Saturday, August 31, 2013

U.S. Dollar: “Reserve” To “Laughing Stock” Currency In Less Than One Century

By Michael Lombardi, MBA for Profit Confidential:
As we march towards another debt ceiling limit…
The U.S. Treasury Secretary, Jacob J. Lew, wrote a letter to Congress this week stating the U.S. government will hit the debt ceiling by October. He wrote, “…Congress should act as soon as possible to protect America’s good credit by extending normal borrowing authority well before any risk of default becomes imminent.” (Source: U.S. Department of the Treasury, August 26, 2013.)
Lew added, “Protecting the full faith and credit of the United States is the responsibility of Congress because only Congress can extend the nation’s borrowing authority. Failure to meet that responsibility would cause irreparable harm to the American economy.” (Source: Ibid.)
Will Congress raise the debt ceiling again? It certainly will!
Since 1960, Congress has raised the debt ceiling 78 times—49 times under Republican presidents and 29 times under Democratic presidents. (Source: U.S. Department of the Treasury web site, last accessed August 27, 2013.)
The debt ceiling, which is set by Congress, puts a restriction on how much the national debt can be increased.
On August 23, 2012, the U.S. national debt stood at $15.97 trillion. Fast-forward one year to August 23, 2013, and our national debt hit $16.73 trillion. (Source: Treasury Direct web site, last accessed August 27, 2013.) This is an increase in the national debt of 4.75% in just one year. Of course, in all 78 times Congress raised the debt ceiling, the new debt ceiling limit was later hit and needed to be raised again.
Our government continues to post an annual budget deficit. For the four fiscal years from 2009 to 2012, the federal government posted a deficit of more than $1.0 trillion annually. This year, it may be less—but not by much.
The letter to Congress by the U.S. Treasury Secretary is a simple request to increase the credit limit on America’s credit card—just as a family that spends more than it earns might do.
One might think this cannot go on forever—the debt ceiling being raised and the government subsequently hitting that new limit. But when we look at the fact that our debt-to-gross domestic product (GDP) ratio is only 105% and Japan’s debt-to-GDP is 205%, our national debt would have to double to $32.0 trillion for us to match Japan’s debt-to-GDP. But, of course, at that level of debt, instead of the U.S. dollar being the reserve currency of the world, it would likely become the “laughing stock” currency of the world.
Michael’s Personal Notes:
So far, 487 companies in the S&P 500 have reported their second-quarter earnings. Turns out 72% of them were able to beat mean estimates. The blended corporate earnings growth rate for S&P 500 companies in the second quarter was 2.1%. (Source: “Earnings Insight,” FactSet, August 23, 2013.)
On the surface, the corporate earnings growth rate of these companies certainly looks good. But the devil resides in the details!

While a significant number of the S&P 500 companies were able to beat the already-lowered earnings estimates in the second quarter, only 53% of these companies reported revenues above mean estimates. Not impressive.
The financial sector of the S&P 500 reported earnings growth of 28.1% in the second quarter—this was, hands down, the biggest contributor to “robust” growth in corporate earnings we saw in the second quarter.
The other nine sectors of the index didn’t do as well. Sectors like the consumer discretionary, utilities, consumer staples, health care, and industrial sectors showed corporate earnings growth of less than five percent. The telecom services, information technology, energy, and material sectors had negative earnings growth.
In other words: take the financial sector out from the S&P 500 and corporate earnings for the second quarter border negative growth.
Going forward, it’s a rough road. For the third quarter, 103 S&P 500 companies have provided an earnings outlook. Of these companies, 85 of them have issued a negative outlook, while only 18 have provided positive guidance. The number of S&P 500 companies that are pessimistic about their corporate earnings in the current quarter makes up more than 82% of those that have issued their earnings guidance!
All of this shouldn’t come as a surprise to readers of Profit Confidential; in these pages, I have been talking about slowing corporate earnings and revenues since the beginning of this year. For the second quarter, companies in the S&P 500 only beat already-lowered expectations!
Now that we are hearing that the Federal Reserve may pull back on all that paper money printing it’s been busy with, the stock market is going down. The chart below clearly shows the index is falling apart. Don’t expect corporate earnings to save it!
                        Chart courtesy of
What He Said:
“The Dow Jones Industrial Average, the S&P 500 and the other major stock market indices finished yesterday with the best two-day showing since 2002. I’m looking at the market rally of the past two days as a classic stock market bear trap. As the economy gets closer to contraction, 2008 will likely be a most challenging economic year for America.” Michael Lombardi in Profit Confidential, November 29, 2007. The Dow Jones Industrial Average peaked at 14,279 in October 2007. A “suckers” rally developed in November 2007, which Michael quickly classified as a bear trap for his readers. By mid-November 2008, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was at 8,726. By Michael Lombardi, MBA for Profit Confidential.
Those wildly optimistic estimates of earnings growth that analysts work on so studiously by copying and pasting what companies tell them, or by doing channel checks and poking around the industry? Well, they have been shrinking for 2013 – at the last moment as reality forced them to. But they’re still boom in the fourth quarter. Read…. Deluded Optimism in Corporate Earnings Growth (Now Shriveling).

If the British Can Stop Their Government From Waging War in Syria, Why Can't We?

Today, once again, it feels like we're being herded into supporting a military action in Syria that will end up, like the Iraq War, making the world an even more dangerous place than it is now. Then, as now, we see influential journalists tripping over themselves to fall into line.
The British parliament's vote against going along with the United States' attack on Syria is a direct result of that country's attempts to come to terms with the lies of the Iraq War. Unlike the United States, the people in the United Kingdom forced their government to convene a commission where former Prime Minister Tony Blair and other Iraq War luminaries were asked some uncomfortable questions. (When was the last time you saw George W. Bush or Dick Cheney grilled for their roles in fomenting the Iraq War?) The vote in the U.K. shows that there are just enough people there who have apparently wised up to make a difference and aren't willing to let their elected representatives hoodwink them into another precipitous military action based on dubious "intelligence."
In 2008 (and in 2012) the American people rejected the neo-con, John Bolton view of the world, where the U.S. acts as the world's "indispensible" nation meting out "justice" through its awe-inspiring military power. Yet President Barack Obama is apparently preparing to bomb Syria unilaterally without even the pathetic "coalition of the willing" that had backed George W. Bush's attack on Iraq.
President Obama is moving us into another "national security" area where neo-con belligerence is considered the "new normal." He has already normalized executive branch assassinations, warrantless NSA surveillance, and cracking down on whistle blowers. Now, if he goes through with his unilateral bombing of Syria without a Congressional resolution or a United Nations mandate we'll be right back in the bad old days when George W. Bush set loose John Yoo to interpret the legal "limits" to presidential power. While claiming the moral high ground Obama is losing the moral high ground.
In the 21st century launching wars willy-nilly is far too perilous given the destructive power and widespread distribution of high-tech weaponry. When initiating something like this no one can be certain which act of military violence might set off a chain of events that plunges the region or the world into catastrophe. There are far too many variables to Obama's promised cruise missile barrage against Syria to fall into a neat and predictable outcome. Not even the Svengalis among our nation's most esteemed pundits can tell you how many "Friedman Units" will have to pass before the wreckage of this pending attack on Syria is cleared away.
The President just got done celebrating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, but this month also marks the 60th anniversary of the CIA's coup against Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh in Iran that contributed mightily to the subsequent failures of American policy in the Middle East. If one considers the record of the United States: the assistance in Saddam Hussein's use of chemical weapons during the Iran-Iraq War; or U.S. forces' use of depleted uranium and white phosphorous in the 1991 and the 2003 Iraq Wars; or giving its blessing to Israel when it dropped about a million cluster bombs in southern Lebanon as a parting shot in its war with Hezbollah in the summer of 2006, (not to mention the Agent Orange dropped in Vietnam), and what we see is a government whose expressions of moral outrage, at least internationally, lack credibility. And from the moment President Obama drew his "red line" against the use of chemical weapons we've been told that U.S. "credibility" is at stake if he doesn't bomb the shit out of Syria.

To have legitimacy what the Obama Administration should do is go through the proper channels of the United Nations, allow the U.N. investigators to do their work in Syria, bring their findings to the General Assembly, and have a vote on the use of military force to re-establish the "norm" of punitive action against states that use chemical weapons. After those conditions have been met if Russia and China veto the measure in the Security Council it will show the world that two major powers are not willing to punish the Syrian regime for gassing its own people. In the eyes of "world opinion" (if there is such a thing) the United States then could be seen as being slightly less hypocritical than if it plows ahead with this ill-advised unilateral military operation.
As it stands right now, the kind of strikes Obama is promising are illegal both at home (if Congress doesn't pass a resolution approving them) and abroad (if it doesn't have the imprimatur of the United Nations). Obama's "shot across the bow" against Syria (which is a terrible analogy) will only serve to de-legitimize America's aims in the Middle East. And by building on George W. Bush's precedent of saying "fuck you" to the United Nations, it will simply normalize the dangerous neo-con policies that the American people rejected in two presidential elections.
On the domestic political front, Karl Rove and Reince Priebus must be thrilled because the Democratic Senate candidates in 2014 are going to have to campaign apologizing for yet another unpopular war in the Middle East. The Democratic faithful are already fatigued by Obama's lack of action on a number of fronts relating to jobs and education, NSA spying, and drone policies. Add to this disillusioning mix the U.S. partaking in another bloodbath in the Middle East and the Democratic base is going to limp into 2014 just as it had limped into 2010. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could then complete his long-term project of turning Obama into a lame duck, thereby setting back the struggles for greater unionization of low-wage workers, dealing with climate change, protecting women's rights, and every other piece of the progressive agenda.
War might be the "health of the State," but historically it has been fatal for those who value progressive reform. And with Raytheon's stock now ticking upward anticipating the billions of dollars worth of Tomahawk cruise missiles going up in smoke, war is the "health of the Corporation" too.
There's a reason why the United Nations Charter requires the Security Council to approve any military operation. It was designed to try to keep little wars from growing into larger ones by providing an off-ramp before the big powers are drawn in. President Obama sounds overconfident that the Syrian regime and its allies will not respond in any way to a unilateral attack against them.
But what if there are Russians or other third country nationals or technicians killed around some of the sites the U.S. decides to "take out?" What if any number of freelance groups allied with the Syrians and Iranians decide to launch some attacks on their own giving the governments of Syria and Iran plausible deniability that they had nothing to do with them?
Maybe the U.S. objective all along has been to try to tip the balance against Iran and its Shia allies in the Arab world by neutralizing Syria and the chemical weapons issue is just a pretext? That possibility might explain why the U.S. is adamant about eschewing the U.N.
Or maybe the Americans are being snookered into another war by cunning regional players who know the U.S. is always shopping for a pretext to assert its military dominance in that part of the world?
Or maybe the U.S. weapons contractors simply cannot contain their greed any longer after the winding down of the Iraq War and are seeking new revenue streams? Or maybe what's driving this is the internal logic of what used to be called "U.S. imperialism," which requires punitive strikes now and then to show everyone in a neighborhood floating on a sea of oil that the United States is not afraid to use its military to protect its "vital interests?"
On the other hand, why would the Syrian government, which has shown itself to be so brutal in massacring its own people, be intimidated by the kind of "limited" short duration strike Obama spoke about during his recent PBS interview? A few hundred cruise missiles aren't going to change anything.
Are we really ready to believe that striking selected targets in Syria will have any wider effect on the civil war or the balance of power in the region that has unfolded between the Sunni states and their allies and the Shiites in Iraq, Iran, and Lebanon and their allies?
It was the U.S. military aggression in Iraq in the first place that ended up turning that country's "power ministries" (Interior, Defense, Foreign Affairs, Oil) over to the Shiite majority for the first time ever, and in the process, strengthened Iran's power in the region. This de facto alliance between Iran and Iraq put the Sunni kingdoms in a weakened position. Now it appears the United States wants to punish the Shia power centers of its own creation.
Conveniently, the chemical weapons attack of August 21st in Syria delivers a perfect pretext for the U.S. to attack. And if Syria or its proxies respond by hitting U.S. "interests" in their neighborhood the U.S. is then fully justified to "defend" itself with strikes against Iran or Hezbollah or more aimed at Syria. The American people have been kept in the dark about what's happening in the Middle East. Even after eight years of occupying Iraq the average American knows very little about the region and its people. We are told once again by our government: "trust us," we have the "intelligence." Journalists are even throwing around the term "slam dunk" without any sense of irony.
It all reminds me of the confidence that President Lyndon Johnson showed in February 1964 when his National Security Council drew up 66 targets to hit in North Vietnam. He saw it as limited in scope and believed it would teach Ho Chi Minh a lesson. Instead, it opened a Pandora's box that cost 58,000 American lives and at least 2 million Vietnamese in a war that marks one of the most shameful episodes in American history. Yet it appears our leaders have learned nothing from our experiences in Vietnam, Afghanistan, or Iraq.
"Governments lie," the great journalist I.F. Stone used to say. And the Middle East has more than its fair share of double-crossers and people posing as one thing but carrying out an agenda for something else. We cannot believe anything that comes out of the offices of any of those regimes, but neither can we believe our own government since we've caught it in so many lies, particularly those designed to facilitate going to war. Pretexts come and go (Remember the Maine! -- The Gulf of Tonkin Incident! -- Iraqi WMD!) and consent in a democracy must be manufactured. We've been told that "we" must enforce a "norm" against the use of prohibited weapons. But ever since the CIA coup in Iran 60 years ago that lit the fuse of theocratic revolution U.S. policy in the Middle East has been one disaster after another for the people in the region and for the American people too. I don't think a few billion dollars worth of cruise missiles can erase more than a half-century of misguided imperial policy.

LABOR PARTICIPATION RATE HITS 34-YEAR LOW… Teen employment hits record lows, suggesting lost generation


The percentage of Americans who have a job or are looking for one, known as the labor force participation rate (LFPR), has plunged to a 34-year low, according to a new report from staffing company Express Employment Professionals.
Teen employment hits record lows, suggesting lost generation
WASHINGTON — For the fourth consecutive summer, teen employment has stayed anchored around record lows, prompting experts to fear that a generation of youth is likely to be economically stunted with lower earnings and opportunities in years ahead.Read more here:

The One Graph That Sums Up Why We're Going to War With Syria

 the, one, graph, that, sums, up, why, were, going, to, war, with, syria,

If ever there was a sign of the military industrial complex in America, this graph is it.
Reports that the United States is very near to launching an attack against Syria to punish Damascus for the use of chemical weapons sent Raytheon’s stock price to a 52-week high this week.
Who is Raytheon? The manufacturer of the BGM-109, more commonly known as the Tomahawk missile, the weapon of choice of the Obama administration in any strike against Syria.
Raytheon stock has surged over the past two months, coinciding with the biggest U.S. military build-up America has mounted since it launched an assault against Libya in 2011.
Raytheon is a Cambridge, Mass.,-based American defense contractor with total employment of 72,400 people. It is the world’s largest manufacturer of guided missiles and produces such widely used weapons as the AIM-7 Sparrow missile, the AIM-9 Sidewinder missile and the BGM-109 Tomahawk. The company is also responsible for the Air Warfare Simulation program used by the Air Force. According to the Wall Street Journal, in 2010, the company had nearly $23 billion in arms sales, more than 90% of its total revenue for the year.
Read more on SyriaObama Officially Pins the Blame Of Chemical Weapons Attack On Assad
The Pentagon buys 196 Tomahawk missiles a year, considered the "minimum sustaining rate" for the U.S. military's arsenal. And there are some key members of Congress who think more should be spent on these weapons.
“There are many of us who have been concerned for years about maintaining our missile capabilities,” said Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, to Politico.
Raytheon has delivered 252 missiles this fiscal year and 361 last fiscal year. War with Syria means that there would likely be a future increase in orders for the missiles, which can go for about $1 million a pop. In the 2011 U.S. military adventure into Libya, 124 Tomahawk missiles were fired by U.S. and UK ships against Libyan targets. The Libya campaign would give a comparable bar on how many Tomahawk missiles will be used in a Syrian campaign.
Supply and demand, baby.
The BGM-109 has been used in each of America's official conflicts in the last 22 years. Using wings and a flight system, cruise missiles like the Tomahawk are designed to carry a heavy warhead at subsonic speeds over a significant distance. Originally developed by General Dynamics in the 70s, the 3,500 lb. 20 foot long Tomahawk missile is now manufactured by Raytheon, a large U.S. defense contractor. Each unit can cost anywhere from the mid-$500,000s to almost $1.5 million, depending on the chosen configuration, payload, and booster deployment. The missile's modular system allows it to carry a conventional or nuclear payload if needed.

In its budget submission for fiscal 2013, the White House requested 196 Tomahawks, for a total program cost of $320 million. The White House is requesting the same amount next fiscal year, for a cost of $325 million.
War is big business, and Syria is paying the bills.
Need more proof that companies are profiting off of the recent Syria war mongering?
Lockheed Martin — the largest arms-producing and military services company in the world, with nearly $3 billion more in arms sales — saw its stock spike to a six month high on Monday, the day that the war drums with Syria really started beating.

Mind Control and Narrative Psy-Ops

Happiness Brigades could soon be part of every town and smart city – making us brimful of sunshine to fulfill the United Nations’ mandate for Gross Global Happiness. Tracked and monitored, the “not-yet-happy” could be brought up to spec with a specialized brain zapper, such as the ultrasonic neural interface funded by DARPA.

‘Pfff!’, you may be thinking – ‘I just won’t use it!’ … but smart ID chips are already being phased in as part of the global “federated identity ecosystem”, and chances of avoiding these are looking slim. The ID proposals include hackable biometrics, which will push us closer to “passthoughts” that rely on our unique, live, brainwave patterns; DARPA’s “portable brain recording device” (EEG) could be used for this. So can heartbeat sensors (ECG). The smartphones which we’ll be expected to use for ID, payment, health services, and life-logging, are ridiculously prone to loss and theft, so by the time ubiquitous surveillance, implants, and neural interfaces have become normal, connecting your brain to the Internet might seem like a natural step. This, of course, would then make us the most vulnerable we could ever be. So just what are these ‘brain zappers’, and what do we mean when we talk about ‘mind control’?

Zapping the brain can have a great many good uses, but these have to be weighed against the equal number of potential bads. Scientists have discovered it’s possible to send signals to the brain to control a person’s movements, just like voodoo. They can cure or cause addiction. They can make you happy, or they can make you sad. As for mind control, times have moved on, and the new methods of public manipulation are slicker than ever. Ye Olde Propaganda has always been a political tool, such as spreading rumors about adversaries, and ‘winning hearts and minds’ by guile. The early days of scientific propaganda, though, can be traced back to Edward Bernays, and a ‘story’ he created, using his media connections, to get women to start smoking. This was also the beginning of branding – the women on TV were said to be smoking ‘torches of freedom’. Time moved on, the Internet arrived and big data took over. There was so much data they didn’t know what to do. They had to put it into an understandable format, to be able to analyse, communicate and act upon the data being gathered. So in the last decade, intelligence agencies, and even corporations, have begun to frame their reports as narratives which shape, explain, and make sense of the data. Cognitive computers themselves can do this – creating news articles from pooled data, just like I’m doing here, but with no human being involved. These computer-generated narratives are also on DARPA’s wish list, along with sensors to monitor people’s reactions to stories, in real-time. As for propaganda, now called ‘strategic communications’, the powers-that-be see it all in terms of ‘telling a story’. Defence departments are now focused on creating ‘counter-narratives’, i.e. stories they believe will counteract the effects of ‘radicalism’. DARPA’S “Narrative Networks” program made the news in 2011 – the link to propaganda was clear to all. So it’s important to understand that the program is still going! Moreover, stories can be used to affect changes in a person’s beliefs, their sense of identity, and even memory, partly because they stimulate the release of brain chemicals. So can neural interfaces. And DARPA’s funding of neural interfaces – and storytellers – is part of this program.

There are several ways to zap the brain – usually involving electrical and/or magnetic energy. The most common is transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) – when targeted at a specific area in the brain, TMS can create a variety of effects, including emotional changes, and even bodily movement. As reported by Activist Post, DARPA funded a study at Arizona State University, which aimed to, (i) map out the precise areas of the brain that are affected by stories; (ii) analyse how people respond to specific stories; and (iii) test ways of changing their response to a story, i.e. by altering the story format, and/or zapping their brains with TMS. This technique is more properly referred to as neuromodulation, and involves stimulating the release of neurotransmitters by targeting specific areas of the brain with electromagnetic pulses; it’s being used to treat neurological and psychiatric disorders, in place of medication. Whilst more serious conditions have been treated with deep brain stimulation, using implanted microchips, people with pain and depression can be treated with TMS using a headset for the duration of the therapy. Unlike EEG recording devices (read-only), this headset is a computer-to-brain interface (CBI), since signals are sent to the brain, from a computer (i.e. write-only).

Obviously, this is where we start to get on very dodgy ground indeed. Especially when we find out that DARPA’s interest in narrative networks extends to the way both stories and TMS affect a person’s brain chemistry: they stimulate the release of profoundly important neurotransmitters (and/or hormones), especially dopamine and oxytocin. DARPA’s research, led by General Casebeer, has found that stories affect our emotions, our cultural and religious beliefs, and even memory. In other words, the narratives we hear (on TV, in the news, blogs, tweets, etc) affect important brain chemicals, and therefore our very identities. And so do pulsed electromagnetic fields – such as TMS. TMS can only be delivered via either a CBI or implants. As noted in my last article, BCI headsets, such as those made by Emotiv and Neurosky, are well-developed and becoming popular amongst neuro-gamers and quantified-selfers. CBIs are less advanced, as their use is far more complicated. However, neuromodulation is being used to treat a wide range of problems (including depression, and chronic pain), which is likely to stimulate growth in the market[1] for personal brain zappers. DARPA is clearly aware of the vast range of possible applications for these devices, and have also been funding a new way of altering brain chemistry, called pulsed ultrasound, along with the US Department of Defense, and the US Army. Often referred to as focused ultrasound (FUS), this technology made the news in 2010, when William J Tyler, whilst at Arizona State University, won an award from DARPA for research into CBIs which use ultrasonic pulses[2] to effect a variety of changes in the brain. Tyler has also worked with the Army Research Lab to look for ways to encode “sensory data onto the cortex using pulsed ultrasound” which can be “focused through the skull to any discrete region of the brain with millimeter accuracy.” Tyler has published several papers showing the effects achieved using pulsed ultrasound, and has a company called NeuroTrek (formerly Synsonix, Inc.), which has received substantial sums from government funding. NeuroTrek sees its device as having applicability beyond serious medical conditions, and beyond the battlefield, claiming it could be used by gamers, the communications industry, and the entertainment industry. Researchers at Arizona State University have also published several papers on pulsed ultrasound, as well as several patent application. Last year, Tyler filed a patent application for "Devices and Methods for Modulating Brain Activity" and another one this month (“Optimization of Ultrasound Waveform Characteristics for Transcranial Ultrasound Neuromodulation”), with two of his colleagues (one of whom includes Daniel Wetmore, who has contributed to the submission of several FUS patent applications; see also D P Jang, et al,in Korea). An article in quoted Tyler as saying, Maybe the next generation of social entertainment networks will involve downloading customized information or experiences from personalized computer clouds while encoding them into the brain using ultrasound. I see no reason to rule out that possibility. Focused ultrasound can deliver, “complex spatiotemporal patterns of acoustic waves” to achieve similar results to TMS, but has a spatial resolution which is five times greater, and can reach far deeper into the brain, meaning a lot more can be done with it, such as: neurological/psychiatric intervention cognitive enhancement behavioral reinforcement TBI (traumatic brain injury) protection pain intervention anxiety/stress reduction long term alertfulness/wakefulness navigational commands/assistance Ahem! Did you notice “behavioral reinforcement” on that list? Are you thinking Pavlov’s dogs, aka operant conditioning? You’d be right – ultrasound delivered via a CBI can be used to activate reward pathways (dopamine) in the brain, which,“may be used to condition and/or reinforce certain desired attributes and/or to motivate specific behavioral actions . . . rats conditioned to press a bar to receive intracranial self-stimulation (ICSS) of [specific parts of the brain] will lead to reinforcing behaviors such that the rat ignores all other environmental cues and will engage in repeated bar pressing behaviors in order to gain the reinforcing/pleasure inducing ICSS of those brain nuclei.” Sure sounds like addiction to me. Soooo . . . Just stay away from them there mind-machines, eh? Errrm, well, that might not save you from having your brain messed with, I’m afraid. You see, propaganda has taken an entirely new turn. It’s gone from putting a spin on things, to an attempt to oversee the stories we all hear, whether it’s the news, or blogs we read, and even Tweets, or posts on Internet forums. DARPA has spent several years analysing universal narrative structures, and the physiological effects they have on people, as well as tracking popular narratives (and the memes they produce) in social media. (I’ll explain this more in a separate article.) General Casebeer, who is leading the research on narrative networks for DARPA, notes the sense of ‘reward’ is linked to the production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter which can affect whether you like or dislike a story, and which also “enervates several important parts of the brain responsible for memory, drive, judgment”.

There are numerous other hugely influential neurotransmitters[3] than can be modulated by both neural interfaces and stories, including oxytocin (the ‘love hormone’). This powerful brain chemical is linked to the modulation of trust. Paul Zak, who has worked with General Casebeer on creating persuasive narratives, even believes our level of morality is dependent on the level of oxytocin we produce (psychopaths have little of it in situations that make other people release loads!). Zak and Casebeer contributed to a high-level meeting on the use of narratives to ‘stop terrorism’. This meeting, attended by researchers, and military and federal agencies, was convened to examine the ‘Neurobiology of Political Violence’, including discussion of TMS, which can “turn parts of the human brain on and off”. Casebeer noted, “There is some emerging work being done on how Tweets can create a rise in oxytocin release based on message content.” We should bear in mind here the US Government’s Strategic Communications plan, which involves sentiment analysis, the use of counter-narratives, and ‘downvoting’ stories which it does not approve of, preventing discussion of certain ‘banned’ topics, as well as using “persona management software” to create false identities, and thus manipulate public perception of news and fool people into believing in a false ‘popular consensus’. This astroturfing technique has become common, and is just one part of the new Psy-op strategy – controlling the conversation. By manipulating the news we hear, our primal responses can therefore be influenced, without us even knowing it. Obviously this has been going on for years, in the form of propaganda and reputation control, but the methods just keep getting slicker, and all the more insidious. Narratives are becoming the weapon of choice, said to be capable of nipping ‘radicalisation’ in the bud. Terrorists are said to ‘be radicalised’ by influential others, as if it were something done to them, and bit by bit, radicalisation is being defined as ‘mistrust of government’, which could one day mean little indignant nobodies such as myself being listed as ‘dangerous’!

I digress…. The point is that CBIs could become commonplace, given the huge range of potential applications, such as moderating the production of brain chemicals involved in emotion (e.g. serotonin), much like psychotropic drugs.[4] Brain-to-computer interfaces (BCIs) are already being used to link people’s minds/feelings to a movie they’re watching. MyndPlay have devised an EEG headset (using Neurosky’s microchips) which monitors the viewer’s emotional reactions to the movie, and changes the ending accordingly. (As a side note, analysing their state of mind also provides an insight into the kind of personality they have!)

Maybe some people would want the signal to work the other way as well, so when they’re watching a movie, their brain chemicals can be boosted to give them a more immersive experience. How about a boost of adrenaline for the fight scenes, or a dose of oxytocin to ‘feel’, empathically, what the characters in the film are ‘feeling’? What could be better? (says she, sarcastically). Both ‘narrative therapy’ and TMS are now being recommended for the treatment of depression. How long till Hollywood gets hold of it? It’s a lot harder to bring a CBI to market than it is a BCI, because of the direction in which it works! There will always be issues with insurance, and brain zapping techniques are still in the early stages of development/understanding. Should the use of CBIs become widespread, they could be used to condition people in almost any way imaginable. What is perhaps even more frightening is that it is now technically feasible that ultrasound techniques could be used, … to activate sensory or motor brain regions of the subject to produce movement or to create synthetic brain imagery. For example …. projections of visual sounds to auditory regions of the brain, ability to generate virtual maps/images onto visual brain regions, ability to control body movement patterns of an individual. Such brain stimulation may …. cause the subject to make a turning motion in order to guide that subject via GPS or other feedback from navigation technology, or stimulate motor areas of the subject's brain to cause the subject to make a motor action. Such methods and devices may be used for any application, including but not limited to, recreational, entertainment, and/or video gaming applications. (my italics) In fact, this was done with a brain-to-brain interface(BBI) earlier this year! By the power of thought, and the use of transcranial focused ultrasound (FUS), a researcher was able to cause a rat’s tail to move. (Video of this on YouTube has a strobe in it.) Even more astounding is the announcement this week that human-to-human neural interfacing has been achieved, as shown in the video below:

Neural dust (powered by ultrasound), which was proposed last month, remains an undeveloped concept, whilst research into optogenetics has made significant progress. The mind boggles. It used to be that people had to guess what the public wanted; they could do polls and ask around people in the know, or even rely on hunches, but now things are very slick and super-sneaky. The definition of propaganda will, in fact, need to change; data from mass surveillance is being used to create targeted messages, which could be embedded into news articles, movies, TV shows, blogs, online forums, speeches, etc, for both political and commercial purposes, whilst our brains are monitored for our reactions, and possibly even neuromodulated to ensure our well-being, as each nation strives for Gross National Happiness. The new propaganda is sooooo subliminal, you and I might not notice. It may even be that events are being engineered over time to create the narrative that will be our history; perhaps people like me are being framed as ‘conspiracy theorists’ to serve a future purpose, as the characters in a future ‘story of how we got here’, who threatened the peace of the world, and had to be ‘made happy’. It used to be that the study of narrative belonged mainly to the literary world, encompassing other subjective concerns such as philosophy, and history. Not any more. Forever in the name of ‘fighting terrorism’, the scientific study of stories breaches our last frontier, and could be used to reveal, and possibly even directly control, our unconscious minds. It used to be that we’d worry about what would - one day - be possible, and we’ve grown up on a diet of media memes that help us imagine Orwellian scenes. Now we know how we can be controlled, even from a distance - and we can even list the brand names. The next step is mass production, the essence of mission creep. Here endeth yet another sorry tale of a nightmare life, another affirmation of the craziness of the world. Perhaps the alternative media-sphere, just by trying to understand what is going on, has come to function like predictive programming! So much doom and gloom. Lots of newsworthy possibilities, waiting in the wings to become our future reality, as if there’s no alternative. But really, it needn’t be so. There are those among you with creative flair, visions, and ideas. Storytellers and artists. So help us please with tales of brighter imaginings, sing us songs and tell us stories of a better world that’s coming. Dream a dream and change the narrative so we see the future that you see. A better place to be. Footnotes: [1] As reported by BusinessWire, “Neuromodulation devices have emerged as one of the fastest growing segments of the medical device market due to high demand for minimally invasive and non-invasive treatment. With advancements in technology, neuromodulation is expected to become a promising therapeutic area and high growth industry in the next decade, as it offers symptomatic relief mainly from chronic pain, incontinence, heart failure, headache, depression, epilepsy, etc. The neuromodulation devices market includes deep brain stimulation, spinal cord stimulation, vagus nerve stimulation, sacral nerve stimulation and other external stimulation devices such as transcranial magnetic stimulation, and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS). The neuromodulation technique acts directly upon nerves or the target area where the activity of nerves is altered due to biological responses produced by electrical stimulation or drug infusion. These devices include small electrodes that are attached to the brain, the spinal cord, or peripheral nerves. These precisely placed leads are connected by means of an extension cable to a pulse generator to generate electrical stimulation. Neuromodulation can have applications in any area of the body and can treat several diseases like chronic pain, epilepsy, psychiatric disorder, movement disorder, cardiovascular disorder, genitourinary and colorectal disorder, stroke and brain injury, and gastric disorder.” [2] A patent application, submitted on behalf of Arizona State University, for “Devices and Methods for Modulating Brain Activity” (2012), stated,“Ultrasound (US) has been used for many medical applications, and is generally known as cyclic sound pressure with a frequency greater than the upper limit of human hearing. The production of ultrasound is used in many different fields, typically to penetrate a medium and measure the reflection signature or to supply focused energy. ….. A well-known application of this technique is its use in sonography to produce a picture of a fetus in a womb. ….. US waveforms can be defined by their acoustic frequency, intensity, waveform duration, and other parameters that vary the timecourse of acoustic waves in a target tissue.” [3] such as acetylcholine, histamine, hypocretin, serotonin, and norepinephrine. [4] See, for instance, ‘Transcranial ultrasound (TUS) effects on mental states: A pilot study’, by Hameroff et al, 2012, University of Arizona Health Sciences Center, Tucson, AZ, USA

This article first appeared at Get Mind Smart
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All Wars Are Bankers' Wars

BREAKING: Obama admin consults oil experts as it weighs action against Syria!! Get ready for $5/gal!

Obama administration officials have contacted energy experts in recent days to discuss oil market conditions as the president weighs a military strike against Syria, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.
There are no signs the government is preparing to tap emergency oil reserves soon in a bid to tame rising prices, according to the sources who spoke with Reuters this week, though the administration is closely monitoring the situation.
U.S. consults oil experts as it weighs action against Syria
BREAKING! U.S. willing to act alone on Syria attack! It’s ON!!
U.S. willing to act alone on Syria attack
WASHINGTON — The White House signaled that the United States would act alone in Syria if necessary to protect its national security interests, as a Western coalition that just days ago appeared determined to launch a joint military action split wide open. President Obama appeared increasingly isolated after British Prime Minister David Cameron lost a vote Thursday in the House of Commons on endorsing military action. It was a stunning defeat for a government that days ago called for punishing Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces for alleged use of chemical weapons against rebel-held neighborhoods last week.
Will War With Syria Cause The Price Of Oil To Explode Higher?
Are you ready to pay four, five or possibly even six dollars for a gallon of gasoline?  War has consequences, and a conflict with Syria has the potential to escalate wildly out of control very rapidly.  The Obama administration is pledging that the upcoming attack on Syria will be “brief and limited” and that the steady flow of oil out of the Middle East will not be interrupted.  But what happens if Syria strikes back?  What happens if Syrian missiles start raining down on Tel Aviv?  What happens if Hezbollah or Iran starts attacking U.S. or Israeli targets?  Unless Syria, Hezbollah and Iran all stand down and refuse to fight back, we could very easily be looking at a major regional war in the Middle East, and that could cause the price of oil to explode higher.  Syria is not a major oil producer, but approximately a third of all of the crude oil in the world is produced in the Middle East.  If the Suez Canal or the Persian Gulf (or both) get shut down for an extended period of time, the consequences would be dramatic.  The price of oil has already risen about 15% so far this summer, and war in the Middle East could potentially send it soaring into record territory.