furthermore, the defense policies born in the 1980’s were the outcome of a generation of government officials who declared that government was the underlying problem to America’s fiscal troubles. It turns out this generation of fiscal conservatives was right. Ironically, the government this generation molded became the problem; for it created a defense procurement system which is flawed and it downsized the U.S. military to a point where it has no other option but to rely on private security contractors. In essence, it is clear that America’s national security system lacks the adequate resources to efficiently and wisely provide for the common defense.