Reflections on Silver Linings to 2020 & More from Good News from Georgia & Reflections on Democratic Socialism

A strong movie recommendation, a focus on Richard Wolff’s “10 Things to Know About Socialism” & a thoughtful reader critique of that post. Plus we offer the video of Roxanne and my KSFR Conversation on the silver linings we found in 2020. Read on!

There are a number of brief pieces in today’s post, so please make sure to work your way to the end. In particular, please be sure to check out the trailer for our movie recommendation today, as we are hoping to have a conversation about this film and another we’ve viewed this past week: “Hostiles,” a Christian Bale and Wes Studi. Most important, however, if you can possibly spare the time, devote a bit of it to Georgia. This is so important, so close and it is so easy to lend a hand…..and as the piece below illustrates, that lending of a hand is having an impact!!! And if you have a bit more time, there is an important methane hearing next week. Read on!

Methane Rules Hearing

Thanks to our friends at 350.NM for this notice. Please note, if you want to offer public comment, you must sign up by tomorrow.

When: The virtual hearing begins January 4 online. The OCC (Oil Conservation Commission) will take two minute public comments on the first day, 9:00 am – 5:00 pm, and each day of the hearing thereafter 8:30-9:00 am and 4:30-5:00 pm. We anticipate the hearing will continue into a second week. We encourage you to provide comments, oral or written.

WhereOil Conservation Commission (OCC)

Find WebEx link to hearings and comments time slots LINK

Public Comments signup Deadline; Jan. 3

Comments Signup Instructions: Public comment requests should be submitted to Commission clerk Florene Davidson at Please copy so we can track who has signed up to speak and so we can send you detailed talking points. In your request, please include your name, email address, organization affiliation (if applicable), phone number and your top 2 preferred time slots. YOU MUST SIGN UP TO SPEAK BY JANUARY 3RD.

Two Minute Public Comment Talking Points:

  • State your full name, New Mexico city and county of residence.
  • Brief overview of reasons for making public comments; concerned about methane and VOCs leaking, venting and flaring impact on the health of the frontline communities and dilatory impacts on a stable global climate.
  • Pick one of the following points to summarize in about one minute and in your own words.

o   New Mexico has a methane waste and pollution problem – it’s costing our schools millions in revenue, ruining our air and harming our climate for future generations. Unlike other top producing oil and gas states, New Mexico has no requirements prohibiting methane waste and associated pollution from escaping. That constitutes an immediate health threat to all New Mexicans, and it needs to change this year.

o   Methane is a powerful climate change pollutant responsible for approximately 25 percent of the warming we experience today. Oil and gas operations also release ozone-forming pollutants that worsen respiratory diseases such as emphysema and asthma. State inaction and industry irresponsibility has led to dramatically increasing oil and gas production pollution levels.

o   Our demand for strong state rules is even more acute given that the latest methane emissions data from the Permian are the highest ever measured from an US oil and gas basin. The IEA (International Energy Agency) warns that “a decline in revenues from oil and gas operations could mean companies pay less attention to efforts to tackle methane emissions.” The IEA also found that even at today’s prices, 1/3 of global methane emissions can be cut at no net cost.

Georgia Is Always On My Mind

Today The Washington Post reported on the vast number of grassroots, mostly African American-led community organizations that are driving the GOTV vote in Georgia and new data shows it is having a tremendous impact. I think we need to learn from their efforts and implement these grassroots conversations here in NM as soon as canvassing can safely be done.

The Post article illustrates the impact of having repeated, personal conversations that focus on their lives and connect the challenges people face with the act of voting. Over half of eligible voters don’t vote and at least part of the reason is that people see elections as competitions between talking heads, speaking talking points, that simply do not connect with the immediate real issues in their lives.

Personal conversations at someone’s doorstep can connect real life with voting in ways that matter. This is the kind of grassroots effort I think the Democratic Party of New Mexico should lead and sustain over months and months, in non-election focused conversations. This article is well worth reading if you haven’t exhausted your limit on free reads from the Post. From the Post:

“Once you sit them down and say, this is going to affect you in the long term, this will affect your child at school or it may affect your health care, because you know we don’t have a hospital here or a clinic or anything here, then it begins to hit home,” said Nicole Hall, a volunteer from Macon County who knocked on doors. “Until we educate everybody and they understand the importance of the power of the vote, then all they’re seeing is a bunch of names on TV. But what does this person represent? What is this person going to do for me?”

From The Washington Post: “Ahead of runoffs, civic groups in Georgia mount ambitious campaign to mobilize Black voters

A report from Newsweek analyzes early voting trends and found a strong sign of the success of these grassroots efforts. The article cites the ever present Stacey Abrams (whose national stature is going to soar should Dems win both of these runoffs).

“More than 36 percent of voters have cast ballots in the runoff, equivalent to more than 2.8 million people, and of those, more than 100,000 did not vote in the November election. While there isn’t any information about how those people voted, Abrams told CNN the numbers “tell their own story,” pointing to the “disproportionate” number of new voters under 29 and people of color.”

From Newsweek: “What Polls Say About Kelly Loeffler and Raphael Warnock 4 Days Before Georgia’s Election

Bottom line: a ton of grassroots organizations and thousands of community organizers are knocking on doors (hopefully, very safely, masked and from six feet), and they are having an impact. With four more days, let’s all commit a few hours to supporting their work. Every single day, we see how cravenly the GOP bows to Trump’s threats and they will continue to do so after Jan 20. We must take the Senate.

Phone bank for both Ossoff & Warnock: 

Speak Spanish? 

Text bank for the Georgia Runoff:

Multiple phone banks, some focusing on absentee ballot chasing (verifying /reminding to return ASAP with voters who requested) w reclaim our vote,

And If you Don’t Think Trump Is Still Dangerous

The Daily Beast published a pretty frightening article that lays out how Trump does not intend to stop contesting the election after Jan 6, or even after Jan 20 with a comment “why would I stop?” Indeed, he has found a money machine that he completely controls and that will enable him to pay his family and himself to sustain their lifestyles, tweet their threats and nurture an increasingly unhinged following. And if you don’t think some of the folks coming to DC on Wednesday are unhinged here is a Tweet that got considerable coverage before being removed:

““I’m thinking it will be literal war on that day,” one popular comment posted last Wednesday read. “Where we’ll storm offices and physically remove and even kill all the D.C. traitors and reclaim the country.”

From The Daily Beast: “Trump Plans to Fight the Election Even After ‘Stop the Steal’ Rally Ends

From The Daily Beast, a report on an online planning platform “The Donald” offers evidence that plans to attempt to disrupt the actual vote:

“Must block Dem and [Republicans in Name Only],” one planning graphic posted on pro-Trump forum “The Donald” read, showing a map of key streets around Congress that protesters want to obstruct. “There’s 535 politicians and ~3500 guards.”

And, then there is Trump’s attorney who has commented that VP Pence should be charged with treason and hung. Trump has done nothing to calm supporters, indeed he is encouraging a “wild” Jan 6 and promises that January 6 will not be the end of it.

I don’t know if these are ramblings of deluded and largely ineffectual idiots or of some orchestrated paramilitary operation, but I will breathe a sigh of relief when Jan 7 arrives. Sidebar: it is getting old being eager to reach one day after another when we can leave the Trump era behind. I fear he will lurk for some time. But, if I lived in DC, I sure wouldn’t be out walking the streets on Jan 6.

Retake Conversation: January 2, 2021 from KSFR

Today, we initiate a new kind of Saturday post where we will present the video recording of our KSFR radio show” only a few minutes after it airs, as many of you live outside the bandwidth of the station. So below see our show from today where Roxanne and I discuss some of the silver linings, in about as dark a year as either of us can remember. We also point to some 2021 opportunities that lie ahead.

Is Socialism a Naive Dream or a Practical Political Framework?

About ten days ago, we ran a News in Brief with one excerpt from a YES! Magazine article by Richard Wolff. I didn’t sufficiently recommend the article as I had only scanned it briefly.

On New Years Day, I read it more closely and found that it to be a straightforward and easily digestible chronicling of the history of socialism and how it has been mischaracterized by the US and its allies, primarily to facilitate unravelling New Deal reforms implemented by FDR.

I can’t recommend this piece enough. It can be read in 5-10 minutes and, even if you are a student of political theory, you will find it very useful, not because you will be learning something new, but because you will instantly recognize its value in educating others who may react to the term “socialism” with horror.

In a lengthy, and very important comment posted by William Finnoff, a regular contributor to our posts and a frequent commenter, Finnoff adds historic details that are organized around a central theme: “the author’s historical analyses are either questionable or belong in the apologist canon of socialist thought.” Finnoff goes on to cite numerous instances of socialist-dictatorships responsible for the suffering and death of millions. This is historically correct and important to consider. His critique of socialist failures have one common theme, however, the absence of a democratic component, that prevented the concentration of power evident in every one of Finnoff’s failed socialist experiments.

While Finnoff is not exactly kind to Wolff, it is only fair to note that Wolff readily acknowledges that there have been many permutations of socialism and not all of them have been democratic. And he also acknowledges socialism as a work in progress and that given that our economic system is in desperate need of reform, socialism needs to be part of that conversation.

Retake is going to be emphasizing our need to learn from the historic evolution of socialism, to learn from and borrow from what is most valuable and to also better understand how and why it can go astray.

It is important to stress the term “experiments,” as Finnoff points out in his closing comment, that democratic socialists can’t simply state that “true socialism” has never been attempted and then rely on slogans and principles to advance democratic socialist reform. He closes with a challenge: if we plan to advance a democratic socialist vision, we need to put meat on the bones and articulate with precision what it could be. I agree heartily to this and feel that once such a clear vision is articulated, the kind of canvassing being done in Georgia is how we engage, educate and excite voters around with the details of that vision.

I highly recommend reviewing Finnoff’s comments that follow below the YES! piece, as it manifests what I had always hoped his blog would evolve into: a place for deeper thinking about important ideas and thinking. It is utterly absent from the mainstream media. So, once you’ve finished reading the Yes piece and Finnoff’s comments, please offer your own views. In 2021, let’s shift this blog from a mouthpiece of Retake to a conversation among Retake peeps!!!

Update: 11:40 am, 1.2.2021: I just realized that William Finnoff’s comments related to the YES piece were posted underneath a different post, so I have copied the entire comment and placed it at the end of this piece. Thanks to Greg Corning for pointing this out.

Click here to read the full YES! article from Richard Wolff

Another Way to Engage In Thoughtful Discussions

If you are interested in being part of a study group that is examining a range of manifestations of “transformation” in economics, housing, health, criminal justice, climate change, and racial justice, Retake formed a Transformation Study Group some months ago. We have about a dozen folks researching and developing “briefs” in their particular area of interest.

You don’t have to write a brief to be part of the group and their is great benefit in being part of the rich discussions that we hold twice a month. Plus, we are becoming friends. If you’d like to join or just attend a meeting and explore, please right to

The Best of Enemies: A Strong Movie Recommendation

In closing, I want to highly recommend a movie Roxanne and I watched last night: The Best of Enemies. It got a 54% on Rotten Tomatoes, which says way more about Rotten Tomatoes than it does about this film. Based on a true story, it describes how a charette facilitator from Pennsylvania comes to Durham, North Carolina to try to heal a deeply divided community. I don’t want to say more than this, as the film definitely builds to a final scene where after ten days of intense all day highly participatory community meetings, a decision is made on two educational policies and then on desegregation itself.

These community meetings involved black activists, religious leaders and members and leadership from the Ku Klux Klan, so there are some very raw moments and it is important to keep in mind that the story is based upon a process that actually occurred. This is not fiction. I am hoping some of you can watch this film so we can have a zoom discussion. It is only available on Hulu and via DVD ordered through NetFlix. I’ll hold off on offering reasons why I’d like to discuss this together, as to do so would give away too much of what is a gripping story. If you watch the trailer, stop halfway through. That will give you enough info and if you go further, inexplicably, the trailer gives away the ending.

In solidarity and hope,

Paul & Roxanne

From William Finnoff:

I’m posting this here although it actually references a link you put up in an earlier post and have referred to once or twice since. Specifically, the Yes article “10 Things you should know about Socialism”:

I had some issues with this article. It is a pretty typical example of a narrative that can be summarized as: “Anything good that has occurred in the modern world is due to some (vaguely defined) flavor of socialism, and anything bad that has happened can be ascribed to capitalism”.

His first point: “1. Socialism is a yearning for something better than capitalism” harks back to Marx who was looking at capitalism as it existed in the 19th century. So, what exactly are we talking about when we refer to ‘capitalism’ and ‘socialism’? According to Miriam Webster,

“Capitalism: an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market”.

“Socialism, meanwhile, is most often used in modern English to refer to a system of social organization in which private property and the distribution of income are subject to social control”.

According to these definitions, Sweden (the country many democratic socialists point to as a successful socialist state) has a capitalist economic system since – according to the Wikipedia entry on the Swedish economy: “Sweden is a competitive and highly liberalized, open market economy. The vast majority of Swedish enterprises are privately owned and market-oriented combined with a strong welfare state.” (In fact, the only difference in this description and the description of the U.S. economy would be to replace “strong welfare state” with “weak welfare state”). As such, it isn’t clear what the author is really talking about when he refers to socialism (other than it isn’t what China and Russia have come up with).

Further, the author’s historical analyses are either questionable or belong in the apologist canon of socialist thought. I’ll start with “3. The Soviet Union and China achieved state capitalism, not socialism.” This is a silly fig leaf that modern socialists have pasted over the many horrors perpetrated by not just Stalin and Mao, but any number of other self-proclaimed ‘socialists/communists’ such as Pol Pot and Robert Mogabe (or more recently Nicolás Maduro and Xi Jinping). This tries to sweep the abuses of power of socialist regimes under the rug by attaching the pejorative ‘capitalism’ to regimes that are explicitly and enthusiastically ‘socialist’. If one were to attach a name to these regimes that is most closely aligned with his narrative, it wouldn’t be ‘state capitalist’, it would be FASHIST. Alignment between state and private enterprise? Check. Nationalistic? Check. Persecution of immigrants and minorities? Check. Protectionist economy? Check. Cult of personality for a charismatic leader? Check.

How about his point? “8. Fascism is a capitalist response to socialism.” This is another highly questionable statement which modern socialists have advocated to distance themselves from the ‘National Socialist Worker’s Party Deutschland’. If you don’t think that the Nazi’s or the ‘Republican Fascist Party’ (Mussolini’s outfit) were socialists, then consult Wolfgang Schivelbusch’s book “Three New Deals: Reflections on Roosevelt’s America, Mussolini’s Italy, and Hitler’s Germany, 1933-1939”. This describes the parallels between many of the measures taken by Mussolini, Hitler and Roosevelt during the 1930’s to expand social security systems, invest in expansive public works projects and nationalize various industries. In many ways, Hitler and Mussolini were more ‘socialist’ than Roosevelt.

In his final point, the author states: “10. Worker co-ops are a key to socialism’s future.” This is the current shiny object in academic socialist thinking. Although there are certainly a number of examples of successful worker co-ops out there in the world, they are very few and far between (even in purportedly socialist countries). There are a number of questions about how this is supposed to work in the real world: Where are these co-ops going to get their capital from – public banks? (Isn’t this a case of state–capitalism?) If not there, then where? Are these enterprises going to be owned by the workers and are they going to be striving to maximize their own benefits (profits)? Are these enterprises going to be competing with other enterprises in a free market or are they going to be given preferential treatment, or monopoly status in their respective industries? If they are forced to compete, Isn’t this just capitalism with a different set of owners/shareholders? If not forced to compete, what is then to prevent them from exploiting the consumers of whatever they are producing for their own benefit?

If progressives want to convince anyone (who isn’t already a believer) about how wonderful socialism Is, they will have to come up with better arguments than the weak sauce put forward in this article. The usual ‘real socialism hasn’t been tried’ is beyond lame (if it hasn’t been tried, how do you know it will make things better?) Most of what progressives currently advocate (nationalization of banking, health care and other industries, large public infrastructure investment such as the Green New Deal and an expanded regulation of any private industries left standing) all fit very nicely into the ‘state-capitalism’ model. If people are suspicious of that, they have a lot of historical evidence to back it up. Progressives are going to have to explain very clearly why ‘this time it’s different’ and explain IN DETAIL what measures will be put in place to ensure that this time it really will be different.

Categories: Economic justice

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11 replies

  1. Highly recommend Best of Enemies film: insightful, constructive, moving, powerful, & unusual for Hwood!

  2. A friend of my pointed to the word egalitarianism as a substitute for socialism. An adherent of the doctrine of equal political, economic, and legal rights for all human beings.

  3. I don’t see the commentary by Finnoff. How might I get access to that?

  4. THIS from “Georgia On My Mind”: The Post article illustrates the impact of having repeated, personal conversations that focus on their lives and connect the challenges people face with the act of voting.

    Unfortunately, I believe the DNC will continue to “downplay” Stacy Abrams for two reasons – Black Female. There…I wrote it out loud. The DNC is tied forever to Corporate America and there is no room for “radical progressives” in the Democratic Party.

  5. Finoff makes many mistakes in his critique of Wolff in an effort to corner socialism and have it squeezing out in various forms of capitalism, fascism, etc. Socialism in its purest definition truly has not been implemented anywhere and that’s because it is inevitably connected to leaders such as Finoff mentions from Hitler to Mugabe. Any normal definition of socialism must be taken either in context of an economic model but also as a governing one. I can’t think of any country that has tried a socialistic form of governance, as Janet Warner makes a good point in substituting “egalitarianism” for socialism as a social model. I would never equate Mugabe, Hitler, Mussolini and others of that ilk as socialists. I do not believe that socialism can include a segment of society or industry that ignores the well being of the populace. If little “s”, the people, socialism is necessary to build big “S” Socialism then it would be more akin to egalitarianism.
    The economic model has also not been tried except as a hybrid to ensure the preeminence of capitalism which has a choke hold on almost every government in the world. A quick check shows that socialism has as yet only been a theory without any true examples with which to examine it. The Scandinavian socialist/capitalist democracies only give some glimpses into the potential of true socialism.
    In conclusion, I believe Finoff is off point in his comments though he is erudite.

    • Brian,

      I appreciate your careful evaluation of my what I had to say and your comments show that I was not clear enough about the points I was trying to make. My main issue with Wolff’s article was its fairly crude attempt at negative branding of capitalism (not clearly defined) with many of the evils of the modern world. I was just trying to turn this around and show the exact same sort of negative branding can be done with socialism. Not only can this be done, but it HAS BEEN DONE with enormous success by the right – so much so that socialism is not associated with “good things” for a lot a people in the world.

      That may not be YOUR definition of socialism, but it certainly is for a lot of other people, due to the many unfortunate historical examples of pretty nasty people and governments that have labeled themselves as socialists. (Calling oneself a “Democratic” Socialist doesn’t really help much, when one considers such examples of the ‘Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea” or the “German Democratic Republic”, two of the most draconian police states in the history of the world).

      If your definition of socialism isn’t what history might suggest, then why attach oneself to a label that can be easily used to conjure up all sorts of negative connotations by reactionary forces? Call yourself an ‘egalitarian’ – great! When people ask what you mean by that, then you can describe what you mean by that exactly and perhaps convince them that this is an attractive vision for the future. Call yourself a socialist in America (and many other places in the world) and people will immediately be turned off or get bored while you explain that you aren’t actually a Stalinist or a Maoist or Trotskyite or Nkrumahist or whatever flavor of socialism that history provides.

      My final point was to try and push for those on the left to get together, be specific and form a consensus about what the end state they are striving for and how to transition to get there. You note that: “Any normal definition of socialism must be taken either in context of an economic model but also as a governing one”. Clearly you don’t think that “any normal definition of socialism” has been tried. Ok, what is “any normal definition of socialism” exactly? Is there (in a “normal definition of socialism”) any private ownership (durable goods, capital goods, land – anything?) Who controls the means of production, worker councils, government (local, state or federal) or something/someone else? How are decisions made about priorities, through markets and prices, through central planning or through some other mechanism?

      If you can’t be specific about what you are aiming for and how to get there, it is going to be difficult to convince anyone who isn’t already on you side to join you.

  6. Mr. Finoff ends his argument with a straw man whom I don’t recognize. Progressives want “nationalization of banking, health care and other industries, large public infrastructure investment such as the Green New Deal and an expanded regulation of any private industries left standing.” Here’s a guy who has meticulously combed through definitions and contentions and then asserts that Medicare for all is “nationalization of health care” and that state banks and providing Post Office savings accounts are “nationalization of banking.” He implies that the interstate highway system, that large public infrastructure, is unwise in these times when food delivery services are valued in the billions.Folks who live in glass houses….

    • Tom,

      Once again, it’s obvious that I didn’t make my point clearly. First of all, you are absolutely correct that Medicare for All doesn’t attempt to nationalize the entire health care system, rather, it just plans to nationalize the health care insurance system.

      Further, even though YOU may not be suggesting the nationalization of the financial system, there are many on the left who have advocated for this. This was discussed very seriously during the financial crisis of 2008-2009 as described in this Reuters article:

      It is also a policy idea that many on the left are still advocating as can be seen in this article by the Peoples Policy Project:

      and in this article in The Call:

      I also don’t mean to imply that large scale infrastructure investment by government is a bad idea. Or for that matter, that the nationalization of other parts of the health care system (hospitals, say) and large parts of the financial system (e.g. too-big-to-fail banks) is necessarily a bad idea either. (I, personally, think that there is a lot of merit in these ideas).

      The point that I was trying to make was that the author’s claim that Russia and China (or for that matter, Cuba, Vietnam, etc.) aren’t actually socialist countries, but are in fact “state capitalist” is, at best, misleading and requires one to accept a definition of capitalism that few people unacquainted with modern academic socialist thought would recognize. (Essentially, Capitalism = any socio-economic system that is oppressive, exploitive, imperialistic, militaristic and/or racist).

      In addition, attaching the (what is clearly intended as a pejorative) title of “state capitalist” to countries that follow a Marxist-Leninist style of government has the negative side effect of denigrating or dismissing many of the policies employed by these countries (such as state ownership of many industries, large scale infrastructure investment by government, etc.) that can lead to positive outcomes for the general welfare of the people in the country.

  7. My question may be naive, but I don’t see much sense in commenting further before knowing the answer. To wit: What is the necessity in naming an economic arrangement?
    Could we not focus instead on determining which sectors of society would operate most equitably under state control, and which should be left in the private realm?

  8. Hi dynamic duo.

    I will post this late since I was OOT yesterday, and post it again on Monday.

    This following quote, from The Daily Beast, IMO sums up the first part of a two-part delusion concerning capitalism, the obviously preferred method of existing for Mr. Finnoff.

    ‘a quote from Vernon Linwood Howard, author of, among other things, The Mystic Path to Cosmic Power.

    “A truly strong person does not need the approval of others any more than a lion needs the approval of sheep.” ‘

    Capitalism, Predatory, Parasitic, Slothful, Dumbfoundingly Illogical and Disastrous.

    Capitalism, a classy word for two psycho-physical illnesses – bulimia, and hoarding.

    The quote above was taken from a monologue of Lin Wood, the current parasite posing as lawyer for Tyrannus rumpfk and its gaggle of toothless velociraptors.

    Finnoff and I first posted almost simultaneously on New Years Eve. Before my post I researched, for more than one hour, a condensed history of warfare among humans in the past 2500 years. I noted that in virtually every case of a known battle, the aegis for those battles/wars was the self-proclaimed or cosmically proclaimed blessing, via some deity, of individual, liberated males (liberated in the sense that they were unfettered in their abilities to be rewarded for their appetites). This aegis is nothing more than a ‘right to take,’ via force, anything it wants.

    Firstly, it is mostly lionesses who do the killing of sheep or some unfortunate but necessary prey species.

    Secondly, that ‘killing’ is actually the only available lunch, dinner and supper for most, if not all of a pride of lions – men, women and children – for several days.

    Third, a lion has no choice in the mechanism of meals it needs to survive. And there is no war between lions and sheep, or wildebeest.

    Every capitalist human has many choices of behavior, but is forever imprisoned in the dungeon if its own feckless superiority and delusion, addicted to its weaknesses, and unaware of its strengths.

    Capitalism is one dramatic weakness of an always-empty gut.

    Discernment and its companion attribute of harmony are strengths of a gut that knows when it is full, and unagitated, and capable of complete digestion and elimination of the valuable, revered food whose remains can be recycled into renewed life.

    Within that gut and its digesting life force is an incredible ‘society’ of ‘social’ beings who ‘know’ that without the renewing cycle of uncountable individual beings, working together to sustain a balance between life, death and rebirth, no society of lions, or sheep, or wildebeest or humans, would be possible.

    Mick Nickel

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