Pink Panthers & Capitalism

Pink Panthers & Capitalism

Police in southern France have arrested a member of the “Pink Panther” gang of jewel thieves, who had been on the run since he escaped from a Swiss prison three months ago. – ABC NEWS

I love reading about these real-life French diamond thieves, “The Pink Panthers“. They are straight out of a Hollywood film – pulling hundred-million-dollar heists on the French Riviera & breaking out of prison with helicopters. I imagine George Clooney, Frank Sinatra or Robert DeNiro is leading them. I’d love to see what goes on in an outfit like this. Are they really professional, smart guys like DeNiro in HEAT or Ocean’s Eleven? Or just a bunch of thugs?

According to Interpol they have snatched over 330 million euros ($436 million) since 1999.

They certainly sound pretty suave.

In a recent heist, a member of the gang threatened to blow up a high-end jewellery store in Cannes with a hand-grenade. While his accomplice points a gun at staff, the robber filled a sport holdall with expensive watches and headed for the door. Suddenly, he stopped and turned. “Desolé,” he said to the terrified sales staff, “C’est la crise.” (Sorry, it’s the economic crisis). – The Guardian

I think this kind of heist is capitalism at its purest. The guys with the most capital to spend – on weapons, anti-security equipment, lawyers, fences, fake identities, etc, or, if you’re on the other side, on layers of security – wins. It’s a dog-eat-dog world, my friends, a battle for who can steal the most resources and get away with it.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be that way. Some of us yearn for a world where people treat each other in a kinder way, realizing it’s in our own best self-interests to have a world where people are healthy, happy, well-educated and able to provide for their families. That’s the promise of socialism. Is it going to be hard to get there from here? Certainly. Should we stop trying just because it’s hard? I don’t think so.

If you’re interested in reading more about the Pink Panther gang, check out the work of David Samuels.


Profiles of Fake ALP-Promoting Astroturf Twitter Accounts

Profiles of Fake ALP-Promoting Astroturf Twitter Accounts

Grant Vandersee (@gvandersee) tweeted today about a series of fake Twitter accounts that appear to be sending the same pro-ALP message.

So there are fake accounts tweeting pro-#ALP messages. Trust #Labor to cheat & sneak around. #ausvotes

— Grant Vandersee (@gvandersee) August 19, 2013


I dove into some of these accounts and they are pretty interesting.

The first account to send out this tweet about #Jess_Rudd seems to have been @Kenneth_Ha_9123, with the tweet going out at 5:32pm, 18 Aug 13 via Mobile Web (M2).

This account is 33 days old, has only made 22 tweets (mostly nonsensical, randomly generated), has 150 followers (the majority of whom are also fake accounts), and is following 200, mostly authentic, accounts.

About 30 minutes later, at 6:05pm, @Doreatha_polski tweeted the exact same message, also from Mobile Web (M2). Interestingly, this account claims to be from the USA.

fake twitter ALPThis account is 135 days old, again full of randomly generated nonsense tweets and re-tweets, has 152 mostly fake followers, and is following 203 mostly authentic followers. 

About 30 minutes later, at 6:51pm, the account @5p5Odom sent the exact same tweet, also from Mobile Web (M2). This account claims to be from “Burnside borough, PA, USA”, has 153 fake followers, is following 208 and has made 29 random tweets since the account was created 105 days ago.

At 8:31pm, from Mobile Web (M2), @meghankwonm217 sent the same tweet. This account is also purportedly from the USA and has the same fake statistics and tweets.
So far, over the last 20 hours, there have been 14 such messages. Hardly enough to have much of an impact on anything. So who is sending them… and why?

Mobile Web (M2) would seem to be this SMS marketing outfit. They promote themselves as “the exclusive provider and deployment platform of text messaging for our partner M2 Systems. We are taking the mobile industry to a new level of marketing strategies for the booming handheld lifestyle.”

Has the ALP done a deal with Mobile Web M2 to run  an astroturfing persona management for the campaign? Is this just the tip of the iceberg?

And if the ALP is using persona management to try to influence the outcome of the election, what are the Liberals up to?

It reminds me of a book I’m nearly finished reading – Kill Decision by Daniel Suarez. It’s the story of drone warfare extrapolated to its obvious conclusion. Pretty terrifying stuff (and a great read).

Help Us Launch A Godless Congregation in Brisbane

Help Us Launch A Godless Congregation in Brisbane

As I posted back in May, Chrissy and I are keen to get a Sunday Assembly up and running in Brisbane.

If you haven’t heard of Sunday Assembly yet, here’s the official description from their website:

The Sunday Assembly is a godless congregation that meets on the first Sunday of every month to hear great talks, sing songs and generally celebrate the wonder of life. It’s a service for anyone who wants to live better, help often and wonder more.

Watch this video about Sunday Assembly in Melbourne, recently shown on Channel Ten’s “The Project”, or this video by the founders of SA, Pippa Evans and Sanderson Jones:

So we’ve now got a half dozen people on our organising committee and we’re having regular meetings on Sunday evenings at 5pm, meeting at Archive Books in the city (thanks to Hamish and Dawn!). We’ve also got a Facebook group for updates. We are also taking registrations for our first event which is going to be (hopefully) held in November to coincide with a global tour by Pippa and Sanderson. If you’re interested in attending a fun event and hanging out with other secular people who want to live better, help often and wonder more, then register for the first Sunday Assembly Brisbane event here. And do think about coming along to one of our Sunday afternoon meetups if you want to learn more and help us get this thing off the ground!