Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/27/17: Height And Leadership, Among Other Things


Good Morning, all.

1  Fake news update. The news media’s daily efforts to poison public opinion against the President and everything connected to him is so—someone give me a new adjective,please, as I am sick of despicable, unconscionable,  outrageous, unforgivable, even unethical—reprehensible that I feel pulled into the position of having to defend Trump in order to defend basic ethical principles.

Newsweek featured this headline yesterday:

Melania Trump Orders Removal of Near-200-Year-Old Tree From White House

Those monsters! These crude Trumps, with no respect for history or tradition, trash everything they touch–even the famous magnolia Andrew Jackson planted in 1828, in honor of his late wife Rachel, who died before he took office. The Trump Hate Mob picked it up from there, with one tweeter sneering online,

“A rotten dying Iconic White House tree is representative not just of Trump’s brutal attack on Mother Earth & science, but it’s symbolic of everything that Trump has done to our sacred Democracy since taking office.”

The tree had to be removed, as even Newsweek explained if a reader got past the misleading headline, which many readers don’t…

CNN obtained documents from specialists at the United States National Arboretum, which determined the magnolia tree must be removed. The tree is “completely dependent on artificial support,” the document read.

The document said, “Without the extensive cabling system, the tree would have fallen years ago. Presently, and very concerning, the cabling system is failing on the east trunk, as a cable has pulled through the very thin layer of wood that remains. It is difficult to predict when and how many more will fail.”

Moreover, only part of the tree, and not “the tree,” is being removed. From CBS:

A “large portion” of the Jackson Magnolia, a tree that has been a South Lawn fixture since the 1800s, is being removed, the White House says. It had become a safety hazard after decades of decay…A substantial portion of the Jackson Magnolia will be removed …including one tree limb which will be conducted by the National Park Service, CBS News has confirmed.

(Look at the photo above. I bet you can guess which portion is being removed.)

Wait…one tree limb will be conducted? What’s that supposed to mean? And back to the Newsweek headline: what’s a tree doing in the White House anyway? It should have been removed centuries ago.

Fake news.

Also, news copy apparently written by monkeys at a keyboard…

2. “You can’t handle the truth!” Yesterday’s update revisited the powerful and near-unavoidable scourges of the bias towards attractive people, leading to many societal inequities. That bias, however, is nothing compared to the near universal bias towards strength and size when people choose leaders, authority figures, superiors and role models. On Christmas morning, blogger Ann Althouse wrote about something that I had never considered, and suspect few have. Jesus was probably very short by modern standards: “From an analysis of skeletal remains, archeologists had firmly established that the average build of a Semite male at the time of Jesus was 5 ft. 1 in., with an average weight of about 110 pounds.” The Jewish historian Josephus described Jesus as even shorter, approximately 4ft 6 inches tall.

Yikes. If Jesus was short (Romans, having better nutrition, were taller), that makes his story even more remarkable. A short man had to have a lot of other outstanding qualities to be the leader of anything in the ancient world, and though it is better today, it isn’t that much better. Presidents of the U.S. as a group have been much taller than the average man; the short ones—the Adamses,  Madison, Polk, Benjamin Harrison and Truman—were anomalies. Washington, Jefferson, Jackson and especially Lincoln were freakishly tall for their eras; it is fair to say that none of them would have progressed very far in politics or leadership if they had been 5’1″.

Jesus is always portrayed in dramatizations of his life as being taller than most of his disciples, and the actors who have portrayed him are always over six feet, sometimes way over. This has the effect of strengthening and perpetuating the height bias, which makes little sense now. It did make sense when physical size and strength conveyed confidence that a leader could prevail in battle, and in many cases, the leader had to prove that prowess by physically overpowering challengers to his authority. Nonetheless, being small is a significant handicap; shrewd or just mean, the taunts by Trump that Marco Rubio was “little” were effective. “Little” is not an adjective easily associated with power, trust and influence. In politics,the size bias is one more formidable handicap for women, even more than the attractiveness bias is.

Could Christians accept a realistic physical depiction of Jesus? The tradition of showing him with Aryan features is indefensible now, but that distortion is cosmetic (yes, and racist too); showing Jesus as a tall man in fact diminishes his story materially. My late father-in-law, a theologian and minister, had a powerful sermon about the doubts regarding historical Jesus, and his central point was that something very unusual happened that changed the world, and Jesus was at the center of it. Whatever he did and however he did it is far more impressive if the usual benefit of imposing size was not one of his advantages.

In misrepresenting Jesus as a typical leader type, our culture cheats out of his uniqueness and significance. It wasn’t size or attractiveness that allowed him to have such impact. What was it, then?

3. Finally..this brief note, brief because I will probably elaborate on it in a full post. The fact that so many journalists, commentators and Democrats are treating the President’s tweeted attacks on the FBI and Justice Department officials as well as Republican criticism in the same vein as if there was no substance to support it undermines their credibility, and signals that the President’s foes are more interested in taking down Trump than in truth, fairness or process. There is ample evidence that Meuller’s investigation has been compromised, that his investigators are riddled with conflicts and bias, and that the FBI has been shockingly unprofessional. Yesterday I saw a leftish website headline that said, “Trump has succeeded in politicizing the Mueller investigation.” What? The investigation was blatantly political from the start, triggered by Hillary Clinton’s alibis for losing,  the Democratic effort to delegitmize Trump and hopefully find an excuse to impeach him, and a partisan FBI director’s unethical machinations. The fact that the mainstream media refused to report honestly about how political the investigation is doesn’t mean it isn’t political.

I agree that a President shouldn’t be the one to attack the integrity of his own law enforcement agencies while they are doing their job. That’s the task of a fair and responsible news media, bur we don’t have one. What is the alternative?


55 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/27/17: Height And Leadership, Among Other Things

  1. I agree that a President shouldn’t be the one to attack the integrity of his own law enforcement agencies while they are doing their job. That’s the task of a fair and responsible news media, bur we don’t have one. What is the alternative?

    Not excusing the media here, but is it possible that if Trump had chosen to take the high road and refrain from criticizing the FBI, instead pledging to support their efforts to get to the bottom of things, the media would not have so much incentive to “take sides” and might actually praise him for his restraint and professionalism?

    Of course, then Trump wouldn’t be Trump. Who knows what the media reaction to him would be if he was actually consistently restrained and professional.

    • “Who knows what the media reaction to him would be if he was actually consistently restrained and professional.”

      Given that the media has had a bias towards anything not-Democrat for DECADES (and we know this…and you know this).

      Given that this bias has led to *increasingly* hostile reporting of anything not-Democrat for the past *several* non-Democrat administrations (and we know this…and you know this).

      Given that the Left has been increasingly rabid about the national crossroads urgency of all upcoming elections (and we know this…and you know this).

      It’s pretty easy to recognize that the media is acting precisely as the media would act regardless of Trump’s demeanor.

      (We know this…and you should know this)

      • Frankly, that’s absurd, Tex.

        Yes, the media is biasedagainst Republicans and for Democrats. But to argue that if, say, Jeb Bush had been elected president, he’d face the exact same amount and tone of negative coverage as Trump is willful denial of reality.

        Trump’s demeanor is in large part responsible for the media’s portrayal of him. Not entirely responsible. But to pretend that how Trump behaves has absolutely no bearing on how the media covers him is partisan hackery.

        • I THINK you are right, but I am far from sure, and I definitely don’t think Tex’s assertion is absurd.

          No doubt, the President’s style and character have ramped up crazy hostility from many sides. But you can’t underestimate how the partisan divide has ramped up since the 2008 campaign, how intentionally divisive the Obama years were, how the news media has doubled down on bias, and how emotionally the news media, along with other progressives, reacted to Clintron’s loss and the resulting rejection of the Obama agenda.

          Knowing the Clintons I assume that she would have called would no matter who beat her. John Lewis boycotted George Bush’s inauguration. There would have been the same claims that Republican X was elected by racists and sexists. The news media was not a full on, shameless organ of a single party as recently as 2012, but the needle has been moving. Stipulated: No POTUS would have given the media so much ammunition. Still, this can’t all be blamed on Trump.

          • Right, but I’m not blaming it all on Trump. As I said (and thank you for correcting my mistake; I had just woken up), the media is biased against Republicans, and of course bears responsibility for their actions. And like all politicians and leaders, Trump is also responsible for the image he promotes to the world.

            My argument is that Trump and the media both share responsibility for the media’s portrayal of Trump. Tex’s argument is that Trump bears no responsibility for this at all, and that the media bears 100% of the responsibility. That is what I called absurd.

        • “But to pretend that how Trump behaves has absolutely no bearing on how the media covers him is partisan hackery.”

          It would be silliness to assume I’m defending Trump, though convenient to your own grossly inaccurate softening of the Media’s role in all this.

          What is a key takeaway here is related to the chicken and the egg…the media, demonstrably, was poised to lambast WHATEVER Republican was in office to an unprecedented level. The media’s ramping up of it’s rhetoric for DECADES, is without argument, to do so would be dishonest. To fail to recognize that the media would continue it’s trajectory either foolish or willful obtuseness.

          These conditions came first. Then came Trump. Would the media be a little less treacherous with a different Republican, maybe. But not much. Do they ramp themselves up because of Trump’s resistance to them? Yes. Do they ramp themselves up intentionally because they know Trump will react? Certainly.

          The clue here is the Media STARTED all in, before Trump even swore into the office.

          • t would be silliness to assume I’m defending Trump, though convenient to your own grossly inaccurate softening of the Media’s role in all this.

            Me: The media and Trump share responsibility for the media’s coverage of Trump.

            You: The media is solely responsible and Trump isn’t responsible at all for the media’s coverage of Trump.

            But sure, I’m the one softening one side’s responsibility, and you aren’t defending Trump at all.

            These conditions came first. Then came Trump. Would the media be a little less treacherous with a different Republican, maybe. But not much. Do they ramp themselves up because of Trump’s resistance to them? Yes.

            Which is a different argument than your initial claim that the media are behaving “precisely” as they would if another Republican had won the election.

            Do they ramp themselves up intentionally because they know Trump will react? Certainly.

            The clue here is the Media STARTED all in, before Trump even swore into the office.

            “They started it” is not a presidential stance. Stipulated: The media should make efforts to reduce bias and report on Trump more fairly and accurately. But we’re looking at is the vicious cycle in a toxic, codependent relationship, where one side is made up of practitioners of what is supposed to be a noble profession crucial to the health of our democracy, and the other side is the leader of said democracy. Leaders set the tone. A good leader would break the cycle. We know that Trump is incapable of that. Let’s hope the media isn’t.

    • I’m sure the same news media that spills gallons of ink mocking what condiments President Trump likes on his steak would absolutely treat him with the same deference and respect that they accorded President Obama if only he comported himself with a bit more decorum. Yes, that totally seems like a realistic proposition that doesn’t at all fly in the face of mountains of evidence that suggest the opposite.

      • Who are you arguing with? Because I think you meant to argue with me, despite your sarcastic reply bearing no relation to anything I actually said…

        • His comment makes perfect sense. There is NO reason to assume the media would reduce it’s fanaticism against Trump if Trump only “behaved himself”, because the media flips out about EVERYTHING Trump related…even irrelevant minutiae, like ketchup on steaks (which Jeff alluded to).

          There might be a reason to assume the media would moderate itself IF they ONLY focused on items that were worthy of negative coverage.

          But alas, we do not have that media.

          • That doesn’t track, tex, because you’re ignoring how bias and hatred work. People have a tendency to notice and magnify insignificant flaws in others they are biased against, even when those biases exist for a defensible reason. Person A insults Person B’s mother, so Person B now makes fun of Person A’s hair, even though he’s never criticized that type of hairstyle before. In this scenario, if Person A hadn’t insulted Person B’s mother, Person B never would have even thought to make fun of Person A’s hair. (This isn’t justification of Person B’s behavior; it’s psychology.)

            As a side note, can someone link to a mainstream news article that can be accurately described as “flipping out” about Trump’s choice of condiments for his steak? I remember people making fun of him, in the same way Obama was made fun of for asking for Dijon mustard, Bush was made fun of for choking on a pretzel, and Clinton was made fun of for eating a ton of fatty foods. That doesn’t mean Trump isn’t subject to more petty attacks from the mainstream media than those others were–he absolutely is–but I don’t think the “steak with ketchup” thing is a good example of that.

    • Not excusing the media here, but is it possible that if Trump had chosen to take the high road and refrain from criticizing the FBI, instead pledging to support their efforts to get to the bottom of things, the media would not have so much incentive to “take sides” and might actually praise him for his restraint and professionalism?

      The answer to your question, in a word, is “no.” Now, I’ll try to explain why I think that.

      Even if we grant the disproved claim that the media can be objective in spite of their personal biases against the president, they have demonstrated a faith in Mueller that was entirely unwarranted from the outset. Consider this passage from the NY Times piece announcing the investigation:

      By appointing Mr. Mueller, a former federal prosecutor with an unblemished reputation, Mr. Rosenstein could alleviate uncertainty about the government’s ability to investigate the questions surrounding the Trump campaign and the Russians. [my emphasis]

      Mr. Mueller is a fine investigator, no doubt about it, and has served the country honorably. But his reputation is not unblemished by any means — you can’t do what he’s done and not break a few eggs, including ethical ones. The LA Times, that bastion of conservative bias, has some details on his higher-profile failings and reputation as an overbearing micro-manager. These are by no means all Mueller’s failings and faults, but they serve as a fair starting point.

      But even if we overlook all that, the media never bothered to connect the dots with Mueller’s team and Hillary Clinton’s campaign. As a micro-managing sort, you’d expect Mueller to know that his investigation had to look unbiased, considering the highly political matters under his purview. He clearly didn’t vet it that way, and we have no idea whether it was simple incompetence or a deliberate desire to produce the most likely outcome inimical to Trump and his administration. Hanlon’s Razor demands we consider the former most likely, but given the evidence and experience of Mueller at the highest levels of law enforcement, we can’t rule out the latter. The fact that he is a Republican is no protection, because he’s the type of Republican that would find Trump as offensive as most Democrats do.

      Nobody would argue that FBI agents assigned to a political investigation are not entitled to have political opinions, including a detestation of their potential targets. But when you have deputy directors with wives bound up in opposing party politics having conversations with said detestors about “insurance policies” in reference to Trump’s administration, it raises not just a question of competence, but one of fait accompli.

      Finally, the premise of your question is rife with ethics faux pas. First, why should the media be defending Mueller? Isn’t it their responsibility to ensure that Mueller’s tactics, such as the pre-dawn raid on Paul Manafort (a clear hardball tactic that was patently unnecessary with a cooperating suspect) are scrutinized and, when deserving, criticized? Is it somewhere written that it’s ethically and professionally okay to defend a government investigator from presidential verbal assaults, and if so, what ethical principle allows the media to do so in a transparently partisan fashion?

      Also, even if we assume the media can find no defensible behavior coming from the White House (and I’ll be the first to admit that’s likely justified), does the bankruptcy of the White House behavior make it professionally justifiable to come to Mueller’s defense against even valid questions of his propriety and judgment raised by some of the more rational Trump defenders? I hardly think so, yet that is what we’ve seen. Legitimate questions about Mueller and his team have been minimized and mostly ignored, and the least utterance from Trump or his defenders has been amplified and roundly condemned without even a passing concern for their legitimacy.

      So ultimately, you’re saying that the reason the media became a partisan defender of Mueller is because Trump abused his authority. It is not given to the media to behave as the defender of what they see as justice, right the wrongs of the government, or inflict it as a counterweight to the power of the White House — that’s what the American people and opposition parties are for. It is the media’s responsibility to fairly report and examine all factual evidence without bias or preference, whatever the provocation by whoever is in power. Speaking truth to power necessarily cannot become a partisan, one-sided motto, or it becomes cloaking the wolf of partisan opinion in the sheep’s clothing of truth. And it is in this charge that they have manifestly failed, to the ruin of all.

    • It’s… is there a word for something that is fundamentally, inseparably, in equal measure both funny and sad? Bittersweet? Wry? English is bad at expressing things sometimes. But whatever that word is, I feel it applies to this current state of affairs, where the ineptitude of a profession is so obvious to so many, that a person attempting to defend, or even mitigate that ineptness gets responses like you have. It’s funny, because it is, and it’s sad, because it is. Like watching someone in stocks get pelted with rotten vegetables.

      The response from the media probably would have been different had Trump been less Trump-y, but I’m not sure that the biases of the media would have been less aggravated, so much as less obvious. That there is a benefit to society in having a competent, honest, independent form of journalism is obvious. We just don’t have it. And we haven’t had it for a while… But there were people who thought that we did. Where I have known that the emperor wore no clothes and was just waiting for someone to say so, someone like you, Chris, is more akin to Dorothy the moment right after the red curtain was torn aside.

      I think Trump dragged the truth kicking and screaming from dark recesses of plausibility into the sterile, disinfecting light of scrutiny. And it’s left people in a bad place. All of a sudden, people who took what they heard on the news for granted have to start reexamining what they *know*, because the only reason they *know* much of what they *know* is because they heard it from sources they trusted to be competent, honest, independent journalists… who just ended up being bald, middle aged hucksters using smoke and mirrors. Where Alice would believe six impossible things before breakfast, you’ll need to confront six beliefs you hold before actually knowing whether what you know is… y’know… true.

  2. “But what is the alternative.” Indeed. This is why I don’t get apoplectic about the tweeter in chief tweeting. Twitter provides an unprecedented, direct means of communication between the President and the public. For better or worse at times, but virtually indispensable given the hostility of the more traditional media.

      • My point was that Trump’s tweeting and hostility actively worsens his relationship with the media. The alternative is for Trump to behave like a statesman; kill them with kindness. The media can’t consistently report that Trump is a boorish lout if he doesn’t behave like a boorish lout.

        He had an opportunity to be a uniter rather than a divider. He still does, though obviously now it will be very hard to take any effort seriously. But he is who he is.

    • Twitter provides an unprecedented, direct means of communication between the President and the public.

      This, alone, drive the media crazy. They are even on record as stating that telling the public what to think is their job…

      If only Trump could use that power for good instead of schoolyard taunts (sigh)

  3. “Could Christians accept a realistic physical depiction of Jesus?”

    It would also require selecting the ENTIRE cast out of people who are very short. I think a taller than the original Jesus is fine, if his depicted height is *proportionally* accurate to the depicted height of the rest of the population, so that the relative statures make sense even if the exact heights are not the same as the population of classical antiquity…

  4. If Trump planted a tree to honor Melania, I would love to see the headlines decrying how crude Trump is to presume to add something to the White House, how self-centered and narcissistic of an act, no consideration for maintaining the current appearance of the lawn….the wretched boor.

  5. Jack,

    Why do you go out of your way to pick the biased headlines? I read five articles about the tree removal yesterday and only one of them named blamed the Trumps.

    Meanwhile, 2/3 of another post is dominated by your ongoing quest to prove bias (yes, it exists), while more and more news just floats on by. In the age of Trump, he dominates every news cycle and everyone keeps falling into the same trap. Break the cycle, there are lots of other, far more important, things happening.

    • The Guardian also had that headline. In every case where I flag a fake news headline, there are fair headline. Why would I flag the legit ones? The Newsweek headline got the most attention in social media, and there was no excuse for it. One such headline in a national news source is too many.

      I’ll check: have you ever asked why I highlight Trump’s worst tweets and not his harmless ones? Same answer.

      I don’t understand the second complaint either. I’m NOT a news source. I’m an ethics source. Ethically, the false claim that the FBI and Justice Department are pure as the driven snow and have handled the investigation like pros should simply not be mads by anyone, and the characterization of the GOP’s objections to how the inquiry has been handled and by whom is flat out deceptive and irresponsible. The biggest ethics story of the year, ongoing and continuous, is the effort to make it impossible for the public to know what’s happening, forcing it to choose between “alternative facts.” This isn’t just another case of bias—this is in my field, government and legal ethics. So I am stating there IS unethical conflicts and bias in these investigation, AND it is outrageous for anyone to deny it. I’ll stop pointing it out when I see that reported outside of Fox News.

  6. 2. I really am determined not to waste my time off work to re-trace my path of learning that led me to be comfortable with the idea that Jesus was a little over 5 1/2 feet tall. Maybe it was all the publicity about the Shroud of Turin. Maybe it was 50-plus years of denial that a little shit like Charlie Manson could cast such a spell over so many HOT CHICKS. I really don’t care how tall or short Jesus was. So all I am left with thinking is that I am more like the people of his time than unalike them. What a surprise.

  7. I read CNN’s story about the White House tree and was impressed that the story included the facts, included quotes from those who know the facts, didn’t condemn the decision (because you know – the Trumps), pointed out that this was anticipated/planned and mentioned that a replacement tree grown from the original tree will be planted. Just basic journalism – who what when where why and how – and ethically sound. Then I realized how sad it was that I should be impressed by an ordinary story. However, ever the optimist, I thought perhaps there is still hope for the media to come around.

    Fast forward to the evening news and the next story up is about the tree. My fellow news watcher, who saw a different story earlier mentions how the media can’t even do a story about a tree without making it seem like Melania decided to chop down any old tree because, you know, the Trumps. Ever the optimist, I thought, well it might take a bit longer than I thought for the media to come around. Although maybe I shouldn’t hold my breath.

  8. #2. Should I presume that this has been considered and not worth mentioning – Isaiah 53:2?
    I assume most claiming Christian status don’t get much into the Bible, especially the old Jewish parts. But, golly, maybe it was the stuff he did and said and does by proxy that results in the impact.

  9. I suspect this “tree” thing is causing much cognitive slippage amongst Lefties (most, not all), who can’t seem to see the fores…well, you get the picture.

    The Palm Springs CA Tahquitz Creek Golf Course has been ordered to remove a row of racist trees believed to have been planted to support segregation or some such.

    Say, aren’t trees (like sundry other such flora) naturally designed to gobble up EVIL CO2 (AKA: Plant Food) and belch out fauna-life-affirming O2 in an effort to combat the Global Warming that’s here and worse than the models predicted?

    Or, in true Bizarro World fashion, could it be their inordinate height actually worked against them?

    • I expected over-the-top SJW silliness when I clicked the link, but without any additional facts, the black residents’ claim that the trees and fence were put up to cut the black neighborhood off from the golf course strikes me as at least plausible, and deserving of a counter-argument rather than mockery.

      • Spoken like someone who’s never made it to the back nine. Do us all a favour, Google “Golf Course” and then hit the image tab. Now, those images will be effected by your location and browser history, but I’m psychic, so I know what you’ll see.

        You ready?

        (Massaging his temples and moaning in heady tones, the psycho… cic! psy*chic* gazes intently into his crystal ball…..) “Your Google results will show… Greens! And sand traps! And water hazards! There will be at least one golf ball and club combo.And all of that, in almost every picture, at least the ones that aren’t on the edge of a lake, (he gasps, touched by the spirits, and shouts at the top of his lungs:” WILL BE RINGED BY TREES!

        Now… There are three possibilities.

        Possibility the first: I’m a psychic, and you should ask me for lottery numbers.

        Possibility the second: Everyone in America is racist, even the trees, and so rich white people planted racism affirming trees around golf courses, perhaps in foresight because they thought they might otherwise run out of lynching branches.

        Possibility the third: Developers plant trees around golf courses for several reasons, but two really stick out. First off, because golf is supposed to be relaxing, and trees are not only nice to look at, but they block out the world around you, so you don’t have to look at the city you’re surrounded by, regardless of who is in it, and second, because there are people like me, who suck at golf, and trees are a great barrier for stray balls that would otherwise end up through windows, windshields, or in Buddy What’s-His-Face’s face a couple holes down.

          • Tell me that I was wrong, Chris. Tell me that your Google image results weren’t ringed in trees, that there were visible highways and neighborhoods in some of them. Tell me that the lodges were just over open landfills, and seagulls were seen picking off balls.

            I know I’m right. Trees are used to obscure things from golf courses. Were those neighborhoods hidden behind trees because they were neighborhoods, because they were poor or because black people lived in them? Great claims require great evidence, basically every golf course in America has a tree ring, regardless of whether they’re up against neighborhoods, freeways, other golf courses, or wilderness. The default surrounding for a golf course is trees. If you want to say that in THIS case, THESE trees were planted primarily to keep out black people, then you have to come at me with something a little more concrete than “It happened in the 50’s, and these people feel that way.”

            Because meanwhile, no one likes being watched while they golf. Call that reason three there’s trees around golf courses: No one can see you eff up. Golfing against a backdrop of windows is unsettling, I wouldn’t doubt that this course loses business for this, but that’s OK, that’s just the racists who can’t stand sharing perception with people outside their race, right?

            • Certainly asking you to read the article I linked to is at least as reasonable a request as you asking me to Google golf courses.

              From the article:

              Along the 14th fairway of Palm Springs’ Tahquitz Creek Golf Course stands a long row of tamarisk trees, a 50-foot-tall wall of dense foliage seen nowhere else on the course. This species of tree, which guzzles water and leaves large deposits of salt, is so invasive that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has categorized it as a pest…

              While properties around the city have accrued value, adding to the wealth of their owners and their families, the residents in the shadow of these trees – which obstruct their view of the San Jacinto Mountain Range and the golf course – say they have not seen the same increase in property values. Data shows they could be right.

              Daniel has been organizing his neighbors to present a more united front to the city. He and other Lawrence Crossley residents have four demands: Remove the trees; build a 6-foot privacy wall for any homeowner who wants one; install any necessary netting to prevent golf balls from going into backyards; and plant new trees similar to those seen along other parts of the course.

              Like any other golf course, the Tahquitz Creek course was landscaped after it was built, and trees were planted along the greens for aesthetic value and to keep errant golf balls from damaging nearby residences. Most of the trees were palms, acacias or trees commonly seen in the desert, which tend to have thin, narrow trunks, wide, leafy canopies and are well suited to the desert climate, unlike the tamarisks.

              Since you like pictures, the article also has a picture of the course showing that another neighborhood is clearly visible through the trees on the other side of the golf course.

              None of this proves the trees were put up because of racism, but all I’m arguing is that the claim that it was is deserving of a closer look, and can’t be dismissed with “LOL golf courses have trees.” Hopefully the above quotes and the picture in the article I referred to will help you see that.

              • Do you know how sometimes News organizations publish things that aren’t true, and then people get the wrong idea about things?

                That first link Paul shared? They circled the wrong trees. I Google mapped the course and looked at the bush they circled and the other trees surrounding the course, and I was like: “No… Those trees make all kinds of sense”, and further in the back of my mind: “And if that’s a black slum, sign me up, because damn that looks like an awesome subdivision… Backyard pools, community tennis courts. Oh wait… That’s a hedge to the left, by all the box housing with the narrow yards.”

                God damn it.

                I’d still bet parts of my anatomy that the trees were put there because the neighborhood was (at the time) an unsightly slum, as opposed to merely because the neighborhood was predominantly black. And I still think it’s a bad case. The idea that businesses and neighbors have liability because something on your property, that was most likely there before anyone currently involved purchased the property hurts your current property value is almost frivolous. Painting the case with a sheen of, “Well, this isn’t frivolous, because the people who did it were racists” is a particularly disgusting spin on the statue problem.

                But yes, I concede that THOSE trees are unusual.

                • Thanks.

                  I’m not sure what you mean when you say it sounds like a “frivolous” “case”—no one is being sued or going to court over this. The city has decided to take down the trees because of the residents’ concerns.

                  I also don’t think the black neighborhoods in question were ever described as “slums.”

                  • “case” in that context wasn’t meant to imply legal, although I coached it in enough legal language I see where the idea comes from. I wonder if this had not been the case of a city owned course, or if the owners, regardless of who they were, had told the residents to pound sand, what would have happened, but we’ll never know. But I was talking more to the “demands” of the residents. It’s a bad case study for people to coach these kinds of problems in racially heated tones. There are probably hundreds of thousands, if not millions of motions before municipal councils to do things that improve property values…. “Do this or you’re propagating racism” in today’s climate of trigger happy lunatics reeks of blackmail.

                    And if you click the link in the NY Times post, it takes you to a different article from the same source you gave, the Desert Sun, I’ll link it below, but they say that the history of the area is that it was a slum, and over time the city evicted people from their homes in order to burn the hovels.


                • Sheesh! I didn’t realize this whole thread resulted, I was out walking my Good Golden Girl on (and this is where it gets good) Odana Hills Golf Course.

                  Colder than a gad fersakin’ witch’s tit in a brass bra, but that’s not the point.

                  Courses plant trees not only for aesthetics but to block wind, provide boundaries so poor golfers don’t hit into others, and provide some sort of intimate solace-promoting communing with nature.

                  Those tamarisks (deciduous, blooming, thrive in dry climates, and prevent soil erosion) would also break up air-borne sand.

                  Anywho, Odana Hills has lost a LOT of stately ash trees in the last year due to the Emerald Ash Borer.


                  Even with the replantings, it looks denuded; Tahquitz Creek will appear likewise.

                  Honestly, had those trees been obscuring a “White Trash” Trailer Park (is there any other kind?), or a Salvage Yard, would we even be having this discussion?

                • I submit for your consideration that there is a similar row of tamarisk trees—not quite so artfully maintained—between the backyards of houses on about half of the block between Lawrence St and Marguerite St in the same smal neighborhood. If the trees on the golf course were planted because racism, they went out of their way to match them with nearby neighborhood foliage, or else some black residents liked the looks of those tamarisks at the time.

      • This (arguably) racist trees thing is soooooo last week.

        The NBT (Next Big Thing)?

        Just when you thought it was safe to break out yer bypass pruners: Racist Farmer’s Markets.

        “Professors claim farmers’ markets cultivate racism: ‘Habits of white people are normalized’ ”

        This fact seemingly eludes Michelle Obama, seen shopping at the Freshfarm Market’s farmers’ market near the WH.

  10. As to Jesus, perhaps I’m ignorant, but if you accept the Virgin Birth, and that God was the Father by some Godly act, then I would suggest that you could make no assumptions as to features, stature or even color. He would have been what God decreed, not what was the common genetics of the period. God, after all, would have imbued him with both the intellectual and physical attributes to get the job done. Perhaps scholars are trying to “normalize” Jesus to fit their Scientific and social biases. Perhaps like folks today trying to judge past historical acts by today’s cultural standards.

  11. 1. “Those monsters! These crude Trumps, with no respect for history or tradition, trash everything they touch–even the famous magnolia Andrew Jackson planted in 1928, in honor of his late wife Rachel, who died before he took office.”

    Is 1928 right?

    2. I remember when I was taking Konia Greek in grad school we had a long debate about this sentence:

    19 Καὶ εἰσελθὼν διήρχετο τὴν Ἰεριχώ. 2 καὶ ἰδοὺ ἀνὴρ ὀνόματι καλούμενος Ζακχαῖος, καὶ αὐτὸς ἦν ἀρχιτελώνης καὶ αὐτὸς πλούσιος· 3 καὶ ἐζήτει ἰδεῖν τὸν Ἰησοῦν τίς ἐστιν, καὶ οὐκ ἠδύνατο ἀπὸ τοῦ ὄχλου ὅτι τῇ ἡλικίᾳ μικρὸς ἦν.

    The NRSV (and most) translate it the same way:

    19 He entered Jericho and was passing through it. 2 A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. 3 He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature.

    The debate was who was short. Tradition says it was Zacchaeus (which is why he is short in all the kids’ songs) but in the Greek, it is unclear which person was short. If you look at the English, it is pretty hard to tell too. Logistically, if you were saying Zacchaeus was short, you would pretty much write it the way it is written in the NRSV (with maybe a little bit more clarification). If you were arguing Jesus was short, it would make sense that Zacchaeus could not see him over the crowds, especially if he (Zacchaeus was average or smaller size.

    • I’m curious about the number of retweets she got between the two post. Sometimes the damage is already done. I’m not sure it “heroic” to admit you were wrong.

  12. By all accounts Paul the Apostle was also a very short man. And in Isaiah 53 is this telling description, regarded by both Philip and Paul in the New Testament as a prophesy about Jesus:

    “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
    nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
    He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
    Like one from whom people hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.”

    Itself a reflection of 1 Sam. 16:7, in which Samuel is choosing a king from among the future-king-David’s taller and more royal-looking brothers:

    “But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Look not on his countenance, nor the height of his stature, because I have rejected him…for the LORD sees not as a man sees, because man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks upon the heart.”

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