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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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Wednesday, May 5, 2004

Other Views

Wal-Martís arenít us

Commentary by Betty Bell

You might not have heard of Californiaís Inglewood if it had it not climbed into the ring with Wal-Wart and won. And no, I didnít misspell Wal-WartóIíve changed it to reflect the terrible time I went through as a child when warts erupted across my hand and up my arm like sins made manifest. I tried to pretend that warts arenít really so bad, which seems to jibe with a general attitude about the eruption of Wal-Warts already spread way beyond a hand and an arm.

I spent time in Inglewood when I went there to get an instrument flight rating in a flight school in nearby Hawthorne.

Inglewood was a terrible experience in every way. Iíd been flying an old "tail-dragger" whose most complicated instrument was a coffee-grinder radio, and suddenly I had to cope with so many instruments that it looked like the cockpit of a 747 to Miss Amateur Hour. After hours of lessons that passed like days, Iíd emerge wringing wet and wobbly, and then had to drive through sorry neighborhoods and sad business districts to the dingy motel.

Wal-Wart wanted to award Inglewood with one of its outsized uglies. But the town council said no. Of course, Wal-Wart said no to the no, and then spent a cool million to collect the 10,000 signatures to force a vote so the citizens could over-rule. But the ungrateful citizens, by a margin of 2-1, put their Xs under NO. How about that!

Itís not the end of the fight since Wal-Wart never graciously accepts rejection. Soon enough itíll present a new plan with minor concessions, and itíll be right back in Inglewoodís face. During the lull, thereís a window of opportunity here to fight the spread of Warts that we must grab.

Letís sign up the best advocate in the whole wide worldóErin Brockovich, and I volunteer to track her down and try to sign her on. Iíll practice my script, Iíll get it right, and Iím confident this is how itíll go:

"Erin," I say, "If youíll take on de-Warting the globe youíll have lots of support. All of the good people in the Wood River Valley are with you, and hereís some stuff to get you started."

Erin smiles, nods encouragement, so I unload. I tell her that a corporation was nothing more than a bundle of agreements writ bold until along came Morrison Remick Waite, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in 1886. The court was about to hear Santa Clara County vs. Southern Pacific Railroad Company, a case about disputed taxation, not much of a surprise as corporations are as allergic to taxes as worms to dry sidewalks.

But even before hearing the case, Judge Waite proclaimed: "The court does not wish to hear argument on the question whether the provision in the 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which forbids a State to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws, applies to these corporations. We are all of the opinion that it does."

Holy catfish, Erinóno Supreme Court decision was reached; no opinions were issued. There was no public debate; there was no discussion in open court. With two sentences Judge Waite put a hard right turn in the course of history. Ever since, every corporation has every right that you and I have.

Erin, try to get Sun Valley-Ketchum to book a global corporate convention, and then we can double-book every room, fill them with actual persons, and charge the corporations for their no-shows. Just like that we can pay off the YMCA project and have enough left over for one in Carey.

Prior to Justice Waiteís judicial appointment he was an attorney specializing in defending railroads and corporations, and before Waite donned his robe the railroads had lost every Supreme Court case seeking 14th Amendment rights. But Waite knew how to play the game, how to "close-out" as is said in the sporting world.

Erin, if corporations are persons, Wall-Wartís John Dillingeróthough John would protest. Maybe you can persuade Cheney to invite Scalia on another duck-huntóa long one. And while theyíre hanging out in some corporate blind use your considerable clout to get the other eight to robe-up and vote to stuff all those invisible persons back in the box. Itíll be a slam-dunk, as they say over at CIA, and for sure itíll be such a slam-dunk that on the World News according to Peter, youíll be person of the week.


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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.