The Litmus Test

I was about to write this blog, no doubt following some deeply philosophical critique of the current Ontario election, when I was interrupted by that annoying old friend.  “Hey,” he shouted, emerging from behind the monitor, “have at them.  How about that McGuinty guy, and what‛s-his-face, and what do you think of Andrea?”

“Newshawk, old friend, you intruded into the last item but really this is too much.”

“Nonsense,” he said.  “I know you.  Without a little prodding you won‛t say what you think.”

“How do you know what I think?”

“Because I‛ve been into your files.  Now take McGuinty – ” at which point he started marching along the F keys while whistling the tune for McNamara‛s Band.

“You little weasel,” I said, “I know where you‛re going with this one.”

“Not a weasel.  A journalist.”

“I rest my case.”

“I found it in your files,” he chortled, and began to sing.

“Oh my name is Dalton McGuinty
I’m the leader of the Grits
And trying every hat I can
To find me one that fits.
As the days go by and the promises die
Our rhetoric is simply grand
But we’ve got to do the same to you
As was done by the Tory band.”

“Hey, hey,” I protested, “that‛s privileged.  That was never published!” But he kept on going.

“Oh my name is Dalton McGuinty
And I don’t know where to stand,
I’m all for this and all for that
But on the other hand –
As the days go by and the promises die
I like to change my ground
I’m not for this and not for that
Or the other way around.”

“Look,” I said, “that was mere recreational doodling.”

“Just the same,” he said, “it‛s in your files.”

“Where it belongs,” I said. “It‛s ad hominen – too personal an attack.  That‛s what Tories do.”

“Hey,” he protested, “you let me sing in italics but you said two words in italics.”

Ad hominen is Latin, dumbo.”

“Does that make it more personal?”

“Apparently.   Now if it was attacking the Party, well, that‛s different.”

“You mean like this?” And away he went again, more or less on tune.

“Oh my name is Dalton McGuinty
And my Party knows the game,
And most of what the Tories did
We often do the same.
As the days go by and the promises die
We do the best we can
To figure out what we‛re about
So we can take a stand.”

“That‛s okay,” he said, stopping for breath, “but I think it‛s more fun, the ad dominem stuff,”

“No, no. Hominem.  Ad dominem, if there is such a phrase, would be going after Harper.  This election is provincial.”

He looked puzzled. “But it’s still not good form to sing this?

Oh my name is Dalton McGuinty
And I need a hat to wear
But it’s really hard to find me one
To fit a head that’s square.
As the days go by and the promises die
If I find a hat that’s right
I’ll change my head to make it fit
And that’s my pledge tonight.”

“That‛s right, Newshawk.  It‛s not good form. Let‛s not go down that road.”

“But you already have.”

“No. You have.  You invaded my files.”

“That‛s just a little hacking.”

“Hacking is illegal.”

“Assassination is illegal.  Pre-emptive war is illegal.  Torture is illegal. What‛s wrong with a little hacking?”

I sighed.  “I guess it depends on who‛s doing it.”

“Tell you what,” he said, “have a go at the other two and that‛ll make it fair.  How about, what‛s his name – Tim Kodak?”



“Far as I can tell, he‛s a Harris clone.  We‛ve had Harris, and a clone is a clone is a clone.  Hell, we’ve even got them all over the government in Ottawa.  No more Harris clones, please.  And that‛s not ad hominem it‛s ad clonem.  Besides, Hudak‛s got a degree in economics.  Diefenbaker used to say that when he wanted ten different opinions he‛d ask ten different economists.  May God protect us from the bean counters planning our future with their opaque crystal balls.  As Jane Jacobs used to say, the bean counters are nearly always wrong.”

“Who was Jane Jacobs?”

“Just one of the brightest women to ever grace the Toronto scene. Oh for Pete‛s sake, Newshawk, use Google! Now take the NDP‛s Andrea Horwath.  Her degree was in Labour Studies, and she‛s got a background in co-operative and social housing and has received a Woman of the Year Award from the City of Hamilton‛s Status of Women Committee, and happens to be a very attractive and intelligent woman.”

“Attractive.  Ah ha!”

“You worm.”

“First a weasel, now a worm?  Sounds ad whatever to me.”

“You‛re an old friend.  You can call old friends names.  Shows affection.”

“Is Kodak an old friend?”

“Hudak.  I didn’t call him names.”

“A Harris clone?  That‛s pretty rough.”

“To a real right-wing Conservative that‛s a huge compliment.”

“But you find NDP’s Andrea ‘attractive‛.” He smirked.

“Come off it, Newshawk.  Is there something wrong with a leader being presentable and also well motivated and intelligent?  She represents the party and, if elected to power, us – we the people.”

“Ah hah!  Weasel, worm, and now I‛m people!  And how do we know who‛ll represent who once they‛re in power?”


“Nit picker.”


He scowled.  “You’re name calling again.”

“It’s hard to resist.  But look, instead of the ad hominem stuff try the litmus test. Remember that old high school chemistry test where the colour of litmus paper told you whether something was acidic or basic?  Try this.  Take a look at the parties and at their leaders – never mind the bits of electoral bribery – but ask yourself if, overall, they‛re for People or for Big Business , the Corporate Creatures.  I don‛t care how you slice it, federally or provincially, but the three major parties have come to the point where both the Tories and the Liberals are in the Creature camp and the NDP is still, thank God, trying to stay in the People camp.  So, dip the political litmus – Tories and Libs, acidic.  NDP, basic.  What could be easier?”

He looked somewhat doubtful for a moment, but then jumped to the top of the monitor and chanted at full volume, “Red, Blue – acidic.  Orange – basic.  Red, Blue – acidic.  Orange – basic.” He grinned down at me.  “How‛s that?”

“Not bad! Not bad at all!”

“Hey, how about your own area?  You putting your vote where your mouth is?”

“Newshawk old friend, I’ve even put my lawn where my mouth is.  A humungous big Dave Nickle sign.  Orange, of course.”


About Munroe Scott

Munroe Scott is a veteran of the freelance writing world.
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3 Responses to The Litmus Test

  1. Vaughan Lyon says:

    Enjoyed it Munroe. Vaughan

  2. lionel strange says:

    Clever stuff. I had to look up “ad hominem” I’ve never used it. All the best Lionel

    • Munroe Scott says:

      Thanks fella’s. I’m glad I have a couple of readers out there. Actually, Lionel, I don’t think I’ve ever used ad hominen myself until now. Have maybe been ad hominem, but that’s different!

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