Sitcoms’ secret sauce

The Sitcom Code breaks down what needs to happen in each episode, by the minute. As Dan Richter of Demand Media notes, “Sitcoms, minus commercials, are typically 22 minutes long [with] a script of 25-40 pages. Every sitcom episode has a main plot (story A), as well as one or two subplots (stories B and C).”  There are three main acts, divided by two commercial breaks (in most American TV), with 3-5 scenes per act. One of the distinguishing characteristics of sitcoms, as opposed to other forms of television, is that the main protagonist(s) barely change from one episode to the next, let alone from season to season (Maggie Simpson has been sucking on a pacifier for nearly thirty years). Therefore whatever happens in the episode, the situation must end largely where it began. [link]

Naval officer involved in violent racist attack, goes scott free

A naval officer launches a sneak attack on a Sikh taxi driver, punching him in the head through the glass of the car window and then hitting him in the face repeatedly when he got out to complain. According to the victim, the assailant is still on duty, without any consequences. The officer’s official justification? Racism.

Blackwell told the investigating officer that he was “‘in fear of my life because he [Singh] looked Middle Eastern, possibly from Iraq or Afghanistan,'” the complaint states. “Blackwell added: ‘And since I was in my Navy dress blues, I thought he was possibly a Muslim extremist and wasn’t sure what he was capable of. As he got closer to me, I gave him a couple of jabs and hit him in the mouth.’ [link]

Tortured justifications

Gronke, Rejali and Miller argue that Americans do not support torture, that it is a mistake to lump together the sometimes support with the strongly support, and that our belief that Americans support torture is actually responsible for the use of torture by America

Our analysis, which is summarized in our 2010 paper, is that the American political and media elite badly overestimated public support for torture, especially in the early years of the war on terror and after the publicized events at Abu Ghraib. In this piece, we argued that the political and media elite came to false consensus. This is a coping mechanism long known to psychologists whereby we project our views onto others….

when Americans are asked about specific techniques thatSenator John McCain says have “dubious efficacy” and “risk our national honor,” public support is far lower. A table from our 2010 paper, reproduced below, shows that 81 percent oppose electric shock, 58 percent to 81 percent oppose waterboarding, and 84 percent to 89 percent oppose sexual humiliation, etc. [link]

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Current law allows for arrests to impose a burden greater than a conviction, or how young black men get killed for misdemeanor offenses

But under current law, when the police arrest someone based on nothing more than probable cause of a minor crime, they can treat the wrongdoer more severely than the punishment that would ordinarily be imposed by a court of law, even after a full trial. We believe that the New York Police Department violated current law when Officer Daniel Pantaleo placed Eric Garner in a chokehold. But under current rules of engagement, Garner’s saying “Don’t touch me” unquestionably authorized the police to initiate the use of force — non-lethal force, but still force — to subdue him.

That’s wrong. An arrest should not impose a burden greater than a conviction. When it does, the arrest amounts to police oppression. [link]