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The New Film: Obey! and Yesterday’s SCOTUS Decision on Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum


(via Incase at, creative commons)

 (Disclaimers: I’m not a major fan of Hedges, though the book excerpts look worthy.  I haven’t finished the film yet as it’s hard on my particular eye-brain configuration, so I may not have much to say about it, although I’ll try to watch in snatches.  Both of the items I’m presenting are by way of copy and paste PSA’s.)

Opening his piece on the new film ‘Obey!’ by British filmmaker Temujin Doran and based on Chris Hedges’ book Death of the Liberal Class, Paul Haeder writes at Dissident Voice writes:

“The greatest evil perpetrated,” Hannah Arendt wrote, “is the evil committed by nobodies, that is, by human beings who refuse to be persons. [snip]

The one hour deal links to why the liberal class, the liberals, the REI and NPR progressives, are killing us all with death by a thousand cuts with digital daggers.

In the end, they don’t really care that we have massive class divides, major ageism issues, that we have daily cuts to the public goods and public commons and public welfare.

They continue to consume as Consumopithecus Anthropocene. [snip]

Read the book, Death of the Liberal CLass. Check out this inventive one hour reading of some of the book’s passages.

Here, again, Hedges on education –

“We’ve bought into the idea that education is about training and “success”, defined monetarily, rather than learning to think critically and to challenge. We should not forget that the true purpose of education is to make minds, not careers. A culture that does not grasp the vital interplay between morality and power, which mistakes management techniques for wisdom, which fails to understand that the measure of a civilization is its compassion, not its speed or ability to consume, condemns itself to death.”

You can watch the 55-minute film is at the end of the post.  If it’s good, and if it’s clearly demonstrative of the fact that we’re living under corporate rule in this nation, it might be a good one to use to convince others.  Sheldon Wolin was the first one to use the term ‘inverted totalitarianism’ as far as I know.

It seems that I should issue a warning with the film, as it was hard on many viewers eyes and heads.  THD said it was in the nature of  a ‘Brave New World’ format, so…be advised you  might not like the visuals at all.

I don’t know enough law to write on yesterday’s SCOTUS decision on Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, which concerned human rights and the limits (or not) of the Alien Tort Statute.  

Jeremy Leaming at the American Constitution Society writes:

In another victory for corporate interests, the U.S. Supreme Court limited the scope of a 224-year-old law used by human rights groups and lawyers to sue corporations over human rights violations committed overseas.

The case involved a lawsuit leveled against Royal Dutch Petroleum, which owns Shell Oil, alleging that the company was complicit in the murder and torture of Nigerians opposed to the company’s exploration of the Niger Delta and thereby in violation of the law of nations. The Nigerian government executed many of the activists — and their families, represented by human rights lawyers, lodged a lawsuit in federal court pursuant to the Alien Tort Statute (ATS). The 1789 federal law states that federal courts can hear “any civil action by an alien for a tort only, committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States.”

In Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. asked the parties to address, “Whether and under what circumstances the [ATS] allows courts to recognize a cause of action for violations of the law of nations occurring within the territory of a sovereign other than the United States.”

The question is not, Roberts wrote in the majority opinion, “whether petitioners have stated a proper claim under the ATS, but whether a claim may reach conduct occurring in the territory of a foreign sovereign.”

Roberts, joined by the high court’s other conservatives, maintained that the ATS “covers actions by aliens for violations of the law of nations, but that does not imply extraterritorial reach – such violations affecting aliens can occur either within or outside the United States.”

Anton Melitsky at Scotusblog begins his commentary this way:

The Alien Tort Statute (“ATS”), which grants district courts jurisdiction over “any civil action by an alien for a tort only, committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States,” was enacted in 1789, but lay essentially dormant for two centuries.  In 1980, however, the Second Circuit held in Filartiga v. Pena-Irala, that the ATS allows aliens subjected by foreign officials to violations of modern-day international human rights norms – in that case, torture – to bring suit for damages in U.S. courts.  The Second Circuit’s position was subsequently adopted by several other courts. 

But ATS litigation did not proliferate broadly until the late 1990s, when plaintiffs began to sue not just individuals alleged to have directly violated human rights norms, but also deep-pocketed corporations that were usually alleged to have aided and abetted such violations.  Since then, ATS defendants have contended that to the extent private actions under the ATS should be allowed at all, they should be subject to significant limitations, including the limitation that ATS suits should not be allowed when the alleged human rights violation took place within the territory of a foreign sovereign.  Today’s decision in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum can only be seen as a broad validation of that position.’

The Center for Constitutional Justice (CCR) was unhappy with the decision, but sees open doors for the future:

The Center for Constitutional Rights brought the ground-breaking case Filártiga v Peña-Irala, which first launched ATS human rights litigation in 1980. 

The Center for Constitutional Rights is deeply troubled by the Supreme Court’s decision to undercut 30 years of jurisprudence to limit U.S. courts’ ability to hear cases on human rights violations committed outside the United States.

In the last three decades, we have seen the Alien Tort Statute shine a light on global human rights violations and serve as a beacon for victims seeking redress. Today’s decision moves one step closer to shutting the court room doors to victims of war crimes and torture. However, those cases brought against defendants, including corporations, whose actions “touch and concern the territory of the United States…with sufficient force” should remain on notice they can still be held accountable for their abuses outside the U.S. This ruling is not a grant of immunity from liability.

The Court has left many questions open for another day, and we will work to ensure that the basic purpose of the ATS – reflected in the Filártiga decision – to provide a place for all victims of human rights abuses to seek justice and accountability. 

In an interview on Democracy Now in October of 2012, Baher Azmy, legal director of CCR, told Amy Goodman last fall that it appeared the high court was maneuvering once again to protect corporate concerns.

“So you have this remarkable irony,” he said, “where the Court in Citizens United suggested that corporations have First Amendment rights, but here the Court may carve out an exemption from responsibilities for corporate personhood, and that is sort of a shocking development and it could only happen in a Court that seems as it is so obsessed with corporate power.”

Scotusblog also has a roundup of opinions on the decision.   The Justices were unanimous in their ruling, but on different grounds; they are synopsized at the link.The SCOTUS docket files can be found here.

The Wiki entry on the Ogoni Nine is succinct:

The Ogoni Nine were a group of nine activists from the Ogoni region of Nigeria, including outspoken author and playwright Ken Saro-Wiwa, Saturday Dobee, Nordu Eawo, Daniel Gbooko, Paul Levera, Felix Nuate, Baribor Bera, Barinem Kiobel, and John Kpuine (Tripathi, p.189), who were executed by hanging in 1995 by the military dictatorship of General Sani Abacha.

The executions provoked international condemnation and led to the increasing treatment of Nigeria as a pariah state until General Abacha’s mysterious death in 1998. Saro-Wiwa had previously been a critic of the Royal Dutch Shell oil corporation, and had been imprisoned for a year prior to the executions in November 1995.

At least two witnesses who testified that Saro-Wiwa was involved in the murders of the Ogoni elders later recanted, stating that they had been bribed with money and offers of jobs with Shell to give false testimony – in the presence of Shell’s lawyer.

Back to Obey!  From the youtube blurb:

British filmmaker Temujin Doran has released a new movie that is based on the book “The Death of the Liberal Class” by Truthdig columnist Chris Hedges. The film, titled “Obey,” explores the rise of the corporate state and the future of obedience in a world filled with unfettered capitalism, worsening inequality and environmental changes.

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