It symbolized hope when freedom was almost an impossible dream

January 14, 2009

kingmartinIt is a deep personal privilege to address a nation-wide Canadian audience. Over and above any kinship of U.S. citizens and Canadians as North Americans there is a singular historical relationship between American Negroes and Canadians.

Canada is not merely a neighbour to Negroes. Deep in our history of struggle for freedom Canada was the North Star. The Negro slave, denied education, de-humanized, imprisoned on cruel plantations, knew that far to the north a land existed where a fugitive slave, if he survived the horrors of the journey, could find freedom. The legendary underground railroad started in the south and ended in Canada. The freedom road links us together. Our spirituals, now so widely admired around the world, were often codes. We sang of “heaven” that awaited us, and the slave masters listened in innocence, not realizing that we were not speaking of the hereafter. Heaven was the word for Canada and the Negro sang of the hope that his escape on the underground railroad would carry him there. One of our spirituals, “Follow the Drinking Gourd“, [decoded] in its disguised lyrics contained directions for escape. The gourd was the big dipper, and the North Star to which its handle pointed gave the celestial map that directed the flight to the Canadian border.

So standing to-day in Canada I am linked with the history of my people and its unity with your past.

The underground railroad could not bring freedom to many Negroes. Heroic though it was, even the most careful research cannot reveal how many thousands it liberated. Yet it did something far greater. It symbolized hope when freedom was almost an impossible dream. Our spirit never died though the weight of centuries was a crushing burden.

Today when progress has abruptly stalled and hope withers under bitter backlashing, Negroes can remember days that were incomparably worse. By ones and twos more than a century ago Negroes groped to freedom, and its attainment by a pitiful few sustained hundreds of thousands as the word spread through the plantations that someone had been reborn far to the north.

Conscience for Change, Martin Luther King, Jr., The Massey Lectures, 1967


I live now in the house I was raised in and Midhurst is about 4 km away from the African Methodist Episcopal Church, on the corner of Line 3 Oro-Medonte Township and Old Barrie Road.

I grew up believing that it was the northern terminus of the underground railroad but I guess that was more local puffery.

Ontario, however, did draw many from the underground railroad.

The black settlement at Oro “was the result of government policy to settle Loyalist black refugees, who may have been escaped slaves, free men, or veterans of the War of 1812”  [County of Simcoe]. Even giving away 2,000 acres of free land could not overcome the God-forsaken swampy or stony soil. The only type of land farming that is successful is for aggregate (sand and gravel pits). The last black descendant packed up and left in 1949.

In 200 the church was designated a National Heritage Site and a 2003 plaque reads:


Built in 1849, this church is the last vestige of one of the oldest African-Canadian settlements in Upper Canada. Here at Oro, former members of the Loyalist militia from the War of 1812 established the only Black community sponsored by the government. Free Blacks from the northern United States later joined them. Located in the heart of a strategic and vulnerable region, the community guarded against an American invasion via Georgian Bay. This church is a testament to the contribution of African Canadians to the settlement and defence of Canada in the 19th century.

Franchise Bankers are on the Autobahn to Perdition

January 10, 2009


As I promised, more thought-provoking ideas from Saul‘s, The Doubter’s Companion.

BANKERS Pillars of society who are going to hell if there is a God and He has been accurately quoted.

All three Western religions have always forbidden the collection of interest on loans. When Samuel Johnson defined the banker in the eighteenth century his status was clear: “One that trafficks in money.” Their venal sin of usury [excessive interest] continues to sit high on lists of scriptural wrongdoing, which raise the question of why bankers – the money-market sort excluded – tend to be frequent church goers. The respect in which they have increasingly been held over the last two centuries has paralleled the growth of economics based on long-term debt, which spread into every corner of society, from governments and corporations to the poor. The more money owed, the more the lender is respected, so long as the borrower intends to pay it back.

But what effect does this have on the moral position of bank employees? Few modern bankers are owners. Except through their salaries they do not profit from interest payments. Are they or are they not among the damned? Perhaps they should themselves be seen as victims of usury, having little choice but to lend their lives to the usurious process in order to feed their families. Yet for the borrower, these employees are the human face of usury.

The clearest situation for bankers would be if God didn’t exist. They would then be morally home-free and could go to church in a more relaxed frame of mind. See: DEBT.

Margaret Atwood observes lately that Christianity is based primarily on debt: Jesus came and redeemed man, opened the gates of heaven and paid off all past and future debt. The Aramaic words for debt and sin are the same. In the Lord’s Prayer, believers are directed to forgive trespasses (debts, offences) and it appears She does only as much as you forgive others their debts.

  • One of my lawn sprinkler customers retired after 35 years with the Royal Bank of Canada in 2009. She looks 10 years younger in 4 months and attributes it not having to lie to her neighbours anymore about what the bank did to them.

A recurring theme is that debt is a form of death, is life-taking. You make your own hell by losing your soul now, let alone the everlasting damnation bit (perdition). autobahn

The Road to Perdition, 2002 movie with Tom Hanks, Paul Newman and Jude Law.

On Unsustainable levels of Debt: another perspective

January 7, 2009

johnralstonsaul6There are many, many types of debt.

  • Financial debt is really only a bit player in the rich theatre of human history. A necessary evil; a loutish relative sent to help us develop our patience and forbearance.

The recent obsession with financial debt overshadows and distorts culturally much more significant types of debt such as: ethical, debt to yourself, moral, educational, spiritual.

  • Financial debt is a simple matter that is simply a child of contract law.
  • This type carries NO moral or ethical weight, whatsoever.

Many franchise contracts carry into them a severe imbalance of economic and information power.

Some contracts are entered into with fraudulent intent.

Fusing imagination with a historical perspective may mean a different understanding of debt obligations. Some or all franchisee debt may prove to be:

  1. repaid $1.00 for $1.00,
  2. re-negotiated (certain % of claim),
  3. unenforceable (a Court will not oblige repayment),
  4. void (a conditions were not present for a valid contract to be formed), or
  5. commercially forgivable (0 to 100%, it makes economic and career sense for the creditor not to pursue the debt).

Dr. John Ralston Saul [Wikipedia, quotes] pursues a number of topics in an extremely lively and interesting way in his book, A Doubter’s Companion: A Dictionary of Aggressive Common Sense, One Review: B+.

  • Dr. Saul is a very accomplished and expansive Canadian author and philosopher. I had the great pleasure of meeting him in December 2008.
  • I told him his writings (along with Galbraith and McLuhan) had ruined my perfectly good Ivey MBA. He seemed pleased.

Unsustainable Levels of Debt is one of Saul’s more delightful entries. By substituting the words “groups of franchisees” for the word “nation, countries or civilization”, you may find it an apt franchising analogy.

I will be returning to The Doubter’s Companion and taking the liberty of free riding on Dr. Saul’s approach and insights.

Selected Excerpt

National debts are treated today as if they were unforgiving gods with the power to control, alter and if necessary destroy a country. This financial trap is usually presented as if it were peculiar to our time, as well as being a profound comment on the profligate [adj 1 shamelessly immoral 2 recklessly extravagant] habits of the population. The reality may be less disturbing.

1. The building up of unsustainable debt loads is a commonplace in history. There are several standard means of resolving he problem: execute the lenders, exile them, default outright or simply renegotiate to achieve partial default and low interest rates.

2. There is no example of  nation become rich by paying its debts.

3. There are dozens of examples of nations becoming rich by defaulting or renegotiating.

This begins formally in the sixth century BC with Solon taking power in debt-crippled Athens. His organization of general default – “the shaking off of the burdens” – set the city-state on its road to democracy and prosperity. The Athens which is still remembered as the central inspiration of WESTERN CIVILIZATION was the direct product of a national default. One way or another most Western countries, including the United States, have done the same thing at some point. Most national defaults lead to sustained periods of prosperity.

4. The non-payment of debts carried no moral weight. The only moral standards recognized in Western society as being relevant to lending are those which identify profit made from loans as a sin. Loans themselves are mere contracts and therefore cannot carry moral value.

5. As all businessman know, contracts are to be respected whenever possible. When not possible, regulations exist to aid default or renegotiation. Businessmen regularly do both and happily walk away…

8. Debts – both public and private – become unsustainable when the borrower’s cash flow no longer handily carries the interest payments. Once a national economy has lost that rate of cash flow, it is unlikely to get it back. The weight of the debt on the economy makes it impossible.

11. Civilizations which become obsessed by sustaining unsustainable debt-loads have forgotten the basic nature of money. Money is not real. It is a conscious agreement on measuring abstract value. Unhealthy societies often become mesmerized by money and treat it as if it were something concrete. The effect is to destroy the currency’s practical value.

13. Does all of this mean that governments should default on their national debt? Not exactly.

What it does mean is that we are imprisoned in a linear and managerial approach which denies reality, to say nothing of experience. Money is first a matter of imagination and second of fixed agreements on the willing suspension of disbelief.

In other words, it is possible to approach the debt problem in quite different ways.

14. There have been changes which limit our actions in comparison to those of Solon or Henry IV, who negotiated his way out of an impossible debt situation in the early seventeenth century and re-established prosperity..[discussion not relevant to franchising but he takes a shot at money market managers]

— [my definitions and emphasis]

A franchisee frequently owes the following entities:

  1. themselves,
  2. relatives (near and far),
  3. employees,
  4. government (federal, state, municipal),
  5. franchisor,
  6. financial institution,
  7. suppliers, and
  8. professionals and others (lawyers, accountants, consultants).

Both the lender and the creditor took a risk in advancing funds, or goods and services on credit. Most of the creditors have much more experience in business than the franchisee.

If, as Saul mentions, that loans are mere contracts and carry no moral weight, why should most franchisees pay themselves last?

It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on not understanding it.

January 2, 2009

Upton Sinclair (1878 – 1968) was a Pulitzer Prize-winning prolific American author who wrote over 90 books in many genres and was widely considered to be one of the best investigators advocating socialist views. He achieved considerable popularity in the first half of the 20th century.


He gained particular fame for his 1906 novel The Jungle, which dealt with conditions in the U.S. meat packing industry and caused a public uproar that partly contributed to the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act in 1906. Wikipedia

I aimed for the public’s heart, … and by accident I hit it in the stomach.

Sinclair’s 1927 novel Oil! was the basis of the 2007 movie There Will Be Blood , starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Paul Dano. The film received eight nominations for an Oscar, and won two.

Other Quotes

You don’t have to be satisfied with America as you find it. You can change it. I didn’t like the way I found America some sixty years ago, and I’ve been trying to change it ever since.

The private control of credit is the modern form of slavery.

The American People will take Socialism, but they won’t take the label…Running on the Socialist ticket I got 60,000 votes, and running on the slogan to ‘End Poverty in California’ I got 879,000. I think we simply have to recognize the fact that our enemies have succeeded in spreading the Big Lie. There is no use attacking it by a front attack, it is much better to out-flank them.

Fascism is capitalism plus murder.

The methods by which the “Empire of Business” maintains its control over journalism are four: First, ownership of the papers; second, ownership of the owners; third, advertising subsidies; and fourth, direct bribery. By these methods there exists in America a control of news and of current comment more absolute than any monopoly in any other industry.

American capitalism is predatory, and American politics are corrupt: The same thing is true in England and the same in France; but in all these three countries the dominating fact is that whatever the people get ready to change the government, they can change it.

Franchise bankers are very, very good businesspeople.

December 21, 2008

sandallifebrianAnd I have come to the conclusion that I am not a nearly as good in business. Retraining is probably in order for 2009.

I think I have simply lost the desire that comes from calling the next Mr. Victim.

This realization substantially accounts for my continual CLMs (Career limiting move) in the last 10 years and my family’s resulting subsistence living.

  • It has precious  little to do with throwing sandals at a $1.1-billion sales per year North American franchise industry.

I should have persisted in my 6 week Canadian banking career but I have to be careful who I associate with. It would have been much easier for everyone, I suppose.

Oh well…

This is a good bit about those bankers who are still very keen about their careers.

YouTube says Franchising is slavery

October 28, 2008

YouTube will become a very effective means of information sharing for franchise investors.

This is the first general franchise message [ie. it’s not this brand or that brand that is acting in a predatory fashion] to hit YouTube. It reflects the reality that all franchise relationships have the same characteristics, the same tools or potential; everywhere, all around the world.

What makes franchising different than independent business is its ability to ransom your life savings. This is done because, at the moment you sign, your investment instantly changes from 100% liquidity to next to zero [transforms into a sunk cost]. You imagine yourself in control but have lost 100% control of your assets.

New franchisees come to realize quite quickly that they go along with the franchisor or they will be punished. Many franchisees kid themselves; hoping upon hope that their masters will allow them to exit by selling to the next sucker. That rarely happens because the franchisor makes more money the less you make at re-sale.

Over years and after signing a confidentiality agreement, investors realize that it was always this way: the moment you signed, 90% of what they put in was always at the franchisor’s absolute use. The sunk cost nature is the source of a franchisor exercising their discretion in a one-sided manner (opportunism).

  • The franchisee’s near total net worth is tied to the whims of a party that has next-to no penalties if they choose to act in a dictatorial manner.

Soon I think we will have a franchising channel with dozens of trademark correspondents bringing back information that is not constrained by government decisions, coerced confidentiality provisions or SLAPPs.

That is very good news for good systems and not so good for opportunistic ones.

  • And this should be applauded by all stakeholders that want to improve quality, in what we perceive to be a free market economy.

Shouldn’t it?

Thanks to the folks at for bringing this out.

Don’t pay the Ferryman

October 27, 2008

The role that the franchise bar plays is an ancient one. Not all debts are settled with folding money and you should try not to, permanently, ransom your future life to avoid pain in the present.

Franchising is a tremendous adventure: Maybe even more if the outcome is a surprise.

Don’t Pay the Ferryman, Chris de Burgh

It was late at night on the open road, speeding like a man on run
A lifetime spent preparing for the journey.
He is closer now and the search is on, reading from a map in the mind:
Yes there’s that ragged hill and there’s a boat on the river.
And when the rain came down, he heard a wild dog howl
There were voices in the night
(Don’t do it!)
Voices out of sight
(Dont’t do it!)
Too many men have failed before, whatever you do;

Don’t pay the ferryman!
Don’t even fix a price!
Don’t pay the ferryman
Until he gets you to the other side.

In the rolling mist, then he gets on board, now there’ll be no turning back
Beware that hooded old man at the rudder.
And then the lightning flashed and the thunder roared,
and people calling out his name,
And dancing bones that jabbered-and-a-moaned on the water.
And then the ferryman said “There is trouble ahead,
So you must pay me now.”
(Don’t do it!)
“You must pay me now.”
(Don’t do it!)
And still that voice came from beyond, whatever you do;

Don’t pay the ferryman!
Don’t even fix a price!
Don’t pay the ferryman
Until he gets you to the other side.

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