Monday, May 14, 2007

Rex, Greg and Jeff

Compare and contrast. I am including both columns on Jeff the Anarchist Civil Servant arrest. Rex Murphy's from the Globe and Mail is behind a subscription wall, and Greg Westons from the Sun, will disappear eventually into the Canoe Archives.

What is interesting is that they take two polar opposite positions, which reflects the conflict between opposing view's of what the political arrest of Jeff means.

As the Globe and Mail online Poll of its readers show;

Globe poll: Is it acceptable to leak?

Is it acceptable for a bureaucrat or employee to leak sensitive internal documents?


405 votes (2%) 405 votes

Only if it's in the public interest

4246 votes (23%) 4246 votes


13810 votes (75%) 13810 votes

Total votes: 18461

Rex joins the Blogging Tories in supporting Statism, and Greg joins the Progressive Bloggers in denouncing the arrest as the actions of an authoritarian regime in Ottawa and a political police force that is up to its neck in its own scandals. See: Busted

Rex works for CBC that creature the Blogging Tories hate with a passion only to be matched with their hatred for the CRTC and Wheat Board.

Greg was their boy for many years when he wrote about the Liberal government, and the Sun Chain is the right wings original newspaper voice before the creation of the National Post.

How times have changed, Rex of course is Latin for King, and so his sympathies lie with King Harper and his autocracy.

Greg is consistent in his criticism of the powers that be, whether Liberals or Conservatives, the government must be scrutinized by the fourth estate, especially when it is as secretive and autocratic as the Harpocrites.

Ironically this is what happens when you contract out public sector jobs, you lose control over whom you hire, and how the official secrets act affects them as a third party. But the media has paid less attention to the fact that this temporary worker had spent five years on the job, with no union protection, no rights, and yet is expected to abide by the rules applied to full time, permanent employees of the state.

Instead the media and folks like Rex and others focus on the fact Jeff is in an anarchist punk band called the Suicide Pilots and their DIY CD depicts a plane crashing into parliament. Now punk bands will be next on the Governments new anti-terrorism campaign list, look out Warren Kinsella.

Rex in many ways echo's the Globe editorial published the same day. The Globe Editors seem to equate the faxing of the Conservatives Kyoto musings as the equivalent of leaking the Budget or plans on Income Trusts, which of course it was not.

From Saturday's Globe and Mail

Jeffrey Monaghan thinks the authorities went too far when they slapped handcuffs on him in front of his co-workers, on allegations he had leaked the federal government's green plan to the media. Maybe he has a point. But so does the government.

To be sure, the dramatic and highly visible arrest of the 27-year-old contract worker at Environment Canada smacked of grandstanding. Perhaps they did want to make a very public example of Mr. Monaghan, as a warning to any other low-level civil servants who might have loose lips.

But Mr. Monaghan's protestations in his own public show Thursday - he held a press conference on Parliament Hill - had a hollow ring to them.

Though he admitted to nothing, he took the government to task for developing an environmental plan that undermines Canada's commitments under the Kyoto accord, and insinuated that the green plan is a deceitful public-relations ploy. His statement suggested that - in the abstract - anyone who might have leaked this document was doing so as a public service and an act of conscience, and that a government pursuing legal recourse against such a leak was engaging in partisan bullying.


Certainly there is a problem with any government using strong-arm tactics to prevent potential whistleblowers from going public with discoveries of improprieties on the part of government officials. But despite Mr. Monaghan's arguments regarding Canada's Kyoto commitments, this was hardly a case of blowing any whistles. The government had made it clear that Canada wouldn't be able to live up to the letter of Kyoto long before the green plan was released.

What the leak did was put potentially financial-market-sensitive information in the hands of a select group of recipients ahead of its broader public dissemination, and that's a serious act. The plan could potentially have a significant impact on the future profits of companies in several industries, and it could have been controversial enough to potentially bring down the government, something that would have shaken the Canadian stock and bond markets and the country's currency. The government has an obligation to ensure that such market-sensitive policy documents be disseminated in a timely, fair and appropriate manner to all potential market participants. The leak seriously undermined this.

It is not overkill to investigate and arrest people allegedly involved in such an illegal leak. Regardless of whether they felt their acts served a greater good, there are consequences to such acts of conscience, and anyone committing them should be prepared to pay the price. Mr. Monaghan said in his statement that he believes "very strongly" in Canada's founding principles of peace, order and good governance. If so, he must also understand that potentially criminal acts must be investigated and, as appropriate, punished regardless of the motivation of the perpetrators.

Blow the whistle on this punk

Headshot of Rex Murphy

Jeff Monaghan. Anarchist or civil servant? At work, he's Clark Kent, a white-shirt and tie-wearing, clean-shaven civil servant.

Off-hours he's Superman, an anarchist drummer in a punk band that's known by the delightfully endearing name of The Suicide Pilots. The white shirt is forsaken, and I dare say wearing a tie in any venue likely to showcase the Suicide Pilots might be grounds for ostracism or worse.

You can see from the website of his band a cartoon of a small plane hovering above the Parliament buildings -- an image that, in these post-9/11 days, attached to a band called Suicide Pilots, loses any Disneyesque flavour it might otherwise be said to claim.

The guy who showed up at the press conference Thursday, raging against the Harper machine, and sputtering on about the vengeful government, a witch hunt, intimidation and centralization (this last a bit of a puzzle) could have walked out of a Canadian Tire commercial (the pen-in-a-shirt-pocket nine-to-fiver who cheers the busy customers on their way). He could have been what the Clark Kent guise was meant to suggest, just another bland, innocuous, politically neutral civil servant -- who had been set upon most outrageously by the stern fascists of the Harper government.

But, as his remarks and tone at the press conference emphatically declared, he was anything but. He may have been a temp civil servant but, very plainly, he was not neutral or non-political as, so many seem to have forgotten, all civil servants are supposed to be. Mr. Monaghan was the very cliché of that dreary type -- the self-appointed angry activist.

He seemed under the delusion that his views on the Kyoto accord, for example, carry the same -- or rather, superior -- weight to those of the minister and the government he is presumed, civilly, to serve. And, by implication at least, that he as the temporary employee of the government clipping service, has both the qualifications to make judgments on the judgments of his elected masters.

I'd make a guess too because the subject of the leak was Kyoto, and because Kyoto is the very blessed Eucharist of all that is politically correct these days, he probably feels the issue would give him moral leverage for the deed he is alleged to have performed.

Well, it doesn't. Gushy feelings about the planet confer no moral authority whatsoever. It's the elected crowd who get to decide things. It's voters who decide who's elected. The civil service is there to administer what is decided. Confound these roles and you have . . . well, anarchy.

The press conference showed him offended, outraged and angry at the Harper government because of their environmental policies. Well, so what? Is there a new code in play in the public service? Do civil servants get to choose which policies to serve or confound based on their emotional temperature each day they show up at work?

Contrary to Mr. Monaghan, the public service isn't a freelance association of self-proclaimed Gandhi's, who get to go all-crusader, when one of their pet peeves doesn't show up formulated as they would like to see it in cabinet papers. If Mr. Monaghan leaked -- let's not call it whistle-blowing -- it is callow self-indulgence of the political kind.

The cops had come earlier in the week and walked him out in handcuffs. A very punk thing, in this context, it strikes me for the cops to do. Cops have humour too. Perhaps it was more irony than an attempt to intimidate. But if intimidation was the goal, it surely had a short shelf life, because in 24 hours Mr. Monaghan had the mother of all press conferences on Parliament Hill.

We have civil servants who are NDP, Tory, Liberal, Green and, yes, anarchist. In the life of every government it is axiomatic that there will be thousands and thousands of civil servants who disagree, as intensely as Mr. Monaghan, with the policies they are called upon to execute. Their disagreement with those policies, in our system, is precisely irrelevant. They may vote how they wish. But they cannot, should not, must not assume their disagreement, their judgments on policy, give them any authority whatsoever to contest those policies -- as civil servants.

There are many options for civil servants who find themselves, however insignificantly, serving the interest of government policies they dislike. Quit and run against the government. Join the Greens. Canvass in the next election. Write a protest song.

But as long as you're wearing the drab white shirt and tie, getting paid to clip newspapers, clip newspapers. That's your pay grade. That's your job. That's your duty.

The moral of this story, if it has one, is simple: Play punk in your own band.


Commentator with The National and host of CBC Radio's Cross-Country Checkup

Greg Weston

Sun, May 13, 2007

Civil servant put on parade

n the latest chapter of Stevie in Wonderland, the Conservative promise of open and accountable government is fulfilled by RCMP goons slapping handcuffs on a young federal temp and hauling him off in front of his co-workers, all over a leaked piece of Tory propaganda.

If nothing else, the incident befitting any friendly police state should certainly help Stephen Harper convince voters that the Conservatives have no hidden agenda.

The supposed crime that demanded the use of police restraints on 27-year-old Jeffrey Monaghan was faxing a reporter a couple pages of draft bumpf from the Conservatives’ latest environmental plan several weeks before the official announcement.

At worst, this had the effect of lessening the incredible national suspense that had been mounting in anticipation of the all-important government press release and ministerial photo op, in case you missed them.

So odious was this alleged act of felonious faxing, so damaging was it to the state, Monaghan was questioned and released without being charged.

All of which is almost funny: For months, we have been hearing horror stories involving the highest levels of the RCMP, revelations of lies, coverups and missing millions from the Mounties’ pension fund.

Did any of the country’s top cops responsible get yanked off their high horses in handcuffs? No way. They all got promoted with performance bonuses.

Sponsorship scandal

And how about all those great Canadians responsible for the sponsorship scandal? Did the RCMP march into their government offices and slap the cuffs on even one of them? Nope. For a long time, the Mounties wouldn’t even investigate.

So why all the handcuffs and Hollywood high drama over a media leak of some public relations poop, little more than a sneak peek at the Harper government’s environmental plan to save the planet and Conservative votes?

Monaghan is certainly no dark operative out to subvert Harper’s government and spousal cat collection.

By his own account, he comes into work at 5 a.m. every day to assemble a package of press clippings for the bosses at Environment Canada, a job he describes as “the lowest ranking temp employee in the department, possibly in the entire government.”

The information that got leaked was hardly spilling national security secrets to the terrorists, nor even the stuff of insider-trading on the stock markets.

In effect, the story was that the Conservatives’ new plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions would be tougher than their first kick at the smokestack last fall, but not as stringent as environmental groups would like. Stop the presses.

For his part, Monaghan has no doubt why he was led off in handcuffs: “The spectacle of my arrest, the subsequent RCMP press release and the prepared statements from Environment Canada, including minister (John) Baird, have been crafted to bully public servants whom they, in a paranoid fit, believe are partisan and embittered.”

It other words, the Harper government is engaging in good old-fashioned intimidation of public servants — open your mouth to the media, and the Mounties will haul you off to jail.

This type of attempted message control, of course, is everything the prime minister and his press office have been striving for, save perhaps one additional detail — they would really like if the Mounties would throw the cuffs on reporters, too.

It is also possible Monaghan was bitten by environment minister Baird, who may well be one of the government’s most rabid anti-leak freaks.

Last year, when Baird was still in charge of Treasury Board, we gave our readers an advance preview of a federal report to parliament that he was scheduled to release a few days later. It’s what we do.

The report had next to nothing to do with Baird or his department, but he went ballistic about the apparent leak anyway.

The day after our story ran, the minister buttonholed me at a social function, and told me he had already torn a strip off the official Baird was (wrongly) convinced had been the leaker. “I told him he would pay.”

The whole episode struck me as inappropriate at the time, all the more so when the official he had supposedly berated on the phone denied even talking to Baird.

Whatever the reasons the government and RCMP went beyond reason this week, whoever leaked bits of Baird’s beloved green plan was asking for trouble.

Was it worth internal discipline? Definitely. A firing offence? Perhaps.

But an RCMP raid, handcuffs, and the threat of prison time are, as Monghan said, “without precedent in their disproportionality; they are vengeful; and they are an extension of a government-wide communications strategy pinned on secrecy, intimidation and centralization.”

1 comment:

Werner said...

What this demonstrates it that those who are "more royal than the King" are in the end probably more dangerous. Rex Murphy is an apparatchik who would just as easily fit in with the old Soviet empire as in social democratic Canada. We had another asshole here in Regina who used to do a political column for the Leader Post. Dale Eisler, ex-sports reporter, once stated in his Leader Post column that "legality equals morality" which I would say is a pretty good definition of fascism. I also pointed out this editorial to a cousin of D.E. (the Eislers are a big family in Saskatchewan) who vehemently denied that such a thing existed. I didn't have a copy of the paper with this item in it but I told Mrs Goody-Two shoes that I could find the reference in the local library. She shut up at that point. Anyway back to Murphy ... he's been spouting this crap for a long time ... and he's been using the CBC as a vehicle to do so which is kind of funny considering that his new masters would like nothing better than to abolish the CBC altogether [or perhaps just emasculate it with more and more yokels and endless high priced spectator sports]. Perhaps progressive bloggers of varying hues should start going after this guy and get him turfed out of places like the Globe and the CEEB? Even within the Globe there are people who oppose some of the things he's been saying Margaret Wente, the columnist all old lefties love to hate. Actually I wrote a email,last year, thanking her for an attack on Murphy who at the time was trying to deny a connection between the London bus bombings and Afghanistan. She didn't reply but it felt good to take a small swing at Murphy.