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Putting The "Rank" in "Rank And File"

There are plenty of folks who still strongly support unions. There are those who say they still serve a valued purpose in today's world, that they still offer much to workers, employers, and society as a whole.

On the other hand, there are unions like the Service Employees International Union, which seems hell-bent on proving all the anti-union folks 100% right.

The SEIU represents over two million workers in the United States and Canada, mainly in the health care, public services (government workers), and property services (janitors and the like).

Well, the SEIU is under investigation for some rather interesting financial shenanigans. It seems that they haven't been looking out for its own people as well as it should -- they manage the pension funds for both its members and its employees. The members' pension fund is only about 75% funded, while SEIU employees' pensions are only about 91% funded.

In contrast, the separate pension that covers SEIU officers is funded to a healthy 103%.

I dunno what the reason for the shortcomings and disparity are, but I don't think it's lack of money. The SEIU has pledged over $85 million for Democrats this election year. And they are, far and away, the biggest player among the 527 groups, having raised and spent over $18 million so far on this election.

And just how have they raised this money? Well, one of the more innovative techniques was their recent amendment to their constitution, which demanded that each and every local pony up $6.00 per member for the SEIU's Political Action Committee. And any local that didn't come up with that much in "voluntary donations" would be assessed a penalty out of general union funds -- the penalty being equal to the shortcoming plus 50%.

As noted above, that SEIU has over 2 million members. That means that their PAC can count on somewhere between $12 million and $18 million a year in funding, just from the money demanded from the SEIU membership. (OK, maybe not, as contributions from its Canadian membership might not be applied to American politics. But I don't have a breakdown of US vs. Canadian membership, so I'm presuming here that all members have to pay to the US PAC.)

A clever notion, apart from one tiny little detail: under federal law, contributions to political action committees are supposed to be strictly voluntary. Indeed, quite a few corporations have gotten into trouble when they "urged" their employees to contribute to certain PACs -- and rightly so.

Can you imagine the howls of protest of businesses started setting quotas for political contributions? Especially to one that the business itself directly controlled? Ralph Nader would be wetting himself in hysterical glee and faux outrage.

For decades, unions have lived under the stigma of being seen as bullying, thuggish, corrupt, venal, and self-serving. They've put a lot of time and effort into ridding themselves of that image. Then along comes the SEIU, which appears bound and determined to prove each and every one of those stereotypes absolutely correct.

And make no mistake about it -- this is not some aberration, some rogue outfit. "The Service Employees International Union is the largest and fastest growing union in North America," according to their own web site.

They seem to think that they're too big to be bothered by such petty concerns as laws -- laws regarding pension funds, laws regarding political action committees.

The US Justice Department is, thankfully, taking a look at this organization and its practices.

It can't happen soon enough, and to a more deserving group of thugs.


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Comments (39)

Me thinks Walmart needs to ... (Below threshold)

Me thinks Walmart needs to start to charge $10.00 per for their anti-union PAC

Truer words could not be sp... (Below threshold)

Truer words could not be spoken sir. Behind SEIU's radical socialist agenda there is nothing more that a callous desire for money and power among the union leaders. The employees actually would do better without such self serving representation.

LOL, one of the 10 "reasons... (Below threshold)

LOL, one of the 10 "reasons" to vote for Obama : he's a union hack [according to WB].

wonder what Herman would sa... (Below threshold)

wonder what Herman would say about this? cant wait to hear it.//sarc off

Assuming all of this is tru... (Below threshold)

Assuming all of this is true and there isn't another side of the story not being presented, let us remember that one corrupt union leadership does not indict all of them, nor does it erase the good work they have done and continue to do on behalf of employees.

"The eight-hour work day was once just a communist plot..."

Well, yesterday members of ... (Below threshold)

Well, yesterday members of a major Portland, Oregon area hospital's local SEIU held an informational demonstration to educate the public that this hospital earned nearly $500 million in profits last year while qualifying for a nonprofit organization institution status.

The hope of the union was to urge the hospital to lower their outrageous fees to patients and to live up to their nonprofit status. Other hospitals run by other religious organizations in the Portland area are known for excusing the bills of the poor who cannot afford emergency services.

The fact of the matter is that everyone gets sick sometime or may be involved in some accident and requires medical or hospital care, not just liberals or labor union supporters, and medical expenses have proven some of the worst areas of inflation in the economy.

"Nonprofit" hospitals may charge a patient $8-$12 for just two aspirins, when you can buy a whole big bottle at Safeway for less than a dollar. Yet these hugely profitable organizations hide behind nonprofit status to evade taxes. The SEIU wants to educate the public about all of this and raise a serious public debate.

Well Paul, if I had to deci... (Below threshold)

Well Paul, if I had to decide whether to give my money to a greedy, hypocritical hospital, or to a corrupt, bloodsucking, thuggish union, I'd choose the hospital.

#7, me, and most everyone ... (Below threshold)

#7, me, and most everyone else.

Id rather help an organization that helps others,than support a union, who never helps anyone but there own, and, in many cases, only benefits the chosen few, not the 'common man'.

Has there EVER been a union that hasnt had some sort of corruption, scandal, etc?

Paul,If you or I wer... (Below threshold)

If you or I were well enough to go to a pharmacy (or the local Safeway) and purchase a bottle of aspirin, we wouldn't be in the hospital! This comparison is as dumb as as going to a service station or car dealership to have your oil changed and then complain that you could have gone to the local hardware store, picked up the oil and changed it yourself -- how dare they charge you for the cost of their overhead to even exist!

Mr. Hooson, I'd be interest... (Below threshold)

Mr. Hooson, I'd be interested to hear what that non-profit hospital did with that $500 million dollars. I'd be willing to wager that it would the vast majority of people would find it preferable to what the SEIU would do with that money -- especially given what they're already doing with their money, as cited above.


Grace, when you're a patien... (Below threshold)

Grace, when you're a patient in a hospital bed and in pain and ask for a couple of aspirin, you have to pay their outrageous prices. You can't just walk outside to Safeway in your hospital gown and bring in your own drugs. That's not allowed for one thing.

Many pharmacies are now offering $4 generic prescriptions, but not hospitals which continue to charge admitted patients outrageous fees for some common drugs that are sold inexpensively at their local Walgreen's etc. for reduced prices as a public service to persons who need medications but are on lower incomes and without insurance to cover the costs.

A bottle of aspirin that sells for less than $1 at Safeway will net a "nonprofit" hospital up to $600 or more. And all through their billing system you will find similar examples of outrageous hyperinflated prices for their services and medications, yet a hospital such as the Portland area one I mentioned will reap nearly $500 million in profits, yet are able to legally evade taxes by claiming "nonprofit" status.

One Minnesota watchdog website lists the average six day hospital stay costs for a patient with a respiratory infection for six days at over $23,000. However many persons with pneumonia could expect a stay of up to one month or more. You figure the costs. Yet these organization rank as "nonprofit" organizations for tax purposes.

The patients pay for this free tax ride. The taxpayers pay for this free ride. The SEIU members were right to hold an educational demonstration to make the public aware of all of of this. You don't have to be a labor union member to be gaining some benefits from their work on behalf of the public, but you have to subsidize highly profitable businesses like hospitals that earn millions by paying their taxes for them. The SEIU is a great union, looking out for the welfare of everyone, member or not. I can't say one bad thing about them.

but what does the "protest"... (Below threshold)

but what does the "protest" have to do with the funding of pensions and the coercian of political donations to the democratic party by members fo the SEIU? nice try at shifting the discussion, paul. but i, for one, am not going to allow you to do it. you are constantly going on about how great unions are.

well, here is a case where they are clearly in the wrong (and likely criminal). own up to it for god's sake and show some integrity. otherwise you're just showing yourself as another union shill with no use for honest discussion.

Once again, Mr. Hooson by t... (Below threshold)

Once again, Mr. Hooson by the numbers:

Words devoted to sticking up for the SEIU: 711

Words actually devoted to responding to the reprehensible conduct by the SEIU cited in the article: 0

Unless, of course, you count "I can't say one bad thing about them."

Fortunately for him, there are plenty of us out here who are not afraid of the truth -- and speaking it.


Paul,I understand th... (Below threshold)

I understand that you can't go to the Safeway and pick up aspirin while you are in the hospital. The point I was attempting to make, which you so blithely ignored, was that a patient is receiving benefits above and beyond the aspirin - from the person who cleans the toilets to the doctors and surgeons on staff to the MRI machines and operators and everything else that a hospital offers. Just as when you have someone change your oil, you are paying for the oil, the building where it is changed, the person doing it, the disposal of old oil and a myriad of other costs associated with that business. Yes, a hospital is a non-profit and not in the business to make money, but there are legitimate very high costs to running a hospital.

The SEIU is a grea... (Below threshold)
The SEIU is a great union, looking out for the welfare of everyone, member or not. I can't say one bad thing about them.

Really. So, Mr. Hooson, if that is the case, then can you explain to the rest of us why we should believe anything you say about them? Because the rest of us here can easily see all sorts of ways in which in the SEIU is deserving of criticism. So either you are unable to see, in which case you're incompetent, or you can see perfectly well but are pretending not to, in which case you're a propagandist.

Either way, your credibility on this matter is zero.

Jay, a large part of what s... (Below threshold)

Jay, a large part of what some Portland, Oregon hospital CEOs did with the millions of dollars in profits from their "nonprofit" organizations is to give themselves big salaries. The CEO of the Legacy health system gave himself a total salary package of $2.2 million in salary and compensation, compared to many in unions who do voluntary safety inspection work to protect other workers from unsafe working conditions and accidents on the job. My father was a voluntary safety inspector for his labor union and cut down worker accidents by a huge rate for example. Before that, some workers were losing fingers by operating power equipment without critical safety parts installed or one worker died in a very hot room, maybe from heat related causes such as heat stroke or heart failure.

Incidentally, the local CEO of the Goodwill, another "nonprofit" organization recently reported a $575,000 salary. It was only a few years ago that Goodwill was notorious for being allowed to pay a special non-minimum wage "job training" wage to handicapped employees of as little as 75cents an hour. More able bodied "supervisor managers" according to the job description can earn $7.50 an hour. Yet this "nonprofit" organization is able to get free merchandise to sell as donations unlike any other public business who must buy all their stock and pay taxes as well.

While I like to sometimes shop at my local Goodwill for books or model car kits, I seldom see any visibly handicapped person ever working there. Many only appear to be some immigrant who may have some disadvantages because English is not their native language. But the Goodwill does offer language classes to such persons if they need it. But that is not my classic image of a handicapped person in my view. At one time you could find workers who had mental retardation or were missing a limb working there stocking shelves or doing cashier work. At best I can find maybe one employee who is slightly overweight or has some slight mental illness problems working in the main store. But such workers are hardly much different than many lower wage earning employees in the private sector. Some employers like Fred Meyer's or Carl Jr have a few visibly handicapped persons working as employees, and Fred Meyer pays a union wage exceeding $16 an hour to most of these employees despite their disabilities. Carl's Jr actually sets aside 5% of all jobs for handicapped employees as a voluntary affirmative action program.

Jay, I think once again you really "missed the forest for the trees" when you focus your attacks on the SEIU instead of some of the outrageous financial games their "nonprofit" employers pull off.

@Hooson:Clearly, o... (Below threshold)


Clearly, one example of a report of a union doing something positive means the vast negative is outweighed, right ? I mean otherwise Hooson's comment was just more of his pointless verbal masturbation.

Paul,I'm guessing ... (Below threshold)


I'm guessing you've never been in a hospital and looked at your bill afterword. In that case, let me point out 1 thing i noticed from my stay in 2 hospitals (one profit, 1 non-profit). While there were $6.00 charges for gauze bandages and other 'overmarked' prices for items that could be bought at a drug store. NO WHERE ON THE BILL WERE THERE ANY NURSING / JANITORIAL / OR ANY LABOR CHARGES. All the doctors bills were billed separately.

Hmmmmm.... I wonder if maybe, just maybe they roll up all the staff time and raise the item costs to cover it?

Sure seems more efficient to do it that way than for each staff member to write down minute-by-minute which patient they are working with.

So, Mr. Hooson, what is the... (Below threshold)

So, Mr. Hooson, what is the current exchange rate of "good deeds" for crimes? What did the SEIU do that gives them a bye for violating federal laws with their money? When was this "Robin Hood" exception passed into law?

I don't really expect a response. I expect another long-winded explanation of how wonderful the SEIU is that never touches upon how they are shorting their pension plans and extorting political "contributions" from their members to pour into Democratic coffers (to the tune of $18-$26 million so far -- I've seen conflicting numbers).

You've become far, far too predictable, sir. And (I doubted this was possible) even more tedious.


Paul H. just ain't used to ... (Below threshold)
Codekeyguy Author Profile Page:

Paul H. just ain't used to being away from the safety and protection of wizbangblue.
No one would DARE critize his unionism there; the banishment pen would surely strike one down.
Also #18 Kenny: This is why government contracts get skewered for $8000 toilet seats. If in an $80 some BILLION contract, there are a couple of hundred thousand of miscellaneous but unidentifiable costs (usually of an "overhead" nature) the accountants get cute and call it "toilet seats" rather than "miscellaneous". The "investigators" get their undies in a knot over this "gross waste and mismanagement". (the math is 1/250th of 1%)

I would wager the 500 milli... (Below threshold)

I would wager the 500 million in non-profit, profit was aftr paying the salaries. Who knows, the CEO might of actually earned it by making sure the hospital was being run decently.

Did the article mention what the hospital did with the overage? Did they give bonuses to the CEO and other administrators? Did they roll it into pension funds? Did it go to medical scholarships, or for training the staff? Maybe, just maybe they put it agains future need or expansion of services? Hmmm....

Mr. Hooson, when I respond ... (Below threshold)

Mr. Hooson, when I respond to your articles on your own blog, I make a conscious effort to address the points you make. I respect your position as host to establish the terms of the debate, and don't use your raising a general topic to filibuster my own issues and give short shrift to yours.

Why the hell can't you exhibit the same courtesy to me? Why is it that you take (and "take" is the right word; you never ask) the opportunity to say whatever you feel like saying, and utterly ignore the points I raise?

It is a profound discourtesy, and one of which I am growing increasingly intolerant.


Hooson:"The CEO o... (Below threshold)
Les Nessman:

"The CEO of the Legacy health system gave himself a total salary package of $2.2 million in salary and compensation.."

Wow, the head of the entire heath system got 2.2 mil? That's nothin'. The wife of the guy that the union is massively supporting for POTUS makes $350k just for some PC 'community outreach' job, whatever the hell that is.
Funny how Brocko's wife gets a pass from the unions.

Unions are EVIL!<a... (Below threshold)
Bible Dave:
Paul Hooson, quit getting y... (Below threshold)

Paul Hooson, quit getting your information from organized crime, aka unions. If a non-profit hospital made $500 million they would have to re-invest the $500 million in the hospital. What part of 'non-profit' do you not understand. If they kept the money or payed themselves millions in salaries, then they are part of a crime family, just like the union, not a non-profit hospital. The same people who believe what Hooson believes also believe Hussein O is the chosen one. They don't believe in any religion but they believe he's the second coming of the Messiah. I see major mental problems in the democrat party, and part of it, but not all is a result of BDS. BDS if the result of jealousy and envy brought on by getting their butt whipped on every issue at every turn for 8 years.

"...I will stand with them (Muslims) should the political winds shift in an ugly direction." B Hussein Obama,

page 261 of his book, Audacity of Hope...

Jay, I'll be more than happ... (Below threshold)

Jay, I'll be more than happy to directly address your absurd accusations in your feature against the SEIU. First of all you claim that there are some sort of "interesting financial shenanigans" with the funding shortfall of the employee pension plans, however in the feature you link to it is clearly stated that "poor stock market performance could account for part of these failings". You do know that most unions invest funds in stocks or mutual funds, don't you? And in recent times the stock market and some stocks have taken some big hits and declines. It is very easy to lose some stock value in all of this until the market picks up. Is this any legitimate grounds to claim that the union is somehow involved in "financial shenanigans"? Absolutely not.

Interestingly, neither the conservative Republican economist who once worked for the Bush Administration who authored the piece you link to or yourself notes what kind of an "investigation" is actually underway by which agency of these union pension funds, yet Jay you leap to some outrageous conclusion that there are "financial shenanigans" afoot. Gee, only a few days ago you tried unsuccessfully to suggest that one of my Wizbang Blue pieces might be "libel", but you soon dropped such a line of offense after I produced enough sources to satisfy many readers of the background information I used for the piece.

Your feature here is really quite a leap, Jay. You attempt to claim some sort of financial wrong-doing by the union regarding pension funds which has so far not been proven by anyone. And you fail to mention who is even doing this claimed "investigation", a government agency of some sort or just some hack blogger like yourself looking to slam unions.

Jay, I guess your philosophy here could be best summed up as throwing a lot of crap against the wall at labor unions and hoping that some of it will stick. And if you have to accuse labor unions of financial pension misconduct, even if that hasn't been proven yet by anyone to make your point, then you're more than willing to make that absurd logic leap.

The death of journalistic integrity indeed.

Dear Bible Dave:Ki... (Below threshold)

Dear Bible Dave:

Kindly fuck off.

Yours in Christlessness,

Jay The Agnostic.


Jay, I do hope you realize ... (Below threshold)

Jay, I do hope you realize the SEIU had a great deal of pension fund investment in Columbia/HCA a giant hospital corporation, and the value of the stock dropped 30% after the government launched a widespread investigation into Medicare and Medicaid fraud with the company.

It is the SEIU and ten other large pension plan investor groups who filed a common lawsuit against Columbia/HCA alleging insider trading, criminal fraud and mismanagement. It is indeed the SEIU which has been a victim here, not the other way around as you seemed to claim in your slanted piece attacking the union.

And gee, didn't I sort of address some issues of hospitals questionable finances earlier.

The SEIU attempted to invest their pension funds in some hospitals in which many of the employees were employed, and instead became victims of a widespread loss of funds by the mismanagement by the hospitals themselves according to both the government investigation and the lawsuit by 11 large pension groups.

paul, did you actually read... (Below threshold)

paul, did you actually read and comprehend either of the two articles?

from the first article linked:

"When the pensions of the rank-and-file are compared with those for SEIU officers and staff, neither poor market returns nor the weak economy explain the funding discrepancy. The three plans are merged into a single trust, and thus are managed in a similar manner. Poor performance should affect them all equally.

The major difference among the funds is that the decisions regarding contributions to the officers' funds are made by the trustees of the SEIU, instead of by several large employers pursuant to collective bargaining contracts."

"Poor stock market performance could explain part of these failings, but Internal Revenue Service filings show that 10 of these funds received two-thirds less of their annual costs in employer contributions."

From the second article:
"That's a question the Departments of Labor and Justice are being asked to investigate by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. Specifically, the labor watchdog group wants Justice to query a new SEIU policy that appears to coerce local workers into funding the parent union's national political priorities."

"SEIU locals will no doubt try to fulfill their national commitment with voluntary contributions. But the SEIU's amendment suggests that unions that fail to meet that obligation will be required to pay for both the shortfall and penalty with member dues and agency fees. Any use of that dues money in a PAC would be a federal no-no. Meanwhile, use of dues from nonunion members (those who must pay dues even though they refuse to join a union) for any political activity, a PAC or otherwise, is prohibited."

Hooson - "however in th... (Below threshold)

Hooson - "however in the feature you link to it is clearly stated that "poor stock market performance could account for part of these failings".

Part of? Can you explain where the rest went?

Can you explain Article XV, Section 18 of the union's constitution that now authorizes the SEIU's national brass to fine local unions for failure to meet its annual SEIU COPE fundraising obligations?

A requirement that is in direct violation of federal labor law that "forbids unions from political fundraising through the imposition of mandatory financial penalties and it prohibits the conversion of union dues to 'hard money'?"

paul,two seperate ... (Below threshold)


two seperate issues here. if there was a hospitial that was engaging in illegal or questionable activities it should certainly be investigated. but one hospital or even one whole health network is not more than a fraction of the entirity of the SEIU membership.

and even if the allegations against the hospital are true, that does NOT give the union any right to coerce money from it's members. period.

do not try to excuse the bad behavior of the union on the bad behavior of any particular hospital.

Oh and BTW Hooson... how's ... (Below threshold)

Oh and BTW Hooson... how's that union working out for you that produces all those cheap-assed motor scooters you pimp to the cows come home.

Wait.... there is no union in that factory is there?

Ke-Future, The National Rig... (Below threshold)

Ke-Future, The National Right To Work Committe has filed numerous antiunion lawsuits over the years, many of which have been found groundless and gone nowhere alleging some outrageous acts by labor unions that were completely disproven in court under sworn testimony.

Some federal judges like Hon. Justice Michael A. Telesca, who was appointed by Ronald Reagan, dismissed The National Right To Work Committee funded lawyers in a case in which they attempted to represent some workers who were not even members of that union they were suing in a 2006 case for example. It is kind of absurd for persons who are not even members of an union to attempt to sue that union for some claimed damages. Who can't see serious legal problems in that? But such courtroom stunts are typical of The National Right To Work Committee.

The National Right To Work Committe draws a great deal of it's funding from some Southern alcohol and tobacco interests who have ugly roots in early Southern businesses that helped to enforce poll taxes and literacy tests to disenfranchise most White and Black voters from being able to vote. Back in the 30's only a little over 10% of persons would or could vote in many Southern states because of these rules that disenfranhised most voters. And even worst, slavery and other ugly issues can be traced to the roots of many Southern tobacco families.

The National Right To Work Committee has always represented closing doors to worker opportunity and oppression at it's very worst. It is no wonder that it draws support from extremist organizations such as The John Birch Society for example for it's extremist political agenda against labor unions. Both groups seem to be convinced that anything dealing with unions is some sort of Socialist or Communist plot. The crazy wackos.

Oh, great. Someone gave Hoo... (Below threshold)

Oh, great. Someone gave Hooson ANOTHER red herring to wave around -- the National Right To Work Committee.

It's amazing. He can spend four paragraphs ranting and raving about them, and manage to ignore all the mentions of the SEIU's plainly illegal move to coerce funding of its PAC from its members.

And isn't anyone else curious as to how the SEIU can let its pension funds dip so low, but find the money to sink $18 - $26 million SO FAR into this election?

Well, some of us might be, but Mr. Hooson is not one of them. He not only willfully blinds himself to it, he rages against anyone who threatens to lift his blindfold.


Dear Bible Dave:... (Below threshold)
Bible Dave:

Dear Bible Dave:

Kindly fuck off.

Yours in Christlessness,

Jay The Agnostic.



Matthew 15:11: "Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man."

I will pray for you brother Jay.

A non profit system that ma... (Below threshold)

A non profit system that makes a god profit and is able to build itself into a stronger system is a benefit to the community.

Legacy Good Samaritan Hospital is often the ONLY place I can get patients with no insurance transfered from our rural site when they require specialized treatment. They have a streamlined system for bringing in patients, regardless of ability to pay. And they even contact me when they discharge my patients for continuity of care.

The Providence System, run by what appears to be the financially merciless nuns, is much harder to engage, and OHSU the STATE supported medical school and health care system, quotas how many Medicaid patients they will see - at this point most of their clinics are refusing new patients for this year as they've met their self-imposed quotas. Forget it if you are uninsured. Good luck trying to get them on the phone without a long wait. And forget anything but a fax of records long after the patient is gone.

Is the SEICU picketing them?

I'm no fan of huge salaries of CEO's but that is what drives our capitalist economy. Whaddya want Paul, a Nation Health System or Canadian Health Care?

LOL a god profit. I think... (Below threshold)

LOL a god profit. I think I'll keep that typo.

Epador, I'll always continu... (Below threshold)

Epador, I'll always continue to greatly respect your medical service to helping the health of mankind as a great act despite any minor political differences we may continue to have.

And Jay, we both know that we have different opinions on labor unions, but that should never stand in the way of our mutual core respect for each other as talented Wizbang network writers.

Because we don't always agree on every issue is never any reason to lose common respect for each other as taking the time to defend core values we hold dear.

Mr. Hooson, I have a great ... (Below threshold)

Mr. Hooson, I have a great deal of respect for you as a writer. I have never seen anyone who was anywhere near as skilled as you are at finding (or improvising) red herrings to avoid discussing things you find uncomfortable, and instead trying to divert the conversation to your own ends and bury the stuff you don't like.

You have also twice alluded to our e-mail exchange regarding attribution of sources for highly inflammatory accusations, and in both cases done so in ways I consider inaccurate. If you persist, I will consider publishing the entire e-mail exchanges to defend my good name.

My primary reason for not doing so -- that it would be improper -- was pretty much rendered moot when you based an entire article on that private exchange, without bothering to inform me in advance -- let alone asked my assent.

The secondary reason is that, quite frankly, it would bore the readership. And that, to me, is far more important.







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