Alex Rodriguez appears at a news conference following the announcement of his suspension from Major League Baseball for 211 games. (John Gress/Reuters)
There was a time, believe it or not, when Alex Rodriguez was popular. Really, genuinely, popular. Granted, it wasn't recently -- you'd have to go back to the Clinton Administration -- but as a young shortstop for the Seattle Mariners in the late 1990s, A-Rod was considered one of the game's true bright lights.
It wasn't just because of his on-the-field accomplishments, though these were remarkable: In 1996, at an age (20) when most players were in college or the low minor leagues, Alex Rodriguez was already the best in the American League. But A-Rod, too, was a saint: a humble, decent (Christian, natch) young man who called his mom five times a week, avoided alcohol, and worshipped his veteran teammates. "A guy this sweet," wrote Gerry Callahan in a fawning profile of Rodriguez for Sports Illustrated that year, "must be hiding some cavities."
If only Callahan knew what was coming. Seventeen years later, this very same Alex Rodriguez is the most hated player in baseball.
How hated? His fellow players voted him as the "biggest phony" in the majors. His own boss, New York Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman, told the media that he should "shut the fuck up" after A-Rod tweeted his satisfaction at being medically cleared to play. (Cashman disagreed with this diagnosis). His own fans boo him mercilessly. And The New York Post, its finger forever on the city's pulse, summed up its feelings for Rodriguez with this headline:
A full account of the reasons behind A-Rod's unpopularity would require volumes, but here are the highlights. First was the contract -- 10 years for $250 million -- which Rodriguez signed with the Texas Rangers in early 2001. Then there was his colorful private life: the extra-marital affairs, the dalliance with Madonna ("she's my fucking soulmate dude"), the unfortunate photograph in Details magazine of Rodriguez kissing his own reflection in a mirror, and the better-left-unexplained "centaur painting."
For all of his off-field problems, there was one thing that couldn't be taken away from A-Rod: his accomplishments on the field. But then came his revelation in early 2009 that, as a member of the Texas Rangers earlier in the decade, he had used performance enhancing drugs (PEDs). Suddenly, his once-pristine playing career came under suspicion. A-Rod being a buffoonish, narcissistic philanderer? Fine, he's a famous athlete -- it's normal. But a cheater? That was too much. For in the morality play that is 21st century baseball, any number of crimes are tolerated -- but using drugs to improve one's play on the field is not one of them.
And so this week, Commissioner Bud Selig did what fans had wanted him to do for years: He threw the book at A-Rod. Rodriguez was one of 13 players suspended for his link to BioGenesis, a since-shuttered "anti-aging" clinic in south Florida that allegedly supplied athletes with PEDs. The other 12 players, each first-time offenders, were suspended for 50 games each, as per guidelines established in baseball's (unfortunately-named) Joint Drug Agreement. Rodriguez, on the other hand, was banned for 211 games -- enough to keep him out of action for the rest of this season and all of next.
Never mind that Rodriguez's suspension is more than twice as long as any other non-permanent ban in baseball history. Or that, in recent baseball history, any number of criminals, drunks, and scoundrels have avoided any punishment from the league. Or that Alex Rodriguez -- still -- has never failed a drug test, which is (in theory) the basis for suspending players under the JDA. Or that Major League Baseball's investigation of BioGenesis relies heavily on one witness -- clinic founder Tony Bosch -- who may be slightly less than reliable. Or that 211 games is an arbitrary total, dependent more on the whims of the league's game schedule than any sense of proportional punishment.
Rodriguez, alone among the BioGenesis 14 (counting Ryan Braun, banned for 64 games last month), has chosen to appeal his suspension. In the coming days, then, Selig and Major League Baseball will reveal, precisely, what merited the 211 game suspension. It may be that the league has incontrovertible evidence that Rodriguez' sins were grave enough -- he is alleged to have tried to obtain and destroy evidence, a claim A-Rod denies -- that an ordinary 50-game suspension would be insufficient. Or, possibly, an arbitrator will determine that Rodriguez should be regarded as just another player who made an error in judgment, rather than a pariah deserving of harsher punishment.
Either way, it's hard to escape the sense that the Alex Rodriguez suspension was Bud Selig at his worst -- tackling the steroid problem by going after a player who had basically run out of defenders. Not that I, or anyone else, should feel sorry for him. Alex Rodriguez has lived a charmed life. Through his career, he has earned more than $350 million in salary (plus more in endorsements), dated Hollywood stars like Cameron Diaz and Kate Hudson, and won a World Series -- all the while playing a children's game for a living. He's hardly a sympathetic character. But that doesn't mean that he deserves special opprobrium -- cavities or not.
Joe Moran’s book Shrinking Violets is a sweeping history that doubles as a (quiet) defense of timidity.
The Heimlich maneuver, in the nearly 50 years since Dr. Henry Heimlich established its protocol, has been credited with saving many lives. But not, perhaps, as many as it might have. The maneuver, otherwise so wonderfully simple to execute, has a marked flaw: It requires that choking victims, before anything can be done to help them, first alert other people to the fact that they are choking. And some people, it turns out, are extremely reluctant to do so. “Sometimes,” Dr. Heimlich noted, bemoaning how easily human nature can become a threat to human life, “a victim of choking becomes embarrassed by his predicament and succeeds in getting up and leaving the area unnoticed.” If no one happens upon him, “he will die or suffer permanent brain damage within seconds.”
Experts on Turkish politics say the use of that term misunderstands what it means in Turkey—and the ways that such allegations can be used to enable political repression.
Over the last week, the idea of a “deep state” in the United States has become a hot concept in American politics. The idea is not new, but a combination of leaks about President Trump and speculation that bureaucrats might try to slow-walk or undermine his agenda have given it fresh currency. A story in Friday’s New York Times, for example, reports, “As Leaks Multiply, Fears of a ‘Deep State’ in America.”
It’s an idea that I touched on in discussing the leaks. While there are various examples of activity that has been labeled as originating from a “deep state,” from Latin America to Egypt, the most prominent example is Turkey, where state institutions contain a core of diehard adherents to the secular nationalism of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, which is increasingly being eroded by the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Turkey has seen a series of coups, stretching back to 1960, as well as other activity attributed to a deep state.
“I’ve never seen anything quite like” Trump’s approach to national security, says a former counterterrorism adviser to three presidents.
Monday marks one week since the resignation of National-Security Adviser Michael Flynn—a full week in which the National Security Council has not had a permanent head. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump has made national security a centerpiece of his agenda, justifying policies ranging from a travel ban to close relations with Russia. But the United States is now more vulnerable to attack than it was before Trump took office, according to the man who served as George W. Bush’s crisis manager on 9/11.
“In terms of a major terrorist attack in the United States or on U.S. facilities, I think we’re significantly less ready than we were on January 19,” said Richard Clarke, who served on the National Security Council in the George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush administrations. “I think our readiness is extremely low and dangerously low. Certainly [government] agencies at a professional level will respond [to an attack], but having a coordinated interagency response is unlikely given the current cast of characters [in the administration] and their experience.”
Trump’s branding of the press as an "enemy" seems less an attempt to influence coverage than an invitation to repression and even violence.
At the dawn of a turbulent era in American history, an inexperienced but media-savvy President, early in his first term, was obsessing about negative press.
John F. Kennedy, who had grown accustomed to compliant coverage, was running up against the limits of his power to control the public narrative when neither the world nor the press would read from his script. Halfway around the globe, a small band of foreign correspondents were undercutting the White House with stories that showed the United States becoming more deeply involved (and less successfully) than the government acknowledged in what would become the Vietnam War.
Relations between the Saigon press corps and the United States Embassy had deteriorated into "a mutual standoff of cold fury and hot shouts––Liar! Traitor! Scoundrel! Fool!––with an American foreign policy teetering precariously in the void between," wrote William Prochnau in Once Upon a Distant War, an under-appreciated account of fraught relations between the government and the press.
Lip service to the crucial function of the Fourth Estate is not enough to sustain it.
It’s not that Mark Zuckerberg set out to dismantle the news business when he founded Facebook 13 years ago. Yet news organizations are perhaps the biggest casualty of the world Zuckerberg built.
There’s reason to believe things are going to get worse.
A sprawling new manifesto by Zuckerberg, published to Facebook on Thursday, should set off new alarm bells for journalists, and heighten news organizations’ sense of urgency about how they—and their industry—can survive in a Facebook-dominated world.
Facebook’s existing threat to journalism is well established. It is, at its core, about the flow of the advertising dollars that news organizations once counted on. In this way, Facebook’s role is a continuation of what began in 1995, when Craigslist was founded. Its founder, Craig Newmark, didn’t actively aim to decimate newspapers, but Craigslist still eviscerated a crucial revenue stream for print when people stopped buying newspaper classifieds ads.
The preconditions are present in the U.S. today. Here’s the playbook Donald Trump could use to set the country down a path toward illiberalism.
It’s 2021, and President Donald Trump will shortly be sworn in for his second term. The 45th president has visibly aged over the past four years. He rests heavily on his daughter Ivanka’s arm during his infrequent public appearances.
Fortunately for him, he did not need to campaign hard for reelection. His has been a popular presidency: Big tax cuts, big spending, and big deficits have worked their familiar expansive magic. Wages have grown strongly in the Trump years, especially for men without a college degree, even if rising inflation is beginning to bite into the gains. The president’s supporters credit his restrictive immigration policies and his TrumpWorks infrastructure program.
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People working in ministry, music, and nonprofit advocacy are facing pressure for their political beliefs.
Earlier this month, Jonathan Martin jotted off a sad tweet. “I’ve lost count of the number of people who say they’ve had ministry jobs threatened/been fired for speaking out in some way in this season,” the Christian author and speaker wrote. Confirmation rolled in: one story from a church planter in California, another from a former worship leader in Indiana. These are “not people who would historically self-identify as progressives, at all,” Martin told me later. They’re “people who see themselves as being very faithful evangelicals.”
Donald Trump has divided conservative Christian communities. Most white Christians support Trump, or at least voted for him. Some who have spoken out against his presidency or his policies, though, have encountered backlash. For a small group of people working in Christian ministry, music, and nonprofit advocacy, the consequences have been tangible: They’ve faced pressure from their employers, seen funds withdrawn from their mission work, or lost performing gigs because of their political beliefs.
When my wife was struck by mysterious, debilitating symptoms, our trip to the ER revealed the sexism inherent in emergency treatment.
Early on a Wednesday morning, I heard an anguished cry—then silence.
I rushed into the bedroom and watched my wife, Rachel, stumble from the bathroom, doubled over, hugging herself in pain.
“Something’s wrong,” she gasped.
This scared me. Rachel’s not the type to sound the alarm over every pinch or twinge. She cut her finger badly once, when we lived in Iowa City, and joked all the way to Mercy Hospital as the rag wrapped around the wound reddened with her blood. Once, hobbled by a training injury in the days before a marathon, she limped across the finish line anyway.
So when I saw Rachel collapse on our bed, her hands grasping and ungrasping like an infant’s, I called the ambulance. I gave the dispatcher our address, then helped my wife to the bathroom to vomit.
In 1800, a newspaper report incensed supporters of President John Adams—and sparked the nation’s first major leak investigation.
An administration in turmoil. A president sometimes “absolutely out of his senses.” Panic over foreign terror; a lurch toward war; rumors of immigrant roundups; foreign meddling in American politics. Fear and despair over the American Republic, once seemingly favored of Heaven, now teetering on the verge of dictatorship or chaos.
The year: 1800.
The case: America’s first great leak investigation.
President Donald Trump claims public concern about possible Russian intervention in the U.S. presidential election is a “ruse” concocted by Democrats smarting over their defeat in the election last year. “The real scandal here is that classified information is illegally given out by ‘intelligence’ like candy,” he tweeted February 15. “Very un-American!”