<![CDATA[Aha Moments - Blog]]>Mon, 31 May 2021 14:49:43 -0700Weebly<![CDATA[Hoses and Nozzles]]>Mon, 31 May 2021 20:44:49 GMThttp://ahamoments.blog/blog/hoses-and-nozzles
American built, polyurethane garden hoses are available from Water Right. Both their standard and coil hoses have been durable in my experience:
  • 600 Series hose is straight with a 5/8 diameter inside
  • Professional Coil Hose Series has a 3/8 diameter inside
When unpacking a new hose, take care to avoid losing the included rubber gasket seals.
A fire hose style of nozzle such as this Craftsman model is great for medium to high pressure uses, though not suitable for watering delicate seedlings.

When connecting a hose to a hose bib, slowly tighten to stop leaks, but avoid damaging the host gasket by over tightening. Same for affixing a nozzle to hose. If, despite this effort, water leaks from the threads, wrapping Teflon plumber's tape (PTFE tape) clockwise around threads may help.

<![CDATA[Re-use tortilla bags]]>Fri, 12 Feb 2021 00:12:57 GMThttp://ahamoments.blog/blog/re-use-tortilla-bags
Save empty bags from tortillas and other flatbreads. Use them to
  • marinate meat
  • dredge meat in flour or other coatings
<![CDATA[We build the (our) wall (wallets)?]]>Thu, 05 Nov 2020 22:37:33 GMThttp://ahamoments.blog/blog/we-build-the-our-wall-wallet
Founders of "We build the wall" were indicted for allegedly defrauding donors by pocketing a significant portion of the $25,000,000 raised via their crowdfunding scheme, although claiming the dollars were allocated for building segments of a border wall on private property. Steve Bannon, Brian Kolfage, Andrew Badolato and Timothy Shea face federal charges of conspiracies to commit wire fraud and money laundering, creating fake invoices for sham vendors and accounts.

Despite multiple rejected-bids to build border wall segments for the US government, due to conceptual design flaws and lack of experience, Fisher Sand & Gravel constructed 3 miles in Texas and < 1 mile in New Mexico for "We Build the Wall." That, coupled with amplified visibility on Fox News, subsequently earned them billions in government contracts with support from President Trump. 60 minutes reported on the history of the company's wall projects, and problems such as erosion plaguing the Texas portion of the private wall, which was built directly on the Rio Grande river.


Update 01/20/2021: Steven Bannon pardoned by Donald Trump. However, since his co-defendants were not pardoned, his new immunity prevents him from invoking his 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination if called to testify against them.

Update 02/25/2021: Steven Bannon's financial records are subpoenaed by Manhattan's DA, who has a state investigation into the scheme.

<![CDATA[Blackguardly bankers]]>Thu, 22 Oct 2020 07:00:00 GMThttp://ahamoments.blog/blog/blackguardly-bankers
PictureWells Fargo / Public domain

Wells Fargo Bank has been penalized more than $2,000,000,000 since 2000. GoodJobsFirst.org provides an expansive list of a variety of offenses, with links. You may find that some of their links to the California Attorney General's site may be obsolete; in those cases search for more details directly on on the CA AG website.
Examples of behavior which has already resulted in fines:
Opening fake deposit and credit card accounts, in customer names but without customer consent,  to meet employee cross-selling goals.

Retaliation against a whistleblower for reporting suspected bank, mail and wire fraud.

Charging consumers for unnecessary auto insurance, mortgage fees

Failure to issue GAP insurance refunds for consumers who paid off their car loan early

Failure to comply with Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA)
  • failing to cap interest rate to limit servicemembers' obligations
  • not disclosing active duty status to court prior to evictions
  • repossessing servicemembers' automobiles without court orders
Misleading California investors, charities, and small businesses about the risk-level of auction-rate securities

More recent alleged scandals:
Sacramento Bee: "The city of Sacramento has filed a federal lawsuit against Wells Fargo alleging the banking giant steers African American and Latino borrowers into high-risk and high-cost mortgages."

KTLA in Los Angeles: "Hundreds of people had their homes foreclosed on because software used by Wells Fargo incorrectly denied them mortgage modifications."

NBC news: "Lawyers say they've found cases in 11 states in which Wells Fargo has wrongly claimed borrowers asked to pause mortgage payments during the COVID-19 pandemic" causing erroneous forbearance filings.

<![CDATA[Fun 80's Music]]>Thu, 08 Oct 2020 07:00:00 GMThttp://ahamoments.blog/blog/fun-80s-music
Jamesbond raul/Public domain
Links to official videos:

<![CDATA[Michael Flynn: foreign lobbyist for Turkey]]>Sun, 20 Sep 2020 07:00:00 GMThttp://ahamoments.blog/blog/michael-flynn-foreign-lobbyist-for-turkeyPicturePhoto by U.S. Institute of Peace , distributed under a CC-BY 2.0 license.
The Mueller investigation discovered that retired Gen. Michael Flynn worked for the government of Turkey during 2016 without registering with the U.S. government as a foreign agent. In March 2017 he eventually did file his Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) statement, but he omitted information about the true nature of the work, for which the Flynn Intel Group was paid more than $500K.

For example,  Flynn's firm was hired to influence
  • American opinion about who orchestrated the recent attempted-coup against Erdogan
  • efforts to get cleric Fethullah Gulen, a legal resident of the U.S. whom Erdogan accused,  extradited to Turkey

In Dec 2017 Mr. Flynn admitted to doing the above, in addition to lying to the FBI while serving as Trump's transition team and as national security adviser about the content of his telephone conversations/negotiations with Russian officials about sanctions recently imposed by the U.S.
In 2020 the DOJ (under AG William Barr) surprisingly moved to drop the charges against Flynn for lying to the FBI, though Flynn had already pled guilty. Consequently the lead prosecutor, Brandon Van Grack, resigned in protest. U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan does not want to drop the case without examining whether doing so is in the
 public interest. The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit will review the judges request.
Update 10/7/2020:

Attorneys for both Andrew McCabe and Peter Strzok filed letters accusing the government of recently  altering evidence provided to Flynn's defense team for their Sept. 24 filing to dismiss Flynn's case:
  • misdating a page of Peter Strzok's notes to imply that Joe Biden initiated discussion of the Logan Act, even though other disclosed documents reveal that idea had been discussed previously at the FBI.
  • heavily redacting and misdating a page of Andrew McCabe's notes

Now the Justice Department has admitted that it "inadvertently" altered evidence provided to Flynn's defense by adding sticky notes to pages of FBI notes before scanning them.
Update 11/26/2020: Pardoned by Donald Trump
Update 01/05/2021: Spoke at the pro-Trump rally in Washington D.C., on the eve of the capitol insurrection.
Update 01/27/2021: The Defense Department inspector general's office closed their investigation against LTG Flynn and forwarded several administrative matters to the Acting Secretary of the Army for review and appropriate action.

<![CDATA[He liked showing how easily fake news spreads, and making $ while doing so]]>Sun, 13 Sep 2020 07:00:00 GMThttp://ahamoments.blog/blog/he-liked-showing-how-easily-fake-news-spreads-and-making-while-doing-soPictureDenver Guardian/Public Domain
Case study: Jestin Coler
CEO of Disinfomedia and founder of ~25 domains, including The Denver Guardian, a blog (2016 - 2018),  NationalReport.net (a satirical website) and others

Incentives: The game of showing how easily fake news spreads, and the income from the ads on his websites
Excerpts from Laura Sydell's NPR article about Mr. Coler, November 23, 2016
  • "The whole idea from the start was to build a site that could kind of infiltrate the echo chambers of the alt-right, publish blatantly or fictional stories and then be able to publicly denounce those stories and point out the fact that they were fiction," Coler says.
  • He was amazed at how quickly fake news could spread and how easily people believe it.
  • And as the stories spread, Coler makes money from the ads on his websites. He wouldn't give exact figures, but he says stories about other fake-news proprietors making between $10,000 and $30,000 a month apply to him.
  • "It was just anybody with a blog can get on there and find a big, huge Facebook group of kind of rabid Trump supporters just waiting to eat up this red meat that they're about to get served," Coler says.
  • Coler says his writers have tried to write fake news for liberals — but they just never take the bait.
After retiring from the fake news industry, Jestin was interviewed by NewsWhip, May 24, 2017 . Excerpts:
  • "A lot of the things that contributed to our success wouldn’t translate that well to a reputable publication. We did more guerrilla techniques, building Facebook users that were fake, infiltrating groups that were susceptible to the content we were going to spread around."
  • "The confirmation bias is what you’re going for. You don’t need a story that’s over the top or clickbait. As long as your site looks legitimate and you have these fictional stories that people want to be true, they’ll spread it all around. You’re just fitting into the mentality that a lot of people already have."
  • We talk a lot about anger and politics, are there other emotional trends that work?
    "The things that make people happy always safe bets. Videos of cute dogs, soldiers returning home—those feel-good type stories that no matter what party you’re from, you’ll enjoy. Humor and satire, in my experience, doesn’t sell nearly as well as stories that invoke anger or fear. The only thing that sells better than sex is fear."
<![CDATA[The Faithless foundation]]>Sat, 12 Sep 2020 07:00:00 GMThttp://ahamoments.blog/blog/the-faithless-foundationPicturePhoto by Donald J. Trump Foundation / Public domain
The Donald J. Trump Foundation, a "charitable" organization, was dissolved by court order in 2019 due to misuse of funds for personal, business and political purposes taking credit for some donations to the Foundation that were made by others failure by the Trump family (directors) to provide oversight or adopt legally required policies and procedures.

The $1.8 million remaining assets of that foundation, as well as a $2 million penalty, were subsequently distributed among eight legitimate New York charities. Donald J. Trump agreed to 19 "admissions" acknowledging his personal misuse of funds. Meanwhile Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump, and Eric Trump completed compulsory training on the duties of officers and directors of charities.   
<![CDATA[Dual flush toilets]]>Fri, 11 Sep 2020 07:00:00 GMThttp://ahamoments.blog/blog/dual-flush-toiletsPicture

Save water by installing a dual flush toilet in your home, such as

<![CDATA[Get free credit reports]]>Thu, 10 Sep 2020 07:00:00 GMThttp://ahamoments.blog/blog/get-free-credit-reportsPicture
The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003 also permits you to request at least one free credit report per year from each of the four major credit reporting agencies. Only one website, annualcreditreport.com, is officially sanctioned for getting reports from the largest three agencies: Equifax and Experian and TransUnion. It will be necessary to provide your Social Security number and answer some questions to prove your identity.

The free reports do not include your credit score. If you click on a button trying to get your score, that is not part of the free service. The button you want looks like the red one above. If you encounter any screen asking you to enter credit card information, you have detoured away from the free service.


The fourth  agency is less well-known.

Adverse credit history may impede your ability to rent an apartment, obtain loans at favorable interest rates, or apply for a job -- especially a job handling finances or sensitive data. File a dispute to get your data corrected if you find errors in a credit report. Monitoring your credit reports can also help you detect an occurrence of identity theft.