The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'schadenfreude'
Silvio Berlusconi's return to government suffered a setback yesterday when the former sultan of Italy was found guilty of paying for sex with an underaged prostitute and using his office to cover it up. The latter charge relates to an incident when the prostitute in question, Karima el-Mahroug or “Ruby the heart-stealer”, was arrested for theft, and Berlusconi called Milan's chief of police to get her off, saying that she was the daughter of the President of Egypt, and charging her with theft would have caused an international diplomatic incident. Berlusconi was sentenced to seven years in prison (which he will not serve, as Italy does not jail those aged over 70) and banned for life from holding public office. Berlusconi maintains his innocence, claiming (a) that he gave el-Mahroug money out of the goodness of his heart to get her off the streets, (b) that he sincerely believed that she was Hosni Mubarak's daughter (presumably reduced to theft and prostitution on the streets of Milan for some reason), and (c) that the charges were the result of an ongoing Communist conspiracy to destroy him and Italy.
The typical thing for il cavaliere, as he is known, to do would have been to get his allies in parliament to table a law retroactively legalising bunga-bunga parties, dropping the age of consent for prostitutes and changing the technical definitions of corruption in a way that would not apply to acting prime ministers; his party, the right-wing-populist People Of Liberty (PdL), is part of the governing coalition, and could in theory threaten to bring down the government if such a bill is not passed. Now, though, that may be harder to pull off, as the other parties are vehemently opposed to Berlusconi and everything that he stands for, and the accompanying assumption of such a tactic—that after a snap election, PdL would be better poised to govern in its own right or choose more pliant coalition partners to share power and its benefits with—might not stand if its leader is a convicted criminal.
The worst may be yet to come for Berlusconi, though; by the end of the year, Italy's supreme court will issue the final ruling in a tax fraud case concerning him.
A day after the death of an elderly, long-retired Margaret Thatcher, the reactions in Britain have been varied. The national news media have generally been lavish in their hagiography, at most conceding that Thatcher “polarised opinion” or was “controversial”; the implication being that all sides, from the yuppies whom made out like bandits during the Big Bang to the miners who were kicked in the teeth, had, over time, put their differences aside. (The BBC has been particularly fawning, careful to avoid giving a voice to anyone who may say anything remotely critical, or in any way shatter the illusion that the PM who smashed the miners' unions, immiserated the North and began the dismantling of the post-WW2 social contract may well have been a much loved and thoroughly apolitical member of the Royal Family. Between that and their silence on the privatisation of the NHS, one suspects that they are betting that, maybe if they cooperate enthusiastically, the Tories won't dismember them and sell the bits off to Rupert Murdoch before the next election.) Even the Guardian, whilst publishing a mildly condemnatory editorial, hedged its bets, as not to offend those of its readers who vote Conservative (and presumably there are some). Regional newspapers have been somewhat less equivocal, especially those in places like Sheffield, Newcastle and Wales. Meanwhile, television schedules have been cleared to make room for turgid memorial programming.
Last night, after her death was announced, spontaneous celebrations did erupt in parts of Britain; as of yesterday afternoon, the centre of Liverpool reportedly looked “like bonfire night on Endor”, and other celebrations took place in Glasgow, Bristol, Brixton and Republican areas of Northern Ireland. Elsewhere, the manager of an Oddbins was suspended after announcing a special on champagne “in case anyone wanted to celebrate for any reason”.
Other than that, there have been few signs of public jubilation in London; no red bunting bedecking streets, no spontaneous street parties around portable stereos blaring out Billy Bragg songs, no jubilant signs in windows, not even an uncanny sense of euphoria in the air. And, when one thinks about it, it's hardly surprising, as there's precious little to celebrate. An old, frail woman, whose actions caused considerable suffering for many (and, for a few, great fortune) a quarter-century ago, died at an advanced age, amidst luxury; and, short of being borne to Valhalla on the wings of valkyries, there could scarcely be a more victorious way to exit life. If she was aware of anything in her last days, it would have been of the triumph of her views and the utter vanquishment of all opposition. The welfare state has been dismantled to an extent she dared not imagine, trade unions are all but extinct, and neo-Thatcherism is the backbone of all admissible political parties. Other than there still being homosexuals and trains in Britain, there could have been little to disappoint her. Thatcher may be dead, but Thatcherism is stronger than ever. If anyone has reason to be popping the corks on those bottles of champagne, it would be the Conservative Party faithful and perhaps the Blairite wing of Labour, paying tribute to the end of a triumphant life.
While she may have been victorious, that is not to say that her victory was accepted. Perhaps telling are official shows of respect which were not called for, in case lack of observance says too much. For instance, football matches will not be observing a minute's silence. There will also be no state funeral, which would have required both a parliamentary vote (and the spectacle of Labour backbenchers defying the whip and Sinn Fein members being ejected from the chamber would have been somewhat insalubrious) and a national minute's silence. The funeral itself will be one step short of a state funeral, and the first Prime Minister's funeral attended by the Queen since Churchill's state funeral; it will be held next Wednesday, with central London under lockdown and a heavy police presence; one imagines that Thatcher wouldn't have wanted it any other way.
Finally, at the time of writing, Judy Garland is enjoying an uncanny career resurgence in the British pop charts; Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead is at number 2 on the iTunes chart and number 1 on the Amazon MP3 chart. Yay for slacktivism!
America's progressives are celebrating, and the rest of the world breathing a collective sigh of relief, as Barack Obama retains the presidency. Obama beat off a challenge from a radicalised Republican Party, so drunk on rage, xenophobia and the heady vapours of Fox News' propaganda that at one point they made whether one is for or against rape into a political litmus test issue. The Republicans, taken over largely by angry old white men fearful of their country being taken over by people unlike them, fielded an entire circus of freakishly hardline candidates (whom they referred to, in what could only be euphemism, as “conservatives”) before settling on Mitt Romney, a billionaire corporate raider of exceptional moral flexibility, whose talents enabled him to repudiate his formerly moderate views and set his guns on Obama's health care law, despite having created the state law which inspired it. In the end, Romney failed to inspire, and so the lesser evil won. To be fair, Obama the lesser evil by a sizeable margin, though in a two-party state as big as the US, there is no way he could be anything but the lesser evil by definition.
And a few more interesting odds and ends about the election and its aftermath:
- Time Magazine has a piece on the Obama campaign's impressive data-mining operation; it seems that everything, from fundraising to campaign advertising, was instrumented, measured and tested and had the hell analysed out of it, almost as if it were a Google product.
- How the Republicans blinded themselves to what was actually happening by virtue of smoking the heady opiates of conspiracy theory and self-delusion:
Before rank-and-file conservatives ask, "What went wrong?", they should ask themselves a question every bit as important: "Why were we the last to realize that things were going wrong for us?"
In conservative fantasy-land, Richard Nixon was a champion of ideological conservatism, tax cuts are the only way to raise revenue, adding neoconservatives to a foreign-policy team reassures American voters, Benghazi was a winning campaign issue, Clint Eastwood's convention speech was a brilliant triumph, and Obama's America is a place where black kids can beat up white kids with impunity. Most conservative pundits know better than this nonsense -- not that they speak up against it. They see criticizing their own side as a sign of disloyalty. I see a coalition that has lost all perspective, partly because there's no cost to broadcasting or publishing inane bullshit. In fact, it's often very profitable. A lot of cynical people have gotten rich broadcasting and publishing red meat for movement conservative consumption.I wonder whether the Republicans will engage with mainstream reality more, or whether they'll reach for the comforting crystal meth of Fox News to help pick themselves up.
- And the fallout from the US Right continues: Donald Trump calls for a revolution and others call for a third party to arise, obviously not having thought that hard about the brutally unforgiving mathematics of a first-past-the-post electoral system.
- Obama's victory has also been a victory for progressive politics in the US: Four states voted to legalise gay marriage, and Wisconsin elected the US's first openly lesbian senator. Meanwhile, Colorado voted to legalise recreational marijuana consumption. Not medical marijuana with its inherent rationalisations, but smoking pot to get high. Of course, the federal government is likely to smack this down, and it'll probably go through the courts for some time, but it could be a big crack in the War On Drugs. On the flipside, the two Republican senatorial candidates who spoke out in favour of rape were soundly defeated, hopefully burying that particular unpleasant lunacy once and for all.
- Speaking of the courts, one of the side-effects of Obama's win is that the task of appointing at least one Supreme Court justice, and possibly as many as three, is likely to fall to him, meaning that the Supreme Court may well shift in a more progressive direction.
- Had America's Muslims voted as they did in 2000, Romney would have won; I wonder what happened...
- And then there's that teenage girl in Georgia who, if Obama won, threatened to move to Australia, which has a Christian president (sort of like the Mormon Mitt Romney and unlike the Christian Barack Obama then?). To be fair, one can forgive a teenager in Georgia for not knowing that Tony Abbott's title is “PM-in-waiting”.
Website of the day: Is Margaret Thatcher Dead Yet?. Arguably in rather poor taste, rather like, say, the "Gotcha!" headline upon the sinking of the Belgrano.
A few years ago, New Labour offered Thatcher the first state funeral for a PM since Winston Churchill, as if to further underscore their non-socialist credentials. Meanwhile, anarchists and socialists of various stripes have, for some years, been planning a massive party in Trafalgar Square on the Saturday after her death. I imagine the police are aware of this and have made plans to deal with it.
I can see why people whose communities were impoverished, as if in a campaign of collective punishment for having supported Labour, by the somewhat callous way Thatcher presided over the economic readjustments might rejoice in her passing. though, given that Britain is facing the most severe economic cuts since 1918, I imagine their celebrations will be somewhat muted.
Wikipedia link of the day: Spite houses, or where malice and architecture intersect:
A spite house is a building (generally found in an urban environment) which was constructed or modified because the builder felt wronged by someone who did not want it there. Typically built to annoy someone, in most cases a neighbor, these buildings serve primarily as obstructions, blocking out light or access to neighboring buildings, or as flamboyant symbols of defiance. Because actually inhabiting such structures is usually a secondary goal at most, they often have strange and impractical layouts.
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Not that long ago, the Hummer was king of America's roads; a ex-military truck, chromed for the consumer and with all the aggressive ugliness of a pit bull, it soon became synonymous with a certain form of all-American assholery, a combination of machismo, belligerence and callous indifference worn like armour. Then the price of oil went up, and the dealers' yards started filling up with unsellable Hummers. And then General Motors filed for bankruptcy protection, and decided to sell off a number of marques to raise some desperately needed money to keep the wolf from the door. A construction equipment manufacturer in China (that's Communist China, by the way, not Taiwan) was found who was willing to buy the brand and start making Hummers. Joe Sixpack and NASCAR Dad could rest assured that they would still be able to buy a Hummer, though in future, this icon of all-American triumphalism would be made in China, like a cheap Wal-Mart DVD player.
Now, it trns out that the Chinese government's planning agency has blocked the takeover of the Hummer brand, on environmental grounds.
Now that's got to hurt.
The Guardian invite people to put questions to alternative health product chain (or perhaps "snake oil peddlers") Neal's Yard Remedies, and get more than they probably bargained for:
"Influenza Ainsworth Homoeopathic Remedy": Your website sells this product. What evidence do you have that this product is of any benefit whatsoever? Did you know people die of flu?
Does your part in the MMR scare make you feel guilty? Do you feel bad when you think of the children who have suffered measles and possibly even had brain damage or died because of the scare which you promote?
Could you please explain how the 'correct homoeopathic remedy' is decided on and describe the qualifications of the people who make these decisions?
I'd also be grateful for a biological definition of 'healing energy' and an indication of where I can find the scientific evidence for its existence.
Finally, would Neal's Yard like to dispute the claim that they are using "sciencey" language in the wrong context to provide a smokescreen of credibility and, some would say unethically, lure people into purchasing "medicines" which are known by the company to be ineffective?
What is the ethical difference betweenThree pages into this, The Graun's moderator chimes in, announcing that Neal's Yard Remedies have decided that they won't be participating in this discussion. (They didn't give a reason; I'm guessing that all those peer-reviewed double-blind tests validating homeopathy are proving harder to track down than they anticipated.) Anyway, in lieu of their reply, here is a transcript of an 2008 interview with their "Medicines Director" Susan Curtis, arguing that their homeopathic "anti-malaria medicine" is legitimate despite the lack of any clinical tests.
a) company x selling "remedies" for which it has no empirical evidence of efficiency, and can lead to the death of adherents in extreme cases, and excusing it with anecdotal evidence from its customers, and
b) company y selling tobacco products, which can lead to severe health problems, challenging any empirical evidence of harm, and justifying its self on the basis of the enjoyment of its customers?
The Buffalo Beast has published its annual list of the 50 most loathsome people in America; the 2008 list, whilst undoubtedly going over the heads of many non-Americans in places (I didn't get some of the references), has nuggets of righteous vitriol:
20. Joe the Plumber
Charges: The Che Guevara of bald, pissed off white men. In a lot of ways, Samuel Wurzelbacher really does represent the average American—basing economic opinions on unrealistic expectations of personal future success, blaming his failure to meet those expectations on minorities and old people, complaining about deadbeats getting his taxes when he isn’t actually paying his taxes, and advertising his own rudimentary historical and mathematical ignorance by warning of creeping socialism in a country whose highest income tax rate has dropped by half in thirty years. “Joe” indeed symbolizes the true American dream—to become undeservedly rich and famous through a dizzyingly improbable stroke of luck. As American folk heroes go, Wurzelbacher ranks somewhere between Hulk Hogan and Bernie Goetz.
10. Bernard Madoff
Charges: Normally, the idea of a bunch of billionaires getting robbed blind for believing in a free lunch would amuse the hell out of us, but Bernie Madoff stole a lot of money from charity endowments, and is responsible for two suicides so far. Here’s a tip, Bernie: If you’re running the biggest scam since the Catholic church, handling billions of dollars, and all it takes to get busted is that some of your marks ask for their money back, you really should take some of that money and set up an escape plan. Still, he gets some credit for making Mort Zuckerman look like a jackass. The real villains here are Christopher Cox and the SEC, who investigated Madoff eight times, the last time specifically on suspicion of running a Ponzi scheme, each time “finding” no wrongdoing, which begs the all-too-familiar question of the last eight years: Satanically corrupt or grossly incompetent? Either way, Madoff was finally brought to justice… by his kids.
1. Sarah Palin
Charges: If you want to know why the rest of the world is scared of Americans, consider the fact that after two terms of disastrous rule by a small-minded ignoramus, 46% of us apparently thought the problem was that he wasn’t quite stupid enough. Palin’s unending emissions of baffling, evasive incoherence should have disqualified her for any position that involved a desk, let alone placing her one erratic heartbeat from the presidency. The press strained mightily to feign respect for her, praising a debate performance that involved no debate, calling her a “great speaker” when her only speech was primarily a litany of insults to city-dwellers, echoing bogus sexism charges when a male Palin would have been boiled alive for the Couric interview alone, and lionizing her as she used her baby as a Pro-life stage prop before crowds who cooed when they should have been hurling polonium-tipped javelins. In the end, Palin had the beneficial effect of splitting her party between her admirers and people who can read.
(via Boing Boing) ¶ 0
The latest TV show planned for US cable network FOX has the working title of Smile, You're Under Arrest, and involves wanted criminals being tricked into elaborate fantasy scenarios, at the end of which they are arrested:
One of three set-ups just shot in Arizona features the cops luring a criminal to a movie set with the promise of making him an extra and paying him a couple hundred dollars. An elaborate film set is staged and filming begins on a faux movie. The set-up continues as the director then gets mad at the lead actor, fires him and replaces him with the law-breaking extra.
The scene escalates with the fake director introducing the mark to a supposed studio mogul and continuing to create this dream-comes-true sequence. Finally, all the participants are revealed as officers of the law, and the criminal is apprehended (before signing waivers to let the footage be used in the show).
“If it were a regular person you’d feel bad for them, but they are all wanted by the law,” Darnell says. “It’s Cops as comedy and no one’s ever tried it before.”How did FOX manage to get a police department to divert resources to such a programme? Well, the department involved is the Maricopa County Sherriff's Office, run by Sherriff Joe Arpaio, whose spectacularly harsh treatment of offenders has made him the darling of America's more brutally-minded. And now FOX, who are no strangers to brutality, are going to make him more of a star. Perhaps watching Jack Bauer torture Arabs doesn't do it any more or something.
I half-wonder whether this is part of a strategy leading up to Arpaio getting on the Republican Presidential ticket for 2012. There were rumours that FOX was going to buff Sarah Palin's image by giving her a national TV talk show, though if she looks too much like damaged goods, they could want another conservative firebrand who appeals to the culture-war conservatives.
(via Boing Boing) ¶ 1
A 21-year-old Australian call centre employee is facing unspecified disciplinary action after taking sick leave and bragging on Facebook that he was absconding from work due to a hangover. Kyle Doyle's undoing seems to have been that, at some earlier time, he had added his boss to his friends list, which suggests that he might not have been the sharpest knife in the drawer; if you're looking for a partner to pull off the perfect crime with, he's probably not your man.
Heaping irony on top of stupidity, the snapshot of his profile that is circulating with the damning admission lists him as a supporter of the "Liberal Party of Australia", the right-wing party which introduced harsh industrial relations laws which, among other things, allow employers to demand medical certificates for as little as one day of sick leave.
In the wake of Starbucks' Napoleonically epic retreat from Australia, The (Melbourne) Age has a piece on Melbourne's indomitable coffee culture, which apparently goes back long before mass Italian immigration in the 1950s and the resulting espresso boom:
In his entries on coffee and coffee palaces in the Encyclopedia of Melbourne, [historian Andrew Brown-May] retells the beginnings of Melbourne's coffee culture, traced back to the street stalls of the 1850s that offered caffeine hits to rushed city workers, then re-emerging as continental coffee houses in the interwar years of the 1920s and 1930s.
By the 1950s, the influx of Italian migrants had helped redefine coffee for Melbourne once again, serving it up in espresso cups instead of percolators. Yet two of the key proponents of the espresso bar were father and son team Harry and Peter Bancroft, Anglo-Australians who in 1953 secured the rights to manufacture Gaggia coffee machines and set up a cafe in St Kilda.I didn't know that they actually made Gaggia machines in Australia. You learn something new every day.
The article then points out that narratives framing the vanquishment of Starbucks in simple plucky-Aussies-vs.-Yankee-imperialists terms aren't entirely accurate; rather, it's a case of Starbucks sowing the seeds of their own defeat by not acknowledging that the café-culture experience they were trading on is essentially one of differentiation from the mainstream, and that a Starbucks in every suburban shopping mall destroyed a lot of the cachet behind the brand; it's the "nobody goes there anymore; it's too crowded" phenomenon that poisons cultural trends (from musical genres to fashions—think the trucker hat, the "Hoxton fin" haircut, or anything labelled "indie" in the UK) as soon as they become successful.
Writing in The Christian Science Monitor, Temple University historian Bryant Smith argues that when Starbucks began, it offered Americans an entree into a status-filled world with is own language of ventis, grandes, Tazo teas and special-blend coffees, all stamped with the company's distinctive green logo.
But by becoming too common — Starbucks first opened in Australia in 2000 and expanded to 84 stores in eight years — the company "violated the economic principles of cultural scarcity", Smith says.One cause, of course, doesn't exclude the others. Starbucks never became the all-conquering juggernaut in Australia it became elsewhere, due to the sophisticated local coffee culture, and while its recent misfortune has been global, it would have hit particularly hard in a relatively inhospitable market such as Australia.
Multinational coffee chain Starbucks have announced that they will close 61 our of their 85 Australian outlets. That's just under 72%.
What surprises me is that they had 85 outlets in Australia in the first place. Thanks to large-scale Italian immigration in the 1950s and 1960s, Australia has very high standards for what constitutes a good cup of coffee. The inner cities of Australia are full of cafés with espresso machines and baristas who know how to use them well, to the point where cafés in the UK advertise their staff's Australian training, and the locals' expectations of coffee is at a level well above Starbucks' ability to compete, even with their resources.
Who could possibly have patronised all those Starbucks outlets? Surely there wouldn't have been enough risk-averse American businessmen passing through to justify 85 of them.
Corporate coffee chain Starbucks isn't doing too well; they've had to close 600 stores in the US, in less than favourable circumstances. (Favourable circumstances for Starbucks being closing the 2nd and 3rd stores they opened on a block and ran at a loss after the last independent café nearby went out of business.) Unsurprisingly, some coffee fans are over the moon:
New York Web designer Zachary Thacher, who favors Greenwich Village's cafes, said he avoids Starbucks. "They've commoditized cafe culture, which is why I don't go," he said.
The company that began as innovative is now known for consistency and convenience, [another commentator] said. "To me, that's a huge step down," she said. "You've built your franchise on people who are coming in because they know exactly what they want."Starbucks still has their defenders, mostly on the grounds that they're convenient and consistent.
There's bad news for the Westboro Baptist Church, a religious organisation whose central principle appears to be hatred of homosexuals and of anybody who doesn't hate them; they've been hit with a US$10.9m fine for picketing the funerals of soldiers (on the grounds that their deaths are divine punishment for America being too corrupt to put homosexuals to death).
Albert Snyder's attorney, Craig Trebilcock, had urged jurors to agree an amount "that says 'Don't do this' in Maryland again. Do not bring your circus of hate to Maryland again".
Defence attorney Jonathan Katz's argument that the $2.9m in compensatory damages already far exceeded the defendants' net worth and would be enough to "bankrupt them and financially destroy them" was ignored.Couldn't happen to a nicer guy...
Arizona sherriff Joe Arpaio, who has won acclaim from law-and-order types and opprobrium from liberals by keeping prisoners in harsh conditions, is now bidding to add heiress, serial unlicensed hazardous driver and all-round waste of oxygen Paris Hilton to his chain gang:
"Instead of reducing for her sentence, which I feel is wrong, why not bring her over here? We can incarcerate her here. She can do her time over here."
Female inmates who are put on the chain gang work outside seven hours a day from early morning, six days a week in the desert surrounds.
The inmates wear traditional black-and-white striped uniforms and perform such tasks as creating fire breaks, removing trash, and even burial duty for vagrants.
Critics have condemned these housings, which can get blisteringly hot, as violations of human and constitutional rights.Apparently the Los Angeles County Sherriff, who is responsible for the incarceration of those sentenced to prison in LA, is considering the offer.
Leo Stoller, self-styled "intellectual property entrepreneur", revolutionised the monetisation of trademarks a few years ago. He did this by registering a large number of words, including "Stealth", "Sentra", and (perhaps appropriately) "Chutzpah", as trademarks and then aggressively going after anyone in any field using them, often extracting substantial settlements. Unfortunately for him, the bonanza came to an end when defendants began fighting back and losing lawsuits, and judges started invalidating his patents. Even worse for him, when he tried to declare bankruptcy, a judge ordered the liquidation of all his assets, and found that his personal and corporate assets were one and the same. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy...
(via Boing Boing) ¶ 5
America's love affair with the Hummer, the oversized, aggressively ugly SUV that has become synonymous with everything from macho triumphalism to crass consumerism, may be over. Thanks to rising petrol prices, dealerships are finding themselves with a glut of unsold Hummers. Of course, they can't just keep them near the showrooms, because that would scare potential buyers away, so they drive them to vast parking lots, not unlike the graveyards of B-52 bombers in the desert. I wonder if they're visible from satellite photographs?
Apparently the thrill of driving Hummers back and forth between the remote storage lot and the dealer showroom wears off quickly, as each round trip requires that another five gallons of fuel be dispensed in order to ensure a complete round trip.
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Russia's biggest spammer found battered to death in his Moscow apartment. Insert repurposed jokes about disliked professions here.
For your daily dose of socially-approvable schadenfreude: bait car videos; video/sound recordings from specially wired "bait cars" left by Canadian police to trap car thieves. Watch the perps squeal like bitches over the movie-hip soundtrack coming from the stereo. (Which makes one wonder whether the cops pre-supply the cars with Franz Ferdinand CDs.)
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Panzerfaust Records, one of the largest record companies in the neo-Nazi "white power" music scene, appears to have gone out of business after one of the owners accused the other of being half-Hispanic:
As a result, and Pierpont's refusal to take a DNA test, Calvert wrote last month that he would quit the company and so would its webmaster. The center reports that influential hate groups Hammerskin Nation and Volksfront also denounced Pierpont.
The Free Your Mind site said that any business done with Pierpont should be considered "an act of treason."
An article looking at seven sentiments most people won't admit to having, and feel embarrassed at even thinking about; and these are not any stereotypically Freudian sexual kinks either. They are: feeling uncomfortable around physically disabled people, publicly expressing grief for people one didn't care about in life/"Harolding" at funerals, schadenfreude, playing favourites with one's children, judging people by their wealth, feeling relieved when someone in chronic pain dies, and having sexual fantasies about people other than their partner.
Why jump on the bandwagon, when the bandwagon is a hearse? There are self-serving reasons: Evolutionary psychologists argue that the public expression of grief boosts your reputation as a trustworthy member of the community.
Sudden tragic death can inspire emotional rubbernecking in anyone. (How many of us have boasted about near misses--say, driving through an intersection five minutes before a fatal crash?) A national catastrophe such as September 11 brings this behavior out of the woodwork. That fall, people felt compelled to disclose that they had friends of friends of friends in the World Trade Center. New Yorkers morbidly compared notes: How close were you? What did you see? Who did you know? (In this creepy social gambit, the "winner" is the person most directly affected by the attack.) The same calculus was at work in other states or countries, where the comparison was not what you saw firsthand but who you knew in New York City or Washington, D.C.
Disgraced right-wing politician and larrikin-wowser hybrid Pauline Hanson will need protection in prison, as the large Aboriginal populations behind bars hadn't forgotten her anti-Aboriginal rhetoric, a Democrat senator has said.
And while we're on the subject of the lovely people in the entertainment industry, media/sewage conglomerate Vivendi Universal is looking rather fucked these days. And Universal Music head thug and former CEO Edgar Bronfman Jr. is probably kicking himself for letting it happen. Of course, given Bronfman's record as one of the most rabid hardliners in the War On Fair Use, I can't say I feel sorry for him.
(Though even if his corporate career is washed up, he could always take up songwriting again. It worked for another hard-nosed businessman.)
Oh, and you can find more schadenfreude here.