Prison Pete

Saturday, February 04, 2006
  I Really Do Read the Articles.
An article in the January 2006 edition of "Playboy" was a retrospective on Shel Silverstein. I admit to not being a big fan of poetry, but as I read this article I do remember attending a leadership training event over twenty years ago.

At one point the leader read a poem from the book "Where the Sidewalk Ends." As I read the article I remember being impressed by the poem and making a mental note to buy a copy of that book. The article reminded me that I never did get that book. I am now looking into getting some of his work.

One thing I did learn from the article, besides the fact that Mr. Silverstein was a frequent visitor of the Playboy mansion, ha was also the author of lyrics for "A Boy Named Sue."

I really think I might like to add this magazine to my list of regular reading material.

Another story of interest was an interview with Mark Cuban. I wondered if anything the billionaire owner of the NBA Mavericks had to say has any relevance to my life. Certainly we would seem to have little in common.

But despite the fact that one of the benefits Mark claims he likes in being a billionaire, not having to worry about how to pay for things (like his $41 million Gulfstream jet) I found two things that I could relate to. The first deals with his view of the current state of the stock markets.

So how does a man who reaped $1.9 billion for the sale of a company that he owned (Broadcast.com, $5.7 billion to Yahoo) have any credibility to poke holes in the very institution that brought him his riches?

Playboy asks:

"Playboy: In your blogs you talk about the stock market as if it were the world's biggest scam. Why?

Cuban: In a nutshell, I think the stock market is broken. It has become a collectibles market. Owning a share of stock that does not pay a dividend is not a whole lot different from owning a baseball card. The key to both is whether you can get someone else to give you more for it.

Playboy: What's new about that?

Cuban: Actually, there was a time when the majority of companies paid dividends. But in the 1990s the intrinsic value of companies didn't push the market. It was the ability of mutual funds and brokerages to market stocks. I don't have proof, but I am willing to bet that the stock market basically correlates to the amount of money spent on marketing by the mutual-find and brokerage industries. If you sell something hard enough, you create demand. In essence, the financial TV networks have become QVC for stocks. As long as you make it look good, you can find someone to buy it. I am trying not to be hypocritical, because I will buy stocks if I think they will go up. But that doesn't mean I don't think the stock market is broken. It's the ultimate Ponzi scheme. The stock market is the only time we give other people our money and don't expect to get any cash back..."

His comments raise two areas I would like to expand on, one the true value and stability of the stock market. The second is the comment, "if you sell [market?] something hard enough, you create demand."

I will be posting my take on these two issues as we go along, for now the point that I want to share is that in my opinion, is only by the free and open exchange of ideas and differing points of view can we make intelligent choices.

How do you balance Mark's assessment of the stock market as "...the ultimate Ponzi scheme." and the President's desire to replace part (or would that eventually be all?) of the Social Security System, with individuals investing their personal funds in the stock market.

Whose fault is it if an individual falls "victim" to some seductive marketing plan by a financial institution?

Both of these issues each deserve their own posts and they will be following shortly.

On a somewhat humorous note:

"PLAYBOY: According to Forbes, you are the 164th richest American, with 1.8 billion. How much money does one need?

CUBAN: It depends on what kind of lifestyle you want. If I were single, $2 million in the bank would do me fine. Having a family now, I probably would want more."

I do not know the demographics of the readers of this blog, but I would venture to write that there are not too many of you out there that have a billion or two lying around to support your lifestyle.
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