Two GREAT decisions this week in Constitutional Law, one of which was the decision that the First Amendment means PRECISELY what it says in language, grammar and intent. FINALLY! A direct, no guesswork resistance to "interpreting" an amendment for special interests.
Well, another great decision was handed down this week, and it involves the nature of Corporations, and the over a century long battle between what were originally public trusts and the Government to earn rights as entities, has finally come to a head.
Limited Public Trusts were originally created, or incorporated, to fulfill a specific purpose or mission, and upon completion of that mission, were to return excess funds back to the public coffers. They were commissioned by governments of all levels, and run by successful business people or other leaders who were expected to be able to be efficient and effective.
This became the way things got done immediately after The Civil War during the Reconstruction. Starting then, these incorporated privately run public trusts sued to gain rights normally reserved only for human beings, like owning property, incurring debt based on their own credit rating and even to continue on with the seed money to perform other tasks.
Over time, we have seen corporations become so large and powerful that they generate and earn, in more than a few instances, more money than many many nations on earth... in fact, more than many of them combined.
They have also, after over a century of contentious challenges to create "personhood" so that a corporation can have nearly all the rights of an organic human being with few of the liabilities or responsibilities... or culpability... gathered so much power through the pressures of monetary force that they have imposed the American definitions and (lack of) rules under the law to be taken up by other countries... or threatened to not do business there. Usually this works, and so, companies like Union Carbide have been able to pretty much walk away from the horrific Bhopal mass negligence homicide incident with some fines and small payments to victim families (which took decades to extract) and a couple of sacrificial lamb low-level employees being jailed.
This repeats worldwide and all the time as companies strip-rape, i mean, strip mine nations like Bolivia and Chile while poisoning the people... and they get away with it. I could go on and on with the gross insults to nations that corporations are permitted to get away with, even here in the USA with Exxon, with ADL, with BP, GE, WR Grace, and so many more... but the issue here is that we finally have a US Supreme Court ruling that tells corporations, not just AT&T that enough is enough!
The ruling this week essentially knocks down the proposition that since corporations are essentially persons, they are essentially people, and their poor little feelings can be hurt or that they have any entitlement to "personal privacy" like a human.
Well, the court, and remember folks, this is currently a RIGHT LEANING USSC, gave the FCC a victory over AT&T who felt they had been impugned in a criminal fashion by the FCC. Those particulars don't matter and are easy to research online for yourself.
What does matter is that after providing what amounts almost to a 6th grade grammar lesson and 4th grade dictionary lesson to AT&T, the end result was "A corporation is not a person, so there are no feelings to be hurt or personal privacy to invade."
Essentially, the USSC said "STFU and GTFO" to AT&T, which is fucking brilliant. It's what non Republicons have been begging for decades to hear from the court, which has bowed down to corporations for, well, over a century.
The remarkable thing about this decision is that it follows by only a couple years the decision that (will no doubt be revisited now) corporations can have an opinion and act like an individual, or like a human, and thus may form political support organizations which they may fund in any way they want and buy advertising, exercising their supposed First Amendment "rights" as if they were organic humans.
This ruling PLAINLY sets a new precedence that that is NOT the case, and will be sure to be used to attack and reverse other decisions that have simply given to corporations whatever they've wanted without them conceding anything to actual humans for decades.
This has been a good week for the Law.
Here is the exact decision: it's actually very easy to read and pretty brief, and this site won't crash when you access it: Text of US Supreme Court decision in FCC vs. AT&T March 01, 2011, courtesy of Cornell University Law School
And some real background on the case and decision from one of the first papers to hit the web with the story: Supreme Court of the United States Rules: AT&T is Not a Person