That's what we saw yesterday with that awful press conference where the president made it pretty clear that there is no hope for anything to happen quickly to resolve what 2013 is going to look like and we are going to see sharp increases in taxes and sharp declines in spending that can trump all of the good news we have been seeing. There's simply no need to hire and plenty of reason to fire until we get there and the smartest executives are going to be like Dave Cote from Honeywell (HON) and not hire to respond to the regular retirement quota that occurs naturally at big American companies. That means stage one is now upon us: the recovery will be broken by this logjam. That's what it does. I don't even know if you can refute that. Stage one is hitting with brutal force and it is dragging the averages down quickly. Keep in mind that the Dow Jones is now only up about a couple of percent, less than many European stock markets, including France, and is up only about 1/6 as much as Germany. In stage one everything is guilty until proven innocent, including the companies that are just now reporting blowouts. Stage two? That's when we try to figure if the selling is done or if it is overdone. The first means you have to pick, the second means you have to buy. The swiftness in which this is all happening, accelerated by hedge funds that remember how they lost their year last year very quickly by not acting, will make it so the selling runs its course before we run over the cliff. But how do you monitor it to be sure? Let me give you three ways that are going to put it in a workable context for you. The first is the Washington-on-TV indicator. This is simple, easily monitored and perhaps the most important of all indicators. That's when the president or any of the leadership from the Republicans or any of their important minions utters anything about the fiscal cliff.