Brazen, Bull & BS litigation: Who said Tyranny enablers lack a sense of humour?

January 15, 2009

brazenbull21brazenbull5

brazen adj. 1 flagrant and shameless; insolent. 2 made of brass

– Canadian Oxford Dictionary

Torture is a technology of tyranny.

The message is intended for those foolhardy enough to think of resisting a tyrant’s wishes.

It is the affect on the majority not the tiny numbers of actual victims. Torture creates a prison without bars and there are both physical and psychological types of torture.

William Blake suggests that lies and deceit:  forges fetters for the mind.

Brazen Bull was a form of torture that was popular for a few centuries that I was not aware of.

The story seems to start in Greece with an artisan called Perillos who proposed a new method of controlling the mob to Phalaris, the tyrant of Sicily. Perillos, the ambitious craftsman:

…cast a bull, made entirely of brass, hollow, with a door in the side. The condemned were shut in the bull and a fire was set under it, heating the metal until it became “yellow hot” and causing the person inside to roast to death.

So that nothing unseemly might spoil his feasting, Phalaris commanded that the bull be designed in such a way that its smoke rose in spicy clouds of incense. The head of the ox was designed with a complex system of tubes and stops so that the prisoner’s screams were converted into sounds like the bellowing of an infuriated bull. It is also said that when the bull was reopened, the scorched bones of the remains shone like jewels and were made into bracelets.

It seems Phalaris (who allegedly ate suckling infant children) liked the invention a lot but wanted to have it tested. Perillos, ever the ambitious servant, hopped right into the device and true to reputation…

… Phalaris immediately locked him in, and set the fire…

Perillos believed he would receive a reward for his invention; instead, after freeing him from the bull, Phalaris threw him from the top of a hill, killing him.

The lesson here is that anyone that invents new ways to enable tyranny, should not expect either laurels or a quiet death at a ripe old age.

It appears to have taken the lives of some martyrs, notably Saint Eustace (and family), Saint Antipas and Saint Pelagia of Tarsus in 287.

The website HowStuffWorks fleshes things out a bit:

  1. the victims usually had their tongues cut out first (better audio?),
  2. as things heated up, the occupant thrashed about which mimicked  a bull’s movement (visual as well as audio),
  3. the improved movement and sounds gave  great amusement for the audience, while
  4. distancing themselves from the brutality of the torture (reduced cognitive dissonance), and in the spirit of continuous improvement
  5. the device became more sophisticated.

This form of torture was similar to being boiled alive but the without the visible fuss. A party game like Pin the Tail on the Donkey.

Lawsuits are simply there to provide an illusion of remedy (pretense of remedy) which is not without entertainment value to a decaying empire’s elite.


3 Things to Do [and Not] to resist Opportunism

December 29, 2008

I have been asked dozens of times what franchisees should do.

They frequently have come to me with a specific complaint that is triggered by a heavy-handed franchisor action.

Here are 3 things you should do:

  1. Meet in small groups to address a single topic at a time. Maximum 5 or 6 people until the preliminary work is done. Focus on non-controversial cost reduction strategies.
  2. Involve partners from the beginning right on through to the end. They have exactly 50% of the legal rights to know and can be an excellent support, sounding board and resource.
  3. Pool some upfront money and get a business consultant that specialized in franchising. Have an introductory meeting and move forward based on some preliminary research focusing on justifying action on your increased future cash flow via supply efficiencies. [This type of business consulting is what I do.]

These are the 3 things you should NOT do.

  1. Do not define your franchise problem as, primarily a legal problem. This anchors the discussions in a competitive, win:lose, confrontational model and distracts from creative, much less expensive alternate dispute resolution methods. The law has its place but is, by definition, your least favoured alternative (and your franchisor’s major strength).
  2. Do not go and talk to a franchise law expert lawyer. By all means, talk to whatever local or regional lawyer you want to and check out your business consultant’s advice against an experienced commercial regional lawyer. Trust the consultant but verify his advice.
  3. Do not be disheartened by past failures. As in any organization, there are 101 reasons for past failures but only 1 reason for success. All not-for-profit organizations go through teething stages; that’s normal. Often the longest serving franchisees will be the LAST to step up initially but they will usually come around when little victories are won.

Starting an independent franchisee Association, IndFA seems like a radical thing to do.

  • But when you think of it the franchisors, bankers, lawyers, trustees (everyone else) has their associations to protect them. Why don’t you have one?

Yes. There are always franchisees willing to rat you out to curry favour with the boss. It takes time (you first have to rebuild trust), money, and the work is not equally shared by members. Lots of times people fail. But these are characteristics of every group I’ve ever been involved with in 37 years of volunteerism.

Every right is fought and paid for by somebody. You just joined an industry that buys their food at the company store, just like the miners did 150 years ago. The dignity of labour was won on the broken heads of those who chose to resist tyranny.

  • Or if that’s too heavy, listen to Tom sing about the consequences of choosing a refugee’s path in life.

Refugee, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

We got somethin’ we both know it
We don’t talk too much about it
Yeah it ain’t no real big secret all the same
Somehow we get around it
Listen it don’t really matter to me baby
You believe what you want to believe
You see you don’t have to live like a refugee

Somewhere, somehow somebody
Must have kicked you around some
Tell me why you wanna lay there
And revel in your abandon
Honey it don’t make no difference to me baby
Everybody’s had to fight to be free
You see you don’t have to live like a refugee
Now baby you don’t have to live like a refugee

Baby we ain’t the first
I’m sure a lot of other lover’s been burned
Right now this seems real to you
But it’s one of those things
You gotta feel to be true

Somewhere, somehow somebody
Must have kicked you around some
Who knows, maybe you were kidnapped
Tied up, taken away and held for ransom
It don’t really matter to me
Everybody’s had to fight to be free
You see you don’t have to live like a refugee
I said you don’t have to live like a refugee


First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.

December 18, 2008

gandhiIt has always been a mystery to me how men can feel themselves honored by the humiliation of their fellow beings.

Non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as is cooperation with good.

An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor does truth become error because nobody sees it.

The true battlefield is within.

If I accept you as you are, I will make you worse; however, if I treat you as though you are what you are capable of becoming, I help you become that.

Become the change you seek in the world.

When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible but in the end, they always fall – Think of it, always.

The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.

Whatever you do will seem insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.


A Trap for the Trusting: A hopelessly romantic view of franchising

December 8, 2008

humpbackanglerfish“A Trap for the Trusting”

Harold Brown, Boston, USA-based lawyer, coined this not-famous enough phrase in describing franchising well over 40 years ago.

  • Sad to report, it’s gotten much worse. The table manners appear better but the rot goes deeper.

The reason is that there is a veneer of respectability that was missing in those raw, cowboy days. It is more treacherous being a franchisee than when Brown was alive and practicing law.

Analysis: There are two ways to win at any competition:

  • One is to raise your game [internal] and
  • Two is to to lower your opponent’s competence [external].

G.K. Chesterton put it well:

It is perfectly obvious that in any decent occupation (such as bricklaying or writing books) there are only two ways (in any special sense) of succeeding.

One is by doing very good work, the other is by cheating.

  • The franchise industry has consistently chosen to cheat.

The architects of that game is the franchise bar and, specifically, the Alpha Male franchisor lawyer [aka Tin Pot Tyrant].

  • These credence good providers cheat principally by managing the illusion that franchisees have only one route to resolving disputes [lawsuit].
  • and that they stand more than 0% chance to win in 100% of lawsuits and
  • Any, anywhere the law is fine enough to catch blatant fraud.
  • Of course, there are some temporary “wins” by franchisees but that is useful in maintaining false hope.

In nature, luring someone to their death is a well-studied strategy. It works really, really well.

Aggressive mimicry is:

…a form of mimicry where predators, parasites or parasitoids share similar signals with a harmless model, allowing them to avoid being correctly identified by their prey or host. In its broadest sense, it involves any type of exploitation,…

A “harmless model” is an experienced regional commercial lawyer. A mimicking predator is listed on the national franchisor trade association’s web site.

The Greatest Lies are Told in Silence: the deceived animal (franchisee) is unaware [before AND after] that there is a trap (although observers know full well) and is steered into believing that the Big Bad Wolf franchisor huffed and puffed their life savings away.

Many aggressive mimics use the promise of nourishment as a way of attracting prey. Though apparent to observers, the irony of falling prey when trying to capture its own is certainly lost on the deceived animal. Wikipedia

The Humpback anglerfish uses a modified dorsal spine as a bioluminescent ‘fishing rod’ to capture prey.

“My. What big teeth you have, Grandma.”


On the Nature of Tyranny

July 12, 2008

For the longest time I thought the main fight was between the franchisors and the franchisees. The more I looked into it, the more this bad guy :: good guy idea stopped explaining the behavior I was seeing.

And then I started to go over some authors that I had, as a young man, been unable to understand. One of them was Northrop Frye who wrote Fearful Symmetry: A Study of William Blake in 1947.

His interpretations of Blake’s ideas have stood up well and their insights about tyranny were interesting to me. Blake believed the following about tyranny:

1. Tyranny is seldom (in the long run, never) imposed on people from without; it is a projection of their own pusillanimity [the victim’s passivity, small mindedness, lack of imagination] p.57

2. Tyranny is the co-operation of parasite and host; no tyrant maintains itself by force, but by trading on his victim’s fears. So although “A tyrant is the the worst disease, and the cause of all others,” the tyrant can at any rate be seen, and the imagination can handle anything that can be seen.

3. Tyranny requires a priesthood and a god first, and these make it permanent. p.60

4. …the real war in society is the “Mental Fight” between the visionaries [prophets] and the champions of tyranny. The latter are not the tyrants themselves but visonary renegades: poets like Virgil who write for Caesar; philosophers who “teach doubt & Experiment”…[the Apologists of tyranny] p.68

5. The source of all tyranny is the mental passivity induced by abstract reasoning the the victim’s mind, and until he has got rid of all rulers will be compelled to be tyrants. p.130

There are no Bystanders: The tyrant and the tyrant’s apologists prey on the victim’s fears. The victim builds the fears up and assists in forging his own chains.

  • The franchisor and his priests [franchise bar] trade on the franchisee’s fears.

The “victim” franchisee responds by wanting revenge for his “wrong”.

Listen carefully:

For those who live under the curse of the law…retribution is not only bad in itself but a waste of time. Wars, penal codes and persecutions never become positive acts: and while the will always exist as long as the world is fallen, they are never more than the endless working-out of a decimal proved millenniums ago to be recurring. p.69

The Curse of the Law:“…the endless working-out of a decimal proved milleniums ago to be recurring.” If that isn’t the best description I’ve ever seen of the wasted time and money in a legal approach to franchising problems.

Blake’s Prescription

  1. renunciate all forms of punishment (do not sue or push for laws),
  2. separate the acts from the actor, and
  3. release your imagination. p.69

Go ahead, it’s your funeral: Seek revenge. An eye for an eye. Pound of flesh. Try to have them feel as much shame as you do. [Should a cat feel guilt in successfully hunting a bird?]

My experience is this approach just ends up in bitterness and pain.

I’ll cover Blake’s idea of the Visionary role in another posting.


Unjust measures must be supported by unjust means

June 11, 2008

Thomas Paine (1737 – 1809) was an English pamphleteer, revolutionary, radical, classical liberal, inventor and intellectual. He lived and worked in Britain until the age of 37, when he migrated to the American colonies just in time to take part in the American Revolution.

Paine is sometimes known as “The Father of the American Revolution” for his writing advocating complete independence from royal rule—his pro-independence monograph pamphlet Common Sense was published anonymously on January 10, 1776 and spread quickly among literate colonists.

This is what Thomas Edison said about him:

I have always regarded Paine as one of the greatest of all Americans. Never have we had a sounder intelligence in this republic… It was my good fortune to encounter Thomas Paine’s works in my boyhood… it was, indeed, a revelation to me to read that great thinker’s views on political and theological subjects. Paine educated me then about many matters of which I had never before thought.

For some reason, North American attorneys get very anxious when Paine’s quotes are mentioned. I find it very useful to remind myself of the principles of natural justice that are the root source of all statutes

Here are a few of my favourite Paine quotes. I would encourage you think about them and to use them often.

When all other rights are taken away, the right of rebellion is made perfect.

An association of vice will reduce us more than the sword.

Pardon the affront for the sake of the truth it contains.

He who dares not offend cannot be honest.

It is easy to tell a lie, but it is difficult to support the lie after it is told.

To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead.

He that picks your pocket always tries to make you look another way.

We ought not so much to ground our hopes on the reasonableness of the thing we ask, as on the reasonableness of the person of whom we ask it: who would expect discretion from a fool, candor from a tyrant, or justice from a villain?

The wretch who will write on any subject for bread, or in any service for pay, and he who will plead in any case for a fee, stands equally in rank with the prostitute who lets out her person.

An association of vice will reduce us more than the sword.

All the great services that are done in the world are performed by volunteer characters who accept no pay for them.

Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.

The nearer any disease approaches to a crisis, the nearer it is to a cure. Danger and deliverance make their advances together, and it is only the last push, in which one or the other takes the lead.

A fog is always favorable to a hunted enemy.

There is something in corruption, which, like a jaundiced eye, transfers the colour of itself to the object it looks upon, and sees everything stained and impure.

How easy it is to abuse truth and language, when men, by habitual wickedness, have learned to set justice at defiance.

Among ridiculous things nothing is more ridiculous than ridiculous rage.

Wealth is no proof of moral character; nor poverty of the want of it — On the contrary, wealth is often the presumptive evidence of dishonesty; and poverty the negative evidence of innocence.

How nearly is human cunning allied to folly! The animals to whom nature has given the faculty we call cunning, know always when to use it, and use it wisely; but when man descends to cunning, he blunders and betrays

It has been said of a thief that he had rather steal a purse than find one.

In a great affair, where the happiness of man is at stake, I love to work for nothing; and so fully am I under the influence of this principle, that I should lose the spirit, the pleasure, and the pride of it, were I conscious that I looked for reward.

My reward existed in the ambition to do good, and the independent happiness of my own mind.

The man who resorts to artifice and cunning, instead of standing on the firm and open ground of principle can easily be found out.

The principle and rule of arbitration ought to be constitutionally established. The honest sense of a country collected in convention will find out how to do this without the interference of lawyers, who may be hired to advocate any side of any cause; for the case is the practice of the bar is become a species of prostitution that ought to be controlled. It lives by encouraging the injustice it pretends to redress.

If I have any Enemies I am conscious of not having deserved them.

As to patience I have practiced it long — as long as it was honourable to do so, and when it goes beyond that point it becomes meanness.

It is not every man whose mind is strong enough to bear up against ingratitude.

While avarice and ambition have a place in the heart of man, the weak will become a prey to the strong.

There are men who have not virtue enough to be angry.

Falsehoods, if uncontradicted, might have passed for truths.

Principle, like truth, needs no contrivance.

Insolence is sure to provoke hatred, whether in a nation or an individual.

I have never yet made, and I hope I never shall make, it the least point of consideration, whether a thing is popular or unpopular, but whether it is right or wrong. That which is right will become popular, and that which is wrong will soon lose its temporary popularity, and sink into disgrace.

Even an ignorant man will not blunder in a true story — nor can an artful man keep a false story straight.

It seldom happens that the mind rests satisfied with the simple detection of error or imposition. Once put in motion, that motion soon becomes accelerated; where it had intended to stop, it discovers new reasons to proceed, and renews and continues the pursuit far beyond the limits it first prescribed to itself.

Investigation always serves to detect error, and to bring forth truth.

The boldness to do wrong at first, changes afterwards into cowardly craft, and at last into fear.

When men depart from an established principle they are compelled to resort to trick and subterfuge.

It is impossible to be a hypocrite and to be brave at the same instant.

To reason with despots is throwing reason away. The best of arguments is a vigorous preparation….

Mystery is the antagonist of truth. It is a fog of human invention, that obscures truth, and represents it in distortion. Truth never envelops itself in mystery, and the mystery in which it is at any time enveloped is the work of its antagonist, and never of itself.

Arrogance and meanness, though in appearance opposite, are vices of the same heart.

Eloquence may strike the ear, but the language of poverty strikes the heart; the first may charm like music, but the second alarms like a knell.

This is my creed of politics. If I have any where expressed myself overwarmly, ’tis from a fixed, immovable hatred I have, and ever had, to cruel men and cruel measures.

No character can stand, however fair, no reputation can survive, however honourable, if men unheard and in their absence are to be anonymously destroyed.

It is the nature of compassion to associate with misfortune.


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