Talk:Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

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The entry for AIJAC has been edited for the following reasons.

AIJAC does represent the views and interests of the mainstream Jewish community. AIJAC's pro-Israel stance reflects the views of the vast majority of Australia's Jewish community. In terms of domestic politics, AIJAC is strictly bi-partisan. Those who regard AIJAC as right wing and only representing itself are from the left fringe of the Australian Jewish community. The entry is now far more accurate in this regard.

AIJAC has offices in both Melbourne and Sydney. The entry stated that it was a Sydney based organisation, yet correctly listed the head office as being in Melbourne.

AIJAC has recently changed the name of its publication to the "Australia/Israel Review".

Colin Rubenstein is Editorial Chairman, not editor

The word "focuses" was misspelt as "focues"

- I take it that user is in fact Ted Lapkin. Ted, I have accepted most of your edits to the article except for those in the first paragraph. I don't agree that AIJAC represents the Jewish community. It is an unelected body, and as such, represents no one but itself (and perhaps those people who are members, and hence probably subscribe to its views). On what basis do you possibly claim to represent the jewish community in Austalia? How could you possibly know what their views are? (no, the letters page of the AJN is NOT a representative sample). AIJAC's claims to be representative are outrageous, and show a total contempt for the opinions of all other Jews in Australia.

On the second point, AIJAC is most certainly right wing, supporting as it does the policies of what are generally accepted as the right wing parties in Israeli politics (the focus of AIJAC's work).

Finally, I have left it as editor, as I think anyone who call's themselves "Editorial Chairman" is a pompous git - the person in ultimate change of content in a publication is referred to as an "editor" in english. I (could but) don't refer to myself as an "executive contributing editorial chairman" of this webpage.)

-User:Mc, March 3, 2006, 12:31am.

Eh, this is Jamie Hyams, not Ted Lapkin.

You may think that the title "Editorial Chairman" has a pompous tone to it, but your dislike of the term doesn't change the fact that this is Colin Rubenstein's title. The person directly responsible for the publication of the AIR is Editor-in-Chief Tzvi Fleischer, not Colin. I don't think that your personal bias about Colin Rubenstein's title is justification for the dissemination of faulty information.

In terms of AIJAC's representative nature, it is true that we are a privately-funded think tank. But we advocate the consensus values and views of the mainstream Jewish community. You ask me to substantiate this assertion. Fair enough.

Let me commend to your attention the "Jews and Australian Politics" (Sussex Academic PRess 2004) by Geoffrey Brahm Levey and Philip Mendes. Neither Levey nor Mendes are fans of AIJAC, and in fact they wrote a rather ascerbic chapter about the Council in this book.

But not even Levey and Mendes can deny the undeniable fact that the Australian Jewish community is enthusiastically and passionately Zionist. Levey and Mendes note that "on almost every available measure – visitation, resident relatives, emotional attachment and philanthropy – Israel figures centrally in Australian Jewish identity." And in his chapter in the book on Jews and the Left, Mendes concedes that even the most active Jewish Leftist organisations are miniscule in number and marginal in community status.

Thus AIJAC's pro-Israel advocacy is much more reflective of mainstream Australian Jewish values than the smattering of anti-Zionist Leftist Jews who are marginal both in number and community influence.

And let me reiterate, support for Israel is not solely the province of one side of the Australian political spectrum. AIJAC works assiduously in a bi-partisan manner to promote pro-Israel sentiment within the ALP and Liberal Party alike. ALP Member of Parliament Michael Danby is a former editor of the Australia/Israel Review.

Thus your prior characterisation of AIJAC as a "right wing" institution is unfair and misleading.

P.S. - I note that you have linked to Antony Loewnstein's chapter on the Ashrawi peace prize from "Not Happy John." I would be more than happy to conduct a survey to see whose views are more representative of Australian Jewry's opinions - the anti-Zionist perspective of Loewenstein, or the pro-Zionist perspective of AIJAC. There would be no contest - Loewenstein articulates the views of a small coterie of hard-leftists who operate on the fringe of the Australian Jewish community. While they certainly have every right to express themselves, they could hold their ideological AGM in a phone booth. The tone of Loewenstein's chapter is more reflective of his animus towards AIJAC (and the Zionist community on the whole) than of the events he seeks to describe.

Further, I note that in your introduction to this affair, you admit that the "Australian Jewish community vehemently opposed the honouring of Palestinian politician Hanan Ashrawi with the Sydney Peace Prize." This is just one example where AIJAC represented the views of Australia's Jewish community and those such as Loewenstein who regard AIJAC as right wing and unrepresentative did not.

AIJAC's Hubris

We welcome AIJAC's belated endorsement of our book Jews and Australian Politics (Sussex Academic Press, 2004). However, some of Jamie Hyam's comments are disingenuous.

Our joint chapter in Jews and Australian Politics was not an "ascerbic chapter about" AIJAC at all, but a dispassionate analysis of the Hanan Ashrawi Peace Prize Affair. We covered AIJAC's involvement as we did all the main players in the affair, and we did so fairly, relying heavily on AIJAC's own statements throughout the event. AIJAC has a bad habit of thinking that everything is about them. Nevertheless, regarding their involvement, it is universally accepted both within and outside the Jewish community that AIJAC's campaign against Ashrawi was both a debacle and a source of serious embarrassment to Australian Jewry.

We have no sympathy with AIJAC's neo-conservative politics, which, in any case, are a poor imitation of their American role model. However, we recognize that their political perspective on some things, especially regarding Israel, is shared by sections of both the Jewish and broader Australian communities. Contrary to Hyman's imputation, this convergence does not entitle AIJAC to claim being a "representative" voice of Australian Jewry. As Hymans notes, the Council is a "privately-funded think tank" (we would suggest more tank than think), which has no mechanisms in place for garnering, much less a mandate for expressing, the views of Australian Jews as a whole. The plain fact is that, for all their public declarations on behalf of Australian, world, and intergalactic Jewry, they represent only their own little group.

Also problematic is AIJAC's ultra-aggressive and bullying campaign style. In our opinion, this style seems far more likely to bolster rather than to combat manifestations of anti-Semitism and extreme anti-Zionism. In reviewing our book in AIJAC's Australia/Israel Review, Ted Lapkin took the line that we were scurrilous for not abiding the ethical code of contacting and giving those we intended to criticize an opportunity to respond before going into print (this despite our inclusion of a prior chapter on AIJAC by another author that comprised an extended interview with Colin Rubinstein and presentation of AIJAC's views). As a model ethical journalist, Lapkin thus contacted us prior to publishing his review. When he did so, we pointed out that we were not journalists but academics, and so were bound by academic norms of research and writing, and not by The Code of Ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists. At the time, Lapkin responded by saying that this was a fair point. He then published his attack impugning our ethical and professional conduct based on journalistic practice.

Geoffrey Brahm Levey and Philip Mendes, Editors, Jews and Australian Politics (Sussex Academic Press, 2004)


The following is the text of an email that I (Ted Lapkin) sent to Geoffry Braham Levey (although I suppose that it applies with equal validity to his co-author Philip Mendes)


While I was tickled by your transparent attempt to spin Jamie Hyam’s comments into a “belated endorsement” of your book, I was less amused by your mischaracterisation of our telephone conversation.

At no time during my dialogues with you or Phillip Mendez did I ever concede that you made a “fair point” in response to my contention that you acted unethically in not contacting AIJAC during the writing of your book. Quite the contrary, in fact.

I called you in order to solicit a response to the argument I was making in my review of your book. I listened to what you had to say, and was singularly unconvinced. And that’s what I told you, then and there.

You falsely contend that I accepted the validity of your counter-argument on the ethics question, accusing me of disingenous behaviour in the bargain by purporting that I said one thing over the phone and wrote the opposite in my review. But because the former is not true, then by definition neither is the latter. And you should know it.

I was scrupulously honest and upfront in all my dealings with you. It is unfortunate that I cannot say the same about you. The operative lesson from my perspective is to have a disc recorder handy if we ever have occasion to converse again.

There is a Hebrew phrase that seems quite applicable to your character, or lack thereof – lo ritzini. It means “not serious.”

Ted Lapkin Director of Policy Analysis Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council"

Ah Ted,

Your memory fails you. I took notes during your call. "Fair point" was your immediate remark when I pointed out neither Philip Mendes nor I were journalists but academics. You may not have meant it, but that's what you said. In any case, it remains that you went ahead and published your review impugning our conduct on the basis of The Code of Ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists even after I pointed out to you we are not journalists and not so bound by this code. You evidently think this is "scrupulously honest" behaviour. Many people, including me, would disagree.

Geoffrey Brahm Levey, co-editor, Jews and Australian Politics (Sussex Academic Press, 2004).


Sorry Geoffrey, but my memory is fine and dandy.

I know what I said, and the phrase "fair point" was not uttered by me. Neither explicitly nor implicitly did I ever convey the idea that I somehow accepted the validity of your counter-argument. As previously stated, I found your explanation unconvincing, and that's what I told you at the time.

And your claim to have taken notes during the call proves nothing. In fact, I find your, assertion to be quite implausible in light of the unexpected nature (from your perspective) of my call. Your "notes" could have been written at any time. By falsely imputing dishonesty to me, I think that you have already demonstrated propensity for playing fast and loose with the truth. And now you are adding an added dash of disingenuousness to the mix by making a spurious claim to having contemporaneously recorded me saying words that I never uttered.

The Code of Journalistic Ethics is voluntary, so no one is formally "bound" by it. But if reporters who operate under constant deadline pressure can be expected to comport with the basic principles of fairness, then that same principle should apply, several fold, to academics whose production schedules are far more relaxed and lengthy. In the preparation of your chapter on Ashrawi, you saw fit to seek out people with views you found ideologically congenial from the other side of the globe. Yet, despite the fact that AIJAC is situated in your proverbial back yard, you didn't see fit to solicit a response to your decidedly pejorative portrayal of that organisation. And as I pointed out in my review, for Mendes it would have even been a local phone call. Such behaviour bespeaks more of an ideological assault, than a dispassionate work of academic research.

Of course, speaking as a full fledged combatant in the culture/political wars myself, I can have no honest objection to ideological assaults, per se. But what I do find obnoxious is this attempt to cloak your partisan trucculence behind a pseudo-academic facade. This bespeaks an intellectual cowardice that only accentuates the other unedifying aspects of your character that have emerged in this little contre temps.

Once again, the operative lesson for me is simple: if I ever have the occasion to converse with you again, I'll make sure to have a disc recorder handy. It seems that such measures are required to ensure and an accurate and honest portrayal of events is conveyed, instead of a hodgepodge of spurious allegations that are butressed by dubious "proof."


Your rantings speak for themselves. So I'll confine myself to one (extended) observation. Your reading ability is as clumsy as your writing. In your two posts here, you bang on about never having conceded a point when you telephoned me. Is this what they teach you at AIJAC school? When in difficulty, try to muddy the waters as much as possible and then wax indignant? I have no hesitation in publicly affirming that you never conceded a point regarding the issues separating us over the Ashrawi affair and the other substantive issues discussed. So you can reassure your bosses on this score. We/I rather spoke to a different, single point. When you phoned me, you read out the opening lines of your draft review of our book to the effect that we failed to observe The Code of Ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists by not "diligently seek[ing] out subjects of news stories to give them the opportunity to respond to allegations of wrong doing." As stated before, I simply pointed out that Philip Mendes and I aren't journalists. I recall and record you saying at that juncture -- as if my reply had caught you by surprise -- "fair point." But why should you be so embarrassed to say such a thing? Surely not even you wants to insist that Philip and I are journalists...? It was a fair point.

Your difficulty is that you had drafted your review on the premise that we were unethical because we had failed to observe a journalist's code of conduct. So in your published version, you lamely inserted the sentence: "And if this rule pertains to the hurly burly world of journalism, one would think that it might apply with redoubled force in the more slowly-moving realm of academia." You repeat the same suggestion in your post above. Well, sorry, but you're doubly wrong. First, we were not alleging criminal or civil wrongdoing against AIJAC in newspapers or in our book. We were engaged in a political analysis of a particular political controversy in which AIJAC, among others, figured. Second, contrary to your inference, academics are not -- repeat, NOT -- governed by journalists' code of ethics. So the premise upon which you constructed your review collapses.

Now, permit me to state what you should have done. You should have ditched the appeal to the journalistic code of ethics and simply argued that it would been nice or fair had we taken the trouble to speak to AIJAC representatives before writing our analysis. This, in your own case, would have been the decent thing to do. But you didn't do it. Why not? It would have allowed you to make much the same criticism about not contacting you. But no, you wanted to persist in trying to impugn our professional standing, even if it meant holding us to the wrong profession. Now isn't that "fine and dandy"!

Had you gone the honest route of criticism, then, I suppose Philip and I would still have rejected the suggestion of "unfairness". We would reiterate that we didn't need to interview anyone at AIJAC in order fairly to present its views and positions on the Ashrawi affair, since they had been stated publicly by Mark Liebler, Colin Rubenstein, and other AIJAC people in numerous articles in newspapers and on the AIJAC website, which we cited. What's more, we had commissioned a chapter on AIJAC by another scholar which was based almost entirely on his interview with Colin Rubenstein. Indeed, The Australian Journal of Political Science (vol. 40, no. 3, 2005) found the chapter so "uncritical[ly]...dependent on a long interview with AIJAC director Colin Rubenstein, that one wonders why Rubenstein did not write it himself" (p.464). I might say, in the interests of balance, we also chose to place this chapter directly ahead of our own on the Ashrawi affair.

In short, you would have done yourself, AIJAC and your readers a service had you concentrated on evaluating the substantive arguments in our chapter and the rest of the book, instead of going the lazy, infantile route of trying to condemn the book by impugning our professional character. The scholarly and academic assessment of the book, not surprisingly, differs rather strikingly from your own. The Australian Journal of Political Science (2005) found it "an excellent collection by some outstanding Jewish social scientists [which] should be included in any Australian politics course" (p.464).

Geoffrey Brahm Levey, co-editor, Jews and Australian Politics (Sussex Academic Press, 2004).

A Stunning Talent

Ah Geoffrey:

Once again you exhibit a stunning talent for belabouring the patently obvious. You aren’t journalists? What a revelation! But, as usual, you completely miss the point. So I shall make one final attempt (sigh) to elucidate the issues at hand. And in the hope of this time making myself understood, I’ll try not to use too many polysyllabic words.

The point of mentioning the media’s code of ethics is one of contrast. Journalists who operate under tight deadline pressures are still expected to solicit the views of those who play prominent roles in their stories. Why? Because the fundamental principle of fairness and objectivity requires that all sides of the issue to be aired.

(psst – this is where the contrast comes in) The professoriate operates under no such perpetual daily deadline pressure. And thus it would be reasonable to expect that similar principles of fairness would apply with redoubled force to the academic environment where the timelines are measured in months and years, rather than hours.

But while relevant, this issue is really a sideshow by comparison with the real bone of contention betwixt us. As I explain in my review of your book [1], the true source of your animus towards AIJAC is purely ideological:

Levey and Mendes note in the book that "on almost every available measure – visitation, resident relatives, emotional attachment and philanthropy – Israel figures centrally in Australian Jewish identity." And in his chapter in the book on Jews and the Left, Mendes concedes that even the most active Jewish Leftist organisations are miniscule in number and marginal in community status. Thus even by Mendes' own measure, AIJAC is far more reflective of Jewish community values than the smattering of hard core Leftists that Levey and Mendes adduced to support their claim of community dissension.

And that’s the rub. Stripped of all the window dressing, the essence of the Levey/Mendes grievance about AIJAC’s purported "political bias" stems from the fact that the partiality in question isn’t theirs. Like many Jewish Leftists, Levey and Mendes resent the fact that their worldview places them far outside the ambit of the community’s political common denominators. They are frustrated that the inherent extremism of their politics consigns them to the status of bit players on the Jewish communal stage. Even more obnoxious is the tack that Levey and Mendes steer when they attempt to explain what to them is fundamentally inexplicable: the extremely high level of Zionist enthusiasm that pervades Australian Jewry. The Jews, you see, have been so traumatised by the Holocaust that they suffer from a "disjuncture" between their "self-perceptions and how they are perceived by the wider community." If only the Jews could get over this irrational Shoah obsession, Levey and Mendes imply, then the Jewish community would not be so inclined to make mountains out of molehills.

So what if Sydney Peace Institute Director Stuart Rees evokes classic antisemitic themes when he complains about "being threatened by members of a powerful group who think they have an entitlement to tell others what to do?" And who cares if Rees completes the ‘Protocols of Zion’ imagery with his comment that his critics over the Ashrawi affair "are ‘they’ and ‘them’, invisible but powerful people?" Levey and Mendes hint that the Jews should loosen up a bit. And if a major public institution honors an unrelenting supporter of terrorism and Israel’s eradication as a Jewish state; no worries, mate! Let’s throw a few knishes on the barbie, twist the lid off a stubbie, kick back and relax! In the immortal words of MAD magazine’s Alfred E. Neuman: "What, me worry?"

The fact that you are able to whistle up a positive review written by a fellow ideological traveller in academia impresses me not a bit. It is undeniable that the humanities and social science faculties of modern universities abound with Leftists of various stripes. And it is similarly beyond dispute that the Left has cast its lot with those who are hostile to Israel at the very least, or who more likely go the whole nine yards to advocate who for the elimination of Israel as a Jewish state. So the puff piece from the Australian Journal of Political Science is neither a suprise, nor particularly compelling.

For the sake of full disclosure I should point out that my review found that several of your book's other contributors produced useful chapters on other facets of the Australian Jewish community. But the whole effect was spoiled by your jointly written article on Ashrawi, which was nothing more than a politically derived polemic masquerading in academic guise.

For a more honest glimpse of your views, unshrouded by the pretense of academic objectivity, I can recommend your silly opinion piece from the 25 June 2004 edition of the Forward [2], where you imply that American Jews are rubes who are manipulated at will by the machiavellian machinations of those shady eminences grises at AIJAC. The piece reads as though it was inspired by the Protocols.

But then, that's par for the Leftist course, always seeking conspiracy theories to explain the fact that their views never gain mainstream traction with the broader body politic. Perhaps its time to recognise the simple fact that Leftist views lack widespread appeal because of their intrinsic lack of merit. It's as simple as that.

Ted Lapkin

"High Noon Journalist" Caught on his own Spurs


That's good, I think we've now made some progress. On two fronts. First, regarding your shabby attempt to review a book by impugning the authors' professional conduct based on standards that apply in another profession. It is generally wise to stop digging when you find yourself in a hole. So let's examine your last remaining corner of defense: your contention that you only invoked the "media’s code of ethics [as] one of contrast." Only the contrast was not that academic work differs from journalism in the appropriate rules of engagement, but rather that the same rules apply with even greater force in the academy given the slow pace of scholarly work compared with journalism. Most people would see that this contention adds nothing new to the proposition and its dispatch above. So let me join the puzzling dots for you. No means no. Wrong means wrong. A non sequitur is a non sequitur. The slow pace of academic work doesn't magically make journalism's ethics apply to the academy, just as the builders of the Opera House would not have been governed by The Code of Ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists. Get it? They are different professions/occupations. They abide by quite different codes of conduct. Your attempt to judge academic work by the standards of journalism shows how little you understand of academic work.

But what is genuinely puzzling to me is how your contention also misunderstands journalism, of which, if I am not mistaken, you regard yourself a practitioner. (How did you call yourself when you telephoned me? "I'm a High Noon journalist", you said.) As I stated above, in politically analysing the Ashrawi affair, Philip Mendes and I were not alleging criminal, civil, or even professional misconduct against AIJAC. So even if we were journalists, we would not be ethically obliged to contact the subjects of our analysis, in just the same way that Paul Kelly (a journalist) and Janet Albrechtsen (a columnist) in The Australian newspaper are not obliged to contact the subjects they write about in their political analyses or commentary. You nastily tried to draw a very long bow, and it has sprung back in your face.

The second front of progress is that you have now outed yourself for all the world to see as an ideologue and political cowboy. Your cavalier dismissal of the Australian Journal of Political Science -- the official journal of the Australian Association of Political Studies -- shows us how "High Noon journalists" write to kill rather than to inform and assess. As does your slur against the reviewer of our book, who happens to be among the most distinguished scholars of Australian politics and society and Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia. Your ritual incantation of the "anti-Israel" slur is, as usual, the tactic of the desperate. Of those who think that academic studies have merit only when they support their own long-settled views. And so this is the appropriate time to leave this little exchange of ours. Now that you have exposed yourself, there is nothing more to say.

Geoffrey Brahm Levey

Once again your propensity for adducing the obvious as if it were some sort of great discovery comes to the fore. As visitors to the AIJAC website will readily observe, I am a reasonably prolific opinion contributor to major Australian newspapers. And given that the subject matter of my pieces is invariably political, there is nothing to 'out.' My ideological propensities are, by virtue of my writing, open and common knowledge. Ideology and politics are my business, and I practice both openly and unabashedly. And that's another point of contrast. I wear my political colours on my sleeve, while you camouflage them beneath a patina of pseudo-academic jargon. I've never been 'in the closet' about anything. Can you say the same?

And, by the way, what the hell is a "high noon journalist?" Once again your proclivity for invention gets the better of you because that juxtaposition of terms is not an expression that I have ever used. It doesn't make any sense. But then again, so much of what you say doesn't, so I suppose it's par for the course.

Ted Lapkin

Sorry, you are technically right, Ted. You never used "that juxtaposition of terms." My notes of your telephone call -- on 19 April 2005, from 5:30 pm to 6:10 pm -- record you as concluding the call by saying: "I come from the ‘high noon’ school of journalism". I rest my case.


Resting Your Case In Peace

Ah, Geoffrey:

Let me begin by reiterating my doubts about your assertion that you took word perfect notes of a telephone conversation that was completely unexpected by you. As we shall see, your standards of stenographic accuracy leave much to be desired.

I indeed told you that I was a practitioner of the "high noon school of journalism," but your memory fails you as to when this occurred. The term was used the beginning of the conversation to set the stage for discussion, not at the end of our dialogue. This was a metaphorical expression that was employed to contrast my modus operandi from yours - my willingness to solicit, mano a mano, your response to my criticism, as opposed to your cowardly refusal to do the same. Hence the reference to the eponymous Western flic (Gary Cooper vs the pussilanimous townspeople). I stand by both the statement and the sentiments it conveys.

In that allegorical context, the phraseology I employed makes perfect sense. But you proceed to give it a nonsensical twist in both grammatical and metaphorical respects, and then you falsely attribute your inane conjuration to me by enclosing this malapropism in quotation marks.

In journalism, quotation marks are supposed to mean something, and their false attribution is a proverbial shooting offense. People are fired over such things. And I would expect that the use of false quotations is viewed as a similarly serious transgression within academia, as well. But here you are, freely admitting to playing fast and loose with the rules of attribution that are held sacrosanct by both professions.

You attempt to minimise the significance of your professional malfeasance, writing it off as a mere technical error. Sorry, Geoff, but as they say in North Carolina, that dog just won't hunt. Your actions are no mere misdemeanour, but a journalistic and academic felony. You are hoist by your own petard.

And you are moist under your own leotards, because...

On the contrary, Cowboy Ted, you just shot yourself in the foot. Never used that "juxtaposition of terms" you said above. What a strange way to deny that one said something. Sounded like a slippery way of avoiding responsibility for your embarrassing utterances. And, so you now admit, it was. (I volunteered a correction; you had to be smoked out.) You would have had the readers of this blog believe that you never made any such remark and could not even work out what a high noon journalist referred to. And yet now you admit that you said you're a practitioner of the "high noon school of journalism." Had you been honest or wit enough, you could easily have understood the reference to your being a high noon journalist. Why Ted, you could even have offered our readers your peculiar gloss on what you meant by this in your first response. Instead, you elected to deceive. Funny, that. After leading everyone to believe you said no such thing, now you "stand by both the statement and the sentiments it conveys." Wonderful! One thing: you've already forgotten that you aknowledged above that you didn't record or make notes of your call to me. I'm the one who made notes at the time of what you said and when you said them. (While your call certainly surprised me, pen and paper aren't exactly unkown on academics' desks.) You see, Ted, I made notes of the call precisely because I didn't trust you to report me accurately or fairly. After all, there is nothing more irresponsible than a yahoo with a lassoo. A journalist who fancies himself a gunslinging Gary Cooper. Alas, my hunch was vindicated both by your shabby review and by your remarks and denials here. One thing I'd still like to ask you, Ted. As you say, you're a journalist (of the high noon school) at the AIJAC stables, and not an academic. In your various opinion pieces and scribblings, have you always contacted the subjects of your critical remarks before shooting into print? (Yes, I do have a few specific examples of your handiwork in mind.)