The Disgruntled Dylanologist

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

“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.

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March 31, 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

Obama’s Stimulus Package: A ‘New Morning’ or deja vu all over again?


Can’t you feel that sun a-shinin’?

Ground hog runnin’ by the country stream
This must be the day that all of my dreams come true
So happy just to be alive
Underneath the sky of blue

Every year on the second day of February, marmot aficionados of every make and model gather in the town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, and wait with baited breath for a certain groundhog by the name of “Punxsutawney Phil” to emerge from his burrow. As weather folklore has it, if Phil fails to see his shadow, winter will end soon. If, however, it’s sunny and Phil does see his shadow, winter continues for another 6 weeks.

Well, my fellow Disgruntled Dylanologists, we need not wait. It just so happens Groundhog Day came early this year.

Punxsutawney Phil may not see his shadow tomorrow, but America certainly saw theirs this past Wednesday when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi emerged from the hallowed Capitol chambers and proudly announced the passage of the $819 billion economic stimulus package.

So what do the irrational idiosyncrasies of some tired, world-weary woodchuck have to do with Washington? A lot more than you’d think.

There’s no question a euphoria has been sweeping across the country in recent months. This past November, America made a deal with their elected officials, a political quid-pro-quo if you will.

The bargain was simple. Differences in point of view would be met with tempered measure; partisan decisiveness, however, would no longer be tolerated. Said another way, put your pettiness aside and get on with the business of governing.

That was the hope. The House vote Wednesday told another story. The final vote: 244-to-188. Every single Republican—all 177 of them—voted against the stimulus package. Hardly a ringing endorsement of a ‘new morning’ in America.


Let’s not lose sight of the fact, however, that $819 billion is a lot of money. The passage of the stimulus package (and it will pass in some form— that’s precisely what this whole debate is about) will not only define the Obama presidency, the programs the stimulus package will fund will define our nation’s priorities for generations to come.

Transforming our economy with science and technology; modernizing roads, bridges, transit, and waterways; developing clean, efficient energy— these are big ideas. And while big ideas necessarily come with big price tags, these programs are the most expensive public works programs in our nation’s history. How the money is spent certainly is something worth fighting over.

Ironically, the lines drawn by the partisans in Washington are not over the cost. Nor is the debate so much over the programs themselves, either. Not the big ones, anyway. We all know our country’s infrastructure is in shambles, that our education system is a disgrace and that our ability to compete in technology is severely hampered by shoddy networks and a lack of adequate resources.

The fundamental cause of partisanship, it seems, resides in the pork—those hidden programs the politicians put in to placate their political backers back home.

The fact that the American public isn’t even blinking over spending $30 billion for roads and bridges, $9 billion for public transit and $1 billion for inter-city rail must have the politicians salivating. Exactly where that money will be spent undoubtedly has them sharpening their tenterhooks.

Of course, the notion of demanding accountability isn’t such a bad thing. Truth be told, a little accountability will likely go a long way toward renewing a sense of trust and competency in our elected officials. The memory of the $700 billion that recently went to the shylocks on the Street who got their pound of flesh without having to account to a soul (accept perhaps their own— but that’s another grunt altogether) has proven far more enduring than the banks they so shamelessly ran into the ground.

Just as we have every right to hold the feet of our elected officials to fire, they have the right to demand the same accountability from the people to whom they will give the money. But rather than hammer out the details on how this massive economic stimulus package will be spent, the politicos who told us they wanted to bring a ‘new way of doing business’ to Washington are clearly still in the business of lining their pockets instead of finding ways to put money into ours.

And while this incestuous approach to governing—this “we were put in charge now let us do our jobs” mentality—has become analogous with pigs at a trough, the stimulus plan has been liken to a Trojan Horse, I would maintain our friend, Punxsutawney Phil, is better metaphor for what we can really expect from Washington.

Thanks in large part to the 1993 film of the same name, the concept of ‘Groundhog Day’ has come to mean “doing the same thing over and over.”

And while we probably won’t have to relive the next eight years in the tortuous manner Bill Murray was forced to relive the same day over and over again until he recognized the errant ways of his past, there is no question the nation economic winter of discontent is still upon us.

The good news, of course, is that tomorrow is another day…

So happy just to be alive
Underneath the sky of blue
On this new morning, new morning
On this new morning with you.

_________________________________________________

When it comes the Groundhog Day, Punxsutawney Phil is certainly the most well known. But he isn’t the only one. A few other famous groundhogs and their squirrelly counterparts in the House of Representatives:

Punxsutawney Phil of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania
Glenn Thompson (R) Pennsylvania 5th

Jimmy the Groundhog
of Sun Prairie, Wisconsin
Tammy Baldwin (D) Wisconsin 2nd

Staten Island Chuck
of New York City, New York
Michael E. McMahon (D) New York 13th

General Beauregard Lee, PhD
of Lilburn, Georgia
John Linder (R) Georgia 7th

Dunkirk Dave
of Dunkirk, New York
Brian Higgins (D) New York 27th


Malverne Mel and Malverne Melissa of Malverne, New York
Carolyn McCarthy (D) New York 4th

Sir Walter Wally
of Raleigh, North Carolina
Brad Miller (D) North Carolina 13th

Pardon Me Pete
of Tampa, Florida
Kathy Castor (D) Florida 11th


Octoraro Orphie
of Quarryville, Pennsylvania
Joseph R. Pitts (R) Pennsylvania 16th

Holtsville Hal
of Holtsville, New York
Timothy H. Bishop (D) New York 1st

Buckeye Chuck of Marion, Ohio
Jim Jordan (R) Ohio 4th

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