American Elephants

The Constitution of the United States of America. by The Elephant's Child

Masterpieces created by a committee are notably few in number, but the United States Constitution is certainly one of them.  Amended only twenty-seven times in 215 years, it came into being just as the world was about to undergo the most profound — and continuing —period of economic change the human race has known.  The locus of power in the American economy had shifted from sector to sector as that economy  has developed.  Whole sections of the country have arisen and fallen in economic importance.  New methods of doing business and economic institutions undreamed of by the Founding Fathers have come into existence in that time, while others have vanished.  Fortunes beyond the imagination of anyone living in the preindustrial world have been built and destroyed.  And yet the Constitution endures, and the country continues to flourish under it.
                 John Steele Gordon: An Empire of Wealth

Just a reminder. Obama thinks it is flawed, and needs to be revised.

Are There Any Limits on How Far the EPA Can Go? by The Elephant's Child

The story of the Sacketts is a startling one, and demonstrates the out-of-control character of the Obama administration’s Environmental Protection Agency. The case is

Sackett v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Status: U.S. Supreme Court granted petitioners’ certiorari petition of June 28, 2011.  Petitioners’ opening brief on the merits filed September 23, 2011. Respondents’ merits brief due November 23, 2011.

Here is the  summary of the case, from the Pacific Legal Foundation:

Can federal bureaucrats seize control of your hard-earned property – and deny you a meaningful right to appeal the land grab?

This is the compelling question in Sackett v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – the latest PLF case to be accepted by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Observers on all sides see history in the making – a case that could break new ground in environmental law, and win a broad-impact precedent for property rights. Sackett could have “a sweeping effect,” UC-Davis law professor Richard Frank told NPR.  It has the potential “to bolster the rights of landowners facing costly demands from the federal government,” reported Bloomberg/Business Week magazine.

— In 2005, when they bought a small piece of land in Priest Lake, in the Idaho panhandle, Mike and Chantell Sackett never dreamed they’d be launched on a road to the highest court in the nation, to fight for fundamental principles of due process and property rights.

The Sacketts are small business owners, and they live in a rented home.  Their plan was simply to build a house of their own.

And they did everything right.  Their parcel is in a residential area – a platted subdivision – with sewer and water hookups.  They obtained all the needed permits to begin building.

But when they began laying gravel, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency swooped in without warning.  The Sacketts were told their land is “wetlands.”  They were ordered to return their property to EPA’s liking – on pain of $37,500 per day in fines!

Shocked, the Sacketts thought:  There must be some mistake!  They hired a soil expert and a biologist, who provided a certification that their parcel is not a wetland.

But the  EPA was unmoved.

— Mike and Chantell wanted to challenge the “wetlands” finding in court – but EPA (and the Ninth Circuit) said, No:  They would have to restore their property (at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars), seek a “permit” (costing 12 times the purchase price of the land!), and bring a legal case when the permit was denied.  Or, alternatively, they could violate EPA’s commands, and be hit with ruinous fines.

It’s a little scary when you realize that this could happen to you.  This is why some farmers cut down any trees in their fields — for fear the EPA or will descend with an endangered species order that deprives them of the use of their land.  Goodness, they could declare the whole of the Seattle Area a wetland — between two lakes and the Sound, and with a wet, rainy winter beginning.  The Ninth Circut is the most frequently overruled circut in the country.

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