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LITVINJENKO: Can’t stop, won’t stop, GameStop.

2021 ushers in a revolt against the high finance establishment

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An economic and social revolution is taking place. The elite are losing billions by the day. They are angry. They are getting desperate. They are terrified. Why?

Because for once, the market is being manipulated, and they’re not the ones getting their cut. Because they are being forced to bailout their imploding parasitic hedge funds with their own money. Because every kid with a smart-phone now has a shot at financial independence. 

Do not bother looking out of your window, it is not happening outside – and the revolution sure as hell will not be televised. Occupy Wall Street (OWS) veterans pay attention.

Last Friday, shares in video game retailer Gamestop (GME) jumped from ~$40 to $65 USD. Then again, this Monday to $76, then $147 Tuesday, $344.99 yesterday and $500 at the time of writing. If you bought GME shares last Thursday, chances are you are up 1,000 per cent. If you bought shares in December, you are up some 2,100 per cent.

On Tuesday, AMC Theatres (AMC) was at $5 USD. Yesterday morning it hit a pre-market high of almost $25 and closed at $19.88. Yes, a theatre company shot up 300% in 24 hours during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Canada’s Blackberry was $14 USD last Friday: it hit $28 yesterday and closed at $25. Data analytics firm Palantir (PLTR) was $32.55 USD Friday, hit $45 yesterday before closing at $39.

But what does any of these have to do with “sticking it to the man”?

Sometime in 2019, hedge funds concluded that GameStop was the next Blockbuster and saw their latest opportunity to cash in on the anticipated misfortune of others. Leveraging their networks of “objective” analysts seeded across purportedly reputable financial institutions, they created the narrative that GME was a holdover of a bygone time. How could this dinosaur with thousands of physical locations across North America possibly hope to compete in the digital era where consumers could instantly download the newest games from the comfort of their couch? They aggressively shorted GME shares and as the pandemic began their narrative seemed prophetic – shares had fallen from $20 to $3.

But while the vultures were back-slapping each other for another hit-job well done, they, again, forgot to pay attention to the fundamentals. Through prudent management, GME quickly established a strong online-platform and revived itself, with its Q3 2020 earnings reporting 257 per cent growth in e-commerce sales. Despite the pandemic, GME still hauled in Q3 sales of $1 billion, missing expectations by only $80 million.

But GME did not surge ~12,000 per cent in six months because they made it easier to sell FortNite styled nerf-guns online. While the old boys club was trying to run GME into the ground, the troubled retailer also caught the attention of certain members of the subreddit group r/wallstreetbets (WSB).

The WSB community is a mish-mash of long-term investors, kids with a trading app on their phone and $60 bucks in their bank account, and all the regular wage-earning folk in between. Typically, these self-described “trolls”, “degenerates”, and “autists” pick stocks based on which companies are associated with the spiciest/funniest memes (i.e., “meme stocks”). What seems to bind them together is a shared sense of simultaneous dejection and exuberance.

On one hand, they regard themselves as cogs in an uncaring social machine. Witnesses to unfathomable wealth always out of reach, held back by soul-crushing daily grinds and debts. Berated by society, the same which benefitted from the post-WWII reconstruction era, as being lazy and entitled. Then, on the other hand, they regale in sharing stories of how they just YOLOed (you only live once) their entire savings/paycheque/student loan on a meme stock. When you feel like you have nothing to live for, and that the deck is stacked against you, there is catharsis in irreverence. It reminds people that they are still individuals capable of free choice, even if the choice is imprudent.

Most importantly, others are doing it, and on WSB you are winning and losing as a family and community. If you want to understand WSB psychology and worldview, watch this parody captioned scene from 2019’s Joker where clinically depressed Arthur Fleck, now the Joker, (WSB) is interviewed by TV Host Murray Franklin (finance personality Jim Cramer as a stand in for all of society) (warning the video has explicit language and violence).

An example of WSB “due diligence

For whatever reason, GME was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Noticing that GME was the most shorted stock on the global market at 140 per cent, some WSB members came up with the plan that if they could rally retail investors (average people) to buy GME stock en mass and raise the price, they could financially destroy those doing the shorting. WSB members set wild targets for the $3 stock: $100, $400, $1,000, $5,000. It was not about fundamentals or money, it was about sending a message. The 99 per cent were no longer going to tolerate the market manipulation by the wealthy and their agents in hedge funds and financial institutions (the “money managers” or MMs).

The battle began about two weeks ago. WSB members began buying millions of GME shares. The price jumped from ~$17 USD to $40. By Friday of last week, WSB drew first blood: hedge fund Melvin Capital had already lost nearly $4 billion or 30 per cent of its $12.5 billion portfolio. Fellow hedge funds Citadel Pont72 rushed in with a $2.75B bail-out but it was not until Tuesday that Melvin pulled out of its GME position. By Tuesday GME had more than doubled again to $145. It is still unclear what the total losses are for Melvin & co.

Last Friday’s losses were drops in the bucket for the MMs. The top 10 hedge-fund managers earned $7.7 billion in fees alone in 2018 (with combined net worth around $70B). A $2.75B infusion (with their clients’ money) was not pain, it was paying for your buddy’s socks at Walmart because they had a rough night and got their wallet stolen. Not understanding that this was an existential war for WSB members and not some get rich quick scheme, the MMs thought they could manipulate the GME buying spree in their favour and make their money back.

On Monday, as GME euphoria circulated over the weekend, the MMs bet that FOMO (fear of missing out) would entice even more retail investors (whether affiliated with or even aware of WSB) to buy into GME. They held off from participating in the morning so buyers would control the action, letting the price rise quickly. Around 10:30am, GME had spiked 300 per cent to $160 USD. Then the MMs jumped in with rapid sell orders (a tactic MMs often use to trick automated trading algorithms into thinking a massive sell-off is occurring and dump their shares as well). Within half an hour the price plummeted down to $60. Billions for the MMs. But WSB came back, and the next day, and the next.

The MMs have lost every battle since. WSB has since gone on to YOLO into other stocks being shorted by Melvin and other MMs (e.g., NOK, AMC, BBBY). After each day’s market close, WSB “captains” and “generals” share breakdowns and embolden the troops to “HOLD” (i.e., not sell their positions, thereby forcing the price further up). Apparently, part of the strategy is to keep the price up until this Friday when many call options expire on the assumption it will trigger an even greater short squeeze. As one WSB user posted, “no price is off the table”.

Predictably, and without any sense of introspection or shame, the same industry that has spent the last five decades demanding greater deregulation and exalting the “free market” (while constantly having their finger on the scales) is now crying for WSB to be shut down.

Massachusetts’ Secretary of State has called for a 30-day suspension in GME trading: “it has no basis in reality… it’s dangerous to the marketplace.” The White House is similarly “monitoring” WSB “influence”. Reddit was pressured yesterday into making WSB a private forum but almost immediately capitulated and set it back to public after near-instantaneous global pressure from users. The voice-channel platform Discord shut down the WSB chatroom over allegations of “hate speech” and now there are further attempts to connect WSB with alt-right politics. Even the language news media uses to frame WSB is suspect, phrasing WSB actions as “bets”.

The hypocrisy of the entire situation is a bit hilarious. Remember, when JPMorgan makes a risky play, it’s an “investment”. When you do it, it’s a “bet”. When in 2007 the banks, hedge funds, insurers, and ratings agencies were rollicking in bed together over the billions from sub-prime loans they were shoving into the entire global market through fraudulent derivatives of derivatives, they were “supporting the economy”. When you and your buddies coordinate your investments, it’s “dangerous to the marketplace”.

This is not about the couple of billions the rich have lost this week to the middle class. It is about who controls the gates to the financial markets. The MMs are terrified that everyone from sub-urban moms, to small business owners, to 18-year olds with a smart-phone are starting to figure out how the stock market works. With a little bit of effort, research, and a few hundred well placed dollars, they are making small fortunes. People are making an entire month’s rent in a few days. Certainly, many are also losing significant sums, but the general trend seems to be that these everyday “retail” investors are succeeding.

When you or I invest via Wealthsimple (or Robinhood in the US), we are not just depriving the MMs of their precious fees and performance bonuses (usually 2 per cent and 20 per cent, respectively), we are depriving them of their ability to leverage our money to influence the market. Your bank does not just sit on the money in your chequing or savings accounts. They actively invest and loan it out, making billions year after year (pre-COVID). These are the same banks that will also, with a straight face, send you a yearly flyer muttering something about tough times and that they need to raise your banking fees. God only help you if you use your debit card too many times in a month.

What is unfolding before our eyes has the potential to be an unprecedented democratization and decentralization of wealth and capital. The MMs are betting the farm that WSB will dissipate, that the plebs will get distracted with something else, that the peoples’ unity will falter. If WSB users and sympathizers start taking profits, a sell-off could be sparked and the price would tumble – the MMs may even turn a profit yet!

What they do not get is that this is becoming a world-wide phenomenon. With every sore-loser attempt to leverage their political and media relationships to shut down WSB, they are letting their masks slip and exposing themselves as the hypocritical and greedy bastards that they are. The people know it is these MMs that are (largely) responsible for our ever-frequent recessions and the misery and hopelessness that have followed. They also know it’s their hard-earned tax-payer money that the MM’s government buddies use to bail the parasites out each and every time.

Since the 1970’s, Western economies – particularly the US and Canada – splintered into two. The “real” economy, where things were produced, purchased, and used. And the synthetic financial sector that produces nothing, yet has come to account for the near totality of all money volume. The central banks continue to ply the economy with liquidity, often through quantitative easing (i.e., letting banks loan out a higher ratio compared to their assets) to try and keep the party going for a few more songs.

Up until the past few years, most people have been completely shut out from this growth. The media tells us about these all-time highs in the stock market and record profits by major companies. As I wrote in 2016, we have yet to see a nickel of this “unprecedented growth”. Our salaries are stagnant, student loans anchored to our necks, and we are priced out of home ownership. We have been relegated to consume and not question the order of things.

The WSB community is giving everything it has to show people around the world that they too can stand up to the MMs. The MMs and elite want you to think that stocks are “difficult”, “scary”, and “risky”, and that only a trained professional should be handling your money (for a fee of course).

Chances are you own a smart-phone, which means you hold in your hand the collective sum of all human knowledge. There is nothing you cannot accomplish, learn or master. Investing can be difficult and is a skill. Like any skill, it requires discipline, patience, humility, and learning from your mistakes. Live your life as you wish, but WSB’s message is to not live in fear, but to embrace life, and make and own your decisions.

As a closing comment, for those MMs that may think they can outlast the WSB community, I only wish to point out that the WSB folk are of the same caliber as the 4Chan trolls who in 2017 repeatedly messed with actor Shia LaBeouf, stealing his “HE [Trump] WILL NOT DIVIDE US FLAG”. Most notably, using nothing but the fact there was an airplane in the sky in the video LaBeouf posted of the flag (the trolls used radar data to triangulate the flag’s position, and summarily steal it again).

Andrej Litvinjenko is the Financial Columnist for the Western Standard and a lawyer specializing in corporate/commercial law.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. That's Dr. #SAND to you...

    January 28, 2021 at 4:58 pm

    If the shorts aren’t lying and they have in fact wound up their short positions then what is the reason for driving the price down now?
    Hint: They are lying about being clear of their short positions.

  2. Watch-out for the Greener's

    January 28, 2021 at 2:44 pm

    The scourge of capital markets are hedge funds run by dark markets, high frequency trading and on.

    People have no idea how corrupt and unfair the system really is.

  3. Allen

    January 28, 2021 at 2:00 pm

    Revenge of the nerds. Good for them.

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Opinion

WAGNER: Hydrocarbon based fuels are here to stay

“Think of it as telling people to step out of a perfectly serviceable airplane without a parachute, with assurances that politicians will work out alternatives on the way down.”

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Alberta’s future is threatened by a national campaign to dramatically reduce the production of hydrocarbons.

The political and media elite repeatedly assure everyone that such fuels can be replaced by new “green” energy sources such as wind and solar power. People currently employed in the oil and gas industry will supposedly transition into green energy production and life will continue on as before, except with fewer greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Indeed, Justin Trudeau’s federal government has committed to transitioning Canada’s economy to producing net-zero GHG emissions by 2050.

Trudeau’s scheme is a fairy tale. Hydrocarbons are going to be required for a very long time because current green energy technology is nowhere near where it needs to be to replace them. Currently, there are no realistic alternatives to oil and gas, so reducing their production will only lead to energy shortages.

As Dr. Henry Geraedts put it recently in the Financial Post, “The ultimate goal of net-zero politics is to impose a radical energy transition that demands a top-to-bottom physical and social-economic restructuring of society, with no credible road map in sight. Think of it as telling people to step out of a perfectly serviceable airplane without a parachute, with assurances that politicians will work out alternatives on the way down.”

Geraedts’ Financial Post column is a brief description of a policy report he produced in June 2021, and how it was ignored because its conclusions contradict the ideological perspective that university professors are expected to support. He didn’t toe the party line, in other words, and therefore got the cold shoulder.

Geraedts’ report, Net Zero 2050: Rhetoric and Realities, is available online at the website of the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy which is affiliated with both the University of Saskatchewan and University of Regina. It’s a very credible piece of work.

Fossil fuels are hydrocarbons and Geraedts points out “hydrocarbons are nature’s most efficient embodiment of primary energy: the combination of high energy density, abundance, stability, safety, portability and affordability is unmatched by any other source of energy.”

Currently, hydrocarbons comprise about 80% of global primary energy. This is essentially the same percentage as 30 years ago, when the global warming craze began. Despite years of favourable government policies and billions of dollars in government subsidies, green technology such as wind and solar energy remain relatively small contributors to the world’s energy supply.

Geraedts also describes the negative environmental impacts caused by so-called green energy technology. Among the most interesting details he mentions is: “Neither turbine blades nor solar panels nor lithium-ion batteries are physically or economically recyclable. They are instead, at an alarming rate, ending up in landfills leaching toxic chemicals — an estimated 10 million tons/year of batteries by 2030 alone.” So much for protecting the environment.

Geraedts is not a so-called “denier.” He points to data from reliable sources indicating global temperatures have increased by one degree Celsius since 1900. But he also explains “the projections used to justify net zero policies and the Paris Accord, are based on fundamentally flawed computer climate models that overstate warming by some 200%.”

Not only that, but “observational, empirical evidence remains agnostic as to what, with requisite confidence levels, is attributable to anthropogenic influences vs. natural variability.” In other words, it cannot be determined with certainty to what degree the gradual temperature increase is the result of human activities.

But climate change worries aside, there is still a fatal lack of realistic alternatives to hydrocarbons. The International Energy Agency forecasts that even if all countries fulfill their Paris Accord commitments — an unlikely prospect — hydrocarbons will still account for 60% of primary energy in 2040. With accelerating energy demand in Africa and Asia, Geraedts expects hydrocarbons will remain the dominant energy source for decades to come.

This is what it all means: If we put progressive ideology aside and take a hard, honest look at the energy situation, hydrocarbons are here to stay for quite a while. Knowing the ingenuity of human beings in a free society, the discovery of new energy sources is likely at some point in the future. For now, though, we need oil and gas, and Alberta has lots of both.

With strong international demand for hydrocarbons forecast to last for decades, there is no reason why these resources cannot continue to provide the foundation of economic prosperity for the province. The biggest obstacle to such prosperity, of course, is the federal government. Due to its determination to prevent the development of hydrocarbons, independence may be the only way to maintain and increase the resource-based wealth that is Alberta’s birthright.

An independent Alberta could implement policies maximizing economic growth and avoid the suffocating policies of Canada’s central government. A free Alberta would be a prosperous Alberta.

Michael Wagner is a columnist for the Western Standard

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Opinion

Stirling: Suzuki is a superspreader of alarmism

By actively denigrating people who hold rational, dissenting views on climate change, Suzuki and his fellow travelers have created a very dangerous situation today.

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Guest Column by Michelle Stirling, Communications Manager for Friends of Science Society

In 2015, Reader’s Digest counted David Suzuki as the number one most trusted influencer in Canada. He had already lost his shine with the oil patch working people of the West thanks to his performance in the appalling 2011 CBC co-production shlockumentary, “The Tipping Point: Age of the Oil Sands.” Others recoiled at the equally dreadful, “Where Will Santa Live?” fundraiser which suggested to kids Santa will drown unless your parents send cash. Yet for many, he still resonates as a kind of wise elder.

People of influence should be very careful about what they say.

For decades, Suzuki has been calling scientists and scholars who challenge his climate catastrophe narrative ‘deniers.’ He’s called for them to be silenced and censored, despite the fact when interviewed in Australia on television, the self-styled king of climate change was unable to understand a question from the audience that referred to the commonly known temperature data sets used in climate science. It seems he’d never heard of them.

By actively denigrating people who hold rational, dissenting views on climate change, Suzuki and his fellow travelers created a very dangerous situation today. There are many people who are genuinely frightened there might be only “10 years left” as Suzuki claims and they are like a tinderbox looking for a flame. Suzuki lit a spark for them a couple of weeks ago with his irresponsible musing about pipelines being blown up. His tepid apology will not put that genie back in the bottle.

Imagine if we had had open, civil debate on climate change in the media for the past 20 years. Imagine if, when Suzuki claimed there was a climate crisis, an atmospheric scientist like Dr. Richard Lindzen could show him why this is imaginary and how claims of a climate emergency are just a means for renewables promoters to push their wares.

Imagine if when Suzuki claimed Santa would drown and take the polar bears with him, an expert like geoscientist Dr. Ian Clark, who actually hikes the Arctic for his research, could show him that during the Holocene Hypsithermal of about 8,000 years ago, the Arctic was ice-free, rather balmy, and the polar bears were all fine.

Imagine if when Suzuki invokes “consensus,” (which forms the basis of the Toronto Star’s refusal to run any report that conflicts with the alleged 97% consensus), if someone like astrophysicist Dr. Nir Shaviv could have been invited to explain that science is not a democracy, it’s about evidence. While all scientists agree climate does change, they disagree on what ratio is human-caused versus natural influences like the sun and oceans. Scientists don’t all agree that taxing people will stop climate change, and most scientists are not convinced anymore that carbon dioxide is the control knob on climate.

This kind of open, civil debate, based on facts and evidence rather than emotional hyperbole would take society a long way toward more rational responses on climate and energy policies.

Unfortunately, it looks like things will get much worse as “The Climate Coverage in Canada Report” has run a consensus survey of its own, and Canadian journalists concluded that “large majorities … somewhat or strongly agree there is a climate crisis and the news media should report on it that way.”

In the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report (AR6), the word “crisis” is only used once, and only in reference to media coverage on climate. Otherwise, there’s no crisis stated in that 4,000-page science report.

The mainstream media in Canada has been parroting Suzuki’s hyperbolic words, republishing his op-eds posted by the David Suzuki Foundation and obligingly blocking any dissenting views for decades.

Canadian media have made his incendiary words go viral — making him a super spreader of a contagious social disease called anarchy. Suzuki began this soft incitement years ago asking people if they were “radically Canadian” or not.

It’s time the media and Suzuki stopped the spread of alarmism and incitement and asked people to be rational instead.

Guest Column by Michelle Stirling is Communications Manager for Friends of Science Society. This op-ed expresses her personal opinion.

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Opinion

MAKICHUK: Fear, loathing and the desolation of late night TV

My generation is fading fast, and soon, it will be gone — but at least we had the best of late night television. It was great, while it lasted.

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I miss David Letterman.

I really, really miss him and his Late Night television show.

I even miss Jay Leno’s Tonight Show, for God sakes.

They were great entertaining programs and Dave had the best band going, led by Canada’s own Paul Shaffer.

It never got better than that, in my humble opinion.

And it was just about a window on the world, not only politics.

Conan is OK, he can be funny, especially when he goes abroad and I think he got screwed over. Fallon, the young gun, and making $12 million a year … I just want to punch in the face.

Cordon, he’s always shouting and I think he’s over-rated as a celeb although his bit with Paul McCartney in Liverpool was epic.

Colbert, I fear, has jumped the shark and Meyers is a lightweight. Don’t even know why that guy has a show.

I also didn’t mind Craig Ferguson, the Scottish comedian, I thought he was good. But then, he too got shown the door.

The greatest of them all, of course, was Johnny Carson. The king of late night television.

During his three-decade tenure, virtually every North American with a television set saw and heard a Carson monologue at some point. At his height, between 10 million and 15 million viewers slept better weeknights because of him.

I actually got the chance to see his show live, in the summer of 1976, in L.A. My buddy Whitey and I waited all night at the door in Burbank for tickets.

It was well worth it — we got to see the entire show, which was during the Montreal Olympics. No big stars but it was great just to see Johnny do his thing and admonish us for not laughing at his terrible opening monologue.

Legendary Carson sets made the careers of people like Woody Allen, Joan Rivers, Jerry Seinfeld, Drew Carey, Garry Shandling, Steve Martin and many more.

On any given night, comedian Don Rickles (“Mr. Warmth”), Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin or Bob Hope could show up. Mayhem would ensue and Johnny just rolled with it.

“Anyone looking at the show 100 years from now,” said Tom Shales, The Washington Post television critic, at the time of Mr. Carson’s retirement from “Tonight” in 1992, “will probably have no trouble understanding what made Carson so widely popular and permitted him such longevity. 

“He was affable, accessible, charming and amusing, not just a very funny comedian but the kind of guy you would gladly welcome into your home.”

But then I go back to another late night show, which was just as good as Johnny, the Steve Allen show.

Despite all these attempts to re-invent late night television, Allen always said that it basically came down to a desk and some chairs, nothing more.

But then he had brilliant comedians such as Don Knotts, Louis Nye and Tom Poston to call on. The crazy man on the street stunts were hilarious, and no doubt influenced Carson.

And even before that, I remember the brilliance of Jack Paar. Check out some of his interviews on YouTube, you will be amazed by the people who appeared on his show.

Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro, himself, Senator John F. Kennedy, William F. Buckley Jr., Nobel laureate Albert Schweitzer and Richard M. Nixon, among others.

“Anyone who saw him when he was in his prime knew he was a great television original,” Ron Simon, a television curator at the Museum of Television and Radio in New York, told The Washington Post. 

“You never knew what was going to happen . . . He was the catalyst for ways the talk shows would go.

“The whole idea of intermingling politics with entertainment on a talk show really began with Jack Paar,” Simon said.

Now, it’s just a parade of beautiful people, musicians and singers. The problem with late night TV these days is that it has no soul. 

It lacks the interpersonal humanity of a Jack Paar, a Steve Allen or a Johnny Carson.

These guys could make you laugh. It made your life a little better. 

Aside from Jimmy Kimmel, who’s actually not a bad guy and the only late night guy I PVR, it’s a late night wasteland.

As for Dave, The Atlantic reported he might have been the last true innovator in late-night comedy and I totally agree with that.

In his interview with The New York Times, Letterman says his disorderly streak was honed early on by NBC’s strictures.

“[The network] came to us and he said: ‘You can’t have a band. You can have a combo. You can’t do a monologue. You can’t do, like, Aunt Blabby. You can’t do Tea Time Movie Matinee.’ There were so many restrictions. So that was the framework we were handed, which was fine because then they gave us an excuse not to think of that thing to do.”

Letterman came across as someone who had stolen a camera crew and broken into an empty studio, The Atlantic reported. 

“Stupid Pet Tricks,” for example, became an audience favourite and reflected his unique brand of caustic humour. 

Chris Elliott’s “Guy under the stairs” skits also added to the fresh approach to comedy. His spearing of an aging Marlon Brando remains a comedic classic. 

And again, Paul Shaffer and his fabulous band, along with numerous musical guests, many of which can still be seen on YouTube. 

As Christmas approaches, I will definitely miss hanging with Dave, hearing that great story of the Lone Ranger (Google it) as told by Jay Thomas, and of course, the spectacular Darlene Love belting out Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).

My generation is fading fast, and soon, it will be gone — but at least we had the best of late night television.

It was great while it lasted.

Dave Makichuk is a Western Standard contributor
He has worked in the media for decades, including as an editor for the Calgary Herald. He is also the Calgary correspondent for ChinaFactor.news
makichukd@gmail.com

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We the undersigned call on the Canadian government to immediately cease all payouts to media companies.

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No Media Bailouts

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