Last summer we were cooking hamburgers at the beach. One fellow wasn’t in the mood for hamburger at first, but once he tried one, he remarked at how good it tasted. We’ve switched to grass-fed beef – and organic food in general – in the last few years because it seems safer and tastes better.
Last weekend, the checker-outer at Trader Joe’s tossed the small package of grass-fed hamburger into my blue and white cloth bag and told me that it was good time to get beef because the drought would be raising prices. “The California drought?” I asked. “Kansas, I think,” she said. I suppose I should have run to the meat counter and grabbed all they had because she was right.
How hard is the drought hitting California farmers? Here’s one more example — Marin Sun Farms, one of the pioneers of grass-fed beef, is going to start feeding some of its cattle on grain. There’s just not enough grass to keep them alive.
“We kept thinking we’d be fine, but we didn’t get any rain and we didn’t get any rain and we just reached a breaking point where we decided we had to pull out this other marketing plan,” says Marin Sun owner David Evans, who has been raising grass-fed beef on his family’s fourth-generation Marin County ranch since 1998.
The company’s marketing director, Jeff Bordes, says the decision was wrenching. “Marin Sun Farms has been built on 100% grass-fed beef since it started. It definitely has been a tough move for us. What this drought has done is really force us to diversify our program when we’re facing seasons like this winter. It was either do this or go out of business.”
Unrelenting drought across large swaths of the Great Plains, Texas and California has led to the smallest U.S. cattle herd since 1951, shrinking the supply of beef. That has sent prices higher for everything from rump roasts to rib-eyes. The U.S. Department of Agriculture said the average retail price per pound for fresh beef in January was $5.04, the highest price ever on records that date back to 1987. …
“Even the (beef) dog bones, those have gone up quite a bit,” [a meat market manager] said. “We used to give those away.”
The silver lining in the cloud hanging over California’s cattle industry is that a scarcity of cattle nationally has kept prices high, allowing ranchers to at least turn a modest profit that might help them later, said Malorie Bankhead, a spokeswoman for the California Cattlemen’s Association in Sacramento.
“Then it comes down to where will the cattle be that they can use to replenish their herds down the road,” she said.
I mentioned the Kitty Genovese ‘debunking the myth‘ stories to a coworker, and he came back with a story he had heard debunking the almost universally-broadcast story that Matthew Shepard was savagely – and ultimately fatally – beaten for being gay. That story caused a furor, led to several books, songs, plays and films in tribute, such The Laramie Project, and certainly contributed to passage of the Shepard/Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
My coworker’s views are somewhat to the right of mine, and “truther” theories float around any big story, so I was dubious, but I did some research. In 2004 ABC’s 20/20 broadcast New Details Emerge in Matthew Shepard Murder, which claimed that Shepard was murdered during a violent, meth-fueled robbery and may have been sexually involved with his killer:
The story garnered national attention when the attack was characterized as a hate crime. But Shepard’s killers, in their first interview since their convictions, tell “20/20′s” Elizabeth Vargas that money and drugs motivated their actions that night, not hatred of gays. …
“Everybody knew Matt Shepard was a partier just like Aaron, just like the rest of us,” said [Ryan] Bopp.
In fact, Bopp said he had seen Shepard and McKinney together at parties. “Aaron was selling [drugs] and him and Matt would go off to the side and they’d come back. And Matt would be doing some meth then,” he said.
That show received withering condemnation, but right wing legislators used it to assert that the Hate Crimes legislation was based on a hoax. In reaction to a 2009 Rachel Maddow broadcast about that debate, über-blogger Andrew Sullivan cited those facts in The Case Of Matthew Shepard:
I don’t doubt that homophobia fueled the disgusting murder. But I am unconvinced it was the sole motive. … My own view, for what it’s worth, is that this was multi-determined. I do not doubt that one of the motives for the brutality of the killing, perhaps the primary one, was homophobia. Equally, I don’t doubt that it was much, much murkier than the p.c. mythology would have you believe. …
Stephen Jimenez, who didn’t get the story past his editors at the NY Times, but did contribute to the 20/20 piece, continued to investigate the case. Jimenez, himself gay, eventually wrote The Book of Matt: Hidden Truths About the Murder of Matthew Shepard, which was published in October 2013. The Advocate, an American LGBT-interest magazine, discussed the alternate story with Have We Got Matthew Shepard All Wrong?:
By several accounts, McKinney had been on a meth bender for five days prior to the murder, and spent much of October 6 trying to find more drugs. By the evening he was so wound up that he attacked three other men in addition to Shepard. Even Cal Rerucha, the prosecutor who had pushed for the death sentence for McKinney and Henderson, would later concede on ABC’s 20/20 that “it was a murder that was driven by drugs.” …
Not everyone is interested in hearing these alternative theories. When 20/20 engaged Jimenez to work on a segment revisiting the case in 2004, GLAAD bridled at what the organization saw as an attempt to undermine the notion that anti-gay bias was a factor; Moises Kaufman, the director and co-writer of The Laramie Project, denounced it as “terrible journalism,” though the segment went on to win an award from the Writers Guild of America for best news analysis of the year.
There has been criticism of the book’s claims, too, such as this Media Matters piece, Former NYT Editor Rebuts Stephen Jimenez’s Claim About Matthew Shepard Story:
Shepard truthers in the right-wing media have cited Jimenez’s new book,… to assail hate crime legislation and the larger push for LGBT rights. But Jimenez’s argument is tainted by its reliance on wild extrapolation, questionable and often inconsistent sources, theories that critics of his work are engaged in a “cover-up” of politically sensitive truths, and the dismissal of any evidence that runs contrary to his central thesis. …
When Media Matters sought Jimenez’s reaction … [he] said only that the “article killed by the Times Magazine became the basis” for a report on ABC’s 20/20 that he coproduced later that year, and pointed to “two major journalism awards” that report had won.
But such regard for that piece was by no means universal. The 20/20 report — criticized by journalists, media scholars, LGBT advocacy group GLAAD, and Shepard’s family — sparked a furor, especially in light of an email indicating that Jimenez had already made up his mind about the case before he and his ABC colleagues began reporting the story.
Most recently the NBA’s first openly gay player, Jason Collins, gave an autographed #98 jersey to Shepard’s family, heartening liberals, but giving conservative sites a chance to attack the story again. It is hard to sit here with only a web browser and decide who is right and wrong about the facts, but it isn’t hard to know that whether or not Shepard himself was only killed for being gay, legislation against hate crimes that bears his name was certainly due.
As per usual, NRA enthusiasts are calling attention to the multiple stabbing in southwestern China, where darkly-clad assailants with long knives stabbed their way through the Kunming Railway Station, killing at least 29 and wounding 143. NRA bloggers offer the stock analyses that a few citizens with guns may have stopped the carnage, and that mass murders occur even without guns. I have even heard radio interviews of officials offering opinions that the assailants used knives because they are more frightening than guns.
It seems more likely that in China, despite a slight recent rise in gun crime, even the criminals don’t have ready access to guns. It seems likely that the body count would have been a lot higher if the attackers had used firearms, such as happened to the 60 people shot in Nairobi last September, or the 164 people shot in Mumbai in 2008.
I remember watching a TV dramatization of the murder of Kitty Genovese soon after it happened in 1964. I never heard or read that she was divorced or a lesbian, or that her confessed attacker was a black, married father of two. It did seem that a lot of people had been afraid to, “get involved.”
In an All Things Considered interview, What Really Happened The Night Kitty Genovese Was Murdered? Audie Cornish interviews Kevin Cook who has written a book, Kitty Genovese: The Murder, The Bystanders, The Crime That Changed America:
Ten years ago, Genovese’s girlfriend at the time, Mary Ann Zielonko, reflected on the crime in an interview with Sound Portraits Productions:
“I still have a lot of anger toward people because they could have saved her life, I mean, all the steps along the way when he attacked her three times. And then he sexually assaulted her, too, when she was dying. I mean, you look out the window and you see this happening and you don’t help. That’s — how do you live with yourself knowing you didn’t do anything?”
The Genovese story never fails to invoke indignation, but 50 years later, Kevin Cook is raising big questions in a book called Kitty Genovese: The Murder, The Bystanders, The Crime That Changed America. He tells NPR’s Audie Cornish about why the witness count is misleading and why some witnesses might have been reluctant to call the police.
In A CALL FOR HELP, in the New Yorker, Nicholas Lemann asserts that we were made to care about Kitty’s murder by essentially one journalist.:
Sometimes what’s news is inarguable—the outbreak of war, a head-of-state transition, natural calamity—but very often it falls into the category of the resonant incident. It isn’t a turn in the course of history, but it strikes editors as illustrative of something important. Take crime. If crimes don’t involve anyone powerful or well known, they generally aren’t considered news. But a few such crimes do become news, big news, and hold the public’s imagination in a tight, enduring grip.
An excellent example is the murder of Kitty Genovese … . The fact that this crime, one of six hundred and thirty-six murders in New York City that year, became an American obsession—condemned by mayors and Presidents, puzzled over by academics and theologians, studied in freshman psychology courses, re-created in dozens of research experiments, even used four decades later to justify the Iraq war—can be attributed to the influence of one man, A. M. Rosenthal, of the New York Times.
We live in interesting times. Having cast off a corrupt government, still burdened with staggering international debts, and facing an incursion by the powerful Russian military, Ukraine has divided itself into two entities.
One, YouKraine, is an endless succession of televised revolution clips. The other, BitKraine, is a peer-to-peer debtor nation issuing encrypted virtual currency which may or may not have any intrinsic value.
I’ve been looking into folding electric bicycles – as if I can afford one – so I can climb the three hills on my ten mile commute to work without getting too sweaty. There are dedicated folding electric bikes – which I’ll discuss later – but most are just folding bikes retrofitted with kits by Bionx or Currie.
The neatest retrofit I had seen until today was NyceWheels’ Tern Link + Bionx RR (rear rack) install. With the battery tucked in a rack, it is well-disguised for the streets of NYC, where blatantly electric bikes are technorata-non-grata. Unfortunately the $2,150 Tern Link is only for riders who weigh less than 110 kg/242 lbs – and I fluctuate ten lbs above and below that number depending on the season. The 110 kg weight limit cuts out all the Dahons and most of the Terns and Bromptons for me.
The 26″ wheel Tern Joes and the 24″ wheel Tern Eclipses will carry 115 kg, and fold as well as the Link. I emailed NyceW about doing an RR install on the $900 P24, but Steve claims that it would be difficult because of the disc brakes. (I have seen it done in another NyceW video.) The DT – downtube – installs look clumsy, and I suspect that swinging my leg over the top tube-mounted battery would be a pain at stoplights. The Joe weighs in at 30.7 lbs and Bionx kits range from 14 to 20 lbs, so a retrofitted Joe should weigh 45 to 51 lbs.
Two of the Tern Eclipses come with rear racks, but the S11i already costs $2,500 and the S18 already costs $2,100 without any electrics. These Eclipses are already 32.4 and 34.8 lbs so electric assist would increase weight to between 47 and 55 lbs. The $1,100 P9 looks like a good candidate for electric assist, but with no rear rack and disc brakes, I’m guessing Steve would say I’d need a DT install. A P9 with the DTs should weigh between 41 and 47 lbs.
NyceW’s front wheel drive retrofit of a Brompton should attract even less police attention. The M3L would carry me, but putting both the weight of the electric hub motor and the battery bag forward of the rider should radically change the weight distribution of the tiny bike. Also, the M3L plus the battery bag will cost $3,000 dollars or more.
Almost ten years ago, I test rode a Montague Paratrooper trail bike configured as the Wavecrest Tidalforce e-bike, with a hub motor in one wheel and a hub battery in the other. Wavecrest is long since defunct, but NyceW offers two sturdy Montague packages, the $1,950 to $2,850 Crosstown + Bionx and the $2,100 to $3,000 Paratrooper + Bionx. In these 43 lb packages the battery is mounted DT style on a locking tube just above and ahead of the pedal axle. It isn’t as elegant as the hub battery, but it looks less clumsy than mounting above the top tube. Either of these will carry 250 lb riders, and rather quickly.
In the realm of dedicated folding electric bikes, Prodeco makes less expensive but heavier machines with lithium iron phosphate batteries. The $1,400 Mariner, Storm and Genesis have 8 speeds and weigh in at 46, 49 and 55 lbs, respectively. The $1,300 step-through Stride weighs 46 lbs. Prodecos are cheaper at Amazon, where Zap has a good video review of his Storm. Reviews are generally positive, but many note that the range is lower than promised, and even Zap admits that you don’t want to pedal a dead Storm uphill. Seems like a good bike for retirees.
Looking at the weights of these other bikes, I appreciated that my folding Xootr Swift is very light at about 11.2 kg/25 lbs. Some of the Bike Friday models are a pound lighter, but at twice the price. I dropped an email to Xootr asking if they had experience adding a Bionx system using the CrossRack, which mounts behind the saddle.
They did not, but they told me that Xootr will soon be selling the 16.5 kg/36 lb Swift-e – an electric assist version of the Swift – in the US. The 36V 9Ah Swift-e is reviewed in this PDF from a UK bike magazine, and should list for under $2,000. From the pictures, one would hardly notice that it is an electric bike. I only live three hours from Scranton, so I wonder if they would retrofit my Swift if I drove it up there.
We learned in school that the Ukraine was the breadbasket of the USSR. One of my high school friends – a smart, hard-working kid from a large Catholic family – was of Ukrainian extraction. That’s about the extent of my expertise on the current Ukrainian situation. When I heard that protestors had chased Yanukovych – a corrupt authoritarian – out of his Kiev palace, it felt like good news.
But on Press the Meet last weekend, it seemed as though the Cold War had never ended. Obamanaut and National Security Adviser Susan Rice was pleased with the rebuke to pro-Russian elements:
The United States is on the side of the Ukrainian people. And the Ukrainian people have indicated from the outset, three months ago, when this began, that President Yanukovych, at the time, his decision to turn away from Europe, was not the choice of the Ukrainian people. The Ukrainian people expressed themselves peacefully. They were met with violence. And that did not — end well for Yanukovych.
Of course the US is not even on the side of a lot of American people, but they are certainly in opposition to anyone that wants to get closer to Vlad Putin. More on that later.
At the roundtable, Chris Matthews invoked the Cold War. Judy Woodruff invoked the Cold War. David Brooks talked about Putin’s reaction. Host David Gregory was struck by Josh Marshall saying on TPM that Russia doesn’t matter. But Helene Cooper switched it back to asking how Putin will react. Brooks wondered if Putin would bring troops into the Ukraine, and Matthews thought the Ukrainian revolutionaries were still wearing ski masks so Putin couldn’t round them up when he came in. So clearly a lot of folk think Russia does matter.
Dmitry Orlov was clearly on the side of Russia during the Georgia & Ossetia beat downs, so it was no surprise that in Shock Over Ukraine, he was dubious about a pro-Euro Ukraine. Orlov’s guest poster suggested that vastly unfavorable IMF terms were the real reason behind Yanukovych’s decision to go with Putin instead of the Eastern Partnership:
Gazing down from their lofty diplomatic perch, these [EU] experts were blindsided when the barbarous dictator [Yanukovych] suddenly decided to do a bit of arithmetic, spotted a flaw in the deal (Ukrainian national bankruptcy) and swiftly decided to take his 46 million slaves away from the EU and give them to Moscow instead. And then, due to their ridiculous bureaucracy and complete lack of understanding of Ukrainian reality, they allowed an initially peaceful protest to develop into something like civil war.
Apparently Yanukovych could follow the money even while he was misappropriating it.
In a Feb 22nd Electric Politics podcast, The Ukraine Blues (h/t to CMaukonen), retired NYU prof and Russia scholar Dr Stephen F Cohen thought the sticking point was that Ukraine would have had to hew to NATO protocols even though in Russia’s shadow. He also spoke at length about how Putin could be an important partner for the US, if only they would allow it. Cohen feels that the US is intent on bringing former Russian territories into the US sphere of influence despite the risks of a hot war.