Conviction

As an experiment, two mornings in a row this week, I got up early, turned on the television in my apartment, and flipped through every news show on air. (Well, every show except one; I couldn’t bring myself to watch “Fox & Friends” lest I bump into Sarah Palin.) Almost every channel was covering Charlie Sheen. Each show was either interviewing Sheen, or talking to someone who had recently interviewed Sheen, or discussing Sheen with a medical or Hollywood expert.

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Presumed Guilty

A few weeks ago, I posted a "Nightline" segment featuring an interview with John Jackson, the prosecutor in the death penalty case of Cameron Todd Willingham. Willingham, who was almost certainly innocent, was nonetheless found guilty and executed by the state of Texas in 2004. The basis for the conviction was evidence given by arson investigators that was subsequently shown to be entirely unscientific.

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The Restless Medium

Why Photography Matters as Art as Never Before By Michael Fried (Yale University Press, 409 pp., $55) I. Michael Fried,who shot to intellectual stardom in 1967 with an essay in Artforum called "Art and Objecthood," is an intimidating writer. He looks very closely. He has passionate feelings about what he sees. And he shapes his impressions into a theory that fits snugly with all the other theories he has ever had. Whatever his chosen subject--Diderot, Courbet, Manet, Kenneth Noland--he comes up with an interpretation that is as smoothly and tightly constructed as a stainless-steel box.

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Unsurprisingly, the cinematic community has come out in strong support of Roman Polanski, typically invoking--like the French culture minister before them--his status as a great artist as if it granted him some form of legal immunity.

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Trouble in Beantown

A month-old labor dispute in Boston has taken a curious twist. It began when on August 31, a hundred housekeepers at three Hyatt hotels in Boston were fired and replaced by workers from a Georgia company, Hospitality Staffing Solutions. The housekeepers, some of whom had worked for Hyatt for over twenty years, were making between $14 and $16 an hour plus health, dental, and 401(k) benefits. Their replacements were to make $8 an hour with no health benefits.

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From a Richmond Times-Dispatch article on the controversy over a local strip club owner's decision to hang one of those Obama-as-the-joker banners on the side of his building: Moore's club is awaiting a Nov. 9-10 state Alcoholic Beverage Control hearing on alleged violations.

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William Safire, pungent pundit of pugnacity, impish impresario of impudence, limpid lookout for lexicography, knew his p.r. Just shy of his 30th birthday, in 1959, he gave a huge boost to one of his clients, the Florida manufacturer of a model home on exhibit at a Moscow trade fair, when he contrived to usher Richard Nixon and Nikita Khrushchev into the kitchen showroom.

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The Bloodlust State

For any who were not adequately shaken by David Grann's masterful article "Trial by Fire," about a man put to death by the state of Texas for a crime he almost certainly did not commit, Ta-Nehisi Coates points to a Salon article by Alan Berlow that simply beggars belief: If anyone had any doubt that the Texas justice system operates in a parallel universe, look no further than the latest decision by the state's highest court in the case of death-row inmate Charles Dean Hood.

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I am loathe to think that one solution to the problem of the credibility of bankers and the banking system is prison. Yes, I know Bernie Madoff is in prison and there are a few more Ponzi schemers who will join him there.

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The New York Post and Reuters both report not exactly that Bernie Madoff has cancer. But that he's told his fellow inmates that he has cancer, pancreatic cancer, at that. Which means that, if the tale is true, he'll be a goner soon, very soon. Unless there's a medical miracle, as sometimes there is even in such terrible afflictions of the pancreas. Now, a federal judge has sentenced Madoff to 150 years in federal prison, a sentence--as is obvious--he cannot possibly serve. So the master Ponzi schemer is now in the hands of the president as top man in the federal penal system.

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