Sunday, December 31, 2006

Florida Grand Master silences Bro. Tim Bryce

Last year W. Bro. Tim Bryce was ordered by the then-Grand Master of Florida to remove several excellent Masonic websites he was running from the Internet. Bro. Bryce complied, and the world is worse off for their absence.

A few days ago, on St. John the Evangelist's Day (once a day of major importance to Freemasons), the current Florida Grand Master, Robert Trump, ordered Bro. Bryce to stop communicating via email with Masons in other jurisdictions unless he had express written permission from the Grand Master.

On Dec. 27, W. Bro. Trump wrote to W. Bro. Tim, demanding he "cease and desist the distribution of any and all materials, either printed or transmitted, to be used by members of any other Grand Jurisdictions unless prior permission has been obtained by you in writing."

What the hell are they afraid of? What hackneyed powerbase are they trying to maintain? What has Freemasonry become, where a brother cannot communicate with other brothers without "permission"?

Bro. Tim, being a good Mason, is following the dictates of his Grand Lodge, and will no longer be sending out his regular email communications to other Freemasons. Again, the Masonic world is worse off because of the stupid "orders" of a self-serving Grand Master and Grand Lodge.

Freemasonry, once the bastion of free speech, self-improvement and self-knowledge, has shown itself once again to be the stronghold of archaic, petty would-be tyrants.

Below you'll find the letter from M.W. Grand Master Robert Trump to W. Bro. Tim Bryce, and Bro. Tim's reply:
RE: Articles to other Grand Jurisdictions

W:.Timothy L. Bryce,

Find enclosed a copy of a letter from the Grand Lodge of New York and a copy of an email from the Grand Jurisdictions of Iowa and Washington, in reference to materials sent by you to members of those Grand Jurisdictions and their stated concerns. As you can see, when communicating with members of other Grand Jurisdictions, there is a certain protocol to be maintained and proper procedures which must be adhered to.

Chapter 15, Regulation 15.01, Page 171 in our Digest of Masonic Law states, "All Inter-Jurisdictional correspondence shall be sent through the office of the Grand Master, except that request for "Work by Courtesy" to and from other Grand Jurisdictions may be made through the office of the Grand Secretary."

All Grand Jurisdictions have similar regulations to govern all correspondence with their members within their particular Jurisdiction, and your correspondence violates these regulations.

This latest letter from the Grand Lodge of New York and this email from Iowa and Washington are only two of several pieces of correspondence received from other Grand Jurisdictions by our Grand Lodge in the last few months, all of which questions the legality of your correspondence with, and to its members.

Therefore, in order to allow the Grand Lodge of Florida to be in compliance with the rules and regulations of other Grand Jurisdictions, and continue to maintain a good and friendly Fraternal relationship with said Jurisdictions, you are hereby ordered and directed to cease and desist the distribution of any and all materials, either printed or transmitted, to be used by members of any other Grand Jurisdictions unless prior permission has been obtained by you in writing. Also Regulation 15.01 in our Digest of Masonic Law must be adhered to in all future cases.

I firmly rely on your duty and honor as a Master Mason to see that this order is carried out immediately upon receipt of this letter.

With regards,
Robert D. Trump
Grand Master

RW Martin A. Danoff, GM/NY
RW Gilbert Savitsky GLNY
RW Robert P. Harry, Jr., DGM
RW Joe A. Fleites, SGW
RW Dale I. Goehrig, JGW
MW Roy Conner Sheppart, PGM&GS
RW David A. Henderson, DDGM-21
MW Richard E. Lynn, PGM/Chairman, Jurisprudence

December 30, 2006

M:.W:.Robert D. Trump
Grand Master,
MW Grand Lodge of F.& A.M. of Florida
East Palatka, FL 32131

Dear Bro. Trump,

I am in receipt of your letter of December 27, 2006 to "cease and desist the distribution of any and all materials, either printed or transmitted, to be used by members of any other Grand Jurisdictions unless prior permission has been obtained by you in writing."

As you know, I was ordered last year to cease and desist producing all Masonic publications, which I complied with. Since then I have written several Masonic articles aimed at improving the fraternity, all of which I make freely available to anyone who wants to publish them (except Florida). To this end, I include the following statement in my articles:

"NOTE: The opinions expressed in this essay are my own and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of any Grand Masonic jurisdiction or any other Masonic related body. As with all of my Masonic articles herein, please feel free to reuse them in Masonic publications or re-post them on Masonic web sites (except Florida). When doing so, please add the following:

Reprinted by permission of the author and "FreeMason Information""

Accordingly, I have received numerous requests over the last year to reprint my articles in Masonic publications which I have granted. I have also been asked on several occasions by Florida Lodges to use my work, all of which I have denied. To this end, I believe I am already in compliance with your order.

Since I no longer operate any Masonic publication, I have no control over the physical publication of my articles, nor do I seek such control due to the censorship ruling by your predecessor. I would like to mention here that I have not received or charged one penny for any of these articles. Also, I do not discuss anything that could be construed as Masonically secret.

2007 represents my 10th year as a Mason. During the past several years, I have been in contact with Masons from around the world via the Internet. When a work of mine is published, I send out a notice to my contacts that it is now available and where on the Internet they can find it. I believe it is this notification you are referring to in your letter of December 27th. When I broadcast an e-mail message of the availability of my articles, I include the following statement:


Further, I do not charge anyone for these notifications or solicit any money for doing so. In addition to the notification, I include links to Masonic News stories as published on the Internet.

As per your order, I will cancel the weekly e-mail broadcasts and will notify my contacts accordingly.

However, I need some clarification: Do you mean to say that I can no longer communicate with a Mason outside of Florida? Please understand that I monitor obituaries in the Tampa Bay area, and when I come across a Brother who has passed away in our area from another jurisdiction, I notify the Grand Secretary of that jurisdiction and the Brother's home Lodge (if I can find them) of the passing. This is greatly appreciated by all involved. By your order, I assume I am no longer allowed to do this.

I also assume your order applies to all other Florida Masons and that I am not being singled out and discriminated against. In other words, no other Florida Mason should be making e-mail broadcasts or contacting Masons outside of our jurisdiction without the expressed written approval of the Grand Master or Grand Secretary. For example, I am on the e-mailing list of some of your District Deputies who forward to me your own weekly e-mail message. I did not ask to be placed on these lists but have not registered an objection yet. Nonetheless, I believe the Craft should be formally informed of your policy regarding e-mail in order to avoid any other embarrassments to the Grand Lodge.

My Masonic writings are something I do personally and have nothing whatsoever to do with my business, M. Bryce & Associates, a division of M&JB Investment Company. Any attempt to interfere with my business will be resisted by all legal means. I am beginning to believe there is a premeditated attempt by the Grand Lodge of Florida to interfere with my rights under the 1st Amendment of the United States Constitution.

Brother Bob, we have known each other for many years now, back to when you were State Chairman for the Grand Master's Charity where I built a web page to assist you. Since then, I have fully cooperated with you and have always been honest with you. I do not believe you can accuse me otherwise. It is for this reason that I am surprised and disappointed that you thought so little of me as to send me your letter as opposed to picking up the telephone to discuss the problem. From my end, it appears there are other forces at work here driving your decision.

Sincerely & Fraternally,

Tim Bryce, PM, MPS
Photo: W. Bro. Tim Bryce, PM, MPS

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Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas from Mary and the Widow's Son, and from these Chipmunk wannabes.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Lay down your gun and have some fun: Global Orgasm for Peace, Dec. 22

This article first appeared on on November 30.

Maybe the chill of winter won't bother you on December 22 if you participate in the Global Orgasm for Peace. Two peace activists/aging hippies are promoting this Day of Action as a massive anti-war demonstration on the first day of winter.

No need to march. Just stay at home and have a Big O. Or two. Or however many you can muster.

The Global Orgasm for Peace was conceived by Donna Sheehan, 76, and Paul Reffell, 55, who want everyone in the world to have an orgasm Dec. 22 while focusing on world peace.

"The orgasm gives out an incredible feeling of peace during it and after it," Reffell said. "Your mind is like a blank. It's like a meditative state. And mass meditations have been shown to make a change."

By promoting what they hope to be a synchronized global orgasm, they hope to get people to channel their sexual energy into something more positive.

The couple said interest appears strong, with 26,000 hits a day to their Web site,

Lay down your guns.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Is the 'Diamond Cutter' a Masonic symbol?

I'm not a fan of urban hip-hop music, nor of professional wrestling, so it's no surprise I'm only slightly familiar with rapper Jay-Z, or that I've never heard of pro wrestler Diamond Dallas Page before now.

Jay-Z, CEO and president of Def Jam and Roc-A-Fella recording companies as well as part-owner of the New Jersey Nets NBA basketball team, has recently heard from wrestler-turned-actor Page, though, through his attorneys, according to MTV News. Page is claiming that Jay-Z has misappropriated and used improperly Page's "trademarked" hand gesture, and is suing over trademark and copyright infringement.

Page, a pro wrestler since 1991, apparently uses as part of his stage persona a hand gesture that consists of putting his hands together into the shape of a diamond or triangle, touching his thumbs together and his index fingers together. The gesture, which Page calls the "Diamond Cutter," looks to me like what I've seen dozens of stage magicians do at one time or another.

What got my attention in an article about the case on the Memphis Rap website was this line: "The symbol is most common amongst the Freemasonry fraternity and other groups."

Anyone seen this symbol in a lodge? And if so, then can Masons claim that Diamond Dallas Page and Jay-Z are both misusing a Freemasonic trademark? What about all those other Masonic due guards, signs and symbols? Someone somewhere is bound to be using them, accidentally or purposefully, improperly. Can we claim trademark rights to the Eye in the Pyramid on the back of dollar bills? How about the very name "Freemasons," now used by an electronica/house music act from England?

Trademark lawsuits and licensing agreements could become goldmines for small lodges looking for new income streams. It would sure beat sitting up all night making barbecue to sell as a fundraiser.

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Saturday, December 16, 2006

'Change your thoughts and you change your world'

Last Tuesday, for the first time since the last election night 12 months ago, I attended a Masonic lodge meeting. I went to the Stated Communication of my home lodge, on election night.

There were a few fresh faces — a couple of new guys who appeared to be around 30 or younger — and many of the old faces I'd known for years. Some of the older guys seemed to have aged quite a bit, several were now home sick, and one had been put into a nursing home....

Most of the men greeted me warmly, as I did them. One — in his shiny suit and gold chain — did his best to avoid direct eye contact or having to speak to me. He stumbled as he zigzagged around a brother and me having a conversation in the vestibule.

One brother asked "Where ya been?" and I answered, "Learning to subdue my passions," which got a chuckle out of all those within earshot.

The meeting was the same as it ever was... some of the officers knew their opening lines, others (who had been in office since last December) still giggled and fumbled their way through the ritual.

The same Past Masters sat on the sidelines, talking too loudly to each other throughout the opening, mostly telling each other that one of the officers should have said this instead of that.

The opening prayer by a chaplain I didn't recognize was long, filled with faux emotion in the style common to fundamentalist church-goers around here. I'm sure I was the only one there who thought it unmasonic or even unusual, the prayer pleading with and begging Jesus-God-Father-Lord (every fourth word was one of those names) to save our souls, heal our bodies, and make us "ever humble in Thy sight," etc., etc. The prayer closed with a thunderous evocation of "in JEE-zuz PRECIOUS and HOLY name! Amen!" and we all sat down.

Before I knew it, just like every other meeting at this lodge I'd ever been to, "applications for relief" turned into men standing up and reciting a long list of ailments, maladies and diseases of everyone they knew, with a request that the rest of us "remember him in your prayers."

Finally, a break was called so everyone could smoke, go to the restroom, and/or put donations for "higher education" into a basket.

If you're not a Mason, you may not know this... but the above description is pretty much what all Masonic meetings are like, at least in the South. Unless there is a new candidate to be initiated, passed or raised, or an election (once a year), that's pretty much it for Masonry until next meeting. Except when the Gold Chain Guys show up to promote the Grand Master's "program for the year." The pretend humbleness is always interesting to watch.

I left at the break, as did several of the regulars. Masonic elections are never exciting. Campaigning, electioneering, or even saying you want an officer's position are against the rules. I left before they voted, yet I would bet $1000 that I know who was elected to every chair. The name of the man that "should be" elected to a particular office is whispered down the line as each vote takes place. I don't know why it's called an "election," or why they bother.

The most amazing thing to me about my attendance at this lodge meeting was this: I don't care anymore. I'm at peace with it. I see what's wrong, wish it would change, tried to change it, but don't care anymore if it does or if it doesn't. As some of my more enlightened friends say to me from time to time, "it is what it is."

The majority of the men in my lodge think that is what Masonry is — opening a lodge, saying a prayer, pledging allegiance to a flag, sharing all the details of his or his neighbor's recent surgery or illness, tossing a dollar in a basket, occasionally watching a new guy join (900 out of 1000 new members will stop attending within two months of joining, 90 will keep coming but never learn much about Masonry, and then there's that one in a thousand who will try to effect change from within, be beat down, and then start a blog like I did, or start a whole new Grand Lodge, like the UGLA has), closing the lodge and going home. Maybe their joy is in just being there, basking in the brotherhood or experiencing the sameness of it all, year after year.

Good for them. Good for you. Enjoy it, brethren. I wish you well.

I paid my dues. Figuratively as well as literally. I'm current. I'm legit. I'm "in good standing." I'm a Mason, a Freemason, and will always be. I remember my obligations, and I'm here if you need help.

Maybe writing this blog for the past 15 months really has helped me learn to subdue my passions, or at least get past my anger at what happened in 2005. I've often focused here on the bad things about Masonry — hypocrisy, lying, fraud, financial misdealings, backstabbing — and there is much wrong with Freemasonry today.

But just as you can't change the world unless you change yourself... you can't change Freemasonry without changing yourself.

I'm changing. A change in me will be reflected in a change in this blog, in Freemasonry, and in the world. I hope it's a change for the better.

"Change your thoughts and you change your world." — Bro. Norman Vincent Peale (1898-1993)

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Sunday, December 10, 2006

Oath-taking: Does it matter what Volume of Sacred Law you use?

In Masonic lodges, an opened "Volume of Sacred Law" always rests upon the Holy Altar when a lodge is at labor. In the United States, most often this book is the Holy Bible, but it is not a requirement. Some lodges may use other holy books from the Jewish or Muslim or other religion. Candidates for admission to Freemasonry may choose the Volume of Sacred Law they wish to take their oaths upon.

Sometimes we hear of lodges refusing to allow a non-Christian to use the book of his choice, and sometimes, a non-Christian candidate will for the sake of "peace and harmony" take his oath on a book that doesn't genuinely reflect his religious faith.

Congressman-elect Keith Ellison, a Democrat from Minnesota, recently announced that he intends to take his Congressional oath of office on the Koran, the Volume of Sacred Law of the Muslim faith.

Conservatives are aghast. Right-wing columnist and radio talkshow host Dennis Prager has posted a rambling, anti-Muslim diatribe about Ellison's decision, making a mountain out of what should be a molehill. Allowing Ellison to take his oath on the book of his choice, Prager says, will undermine "American civilization."

He bemoans: "[W]hy are we allowing Keith Ellison to do what no other member of Congress has ever done — choose his own most revered book for his oath?" The title of Prager's essay is "America, Not Keith Ellison, decides what book a congressman takes his oath on," which would lead one to believe their are oath-taking rules or something in the Constitution that requires Congressmen to take an oath upon the Bible, when in fact there is no such rule.

There is no such rule or Constitutional mandate. In fact, Article VI of the Constitution of the United States says that members of Congress, state legislatures and all executive and judicial officers "shall be bound by oath or affirmation to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

According to an editorial in the Hartford (Conn.) Courant, "John Quincy Adams held a law book and a copy of the Constitution at his oath-taking. Theodore Roosevelt didn't use any book. In Congress, at least one lawmaker carried the Book of Mormon, while others have brought along their Hebrew Bible."

The taking of any oath is a personal matter, and is not only a binding obligation to whatever organization one is taking a leadership role with (Masonic or Congressional), but is an obligation taken before one's own God, however the oath-taker defines his God. The book — if any — one takes an oath upon is matter of personal choice, not organizational mandate.

Prager is way off base in his anti-Muslim, America-love-it-or-leave-it rant.

Bro. Carl Claudy, who authored hundreds of short "Old Tiler's Talks" during the 1920s-1940s, wrote this interesting tale called "Book on the Altar."

"I heard the most curious tale," began the New Brother seating himself beside the Old Tiler during refreshment.

"Shoot!" commanded the Old Tiler.

"Friend of mine belongs to a midwest lodge. Seems they elected a chap to become a member but when he took the degree he stopped the work to ask for the Koran in place of the Bible on the Altar. Said he wanted the holy book of his faith, and the Bible wasn't it!"

"Yes, go on," prompted the Old Tiler. "What did they do?"

"The officers held a pow-wow and the Master finally decided that as the ritual demanded the 'Holy Bible, Square and Compasses' as furniture for the lodge, the applicant was wrong and that he'd have to use the Bible or not take his degree. And the funny part was that the initiate was satisfied and took his degree with the Bible on the Altar.

"I'm glad they have him, and not this lodge."


"Why, a chap who backs down that way can't have very much courage; I'd have had more respect for him if he'd insisted and if he couldn't have his way, refused to go on with the degree."

"All wrong, brother, all wrong!" commented the Old Tiler. "The Mohammedan initiate wasn't concerned about himself but about the lodge. He showed a high degree of Masonic principle in asking for his own holy book, and a great consideration for the lodge. This man isn't a Christian. He doesn't believe in Christ. He believes in Allah, and Mohammed his prophet. The Bible, to you a holy book, is to him no more than the Koran is to you. You wouldn't regard an obligation taken on a dictionary or a cookbook or a Koran as binding, in the same degree that you would one taken on the Bible.

"That's the way this chap felt. He wanted to take his obligation so that it would bind his conscience. The Master would not let him, because he slavishly followed the words of the ritual instead of the spirit of Masonry.

"Masonry does not limit an applicant to his choice of a name for a Supreme Being. I can believe in Allah, or Buddha, or Confucius, or Mithra, or Christ, or Siva, or Brahma, or Jehovah, and be a good Mason. If I believe in a Great Architect that is all Masonry demands; my brethren do not care what I name Him."

"Then think you this chap isn't really obligated? I must write my friend and warn him-"

"Softly, softly! Any man with enough reverence for Masonry, in advance of knowledge of it, to want his own holy book on which to take an obligation would feel himself morally obligated to keep his word, whether there was his, another's or no holy book at all, on the Altar. An oath is not really binding because of the book beneath your
hand. It is the spirit with which you assume an obligation which makes it binding. The book is but a symbol that you make your promise in the presence of the God you revere. The cement of brotherly love which we spread is not material-the working tools of a Master Mason are not used upon stone but upon human hearts. Your brother did his best to conform to the spirit of our usages in asking for the book he had been taught to revere. Failing in that through no fault of his own, doubtless he took his obligation with a sincere belief in its sacredness. Legally he would not be considered to commit perjury if he asked for his own book and was forced to use another."

"What's the law got to do with it?"

"Just nothing at all, which is the point I make. In England and America, Canada and South America, Australia, and part of the Continent, the Bible is universally used. In Scottish Rite bodies you will find many holy books; but let me ask you this; when our ancient brethren met on hills and in valleys, long before Christ, did they use the New Testament on their altars? Of course not; there was none. You can say that they used the Old Testament and I can say they used a Talmud and someone else can say they used none at all, and all of us are as right as the other. But they used a reverence for sacred things.

"If you write your friend, you might tell him that the ritual which permits a man to name his God as he pleases, but demands that a book which reveres one particular God be used, is faulty. The ritual of Masonry is faulty; it was made by man. But the spirit of Masonry is divine; it comes from men's hearts. If obligation and books and names of the Deity are matters of the spirit, every condition is satisfied. If I were Master and an applicant demanded any one or any six books on which to lay his hand while he pledged himself to us, I'd get them if they were to be had, and I'd tell my lodge what a reverent Masonic spirit was in the man who asked."

"Seems to me you believe in a lot of funny things; how many gods do you believe in?"

"There is but one," was the Old Tiler's answer. "Call Him what you will. Let me repeat a little bit of verse for you:

"'At the Meuzzin's call for prayer
The kneeling faithful thronged the square;
Amid a monastery's weeds,
An old Franciscan told his beads,
While on Pushkara's lofty height
A dark priest chanted Brahma's might,
While to the synagogue there came
A Jew, to praise Jehovah's Name.
The One Great God looked down and smiled
And counted each His loving child;
For Turk and Brahmin, monk and Jew
Had reached Him through the gods they knew.

"If we reach Him in Masonry, it makes little difference by what sacred name we arrive," finished the Old Tiler, reverently.

"You've reached me, anyhow," said the New Brother, shaking hands as if he meant it.

Thanks to The Blue Herald for the heads-up on this controversy.

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Friday, December 08, 2006

Vatican reiterates stance against Freemasonry: "You'll go to Hell"

The Vatican has upheld Bishop Fabian W. Bruskewitz's decision 10 years ago that membership in Call to Action, a Catholic group founded in 1976 to examine and change certain church doctrines, "is totally incompatible with the Catholic faith" and results in automatic excommunication.

The Nov. 24 letter to the Lincoln bishop, made public today by Catholic Online, from Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Bishops, to Bishop Bruskewitz said that his 1996 ruling "was properly taken within your competence as pastor of that diocese."

Cardinal Re was one of the electors of the new pope last year, and was himself considered for the position.

Bruskewitz's original ruling said that membership in the group Call to Action, or in 10 other unacceptable groups, would result in automatic excommunication. The other groups include Masons and organizations related to Freemasonry, such as Job's Daughters and Rainbow Girls, groups for young female relatives of Masons, and the Order of the Eastern Star, an organization for Masons and their adult female relatives.

"Parents have to tell children that they can't test everything in the medicine cabinet or drink everything under the sink," the bishop explained. "The church is our mother and gives us these instructions as protection against dangers we might not perceive.... It is liberating, not enslaving."

The bishop said he hopes people affected by his ruling will remedy their situations without delay.

"The Lord loves everyone and died for everyone, and he wants all to be saved," he said. "The best lesson that can be learned from everything that has happened is that one finds happiness, joy and satisfaction in obedience to the church." [Emphasis mine (W.S.)]

Image: Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Bishops

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Monday, December 04, 2006

The Crazy Years

Science fiction author Robert A. Heinlein often mentioned the "Crazy Years" in his stories when writing about alternative timelines. It's been obvious for quite a while that we're living in those Crazy Years.

The following anonymously-authored piece was sent to me by a friend, and has nothing to do with Heinlein. But it is certainly indicative that we are indeed living in those Crazy Years he often alluded to. For all the craziness of the 1960s and 1970s, they were serene compared to today. What a difference a generation makes.

Scenario: Jack pulls into school parking lot with rifle in gun rack.

1973 — Vice Principal comes over, takes a look at Jack's rifle, goes to his car and gets his to show Jack.

2006 — School goes into lockdown, FBI called, Jack hauled off to jail and never sees his truck or gun again. Counselors called in for traumatized students and teachers.

Scenario: Johnny and Mark get into a fist fight after school.

1973 — Crowd gathers. Mark wins. Johnny and Mark shake hands and end up best friends. Nobody goes to jail, nobody arrested, nobody expelled.

2006 — Police called, SWAT team arrives, arrests Johnny and Mark. Charge them with assault, both expelled even though Johnny started it.

Scenario: Jeffrey won't be still in class, disrupts other students.

1973 — Jeffrey sent to office and given a good paddling by Principal. Sits still in class.

2006 — Jeffrey given huge doses of Ritalin. Becomes a zombie. School gets extra money from state because Jeffrey has a disability.

Scenario: Billy breaks a window in his father's car and his Dad gives him a whupping.

1973 — Billy is more careful next time, grows up normal, goes to college, and becomes a successful businessman.

2006 — Billy's Dad is arrested for child abuse. Billy removed to foster care and joins a gang. Billy's sister is told by state psychologist that she remembers being abused herself and their Dad goes to prison. Billy's mom has affair with psychologist.

Scenario: Mark gets a headache and takes some headache medicine to school.

1973 — Mark shares headache medicine with Principal out on the smoking dock.

2006 — Police called, Mark expelled from school for drug violations. Car searched for drugs and weapons.

Scenario: Mary turns up pregnant.

1973 — Five high school boys leave town. Mary does her senior year at a special school for expectant mothers.

2006 — Middle School Counselor calls Planned Parenthood, who notifies the ACLU. Mary is driven to the next state over and gets an abortion without her parent's consent or knowledge. Mary given condoms and told to be more careful next time.

Scenario: Pedro fails high school English.

1973 — Pedro goes to summer school, passes English, goes to college.

2006 — Pedro's cause is taken up by state Democratic party. Newspaper articles appear nationally explaining that teaching English as a requirement for graduation is racist. ACLU files class action lawsuit against state school system and Pedro's English teacher. English banned from core curriculum. Pedro given diploma anyway but ends up mowing lawns for a living because he can't speak English.

Scenario: Johnny takes apart leftover firecrackers from the 4th of July, puts them in a model airplane paint bottle, blows up a red ant bed.

1973 — Ants die.

2006 — BATF, Homeland Security, & FBI called. Johnny charged with domestic terrorism, FBI investigates parents, siblings removed from home, computers confiscated, Johnny's Dad goes on a terror watch list and is banned from all commercial flights.

Scenario: Johnny falls while running during recess and scrapes his knee. He is found crying by his teacher, Mary. Teacher hugs him to comfort him.

1973 — In a short time Johnny feels better and goes on playing.

2006 — Mary is accused of being a sexual predator and loses her job. She faces 3 years in State Prison. Johnny undergoes 5 years of therapy.

Image: A simpler time?

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Saturday, December 02, 2006

Conspiracy theories for fun and entertainment

I found an amusing little conspiracy theory article recently that might have a kernel of truth among the wacky theories.

Which one do you think is most likely to be true?

• California is poised to become the battleground for a new race war between Anglos and Latinos, with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa as the "generals" of each side.

Seinfeld actor Michael Richards is, in fact, a high officer in a particularly racist branch of the Freemasons called "White Masonry."

• A central motive behind the 9/11 attacks is one of the plot devices in the new James Bond flick "Casino Royale."

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The Masonic Wiki Wars

Wiki Wars are nothing new. They've become commonplace, especially in the political arena, and politicians and their supporters are constantly re-writing history on the World Wide Web's most popular source of "facts," the open-source written-by-the-public encyclopedia Wikipedia.

The fledgling United Grand Lodge of America, formed in December, 2005 by Free-Masons generally fed up with the state of "mainstream" Freemasonry in the southern United States, recently created an entry describing their history, goals and raison d'etre on Wikipedia.

Within hours, someone not affiliated with the UGLA had erased everything that had been written, and replaced the entry with a poorly written and generally inaccurate diatribe against the UGLA.

A UGLA member replaced it with the original entry, and again, the self-appointed anti-UGLA expert deleted it and put up his own negative piece.

The unknown anti-UGLA writer (if you can call his entry writing) supports his weak comments about the UGLA with but two links as sources, one to the official UGLA website and one to Bro. Ed King's website.

Some UGLA brothers think the mystery writer could be Bro. King himself. Bro. King is a self-appointed online Masonic "Know It All." Or for all I know, he's been officially recognized as such by some Masonic group. (Some Masons seem to love giving each other plaques and certificates.) Bro. King's website,, which claims to have been online for at least eight years, contains several inaccurate references to the United Grand Lodge of America, including calling its members "expelled Masons," which they are not. To my knowledge, members of the UGLA consist of demitted Masons, of Masons who were "erased" from their blue lodge and Scottish Rite temples without trial, and of Masons who still also hold membership in mainstream Antient blue lodges.

Bro. King has devoted a page on his website to discuss the UGLA. His stance is nearly identical to the one shown in the anti-UGLA article that keeps reappearing on Wikipedia.

I personally know many UGLA members, and have since before the UGLA was founded. Yet I'd never presume to be an expert on the organization. I'd certainly never hold myself up as someone who was competent to write an encyclopedia article about them.

Only someone authorized by the group itself should be writing an information article about the group.

If whoever is behind the recurring adulteration of the Wikipedia entry wants to write articles debunking or ridiculing the United Grand Lodge of America, that is fine. That's what your own website or blog is for.

But using an encylopedia to bash your opponents is just tacky, and definitely unmasonic. I call upon whoever is repeatedly changing the Wikipedia entry to stop his childish activity.

Incidently, as of this writing, Bro. Ed King's own blog, the egocentrically-named "Masonic Musings from ME!", hasn't been updated since August 10, 2006.

Here's the rather weak entry (typos and grammatical errors included) on the UGLA that someone keeps replacing the official entry with:
The United Grand Lodge of America is an unrecognized body of Freemasonry, aimed at practicing the Modern's version of Freemasonry. It's [sic] stated mission is "the Brotherhood of All Mankind under the All-Seeing Eye of Deity through Universal Tolerance and the enlightenment of humanity."

[1] One of the main differences between this orginization and Mainstream masonry is that the UGLA is willing to recognize all masonic and non-masonic bodies, not believing in the ideal of recognition. However, the UGLA has failed to receive any recognition from any other body dealing or not dealing with any concepts of accepted freemasonry.


The United Grand Lodge of America was formed by expelled masons on December 27th, 2005.[1] While it is uncertain the specific individuals that formed this fraternity, it is known that the individuals decided upon it's [sic] creation after being expelled from Freemasonry for various reasons. These individuals felt wronged by the Grand Lodge system and sought to form a orginization [sic] not relying on hierarchy.[2]

Conflicting Ideals

While the UGLA was founded by ex-masons, it's [sic] ideals are conflicting with current F&AMasons and AF&AMasons. These conflicts are listed below:

1)The UGLA was not chartered by any existing Grand Lodge, or any recognized group of Blue Lodges.

2)The UGLA is seeking the disappearance of the current Grand Lodge system, and have all blue lodges report to one Grand Lodge; current freemasonry is sovereign to each state.

3)The UGLA is not recognized by any masonic body, therefore any of it's [sic] members will not be recognized by the regular Masonic bodies found throughout the world.

4)The UGLA does not have the support base or historical credibility such as the current Freemasonry orginization. [sic]

See Also

UGLA Home Page
Masonic Info Home Page
Lodge Room US


1. United Grand Lodge Home Page, December 27th, 2005

2., United GL of America
And here's a recent version of the Wikipedia entry the United Grand Lodge of America posted itself:
The formation of the United Grand Lodge of America of Accepted Free-Masons represents a return to the principles of the Grand Lodge of 1717 and the true spirit of the "Modern" Speculative Free-Masonry. Our mission is the Brotherhood of All Mankind under the All-Seeing Eye of Deity through Universal Tolerance and the enlightenment of humanity. The Grand Lodge represents a confederation of sovereign Lodges composed of Free-Masons dedicated to the Royal Art.

We welcome all honorable men and Free-Masons from around the world, regardless of Masonic affiliation, race, or religion, into our Lodges for we truly believe that a man is first made a Free-Mason in his heart and that no institution can judge this sublime act of the Creator. Every man and Free-Mason must be judged by his own individual merits as a brother and a fellow human being. For far too long Free-Masons have allowed petty Grand Lodge politics to separate and divide them. If our message to the world is "brotherhood" then we must first reestablish the same within Free-Masonry and exemplify it before all mankind.

The United Grand Lodge of America was founded on December 27th, 2005 by Masonic representatives from several states who perceived a growing necessity for reform within the American Craft. These honorable brothers put their oaths, taken before the Creator, above their own personal comfort and security because they felt a greater obligation to fulfill their promises to both God and the Craft.

If you are new to Modern Free-Masonry you may want to visit Modern Free-Masons at

Mission & Ideals

Free-Masonry is a doorway through which one can pass that leads to a Speculative Science that teaches a Peculiar System of Morality through the use of allegory and symbol. This, however, is not its ultimate aim. A man who rightly understands the Art is forever changed from within through coming to a true understanding of Charity (loving kindness). It is at this moment that he perceives the divine in all things and how we are all the children of one great Father.

The mission of Modern Free-Masonry is the Brotherhood of All Mankind under the All-Seeing Eye of Deity through Universal Tolerance and the enlightenment of humanity. Free-Masonry for the sake of itself is devoid of meaning and purpose. Many Masonic organizations have lost sight of the divinely inspired goal of the Craft, and have attempted to turn Free-Masonry into nothing more than a social club and philanthropy. The effect of this is apparent throughout the Craft today as the eternal Light grows ever dimmer within it.

For most organizations, whether Masonic or other, their main priority is self-perpetuation. They establish rules and guidelines which they believe will ensure their survival. Therefore it would seem that our first priority should be to ensure the survival of the United Grand Lodge of America or Free-Masonry itself. This, however, is inconsistent with Masonic philosophy. We view service to the Deity as our number one priority followed closely by service to mankind. The survival of Free-Masonry is the result of the performance of our duties and obligations to both God and man.

While politicians and military leaders draw lines on the globe to separate and divide men, we build bridges to unite them in Peace, Love, and Harmony.

The mission of the United Grand Lodge of America is to create, for the first time on our shores, a single, unified Grand Lodge for all Free-Masons dedicated to preserving and extending the benefits of Modern Free-Masonry throughout the United States of America. Our Grand Lodge is dedicated to restoring the ancient Craft ritual first used by the original Modern Free-Masons at the dawn of the 18th century. In promoting this ritual, we seek to restore the original teachings of Free-Masonry of that peculiar system of morality that leads to an understanding that we are all part of a brotherhood of man under the universal eye of Deity. We have reinstated Masonic education to its proper place as the primary work of Free-Masonry. To prevent the abuses that infect other grand lodges, we are organized as a decentralized and democratic confederation of sovereign and independent lodges.


During the Masonic schism (1751-1813) between the Grand Lodges of the ‘Moderns’ and the ‘Antients’ the concept of Masonic recognition was introduced into Free-Masonry. Each Grand Lodge claimed that only those Lodges and Masons recognized by them were truly Masonic. Thus Lodges and Masons under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of the ‘Antients’ were considered clandestine by the Grand Lodge of the ‘Moderns,’ with the same being true for the Grand Lodge of the ‘Antients.’ Needless to say the concept of “recognition” served the political aims of the Grand Lodges while dividing individual Free-Masons into separate camps.

The most unfortunate result of the schism between these two Grand Lodges was that the concept of recognition was carried forward by future generations of Free-Masons and used by Grand Lodges to divide men who would otherwise have no natural animosity towards one another.

The concept of “recognition” is, in itself, un-Masonic and against the primary aim of Free-Masonry – the Brotherhood of all mankind under the All-Seeing Eye of Deity. The concept of recognition is made possible only when men agree to place their loyalty to an organization above what they owe to both God and their fellow human beings. Thus Free-Masons engaged in such a practice have abandoned the concept of the brotherhood of man and replaced it with the brotherhood of the chosen. In many respects this is no different than the Nazis or the KKK. The Grand Lodges will decide who are the perfect and chosen men and out of blind loyalty Free-Masons must agree or be punished.

From the time of the great schism between the ‘Moderns’ and the ‘Antients’ the concept of recognition has been used to discriminate against men. The English have used it to denounce the French and the Anglo-Americans have used it to denigrate their African American counterparts. All of this was done in the name of Free-Masonry, a fraternity founded upon the principle of brotherly love.

The founders of the United Grand Lodge of America have wisely prohibited it from engaging in the process known as “Recognition” through constitutional law. In this they reference the Charges of a Free-Mason by James Anderson (1723):

"...we being only, as Masons, of the Universal Religion above mention'd, we are also of all Nations, Tongues, Kindreds, and Languages... if you discover him to be a true and genuine Brother, you are to respect him accordingly"

Further, they have firmly established God and the brotherhood of man as the basis for all Masonic law. The Grand Lodge cannot enact any rule or regulation that would divide men and/or Free-Masons because it goes against the primary aim of Free-Masonry (the brotherhood of man), and because it violates the universally accepted idea that God created all men equal.

The United Grand Lodge of America opens its doors to all men regardless of Race, Religion, or Masonic Affiliation and seeks to unite them into one great brotherhood under God.

Resources 1. United Grand Lodge of America 2. The Modern Freemasonic Journal 3. The Grand Lodge At York
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Julbock the Christmas goat

Maybe he's the pagan Pan, maybe he's the universal scapegoat, maybe he's that mysterious creature Masons ride, or maybe he's just ticked off because he didn't get a front-row seat at the Manger Scene... whoever he is, he's one of the oldest Christmas characters around, probably pre-dating Christmas by hundreds of years.

He's the Julbock, the Yule Goat, a tradition in Scandanavia for centuries, and in Bishop Hill, Illinois, at least since the town was founded in 1846.

Today, a man plays the impish goat, popping out from behind corners, trees and windowes to bop passers-by on the head with a bouquet of dried flowers or just scare them silly. I imagine him as Ernest T. Bass, only with goat horns.

In the past, the Julbock was the bringer of gifts to the Midwest's Scandinavian-American children, but eventually, Christians complained about the Julbock's pagan heritage, and so he was slowly demoted to, basically, a Christmas elf or gnome. Eventually, he became in many places known by a new name, Jultomte, and with a new purpose. His job was to protect farmers' homes and barns while they slept, and to pay him, a bowl of porridge was left under the porch on Christmas Eve.

It's not just coincidence that the astrological month of Capricorn the Goat begins on December 22, the first day of winter in the northern hemisphere and just three days before Christmas.

Image: The goat Julbock with the elf Tomten, delivering presents. Courtesy

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Thursday, November 30, 2006

Why I'll never be Worshipful Master

My postings to The Burning Taper have been scant lately. I've had business and personal issues to deal with, and frankly, lately my interest in Freemasonry has waned a bit.

It's now been over a year since I was ostracized by my “brothers” in my local blue lodge. Only a couple have I kept in touch with, and they were friends before I was a Mason.

As I was thinking of writing this article — about how I feel today about Freemasonry — I read an email backchannel that was sent by a Mason out West to a blue lodge secretary and to the Grand Master of Texas, informing them that one of their members had recently been arrested in a sting operation involving solicitation of sex from a minor.

That brought back memories of my experiences in my own blue lodge in 2005, when a member pleaded guilty to sexual exploitation of a minor in my hometown.

As then-webmaster of our lodge's website, I posted the news online (pursuant to Georgia Masonic Code, which states that information of that sort should be publicized to show the community that the lodge doesn't tolerate such behavior), and met with a torrent of criticism from my lodge brothers saying, “You can't put that online!” They didn't want the lodge, or the child exploiter's father, a Past Master, “embarrassed.”

As Junior Warden, it fell to me to “be in charge” when the lodge finally voted — remorsefully, as if it was the lodge's fault — to bring charges of unmasonic conduct against the brother who was by then a registered sex offender.

As JW, I signed the paperwork that led to the Masonic trial. The offender, and his Past Master Big-Shot-in-Town father took offense at me personally for having written up the charges, though I had never even met either one of them. Neither had attended a lodge meeting in years.

The full story can be found in parts 1-4 of “Small Town Freemasonry.”

Eventually, in a great imitation of Don Corleone, the father succeeded in having bogus charges of unmasonic conduct threatened against me. He even attended the meeting where another Past Master (who is in line to be Georgia's Grand Master in a few years) stood and accused me of unmasonic conduct for posting the information online. No official charges were ever filed, just threatened, to keep me “in line” until my term as Junior Warden officially ended in December, 2005.

Though of course advancement to the next chair is not guaranteed, here in the South, it's virtually assured. I've seen some most unqualified men advance to the East just because “it was his turn.”

Naturally, before all this happened, it was assumed I would become Worshipful Master when “my turn” came.

But at the election last December, I was unceremoniously dumped from the line by a vote of 27-4. The Godfather and the Heir to the Grand Master's Chair had called in their markers... brothers I'd never seen showed up to vote against me. (I'd missed only two meetings in three-plus years; I knew all the “regulars.”) I was also “deposed” as Director of Masonic Education, a position I'd held with pride for a couple of years. I was replaced by a “team” that could be controlled — a pig farmer who thinks of himself as a minister of God, and a new brother I had helped raise about two months before. I can only imagine the education those two have provided this past year since I've been gone.

It was a given that the Powers That Be didn't want me to come back to lodge meetings after that, and so I haven't.

Tuesday, December 11, is another election, the one I'd looked forward to for years, the one where I would most likely have received the honor of serving as Worshipful Master for 2007.

Ain't gonna happen.

I assume the Powers That Be (unaffectionately remembered as Jubela, Jubelo and Jubelum, plus Big Daddy and his pal Bro. Heir to the Grand Master's Throne) are still running things at the lodge, making sure they have their yes men in the Chairs and on their committees.

Same as it ever was.

“Making Good Men Better,” my ass. More like “Making Good Men Stop Attending.”

Image: The state of Masonry in the southern United States today — empty and devoid of any real meaning

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Bro. Michael Richards' stage-rage: Scottish Rite Masonry's poster boy blasts hecklers

By now you've probably heard about the stage-rage of Michael Richards, the comedian who rose to fame by playing Jerry Seinfeld's wacky neighbor Kramer.

Last weekend Richards reacted to hecklers in the audience at a comedy club in Los Angeles with a rant peppered with f-bombs and n-words. His hecklers, who had shouted at him "you're not funny" were black.

One news report said:
Michael Richards stunned a comedy club audience, shouting racial epithets at people who heckled him during a stand-up routine.

The 57-year-old actor-comedian, best known for playing Jerry Seinfeld's eccentric neighbor Kramer on the hit TV show "Seinfeld," was performing at the Laugh Factory in West Hollywood Friday night when he launched into the verbal rampage, according to video posted on

The tirade apparently began after two black audience members started shouting at him that he wasn't funny.

Richards retorted: "Shut up! Fifty years ago we'd have you upside down with a f------ fork up your a--."

He then paced across the stage taunting the men for interrupting his show, peppering his speech with racial slurs and profanities.

"You can talk, you can talk, you're brave now mother------. Throw his a-- out. He's a n-----!" Richards shouts before repeating the racial epithet over and over again.

While there is some audible chuckling in the audience throughout the outburst, someone can be heard gasping "Oh my God" and various people "0oh" after Richard uses the n-word.

Richards performed the next night at the Laugh Factory without incident.

Calls to Richards' representatives were not immediately returned early Monday.

He refused to comment on-camera when reached by CNN, but the network reported that he said off-camera he felt sorry for what had happened and had made amends.
Last night on Late Night with David Letterman, Richards, via remote from L.A., made an apology, while fellow comedian Seinfeld appeared in New York with Letterman. A video of that apology is available on today.

What many people may not know is that Michael Richards is a 32nd degree Scottish Rite Mason and a Knight Commander of the Court of Honour (K.C.C.H.). In 2000, he appeared on the cover of the Scottish Rite Journal.

Here's the story, titled "Brother Michael A. Richards, Renaissance Man, Not 'Kramer'," by Michael M. Marsellos, 32°, K.C.C.H., that appeared in the magazine, which is sent to all members of the Scottish Rite:
Cameras are rolling. Michael Richards is ad-libbing. "You ought to read Hinomaus," he informs a stunned actor. Behind the monitors, the production crew is in stitches. "Hinomaus?" Like so many of Richards' impromptus, it's ridiculous, and real, and funny at the same time.

Of course, you can't be sure the name is made up, because Richard's knowledge of great and obscure authors ranges wide. He collects rare books and reads voraciously, when he isn't acting, or hiking, or biking, or painting. The word "hobby" never applies because Brother Richards throws himself into every activity with the same intense passion.

Maybe that helped give rise to "Kramer," a character so real and subtle that viewers of the hit television series Seinfeld had a hard time separating Richards the actor from Kramer the role. But the two are worlds apart. Definitely, he is not Kramer!

Michael Richards was born on July 24, 1949, in Los Angeles, California, and grew up in Baldwin Hills and San Fernando Valley. At an early age, the adventurous lad enjoyed walking alone exploring the hillside and biking for miles from theater to theater spending the days watching movies. "These early treks of mine," says Richards, "produced an extraordinary freedom as well as a soulful sense of my own individuality."

In junior high, Richards, the perennial class clown, got his first taste of real fame when a performance in a school play brought daily plaudits from classmates in the halls. He says, "I enjoyed making my friends laugh by clowning around in classes, and I did get in trouble for it. I didn't know that I was actually doing what my calling in life demanded!"

Enrolled in the Los Angeles Valley College, he continued to dominate student productions and says "I am grateful that the public schools introduced me to the performing arts." With the Viet Nam war going on, Richards was drafted and stationed in Germany as one of the co-directors of the V Corps Training Road Show. He produced and directed shows dealing with race relations and drug abuse; "This was a successful, educational operation, boosting the moral of our men and incorporating the arts into the service."

Following an honorable discharge, Richards returned to the United States to pursue a formal education in theater at the California Institute of the Arts and Evergreen College in Washington State, where he graduated with a degree in Theater Arts. He returned to Southern California to perform with the San Diego Repertory Company and, later, at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. It was through his stand-up comedy at the Improvisation and the Comedy Store in Hollywood that ABC hired him for his first television series, Fridays. Richards highlighted Fridays with popular characters like "Vinnie," "Dick," and "Battle Boy."

When Fridays ended, Richards continued to work in television guest starring on such diverse shows as Miami Vice, Hill Street Blues, Night Court, Cheers, and St. Elsewhere, followed by his second television series, Marblehead Manor for NBC. He was also a guest star on The Billy Crystal Special, The Bob Hope Comedy Special, The Jonathan Winters Comedy Special, The MTV Comedy Special, and The Andy Kaufman Special. In addition, he hosted The Montreal Comedy Special and The Aspen Comedy Festival.

Richards' fan base was ardent but limited—until a quirky, innovative show, NBC's Seinfeld, began to gain attention in the early 1990s. People who had never watched television tuned in to watch "The K-Man" flinging open doors and sliding into rooms, both physically and philosophically, as "a hipster-doofus on the prowl." Always exciting, never predictable, Richards created the off-the-wall memorable character "Cosmo Kramer" out of thin air and into one of the funniest, most unique characters ever created for television. His performances as "Kramer" brought him three Emmy Awards and three Screen Actors Guild Awards for Best Supporting Actor in a comedy series. He also co-starred in Diane Keaton's movie Unstrung Heroes, for which he was nominated for an American Comedy Award. Recently, he took on the role of Mr. Micawber in a soon to-be-aired TNT production of David Copperfield, the famous novel by Charles Dickens. Interestingly, Mr. Micawber was performed in the last American film production (1935) of this classic by another Brother Mason and great comedic actor, W. C. Fields. Currently, for NBC, Richards is producing The Michael Richards Show, an offbeat gumshoe comedy scheduled to premiere this fall, Tuesdays at 8:00 pm.

Like all great comedians, Richards is a complex man. Those lucky enough to have worked with him, or to have been his friends, know him as a quintessentially sensitive man, a playful practical joker, and serious student of the world as well as a seeker and a traveler in journeys to new horizons.

What prompted Richards to become a Mason? In 1996 at Lake Tahoe, Richards inducted Ill. Red Skelton, 33°, into The Comedy Hall of Fame. Bro. Richards says: "I was already interested in the Craft from reading Manly Palmer Hall's The Secret of All Ages, Albert Pike's Morals and Dogma, and Albert Mackey's Symbolism of Freemasonry. So, when I met Red and found out about his strong ties to Freemasonry, I was very impressed. Morals and Dogma certainly introduced me to Scottish Rite philosophy, but it was through Red's lovable nature, Masonic and all, that I really wanted to be a Mason."

Inspired by the high moral standards of Masonic teachings, as well as the fact that so many great men of all times were Freemasons, Michael Richards became a plural member of Riviera Lodge No. 780 and Culver City–Foshay No. 467, the Southern California Research Lodge, and a Life Member of the Los Angeles Scottish Rite Valley as well as a Life Member of the Scottish Rite Research Society.

Last year, the Supreme Council honored Bro. Richards by investing him with the rank and decoration of Knight Commander of the Court of Honour. He is humble and highly appreciative of this distinction bestowed upon him: "I am delighted and honored that I have had the opportunity to meet Scottish Rite leaders, such as Ill. Bros. Sovereign Grand Commander C. Fred Kleinknecht and Inspector H. Douglas Lemons, S.G.I.G. in California, as well as Ill. Bros. Rex Hutchens, Art deHoyos, Sean Graystone, and Bro. Michael Marsellos (whom I affectionately call "The Rat Pack" of the Scottish Rite), because they are devoted to the research and study needed to maintain and express the highest standards of Masonic wisdom." Bro. Richards' love of books and Masonry prompted him to donate over 1,000 volumes encompassing art, literature, science, and philosophy to the new Culver City–Foshay Lodge Library and Study Hall.

As a note of interest, at this year's 4th of July Pacific Palisades Americanism Parade (photo above), Bro. Richards was the Grand Marshall of the event, representing also Riviera Masonic Lodge. He was joined in this event by the Honorary Mayor of Pacific Palisades and last year's Grand Marshall, the renowned actor Anthony Hopkins.

Strangely enough, my path crossed that of Brother Richards, not so much in our common calling as Thespians, but in our common endeavors for enlightenment in Freemasonry. It is a privilege for me to share this article about Brother Richards with the readers of the Scottish Rite Journal and an honor for all Freemasons to be able to count this fine actor and scholar as a Brother in the Craft.
In a recent article in his Masonic blog Masonic Traveler, Bro. Greg Stewart, a Mason in Los Angeles, has called for Bro. Richards to resign from Freemasonry, or to be removed, for unmasonic conduct. Certainly brothers have been tried and expelled in Masonic courts for much less greivous acts. Others are saying that "we are all human," and that as Masons we should support Bro. Richards, who has already admitted and apologized for his mistake.

It will be interesting to watch as this story unfolds in the Masonic world.

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Police shut down Old Bastards' stripper party

A Wisconsin newspaper's investigation put a damper on a bunch of old bastards' fun this week by provoking police into throwing cold water on their weekly stripper extravaganzas.

Since the 1960s, elderly men have been meeting weekly in Monona, Wis., near Madison, weekly to have fun. Their particular brand of fun is cavorting with strippers.

An investigation into the Old Bastards Monona chapter by the Wisconsin State Journal led police to attend Monday night's event and the exotic dancers were told they could mingle in the aisles and no touching was allowed.

The club was told it needed a city permit to hold such parties, UPI reported.

Richard Story, 60, the club's newly installed Arch Old Bastard, said no one knew there was a city permit required for the meetings, where the goal is "to do nothing."

"This isn't a young person's club," he said. "This is for elderly people who just want to have a good time with their peers."

The International Order of Old Bastards has about one million members in 4,600 chapters worldwide and was started in 1945 by Fred Kibbe, a U.S. soldier stationed in Brisbane, Australia.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A Mason 78 years, Bro. Perrin turns 101

Recently I've been called to task via emails for being "negative" about Freemasonry here on the Burning Taper lately. There hasn't been a lot of good Masonic news that I've been made aware of, so instead I've written about corruption and questionable practices in Shrine Clubs and the United Grand Lodge of England, and about the ongoing racism in the U.S. southern Grand Lodges. There hasn't been much news lately from the nearly year-old United Grand Lodge of America, and I'm not about to post announcements for upcoming chicken dinners and widow's breakfasts at local blue lodges.

But, perhaps, it's time for a warm fuzzy article. I found just the one.

Bro. Sidney Perrin turned 101 years young on Nov. 5. He was born in Chatham, Kent, England. He had a long career working in the oil industry in Europe and Iran.

In 1976, he retired and moved to Boston, Massachusetts Lincolnshire, England, where he still lives today.

His wife died in 1986, but Bro. Perrin still leads an active and independent life.

Bro. Perrin was raised a Mason in 1928, and has been a Mason longer than anyone now living.

"I've enjoyed life greatly and have thousands of friends to call on should I ever need a hand," Bro Perrin recently said.

He claims the secret to long living is not to worry and to just enjoy life.

Happy Birthday, Bro. Perrin!

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Mysterious deaths, forbidden treasure and UGLE's Pro-Grand Master

You've seen National Treasure, the fictional movie that says the Freemasons collected vast treasures to protect them for the people of the world.

There's a real-life version of National Treasure playing out in London, with side stories from China, Italy and Hungary. Even Croatia and Lebanon get bit parts in this power play. Only in this story, the Freemason is looking out not for the people of the world, but apparently for himself.

And at the center of the story is the Marquess of Northampton, Spencer "Spenny" Douglas David Compton. The Marquess is said to be the world's richest Buddhist. He is now married to his fifth wife, having sired semi-royal children with three of his wives.

And he is the Pro-Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England. The Pro-Grand Master deputizes for the Grand Master, who is currently Prince Edward, the Duke of Kent, the Queen's cousin.

The Marquess collects treasure — in this case the 2500-year-old Sevso Hoard. It comprises 14 or more items of silver and represents probably the most important collection of Roman silver ever found. It's also stolen property, and no musuem in the world will touch it. Until now.

The Hoard was originally discovered in 1978 by Jozsef Sumegh, a 22-year-old Hungarian, who hit a copper vessel containing the silver pieces with his shovel while doing excavation. Sumegh sold a few pieces on the black market, and soon found himself dead, swinging from a rope in an unused wine cellar. Two of his close friends were murdered, too.

Hungary, Lebanon and Croatia have all sued unsuccessfully for return of their "national treasure."

Through unnamed sources, the Marquess eventually paid nearly £14 million for the silver pieces. Saying he got bad legal advice over buying the silver — it's both priceless and worthless, as no one will buy it — he sued his lawyers, and received a £24 million out of court settlement.

That's one shrewd Buddhist Freemason. What is the sound of one hand counting money?

Read it here.

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Princeton University shows how to hack an electronic voting machine

Now that Election Day is over and done, and you're celebrating or bemoaning the win or loss of your favorite corrupt official, kick back with a drink or your morning coffee and watch this video.

Produced by researchers at Princeton University, it shows in plain detail how easy it is to install vote-stealing software into an electronic voting machine, and to virally spread that software to an entire network of voting machines.

Ah, democracy!

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More Masonic bad news: Rape and embezzlement?

A couple of items of Masonic news caught my attention today:
  • The clubhouse of the Shrine Club of Huntsville, Alabama, has been seized by national Shrine Club officials to pay off a debt they say the local club owes to the Shriner's Hospitals. Money raised through bingo games and earmarked for charity were allegedly spent on the club's internal expenses.

    "We are all pretty well shook up about it," club president Eric Terry said of the club's seizure. "We don’t like the way they handled it. They ought to have come in there and done it the right way instead of marching in on a Sunday morning and making demands."

  • In Perth, England Scotland, a manhunt is underway for a man who brutally raped a woman last Saturday night after she had attended a function at the Masonic lodge in Atholl Crescent. Officials called the rape a "deeply disturbing attack."

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Monday, November 06, 2006

Recognizing Prince Hall Masonry: To be or not to be?

Recognizing Prince Hall Masonry: To Be or Not To Be? by W. Bro. Tim Bryce, PM, MPS

I guess it is time for me to finally weigh in on the subject of recognizing Prince Hall Masonry. This has been a subject that has been debated for a number of years and, as a young Mason, I originally bowed to the wisdom of my elders in this regard. But the Grand Lodge of Delaware recently recognized Prince Hall and thus brought the issue back into the spotlight. This leaves the Dixie states as the only remaining jurisdictions who have yet to recognize Prince Hall. (For a U.S. map showing Prince Hall recognition, see Bro. Paul Bessel's web page.

I have heard several rationalizations down here as to why this is so, such as, "Well, its those AF&AM's up north; they do things differently up there." Translation: "We have the true faith, the northerners are wrong." Another cop-out is, "According to our constitution, we are prohibited from approaching another Masonic body, but they can approach us." Translation: "They can kiss our ass."

I have listened to all of the arguments and I have come to the conclusion that no matter how you slice or dice it, it is all about bigotry. Don't let anyone con you on this; Its not about who recognizes who or who practices the proper degree work, its about bigotry. Period.

I have read many news clippings where Prince Hall Masons do exceptional work in the black community. They offer help, aid, and assistance when others will not. As such, they are a positive influence on their communities. Why? Because they took the same obligations as all other Masons do. I would much rather have Prince Hall Masons work with our communities than the Black Panthers or some other extremist organization. They are positive role models for others to emulate.

I've also heard stories that their degree work is every bit as good as any other jurisdiction (perhaps better), and their members every bit as committed to the fraternity as any other grand jurisdiction. If this is all true, I can think of no reason why we wouldn't be willing to sit down and discuss cooperation, unless of course we are unwilling to sit down with the black man. And understand this, recognition of a Masonic body is most definitely not the same thing as merging; it simply means we recognize it as a legitimate organization (not clandestine) and that the Brothers are entitled to be treated the same as any other Mason, with all of the rights and privileges thereof.

In 1994, the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) adopted a resolution recognizing the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Massachusetts. Since then, the UGLE has also recognized Prince Hall in many other states (source, Bro. Paul Bessel). If the UGLE, the mother of Grand Lodges in the United States, recognizes Prince Hall, one has to wonder if the Dixie jurisdictions are in some sort of violation for not conforming with their mother Grand Lodge.

A few years ago the Grand Lodge of Minnesota created a stir in the fraternity when it recognized the Grand Lodge of France which was considered clandestine by many grand jurisdictions. Consequently, many jurisdictions rescinded their recognition of the Grand Lodge of Minnesota until they finally revoked recognition of France. Using this same logic, if the Dixie jurisdictions truly consider Prince Hall Masonry as clandestine, they should revoke recognition of all grand jurisdictions who recognize Prince Hall (including the UGLE). Failure to do so is hypocrisy. This of course won't happen as the Dixie jurisdictions would face isolation in a remarkably similar fashion as the southern states did in the American Civil War.

Back in the early 1960's, Alabama Governor George Wallace gained national recognition for his opposition to school integration. But Wallace's opposition was overturned by the federal government. To Wallace's credit though, he changed with the times. For those people who saw Wallace as nothing more than an icon for discrimination in the 1960's, they never saw the many black government appointments he made in the 1970's and 1980's. Although Wallace has been gone for some time now, he left behind a legacy of black officials who are performing their tasks as competently as their white counterparts. The point is, once Wallace recognized it was time to change, he adapted admirably.

Brothers, the choice is rather obvious: we either put our hatred and hypocrisy aside and sit down and act like Brothers, or we continue to embarrass the fraternity by fighting the Civil War for another hundred years. What will it be?

Keep the Faith.

NOTE: As with all of my Masonic articles herein, please feel free to reuse them in Masonic publications or re-post them on Masonic web sites (except Florida). When doing so, please add the following:

Article reprinted with permission of the author and

— W. Bro. Tim Bryce

Note from Widow's Son: Alabama Gov. George Wallace was a Freemason from an early age.

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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

UGLA Mason David Cooksey interviewed on Huntsville, Ala. radio show

Bro. David Cooksey, Grand Secretary of the United Grand Lodge of America, moments ago finished up an eye-opening interview with David Person of WEUP-AM in Huntsville, Ala. I listened online at the radio station's website

During the fifteen minute interview Bro. Cooksey told how the United Grand Lodge of America came into existence, after brothers in Georgia were "erased" from their blue lodges by the Grand Lodge of Georgia. He explained that the UGLA accepts all worthy brothers as Masons, without concern for skin color, unlike the Grand Lodge of Alabama.

He told of his 13 years as an Alabama Mason, before he resigned his blue lodge and the Scottish Rite and joined the UGLA, relating incidents of racism and character assassination that led to his resignation. He related a story about an Alabama Deputy District officer who was overheard telling another Mason that he "just can't imagine that black people can go to Heaven... because they have no souls."

Bro. Cooksey said that most Masons in Alabama interpret, or are told to interpret, the traditional requirement that a candidate for Freemasonry be "freeborn" to mean that no black man can be a Freemason. When he then exclaimed, "There aren't any black slaves anymore!", the interviewer and another man in the studio, both of whom are black, replied with "Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!"

The interviewer took Bro. Cooksey's concerns to heart, asking at one point "What century do they [Antient Alabama Masons] think they are living in?"

When asked if Gov. Riley and other prominent Alabama politicians could be members of a racist organization without knowing it, Bro. Cooksey said that yes, when you first join a Masonic lodge you may not realize it's a whites-only group, but that after 20 or 30 or 40 years of never seeing a "person of color" in a lodge meeting, it should become obvious. He also told about the Alabama Shrine Potentate Larry Simms who reneged on allowing a concert at a Shrine building in Montgomery when he learned that the concert-goers were primarily Latinos.

Radio host David Person invited Bro. Cooksey back to talk more about racism in Alabama Freemasonry. Bro. Cooksey has been mentioned many times before on the Burning Taper. Use the Blogger search engine [above] or the Technorati search engine [right] to find other Burning Taper articles about him.

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Son of United Grand Lodge of England's Grand Master to marry at the Vatican

The royal son of the Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England converted to Catholicism in 2001. This weekend Lord Nicholas Windsor, godson of Prince Charles, will marry a Croatian noblewoman in a religious ceremony at the Vatican. They were legally married in a civil ceremony in England on October 19.

The following is reprinted from Independent Catholic News.
The Vatican will witness an historic moment in relations between the Catholic Church and the British Monarchy on Saturday, when Lord Nicholas Windsor, son of the Duke and Duchess of Kent, is married at a church situated in the papal gardens behind St. Peter's Basilica.

Lord Windsor, the least known member of the Royal Family will marry British-born Croatian noble, Donna Paola Doimi de Frankopan, in the Church of Santo Stefano degli Abissini. Bishop Alan Hopes, an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Westminster, will conduct the ceremony.

Lord Windsor, whose godparents are The Prince of Wales and the late Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Coggan, will become the first ever member of the Royal Family to marry at the Vatican.

He will also be the first ever member of the Royal Family to marry openly and legally within the rites of the Roman Catholic faith since the Reformation. A recent meeting of the Privy Council confirmed the Sovereign's approval of the wedding as is required by law.

Lord Windsor converted to Catholicism in 2001 and by doing so automatically lost his rights of succession to the throne because of the notorious 1701 Act of Settlement that bars Catholics from becoming monarch.

The little known and publicity shy Lord Nicholas has since his conversion, been very active in Church affairs. He privately joined tens of thousands who queued for hours to file past the body at the lying in state of Pope John Paul II in April 2005.

He and his Cambridge educated wife, Paola attend Mass regularly at Westminster Cathedral and Brompton Oratory.

In 1994, his mother, the Duchess of Kent, became the most senior member of the Royal Family to convert to Catholicism. Lord Nicholas's uncle's wife, Princess Michael of Kent, and his sister-in-law, the Countess of St. Andrews, whilst Catholic from birth, both conducted civil marriages.

His father, The Duke of Kent, who is the Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of Freemasons of England, is expected to attend the Vatican ceremony.

The Duke, who is known to be very close to his son, also and unusually issued an official engagement photograph taken by him at Kensington Palace.

Spokesman for the couple, Mr. Anthony Bailey said: "The wedding will be a small and strictly private family affair. It is expected that only immediate family members will attend. Lord Nicholas's godfather, The Prince of Wales, will not be attending as His Royal Highness will be returning from an Official Visit to Pakistan at the time which was arranged many months ago. Lord Nicholas and his bride will however be organising a private party to celebrate their marriage in London sometime in the New Year for other members of the Royal Family and close friends who will be unable to travel or have other commitments at this time."
Image: Lord and Lady Nicholas Windsor

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