Tim McMullen's Missives and Tomes

Monday, October 10, 2011

Celebrate Columbus Day by Taking Back America!

Below are two comments that I wrote. One is to the CEO of Bank of America about their decision to gouge even more profits at the expense of their customers, and the second is a response to a very clever picture from "How to Raise Your Vibration," which has contorted a dollar bill(s) to read, "We need a revolution." They fit nicely together, I think.

Mr. Moynihan, CEO of Bank of America,

You have made the outrageous decision to squeeze even more money from a citizenry and clientele that is beleaguered by an economic downturn and innumerable accomplished and impending foreclosures, a downturn that was caused specifically by the fraud, deception, and malfeasance of banks, accounting firms, ratings companies, brokerage firms, and many corrupt corporations, yours included.

Charging your customers a $5 monthly fee to access money in their own account (money that you already make money on by holding it and loaning it) is beneath contempt.

I was a loyal B of A customer for many years, but I will have nothing more to do with your firm until your egregious gouging of customers ceases.

This latest outrage is the last straw. I am urging everyone on my social network and everyone on my blogs to find a local savings and loan for their banking needs and turn their back on vultures who prey on the vulnerable while stuffing themselves with ever more unconscionable profits and bonuses while stiffing customers and society at large. Furthermore, I am encouraging my contacts to encourage the same from all their contacts!

Without a radical change of course for your bank, we will prove that you are not too big to fail!

(I ended with my usual, but newly amended aphorism to be found at the end of this post).

The following was posted on Facebook.

We do need a revolution, but a revolution brought about by thinking, not guns; a revolution brought about by wisdom, not clichés and obfuscating talking points; a revolution through moral behavior, not mindless violence; a revolution in values, not the false values designed to disenfranchise or subdue others, but a true valuing of the individual AND the society that allows the many to prosper and not just the few.

As the great Gil Scott-Heron said, "The revolution will not be televised." Why? Because we have allowed the corrupt few to steal our media and our political system for a "free marketing, deregulating" lie.

It is time to take our institutions back.

Government is not our enemy. But a government controlled by corrupt corporations and the politicians who do their bidding is by far our biggest danger. No group of terrorists world wide could wreak such havoc on our society or the world as the destruction we have allowed these corporate vultures to rain down on us with absolute impunity.  And everyday, their political lackeys and media mouthpieces propose ever greater outrages.

The revolution may not be televised, but it can be organized and energized, and it is time that we do our part to help bring down this false prophet, PROFIT! Prosperity? Absolutely! But profiteering, like the pirates of old, must be stopped cold. We must rid our society of banksters and profiteers. Fair wages; equal protection under the law; health, safety, and a clean environment: these are the things that a fair and functional society can provide. However, these are the very things that are anathema to a system based on the perpetual degradation and exploitation of the many for the protection and profits of the few. This oligarchy needs to fall and be replaced by a new vision and model of governance practicing real American values of rewarding hard work, seeking to ensure fair treatment, and balancing the rights of the individual and the society to the mutual benefit of both.

Truth...Justice...these really have been taken away from us, or rather, we willingly gave them up for the dangling carrot of personal profit over honesty, integrity, and conscience. We have created several generations who believe only in the first half of the Golden Rule, "Do Unto Others!", and we have been sold the idea that "As you would have them do unto you," is bad for business. Well, if that is true, then it's a bad business that we are in!

We don't need a Superman, we just need to be real Americans again. Our kryptonite has been selfishness, greed, and a disregard for our fellow man (Yes, on this Columbus Day, I know that our history is rife with the antithesis of my "real American society," filled with the repeated intrusion of this Kryptonite, but history has also shown a slow, but steady progress and evolution toward the ideals of Truth and Justice, and despite this latest, thirty-year set back, we can help to restore that progress by joining the fight.

Whether you are of the 99% or the 1%, I encourage you to join the fight to restore integrity to our system.

"The Greatest Threat to Democracy is Hypocrisy! The Greatest Threat to Hypocrisy is Democracy! Seek Truth! Speak Truth!" Tim McMullen

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Thanks for Sharing (An Homage to Three Who Passed Today)

Steve Jobs was a unique individual who made world changing contributions to the modern scene. He will be sorely missed.
Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs with their vision of the future...

Ironically, two other people died today who also made world changing contributions to the modern scene, yet most people will never have heard of them.

As quoted from USA Today—The Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, the civil rights icon hailed in his native Alabama as a "black Moses," died Wednesday. He was 89. Described in a 1961 CBS documentary as "the man most feared by Southern racists," Shuttlesworth survived bombings, beatings, repeated jailings and other attacks — physical and financial — in his unyielding determination to heal the country's most enduring, divisive and volatile chasm.

Rev. Shuttlesworth was said to have pushed MLK to come to Birmingham where the freedom movement finally caught the eyes of the world. His story is remarkable, and his kind of courage is seldom seen.

The Reverends Martin Luther King, Fred Shuttlesworth, and Ralph Abernathy 
at a press conference in Birmingham.

Finally, on a more personal note, the third unique individual, who shaped the world in a very different way, was the great Scottish guitarist, Bert Jansch, who died today at 67. He is the first guitarist that I heard doing absolutely remarkable things on the guitar. He did not play like anyone else (Yes, he was certainly influenced by Davy Graham, but, to repeat one of my original slogans: he did not imitate; he did innovate). He wasn't the fastest or the most polished. He did not play classical or flamenco like John Williams or Andres Segovia. He did not play flashy gypsy jazz like Django Rinehart, or cool country like Chet Atkins, or flying flat-pick like Doc Watson, yet his complex and eclectic style (which often sounded like two, and sometimes three, guitars playing at the same time) influenced the world of folk, and rock, and country, and jazz like very few people. His innovative approach to the acoustic guitar, along with his musical cohort, John Renbourn, inspired Paul Simon, Donovan, Jimmie Page, Neil Young, Bruce Cockburn, Will Ackerman and Alex DeGrassi (whose acoustic guitar albums helped usher in New Age as a genre), and thousands of other guitar players. Pentangle (the seminal folk-baroque-jazz-rock group with Jansch, Renbourn, Jacqui McShea, Terry Cox, and Danny Thompson) also broke new musical ground and paved the way for many cross-genre explorations.

John Renbourn and Bert Jansch, who offered an innovative vision for guitarists. 
Neil Young said that Bert was to the acoustic guitar what Jimi was to the electric—Neil was not wrong.

Bert was also an uncompromising vocalist and a powerful songwriter. He never surrendered his caustic Scottish brogue nor his willingness to break the rules to create unique musical experiences.

I had the great fortune to see him three times: once with Pentangle in a large venue, and twice at the wonderful, intimate McCabe's. His playing inspired me to create my own original guitar compositions (you can hear some of them on YouTube in my Instrumental Travelogues playlist).

Ralph Waldo Emerson, in his poem "Each and All," said,
     "Nor knowest thou what argument
      Thy life to thy neighbor's creed has lent."

It is true that we rarely understand the impact that we have on the lives of others, but my guess is that Reverend Shuttleworth, Mr. Jobs, and Mr. Jansch had an inkling of the positive impact they had on their society. Would that all our leaders, all our innovators, all our artists could catch a little of the spirit of innovation, creativity, and courage that these three men offered to the world.  

Saturday, October 1, 2011

What Kind of Love Song?

This is my latest video (and my latest song). It is another attempt at an annual birthday song for my wife Carolyn. Some others, including "A Pretty Good Start" and "365" can be found on my new playlist at YouTube called Tim McMullen's Love Songs. It includes several of my annual anniversary songs, too.


Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Independence Day!

Bijou Belle McSwanson,
    The Dog of Democracy.

Happy Independence Day—The day on which the American colonies declared themselves to be United States, a declaration predicated on the outrageous claim "that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

In the age of kings and emperors, this was one of the most idealistic and radical statements in the history of the world. It is critical to recognize that the original "Life, Liberty, and Property" was specifically altered because an idealism based merely on the aristocratic rights (or unjust acquisition) of property could not coexist with the rights of life and liberty. The rights of property had been the linchpin in the oppression of the masses that existed in every monarchy. That schizophrenic battle engendered by the landed gentry on behalf of "the people" in order to justify the gentry's "revolution" from the crown has been waged for over 230 years. Much of the slow progress toward the goal of actually protecting "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" accomplished in the past 100 years is facing its greatest assault since the early 1900's.

The 4th of July is not about "the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air." The "Battle Hymn of the Republic" was about the War of 1812. The Declaration of Independence was, in fact a declaration of a new country. The "states" were not at war. Only Massachusetts and New York had been engaged in fighting. This was the majority of people in the thirteen colonies realizing that they must unite or be devoured one by one. It was a recognition that if they were to justify a revolution against the "divine right of kings," they needed a new set of principles. It is those principles that we should be celebrating and for which we should be striving this day and every day.

"The Greatest Threat to Democracy is Hypocrisy! Seek Truth! Speak Truth!"
Tim McMullen

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Yep, It's Over...Today was my last class after 40 years of teaching!

I had four wonderful retirement parties: one with the ERFT teachers' union; one with the English and Visual and Performing Arts department; one at the El Rancho High School end of year party; and one at our home last Saturday. Each was very flattering and deeply moving. I am humbled and gratified by the outpouring of heart-warming accolades and best wishes. If you read the previous blog, much of what follows will be redundant, but these are the words that I had written down during the day to share with the folks at the ERHS faculty end of year party:

I have a huge number of people to whom I am indebted. I started teaching in the Whittier Union HS District in 1971. I am indebted to Roger Weeks, former El Rancho Administrator, for hiring me at Sierra High School. He hired me because I told him that I thought reading was the single most important skill that kids needed, and when he asked, “How will you get kids to read?” I answered, “Any way I can…If they’ll read comic books, then I’ll have them read comic books.” He hired me on the spot.

I retired from teaching after 3 years in the Whittier District in order to play music, but a series of fortuitous coincidences found me returning to Southern California with Carolyn, the love of my life, and returning to teaching. I subbed daily for Whittier, Rowland, and Whittier City districts, but my first call from El Rancho came the first day of the infamous El Rancho strike. I worked that day, but I refused to return until the strike was over.

I have Tom Cunningham to thank for convincing the Principal at the time, Bill Payne, that despite my long hair, I seemed to be a good teacher.

Dick Reinbolt, who had created a class called “Murder, Mystery, and Science Fiction,” was quitting to write screenplays and run a Pioneer Chicken stand, and he insisted to the administration that I be his replacement.

Anne Sonnefield (later Anne Eichman) tapped me to help create a new American Studies Junior Honors team with two of the finest teachers I have ever known, Doug Anderson and Carolyn Clemons. Several of the people in this room matriculated through that team. The three of us taught for nearly twenty-years, and Doug and I have taught together for over thirty years.

I am indebted to my friend, Ben Rich for getting me more directly involved in the ERFT and for suggesting me for the bargaining team, and I am indebted to former Union Presidents Sid Apley and Marcia Hall for trusting me to work with the bargaining team.

To my good friend, Grace Nakamura, one of the most effusive personalities I ever met, for her dedication to the GATE program and to the continued improvement of all students.

I am very deeply indebted to my good friend, Julie Ellis, for putting great faith in me on many levels and for working so diligently to improve the quality of education at El Rancho.

Finally, a special nod to one of my heroes, my friend, Ralph “Jim” Kane, the instructional manager of social studies for many years. He used to walk briskly around campus with his thin tie swinging in the air and a little hint of Maalox on his lips; he took the Maalox to quell what he thought was indigestion, but which he didn’t take enough time for himself to figure out that it was, in fact, pancreatic cancer and that it would eventually do him in. After his passing, I wore a tie for quite a few years in his honor before reverting to my official uniform. Jim and I had many lengthy conversations about education and learning. Jim insisted, “Every kid can learn! But not at the same speed, and not in the same way.” He was dedicated to trying to find different methodologies that could meet the needs of different kids.

Sadly, in this day of matrices, pacing guides, and high-stakes testing, we have lost sight of what teaching and learning really are. Teaching and Journalism used to be two of the most respected and revered professions. But over the last forty years, the job and goal of journalism has been distorted and perverted; Orwell’s double-speak has increased exponentially into at least quadruple-speak. We now live in a world that makes Alice’s looking glass world seem quite rational in comparison. Unfettered greed has fomented an assault on workers in general, public workers in particular, and teachers most specifically.

Efficiency and Productivity have become perverted into “make people work much harder for much less compensation.”

Schools are not factories, and kids are not products to be stamped out by assembly lines. Teaching is an Art—and like other arts, it takes a mixture of talent and skill—different artists use different techniques, skills, passions, and sensibilities. More importantly, and a thing we forget when we see “business” as the goal of our “product,” is that our works of art are our students—and they are truly unique works of art because they must be empowered to be participants in their own creation. Cookie cutter curriculum turning out cookie cutter kids cannot be our goal. Sadly, and too often, good “workers” are not necessarily good people; however, good people are always, necessarily, good workers.

I thank all of you for all the dedication and hard work that you give to so many children who are not your own but whose lives you help change for the better. Keep being the artists that you are!

The Greatest threat to Democracy is Hypocrisy! Seek Truth! Speak Truth!

For those who didn't get this note at Christmas here was the preview:

Well, it looks like it’s time to hang up the old piece of chalk...
Teaching at El Rancho circa 1981

I mean the “low-odor, chisel-tipped, dry-erase marker!”

Yep, after 40 years of teaching, “Mr. McMullen” is calling it quits. 

I spent most of those forty years thinking that I might never retire, yet there clearly comes a point when the scales tip and the unimaginable becomes the inevitable and then, in short order, the imminently desirable.
For those of you who don’t know, I already retired once after only three years of teaching. That time it was to play music, and who knows, it might be part of the reason this time, too. That last time, though, I came back fairly quickly for several reasons, but the main one was that I really enjoyed teaching. I am very proud to say that, after forty years, I still truly enjoy it. 
My first year of teaching at Sierra HS, my second year at Santa Fe,  and my third year at La Serna

I have had an incredible career. I have taught over twenty-five courses, and I have had the unique opportunity to conceive and create at least fifteen different courses including Advertising, Mass Media, Speech, Romantic American Lit, Fantasy and Sci-fi, Intro to Poetry, VISTA, and most recently, Creative Writing and Video Production. I have been privileged to work with creative administrators and directors like Roger Weeks at Sierra and Anne Eichman, David Verdugo, and my good friends, Julie Ellis, Ben Rich, Felicity Swerdlow, and Grace Nakamura at El Rancho, who repeatedly gave me these creative opportunities. 

Even more remarkably, I have spent over thirty years of my career team-teaching; that is, I have been allowed to work directly in the classroom with fellow teachers, fantastic teachers like John Crone, Diane Kuramoto, and my American Studies team-mates: my dear friend and master teacher, Carolyn Clemons, for twenty years; and my inseparable partner and incomparable teacher for all of those thirty-plus years, Doug Anderson. As an Honors Team teacher, I have been honored to work with several generations of the most gifted and motivated students. 

As a speech teacher, newsstaff advisor, creative writing teacher, and video production instructor, I have had the privilege to work intimately with hundreds of terrifically talented and creative young people. When the Academic Decathlon was first introduced to our school, under the direction of my friend Doug Anderson, I was offered the opportunity to coach the decathlon team in Language and Literature. I have been alllowed to work with some amazing students for the last twenty-five years, and though I take no credit at all for their achievements, I couldn’t be prouder of their accomplishments.
Teaching Murder, Mystery and Science Fiction at El Rancho

I was a Mentor Teacher for sixteen years, the entire duration of the program, so I had the chance to work with many young and gifted teachers. Many of my students have returned to El Rancho to become my colleagues and truly outstanding teachers, a fact that makes me very proud. 

When I started kindergarten at four years old, people began asking, “What do you want to be?” Even by that young age, my father was encouraging me to consider being a lawyer (an aspiration of his, thwarted by the realities of a stint in the military and the raising of a family). So, whenever I was asked the question, I said, “A lawyer or a teacher.” You can see whose dream won that one, but my parents have always supported my choices, and at 86, when they pause for a moment from their globe-trotting (seriously...they are awesome), they still support those choices, including this one. [It’s one thing to grow old, but what must it feel like to have your kid retire? Since we don’t have kids, I won’t have to feel that one!] 

As for the lawyering? Well, over twenty-five years ago, my good friend, Ben Rich, invited me to become a Union Rep, then a year or so later, he asked me to be on the bargaining team. I have been proud to represent the El Rancho Federation of Teachers ever since then. It may not be lawyering, but it is certainly interesting and challenging. I have had the pleasure of serving under four ERFT presidents: Nancy Miller, Sid Apley, Marcia Hall, and Rico Tamayo (five counting Laura Rico’s brief tenure), and I am grateful for the trust that they have put in me for these remarkably tumultuous years. My first day of subbing for El Rancho in 1975 was the first day of the El Rancho strike (and it was my last until the strike was over—they didn’t tell the subs that the teachers were on strike). Now, as I prepare to leave, I hear that the La Habra teachers are out on strike...Gee, maybe I should try to sub there—when the strike is over; there might be a career in there somewhere. I also especially thank my fellow reps, Lilia Carreon and Jim Halley, for all that they do for the union and the teachers; and I thank the teachers of El Rancho High School and El Rancho Unified School District for their commitment and for their support through all these years.

I want to thank Natalie Zucker and her late husband for creating the Zucker Teacher of the Year Award and for selecting me, along with Rosie Aragon, as the first co-recipient. Her decision to give back to the teachers who taught her children continues to be a significant inspiration.

I am also the last remaining active “Charter” member of the ABA, the teachers and coaches who have played basketball at lunch for the last few decades. I can’t thank enough all of those players, past and present, who have given me some of the most joyous thirty minutes of the last thirty years. I couldn’t have made it without that little bit of daily respite; and especially in these last few years, thanks for putting up with the knees and my top of the key to the top of the key, walking game. I really appreciate the camaraderie and the play. It is a tradition worth keeping.

A recent "teacher" photo from El Rancho

I want to thank those dear friends and colleagues who retired and those who moved on: Ralph “Jim” Kane, Maureen Hourigan, and Barbara Miller; Grace Nakamura and Dan Vandevier Yoshimoto; Carolyn Clemons, Diane Kuramoto, Ben Rich, and Marcia Hall; Nancy Lawrence, Steve Kennedy; Dick Reinbolt, Gary Barton, Connie Diaz, Jim Dyson; Sandra Espinoza and Cheryl Milas; Carolyn Martens, George Sturr, and Diana Malazian; Paul McKillop and Mako Tashima. I want to thank all those classified staff, past and present, who make the school and district run. Unfortunately, I will leave out scores more than I can include, but I want to particularly thank those special folks who are still at The Ranch, those people who have made the drudgery disappear and have made my time at El Rancho such a pleasure, including Doug Anderson, Lil Carreon, Jim Halley, Stan Wlasick, Charissa and Paul Zeko, John Crone, Jim Sorenson, Dawn Lam, Claire Katsumura, Val Kiralla, Christina Padilla, and Belinda Larrache, I say to you all, as Emerson said, “...Nor knowest thou what argument/Thy life to thy neighbor’s creed has lent.” Now you know!

And, there you have it—the big (or should I say, “long-winded”) retirement announcement (and life story). I hope this season finds you well and enjoying the things that you have chosen for vocation and recreation. All the best, Tim 

Friday, May 27, 2011

Demand that the President "Seek Truth" & Corporations "Speak Truth!"

To the President of the United States:

"The Greatest Threat to Democracy is Hypocrisy! Seek Truth! Speak Truth!"
Please use this ban on stealth dollars as the beginning salvo to rein in the distorting and destructive abuse of corporate dollars on our political process.

Thirty years of corrupt "free market" fraud has brought us to the brink of disaster. You serve the American people, and they deserve your concerted effort on their behalf as opposed to the continued collusion between government and the private sector that has created the greatest disparity of wealth in this country's history and that has driven us to become the fourth worst country in the world regarding wealth distribution and income disparity.

Thirty years of the morally (and legally) corrupt and corrosive falsehoods of Milton Friedman and Arthur Laffer's "Reaganomics," the band wagon boondoggles of the "New Democratic Clintonomics," and the outright destruction of America's working class during ten years of unfettered, deregulated rape of the world economy and the unmitigated destruction of the social safety net by the "Bush Doctrine" (Anyone who we perceive to be a threat—with or without evidence—we have a right to take out!)

That doctrine, as absurd and patently hypocritical as it is (i.e., it is the precise rationale for committing acts of terror), was barely used in military terms, but it was used consistently and repeatedly to attempt to wipe out 100 years of progressive reforms and protections for the American worker and citizen against the unconscionable abuses of a corrupt and criminal corporate capitalism.

You were elected to stop the hemorrhaging of the economic and social structures of this country caused by unchecked corporate fraud and greed. You have not yet succeeded. This would be an important step in restoring sanity and justice to the country.

Please bring the abuses of government contractors to an end now, by demanding transparency in their spending of taxpayer dollars to subvert the taxpayers' interests.

"The Greatest Threat to Democracy is Hypocrisy! Seek Truth! Speak Truth!"
Tim McMullen

Check out this video and this call to action from MoveOn.org


Saturday, March 5, 2011

Through the Looking Glass—The Irrational Assault on America

You know, sometimes it really does feel like we are living in a Looking-Glass world. The frantic deregulation and merger frenzy of the last thirty years, stoked by the unfettered greed of banks, insurance companies, giant accounting firms, pharmaceuticals, media organizations, energy companies, and the Chamber of Commerce (to name but a few) nearly bankrupted this nation; the anti-tax policies and upward redistribution of wealth of the Bush years unquestionably brought on the greatest economic meltdown since the depression; colossal, criminal, corporate fraud and malfeasance have been exposed repeatedly, yet no real political or legal response has been forthcoming.

Instead, the "know-nothing" Tea Party swept politicians into power with the craziest campaign imaginable. Take all the things that nearly destroyed us—unfettered corporate greed, no public accountability for private or public corruption, an orchestrated attack against the regulation of criminal corporations, unlimited secret political spending by corporations wedded to an all-out assault on public and private unions and their political power—and reenergize each of these assaults on the middle-class ten-fold.

This illogical, delusional, self-destructive, Mad-Hatter Tea Party craze has now consumed the entire Republican’t party (as well as a few putative Democrazies) who are now clamoring and clambering over each other in a race to dismantle the last remaining shreds of the social, economic, and political safety nets of the diminishing pool of middle-income workers and the ever-increasing ocean of lower-income and unemployed workers.

Instead of attacking the obvious causes of our economic woes (including two illegal wars costing us over three billion dollars weekly), these elected representatives (read corporate political shills) and their deregulated media mouthpieces have mounted legislative campaigns to extend tax cuts and corporate subsidies for the wealthiest 1% while denying even minimal economic protections for workers; they are attempting to entirely eliminate funding for all public media, the only entities providing real, even-handed journalism in this country; they are attempting to severely curtail or destroy workers rights and protections with an unprecedented assault on collective bargaining; they have introduced a full-fledged campaign to decimate women’s rights by radically redefining rape, criminalizing miscarriages, allowing hospitals to refuse to save a woman’s life if doing so requires an abortion, and authorizing the legal murder of abortion providers; they have continued attacks on the rights of LGBT community; they continue their attempt to demonize immigrants and undocumented workers; and they have begun to decimate or eliminate environmental protections while legislatively denying scientific evidence and disallowing that evidence to affect our environmental policies.

The unimaginable harms of these initiatives, considered separately or collectively, is truly mind-boggling. As I learned from more than twenty-five years of collective bargaining, “once you give it up, you never get it back.” Just envision the havoc that any one of these proposals will wreak on our society, and then try to imagine what it would take to fix it once it is in place.

If we don’t get involved, NOW, in private conversations, in public demonstrations, in political campaigns; if we don’t immediately inform our elected representatives, both local and national, of our positions on these vital issues; if we don’t write our local newspapers and media outlets with rational, focused responses to the vitriolic distortion and lies of wacky political demagogues and crackpot pundits, the cause of democracy here and around the world will be setback for generations, perhaps many generations, to come.

“The Greatest Threat to Democracy is Hypocrisy! Seek Truth! Speak Truth!” Tim McMullen