Another Dark Little Corner

moon phases

Started this before change to "New Blogger", as backup in case of trouble with digiphoto blog "In a Small Dark Room", or rants & links blog "Hello Cruel World" . Useful - at one stage Dark Room was there, but like the astrophysical Dark Matter, we could't see it ... better now, but kept Just In Case.

Your ABC

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There is nothing. There is no God and no universe, there is only empty space, and in it a lost and homeless and wandering and companionless and indestructible Thought. And I am that thought. And God, and the Universe, and Time, and Life, and Death, and Joy and Sorrow and Pain only a grotesque and brutal dream, evolved from the frantic imagination of that same Thought.
Mark Twain (letter to Joseph Twichell after his wife's death)
[me, on a bad day]

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Some Online Photography; Local conflict/politics  
The Photography Channel

The Digital Journalist - A Multimedia Magazine for Photojournalism in the Digital Age
Changing the Face of Power: Women in the U.S. Senate Gallery - The Digital Journalist

Angry Monkey Photography
and one of my favourites, as seen in the sidebar, from top left pixel, the Daily Dose of Imagery

Rolly Smallacombe wrote
... Local activists tried to stop the Harbour Bridge being built, they tried to stop the Opera House and so it goes.



I find this argument has very low validity.

(But firstly, how sure are you of the truth of those two statements? And how do you define "local activists"?)

I could also say "Local activists tried to stop the car park replacing the QVB" and
"Local activists tried to stop the Redfern Housing Commission Towers being built".
One campaign succeeded, one didn't, is the result of either better or worse for that?

Indeed, along the lines of Gerard Henderson's article last year about Hitler
having supported similar environmental ideals as the Green Party, I could
similarly point out that he was a strong supporter of traditional Christianity,
"Family Values", the protection of children from "degenerate social ideas", and
healthy physical exercise. How do you think he improved his approval from a
mere 30-odd percent in 1933 to a strong majority? It wasn't hate-speech and
terror all the way. Tilly Devine & other sly-groggers fed money and support
undercover to the temperance campaigners who kept 6-o'clock closing in force
for many years by appealing to similar ideals. (And which were 'local
activists' there?) Did that make the ideals wrong? Or the campaign right?

So what if different people had different ideas before, and there was disussion
of the best things to do? The point is whether the developments we are looking
at now are good in themselves and good for the rest of the city, its society,
and the supporting natural & artificial structures around it for the generations to come.

Not solely whether people of influence can take a good profit out of it, return
to *their* preferred residences, and leave the residents and future public good
and funds to suffer: Leave them to pick up the pieces of social disruption, to do the
extra maintenance and policing, and try to deal with all the problems as future
economic swings go up and down, energy use changes so tall buildings are less
viable, the methods of supplying and removing water and waste change, etc, etc, etc.

And of course there are very strongly held views on several sides of these
questions. I believe that there are good reasons to support my views on a
number of issues, and I support those who argue for them. For various reasons,
I've not been able to be very active in the community at all for a while now,
but I do what little I can, and try to support those I agree with.

On many other issues I have a fairly open mind, but try to apply my basic
ethical principles to all, which are apparently at variance with some others'.
(Luckily, for the moment, these differences can be safely discussed in
Australia. Long may they remain so.)

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Excellent & Intelligent Post from SusanG at Daily Kos  
You can stop protecting me now

Mr. Bush, You Can Stop Protecting Me Now

by SusanG
Sat Jan 14, 2006 at 12:07:11 PM PDT

Bush Says Gitmo Is 'Necessary'
WASHINGTON, Jan. 13, 2006
(CBS/AP) At a joint White House news conference, President Bush rejected a plea by German Chancellor Angela Merkel that the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, be shut down. He called the four-year-old camp "a necessary part of protecting the American people."

Mr. Bush, I've decided the price is too high for my conscience. If Gitmo - and the torture and denial of due process accompanying it - is a necessary part of protecting me, I hereby officially release you from the obligation. I'm opting out of this protection racket you've set up. Think of me as just one less tile on the human shield you've created, using the safety and fear of American citizens to hide behind while you seize more power.

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After years of soul-searching, I've decided to take my chances in a risky and unpredictable world - one from which your administration can't fully insulate me anyway, even with the best of intentions - than to live my life duct-taped and "safe" in a wire-tapped American closet where I'm not free to tell you I think you're a nincompoop and a danger to humankind.

Besides, I've seen New Orleans on TV. Color me unimpressed with your ability to protect me while you strip away my rights. Even if I were willing to cower and cringe and hurl my notorious "freedoms" in your lap willynilly, you'd hardly be the "protector" first on my speed dial. (Don't believe me? Check out my calls in the bloated vacuum bag attached to your illegal NSA operations.)

But let me make my stand crystal clear: This "protection release" is not a matter of your documented incompetence, it's a matter of principle. Stop using me. Stop trying to terrorize me with Islamic boogeymen. Stop trying to convince me that if I just never, ever criticize you or question you, I will never, ever die. That might work with your Christian fundamentalist fellow travelers (who for all their professed and righteous belief in a blessed afterlife seem awfully averse to actually getting there), but I'm not buying it. Unlike an apparent majority of American voters, I don't think membership in our national cult of exceptionalism has automatically exempted me from personal death. The fact that I was born on a certain continent in a certain era does not automatically signal to me that nothing bad - especially dying - will befall me.

I can live with the fact that someday I will die, no matter how many of my "freedoms" you take away. Please, direct your future energies toward protecting those who think denial of death and bargaining away the raucous, electrically vivid and unpredictable present moment is a wonderful way to live a life. Count me out.

And another word to the wise .... I noticed the following passage from the same article:
Mr. Bush said the prison camp would remain open "so long as the war on terror goes on, and so long as there's a threat."

Psssst. It's time to crack open those history books you were too busy partying to delve into at Yale. Human beings and their self-constructed civilizations have been terrorizing each other since we crept out of the amniotic pre-historical seas (and yes, we did crawl out, despite the histrionics of your faith-based friends - and I suspect you know it). Hell, my neighbors terrorize me and mine when they drive too fast down the street, an immediate threat of the first order. I doubt I'm going to get around any time soon to constructing a prison on my block and picking up the speedsters - and whatever innocent walks by - for permanent incarceration.

See? I live with risk and terror and threat every day without resorting to illegalities. I suggest you try doing the same.

I'd like to think you're simply ignorant that you've effectively declared "Forever War," but I'm convinced you - or at least your speechwriters and advisors - are not.

On a final note, please tell me the following quote from you - ostensibly about Iran - is an example of that Texas humor I confess to not getting:
"It's very important for non-transparent societies to not have the capacity to blackmail free societies," Mr. Bush asserted.

Secret prisons. Surveillance. American citizens held and tortured for four years without charges. Pacifist groups being spied on by the DOD.

Please assure me this "non-transparent society" statement is a gag, kinda like looking under that table for WMD's or joking about your binge drinking in New Orleans while bodies floated face downward in the streets. You know, tasteless but funny in Dallas, yet leaving the rest of the nation appalled.

Because if you're not joking, I'm really terrified. And no matter how many rights you take away from me, you can't protect me from my biggest fear: You.

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The last few years of drought seem to have turned the corner, at least for a while, and Sydney has had substantial periods of rain, moving back into a typical near-subtropical rainy summer.

Returning home at night by ferry, the breeze of our passage eases the still air. Looking down the length of the harbour, I can see the grey haze of humidity overlying the lights of the city, but above are stars glittering in the warm dark.

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John Howard: Prime Minister; Actor; Prison Reformer  
John Howard 1726 - 1790

A Bedford-based non-conformist, Howard lived an eventful life before dedicating himself to achieving prison reform.

In 1773 Howard was appointed Sheriff of Bedfordshire. His duties included being prison inspector, and Howard was appalled by the insanitary conditions he found. He was surprised by the arrangement through which prisoners paid their gaolers and were kept gaoled for non-payment even if acquitted of their crime.

Two acts were passed by Parliament in 1774 at the behest of Howard, which stipulated that acquitted prisoners should be freed without charge and that the health of prisoners should be regularly checked.

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Howard pushed for further acts ensuring reforms and travelled Europe, visiting prisons and meeting with royalty. His final trip abroad to a military prison camp in the Ukraine culminated in his contracting typhus, from which he never recovered.

The inscription on his tomb in the Ukraine reads "Whosoever thou art, thou standest at the grave of thy friend".

The website of the Howard League for Penal Reform
1 Ardleigh Road, London, N1 4HS
Charity No. 251926
Tel: +44 020 7249 7373, Fax: +44 020 7249 7788
info (at)

His early life
John Howard, the namesake of the Howard League, was born in 1726 in Hackney, East London. He was the son of a prosperous middle class family, and had a comfortable start to life. He was apprenticed to a London wholesale grocery firm, his income meant he could have an apartment, servants and two horses.
John Howard married twice. In 1753, he married his landlady Sarah Lordore, but she died only two years later. This sudden change in life again led him to travel, both for interest and to reflect upon his own future.
John Howard returned to Cardington in Bedfordshire and married Henrietta Leeds, who died in childbirth, leaving her husband to care for their young son John.

High Sheriff of Bedford
During this period John Howard became established as a country gentleman in Bedfordshire. He was a model landlord, a horticulturalist and practised the role of public servant he considered to be appropriate for his status. John Howard was a nonconformist, but despite this he was appointed High Sheriff of Bedfordshire, and with this title came the responsibility for the county gaol.

He was appalled by the conditions and human degradation he discovered. This spurred him to visit other prisons in England and then Europe in the search for humane prison conditions. During the mid 1750s many gaols held religious dissenters and debtors, alongside common thieves and felons. Many of the debtors were respectable local tradesmen who could not be released from prison until money was raised to pay off their creditors.

John Howard criticised the gaoler of Bedford. Traditionally, once gaolers had been appointed they were left to manage their gaol in the fashion they chose and made their own living as best they could. This usually resulted in bribes, favours and profits, which were to the detriment of the prisoners under their care. Many prisoners were forced to pay for their period of incarceration and this meant paying for their bedding, food and other facilities. In 1753, for example, a prisoner was charged 2s 6d per a week for the sole use of bedding and sheets; the price to share bedding would have been 1s 3d a week, and to transport a prisoner to London the gaoler would have charged £6.

Tour of England and Wales and on to Europe
John Howard decided to tour English counties confident of finding a good example for Bedford gaol to follow. He was allowed to visit cells, dungeons and torture chambers, to talk to the gaolers, turnkeys and even the prisoners themselves. He was horrified to find that the malpractice in Bedford was common all over England and Wales.

In 1755 John Howard wrote: “Ely Gaol was the property of the Bishop and because of the insecurity of the old prison and the gaoler chained the victims down on their backs an the floor, across which several iron bars, with an iron collar with spikes about their necks and a heavy iron bar over their legs”.

Many gaolers would not allow prisoners to leave the gaol, even if they had been found innocent, unless they or their families paid for their release. This often meant that poorer prisoners languished in gaol unnecessarily.

Having investigated prisons in England and Wales, John Howard felt compelled to visit Ireland and Scotland and then to almost every country in Europe, including Russia. At a time when travel was usually uncomfortable and often dangerous, he travelled nearly eighty thousand kilometres on horseback and spent some £30,000 of his own money in his determination to improve prison conditions. He entered prisons in disguise in defiance of governments who feared the power of his pen. He was captured by pirates and held in France, quelled a riot single-handed and more than earned John Wesley’s tribute to him as “one of the greatest men in Europe”.

John Howard made seven large scale journeys between 1775 and 1790, the first two of which are described in his book The State of the Prisons In England and Wales. He sought to bring about reform through personal initiatives, by arousing the consciences of influential people and stirring them into action. He also visited gaolers personally to persuade them to comply with the minimal regulations that did exist. John Howard’s work had influence as far afield as Germany, America and Russia. He died in Kherson in the Ukraine of ‘gaol fever’, a form of typhus, in January 1790.

A monument was erected there to mark his life and achievements, and was renovated in 1990 to commemorate the bi-centenary of his death.

John Howard’s role in the development of the international penal reform movement cannot be denied, and the importance of his life and work is reflected in this inscription on his statue in St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Statue of the famous philanthropist and prison reformer at St Paul's Square, Bedford.

"This extraordinary man had the fortune to be honoured whilst living,
In the manner which his virtues deserved:
He received the thanks
Of both houses of the British and Irish Parliaments,
For his eminent services rendered to his country
and to mankind"

Suggested reading
Howard League (1990) A Tribute to John Howard. £5.00
Howard, J (1973) (first published 1777) The State of Prisons in England and Wales. Patterson Smith. (2 book set) £85.00.
Freeman J. (ed.) (1979) Prisons, Past and Future Heinemann Educational Books Ltd £5.00

The Howard League for Penal Reform
1 Ardleigh Road, London, N1 4HS
Charity No. 251926
Tel: 020 7249 7373, Fax: 020 7249 7788

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Health Care Horror: Patient Told To Reuse Colostomy Bag For 5 Days  
Health Care Horror: Patient Told To Reuse Colostomy Bag For 5 Days
This is an updated address for the page. It's a particularly pertinent horror story for me, and a reason to resist several so-called "reforms" to the Autralian health-care system. patients/ articles/ ?storyId=16193

This story is also mentioned as one of the examples in
Making a Killing
HMOs and the Threat to Your Health

Chapter 5
Getting Away With Murder
Why You Can't Sue Your HMO


Patient Told To Reuse Colostomy Bag For 5 Days

Michelle Leasure - Baltimore, MD
As told by Michelle Leasure:

I am a disability advocate and work for an agency that not only serves the disability community, but is staffed by people with disabilities. I have several disabilities, one of which is an incontinent ostomy. I do not have control over my bowels, and must wear a colostomy bag to contain my waste. Under Maryland law, ostomy supplies are 100% covered by insurance agencies.

When my employer changed insurance providers on September 1, 1997, I could no longer get the supplies I required to live. I have had my ostomy for three years and this was the first time I had ever had problems. I fought with my insurer for two months before I received any supplies, and at that time the supplies were incomplete. Many of the doctor-prescribed items were denied as unneeded, so I was forced to purchase them myself.

At the time, my salary was $500 a year above the poverty level and I soon found myself in financial trouble as a result. When the few supplies I got at that time ran out, my co-workers and myself went back to battle with my insurer, and it was January before I received more supplies, again not all that I needed.

I was told by my insurer that I was expected to use disposable bags for five days each. Now pardon me for being so graphic, but it's necessary. I work in the public arena, and I was expected to (and this is verbatim) "wash the bags out in the public restrooms that I frequent, walk (I use a wheelchair) to the sink with my ostomy exposed, and finish washing the feces out into the sink, then reattach it to my flange." It would be the same thing as asking a mother to empty a diaper, rinse it out in the sink and reapply it to her baby for five days.

I have systemic lupus, so I also have a compromised immune system. To even ask anyone, let alone a person with immune problems, to use public restrooms in such a fashion, is sheer and absolute insanity.

In mid-April, I finally received a full month supply of ostomy products, but I had been out from work for 2 1/2 months, living in my bathtub, because I had not had the supplies for that long. I even spent a week in a nursing home as a result of this and had another stroke, requiring a hospital stay, because of the stress from this battle.

I am a person who could get the medical benefits I require from Medical Assistance if I were to quit work and go on welfare. The bizarre thing is, I want to work -- and I am paying into the system, but cannot get the services I'm entitled to and work so hard for.

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I was supposed to have corrective surgery to fix the bilateral spinal implants that "fell out" of their socket and are currently free-floating in my right side. I actually have to push them back inside my body several times a day and night. My insurer has only one doctor they will allow me to see that can do the work on the implants and he is unavailable to see me until the end of May. That is just to see him -- I have no idea if he will be able to schedule the surgery then, or if I will have to wait another six months. I cannot stand the discomfort much longer.

I have been told that because of the ERISA loophole my insurer is protected from legal liability for delaying and denying the medical care that I so badly need. I am convinced that if I were able to hold my insurer legally accountable I would be getting more attentive care.
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