Summer in the mid-Atlantic means trips to the Delaware shore, with all the saltwater taffy and skee-ball the Holy Prepuce can eat. And no afternoon at Rehoboth Beach would be complete without the quaint commercialism of the billboard boats and airplane ...

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Crime.org - God Hates Scammers - c/o MikeMann.com

Summer in the mid-Atlantic means trips to the Delaware shore, with all the saltwater taffy and skee-ball the Holy Prepuce can eat. And no afternoon at Rehoboth Beach would be complete without the quaint commercialism of the billboard boats and airplane banners hawking the latest Grotto Pizza two-for-one or $1.75 Nattys Ladies’ Nite in Ocean City.

Recent beach-goers may have been scratching their heads, however, at the unusual message currently saturating the floating and airborne media:

Crime.org
God Hates Scammers
c/o MikeMann.com

Who is the mysterious, eponymous Mike Mann, to whose online care the Almighty has entrusted this message of condemnation? And who are the “scammers” meriting the awesome domain name “Crime.org,” not to mention all this expensive promotion? Two questions; two mad, mad rabbit holes.

Mike Mann is evidently someone whose marriage did not go well, and whose divorce went worse. Other problematic relationships in Mr. Mann’s life appear to involve his father, stepmother, sister, brother-in-law, ex-girlfriends, Rabbi, divorce lawyers, psychiatrists, childhood acquaintances, and homeowners’ association members.

You might assume that a high-value domain name like Crime.org would belong to a nationwide crime prevention or victims’ rights organization. But there you would be wrong. As it turns out, Crime.org is the private mouthpiece of Mr. Mann, and it is a tour de force of crazy.

“If you love America and her freedoms you came to the right place,” visitors learn upon arrival. In the 5800+ words that follow, visitors also learn Mr. Mann’s opinions on the various people and organizations that have “scammed” him over the years, as well as his thoughts on child rearing, “phony mystics,” the First Amendment, and most of all the Montgomery County, Maryland, family court system, which according to Mr. Mann constitutes “a horror movie of a vicious, insanely greedy, malpracticing, white, suburban, ignorant group of completely self-absorbed elitist self-entitled phony professionals ceaselessly attacking someone else’s wallet and family to proudly proclaim their lying group narrative and stolen cash.”

5800 words are only the beginning, because at various points throughout his screed Mr. Mann includes hyperlinks to Google Docs files featuring additional, self-contained sub-screeds.

Mr. Mann’s ex-wife, we are told, is a “serial homewrecker” as well as

vindictive, hormonal, jealous, greedy, psychopathic, idiotic, violent, [a] bona-fide rage-o-holic: (And just maybe factually in the closet, menopausal, drunk, [a] compulsive pathological liar, [a] huge blabbermouth, unemployable, ineducable, unconscionable, unintelligible, filthy, overindulged, overfed, overcompensated, self-entitled, coddled, dramatic, pretentious, undisciplined, completely unaccountable, wasteful,—and [someone who] sleeps with MARRIED men with unsuspecting wives……in Tennessee.)
That the Manns’ divorce was less than amicable can be verified externally. A bit of internet sleuthing leads one to the Maryland Judiciary’s public docket for the Manns’ case, containing some 260 entries within which the word “contempt” appears 30 times, the word “incarceration” appears 5 times, and the words “Motion To Enjoin and Restrain Plaintiff from Engaging in Threatening, Harassing and Disrespectful Behavior Towards [his daughter’s] Court Appointed Therapist” appear twice.

Oddly, a more cogent recitation of Mr. Mann’s side of the divorce story, authored by one “Tiffany Reynolds,” appears on the website of the Adyayan Trust, an Indian NGO with no obvious connection to Mike Mann. Crime.org appears not to be Mr. Mann’s first attempt to air his divorce-related grievances online. Still indexed on Google, although sadly defunct, are www.save[the Manns’ teenage daughter, whose name I will not repeat here].com, and www.[Mrs. Mann’s full name, which I also will not repeat here]IsEvil.com.

Other revelations on Crime.org: a Dewey Beach masseuse and the proprietor of a Maryland dance studio (presumably both Mr. Mann’s ex-girlfriends) are, in fact, whores; the Rabbi and Cantor at a prominent Washington, D.C. synagogue are likely pedophiles; Mormons get a bad name but are actually very little trouble and high performers; and Mr. Mann’s former divorce attorneys are “like the Washington Generals basketball team lining up to take it from behind from the Harlem Globetrotters.”

Despite his lifelong abuse at the hands of family members, clergy, government, and members of the learned professions, spot number one on Mr. Mann’s shit list is reserved for a certain Mr. B, a board member of the North Indian Beach Community Association. (As above, because Crime.org will no doubt appear as Exhibit One in a number of soon-to-be-filed defamation suits, I shall not repeat full names here.)

Mr. Mann’s 10,616-word Google Docs diatribe against Mr. B. and the “puppet government” NIBCA is difficult to follow, but the upshot seems to be that various people want to stop various other people from building new houses, driving vehicles on the beach, and opening or closing roads. Mr. B’s position in these matters is contrary to the position of Mike Mann, and for this transgression he is outed on Crime.org as “[p]ervert [Mr. B] . . . sexual predator [Mr. B.] who dominated many workspaces and illegally unconsentually sexually assaulted, and permanently traumatized many young professionals in unsuspecting Rehoboth Beach businesses on many occasions over a long period.”

What I find most delightful about Crime.org is the disconnect between the effects Mike Mann presumably imagines it will have on readers and the actual reaction it is likely to elicit from any sane, WiFi-equipped beach-goer curious enough to bite. You can just imagine Mr. Mann watching from the boardwalk as the summer’s first billboard floated by, gleefully mouthing “yes! Yes! YES! Now it can be told! Now revenge is mine!”

What’s so delicious is his evident lack of insight that, far from settling scores and shaming the “scammers,” Crime.org succeeds only in making Mike Mann look like a lunatic. A lunatic with a media budget, mind you, and assets to settle an upcoming barrage of lawsuits, but a lunatic all the same.

I shall end this post the way Mike Mann ends everything he writes on the Internet: I will never stop cussing, screaming and documenting the truth, it’s the first amendment, if you don’t like it go live in China or Saudi Arabia.
    


Timely Questions for Reverend Harold Camping

Dear Reverend Harold Camping:

You must be very busy, what with the Rapture coming tomorrow and all, but I’m hoping for just a minute of your time. Actually “a minute of your time” is exactly what I want to ask you about. Because what’s really extraordinarily clever about your Bible calculations is that you’ve not only figured out God’s super-secret plan to Rapture the Earth on May 21, 2011, but also that he’s going to do it one time zone at a time. According to press accounts of your discovery:

the massive doomsday earthquake will start at the International Date Line before moving west. New Zealand . . . will get hit first – at 6 p.m. local time. And then that wave of destruction will roll around the world, wreaking havoc at 6 p.m. in each time zone.

Not only was it smart of God to come up with that cool plan for phased destruction--I mean, Rapturing the whole Earth at once would be kind of unwieldy, especially the Christian parts where there are so many souls to collect--but it’s especially neat how he wrote down the whole plan in code all those thousands of years ago in the Bible. Pretty funny that he tried to throw us off the trail with that whole “but of that day and hour knoweth no man.” He sure fooled me, but he didn’t fool Harold Camping!

I do have a couple of questions, though.

No, I’m not going to ask “what about Daylight Saving Time.” Please. Obviously because God knows everything, he knew that we humans were going to invent Daylight Saving Time, so he factored that into his Bible code.

And same goes for the whole time zones / standard time concept. Sure, in Biblical times and for practically all of human history time was reckoned locally based on the position of the Sun. But again, I’m sure God foresaw that one day there would be railroads, telegraphs, and a corresponding need for uniformity. And because His plan was to Rapture Boston and Cincinnati at exactly the same moment, instead of the 52 minutes apart that 6 p.m. would occur in those cities if we still used “Local Apparent Solar Time” like Abraham and Jesus, God just coded that into the Bible, too.

But here’s the thing. Not to second-guess God or anything, but actually doing it the old fashioned way would kind of make more sense. Because you can totally see how a continuously moving wave of destruction, travelling at an equatorial velocity of just over 1500 feet per second so as to hit each spot at “true” 6 p.m., would work.

Whereas the whole-time-zones-at-a-time model presents some difficulties. Take for example a town that straddles the Texas / New Mexico border. When the Doomsday earthquake flattens everything on the Texas side, will it be made up of some kind of special shockwaves that know to stop at the state line? And what if it turns out that I’m one of the saved, and I get Raptured while straddling the border? Do I risk the right half of my soul being “left behind” for an hour?

And actually, speaking of Daylight Saving Time, did God make clear how your calculations should deal with places that don’t observe it? Like if I’m in Arizona do I get an extra hour, even though Armageddon is already in full swing due North in Utah? But if I step onto the Navajo reservation, which does observe Daylight Saving Time, then I’m toast? What if I’m a member of the Hopi nation, so my land is within the Navajo reservation, but my tribe keeps with the rest of Arizona in not observing Daylight Saving Time? Supposing I’m off the reservation at 5:15, and I want to get home before the Rapture to make sure I didn’t leave the oven on? Will God understand that I’m only passing through Navajo land to get to the Hopi section, and give me the extra 45 minutes?

Even apart from Daylight Saving issues, it seems like the Rapture is going to have to do some jumping around. If you look at a world time zone map, it’s pretty complicated. For all kinds of political reasons you’ve got places where it can be 6 p.m. already even though somewhere to the East still calls it 5 p.m. (Or 5:30 or even 5:15.)

And then you’ve got places like Kashmir, where no one can agree whether it’s part of India (GMT + 5:30) or Pakistan (GMT + 5:00). Do the Hindus get Raptured half an hour before the Muslims? I mean, I understand they’re all going to Hell anyway because they haven’t accepted Jesus, but it would be useful to know.

Also what about at the South Pole? By convention, Amundsen Scott Station uses New Zealand time, but technically speaking the Pole is in every time zone. From what I’ve heard, that place can become a den of iniquity for the “winter-over” crew, owing to the gender imbalance and prolonged isolation in darkness.  So the schedule on which their souls will be called to account is not just an academic question.

And of course there’s the International Space Station to consider. Here we see why it was definitely smart for God to choose standard instead of solar time. Can you imagine if he had to Rapture the astronauts 16 times in one day?! My only question is whether He’ll use Greenwich Mean Time, which the station normally follows, or adjust for the crew’s current temporary shift to Space Shuttle Endeavour’s Mission Elapsed Time. Your Bible calculations take that into account, right?

I would appreciate the courtesy of a prompt response to these questions, preferably by 6 p.m. tomorrow. 6 p.m. my time, I mean.
    


Tampering

Welcome to the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University! Thank you for attending this ‎year’s Senior Executives in State and Local Government intensive summer program. As you know, the program is ‎based around real-life case studies of government officials like yourselves exercising their problem solving and ‎decision making skills. ‎

So let’s jump right in with a little quiz to get a feel for the skills you and your colleagues may already bring to the ‎table. Our quiz is based on a case study of Jack B. Johnson, former Prince George’s County, Maryland County ‎Executive, and his wife, Councilmember Leslie Johnson.

Background: You are County Executive in a large suburban county bordering on Washington, D.C. You ‎have just accepted $15,000 in cash from a real estate developer, when two FBI agents burst into the room with a ‎search warrant and seize the money. You get into your County vehicle, activate the emergency lights, and start ‎driving toward home. Your wife calls your cell phone and tells you that FBI agents are banging on the door of your ‎house. ‎

Problem: In your house is a $100,000 check from the same developer and a boatload of cash.‎

Question One: Circle the correct answer. You should / should not have the following telephone conversation:‎

Your Wife:‎ Oh, is it the box with the liquor?‎

You:‎ Yeah, and, it... Yeah, and look in another box. You'll see a check in there. Yeah, that's right.‎

Your Wife:‎ Yes, there's a check in there.‎

You:‎ Okay. Tear it up. That's the only thing you have to do. Now go down... You..., you got the money?‎

Your Wife: ‎Yeah, wait a minute. I got the cash. Do you have that cash down in the basement still too?‎

You:‎ Yes.‎

Your Wife: ‎Okay, I gotta move that too. Where do you want me to move it?‎

You:‎ Put it in... Put it in your um, put it in your bra and walk out or something with it. I don't know what to ‎do with it. Um...‎

Your Wife:‎ Whatta you want me to do with the check?‎ You hear 'em banging?‎

You:‎ Tear up the check and..., um..., and, and um..., and... , and um, tear it up. Just..., just tear it up.‎

Your Wife:‎ They're saying FBI Jack.‎

You:‎ Yeah, I know... , I know. That's why I'm telling you. [Developer A] set me up.‎

Your Wife:‎ You want me to put it down the toilet?‎

You:‎ Yes.‎

Your Wife:‎ You want me to flush it?‎

You:‎‎ Yeah, flush that.‎

‎[The sound of a toilet flushing in background.]‎

Your Wife:‎ All right. Now whatta you want me to do?‎

You:‎‎ Go downstairs and get...‎

Your Wife:‎ I'm tellin' 'em I'm not dressed.‎

You:‎‎ Yeah, tell 'em you're not dressed. You will be dressed in five minutes then you open...‎

Your Wife:‎ Okay, and I have the cash.‎

You:‎‎ Okay. Leave that little cash. That's okay. That's a little bit... , a little cash. Put it in your underwear.‎

Your Wife:‎ I have it in my bra. And what about...‎

You:‎‎ Huh?‎

Your Wife: ‎... that other cash though?‎

You:‎‎ Um, [unintelligible].‎

Your Wife:‎ You gotta tell me what to do with it Jack.‎

You:‎ Leslie.‎

Your Wife:‎ What do you want me to do with this money? They are banging?‎

You:‎‎ Put... , put... , put...‎

Your Wife:‎ What do you want me to do with it?‎

You: ‎‎... put it... , put it in your panties and walk out of the house.‎

Your Wife:‎ No, but I mean all this cash Jack.‎

You:‎ Put it...‎

Your Wife:‎ I got the one from down...‎

You:‎‎ Put it in your panties Leslie.‎

Your Wife:‎ Oh my God. Okay.‎

You:‎‎ Yeah, stuff it in your panties. Yeah, tell 'em you were in the bathroom. Right? I'll be home in a minute ‎too. Okay. And then just... , and then just open the door and sit down. Okay?‎

‎[Upon entering the home, FBI agents search your wife’s person and ‎recover $79,600 ‎in United States currency from her underwear and bra.]‎

Question Two: Fill in the blank. County Executive Johnson pled guilty this afternoon to extortion, ‎conspiracy, and tampering with ___________.‎

Question Three: Fill in the blank. When FBI agents are investigating you for official corruption and have a ‎warrant to search your house, there’s a good chance they have also tapped your __________.‎
    


Gilbert Gottfried and the Discourse on Disaster

A Portrait of Gilbert Gottfried with a Dead Aflac Duck
on His Head by Dan Lacey (www.faithmouse.com). 
Used with permission of the artist.
As the world confronts escalating conflict and looming nuclear disaster, the Holy Prepuce has been ruminating on a more consequential matter: the Gilbert Gottfried sacking.

Why, exactly, did “tweeting” a series of earthquake / tsunami jokes get Gottfried summarily canned as the voice of AFLAC? Gottfried, after all, famously broke the ice at a post-9-11 Friar’s Club roast by recounting “The Aristocrats,” the classic improvised litany of incest, scatophilia, and a rotating menu of other horribles. So it’s not as if AFLAC was allergic to controversial material.

I suspect that Gottfried ran up against an unwritten rule of comedy: disaster jokes are not allowed to have identifiable authors.

The re-telling of disaster jokes is permissible because they are both ubiquitous and anonymous. Anyone of my generation could tell you, for example, how we knew Christa McAuliffe had dandruff, what “NASA” stands for, and why there were no showers on the Challenger. Elliot Orring’s “Jokes and the Discourse on Disaster” (1987) collects fourteen such examples, and I found no more than a handful unfamiliar twenty-five years after the Challenger explosion. Some were undoubtedly adapted from prior maritime or aviation accidents; several I have since heard re-purposed for Princess Diana or 9-11. Folklorists collect this material: Bill Ellis’s “A Model for Collecting and Interpreting World Trade Center Disaster Jokes” (October 5, 2001) identifies twelve discreet “cycles” addressing a range of events including the Kennedy assassination, the Jonestown suicides, and the Lockerbie PanAm 103 bombing.

The universality of these jokes allows us to rationalize their creation as an instinctive defense mechanism with a plausible genesis in evolutionary psychology. The impulse to detach from tragedy through humor serves as a counterbalance to our empathy and attachment, traits essential to social animals but paralyzing if unchecked in times of crisis. Laugh today about yesterday’s sabre-tooth tiger attack and you pull yourself together to hunt mastodon, eat, and live to pass along your genes.

When these jokes seem to rise from the zeitgeist, the telling itself can become the primary gag, the observational meta-joke that human beings are sick bastards who find this funny. It works because we’re all in this together: I’ve heard this one, you’ve heard that one, someone like us must have come up with this; everyone’s responsible so no one is.

But when Gottfried tweets Japan jokes as a professional comedian, there’s him and there’s us. We have no ownership, no liability as the kind of people who think this stuff up. He’s the sick bastard who finds this funny, we’re decent folk who need to take a stand against this trash.

I also think Gottfried is a victim of the Comedian On Twitter syndrome. Social media’s low-cost marketing comes at a price for comedians: fans expect free, instant funny. And so the temptation is to brain-dump ideas that might otherwise never see the light of day.

Looking through Gottfried’s tweets, and putting aside any question of taste, most of them are poorly constructed and don’t really work as jokes. A few would be salvageable with editing. One or two seem to stand on their own:

I asked a girl in Japan to have sex with me. She said “okay, but you'll have to sleep in the wet spot.”

This would be a decent mid-set gag, a supplemental laugh on an established subject. It trades on a mixing of taboos: sex and disaster, but in an understated, minimally-graphic fashion. It turns on clever incongruities of type, number, and scale. And it’s a rather sweet homage to its “sleep in the wet spot” precursor jokes, those Sexual Revolution-era meditations on negotiating casual sex and its aftermath in that brave new gender-equal world.

Here is the best of the lot:

I was talking to my Japanese real estate agent. I said “is there a school in this area.” She said “not now, but just wait."

The central equivocation is actually a stroke of genius: the ambiguity in meaning is possible only in the apocalyptic conditions of this specific moment. Delivering the punchline in the agent’s voice furthers the uncertainty: Does she intend the meaning we perceive? If so, does she take Gottfried’s question so literally as to assume a flotsam schoolhouse would meet his needs? What is her attitude toward the catastrophe if she is breezily offering its consequences as a selling point?

The fundamentals are also solid: a classic setup-line-punchline, with a strong core incongruity between mundane and extraordinary elements. I award bonus points for the dependence on visual imagination, generating dual meaning through reliance on imagery highly specific to the present moment when footage of the deluge is seared into our collective consciousness.

Indeed, the imagery invoked softens the joke by substituting masonry for human flesh. Elliot Orring points out that a defining feature of the Challenger disaster was the “shield[ing]” of “the view of that human disaster miles above the earth . . . by flame and the opaque wall of the shuttle cabin,” whereas “beyond these speakable images of flame and falling debris lay the imaginable but unspeakable images of horrific trauma and mutilation.” Many Challenger jokes operated, Orring argues, by “forc[ing] us to confront what lies behind the speakable media images that are created or manipulated for our consumption.”

The disaster in Japan was not so antiseptic: cameras covered every angle of the destruction, making blanket censorship of death impossible. Gottfried’s text in some fashion works the reverse of a Challenger joke. Instead of laying bare an obscured mayhem, it renders the devastation more palatable by focusing on a cartoonish inanimate object, without speculation as to what could lie inside.

Pre-Twitter, Gottfried might have crossed out five of his ideas, tried the rest at a small club on a Tuesday night, and wound up with the “school” bit as the one piece of usable material. It’s an excellent joke, standing alone, whose merits may render the subject matter forgivable. But by surrounding this pearl with an unvarnished barrage of lesser attempts, Gottfried came across as desperate for laughs, and his use of the subject exploitative.

I’m a tough crowd.
    

Maryland Marriage Equality: Some Noteworthy Secular Objections

To: Honorable Members, Maryland House of Delegates

From: Holy Prepuce

In anticipation of Friday’s vote on the marriage equality bill, you will no doubt desire the benefit of public comment on the measure. Not all of you were able to attend the bill’s House Judiciary Committee hearing. Committee hearings are streamed on the Internet, but surely no one but an obsessive-compulsive state government groupie would record the audio, transfer it to his MP3 player, and listen to all 8+ hours.

I did. As the hearing was not transcribed, I have taken it upon myself to distill for you some highlights.

The standard arguments for and against same-sex marriage are so well-worn that there is little point in going over them again. And while some rather novel religious arguments were offered, all fall within the familiar heading that God wants you to vote No and you’d really do better not to piss off God.

Instead, I bring to your attention some of the more original and surprising secular arguments marshaled by opponents, because you may not have thought of these:

1. If the bill passes, the Eastern Shore will be forced to secede from the state of Maryland. Quite possibly Western and Southern Maryland will secede also.

2. A marriage can involve many things, such as holding hands, going hiking, or watching football. The word “homosexual” describes just one thing: sex. To talk about “homosexual marriage,” just because a husband and wife can have sex and two men can also have sex, makes no more sense than to talk about about “hand-holding marriage,” “hiking marriage,” or “football marriage.”

3. The availability of marriage will cause gay couples to move to Maryland. Because gay couples can’t have children, their children can’t grow up to become Maryland taxpayers. Therefore Maryland’s tax revenue will suffer -- something we can’t afford in this recession.

4. If we have same-sex marriage in Maryland, nine- and ten-year-old boys in public schools will be taught to urinate on each other for sexual gratification.

5. The Greeks allowed homosexuality, and they were conquered by the Romans. The Romans allowed homosexuality, and they were overrun by barbarians. The same thing could happen in Maryland.

Fatti maschil, Parole femine
, Honorable Members.

HP
    

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