Weekend brunch for 13 September 2020

News and views from around the web

Image credit: Petros Markantonis/West Alabama Icehouse

Apologies for the unannounced absence for the past few weeks. Everything is fine – life just got extra busy for a little while.

[WB1] One of the most important news stories to run over the past few weeks was this eye-opener from Bloomberg’s Joe Carroll that published on 9 September. The lede:

Houston-area health authorities are overstating the number of new Covid-19 cases as data teams struggle to work through a backlog of old test results in the third-largest U.S. county.

Since the start of the pandemic, the City of Houston and Harris County have breathlessly reported “new positive case results” without identifying the date of the test (among other problems). Many of us have criticized their inadequate data reporting and urged local authorities to clean up their act. The story, which relied upon findings by data scientist Joe Wohleber (not affiliated with the City of Houston), whose work was further amplified by Michael Berry, has apparently forced a change in the way both the City of Houston and Harris County are reporting their COVID data. Unsurprisingly, the real daily case numbers are looking incredibly good.

[WB2] Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo still refuses to move her backwards gage red alert thingie (currently erroneously indicating “Uncontrolled spread”, which clearly is not tied to any COVID-19 reality in Harris County — especially given the many flaws in the numbers Harris County has been reporting). Most other major counties responded to reality and dialed back their alert indicators some time ago (Dallas County, Fort Bend County, Travis County) . Every day that Hidalgo refuses to do so in her county is just more of her credibility that she is choosing to squander.

[WB3] Speaking of credibility – even over the weeks that Harris County COVID-19 numbers were improving dramatically, local vaccine academic Peter Hotez was advocating madness like new national lockdowns to be enforced by the US military. He seems to have developed a full messianic complex, aided and abetted by the area newspaper of record and so many left-leaning cable shows. It’s been a shame to watch such a respected vaccine expert become so engrossed by (momentary) media attention that he’s become as political as any politician he’s criticizing (hint: mostly Trump).

[WB4] As Ted Oberg has been reporting for a while, HISD students continue to be disproportionately affected by the lingering red alert/stay home shutdowns, with thousands effectively disappearing from school. The Chronicle has also picked up on the problems.

[WB5] This week HPD Chief Art Acevedo fired the four police officers who shot Nicolas Chavez repeatedly, killing him, and apologized to the family. He has yet to apologize for the killing of Dennis Tuttle and Regina Nicolas in HPD’s Harding Street Massacre.

[WB6] Apparently, the Harris County Sheriff’s Department has its own problems with serving warrants recklessly, although this instance thankfully did not result in a massacre of innocents. It should (but probably won’t) produce  more than an “Oops, sorry” from the sheriff’s office.

[WB7] It’s rare for a week to pass without new reports of violent offenders being turned out on the street to commit more violent crimes, thanks to Harris County “bail reform” efforts. While many reasonable people support reform of excessive bail/jail for small misdemeanor offenses, the Democrats who now run Harris County government have taken it a bit further than that (which stories like this one do not convey).

[WB8] Charles Blain argues that communities should be focused on police reform, rather than defunding the police.

[WB9] Mayor Sylvester Turner pulled the City of Houston out of the COVID-19 task force that had been formed with Harris County. Under Turner, the city declined to enact an eviction ordinance recommended by the task force. Harris County lacks any real legal authority to enact such ordinances, and it’s not entirely clear that the City of Houston has any such authority. What this move signals is that Mayor Turner is moving on from this task force, as critics contend he has moved on from others.

[WB10] We turn to journalists and publications outside of Houston to learn that a wealthy young Rice University student and Democratic activist is facing felony rioting charges for her (alleged) role in a three-hour protest/rampage/riot in New York. We could find no mention of this news in the Chronicle or the Rice Thresher. Maybe she behaves herself while hanging in Houston?

[WB11] Here is your periodic reminder that some City of Houston staffers seem to spend a lot of their workday (read: taxpayer time) doing “good politics” on twitter.

[WB12] The Rockets bounced out of the playoffs this weekend, with some of their more entertaining play in the series coming off the basketball court. Their head coach announced that he would not be returning on Sunday (although that writing was pretty much already on the wall).

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Kevin Whited
About Kevin Whited 4244 Articles
Kevin Whited is co-founder and publisher of blogHOUSTON. Follow him on twitter: @PubliusTX