Sunday, February 23, 2014

Piers Morgan Sacked - Again

In the category of "What Took Them So Long?", we have news this evening that Piers Morgan is being sundered from the CNN line-up no later than the end of his contract next September.

Kick thine own self

Morgan is the insufferably condescending British snob who has hosted Piers Morgan Live after Jonathan Klein, then head of CNN, inexplicably hired him in 2011 to take over from the long-running Larry King upon retirement. King's numbers had been slumping, and Morgan continued the decline.

The inexplicability of Klein's choice went beyond the weird notion that the iconic show dedicated to interviews that focused on American political and pop culture was to be handled by a Brit. Nothing wrong with the British, mind you – I'm somewhat of an Anglophile myself, and his countrymen such as David Frost and Alistair Cooke did quite well here, even if limited in their presentation.

No, Morgan was already known for his pompous airs, even by the British, and his recent fame then was the fact that he had been fired as editor of the Daily Mirror in 2004 when it was learned that he was responsible for the publication of doctored photos that purported to show British soldiers in Iraq torturing Iraqi prisoners. The photos caused an enormous stir, "putting the lives of British soldiers at risk" according to Members of Parliament on both benches as well as British military officers.

Once the hoax was revealed, he declared that he would not resign and declared, "All I want to say is that we published the truth." (A British version of Dan Rather, as it were.) The publishers learned of his outrageous statement and about the same time they learned that he was "laughing and joking" with colleagues on the matter. He was summoned to the office of the chief executive for a short meeting, whereupon he was directly escorted from the building by security, leaving his belongings and his jacket folded neatly over the chair in what was then his former office. Within moments, after conceding that "the Daily Mirror has been the subject of a calculated and malicious hoax", the publishers announced "The board of Trinity Mirror has decided that it would be inappropriate for Piers Morgan to continue in his role as editor of the Daily Mirror and he will therefore be stepping down with immediate effect."

Yet Klein hired him nonetheless. Morgan's three-year posting was marked by his aggressive style and disdain for the Constitution and its Second Amendment in particular, and his attitude continued with his frequent and strange (considering his surroundings) tweets about "real football" (soccer) and cricket. He approached his interviews as if he were channeling George III, patronizingly lecturing Americans on how to get it right.

A telling episode about his popularity (or lack thereof) among the public as opposed to the 'experts' was during a run of online petition requests to the White House (with the administration becoming increasingly weary of them, steadily increasing the ante of the threshold of minimum numbers of signatories), in which one of the more popular was a petition to expel Morgan and return him to the UK. In response, a similar petition was initiated in the UK declaring that the British didn't want him back.

Yet another irony in this hosanna is that Morgan can take solace from his brief experience between jobs which can provide some perspective, that of hosting a show on the BBC called You Can't Fire Me…I'm Famous.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Government Surveillance and Intimidation – Now the FCC

The Obama administration is becoming increasingly known for its intrusion into and control over areas involving freedom of speech, particularly in that area which the First Amendment was primarily (I would argue exclusively) concerned, political speech.

"Yeah, I'm talkin' to you."

The shot across the bow of organizations that dared to criticize him and his regime came during Obama's 2010 State of the Union address, with his complaint about the Supreme Court's fresh decision in Citizens United vs. Federal Elections Commission (2010), uttered with the assembled Court sitting directly before him, which hit the news not for this crass effrontery but for Justice Samuel Alito being seen to mouth "not true" in response.  The Citizens United case allowed that corporations and organizations, through funding political speech, constitutes a form of speech rights (my one voice may not be much, but I can donate to an organization with a louder bullhorn).  Indeed, one can add that the fact that this gives vent to conservative groups in an area already dominated by left-wing labor unions and other such organizations like the corporations that run the Establishment Media.

Following along with this intimidation of conservative speech sees the Justice Department investigating some twenty reporters of the Associated Press as well as James Rosen of Fox News.  The incredible response from Justice was that Rosen was alleged to be a "criminal co-conspirator" and a "flight risk", and that the undisclosed warrant to tap his phone lines was in order because Rosen's "voluntary production of the materials … was futile", and therefore the charge was justified in order to obtain the warrant.  In other words, it doesn't matter if there is reasonable cause; what matters is that Justice utters the magic words that will obtain the warrant.  The investigation still continues.

The Citizens United finding led to a backlash, I believe, of the IRS investigating the intent of conservative groups in their request for tax exemption as 401(c)(4) groups, and the resultant stonewalling and delay, in many cases for years, which prevented these groups from effective fundraising against Obama and other Democrats in the 2012 election, with only a bare token effort toward left-wing groups (over 200 conservative groups against 6 'progressives' inquired into, with none of the left-wing groups eventually hindered).  The investigation still continues.

The National Labor Relations Board declares that companies such as Boeing cannot build plants in Right To Work states such as South Carolina because that would be deleterious to the labor union in its home state of Washington.  This is over and above the fact that now two federal appellate courts have ruled that Obama's excuse of appointing friendly board members violated the Constitutional meaning of a Senate recess appointment.  The board members are still serving nonetheless.

Complaints about the EPA and NSA are legion yet still ineffective (as those above), and now comes the Federal Communications Commission, in an exposé from one of its own commissioners, no less.  Ajit Pai, writing in the Wall Street Journal, discloses a potentially insidious initiative to place researchers (one could easily call them monitors) into the newsrooms of media outlets in order to investigate the decisions of how stories come to be chosen and written, with the "Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs [CIN]", which would encompass some 280 news organizations.
The purpose of the CIN, according to the FCC, is to ferret out information from television and radio broadcasters about the "process by which stories are selected" and how often stations cover "critical information needs," along with "perceived station bias" and "perceived responsiveness to underserved populations."
'Bias' according to whom?  'Perceived' according to whose perception?  Newsrooms will be examined on their diversity of personnel ("What are the demographics of the news management/on air/news production staff?").  A question in which Al Sharpton would likely be interested: "How much does the community input influence news coverage decisions?"  (My response and theirs as well, I would hope: "None at all; let the market decide.")  Office politics are solicited: "Have you ever suggested coverage of what you consider a story with critical information for your customers (viewers, listeners, readers) that was rejected by management?"  "What was the reason given for the decision?"

What exactly is 'critical information'?  The eight categories include public health, politics, transportation, the environment, and economic opportunities.  That may be innocuous to some, but imagine the reaction if the Bush administration had begun this initiative of putting researchers ("a rose by any other name…") from the agency responsible for your business license into your office, questioning your employees about your business and your decisions?  The term 'chilling effect' is not mentioned, but I do see "frightening implications" from Fox News, and Pai blasted the proposed study with "The government has no place pressuring media organizations into covering certain stories."

Tom Wheeler, the Chairman of the FCC, quickly tried to backtrack with "The Commission has no intention of regulating political or other speech of journalists or broadcasters by way of this research design, any resulting study, or through any other means.  The research design is a precursor to any formal study.  If used in any way, its goal would be similar to those of past reports seeking to identify whether potential market barriers exist and, if so, whether these barriers affect diversity of media voices."

Key word: "intention".  But the result would be to "identify barriers [that] affect diversity of media voices".  In other words, to slip in another Fairness Doctrine, created in 1949 but disestablished in practice in 1987 and by law in 2011, which led broadcasters to quickly discard any controversial or political topic rather than to air dissenting voices that met the 'perceived' needs of any variety of special groups.

Note also, and particularly, that the study encompasses newspapers, which the FCC has no authority to monitor.

The National Association of Broadcasters announced that they "were concerned that the diffuse, multifaceted focus of the research has the potential to undermine its usefulness for any particular purpose."

How genteel.  After the AP and Rosen cases affecting the news organizations themselves, will even the Establishment Media now begin to take note and rail against excesses by the Obama administration?  Any one of the above excesses (among others) by government agencies beholden to the internal political make-up of their career bureaucrats and the administration directors in power, would be enough to raise the hackles of anyone concerned with free speech, but all of them in their steadily accumulating mass must somehow reach critical proportions at some point.

As Ronald Reagan once quipped, "The nine most dangerous words in the English language are 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'"  How much worse are "…and I'm here to study you."?

Update:  The FCC is backing off, not with the survey, but with some of the intrusive questions.  See the comments below.

Then and Now

A posting somewhat late, brought over from my recent tribulations with the software.  This pretty well sums it up; 'nuff said, as they say.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Kipling Reminds Us of Politics and War

They shall not return to us, the resolute, the young,
   The eager and wholehearted whom we gave:
But the men who left them thriftily to die in their own dung,
   Shall they come with years and honour to the grave?

They shall not return to us, the strong men coldly slain
   In sight of help denied from day to day:
But the men who edged their agonies and chid them in their pain,
   Are they too strong and wise to put away?

Our dead shall not return to us while Day and Night divide –
   Never while the bars of sunset hold.
But the idle-minded overlings who quibbled while they died,
   Shall they thrust for high employments as of old?

Shall we only threaten and be angry for an hour?
   When the storm is ended shall we find
How softly but how swiftly they have sidled back to power
   By the favour and contrivance of their kind?

Even while they soothe us, while they promise large amends,
   Even while they make a show of fear,
Do they call upon their debtors, and take counsel with their friends,
   To confirm and re-establish each career?

Their lives cannot repay us – their death could not undo –
   The shame that they have laid upon our race.
But the slothfulness that wasted and the arrogance that slew,
   Shall we leave it unabated in its place?

Rudyard Kipling's Mesopotamia (1917) was a blistering comment on the then well-known disaster that befell British and Indian troops in a distant front of World War I against the Ottoman Empire, the earlier incarnation of Turkey which included its dominion over Syria, Lebanon, Palestine (as it was then known), Iraq and Kuwait.  Mesopotamia, a name already ancient by the time of Alexander the Great, describes in general "the land between the rivers" – that being the Tigris and Euphrates – but geographically includes primarily present-day Iraq and Kuwait as well as eastern Syria, portions of southeastern Turkey, and western Iran.

The British began a campaign to seize Baghdad in 1915 but due to a severe under-estimation of the capability of the Turkish forces and leadership, as well as abysmally poor logistics planning, they found themselves under a choking siege at Kut al-Amara where they eventually surrendered on 29 April 1916.  After losing some 23,000 casualties during the campaign and siege, the British and Indian survivors were marched overland some 630 miles to internment in Aleppo, resulting in the further deaths of half of the prisoners of war.  The news of the surrender was devastating to the British public, with one historian calling it "the most abject capitulation in Britain's military history", and the commission of enquiry calling the system of command and support "hopelessly inadequate" through the multi-layered and anfractuous command structure.

Yet the enquiry found the officials themselves strangely absolved of responsibility, and it wasn't long before the civilian administrators began to re-insinuate themselves into British politics, seeking appointments from their high-placed connections in government. They hoped that this would be done quietly but it was discovered and publicised, assisted by the additional reaction among appalled civilians and military alike to evidence of similar gross incompetence in the abortive Gallipoli campaign shortly before.  It is this fury that Kipling exemplifies in his angry words that rail against the ineptitude of the campaign but reach a pitch at the idea that the officials escape unscathed and in position to continue as before.

The parallel to Benghazi is inescapable, but I would add the dénouement of our time in Iraq, with the failure to secure a status of forces agreement and our subsequent dash to the border when we exited, leaving Iraq to cozy up to Iran. Our troops in Afghanistan suffer through deadly restrictive rules of engagement and a collapsed relationship with Karzai, a charlatan who publically despises the Americans who protected him and allowed his accession to power, but who sucks up as much money as we can shovel to him. Toss in the failure of control of whatever the Libyan campaign was supposed to be, resulting in another Somalia on the Mediterranean; and feckless 'red lines' of the Syrian civil war, allowing eventual terrorist control of the Syrian rebels, Assad to retain power toward what looks like an inevitable victory, a de facto abrogation of the agreement to surrender his weapons of mass destruction, a desperate acceptance of a humiliating ploy by Russia's Putin to rescue the worthless American foreign policy effort, and the Syrian death clock ticking past the 140,000 mark.  Look how well we've done with that Iranian nuclear agreement (quite agreeable to the Iranians, certainly).  If that isn't enough to occupy your time, stand by to see how well we'll do with Egypt, Ukraine, Venezuela, North Korea; and as for that, rest assured that the administration is doing not much more than that – sitting back, watching the events unfold on CNN, and otherwise taking advantage of the lull in domestic coverage to draft new decrees for Obama to proclaim.

Lest we miss the point, Kipling shortly after included A Dead Statesman among his list of Epitaphs:

I could not dig; I dared not rob:
Therefore I lied to please the mob.
Now all my lies are proved untrue,
And I must face the men I slew.
What tale shall save me here among
Mine angry and defrauded young?

Mark Twain advised us that, while History does not necessarily repeat itself, it often rhymes.  How apt that Kipling points out a repetition of politicians stepping so lightly over the bodies.

[The term 'Mesopotamia' was recently re-introduced by the New York Times to its readers and the younger victims of American public schools, in transparent opposition to the evidence presented by the Bush administration of what was then known as 'al Qaeda in Iraq'.  Sulzburger & Co. were among the leaders of the Greek chorus that denied any reason to take on Saddam Hussein, and instead insisted on 'al Qaeda in Mesopotamia', a clumsy verbal sleight of hand. They were practically the lone news organization to take this step, which only points out how entrenched is their petty political distinctions.]  [Al Qaeda in Iraq has since grown into the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).]

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Veterans Pension Cut Restored

Obama took time out from his golf game in Palm Springs, in one of the redoubts where he still maintains a positive approval rating, to sign both a bill to increase the federal debt limit and a separate bill to restore cuts to veteran pensions.

The cuts, laid out in the budget compromise of last December, would have annual increases to all pensions for retired veterans under the age of 62 reduced to one percent below the inflation rate.  Those who defended the cuts said that it was in an area to demonstrate that the federal budget must be brought under control.  Considering that the budget has sky-rocketed since Obama came to power, this is a novel approach for the Democrats.

Though it would definitely leave a mark in retirees' income – a retired Army Sergeant First Class (E-7), for example, would lose some $72,000 on average – the federal budget would save some $7 billion over the next ten years.  It wasn't long ago that $7 billion was a respectable amount, but considering the enormous spike in federal spending under Obama, it was a miniscule effort to ensure that Democrats could make a claim of being fiscally responsible.

Any threat to trimming the budget is met by Democrats as a cut in services despite the fact that total funding always eventually increases – so that a lower rate of increase is characterized as a "cut".  For this reason Democrats have taken Republicans to task for being hypocritical, but in this case, the cut was specified as lower than the inflation rate, making it an actual decrease in the value of the pension over time.

Of course the cruelest cut was that it was only the military pensions that were affected; federal civilian pensions were not part of this "shared sacrifice".  This was the first time that this ploy had been tried since the Carter administration.

As if on cue, we learn that the use of food stamps (in their modern incarnation) has not only greatly increased under Obama but their use by military families has almost doubled.  It is bad enough that the administration is steadfast in its march to have more and more Americans dependent on government largess.  It was Thomas Jefferson who said, "The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and for government to gain ground;" which leads to his attribution of "Any government powerful enough to give the people all they want is also powerful enough to take from the people all that they have."

As for those who defend our nation at peril of their lives as well as the more pervasive sacrifices such as prolonged family absences (and what about that "income inequality" meme du jour?), Pete Hegseth of the Concerned Veterans of America said, "It's not what this country should be giving back to those who have given so much."

Friday, February 14, 2014

Patriotic Car Ads That Play Against Type

Some sites are starting to pick up on the great Cadillac ad starring Neal McDonough.  As you can see, it's written with actual Americans in mind, contrasting with the European attitude exemplified by the French.  Despite the best efforts of the Obama administration to turn us into soft-core socialists of the European sort, or the next step in the descending staircase to something worse, the ad has a good resonance with Americans who understand the actual underpinnings of the country's roots.

McDonough is likely well cast for his body of work, of note to me as Lt "Buck" Compton in HBO's series Band of Brothers (among the greatest works of television) and as the protégé of the Tom Cruise character in Minority Report. Less known is that he is a devout Christian, fired from the cast of 2010's Scoundrels as filming started, due to his refusal to participate in sex scenes.  This would explain why this talented actor isn't getting more play time in Hollywood.

Ed Driscoll took note as well and tossed in an earlier ad for Chrysler, again playing on age-old American sentiment.

As they say, this is some great stuff, but the unexplained irony of both of the ads is that the two auto manufacturers, General Motors and Chrysler, saw the Obama administration roll over and reformulate them into bank accounts for the unions, lending even more veracity to the quip that the traditional American auto manufacturers were union pension and health-care plans that make cars on the side.  GM, known thereafter as 'Government Motors', saw its president fired by Obama, a foreshadowing of his recent ukases that are remarkable not only for his usurpation of his constitutional authority as for seeing the press and Congress in their supine response.  Chrysler, or whatever was left over from the unions, has since been acquired by Fiat (as in the Italian auto corporation, not the 'fiat' that marks Obama's preferred method of governance).

If the ads tap into that resentment starting to swell about a return to the traditional American work ethic as opposed to the Democrats' knee-jerk reaction to the recent devastating CBO report (people who have their work hours cut by ObamaCare – along with their income – will be more free to pursue hobbies!), which could turn out to be even worse than anticipated, then maybe – and hopefully – that is a foreshadowing of that same reaction in the upcoming elections.

And as for that Democrat reaction – less employment is actually a good thing – why is it that we are only now hearing about that? If that was such a neat idea, and part of the plan, wouldn't you think that the Democrats would have touted that outcome from the very beginning?

Update: For that last Chrysler ad, Range Rover came up with a great response, including a real Challenger for British military aficionados (and a good example for fans of British humour):

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Media and Communism, Distilled Through Sochi

Thanks to the wonders of DVR and the internet, I have been able to keep up with what NBC considers to be highlights of the XXII Winter Olympics at Sochi, a place long considered to be the Soviet Riviera in its Workers Paradise because of its resorts – only for the party elite, mind you, because "some animals are more equal than others" – in an area that is strangely sub-tropical (despite its location on the same latitude as Cape Cod).

Note , by the way, the reports of wonderment about the temperature, with an example this morning about the women's cross country skiing events seeing participants in sleeveless tops due to the fact that it was as high as 60° on the course. No one has so far put together the fact of the weather in association with the "sub-tropical" location. It would be like holding the Winter Olympics in the southern Piedmonts, around Dahlonega, Georgia (though, paradoxically enough, Dahlonega would be a better location at the moment, other than the blizzards).

Despite my frustration with the choices of NBC in programming (and thankful that this time at least I am no longer subjected to the blatant political drivel of Keith Olbermann), I am an avid viewer as always of the Olympic Games, and since the split of the scheduled years for the Summer and Winter Olympics, I have a welcome respite every other year from the dark gulf between football seasons.

If we are to rely on the journalists – and we have no real choice, unfortunately – the major story so far has been how miffed they are at their accommodations.  True, it's already bad enough that so many third world countries advise you to not drink the water, but to be warned to not touch the water, because it's "dangerous", does attract a bit of interest.  But some of the stories, involving some not-uncommon situations I have seen in my time outside of CONUS, make one wonder if these press types have ever been past Newark.

None of them are old enough, it would clearly seem, to remember the Soviet phase of Russian history, and they clearly aren't inclined to break free of their J-school indoctrination to actually, you know, study the Cold War, assuming that they are even aware that anything amiss occurred outside of the era of McCarthyism.  Otherwise they wouldn't be surprised at the shoddy work done by the descendants of the generations ('survivors' would be a more accurate term) of workers who lived with an attitude of "They pretend to pay us; we pretend to work."

That same mind-set would partly explain the NBC narration of the opening ceremony.  We don't know who wrote the copy, but Peter Dinklage (of the current Game of Thrones fame) read the script which included the astonishing lines that the Soviet Union was an "empire that ascended to affirm a colossal footprint, the revolution that birthed one of modern history's pivotal experiments."  This sets the tone that correlates with the scene of the opening ceremony wherein, after a ponderous red-lit panoply of huge, flying machine parts and rockets and sickles and busts of Marx, it peters out to a small girl hovering over the quieting scene, letting loose a red balloon that drifts away, symbolizing a strangely poignant feeling of a child's loss.

It is an odd symbology that marks a 20th century so beset with killing, the most deadly epoch in the history of mankind.  The huge socialist empires in Nazi Germany, Communist China, and the Soviet Union, driven by cults of personality, contended to see which could kill the most.  The lesser socialist regimes – such as Cuba, North Korea, the Congo, Cambodia, Nicaragua, Viet Nam and others – did their part to keep up, but the scale of death from the three empires was astounding in its magnitude.  The Nazis slaughtered millions in a relatively short time, the Chinese killed millions of mostly their own people, but the Soviets kept up their carnage for longer, from the Russian Revolution, the Civil War, the destruction and starvation of the Kulaks, the Gulag, and the Reign of Terror so efficiently carried out by the KGB in its variety of forms and names.  The Russians cite some 20 million dead in World War II – what they call their Great Patriotic War (the Western Front was really a big side-show, looking at the numbers involved – as the Germans certainly did), but a significant percentage of that 20 million was self-inflicted.  To paraphrase Lenin: so many spoiled omelets, so many broken eggs.

But it's not surprising to hear this political dreck from the same effete Commentariat, like Barbara Walters swooning over Fidel Castro.  (This is the same Walters who last Christmas publically expressed her disappointment – there's a connection – that Obama wasn't "the next messiah".)  But what do you expect from the Establishment Media?  These are the same sorts who wrote puff pieces about Saddam Hussein in order to maintain a comfortable presence in Baghdad.

Mark Twain's words still apply, even though the news is no longer confined to sheets of paper: "If you don’t read the newspaper, you are uninformed.  If you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed.”

Friday, February 7, 2014

IRS Targeting Continues; Democrats Make It Official

[Problems posting continue, particularly in the technical areas.  Be patient, better than I am doing.]

Among the many scandals that the main-stream media leave essentially ignored or remarked upon (Benghazi, Fast & Furious, handing GM over to the unions, the wide net of the NSA, whatever ukazes that Obama may decree from day to day, &c,…), the IRS scandal bubbles along like the cauldron of the three sisters in Macbeth.

The targeting of conservative groups by the IRS came about after the outrage by the Left erupted with the Supreme Court finding in Citizens United vs. Federal Elections Commission (2010) that corporations and associations have rights of freedom of speech through contributions to political causes, though the Left somehow cannot hoist enough dudgeon to feel the same about labor unions and the corporations that run newspaper and television media. 

The starting bell was rung when Obama publically excoriated the Supreme Court who was sitting assembled before him days later at the State of the Union speech, an unprecedented breach of civility that went unnoticed other than the press' collective gasp when Justice Samuel Alito was seen to mouth "Not true." 

To answer the critics who justly point out not just the inequity (over 200 conservative groups were targeted and harassed, as opposed to some six left-wing or 'progressive' groups who received inquiries), the solution is to codify the practice rather than correct it. 

President Obama and Democrats have been at great pains to insist they knew nothing about IRS targeting of conservative 501(c)(4) nonprofits before the 2012 election.  They've been at even greater pains this week to ensure that the same conservative groups are silenced in the 1024 midterms…. 
The [omnibus negotiations] fight was sparked by a new rule that the Treasury Department and the IRS introduce during the hush of Thanksgiving recess, ostensibly to "improve" the law governing nonprofits.  What the rule in fact does is recategorize as "political" all manner of educational activities that 501(c)(4) social-welfare organizations currently engage in. 
It's IRS targeting all over again, only this time by administration design with the raw political goal – as House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Michigan) notes – of putting "tea party groups out of business."
Further, the Democrats are willing to give on key areas of their wish list in order to preserve this one.  Strassel goes into great detail to highlight the lengths that the Democrats will go in order to finagle the passage of this cover-up.  You would do well to read the whole thing™, for you aren't likely to see it elsewhere in the press: they are too busy with Chris Christie and "traffic cones on the George Washington Bridge."  After all, the traditional TV news corporations – ABC, CBS, NBC – have dedicated 44 times more coverage to the bridge 'scandal' in 48 hours than they did to the IRS story for the last six months.

Corps of Engineers Retaliates Against Idaho Firm

[I'm trying to get re-established through a back-door Rube Goldberg approach to blogging, until I become smarter about the nuanced intricacies of the art, if ever. I previously had a simple control of the nature of this creature, but like so much in the universe, it has become inexplicably complex for no discernible reason.]

I wrote several months ago on the story of the Sackett family, who had purchased a lot within an established subdivision, surrounded by other homes, and sought to build a home. The EPA, though, decreed that they could not finish the construction they had started because the lot was considered a 'wetland'. The Sacketts protested that they had already established that the lot, and certainly the surrounding homes, was not, in fact, a wetland. The EPA responded that not only was the order to cease construction and repair the lot (including the order to plant vegetation that was never there in the first place) was final, but that the Sacketts could not seek redress through the courts but only through the EPA. The Sacketts were fined in excess of $30,000 per day until they complied. Despite the fact that the area was not classified as a wetland through the appropriate National Fish and Wildlife Wetlands Inventory, the EPA continued to declare that they and only they could make such a final determination, and refused to disclose whatever rationale they had for their actions or for arriving at their determination.

The Sacketts were able to take their plight eventually to the US Supreme Court, which unanimously decided in their favor in the case of Sackett vs EPA (2012).

The story of the long and retributive reach of the federal government does not, unfortunately, end there.

The Sacketts were assisted in their case by Kagel Environmental LLC of Rigby, Idaho, which determined that the Sacketts' lot was not designated as a wetland.  Company founder Ray Kagel, a wetlands expert, says that his company is being targeted by federal authorities since they were cited as a source for the Sacketts in their suit.  Kagel says that "he has never faced the delays now faced from the Corps of Engineers when it comes to wetlands delineation work for clients."
Kagel said at least some Corps field offices are attempting to go around the court's ruling even if trained scientists such as him determine wetlands are not present….  
After the Sackett ruling, Kagel said, a Corps Walla Walla district field office added more layers of what he says are unnecessary steps to rectify wetlands determinations for subsequent clients. 
The Idaho congressional delegation, along with Senator David Vitter (R-Louisiana) as the ranking member of the US Senate Committee on Environmental and Public Works, are asking for an explanation from Jo-Ellen Darcy, the Secretary of the Army: 
Any effort by the Army Corps of Engineers or the Environmental Protection Agency to penalize a business for its prior assistance to landowners dealing with regulatory issues is wholly unacceptable. 
It's not as if Ray Kagel has a problem understanding the intricacies of working with the Corps of Engineers – his expertise arises to a great degree from the fact that he had a long career with Corps. 

Interestingly, the original source of the story from the DTN Progressive Farmer is no longer available, but an extensive quote is found in Bryan Preston's account at PJ Media.  Preston goes on to point out that the actions of the EPA and the Corps of Engineers, since they are completely different and separate entities within the federal government, and assuming that this isn't some sort of remarkable coincidence, must be coordinated at a much higher level in the administration.  How high do you expect that might go?

And to heap one coincidence atop another, I can't help but notice how this looks like business as usual in the realm of the IRS targeting conservative groups. (And in the latest news, despite Obama's declaration that there was "not a smidgen of corruption" in that case, the latest IRS Commissioner felt obligated to apologize to the House Ways and Means Committee nonetheless. So which is it?)