Dear Friend and Client:
In my second year at SUNY Buffalo, I took a course called American Norms and Deviations, taught by Robert Knox Dentan. He began the class by informing students, “Ninety percent of what you know is wrong.” It was a shocking concept at the time, since we were after all attending a reputable university, studying with experienced professors. We fancied ourselves pretty smart.
“Raise your hand if you’re white,” he said. A bunch of us raised our hands.
“Not true. This sheet of paper is white. Raise your hand if you’re black.” A bunch of students did, and using a black object he proved to us that they were not, in fact, colored black. We’re all various shades of pink, tan or brown; not black and white: that’s a lie. That particular lie is then colonized into our minds, and used as the basis of numerous other supposed crises in civilization, making possible political tactics such as fostering racial discrimination.
All semester, we had our preconceptions taken apart and handed back to us. In 1982, Dentan was already talking about the Kaposi’s sarcoma epidemic that would eventually come to be known as AIDS. I don’t know how far we expanded the 10% of truth that we started with, but I think Dentan taught us to be more discerning about what we take into our minds, and to question what we presume to be valid information — skills we can all use right now.
The past couple of weeks have brought one incident after the next reminding us that there’s a hole in so-called reality, a kind of hypnotic opening through which that 90% of nonsense floats in.
In this confluence of events, we had Balloon Boy in Colorado, whose high-altitude adventure turned out to be a hoax by his parents to advance the cause of their proposed “reality” TV show. Richard Strandlof was arrested on the rare federal charge of “stolen valor,” after claiming he survived the supposed airplane crash at the Pentagon and a roadside bomb in Iraq as a Marine. And the Yes Men struck again, this time taking up the guise of the US Chamber of Commerce and informing the media that the powerful organization had reversed its opposition to dealing with climate change.
These were the little stories, pointing to much more important ones. In the background, standing tall and confusing, was the “health care debate,” which is so wrought with delusion I don’t even know where to begin. Yet I trust that these seemingly minor stories will give us a clue what we may be missing.
The Aquarius Factor
That we exist in a time of mass deception is easier to see when something that is not true is accepted as truth, then revealed as such — but we tend to forget these incidents quickly. What each of these events shares is the property of revealing how we process our perceptions, with a lot of help from our mental patterns — an Aquarian thing. We have help from television and the Internet, other Aquarian things. There are three parts to every hoax: the people who create it (and why), the people who spread the word (and why), and those who believe it (and why). The third factor is the most crucial one. We believe lies because we want to.
The astrology points back to the triple conjunction in Aquarius, the one involving Jupiter, Chiron and Neptune. Aquarius is a sign that represents the people in an elite sense of that word; for example, all the special folks who watch the news, or who have access to the ‘net. It’s “everyone” to the extent that you can use some concept or idea to group them together.
The timing factor was Jupiter stationing direct in Aquarius on Oct. 13. Jupiter (often associated with fashion and trends) is the original planet of illusions, acting like a giant projection screen for our ideals. In Aquarius, we have an image of the electronic media being a vector of those ideals, often presented in the form of images that imitate us and which we in turn seek to be like. Jupiter is still close to Neptune (just six degrees away and now approaching its last exact conjunction, on Dec. 21, before venturing into Pisces). Chiron is in Aquarius, a long-term factor serving as the annoying (to some) thing that keeps trying to get our attention. If Aquarius is a group, Chiron is the part that belongs there but doesn’t quite fit in; Chiron’s job is to call bullshit.
Considering these three stories, we could give Balloon Boy to Jupiter (a puffy, grandiose lie told in order to pump up someone’s ego and enrich him personally), False Valor Man goes to Neptune (a delusional guy who craved being a hero in a time when this is the thing that society supposedly wants the most) and the Yes Men to Chiron (guys with a specific collective healing agenda who are willing to challenge perceptions and take personal risks).
The Quadruple Conjunction
For those who follow the Centaur planets, Nessus is close by as well, in mid-Aquarius. To not call this a quadruple conjunction is a lie, justified by the convenience of not having to explain a planet that only a few people have heard about. Making the story simpler, so that fools like us can understand it, is one of the media’s favorite excuses to lie. We can assign the media itself to Nessus. He can incarnate as a badboy not concerned with truth, only what he wants. Nessus is here to remind us that the news has an agenda, and it often gets used to perpetuate others with the same agenda — generally, profit.
We have a clue that a Centaur called Pholus is involved as well; it is currently in Sagittarius. To keep some focus, let’s use just one chart — the missing person 911 call for Balloon Boy, which is provided at the right. We see the quadruple conjunction in the 3rd house of communication media, right where it belongs. The top of the chart is loaded, and with the most elevated planet being Pallas Athene — the asteroid of strategy. There is a plan in action. Venus, also high up and ruling the Libra midheaven (goals, aspirations) is square Pluto, with both precisely aspecting the Aries Point. It’s going to be big, but it’s not going to go well.
Once this story got out, it seemed like it would never end. One thing led to another until, for a few days, it seemed like the only thing on television. That would look a lot like Sagittarius rising — with Pholus in the ascendant. The ascendant at 12+ Sagittarius is exactly, within arc minutes, the ascendant of the most widely used chart for the United States, the Sibley Chart. Is this some kind of cosmic clue that the entire United States of America is an oversized, runaway homemade helium balloon whose creator fancies is a flying saucer? Some would say so.
One image of Pholus is dropping two Mentos into a bottle of Pepsi: there is an uncontrolled release. What gets out travels fast, goes far and does not go back in. Then it obscures the discussion about everything else. Another concept for Pholus is “small cause, big effect.” This is telling us: Balloon Boy may seem like a trivial story, but it reveals something much larger. The synchronicity between the ascendant of this chart and that of the USA chart is one of those jokes that only an astrology nut could appreciate.
We are all suckers for a story about how a kid, previously thought to be in grave danger, is really safe. It slipped into our living rooms under that particular pretense — a Lassie story: kid falls down well, whole town worries, dog/god intervenes, kid is rescued. We crave that kind of story, being confronted as we are by so many people in so much pain, and struggling with so many personal cares. We believe stories like this because it makes us feel better. Plus, it’s exciting, but safe — something bad happening to someone else.
We all understand a hoax, as well. How we handle them is another issue. The tipping point in the story came on CNN. Anchor Wolf Blitzer was standing in for Larry King and he had the whole family on live for an extended interview. It’s extraordinary that a network news anchor would be in a position to directly question children about a breaking story on live television, with or without permission of the parents. It may be unprecedented, but that’s what happened.
Asked by Blitzer why he stayed up in the attic while his parents were frantically calling him, without hesitation Balloon Boy said, “You had said we did it for a show.”
Wolf seemed to have a hard time wrapping his head around this, and followed the original Lassie-like premise of the story. He still presumed that Balloon Boy was hiding out; and thank God he was safe. He gave the family the benefit of the doubt, but he’s flustered. According to the CNN transcript of the interview, Blitzer says, “I heard what he said, but I’m sure that’s — I’m not — it wasn’t real — really clear. What was his — his reasoning why he heard — he heard you screaming, ‘Falcon, Falcon’. And I’m sure he heard his mom screaming, ‘Falcon, Falcon’. But why didn’t he come out of the garage at that point?”
The kid spilled the beans; but nobody breaks irony. The thing being avoided here is the notion of an intentional deception. Most of the biggest news stories, from Sept. 11 to climate change to the health care “debate,” involve important elements of intentional deception; but there is a taboo on noticing them, or saying anything if you do.
Finally, after an agonizing delay, Blitzer calls the father out on what the child said, and the father said that to insinuate that this was a hoax was “appalling.”
Then the family proposal for a “reality show” appeared on Gawker.com. It says, in part: “This will be the most significant UFO-related news event to take place since the Roswell Crash of 1947, and the result will be a dramatic increase in local and national awareness about The Heene Family, our Reality Series, as well as the UFO Phenomenon in general.” [Note, this seems to check out; here is the best fact-checking I could track down. Anyway, it must be true — everyone is quoting it.]
Norman Lear, co-creator of All In The Family, analyzed Balloon Boy this way on his blog at Huffington Post:
“So the Heene family put one over on us, you and me, just plain folks and families all across the country. But CNN and MSNBC and Fox??! And those giant, senior broadcast institutions of newsworthiness, NBC, ABC and CBS, who certify legitimacy by just covering such stories with a straight face? Did any of them find a minute to wonder if their scraping of the hogwash/bullshit/celebrity-baked crap from the bottom of the news barrel and serving it up 24/7 doesn’t have something to do with creating a climate that mistakes entertainment for news to an extent that it all but seduces a Richard and Mayumi Heene into believing they are — even if what they dream up to qualify is a hoax — entitled to their 15 minutes?”
That, and there is a hole in reality big enough to fit the World Trade Center.
Neptune, False Valor and a False War
Lear is correct: you have to expand your context to see this stuff for what it is. Then you see how big it is. Let’s briefly consider Richard Strandlof, nee Rick Duncan: False Valor guy. He is facing a year in jail, $100,000 in fines and can’t make $1,000 bail. Here’s how The New York Times, sometimes but not always a reputable source, told the story:
“A former Marine Corps captain who suffered brain trauma from a roadside bomb in Iraq and was at the Pentagon during the Sept. 11 attacks. An advocate for veterans rights who opposed the war. An Annapolis graduate who was proudly gay. With his gold-plated credentials, he commanded the respect and attention of not just politicians, but also police chiefs, reporters and veterans advocates for the better part of two years.
“Yet, except for his first name, virtually none of his story was true. In reality, he was Richard G. Strandlof, a charismatic drifter with a history of mental illness and petty crimes who had moved from Montana to Nevada to Colorado, assuming different names and identities along the way.” His story was used in political ads for a congressional candidate. He started a veterans group. He was a hero.
Now, how exactly did this happen? According to one person who knew him, he would tell his story over and over again and as he did, the persona of Iraqi war hero gathered energy and seeming reality. This, despite little issues: for example he claimed to have lost a finger, but he had all 10 of his digits, according to the Times.
This is an example of what can happen with Neptune in Aquarius. (Apparently this kind of impersonating a war hero is pretty common lately, just not as high profile.) He is playing into some of our cultures biggest deceptions and highest ideals, which function as a drug. He used two of the most powerful tools in our society — image and narrative — to create his illusion. But mostly, he had credibility because we want his kind of story to be true. In fact, given how we neglected protesting the phony Iraq war, we desperately need it to be true, or we’ll hate ourselves as a society. We should bail out “Rick Duncan” and give him an authentic replica of the Purple Heart; this way, we will feel even better about ourselves.
But how did it really happen? Is it possible to miss the irony that he claimed false valor during a war fought on entirely false pretenses, started by a president who was not properly elected? Remember, by some odd coincidence, Bush got fewer votes, and there were no WMDs found in Iraq. Saddam Hussein had no connection to al Quaeda and no responsibility for the Sept. 11 attacks. The Rick Duncan story was based on a much bigger lie: that this war makes any sense at all. Part of the reason that we need heroes from this in the first place is because it is so atrociously false.
If we arrest Richard Strandlof on charges of false valor, we may as well arrest George Bush for the same thing. And we would surely arrest Dick Cheney. But that would go against our collective hallucination that war is good for anything, much less necessary at all.
The Yes Men Strike Again
Neptune in Aquarius is now being subjected to a conjunction from Chiron, which is giving us some opportunities to see the deceptions we usually consider normal for what they are.
Nobody knows how to use the climate of mass delusion for a productive purpose better than the Yes Men. We’ve met them a couple of times in recent editions of Planet Waves. Their modus operandi is to impersonate powerful corporate interests, such as officials of the World Trade Organization, Exxon or Dow Chemical, then use that platform to deliver an environmental or anti-globalization message both within an industry and to the public.
Earlier this week, they posted a spoof on the US Chamber of Commerce webpage with an announcement that the Chamber had “reversed its position on climate change policy, and promised to immediately cease lobbying against the Kerry-Boxer bill.” The legislation, proposed by Barbara Boxer and John Kerry, is described as comprehensive climate change legislation. On behalf of the Chamber, they promised to support clean energy, among other things, and admitted that “clean coal” is no such thing.
The Yes Men then rented a room at the National Press Club and called a news conference. The real Chamber got word and one of its officials came bursting in and announced that it was a fraud. You can watch how that looked in this video. It is worth watching several times, to track the psychological interactions, and because it’s first-class funny.
Meanwhile, the “story” was picked up by Reuters, and once that happens, it’s part of the mainstream news flow. What they proved is that Reuters, the wire service that’s so old, it started with carrier pigeons, didn’t bother to call the real Chamber of Commerce before running such a dramatic piece. Big Business, Inc. would stop lobbying against environmental legislation? Is anyone paying attention?
Reuters simply reprinted the press release and sent it out as news. When I was a boy, you had to pick up the phone and verify a press release.
This shouldn’t be so surprising, said Igor Vamos, who plays “Mike Bonanno” of the Yes Men. “The media picks up all the fictional news sent out by corporations. Having a massive lobbying agency such as the US Chamber of Commerce tell lies that are going to destroy public health and the environment shouldn’t even be legal,” he said. “Those greedy dudes at the top are just making our jobs easier as Yes Men. Unfortunately they are making it easier for anyone else who is trying to tell lies in the media.”
They understand that you cannot just “speak truth to power,” so they embody power and then tell the truth. They take a small lie and use it to expose an enormous lie, and in so doing, set the record straight. The liar is forced to admit their real position.
The Yes Men are an excellent example of how Chiron works: a bit inconvenient, but straight to the point. The Yes Men are the homeopaths of the media. They take a small lie and use it to expose an enormous lie. Chiron has another property: it’s is the thing that reveals the problem with the system. It may seem small, but you can be sure it’s meaningful. If you fix the problem, it becomes a strong, powerful entity; if you don’t fix it, the system collapses.
Vamos said Thursday night that the US Chamber of Commerce was retaliating, and had moved to shut down its Internet service provider, MayFirst/PeopleLink, a socially conscious ISP. The Chamber also threatened MayFirst’s upstream provider, Hurricane Electric Internet Services, which would result in a loss of service to MayFirst, cutting off hundreds of websites of progressive businesses. Vamos said that Yes Men websites might be out of service for a few days as a result.
It’s unusual for anyone to fight back against the Yes Men, because they understand that if they fight, the Yes Men get more press. “They’ll have to push it pretty far” to shut down their ISPs, Vamos said, “but it will be fun for us all along the way.”
Yours & truly,
Devil’s in the Details on Mars
They look like spiraling trails left behind by drops of ink as they fall into a glass of water. Or perhaps some kind of shamanistic markings, drawn in woad on bare flesh. They call to mind the “magnificent desolation” astronaut Buzz Aldrin spoke of after his trip to the moon.
They are actually trails, left behind by dust devils as they dance across the surface of our neighbor Mars. And they serve as a reminder that, even in environments hostile to life as we know it, tremendous beauty and grace can be found.
The image comes from NASA’s HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. It shows where the dust devils have been dancing on the Martian surface; the lightweight red dust is picked up by these whirlwinds (which can be almost five miles tall) and leaves the darker, heavier sand beneath it exposed.
The dust devils aren’t all that different from those in deserts on Earth — hot air rises from the surface, spinning as it goes and picking up whatever is light enough to be carried away. They last only minutes, scientists believe, and may actually have done NASA some good by occasionally clearing sand off of the solar collectors on the two Mars rovers.
But for the rest of us, who perhaps in our daily lives have little concern over extraterrestrial weather phenomena or the trials and tribulations of roving robots, the image offers a moment of beauty, and may provoke our thoughts to turn away from the worries and obligations of the everyday and contemplate for a moment the fact that there is beauty to be found everywhere, even beyond the bound of our own planet.
World Weather Report
It may be turning colder in parts of the country, but it’s still hurricane season, and the latest Pacific storm brought a strong reminder of that to Baja California over the weekend.
While in the open ocean, Hurricane Rick had whipped itself into a Category 5, the most powerful classification of storm (here’s a NASA image from Oct. 18). Its 180 mph winds were the fastest recorded in a Pacific storm for a decade, The New York Times reported, and it sent powerful waves up and down the Mexican coasts that killed two people. However, it lost force as it closed in and by the time it made landfall around Mazatlan, it was a weaker Category 1 storm and lost even more punch as it headed inland, dumping as much as six inches of rain along its path.
Further out in the Pacific, past Hawaii, was Hurricane Neki with 105 mph winds, but it was not expected to come into contact with inhabited islands as of the middle of the week.
And an expatriate American woman living in northern Honduras reported heavy flooding after 11 inches of rain fell in 24 hours early this week. On her blog, La Gringa’s Blogicito, she reported crop damage, landslides and fallen trees, and she included a clip from the local newscast covering the damage.
Weekly Horoscope for Friday, October 23, 2009, #789 – BY ERIC FRANCIS
Aries (March 20-April 19)
It’s not change that most people fear, but rather the anticipation of change. It’s the mere idea that something might be different tomorrow, or that an influence we don’t understand will enter the scene. Most of the time, that kind of anxiety belongs to someone else. Here’s the question: is another person’s fear or prior history of loss interfering with your ability to be close to someone? The static or distortion can take any number of forms, and you might not recognize it for what it is. The most likely form it will take this week is anger; and remember that anger directed at yourself shows up as guilt. Who would that ‘someone else’ be? Ask yourself who, as a child, taught you the most about relationships, both by her example and the words she said to you.
Taurus (April 19- May 20)
If we held our relationships to the standard of whether they nourish us, and whether we enjoy nourishing them, Match.com would suddenly be more popular than Facebook. However, we might ask what gets in the way of that exchange of nutrients, and a likely answer would be resentment. Who do you know who really, truly enjoys taking care of someone without a trace of that old stuff? Are you able to sincerely receive the gifts you’re offered without either guilt, or taking them for granted? Such is possible, and by this point in your life you may be getting in contact with something that verges on actual, conscious need for contact. As long as you don’t perceive that need as a weakness, you will discover a dependable friend.
Gemini (May 20- June 21)
There’s no way to avoid an emotional issue now; whether you stuff yourself or starve yourself won’t change the situation. However, you’ll have a dependable measure of your emotional state based on looking at what you eat and why. This would include the foods you crave, and how much care you put into feeding yourself as a healing method rather than as an indulgence. Gradually, you are beginning to recover from a long phase when you thought you had lost faith not only in yourself but also in people who you hoped would be dependable. You can venture into territory now that seemed impossible just a couple of weeks ago. You can, in fact, take care of yourself, and you will feel better merely as a result of the intelligence of that gesture.
Cancer (June 21- July 22)
Like your fellow water signs Scorpio and Pisces, you morph in and out of whether you feel like you belong on the planet based on whether others resonate with you emotionally. You’ve been doing well in this regard, given how few planets are in water signs lately. This may be because you’re so committed to rethinking your concept of what a relationship is, what a partner is for, and whether there’s someone unusual enough to actually make contact with you. I would suggest this, however: you can reach out. You can reach out to more than one person if you want, or (in another take on the same aspect) develop something with a person you consider truly unusual. Have confidence in your inner guidance, which is quieter than your emotions. Be aware that you’ve come a long way toward recognizing what is truly important to you, and allow trust in love to be an expression of that awareness.
Leo (July 22- Aug. 23)
First I would like to speak to all the Leo moms who may be reading, and acknowledge that motherhood is something that comes with many mixed emotions. Not only is there not a standard of perfection, your own responses to the at times overwhelming responsibilities of a child or children can be inconsistent. Give yourself some space for the full spectrum of possibilities, and no, you’re not losing your mind if you feel many things within a single hour or a single day. For all cats: this is a reminder that emotional mastery begins with awareness. You may not know it, but others perceive you at the moment as what is sometimes called an intense person. I don’t suggest you hold back, but I do suggest you measure your words.
Virgo (Aug. 23- Sep. 22)
The narrow ledge you seem to be walking along involves a concept of who you are; and this concept is not big enough to contain who you actually are. Most people try to live up to something outside them. You often brutally try to enforce an inner standard, which involves successfully meeting a checklist of qualifications for personhood. Attempting to follow this list may feed the obsessive side of your nature, but it does nothing to make you a better person, or a happier one; and generally leaves you in the position of being your harshest critic. One thing you can do now is to notice this tendency. Give it a name; any name but your own. When you see it operating, step back, take a breath, and consider that something else is possible.
Libra (Sep. 22 – Oct. 23)
Hopefully, you’ll remember you read this. In less than one week, Saturn moves into your birth sign. This is a truly rare transit that comes with the feeling that the Earth itself is moving. Changes that you thought were inconceivable will suddenly seem not only possible, but probable or even inevitable. Here is the thing to remember, and not forget. At this point nothing, including any developments that may surface as this transit happens, is permanent. This is more of a test run, a boundary check and an energy check; it is an experiment in what is possible; and a chance to see how flexible you really are. It is not, however, a time for ‘permanent’ decisions, and this of course will be good news to any Libra. That time will arrive; now is a moment to actually explore the alternatives.
Scorpio (Oct. 23- Nov. 22)
You have the moxie, the charm, the style, energy and most of all, the personal integrity required to succeed in the way that you want to. In fact, you can forget about everything on that list except for the last item. I also know you have your doubts, and let me be the first to tell you that Scorpio self-doubt is just about always misplaced. Success does not usually happen fast, and we have good reason to question the kind that does. What I am telling you is that you have solid reasons to have faith in yourself. So what if various elements of your romantic life make about as much sense as two jigsaw puzzles mixed together. Who cares if there are those nights you feel like you’re holed up in a raft floating on the ocean of your own existence. You actually know who you are. You actually believe in yourself.
Sagittarius (Nov. 22 – Dec. 22)
You don’t usually present yourself to the world as a peculiar, unfathomable person steeped in the vast unknown of the cosmos. Sometimes you even fool yourself into believing you’re the happy-go-lucky person you read about on your own Twitter feed. But if that’s true, then what exactly is the source of this unshakeable faith you have in yourself? What’s the source of your incredible passion that comes from deep in your core and never seems to run out? I know there are the deep kind of faith and the shallow kind, and they both work pretty good. This is the time of year that you’re reminded just how deep your commitment to yourself is; but I assure you that you have not seen anything yet. Remember the goals that were so meaningful to you in the spring. They will soon be back, with ten times the mojo.
Capricorn (Dec. 22- Jan. 20)
For such a serious, focused person, you have an odd ambivalence about your goals. At times you’ve adopted the position of letting your most important decisions be made for you. Other times you respond to necessity, which not that different, but at least it’s practical. Neither of those options is viable now, and at this stage of your life, neither is honest. You know that your choices must be based on who you actually are, and that the process of making decisions is one of the ways you make that (ongoing) discovery. Therefore, if you find yourself in a position of being compelled to decide what you must do, shorten the loop and strive to understand who you are. Even if that is a work in progress, focus on your reality in this moment: not who you were, or who you plan to be.
Aquarius (Jan. 20- Feb. 19)
Information is on its way; it may be coming right now, but you may not be listening. I say this because your charts hint strongly that you’re walking around telling yourself, “It’s not time; I’m not ready.” I would suggest that it is indeed time, you are indeed ready, and that the information you’re getting is designed to provide an essential element of preparation. You’ve figured that the universe doesn’t run on a train schedule. But the planets do move in a logical way, and one thing that logic says is that you’ve prepared long enough for a new assignment that will take you far and wide, and prove your competence in the tasks you’ve chosen to undertake. It would help a lot if you didn’t try to convince yourself otherwise.
Pisces (Feb. 19- March 20)
As regards other people, such as relationship partners, they appear to be figuring out something that you’ve known is true for a long time. Yet is that what’s happening, or are you getting into alignment with your own truth, and therefore making room for the people around you to be in alignment with theirs? Either interpretation is true enough. Let’s assume the second possibility, because it keeps the cause of what you perceive within yourself. At this point, the more responsibility you take for everything and everyone in your life the better — most particularly yourself. Your commitments carry more energetic influence now than at any moment in recent memory, especially the ones you make to yourself. Your inner guidance is impeccable. Practice trust, day and night.