The Disgruntled Dylanologist

All the truth in the world adds up to one big lie.

‘Lawyers, Lepers & Crooks’: Can Dylan’s Thin Man trim the fat on Wall Street?


You walk into the room

With your pencil in your hand

You see somebody naked

And you say, “Who is that
man?”

Last week marked the one-year anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the first in a series of dominoes that led to the biggest financial meltdown since the Great Depression. And while we’re still reeling from the implosion of AIG, Merrill Lynch, Citigroup and the half dozen other ‘too big to fail’ financial institutions that did receive government bailout funds, the fleecing the American middle class continues.

Something’s happening on Wall Street, and you don’t have to be a financial whiz to know what it is: good, old fashion greed.

Despite the enormous losses suffered by the recipients of the TARP funds, Citigroup and Merrill Lynch—two of the most high-profile beneficiaries of the federal government’s fiscal benevolence—still managed to justify dishing out more than $9 billion in bonuses.

And how’s this for fancy financial footwork? Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and J.P. Morgan Chase actually paid out more in bonuses than they made the entire year. Goldman Sachs, for example, earned $2.3 billion, paid out $4.8 billion in bonuses, and got $10 billion in TARP funds.

It’s no secret the big Wall Street firms conspire and collude to keep their year-end cash outs at the highest levels possible. But it’s one thing when you’re playing with ‘other people’s money’; it’s something else entirely when that ‘other person’ turns out to be the guy next door who just lost his house.

But it gets worse. Not only did 4,800 Wall Street employees pocket bonuses worth more than a $1 million on top of their exorbitant salaries, it turns out it wasn’t enough. According to a recent survey, 46% of those newly-minted millionaires were “dissatisfied” with their bonuses. And are you ready for the kicker? Nine in 10 had been working on Wall Street for five years or less.

And while none of our behemoth banking institutions were untouched by what, in hindsight, amounted to the financial equivalent of a ‘perfect storm,’ last week’s reminder that the government was unwilling to bailout Lehman Brothers was a frightening reminder of how choppy the seas still are.

It should hardly come as a surprise that Congress would capitalize on this rather auspicious anniversary to turn the spotlight not on the problem, but rather on themselves— which is precisely what they did in typical grandstanding fashion.

Positioned as the first piece of a larger, more comprehensive legislation endorsed by President Obama to increase oversight over financial institutions, last week the House voted on a bill that will restrict how Wall Street executives will get paid in the future.

Billed as a ‘bold, decisive action,’ the reality couldn’t be further from the truth. Unless, of course, the old expression, “A day late and a dollar short,” is modified by roughly 365 days and somewhere around $700 billion.

Enter Ben Bernanke. Recently nominated to a second term as Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Bernanke is preparing to cash in a little currency with the president by sidestepping the Congressional pomp and circumstance altogether. Bernanke’s plan is refreshing simple: take Wall Street’s bull market by the balls by placing regulators directly inside banks to monitor (and one would assume reject) excess pay packages.

And while the precise job description has yet to be fully fleshed out, this disgruntled Dylanologist knows just the man for the job.

Dark, menacing, boorish and brooding, he is one of the most enigmatic characters from Dylan’s canon of bizarre and none-too-usual suspects.

His identity has long been in dispute. When asked in a 1965 interview, Dylan offered a response that was as cryptic as the character in question: “He’s a pinboy. He also wears suspenders. He’s a real person. You know him, but not by that name…”

The president is on the right track introducing regulatory reform for Wall Street. But identifying the problem won’t necessarily solve it.

What we need is someone who’s well connected, someone who can move effortlessly among lawyers, lepers and crooks. Someone who will keep his eyes in his pocket, his nose to the ground, take copious notes, click his heels and do exactly as he is told. We need a man on the inside looking out; not outside looking in.

And who exactly is this inscrutable urchin? This puzzling patsy set up to take the inevitable fall?

Let’s just say his eerie, shape-shifting presence made John Lennon feel suicidal, evoked Adam Durtiz’s desire to be someone else, reduced David Byrne’s description to a detached third person account.

That’s right, Dylan aficionados, it just may be the man who saves the American financial system is none other than the inscrutable Mister Jones.

After all, everyone knows the best way to catch someone with questionable morals is to recruit one…

And without further notice
He asks you how it feels

And he says, “Here is your throat back

Thanks for the loan”

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September 20, 2009 Posted by | Disgruntled, Dylanologist | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“If You See Her, Say Hello”: A Dylanesque goodbye to General Motors


We had a falling-out, like lovers often will

And to think of how she left that night, it still brings me a chill
And though our separation, it pierced me to the heart
She still lives inside of me, we’ve never been apart.

Unlike Bob Dylan’s 1974 wistful song of an ill-fated love affair gone awry, America’s affair with the automobile is far from over. But as of last week, GM, who for years was without doubt the most popular girl at the party, is about to find out what it means to be alone on Saturday night.

Already, Toyota, Honda, Volkswagen and Hyundai have seen an increase in sales as a result of GM’s announcement that the once adored automaker has entered Chapter 11. America has always has a wondering eye when it comes to our insatiable consumption for consumer goods. But if the trend toward foreign femme fatales continues, our homegrown dance card is going to start to resemble something closer to a well-traveled passport.

Let’s face it. Relationships are complicated. And GM’s relationship with America is no exception. Since 1908, the Flint, Michigan, automaker has sparked the imagination of America for over a century. So much so that the old adage, “as goes General Motors, so goes the nation,” wasn’t just some trite expression. It was an enduring term of endearment.

For years, we were obsessed with her stylish, shapely body; her lean, aerodynamic curves; her tight, taut lines. But as time went by, we grew bored and she grew complacent. And in recent years, GM all but completely let herself go— continuously losing market share to a barrage of suitors who weren’t afraid to appeal to our vanity. And it certainly didn’t help that she was going through money like it was going out of style.

And while we’ll probably never be able to pinpoint the exact moment the bloom was finally off the rose, one thing’s certain: It didn’t happen overnight.

As recent as December 2005, Business Week was banging the drum about the possibility of a GM bankruptcy. But then-Chairman and CEO Rick Wagner blindly dismissed the rumblings, declaring that Chapter 11 was contrary to the interests of “our employees, stock- and bondholders, dealers, suppliers and customers.” A heartfelt entreaty, indeed.

But with 100,000 employees on the verge of losing their jobs, GM stock essentially worthless, and close to 4,000 dealerships on the chopping block, it turns out that in the end Wagoner only hurt the ones he loved.

There’s no question General Motors was once a great company. But like so many of those back pages we look upon with misplaced affinity and affection, maybe in the end the attraction really was only physical. Perhaps in hindsight it’s best that GM and America take a break. Who knows? Maybe the time apart will do both of us some good.

There’s always a tinge of shame associated with a failed relationship. GM, however, doesn’t have anything to be ashamed of. Admittedly, the federal government’s decision to put the brakes on our relationship with GM has resulted in the fourth largest U.S. bankruptcy on record. But GM can take solace in the fact that three of the biggest bankruptcies in our nation’s history—GM, the failure of Lehman Brothers and Washington Mutual—have all occurred in the last nine months.

These aren’t just trying times for GM; they are trying times for America. A shattered financial system, a real estate market in disrepair, a workforce weakened by the highest unemployment levels in a generation. History comes in ebbs and flows. GM, it seems, just got caught on the wrong side of a financial tidal shift.

Maybe bankruptcy is the best thing that could happen to GM— and frankly the best thing that could have happened to us, too.

We’ve invested a lot in our relationship with GM. Close to $19.4 billion in at last count. But even that wasn’t enough to keep the nation’s largest automaker in the black. Now the government is on the verge of putting another $30 billion into GM just to keep it afloat while management restructures. And while this isn’t the end of the road for GM, those carefree, top-down days are undoubtedly a distant reflection in the rear view mirror.

So how does all of this relate back to Bob Dylan? It doesn’t. Not directly anyway. Bob Dylan has always been more of a train guy. But despite the relative absence of automobiles in his 500+ song repertoire, Dylan is hardly immune to America’s infatuation with cars.

If you need proof that the mystique has a hold on him, too, look no further than the 2007 ad promoting the launch of GM’s Cadillac Escalade. Dylan offers not only his endorsement, but utters the closing line, “What’s life without the occasional detour?”

At the end of the day, the mental road block GM seems to having a hard times getting around is accepting the fact that maybe the only way to save the corpulent car maker is to set it free.

In an ad GM is running right now, GM says ‘they get it.’ The times have changed; they’ve changed; and now they want us to take them back.

We’ll think about it, GM. But in the meantime, don’t wait by the phone…

If you see her, say hello, she might be in Tangier
She left here last early spring, is livin’ there, I hear
Say for me that I’m all right though things get kind of slow
She might think that I’ve forgotten her, don’t tell her it isn’t so.

June 18, 2009 Posted by | Disgruntled, Dylanologist | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Groom Still Waitin’ at the Altar”: Dylan opens house for weddings, but is the Obama honeymoon over?


I see the burning of the page,

Curtain risin’ on a new age,
See the groom still waitin’ at the altar.

The last person you’d expect to be jonesing for cash is Mr. Dylan. So when it was reported this week that Bob opened his spacious, 10 bedroom Scottish manor for engagements, you just had to wonder what in the devil could it all possibly mean? And while Dylan’s Highlands mansion may be way up in the border country, far from the towns, apparently it’s the perfect place for your next party or wedding gowns.

That’s right…for a measly $3,000 you, too, can hold your next wedding reception at Dylan’s Dalriadic digs. But before you let your heart go the Highlands, consider this: America’s current relationship with a certain suave Senator from the land where the Aberdeen waters flow hasn’t exactly turned out to be the match made in heaven we’d all hoped for.

Not that Barack Obama wasn’t a formidable suitor. For two years, he coddled, cuddled and kowtowed to our every whim as he effortlessly ascended the political pecking order. Sexy, smooth and seductive. And we fell for it— hook, line and sinker. But what do you expect, America? We were falling in love. Then at precisely 12:03 pm on 20 January 2009, our courtship was consummated on the steps of the US Capital when Obama stood before God, family and close to 4 million witnesses and took the plunge.

Like any new marriage, there are milestones. And just a few weeks ago, the Obama Administration passed a major one: the First Fifty Days. Yet despite the boundless energy and barrage of programs put forth by the brash, young president, the new union hasn’t been without a few initial squabbles.

Despite numerous overtures to appease an ailing Wall Street, the market has fallen faster under Obama than any other new president in 90 years. Despite claims that he would put partisanship aside and patch up the financial fissures tearing this country apart, the Obama/Pelosi stimulus bill didn’t garner a single Republican vote in the House. And despite touting the ‘transparency’ of his new administration, three of Obama’s top nominees were torpedoed by past indiscretions that the media, not the nominee, brought to the surface.

Fifty days, my how time flies. What started as peaches and cream has turned into some serious piss and vinegar. All of which begs the question: “Is the Obama honeymoon over?”

With a CNN poll putting Obama’s job approval rating just north of 61%, a majority of Americans seem to think the bloom isn’t off the rose just yet. And they just may be right. After all, Obama’s 61% approval rating is higher than any of his predecessors. President Bush was at 58% fifty days in. President Clinton was at 53%. President George H. W. Bush was at 56%. Even Ronald Reagan, the ‘Great Communicator’ himself, was only able to communicate favorable message to 60% of the American public his first 50 days in office.

Of course, appearances can be deceiving. Because like in any relationship, in all the excitement leading up to the Big Day, we tend to overlook the ‘little things’— those annoying little distractions that suggest ‘Mr. Right’ may not necessarily be ‘Mr. Perfect.’

And while Obama may have a 61% overall job approval rating, but according to a poll released by Rasmussen Reports, the pesky little ‘distractions’ are starting to add up:

The Economy. 83% of Americans say they’re worried the steps Obama is taking to fix the economy may result in the economy getting worse, not better. And when asked how much we should be spending to get the economy back on track, 7 out of 10 voters say we should be spending less, not more.

The Stimulus Package. And when it comes to spending, close to 60% of voters say the massive, $787 billion stimulus package will make only a marginal difference in the next two to four years. And by 2-to-1, voters reject the Democrats’ call for a second stimulus package.

The Housing Market. Perhaps CNBC’s Rick Santelli got it right a few weeks ago when he went whoop ass on the Administration over the Homeowner Stability plan. Two-thirds of Americans may want to see homeowners refinance their mortgages, but less than half (48%) say the plan unfairly benefits those who have been irresponsible.

The Partisanship. Speaking of taking sides, the numbers on the recent stimulus package tell the tale. Not one Republican voted for the bill. And Americans think it’s only going to get worse. Nearly half say politics in Washington will be more partisan over the next year.

The Street. More than half of Americans have hit a wall when it comes to Wall Street. 56% oppose giving Wall Street another dime. And over two-thirds say bankers will benefit more than the average taxpayer will from the new bank bailout plan.

Like any marriage, America’s relationship with Obama is going to be filled with peaks and valleys. Obama may have lifted our spirits enough to carry us across the threshold last November, but clearly those pesky distractions we didn’t want to be bothered with during our affable, two-year courtship with Barack Obama are started to nag the American public.

But until we can get beyond our glassy-eyed infatuation with Barack Obama and stop treating him as some enchanted Prince Charming, there’s a good chance that the ‘Seven Year Itch,’ that moment when every newly-wedded couple eye one another with kindled suspicion, is going to get scratched a few years early.

That’s a problem. Because for better or for worse, we all need this marriage to work out…

I see the burning of the page,
Curtain risin’ on a new age,
See the groom still waitin’ at the altar.

March 31, 2009 Posted by | Disgruntled, Dylanologist | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Like A Rolling Stone: Why Obama’s invisible nation leave us feeling so alone


At Napoleon in rags and the language that he used

Go to him now, he calls you, you can’t refuse
When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose
You’re invisible now, you got no secrets to conceal.

I wasn’t sure quite what to expect when the words, “Cuban Stimulus Package,” appeared last Friday in my RSS bin.

Considering the disastrous state of the economy both home and abroad, my first instinct was that in addition to bailing out the banking, mortgage and car industries, America was about to bailout a certain decrepit despot with whom we’ve always had a less than amiable relationship. As it turns out, the revolutionary Cuban behind this rather unconventional ‘stimulus package’ is more intent on jump-starting our economy than destroying it.

A firm believer that the current financial mess facing this country isn’t going to be solved by the crooks on Wall Street or their crooked cronies lurking the halls of Congress, serial entrepreneur and two-time billionaire Mark Cuban wants to cut the Washington fat cats out of the process altogether.

Announced on his blog on February 9, 2009, Cuban’s self-styled “stimulus plan” boils down to this. Aspiring entrepreneurs post ideas that fit 13 specific pieces of criteria (breaking even within 60 days, profitability within 90 days, no advertising, etc.). Either Cuban will fund them, or other individuals reading Cuban’s blog will take up the ideas, thereby stimulating the economy.

There is, of course, a catch.

By posting your business plan on Cuban’s blog, you tacitly agree that anyone can comment, criticize and, as Cuban himself acknowledges, “steal the idea and use it elsewhere.”

I’ll be honest. When I first heard about Cuban’s innovative, albeit unorthodox approach to fixing the broken economy, I expected it would be dismissed out of hand.

Boy, was I wrong.

As of last Tuesday, nearly 2,000 people have posted to Cuban’s blog. Sure, some have been dismissive: “We would love to present our business plan to you but not over a public domain.” Some snarky: “If I am going to start something with sweat equity and reach profitability within 60 days why do I need outside money?” But most have been supportive, even encouraging of Cuban’s experiment.

Aspiring entrepreneur Alain Raynaud summed up his support in five, succinct words: “Ask and you shall receive.” I’ll be darned if Alain didn’t post his entire business plan, front to back.

And Alain wasn’t the only one. Nearly three quarters of the people have floated some sort of an idea for Cuban (and the world) to peruse—and potentially pinch.

It’s been over 40 years since Bob Dylan sat down and scribbled those 59 lines on the back of an envelope that today stand the test of time as one of the most searing and unsympathetic indictments of American culture ever written. ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ isn’t just Dylan’s most popular song, it’s also one of his most perplexing— the ultimate ‘finger pointing’ song if ever there were one. But as the old axiom goes: ‘Whenever you point a finger at someone, there’re always three pointing back at you.’

And while the true meaning behind the song is immersed in just enough enigmatic ambiguity to merit countless articles, essays, even entire books to be written about it, after nearly a half century the song still points with laser intensity to the hypocrisy that continues to plague our national consciousness.

The sentiment sweeping the country over the last few months is that we are entering a new chapter in our nation’s history, an ‘Age of Transparency’ it’s been called. And as we make this transition the hope is that this new found openness will transform not only the way we do business in America, but transform America itself.


But there is a problem, and the problem is this. This paradigm shift in politics is not coming from the top down. Rather, it’s coming from the bottom up. Democratic lyricism may have won our hearts in November, but when the most innovative ideas are being generated by a bored billionaire best known to America as a runner-up on “Dancing with the Stars” maybe Republican pragmatism isn’t worth jettisoning just yet.

Yet the soothsayers in Washington tell us that there is no ‘Red States of America,’ there is no ‘Blue States America,’ there is only the ‘United States of America.’

“We’re all in this together,” they say, “and if we fail to pull together as a country, we’re bound to fall.”

But who are they kidding? These are the same people who told us where it’s at for eight years while they took everything from us they could steal.

But perhaps I’m confusing my disgruntled nature with nascent disdain. Maybe America did get it right this past November. Maybe we really have entered a new age of politics. Maybe our best days are ahead of us.

But even if the jugglers and clowns in Washington do decide to stop selling alibis and offer a clear direction for this country will it really solve the larger question that looms: Why in this age of transparency, a time when we’re all supposed to be pulling together do we still feel like we’re on our own?

How does it feel
To be on your own
With no direction home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone?

For more information on Mark Cuban’s ‘open source’ Stimulus Plan, go to blog maverick.

March 2, 2009 Posted by | Disgruntled, Dylanologist | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dear Landlord: How Obama’s new lease with America could benefit from Bob Dylan


Dear landlord,

Please don’t put a price on my soul.
My burden is heavy,
My dreams are beyond control.

Who exactly is the enigmatic ‘landlord’ to whom this downtrodden tenant is pleading for spiritual respect and financial relief? If you’re not quite sure, don’t think twice. It turns out the mystery of his (or her?) identity has been a focal point of speculation among Dylan fans for years.

Self-styled (and far more disgruntled) ‘Dylanologist,’ Al Weberman, argues that the song was inspired by the parasitic relationship between Dylan and his longstanding manager, Albert Grossman, which by 1967 had turned completely toxic.

Others suggest Dylan wrote the song about his girlfriend, Suze Rotolo, under whose roof he lived shortly after arriving in Greenwich Village in the winter of 1961. And still some maintain the ‘landlord’ is a metaphor for God.

This third school of thought may not been as over-reaching an analogy as one might expect. A careful listen to the John Wesley Harding song cycle from Dylan’s masterful 1967 album certainly suggests the seeds of Dylan’s ‘search’ were beginning to surface a full decade before the full-blown ‘spiritual conversion’ in the late 1970s.

Few, however, think the ‘landlord’ is literal. And frankly, it’s hard to fault them. In the iconography of Dylan, little often is.

There is, however, a parallel here worth pursuing. And as with many parallels, the connection revolves around the intersection of two seemingly disparate eras.

Just as the halcyon days of the “Summer of Love” were starting to turn turbulent in 1967, so, too, is our nation today faced with similar uncertainty. And as we turn to the figure at the center of that current downward spiral, we look not to Dylan, but rather to Barack Obama, whose self-appointed role as the pied piper of American politics does share one striking similarity with our fair Bob—he’s getting increasingly harder to pin down.

In three short weeks, Obama has became the de facto head of the banking system, executive in charge of the automobile industry, and now, thanks to the passage of the $50 billion Homeowner Affordability and Stability plan last Wednesday, landlord to close to nine million Americans.

Interestingly, President Obama opted not to invite the expected litany of lackeys to join him at the table last week in Mesa, Arizona, when he unfurled his solution to our nation’s housing crisis. Considering the lukewarm reception his $787 Economic Stimulus Package got from Wall Street, Obama’s unceremonious announcement was no doubt intentional.

Chances are House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid won’t be rolling out the welcome mat when the president returns home, either. This ill-conceived and woefully underfunded plan stinks to high heaven, and neither Pelosi nor Reed want the crap Obama is going to take for it tracked all around their new House.

It’s no secret Obama’s solution to the mortgage crisis will likely tack on an additional $200 billion to the $75 billion the president allocated to his mortgage relief plan. But Obama had to do something. We have to shore up housing prices, stabilize neighborhoods and slow a downward spiral that has “unraveled homeownership, the middle class and the American Dream itself.” To that end, the Obama plan will provide relief to millions of Americas.

At the cornerstone of the Homeowner Affordability and Stability plan resides a $75 billion program to subsidize loan modifications that will reduce a family’s monthly payment to as little as 31 percent of their gross monthly income. To incentivize lenders to lower these monthly payments, the government will do two things. First, they will pay the lenders $1,000 for every modified loan, more if the borrower stays current on their payments. Additionally, if the lender gets the monthly payments down to 38 percent of the borrower’s monthly income, the government will match, dollar for dollar, additional reductions to bring the payment to the targeted 31 percent of monthly income.

And while this plan is a valiant attempt to solve the right problem, the problem is being solved for the wrong people.

House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio certainly thinks so.

In the days leading up to the signing of the plan, Boehner asked a very insightful, albeit incendiary question: “Does the plan compensate banks for the bad mortgages they should never have made in the first place?” The answer, of course, is a resounding, “No,” as is evidenced in the $1,000 ‘incentive’ the lenders will receive to refinance the toxic loans.

But it was Boehner’s second question that truly hit the mark: “Will individuals who misrepresented their income or assets on their original mortgage application be eligible to get taxpayer-funded assistance?” Right now it seems Barack Obama, the man who to promised to deliver the maligned middle class from their current financial morass, can’t be bothered with the annoying question of how to align honesty with home ownership.

To his credit, Obama’s plan does address the nagging concern of accountability—something that was conveniently swept under the rug when the banks and automakers were handed their bailout bonanzas. But in his haste to assuage those Americans who got in over their heads, Obama has betrayed the first rule of feudalism—a system to which he seems determined to allow our country to revert—and that rule is this: A landlord should never give the tenants the upper hand.

Perhaps Obama should have borrowed a page from Dylan—always keep them guessing.

Because once you let them in, you just might be the one who ends up out on your ass…

Dear landlord,
Please don’t dismiss my case.
I’m not about to argue,
I’m not about to move to no other place.

February 23, 2009 Posted by | Disgruntled, Dylanologist | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Old Guard: Can Obama change their way of thinking?


Sixteen years,

Sixteen banners united over the field,
Where the good shepherd grieves.
Desperate men, desperate women divided,
Spreading their wings ‘neath the falling leaves.

First, let me say that I’m not a big fan of politicos. But James Carville—perhaps the most puffed up, bombastic, pretentious politico of them all—got it right when he famously opined back in 1992, “It’s the economy, stupid.”

It was the economy in 1992. Sixteen years later, it’s the economy all over again.

The fact that the US economy is in the shitter should come as a surprise to no one. For the past 12 months, we’ve been sliding toward the precipice of the worst recession in 16 years.In the last 60 days, it’s only gone from bad to worse. Thirteen banks have gone into bankruptcy, the top five investment banks have died, the stock market has hit a six-year low, unemployment has reached a 14-year high.

Contrary to John McCain’s reassuring reaction to the September 10 collapse of Lehman Brothers, the fundamentals of our economy were not ‘strong.’ And it certainly didn’t help that McCain borrowed his phrasing from Herbert Hoover, who on Thursday, Oct. 24, 1929, just five days before the crash that would result in the deepest depression in world history, proclaimed, “The fundamental business of the country, that is, production and distribution of commodities, is on a sound and prosperous basis.”

As the largest economy in the world, the American financial crisis has far-reaching ramifications. The direction of the U.S. economy doesn’t merely ‘impact’ the global economy; it decides its destiny.

It’s a big idea. It’s also a big problem. And the irony is that the problem isn’t going to go away until we change the way we do business in this country.

Yet despite the proclamations of ‘change’ that were the cornerstones of both the McCain and Obama presidential campaigns, change won’t be coming anytime soon. You already know the reason why.

It’s the economy, stupid.

Historically, the election of a Democrat has meant more jobs for Americans. History, however, is hardly consolation for the 1.2 million Americans who have lost their jobs since January.

It’s not especially encouraging for those who have jobs, either. With most 401(k)s off by an average of 40% or worse, dreams of retirement by the 50+ set have been replaced by the realization that there simply isn’t enough money in their accounts to sustain them for 10 years, much less the 20 years they’re expected to live.

Sure they can stay the course, stick it out, work a few extra years until the anemic stock market turns around. But there’s just something fundamentally wrong with the notion that what was only a year ago considered an appalling indignation by those who have toiled their entire life to build something for themselves and their families is now an umbrage those who actually have jobs would all too gladly suffer.

This past election was about change. A seismic shift, a comprehensive overhaul, a changing of the guard. It’s what we were promised, it’s what we want and, considering the perilous state of the economy, it’s what we need.

Unfortunately, change is not something the Obama Administration will be able to deliver anytime soon. It would mean the old guard would need to step down. But the old guard is like a caged animal tethered to a stake that keeps it from wondering too far from the trough.

And with their retirement pensions gone, the stock market in a perpetual downward spiral, and the potentially some of that $700 billion in bailout money might potential come their way if they just hang on long enough, the old guard is a permanent fixture on the horizon.

Contrary to what the media would have us believe, the rest of the world truly wants America to succeed. For millions around the world, America truly is a beacon of hope, prosperity and opportunity. But Eden is burning. And rather than change the old guard, we need to change their way of thinking.

Because the old guard isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Frankly, they can’t afford to…

I don’t need your organization, I’ve shined your shoes,

I’ve moved your mountains and marked your cards,
But Eden is burning, either brace yourself for elimination,
Or else your hearts must have the courage for the changing of the guards.

November 23, 2008 Posted by | Disgruntled, Dylanologist | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

America in Peril: Someone said Dignity was the first to leave


Chilly wind sharp as a razor blade,

House on fire, debts unpaid,
Gonna stand at the window, gonna ask the maid,
Have you seen dignity?

America is angry. And frankly, we have every right to be.

Over the last eight years, we’ve been buttered up, talked down to, led down the primrose path. And in the process, we’ve been robbed blind.

It would be one thing if we’d been cornered in a dark alley, held at gunpoint and told to hand over everything in our pockets. But that’s not the way the deal’s gone down. It happened in broad daylight, right in the middle of the street.

Instead of having a gun shoved in our ribcage, we’ve had a knife slowly slipped into our back. And we could have only been so lucky as to have been asked to empty our pockets. After all, I don’t know how many Americans carry their entire life savings in their pant pockets. But that’s what the boys on Wall Street walked away with last week.

Estimates vary (after all the estimates are being provided by the guys who stuck it to us in the first place), but one thing’s for sure. Our pockets are empty. And so are our bank accounts. Which means mortgages can’t be paid, car loans can’t be paid, school loans can’t be paid. And just try to turn to your 401K plan for relief. Wall Street’s scorched earth policy burned all that up, too.

The irony, of course, is that while money may be the symptom, the real sickness is the disease of conceit. Sure Lehman is out of business; AIG is $85 billion in the hole; Wachovia is awash in a sea of debt. But the real crime here is that the people running these companies just walked away. The soul of a nation under the knife, and the bankers and politicians are the only ones who got a cut.

We’ve always been told that America is built on a single unifying principle: Hard work pays off. Looks like the old adage may not be true. Certainly not today. Truth be told, many of us are wondering if it was ever true.

According to a recent CNN Money poll, nearly six out of ten Americans believe our country is heading for another economic depression. Quite a frightening turn in public opinion from the halcyon days of just a year ago when the financial markets were at a generational high.

American is angry. But this isn’t some conspiratorial destruction of the American Dream. It’s much scarier than that. This is the real thing. After years of steady moral, ethical and financial decline, we are no longer just a distraught nation. We are a nation in peril.

In the last eight years, the fabric of this country has been torn to shreds. We are fighting an unpopular war abroad while we ship American jobs to China and India. At home, we cannot educate our youth, we cannot take care of our elderly, and animosity toward America has reached an all-time high.

“But don’t worry,” they tell us. “Be patient. Everything will be okay.” Sure, America will come back. We always do.

But who the hell are they kidding? It ain’t ever going to come back all the way. Not until we restore the thing that our leaders really robbed us of in the first place…

Lookin’ east, Lookin’ west,
See people curse, see people blessed
Asking everybody like a man possessed
Have you seen dignity?

October 12, 2008 Posted by | Disgruntled, Dylanologist | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment