In these long, scorching days of summer, where the acuity of the mind is dulled by mint juleps and it's just too damned hot to do anything more sensible, my thoughts turn towards the long view.
Where are we going to be in five years? In 2015?
First and foremost: some things aren't going to change.
China will continue to be a sweltering, sodden bullet-time slow motion train wreck of a country, polluting like there is no tomorrow, bereft of the rule of law, corrupt and bustling like Ninsei Street, Chiba City (Chiba-shi) in Gibson's Cyberpunk Japan. The people will keep on trying to live their Confucian-values dominated lives of savings, education and ambition, held down by the government's need to keep the masses under control.
Europe will still be treading water, much the way it has since the 1990s. It's not getting tired doing that, and given the increasing paucity of trained workers, it's all they can do.
Japan will still be trying to figure out how a country is supposed to work when the population declines and not nearly enough are being born.
The US will see that living in a straitjacket really, really sucks. It's a bit of an eye-opener, but the institutionalized corruption of the Chicago system will have become the major driving force behind the Democrats. Gerrymandering and divisive politics - hallmarks of the Chicago system - will ensure that both parties have to agree on anything to get anything done, but both don't want to be a part of any success of the other side. The lawyers are exploring just how much money they can exploit from the health care system's "reform," but are also discovering that there's not much money left. A serious rejectionist movement is developing, demanding that the sins of the fathers are not forced upon their children, and baby boomer becomes a disparaging phrase.
South America will be mixed: abject poverty and political strife will dominate those countries where there are no adults in charge, and in those countries with a backbone to reject state intervention and crony capitalism, economies are moving increasingly towards development.
Australia remains Australia.
The rest of Asia? The countries with functioning societies will prosper. The countries with tribal societies won't.
Africa remains Africa. The Arabs and Persians continue to hate the Jews, who continue to ask "why me?"
Russia will increasingly resemble Japan, at least in terms of being clueless.
Second of all: things are going to change.
Pollution in China is going to start killing more and more, with the government covering it up more and more. People are going to realize that they can't eat money and that coughing your lungs up because the air is caustic sucks even more when you're middle class and finally have some leisure time and money to enjoy. China survives only because the Godless Communists (tm) are able to claim that it was they who allow people to improve their standards of living: once these start to decline, all bets are off.
Europe will start to come to terms with debt and will suck it up to survive. The Euro will survive, but European countries will increasingly lose their sovereignty to the Faceless Bureaucrats (tm) who are able to claim it was they who allow people to improve their standards of living.
Japan? It's hard for old people to change. The younger generation will increasingly be a generation of slackers, looking out for themselves rather than becoming a cog in the machine. Serious potential conflicts there as it makes little sense to work when taking care of your parents, your grandparents, three uncles and two aunts falls on your shoulders and leaves you with little cash (but lots of inherited properties that no one wants to buy). Japan is the canary in the system, the example of what will happen to Europe, China and Russia if they don't shape up, the proverbial example of what not to do.
In the US, you'll see outright disgust with mainstream politicians as people realize just how corrupt and nearly criminal they are. The death of Senator Byrd marked the turning point of the culture of pork, with earmarks increasingly viewed as being just a small, small step from outright bribery. The ability to bring federal money into a district will lose its appeal when it is largely done at the cost of other districts (that's how it is now, but no one cares). The Democrats will be firmly placed as the party of tax and spend and will be completely aghast when the classic Chicago political methods fail to work: minorities will be instrumentalized more than they are now, but the Democrats will lose the independents entirely. The Republicans will try to hang on to this, but are still struggling to do a mea culpa for the pork that they lived off during the Naughts. Disgust with politicians and with the parties incapable of change will change the political landscape: local politicians, this is your cue, and we will see natural leaders re-emerge (in sharp contrast to the appointed elites who think they are natural leaders and then go on to prove that they are not).
South America will go through the throes of re-discovering that socialism only works as long as you can use other people's money. Countries like Peru, Guatemala, Chile and Brazil are run by adults: the rest fail and revert to type.
There will be quite some changes in the Middle East: either Israel will be attacked and heavily damaged, ceasing to be a viable state because entire cities were wiped out, or Israel will be attacked and heavily damaged, wreaking vengeance of biblical proportions on those attacking them. In any case, antisemitism remains the driving force of the failed societies of the Middle East.
Finally, some things aren't going to happen.
There will not be a second term for the Obama presidency.
There will not be a permanent Democratic majority.
There won't be political hearings on corruption and fraud, since these would find so much that no one wants to destroy the facade of respectability.
There won't be a constitutional convention, despite it being talked about to "update the Constitution".
There won't be a withdrawal from Afghanistan or Iraq. Too little stability to leave, too few casualties to leave.
There won't be any political unrest or revolution, but there will be lots of people who are thoroughly disgusted and who do not trust the government.
Oh, and there won't be a break-down of the EU, neither will the Euro be abandoned. Too much political capital is tied up with both.
That's my long view. This is the 21st century schizoid man, and I approve of this message.