My latest: the shit is gonna hit the fan over this one, y’all

Yellowstone is stupid.

Like: really, really stupid. Like, soap opera stupid. Like, stupid enough that it makes ‘Dallas’ resemble Shakespeare.

Also: Yellowstone is stupid for its politics. Which are deeply, unashamedly conservative.

Now, before y’all fire off (yet more) hate mail to my editors, and (yet more) hate tweets to me, I plead this in my defence: y’all wanted me to stop picking on People’s Party Pierre, so I’m doing that.

I’m going to pick on Yellowstone instead.

Among conservatives, Yellowstone isn’t just a hokey TV show about cowboys and horses and the Wild West. To them, it is The Way The World Should Be. To them, Yellowstone is the perfect antidote to the Deep State, woke folk, and liberal coastal elites.

To them, Yellowstone is a love letter to lonely conservatives, who long for the return of their spray-tanned messiah, presently flushing the nuclear codes down one of the 1,000 toilets at Mar-A-Lago.

Consider the evidence.

Screeching around the Montana countryside in a suspiciously-clean, tank-sized Limited Dodge Ram 1500 Hemi, perennial cowboy actor Kevin Costner plays John Dutton III with two (2) facial expressions: pained and more pained.

Here are the people he and his psychopathic children fight with:

• Native Americans, who would like the land back that was stolen from them, please and thank you.
• Over-educated, effete environmental protestors, who the Duttons get arrested, only to have their leader sprung from the slammer so John can have sex with her.
• The Government of the United States, which (as noted) above, is run by Deep State apparatchiks, bent on enslaving the God-fearing Duttons with jack-booted metaphoric stormtroopers.
• The aforementioned coastal elites, typically from California, who want to build golf courses and hotels, and thereby cut into the Dutton’s bottom line.

Indians, environmentalists, bureaucrats, liberals: those are the people with whom the Duttons do battle, every week – often with real guns, and sometimes trips to a euphemistic “train station” somewhere in Wyoming, where their assorted enemies are knocked off and then tossed off a cliff. If that doesn’t sound like a conservative wet dream to you, you haven’t been paying attention.

But pay attention to Yellowstone folks do, week in and week out. They can’t tear their eyes away, as idiotic as the plotlines may be. It is one of the most popular shows on TV, with as many as ten million Americans watching it every Sunday night. (In Canada, there is a higher viewer demand for Yellowstone than 99.7 per cent of any other TV dramas.)

Why? Well, sure, it harkens back to simpler time, when men were men, and women resembled the pneumatic Beth Dutton (who may be a sociopath but who always obeys her Dad).

But the main audience for Yellowstone, I suspect, is conservatives. As no less than the New York Times offered in a 1,600-word think piece this week, “Liberals aren’t watching Yellowstone for cultural reasons, and conservatives love it for ideological ones.”

Because Yellowstone is ideological, and it is conservative. But don’t get me wrong, effete liberal coastal elite I may be: I grew up in Calgary, totally surrounded by conservatives. If I didn’t make peace with them, I would be even more lonesome than I am now. I generally like conservatives: unlike we progressives, they actually have a set of beliefs.

And, now, they have their own show, presided over by Kevin Costner and his two (2) facial expressions. It’s dumb and dumber, it’s stupid, but everyone (not just conservatives) watches it.

Case in point: me. I confess I will probably watch it again, when it returns with season five in mid-November.

So who’s stupid now, Warren?

[Kinsella is in a punk rock band called Shit From Hell. That tells you all you need to know.]


My latest: I love the smell of the rule of law in the morning

If there’s dust, it ain’t settling.

The dust stirred up by the FBI’s visit to Donald Trump’s Florida compound, that is. The Right is apoplectic and the Left is ecstatic.

Long term, neither are likely to be happy. Certain political and legal realities are at play.

Consider these five points:

One, the precedent. Democrats may be delighted that their most-hated political adversary may soon be facing indictment. But that’s short-term thinking. Long-term, the Republicans will one day be returned to power – in the White House, the Senate, the House, or all three. And you can be certain that the GOP will be working overtime to return the favor with Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, or whomever is then a Democrat of significance. Count on it.

Two, notwithstanding the braying and screeching over on Fox News, it wasn’t an FBI “raid.” It was a lawful search and seizure, done pursuant to a warrant, and it was approved by the director of the FBI – a Trump appointee. The FBI action would have been approved by a senior judge, too, as well as an army of Justice Department lawyers. Trump knows why they were there – he has a copy of the search warrant. That said, the FBI has done something that has never been done before – and they better have the goods. (My hunch: they have the goods.)

Three, as a smart political friend said to me in the aftermath: “Right now, this looks like they’re going after Trump for neglecting to return a late library book.” And it’s true: going after Trump for neglecting to return some classified documents? That’s ridiculous. That’s chickenshit. It may be a crime for archivists, but no one else cares. If Trump was selling the contents to parties unknown, however, that’s clearly a crime. Or, the search for classified documents is a pretext…

Which is point four. As assorted pundits have noted, the FBI loves using minor crimes to find evidence of major crimes. As in, use the classified documents offence as a pretext to search for the bigger prize: evidence of Trump’s wrongdoing on January 6, and in overturning the election result. Ask Al Capone: the feds are really, really good at using smaller offences to prosecute bigger offences. It works.

Five: I cling to the view that no American president will ever be prosecuted in a court of law for high crimes or misdemeanors. Impeached in the House of Repreantatives? Sure. Trump has been, twice, to no apparent effect. Big deal. But hauling the Mango Mussolini into a courtroom in handcuffs and an orange pantsuit? Impossible. It’s not going to happen. Ever.

That’s all said, I didn’t see this one coming, and neither didn’t anyone else. It’s big and and getting bigger.

And the dust? It ain’t settling anytime soon.


My latest: the gods of the Hammer

The gods of the Hammer.

That’s what we called Teenage Head, who were probably the greatest rock band – and certainly the greatest punk band – Canada has ever produced.

We’re a small country. Our bands, our artists, often have to struggle for recognition here. So we promulgate Cancon rules, and foreign ownership laws, to protect and promote what little we have.

Teenage Head, to us prairie punks who rarely got to experience greatness close up, were gods, and therefore in no need of protection. We were certain they’d be seen by the world as we saw them: a quartet with a bass-drums-guitar section that was like a melodic machine, and a frontman who had more charisma than Elvis.

Why weren’t they ever as big as they so richly deserved to be? Not for lack of trying. They played in every dump and dive in every corner of Canada, wowing everyone who was smart enough to check them out. They worked so hard, for so many years.

But bad luck followed them like a groupie who won’t take no for an answer. They were cursed. Frankie Venom, their singer, died suddenly in 2008, and his passing hit me like a lightning bolt. Frankie had given his last-ever performance at Hamilton’s Friends Festival that same year, you see, backed by my own band, SFH. He was a friend.

Frankie was a wild man, too, with wild eyes and a sideways grin that promised lots of trouble – and usually delivered. In 2007, we opened for the Head at Barrymore’s in Ottawa. But Frankie was late. He eventually staggered in, biker jacket across his shoulder, a huge scab from a fight across his cheek.

It didn’t look good. He didn’t look good. And then Frankie strutted up to Barrymore’s microphone and – wham! He nailed it. He, we, were teenagers again. He and his band were magic. They were gods.

But gods aren’t as immortal as they used to be, apparently. Frankie died, and now Gord Lewis has died.

Lewis was the inscrutable one, the genius guitarist. He was the rock who anchored Frankie Venom to Earth, supplying riffs that attracted fans from the Ramones to Eddie Vedder.

From ‘78, when we all heard ‘Picture My Face’ on their debut – to ‘83, when they had their last big tune with ‘Tornado’ – Teenage Head were underground superstars, their greatness recognized by too few. They deserved to be huge, but never really were.

And now, Gord Lewis has been found dead in a Hamilton apartment building. His son has been charged with his murder.

I was familiar with his son, too. Lots of people in the GTA music and political scene were. A few years ago, there were emailed threats to members of my family, and some local politicians. The emails stopped for a while.

On the weekend, the wild emails started up again – dozens upon dozens of of them, to me and many others. I was with family on the weekend, so I just deleted the emails without reading them.

Someone at the Hamilton Spectator, however, saw something troubling and contacted the police. They did a wellness check on Gord, and found his body.

The legal system has the son now. Whatever will happen will happen. But now, I guess, it’s the rock’n’roll gods who have Frankie and Gord.

It is impossible to describe how much of a loss Frankie and Gord’s deaths are to this country’s music scene. It is impossible to properly express how sad and tragic it all is.

So, don’t mope. Go do this: go out and get yourself a copy of the first album, or maybe Frantic City – on vinyl, preferably – and listen, and know, the greatness that was Teenage Head.

We shall never see their likes again, because they were the gods of the Hammer.

And ours.


My latest: we’re all in Kansas evermore

We’re not in Kansas anymore.

But actually, we kind of are. Let us explain.

The famous line above, of course, was uttered by Judy Garland’s Dorothy character in the seminal motion picture, the Wizard of Oz. (With the full quotation being: “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.“)

Whether you’re there or not, however, quite a few of us are thinking about Kansas this week. Because, on Tuesday night, the good people of reliably-conservative Kansas shocked all of the United States, and quite a bit of the world, too.

On Tuesday, Kansas voted in a referendum on removing a state constitutional protection for abortion, which would have had the effect of outlawing it. And the anti-abortion side lost. Dramatically. Decisively.

The side favored by abortion-hating Republicans was crushed, right across the landlocked Midwestern state.

In Kansas – whose anthem is Home on the Range, and where Republicans have dominated since Jesus was a little fella – 60 per cent of the state’s voters said they wanted to keep abortion rights.

That 60 per cent figure is notable, and not just because it represents a humiliating loss for the well-funded pro-life side. Sixty per cent is the share of the popular vote won by Donald Trump in both 2016 and 2020.

The Kansas result can’t be just dismissed as an aberration or an outlier. The voter turnout was massive, and the pro-abortion side won convincingly in areas which Republicans once considered their personal playgrounds.

No more. For the GOP, the Kansas result suggests that this Fall’s midterm votes are no longer a foregone conclusion. If abortion is on the ballot – and after the Republican-dominated US Supreme Court gutted Roe v. Wade, it assuredly is – Tuesday night’s Kansas earthquake means that Democrats will benefit.

In the US, successive national polls have been showing a policy gulf between public opinion and Republican lawmakers. The US high court’s decision to expropriate women’s wombs has widened that gulf.

Canada‘s Conservative Party needs to pay attention to the progressive popular uprising in Kansas, but they probably won’t. Pierre Poilievre is far and away the frontrunner in the party’s leadership race. He has raised more money than all the others combined.

None of his fanatical followers seriously expects him to lose in in September, and some are already picking out drape swatches for their offices in the Langevin block. They will tell you they don’t care about little Kansas.

But Pierre Poilievre has a past, and a voting record. It’s easy to find, because he has never worked in the real world. And his voting record on social issues like abortion is problematic.

For years, the Ottawa-area MP could count on the unwavering support of the Campaign Life Coalition, the powerful lobby group that wants to outlaw abortion, gay marriage and euthanasia.

On its web site, the Campaign Life Coalition has for years given approving green check marks to Poilievre for voting for bills that would make it an offence to “kill or injure a pre-born child” — and to “protect women from coercion to abort.” For 99 per cent of his political career, Poilievre has opposed abortion. Period. 

When the Conservative leadership race commenced, Poilievre speedily attempted to execute a whiplash-inducing about-face. In one of the debates that he deigned to attend, Poilievre stammered that he was now pro-choice.

But he isn’t. Because he has admitted that, as Tory leader, he would let his social conservative caucus bring forward motions to outlaw abortion. 

That’s not pro-choice.

If that day were ever to come to pass, the result would be the same as we have seen in Kansas this week: it would fail. Canadians generally, and Canadian women in particular, are overwhelmingly pro-choice.

But the issue of abortion, and Pierre Poilievre’s ever-changing view on it, is a problem. For his party, and for him. In Canada, as in Kansas, the people know where they are. They know where they stand. 

And they will know, soon enough, that Pierre Poilievre doesn’t stand with them.