Investigation: Did Mass. Grand Lodge misuse $1.5 million?

July 14, 2008 at 10:13 am (Masonic, Warped) (, , )

The Boston Herald reported on Saturday that an investigation is being conducted into allegations that as much as $1.5 million was embezzled from the 275-year old Grand Lodge of Massachusetts. Does this even surprise anyone any more?

From the Boston Herald:

Suffolk County prosecutors are investigating allegations that as much as $1.5 million was embezzled from funds within the headquarters of the secretive Massachusetts Grand Lodge of Masons, sources said.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State William F. Galvin’s Securities Division is launching its own separate probe of the Grand Lodge’s finances, sending a letter of inquiry yesterday to giant financial house UBS for information on its business dealings with the ancient fraternal order, according to a source.

A law enforcement source with direct knowledge of the Suffolk probe told the Herald yesterday that members of the lodge discovered the financial irregularities and took their findings to authorities, who have in turn launched a criminal probe that is zeroing in on two Mason officials.

Authorities within Suffolk District Attorney Daniel Conley’s office are investigating the potential embezzlement of about $1.5 million over an eight-year period, the source said.

Conley declined to comment through a spokesman. “I cannot confirm or deny any potential investigation,” said Jake Wark.

Assistant Grand Treasurer Craig S. MacPherson referred questions to Grand Secretary Jeffrey L. Gardiner, who acknowledged that a probe is under way but declined to give any other information.

“We can’t make any comment during the investigation,” he said yesterday.

UBS, which Galvin has charged with fraud and dishonest conduct in a separate civil case involving the sale of auction-rate securities to clients, has many business dealings with various Mason entities, sources said.

Galvin’s office has asked UBS to provide by July 25 a description of “the inception of the client relationships and services, the broker or brokers of record, the supervisor of the brokers and documents and materials furnished to the (Massachusetts Grand) Lodge by UBS,” the source said, quoting the letter.

A UBS spokeswoman declined comment yesterday.

The Suffolk and Galvin probes could prove to be yet another blow for area Masons, who several years ago were hit with a scandal involving former money-manager and radio-station owner Brad Bleidt. He was convicted of swindling tens of millions of dollars from area investment victims, many of them Masons.

Bleidt, who used to be a Mason, is now serving time at the federal prison in Fort Dix, N.J.

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Exiled for ‘spam’? Is your Blogger blog next?

July 9, 2008 at 2:28 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

On June 25, I received the following email from Blogger:

Dear Blogger user,

This is a message from the Blogger team.

Your blog, at http://burningtaper.blogspot.com/, has been identified as a potential spam blog. For an explanation of what spam blogs are, please see Blogger Help.

You will not be able to publish posts to your blog until we review your site and confirm that it is not a spam blog. To request a review, please fill out the form found here. [Link deleted.]

We will take a look at your blog and unlock it within four business days. Please note that if we do not hear from you within 20 days, we will remove your blog. If this blog does not belong to you, then you do not have to do anything. Any other blogs you may have will not be affected.

Since you are an actual person reading this, your blog is probably not spam. We find spam by using an automated classifier. Automatic spam detection is inherently fuzzy, and occasionally a blog is flagged incorrectly. We sincerely apologize for this erroneous result. By using this kind of system, however, we can dedicate more storage, bandwidth, and engineering resources to users like you instead of to spammers.

Thank you for your understanding and for your help in our spam-fighting efforts.

Sincerely,

The Blogger Team

It’s now approaching two weeks, and I have not heard anything — not one thing — from Blogger. The original Burning Taper blog remains online, and can be read by anyone, but I cannot access the blog to post new articles or edit older ones.

Bros. Dean Kennedy and Tom Accuosti graciously pointed out Google help sites where I could get additional help from Blogger/Google. I have followed those links and submitted those forms, but still, no word from Blogger, and The Taper remains locked.

If you’re a blogger, you might want to create a plan should you find your blog exiled. At minimum, creating a backup blog at WordPress or another Blogger-competitor might be a good idea. If you’re using the new Blogger version, you can import its content into a WordPress blog.

Since I have control of the domain name BurningTaper.com, I’ve re-set it to point here, to the new “Burning Taper in Exile.” You can still read the older Taper content at http://burningtaper.blogspot.com.

If you currently link to The Burning Taper, please change your link to http://burningtaper.com, omitting “wordpress” and/or “blogspot.” This way, your links will always point to The Taper, no matter where it is hosted.

Thanks for making The Burning Taper a part of your regular blog-reading.

— W.S.

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‘Be seeing you': The Prisoner to be made into mini-series

July 9, 2008 at 1:01 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

Do you remember The Beverly Hillbillies, Bewitched, The Avengers, Lost in Space, Starsky and Hutch, Dennis the Menace, My Favorite Martian, Dukes of Hazzard, Charlie’s Angels, or The Wild Wild West?

If any of these titles create an image in your head, I’m guessing, no matter your age, that you visualized the original television show, not the hackneyed film version. No matter how funny Jim Varney and Steve Martin were or how hot Nicole Kidman was, the characters of Jed Clampett, Ernie Bilko and Samantha Stevens were owned by Buddy Ebsen, Phil Silvers and Elizabeth Montgomery. Film versions of old television shows — even those that turn out to be entertaining, like Maverick or (I hear) Get Smart — seldom, if ever, do justice to the ideas, characters and visions of the original TV show.

The idea of a remake of what I consider one of the best television programs of all time, The Prisoner, has been bandied about for years, and a commitment by AMC to do so was announced in Dec., 2006. According to an article last week at Newsarama.com, the project has been officially greenlighted and lead actors have been signed.

Jim Caviezel, who played Jesus in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, has been cast as Number Six, the role played by the original series creator Patrick McGoohan. Two-time Oscar nominee Ian McKellen — Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings trilogy — will play the role of Number Two.

The remake will not be a big screen production. It is slated to run as a six-part miniseries on the AMC basic cable channel.

From the article:

While the original series, which debuted in 1967, was a riff on Cold War politics, AMC’s reinterpretation will reflect 21st Century concerns and anxieties, such as liberty, security, and surveillance, yet also showcase the same key elements of paranoia, tense action and socio-political commentary seen in McGoohan’s enigmatic original.

Surely there have been a number of quality books written about 21st Century “concerns and anxieties” that could be adapted into films or mini-series. Why try to improve on a classic? Certainly, the original The Prisoner is dated, a product of its time. One episode deals with a computer the size of an armored tank, and the Cold War is the backdrop of the show. But it was also a psychological thriller and a look inside the mind of Patrick McGoohan, something no amount of modern CGI techniques, hand-held cameras and unnecessary profanity can make better.

No matter how good an actor Caviezel may be, he’ll never master the quirks of McGoohan’s sometimes panicked, sometimes amused, sometimes sly facial expressions, or the sarcastic, smirky way Number Six said, “Be seeing you.”

And it wasn’t just McGoohan’s acting that made the program a cult classic in the 1960s; his and the entire cast’s wardrobes helped make the show what it was — his jacket, his silly boat shoes, the colorful, flamboyant ponchos the extras wore. And no one, not even Mini-Me, can duplicate the presence of Angelo Muscat as The Butler.

And, not-so-technically speaking, The Prisoner has already been “remade.” Not literally, but the 1996 television program Nowhere Man, another show I consider one of the best ever made, was truly an homage to McGoohan’s vision, and carried the paranoid “prisoner” idea to new heights.

I’d rather the mini-series not be made at all, but I’ll watch it, eagerly, and expect great things from it. It could be interesting. I hope it lives up to its potential. Cable television series have come a long way, and we’ve seen some good TV with shows like Rescue Me, The Sopranos, Weeds, etc. Production values are as good as major films today, and the writing is usually better.

I just hope the remake of The Prisoner stays true to the message of the original: “I will not make any deals with you. I’ve resigned. I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered. My life is my own. I resign.”

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SC Lt. Gov. speaks out for ‘free speech’ for Christians

July 7, 2008 at 4:00 pm (Political, Religious) (, , , , )

The political leaders of the Palmetto State continue to push for the production of automobile license plates emblazoned with a Christian cross superimposed upon a stained glass window showcasing the words “I Believe.”

The Burning Taper reported in early June that the authorization to produce Christian license plates in South Carolina became law after Gov. Mark Sanford let it do so without his signature.

Today’s news tells us that actual production of the plates has been postponed due to a federal lawsuit filed against the state by Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which includes Christian, Jewish and Hindu clergy.

Perhaps the reason Gov. Sanford let it become law without his signature is that the measure is apparently the pet project of his lieutenant governor Andre Bauer.

The unmarried, childless Bauer, the nation’s youngest lieutenant governor at age 39, is a member of Union United Methodist Church of Irmo, SC, and apparently is a born-again Christian with one of those personal relationships with Jesus. The CNN story quotes Bauer as saying allowing Christians to have a specialty license plate is freedom of speech. He said those who oppose are prejudiced against Christians.

“We’re not going to back down,” Bauer said. “We’re going to fight for a change. I’m tired of seeing Christians back down in fear of a lawsuit.”

Bauer apparently has many supporters. A quick look at his bio on his personal website indicates he’s risen to his position by tending to the needs of senior citizens, military personnel and law enforcement officers, people typically conservative and religious. In 2006, he was involved in a controversy over his history of speeding tickets and related driving charges, including one traffic stop where he was clocked at 101 mph, and whether he received favorable treatment due to his office. He endorsed former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee during the 2008 Republican primaries.

The Lieutenant Governor has offered to pay the $4,000 fee the Dept. of Motor Vehicles requires to process the request and actually begin production of the plates. The law provides for other religious groups to apply for their own license plates, if they pay the $4,000, but those plates would only allow a symbol, not words, to be shown, and other limits and restrictions would be imposed that are not imposed on the Christian plates.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State’s executive director, Rev. Barry Lynn, said Bauer’s willingness to pay the deposit “more deeply confirms this is a government-sponsored program.”

Lynn’s group said in a news release “that other religions will not be able to get similar license plates expressing differing viewpoints, nor can a comparable ‘I Don’t Believe’ license plate be issued.”

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MEDUSA ray gun puts voices in your head

July 7, 2008 at 1:05 pm (Warped) (, , , )

No longer will we have to memorize all those lines of ritual. We can now just “hear” it inside our skulls, and then repeat what we hear.

Or at least that is what may be possible once cheap home versions of the MEDUSA Ray Gun go on sale at your local Wal-Mart.

MEDUSA, which stands for Mob Excess Deterrent Using Silent Audio, is a patented and “damned scary ray gun that uses the ‘microwave audio effect’ to implant sounds and perhaps even specific messages inside people’s heads,” according to Gizmodo.com.

Just think of the possibilities! Internal XM radio! Cheating on SAT tests! Notes to yourself to pick up the dry cleaning!

This is gonna be huge!

But privacy advocates — those buzzkills — are recommending you invest in shares of ALCOA. Stock prices for the company are up two percent this morning in heavy trading. Aluminum foil hats will be coming back in style.

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GOUSA receives patent from Grand Orient de France

July 6, 2008 at 7:25 pm (Masonic) (, , , , )

On July 4, it was announced on the website of the Grand Orient of the United States of America (GOUSA) that

“The official Patent from the Grand Orient of France giving the Grand Orient of the United States of America legal Masonic authority to work in North America was signed in Paris on Friday, the 27th of June, 2008 at 9:15 AM ET. A Treaty of Amity was also signed between the two sovereign Masonic entities. A delegation of several GOUSA Brothers were present in Paris for this historic event.”

A beautiful, hand-drawn Patent was created for the event.

For details and updates, see the GOUSA website.

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Tonight’s Masonic Central podcast to feature Bro. Tom Accuosti

July 6, 2008 at 5:49 pm (Masonic) (, , , , )

Tonight’s Masonic Central podcast will feature Bro. Tom Accuosti.

Bro. Tom is famous not only for his blog Tao of Masonry, but for being a Purple Apron-wearing Exalted Keeper of the Secrets of Freemasonarianism; Grand Sovereign Pontiff and Secret Exposuer; Ambassador to Zeta-Reticula; Crop Circle Planning & Zoning Commissioner; Aluminum Foil Beanie Fitting and Training Consultant; Team Osiris Obelisk Siting and Surveying; Manager, Dulces/Denver Airport Massage & Day Spa; Cydonia Vacation Resort Concierge; and Past Master, Friendship #33.3 AM & FM, Area 51, Atlantis, or so he says.

He’s also a very worshipful district lecturer for Connecticut’s Fifth Masonic District, rumor has it.

Listen to him rant tonight on the podcast. It’s on at 9 pm Eastern Time, 6 pm Pacific Time.

Image: Connecticut bloggers Movable Jewel (left); W. Bro. Tom Accuosti (center); North Eastern Corner (right)

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Canadian Mason celebrates 4th of July in Georgia

July 5, 2008 at 11:36 am (Masonic) (, , , , )

Yesterday, July 4, I was honored by a visit by Canadian Brother Dean Kennedy and his family, who visited my home and then attended an “old-fashioned Fourth of July picnic” at a nearby river park with my son and me. We had a great time visiting and sharing, eating Southern barbecue, hot dogs, and then jumping into the swimming pool.

Before making the drive to north Georgia on the 4th, Bro. Dean and family visited with Bro. Isaiah Coffey, a Prince Hall Mason in Atlanta.

Bro. Dean and family have been visiting Georgia and South Carolina on vacation and to attend a family reunion in Charleston, SC.

I’m glad I was able to be a part of Bro. Dean’s “first” Fourth of July.

Bro. Dean is the publisher of the blog Freemason’s Corner, and is co-host of the new Masonic Central podcast.

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Replication, re-creation, and resurrection

July 3, 2008 at 11:17 am (Masonic) (, , , )

It’s rather daunting trying to create a new blog out of an old one.

Google/Blogger has proven to be unreliable, having blocked my publishing access to a two-and-a-half year old blog because a robot tagged it as a “possible spam blog.” Inadvertent though it (probably) is, not having the ability to write and post at will after doing so for nearly three years is… well, incredibly restricting as well as incredibly liberating.

For quite a while now, whenever the mood strikes, or an idea hits, or something newsworthy happens, I’ve been able to sit down and immediately write and publish an article. Not being able to do that the past week or so has been an odd feeling, as if my creativity has been dammed up.

On the other hand, though, being locked out of my Blogger-based blog has given me an impetus to stretch out and see what else is available — like WordPress. And it has also given me the opportunity to decide if and/or how much I want to redesign the layout, content and perhaps even purpose of publishing a Masonic-themed blog.

There is a lot of Masonic-related news happening right now. Some of the things I’ve wanted to write about have been picked up on by other Masonic bloggers; some has been totally overlooked.

And then there is wondering what will become of the 900-plus articles I’ve posted on the original Burning Taper? If the bozos at Google/Blogger don’t unblock the blog within the 20 days mentioned in their letter, will the blog and all its contents simply vaporize? I don’t have the time to copy and re-post all those articles. Most of them weren’t that important in the Great Scheme of Things anyway.

But some of the articles, the ones listed under “Burning Taper Backstory” and “Worth Reading Again” had some merit, at least to me. I think I will soon being the task of reposting them here to this new WordPress version of The Burning Taper.

If you’re just stumbling into this new version of The Taper, or if you’ve been reading the old version a while but haven’t checked out the backstory and the “Worth Reading Again” sections, please do so. The articles there are pretty much what I consider “The Best of The Burning Taper.”

The Burning Taper Backstory:

Worth Reading Again:

and my favorite,

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The fire still burns

July 2, 2008 at 11:52 am (Masonic) (, , , )

The Burning Taper logoAfter 2.5 years of regularly posting to the Blogger version of The Burning Taper at burningtaper.blogspot.com, the powers-that-be — namely the mindless robots — at Google/Blogger have decided that, until proven otherwise, The Burning Taper is a “spam blog.”

Though a two-second review would satisfy anyone over the age of seven that The Taper is not a spam blog, I’ve now been blocked from editing or publishing the blog on Blogger for nearly a week. A little bit of research showed that this happens quite often to non-spam blogs, thanks to the robots, and there is no quick-fix among the geniuses at Google. They get around to unblocking blogs when they get around to it, not sooner.

So… I’m experimenting here with WordPress in anticipation of migrating from the insane Blogger service to here.

If you are a blogger or website operator that has graciously linked to The Burning Taper at http://burningtaper.blogspot.com, please change your links to read simply http://burningtaper.com. This has always been an active link to The Taper. Linking to simply BurningTaper.com without the added “blogspot” or “wordpress” will keep your links active, no matter which blogging service The Burning Taper eventually settles down with, or moves to in the future.

Until I decide what to do regarding various hosting options, the link to the original Blogger-based Burning Taper blog is http://burningtaper.blogspot.com, and the link to this, the new WordPress version, is http://burningtaper.wordpress.com. Currently, http://burningtaper.com points to the old Blogger version, but may soon be re-pointed to the WordPress version. I have not yet decided.

Thanks for your continued support of The Burning Taper and the entire Masonic blogging community.

— W.S.

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