The Evening Blues - 11-25-20
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features soul singer Spencer Wiggins. Enjoy!
Spencer Wiggins - The Kind of Woman That's Got No Heart
"There’s never been a better time to be a woman, minority or member of the LGBT community who works in the DC establishment and enjoys dropping cluster munitions on children."
-- Caitlin Johnstone
News and Opinion
So the balloting definitively resolved only a single question: by 80 million to 74 million votes, a margin of six million, Americans signaled their desire to terminate Trump's lease on the White House. Yet even if repudiating the president, voters hardly repudiated Trumpism. Republicans actually gained seats in the House of Representatives and appear likely to retain control of the Senate.
On November 3rd, a twofold transfer of power commenced. A rapt public has fixed its attention on the first of those transfers: Biden's succession to the presidency (and Trump's desperate resistance to the inevitable outcome). But a second, hardly less important transfer of power is also occurring. Once it became clear that Trump was not going to win a second term, control of the Republican Party began reverting from the president to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The implications of that shift are immense, as Biden, himself a longtime member of the Senate, no doubt appreciates. ...
Perhaps the Democrats will miraculously win both Senate seats in Georgia's January runoff elections and so consign McConnell to the status of minority leader. If they don't, let us not labor under the mistaken impression that he'll support Biden's efforts to defeat Covid-19, restore prosperity, vanquish racism, reform education, expand healthcare coverage, tackle climate change, or provide an effective and humane solution to the problem of undocumented migrants. ... That leaves restoring American global leadership as the sole remaining arena where President Biden might elicit from a McConnell-controlled GOP something other than unremitting obstructionism. ...
So, as the U.S. embarks on the post-Trump era, what are the prospects that a deeply divided government presiding over a deeply divided polity will come to a more reasoned and prudent attitude toward war? A lot hinges on whether Joe Biden and Mitch McConnell can agree on an answer to that question. ...
In 2001, President George W. Bush ordered U.S. forces to invade the country, but prematurely turned his attention to a bigger and more disastrous misadventure in Iraq. Barack Obama inherited the Afghanistan War, promised to win it, and ordered a large-scale surge in the U.S. troop presence there. Yet the conflict stubbornly dragged on through his two terms. As for candidate Trump, during campaign 2016, he vowed to end it once and for all. In office, however, he never managed to pull the plug—until now, that is. ... Trump had already made his intentions clear: he wanted all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by the end of the year and preferably by Christmas. Having forgotten or punted on innumerable other promises, Trump appeared determined to make good on this one.
So during this peculiar betwixt-and-between moment of ours, with one administration packing its bags and the next one trying to get its bearings, a question of immense significance to the future course of American statecraft presents itself: Will the United States at long last ring down the curtain on the most endless of its endless wars? Or, under the guise of seeking a "responsible end," will it pursue the irresponsible course of prolonging a demonstrably futile enterprise through another presidency?
Biden wants to have it both ways. So he is on record insisting that "these 'forever wars' have to end," while simultaneously proposing to maintain a contingent of American troops in Afghanistan to "take out terrorist groups who are going to continue to emerge." In other words, Biden proposes to declare that the longest war in U.S. history has ended, while simultaneously underwriting its perpetuation.
Feminism Not Militarism: Medea Benjamin on the Movement to Oppose Michèle Flournoy as Pentagon Chief
When President-elect Joe Biden announced the core of his national security team on Monday, there was one glaring omission: his choice for defense secretary. ...
The doubts came as Michèle Flournoy has been under pressure from the left over her defense industry ties and relatively hawkish views. Flournoy joined Booz Allen Hamilton’s board and co-founded defense consulting firm WestExec Advisors in 2018, and, in 2007, co-founded the Center for a New American Security think tank, which relies on support from defense firms. ...
Politico reported Monday that while Flournoy is still a strong contender, Biden is not entirely sold on her, though it’s unclear how big of a role the resistance from the left is playing. Jeh Johnson, President Barack Obama’s second secretary of homeland security, is another top candidate ― and he would be the first Black defense secretary, but he could also concern progressives as a member of Lockheed Martin’s board. ...
Another concern for progressives is that Flournoy, as reported by Foreign Policy, clashed with Biden over U.S. force levels in Afghanistan when he was vice president and she was Pentagon policy chief during the Obama administration ― and in the past, she pushed to keep more U.S. forces in Iraq. (Biden is seeking a swift pullout from Afghanistan with a residual counter-terrorism force.) ...
In a tweet on Sunday, Rep. Ro Khanna, a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and House Armed Services Committee, raised questions about Flournoy publicly and by name. “Flournoy supported the war in Iraq & Libya, criticized Obama on Syria, and helped craft the surge in Afghanistan. I want to support the President’s picks,” said Khanna, D-Calif., referring to Biden. “But will Flournoy now commit to a full withdrawal from Afghanistan & a ban on arms sales to the Saudis to end the Yemen war?”
A Russian warship has allegedly threatened to ram a US destroyer during a rare naval standoff between the two countries in the waters off Russia’s Pacific coast.
Russia said on Tuesday that the Admiral Vinogradov, a destroyer, threatened the USS John S McCain, a US navy guided-missile destroyer, for “operating illegally” in its territorial waters in the Sea of Japan.
The US Navy said its vessel had been in international waters as it carried out a “freedom of navigation” operation to assert its rights and challenge what it said were Russia’s excessive maritime claims. The US ship retreated to neutral waters, Moscow claimed. ...
On Tuesday, Russia said its Pacific Fleet warship had been tracking the American destroyer in the Peter the Great Gulf, and that the US vessel had violated Russia’s territorial waters at 0317 GMT by going 2km beyond the sea border.
“… the US will never bow in intimidation or be coerced into accepting illegitimate maritime claims, such as those made by the Russian Federation,” said Lt Joe Keiley, 7th Fleet spokesperson.
US states are breaking Covid-19 case records as hospitals and health workers brace for an expected increase in cases tied to travel and gatherings for the Thanksgiving holiday this week.
The US has had 12,408,900 confirmed cases and more than 257,500 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. On Monday, more than 85,700 people were hospitalized with the illness as healthcare workers warned of overwhelmed clinics and emergency rooms.
The daily average of cases is the highest it has ever been across the country. There were twice as many new cases a day as there were two weeks ago in nine states: Arizona, California, Delaware, Louisiana, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Vermont. ...
The nation’s top infectious diseases expert, Dr Anthony Fauci, warned on Monday that “we are in a very steep escalation of cases” in an interview with Washington Post Live. He said that if people continued to ignore public health warnings by traveling, gathering in groups and not wearing masks, it would likely result in “a surge superimposed on a surge”.
Russia has said that its coronavirus vaccine has more than 95% efficacy according to new preliminary data, giving it a success rate comparable to vaccines being developed by Pfizer and Moderna.
Russian officials also claimed their vaccine had greater efficacy than the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine because of Russia’s proprietary technology, which it offered to share with British scientists.
“Sputnik shows very high effectiveness, higher than 95%,” Kirill Dmitriev, the head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, said during a briefing on Tuesday. “This is indisputably positive news not just for Russia, but for the entire world, for all countries.”
The preliminary results were released as competition heats up among vaccine developers to mass produce a coronavirus jab and help bring the pandemic to an end.
To forestall the nation's ongoing plunge into financial devastation as some crucial relief programs expire and others are recklessly terminated by the Trump administration, economists are calling for a $3 trillion debt-financed coronavirus stimulus package that includes enhanced unemployment benefits, robust fiscal aid to state and local governments, nutrition assistance, and other safety net expansions.
In a detailed memo released Tuesday morning amid a backdrop of surging hunger, a looming eviction crisis, and an intensifying pandemic that has taken more than 250,000 lives in the U.S., Economic Policy Institute research director Josh Bivens implores Congress to "use debt, go big, and stay big, and be very slow when turning off fiscal support."
Pointing to federal government's timid response to the financial collapse of 2008-2009 as a cautionary tale, Bivens argued that "roughly $3 trillion in debt-financed fiscal support now, with the first $2 trillion hitting the economy between now and mid-2022," is necessary to avoid another crushingly slow recovery and "ensure a return to a high-pressure, low-unemployment labor market by mid-2022."
"The Senate's failure to provide crucial relief and recovery aid has left families without a lifeline and will severely damage prospects for recovery," Bivens said in a statement. "Policymakers must prioritize a high-pressure labor market characterized by low unemployment and strong public investments."
Specifically, Bivens calls on Congress to approve a relief package containing, at minimum:
- A $600-per-week federal boost to unemployment benefits until mid-2022;
- $500 billion at an annualized rate in aid to state and local governments;
- $100 billion at an annualized rate for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and rental assistance; and
- "Public investments in early child care and education and in mitigating greenhouse gas emissions that ramp up immediately and reach peak levels of $400 billion annually by the fourth quarter of 2021."
Emphasizing the importance of funding the relief package with debt rather than taxation, Bivens writes that "the point of federal spending now is to boost aggregate demand growth (spending by households, businesses, and governments), so financing this support with taxes would make it less effective."
Bivens also stressed the need for sustained fiscal support instead of relief that expires before the economy has fully recovered.
"Policymakers should not phase out funding too quickly and must continue fiscal support through the end of 2024," said Bivens. "We have to be careful not to think of this as jumpstarting an engine and instead think of it like towing a car out of a rough patch to smoother ground. If large fiscal support is removed quickly, the fiscal contraction can overwhelm private sources of growth and tip the economy back into recession."
While the economic case for a strong relief package appears unimpeachable—officials at the Federal Reserve have issued similar calls for a large stimulus—major political obstacles remain in the way of passage of bold legislation, particularly during a lame-duck session in which austerity-obsessed Republicans remain in control of the Senate.
President-elect Joe Biden has voiced support for passage of coronavirus relief during the lame-duck period before he takes office in January—when Democrats have an opportunity to take back the Senate with a pair of Georgia run-offs—but recent talks between Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Democratic leaders have yielded little indication of progress toward an agreement.
'Flat-Out Sabotage' Already Underway as Mnuchin Tries to Put $455 Billion in Covid Funds Out of Biden Team's Reach
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin is under fire for attempting to undermine the incoming Biden administration's response to the Covid-19 pandemic on his way out the door after his department confirmed Tuesday that it intends to place $455 billion in unspent coronavirus relief funds into an account that requires congressional authorization to access.
Bloomberg reported that the funds, which Congress allocated to the Federal Reserve in March for emergency lending programs to assist local governments and struggling businesses, will be put in the Treasury Department's General Fund following Mnuchin's widely condemned decision last week to cut off the relief programs at the end of the year.
Mnuchin requested that the funds be reallocated by the currently divided Congress, and the Fed has agreed to cooperate with the outgoing treasury secretary's move.
According to Bloomberg, "Mnuchin' clawback would make it impossible" for Janet Yellen, President-elect Joe Biden's pick to lead the Treasury Department, to utilize the funds "without lawmakers' blessing."
"The move leaves just under $80 billion available in the Treasury's Exchange Stabilization Fund, a pot of money that can be used with some discretion by the Treasury chief," Bloomberg noted. "By contrast, the CARES Act funds had specific uses, and weren't available for general government spending purposes."
While Mnuchin, a former Goldman Sachs banker, insisted he is attempting to ensure the funds are put to better use, Democratic members of Congress and other observers immediately accused the treasury secretary of a potentially unlawful ploy to hamstring the Biden administration's coronavirus response before the president-elect takes office. According to one analyst, Mnuchin's actions are an "explicit" violation of the CARES Act.
"This is Treasury's latest ham-handed effort to undermine the Biden administration. The good news is that it's illegal and can be reversed next year," tweeted Bharat Ramamurti, a member of the congressional commission established to oversee the use of coronavirus relief money. "For its part, the Fed should not go along with this attempted sabotage and should retain the CARES Act funds it already has."
In his first sit-down interview since the election, President-elect Joe Biden declared his presidency would not be “a third Obama term” and promised to represent the full spectrum of the country and the Democratic party. Speaking with NBC News’ Lester Holt on Tuesday evening, Biden said the challenges facing him were unique and sought to shake off the shadow of the man who he served as vice-president.
“What do you say to those who wonder if you’re trying to create a third Obama term?” asked Holt. “This is not a third Obama term. We face a totally different world than we faced in the Obama-Biden administration,” Biden answered. “President Trump has changed the landscape.”
His administration aimed to represent the “spectrum of the American people as well as the spectrum of the Democratic party” Biden added, agreeing that he’d even consider appointing a Republican who voted for Trump. “I want this country to be united,” Biden said.
As congressional Democrats press Joe Biden to reject investment banking executive Rahm Emanuel’s bid to get himself appointed to the Cabinet, new polling data obtained by The Daily Poster show the vast majority of Americans want senators to vote down presidential nominees who are too closely tied to corporate interests.
The Data for Progress survey, sponsored by Demand Progress, found that 60 percent of respondents believe that Biden appointing corporate executives and lobbyists to his administration would be out of step with his campaign promises — and 68 percent of respondents believe that if Biden nonetheless puts forward corporate-linked nominees, senators should reject them. ...
Earlier this week, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders said that it would be “enormously insulting if Biden put together a ‘team of rivals’ — and there’s some discussion that that’s what he intends to do — which might include Republicans and conservative Democrats — but which ignored the progressive community. I think that would be very, very unfortunate.” ...
Regardless of what happens with Emanuel, Biden has already named two Cabinet nominees tied to corporate interests, and he is reportedly considering others.
The rich are very happy about the new president they purchased:
The Dow Jones Industrial Average has topped the 30,000 mark for the first time as financial markets around the world rally amid hopes for a coronavirus vaccine and smooth transition to a Joe Biden presidency.
The landmark for the Wall Street market comes as investors bet rapid medical advances will bring the Covid outbreak to an earlier end than feared, paving the way for a swift economic rebound next year as business activity returns closer to normal and tough government restrictions are relaxed.
The rally also comes after the US General Services Administration (GSA) declared Biden the apparent winner of the US election, clearing the way for the formal transition from Donald Trump’s administration to begin, ending weeks of uncertainty and delay.
Nevertheless, Trump was quick to claim credit for the rally. “That’s a sacred number, 30,000. Nobody thought they’d ever see it,” he said at an extremely brief press conference. “That’s the 48th time we have broken records during the Trump administration.”
Elon Musk, the maverick chief executive of Tesla, has overtaken Bill Gates to become the world’s second-richest person with a $128bn (£97bn) fortune after the electric car company he helped found 17 years ago soared in value to more than $500bn.
Musk, 49, has seen his personal fortune increase by $100bn so far this year as investors worldwide rush to buy shares in Tesla, which is seen as key in helping wean the world off its reliance on fossil fuels.
Tesla shares, which have risen more than six-fold this year, jumped 4.6% on Tuesday to $546-a-share taking its stock market value to $517bn.
The shares have increased dramatically in recent days as investment funds rush to buy stakes in advance of Tesla’s debut on the US blue chip S&P 500 index next month. In January, the shares were changing hands at $86.
Musk, who owns 20% of Tesla’s shares, saw his wealth jump by $7.2bn to $128bn on Tuesday, overtaking Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos remains the world’s richest man, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
Following Outcry, US Government Halts Deportations of Women Who Allege Medical Abuse in ICE Detention—At Least for Now
Women who have spoken out about alleged abuse by a gynecologist while in U.S. custody won a reprieve Tuesday when the U.S. Department of Justice agreed to halt their deportations until President Donald Trump is nearly out of office.
The motion filed by the DOJ must still be approved by a federal judge, but the department reached an agreement with the lawyers of several women who say Dr. Mahendra Amin abused them and subjected them to invasive procedures without their consent while they were being held at Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Georgia. Under the agreement, the government will not deport the women until at least mid-January.
The women say that shortly after they spoke to investigators at the DOJ and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which are both conducting probes into their allegations, ICE moved to deport them, in some cases to home countries where they have not lived in decades.
"ICE and others at Irwin thought they could silence these women," Elora Mukherjee, a law professor at Columbia University who is working with some of the women, told the Associated Press Tuesday. "They thought they could act with impunity and nothing would ever happen. But the women have organized and had the audacity to speak out."
As Common Dreams reported in September, a nurse who worked at the detention center came forward to disclose that an alarming number of hysterectomies had been performed on women there and that Amin's patients were confused when they learned what he had done.
The Associated Press reviewed interviews with attorneys and medical records and reported this month that it had not uncovered "evidence to support an initial claim that he performed a large number of hysterectomies," but that a pattern of allegations suggested Amin had "performed operations that caused or worsened [patients'] pain without explaining what he was doing or giving them an alternative." ...
More than 100 Democrats in Congress said last week that "deporting these witnesses—especially when none of them have received independent physical or mental health evaluations by medical experts—amounts to a de facto destruction of evidence."
As Feinstein Steps Down as Top Judiciary Democrat, Sunrise Movement Demands She Go One Step Further: 'Resign'
After facing widespread backlash over her genial performance during Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett's confirmation hearings last month, Sen. Dianne Feinstein announced Monday that she will step aside as the top Democrat on the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee, a move progressives welcomed as a "necessary step" toward reforming a federal judiciary that President Donald Trump has packed with right-wing judges.
But the youth-led Sunrise Movement, whose activists Feinstein smugly berated last year in a confrontation captured on video, demanded that the California Democrat go further than merely declining to seek the top Judiciary post.
"Today Senator Feinstein released a statement saying she was going to focus more on the climate crisis and relinquish her Judiciary Committee leadership," Evan Weber, the Sunrise Movement's political director, said Monday evening. "Let's be clear, there's no way that would have happened without our movement, but our demand is and has been for Senator Feinstein to not just step down, but resign."
Weber went on to urge Feinstein to "make way for more representative leadership from California—new senators who will actually fight for a Green New Deal, like Reps. Ro Khanna and Barbara Lee."
"Feinstein lost all credibility when she showed she was more willing to treat with contempt 11-year-old climate activists demanding a livable future in her office, than the Supreme Court nominee who refused to say whether she would uphold the laws that would give that future a fighting chance," said Weber. "Feinstein told our generation that she 'knew what she was doing' when it came to the climate crisis, then enabled and normalized the GOP's theft of a Supreme Court seat, and may have lost Democrats the Senate." ...
Based on seniority, Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) are next in line for the top Democratic spot on the Senate Judiciary Committee. In a tweet late Monday, Durbin announced his intention to seek the role.
Demand Justice, part of the chorus of groups that called on Feinstein to give up her leadership role on the key panel, applauded the senator's decision to step aside and said she should be replaced on the committee by "someone who will not wishfully cling to a bygone era of civility and decorum that Republicans abandoned long ago."
"This was a necessary step if Democrats are ever going to meaningfully confront the damage Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell have done to the federal judiciary," Brian Fallon, executive director of Demand Justice, said in a statement. "The next top Democrat on the committee must be someone who is willing to fight for President-elect Biden's nominees no matter what, and who will pursue bold action to restore balance to our courts."
The pipeline company Enbridge is poised to begin construction of its controversial Line 3 in northern Minnesota at the end of the month, after state agencies green-lit key permits in mid-November and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers followed with its own approval this week. The plan has the potential to draw together thousands of temporary workers from across the U.S. and trigger a mass protest movement in a state that currently has one of the highest Covid-19 infection rates in the nation.
Project opponents are anticipating severe police and private security responses to protests, despite an attempt by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to formally bar Enbridge from “engaging in counterinsurgency tactics or misinformation campaigns designed to interfere with the public’s legal exercise of constitutional rights.” The language, part of a series of preconditions put forth by the Public Utilities Commission in advance of the project’s approval, is a direct response to concerns that Enbridge Line 3 opponents will see a security crackdown as sweeping as the one near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in 2016, during protests against the Dakota Access pipeline. Line 3 opponents are not convinced by the utilities commission’s agreements and say they are already confronting police and private security tactics similar to those at Standing Rock.
“How do they enforce that? Who’s in charge of the flying monkeys?” asked Winona LaDuke, comparing Enbridge’s personnel to the Wicked Witch of the West’s primate minions in “The Wizard of Oz.” “We would find it very surprising that they would have any control.” LaDuke, an Anishinaabe environmental justice activist and former Green Party vice presidential candidate, has spent years fighting Enbridge Line 3. Asked how she would define counterinsurgency, LaDuke said bluntly, “We’ve got drones over our property.” She continued, “It starts with surveillance, it expands to the use of informants, entrapment, falsifying situations, and getting people charged with things they should not be charged with. It involves bullying and intimidating tribal members and nontribal members.” And she said much of that has already begun in northern Minnesota.
“Enbridge will not tolerate human rights abuses and will not engage or be complicit in any activity that solicits or encourages human rights abuse,” company spokesperson Juli Kellner told The Intercept. “As a company, we recognize the rights of individuals and groups to express their views legally and peacefully.” ... Kellner, the Enbridge spokesperson, said the company would not tolerate actions like lockdowns. “Criminal acts of sabotage and tampering, vandalism, trespassing and occupation of pipeline facilities are not peaceful, and have the potential to cause serious harm — not only to the perpetrators, but also to nearby communities, the environment, landowners and the employees who maintain these facilities,” she said. “We are committed to ongoing engagement and dialogue with all stakeholders and hope all sides will join in a dialogue on the issues and choose collaboration over confrontation.”
LaDuke noted that she and other Indigenous-led project opponents already spent seven years attempting to stop the pipeline through public hearings and other legal means and have been left with few options for protecting their land and water.
Since January, San Carlos Apache tribal member Wendsler Nosie Sr has been sleeping in a teepee at a campground in south-eastern Arizona’s Oak Flat, a sprawling high desert oasis filled with groves of ancient oaks and towering rock spires. It is a protest in defense of “holy ground” where the Apache have prayed and performed ceremonies for centuries. A dozen south-western Native American tribes have strong cultural ties to Oak Flat. But the Trump administration, in its waning days, has embarked on a rushed effort to transfer ownership of the area to a mining company with ties to the destruction of an Aboriginal site in Australia, the Guardian has learned. ...
Last month tribes discovered that the date for the completion of a crucial environmental review process has suddenly been moved forward by a full year, to December 2020, even as the tribes are struggling with a Covid outbreak that has stifled their ability to respond. If the environmental review is completed before Trump leaves office, the tribes may be unable to stop the mine.
In a meeting with environmental groups, local officials said that the push was occurring because “we are getting pressure from the highest level at the Department of Agriculture,” according to notes from the meeting seen by the Guardian. The department oversees the US Forest Service, which is in charge of Oak Flat. As the curtain closes on the Trump era, officials are hurrying through a host of environmentally destructive projects that will benefit corporate interests. These include opening the Arctic national wildlife refuge to oil and gas drilling and rolling back protections on endangered gray wolves.
In Oak Flat, the beneficiaries will be a company called Resolution Copper and its two Anglo-Australian parent firms, the mining conglomerates Rio Tinto and BHP. ... Ever since 1995, when what is estimated to be one of the largest copper deposits in the world was discovered 7,000 feet beneath Oak Flat, a battle has raged pitting environmental and indigenous groups against Resolution Copper. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Oak Flat contains numerous indigenous archaeological sites dating back 1,500 years. If the mine goes forward as planned, it will consume 11 square miles, including Apache burial grounds, sacred sites, petroglyphs and medicinal plants.
Resolution plans to extract 1.4m tons of copper ore by blasting beneath the surface and pulling it out through tunnels. Once all the ore is sucked out, a crater estimated to be 1,000 feet deep and almost two miles across will be left behind.
With Just 1% of Farms Controlling 70% of Global Farmland, Study Reveals 'Shocking' Level of Land Inequality
A new report released Tuesday details the "shocking" state of global land equality, saying the problem is worse than thought, rising, and "cannot be ignored."
Among the key findings is that the largest 1% of the world's farms operate 70% of farmland and "form the core of production for the corporate food system." What's more, "given the trends in the agriculture and food systems, land consolidation will inevitably increase further."
The warning is laid out in "Uneven Ground: land inequality at the heart of unequal societies." Released by the International Land Coalition in collaboration with Oxfam, the publication synthesizes new research and existing data and shows how land inequality is linked with other issues including poverty, intergenerational justice and migration, environmental degradation, and the climate crisis.
"These findings radically alter our understanding of the extent and far reaching consequences land inequality has, proving that not only is it a bigger problem than we thought but it's undermining the stability and development of sustainable societies," said Ward Anseeuw, a co-author of the report.
According to the analysis, the issue of land inequality should encompass a broader range of dimensions than typically used to capture not only differences in land ownership but other factors such as the size and quality of land and the ability to have real decision-making power over how the land is used.
The report lays out the scope of the issue:
Land is a common good, providing water, food, and natural resources that sustain all life. It is the guarantor of biodiversity, health, resilience, and equitable and sustainable livelihoods. It is immovable, non-renewable, and inextricably connected to people and societies. How we manage and control land has shaped our economies, political structures, communities, cultures, and beliefs for thousands of years.
Who gets that control is not decided by accident, says Giulia Baldinelli of ILC and co-author of the report.
"What we're seeing is that land inequality is fundamentally a product of elite control, corporate interests, and political choices. And although the importance of land inequality is widely accepted, the tools to address it remain weakly implemented and vested interests in existing land distribution patterns, hard to shift," Baldinelli said in a statement.
The impacts of the imbalance are far-reaching, with links stretching to the coronavirus pandemic. From the report:
Covid-19 is the latest zoonotic disease to emerge from a combination of unsanitary animal farming and pressure on wildlife populations. While its main impact has been on urban populations, Covid-19 has further exposed inequalities faced by land-disadvantaged groups, such as indigenous peoples, lower castes, the elderly, women, youth, and migrants, as well as casual workers (common in agribusiness) and landless tenants (UNDP, 2020; FAO, 2020; ILC, 2020). Land inequality diminishes resilience to disease shocks and, at a household level, may lead to loss of shelter and lack of access to infrastructure and services, traditional community networks, and institutions of social reciprocity. Women's resilience and coping strategies are limited by weaker land rights, which puts them at even greater disadvantage in these situations, with a knock-on effect on children and youth in their households (FAO, 2020; FAO, IFAD and UNIDO, 2016). Land grabbing and forced evictions have been documented in the context of Covid-19 (ILC, 2020), exacerbating land and land rights inequalities, particularly in societies that are heavily policed.
"As we move towards a post-Covid world, we will see increased pressure for fast economic gain at the expense of people and nature," warned Mike Taylor, director of the International Land Coalition Secretariat He added that "there is always, however, a more inclusive path to rebuilding our economies, that emphasizes sustainable use of natural resources, respects human rights, and addresses systemic causes of inequality."
While low-income countries have seen an "increasing number of mega-farms, each taking up thousands, even tens of thousands, of hectares," the issue of land inequality stretches globally. "After 1980, in all regions, land concentration has either been increasing significantly (North America, Europe, Asia, and the Pacific) or a decreasing trend is being reversed (Africa and Latin America)," the report finds.
In North America, for example, the report points to the decades between 1960 and 1990 when there was a "drastic increase in land and agricultural concentration" and the number of farms plummeted by 1.6 million, dropping to 2.1 million. The same time period also saw the average farm size swell from 122.6 hectares to 187 hectares.
Although there has been a more recent stabilization in the number of farms in North America, that doesn't capture the whole story:
What the figures on farm size do not reveal, however, are the even more substantial increases in the concentration of large-scale production on a shrinking number of farms. Almost 1 million farms (980,000) in the USA have less than $5,000 in sales per annum, while the largest 7% of farms account for 80% of production value (MacDonald, 2016). This leaves a situation where some 1.3 million, or 60%, of the farms in the USA produce only 6.6% of the total production value (Gollin, 2019). These include farms of below five hectares, many of which are known as "retirement farms" or "off-farm occupation farms," with owners who do not depend on agricultural production for their livelihoods."
So what is to be done?
The report outlines a number of possible steps: democratize land governance; strengthen land-related regulation; invest in well-functioning land registries; strengthen transparency and monitoring of land holdings; legally enforce responsible corporate practice; Protect common and customary rights; recognize and protect women's land rights; respect and strengthen civil society institutions and capacities; and build more sustainable and equitable production models and food systems.
"A transformative agenda of this magnitude is not optional," the report concludes. "It is urgent and is in the interests of all humanity, for more resilient, sustainable, and equitable societies."
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Spencer Wiggins - Double Lovin'
Spencer Wiggins - That's How Much I Love You
Spencer Wiggins - Old Friend (You Asked Me If I Miss Her)
Spencer Wiggins - I'd Rather Go Blind
Spencer Wiggins - Lonely Man
Spencer Wiggins - Let's Talk It Over
Spencer Wiggins - The Power Of A Woman
Spencer Wiggins - He's Too Old
Spencer Wiggins - Who's Been Warming My Oven
Spencer Wiggins - Soul City USA