Friday, July 22, 2011

Depression Factoid #137

By Sandy Prisant

After four years of job losses, here is this week's news:

Unemployment up in 28 states in June

Washington Post, 22 July--Unemployment rates rose in 28 states and the District in June, the Labor Department announced in a report Friday. The U.S. unemployment rate is now 9.2 percent.
The unemployment rate for the District surpassed the national rate, rising to 10.4 percent. In Maryland, the rate rose to 7 percent; Virginia has a 6 percent unemployment rate.
The report also highlighted that Virginia lost 14,600 jobs in June.
Only eight states saw rates decline in June,

Monday, June 27, 2011

The New Normal: Pessimism Is the Last Taboo

Editor's Note:   While we to distract ourselves with Anthony Weiner or Wimbledon or even upcoming Presidential politics, none of these offer any remedy to what increasingly looks like the "new normal"for America.  The facts are cold and hard.  And relentless. 

Here, Professor Martin Kaplan of the Annenberg School at USC, says what politicians dare not, ticks off the negative underpinnings in Year 4 of this Depression and is hard-pressed to find assets for America on the positive side of the ledger.

By Prof. Martin Kaplan

It gets worse. 

If you pay attention to the news, the prospects for the future look grim. The new normal of high unemployment and stagnant wages will likely not turn out to be just a phase. The next generations may indeed do worse than the ones before them. Thanks to the Supreme Court, big money will keep tightening its stranglehold on elections and lawmaking. Financial reform and consumer protection will never survive the onslaught of lobbyists. Reckless bankers will go on making out like bandits, and the public will always be forced to rescue them. The Internet, along with cable and wireless, will be controlled by fewer and more-powerful companies. The world will keep staggering from one economic crisis to another. We will not have the leadership and citizenship we need to kick our dependence on oil. We will not even keep up with the Kardashians.

Add your own items to the list. Whatever global threats scare you -- climate change, the Middle East, loose nukes, pandemics -- and whatever domestic issues haunt you -- failing schools, crumbling infrastructure, rising poverty, obesity -- the odds are that the honesty, discipline, resources and burden-sharing required for a happy ending will not, like Elijah, show up at our door.

Sure, there's some good news around, and there are advances ahead. Gay marriage is legal in New York, and perhaps one day the resistance to it will seem as unfathomable as the opposition to women's suffrage. Technology is growing exponentially, and today's iGizmos will doubtlessly seem like steam engines tomorrow. We will some day actually be gone from Afghanistan. Justices Scalia and Thomas will eventually retire. French fries or salami will turn out to be good for us, at least for a while. Some Wall Street slimeballs will be nailed, some good guys will win elections and some little girl will be rescued from a well. 

But it would pretty much take a miracle for our intractable problems to become tractable. Without one, political polarization is not about to give way to kumbaya. Cultural coarsening is not going to reverse course. The middle class will not be resurgent; the gap between rich and poor will not start closing; the plutocrats calling the shots will not cede their power. No warning on its way to us -- no new BP, no next shooting, no future default -- will bring us to our senses about the environment, assault weapons or derivatives for any longer than it takes for the next Casey Anthony or Anthony Weiner comes along. 

Politicians, of course, can never say something like this. They're selling progress, greatness, can-do. The only place for pessimism in the public sphere is as a handy foil. "There are those who say that we can't solve our problems, that our best days are behind us, that China is the future. But I say...." It's a surefire applause line. But it's also a straw man. There aren't "those who say" that. Americans hate pessimism. We get discouraged, our hope flags, but predicting defeat is inconceivable. The comeback kids, the triumphant underdogs, the resilient fighters rising to the challenge: that's who we see in the mirror.
We place fatalism beyond the pale. To give up on the possibility of change, to doubt that we're up to the task, is socially aberrant. You may fear that we are doomed to be a nation of big babies: we claim to want leaders who'll face tough choices, but we punish them for actually making them. You may despair that the rationality required to face up to reality will never overcome the fundamentalism, know-nothingism and magic thinking that has a hammerlock on our national psyche. You may believe that big money and big media have become so powerful that our sclerotic democratic institutions are inherently incapable of checking them. 

But you can't admit any of that. In public, we never let such darkness prevail. Instead, we work to improve things. We organize, rally, blog, join movements, work phone banks, ring doorbells, write checks, sign petitions. 

We are not a tragic nation. If a leader disappoints us, or breaks our hearts, we say it's just a setback, not a sign that the system itself manufactures impotence and capitulation. If a problem festers, we cling to the belief that money, know-how and perhaps some sobering wake-up call are all we need to solve it; we don't dare entertain the notion that there's something in human nature that's causing and protracting it. If social conflict splits us, we diagnose a communication problem, a semantic setback on the road to common ground, a gap that can be bridged by consensus on facts and deliberation on goals; it's just too painful to think that tribal values impervious to rationality and insusceptible to compromise are the ineluctable driver of our divisions.

I wish I could declare my confidence in our ability to solve our problems without sounding like some candidate who just wants my vote. But ironic optimism won't do. I'm desperate for evidence that we're prepared to pay for the services we demand, or to subordinate our desires in order to meet our obligations to one another, or to reform our governance so that special interest money, filibusters and the other Washington diseases didn't sicken the system. I just wish it didn't take drinking the can-do Kool Aid to see the glass as half full.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

A New Dawn for the University? Part 2

Professor Claudia Ricci

Editor's Note: Professor of Journalism Claudia Ricci is a noted educator, novelist and journalist. Her latest novel is  "Seeing Red" ( She is also a founding partner in the Wordsmith Wars  blog. In the past year she has put together a custom academic curriculum at the State University of New York. It addresses a subject very much needed by students and society as we grind through the current Depression. The subject: Happiness.

Below is a piece inspired by this course work: 

How I Learned to Eat A Raisin, and How it's Helping Me Learn to Do NO Thing

Not to sound too dramatic or anything, but this is a rather dangerous time of year for me. The middle of May -- when the school year comes to a screeching halt -- is usually a time when life turns into a slick wet deck and I go skating over the edge. I land in a deep dark pool and thrash around in the murky black water feeling like I'm drowning.

Nothing too dramatic about that.

It's been 13 years that I've been working as a college teacher, and for many of those years, after classes ended, I have been so depressed that I haven't known where to turn.

I am not particularly proud of this situation. People who are lucky enough to have jobs these days (and I regularly count my blessings in that regard) are generally lucky enough only to get two weeks off in the summer. Most of these people count the days until summer vacation arrives, and then they savor each of their days off, hour by hour. Most of them would kill to have a long summer vacation.

So what kind of a loser am I that I can't seem to enjoy my extended summer break? Why can't I just kick back and have fun? Why is it that the prospect of four "empty" months makes me so anxious that I often need to turn to one or more prescription drugs?

The answer to that question is complex, but simple too: I have a very very hard time doing nothing. (I can hear people screaming at their screens right about now, HEY LADY JUST GO GET A SUMMER JOB AND STOP WHINING. To all of you who are sitting at a desk at work, screaming at me, ready to smack your computer, I want to apologize and say, yes, I do realize that getting a second job is an option!)

But the issue here really is why can't I just enjoy doing nothing in particular? Why I have such difficulty with summer break is itself a long story, having to do with deep dark childhood neuroses that I won't bore you with here (never fear, though, there is always another post.)

In the past, after my May Nosedive, I've usually managed to cobble something together. I have volunteered for worthy causes, and once I ran a really cool program for a couple dozen kids down in DC. I absolutely loved that job but I haven't been able to get another program up and running here.

Generally, I busy myself with this and that in the summer: gardening and guitar, writing and painting. And of course, preparing for the upcoming fall semester. Through much of these summer weeks, I have struggled to stay ... happy. I have struggled with boredom. I have felt lost and low and hopeless. It's just rotten feeling that way.

OK, so it's that time of year again. But this year is different.

This year, I taught the happiness class and I found myself learning some amazing lessons. I think I learned as much as the students (hopefully) did.

Many of the readings for that class were life-changing. So too was the mindfulness workshop that I took, along with the students, with a wonderful teacher named Lenore Flynn. These experiences have given me enormous insight into something very basic:

how to live, each day, moment by moment, staying present and aware.

For those of you who already know what mindfulness is all about, and how it can really turn your head in a wonderful new direction-- you understand. And for those of you who are skeptical, I want to say that I truly do understand your skepticism. How can something as simple as paying attention to your breathing, and to the mundane minutia of everyday activities, possibly turn you into a very happy camper?

If I hadn't also seen it happen to many of the students, I too might be skeptical. But the fact is, paying very very close attention to the seemingly minor and unimportant matters of life is a rather revolutionary activity.

It is not an exaggeration to say that mindfulness teaches you to SEE and FEEL life and your role in it in a whole new way.

In the first mindfulness class, for example, Lenore led us in a meditation exercise as she frequently did during the workshop. But she also handed to each of us a couple of raisins. It was our challenge to NOT eat those raisins, at least right away. The task we were given was simply to appreciate those wrinkled little dried grapes in a way that we had never done before. Holding them in our hands, we had to stare at all their whitish folds. We had to study very carefully their appearance: their plump, or not so plump shapes, their size, color and fullness. We had to roll them around, feeling the squishy way they felt on our fingertips. We had to inhale the sweet fragrance of those raisins.

In short, it was our job to consider the "raisin-ness" of raisins, the very essence and nature of them. Sitting in the palm of our hand, those raisins were very tempting. But more importantly, they turned into rather profound little teachers, or at least I found that they did for me. Instead of just popping them into our mouths, we had to anticipate the pleasure that those raisins would give us. (Of course there were a few students who hate raisins, but that's another matter.)

When we were finally, after several long and drawn out minutes, allowed to place the raisins in our mouth, we still were not allowed to eat them. Instead, we had to TASTE them. We let them roll around our tongues. We savored the way those little withered grapes felt up against our cheeks. We salivated all over those raisins.

And finally, FINALLY, Lenore gave us the go-ahead and let us eat them.

You bet we tasted those raisins. You bet we enjoyed them more than we'd ever enjoyed a raisin before. I mean how many times has it taken five whole minutes to eat a raisin?

The point is, most of us rarely taste any of our food. We don't eat mindfully. We don't slow down enough to really pay attention to the look of our food. To the texture of it. To the smell of it. We don't think about the fact that many many people worked many many hours to grow that food, and to harvest it. We don't think about what it takes to prepare the meal.

Most of the time, we gobble down our meals faster than it takes for someone to boil a pot of water. I know I do, or at least, I used to.

Now, I have begun to eat more mindfully. I try to remember to say a small prayer before I eat each meal (my husband has joined me in this ritual.) I try to take a few moments to stare at the food in an appreciative way, giving thanks for the fact that I am fortunate enough to have food.

Mindful eating was just one lesson. Mindful walking was another. All 15 of us spent most of one class walking very very slowly back and forth across the classroom, thinking about walking. Paying attention to the micro movements of our leg muscles, our foot muscles. We paid attention to the way we lifted our legs, and how we set our feet down on the floor. We paid attention to the way that the floor supported us.

Mindfulness is all about paying very very close attention: paying attention when you breathe. When you eat, when you see, when you walk, when you talk, whenever you do anything. It involves taking time out to be grateful for every one of our blessings, the things we normally take for granted. Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh says that each morning we wake up without a toothache is a day we should be grateful. How many of us say thanks for things like:

Having a bed to sleep in each night.
Having a roof over our heads.
Having clean water to drink.
Having a brain to think whatever we want to think.
Being able to walk.
Being able to chew and digest food.
Being able to hear birds singing.
Being able to hear lovely music.
Being able to see a gorgeous flower, or a stunning rainbow or a special sunset.

Even the so-called dirty chores of our life are, if we alter our perspective, something we can enjoy doing. Jon Kabat-Zinn, who is responsible for inventing the incredibly effective Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program at the UMass Medical Center in 1979 in order to help people deal with chronic illness and pain (stress is a big factor in most chronic disease) writes very poignantly about how to clean a stove in a mindful way. Thich Nhat Hanh describes the joy of washing dishes, enjoying the warm soapy water on our hands.

Mindfulness isn't very complicated. It's just hard to do. It's hard to stay present. It's hard to stay grateful. It takes energy and sometimes, it takes work. A lot of work.

And so, this summer I do have a job. I have to learn to do nothing. A few days ago, I started to find myself on the edge of that very slippery deck. I started to see the way I could, without much difficulty, go slipping and sliding off the deck into that deep dark pool.

But now I've got a new set of tools, including a book (I didn't use in class) that Lenore Flynn loaned me. It's called Radical Acceptance, by psychologist Tara Brach.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who has, like me, trouble slowing down and doing NO THING.

Brach describes in great detail the value of what she calls the Sacred Pause. Stopping, whether for a moment to check in with how we are feeling, or for a day, to contemplate life, or for a season, to take a sabbatical -- all of these are profoundly important activities.

Pausing is, after all, an edict of God's: the Sabbath is a day of rest, a day to stop DOING, and celebrate BEING. That's why, in the old days, stores would close on Sundays, so people everywhere could just sit and enjoy a big family meal.

Brach also preaches, as the book's title suggests, radical acceptance, that is, she suggests that we accept everything about ourselves, be it our unattractive noses, our straight (or curly) hair, our hips, our aging bodies, all of our shortcomings. That's not to say that we settle for all of our faults. But we have to start by accepting who we are, and embracing everything about ourselves, all the "shadow" parts of our personalities that we would just as soon tuck into the closet. It isn't until we embrace ourselves fully that we can begin to make the transformations that we need to make.

She isn't the first writer to discuss the shadow self. Carl Jung coined the term many years ago. Many have written about it (Deepak Chopra has a great book, The Shadow Effect, on the topic, one of my students did her class presentation on it.)

Brach's approach to the shadow is wonderful and compelling. She suggests that sll of us want so much to be loved and accepted that we try to bury our dark impulses. We try to "ignore our anger until it becomes knots of tension in our body; cover our fears with endless self-judgement and blame." (54)

"Our shadow," Brach writes, "is rooted in shame, bound by our sense of being basically defective."

The solution? Stop running away from the dark side. Brach tells a wonderful tale to illustrate her point: "A traditional folktale tells the story of a man who becomes so frightened by his own shadow that he tries to run away from it. He believes that if only he could leave it behind, he would then be happy. The man grows increasingly distressed as he sees that no matter how fast he runs, his shadow never once falls behind. Not about to give up, he runs faster and faster until he finally drops dead of exhaustion. If only he had stepped into the shade and sat down to rest, his shadow would have vanished."

It is with some shame that I admit to my shadow: I admit that I have a desire to be incessantly busy, staying so fully (and sometimes frantically) occupied that I cannot stop and sit and do NO THING. I keep busy so that I remain distracted from what my husband calls the "existential dilemmas" posed by life.

A big part of my "job" this summer is to step into the shade, and rest in the shadow. And use the mindfulness techniques to embrace the moment and contemplate why the shadow has had such a fierce grip on my life.

Mostly, I am hoping that I can learn to do NO THING and have that be OK. It's not that I won't do stuff. Of course I will (and I'll inevitably write about it, because I can't help myself.)

It's just that I want it to be acceptable, and sufficient, to do nothing at all, and simply enjoy the many beauties of summer.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The US Economy: Everything You Need to Know

By Sandy Prisant

Have you noticed that house prices are the lowest in 9 (nine) years? Do you understand that the American worker's earning power has not risen a jot in a couple of decades?  Do you know there is no record of any politician in the past 4 years who has offered any specific plan or program that would guarantee creation of one single, new American job?  

Are you aware there is at least one Depression each century? And that there are boatloads of economic statistics that demonstrate we are in about the 4th year of what is likely to be a classic 10-year Depression?

If so, you need not waste time following the monthly grind of house prices, jobless claims and GDP numbers, because not very much different or better is going to happen over the next five years.  

History teaches us clearly that government cannot by itself pull us of this slump. It also teaches that the private sector only hires when it needs, because of increased demand and new orders--not because of irrelevant changes in the tax base or accounting rules.  We need a fresh economic engine to drive us forward.  Hitler provided such an engine. Osama did not. The effect: Today one in five Americans are either out of work or can’t find meaningful work right now.

Read Robert L Borosage's analysis of the real issues below and why we need an honest examination.  Of ourselves and our future.

This is a classic "small d" democratic moment. The economy is in deep trouble -- immediate and long term. Washington is oblivious, compromised by moneyed interests, knotted by ideological divides. It will take an angry and aroused citizens' movement to demand the debate worthy of a great nation in deep trouble.
The dismal jobs numbers only punctuate the reality of an economy that isn't producing sufficient jobs. The crisis is both immediate and long-term. The so-called recovery hasn't begun to recover the jobs lost in the Great Recession. 25 million people are in need of full time work. Home values continue to fall. 25 percent of 17- to 25-year-old high school graduates not in college are out of work. Much of a generation is at risk.
The immediate is only an expression of more profound problems. The middle class was losing ground before the Great Recession. Good jobs are being shipped abroad. Wages aren't keeping up with the costs of basics. The broad middle class that made America exceptional is disappearing. The American dream seems ever more like a nostalgic memory. The nation continues to run unsustainable trade deficits, and must dig out of a mountain of debt -- both public and private. For the first time, an increasing majority of Americans fear their kids won't fare as well as they have.
We need action to put people to work. But short term fixes aren't enough. Americans are looking for a serious strategy that will get us out of the mess we are in.

The Beltway Bloviating
But inside the beltway, Washington is clueless. It's the only major city in the country where housing prices are going up. A flood of corporate lobby money insures that the tables are full at the high end restaurants. Entrenched corporate interests buy a lot more than lunches with their dough. They block vital reforms on health care, energy, trade, Wall Street. They feed off taxpayers, protecting their subsidies and tax dodges, avoiding taxes, while deficits rise and essential programs like nutrition for infants get cut.
The politicians prefer posturing to bold action, "message" and "spin" to leadership. Republicans even with the majority in the House are focused on obstruction. They vote for more tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, paid for by ending Medicare and Medicaid, hiking costs for those least able to pay -- seniors, the disabled, the dying. They vow to blow up the economy if they can't get a deal on trillions in domestic spending cuts, accompanied by more tax breaks for the wealthy. They're lining their campaign coffers carrying water for the big banks against even minimal reforms.

The adult Republican presidential candidates like Mitch Romney claim they can get the economy going and create jobs. But they only recycle old and failed nostrums. More tax cuts for corporations who are already sitting on over a trillion in cash waiting for customers. More tax cuts for the wealthiest, who already have the most concentrated income and wealth since the eve of the Great Depression. More corporate trade deals that ship goods jobs abroad, undermine wages at home, and force up to borrow over a billion a day from abroad to balance the deficits. Less regulation when we haven't recovered from the catastrophe caused by the excesses of deregulated Wall Street. They pretend they can balance the budget and put people to work by cutting domestic spending, cutting taxes, increasing spending on the military, and not dismantling basic promises like Medicare and Social Security. They and everyone else knows that is a lie.

The White House offers no clear way out. The president wants to hail the successes of an economy that isn't working for most people. Yes, his policies saved us from free fall -- thanks, but we're worried about what we face, not where we've been. He sensibly calls for "winning the future" -- making investments in areas like education, innovation and infrastructure. But he's locked himself into austerity, focused on cuts, and offering no big vision of how we move forward. He's more sensible than the tea party zealots, but remains unwilling to tell Americans what needs to be done and that fight for it.

The Democrats in the Senate are a babble, too divided to deliver a message. The House Democrats are cowed by the losses in 2010, too worried about being accused of being "big spenders" to lay out a course to get the economy going and put people to work.

And few seem ready to put out a strategy that necessarily will take on the interests that are strangling the dream. A national trade strategy that isn't controlled by multinationals. Affordable health care not catering to private insurance and drug companies. Fair taxes that shut down the tax havens, the dodges, the obscene subsidies that drain our resources. An investment strategy that generates vital public and private investment, not more Wall Street speculation, or CEO incentives for laying off workers and plundering their own companies.

It will take a popular uprising to get Washington even to begin to focus seriously on jobs and the economy. We've seen this before. There was a bipartisan consensus on the Iraq War until a growing movement forced first Democrats and then the Bush White House to face reality. The Washington establishment was drunk on slashing Social Security and Medicare to address deficits, and Republicans embraced gutting Medicare, until popular disapproval expressed both in the polls and in the special election in upstate New York sobered them up a bit. The anger expressed by the Tea Party minority still has Republicans in Washington reeling.
Now we need the people to speak again. This time for the American majority. We aren't buying the old conservative elixirs. The New Dem-Republican lite embrace of half measures and conservative cross dressing isn't acceptable.

Washington has to hear a clear message. We elected you to get this economy going, not gut Medicare. We want to know how you will create jobs. We don't want to be served the old tired babble. We know we can't simply cut our way to prosperity. We know we need a major change in our global strategy. We know we've got to make investments vital to the future -- in education and in innovation. We know this economy needs major reforms. Anyone not willing to challenge the corporate interests that are strangling change isn't serious. We know it is hard to focus on creating jobs when deficits are this high. We know we'll have to sacrifice, but we're not broke -- we don't have to break promises to our kids or our parents. And don't ask the victims of this economy to sacrifice when those making out like bandits are given a pass. We know once the economy is moving, taxes have to go up and spending has to be brought under control. So stop the nonsense of no tax hikes. Tell us what you will cut and why. Don't pretend choices don't have to be made.

So lay it out. How do you put people to work, change our economic strategy so we begin once more to make things in America and create good jobs, not poverty wage jobs? How does that relate to getting our books in order and our priorities straight? Give us a debate worthy of a great nation in deep trouble.
In August, after Washington reaches an inevitable deal on lifting the debt limit after weeks of posturing and bluster, of an idiotic debate focused on what to cut rather than how to get the economy going, legislators will return home for recess. They need to hear from us.

Robert L Borosage is President of the Institute for America's Future.

Sunday, May 29, 2011


By Prof. Claudia Ricci
Editor's Note:  Professor Ricci is a noted novelist, journalist and educator. She has taught and created programs at Georgetown University and the State University of New York. Dr Ricci is a founding collaborator in the Wordsmith Wars blog.

At the worst moments of the chemo, after she throws up into the basin, and forces herself to eat some cherry jello and maybe a few bites of banana, Anna plays the flamenco, drifting perhaps into a soleares, a sweet lament that starts slow and then pulls up tempo.  And when the soleares stops working, and no longer transports her, she shifts to a tango or even, a fandango.
And then comes the day that she steps inside the doctor’s office in the black and red satin dress.  It rustles as she walks, and the luscious tail of the bata de cola trails behind her.  Anna picks up a fistful of ruffles in the train, and enters the examining room.  Her nailed shoes, tied at the ankles in ribbons, clatter on the waxed floor.  Her black hair is sleek, almost wet looking, pulled tight to her head and knotted at back in a donut.  She hugs a black lacy shawl to her shoulders and in her free hand, she is pumping a red flowered fan. 
The nurse enters behind her.  Oblivious.  She opens Anna’s medical file –three inches thick—and asks Anna to step on a scale against the wall. 
“Must I?” Anna sneers.  The nurse hesitates.
“Must I get the doctor?” the nurse asks.
Anna’s eyes narrow.  Still holding the ruffles, she steps on the scale, and the nurse records Anna’s weight. 
“Remember to subtract for the dress,” Anna says.
The nurse starts to say something.  Stops.  She asks Anna to turn around and stand against the wall.  Anna sighs, then swivels.  As she steps against the wall, she lifts her head with all the dignity of a Castilian queen. 
“Five feet ten and one half with those heels,” the nurse says, wrinkling her nose ever so slightly as she eyes the shoes.  Then she turns to Anna’s right arm.  “Now, how about the veins today?  How are they?”
          “My veins.”  Anna pauses.  Sneers.  “Are the same as always.”
Thrusting one arm overhead in the manner of the great bailoras, Anna locks herself in the dancer’s stance.  She looks as if she could be plucking a ripe Seville orange off a tree.  Twisting one wrist, she pulls the imaginary lush globe of fruit tightly to her bosom. 
          “I am glad you are so limber, Anna.”  The nurse crosses her arms.  “But would you mind sitting down?  This will go a lot faster if you do.”
          Anna glares, sits down and arranges the dress around her.  Then she thrusts one arm forward, exposing a pale blue vein.
“That one looks like it will work,” the nurse muses, reaching up and snapping one finger against the inside of Anna’s arm.
“Please,” Anna snarls, pulling her arm back.  “Please be gentle.”
“I’m sorry,” the nurse says.  Her voice softens.  “I really am sorry.”
Anna turns away, as if the nurse’s sudden kindness has made it so much worse.  “Do you know how many times that my arm has been needled?  Do you realize what you do to me every week?  And do you realize how important these arms are to my dance?”
The nurse bites her lip.  “I’m sorry.  I forget sometimes.  I know there are days when…when they, when we…have…considerable trouble getting in.”
Anna draws her shawl closer around her shoulders.  A single tear dribbles out of one eye.  She ignores it and sitting up straighter, she lifts her chin in the manner of the Iberian royals, casting a decidedly unfriendly glance at the nurse.  Then she thrusts her arm forward again. 
The nurse anchors Anna’s arm on the armrest and prepares the needle.  “Here we go,” she whispers.  Anna flinches as the needle passes into the crotch of her arm, but the nurse has tight hold of her hand. 
At first Anna and her pert red lips turn away, but soon she can’t help herself: she is tipping backward to look, drawn to staring at the syringe, particularly the small butterfly spread of sky blue plastic attached to the needle.  Anna brightens.  “Ah, you see, my fan has blue butterflies too.”  She flicks open her red fan again with her right hand, showing off the intricate design: a red background, swatches of yellow and orange flowers and blue and black butterflies dancing here and there. 
The nurse glances at the fan, but is more preoccupied with the needle.  She jiggles it.  “I think this vein may be blocked.”
Anna blinks.  Looks away.   As the nurse pokes the needle in further, Anna’s eyes open wider and begin to water.  Then she rapidly fans her face.  The fan is a hot blooded color, and the blue of the fan’s butterflies is exactly the same blue as the butterfly of the needle, the needle which the nurse is now pushing even deeper into Anna’s skin.
“Oh Dios mio, PLEASE NO!” Anna yelps.  Her face is chalky and as sweaty as it is when she dances the farruca.
“I am sorry I am hurting you, Anna, I really am.”
          Anna sighs.  Keeps fanning.  “Yes, I should say so.”  Her voice breaks.  She fans faster. “How much longer must this go on?”  She chews into her lower lip, and her teeth pick up some of the berry-colored lipstick glazing her mouth.
          The nurse wiggles the needle ever so slightly.  She sighs.  Exhales.  “It’s just that I have to get a blood return on this one, and I’m not getting it.”
          Anna closes her eyes and stops fanning.  At moments like these, when it gets particularly difficult, she always resorts to intense mental rehearsal: she goes through the newest alegria in her head.  She can count it better than the seguiryas, or even the sevillanas or the malaguena.

She starts counting, but a moment later, is interrupted.  The nurse sighs, slides the needle out.  “I guess this 

one won’t work,” she says.  “Sorry.”  She applies a tiny circle of a bandaid over the hole left behind in Anna’s

“I’m going to have to get some back up.  See if someone else can help.” 
Anna blinks.  “Yes, well, and I think I am going to need my prescription now,” she mumbles, her fingers trembling slightly as she reaches into the ruffled bosom of her dress.  Inside is a tiny vial of pills.  Before the nurse can say anything, Anna has two tiny white pills in her hand and she is popping them under her tongue.  “This will help.”
The nurse looks embarrassed.  “Look, I am really sorry to put you through this.  But I …”
“…But I don’t want to hear it,” Anna says curtly.  “I really don’t want to hear it.”  She smiles her thinnest, tightest grin.  “Just go ahead, please, find someone.  Someone who won’t hurt me.  And get it over with.” Anna inhales, saying a small prayer that the pills will work their miracles once again.
The nurse leaves and returns almost immediately with another nurse.  A young man.  Slim and very tall and dark-skinned.  He smiles and Anna  looks into his eyes and her first thoughts are, he is not at all handsome, but he is very kind.  And he would make a suitable partner. 
He takes Anna’s hand and for a moment she expects him to kiss it.  But he simply rubs his long brown fingers over the surface of her skin.  “I hear we are turning you into a pin cushion today,” he says very quietly.  The way he says pin: peen.  And cushion: cooshun.  His accent is…what?  Latin?  Indian?  Iranian?  She cannot tell, and well, what does it matter?  He grows more handsome by the moment.
He keeps sliding his fingers over the back of her hand.  “So how are the veins here?”
          Anna closes her eyes, smiles, and gracefully pulls up her hand.  Her blood red nails glitter.  “My hands…are magnificent,” she whispers, opening her eyes again.
He smiles, bashfully.  Anna notices the intense silkiness of his black hair.  The giant oily pearls that are his eyes.  She sighs.  The other nurse, who is standing in the corner of the examining room, arches one eyebrow, then turns and leaves the room, making the door smack shut as she goes.
The young man looks up.  Meets Anna’s eyes.  Clearing his throat, he takes Anna’s outstretched hand and pulls close to examine it again.  “Well, these don’t look as ravaged as the ones in your arm.  I see what these treatments have done to torture your poor arm.”
“Ah, and not just my arm,” Anna shoots back.  Her voice croaks.  The man lifts his eyes and Anna returns the look.  In it is an odd combination of fire and ice.  Sorrow and fatigue.  Fortitude and resignation.  Pride and shame and mostly, relief.  She watches in silence while he proceeds to wrap a rubber tourniquet around her wrist, making the veins in her hand bulge slightly.
          “So, would you mind if I played my CD?” Anna asks, her eyelashes fluttering.  Her vision is beginning to swerve.  Hard shapes and straight lines are turning to butter.
          “Oh, no problem,” the nurse says.  “Do you need help?”
          “Not a bit,” Anna says.  “I have done this all before.”  She uses her free hand to reach into a satin bag for a pair of headphones.  One-handed, she slips the headphones over her sleek hairdo.  By now there are several stray black hairs at her moist brow.  Anna switches on the CD player and so, when the needle vanishes into a vein in the back of Anna’s left hand this time, she is listening to a cantaor singing a woeful tale of his lost gypsy. 
Anna closes her eyes as a bailora joins in, dancing in the background; there, now, she can hear her feet clacking rapidly on wood.  Besides that, there is a set of castanets rattling and a clang of the martinetes, the ironsmiths’ metal hammering against metal.  The cantaor’s voice rings up to a prolonged trill just as the young man gets his blood return.
          “That will do it,” the young man says, filling a small clear tube with Anna’s ruby blood.  “Now we just need to put the radioactive tracer into the vein and we’ll be all set to do your scan.”
          Anna looks up from her CD, a docile smile on her lips.  Her head feels loose, as if it coming unattached from her shoulders, which are now bare of the shawl.  The fan sits closed up in her lap.  She blinks, sinking ever deeper into the music. 
          “Did you know, young man, that duende eases all of our pain?”  She whispers this, and her words are slightly slurred.  He nods. 
“Please,” she says.  “Please state your name?”  He hesitates.
“Arturo.”  He pats her hand once more and starts to pull away.  Anna wants to hold his hand there, but her grip comes too slow.  He leaves the room, and she goes limp, sinking listlessly into her chair.  The pills have taken hold, no doubt, because now she is yawning, and smiling broadly, and dancing on a brightly lit stage that is rising into the air.  She laughs.  After all this is over she will call her sister, Margarita, and tell her this: that it isn’t hard to dance when you are rising toward heaven, because there you can freely pluck oranges and apples from the Garden of Eden.  And because you are on chemo, and because everyone feels sorry for you--even God—He doesn’t care one bit that you are there stealing His fruit.  And eating it right there in the Garden.
Anna laughs.  When the tall young man returns with a small lead box, the one that contains the radioactive isotope, she reaches out to take his hand.  He puts the box down and staring hard into her eyes, he readily accepts her hand – and his role in the dance.
Anna watches him, a placid smile on her lips.  And then the music turns fiery, and the moment comes.  The stage clears and he steps into the white circle of light.  His elbows lifted to each side, and his narrow hips immobile, he tips his head back proudly and begins pounding his heels in perfect unison with the compas, the rhythm of the music.  Ah but what a pair of legs Arturo has, thundering now against the floor. Yes, she thinks: he is more talented than any partner I have had before.
Now it is her turn to spin: the young man reaches out one hand to her.  Mustering all of her grace and dignity, she lifts herself off the chair and thrusts her torso forward.  Her bosom swells fully into the satin fluff and ruffles.  Moving slowly at first, she begins swiveling and tapping, all the while holding one armful of ruffles at her hips.  The other arm stands overhead.  Her movements quicken, and soon her hips are twisting, and her feet hammering like a sewing machine.  And there, there are her wrists and fingers, all bent at odd angles, giving her hands the look of branches, branches on an orange tree, a tree from which she always plucks her imaginary fruit. 
She pauses, out of breath.  The two of them –she and her amazing Arturo.  They are holding hands, and now, suddenly, they are bowing.  Surely it cannot be over already?  Together they occupy the stage light.  Staring blissfully into the darkness behind her eyes, she feels her heart pump as quickly as her fan, as the young man whispers “Anna, you were just wonderful.”
“Thank you,” she whispers back.  And then she waits, patiently, for all the clapping to stop.  And for the needle to be withdrawn and for the curtain, finally, to fall on all of this. 
The End

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A New Dawn for the University? Part 1

Editor's Note : When the Egyptians created the first university over 1000 years ago--Al-Azhar in Cairo--it was envisioned as a place for advanced academic instruction, disciplined thought, debate and meditation on the student's relationship to society and the world around him.

Then something went wrong.  Everything shifted towards corporate internships and a straight line between a 4-year degree and a 5-6 figure salary.  Effectively, your entrance exams became your first job interview.

Today, the increasingly desperate marketing of colleges notwithstanding, we all know the truth.  That straight line has been broken. The commercial value of a degree is now dubious. But that may be a good thing. 

It may mean that serious Universities can resume a traditional non-career-based role as institutions where we learn about ourselves, our society and how to think more clearly about issues more profound than resumes. This could be a silver lining in a world where there will never again be enough jobs.  

The University, at least, may be allowed to get back to its earnest, erudite, creative roots.  Back to Cairo in the 10th century.

Case in point:  Professor of Journalism Claudia Ricci is a noted educator, novelist and journalist. She is also a founding partner in the Wordsmith Wars  blog. In the past year she has put together a custom academic curriculum at the State University of New York. It addresses a subject very much needed by students and society as we grind through the current Depression. The subject: Happiness.

Here's the course prospectus:

ERDG 491Z -- University at Albany, SUNY
Professor Claudia Ricci, Ph.D.

Reading and writing transform the way we think, and how we see ourselves in the world. Neurological research now shows that changing the way we think can produce positive physiological changes in the brain. At a time when an epidemic of mental health issues plagues our nation, and threatens to paralyze students in the academy, this class presents a set of cognitive tools and practical skills that will help students refine and enhance their educational goals while examining a broad range of life issues. Beginning with philosophical ideas set forth by Aristotle, the class will rely on texts from psychology, neuroscience, literature and narrative theory, to open up discussions about the patterns of human behavior and thinking that tend to produce lasting fulfillment and deep reward. In keeping with research by psychologist James Pennebaker and others who have demonstrated the value of expressive writing, students will engage in extensive journaling and other self-reflective writing assignments as they seek to define what it means, and what it takes, to find happiness. Part of the work in the classroom will be to help students identify their individual “signature strengths” that can produce what positive psychologist Martin Seligman defines as “authentic happiness and abundant gratification.” In addition to classroom work, a special two-hour laboratory session, with attendant readings and writing exercises, will be required each week; students will work with experts in mindfulness, meditation, yoga, spirituality and stress reduction, and will document how these techniques can help the student better cope with the inherently stressful nature of University life.

 In the coming days, Professor will be posting blogs that draw on the techniques and outcomes of her first Happiness curriculum.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Competition: Guess the State!

By Sandy Prisant
I live in a state that is certainly not timid in its approach to this Depression--and its future. Within the past year alone here are some of the things my fellow citizens have done. From these clues, can you...
"Guess the State!"
  • As our new Governor, we elected the primary unindicted co-conspirator in the largest Medicare fraud in US history.
  •  We entirely neutered the Democratic party, throwing them out of every single statewide office.

  • We elected overwhelming GOP majorities to both houses of our legislature, leaving no checks and balances.

  • Still hewing to 19th century policies that limited most state legislators to very short sessions--on the premise that any politician can only be trusted for so many days a year--our legislature is only allowed to meet for 60 days/annum.

  • But that did not hinder our representatives and unindicted governor from a breathtaking set of legislation in the term just completed, to help our citizens through this Depression.  Among the most notable new state laws:
    • Reduce unemployment benefits to under 6 months, even though we have one of the worst unemployment rates in the country-- a third higher than the national average. 
    • Total new job creation programs proposed or passed by lawmakers all running on a job -creation platform: Zero.
    • Specifically use the benefits taken from the unemployed to deliver significant tax cuts to 30,000 corporations. 
    • Proposed elimination of the State Development Agency. 
    • Cut funding to education across the board in a state that tests near the bottom.
    • Dismantle Medicaid, ignoring the Federal mandate requiring 90% of funds go to patient services, choosing instead to share $1.1 billion in
      patient funds as profits with managed care companies. (According to the New York Times.)
    • Total new jobs created by lawmakers all running on a job-creation platform: Zero.
    • Reversed thirty (30) years of state environmental legislation
    • Defied the state constitution by making the state Supreme Court a servant of the legislature--permanently ending checks and balances.
    • Passed all three priorities of the National Rifle Association.
    • Assaulted democracy through new restrictions to actually reduce voting days and hours in all elections.
What is this enlightened state, beholdened only to corporations, party pros and gun owners?  Send your answer to Wordsmith Wars. And pray for the 95% of my state's citizens whom are not rich.

Competition: Guess the State!

By Sandy Prisant

I live in a state that is far from timid in its approach to this Depression, the fate of it's citizens, or its future. Within the past year, here are some of the things my neighbors up and down the state have done.  From these clues, can you...
"Guess the State!
  • As our new Governor, we elected the unindicted chief executive in the largest Medicare fraud in US history.
  •  We entirely neutered the Democratic party, throwing them out of every single statewide office.

  • We elected overwhelming GOP majorities to both houses of our legislature, leaving no checks and balances.

  • Still hewing to 19th century policies that limited most state legislators to very short sessions--on the premise that any politician can only be trusted for so many days a year--our legislature is only allowed to meet for 60 days/annum.

  • But that did not hinder our representatives and unindicted governor from a breathtaking set of legislation in the term just completed, to help our citizens through this Depression.  Among the most notable new state laws:
    • Reduce unemployment benefits to under 6 months, even though we have one of the worst unemployment rates in the country-- a third higher than the national average. 
    • Total new job creation programs proposed or passed by lawmakers all running on a job -creation platform: Zero.
    • Specifically use the benefits taken from the unemployed to deliver significant tax cuts to 30,000 corporations. 
    • Proposed elimination of the State Development Agency. 
    • Cut funding to education across the board in a state that tests near the bottom.
    • Cut 5,000 jobs in the public sector
    • Dismantle Medicaid, ignoring the Federal mandate requiring 90% of funds go to patient services, choosing instead to share $1.1 billion in
      patient funds as profits with managed care companies. (According to the New York Times.)
    • Total new jobs created by lawmakers all running on a job-creation platform: Zero.
    • Reversed thirty (30) years of state environmental legislation
    • Defied the state constitution by making the state Supreme Court a servant of the legislature--permanently ending checks and balances.
    • Passed all three priorities of the National Rifle Association.
    • Assaulted democracy through new restrictions to actually reduce voting days and hours in all elections.
What is this enlightened state, beholden only to corporations, party pros and gun owners?  Send your answer to Wordsmith Wars. And pray for the 95% of my state's citizens whom are not rich.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

US Shock: Treasury to Exempt Regulation of Forex Derivatives That Caused 2008 Freeze

By Sandy Prisant

Editor's Note:  Over 60% of Americans believe the US is headed in the wrong direction, but they have no sensible idea why. Please read the piece below by Avery Goodman in Seeking Alpha and understand why the end of Osama Bin Laden is not the end of our problems:

Under the requirements of the Dodd-Frank legislation, all FX swaps and forwards are supposed to be reported to a swap data repository or, if there wasn't one, to a regulator like the U.S. Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). The regulator is supposed to investigate irregular activity. Foreign exchange forwards and swaps represent about $50 trillion in nominal value of a total derivatives market of almost $600 trillion. Unfortunately, Congress gave some leyway to the U.S. Treasury to exempt some derivatives from regulation. If the U.S. Treasury has its way, FX swaps and forwards will not be regulated, and trillions of dollars of interest rate swaps and OTC forward contracts are almost certainly going to be restructured into the form of FX swaps and forward contracts, defeating the purpose of Congress.
Regardless of what the U.S. Treasury claims, FX swaps and forwards are high risk derivatives and were one of the primary reasons currency markets froze after the demise of Lehman Brothers. That freezing, in turn, was part of the cause of the 2008 Financial Crisis. The Federal Reserve established emergency currency exchange swaps with many foreign central banks in the hope of stabilizing the world financial system because of an alleged "shortage" of dollars. We thought that doing it was a mistake. We still feel that way. However, there are other people whose opinions we respect, who think otherwise. They think it was the correct decision.

Correct or not, those emergency lines of "credit" were established because European banks could not find enough dollars to make their payments under these type of derivatives because most of them bet on a declining dollar. The U.S. claims that there is no need to post performance bonds at a clearing house like the CME and Ice exchanges. While the exchanges are certainly not perfect places, and we have critiqued them heavily in the past, they are better than the extreme instability that follows the OTC market for derivatives.
Yet, according to the Treasury, it is too problematic to post performance bonds. Indeed, the Treasury says that no bond is needed to insure performance. But, if no bond is needed, why would a clearing exchange force banks to put up anything more than the most nominal bond, if any at all? After all, isn't it a no-risk FX swap or forwards contract? However, that isn't going to happen, because it isn't true. The exchanges would require substantial performance bonds on these type of derivatives. They are highly risky, and other clearing members prefer not to be bankrupted, or at least "lose their shirts" because of the capricious gambles of other banks.

Performance bonds are just a small part of the story. Even more important is the fact that by exempting FX swaps and forwards, the Treasury defeats the so-called "Lincoln" provision of the Dodd-Frank legislation. Swap dealers are supposed to get " No Federal assistance" including "loans" from Federal Reserve credit facilities, discount windows, emergency lending facilities etc. can be provided to any "swaps entity." If FX swaps and forwards are exempted, financial institutions that write them will have full access to the Federal Reserve (a/k/a big bank slush fund) at the ultimate expense and risk of the taxpayers of America. That is probably what this exemption is all about.
Being able to access Federal Reserve funding will allow swap dealers, such as the biggest banks with the most systemic risk, to engage in high leverage derivative writing. When backstopped by the Federal Reserve, such derivatives allow sophisticated entities to control cash markets that trade the underlying product. Levels of leverage that are typical in OTC and even exchange traded derivatives have been illegal in the cash stock markets since the Crash of 1929. Not in the derivatives markets. A tiny amount of collateral can buy control over a huge swath of the market, especially when the leverage is infinite, as it is when you aren't required to post any bond at all. If you are backed up by the ability to access the Federal Reserve lending windows, then its bombs away! You can do whatever you want, makes tons of money temporarily and, when the gamesmanship finally blows up in your face, you can shift the loss to the American taxpayer, while you retire to a nice island in the Carribean.

Changes to prices created in derivatives enter the cash market by way of arbitrage. Consequently, dealers in derivatives who have access to a large source of backstop money have the power to manipulate the value of all assets, including stocks, bonds, commodities, precious metals and currencies, at least in the short run. The changes in psychology that repeated short term manipulations can induce, will also profoundly affect the long term perception of various assets, unless most market participants become aware of the manipulated nature of the pricing structure.

Most market participants do not understand the interaction of derivatives and cash markets. Most believe, for example, that they can predict future market behavior by carefully crafting elaborate technical charts and graphs using historical pricing data. This could work, in theory. However, in practice, blind adherence to charts results in deep losses because technical analysis in cash markets cannot fully account for the interference from small numbers of market participants, playing in derivatives, who use a very small amount of assets to create large marking-moving price fluctuations in the cash markets. If they can be backstopped by the Federal Reserve, as they will be, with respect to FX swaps and forwards, if they are exempted from Dodd-Frank, there is no end to the mischief they can create with no long term adverse effect on themselves if they screw up.

A case in point is the so-called "Flash Crash." According to the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) report, it was precipitated by heavy buying of short positions at the CME Group's mini-S&P 500 futures on May 6, 2010. In response, the Dow industrial average plunged by 900 points, and a similar plunge in the market as a whole. Just one investment fund wanted to hedge stock positions, and its brokers sold too many Mini-S&P 500 short contracts at one time. The cash market was not aware of what was happening, and responded with panic. Many market participants erroneously concluded that massive selling was happening in the real cash market by persons holding real stock positions, a lot of market makers withdrew in fear of big losses, and everyone began dumping equities. Not mentioned in the official report is the fact that stock prices collapsed until a mysterious "force" began to buy huge numbers of long mini-S&P contracts in sudden and concentrated pulses, without regard to the losses that such buying habits would give to a profit-oriented entity. Cash markets recovered almost immediately as this buying "force" rescued the mini-S&P 500 derivatives market.

There is yet another concern. Exclusion of FX swaps and forwards from transparency and clearing requirements, applied to other derivatives, will cause banks to restructure interest rate and credit swaps as foreign exchange swaps or forwards. A notional amount of about $450 trillion dollars worth of interest rate swaps are now floating around in the world, for one example. If even a fraction of those are converted to exempt FX swaps and forwards, tens or even a hundred trillions or so of non-transparent, inherently unstable derivatives will hit the Street, with no performance bonds to insure compliance. We have written, in the past, critiquing the game of strategically changing performance bonds levels to achieve desired prices in precious metals. However, requiring no performance bond at all, and having no ostensibly "third party" entity to hold them, is an even greater folly.

The potential for instability is enormous. If banks can issue FX swaps and forwards that are not subject to Dodd-Frank, they will be able to hide this activity from shareholders and regulators. Enormous and irresponsible risks are sure to follow. We've already seen this in the past. The legislation was meant to change the sitution. With this new Treasury initiative, change will be torpedoed. Large banks have not been broken up. They are even bigger than before. If they were perceived as "too big to fail" back then, they are certainly too big now. U.S. Treasury action seems guaranteed to insure that private profits will, yet again, be pocketed by bank executives, while private losses are socialized by being shifted to taxpayers and savers in the U.S. dollar denominated investments.

As we noted, earlier, the need for the opening of Federal Reserve swap lines in 2008/2009 was partly the result of FX swaps and forwards which drained U.S. dollars from banks in Europe. The next freeze could involve these same instruments draining foreign currencies from American banks. There is no guarantee that foreigners will be as kind to us as we were with them. The World Financial Crisis of 2008 was not caused by sub-prime mortgages, but by the triggering of derivatives. When the contingency of massive mortgage default occured, credit default swaps were triggered. The hoarding of dollars by banks who needed to pay off on these obligations sapped demand from other areas of the economy. A massive shock to the system that could not be slowly and laboriously healed occured. Non-reportable credit default swaps are a similar threat. 

The risk is simply too great to be allowing banks to engage in non-reportable, non-marginable activities, especially when they will be allowed to obtain sponsorship of the Federal Reserve in their speculations. Yet, Mary Miller, Assistant Treasury Secretary for Financial Markets, has tried to explain that this will not be a problem. She says that the CFTC has anti-evasion authority, and that will prevent financial institutions from using exemptions to evade derivatives regulations. That doesn't make sense. As long as the bank employees have decided that whatever they've structured is an exempted "FX swap" or forward, they won't need to report it. How, then, can the CFTC hope to spot evasion? Identifying restructured transactions will be impossible. The agency will never even know that a transaction took place.

Allowing banks to retain the ability to make mistakes that put the entire world financial system into jeopardy is a big mistake. Transparency and accountability that were supposed to enter the world of OTC derivatives, as a result of Dodd-Frank, will be replaced by opacity. Opaque transactions invariably are a recipe for corruption, and behind-the-scenes manipulations. Allowing the U.S. Treasury to exempt deliverable foreign currency swaps and forwards gives us more darkness, when the financial system is in desperate need of light.

From a practical standpoint, once this proposal becomes a regulation, as it probably will, currency market traders will need to deal with the consequences. We may see greater short term dollar stability and/or currency exchange value increases than would otherwise be expected after QE-2 ends if the Treasury encourages the banks and Federal Reserve to enter into the type of FX swap and forward transactions that help dictate that result. This desire to manipulate currency markets may well be why the Treasury support the exemption.

Without that, we will probably see a big increase in currency volatility right away. But, even if the banks do as the Treasury would like, and help stabilize the dollar from collapsing, with such swaps and forwards, the pay back will be heavier volatility in the long run, once the instruments mature. In any case, U.S. regulations tend to affect almost all banks, all over the world, since most are involved, in some way or another, with the American financial system, due to current U.S. economic dominance. Exempting these derivatives means foreign banks, which are not as influenced by U.S. government policy regarding the dollar, to restructure other types of derivatives.

The main result is that the shadow world of derivatives will get yet another "pass" from the need for transparency and regulation. Traders can expect to deal with much greater currency volatility than ever seen before, and regular citizens will need to deal with this too. With this exemption, instead of adding stability as it was intended to, the net effect of Dodd-Frank will be greater instability. Tens or even hundreds of trillions of notional derivatives are going to be restructured to become exempt FX swaps and forwards. These have the potential to profoundly destabilize the cash currency markets in ways that we cannot fully anticipate. A bigger crash than the one in 2008 is ahead and market participants should begin preparing for it. It is no longer a matter of "if" but only of "when."