Weekend brunch for 9 February 2020

News and views from around the web

Image credit: Gerd Altmann/Pixabay

[WB1] One of the more interesting news items of the week in Houston concerns the impact of the Wuhan/China coronavirus outbreak on the shops and restaurants of Houston’s Asiatown in west/southwest Houston, where business is down sharply.

Local authorities have been quick to stress – accurately – that no cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed in Houston, and to further urge Houstonians to support Asiatown.

Predictably, we’ve also had some go further, and suggest that people staying away from Asiatown are racists and/or xenophobes (a Houston Chronicle op-ed) or hopelessly ignorant (one of my neighborhood’s scolds deemed it “baseless paranoia” on Nextdoor).

Those characterizations don’t seem entirely fair to the many people of Asian ethnicity who have decided to limit their public time in Asiatown’s shops and restaurants for the time being.

This weekend, Coronavirus 2019_nCoV surpassed SARS in terms of reported fatalities. Because of the secretive nature of the authoritarian Chinese regime, we still can’t quite be sure of the exact numbers, but it’s a virulent strain that appears to be able to spread person to person, and those infected may not show symptoms immediately. We may also never quite know how the virus came about, although there are some darker explanations than the official (Party) line from China. All of this is to say there is much we do not know, along with some things we do know, and some pretty serious measures underway to contain the virus outside of China.

Before so many scolds are so quick to offer their keyboard criticism of the personal risk assessments and decisions of those who frequent Asiatown (or as the case might be, aren’t right now), perhaps it’s worth considering this observation from twitter user @CoogGeo in light of what I’ve laid out above:

This is not to condone spreading obviously false information about an outbreak on social media (although threatening to sue whoever originated said rumors might not be the most effective response). But before we condemn large numbers of people as racists or paranoid, let’s consider that they may have every reason to believe that some members of our highly international community might well have: 1) traveled to an affected area (not just China any longer); 2) gotten back to the United States before careful, but hardly draconian, screening began; and 3) might be carrying the virus – say, like this actual Houstonian who managed to do those first two things and quarantined himself, just to be safe. They might well also have good reason not to trust the official (Party) line on the matter from China.

I happen to think the risk is low here in town, but why are so many people so eager to scold those who have reached a different conclusion and/or have a different risk tolerance?

[WB2] KTRK-13’s Ted Oberg reports that a homeless Houstonian died every 3 days in 2019. He notes that homeless deaths in Houston have increased by 56% over the last two years.

[WB3] KHOU-11 analyzed 1,414 Harris County cases involving a vehicular law-enforcement chase over the last three years, and found that roughly of “those who sped away got off with no prison time.”

[WB4] Bob Rehak criticizes the Houston Chronicle’s coverage of a proposed “bailout” of Perry Homes related to their development of a Kingwood-area tract that he contends has contributed to the repeated flooding of certain Kingwood neighborhoods. He further describes “Life at Ground Zero in Elm Grove,” one of the affected areas.

[WB5] Jason Yoo, a politically connected practitioner of The Houston Way who has appeared on blogHOUSTON in the past, has found his way back into the news for a new set of Houston Way dealings with the Turner Administration:

It’s good to be part of the ruling class in Houston, Texas.

[WB6] Chronicle columnist Erica Grieder thinks the Katy ISD school board owes the public more answers regarding former superintendent Lance Hindt, who apparently plagiarized his dissertation. Agreed!

[WB7] And while we’re on the topic of plagiarism and Chron columnists, how about Chron columnist Joe Holley lifting entire passages from this Navy Times article in his most recent column for the newspaper. Here are some snippets of language he just brazenly ripped and presented as his own (no quotes as of 9 February 2020, although it’s possible the newspaper might add them sometime after this is published; ellipses and brackets indicate, respectively, minor omissions or changes to the original text):

  • “lowly messman branch”
  • “Their battle station was below deck in the ‘hole’ … where they passed ammunition up to the gunners.”
  • “to the signals deck where [the] commanding officer, Capt. Mervyn Sharp Bennion, lay mortally wounded.”
  • “carry [him] to a place of relative safety … below the port side anti-aircraft guns.”
  • “By then the ship … was listing drastically, its port guns silenced.
  • “White ordered Miller to start feeding ammo … to one of a pair of .50-caliber Browning machine guns.”

Some years back, we caught another old columnist (Rick Casey) engaged in even more brazen plagiarism. His punishment from buddy Jeff Cohen (who ran the newspaper at this low point)? Casey had to apologize in his column and “correct” the mistake.

Will Holley even have to do that much?

(Hat tip to Matt Bramanti for this catch – see how easy it is to attribute properly!)

[WB8] Longtime city secretary Anna Russell’s time has expired.

[WB9] This post by David French is, on its face, critical of the Iowa Democratic caucuses debacle, although the issues he raises are applicable to local as well as national affairs.

[WB10] Former Astros manager AJ Hinch gave a fantastic interview to the MLB Network this week. Everyone will have their own opinion on this sordid affair, but mine is this: MLB will be better with AJ Hinch back in it, I hope he is able to return to the game in some capacity in a year’s time, and I wish it would be at the helm of the Astros (like the New Orleans Saints treated the Sean Payton situation). Jeff Luhnow, on the other hand, still has some heavy lifting to do in terms of rehabilitating his image.

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Kevin Whited
About Kevin Whited 4241 Articles
Kevin Whited is co-founder and publisher of blogHOUSTON. Follow him on twitter: @PubliusTX