The Royal Scam

Dear Friend and Reader:

It’s been a surreal or perhaps even dadaist week in the news and in astrology. Starting with the sky, there are currently six planets, the Sun and some asteroids in Pisces right now, with one of the highlights being retrograde Mercury. This is astrology that is bending notes, blending colors and warping so-called reality into interesting shapes.

The Lockheed Martin F-35 airplane.

Chiron and Neptune are the longterm visitors in Pisces, representing the spiritual quest of our extended moment in history. Currently they are joined by the Sun, Mercury, Venus and Mars. The seventh point in the alignment is the eminently Piscean Borasisi (a planet slightly beyond Pluto, which I last covered in early 2011). Borasisi is about questions of belief, and how believing something, for most practical purposes, makes it true. Borasisi is also about the lies that make us feel good.

There’s rich creative potential in this setup, and it’s pretty sexy too — Venus is the planet of personal love and admiration, conjunct Neptune, the planet of universal love. These days, lust is meaningful and fantasies have a good chance of becoming real, if you put some creative energy into them. Venus-Neptune can come with an idealistic streak, and perhaps some unrealistic ideas — though with all this Pisces going on, the implausible could be right within reach. In many ways, the rules are suspended — though you won’t know that until you try to do something unusual.

Meanwhile, Mercury retrograde can be providing access to the past, helping you retrieve some gems you may have left behind or forgotten about. This is a great time to re-energize old projects and desires; I’m sure there are plenty of ideas (or people) you were hot for but which got lost in the tides of time. The tide has turned and some interesting stuff is going to be washing up on the beach. Mercury retrograde could also serve to prod a kind of spiritual review, soul-search or deep personal inquiry — something that our government leaders could do with a little more of here in the United States.

There’s so much in the news this week that was so strange, that I can only give a few samples. Thursday, Joseph Ratzinger boarded a helicopter and flew away from the Vatican, the first pope to resign in six centuries.

Joseph Ratzinger, or Pope Benedict XVI, says goodbye to the faithful in his last noon prayer from his studio overlooking St. Peter’s Square on Sunday. Vatican photo.

(So much for conspiracy rumors that he would not be leaving the Vatican’s walls, lest he be arrested.) Soon we’ll get to see who will lead the scandal-plagued church deeper into the 21st century. For a very interesting, well-worth-listening-to perspective on that, check out this edition of Fresh Air.

Wednesday during oral arguments in the Supreme Court on the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Justice Antonin Scalia described voting as a “racial entitlement,” which sent a gasp throughout the packed, lotus-flower-adorned courtroom.

The Civil Rights Act was and is about undoing the insidious scheme of racist laws and customs once known as Jim Crow. Everyone knows the problem still exists. We all saw the antics in many states during the past four or five election cycles, with all the voter purges and other games designed to block minority voters.

Antonin is a reactionary drama queen and seems to live for the pleasure of people thinking he’s a certified asshole. (Note, Scalia is a March 11 Pisces with his Sun right in the mix of the current alignment.) Many are speculating that key provisions of the nation’s most revered civil rights law, which monitors voting laws in several southern states, will be struck down. This, in an era when minority voting rights are constantly being threatened by new games on the state level.

Meanwhile, at the same moment right across town under the Statuary Hall of the Capitol building, Pres. Obama and others were dedicating a statue of civil rights activist Rosa Parks. How could both of these things be happening at same time and place? The current astrology is not lending itself to rationalism or logic.

A group of prominent conservatives, meanwhile, signed a legal petition (technically called an amicus brief) supporting the right of lesbian and gay couples to marry, on ‘family values’ grounds. This was filed in the case on Proposition 8, which is before the Supreme Court in its current term. Later in the week, Pres. Obama issued a statement saying that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional because it denies people equal protection under the law.

Japanese police, wearing radiation suits search for victims inside the evacuation zone, established for the 20 km radius around the Fukushima nuclear reactors. Photo: David Guttenfelder.

In the social contract in the U.S., all citizens are supposed to have equal rights — such as the right to get married. (We’ll really be making progress when tax rates for single people are the same as those for married people.)

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives actually passed the Violence Against Women Act, expanding it to include lesbian, gay and transgender people under its programs. It’s actually an anti-domestic violence law.

The expanded Senate version of the bill, approved by the House Thursday, had been held up by a number of opponents for whom such a thing is not politically expedient. Now that the 2012 election is over, Republicans let it go through — though 138 representatives voted against it, many of them doing so proudly and to make a point. Apparently they have not outgrown the “No Girls Allowed” phase of pre-adolescence.

The nuclear Pinocchios at the World Health Organization this week said that any sickness caused by Fukushima is so minimal it will get lost in the statistics. Three nuclear power plants can explode and melt down, and dump highly radioactive materials into the land, groundwater, sea and oceans, and nothing bad will happen.

“The additional risk is quite small and will probably be hidden by the noise of other (cancer) risks like people’s lifestyle choices and statistical fluctuations,” said Richard Wakeford of the University of Manchester, one of the authors of the WHO report. “It’s more important not to start smoking than having been in Fukushima.”

In other words: nuclear meltdowns are good for you.

And topping off an interesting week, Miss Teen Delaware — Melissa King, age 18 — had to turn in her sash and crown after a sexy video of her went viral. Can you blame her? She thought it would be interesting and needed the money.

The Budget Doomsday Machine

Oh — there is one other story. On Thursday afternoon, the Senate failed to get the necessary votes to pass a resolution to stop mandatory budget cuts — called sequestration — from taking effect at midnight Friday.

Sequestration is a kind of ‘mutually assured budgetary destruction’ that was set into automatic motion nearly two years ago. The difference between this Doomsday Machine and the one in Dr. Strangelove is that Congress can turn the thing off if it wants to. Apparently, it does not. The whole episode is feeding the sick nihilism of people who are supposed to be stewards of government but claim they want to make it small enough to drown it in a bathtub.

Dr. Strangelove explains the Doomsday Machine.

Matt Taibbi, one of my favorite writers, put it this way: “If you can get past how horrifying it is, the looming ‘sequestration cuts’ crisis is fascinating. It’s like watching a bunch of gambling addicts play craps by throwing dice into a four-dimensional wormhole.”

Our congressional representatives are playing with the lives of many millions of their constituents, who don’t draw lavish salaries or have free healthcare and staffs and offices and cars all paid for by the government, while they endanger the livelihood of people eking out a living. Meanwhile, many of us donate 40% of our wages to support their insanity. Sometimes when I am driving down the NYS Thruway, a very nice Interstate that my grandparents’ generation paid to build, I wonder what I get for my federal taxes — because I am paying by the mile to drive down that road.

Taibbi continues, “There are so many variables that neither side can possibly know the true outcome of a failure to make a deal — which means the only certainty is that what we’re watching is irresponsibility on an epic scale, wherein both of our major political parties seem to prefer government by random outcome over one managed by sensible compromise.”

This plan started back in April 2011, during the infamous debt ceiling battle, wherein congressional Republicans held the country hostage on threat of defaulting on our debt service to those who hold paper on the U.S. Note, this was not about new spending but about what Congress had already spent, in effect, being able to make our credit card payments.

Ransom was the Budget Control Act of 2011, which in theory would reduce federal spending by $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years, unless another budget reduction deal could be struck. This is all based on the premise that Washington has a “spending problem” (words that no doubt flowered from the dark mind of Republican meme-maker Frank Luntz, who also gave us “death tax” and “climate change”). Spending problem means “we’re not going to raise taxes on the wealthy oligarchs who run the economy.”

The deadline was midnight, Friday, March 1, at which time $85 billion in pre-planed and how ‘automatic’ federal spending cuts would take effect. While the current cuts are a relatively small percentage of the federal budget, they could amount to 750,000 layoffs and furloughs, taking money out of the economy and threatening the fragile recovery. Evidence that this is just a ridiculous drama is that a few years ago, the Fed came up with that much money to bail out Citigroup in one day.

Dr. Strange — Speaker of the House, John Boehner, holds a news conference on the looming sequester in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 25, 2013. Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via Rolling Stone.

On Thursday, senators wanting to stop the mandatory cuts got a majority of 51 votes (all of them Democrats), but that’s not enough to get through the Senate, where the minority rules and everything takes 60 votes to pass.

That, of course, is just one kind of self-created booby trap that is constantly subverting progress and reason; according to the Constitution, in the Senate 51 votes is supposed to do the job. Then, what did Congress do next? It went home! They left! They walked out on America, come what may.

Sequestration was predicated on the idea that budget cuts were across the board, including to the military — and that Republicans would never want to be accused of weakening national security (or harming the business of their defense contractor campaign donors). But that didn’t work, and at the stroke of midnight, the cuts started to go into effect.

We’re being told that losing this $85 billion in federal spending is going to affect everyone in every state and county in the United States, with some areas (especially those with concentrated military industry) hit especially hard.

Yet many are suggesting that sequestration is another scam, just like the debt ceiling battle and the fiscal cliff. The point of the scam — a Shock Doctrine game of living from crisis to crisis — is to cut social programs (Medicaid and Social Security) while using the hostage crisis to make sure that taxes are not increased on the super-wealthy. There does seem to be a lie in the chart, indicated mainly by Venus conjunct Neptune.

This might be a nice aspect in personal astrology, though in the chart for an important national event — especially one about economics — it can indicate some form of fraud or deception.

That would be par for the course, when every one of these fake crises is designed to make the rich richer. If everyone paid their fair share — that is, if people like Mitt Romney and Warren Buffett paid a higher percentage in taxes than their secretaries do, and if major corporations paid their fair share of taxes, we would not be in our current condition.

The Little Airplane That Couldn’t

Without getting into the specifics of sequestration, let’s look at one federal program, to give ourselves the advantage of a sense of scale. That’s the F-35 fighter jet, a project that started in the 1990s and which is planned to be the all-purpose airplane.

Test flight of F-35B. Photo from Lockheed Martin.

Let’s see, it’s supposed to serve the Air Force, the Navy and the Marines. It’s the plane that can land vertically, like a helicopter, land on a carrier or on a short runway. It’s supposed to replace all of its predecessors, such as the workhorse F-16 and many other airplanes. It’s designed to be good for ground attack, reconnaissance and air defense missions. The United Kingdom, Italy, Netherlands, Australia, Canada, Norway, Denmark, and Turkey are part of the development program; Israel, Singapore and Japan may also equip their air services with the F-35.

Each unit goes for about a quarter billion dollars. The whole program is expected to cost the U.S. taxpayers $1.7 trillion — that is, before interest on the money borrowed to pay for it is compounded. The U.S. government claims the plane will cost $20,000 per flight hour in maintenance costs, plus gas and tolls. More realistic estimates have that cost at closer to $50,000 per hour. The U.S. plans to buy 2,443 of them.

The plane has just one problem.

It’s not safe to fly. In fact at the moment, it does not fly. The whole test fleet was grounded last week after routine inspection revealed cracks in engine turbine blades. If a turbine blade shatters in flight, the engine explodes and the airplane crashes.

Did I say one problem? Well, actually, it has a seemingly endless litany of problems, including an airframe that’s unlikely to last the lifetime of the plane; an eject system that has never been tested and which may not work; a fuel dump system that poses a fire hazard; a weight problem; thermal problems that include failure to keep the pilot and controls cool enough; the problem of a standard feature that damages the aircraft; software development that is behind schedule; critical functions have yet to be tested; and there are concerns about what will happen when the plane is struck by lightning.

Tom Toles of the Washington Post on sequestration.

The program seems to be good for one thing: pouring an ocean of money into the hands of Lockheed Martin, its manufacturer.

That $1.7 trillion budget for the F-35 is 200 times the cost of the $85 billion sequestration that went into effect Friday morning — before interest. When you compound the interest that our children and grandchildren will pay, it’s likely to be at least 50% higher.

And the plane does not fly. Looking at the chart for the contract being awarded and the first test flight, it looks like it’s going to have problems for a long, long time and may even be scrapped.

So what are we really doing in a country that cannot pay for teachers and firefighters and to keep its bridges maintained, where many children cannot concentrate in school because they’re too hungry — but we have money to finance the F-35?

Kinda makes a person wonder.


Pisces Birthdays: The Living Reef

Pisces is a school of fish right now. Your sign is your environment — there are likely to be a lot of interesting people around you. If there are not, make a conscious decision to open up and they are likely to arrive. Said another way, you have your options open, and because this is your solar return time, you will for at least the coming four seasons. Your life can become like a coral reef that hosts many different forms of life, many different kinds of people. Diversity is key, so make sure that you make your decisions accordingly. There is one reminder coming through — you are bigger than your relationships. Most people and many Pisces live as if they are smaller than, or submissive to, their relationships and their partners. Now is the time to adjust that scale. You are the owner of your existence, or at least you are its steward. You have a life, and in that life, there are other people. You are the focal point of your own world. If you remember that, you’ll be able to maintain a sense of scale and proportion. Remember, too, that the people who are drawn to you will make themselves known. They will demonstrate their care and respect. They will come in a spirit of exchange. You have plenty to offer them, and they have plenty to offer you, which sets the potential for an authentic sharing — do not settle for anything less.

Weekly Horoscope for Friday, March 1, 2013 #940 | By Eric Francis

Aries (March 20-April 19) — You may feel like you’re living in two worlds — one where you have to get everything right, and another where there are no rules. Actually the only rules you have to follow are the ones you’ve agreed to, and even those are probably negotiable. Check carefully for any sensation of being trapped, hemmed in or hidden away, and if you discover something, see if you can get a handle on why you feel that way. What seems to be happening is that you’re being drawn into a dimension of yourself that’s either unfamiliar or that has never been so present. This may have you feeling like you’re going to slip off a ledge and tumble into an inner abyss. Well, kind of — what’s happening is that your imagination is firing up. Think of it as an inner life, an inner dimension, that has all its own customs. The more you try to pretend it’s not there, the more chaotic you’ll feel. The more you focus your energy inward, the more you will tap a rich well of imagination.

Taurus (April 19-May 20) — One way to let go of old or stuck patterns is to meet new people, experience them and learn from them. Think of it as a kind of creative and emotional cross-pollination. There seem to be plenty of people and scenes available right now — your social universe really is a universe, though to find it you’ll need to get out of your house. This one isn’t on the Internet; it’s the one you can meet with all of your senses. One element of the astrological pattern is the ability to experiment with who you are, to shape-shift and test out different self-portrayals. You might do that with clothing, makeup or character, but really this is about psychic posture: how it feels to be you, which is unusually flexible right now. One other thing — notice the role that people you already know have in your life, including those you’ve lost contact with and also those you’ve been in contact with all along. You can have a whole new conversation.

Gemini (May 20-June 21) — Please apply your imagination to your career. Do not look for a job. Do not re-do your resume. Use your incredibly beautiful imagination and consider the possibilities. Now is not the time to consider the flaws in your plan, your limits or any practical matters — it’s the time to unfold your idea of your potential. It’s also the time to consider the power and value of the experience you’ve already gained. Said another way, I suggest you take an inventory of what you know, what you’ve done and your talents. Then, think of them in different combinations and see if that sparks any ideas. As you do that, try to remember what you want to do. You may think that’s easy to recall, though I am proposing that you’re going to remember something you’ve forgotten. What were you doing and thinking in March 2010, February 2011 or February 2012? I suggest you go through your notebooks, email, diary and photo library and sift through them like you’re panning for gold.

Cancer (June 21-July 22) — It is unfortunate that our ideas about birth, sex, the cosmos, consciousness and death have all been taken over by religion. I don’t mean influenced — I mean taken over, as in bought the bank, raided, invaded and infiltrated. It seems like you’re on a quest to set yourself free of these things, though it would help to know what you’re setting yourself free from. Don’t invest too much energy in that, however — just know that it’s something that has co-opted everything, or has tried to, and that your actual reality is about something entirely different. You may experience some discomfort as you stretch past your previous boundaries, a little like shimmying under barbed wire and getting scuffed up in the process. You may feel like someone is going to challenge or persecute you. You might feel guilty, as if you’re doing something wrong by opening up to your potential. If so, keep going — you’re moving in the direction of freedom of conscience, passion and love.

Leo (July 22-Aug. 23) — This is the time to focus on money. No matter how spiritual, innocent, pure of heart, loving in your intentions, motivated by authentic creativity and truly generous you are, work what you’re doing until it creates the profits that are coming your way. All your other attributes are what is feeding your energy and your potential — not subtracting, or presenting any moral issues. There is (mainly fed by one reference in the Bible) an alleged prohibition on doing anything ‘good’ for money, which leads directly to a world where a lot of people think the only thing they can do is something detrimental, hurtful or exploitative. You are currently in the midst of some form of abundance; you have plenty to offer, and to share. There are many productive exchanges going on in your life, and what you’re involved with — or can choose to become involved with — is there to create benefit for everyone, including financial gain for you. PS, this is not a matter of ‘luck’.

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22) — You seem to be trying to sort out your relationships, though have you considered that this is a great time to be lost in the midst of them? By that I mean that they don’t need to make sense, they don’t need to stay the same and you don’t need to adhere to any one person or concept of what a relationship is. I know how nervous living this way can make some people feel — like they have no boundaries. The thing is, most people’s rules (which are like pretend boundaries) are so rigid that sooner or later they end up frustrated (or drunk) and throw them away and wing it. So while you’re exploring, be mindful of how you feel. Speaking of alcohol, have some ideas about what decisions you’ll make when this stuff is in the environment or in your body. Know where you are and what you’re doing there. Make sure you say yes when you mean yes, no when you mean no, and maybe when you need some time to think about it (those are the most useful boundaries anyone can have).

Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23) — There are two approaches available to you: competitive or inclusive. Said this way, the choice seems obvious, though every influence in our society is about turning relationships into a zero-sum game. That means a game with many losers and just one winner. The game you want is one where everyone wins. One thing to remember is that there is plenty of you to go around: plenty of love, empathy and appreciation of diversity. You don’t have to ‘commit’ yourself to anyone or anything the way that you were told you had to in the past. The person you need to be committed to is yourself and your own cause, meaning: know your wants and needs. Know what values are guiding you. What I suggest is that you let your imagination guide you, and see who harmonizes with you. Remind yourself how much you have to offer, and you will also remember why it makes sense that others would have so much to offer you. If you bump up against some limit on your self-esteem, climb over it, walk around it or keep going.

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22) — By almost every indication this will be one of the most interesting times in your erotic life — a big statement, when made in the company of Scorpio. Pisces, your solar house of art, sex, pleasure and taking risks, is swimming with planets right now, including Venus and Mars. I am sure you want to indulge yourself and really have some fun. Yet there seems to be something that’s holding you back, some hesitancy or misgiving. You may feel like your head is getting in the way of your heart. This is worth pausing over and considering what’s up. Do you have a commitment to someone else, whether in reality or in your own private thoughts? Do you feel guilty, as if you’re taking something away from someone else? Just because you feel that way doesn’t make it true, though there does seem to be something you need to disconnect from, rooted in the past — and there is nothing stopping you from doing so. The truth is you cannot love or make love at some abstract time in the future — these are pleasures reserved for those who are able to focus on the present. So call yourself into moment you’re actually in, and enjoy your life.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22) — I suggest you project all of your confidence into the relationship of your choice. Your life is not as complex as it seems; you’re merely allowing yourself to feel all the things that usually don’t influence you. The astrology is so strong that denial or pretending won’t work; it’s time to actually acknowledge how you feel. I suggest you do this regardless of the rules, or what you think anyone else might have to say about it. The message of the planets is that your life is your life; you and your time are not the property of someone else. That includes anyone in your family who, whether currently or in the past, has (or had) something to say about who you relate to and how. You may not think this a factor, but I suggest you investigate further. One of the issues involved seems to be that someone put into your mind the fear of going deep — the fear of emotional bonding, whether directly or indirectly — through their words or actions. You have a different idea about life, and a different plan for yourself.

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20) — There’s no one correct answer to any of the questions you’re asking yourself, and no one right thing for you to be doing. I suggest therefore that you do what you feel good doing, to the extent that you can. I recognize you may have certain time constraints (such as work) but that’s unlikely to go 24 hours a day. With as much time as you have available, do what you feel good doing. This includes anything from the movies you feel like seeing to the books you feel like reading to the places you want to visit. Live like it’s your life, and like you’re free to move about, think and experience what you want. As you start to do this, you might notice some odd little reservations you have, as if you’re doing the wrong thing by making your own choices. It’s worth taking a moment to marvel at how that could possibly be — which can serve to enhance your resolve to fully take advantage of the bold but simple fact that you’re alive.

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19) — By one measure, everything comes down to self-esteem. I feel like I keep mentioning this for you, and given what’s developing in your chart, it’s worth another look. In fact, this is likely to be an ongoing spiritual project for the next few years, though you have a great opportunity to make some unusual progress right now. The only thing that could get in the way of feeling good about yourself is an incorrect idea, or a self-deception of some kind. Belief, and in particular, your beliefs about you, have a way of dictating your whole reality. You don’t need to worry about what is true — only what is false. Therefore, I suggest you go on a search for ideas or concepts that are in some way self-deceptive; for lies about yourself that you’ve believed; and for thoughts that are based on being in any way ‘less than’. If you recognize what is not true, what is true will be obvious, as will what to do about it.

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20) — At the moment, under a sky with seven planets gathered in your sign, you have a remarkable ability to be seen for who you are. You also have the potential to demonstrate to others the aspects of your personality that you want to emphasize and be known for. However, I would suggest just one thing, in several different forms. Don’t try to convince anyone of anything. Nor is this the time to pursue anyone. Those who have an interest in you will come to you. Those who like and appreciate you will let you know. It may be possible to sell yourself to someone, or to be persuasive in some way. But it’s not necessary and I believe will ultimately work against your best interests. The people you want to connect with are those who are already committed, who see you as you want to be seen, and who value you for who you are. Focusing on anyone else will distract your attention and you may miss the very best that life has to offer you — and it’s definitely offering.

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