Thursday, September 30, 2010

Stuxnet and Socionomics

If you have not been following the story of the Stuxnet malware that has come to light recently, I strongly recommend that you get yourself up to speed on at the least general nature of this amazing piece of code. Some resources include:

The fascinating technical aspects of this computer worm aside, I'd like to view this story in the context of socionomics.

If we work on the assumption that the vast majority of societies are in a negative mood trend (though currently experiencing a positive mood rally in the context of the overall negative trend), and if that trend is one that will result in an enormous bear market, then our view of Stuxnet can easily shift from seeing it as a one-off "dirty trick" used to hit at Iran by parties "unknown" (very similar to something the U.S. did to our Soviet friends a few decades back) to another leading indicator of what a world governed by negative mood might look like.

Bear markets eat the heroes that were raised up by the preceding bull market. This goes for Warren Buffet and the Incredible Charlie Munger - who are going out of their way to out-Goldman Goldman-Sachs when it comes to arrogance and mob-baiting. I think this concept can also be applied to other "concepts" that enjoyed great prominence in the preceding bull market. And if there was ever a poster child for the late great bull market, it was the computer. Even with the bursting of the tech bubble, computers and software have remained powerful symbols of U.S. expertise and dominance.

Bear market moods bring barriers and walls to physical goods. In the past, those same barriers included barriers against information, new ideas and foreign concepts, and the methods of enforcement included book burnings and torture. Responses to that included the formation of underground secret societies, secret libraries and who knows what manner of individual retaliation.

In the modern era, expressions of this aspect of negative mood might include wave upon wave of increasingly sophisticated malware, resulting in the political elites clamping down on use of communications and computer networks. What makes this latest hack so impressive is that it made the leap to SCADA systems and could actually affect equipment in the "real" world. Now that hacker teams know that someone has bridged that gap, I would expect the black hat community to be all over it. Granted, this initial attack looks like an expensive piece of code, almost certainly sponsored by a nation-state. But with all the cheap processing power and brilliant minds out there, one can expect a coming round of malware hell-bent on crashing infrastructure systems and causing a bit of chaos. The walls, restrictions and barriers that will be put up in response will further reinforce the negative mood and trash the reputation of "computers" as agents of progress and benign utility.

Just a thought.

Deflation? Yes.

This picture, sent to Michael Shedlock, who blogs as Mish over at Global Economic Trend Analysis, gives you a good picture of the price deflation being experienced in manufactured goods:

Massive ongoing credit deflation, a continuing trend towards price deflation (in markets relatively free of government influence on pricing, unlike medicine, insurance, etc.) - just think what this is going to look like when we go off the credit cliff.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


FYI, I'll be travelling on business for the next several days. I'll try to get some posts up this weekend, but no promises. Best of luck navigating this excruciating levitation act that mood and markets are engaged in at the moment.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Pass the Kerosene

Update: Check out Mish's continuing coverage of this story - especially the letter from a former Berskire shareholder to Mr. Buffett.

The economic elites are feeling sassy these days. So much so that the big-time Crony Capitalists are feeling free to speak their minds about how they really feel about the economic dislocations of the past few years.

Hear it firsthand from Charles Munger, described by the shiny young man who introduces him in this video as "one of the most principled leaders in American business." Here, this "principled" man (as long as the government largesse is helping protect or build up his principal), who actually does have a lot of intelligent things to say, shows how disconnected the wealthy elites are from the anger that is building across the country.

Charles Munger's speech at the University of Michigan

Choice quotes:

“You should thank God” for bank bailouts
“Now, if you talk about bailouts for everybody else, there comes a place where if you just start bailing out all the individuals instead of telling them to adapt, the culture dies.”
“There’s danger in just shoveling out money to people who say, ‘My life is a little harder than it used to be'”

Wow, the political and economic elites truly seem hell-bent on building the bonfires upon which to burn down the entire structure of the economy and Mr. Munger has just poured a tanker truck worth of kerosene on the whole thing. I kept waiting for Charlie to suggest that they all trade in their Gucci loafers for some leather riding boots and ride through Ann Arbor on horseback, whomping the peasants.

When the show trials start, you may rest assured clips of this video will be part of the prosecution's portfolio.

h/t Bloomberg and Mish

Monday, September 20, 2010


If you are interested, I did an interview with Brett Owens over at The Contrary Investing Report last week that he now has up. In the interview we discuss general socionomic theory, my riff on Peak Oil and socionomics and discuss some markers for the coming downturn:

Exploring Socionomics and Social Mood Trends with Michael Flagg of FutureJacked

I've not done many interviews in the past and hope to get better. There were a few points I probably could have done a better job with, but we live and learn. Brett was a great host and I really appreciate his time and interest.

The Limits to Prepping

We've discussed what I've called termed the "Mechanics" of dealing with the coming breakdown - stealing this engineering term as a way of trying to figure out how individuals and communities are going to handle the incredible dislocations that I believe are coming our way, courtesy of a wave of negative mood so deep that the like has not been seen in centuries, though the flashes that tore across the United States in the 1860's and that ripped Europe, then much of the globe apart in the 20th century, were bad enough.

One key concern is the "brittle" nature of the systems that have grown up during the late great Bull Market that flamed out at the beginning of this new century. Yes, we have very cheap energy (especially compared to the great benefits we derive from it), we have a vast abundance of cheap food (the product of industrial farming techniques), and, even with all of its absurdities, we have a government system that still works tolerably well as far as the average citizen is concerned. Be that as it may, each of these key systems is in grave peril:

1. The cheap energy we enjoy is courtesy of our immense military power. The ability to keep the sea lanes open, to keep friendly (or at least cowed) governments in power in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Congo, and Mexico and even unfriendly or neutral governments, such as Iraq and Venezuela, contribute mightily to the global supply of petroleum. In deep bear markets, the reigning military power is often challenged. That challenge, even if met successfully, can often disrupt or destroy the supply chain it was built to defend. By that I mean, sure, we could bomb Iran into dust and keep bombing for years to come, but if the blowback meant a devastation of Saudi oil refineries and ports, a revolt in Iraq and Kuwait and the choking off of passage through the Straits of Hormuz - what would that mean to household and government budgets in the U.S. when the impact on oil prices was felt? Alternatives do exist and rationing would be put in place, but imagine the disruption as the country moved to only being able to use 9 million barrels of oil/liquid fuels products a day instead of 20 million?

2. The cheap food system continues to worry me deeply. It is highly reliant on petroleum products for both fuel and pesticides. Ag would almost certainly be given a top claim on fuel in any rationing situation, but even then, considering how corrupt the federal government has become (note the disgusting way BP continues to distort how the Gulf Oil Spill disaster is "researched) would such rationing work? What worries me is that it would be a step-wise collapse down in production if petroleum supplies were restricted, not some gentle curve. Remember, to do industrial farming right, you have to use the soil totally different than in non-industrial farming. Industrial farming means you kill off as much of the bugs in the soil as you can, you have to run enormous combines and tractors through your fields, you have to pretty much use RoundUp Ready crops these days for large scale production of corn or beans and if any of that chain gets broken, you can count on massively reduced harvests.

And if you think switching to non-industrial farming techniques is viable in the short term, I will first laugh sadly, and then refer to you some quotes from a man writing for Collapsenet under the pen name Unrepentant Cowboy - a Texas farmer who is trying to farm without using Big Ag hybrid seeds and use the kinds of techniques you'd need in a world where inputs such as capital and petroleum were restricted:

From Corn Harvest 2010: Corn harvest is near done and the end can’t come soon enough. I am seriously considering not planting corn again as a commercial crop. Like many that have studied sustainable agriculture, I decided to get away from genetically modified grains. So the corn we planted was non-Roundup-ready corn. Not only non-Roundup-ready corn, but also a non-hybrid. The idea was to grow corn from which I could keep back my own seed... ...For all of this we harvested about 60 bushels to the acre, while most people that grew Monsanto’s best harvested between 120 and 140 bushels to the acre. They didn’t work half as hard as we did. Half hell, one-tenth as hard. Their crop is worth as much or more per bushel than mine in the local market. There’s a reason farmers use chemicals and genetically modified grains. People want cheap food. Farmers want to make money growing food. Oh, you’ll hear talk about organic this and that or natural this or that. Bottom line: at least 95 out of every 100 dollars worth of food sold in this country is produced by industrial agriculturalists. You cannot grow good wholesome food for those prices. Period. Every goddamned advance in efficiency or productivity over the years has been met with a price cut in the value of the commodity produced...

Unrepentant Cowboy is a must-read for anyone thinking that disruptions to industrial farming techniques will be met by smooth and seemless transitions as farmers immediately adjust to meet new market conditions. Ag is like every other sector of the economy - burdened with debt and locked into production techniques that work great in an era of positive mood, but which have little resiliency to face a shattered economy and society.

3. And yes, for all of the horrible manifestations of corrpution and stupidity we can focus on, the government system in the U.S. still functions well for 80% of the population. When budgets get slashed further, when services get sold off to corrupt corporations or abandoned altogether, when corporations buy off the Feds from the next great disaster, this system will face a crisis of faith. I believe the government system at the federal and state levels will be found wanting, with all the socionomically-predicted consequences inherent in it.

This was a lot of blog space to summarize what we've already been thinking about. I think it is important to revisit "where we are" because it has impacts on just how much we truly can prepare for the Coming Collapse.

On paper, getting out of debt, totally readjusting how you use transportation or grow food and trying isolate yourself from the impact of food or oil shocks should be your task. In reality, many people, especially younger ones are burdened by excessive student debt while at the same time facing a job market that has few prospects and many of those prospects are low-paying. Incentives (in the form of already-built infrastructure and propaganda for nearly 100 years) are skewed towards a car-centric culture and housing and job opportunities are layed out accordingly. Growing your own food is a pipe dream and the few who are attempting to grow bulk grops with heritage seeds or other sustainable practices may well be broke by the time the crash has settled out fully.

The energy required to keep the self-delusion of solvency and greatness alive is wearing the United States thin, but the self-delusion is still there. Prep for what you can but always remember that your mind and how you react and "swim" in the greater sea of mass mood is the most important asset you have.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

More on Our Brittle Society

This story from Georgia is a prime example, in my opinion, of just how ugly and protracted the downturn is going to be. Click on this link to hear about the story of a man being prosecuted for growing too many vegetables on his property.

I still strongly believe that once the Great Collapse gets going in earnest, kitchen gardens are going to make a comeback. Lawfare waged against citizens by government hacks will make it a dicey endeavor in many places as large gardens will fluourish and farmers markets will grow in popularity (propelled by not only locals wanting to support their neighbors but by the anger at, and suspicion of, large corporate farms using genetically modified crops - a perfect scapegoat for the negative emotions that will erupt throughout society as we slide into this long correction).

The lack of creativity and understanding by the governing elites continues to stun me. As one of the neighbors put it, local government should be helping him, not hindering him.


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Creative Thinking on Governance

Once the "Oh Shit" moment of the coming collapse has worn off, it will be time to get abuilding new and vital structures on the rubble-heap of "modern" society.

The concept of "Phyles" has a certain appeal that could move from "vaporware" to full implementation once modern states get hollowed out.  Check out this link for more.

For a fictional account of this in action, consider Neal Stephenson's Diamond Age as well as Daemon and Freedom (TM) by Daniel Suarez.

h/t John Robb

Strange and Befuddling Trend to Mainstream Thinking

The "strange and befuddling" trend these talking heads are discussing in confused tones is easy to forecast using socionomics. We've been discussing the trend in walls, barriers and bunkers here for years now.

Mood matters. Mood makes markets. By the time this Bear Market settles out, the mocking tone in reports like these will be long gone.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Few More Fault Lines

Here are few more fault lines to consider when the next big economic quake rips off with the commencement of Wave 3 down in the markets.
One ugly point of contention will be access to what jobs are left available in a contracting economy. On the one hand, here is how the Baby Boom Generation will paint it:

Old workers can shine -- but will they get chance?
In June 2007, German automaker BMW was faced with an aging work force and declining productivity at its factory in Dingolfing, Germany. Older workers tended to call in sick for longer stretches, and they had to work harder to keep up with output demands.

The company responded with an innovative experiment that has been hailed as a prototype for how to keep an aging work force both happy and productive. As written up in a case study in the Harvard Business Review, BMW put a team of older workers (average age 47) on a pilot line, and let them make whatever changes they needed to keep productivity high...

I totally buy in that many older workers have very valuable skills and their knowledge can significantly contribute to a company's success. That said, here is a chart of the unemployment rate for those aged 16 to 24 from 2000 to 2010, you know the ones learning the basic job skills and laying the foundation for future careers:

Source:  BLS data

Enjoy thinking about the social ramifications of that chart, especially if that rate doubles yet again or gets worse. And one can imagine that since Baby Boomers are a massive voting block that "Age Bias" legislation will be strengthened in the coming years, strengthening a trend of oldsters staying in the workplace far longer than previous generations because their nest eggs have been shredded.  Fewer jobs to go around and the existing jobs won't see the rotation out of older workers that has been seen in the past. 

Pile that on top of a student debt load that the Baby Boomers never had to deal with:

How Debt Can Destroy a Budding Relationship
By Ron Lieber, New York Times
Nobody likes unpleasant surprises, but when Allison Brooke Eastman’s fiancĂ© found out four months ago just how high her student loan debt was, he had a particularly strong reaction: he broke off the engagement within three days...

The propaganda that students and parents have been mislead with about the value of a college education versus the debt needed to obtain said credentials has lead countless millions into a trap that will spring shut once the true nature of credit deflation makes itself felt.

That my friends is the making of a generational storm.

A Silver Lining?

There might be a silver lining in all this. The younger cohorts might have to fall back on entrepreneurship and creative thinking just to survive. A new wave of small co-ops and family corporations might be one way to rebuild the foundation of wealth in America. I don't imagine it will be easy to do in the current restrictive tax and regulation environment, but let's hope the energy gets channeled to productive pursuits and not anger and rage at the oldsters out there...

Monday, September 13, 2010

I Feel Better Already

More apologies for the lack of posts. Things are very hectic outside of blogland. Couple that with this "undulating plateau" to steal a term from our Peak Oil friends and I've not had a huge sense of urgency to post. That is, until the Grand Poobah of the dead and gone Bull Era, Warren Buffet his ownself, has stood up and ruled out a Double Dip Recession - all without having to have Becky Quick prompt him.

Buffett Rules Out Double-Dip Recession Amid Growth
Andrew Frye and Kelly Bit, On Monday September 13, 2010, 1:14 pm EDT from Bloomberg
Warren Buffett ruled out a second recession in the U.S. and said businesses owned by his Berkshire Hathaway Inc. are growing.

“I am a huge bull on this country,” Buffett, Berkshire’s chief executive officer, said today in remarks to the Montana Economic Development Summit. “We will not have a double-dip recession at all. I see our businesses coming back almost across the board...”

...Buffett, who spoke via video connection to an assembly in Butte, Montana, said U.S. banks were ready to boost lending and encouraged entrepreneurs to seek financing for their business ideas. Berkshire is the biggest shareholder of Wells Fargo & Co., the top U.S. home lender...

I especially like the claim that banks are ready to boost lending. I spent Saturday at a college football tailgate getting caught back up with a number of entrepreneurs who run businesses in my local area and nationally. Every one of them would laugh at the claim banks are ready to boost lending. Granted, that is anecdotal. Time will tell.

I personally am bullish on the Republic just like Mr. Buffet, but that doesn't mean that one hell of a serious economic storm isn't coming our way and always remember, Bear Markets devour the icons built up by the preceding Bull Market...

Friday, September 3, 2010

Why the Stock Market’s Direction May Hinge on Katy Perry’s Next Hit Single

I am very excited to introduce Brett Owens as a guest blogger for FutureJacked.  Brett is one of those highly talented, multi-skilled guys who "do," not just dream.  He is CEO at Chrometa and blogs at The Contrary Investing Report and and is one of the brightest minds out there in the community of men and women wrestling with the intersection of mood, markets and society.

Here is Brett's take on Why the Stock Market’s Direction May Hinge on Katy Perry’s Next Hit Single:

Last Friday on The Today Show, Katy Perry rocked the stage with a live performance of her summer 2010 mega-hit “California Gurls”. It’s bubble gum pop at its absolute finest:

  • “California Gurls might even be described as the token summer pop song, all bounce and fun” – The Tartan
  • “All bubble gum and candyland fun, its pure sugar-rush exuberance” – Montreal Gazette

Careful – this video might melt your popsicle…

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

But could Katy’s calls to “put your hands up” also be a warning that you need to hit the “sell” button for your stocks ASAP?

Famed market forecaster Robert Prechter has been, over the last 15 years, pioneering research in a new field called Socionomics - a blending of “social mood” measurements, and economics. Prechter’s thesis is that the social mood of society rises and falls intrinsically, in wave-like patterns.

During waves up, people feel good about life, and they bid up stock prices. During waves down, the opposite happens – social mood declines, and folks dump their stocks. They get more conservative in business life as well, which creates a negative feedback loop of sorts – one that is only broken when the market finally bottoms, and mood turns up once again (as it inevitably does).

Socionomics has become a very intriguing, as well as controversial, subject in investing circles. New research and literature has emerged this year – leading the charge is a book I’m reading now by John L. Casti entitled Mood Matters: From Rising Skirt Lengths to the Collapse of World Powers. In his research, Casti looks at other potential “sociometers” – tools that can be used to measure social mood.

Central to the socionomics thesis is the sequence of cause and effect. Common sense and popular belief tells us that events happen in the world, which create subsequent effects. Like a hurricane hitting the coast causing widespread damage. Or bad economic news triggering a stock market decline.

Socionomics turns this traditional cause and effect sequence on its head. The cause in socionomics is the rise and fall in social mood. And the effect is the “news” that people gather as a result. Rising social mood results in “good news” – a rising stock market, peace treaties amongst warring nations, and general cooperation. And declining social mood has the opposite negative effects. The idea is that if you can tune in to the trend in social mood, you can gain an edge in anticipating future events, which are driven by this “hidden engine”, as Prechter calls it.

Pop music taste is something that both Casti and Prechter pay close attention to. The theory is that the instantaneous feedback of the Billboard Top 40 rivals the Big Board itself – whether it’s the most requsted songs on the radio, or the daily advance/decline ratio on the NYSE, both are effective measures of social mood.

In general, Casti and Prechter observe a correlation between stock prices and popular music tastes – for example:

  • Upbeat music during rising bull markets - Think upbeat rock & roll of the 1950’s and early-to-mid 1960’s (The Beatles, The Beach Boys), along with the general upbeat music of the 1980’s and 1990’s (Michael Jackson, Madonna).
  • Depressed and angry rock during the bear market of 1966-1982 (Led Zepplin, Pink Floyd).
  • “Bubble gum” pop hits during market tops – songs that express moods of outright euphoria (California Gurls)

The idea is that a turning point in pop culture may signal a turning point in social mood before stock prices. For example, in Prechter’s previous work, he’s cited the upbeat pop culture mood of the early 1980’s as a signal that the bull market was back on. And when social mood is outright euphoric, and stock prices are topping, other sociometers are also “off the hook”.

An interesting data point for you to chew on – the most famous version of California Girls is of course by the Beach Boys, the upbeat surfer dudes of bull markets’ past. They are back in the news, with rumors about a potential Beach Boys reunion to celebrate the upcoming 50th anniversary of their first single (from 1961, two bull markets ago). How about band member Mike Love’s take on Katy Perry:

And Love’s thoughts about Perry’s “California Gurls?” “I think the part she did is pretty cool,” he says. “There are a lot of writers on it, and I think it’s probably a stroke of genius to have the king of canine cool, Mr. [Snoop] Dogg, do his thing. But I think her creative part, her musical part, is pretty hooky. I think it brings the Beach Boys’ 1965 classic to mind, that’s for sure.” (Source:

Ironically, their rendition of California Girls was topping the charts (1965) just before the epic bull market of 1942-1966 was about to roll over.

While the talking heads at CNBC are watching key resistance/support lines for the rangebound S&P, we’re seeing an equally polarized battle at the top of the music charts to end the summer. Leading the negative social mood charge is rapper Eminem, who has the current top spot with his bear market tailored hit Love the Way You Lie. You won’t confuse this tune with Katy’s sunkissed hit!

Just gonna stand there
And watch me burn
But that’s alright
Because I like
The way it hurts
Just gonna stand there
And hear me cry
But that’s alright
Because I love
The way you lie
I love the way you lie
I love the way you lie

And the actual music video is perhaps even darker:

Eminem’s current comeback may fittingly coincide with the return of the bear on Wall Street. He stepped out of the music scene altogether in 2005 – when the credit and housing bubbles were peaking in America, and everyone in this country was giddy getting rich by buying homes they couldn’t afford.

Eminem began mulling his return in September of 2007 – the exact month the S&P and DOW were about to start their plunges in excess of 50%. Perhaps Eminem sensed the initial decline in social mood, which historically has welcomed his darker rap style the best?

If we are indeed at the front end of a social mood downturn - what’s to become of our dear Katy? Fortunately for her, evidence suggests that she’s got the goods to succeed in periods of declining mood as well. Her 2008 single I Kissed a Girl – a tune of sexual confusion that was well suited to the plummeting social mood of 2008 – originally put her on the pop map. So, Katy may be actually better positioned for a potential bear market decline and mood shift than most bullish investors.

Perhaps us stock jocks would be best served to ditch our technical and fundamental analysis paralysis – screw the 200-day moving average, and key support resistance levels. More importantly – Hey Katy, what ya cooking up next?

Ed. note – A trimmed down version of this piece was syndicated by Minyanville.

Further Reading:

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Another Early Adopter Pops Off

Sadly, another early adopter of negative mood behaviors has popped off, and has wound up dead:

Looking over his manifesto, a number of negative mood themes crop up and described by the Socionomic Model, in extreme forms:

  1. Anger: Self-explanatory 
  2. Reduction in birth rate: "...All programs on Discovery Health-TLC must stop encouraging the birth of any more parasitic human infants and the false heroics behind those actions. In those programs' places, programs encouraging human sterilization and infertility must be pushed. All former pro-birth programs must now push in the direction of stopping human birth, not encouraging it...." 
  3. Breaking down of existing structures of civilization: "Civilization must be exposed for the filth it is. That, and all its disgusting religious-cultural roots and greed. Broadcast this message until the pollution in the planet is reversed and the human population goes down!" 
  4. The ecological movement as a new, extremist religion predicated on magical thinking: "Saving the environment and the remaning species diversity of the planet is now your mindset. Nothing is more important than saving them. The Lions, Tigers, Giraffes, Elephants, Froggies, Turtles, Apes, Raccoons, Beetles, Ants, Sharks, Bears, and, of course, the Squirrels.  The humans? The planet does not need humans."

That last point is not strict Socionomic Theory, but a melding of the expected "magical thinking" that will dominate what passes for discourse and problem-solving, along with my own opinion that the ecological movement that was born at the beginning of Cycle Wave 4 in the late 1960's and early 1970's will serve as a new religion, doing for society what early Christianity did for the end of the Roman Empire:

  • It will probably focus on breaking down the existing structure of government, commerce and social interaction.
  • It will help "explain" the drop in production and employment as a result of Peak Oil or other factors.
  • It will be a "story-telling" device to justify extreme reductions in population. Early Christianity proposed a hatred of the physical body and a full-on assault on sex as sin, along with the monastic movement to justify the population collapse in Western Europe 1600 years ago. The ecological movement could very well achieve similar results using different lingo attached to the same emotion.

Keep your eyes open for more of this tragic nonsense.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

More on Fault Lines

Last week we thought briefly about the fault lines where the coming move deep into a negative phase of mass mood might break things apart.  Things like societies, social contracts, corporations, and governments.  Let's take a little more time and hunt for a few more that socionomics tells us should be lurking beneath the surface:

1.  The crushing of dissent and the redefining of opposition to the goals of the political and corporate elites as "terrorism" or "criminal" behavior.  The groundwork for this may be seen in the ongoing efforts to smear Julian Assange of wikileaks

2.  The cratering of local and state government budgets continues.  Oregon is a great case study, but once the downtrend in mood resumes, there won't be a single state in the Union left unscathed.  If you are relying on transfer payments or public monies for a significant portion of your income, please have a Plan B ready.

3.  The political edifice in place since the end of World War II continues to crumble as radical candidates continue to successfully pick off mainstream candidates.  I am surprised that this trend continues to have legs (as was Senator Murkowski) as the markets have held up reasonably well over the last year.  That said, the anger is real.  Whether you agree with the Tea Party movement/billionaire front (depending on your persuasion), this is tapping into some significant angst, anger, rear and worry.  This movement, or one like it, could very well rewrite the U.S. political scene in the coming months and years.  Watch how it evolves.  Watch out for the scape goats that get chosen and try to make sure you either are not one, or have a Plan B to get out of Dodge.