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Showing posts from 2009

The Virtual Private Network

A colleague of mine has recently been the victim of credit-card fraud. Whilst the total sum involved is not huge we are nonetheless talking about several hundred pounds – money stolen by an electronic thief. This is an unnerving experience, but what makes it more unnerving still is the fact that as a reasonably IT-savvy professional person my colleague takes (or thought he took) every precaution when carrying out transactions online. He has a mainstream commercial virus, spyware etc package installed on his laptop and regularly updated. He is ultra careful about PINs and passwords. So how was this fraud carried out? There are several possibilities, and investigations are still ongoing. The fraud may not be IT-related at all. But cybercrime is now very big business. My attention was recently drawn to the ease with which IT crooks can (effectively) hack into a laptop by exploiting loopholes in wireless “hotspots.” A recent British TV programme graphically demonstrated this, and pointe

"The Communal Gadfly"

Review in Times Higher Education "What is most attractive is the tone of Alderman's natural voice. He has a rare ability to float above stylistic expectations, producing a fluid textual mix of the academic, the idiomatic, the conversational and the Yiddish."

Students & Universities

STUDENTS AND UNIVERSITIES Personal Statement by Professor Geoffrey Alderman in response to the Report (2 August 2009) of the House of Commons’ Committee on Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Begins 1. On 17 June 2008 I delivered my Inaugural Professorial Lecture at the University of Buckingham. Entitled Teaching Quality Assessment, League Tables and the Decline of Academic Standards in British Higher Education the lecture brought together material I had collected as part of a larger inquiry into the decline of academic standards in UK universities. I concluded that “Academic standards at many British universities are in danger of collapse – and at some have already collapsed - because those responsible for them are unwilling or unable to withstand the pressures coming from the culture of league-tables that many vice-chancellors have been only too happy to embrace.” I pointed especially to the work of the so-called Joint Planning Group (1996), and I accused the members of that

Schools and Schisms

The Board of Deputies of British Jews must not take sides in the case of admissions to the Jews' Free School

Tax Avoidance: should the government have the right to punish me for doing something that is legal but, in its view, morally wrong?

An action can be wrong as well as illegal (for example, murder), or - conceivably – illegal but not necessarily wrong (for example exceeding a designated speed limit when it is, objectively speaking, perfectly safe to do so). But can an action be legal but still wrong? Of course the concept of moral relativism makes this a very difficult question to address. Many people believe it is wrong to sell one’s body as a prostitute. But – in this country at any rate – prostitution is of itself not illegal. However, I am thinking more of the public domain rather than the private. The campaign now being waged by the Guardian – and latterly with the apparent support of Chancellor Alastair Darling – against tax avoidance falls squarely within this category. Earlier this year the Guardian launched a widescale investigation of the stratagems used by large corporations to minimise their liability to UK tax. The Guardian named twenty or so major British companies, analysed their “secretive ta

Bogus Colleges: Closing The Loophole

The alleged terrorist plot in the north-west threw light on the sham academic institutions that offer a backdoor route into the UK. A crackdown is needed – for the sake of genuine international students as much as anyone

Jacqui Smith didn't need to apologise

The press is exploiting her expenses claim for pornographic films, but neither she nor her husband have done anything wrong

Hazel Blears must back down

Hazel Blears's standoff with the Muslim Council of Britain over the views of Daud Abdullah is not only misguided but sets a dangerous precedent

"Off Come The Rose Tinted Spectacles"

Geoffrey appeared before the House of Commons' Select Committee on Innovation, Universities, Science & Skills, Monday 9 March 2009 [Report in Times Higher Education ] Geoffrey's oral evidence can be accessed at:

"A Troublesome Priest"

For Jews, the return of Holocaust denier Richard Williamson to the UK is an irritant. But for Catholics, it's a disgrace


In his review [in the January 2009 Newsletter of the Jewish Historical Society of England] of my volume of essays Controversy and Crisis: Studies in the History of the Jews in Modern Britain (Academic Studies Press, 2008), Mr Raphael Langham discusses my account of a protracted dialogue that I had with the Board of Deputies of British Jews in the years 1985-88 stemming from my request to examine the so-called “Burton Book.” This document – an unpublished manuscript penned by the Victorian explorer Captain Sir Richard Burton, alleging that Jews used Christian blood for ritual purposes – had been purchased by the Board almost exactly one hundred years ago. Historians had not hitherto been granted access to it. In 1986 the incoming President of the Board, Dr Lionel Kopelowitz, wrote to me granting me permission to consult it. But almost at once this access was blocked, on grounds that had nothing to do with the manuscript, but which were related instead to public utterances I had made o