Monday 9 March 2015

The 'New York Times' has failed to spot 'Herbalife (HLF)', but now looks at 'The Pigeon King.'

Image result for pigeon king international

Jon Mooallem

March 6th 2015, an extended article, written by Jon Mooallem and entitled 'Birdman (The Pigeon King and the Ponzi Scheme That Shook Canada),' appeared in the 'New York Times Magazine.'  

For those readers who have never heard of 'Pigeon King International Inc.,' it was the (now defunct) legally-registered corporate-front for yet another 'income / business opportunity' fraud which (at first glance) seemed more absurd than dangerous.

Some people (including myself) would say that the time for the 'New York Times' to have been looking at the so-called 'Pigeon King,' was years ago, not now; but then the same valid observation could have been made about the entire mainstream media's tardy, but loud, arrival on the scene of Bernie Madoff's crimes. 

One should never forget that, for decades (with a few notable exceptions), a flock of dunces with diplomas (i.e. mainstream journalists) casually reported Madoff's fictional perpetually-expanding 'Hedge Fund,' as though it was fact. As far as I'm aware, no mainstream journalist has ever ever publicly confessed that he/she was one of these useful idiots who actually played a significant role in maintaining Madoff's monopoly of information.

More recently, three 'New York Times' journalists (Michael S. Schmidt, Eric Lipton and Alexandra Stevenson) not only failed to spot the 'Herbalife' racket, but they actually produced a jargon-laced article which repeated elements of the absurd, comic-book 'Herbalife income opportunity' fiction as fact, and portrayed its criminal authors as victims.  

Arland Galbraith (b. 1947)

Jon Mooallem's recent piece sets out the tragicomic story of Arland Galbraith - a softly-spoken (failed) Canadian farmer and the self-styled 'Pigeon King' - who, 12 months ago, was sentenced to more than 7 years prison for instigating, and running, a dissimulated closed-market swindle or 'Ponzi' scheme which stole C$42 millions from almost 1000 victims in 5 Canadian Provinces and 20 US States. Invariably dressed in dungaree overalls and flannel shirt, Galbraith pretended affinity with his victims - posing as an ordinary man on a mission to save struggling small farmers - just like himself. Unfortunately, Jon Mooallem did not clearly explain that, classically of a 'Ponzi' schemer, at first, Galbraith must have been fully-aware that he was lying, but as more and more victims fell for his ego-inflating, comic-book act: the more he fell for it himself. Mooallem's article does however, present sufficient evidence for readers to deduce that, in the end, Galbraith was undoubtedly dissociated from external reality.

Five years before he was jailed, Galbraith's counterfeit company, 'Pigeon King International,' was bankrupted with outstanding liabilities totalling C$ 356 millions (in the form of worthless contracts held by Galbraith's victims, in which 'PKI' promised to keep buying pigeon chicks at at a guaranteed fixed price of up to C$ 50 each). At least 175 000 of the approximately 400 000 unwanted breeding pigeons and chicks, had to be gassed. Galbraith had spun a web of increasingly absurd lies to explain this infinite demand for pigeons. 

At one time, Galbraith claimed that Avian flu was about to destroy the world population of chickens, and that within 12 months, all supermarkets, and restaurants, in N. America and the rest of the world, would be desperate to buy pigeon meat.

Meanwhile, back in the adult world of quantifiable reality, in order just to have honoured all his company's existing debts, Galbraith would have had to have deceived tens of thousands more victims into buying millions of breeding pigeons and producing millions more pigeon chicks against a fresh batch of worthless contracts, but this time totalling C$1.5 billion. Self-evidently, this rapidly multiplying madness wouldn't have stopped there, because in order to keep paying all 'PKI's' new debts, soon billions of new victims and pigeons, and trillions of dollars, would have been required .

A significant number of Galbraith's victims were members of N. America's Amish and Mennonite farming communities, whom he deliberately targeted, because he knew that they did not have ready access to the media and telephones, and that they would probably not file complaints. Galbraith also pretended moral authority by introducing 'Biblical' quotes into his act.

Behind a legally-registered corporate front, a smokescreen investment commodity and a labyrinth of thought-stopping commercial jargon and mathematical mystification, Galbraith's so-called income / business opportunity was actually based on converting ill-informed individuals to an absolute belief in the crack-pot, non-rational pseudo-economic theory that never-ending recruitment + never-ending payments by the recruits = never-ending profits for the recruits. In simple terms, just like Bernie Madoff and Charles Ponzi, Arland Galbraith was yet another (otherwise mediocre) economic Alchemist peddling bedazzled-individuals infinite shares of their own finite money. Right from the start, this obvious conclusion could easily have been arrived at, simply by applying common-sense and by asking Mr. Galbraith the right questions. e.g.:

What quantifiable evidence can you produce to prove that your alleged income opportunity has had a significant, and sustainable, source of revenue other than its own participants?

Mainly because Galbraith kept taking money from his new so-called 'growers', 'breeders' and 'investors' and paying out profits to his existing so-called 'growers', 'breeders' and 'investors,' for a long time, no one did apply common-sense, let alone ask the right questions. 

Thus, between 2001 and 2008, Galbraith was allowed to recite his economically-incestuous feathered fairy story without the slightest challenge from Canadian, or American, law enforcement agencies. This total lack of regulation only served to give his lies added credibility. To the average victim, the mere fact that Galbraith had been operating in plain sight for several years, convinced them that 'PKI' must be legitimate. 

David Thornton 

Indeed, but for the determined intervention of an insightful, independent campaigner, Dave Thornton, the 'Pigeon King' racket would have run much longer and possibly even still been running today. Dave Thornton first tried to draw the attention of law enforcement agents to Galbraith in 2007, but when his complaints were ignored, he began telling the truth about Galbraith in the street with a bull-horn. This led to an investigative article appearing in 'Better Farming' (a small independent magazine based in Ontario). However, law enforcement agencies still refused to take any action against Galbraith, who was now steadfastly pretending to be an innocent victim of a conspiracy of jealous liars led by Dave Thornton.

When some American State Attorney Generals recognized and blocked Galbraith's criminal enterprise, the mainstream media began to report and the 'Pigeon King' racket finally fell apart. It then took another 2 years and 6 months, before Galbraith was charged with fraud, and 3 more years before he appeared in court. During his trial, Galbraith sacked his attorney and presented his own deeply-deluded defence. Essentially, he steadfastly pretended that he too was a poor victim who had lost his money in Pigeon King and that he was simply a honest businessman whose business had failed. It seems that Canadian prosecutors didn't, and still don't, have the slightest idea who, or what, they were actually confronted with. They were, in fact, confronted with a severe and inflexible Narcissistic Personality Disorder sufferer, whose grandiose (and eventually paranoid) ego-building fantasies had been contagious.

Even in the light of the court case, throughout his entire 'Birdman' article, Jon Mooallem (who specialises in writing about the relationship between humans and animals) falls into the classic trap of repeating Galbraith's thought-stopping jargon, by referring to his victims / adherents as 'breeders' and 'investors.'

Dave Thornton is well-known for campaigning loudly against pyramid schemes and schemers in Canada, and this CBC programme (linked above), gives a very good idea of the important role he has previously played, and how shabbily he has been treated by the authorities. Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of Jon Mooallem's article is his own shabby treatment of Dave Thornton, whom (ironically) he portrays as an 'erratic, fixated and eccentric vigilante.'

Although Dave Thornton is an undoubted expert on pyramid fraud, he is a passionate, and highly-moral, man who has been driven to the point of despair by the morally, and intellectually, bankrupt attitude of the Canadian authorities to what he, and many others, have rightly identified as an ongoing criminogenic phenomenon of historic significance. In reality, Dave Thornton is an unsung hero who (over a period of many years) has selflessly acted in defence of his fellow citizens, simply because Canadian legislators, law enforcement agents and mainstream journalists have not been doing their jobs in respect of pyramid fraud. Indeed, Dave has discovered that a significant number of Canadian law enforcement agents have been deeply-involved in the promotion of pyramid frauds and that, consequently, this is a can of worms which few people wish to open. Dave Thornton has been the target of specious lawsuits and character assassination attempts, but Jon Mooallem's recent article thoughtlessly trivialised his efforts, and came close to ridiculing him.

Having said all that, I strongly recommend readers of 'MLM The American Dream Made Nightmare,' to take a look at Jon Mooallem's 'New York Times' article, because it is undoubtedly well-researched. However, I would also recommend that Jon Mooallem take a look at the wider-phenomenon of 'MLM income opportunity' cultic racketeering. This might give him insight into what it is that Dave Thornton has been up against.

David Brear (copyright 2015)


  1. The CBC Marketplace - Easy Money video was quite an eye opener. Not only exposing the obvious scam of the BIM "product" (that one can easily google and find better travel deals than it's $3200 package offers), but also showing how these scams dance around logic, replacing facts with snake oil salesmen fast talk and double speak. Like Amway, it focuses more on dreams of "a hundred thousand dollars!" and how "foolproof" it is. It also showed how sleazy and slick those con artists are. I laughed when he brought up a completely mind-boggling analogy of Jesus Christ and Christianity in regards to levels of a pyramid scheme. And of course I'm sure he'd quickly back down on his "I'll bring in my one hundred experts against your one" claim had she had the internet up and ready to say "okay, let's log into your site and find a 'deal' to any random destination and then I'll google something from priceline or something". I'm sure the pattern of the deals of his site always being far above what anyone with access to google can find for free would be apparent, and I'm sure he knows this. But a scammer's defiance is always tempered by what he knows can be presented right then and there for all to see.

  2. Anonymous - Alan Niel Kippax is undoubtedly suffering from severe and inflexible Narcissistic Personality Disorder, as was Arland Galbraith. Once you understand this, you also understand that it is a pointless excercise trying to reason with the likes of Kippax and Galbraith.

    ‘Narcissistic Personality Disorder,’ is a psychological term first used in 1971 by Dr. Heinz Kohut (1913-1981). It was recognised as the name for a form of pathological narcissism in ‘The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 1980.’ Narcissistic traits (where a person talks highly of himself/herself to eliminate feelings of worthlessness) are common in, and considered ‘normal’ to, human psychological development. When these traits become accentuated by a failure of the social environment and persist into adulthood, they can intensify to the level of a severe mental disorder. Severe and inflexible NPD is thought to effect less than 1% of the general adult population. It occurs more frequently in men than women. In simple terms, NPD is reality-denying, total self-worship born of its sufferers’ unconscious belief that they are flawed in a way that makes them fundamentally unacceptable to others. In order to shield themselves from the intolerable rejection and isolation which they unconsciously believe would follow if others recognised their defective nature, NPD sufferers go to almost any lengths to control others’ view of, and behaviour towards, them. NPD sufferers often choose partners, and raise children, who exhibit ‘co-narcissism’ (a co-dependent personality disorder like co-alcoholism). Co-narcissists organize themselves around the needs of others (to whom they feel responsible), they accept blame easily, are eager to please, defer to others’ opinions and fear being seen as selfish if they act assertively. NPD was observed, and apparently well-understood, in ancient times. Self-evidently, the term, ‘narcissism,’ comes from the allegorical myth of Narcissus, the beautiful Greek youth who falls in love with his own reflection.

    Currently, NPD has nine recognised diagnostic criteria (five of which are required for a diagnosis):
    has a grandiose sense of self-importance.
    is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, ideal love, etc.
    believes that he/she is special and unique and can only be understood by other special people.
    requires excessive admiration.
    strong sense of self-entitlement.
    takes advantage of others to achieve his/her own ends.
    lacks empathy.
    is often envious or believes that others are envious of him/her.
    arrogant disposition.

  3. Of course it's easier to call Dave Thornton a fanatic than to admit that law enforcement, journalists and elected officials were all gullible fools. Just as with herbalife defenders who constantly cry "it must be legitimate! It's lasted for thirty-five years!", the same mindset operated with the Pigeon King. As if longevity alone is proof of long have the Triads or the Mafia been successful? Or the Yakuza?

  4. Barbara - This young journalist/writer, Jon Mooallem, displays a complete lack of empathy for Dave Thornton: whilst Dave is a man who displays a remarkable level of empathy for his fellow human beings and particularly, for the victims of pyramid frauds and 'income opportunity' cultic rackets.

    Jon Mooallem fails to realize that if Dave Thornton was a non-rational fanatic, he would have taken the law into his own hands years ago. Instead, Dave has consistently called for the re-establishment of the rule of law and he has always tried to respect the law.

    When is the last time you heard any mainstream journalist calling for the re-establishment of the rule of law when it comes to fraud? Yet, we are currently sinking in a sea of fraud.

    Dave has been arrested several times without charge, simply for picketing against dangerous charlatans who were obviously committing criminal acts right under the noses of Canadian law enforcement agents, and sometimes with the participation of Canadian law enforcement agents.

    Dave has also been arrested on trumped up charges.

    The big story here, is the level of corruption in Canada. This shameful situation has driven a sensitive, courageous and honest man, like Dave Thornton, to the edge of despair, but Jon Mooallem is effectively ridiculing sensitivity, courage and honesty. Indeed, he has completely failed to recognize these qualities in Dave Thornton - probably because he doesn't possess them himself.

    Sadly, most journalists live in a moral vaccuum, but if Jon Mooallem were ever to find his own family being poisoned by charlatan racketeers, Dave Thornton would be the first person to come to his aid.

    1. David,

      The pigeons, just like MLM wampum were only marketable to the new investors. They had no real outside value. Galbraith only had intentions of selling birds as mating pairs to new investors.

      Jon Mooallem presents David Thornton as a 'kook' and goes on to say that if Thornton had not raised red flags, the Pigeon King most likely would still be operating. Just why he would disparage Thornton is anyone's guess? Galbraith obviously intended to present himself as a failed businessman when his scheme eventually ran out of new victims. Most likely he thought he could, like Amway and Herbalife, continue to exponentially expand new investors to pay off the early investors. (Madoff's scheme)

      This brings me to another current issue. Whistle blower's generally are deemed 'outlaws' and 'criminals' by those in Government and the news media. You see this very clearly with Edward Snowden, whom President Obama says is not a 'patriot' although thousands upon thousands (if not millions) of U.S. citizens view him as exactly that: a patriot. The rights to privacy of U.S. citizens have been usurped in a black ops coup, fostered by the "Patriot Act" where everyone might be considered a potential enemy of the state. (Note: HBO has been running a documentary on Snowden called "Citizen Four.")

      I mentioned that critics of the MLM are considered enemies of the status quo (if not enemies of the state). It is not surprising that MLM critics and whistle-blowers are either considered 'kooks' or in the case of Bill Ackman, a wall street high roller, who is only motivated by greed in revealing the ugly Hebalife underbelly.

      Since I mentioned Home Box Office, they are going to run a documentary based upon "Going Clear--The Prison of Belief." I would like to hope that this might bring wide scale critical attention to this most malevolent of cults.

    2. quixtarisacult - To be fair to Jon Moolallem he did try tell what he mistakenly thought was a two-sided story. Remember also, that this piece was aimed at 'sophisticated' NYT Magazine readers, and it effectively scoffed at everyone involved: the perpetrator, the whistleblowers and the victims.

      Mooallem apparently interviewed a number of people, including victims, who illogically had some very unkind things to say about Dave Thornton, but who still had kind things to say about Arland Galbraith. In reality, Galbraith was a distorting mirror systematically reflecting his delusional belief that he was a good guy, and that anyone challenging him was a bad guy.

      Unfortunately, there aren't two-sides to a cultic deception. In fact, it's persons like Arland Galbraith who try to lure victims and casual observers into their two-dimensional model of reality.

      Mooallem failed to deduce that Dave Thornton was actually one of the few rational persons in the 'Pigeon King' story, because he immediately realized that Galbraith was peddling fiction as fact.

      When the wider picture is examined, Edward Snowden would seem to have been acting in defense of the US Constitution and his fellow citizens. History will be his judge.

    3. David,

      I worry that the kinds of information being gathered might be the end of democracy. It would seem like any political enemy might be undermined by having something as simple as his or her Google searches leaked to the public.

      Hillary Clinton's emails on a system like gmail can easily be dialed up by NSA snoopers. Might the current 'minor' scandal be a ploy (by some in government) to give the impression that Clinton's personal emails were actually private, and that she herself would have to turn them over for them to be read? Edward Snowden's revelations prove that any emails Clinton sent or received are already on file in a NSA computer drive?

      Might any world leader be undermined and compromised by their own communications? Imagine all the real (or imagined) skeletons in nearly everyone's closet?

      Maybe I'm too much of an alarmist, but information in the wrong hands could undermine the peace and stability of a world that is in many ways already coming apart at the seems. The U.S. has already been caught spying on supposed friendly ally leaders (Angela Merkel). Also, the NSA has built information farming complexes in Europe for the gathering of metadata on nearly all foreign citizens. What ever rights we citizens of the U.S. like to believe we have against unreasonable surveillance aren't afforded to those living in foreign nations. What the U.S. is doing most likely is illegal in France, but is nonetheless being allowed. The United Kingdom has its own program working in conjunction with the U.S..

      Death from the sky. Drone attacks over foreign soil is the American equivalent of terror in Syria and Iraq. Tell, me Dave, should I relax, take it easy, tell myself it can't be as bad as all that? Obviously enemies lists are already in hand, but in whose hand? These are fearful times for both good and bad alike. If American's can't trust their own government, how can any other government trust them either? It seems hypocritical of the U.S. to deem North Korea cyber terrorists when we are the real cyber bully in the world? For Snowden's revelations to be true, any sense of privacy and the protection afforded by the Constitution have been effectively dissolved, all in the name of security.

      To my way of thinking, people should be up in arms about this. It is as if nothing matters to the run of the mill, workaday people? I wonder what Eric Arthur Blair would think about all this if he were alive?

      Please forgive me for being somewhat off topic.

    4. quixtarisacult - It is as bad as all that, and perhaps a great deal worse, because (like children) we are not allowed to know the worst.

      Perhaps the most important question here is: What would the Founding Fathers of your republic have made of the 'National Security Agency' and the Edward Snowden affair?

      For that matter,: What would they have made of J. Edgar Hoover's FBI?

      I think that above all qualities, your Founding Fathers were blessed with a large measure of common-sense - a quality which your current leadership seems to be toatally devoid of.

      If you look at the origins of intelligence-gathering agencies like your NSA and Britain's GCHQ, you find that they emerged out of WWII and expanded during the Cold War.

      Information technology has made it possible for intelligence gathering agencies to make the 'Orwellian Big Bother' nightmare come to pass, but who guards the guards?

      History proves that the enemies of totalitarianism have been obliged to adopt its tactics.

      Orwell's 'Animal Farm' exlains that the totalitarian/cult phenomenon can go completely unrecognized when it is disguised as 'Democracy,' and that human vulnerability makes the very concept of Democracy a dangerous and flawed system, when the electorate are largely ill-informed.

      Don't forget that some of the most murderous totalitarian regimes have been, and still are, presented as 'Democratic People's Republics.'

      All totalitarian regimes are fiction presented as fact. They function like abusive parents with abused children, by excluding external reality and by maintaining an absolute monopoly of information. They crumble when this monopoly crumbles.

      Personally, I don't think that members of the Clinton family have many secrets left. Hillary is now being pilloried for being so stupid as to have broken laws whilst in high office which she claims she was both unaware of and which anyway didn't apply to personal correspondence.

      You are right to observe that virtually everyone has skeletons in their closets