Thursday, February 28, 2008

A template for attracting new Masons?

The Grand Lodge of Massachusetts is well known as being one the most "aggressive" marketers of Freemasonry. They've run advertisements locally, and created "recruitment" videos that end up on YouTube.

They've also, apparently, mastered the art of press releases for local lodges to use. I think I've figured out their template. Wonder if it actually works?

Have a snappy headline, such as "Learn about the Masons."

Paragraph 1: Announce a local open house.

Paragraph 2: Tell readers there will be refreshments. Mmm, cookies! Appeal to the stomach and to the desire to get something for nothing.

Paragraph 3: Mention the Grand Lodge, like that means anything to the reader. It's a weak use of the propaganda technique known as "Appeal to Authority." Add in how many members there are, shooting for the "Bandwagon" effect.

Paragraph 4: Combine the propaganda technique of "Appeal to Authority" with "Beautiful People," and invoke the names of famous dead Freemasons, being sure to list only Caucasian ones, even during Black History Month.

Paragraph 5: Brag about the amount of money "the Masons" give to charity each day. Inflate the amount and make it sound like all Masons are involved in this Masonic giveaway that's really a Shriner, not a Masonic, thing, blending the propaganda techniques of "Half-Truth" and "Intentional Vagueness."

Paragraph 6: Brag about more charity work the Masons do.

Paragraph 7: Brag about even more charity work the Masons do. I guess devoting three paragraphs to talking about charity is a use of the "Repetition" technique.

Paragraph 8: Mention "the children," a tangential use of the "Flag-Waving" technique, since children are "America's future."

Paragraph 9: Tell who your target market is, and throw in a few "Virtue Words" for good measure.

Paragraph 10: Provide a link to even more exciting "information."

While I admit the news article/press release is well-written, I think it's a terrible marketing piece. What are they selling? Why should I want it?

An old marketing rule-of-thumb is this: "Sell the sizzle, not the steak." Tell me the benefits, not the features.

Invoking the Founding Fathers has little effect on today's consumers, other than maybe using George Washington's image to sell furniture and automobiles at Presidents Day sales.

Telling how much charity work you do doesn't impress anyone. If you're of a charitable nature, you've got a zillion other ways to donate your money to good causes. Churches, youth organizations you know something about, environmental causes — you can even just sign a form at work and have a portion of your income donated to the generic United Way.

Nothing in this "news story" would create a desire in me — nor in very many other men, I suspect — to learn more about Freemasonry. Nothing in this story would make me want to go to their open house, even if I lived just down the block.

Would it you?

Is this all Freemasonry is? Is this the image we've decided to present to the public? Freemasonry wasn't even in the charity business when Washington and Franklin were alive. Is this all we've become?

Where's the sizzle in this story? What in it inspires the reader to want to become a Mason?

Link: Wikipedia article on propaganda techniques

Image: An old Russian propaganda poster, just 'cause it's interesting artwork

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

I want to believe

It's Conspiracy Day at The Burning Taper. Worry and paranoia over everything is just a click away these days. Cult propaganda, government cover-ups, the secret agenda of tour guides — it's all waiting for you online.

Here are few articles that recently caught my eye.

The Wiccans are taking over the minds of youthful members of America's evangelical churches, thanks to Harry Potter, according to a shill for Tim and Beverly LaHaye. Tim, of course, has made a fortune selling his Left Behind series of Christian mythology about what happens on Earth after Jesus returns.

A columnist for Collegiate Times has debunked all conspiracy theories as "laughable myths." Obviously, he's an apologist for the Illuminati.

Philadelphia tour guides have been belled and collared with "registration," and are programmed to tell "hilarious lies" about the history of the City of Brotherly Love.

Here's a link to brief histories of a devil's dozen secret societies, sponsored by the International Institute of Social History. Now does that sound like an Illuminati front group, or what? You'll be an expert in disinformation once you've read these "Cliff Notes" of The Conspiracy.

And get ready to enjoy the new exploits of Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. The as-yet-unnamed The X-Files movie sequel hits the big screen on July 25.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Our changing American landscape: Education and religious affiliation

A study about American culture by the Pew Foundation has recently been released, exploring how knowledgeable 17-year olds are about "common-knowledge" historical facts and references.

A low percentage of students knew, for example, the Civil War was fought between 1850 and 1900. Only 52% could identify the theme of George Orwell's 1984. Just over half knew that the controversy surrounding Sen. Joseph McCarthy focused on communism.

Some would argue that knowledge of these references isn't needed in modern times, that these facts and events don't have significance in the lives of today's young adults. Others think the study shows that our educational system is sorely lacking.

As some who posted comments to this story pointed out, the results of a history quiz which simply tests whether someone has been exposed to and then retains certain "information" are hardly indicative of "knowledge," and doesn't tell us whether a student has actually learned how to think creatively, or has learned the necessary skills to enter today's job marketplace. After all, this kind of "knowledge" is readily available online if you want it. Does stuffing your brain with information actually help you be a "better," more educated person, or does it just make you more likely to win at games like Trivial Pursuit?

Personally, I think having an awareness of these kinds of facts is important. These "facts" are reference points to our history as a nation and a species. Perhaps our educational system has been driven in recent years by television, which seldom goes into detail about any particular event, but rather simply creates sound bites without explaining background. Sure, every student knows that Martin Luther King, Jr., had a dream, and that Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white person, but have they learned the whens and whys and what was really going on in race relations during that era? Have they been taught about Jim Crow, Reconstruction, the Klan, busing, how blacks were enslaved on plantations, and about the 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas?

Is 1984 just nothing more to them than the year their parents got married? I'm no super-charged Dennis Miller, traveling at warp speed with off-the-wall neuronal explosions, but I do enjoy slipping literary and historical references into conversations and blog entries. Not to show how smart I am, but because nothing exists in a vacuum. Common references, if not too obscure, create a tsunami of thoughts and memories in those who hear them, and I can communicate a whole sea of ideas with just a single reference.

For example, if I say to someone who has read or seen the movie 1984 that they should face their fears by going into Room 101, I've hopefully jumpstarted their brain into thinking about their fears in a whole different way than I would have if I'd clucked and said, "Oh, come on. Don't be a chicken."

Knowing Sen. Joe McCarthy's crusade was against communism isn't just a fun fact to know and tell about events that happened over 50 years ago. His activities shaped a nation, and for a while held a nation in fear unlike anything we saw again until the post-9/11 paranoia and attacks on our liberties. McCarthyism, and its eventual rejection, changed America in many ways. If nothing else, it teaches us that even though we collectively travel towards political extremes, we can and sometimes do turn around and go the other way, letting the pendulum again find balance. It's something we need to keep in mind as we choose a new president this year.

Another study released this week looked at the ever-changing musical chairs Americans are playing with organized religion.

The U.S. Religious Landscape Survey found that only 78% of Americans consider themselves to be Christians. Over 25% of us have either changed from the faith we were born into, or have given up being religious altogether. If you factor in Protestants who have changed from one denomination to another, the number rises to 44%. Roman Catholicism has lost more members than other religious groups. While one in three Americans were born into Catholic families, fewer than one in four today claim to be Catholic. Traditional American Catholics are diminishing rapidly. Their numbers in America are staying high primarily because of the recent influx of Catholic immigrants from Latin American countries.

Even if the face of the growth spurt recently in evangelical mega-churches, which primarily attract Protestants from more mainstream denominations, religious "affiliation" in our country is fading.

Obviously, we're a nation that no longer finds solace in organized religion as much as our forefathers did.


Perhaps it's the same cause as the dumbing-down of 17-year olds in the other study: television and our growing acceptance of a fast-food sound bite society. Religion isn't simple. It requires study, and understanding, and a commitment of an hour or more on Sunday mornings and often other times during the week. It's too much work.

The evangelical groups may be growing because they entertain their congregations more, and give them catchy jingles and easy to remember phrases like "Got Jesus?" and "Praise God!" You don't have to learn litanies and all four stanzas of Amazing Grace to feel like you belong.

But in general, mainstream Christian religion, Catholicism and Protestantism, is fading away. Within a few more generations, our religious landscape may be totally different. Just as Christianity came on the scene a few thousand years ago and changed the landscape, so too will something new come along and re-align our spiritual thinking and our religious affiliations. Just as Christianity supplanted a belief in Jupiter and Juno, and before that Zeus and Hera, and before that Osiris and Isis, so to will Christianity's Jesus and Mary be replaced.

We're all looking for something deep and eternal, I'd like to think. For many of us, Christianity just doesn't provide answers to the eternal questions or the peaceful states of mind anymore.

I hope what replaces it is a more personal, spiritual nature, a One Happy World or a Federation of Planets-type scenario, dreamed about by new agers, mystics, hippies and science fiction writers. God knows what we have today — dividing ourselves into Catholics and Protestants, Christians and Muslims, etc. — isn't working too well.

Peace be with you.

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Monday, February 25, 2008

Still fuzzy on the details

Today I got an Instant Message from an old friend who was catching up reading the Taper.

She wrote, "I just read your latest blog entry on BT. Damn, you can write something about almost nothing and make it sound interesting!"

Not today. Can't think of a thing to write, so I'll just point you here. This guy said more funny stuff about nothing than I could ever aspire to.

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Friday, February 22, 2008

Heavenly Sunshine of the Eternal Mind

The very first song I remember being taught was at church.

Heavenly sunshine, heavenly sunshine
Flooding my soul with glory dee-vi-ine.
Heavenly sunshine, heavenly sunshine
Hallelujah! Je-sus is mine.

If you've followed this blog for very long you know I'm fascinated with Solar imagery, especially how it is reflected (no pun intended) in religious, Masonic and corporate symbols.

For several months I've been especially cognizant of Solar symbols on churches — Protestant and Catholic. I've pretty much convinced myself that the Christianity we know and love is derived from ancient Solar Cults. The cross itself is an ancient solar symbol, far older than 33 A.D., and a steeple, with or without a cross on top, points toward the sky, home of the Sun. I've noticed that many, many church buildings include in their design circular windows with embedded solar crosses as well as windows that curve at the top, symbolizing the sunrise.

Adding to the mix is the fact that more and more, many churches these days actually utilize in their signs and logos both traditional and moderized sun drawings, the circle with rays emanating from the disk. And a quick google-search shows pages of "Rising Sun" churches of various denominations. And those Easter "sunrise services" on the first Sunday (Sun Day) after the first Paschal Full Moon date? Certainly there's more to that historically and symbolically than a mere local church tradition.

And after writing several months ago about the Disney/Hollywood re-enactments of ancient rituals done in the name of entertainment, I've become even more aware that "the owls are not what they seem." Something's going on. Whether its archetypal, conspiratorial, or synchronistic, or all three and more, I don't know.

I was pleasantly surprised this morning to find a blog called The Secret Sun, published by a man who is even more fascinated by all this than I am. Blogger Christopher Loring Knowles is also the author of the book Our Gods Wear Spandex: The Secret History of Comic Book Heroes.

I've just begun to explore his articles, but what I've seen is intriguing. He seems to have found myriads of "relationships of meaning" without going off the deep end into wild-eyed conspiracy theories as so many do who travel this path. His explorations are that of a Jungian, not a John Bircher or a believer in reptilian overlords.

In various articles he talks about the Masonic and Solar connections to the Academy Awards (Isis = Oscar), the Mithraian roots and ritual drama of The Beatles, Cirque de Soleil, and solar worship symbols in films including Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The 40-Year Old Virgin.

There are lots of mind treats at The Secret Sun for those who like to indulge their neurons occasionally with something out of the box.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Billiken, the God of things as they ought to be

[Click on the Billiken graphic to see him "blink."]

A few days ago I linked to investigative reporter Sandy Frost's article about the Royal Order of Jesters. In her article, she mentioned the icon/mascot of the Jesters, a strange little naked Buddha-like happy fellow named Billiken.

She said that there was an online animated version that "appears to have his, uh, thingy popping up and down as he blinks."

I tracked down the animation, and, yup, I think it looks like a big red head of a penis popping up and down.

Or maybe it's his navel glowing, as someone wrote in the comments section to my earlier article.

Nah, it's his pecker. Why would an icon of FUN have a glowing navel? I've contemplated my navel several times, but I'd never say that it was fun. There's nothing physically or symbolically fun or "mirthful" in a navel.

What say you? Penis or navel?

The original Billiken doesn't seem to have had either a navel or a pecker, though both appear to have been included in later designs. A 1908 patent was issued to Florence Pretz, a Missouri art teacher and illustrator who patented her "design for an image," but not the name "Billiken." The Billiken Company of Chicago manufactured the character as a coin bank, a statuette, and a doll. It was one of the first of many dolls that for a few years in the early 20th century became very trendy and fashionable. The Billiken was "all the rage" for about six months in 1910-1911.

The Billiken was known as the "God of things as they ought to be," which author, historian and anthropologist Dorothy Jean Ray believes is a variation on a line from poet and Freemason Bro. Rudyard Kipling's L'Envoi: "Shall draw the Thing as he sees It for the God of Things as They Are!" She wrote about the Billiken in a 1960 article in Alaska Sportsman. The Billiken had become a popular item in Alaska after someone had given a store-bought version to a local ivory carver named Angokwaghuk, whose nickname was "Happy Jack." To this day, Eskimo ivory carvers produce many Billikens, all following the Happy Jack pattern, which itself remained nearly identical to the original Pretz/Billiken Co. design.

In 1911 or 1912, Coach John Bender unofficially adopted Billiken as the mascot of the St. Louis University football team. Several versions of the story exist.

It was also in 1911 (February 20th — oddly, today's date) that the original meeting of the Royal Order of Jesters occurred, during a San Francisco-to-Honolulu Shriner cruise aboard the S.S. Wilhelmina. The meeting was led by Shriner Noble A. M. Ellison of San Francisco along with 13 original members. The group was "officially" formed in 1917.

Those more conspiratorial-minded than I can contemplate whether the God of Mirth inspired this meeting, or if perhaps the Shriners themselves were behind the popularity of the Billiken doll at the time.

Variations of Billiken spread to Japan and other parts of the world, and over time the word itself seems to have been appropriated to mean any carved doll-like character under a foot tall, or so a quick look at eBay indicates.

It's probably safe to assume that the navel-or-pecker animated Billiken shown above was created fairly recently, since animated GIF's weren't available before 1989 (and I doubt too many Jesters were computer geeks in 1989, nor were there too many webpages to put animations for many more years), which to me gives further reason to suspect it's indeed his pecker and not his navel that lights up. (Imagine yourself as an animator, probably a teen or in his early 20's... would you think it fun to make a non-existent navel blink, or to create a pop-up penis? I mean, there's a pop-up penis in The Little Mermaid, isn't there?)

Not that people didn't contemplate their peckers in times past. The undated photo montage shown at left of a Jesters' Billiken paperweight, especially the second and third photos, certainly look like little Billy is playing with his Billiken to me.

Or is he just holding his gut while having a mirth-filled belly laugh?

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Alcohol prohibition has got to go

Currently, while the Georgia Legislature is in session, a petition drive is underway to "Repeal Prohibition of Sunday Sales of Alcoholic Beverages at Stores in the State of Georgia."

Georgia is one of the few states that bans alcohol sales in stores on Sundays. Nowhere in Georgia can you legally buy beer, wine or spirits to take home with you on a Sunday. Some cities in metropolitan areas allow Sunday sales "by the drink" in a restaurant, but generally speaking, Georgia is one dry place on Sundays.

It's archaic, and it's time the law forbidding Sunday sales be scrapped.

Nearly 15,000 Over 26,000 37,300 42,000 Georgians have signed an online petition which will soon be submitted to the Georgia General Assembly, Georgia Lieutenant Governor and Senate President Casey Cagle, and Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue.

If you are a Georgia resident, I urge you to sign it, too. It matters not whether you are a user of alcohol. Banning the sale of legal products simply because the day is held "holy" by some — but certainly not all — Georgians just isn't right.

It's time Georgia joined the 21st century.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Putting the 'civil' back into civilization

My God, but we're an angry, vulgar and ultimately hateful species. Some days I'm almost embarrassed to be a human.

I'm not really referring to the senseless wars in the name of superstitious ideologies that always seem to be going on. It's the personal version of "man's inhumanity to man" that's on my mind.

I can't read an online news story about the political races without coming across in a news organization's comments section petty name-calling between Republicans and Democrats, or even between fans of the same party, voicing their hostility in cold, cruel words for an opposing candidate. Ron Paul's supporters have shown particular talent for this, judging by their scathing attacks on other candidates on the site The Daily Paul. Obama demonizes Hillary and vice versa ad nauseum, as did McCain and Romney when the latter was still running. And their minions all hate each other, and are only too proud to post their feelings on blogs and news sites.

Things aren't much better on Masonic forums and blogs, with "brothers" trashing each other's opinions and affiliations regularly, and often not very politely.

It's not just online we see this sinking to the lowest common denominator. Every day the news tells us of murders, rapes, and crimes too horrible to contemplate. Recently, a father forced his child to watch him murder her mother, and then made her help dispose of her body after he cut off the mother's hands, feet and head. In January, 24-year old Meredith Emerson was brutally murdered — beaten to death, then decapitated — quite near me in a north Georgia state park.

And then there's road rage, where you get to hate a new random group of people every day. How often do you see someone flipping the finger at another driver, or mouthing curse words as if the other driver can hear him? Or how often do you do it yourself?

Our "entertainment" not only no longer teaches values, it actively encourages the lack of values. I mean, have you seen It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia? Described by one writer as "Seinfeld on crack," it's an endless parade of how to be selfish and cruel.

In the "good ol' days," our sports heroes were actually heroes. Never mind they had their vices, like Babe Ruth's famous alcoholism. At least they weren't shooting each other and running dog-fighting operations.

Fast food clerks, bored and most likely raised by wolves, regularly make the news by getting caught spitting into food. College kids blow away their classmates just for kicks.

Last Friday evening in England a group of women dining at Joe Delucci's Italian restaurant in Lichfield, Staffordshire were presented with their bill after receiving and then complaining about particularly bad service. Atop the bill was typed in, as if it were an ordered item, the words "SUCK MY D*** F*** FACE." The owner, a Mr. Langsdon, said the message had been meant to be seen only by kitchen staff and he did not know how it ended up as an item on the receipt.

He told a reporter, "That shouldn't come out on the bill, so we've got to find out what's gone wrong there."

I'm not arguing for a crusade to "put God back in the schools," or for any sort of moral crusade. I'm not saying we should "go along to get along." I'm not saying there aren't things worth fighting for.

I'd just like us to put the "human" and the "humane" back into humanity.

Image: Check, please! A bill from Joe Delucci's restaurant in Lichfield, Staffordshire, England

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Six possible futures

The presidential candidate field has cleared quite a bit in the past month or so, and the pundits have all but decided who will be the nominee for the Republicans while milking the Democratic run for all they can.

Who do YOU think will be the next President of the United States? Not who do you support or who do you want or who did you or will you vote for, but who do you think will actually become the next president? There are six probabilities, some admittedly less likely than others, but all are at this moment possibilities.

There are six possible futures for our country. Which path do you think we'll collectively follow?

And what will our lives — personally and as a nation — be like in four years?

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Monday, February 18, 2008

Fun facts about U.S. presidents

Here's a five-minute time-waster for you this Presidents Day, once you get home from all the sales: Fun facts about U.S. presidents. You can read this and much more "Homework Help" here.
1. How many U.S. presidents have there been? It depends on how you count. Since George Washington, the first president under the U.S. Constitution ratified in 1789, 42 different men have held the office of president. However, Grover Cleveland had two non-consecutive terms of office and is usually listed as both 22nd and 24th presidents. So George W. Bush is the 42nd man to be president, but the 43rd president by consecutive term of office.

2. Who lived longest after he left office? Herbert Hoover lived more than 31 1/2 years after leaving office.

3. Which Presidents have lived past the age of 90? John Adams, Herbert Hoover, Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford.

4. Who is the president that lived the longest? Gerald Ford was the longest-lived president by living 34,133 days, only 45 more days than Ronald Reagan.

5. What President lived the shortest time? John F. Kennedy

6. How many Vice Presidents have become President due to the President's inability to serve the remainder of his term? Eight vice presidents have become president due to the death of the president and one, Gerald Ford, due to resignation.

7. One president served two full terms and yet served 57 days short of eight years. Why? George Washington, because he was inaugurated on April 30, instead of March 4, which was customary after that.

8. I have been attempting to assist my 9 year old daughter find the middle name of George Washington, a seemingly easy task. However, after an exhaustive search, I have had no luck. Why is it so difficult to locate? Because he did not have one.

9. What is Abraham Lincoln's middle initial? Lincoln did not have a middle name.

10. Which president switched his initials from HUG to UHG? Hiram Ulysses Grant did not like his birth initials, so on his way to West Point he decided to change it to Ulysses Hiram Grant. However, upon arriving, he discovered the Army had him enrolled as Ulysses S. Grant. He eventually decided to accept the name change given him by the Army.
And here's some more presidential trivia, a list of presidents who were Freemasons:
  • George Washington, 1st President, 1789 - 1797, Commanding General during American Revolution, made a Mason August 4, 1753, in Fredericksburg Lodge (now No. 4), A. F. & A. M., Fredericksburg, Virginia.

  • James Monroe, 5th President, 1817 - 1825, made a Mason November 9, 1775, in Williamsburg Lodge (now No. 6), A.F. & A.M., Williamsburg, Virginia.

  • Andrew Jackson, 7th President, 1829 - 1837 Harmony Lodge No. 1, Nashville, Tennessee, an Honorary Member of Federal Lodge No. 1, F. & A.M., Washington, D.C., and Jackson Lodge No. 1, F. & A.M., Tallahassee, Florida. In 1822 and 1823 he served as the Grand Master of Masons in Tennessee.

  • James Knox Polk, 11th President, 1845 - 1849, made a Mason September 4, 1820, in Columbia Lodge No. 31, F. & A.M., Columbia, Tennessee.

  • James Buchanan, 15th President, 1857 - 1861, made a Mason January 24, 1817, in Lodge No. 43 (it has no name), F. & A.M., Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

  • Andrew Johnson, 17th President, 1865 - 1869, made a Mason during May, 1851, in Greeneville Lodge No. 119 (now No. 3), F. & A.M., Greeneville, Tennessee.

  • James Abram Garfield, 20th President. 1881, made a Mason November 22, 1864, in Columbus Lodge No. 30 F. & A.M., Columbus, Ohio.

  • William McKinley, 25th President, 1897 - 1901, made a Mason May 3, 1865, in Hiram Lodge No. 21, A.F. & A.M., Winchester, Virginia.

  • Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President, 1901 - 1909, made a Mason April 24, 1901, in Matinecock Lodge No. 806, F. & A.M., Oyster Bay, New York.

  • William Howard Taft, 27th President, 1909 - 1913 - Chief Justice Supreme Court 1921 - 1930, made a "Mason at Sight" in an "Occassional Lodge" called for that purpose on February 18, 1909, in the Scottish Rite Cathedral, Cincinnati, Ohio, by Charles S. Hoskinson, Grand Master of Masons in Ohio.

  • Warren Gamaliel Harding, 29th President, 1921 - 1923, made a Mason August 27, 1920, in Marion Lodge No. 70, F. & A.M., Marion, Ohio.

  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 32nd President, 1933 - 1945, made a Mason November 28, 1911, in Holland Lodge No. 8, F. & A.M., New York, New York, the same Lodge in which George Washington, the Nation's first President, held Honorary membership.

  • Harry S. Truman, 33rd President, 1945 - 1951, made a Mason March 18, 1909, in Belton Lodge No. 450, A.F. & A.M., Belton, Missouri. He served as the Grand Master of Masons of Missouri in 1940. Initiated: February 9, 1909, Belton Lodge No. 450, Belton, Missouri. In 1911, several Members of Belton Lodge separated to establish Grandview Lodge No. 618, Grandview, Missouri, and Brother Truman served as its first Worshipful Master. At the Annual Session of the Grand Lodge of Missouri, September 24-25, 1940, Brother Truman was elected (by a landslide) the ninety-seventh Grand Master of Masons of Missouri, and served until October 1, 1941. Brother and President Truman was made a Sovereign Grand Inspector General, 33º, and Honorary Member, Supreme Council on October 19,1945 at the Supreme Council A.A.S.R. Southern Jurisdiction Headquarters in Washington D.C., upon which occasion he served as Exemplar (Representative) for his Class. He was also elected an Honorary Grand Master of the International Supreme Council, Order of DeMolay. On May 18, 1959, Brother and Former President Truman was presented with a fifty-year award, the only U.S. President to reach that golden anniversary in Freemasonry.

  • Gerald R. Ford, Jr. 38th President, 1974 - 1977. He was raised to the Sublime degree of Master Mason on May 18, 1951 in Columbia Lodge No. 3, F. &.A.M., of Washington, D.C., as a courtesy for Malta Lodge No. 465, F. & A.M. of Grand Rapids, Michigan.

  • Lyndon Baines Johnson 1908-1973. 36th President, 1963 - 1969. Entered Apprentice degree Johnson City Lodge No. 561, Johnson City, Texas October 30, 1937. Did not advance.
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'Mean-spirited and vindictive' edicts

The following anonymous article was submitted by a brother from America's heartland.

A brother and his family in the central US have recently been spending a considerable amount of time helping restore a 19th century cemetery in their family hometown.

The cemetery is located in the business district of a small town near the convergence of two rivers, which prior to extensive modification in the 1980s, occasionally overflowed and produced serious flooding in the area.

Over the years, many of the older monuments in the cemetery were displaced or damaged by floating debris, and recovery efforts sometimes resulted in the removal of grave markers, many of which were natural stones with no apparent inscriptions.

While recently visiting family graves, the brother now helping restore the cemetery discovered a child's marble headstone, which was almost completely covered beneath a thick carpet of grass. The monument was broken at its base, and the lower portion was missing, but a systematic search of the nearby area revealed the lost part, and the stone was repaired with stainless steel pins machined specifically for the purpose.

The search for the lost piece also resulted in the accidental and unexpected discovery of several other markers, as well as numerous white bricks buried at approximately regular intervals. When the locations of the bricks and buried monuments were marked with surveyors' flags, a pattern of unmarked graves began to emerge in a large section of the cemetery where no visible monuments remained.

Several weekends of work have now revealed the locations of more than 50 graves identified by buried bricks and monuments. To date, 40 of the missing or badly damaged stones have been replaced with new markers, while about a dozen marble and natural stone monuments have been excavated and restored. Remarkably, the majority of the lost stones have been found upright, but buried beneath the present surface of the ground.

Many of the town's early records have been lost or destroyed, and no plot maps or burial charts are known for the older part of the cemetery. It seems likely that the exact number and identity of the people buried there may never be known, but the brother who's been assisting with the restoration isn't particularly concerned about that.

"It doesn't matter to me who's buried there," he says. "I'm sure they were people whose lives mattered just as much to them as ours do to us, and I think they deserve to have their graves marked, even if no one ever knows who they were."

The brother's ancestors arrived in the area in the 1830s, and were among the earliest pioneers. After generations as farmers, merchants, and public servants, however, his parents' generation moved away in the years following World War II.

"I feel a connection because of my family history," he says, "but I've never lived there myself, and I'm just an outsider to the people there today. Few of them remember my family, and when I tell them that my ancestors were there 175 years ago, I think a lot of them really don't believe it."

"My grandparents and great-grandparents are buried in that cemetery, and it's possible that even my great-great-grandparents could be among the unmarked graves. They died and were buried in that area in the 1860s, but no records or monuments are known to indicate exactly where."

Today, the brother helping with the restoration efforts prefers to remain largely anonymous. "I don't want any recognition," he says, "I just hope no one complains."

Unfortunately, another reason he prefers to remain anonymous in this forum, is that he's currently serving an unjust 50-year "definite suspension" from Masonry, imposed by the grand lodge in his state for "un-Masonic conduct."

He isn't ashamed of his suspension, but he doesn't want to embarrass the brothers who lacked the courage to stand behind him in his time of need. "Most of them aren't bad guys," he says, "they were just scared the grand lodge would kick them out too, and they did what they had to in order to maintain their memberships."

"If the shoe had been on the other foot," he admits, "I would've stood up for them, but it would've been a lot easier for me because I have a full life outside of Masonry, and I was so sick of all the grand lodge corruption that I wanted out anyway.

"My first experience with our grand lodge occurred several years ago, when a grand lodge officer who was one of our state's top law enforcement officials, filed charges of un-Masonic conduct against a young brother of our lodge for 'a long history of writing hot checks.' I was assigned to a committee to investigate those charges, but we declined to pursue the matter when it was revealed that the brother had written only three hot checks in seven years, the total of which amounted to less than $150, and he'd made full restitution for all of them as soon as he was notified of the insufficiency.

"The grand officer testified to our committee that there were outstanding warrants for the brother's arrest, but attempts to confirm those allegations through sources in two different law enforcement agencies, revealed no such warrants. Whether the grand officer intentionally lied is a matter of speculation, but he had the same resources available to him that we had to us, yet the information he reported was clearly inaccurate.

"When that grand officer rose through the ranks of our grand lodge and became Grand Master, I was elected Worshipful Master of my blue lodge, and I was repeatedly warned that he and several of his cronies were planning to set me up. I didn't know specifically what they were planning, however, so I just continued doing the best I could for as long as I could, and put my trust in God that everything would eventually work out.

"Even though I hoped for the best, I prepared for the worst by teaching the junior officers as much as they were willing to learn about how to keep the lodge going in the event of my absence. I was almost certain that the grand lodge was going to kick me out, but no one else seemed to believe it until it actually happened. Obviously, they had a lot more faith in their grand officers' integrity than I did.

"I was one of the most active members at my blue lodge for a number of years, usually being the first to arrive and the last to leave. I taught lectures and ritual work, and conferred all the blue lodge degrees, but I also organized charitable fundraisers and engaged our lodge in as many activities as I could, to make us an asset to our community.

"My wife and I were usually the only ones who showed up to support the T-ball team our lodge adopted, but that turned out to be a lot of fun. It certainly was a lot more fun than being at lodge at 3:30 on Saturday mornings to help with lodge breakfasts like I did for years, or mowing the lodge lawn and cleaning the bathrooms.

"I brought elderly brothers to lodge and took them home when they weren't able to drive. I took them to doctors and hospitals, and visited them and their families when they were sick. I planned our meals to have leftovers for needy brothers when I could, and I attended more of their funerals and graveside services than I care to remember. For me, that was the worst part about Masonry; most Masons are older men, and just like childhood doesn't last very long, old age doesn't last very long either.

"The end for me came when the Grand Master accused me of violating a new edict he'd issued prohibiting 'suspended' or 'expelled' Masons from attending all lodge events, including those open to the general public. The Grand Master even admitted that the edict was directed specifically at me, because I'd continued extending a hand of friendship to Masons the grand lodge had unjustly kicked out, and I welcomed them just like I welcomed everyone else at public events at our lodge.

"Of course, I thought the Grand Master's edict was mean-spirited and vindictive, but I realized it might be the foundation for the 'setup' I'd been warned about. I figured the grand lodge was hoping I'd disregard it and give them a good excuse to kick me out, but I didn't have any other 'public' events scheduled for the rest of the year, and I hoped circumstances wouldn't arise that would make it relevant to me.

"As it turned out, however, I didn't get that lucky. Hurricane Katrina devastated two of our neighboring states, and within the following week, I organized a fundraiser at our lodge to collect donations for Masonic relief efforts. The event was advertised in local newspapers, as well as several radio stations, and two former Masons who heard about it showed up with their families to contribute to the effort.

"I was informed of the former Masons' arrival by a grand lodge employee who met me on the parking lot as I returned from a nearby restaurant where I'd gone to get more food. I asked his advice about how to comply with the Grand Master's directive, but he just told me he was glad he wasn't in my shoes, then he got in his truck and drove away.

"Being left to my own devices, I decided to read the Grand Master's edict to the expelled Masons, and I did so with three other Worshipful Masters and our own Junior Warden and most senior Past Master as witnesses. I don't know what I'd have done if the suspended and/or expelled brothers had refused to leave and demanded to be treated like any other paying members of the public, but they apologized for the inconvenience they'd caused, graciously wished me success with the fundraiser, and left without further incident.

"I'd sent the Grand Master a written invitation to the event, but he ignored it and chose not to attend. I'm sure he was disappointed to hear that I followed his directive, but he didn't allow that to interfere with the plan to oust me. A few days later, he sent me a certified letter saying he'd removed me from office as Worshipful Master, and declared me 'suspended pending trial' on charges of un-Masonic conduct, namely that I'd 'allowed' two expelled Masons to attend the fundraiser in violation of his directive.

"About four months later, just before the end of his term of office, the Grand Master appointed six of his close friends to 'try' me. He appointed his immediate predecessor in the grand line to serve as 'prosecutor,' and he appointed the prosecutor's best friend to serve as 'chairman' of the Grand Lodge Trial Committee.

"The 'trial' was held in a back room of the grand lodge offices, and only invited witnesses were allowed to attend. Despite irrefutable proof of my innocence, attested to by four Past Masters and a Senior Warden, all of whom witnessed the event firsthand, the Grand Lodge Trial Committee declared me guilty and sentenced me to a 'definite suspension' of 50 years.

"The reason they imposed a 'definite suspension,' rather than 'expulsion,' was to deny me the right of appeal constitutionally guaranteed to expelled Masons in this jurisdiction. The Past Grand Master who served as the prosecutor at my 'trial,' declared during his term as Grand Master that Masons here who are sentenced to 'definite suspension,' have no right of appeal.

"I guess that was the dirtiest thing they could think of to do to me, but it worked out in ways that would have been difficult to predict. I don't think I ever could have turned my back on the brothers of my lodge and willingly walked away, but the more I'd realized how corrupt and morally bankrupt our grand lodge is, the more conflicted I'd been about indirectly supporting it through my efforts to promote Masonry. I really wanted out, and it's a strange twist of fate that their corruption set me free.

"With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, I can say that joining a Masonic lodge is a good way to make acquaintances, but a bad way to make friends. While the majority of Masons aren't very active, most of the ones who are value their lodge affiliations above their personal friendships, their sense of right and wrong, their religious affiliations, and often even their family relationships. I don't think that's the way Masonry was intended, but it's the way it's turned out, at least in my experiences.

"I don't have much interest in Masonry anymore, and I'm glad that part of my life is over. I've had the full Masonic experience from beginning to end, and I'm looking forward to spending the rest of my life with my family and friends, who care about me for reasons less superficial than my lodge affiliation.

"For a number of years, I thought my best friends were my lodge brothers, but I found out the hard way that I was wrong. In that regard, Masonry is a lot like the culture that revolves around the use of illicit drugs. It's a subculture where people experience the illusion of friendship, but the more deeply they become involved in it, the more it actually separates them from their real friends and family.

"I don't regret the time I spent in lodge, because I realize that those experiences have helped me become the person I am today. I am thankful, however, that I'm no longer involved with it, and was fortunate enough to get my life back.

"I'm not aware of anything worthwhile that my former lodge has done in the years I've been gone, but I can point to the graves of more than 50 people right now that'd still be lost if I hadn't gotten kicked out, and I think that's a more significant achievement than any Masonic title or degree.

"If I could give one piece of advice to Masons and potential Masons, it would be this: Don't let people manipulate you into doing things you know are wrong. Follow your conscience, and don't be afraid to stand up for what you believe. People who try to prevent you from doing that are not your friends, and they aren't people who deserve your time, money, or respect."


Restoration efforts continue at the cemetery mentioned above, which was recently named to the National Register of Historic Places.

The Past Grand Master who orchestrated the Masonic lynching, now serves as a member of the Board of Directors of the George Washington National Masonic Memorial Association, in Alexandria, Virginia.

The chairman of the Grand Lodge Trial Committee that imposed the unjust 50-year sentence, recently completed a term as the Executive Officer for the International Order of DeMolay in his state. His friend and colleague, the Past Grand Master who served as prosecutor in the case, was fired from his law enforcement career for sexual harassment, and now teaches criminal justice at a university in another state.

The grand lodge employee who refused the brother's request for "good counsel" about how to comply with his Grand Master's directive, has now been elected to the state's grand line, and is on schedule to serve as Grand Master in 2012. Like the others intimately involved with the unjust suspensions and expulsions, this future Grand Master is a proud recipient of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite's 33rd and highest honorary degree.

The picture of the brother upon whom the unjust 50-year suspension was imposed was removed from the wall of his lodge by order of the Grand Master, who declared that because he didn't "honorably" complete his term of office, he isn't entitled to any form or recognition as a "Past Master."

Neither the Grand Lodge of Mississippi, nor the Grand Lodge of Louisiana, ever so much as sent a "thank you" card to the brother's blue lodge for their contribution to Masonic relief efforts, which totaled approximately $3,000.00.

— A Mason

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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Royal Order of Jesters 'exposed' by investigative reporter Sandy Frost

Investigative reporter Sandy Frost published last night "Jesters Exposed," a look behind the scenes at the Royal Order of Jesters, a Shrine-related subculture of Freemasonry whose motto is "Mirth is King."

It sounds like they have a great time. We should have all been invited to join this Masonic party club. As Sandy writes, "Not that messing around, holding oral sex competitions, getting snot-slinging drunk and gambling your butt off is a bad thing, but to allegedly do so as a nonprofit group?"

Websites of the Jesters are few and far between. Here's a little bit of info I found on the group, from the Phoenix Masonry website:
Jesters, usually so-called, but more formally named the Royal Order of Jesters, is an organization evolved out of the good fellowship of members of the Mystic Shrine during a voyage to Honolulu, February 15 to March 7, 1911. An offhand ceremony grew into a ritual, and to local Courts and a National Body, very much of its success due to the initiative of William S. Brown, many years the Treasurer of the Mystic Shrine; Lou B. Winsor, Past Imperial Potentate and Grand Secretary of Michigan, and others of their genial kind who organized and led the Body whose local units were limited to thirteen initiates yearly. Initiation, by invitation, and unanimous ballot, limited to members in good standing of the Mystic Shrine. The slogan "Mirth is King," expounded by Jester Brown, and the poem by Edmund Rowland Sill, "The Fool's Prayer," recited by Jester Winsor, have furnished inspiration. Officers, thirteen, bear the titles: Director, Tragedian, Property Man, Impressario, Treasurer, Soubrette, Light Comedian, Serio Comic, Heavy Man, Leading Lady, Judge, High Constable, Stage Manager; the national officer's titles are the same but preceded by the word Royal.
Also from the same site, we find the "Jester's Creed."
Laugh and the glad world laughs with you;
Weep and the sad world will sigh!
Mirth is our life's true elixir;
It shows you're a "regular guy."

There's nothing that so banishes worry,
Nor puts such a big crimp in sin;
Nor smooths out the wrinkles of trouble,
Like a jolly old Jester-mans grin!

It rolls off the years from your shoulders;
You'll forget that you've grown to be men!
Your youth turns once more to embrace you;
For you've grown to be school boys again!

So, if you've got grouches, don't bring 'em;
Its your laugh and your joke that we need;
For mirth is the doctor of trouble,
And Laughter, the Jester-man's Creed!
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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Make your own 'pop-up' lodge trestleboard

Here's a cool idea, and a project you might want to work on, alone or with your lodge brothers.

W. Bro. Guy Spivey of North Carolina's Enterprise Lodge No. 252 has created a "pop-up" trestleboard. Plans are available if you'd like to try your hand at putting together your own. You can simply print this .pdf file, transfer it to card stock, and using a ruler, razor knife and tweezers, create your own.

The Scottish Rite Journal will be publishing the plans in an upcoming issue.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Frank Haas, Halcyon Lodge honored as outstanding Masons of 2007

The Knights of Freemasonry Universal, a group of regular Freemasons from around the world dedicated to peace, universality, and "'true' Masonic tolerance," announced earlier this week their international awards for outstanding Masons of 2007.

Past Grand Master of West Virginia M.W. Bro. Frank Haas, who was expelled late last year by the current Grand Master, was among the recipients.

Our brothers at Halcyon Lodge in Cleveland, Ohio were honored with a group award for "putting the 'free' back into Freemasonry."

The Knights of Freemasonry Universal's news release follows:

Alexandria, VA. February 9, 2008: Today the Knights of Freemasonry Universal announced the following recognition awards for outstanding Masons of 2007.

In keeping with the organization's mission to promote, educate, and research Universality in Freemasonry, those here recognized have taken courageous steps to promote brotherhood and understanding within the Masonic Fraternity. Each will hold the Title of Knight Zuri, the word Zuri being Swahili for good and beautiful.

The new honorees are:
  • Brother Jeff Ballou, of Washington D.C. (USA), for his tireless efforts in bringing the Afro-American and Caucasian Grand Lodges together in D.C.

  • Brother Jack Buta of Arizona (USA), for his research into the Politics of Masonic Foreign Relations. [Link]

  • Brother Frank Haas, PGM, West Virginia (USA), for his efforts in bringing enlightenment to the craft.

  • Brother Carlos Quintanilla Yerena, PGM, of Mexico City (Mexico), for his efforts to reunite Mexican Masonry.
Our group award goes to:
  • Halcyon Lodge of Ohio (USA), for putting the "free" back into Freemasonry. [Link]
As Always: to the Unknown Builder, whose diligence + devotion is masked by the soundless tools of the craft. We are eternally grateful.

And last, but far from least, the great families and friends, without whose support, these Masons could not stand.


The Knights Of Freemasonry Universal is an independent Order not affiliated with any Masonic Grand Lodge, body or jurisdiction, and the opinions expressed here are solely those of the organization's Directors.
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Government comes clean on the Great Seal of the United States

It's official. No more conspiracy theories. The government has spoken.

There is nothing sinister about the Great Seal of the United States of America. It has nothing to do with the "Ancient Scottish Rite of Freemasonry" running the world. There's nothing Satanic about the symbol. All those thirteens simply signify the original 13 colonies. It has nothing to do with a "new world order."

I mean, I read it on Fox News. It must be the truth.

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Monday, February 11, 2008

We all shine on: Sister Kelly

My thanks to Sister Kelly for giving us the following, our 15th installment of "This is who I am."

Last night I took part in a special Masonic gathering hosted by a Grand Orient of France lodge working here in the U.S. The intent of the meeting was to strengthen fraternal ties in our local Masonic community, and in attendance were representatives of the Women's Grand Lodge of Belgium, the American Federation of Le Droit Humain, and the George Washington Union. Our entire agenda that evening was dedicated to reading and discussing architecture (papers) contributed by the participating lodges. These papers ranged in subject from initiatic continuity, to the decline of the American empire, to "remembrance duty": the obligations of nations to remember wrongdoings.

I sat among fifty Masons from diverse backgrounds, bound by our ideals, all listening to the presenters intently and commenting on the work with that distinctive Masonic thoughtfulness and insight that I've come to cherish. The energy created by this level of concentration, underpinned as it was by our mutual respect and fraternal love, was palpable, and powerful.

About half of the Masons present were women. There was no mention of the GAOTU. For these reasons I expect that some people reading this will say that this was not a Masonic meeting at all. My purpose is not to convince those people that it was, but to provide Taper readers with a snapshot of what's going on in the so-called Irregular world.

This is my world, and this forms a large part of who I am.

I cannot give you much in the way of typical biographical information, because the Masonic tradition I come out of encourages discretion. I am an American, however, and have that American impulse toward openness and self-revelation. I would love to tell you all about myself, but by exposing myself in this public forum, I would run the risk of outing my brothers and sisters by association.

All I'll say for now is that I'm an artist and a writer, and that my husband is a Mason as well. I can speak more freely about my Masonic biography.

I am a member of Le Droit Humain. This is a co-masonic organization (meaning men and women working together on equal footing) that is more than 100 years old. I was initiated in 1998. Our degree requirements center around producing architecture, and as is traditional for us, I spent a full year in each of the first two degrees, writing and studying, before being raised to the 3rd degree in 2000.

Last month my brothers and sisters installed me in the East as WM. I am honored by their trust — and still reeling under my new responsibilities. Each office holds its lessons, but this one is definitely going to change my life. I know I have gifts to offer my Lodge, but I also know that serving as master will force me to confront my weaknesses head on. This is frightening, but exhilarating too.

A question that keeps my wheels turning now that my view is due West, is how to inspire my brothers and sisters to bring their best to Lodge. Because we are a small Lodge, and because our working style demands not just attention to ritual, but also constant contribution in terms of architecture, discussion, and service to the lodge, every member must participate whole-heartedly. No one can be a bench sitter. Complicating this, our demographics skew young: we have no time-blessed retirees in our lodge to pick up the slack. All of my brothers and sisters balance the obligations of Freemasonry with their busy careers and home lives.

Sometimes I feel like our Lodge is a lab. In it Freemasonry does not exist as a "love it or leave it" proposition. Our members are constantly questioning, "What is this thing called Freemasonry? Why do we do it? Is it worth it?" This does not mean that we are re-inventing Masonry to suit our whims, but it does mean that nothing is taken for granted.

To give you an example, a few years ago, during a period of intense questioning, each of us presented architecture titled, "Why the %$&* am I a Freemason?" The answers were as individual as the writer, but one common theme emerged from all of them: love. Our love for one another.

That's a strong base to build on, but my challenge is to create agendas which will inspire them, and keep them coming to lodge — not out of obligation, but out of passion.

I have these questions for Taperites: How do we keep this bright flame of the18th century relevant in 2008? How does a craft so subtle a craft, compete with the more flashy, "me" oriented forms of philosophy popular today? How do we balance tradition with our revolutionary spirit? I would be delighted to talk about these ideas in the comments, or privately at lodgeunification at

Note on the illustration: As I can't send you a picture of myself in my snazzy new apron, I'm sending you all a valentine. Made it myself! Other candy slogans I considered: "square 4 U", "3 kisses", "luv my L:." and "pleg'd my heart".

— Sister Kelly

To submit your own "This is Who I Am" essay, read this.

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Thursday, February 07, 2008

Fictional drama features Masonic-ish brotherhood

Recently I watched a new episode of Psych, a comedy-drama on the USA Network. The show is about a young man who pretends to be a psychic investigator. He works for the police as well as on private cases.

This episode, called "Dis-Lodged," focused on a fictional "Monarch" Lodge that had many similarities, and a few humorous differences, to Masonic lodges.

A "tyler" stationed outside the building was a uniformed security guard, who exchanged a complicated and rather silly set of hand gestures with each member as they entered. Inside, in the anteroom, were portraits of famous Monarchs. The first one shown, but not identified, was W. Bro. and U.S. President Harry Truman. Other photographs of famous (in the fictional universe) brothers included many captains of industry and politics.

In the lodgeroom itself, the brothers were milling around, all in purple, hooded robes with grand-lodge-like sashes around their necks which had all sorts of mystical (but not Masonic) symbols on them.

Our hero mimics the elaborate hand gestures he saw someone else give at the door, fakes his way in, and finds on the lodgeroom floor, with disinterested, hooded brothers standing around, the body of a brother lying dead in the floor.

A few days later, the psychic is made a full member. Maybe they had a one-day class.

The Most High Patriarch of the lodge is played by Philip Baker Hall, who also starred as gameshow host and Freemason Jimmy Gator in 1999's epic movie Magnolia. In that movie, we hear him being told, "We met upon the level, and we part upon the square," by a brother just as he is taking the stage.

Spoiler alert: The murderer is revealed at the end of Psych to be a lodge member, a medical doctor who had been skimming funds from the lodge's large donations to various children's charities. The murdered brother had discovered the embezzlement and had been killed by the doctor.

Nothing like television to make "secret society" fraternities look bad.

Meanwhile, in real life, investigative reported Sandy Frost has posted "Two Years On," which is part 22 of her continuing investigation into alleged financial improprieties of the Shrine. "Two Years On" is a summary of all that's gone before.

Image: Maggie Lawson, who plays police officer Juliet O'Hara on the series "Psych."

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