Sunday, March 1, 2009
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.