Masters Of War

Come you masters of war You that build all the guns You that build the death planes You that build all the bombs You that hide behind walls You that hide behind desks I just want you to know I can see through your masks. You that never done nothin' But build to destroy You play with my world Like it's your little toy You put a gun in my hand And you hide from my eyes And you turn and run farther When the fast bullets fly. Like Judas of old You lie and deceive A world war can be won You want me to believe But I see through your eyes And I see through your brain Like I see through the water That runs down my drain. You fasten all the triggers For the others to fire Then you set back and watch When the death count gets higher You hide in your mansion' As young people's blood Flows out of their bodies And is buried in the mud. You've thrown the worst fear That can ever be hurled Fear to bring children Into the world For threatening my baby Unborn and unnamed You ain't worth the blood That runs in your veins. How much do I know To talk out of turn You might say that I'm young You might say I'm unlearned But there's one thing I know Though I'm younger than you That even Jesus would never Forgive what you do. Let me ask you one question Is your money that good Will it buy you forgiveness Do you think that it could I think you will find When your death takes its toll All the money you made Will never buy back your soul. And I hope that you die And your death'll come soon I will follow your casket In the pale afternoon And I'll watch while you're lowered Down to your deathbed And I'll stand over your grave 'Til I'm sure that you're dead.------- Bob Dylan 1963

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Obama's base: We've been "thrown under the bus" - Washington Times

Obama's base: We've been "thrown under the bus" - Washington Times

U.S. and Them: Operation Ajax - Iran and the CIA coup (1/2) (2/2)

Wittgenstein - Sea of Faith - BBC documentary - 1 of 2

Kierkegaard - Sea of Faith - BBC documentary - 1 of 2

Schopenhauer - Sea of Faith - BBC documentary

Jung - Sea of Faith - BBC documentary - 1 of 2

Tobias Churton - The True Story of the Rosicrucians-Part-1.avi

What Is a Gnostic?

What Is a Gnostic?

Gnostic Idealism and the Gospel of Truth

Technology of the Heart: thirteenth rule of love | shams of tabriz

The whole universe is contained within a single human being - you.

Everything that you see around, including the things you might not be fond of & even the people you despise or abhor, is present within you in varying degrees.

Therefore, do not look for shaytan outside yourself either. The devil is not an extraordinary force that attacks from without. It is an ordinary vice within.

If you get to know yourself fully, facing with honesty & hardness both your dark & bright sides, you will arrive at a supreme form of consciousness. When a person knows himself or herself, he or she knows God.

Shams of Tabriz ~

From the Novel by Elif Shafak,
borrowing the teachings of Shams of Tabriz

Bipartisan "Russian Roulette" and America's Federal Debt: The Debt Ceiling Is Unconstitutional by Ellen Brown

The debt ceiling crisis can be averted by enforcing the Fourteenth Amendment, which mandates the government to pay its debts already incurred, including pensions.  That means Social Security, which IS an “entitlement,” in the original sense of the word. We’re entitled to it because we’ve paid for it with taxes.   
The game of Russian roulette being played with the U.S. federal debt has been called a “grotesque political carnival” and political blackmail.  The uproar stems from a statute that is unique to the United States and never did make much sense.  First passed in 1917 and revised multiple times since, it imposes a dollar limit on the federal debt.  What doesn’t make sense is that the same Congress that voted on the statute votes on the budget, which periodically exceeds the limit, requiring the statute to be revised.  The debt ceiling has been raised 74 times since 1962, 10 of them since 2001.  The most recent increase, to $14.294 trillion by H.J.Res. 45, was  signed into law on February 12, 2010. 
Taxes aren’t collected until after the annual budget is passed, so Congress can’t know in advance whether or how much additional borrowing will be required.  Inevitably, there will be some years that the budget pushes the debt over the limit, requiring new legislation.  And inevitably, now that this tactic has been discovered, there will be a costly battle over the increase, wasting congressional time, destabilizing markets, and rattling faith in the American financial and political systems. There will be continual blackmail, arm-twisting and concessions.  The situation is untenable and cries out for a definitive resolution.         
Fortunately, there is one.  A bevy of legal scholars are recommending that the issue be eliminated altogether by playing the Constitutional trump card.  The Fourteenth Amendment provides at Section 4:
The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.
Where statute and the Constitution collide, the Constitution prevails.  Whether the government should pay the bills it has already incurred is not a matter of negotiation.  It is a Constitutional mandate.  And those are the bills we are talking about here, as President Obama stressed in his remarks on the issue last Friday.  He said:
Raising the debt ceiling simply gives our country the ability to pay the bills that Congress has already racked up.  I want to emphasize that.  The debt ceiling does not determine how much more money we can spend, it simply authorizes us to pay the bills we already have racked up.  It gives the United States of America the ability to keep its word
Ignoring the debt ceiling on Constitutional grounds would not, as Michelle Bachmann declares, make President Obama a “dictator.”  It would simply mean he is complying with his Constitutional mandate to pay the government’s bills on time and in full. 
Social Security Is Not Welfare.  It Is a Debt Due and Owing.
The President could have a clean resolution of the issue, but he is not jumping at the opportunity.  Rather, he appears to be ready to throw Granny under the bus by slashing Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, all in the name of “compromise.”  
The Fourteenth Amendment says debts already incurred shall not be questioned, “including debts incurred for payment of pensions.”  That includes Social Security, which is an “entitlement” in the true sense of the word: we’re entitled to it because we’ve already paid for it.  In fact, the Social Security Act was originally sold to Congress and the nation in 1935 not as a government benefit, but as a retirement savings program. Earlier this year, the Urban Institute published a study evaluating the program in this way, concluding that the average worker who retires today will withdraw from Social Security just about the same amount he put in over the years, with a modest 2% real interest rate (after inflation).

A deal is a deal.  We paid for it, we are owed it, and the U.S. government is good for it.  To change the terms of the deal ex post facto is both a breach of contract and a violation of the Constitution. 

Where to Get the Money: Ron Paul’s Creative Plan

A sovereign nation can always find the money to pay debts owed in its own currency.  The U.S. could, if it wished, pay its bills using debt-free U.S. Notes or Greenbacks, just as President Lincoln did to avoid a crippling debt during the Civil War. Alternatively, it could eliminate the deficit with Ron Paul’s plan, which amounts to the same thing.  As Stephen Gandel explainsPaul’s solution in Time Magazine  

In the last year or two the Fed has been buying up U.S. Treasury bonds in an effort to lower interest rates and boost the economy. The most recent round of that buying has been dubbed QE2, and has come under a good deal of criticism, though most economists agree that it was a generally helpful policy. The result is that the Fed now holds nearly $1.7 trillion in U.S. debt. But that is really phony debt. The Treasury pays the interest on the debt on behalf of the U.S. government to the Fed, which in turn returns 90 percent of the payments it gets back to the Treasury. Nonetheless, that $1.7 trillion in U.S. bonds that the Fed owns, despite the shell game of payments, is still counted in the debt ceiling number, which caps that amount of total federal debt at $14.3 trillion.

Paul's plan: Get the Fed and the Treasury to rip up that debt. It's fake debt anyway. And the Fed is legally allowed to return the debt to the Treasury to be destroyed. A trillion and a half dollars is currently about what spending is expected to exceed tax revenue in 2011.
The biggest drawback to the plan, says Gandel, is just that it “looks bad.”  It looks as if the government is paying off its debts by printing money.  But that is what government-issued money is: a note acknowledging a debt due and owed from the public, good for an equivalent value from the public, traded in the marketplace.  A U.S. Note or Greenback and a Federal Reserve Note or dollar bill are both forms of promissory notes.  The government can as easily issue a dollar bill as a dollar note or a dollar bond, as Thomas Edison pointed out in the 1920s.    

The objection to that solution is that it would be inflationary, but as economist Richard Koo graphically demonstrates, the Fed’s quantitative easing has had virtually no inflationary effect on the money supply to date:

Misdirected Fed policy has instead caused $1.6 trillion in “excess reserves” to sit on bank balance sheets, as explained in anearlier article.  Conveniently, excess reserves can be used as collateral for futures and derivatives contracts, and that is what some banks appear to be doing with the money: backing trades in the financial markets.  This sort of speculation, involving money making money without increasing productivity, can and does drive up prices. 

If the money had been delivered directly to the government to be spent on the national budget, it might have gotten into the real economy where it could do some good.  The government’s budget is spent not on speculation but on goods and services. Increased government “demand”  stimulates an increase in “supply,” causing supply and demand to increase together, avoiding price inflation while stimulating economic activity.    

Time to Close the Debt Ceiling Loophole

The debt crisis was created, not by a social safety net bought and paid for by the taxpayers, but by a banking system taken over by Wall Street gamblers.  The gamblers lost their bets and were bailed out at the expense of the taxpayers; and if anyone should be held to account, it is these gamblers. 

The debt ceiling crisis is a manufactured one, engineered to extort concessions that will lock the middle class in debt peonage for decades to come.  Congress is empowered by the Constitution to issue the money it needs to pay its debts.  Abraham Lincoln did it; Barack Obama could do it.  He probably won’t, but he does need to follow his Constitutional mandate to pay the government’s bills as and when due.  The statute imposing a ceiling on the national debt is trumped by the Fourteenth Amendment, making it redundant and unnecessary.  The statute should be repealed.

Ellen Brown is an attorney and president of the Public Banking Institute, In Web of Debt, her latest of eleven books, she shows how the power to create money has been usurped from the people, and how we can get it back. Her websites are and

We Must Destroy the Government in Order to Save It

A certain, macabre phrase came to personify the Vietnam War: “We had to destroy the village in order to save it.” The colonel who uttered it was doubtless oblivious to both the psychotic irony and the larger surreal symbolism that the phrase represented. Savage destruction was perfectly consonant with ideologically-intended salvation, just so long as both were issued by the same sanctimonious American official. Indeed, in some perverse medieval rendering of modern imperial justice, salvation could only be achieved through destruction.
The phrase might just as well be a rallying cry for the Tea Party Republicans and their holy jihad against government and the cooperative society that government represents: they must destroy it in order to save it. For that is unquestionably what the debt ceiling debacle is really about.
Let’s dispense once and for all with the fiction that the debt ceiling debate is anything but a contrivance to destroy government and the shared aspirations to civility that government represents.
The debt ceiling has been raised over 70 times and the sky hasn’t fallen. More to the point, and of signal importance, is that those people who actually put their money where their mouth is (as opposed to politicians, who put other peoples’ money where their mouth is), are only too happy to buy and hold U.S. federal treasury debt for a return of — wait for it — 3%.
That is the rate going into this charade for 10-year U.S. treasury bonds and it doesn’t even include the erosive effects of inflation. With inflation factored in, smart investors around the world are actually willing to take a negative rate of return — to get back less than they put in — in order to trust their money to the custody of the U.S. government. That’s how much of a “crisis” there actually is surrounding the debt ceiling
Equally important, the vast majority of the current deficit problem is actually very short-term in nature: a cyclical artifact of the Great Recession or of the residual policies of the prior Bush administration. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office reports that some 90% of the deficit owes to a) the Bush tax cuts; b) Bush’s two (now Obama’s five) unfunded wars; c) Bush’s unfunded $600 billion give-away to the pharmaceutical industry; and d) the greatest economic collapse since the Great Depression.
Without those forces, there is effectively no deficit problem at all. And the small problem that is left is entirely attributable to the out-of-control expenses of the free-market American health care system that costs twice as much as any other industrial nation’s system while delivering markedly inferior outcomes.
This is the truth. There is no U.S. debt crisis. Which isn’t to say that there isn’t a U.S. debt ceiling crisis. But the one has as much to do with the other as do chalk and cheese.
So, if there’s no real crisis, what’s the deal?
The deal is that the elites in the country, those who buy politicians the way you and I do groceries (and that includes Obama and the vast majority of Democratic party officials) have decided that too much of the nation’s wealth is going to the poor, working, and middle classes and that those peoples’ shares must be cut so that the money can be given to the very wealthiest people on the planet.
That is what Obama means when he says that “everything is on the table, including Social Security and Medicare.” The most successful social programs of the last 100 years, those supporting tens of millions of people, those that pay for themselves with their own dedicated payroll taxes, will have to be cut back so that a few thousand billionaires can afford another jet, another mansion, another island, another politician.
This is after the last 30 years (beginning with Reagan) when the share of national income going to the top 1% skyrocketed from 8% of national income to over 20%. This is when 80% of the entire economy’s growth over the last decade went to the top 1%. This is when the richest 1% of the population are paying the lowest rate of taxes in the past 50 years and when inequality in the country has reached the highest level since statistics started being collected, in 1917.
This is after we just finished transferring $11 trillion to the same ultra-rich through the banking bailout so that they wouldn’t have to suffer any losses on their sociopathically greedy bets that went bad and wrecked the economy. This is after the share of home equity wealth actually owned by American homeowners reached its lowest level, 45%, since the Great Depression. And this is at a time when 77 million Baby Boomers are entering retirement having just lost 1/3 of their life savings.
The rich need more. So everybody else had just better suck it in and resign themselves to less.
What is going on is a highly choreographed campaign to “manufacture consent” for the destruction of Social Security and Medicare so that that money can be liberated to give to the wealthy. It is exactly analogous to the campaign that preceded the Iraq War when the media invented “Weapons of Mass Destruction” and fictions about Saddam Hussein’s involvement in 9/11 to stampede the populace into an illegal colonial invasion to steal Iraq’s oil.
It is entirely made up, entirely orchestrated, with all the “players” singing from the same song book, and all getting greased from the crumbs that fall from the table of the super-rich. And it’s working, flawlessly.
The six-and-seven-figure stenographers on TV who pass themselves off as “journalists” intone nightly about the gravity of the situation, the need for “shared sacrifice,” and the impending calamity lest we shunt the money upwards even faster. So do it we must. After all, it was on TV.
The tragedy is Obama’s weaseling complicity in the pathetic affair. We have run out of epithets to condemn his sycophantic betrayal of the American people before his own imperial masters. Equally tragic is the destruction of democracy conveyed in the whole sordid matter, for vast majorities of the people want social programs protected and taxes raised on wealthy individuals and corporations that evade taxes.
Alas, it is not to be. It will be the weak who will be shorn, as it always seems to be.
And to be honest, we have to lay a sizable portion of blame on the American people themselves who have abjured their responsibility to their own interests and their country in favor of more titillation on the Internet, another season of Desperate Housewives re-runs, the next episode of American Idol. Diddling themselves with their own puerile indulgences, they have no time for calls to their Congressmen, letters to their editors, feet on the street in protest, or any, ANY, expression of mass outrage.
The astounding thing is how easy the whole thing has been, how readily the people capitulated to their own destruction in exchange for a little faux “stick-it-to-the-man” righteousness ladled out in the name of Tea Party indignation.
Come to think of it, perhaps the Tea Partiers are the real prophets in this whole Revelation after all, impelled by a fatalistic impulse in which greed is at once its own justification, its own means, its own method, and its own reward: destroy the government we must, for destroy it we will, because destroy it we can.
Is this a great country or what?

Patrick Cockburn: Why the West is committed to the murderous rebels in Libya - Commentators, Opinion - The Independent

Patrick Cockburn: Why the West is committed to the murderous rebels in Libya - Commentators, Opinion - The Independent

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The War on Libya : An Imperialist Project to Create Three Libyas

The War on Libya : An Imperialist Project to Create Three Libyas

Mossadegh and the 1953 Coup in Iran: Over 250 Testimonies - by Arash Norouzi

Mossadegh and the 1953 Coup in Iran: Over 250 Testimonies - by Arash Norouzi

The Labyrinthian International Geopolitics of the Libyan Conflict :: JapanFocus

The Labyrinthian International Geopolitics of the Libyan Conflict :: JapanFocus

Bosnia, Kosovo, and Now Libya: The Human Costs of Washington’s On-Going Collusion with Terrorists :: JapanFocus

Bosnia, Kosovo, and Now Libya: The Human Costs of Washington’s On-Going Collusion with Terrorists :: JapanFocus

Dispatches: Iraq's Secret War Files (part 5/5)

Dispatches: Iraq's Secret War Files (part 4/5)

Dispatches: Iraq's Secret War Files (part 2/5)

The allure of Afghanistan Asian powers jostle for position amid vast mineral reserves and strategic oil pipelines, while West keeps bombing.

Afghanistan contains a huge wealth of minerals and precious stones, such as emeralds [GALLO/GETTY]

Afghanistan is not often perceived as a mineral Holy Grail.
But, as it turns out, between $1-3 trillion in mineral wealth lies unexplored across the Hindu Kush. There's enough uranium, lithium, copper and iron ore to potentially turn Afghanistan into a commodities powerhouse.  
The Pentagon knows all about it - how could it not? And the Russians have known about it since at least the 1970s, when they mapped out all the uranium riches of northern Afghanistan. 
Washington may have complex geopolitical energy reasons to remain in Afghanistan - as explored in a previous Al Jazeera article that generated enormous reader response.  
For its part, Islamabad is still obsessed with viewing Afghanistan as a pliable satrap. But the going gets much juicier when one looks at key Eurasian players such as Russia, India and China and their own, non-Pentagonised reasons to come to this mineral Walhalla.
Business suits, not bombs
Early next month a crucial bidding war begins in Kabul. It concerns Hajigak, the world's biggest iron ore deposits, which are located in central Afghanistan (at least 1.8bn tons, according to a Soviet estimate made in the 1960s). To the sound of much predictable Taliban grumbling, all 15 bidding companies are from India - including giants Tata Steel and JSW, the country's third-largest private steel company.
A stable, business-friendly Afghanistan is absolutely essential for India - a gateway to oil and gas from Iran, Central Asia and the Caspian. India is building power stations and strategic roads, such as the one linking Afghanistan with the Iranian port of Chahbahar.
Few may know it, but it's not only Africa that is the object of a fierce India-China business "war". Afghanistan is also a key chessboard. There are five types of minerals on the Afghan horizon - gold, copper, iron ore, and inevitably, oil and gas - and the Indians and the Chinese are all over them.
China Metallurgical Corporation already got a big prize in 2008 - the Aynak copper mine in Logar, southeast of Kabul - for $3.4bn. Why? Because Western companies were asleep at the wheel (or paranoid with "security"); because the Chinese wasted no time; and, according to the Afghan Ministry of Mines, "because of their package" (in characteristic Chinese style, that includes building a whopping $6bn railway connecting northern Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Pakistan with western China).
Kabul will get up to $350m a year in royalties. At least 5,000 jobs will be created, with added benefits such as health clinics, roads and schools. Security may indeed be a huge problem; there's a war going on and safe transit routes are a mirage. But as war-weary Afghans are poignantly stressing, that's already a start.
The business track in Afghanistan now runs parallel to the political track.
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari visited Tehran twice within only three weeks. He had two face-to-face meetings with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The House of Saud, to put it mildly, freaked out.
After all, this Islamabad-Tehran lovefest totally smashes the myth that the so-called "Shia crescent" is the greatest threat to Sunnis in the Middle East and South Asia.
Washington, predictably, was also hardly fond of it. The occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq can be seen as an attempt by the US to encircle Iran from both east and west (that's certainly Tehran's view), and Washington believed Pakistan would play the same role on Iran's southeast border.
In a fascinating exchange that must have choked many a throat across the Potomac, Khamenei told Zardari that Pakistan's "real enemy" was the West, "and the US on top of it", while Zardari told Khamenei that Iran was a "model of resistance and path to progress". What next? Karachi taxis sporting Khomeini magnets?
But the most fascinating part is that Tehran and Islamabad are now discussing not only security matters but also business, such as an upcoming free-trade agreement and a currency swap scheme that would move both countries away from the US dollar.
On the security front, Islamabad has proposed what would be an Integrated Border Management Regime - that is, Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan fighting together against drug trafficking. That also happens to be Russia's number-one priority in Central and South Asia. Over twelve tonnes of pure heroin - that's over 3bn single doses - reach Russia every year from Afghanistan. 
On the business front, it was all about the crucial Pipelineistan gambit, the Iran-Pakistan (IP), also known as the "peace pipeline". IP may supply as much as 50 per cent of Pakistan's energy needs.
There are delays, of course. By the end of 2012, Iran will have built its whole stretch of pipeline up to the Pakistani border. Yet Pakistan will only start working on its own stretch by early 2012.
But by 2015 IP should be online, forming a strategic umbilical cord between Shia Iran and majority-Sunni Pakistan and rocking the Eurasian geopolitical equation. IP will cross ultra-strategic Balochistan, which is not only dripping with resources but which also, as a transit corridor, provides the shortest access to the warm waters of the Arabian Sea.
Iran and Pakistan as allies?
So look for another unintended consequence of Washington's obsession with the war on terror: Iran and Pakistan as increasingly close allies. One can already foresee Tehran sharing on-the-ground intelligence with Islamabad on Washington's myriad covert ops inside Pakistani territory.   
Another unintended consequence - unthinkable only two or three years ago - is that now Tehran, which is tremendously influential in northwest Afghanistan, views the Taliban the Mullah Omar way: as an indigenous "national resistance" movement against US/NATO occupation and perpetual military bases. Moreover, Tehran is also in sync with Islamabad in their support for the wily Hamid Karzai, who has increasingly distanced himself from Washington.
There are huge problems, of course. Although Zardari told Khamenei that Islamabad supports Karzai and an "Afghan-led and Afghan-owned" peace process, hardly any progress can be made without a substantial reversal of Pakistan's official Afghan policy, which considers Afghanistan as little more than "strategic depth" in a confrontation with India, and which does everything to contain India's influence in Afghanistan.
Moreover, regional priorities differ. Moscow worries about its own "war on drugs," wants NATO out of its backyard, and does not want US military bases in Afghanistan. Beijing worries about the Taliban influencing the Uighurs in Xinjiang. Tehran will keep cultivating its privileged relationship with Tajiks, Hazaras and Uzbeks - and not Pashtuns.  
What is certain is that any unilateral Made-in-USA road map for Afghanistan, of the "surge, bribe and stay" variety, is doomed to failure without input from these key Eurasian players.
Tragedy aside, the US/NATO war in Afghanistan is now seriously flirting with surrealism - witness the Taliban's accusation that the West hacked their website, their phones, their emails and spread false rumours of Mullah Omar's death. Forget about "medieval towelheads on hash"; these are iPhone-friendly Taliban who tweet and post on Facebook - and command quite a following. Unsurprisingly, gloomy war-machine NATO "declines to comment".
It will be fascinating to watch what schemes the House of Saud will concoct to smash the new business-friendly Tehran-Islamabad axis; after all, Saudi Arabia essentially treats Pakistan as a sort of political/economic annex.
But not as fascinating as watching which Russian, Chinese and Indian companies will make a killing off of Afghanistan's mineral wealth while the Atlanticist West bomb themselves to irrelevancy.
Pepe Escobar is the roving correspondent for the Asia Times. His latest book is Obama Does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009). He may be reached at

A legal minefield for Korean reunification By Andrei Lankov

A few days ago, the South Korean media reported an interesting and peculiar legal case: for the first time since the division of Korea, North Koreans have applied for their legal share of their father's inheritance - and won the case.
Born in 1933, the father escaped North Korea during the Korean War in the early 1950s, taking his older daughter but leaving behind his wife and five other children. In South Korea he eventually remarried, had four more children with a new wife and established a successful private clinic. He died in 1987, leaving the equivalent of US$10 million.
With the help of their sister, his children from his first marriage demanded their share of his estate - even though they reside in North Korea. Genetic tests confirmed that they were indeed
children of the deceased businessman and finally their property rights were officially recognized by Seoul Municipal Court.
It is remarkable that the claimants still remain in North Korea, even though they established communication with their biological sister, thus breaking the North Korean regulations which ban any unofficial interaction with the South (it is not clear to which extent their interaction with the South is controlled and approved by the North Korean authorities).
This case is but the first drops of rain that precede a possibly devastating thunderstorm. The division of Korea has created the potential for a great number of highly complex legal cases related to property rights. This is essentially a minefield and it's sad that nobody seems to take this issue seriously enough.
Nobody knows when unification will happen. Right now, the probability of unification seems remote, but appearances can be misleading. Who, after all, would have predicted in 1986 the coming unification of Germany? In the current climate there is little doubt that unification can only be achieved under the auspices of Seoul (talk of negotiated unification through the gradual fusion of two states seems to be another exercise in wishful thinking).
If the North is ever to be absorbed into the South, the most politically explosive of all property issues will be that of the land property rights.
In the spring of 1946, the nascent North Korean regime conducted a land reform. According to the 1946 Land Reform Law, the maximum amount of land that could be privately held was limited to 5 hectares. Anything above this was confiscated without compensation and then redistributed amongst less wealthy farmers. Eventually, in the late 1950s, the state took all land from the farmers, making them join the agricultural cooperatives which were state-owned and state-managed farms in all but name. Nonetheless, the 1946 land reform created the legal basis for all subsequent reconstructions.
People whose landholdings were taken over by the state in 1946 were officially branded "landlords". In North Korea this meant that not only these people but also their descendents were subjected to many kinds of discrimination. For example, people of such suspicious family backgrounds cannot be accepted to prestigious colleges or reside in major cities, they are not eligible for any managerial positions.
However, only a minority of these landlords suffered this fate. The majority made a different choice and fled. Back in the years 1946-1951 such an escape to the South was not as difficult as it is today - the border was poorly controlled and during the initial stages of the Korean War, dramatic changes in the military situation and the absence of fixed front lines favored escapees.
Nobody knows for sure how many people moved South in the years 1946-51, since nobody bothered to count. Most estimates vary between 1.2 million to 1.6 million. This number includes a significant majority of former landlords and their family members.
When these people were running away they could not take anything of value but they usually took their land titles. They assumed that the communist regime would eventually collapse and they wanted to get their land back.
As we know, the regime did not collapse. Most of the former landlords eventually adjusted to life in the South and often became rich and successful people. Nearly all of them are dead by now, but their descendents are still in possession of the faded land titles, usually issued by the Japanese colonial administration many decades ago.
It would be a minor exaggeration to say that any piece of well located flat land in North Korea has a potential claimant lying in wait, somewhere in Seoul. The number of such claimants is estimated at some 1.2 million - even though the actual number of claims must be significantly smaller, since there is a large number of multiple claims when few descendants of the same person claims the rights to the same parcel of land.
The author personally knows a number of families in which such land titles are preserved with the utmost care. These people believe that they have good reason to be careful - every Korean knows the story of Kangnam real estate. Once upon a time, until the early 1960s, Kangnam was an undeveloped agricultural area south of the Han river, then in 1963 it was incorporated into Seoul.
In a couple of decades, the paddy fields were covered with high-rise buildings, and the area became the most posh part of present-day Seoul. Predictably, Kangnam real estate prices sky rocketed. In many parts of the Kangnam area, land prices increased one thousand-fold within 20 years - and this is the real price, adjusted for inflation.
It is widely assumed that similar things will happen in North Korea after unification. Descendents of North Korean landlords believe that after unification the old yellowed papers might make them rich - very rich, indeed.
The South Korean government has never recognized North Korea's land reform - or for that matter, any laws or regulations introduced by the North Korean regime since 1945. In the late 1940s, the South conducted its own version of land reform, somewhat less radical than that of North Korea, but under current South Korean laws, the claims of the descendents of North Korean landowners are technically valid.
This constitutes an extremely worrying and potentially explosive political problem. One can easy imagine how landlords' descendents will swarm on North Korea immediately after unification in order to demand what they see as their rightful property. Needless to say, they will not be welcomed by the locals.
For decades North Korean propaganda has made it clear to North Koreans that the collapse of the Kim family regime will herald the return of greedy, brutal landlords who are always ready to make North Korean farmers into their powerless tenants. It is remarkable that even in the stories of the post-communist East Europe, presented by the North Korean propaganda, there is a recurrent topic of greedy landlords who are allegedly ready to grab their estates, depriving the Russian or East German farmers of their livelihood.
The North Korean media often hints that the same things will happen in North Korea, if the North Korean populace will listen to the sweet lies about foreign "democracy and prosperity". Needless to say, hardly any descendant of the Russian landlords has shown up in his or her great-grandfather's village. However, in case of North Korea such statements might become one of few cases where the Pyongyang propaganda isn't complete lies.
If unification comes, it will be important to explicitly acknowledge the 1946 land reform, declaring the property claims null and void. To placate former owners, some partial compensation might be considered, even though one doubts whether grandchildren of former landlords, usually rich and successful men and women, are in such dire need of compensation (especially when one takes into account that many of these families got their land by being remarkable deferential to the Japanese overlords in the colonial era).
Now the land in North Korea is owned by the state, which quietly appropriated the private landholdings in the late 1950s (within the usual communist scheme aimed at the introduction of the state-managed agriculture). So, the re-distribution of the land, somewhat akin to the Chinese ''second land reform'' of the late 1970s, will have to became a part of any plan for North Korea's transformation.
Speaking cynically, such land reform will even benefit the majority of the South Koreans, since it will discourage North Korean farmers from abandoning their poor villages and rushing to the shining lights of the South. It will also contribute to the revival of North Korean agriculture.
Right now, the land issue does not appear to be politically important. This is understandable: unification is not on the immediate horizon and nobody knows when and how it is going to happen (or whether it will happen at all). However this relative lack of interest is what makes a solution possible.
It is still politically acceptable to denounce all pre-1945 land rights in what is now North Korea.
Alas, there is little chance that just a course of action would be taken by the South Korean government. Partially, South Korean politicians don't want to annoy the North, and partially they don't want to alienate their constituencies where exiled landlord families tend to be quite successful. And, last but not least, they think that it is too early to worry about such matters. They might be right, but it is possible that they will do nothing until it will be too late.
Andrei Lankov is an associate professor at Kookmin University in Seoul, and adjunct research fellow at the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University. He graduated from Leningrad State University with a PhD in Far Eastern history and China, with emphasis on Korea. He has published books and articles on Korea and North Asia.

Data Shows All of Earth's Systems in Rapid Decline By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Jul 29, 2011 (IPS) - Protecting bits of nature here and there will not prevent humanity from losing our life support system. Even if areas dedicated to conserving plants, animals, and other species that provide Earth's life support system increased tenfold, it would not be enough without dealing with the big issues of the 21st century: population, overconsumption and inefficient resource use.
Without dealing with those big issues, humanity will need 27 planet Earths by 2050, a new study estimates.
The size and number of protected areas on land and sea has increased dramatically since the 1980s, now totaling over 100,000 in number and covering 17 million square kilometres of land and two million square kilometres of oceans, a new study reported Thursday.
But impressive as those numbers look, all indicators reveal species going extinct faster than ever before, despite all the additions of new parks, reserves and other conservation measures, according to the study published in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series.
"It is amazing to me that we haven't dealt with this failure of protected areas to slow biodiversity losses," said lead author Camilo Mora of University of Hawaii at Manoa.
"We were surprised the evidence from the past 30 years was so clear," Mora told IPS.
The ability of protected areas to address the problem of biodiversity loss - the decline in diversity and numbers of all living species - has long been overestimated, the study reported. The reality is that most protected areas are not truly protected. Many are "paper parks", protected in name only. Up to 70 percent of marine protected areas are paper parks, Mora said.
The study shows global expenditures on protected areas today are estimated at six billion dollars per year, and many areas are insufficiently funded for effective management. Effectively managing existing protected areas requires an estimated 24 billion dollars per year - four times the current expenditure.
"Ongoing biodiversity loss and its consequences for humanity's welfare are of great concern and have prompted strong calls for expanding the use of protected areas as a remedy," said co-author Peter Sale, a marine biologist and assistant director of the United Nations University's Institute for Water, Environment and Health.
"Protected areas are a false hope in terms of preventing the loss of biodiversity," Sale told IPS.
The authors based their study on existing literature and global data on human threats and biodiversity loss.
When asked about the 2010 global biodiversity protection agreement in Nagoya, Japan to put 17 percent of land and 10 percent of oceans on the planet under protection by 2020, Sale said it was "very unlikely those targets will be reached" due to conflicts between growing needs for food and other resources.
"Even if those targets were achieved, it is not going to stop the decline in biodiversity," he said.
One reason for this is "leakage". Fence off one forest and the logging pressure increases in another. Make one coral reef off limits to fishing and the fishing boats go the next reef.
Another reason protected areas aren't the answer is that fences or patrol boats can't keep out the impacts of pollution or climate change.
Finally, the pressures on the planet's resources are escalating so quickly that "the problem is running away from the solution", he said.
The loss of biodiversity is a major issue because it is humanity's only life-support system, delivering everything from food, to clean water and air, to recreation and tourism, to novel chemicals that drive our advanced civilization, said Mora. Right now the dominant strategy to halt the loss of biodiversity is with protected areas.
"That's putting all our eggs in one basket," he said. "A major shift is needed to deal with the roots of the problem."
The ever-expanding footprint of humanity is the primary cause of global biodiversity loss. When the world's population was five billion people in 1985, the amount of nature's resources being used or impacted became more than the planet could sustain indefinitely according to many estimates, said Mora.
The world population, currently at seven billion, is well beyond Earth's ability to sustain. By 2050, with a projected population of 10 billion people and without a change in consumption patterns, the cumulative use of natural resources will amount to the productivity of up to 27 planet Earths, the study found.
Sustaining the current seven billion people on the planet requires a major shift in resource use. At present, the average U.S. citizen's ecological footprint is about 10 hectares, while a Haitian's is less than one. The planet could sustain us if everyone's footprint averaged two ha, Mora said.
If there are more people, then there are simply fewer resources available for everyone, so population control will be needed along the lines of "one child per woman", he said.
"I'm from Colombia, it blows my mind that some governments in the developing world pay women to have more children," he added.
Hardly anyone is focused on the pressing need for a major shift, said Sale.
"The awareness of the public about this is shockingly low," he noted. What is needed is for humanity as a mass to change direction, he said.
"But can we find the hook, the lever that's needed to make that happen?" Sale asked.