Sunday, March 30, 2008

'Mirth Missives' publisher responds to 'Taper' article

In the spirit of fairness and brotherhood, I'm reprinting below a recent email I received from TazMack, the publisher of Mirth Missives, the Jester-oriented email newsletter that was mentioned in The Taper last week.

TazMack's email:
I have been looking at your web site for, I guess, about two years now. I believe that you and Mr. Bryce bring a balanced and much needed perspective to many Masonic topics. I agree with your opening article that there is too much personal attacking going on and applaud your efforts to curb this. I believe that will lead to a greater participation.

I really would like you to get a little perspective on your story about my emails, Mirth Missives. Quotes from your article are in bold, and my explanation/response in normal face type. NOT every comment in your article receives this treatment.

I would like to thank you in advance for at least considering what I am about to relate. What you do with the information is up to you.

Sandy Frost has, alas, fooled you on several points. I shall try to enlighten you in hopes that you will edit your article to reflect the truth, as opposed to her “intuitive reporting”. But, again, what you actually do is up to you.

I never sent Sandy Frost an actual Mirth Missive. If you would like to see an actual, true copy of one, I will gladly send you one. Pick a Sunday Date in, lets say, Spring 2007 and I’ll send it to you.

The little figure you show of me jumping out of the computer is a copyrighted item, but you may use it if you so desire.

[Quote from The Taper] A February 2008 issue of a privately-owned, "unofficial" Jester-oriented newsletter titled Mirth Missives carried this comment atop its front page: [/end quote]

Notice that nowhere in any of the emails does it claim to be or insinuate that it is a Jester’s only email. This is a fiction Sandy picked up from a shrine web site --- a single anonymous source, her favorite kind of source. I had nothing to do with the web site and as soon as Sandy gave me the url, I asked them to take it down. They complied.

The e-mail has Jester information, but it is not a Jester e-mail. It has Masonic information, but it is not a masonic e-mail. It has patriotic information, but it is not a patriotic e-mail.

The disclaimer clearly states that

"This private e-mail correspondence is not affiliated with or endorsed by any corporation, organization or Internet Service Provider. The material contained herein is solely the responsibility of the author."

Additionally, this email goes to more non-Jesters than Jesters... more profane than Masons. So. Please be accurate when you describe the email as oriented towards one group or another.

into that which would rather remain hidden"

The things to remain hidden are the names, email addresses, phone numbers and other private information of members. We would not like this information exposed to crooks, who might be able to steal identities or harass men. This is the very information that she attempted to publish, causing me to assert my copyright to that information.

Would you like all the names and e-mails addresses of your subscribers published? Of course not. It’s a matter of privacy and security.

[Quote from The Taper] I don't agree with her that the contents are truly pornographic, but they are crude, juvenile, sexist and racist. The quality of the "humor" and the general layout of the e-zine remind me of something a 13-year old would create and enjoy. [/end quote]

As I prove weekly, I am not a computer professional. I am an old man doing something that keeps me busy. I do not have the computer skills of you younger folks. Think "am old geezer who types with one finger sitting at a computer".

The email also clearly states that you should pick and chose what you read. Not every item is for every recipient. Sexism and racism are in the eye of the beholder, so you have your opinion and I have mine. Clearly, you did not agree with Sandy's judgement that the e-mail was pornographic. So honest differences of opinion exist.

I don’t write the stuff, I just compile and pass it on. And just like everything else in this world, not everyone’s taste is the same. That’s why they make BOTH chocolate and vanilla.

[Quote from The Taper] If you read the comments section on Ms. Frost's article, you'll note that Mirth Missives publisher TazMack has been raising hell over the "leak" of his newsletter (he's the one who sent her a sample issue) and the list of several hundred subscribers, claiming "copyright violation." [/end quote]

I did not raise hell. I sent her the form letter that I got off the internet asking that she remove copyrighted material. Specifically, the names and email addresses of people on the directory --- as stated, this is not a subscription list, it is a directory. Past Grand Masters are on there so that other men may send them messages. The "leak" of the newsletter is irrelevant, as it is as secret as the thunder.

The “subscription list” is not a subscription list: it is a directory. Just as every person in your telephone book does not get a call from you, not everyone listed in the roster gets Mirth Missives. The actual Mirth Missive subscription list is less than 300 people. The Directory is a separate e-mail service, and Mirth Missives is another, and the other lists and notices I send to other lists are all separate and distinct, having little to do with each other.

Most people on that Directory list do get, however, what I call "GLOOM" --- obituaries.

And, by the way, I do not have a son who is a Judge, and me and my boys live in a different county from that judge. Just another example of her relying on a single source and not checking facts.

[Quote from The Taper] there's very little in the newsletter that is original.[/end quote]

Sadly true --- I compile and pass along items sent to me by subscribers, and the contributor is clearly noted before each submission. I am just not clever enough to compose too much original --- except, as you noted, for my good friend Fricke, and even most of that material is not original.

yeah, the part about controlled drugs)

Read the article. An unidentified man offers his left over blood pressure and diabetes medication. There were no takers. How many times have you been at lodge or church and hear one person offer another their excess medications. “I’d rather give it away than flush it away” was the way I understood the article.

[Quote from The Taper] The use of snippets from the newsletter that I'm publishing here falls under the Fair Use Clause. [/end quote]

That’s fine with me.

Here's the e-zine's disclaimer:

Thanx for lifting the status to e-zine … but it is not an e-zine and never aspires to be one.

Also, you left out the first part of the disclaimer, about not being endorsed by or affiliated with any organization..

"Mirth Missives is not for everyone. Particularly in business settings, some of the material may be problematic, possibly leading to sexual harassment or unlawful discrimination charges. To protect you and me, please do not receive Mirth Missives on a computer at your place of employment, or on a computer owned or installed at any fraternal or civic organization site. If you decide to print a copy of Mirth Missives, treat it as you would any other confidential mail and do not leave it lying around for prying eyes."

A little background would be enlightening... About 12 years ago, a man who worked with me received an email from a coworker on the company server. The email contained a joke that he found amusing -- it was not dirty --- it was a very clean joke about Southern Baptists not drinking in front of each other. His secretary opened the email and immediately took offense. She sued him and the company … and she won. After this gal won her suit, she complained about another coworker who kept an open bible on her desk. The coworker was obliged to take her bible home. Get my drift?

That is why the disclaimer is there. In our litigious society, people sue over anything and nothing

[Quote from The Taper] In closing, let me leave you with a joke or two from Mirth Missives.

Why not quote the non-objectionable parts... like the Roast Lines, or Yogi-Berra-Isms, or the Masonic Moment, or the Thought for the Day or the For the Trestle Board, or the Obituaries … a little balance would be nice.

I guess if your humor-meter is still stuck in the sixth grade and you spend your time at church trying to look up women's dresses, you might find Mirth Missives your "cup of tea," suitable for any private "men's organization." [/end quote]

See my comments about “Chocolate and Vanilla”.

[Quote from The Taper] But these men are Freemasons. These are the “pillars of the community.” Many of these men are present or past “illustrious potentates” and 33rd degree poobahs. The publisher of Mirth Missives wears a 33rd degree white hat.[/end quote]

I would like you to take note that you have been mis-led. This email goes to more non-Masons than Masons. The fact that some Masons enjoy potty humor does not mean that ALL masons enjoy potty humor. AND --- this is not an email that goes exclusively to Masons.

Also, the fact that someone's email address is listed in the directory does not indicate that he is a subscriber to Mirth Missives.

[Quote from The Taper] I've seen the distribution list of Mirth Missives.[/end quote]

Again, what Sandy sent you was a directory that has nothing to do with Mirth Missives per se. AND the majority of the people listed are not on the distribution list ---- but they are all Jesters. Should it be against someone's code to allow a directory of members of an organization to be published to other members?

[Quote from The Taper] I just find it disturbing that you're doing it en masse under the banner of a group associated with Freemasonry.[/end quote]

Please, be fair. This is not done under any organizations banner. And 300 is hardly en masse.

Sandy's half-truths, mis-leading rhetorical questions and sensationalism are but a few of the reasons she is so discredited. And she would greatly benefit from a fact-checker.

Widow's Son, I have held you in high regard for your insights and objectivity and ask that you fairly evaluate what I have related in this email. I trust that any Mason being thus enlightened would want to be a little more evenhanded. Even with a Mason who enjoys the occasional potty joke.

Thank you for reading this

Sincerely and Fraternally


PS --- if you think the jokes I sent were full of foul language, crude and sexists, you should see what I reject and just cant clean up.

And you can ignore the copyright at the end of this email --- it is automatically added to all my emails ... even Mirth Missives --- reprint what you like from this email.
I appreciate TazMack's email to me and am reprinting it with his permission in its entirety.

As I ponder this, I see that I have treated his Mirth Missives email newsletter in a similar way to how many of my own detractors have treated The Burning Taper — as if it is actually a Masonic publication instead of it being a publication by a Mason.

Just as I find many of his jokes, cartoons and other content "unmasonic," so too do many people find the contents of The Burning Taper "unmasonic." As TazMack says in his email, "chocolate and vanilla." We all have different likes and dislikes, different opinions of what is "moral" or "Masonic."

I regret and apologize for assuming the roster of Jester members was the subscription list for Mirth Missives.

As a firm supporter of free speech and a free press, I believe that TazMack has the right to publish his Mirth Missives and send it to whomever he chooses.

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  1. Thank you for printing this, WS. It certainly clears up a few issues. Ms. Frost is clearly one-sided in her reporting. IMO, that makes it editorializing rather than news. Opinions based on the facts as understood can be informative. Not compiling and presenting all the facts or presenting them in a way to skew it to your opinion is not news. It's proselytizing.

  2. If only actual journalists and newspapers were as quick to fully disclose their misjudgments, we'd be a lot better off. Now, er .... how do I get on the missives list?

  3. Nobody:

    I don't agree when you say that "clearly" she is one-sided. I'd say she has opinions, just as we all do.

    She has indicated to me that TazMack did in fact send her the copy of his Mirth Missives as she (and I) stated. In his email to me, TazMack denied that he sent his newsletter to her.

    TazMack had written negative things about Ms. Frost before she had published any articles about the Jesters. His newsletter of Feb. 3 warned recipients to avoid Ms. Frost and her "poison." Her first story about Jesters didn't appear until Feb. 15, and she didn't mention Mirth Missives until a March 18 article. I've seen a March 5 email from TazMack to Frost where he offers to send her a copy of Mirth Missives.

    I didn't say I agreed with or that I necessarily believe everything in TazMack's email which I reprinted here. I simply said 1) I erred in assuming the list of Jesters was the subscription list of the Mirth Missives, and 2) TazMack has a right to publish and circulate his newsletter, and that I had perhaps unfairly judged it by my personal, arbitrary "Masonic" standards.

    — W.S.

  4. It usually does well to let the last cartridge fire before examining the target.

    Traveling Man

  5. shoot first

    ask questions later(if you really care for answers)

    policy of The Grand Lodge of Ohio.

    Sandy is the least problem of philandering, egocentric elite masons and their fraternal playground!

  6. TazMack seems like a very reasonable sort of fellow.

    One thing he might want to consider, however, is that "lists of data" are specifically excluded from copyright protection. That's the reason competing companies can publish telephone directories, etc.

    His email list may be "confidential," but it isn't "copyrightable."

    -- Diogenes

  7. Brother, publishing this retraction, if that is what it could be called, illuminates your capability of growth.

    Well said, on both sides.

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. Judge Tills traveled with woman he jailed on prostitution charge
    Former state justice is a central figure in probe of activities of Buffalo Jesters
    By Dan Herbeck - News Staff Reporter
    Updated: 04/06/08 8:38 AM

    Ex-Justice Ronald Tills resigned as state hearing officer.

    A woman who faced drug and prostitution charges in State Supreme Court Justice Ronald H. Tills’ courtroom later accompanied him on an out-of-state trip for a fraternal organization called the Jesters. Investigators are trying to determine whether the woman offered her services as a prostitute at the convention or whether she was just a guest of the judge, who has since retired.

    Federal agents are investigating Tills’ involvement with the woman in a spinoff to their probe of human trafficking and prostitution at local massage parlors.

    According to five sources close to the investigation, Tills became personally acquainted with the woman after she served six months of jail time he imposed and while he was still on the bench.

    Authorities and judicial ethics experts said it would be inappropriate for a judge to engage in any sexual relationship with a woman who had previously been sentenced in his courtroom.

    The U.S. attorney’s office and a Buffalo FBI spokesman declined to confirm or deny that the former judge’s dealings with the woman are under investigation.

    Tills’ attorney, Terrence M. Connors, was reached by telephone out of town, where he is preparing for a trial, and declined to comment, except to say he and Tills are aware of the investigation.

    But sources close to the investigation said the woman is a Buffalo resident in her 40s. Federal agents have contacted her, and she is represented by attorney Joseph M. LaTona.

    “The only thing I will confirm is that I do represent her,” LaTona said. “In light of an ongoing investigation, I’m unable to say anything beyond that.”

    Tills, 73, is a central figure in a federal probe into the activities of the Buffalo chapter of the Jesters, a nationwide club that says its goal is to spread “mirth and merriment.”

    Members of a human trafficking task force are investigating allegations that some of the Buffalo Jesters hired prostitutes — including some who worked in massage parlors — and took them to out-of-state conventions of the Jesters.

    The investigation prompted Tills last month to resign from his job as a $300-a-day hearing officer with the state court system. He had previously served as a state judge, retiring in 2005.

    The same investigation prompted Tills’ former law clerk, Michael Stebick, to resign from his job reviewing pistol permit applications for the state court.

    Retired Lockport police Capt. John Trowbridge pleaded guilty March 20 to a felony violation of the Mann Act. He awaits sentencing.

    Trowbridge has told federal agents that Tills accompanied him on two out-of-state trips with prostitutes and that Stebick accompanied him on another.

    The woman Tills is associated with is described as a West Side resident whom the judge had sentenced after she was arrested on felony charges of selling cocaine, possessing cocaine and offering to commit prostitution with two undercover cops.

    The woman took a plea deal, sources said, admitting to a single felony count of attempted sale of cocaine. In February 1998, Tills sentenced her to six months in jail and put her on probation for five years.

    In December 2000, the woman was back in Tills’ courtroom, accused of violating her probation. A month later, Tills ordered her to spend 90 days in a drug counseling program, sources said.

    She later got a job as a cleaner in the Erie County Courthouse on Franklin Street, where her duties included cleaning Tills’ courtroom and chambers. According to a worker at the courthouse and five sources familiar with the investigation, the woman frequently visited with Tills in his court chambers.

    Authorities have declined to comment on when or where the woman accompanied Tills on a Jesters trip.

    Andrew B. Isenberg, district executive for the Eighth Judicial District of the state courts, said he was unaware of any allegations of an improper relationship between Tills and the woman. Authorities said the woman no longer works for the county.

    While declining to comment on Tills’ case, an expert on judicial ethics said judges are supposed to follow “very high ethical standards” in their dealings with people who have appeared in their courts for official business.

    Under the codes of judicial conduct in New York State and elsewhere, judges “are supposed to avoid impropriety and any situation that would give the appearance of impropriety,” said Cynthia Gray, director of the American Judicare Society’s Center for Judicial Ethics.

    “Judges are not allowed to use their position off the bench to gain any kind of benefits. Situations where judges have a relationship with anyone who had appeared before them are fraught with potential ethical problems,” Gray said.

    Gray added that she is unaware of the facts in Tills case and was speaking in general terms about judicial ethics.

    A national spokesman for the Jesters told The Buffalo News that the club does not condone hiring prostitutes for its meetings and events. He said that if any members of the Buffalo club did so, their actions were not sanctioned by the club.

    The Jesters have more than 23,000 members in the United States, Canada, Mexico and Panama. Over the years, members have included prominent businessmen and two presidents, the late Harry S. Truman and the late Gerald R. Ford. In order to become a Jester, a person must be a Shriner and a Mason, the spokesman said.

    The human trafficking task force includes members of the FBI, U.S. Border Patrol, Erie County Sheriff’s Office and U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement.

  10. how dare this reporter do sandy's job

    I thought only sandy wrote about the Jester's?


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