Recent comments



I discovered only recently that the 'contact' facility of this website and blog, whereby anyone could click 'contact' at the top of any page to send me a message, had not been working for some time, although it seemed to be.  My trusty website guru, who has now rather dismayingly decamped to Ethiopia for, probably, three years, succeeded in fixing the problem before he left, and it should be working again now.

Apologies to anyone who has tried to send me a message via 'contact' during the last goodness-knows-how-many months and is understandably aggrieved at receiving no reply.  If your message is still relevant, please try again now, using 'contact' at the top of the page — or else send me an e-mail addressed to brianbarder [at] compuserve [dot] com, omitting the brackets and spaces.

I should also apologise for the fact that the website's 'Search' facility has also been out of order for a considerable time, for different reasons.  The website's non-resident guru hopes to be able to fix that from Addis Ababa whenever he has a spare moment and an internet connection, which might not be for some time. 


Faithful visitors to my website (, host to this blog, will have noticed that it seems to have expired, although some of its individual pages are still breathing and available, e.g. via links to them from earlier blog posts.  I have appealed for First Aid to my web guru, who however is currently somewhat preoccupied with packing up for three years' hard labour in Ethiopia, so it may be a little while before normal service is restored, if ever. 

Meanwhile, as you'll have gathered if you can read this, Ephems continues to function.  I just hope it isn't about to succumb to the same life-threatening condition as its aged website parent — although if it does, that might actually allow me enough time to read one or two of the books that continue to pile up beside my bed, untouched by human hand.  Books! – remember them?

Anyway, in case you fancy browsing again among the infinite riches of, keep clicking away on the link, and who knows?  maybe some day it will pop up again as if nothing had happened.

Update (25 April 08):  Web guru has obtained a diagnosis (unintelligible to me) from the server and expects to effect a cure over the weekend.  Ephems not apparently under immediate threat. 

Update (27 April 08):  Web guru has succeeded, after much manipulation of rogue code, in restoring my home page in all its slightly dated glory, including links to other pages.   Grateful thanks for that — and a loud raspberry to the software people who changed the code without telling anyone.


Today (Sunday 3 December) I transfer to a new computer, with all the ghastly and time-consuming business of installing dozens of programs from CDs and the web, transferring thousands of data files from CDs, and the rest of it.  So there'll be a (no doubt welcome) period of silence on my part, as Attlee requested of Laski.  Any urgent e-mails to my googlemail address only, please!


Automated blog production

And it will be a sight better than some blogs I could mention that are produced by more conventional means! 

(With grateful acknowledgements to the Financial Times magazine, 26-27 August 2006)

Oliver Kamm's Guardian article today (18 August) gets it right first time, and should be compulsory reading for all those who have been berating Tony Blair for not having demanded an immediate unconditional cease-fire from the first day of the Israeli counter-offensive.  The only additional point that Kamm omits is to expose the fallacy which assumes that if the British government had 'demanded' a cease-fire, a cease-fire would immediately have taken place.  In fact it's hard to see how such a demand could have affected events on the ground in any way. 

I realise that Mr Kamm's views are sometimes controversial (and that this is an example of that).  But being controversial doesn't make them wrong. 

Those who have posted dissenting comments on earlier Ephems items here — and in doing so have often opened up informative and challenging debate — may be assured that their silence on this item will not be taken as indicating their agreement.  If you feel like continuing these discussions I suggest that you do so by adding comments to the earlier item on 'Who won? No-one, yet'.  Comments on specific points in Oliver Kamm's piece are of course welcome either here or on the Guardian's Comment is Free blog where the Kamm article also appears. 

Footnote for nerds:  this is the first post that I have written in MS Windows Live Writer (Beta), an editor or virtual word processor specially designed for writing and uploading blog entries.  It's easy to download, install, and (so far) use.  Hat-tips: Owen's blog (how did you guess?) and Jack Schofield's Newsbytes in Technology Guardian of 17 August 06.


China is not the only totalitarian power seeking to get control of what its people can read and discuss on the Internet and the Web.  The Internet is now being threatened by big Sir Tim John Berners-Lee, KBE, FRSbusiness interests in the US which seek to gain control over the content of the traffic passing through the internet channels which they own — everything from e-mails to websites to blogs.  The companies concerned are offering substantial 'inducements' to members of the US Senate and House of Representatives to support legislation to permit this, and to resist amendments designed to preserve the freedom of the Net.  One such amendment has already been defeated.

Despite its scope for abuse, trivia and ego-tripping, the Internet and its anarchic freedom represent a fantastic international asset and a genuine bulwark against the control freakery of illiberal governments and commercial interests.  It would be a tragedy for us and our children and grand-children if that were all to be bought up and stifled by those who see it as a threat to their control over public communication and ultimately to their untrammelled freedom to make money at the expense of our freedom of expression and debate.

Full information about this potential nightmare is available on Owen's blog at,  including links to other informative websites and to where you can find any of seven ways in which you can help to avert this chilling threat.  These naturally concentrate on urging US residents to write to their Senators and Congressmen and Congresswomen to express their concern. Those of us who live elsewhere than in the United States are just as much under threat as US residents:  so another option for non-Americans is to write to or e-mail (or even fax — remember fax?) our MPs, MEPs or other parliamentary representatives to alert them to what is going on.  This is pre-eminently a matter on which action at the level of the EU might be effective. You can get the names and addresses here.  Please do it now! 


For some time now people writing comments on posts in this blog have been mortified to find that when they 'publish' them, they appear as a single paragraph with no line or paragraph breaks.  I have had to edit in the paragraph and line breaks myself.

This website's designer, resident guru and presiding genius has  spent long hours trying to locate and squash this tiresome bug.  He has at last succeeded, and I hope that from now on commenters (commentators?) won't have this problem any more.  If you do, please e-mail me to let me know (from the website Contact page).

Apologies for past frustrations.  Carry on commenting!

1 June 06

From the crack of dawn on Sunday, 6 November, this column (as virtual journalists like to describe themselves, resembling the royals in their aversion to use of the first person singular) will be away on holiday, rarely if ever reading e-mails, even more rarely sending them, and not reading or writing blog entries at all.  Whether this will be a blessed release, or whether it will mean the agonies of cold turkey and withdrawal symptoms (drop in body temperature, the shakes, sweating, obsessive urge to send text messages and to check the mobile phone every 15 minutes even when in mid-ocean and out of range of any possible transmitter;  loss of appetite;  incipient dipsomania; flatulence;  mal de mer;  etc., etc.) will be revealed in early December, unless this column’s PC has succumbed to a lightning strike before then.  Come back soon!

Here’s a clue.  

Oh, and in case any newbies are reading this and can’t translate, AFK = Away From Keyboard.  (Of course!  <Strikes forehead just above right eye with heel of hand>)  

See you again in December.


According to my trusty web counter, this website has received visits from the following countries or category of visitor, with the domain and number of visits after each.  I’m intrigued to know what has prompted the 8 visits from Croatia, and 3 from the Faroe Islands; and why there have been twice as many visits from Vietnam (2) as from Tuvalu (1 – come on, you Tuvalan web surfers, you can do better than that!).  The United States score (38) looks rather mean until you add in a high proportion of .com and .net visits, not to mention many of the three and a half thousand ‘unknown’, the 64 from the US Government (oops), and a lucky 13 from the US Department of Defense (oops again). 

Anyway, whatever brought you here, you’re very welcome … bienvenu … Willkommen … benvenuto …  bienvenido … ????? ?????????? (dobro pozhalovat’) …

Commercial (.COM) 6270 (27%), Networks (.NET) 5931 (25%), United Kingdom (.UK) 4960 (21%), Unknown (.???) 3426 (14%), AUSTRALIA (.AU) 474 (2%), Educational (.EDU) 391 (1%), NEW ZEALAND (.NZ) 159 (0%), FRANCE (.FR) 151 (0%), CANADA (.CA) 146 (0%), GERMANY (.DE) 109 (0%), NETHERLANDS (.NL) 105 (0%), JAPAN (.JP) 74 (0%), ITALY (.IT) 71 (0%), Organizations (.ORG) 69 (0%), BELGIUM (.BE) 68 (0%), US Government (.GOV) 64 (0%), FINLAND (.FI) 51 (0%), SOUTH AFRICA (.ZA) 46 (0%), AUSTRIA (.AT) 45 (0%), SPAIN (.ES) 42 (0%), UNITED STATES (.US) 38 (0%), SWEDEN (.SE) 35 (0%), POLAND (.PL) 33 (0%), ARGENTINA (.AR) 33 (0%), GREECE (.GR) 33 (0%), DENMARK (.DK) 32 (0%), BRAZIL (.BR) 31 (0%), ISRAEL (.IL) 25 (0%), RUSSIAN FEDERATION (.RU) 20 (0%), HUNGARY (.HU) 19 (0%), TURKEY (.TR) 15 (0%), INDIA (.IN) 14 (0%), PORTUGAL (.PT) 14 (0%), SWITZERLAND (.CH) 14 (0%), MEXICO (.MX) 13 (0%), NORWAY (.NO) 13 (0%), US Dept of Defense (.MIL) 13 (0%), Int. Organizations (.INT) 12 (0%), PAKISTAN (.PK) 10 (0%), THAILAND (.TH) 8 (0%), CROATIA (.HR) 8 (0%), PERU (.PE) 8 (0%), CZECH REPUBLIC (.CZ) 8 (0%), SINGAPORE (.SG) 7 (0%), SLOVAKIA (Slovak Republic) (.SK) 7 (0%), HONG KONG (.HK) 6 (0%), MALAYSIA (.MY) 6 (0%), IRELAND (.IE) 6 (0%), BULGARIA (.BG) 5 (0%), INDONESIA (.ID) 4 (0%), PHILIPPINES (.PH) 4 (0%), MOROCCO (.MA) 4 (0%), SLOVENIA (.SI) 4 (0%), ICELAND (.IS) 4 (0%), ROMANIA (.RO) 4 (0%), SAUDI ARABIA (.SA) 3 (0%), CYPRUS (.CY) 3 (0%), UNITED ARAB EMIRATES (.AE) 3 (0%), LUXEMBOURG (.LU) 3 (0%), ZAMBIA (.ZM) 3 (0%), FAROE ISLANDS (.FO) 3 (0%), MALDIVES (.MV) 2 (0%), ESTONIA (.EE) 2 (0%), VENEZUELA (.VE) 2 (0%), VIET NAM (.VN) 2 (0%), LEBANON (.LB) 2 (0%), NEPAL (.NP) 2 (0%), BELARUS (.BY) 1 (0%), LITHUANIA (.LT) 1 (0%), DOMINICAN REPUBLIC (.DO) 1 (0%), PAPUA NEW GUINEA (.PG) 1 (0%), ECUADOR (.EC) 1 (0%), TAIWAN (.TW) 1 (0%), EGYPT (.EG) 1 (0%), MALTA (.MT) 1 (0%), TURKS AND CAICOS ISLANDS (.TC) 1 (0%), TUVALU (.TV) 1 (0%), UKRAINE (.UA) 1 (0%), MAURITIUS (.MU) 1 (0%), GREENLAND (.GL) 1 (0%), URUGUAY (.UY) 1 (0%), UZBEKISTAN (.UZ) 1 (0%), MOLDOVA (.MD) 1 (0%), CHINA (.CN) 1 (0%), YUGOSLAVIA (.YU) 1 (0%), JAMAICA (.JM) 1 (0%), ZIMBABWE (.ZW) 1 (0%), ALBANIA (.AL) 1 (0%), COLOMBIA (.CO) 1 (0%).

PS: Don’t worry if you can’t decypher the last ‘welcome’ at the top:  it just means your browser isn’t configured to display Russian.


A frequent visitor to this blog has found that at least one of the links in my Ephems won’t work for him, although it works fine for me.  I have just realised what the problem is.  Because most of my hyperlinks are configured to open in a new window (to save readers having to keep using the Back button to return to my post), in some browsers opening the new window involves a pop-up: and generally in Windows XP pop-ups are ‘blocked’, i.e. turned off.  To make it work, you need either to allow pop-ups (by clicking in the bar above the text which says pop-ups have been blocked, and exercising the option to allow them), or else <b>right</b>-click on the link and choose ‘Open in new window’, which ought to work.
I suspect, although I may be wrong, that the problem arises in MS Windows Explorer but not in the (much superior) Mozilla Firefox* browser; and probably only if you are running Windows XP. 

But from now on I’ll generally make my links open in the same window.

What did we all do to pass the time before there were computers?


*That link should open in the same window and therefore not involve a pop-up.