Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for November 20th, 2019

Still liking improvised recipes: Spinach Glory

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Just from what was on hand, amounts approximate. Scallions, peppers, asparagus, tomatoes, kamut, and lentil tempeh were already prepared and in storage containers; spinach, lemon, and garlic were prepared just before cooking, with the garlic allowed to rest 15 minutes after chopping.

Heat cast-iron skillet (in this case a Griswold No. 7, slightly smaller than a Field Company No. 8 but with taller sides). Once it’s hot, add

a good amount of Enzo Lemon-infused Extra-Virgin Olive Oil, about 2 Tbsp

Immediately add:

3 handfuls chopped scallions (including leaves)

After scallions have cooked for a few minutes add:

Big GK spoonful (Gray Kunz spoon) chopped jalapeños and Thai red chiles
about 1/2 cup hardneck garlic, chopped small
4″ square of lentil tempeh, diced (and that uses up the lentil tempeh — soybeans are soaking now)
1.5 handfuls asparagus cut into short lengths (about 3/4″)
2 GK spoonfuls cooked kamut
3 GK spoonfuls of sliced San Marzano type cherry tomatoes and cut-up dried tomatoes
Several grindings black pepper

I cooked that for about 8-10 minutes, then added

1 bunch very fresh and attractive spinach, rinsed well, spun dry, and chopped

I carefully cooked the spinach, using my cherrywood spatula to lift the food and turn it over, until the spinach wilted. I let it simmer for about 10 minutes, then added:

2 lemons, peel cut off, blended

Man, that was tasty! Leftovers put away now and skillet cleaned and reseasoned with Larbee.

The Gray Kunz spoon had excellent reviews so I ordered one. I was not all that impressed—it’s just a spoon—until I started using it. Now I use it constantly. Unobtrusive and efficient: think Jeeves as a spoon.

Update: I think pignolias would have been good, but beware the Chinese imports of a related but toxic nut.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 November 2019 at 7:42 pm

Why Everyone Should Sleep Alone

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Mallika Rao writes in the Atlantic:

The bedroom can seem to contain the heart of a marriage. In the 2012 Judd Apatow movie This Is 40, the epicenter of marital tension is the bedroom of the onscreen couple, played by Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann. Pete and Debbie are as comely as their Los Angeles home, but the couple flirt with divorce fantasies more than with each other. Debbie mourns a loss of mystery; Pete craves independence. Of a kind, anyway. He’ll shed his boxers so that Debbie can weigh in on the progress of a hemorrhoid, but he also has a habit of sneaking off to hang with his buddies, an act his wife likens to infidelity. A scene in bed captures the riddle at the heart of this marriage—a parry, essentially, between forms of intimacy. Wander too far in search of privacy, and you nullify romance; get too close, and the same occurs. The couple lie under the sheets, Debbie on her laptop and Pete passing gas. “This is why we never have sex,” she says with desperation in her voice, as he grins. “You’re gross.”

The years-old scene felt fresh when I stumbled upon it some months ago, as a somewhat freshly minted divorcée. On an Apatow kick (triggered by the breakup movie Forgetting Sarah Marshall), I watched Pete and Debbie with a sense of foreboding. They may live in a mansion, but their quandary looked familiar, as it might to anyone who’s ever felt the pressures of so-called couple-form love. In the case of my partner and me, circumstances dictated the terms of our physical space. As fresh college graduates in Chicago, we lived in a rambly three-bedroom that cost half of what we would pay down the line in New York for a one-bedroom. In the latter, denser city, our relationship felt forced into uncomfortable proximity, of the literal and figurative kind. His lackadaisical nature, a mild feature in our Chicago home (even an asset, for the way it balanced me out), now disturbed my peace. A mislaid item—abandoned socks, say—could seem like a conscious insult, a gesture against collaboration.

In all this, the bedroom acted as a symbolic locus, an architectural manifestation of a peculiar sort of pressure: to convert into a single unit, with shared needs and desires. When he put his shod feet on the bed, I thought of larger differences; I was raised in an Asian household, where shoes were verboten indoors. If I sprinted out of bed early on a Saturday, he saw an absence of old romance. Our misalignments in the bedroom ranged from serious to frivolous, but all of them could seem to suggest something sinister. After all, the bedroom is where a person goes to find peace. If a couple prove catastrophically at odds with each other in this space, what sort of nightly reprieve can be hoped for? We showed ourselves, in the ruthless light of the bedroom, to be profoundly separate halves. We split. Watching Pete and Debbie on-screen months later, I thought that they might, too. I wondered if in my situation or theirs, a different physical arrangement might have produced a different emotional one.

In this frame of mind, I picked up The Bedroom, a fascinating if somewhat abstruse recent book by the historian Michelle Perrot. Translated by Lauren Elkin from French, it uses the titular space as a laboratory for observers to study the breadth of human nature. Perrot examines texts over several centuries to consider children’s nurseries, workers’ quarters, hotel rooms, and other sleeping chambers. (She limits her focus to the Western Hemisphere.) I was drawn to the book thanks to the neat metaphoric heft of the shared bedroom. It seemed to me that breaking down its history might clarify the social norms that dictate unions more generally. If I understood how the marital bedroom became a presumed standard, I might break from a rigid way of seeing things and open my mind to all the transmutations available to a couple in search of the right form for them. In short, I picked up The Bedroom in hopes of restoring my interest in partnership.

What I believe I found instead is an incidental argument in favor of nightly separation. Despite its pointed historicism, the book reads at times as an annotation to certain ongoing and resolutely modern narratives—a companion script to the past decade in lifestyle news and pop culture. Perrot exhorts readers to take seriously the relevance of sleep to biological and emotional functioning; she discusses the need for new structural norms for marriage; and she frames the bedroom as a haven for respite, a construct with special relevance at a time when a phoneless room can feel like a mythical destination.

My preoccupations drew me to the passages that concern the marital bedroom, and its influence on a couple. Conveniently, this focus dominates Perrot’s framework; she calls the marital bedroom, in the book’s introduction, a “theater of existence,” and later “the frontier of civilization,” her implicit emphasis on procreation as a star feature. Meanwhile, as I fell deeper into the rabbit hole of my bedroom investigation, nonprocreative couples all around me offered—without my asking—less heady, more pressing reasons to dissect this particular space. A friend in her 50s with a husband, son, and glamorous Manhattan pad told me that she fantasized about renting her own tiny studio somewhere. Girlfriends in newish marriages told me wistfully how lucky I was to be alone, seeming to bundle together my emotional and living situations in doing so. As I read Perrot’s book alone in my queen-size bed, I felt an occasional twinge of guilt for everyone in my life who seemed cramped and unhappy.


If the bedrooms of famous couples today inspire judgment—Donald and Melania Trump’s use of separate bedrooms has been analyzed, to no clear end—Perrot suggests that to invade the private spaces of public figures is to continue a tradition with long roots. In his time, Louis XIV (a lifelong bachelor, it should be said) got ahead of the story. His bedchamber in Versailles included a “briefly outlined stage,” according to Perrot. He essentially ruled from the bedroom, which sat at the center of a property meant to act as a “summary of the universe.” His sex life, however, took place under a shroud of secrecy, aided in part by a balustrade beyond which only certain key operatives—mostly doctors and valets, and on occasion a foreign ambassador—could pass. Before Louis, according to Perrot’s research, royals of the Roman empire compartmentalized architecturally as well, with small chambers intended only for sex.

Meanwhile, ordinary people lived by factors outside their control, then as now. Perrot’s accounts of sleeping conditions in rural 18th- and 19th-century France make for bleak reading. Families crowded into communal rooms outfitted with box-beds (hulking wooden structures popular in the Breton countryside), in which multiple family members huddled under heaps of blankets for lack of space and warmth, often swapping disease among one another. Industrialization offered up new options. With the advent of factory-made spring mattresses, beds in Europe got smaller, lower to the ground, and cheaper to buy. As they became more generally accessible, marital versions followed. Perrot describes couples of the late 19th century going into debt to purchase a shared bed, desirous of “the status it conferred”—a new vision of marriage that prioritized independence from the family unit.

Yet the marital bed didn’t always engender intimacy. Perrot finds ample . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 November 2019 at 1:52 pm

Posted in Books, Daily life

These Are the Banks that Own the New York Fed and Its Money Button

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Pam Martens and Russ Martens report in Wall Street on Parade:

The New York Fed has now pumped out upwards of $3 trillion in a period of 63 days to unnamed trading houses on Wall Street to ease a liquidity crisis that has yet to be credibly explained. In addition, it has launched a new asset purchase program, buying up $60 billion each month in U.S. Treasury bills. Based on the continuing escalation of its plans, it appears to be testing the limits of what the public will tolerate. We thought it was time to answer the question: who exactly owns the New York Fed and its magical money spigot that can pump trillions of dollars into Wall Street at the press of a button.

The largest shareowners of the New York Fed are the following five Wall Street banks: JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and Bank of New York Mellon. Those five banks represent two-thirds of the eight Global Systemically Important Banks (G-SIBs) in the United States. The other three G-SIBs are Bank of America, a shareowner in the Richmond Fed; Wells Fargo, a shareowner of the San Francisco Fed; and State Street, a shareowner in the Boston Fed.

G-SIBs have the ability to inflict systemic contagion on the entire global banking system (as happened in 2008) and thus must be monitored closely for financial stability. JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley are also four of the five largest holders of high-risk derivatives. (Bank of America is the fifth.)

The five mega banks that are the major shareowners of the New York Fed are also supervised by the New York Fed, despite participating in the election of two-thirds of its Board of Directors. James Gorman, Chairman and CEO of Morgan Stanley, currently sits on the New York Fed Board. Jamie Dimon, Chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase, previously served two three-year terms on the Board.

These same Wall Street banks also participate in various advisory groups with the New York Fed where they hash out “best practices” for their industry. Those “best practices” were not sufficient to prevent JPMorgan Chase from becoming a three-count felon, Citigroup a one-count felon, and four of the banks (all but Bank of New York Mellon) from actively engaging in creating and selling subprime investments that blew up the U.S. financial system, the nation’s economy and a good swath of Wall Street in 2008.

There are 12 regional Federal Reserve banks of which the New York Fed is only one. But during the financial crisis, the New York Fed was given unprecedented powers by the Federal Reserve Board of Governors in Washington, D.C. to create over $29 trillion in electronically-engineered money to bail out Wall Street. A significant portion of the $29 trillion went to loans that were collateralized by stocks and junk bonds – an unprecedented action for the Federal Reserve. In some instances, the Fed threw its rule book under the bus and didn’t make loans at all, opting instead to buy up toxic assets outright through Special Purpose Vehicles it created. And despite its mandate to make properly collateralized loans to only solvent banks, it made over $2.5 trillion in loans to Citigroup, much of that after the bank was clearly insolvent.

The $29 trillion created electronically by the New York Fed from 2007 to the middle of 2010 is astronomical compared to the loans made by the Federal Reserve following the 1929 financial crash and early years of the Great Depression. Those Fed loans aggregated to only $1.5 million or approximately $25.5 million in today’s dollars.

Consider that $25.5 million in today’s dollars that was distributed by the Fed from 1932 to 1936 to just one day in 2008. On September 24, 2008 the New York Fed pounded away on its money button to pump out $110 billion to the miscreants of Wall Street. (See chart below: where  . . .

Continue reading.

The US has definitely become a plutocracy: power has gone to a small group of the extremely wealthy. Just scroll down the list of these articles. The Martens article shows how the government has become subservient to banks.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 November 2019 at 11:34 am

Dyslexia

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Take a look at this post on github to get a feel for the reading experience of a person with dyslexia.

Many who have dyslexia are quite successful in life, though naturally that gravitate to jobs that do not require much reading — for example, jobs in sales and service jobs working directly and interactively with people. Many become entrepreneurs, which depends a lot of personal interaction and also allows one to outsource reading: the account reads financial documents, lawyers read contracts, research staff do research. The entrepreneur can get oral briefings and oral summaries of documents and make decisions (on personnel, on direction, on acquisitions) without having to do much reading.

There’s also a condition called dysgraphia that is the writing equivalent. As is the case with dyslexia, it’s not a lack of education or training that’s the source of the difficulty; rather, it’s the basic wiring in the brain. So again, those with dysgraphia find occupations that accommodate their disability and require little writing. One reason that doctor’s prescriptions are often so difficult to read is that dysgraphia is not uncommon in the medical profession, which is why doctors started using dictating machines as soon as they appeared and why medical transcription has a long history.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 November 2019 at 10:57 am

Posted in Daily life, Medical

Moose-hair shaving brush

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A moose-hair shaving brush is surely the epitome of Canadian shaving. (Example moose hair shown at right.)

The brush is still to be made, however, and you may be able to help. I received an email this morning from a reader (and hunter) who wanted to know of any bespoke shaving brush makers who could take a cured moose pelt and make a brush from the hair.

It’s a purely personal project — Canadian law prohibits commercial use of game animals — and I think will immediately intrigue any traditional shaver. As he pointed out, most artisan shaving-brush makers (e.g., Rod Neep of this morning’s shave) are in fact shaving-brush-handle makers who buy the knots ready-made from Chinese manufacturers. A few shaving brush makers do construct their own knots—Simpson, for example, at least prior to their acquisition by Vulfix, though they may still continue the tradition.

Vie-Long, which makes horse-hair shaving brushes, immediately came to mind. I feel sure that they make their own knots — no outsourcing to China — and they perhaps would be interested in the project as a contract job.

I suggested that the handles for these brushes be made from the moose’s antlers. (I’m assuming that multiple brushes, since that makes the project worthwhile. Even though such brushes could not be sold, they would make marvelous gifts — to friends who also hunt, for example.)

He is interested in hearing your ideas about how to get a custom knot. I already suggested a 22mm knot as the ideal, but after thinking about it, I realized knot size will depend on the length and fineness of hair. If the best hair is short and fine, for example, a brush on the scale of the Wee Scot would be best.

Your thoughts? (He will read the comments.)

 

Written by LeisureGuy

20 November 2019 at 10:35 am

Posted in Shaving

Smithey No. 8 cast-iron skillet

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I feel that I unfairly maligned my little Smithey No. 8 cast-iron skillet when I first got it. I wanted it to cook eggs, and the curved sides make it seem a natural. I had been using the Matfer Bourgeat 8 7/8″ carbon-steel skillet, but I wanted to try cast iron.

The Smithey is considerably heavier (3 lb 10.9 oz) than the Matfer Bourgeat (2 lb 10.6 oz) — 1 lb heaver, or 50% heavier, whichever seems like more. And it takes longer to heat: cast iron has a lot of heat capacity, so filling it with heat takes a while. So I didn’t much like it, and after using it once, put it aside.

Talk about a rush to judgment! A few weeks ago, I decided to try it again. It’s wonderful! All I had to do was develop a little patience while it heated to cooking temperature. (I use an infrared thermometer to check the temperature, though the traditional method of flicking a drop of water onto the cooking surface is also good. BTW, the infrared thermometer does not work well at all on a stainless steel pan because of its low emissivity — see this post.)

Once the Smithey is hot, it does a perfect job on the eggs, and it really is nonstick — better than the carbon-steel skillet, in fact. And the curved side does allow me to flip the eggs easily, though it takes more strength than with the T-Fal pan I once used (around 13 oz). The Smithey cooks well, and when I slide the eggs scrambled with cheese onto the plate, I just wipe the skillet with a paper towel, no washing required. I generally will also use just a little Larbee on the cooking surface after wiping it out and put it back on the heat for a minute.

I do want to try the Field Company No. 4, but I think the Smithey No. 8 will be hard to beat.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 November 2019 at 10:07 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Technology

Blame Over Justice: The Human Toll of the Navy’s Relentless Push to Punish One of Its Own

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Conservatives gravitate to strongly hierarchical organizations, which fit well with their primary values of in-group loyalty and respect for authority, whereas liberals gravitate to the looser structure of diverse and egalitarian organizations.

A hierarchical organization is in general more efficient than an organization that depends on group consensus, and a hierarchical organization has obvious advantages for the military: in battle, there’s no time for group discussions to gain agreement. Moreover, and somewhat morbidly, if the commander is killed, the succeeding commander must be immediately recognized and accepted by all so that s/he can immediately take the reins and direct forces in battle — because a battle is no place for an open and democratic election. When the commander falls, the highest ranked person with seniority in that rank is the new commander. This is an efficient algorithm, and it is easily applied in the event that commanders successively fall: there’s always a highest rank left (even if but a non-commissioned officer) and one person of that rank will have seniority.

But strongly hierarchical organizations have disadvantages as well. As Lord Acton observed, “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely,” and as one’s position in a hierarchy ascends, his or her power increases. Self-protection is a human impulse, and when things go bad for someone, it is tempting to push the blame elsewhere. A person with power can exercise that power to push away blame. In a hierarchical organization, blame can readily be pushed down, to those of lower rank.

We see this playing out daily in the White House, with personnel who were hired with praised are fired with blame, a constant turnover to keep blame away from the person at the top of the hierarchy. And we see it now in the US Navy. Megan Rose reports in ProPublica:

It was 10 p.m. on Jan. 15, 2018, when the phone rang in Navy Cmdr. Bryce Benson’s home tucked into a wooded corner of Northern Virginia.

Benson had just gotten into bed, and his chest tightened as he saw the number was from Japan. It was his Navy attorney calling. The lawyer said he wished he had better news, but he’d get right to the point: The Navy was going to charge Benson with negligent homicide the following day.

Benson, 40, stared at the ceiling in the dark, repeating the serenity prayer as his feet pedaled with anxiety. Next to him, his wife, Alex, who’d followed him through 11 postings while raising three kids, sobbed.

Seven months earlier, Benson had been in command of the destroyer the USS Fitzgerald when it collided with a massive civilian cargo ship off the coast of Japan, ripping open the warship’s side. Seven of his sailors drowned, and Benson was almost crushed to death in his cabin. It was then the deadliest maritime accident in modern Navy history.

Benson, who’d served for 18 years, accepted full responsibility. Two months after the crash, the commander of the Pacific fleet fired Benson as captain and gave him a letter of reprimand, each act virtually guaranteeing he’d never be promoted and would have to leave the service far earlier than planned. His career was essentially over.

Then, days later, another of the fleet’s destroyers, the USS John S. McCain, collided with a civilian tanker, killing 10 more sailors. The back-to-back collisions exposed the Navy to bruising questions about the worthiness of its ships and the competency of the crews. Angry lawmakers had summoned the top naval officer, Adm. John Richardson, to the Hill.

Under sustained fire, Navy leaders needed a grand, mollifying gesture. So, in a nearly unprecedented move in its history, the Navy decided to treat an accident at sea as a case of manslaughter. Hastily cobbling together charges, the Navy’s top brass announced — to the shock of its officers — that the captains of both destroyers would be court-martialed for the sailors’ deaths.

The Navy told ProPublica that “given the tragic loss of life, scope and complexity of both collisions,” it had an “obligation to exercise due diligence” and its investigation had “informed charges against” Benson and the captain of the McCain.

To many officers, the Navy had gone too far. “There was a deflection campaign,” one admiral said recently, likening the Navy’s response to shielding itself from an exploding grenade. “It was pretty clear Richardson wanted to dampen the frag pattern.”

Even then, no one, least of all Benson, could have predicted how relentless the Navy’s pursuit of him would be.


In the early hours of June 17, 2017, a trio of junior officers guiding the USS Fitzgerald made a calamitous series of mistakes in basic navigation that veered the destroyer directly into the path of a hulking cargo ship three times its size.

As the civilian vessel bore down, the panicked officers squabbled about what to do. Benson’s written orders were clear: When in doubt, wake me up. But no one called the captain, sleeping in his cabin just a 30-second walk away.

At 1:30 a.m., the cargo ship slammed into the side of the Fitzgerald, knocking the warship into a violent tilt and ripping it open like a can of tuna. Water rushed into an enlisted sleeping area below deck.

Benson awoke trapped in his destroyed cabin, which had been shoved 20 feet by the impact and no longer had an exterior wall. He called for help, delirious, bleeding and perilously close to the gaping hole and the black, cold ocean below.

Crew members battered his steel door open with dozens of wild swings of a sledgehammer and a kettlebell, then formed a chain in the darkness to reach Benson and haul him by his arm over the debris to safety.

Benson stumbled barefoot up the ladder to the bridge of the ship, determined to take charge. Amid the chaos, he sat in the captain’s chair, but before he could give any orders his arms spasmed awkwardly and he slid to the floor.

Benson, barely conscious with a traumatic brain injury, had to be airlifted off his crippled ship.


Two months after the collision, Benson, still struggling with nightmares and his memory, sat in a small, bare conference room, tensely waiting to be called into the 7th Fleet commander’s office.

Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, who was in charge of all the ships in the western Pacific, had summoned Benson for a disciplinary hearing called an Admiral’s Mast.

Earlier that day, after the Navy held a press conference announcing he’d be fired, Benson had the surreal experience of watching the end of his career flash on TV in the base gym. But he’d known lying in his hospital bed right after the crash that this is where he’d end up.

Now, his hair freshly cut and wearing a hand-pressed white uniform, Benson was relieved that the day had come. These formal proceedings would close the chapter.

And he hoped that the Navy would finally let him leave Japan to seek necessary medical care back in the States. A month had passed since doctors had said he needed critical neurological and mental health care at Walter Reed Military National Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. The base in Yokosuka, Japan, had limited resources to help him deal with his debilitating post-traumatic stress, and he was growing increasingly desperate.

Aucoin called him in. Benson took a deep breath, saluted and listened, occasionally looking down at his hands, as Aucoin matter-of-factly read the administrative charges against him. Aucoin emphasized that there had been serious mistakes, and as captain, Benson was ultimately responsible.

Aucoin regarded Benson with empathy. The admiral had spent his two years in charge of the 7th Fleet begging, to no avail, for more men and a more reasonable pace of missions. He’d taken the issues with the ragged fleet into account when punishing Benson. Aucoin had the backing of his boss, Adm. Scott Swift, who’d assured him that top Navy leadership wouldn’t have supported anything more severe.

Aucoin came around the table and shook Benson’s hand.

“That’s done now,” Aucoin told him.

Benson had the right to appeal the findings of his disciplinary hearing, but a Navy lawyer told him he wouldn’t be able to leave for the States until any appeal was completed. Benson waived his rights on the spot.

Later that day, Aucoin wrote an email asking when Benson would be permitted to move. Vice Adm. Robert Burke, the head of Navy personnel who has since been promoted to the Navy’s No. 2 position, responded that he’d been “awaiting word from [Navy lawyers] that all the paperwork had been signed regarding [Benson’s] intent to appeal.” With that finished, Burke wrote he’d now release the orders. A Navy spokesman, citing privacy concerns, declined to answer questions about specifics, saying only that the Admiral’s Mast process did not affect Benson’s move.

Nearly nine weeks after his doctors’ recommendation, Benson stepped into Walter Reed for the first time.


On Halloween, Benson grabbed a bucket of candy and strode down his driveway in a brown, furry Chewbacca suit. He sat out there for awhile, gaily greeting trick or treaters.

Alex Benson watched from the window, her breath caught in her chest. It was her first glimpse of the old Bryce in more than four months. She’d come to understand it would be a long time before her husband of 18 years grasped his way back to any semblance of who he used to be.

She and her children had quickly become alert to the signs of his PTSD, jumping to the aid of the man who once seemed indomitable. In crowded public spaces like the grocery store, they looked out for when his face would suddenly go blank with his light blue eyes staring unfocused in the distance. One of them would step in front of him, take his hand and lead him out.

Alex felt like she was always watching him, ever since he checked “yes” on a hospital form in Japan asking if he was suicidal. She’d even sit vigil by the tub when he took a bath.

Benson attended therapy twice a week at the sprawling Walter Reed complex. He was doing a nine-step, cognitive behavior therapy program for PTSD. At his Monday group therapy session, he was quiet at first. He’d always taken a while to open up to new people. But he’d hit it off with a Navy chief and veteran of Fallujah, Iraq, who was a regular at the group. As “accountability buddies,” they’d check in with each other regularly and text pictures of their workouts to show they were doing the self-care helpful in recovery.

The Navy assigned Benson to the office that oversees special events in the Capitol, such as the planning for Sen. John McCain’s funeral. It wasn’t where he’d thought he’d be, but after a few months he started to believe what Aucoin had said after the disciplinary hearing back in August: “You’re a good officer who could still provide value to the Navy.” Benson knew he had only a short time left to serve, but putting on the uniform most weekdays felt like stepping back into himself.

The Navy had been the center of Benson’s identity since he was 18 years old and joined the ROTC at Marquette University in 1995. In the service, he’d found a place that suited his idealism, said Benson’s friend since that ROTC program, retired Navy Cmdr. Ryan Farris.

Throughout his career, Benson struck colleagues as quiet and focused, and he had an almost cliched Midwesterner’s hardworking earnestness that lent itself to teasing. “He only spoke when he had something meaningful to say,” Farris said.

Benson and his wife heard on the news that the Navy assigned an admiral to review the punishments from the Fitzgerald and McCain collisions. But his lawyer told them that since he had already been disciplined at a high level — by a three-star admiral — he was unlikely to be a target. Richardson had agreed with Aucoin’s judgment at the time, and it was rare for an admiral’s discipline to be overturned.

And the Navy’s internal reviews into root causes of the collisions pointed to policy decisions made at the Pentagon level, involving critical shortages in training, manning and maintenance time, none of which were controlled by Benson and Cmdr. Alfredo Sanchez, captain of the McCain.

In December on vacation in Massachusetts, Benson surprised his family when rather than staying home by himself, he joined them snowshoeing. They laughed together as they got caught in a big snowstorm. Alex Benson took out her phone to capture the moment in a selfie, each of their hats covered in fat snowflakes, her husband with a wide grin.


On Martin Luther King Day in 2018, when the halls of the Navy Yard would normally be fairly quiet, lawyers scrambled to finalize homicide charges against Benson and Sanchez. Richardson was due for a second battery of questions from outraged lawmakers later that week.

During heated hearings earlier that year, then-Arizona Sen. John McCain had warned Richardson and the secretary of the Navy. “We will identify shortcomings, fix them and hold people accountable,” he said, as family members of some of the fallen sailors looked on.

Afterward, Navy leaders had decided the “close temporal proximity” of the two crashes meant they needed to reassess “whether all appropriate accountability actions have been taken,” Adm. Bill Moran, the second-in-command at the time, wrote in an order assigning an admiral to the task.

Benson, who’d thought his punishment had been levied, would now face harsher scrutiny because another captain on another ship crashed two months after him.

Richardson announced the new charges days before he sat in front of the House Armed Services Committee, assuring its members that the Navy was taking accountability very seriously. Richardson, now retired and newly installed on the board of Boeing, didn’t respond to requests for an interview. A Navy spokesman said the hearings helped guide policy changes to prevent future tragedies and did not affect disciplinary actions. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more, and much of it is ugly. Later in the article:

Benson went over the details of his 35 days in command of the Fitzgerald again and again.
He’d stepped into the role as captain after more than a year as the ship’s executive officer, but he set out to sea with a largely new, and green, crew. He knew his exacting standards had helped him rise through the ranks, but they also at times made him difficult to work for.
Almost immediately, Benson’s bosses had upended his plans to get his crew up to speed, cutting short his training schedule in favor of an unrelenting series of missions and forcing him to do training on the fly. He worried about deploying when his crew lacked competency in high-skill tasks like ballistic missile defense.
But, he said, “if I felt my watch standers couldn’t avoid a 30,000-ton tanker, I would not have gotten underway.” Of course, if he hadn’t gone forward, he said, “I would’ve been left there on the pier and someone else would’ve got the ship underway.”
After the crashes, lawmakers had pressed Richardson on just this point: Could a commander say his ship couldn’t safely do the mission without blowback?
“If I could go down there and give that commander a handshake and a medal, I would do that,” Richardson replied at the time. “This is exactly the kind of honesty and transparency we need to run a Navy that’s safe and effective.”
Many current and former ship captains scoffed at what they saw as Richardson’s hypocrisy. In the real world of the Navy, a ship captain telling his command he couldn’t safely get underway is “impossible,” one former skipper said in an interview. No one believes there is a legitimate risk, only that the captain is failing to do what’s needed. “The subtext is that you’re a bad officer and probably a bad person too,” another officer said.
By pursuing Benson, the officers said, Richardson and others atop the Navy hierarchy could avoid taking responsibility for their role in setting commanders, and their ships, up for disaster. For years, a ProPublica story in February found, the Navy had ignored reports, audits and the warnings of many top Navy and Pentagon officials that the fleet was dangerously overworked, undermanned and in disrepair, putting sailors’ lives at risk.
Navy spokesman Cmdr. Clay Doss said in a written response to questions that the service “cannot fail to learn from these tragedies” and is working to change its “must-do culture.”
“The direction from our fleet commanders is clear: The Navy will not deploy ships if they are not ready to sail safely and confidently,” Doss wrote, and the service expects commanders to “raise problems loudly … without fear of repercussions.”
Shortly before the Fitzgerald’s collision, the destroyer had been stuck in port because of computer system glitches on the ship. A senior officer remembered overhearing a phone call in which Benson’s boss, the commodore, Capt. Jeffrey Bennett, berated him for asking for help.
“You expect me to fix your problems now?” Bennett yelled. Benson could say only that he’d try harder to take care of it on his own.
“His choice was to do the best he could or be relieved,” the officer said. Bennett couldn’t be reached for comment.
Now, Benson tortured himself over what he could have done differently. . . .

Written by LeisureGuy

20 November 2019 at 9:44 am

Rod Neep brush with Leviathan and the wonderful Fine slant

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Rod Neep makes interesting brushes, and this is a one-off, pretty clearly grooved near the base to hang upside-down in an appropriate rack. I went for the optional coin in the base, with the year of your choice. (I chose 1984, the year I moved from Iowa City to Santa Cruz.)

The brush make an excellent lather from Barrister & Mann’s Leviathan shaving soap, a favorite: leather + coffee + sandalwood — what’s not to like?

Three passes with the Fine slant left my face wonderfully smooth. Like the iKon stainless slants, a light touch is required (and rewarded), so the razor assumes a certain level of skill. But if you keep the touch light, it’s a terrific razor.

A good splash of Leviathan finished the job and launched the day.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 November 2019 at 8:36 am

Posted in Shaving

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