Sign Language for the Insane

Dear Friend and Reader:

Adding a touch of irony to the memorial service for Nelson Mandela, it turns out that Thamsanqa Jantjie, the supposed sign language interpreter hired to stand three feet from the podium and be broadcast to hundreds of millions of people, was talkin’ jive.

Pres. Obama speaks during Tuesday’s memorial service for Nelson Mandela, having his words translated into gibberish by Thamsanqa Jantjie — who said he was having a psychotic episode.

His assorted hand gestures and moreover his stiff posture and deadpan expression were not South African sign language for the deaf — it was all an act. Sign language utilizes facial expressions and shoulder movements, in addition to signs with the hands and arms. It’s not High German in pantomime.

Given that Mandela’s whole life was about inclusion, and that the purpose of a sign language interpreter is to include the deaf in the world of sound and speech, it’s fair to say that this pushed the line into something truly cynical.

One would think that when a country is hosting a long-expected global event honoring the life of one of the most revered men of our lifetimes, knowing they would be host to some 90 heads of state, and knowing the whole affair would be broadcast on global television, they might cover that kind of detail well in advance.

It gets better. Questioned this week by the Associated Press, Jantjie said he was having a psychotic episode. Yes, standing three feet from the president and a diversity of other world leaders, he claimed that his anti-schizophrenia meds were not quite doing the trick. In other words, he took the insanity defense to fraud.

“What happened that day, I see angels come to the stadium,” he said, adding, “I start realizing that the problem is here. And the problem, I don’t know the attack of this problem, how will it comes. Sometimes I react violent on that place. Sometimes I will see things that chase me.”

In happier days, Obama gives the thumbs up for the health insurance program that got his name. This is a viral image that right wingnut websites love to publish for its irony value.

Wait, he didn’t put that on his employment application? I guess we’ll have to wait till the PDF goes viral, but the chances are he just knew someone who knew someone and got the ‘good enough’ rating. You know, I’m not a sign language interpreter, but I play one on TV.

His stunt reminds me of The Yes Men, who do things like get on the agenda as the keynote speakers at conferences for oil executives, then give presentations on climate change.

The Yes Men, who exist with a purpose, prove how easy it is to pass through the flimsy or nonexistent vetting process no matter how important something is, as long as you’re wearing a business suit that cost at least $10. And, in true Yes Men tradition, as long as they invite you.

“I was in a very difficult position,” Jantjie added, explaining his predicament, standing there with everyone (as in everyone) watching, not being able to do the one thing he was supposed to do. “And remember those people, the president and everyone, they were armed, there was armed police around me. If I start panicking I’ll start being a problem. I have to deal with this in a manner so that I mustn’t embarrass my country.”

Well, so much for that idea. And wait: he thinks that the president is armed? And why panic? He could just say he was seeing angels and go to the First Aid tent.

It gets better. The Associated Press reported, “Jantjie said he was due on the day of the ceremonyto get a regular six-month mental health checkup to determine whether the medication he takes was working, whether it needed to be changed or whether he needed to be kept at a mental health facility for treatment” (emphasis mine).

The only difference between South Africa and the United States is that in South Africa, you find out this kind of thing. Here in the U.S., we don’t want to spoil the show.

Metro-North train derailed after the engineer “zoned out” while coming around a 30 mph curve at 82 mph. Image: CNN video.

I could easily see this translated onto the recent mock government shutdown a couple of months ago. Imagine this in an AP report: “WASHINGTON, DC — In a press conference held several hours after the government re-opened, Speaker of the House John Boehner apologized to the American people and said that it was not really he who shut down the government, it was the demon he’s possessed by.”

“Actually, to tell the truth, I am a demon in human form and I was in possession of the government,” Boehner said. “I’m sorry to have put you all through that. I don’t really belong here. I’m kind of lost. I thought this was one of the hell worlds, but it turned out to be a lot nicer than I imagined. I have to compensate by smoking a carton of cigarettes daily and spending six hours a day in a tanning bed.”

The shutdown was the perfect product of a fake House of Representatives that repeatedly passes fake bills designed to roll back women’s rights to some time around 1913. The House of Representatives is controlled by a mock political entity called the Tea Party, which is supposed to be populist but is supported by billionaires.

Speaking of — the minimum wage is not a wage; it’s essentially slave labor, supported by the fact that half of all fast food workers are on some form of public assistance. The rather wealthy people at the top of McDonald’s and KFC, all of whom take the “free market, free enterprise” point of view, and the stockholders who reap the profits, are subsidized by the government. Of course they don’t want to raise the minimum wage.

Then there was Who needs a real e-commerce site when you can have something that looks just like one? It’s a fake, so who needs to do a beta test? The fact that it cost more than $300 million to create adds to the illusion that it might be real.

Lara Logan, the faux reporter for 60 Minutes, interviewed a faux witness for her faux story. But she looks great in red. AP photo.

And who needs affordable medical insurance when a healthy, relatively young person still has to pay $500 a month to have coverage?

Then we have the Republicans accusing “Obamacare” of being socialism — when it was really the rightwing Heritage Foundation that thought this scheme up, to enrich corporations. This is being called a government takeover of health care, when really it’s a corporate takeover. But you wouldn’t know that because the Heritage Foundation has been on the front lines of attacking its own idea.

Meanwhile, right before the most dangerous maneuver ever conducted in civilian nuclear power — the removal of spent fuel from Fukushima Unit 4 — CNN broadcast a movie-length infomercial about how wonderful, efficient and perfectly safe nuclear power is. Hardly anyone thought to mention the spent fuel removal project, which basically has the world on the brink of a very quiet nuclear war.

Then there was a Metro North guy acting just like a railroad engineer who obviously had never played with electric trains. Everyone knows when you take a turn too fast, the whole train falls over. (And all passengers of that line know that the track angle leans out of the curve rather than into it.)

Then there was Lara Logan, the pretend news reporter for 60 Minutes, who interviewed Dylan Davies, who didn’t really know what happened that night in Benghazi; he made it all up, but it sounded good. That went along perfectly with the whole made-up story about a protest at a fake “embassy” in Libya (it was a CIA outpost in a fairly typical weapons buyback program, hence everyone on all sides had to do the dance and pretend it was something else).

Along the way, George Zimmerman was found innocent of both first and second degree murder after killing Trayvon Martin after a mock trial with fake prosecutors whose only job was to piss off the jury. In the perception of many, Zimmerman was as pure as the driven snow, lending true meaning to Second Amendment rights — the right to ‘defend’ oneself against black people. Which he seems to have thought also applied to women; he was arrested for pulling a gun on his (ex) girlfriend — though she dropped the charges and he’s free again (until the next time).

Newspapers from late 2012 focused on the Sandy Hook School massacre. Photo from

The year began with the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting. We all put on a sad face and then allowed
Congress and our state legislatures to do nothing about the problem, not even close the gun show loophole — except that twice as many state laws were passed laws opening up the flow of weapons than were passed restricting them.

The solution to gun violence is more guns. Wayne LaPierre offered the brilliant idea of arming teachers. The NRA, which has a quarter-billion dollar budget, called my office this week seeking a donation. They are, after all, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

How come so many of these mass shooters, from Columbine to Sandy Hook, are on mood-altering medications? Seriously — these drugs have a suicide problem. Anybody paying attention? That does not mix well with depressed, angry boys with assault rifles. But hey we can just paper that over with pride in our Constitution.

Astrological note: Mars is about to take a long retrograde in Libra. One thing about Libra is that it’s the sign of appearances. Everything in Libra has to look good, and where you have Libra in your chart is one aspect of life where you will aspire to beauty and a sense of perfect presentation. Even horrid things that happen under the influence of Libra can have elegance and beauty to them.

Mars retrograde is going to get underneath all of those appearances, and peel back the layers one by one. As it makes repeated encounters with the Uranus-Pluto square, and the Sun in the primary chart of the United States, we are likely to have a long sequence of ‘truth revealed’ kind of events that expose what is behind the facade.

There is plenty. It’s about time we had a look.


Weekly Horoscope for Friday, Dec. 13, 2013, #979 | By Eric Francis

Aries (March 20-April 19) — Don’t let your idealism be used against you. You have plenty of it right now; you seem to be fully conscious that there is a future and that you are being shown what is possible. You know that you have much more potential than you’re expressing now. Others are picking up on that, and you may have noticed that your enthusiasm is contagious. You will make some genuine friends now who may co-create some beautiful things, and travel with you for quite a while. Be aware that not everyone’s positive response is equally deep or meaningful. In your excitement you may be vulnerable to being taken advantage of, or being told things that you want to hear. Therefore, be discerning. Channel your positive vibes in deliberate ways, be conscious of how you allocate your resources and make sure that others back up their words with actions before you invite them in on your plans.

Taurus (April 19-May 20) — You seem to be making up your mind about something, trying to sort out your original impulses from what your past conditioning is telling you. This could be a longterm career or life-path question, though it’s connected to a deeper spiritual issue. I think it’s a good idea to consider the possibilities, especially what you would do if you could do anything at all. Then you can refine and narrow down the possibilities. While you’re doing this, be aware of the sometimes subtle shades of what you’re saying to yourself and what is being said to you from people in the past who lacked your sense of potential and, moreover, your devotion to self-esteem. Those who came here before you may have been snagged in the trap that the only thing possible today is what was possible yesterday. You have other ideas.

Gemini (May 20-June 21) — Pull in the reins on your spending. I know it’s the holiday season and you may be feeling generous, and like you want to make an impression on people. I would count that as sincere. With gifts, it really is the thought that counts — not the thought that you did anything, but rather that you actually considered who a person is and therefore what would have real meaning. Gifts really matter, and when they are conscious, they can convey a message of acknowledgement and affirmation. And they don’t need to be expensive to do that. This also counts for the gifts you give yourself, and the way you support your own efforts. Over the next few months you’re going to learn a lot about value, finances and shared resources. Many of these will be once-in-a-lifetime learning opportunities; treat them as precious.

Cancer (June 21-July 22) — You may feel inclined to talk, and even to reveal some of your secrets; you have a lot brewing around in there and it will feel good to let some of it out. I suggest you be aware what you’re sharing with whom. Select appropriate people when you want to open up — those who you know are most inclined to receive and appreciate you; those who you know will give you space to be yourself. If you’re going to experiment with that, start in small ways and feel the response. The thing is, the energy over the next few days, as the Full Moon reaches its peak, has anything but a selective, reserved or cautious feeling to it. As the Moon aspects the chart for your sign, it lights up an inner world that you may have never considered, and the idea that you don’t need to have so many secrets, or any at all. Still, take a moment to feel the relationship into which you’re expressing yourself.

Leo (July 22-Aug. 23) — You are a creative and sexual powerhouse right now, and the more you want to be one, the more energy you will dial in. Once you get going it will be difficult to stop, or more likely, you will wonder why you would have to stop. You might want to consider things like whether you need to get up in the morning or alternately, whether you can rearrange your schedule to accommodate your passion. The crest of the wave is from Friday through the peak of the Full Moon on Tuesday of next week. You have a rare opportunity on your hands to explore and stretch your potential; if you’ve been feeling blocked or restrained in any way, this is the time to break through to the next level. While this particular cosmic wave passes through pretty quickly, it’s tapping into much deeper forces that will be with you for a long time.

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22) — The past is much closer than you may think, which means that resolving old problems and tapping into your reservoir of experience are also closer than you may think. You are working through a legacy that has been passed to you by prior generations; this is true of everyone, but it’s an especially vivid aspect of your life experience. Anything you have to say to your ancestors — parents, grandparents and beyond — say it now, whether these people are in-body or not. Consider the idea that some of the more messed-up people in your family line (particularly those who are deceased) are now aware of the problems they caused for you, and are willing to provide help from the ‘other side’. You will open up to that help if you remember that you are never dealt a disadvantage without some corresponding gift of power. It’s your choice what to emphasize.

Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23) — Any sense of being emotionally stuck deserves a closer look. This may manifest as feeling more complicated than usual, hesitating expressing yourself, having anxiety attacks related to your personal security or feeling like your sexual energy is blocked. What you’re feeling is starting as one thing and then as it bubbles up to the surface, expresses itself as something else. So I suggest you not be overly concerned with the form that any of your emotions are taking, but rather that you go deeper and see if you can learn more about the source of the energy. One possibility is that you’re feeling the extent to which you’re dependent on others for affirmation. That in turn may be a manifestation of some abandonment fears that are usually concealed below the surface. You might test your perceptions against a simple question of how this relates to that particular theme. Remember, too, that guilt is never what it seems to be; it always travels incognito.

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22) — There are at least two sides to the current intrigue, and rather than see one as right and one as wrong, try to see matters from all points of view. You will not lose anything by doing this, so you can afford not to be insecure. By seeing all sides, I mean really considering the different positions involved, giving them each the benefit of the doubt. This will help you step away from the influence of someone to whom it seems you’ve handed over your power. While that may seem frustrating, your ability to see the situation from many points of view will prove to be empowering. You may have the notion that if you exert your awareness or authority over yourself, some sensitive issue or secret is going to be used against you, though I don’t think that’s true. Just don’t remind anyone of anything you don’t want them to know.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22) — You are the master of your destiny, but for that to have any meaning, you must remain in fidelity to what you know is right and true for you. That means understanding your motives and setting aside anything driven by jealousy, the sense of being unfairly treated or thinking that someone else is supposed to meet your needs. Anything of that general variety is a ruse or a distraction, a kind of ego game that can block you from awareness of your true strength. This is a moment when your choices have more power than you can imagine; when you have more personal influence than you’ve ever acknowledged; and when the karmic stakes are unusually high. Therefore, this is a time to think your options through and to make your choices carefully. Small decisions can lead to great things, though that’s too much power for most people to handle.

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20) — You must be bursting at the seams of your soul. You are being flooded with etheric energy, which seems to have its source deep inside you. This is opening up what you can think of as a direct spiritual connection to something that seems beyond yourself — though you’re really seeing, and experiencing, what you’re made of. But…spiritual? I know, it hardly seems like an accurate way to describe the diversity of strange, steamy, potentially socially transgressive thoughts that are coming through you. These could also be manifesting as fear, though if so, that would be a sign of resistance. You might have the idea that if you let yourself indulge just a little, you will lose control entirely (and this idea didn’t come from you). You are safe witnessing and feeling whatever is coming to the surface of your consciousness. I suggest you not seek others for validation, but use this occasion as a reminder that who you are is natural, and that if freedom means anything, that would include the freedom to know yourself.

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19) — You’re probably aware that you have the reputation among your friends of being an advanced soul. You know what you must go through in order to maintain your sense of balance and to resolve the inner wrinkles and twists that seem so natural to who you are. This may, at times, lead to you feeling like there is a contradiction between how others see you and who you are inwardly. There are moments when you might feel like a hypocrite for not living up to the ideals that others perceive of you. Events of the next few days will go a long way toward allaying any such fears. It is your transparency that people respect the most; what you may not recognize is that people close to you, and even those who just meet you, already understand that you’re a complex individual with many inner dimensions and contradictions. These are nothing to hide from but rather something to embrace. People love you and you can love yourself.

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20) — I suggest you take full advantage of the professional reputation you’ve built. You might hesitate, because to own your reputation would mean to invoke a kind of personal power, perhaps claim an entitlement or to exert influence onto others. This would only be a problem if you have some value that conflicts with it, such as the belief that it’s not right to impose your will or even your vision onto people. That would be a valid issue if you could actually do it. In truth, everyone chooses what influence they want to accept. Everyone has volition and the right to decide what works for them. Therefore, it matters not whether you influence one person or a million people; it amounts to the same thing. The universe does not care whether you’re mildly successful, wildly successful or struggling to succeed — though it matters considerably to you. Therefore, be proud of what you’ve achieved, step into your strength and creativity, and trust that your positive message (and example) will benefit everyone — though especially you.

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